Infomotions, Inc.The Debtor A Novel / Freeman, Mary Eleanor Wilkins, 1852-1930



Author: Freeman, Mary Eleanor Wilkins, 1852-1930
Title: The Debtor A Novel
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): carroll; anderson; charlotte; eddy; anna; anna carroll; captain carroll; arthur carroll; madame griggs; samson rawdy; minna eddy
Contributor(s): Stevens, W. D. [Illustrator]
Versions: original; local mirror; HTML (this file); printable
Services: find in a library; evaluate using concordance
Rights: GNU General Public License
Size: 169,597 words (longer than most) Grade range: 7-9 (grade school) Readability score: 70 (easy)
Identifier: etext17793
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Title: The Debtor
       A Novel

Author: Mary E. Wilkins Freeman

Illustrator: W. D. Stevens

Release Date: February 27, 2006 [EBook #17793]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ASCII

*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE DEBTOR ***




Produced by Jeff Kaylin and Andrew Sly






The Debtor

A Novel

By

Mary E. Wilkins Freeman

Author of
"The Portion of Labor" "Jerome"
"A New England Nun" Etc.

Illustrations by
W. D. Stevens

New York and London
Harper & Brothers Publishers
1905


To Annie Fields Alden and Harriet Alden



Chapter I


Banbridge lies near enough to the great City to perceive after
nightfall, along the southern horizon, the amalgamated glow of its
multitudinous eyes of electric fire. In the daytime the smoke of its
mighty breathing, in its race of progress and civilization, darkens
the southern sky. The trains of great railroad systems speed between
Banbridge and the City. Half the male population of Banbridge and a
goodly proportion of the female have for years wrestled for their
daily bread in the City, which the little village has long echoed,
more or less feebly, though still quite accurately, with its own
particular little suburban note.

Banbridge had its own "season," beginning shortly after Thanksgiving,
and warming gradually until about two weeks before Lent, when it
reached its high-water mark. All winter long there were luncheons and
teas and dances. There was a whist club, and a flourishing woman's
club, of course. It was the women who were thrown with the most
entirety upon the provincial resources. But they were a resolved set,
and they kept up the gait of progress of their sex with a good deal
of success. They improved their minds and their bodies, having even a
physical-culture club and a teacher coming weekly from the City. That
there were links and a golf club goes without saying.

It was spring, and golf had recommenced for some little time. Mrs.
Henry Lee and Mrs. William Van Dorn passed the links that afternoon.

The two ladies were being driven about Banbridge by Samson Rawdy, the
best liveryman in Banbridge, in his best coach, with his two best
horses. The horses, indeed, two fat bays, were considered as rather
sacred to fashionable calls, as was the coach, quite a resplendent
affair, with very few worn places in the cloth lining.

Banbridge ladies never walked to make fashionable calls. They had a
coach even for calls within a radius of a quarter of a mile, where
they could easily have walked, and did walk on any other occasion. It
would have shocked the whole village if a Banbridge woman had gone
out in her best array, with her card-case, making calls on foot.
Therefore, in this respect the ladies who were better off in this
world's goods often displayed a friendly regard for those who could
ill afford the necessary expense of state calls. Often one would
invite another to call with her, defraying all the expenses of the
trip, and Mrs. Van Dorn had so invited Mrs. Lee to-day. Mrs. Lee, who
was a small, elderly woman, was full of deprecating gratitude and a
sense of obligation which made it appear incumbent upon her not to
differ with her companion in any opinion which she might advance,
and, as a rule, to give her the initiative in conversation during
their calls, and the precedence in entry and retreat.

Mrs. Van Dorn was as small as her companion, but with a confidence of
manner which seemed to push her forward in the field of vision
farther than her size warranted.

She was also highly corseted, and much trimmed over her shoulders,
which gave an effect of superior size and weight; her face, too, was
very full and rosy, while the other's was narrow and pinched at the
chin and delicately transparent.

Mrs. Van Dorn sat quite erect on the very edge of the seat, and so
did Mrs. Lee. Each held her card-case in her two hands encased in
nicely cleaned, white kid gloves. Each wore her best gown and her
best bonnet. The coach was full of black velvet streamers, and lace
frills and silken lights over precise knees, and the nodding of
flowers and feathers.

There was, moreover, in the carriage a strong odor of Russian violet,
which diffused itself around both the ladies. Russian violet was the
calling perfume in vogue in Banbridge. It nearly overcame the more
legitimate fragrance of the spring day which floated in through the
open windows of the coach.

It was a wonderful day in May. The cherry-trees were in full bloom,
and tremulous with the winged jostling of bees, and the ladies
inhaled the sweetness intermingled with their own Russian violet in a
bouquet of fragrance. It was warm, but there was the life of youth in
the air; one felt the bound of the pulse of the spring, not its
lassitude of passive yielding to the forces of growth.

The yards of the village homes, or the grounds, as they were commonly
designated, were gay with the earlier flowering shrubs, almond and
bridal wreath and Japanese quince. The deep scarlet of the
quince-bushes was evident a long distance ahead, like floral torches.
Constantly tiny wings flashed in and out the field of vision with
insistences of sweet flutings. The day was at once redolent and
vociferous.

"It is a beautiful day," said Mrs. Van Dorn.

"Yes, it is beautiful," echoed Mrs. Lee, with fervor.

Her faded blue eyes, under the net-work of ingratiating wrinkles,
looked aside, from self-consciousness, out of the coach window at a
velvet lawn with a cherry-tree and a dark fir side by side, and a
Japanese quince in the foreground.

After passing the house, both ladies began pluming themselves,
carefully rubbing on their white gloves and asking each other if
their bonnets were on straight.

"Your bonnet is so pretty," said Mrs. Lee, admiringly.

"It's a bonnet I have had two years, with a little bunch of violets
and new strings," said Mrs. Van Dorn, with conscious virtue.

"It looks as if it had just come out of the store," said Mrs. Lee.
She was vainly conscious of her own headgear, which was quite new
that spring, and distinctly prettier than the other woman's. She
hoped that Mrs. Van Dorn would remark upon its beauty, but she did
not. Mrs. Van Dorn was a good woman, but she had her limitations when
it came to admiring in another something that she had not herself.

Mrs. Lee's superior bonnet had been a jarring note for her all the
way. She felt in her inmost soul, though she would have been loath to
admit the fact to herself, that a woman whom she had invited to make
calls with her at her expense had really no right to wear a finer
bonnet--that it was, to say the least, indelicate and tactless.
Therefore she remarked, rather dryly, upon the beauty of a new
pansy-bed beside the drive into which they now turned. The bed looked
like a bit of fairy carpet in royal purples and gold.

"I call that beautiful," said Mrs. Van Dorn, with a slight emphasis
on the that, as if bonnets were nothing; and Mrs. Lee appreciated her
meaning.

"Yes, it is lovely," she said, meekly, as they rolled past and quite
up to the front-door of the house upon whose mistress they were about
to call.

"I wonder if Mrs. Morris is at home," said Mrs. Van Dorn, as she got
a card from her case.

"I think it is doubtful, it is such a lovely day," said Mrs. Lee,
also taking out a card.

Samson Rawdy threw open the coach door with a flourish and assisted
the ladies to alight. He had a sensation of distinct reverence as the
odor of Russian violet came into his nostrils.

"When them ladies go out makin' fashionable calls they have the best
perfumery I ever seen," he was fond of remarking to his wife.

Sometimes he insisted upon her going out to the stable and sniffing
in the coach by way of evidence, and she would sniff admiringly and
unenviously. She knew her place. The social status of every one in
Banbridge was defined quite clearly. Those who were in society wore
their honors easily and unquestioned, and those who were not went
their uncomplaining ways in their own humble spheres.

Mrs. Van Dorn and Mrs. Henry Lee, gathering up their silken raiment
genteelly, holding their visiting-cards daintily, went up the
front-door steps, and Mrs. Lee, taking that duty upon herself, since
she was Mrs. Van Dorn's guest, pulled the door-bell, having first
folded her handkerchief around her white glove.

"It takes so little to soil white gloves," said she, "and I think it
is considerable trouble to send them in and out to be cleaned."

"I clean mine with gasolene myself," said Mrs. Van Dorn, with the
superiority of a woman who has no need for such economies, yet
practises them, over a woman who has need but does not.

"I never had much luck cleaning them myself," said Mrs. Lee,
apologetically.

"It is a knack," admitted Mrs. Van Dorn. Then they waited in silence,
listening for an approaching footstep.

"If she isn't at home," whispered Mrs. Van Dorn, "We can make another
call before the two hours are up." Mr. Rawdy was hired by the hour.

"Yes, we can," assented Mrs. Lee.

Then they waited, and neither spoke. Mrs. Lee had occasion to sneeze,
but she pinched her nose energetically and repressed it.

Suddenly both straightened themselves and held their cards in
readiness.

"How does my bonnet look?" whispered Mrs. Lee.

Mrs. Van Dorn paid no attention, for then the door was opened and
Mrs. Morris's maid appeared, with cap awry and her white apron over a
blue-checked gingham which was plainly in evidence at the sides.

The ladies gave her their cards, and followed her into the best
parlor, which was commonly designated in Banbridge as the
reception-room. The best parlor was furnished with a sort of
luxurious severity. There were a few pieces of staid old furniture of
a much earlier period than the others, but they were rather in the
background in the gloomy corners, and the new pieces were thrust
firmly forward into greater evidence.

Mrs. Van Dorn sat down on the corner of a fine velvet divan, and Mrs.
Lee near her on the edge of a gold chair. Then they waited, while the
maid retired with their cards. "It's a pretty room, isn't it?"
whispered Mrs. Lee, looking about.

"Beautiful."

"She kept a few pieces of the old furniture that she had in her old
house when this new one was built, didn't she?"

"Yes. I suppose she didn't feel as if she could buy all new."

The ladies studied all the furnishings of the room, keeping their
faces in readiness to assume their calling expression at an instant's
notice when the hostess should appear.

"Did she have those vases on the mantel-shelf in the old house?"
whispered Mrs. Lee, after a while; but Mrs. Van Dorn made a warning
gesture, and instantly both ladies straightened themselves and looked
pleasantly expectant, and Mrs. Morris appeared.

She was a short and florid woman, and her face was flushed a deep
rose; beads of perspiration glistened on her forehead, her black hair
clung to it in wet strands. In her expression polite greeting and
irritation and intense discomfort struggled for mastery. She had been
house-cleaning when the door-bell rang, and had hastened into her
black skirt and black-and-white silk blouse. The blouse was buttoned
wrong, and it did not meet the skirt in the back; and she had quite
overlooked her neckgear, but of that she was pleasantly unconscious,
also of the fact that there was a large black smooch beside her nose,
giving her both a rakish and a sinister air.

"I am so glad to find you in," said Mrs. Van Dorn.

"I was telling Mrs. Van Dorn that I was so afraid you would be out,
it is such a lovely day," said Mrs. Lee.

"I am so glad I was in," responded Mrs. Morris, with effusion. "I
should have been so disappointed to miss your call."

Then the ladies seated themselves, and the conversation went on.
Overhead the maid could be heard heavily tramping. The carpet of that
room was up, and the mistress and maid had planned to replace it
before night; but the mistress held fast to her effusive air of
welcome. It had never been fashionable or even allowable not to be at
home when one was at home in Banbridge. When Banbridge ladies went
abroad calling, in the coach, much was exacted. Mrs. Morris could
never have held up her social head again had she fibbed, or bidden
the maid fib--that is, if it had been discovered.

"How lovely your house is, Mrs. Morris!" said Mrs. Van Dorn, affably.
The Morris house was only a year old, and had not yet been nearly
exhausted as a topic of polite conversation.

"Thank you," said Mrs. Morris. "Of course there are things about the
furnishings, but one cannot do everything in a minute."

"Now, my dear Mrs. Morris," said Mrs. Lee, "I think everything is
sweet." Mrs. Lee said sweet with an effect as if she stamped hard to
emphasize it. She made it long and extremely sibilant. Mrs. Lee
always said sweet after that fashion.

"Oh, of course you would rather have all your furniture new, than
part new and part old," said Mrs. Van Dorn; "but, as you say, you
can't do everything at once."

Mrs. Van Dorn was inclined at times to be pugnaciously truthful, when
she heard any one else lie. Her hostess looked uneasily at an old red
velvet sofa in a dark corner, which was not so dark that a worn place
along the front edge did not seem to glare at her. Nobody by any
chance sat on that sofa and looked at the resplendent new one. They
always sat on the new and faced the old. Mrs. Morris began absently
calculating, while the conversation went on to other topics, if she
could possibly manage a new sofa before summer.

Mrs. Lee asked if she knew if the new people in the Ranger place,
"Willow Lake," were very rich? She said she had heard they were
almost millionaires.

"Yes," said Mrs. Morris. "Very rich indeed. Mr. Morris says he thinks
they must be, from everything he hears."

"Of course it does not matter in one way or another whether they are
rich or not," said Mrs. Lee.

"Well, I don't know," said Mrs. Van Dorn. "Of course nobody is going
to say that money is everything, and of course everybody knows that
good character is worth more than anything else, and yet I do feel as
if folks with money can do so much if they have the will."

"I think that these new people are very generous with their money,"
said Mrs. Morris. "I heard they about supported the church in
Hillfield, New York, where they used to live, and Captain Carroll has
joined the Village Improvement Society, and he says he is very much
averse to trading with any but the local tradesmen."

"What is he captain of?" inquired Mrs. Lee, who had at times a
fashion of putting a question in a most fatuously simple and childish
manner.

"Oh, I don't suppose he is really captain of anything now," replied
Mrs. Morris. "I don't know how he happened to be captain, but I
suppose he must have been a captain in the regular army."

"I suppose he hasn't any business, he is so very rich?"

"Oh yes; he has something in the City. I dare say he does not do very
much at it, but I presume he is an active man and does not want to be
idle."

"Why didn't he stay in the army, then?" asked Mrs. Lee, clasping her
small white kid hands and puckering her face inquiringly.

"I don't know. Perhaps that was too hard, or took him away too far. I
suppose some of those army posts are pretty desolate places to live
in, and perhaps his wife was afraid of the Indians."

"He's got a wife and family, I hear," said Mrs. Van Dorn.

Both calling ladies were leaning farther and farther towards Mrs.
Morris with an absorption of delight. It was as if the three had
their heads together over a honey-pot.

"Mr. Lee said he heard they had a fine turnout," said Mrs. Lee.

"Mrs. Peel told me that Mr. Peel said the horses never cost less than
a thousand," said Mrs. Van Dorn.

"A thousand!" repeated Mrs. Morris. "Mr. Morris said horses like
those were never bought under twenty-five hundred, and Mr. Morris is
a pretty good judge of horse-flesh."

"Mr. Van Dorn said Dr. Jerrolds told him that Captain Carroll told
him he expected to keep an automobile, and was afraid the Ranger
stable wouldn't be large enough," said Mrs. Van Dorn.

"So I heard," said Mrs. Lee.

"I hear he pays a very large rent to Mr. Ranger--the largest rent he
has ever got for that house," said Mrs. Morris.

"Well, I hear he pays fifty dollars a month."

"Why, he never got more than forty before!" said Mrs. Lee. "That is,
I don't believe he ever did."

"I know he didn't," said Mrs. Morris, positively.

"Well, it is a handsome place," said Mrs. Lee.

"Yes, it is, but these new people aren't satisfied. They must have
been used to pretty grand things where they came from. They want the
stable enlarged, as I said before, and a box-stall. Mr. Carroll owns
a famous trotter that he hasn't brought here yet, because he is
afraid the stable isn't warm enough. I heard he wanted steam-heat out
there, and a room finished for the coachman, and hard-wood floors all
over the house. They say he has two five-thousand-dollar rugs."

"The house is let furnished, I thought," said Mrs. Van Dorn.

"Yes, it is, and the furniture is still there. The Carrolls don't
want to bring on many of their own things till they are sure the
house is in better order. I heard they talk of buying it."

"Do you know how much--" inquired Mrs. Van Dorn, breathlessly, while
Mrs. Lee leaned nearer, her eyes protruding, her small thin mouth
open, and her white kid fingers interlacing.

"Well, I heard fifteen thousand."

Both callers gasped.

"Well, it is a great thing for Banbridge to have such people come
here and buy real estate and settle, if they are the right sort,"
said Mrs. Van Dorn, rising to go; and Mrs. Lee followed her example,
with a murmur of assent to the remark.

"Must you go?" said Mrs. Morris, with an undertone of joy, thinking
of her carpet up-stairs, and rising with thinly veiled alacrity.

"Have you called?" asked Mrs. Van Dorn, moving towards the door, and
gathering up her skirts delicately with her white kid fingers,
preparatory to going down the steps. Mrs. Lee followed, also
gathering up her skirts.

"No, I have not yet," replied Mrs. Morris, preceding them to the door
and opening it for them, "but I intend to do so very soon. I have
been pretty busy house-cleaning since they came, and that is only two
weeks ago, but I am going to call."

"I think it is one's duty to call on new-comers, with a view to their
church-going, if nothing else," said Mrs. Van Dorn, with a virtuous
air.

"So do I," said Mrs. Lee.

"Good-afternoon," said Mrs. Van Dorn. "What a beautiful day it is!"

Both ladies bade Mrs. Morris good-afternoon and she returned the
salutation with unction. Both ladies looked fascinatedly to the last
at the black smooch on her cheek as they backed out.

"I thought I should burst right out laughing every time I looked at
her, in spite of myself," whispered Mrs. Lee, as they passed down the
walk.

"So did I."

"And no collar on!"

"Yes. She must have been house-cleaning."

"Yes. Well, I don't want to say disagreeable things, but really it
doesn't seem to me that I would have been house-cleaning such an
afternoon as this, when people were likely to be out calling."

"Well, I know I would not," said Mrs. Van Dorn, decidedly. "I should
have done what I could in the morning, and left what I couldn't do
till next day."

"So should I."

Samson Rawdy stood at the coach-door, and both ladies stepped in.
Then he stood waiting expectantly for orders. The ladies looked at
each other.

"Where shall we go next?" asked Mrs. Lee.

"Well, I don't know," said Mrs. Van Dorn, hesitatingly. "We were
going to Mrs. Fairfield's next, but I am afraid there won't be time
if--"

"It really seems to me that we ought to go to call on those new
people," said Mrs. Lee.

"Well, I think so too. I suppose there would be time if Mrs.
Fairfield wasn't at home, and it is such a lovely day I doubt if she
is, and it is on the way to the Carrolls'." She spoke with sudden
decision to Samson Rawdy. "Drive to Mr. Andrew Fairfield's, and as
fast as you can, please." Then she and Mrs. Lee leaned back as the
coach whirled out of the Morris grounds.

It was only a short time before they wound swiftly around the small
curve of drive before the Fairfield house. "There is no need of both
of us getting out," said Mrs. Van Dorn.

Mrs. Van Dorn alighted and went swiftly with a tiptoeing effect upon
the piazza-steps. She was seen to touch the bell. She waited a short
space, and then she did not touch it again. She tucked the cards
under the door-step, and hurried back to the carriage.

"I knew she wasn't at home," said she, in a whisper, "it is such a
lovely day." She turned to Samson Rawdy, who stood holding open the
coach-door. "Now you may drive to those new people who have moved
into the Ranger place," said she, "Mrs. Carroll's."



Chapter II


There are days in spring wherein advance seems as passive as is the
progress of a log down the race of a spring freshet. Then there are
other days wherein it seems that every mote must feel to the full its
sentient life, and its swelling towards development or fulfilment. On
a day like the latter, everything and everybody bestirs. The dust
motes spin in whirling columns, the gnats dance for their lives their
dance of death before the wayfarer. The gardeners and the
grave-diggers turn up the earth with energy, making the clods fly
like water. The rich play, or work that they may play, as do the
poor. Everybody is up and wide awake and doing. The earth and the
habitations thereof are rubbed, cleaned, and swept, or skylarked
over; the boy plays with his marbles on the sidewalk or whoops over
the fields; the housewives fling wide open their house windows, and
the dust of the winter flies out like smoke; the tradesmen set out
their new wares to public view, the bees make honey, the birds repeat
their world-old nesting songs, the cocks crow straight through the
day; nothing stops till the sun sets, and even then it is hard for
such an ardent clock of life to quite run down.

It was that spirit of unrest which had sent the two ladies out making
calls. There was not one where, if the womenkind were at home at all
and not afield, but they had been possessed of the spring activity,
until they reached the Ranger place, where the new-comers to
Banbridge lived. The Ranger place was, in some respects the most
imposing house in Banbridge. It stood well back from the road, in
grounds which deserved the name. They were extensive, dotted with
stately groups of spruces and pines, and there was in the rear of the
house a pond with a rustic bridge, fringed with willows, which gave
the place its name, "Willow Lake." The house had formerly been owned
by two maiden women with much sentiment, the sisters of the present
owner. The place was "Willow Lake." The pond was the "Willow Mere,"
in defiance of the name of the place. The little rustic bridge was
the "Bridge of Sighs," for some obscure reason, perhaps buried in the
sentimental past of the sisters. And the little hollow which was
profusely sprinkled with violets in the spring was "Idlewild." It was
in "Idlewild" that the new family, perverse to the spirit of the day,
idled when the callers drove up the road in the best coach.

There was in the little violet-sprinkled hollow a small building with
many peaks as to its roof, and diamond-paned windows which had been
fitted out with colored glass in a hideous checker-work of orange and
crimson and blue, which the departed sisters had called, none but
themselves knew why, "The Temple." On the south side grew a rose-bush
of the kind which flourished most easily in the village, taking most
kindly to the soil. It was an ordinary kind of rose. The sisters had
called it an eglantine, but it was not an eglantine. They had been
very fond, when the weather permitted, of sitting in this edifice
with their work. The place was fitted up with a rustic table and two
quite uncomfortable rustic chairs, particularly uncomfortable for the
sisters, who were of a thin habit of body.

When James Ranger, who was himself not a man of sentiment, showed the
new aspirant for the renting of the place this fantastic building, he
spoke of it with a species of apology.

"My sisters had this built," said he, "and it cost considerable," for
he did not wish to disparage the money value of anything.

When the family were established in their new home, one of the first
things which they did--they signifying Mrs. Carroll, Miss Anna
Carroll, the daughters Miss Ina and Miss Charlotte Carroll, and the
son Edward Carroll, called Eddy by the family--was to march in a body
upon the little "Temple," and, armed with stones, proceed with shouts
of merriment to smash out every spear of the crimson and orange and
blue glass in the windows. They then demolished the rustic furniture
and made of that a noble bonfire. Mrs. Carroll had indeed wondered,
between fits of laughter, in her sweet drawl, if they ought to
destroy the furniture, as it could not be said, strictly speaking, to
belong to them to destroy, but she was promptly vetoed by all the
others in merry chorus.

"They are too hideous to live," said Ina; "they ought to be burned.
It is our plain duty to burn them."

Therefore they burned them, and brought out some of the parlor chairs
to replace them. Then Eddy was sent to Rosenstein's, the village
dry-goods store of Banbridge, for yards of green mosquito netting,
which, the Carroll credit being newly established with a blare of
trumpets, he purchased. Then they had tacked up the green mosquito
netting over the window and door gaps, for they had forcibly wrenched
the ornate door from its hinges and added it to the bonfire, and the
temple of the Muses stood in a film of gently undulating green under
the green willows, and was rather a thing of beauty.

The Carrolls loved to pass away the time in that retreat veiled with
cloudy green, through which they could see the dull glimmer of the
pond, like an old shield of silver, reflecting the waving garlands of
the willows, which at that time of year were as beautiful as trees of
heaven, having effects of waving lines of liquid green light, and the
charming violet-blue turf around them.

The afternoon of the call all the female members of the Carroll
family were out there. Captain Carroll was in the City, and Eddy,
who, being a boy, was more susceptible to the lash of atmospheric
influence, had gone fishing.

"I wonder why Eddy likes to go fishing," said Mrs. Carroll, in her
sweet drawl. "Eddy never caught anything."

"You don't have a very high opinion of your son's powers as a
fisherman, Amy," said Ina, and they all laughed. The Carrolls were an
easy-to-laugh family, and always seemed to find delicious humor in
one another's remarks.

"Amy never thinks any of us can catch anything," said Charlotte, the
younger daughter, and they all laughed again.

Mrs. Carroll was always Amy in her family. Never did one of her
children address her as a parent.

They were a charming group in the little, green, gloomy place, each
with the strongest possible family likeness to the others. They were
as much alike as the roses on one bush; all were, although not tall,
long, and slim of body, and childishly round of face, with delicate
coloring; all had pathetic dark eyes and soft lengths of dark hair.
Mrs. Carroll and her husband's sister, although not nearly related
(Mrs. Carroll had married her many-times-removed cousin), resembled
each other as if they had been sisters of one family, and the
children resembled their mother. The only difference among any of
them was a slight difference of expression that existed mostly in the
youngest girl, Charlotte. There were occasions when Charlotte
Carroll's expression of soft and pathetic wistfulness and pleading
could change to an expression of defiance, almost fierceness.

Her mother often told her that she resembled in disposition her
paternal grandmother, who had been a woman of high temper, albeit a
great beauty.

"Charlotte, dear, you are just like your grandmother, dear Arthur's
mother, who was the worst-tempered and loveliest woman in Kentucky,"
Mrs. Carroll often remarked. She scarcely sounded the _t_ in
Kentucky, since she also was of the South, where the languid air
tends to produce elisions. The Carrolls came originally from
Kentucky, and had lived there until after the births of the two
daughters. When they were scarcely more than infants, Arthur Carroll
had experienced the petty and individual, but none the less real,
cataclysm of experience which comes to most men sooner or later. It
is the earthquake of a unit, infinitesimal, but entirely complete of
its kind, and possibly as far-reaching in its thread of consequences.
Arthur Carroll had had his palmy days, when he was working with great
profits, and, as he believed, with entire righteousness and regard to
his fellow-men, a coal-mine in the Kentucky mountains. He had
inherited it from his father, as the larger part of his patrimony.
When most of the property had been dissipated, at the time of the
civil war, the elder Carroll, who was broken by years and reverses,
used often to speak of this unimproved property of his, to his son
Arthur, who was a young boy at the time. Anna, who was a mere baby,
was the only other child.

"When you are a man, Arthur," he was fond of remarking--"when you are
a man, you must hire some money, sell what little is left here, if
necessary, and work that coal-mine. I always meant to do it myself,
and reckon I should have, if that damned war had not taken the money
and the strength out of the old man. But when you are a man, Arthur,
you must work that mine, and you must build up what the war has torn
down. You can buy back and restore, Arthur, and if the South should
get back her rights by that time, as she may, why, then, you can
stock up the old place again, and go on as your father did."

The old man, who was gouty and full of weary chills of body and mind,
used to sit in the sun and dream, to his faint solace, until Arthur
was a grown man and through college, and Anna a young girl at school
near by. The little that had been left, with the bare exception of
the home estate, the plantation, and the mine, had been sold to pay
for Arthur's education. Arthur had been out of college only one
summer when his father died. His mother, whose proud spirit had
fretted the flesh from her bones and drunk up her very blood with
futile rage and repining, had died during the war. Then Arthur, who
had control of everything, as his sister's guardian, set to work to
carry out his father's cherished dream with regard to the coal-mine.
He sold every foot of the estate to a neighboring planter, an old
friend of his father's, at a sacrifice, with a condition attached
that he should have the option of buying it back for cash, at an
advanced price, at the end of five years. The purchaser, who was a
shrewd sort, of Scotch descent, curiously grafted on to an impetuous,
hot-blooded Southern growth, looked at the slim young fellow with his
expression of ingenuous almost fatuous confidence in his
leading-strings of fate, and considered that he was safe enough and
had made a good bargain. He too had suffered from the war, in more
ways than one. He had come out of the strife shorn in his fleece of
worldly wealth and mutilated as to his body. He limped stiffly on a
wooden leg, and his fine buildings had gone up in fire and smoke. But
during the years since the war he had retrieved his fortunes. People
said he was worth more than before; everything he had handled had
prospered. He was one of those men whose very touch seems to multiply
possessions. He was a much younger man than Arthur's father, and
robust at the time of his death. He explained to Arthur that he was
doing him an incalculable service in purchasing his patrimonial
estate, when he announced his decision so to do, after taking several
weeks to conceal his alacrity.

"It is not everybodee would take a propertee, with such a condeetion
attached, Arthur, boy," he said. He had at times a touch of the
Scotch in his accent. His father had been straight from the old
country when he married the planter's daughter. "Not everybodee, with
such a condeetion," he repeated, and the boy innocently believed him.
He had been used, ever since he was a child and could remember
anything, to seeing a good deal of the man. The Southern wife had
died early and the man had been lonely and given to frequent friendly
meetings with Mr. Carroll, who had valued him.

"He's the right sort, Arthur," he had often told the boy; "you can
depend on him. He has given his gold and his flesh and blood for the
South, although he came on one side of another race and might have
sided against us. He's the right sort."

So the Scotch-Southern planter had been one of the bearers at the old
Carroll's funeral, and the son, when he had formulated his business
schemes, had gone to this friend with them, and with his proposal for
the sale of the Carroll property. The boy, who was honorable to the
finish, had been loath to ask, in the then reduced state of the
property, for a loan on mortgage to the extent which he would
require; therefore he proposed this conditional sale as offering
rather better, or at least more evident, security, and he regarded it
in his own mind as practically amounting to the same thing. He was as
sure of his being able to purchase back his own, should he secure the
necessary funds, as he would have been of paying up the mortgage. The
advance price would about twice cover the interest at a goodly rate,
had the affair been conducted on the mortgage basis. Arthur himself
had proposed that, and "I will of course pay for any improvements you
may have made in the mean time," he said. There was nothing in the
least mean or ungenerous about Arthur Carroll. He meant, on the
whole, rather more squarely to his fellow-men than to himself.

Then with the money obtained from the sale of his patrimony he went
to work on his coal-mine. A very trifle of a beginning had been made
on it before the war, so he had not actually to break the first
ground. The previous owner had died bankrupt from lack of capital,
and his minor daughter had inherited it. It was from the minor
daughter that the elder Carroll had purchased it, partly with a view
to assisting the child, who had been left penniless except for the
mine, at the death of her father, who was of a distant branch of
Carroll's own family. With the proceeds of the sale the girl was
supported and educated; then she lost the remainder through the
dishonesty of her guardian. That was the year after young Carroll
began to work the mine. Then he married her. She was a beautiful
girl, and helpless as a flower. He married her without a cent to
support her except the old coal-mine, and he worked as hard and
bravely as a man could. And he prospered, to the utter amazement of
everybody who watched him, and who had prophesied failure from the
start. In four years he was looked upon with respect. People said he
was fast getting rich. He went to the man who had bought the Carroll
place, at the end of the four years, with the money in his hand and
proposed purchasing it. He had not a doubt, such was his trust in the
friendliness of the man, that he would gladly consent and pat him on
the back with fatherly affection for his success; but, to his
amazement, he was refused, although still under the guise of the
purest philanthropy.

"No, Arthur, boy," he said. "It is best for you to keep the money in
your business awhile longer. It will not do, in a big undertaking
like a mine, for you to be creepled. No, Arthur, boy, wait until the
next year is up. It is for your good."

In vain Arthur offered an advance upon the original advance price.
"No, Arthur, boy," he repeated.

"No, Arthur, boy," he continued to repeat. "It is not wise for you to
be creepled in your business."

Arthur protested that he would not be crippled, but with no avail. He
went away disappointed, and yet with his faith unshaken. He did not
know what transpired later on, that negotiations which would
materially enhance the value of the property were being carried on
with a railroad by the planter, who was himself one of the railroad
directors.

About six months after Arthur's attempt to purchase back his
ancestral acres, and while he was at high tide of a small prosperity,
this same man came to him with a proposal for him to furnish on
contract a large quantity of coal to this same railroad. Arthur
jumped at the chance. The contract was drawn up by a lawyer in the
nearest town and signed. Arthur, trusting blindly to the honesty and
good-will of everybody, had hurried for his train without seeing more
than that the stipulated rates had been properly mentioned in the
contract. His wife was ill; in fact, Charlotte was only a few days
old, and he was anxious and eager to be home. There had been no
strikes at that period in that vicinity, and indeed comparatively few
in the whole country. Arthur would almost as soon have thought of
guarding in his contract against an earthquake; but the strike clause
was left out, and there was a strike. In consequence he was unable to
fill the contract without ruin, and he was therefore ruined. In the
end the old friend of his father, who had purchased his patrimony,
remained in undisputed possession of it, with an additional value of
several thousands from the passage of the railroad through one end of
the plantation, and had, besides, the mine. Arthur had sold the mine
at a nominal price to pay his debts, to a third party who represented
this man. He had been left actually penniless with a wife and two
babies to support, but as his pocket became empty his very soul had
seemed to become full to overflowing with the rage and bitterness of
his worldly experience. He had learned that the man whom he had
trusted had instigated the strike; he learned about the railroad
deal. One night he went to his plantation with a shot-gun. He
approached the house which had formerly been his own home, where the
man was living then. He fully intended to shoot him. He had not a
doubt but he should do it, and he had always considered that he
should have carried out his purpose had not an old horse which the
man had purchased with the estate, and which was loose on the lawn,
from some reason or other, whinnied eagerly, and sidled up to him,
and thrust her nose over his shoulder. He had been used, when a boy,
to feed her sugar, and she remembered. Arthur went away through the
soft Southern moonlight without shooting the man. Somehow it was
because of the horse, and he never knew why it was. The old childish
innocence and happiness seemed to flood over him in a light of spirit
which dimmed the moonlight and swept away the will for murder from
his soul. But the bitterness and the hate of the man who had wronged
him never left him. The next day he went North, and the man in
possession breathed more easily, for he had had secret misgivings.

"You had better look out," another man had said to him. "You have
trodden on the toes of a tiger when you have trodden on the toes of a
Carroll. Sooner or later you will have to pay for it."

No one in the little Kentucky village knew what had become of Arthur
Carroll for some time, with the exception of an aunt of Mrs.
Carroll's, who was possessed of some property and who lived there.
She knew, but she told nothing, probably because she had a fierce
pride of family. After years the Carroll girls, Ina and Charlotte,
had come back to their father's birthplace and attended a small
school some three miles distant from the village, a select young
ladies' establishment at which their mother had been educated, and
they had visited rather often at their great-aunt Catherine's. After
they had finished school, the great-aunt had paid the bills, although
nobody knew it, not even the elderly sisters who kept the school,
since the aunt lied and stated that Captain Carroll had sent the
money. Arthur Carroll was called captain then, and nobody knew why,
least of all Carroll himself. Suddenly he had been called captain,
and after making a disclaimer or two at first, he had let it go; it
was a minor dishonesty, and forced upon him in a measure. The old
aunt calmly stated that he had joined the army, been rapidly
promoted, and had resigned. People laughed a little, but not to her
face. Besides, she had stated that Arthur was a very rich man, and
much thought of among the Yankees, and nobody was in a position to
disprove that. Certainly when the feminine Carrolls visited in the
old place, their appearance carried out the theory of riches. They
were very well dressed, and they looked well fed, with that placid,
assured air which usually comes only from the sense of possession.

The feminine Carrolls had been speaking of this old aunt that spring
day as they sat idly in the little green-curtained temple beside the
pond. They had indulged in a few low, utterly gentle, and unmalicious
laughs of reminiscence at some of her eccentricities; then they had
agreed that she was a good old soul, and said no more of her, but
gazed with languorous delight at the spring scene misty with green
and rose and gold like the smoke of some celestial fire.

Through the emerald dazzle of the trailing willow-boughs could be
seen a small, blooming apple-tree, and a bush full of yellow flowers.
Miss Anna Carroll and Ina held books in their laps, but they never
looked in them. They were all very well dressed and they wore quite a
number of fine jewels on their hands and at their necks, particularly
Mrs. Carroll. Her stones, though only of the semi-precious kind, were
very beautiful, amethysts which had belonged to a many-times-removed
creole grandmother of hers, and the workmanship of whose fine setting
dated back to France, and there was a tradition of royal ownership.
Mrs. Carroll had a bracelet, a ring, a brooch, and a necklace. The
stones, although deeply tinted, showed pink now instead of purple. In
fact, they seemed to match the soft, rose-tinted India silk which she
wore.

"Amy's amethysts match colors like chamellons," said Ina. "Look how
pink they are."

"Lovely," said Charlotte, gazing admiringly. "The next time I go to a
dance, you promised I should wear the necklace, Amy, dear."

"You will not go to a dance for a long time in Banbridge, sweet, I
fear," said Mrs. Carroll, with loving commiseration.

"Somebody will call soon, and we shall be asked to something," said
Charlotte, with conviction.

"Nobody has called yet," Ina said.

"We have only been here three weeks," said Miss Anna Carroll, who was
a beautiful woman, and, but for a certain stateliness of carriage,
might have seemed but little older than her elder niece.

"Somebody may be calling this afternoon," said Ina, "and the maid has
gone out, and we should not know they called."

"Oh, let them leave their cards," said Mrs. Carroll, easily. "That is
the only way to receive calls, and make them. If one could only know
when people would be out, but not have them know you knew,
always--that would be lovely--and if one only knew when they were
coming, so one could always be out--that would be lovelier still."
Mrs. Carroll had a disjointed way of speaking when she essayed a long
speech, that had almost an infantile effect.

"Amy, how very ungracious of you, dear," said Miss Anna Carroll. "You
know you always love people when you really do meet them."

"Oh yes," replied Amy, "I know I love them."

Meantime, Mrs. Lee and Mrs. Van Dorn were ringing the door-bell of
the Carroll house. They rang the bell and waited, and nobody came.

"Did you ring the bell?" asked Mrs. Van Dorn, anxiously.

"I thought I did. I pressed the button very hard."

"I didn't hear it. I think you had better ring again."

Mrs. Lee obediently pressed the bell again, and then both ladies
heard distinctly the far-away tinkle in the depths of the house.

"I heard that," said Mrs. Lee.

"Yes, so did I. It rang that time."

Then the ladies waited again.

"Suppose you ring again," said Mrs. Van Dorn, and Mrs. Lee rang
again. Then they waited again, straining their ears for the slightest
sound in the house.

"I am afraid they are out," said Mrs. Van Dorn.

"So am I. It is such a lovely afternoon."

Mrs. Van Dorn, after they had waited a short time, put out her hand
with a decisive motion, and rang the bell yet again.

"I'm going to make sure they are not at home," said she, "for I don't
know when I shall get out calling again, and I always feel as if it
was my duty to call on new-comers in the village pretty soon after
they move in."

Then they waited again, but no one came. Once Mrs. Lee started and
said she was sure she heard some one coming, but it was only the
rumble of a train at a station two miles away.

"Shall we leave our cards?" said Mrs. Lee. "I don't suppose there is
much use in waiting any longer, or ringing again."

Mrs. Van Dorn, who had been staring intently at the door, looked
quickly at her companion with a curious expression. Her face had
flushed.

"What is it?" asked Mrs. Lee. "You don't suppose any one is in there
and not coming to the door?" Mrs. Lee had a somewhat suspicious
nature.

"No; I don't think there is a soul in that house, but--"

"But what?"

"Nothing, only--"

"Only what?"

"Why, don't you see what they have done?"

"I am afraid I don't quite know what you mean," Mrs. Lee returned, in
a puzzled way. It was quite evident that Mrs. Van Dorn wished her to
grasp something which her own mind had mastered, that she wished it
without further explanation, and Mrs. Lee felt bewilderedly
apologetic that she could not comply.

"Don't you see that they have gone off and left the front door
unlocked?" said Mrs. Van Dorn, with inflections of embarrassment,
eagerness, and impatience. If she and Mrs. Lee had been, as of yore,
school-children together, she would certainly have said, "You ninny!"
to finish.

"Why!" returned Mrs. Lee, with a sort of gasp. She saw then that the
front door was not only unlocked, but slightly ajar. "Do you suppose
they really are not at home?" she whispered.

"Of course they are not at home."

"Would they go away and leave the front door unlocked?"

"They have."

"They might be in the back part of the house, and not have heard the
bell," Mrs. Lee said, with a curious tone, as if she replied to some
unspoken suggestion.

"I know this house as well as I do my own. You know how much I used
to be here when the Ranger girls were alive. There is not a room in
this house where anybody with ears can't hear the bell."

Still, Mrs. Van Dorn spoke in that curiously ashamed and indignant
voice. Mrs. Lee contradicted her no further.

"Well, I suppose you must be right," said she. "There can't be
anybody at home; but it is strange they went off and did not even
shut the front door."

"I don't know what the Ranger girls would have said, if they knew it.
They would have had a fit at the bare idea of going away for ever so
short a time, and leaving the house and furniture alone and the door
unlocked."

"Their furniture is here now, I suppose?"

"Yes, I suppose so--some of it, anyway, but I don't know how much
furniture these people bought, of course."

"Mr. Lee said he heard they had such magnificent things."

"I heard so, but you hear a good deal that isn't so in Banbridge!"

"That is true. I suppose you knew the house and the Ranger girls'
furniture so well that you could tell at a glance what was new and
what wasn't?"

"Yes, I could."

As with one impulse both women turned and peered through a green maze
of trees and bushes at Samson Rawdy, several yards distant.

"Can you see him?" whispered Mrs. Lee.

"Yes. I think he's asleep. He is sitting with his head all bent over."

"He is--not--looking?"

"No."

Mrs. Lee and Mrs. Van Dorn regarded each other. Both looked at once
ashamed and defiant before the other, then into each pair of eyes
leaped a light of guilty understanding and perfect sympathy. There
are some natures for whom curiosity is one of the master passions,
and the desire for knowledge of the affairs of others can become a
lust, and Mrs. Lee and Mrs. Van Dorn were of the number. Mrs. Van
Dorn gave her head in her best calling-bonnet a toss, and the
violets, which were none too securely fastened, nodded loosely; then
she thrust her chin forward, she sniffed like a hunting-hound on the
scent, pushed open the front-door, and entered, with Mrs. Lee
following. As Mrs. Van Dorn entered, the violets on her bonnet became
quite detached and fell softly to the floor of the porch, but neither
of the ladies noticed.

Mrs. Lee, in particular, had led a monotonous life, and she had a
small but intense spirit which could have weathered extremes. Now her
faculties seemed to give a leap; she was afraid, but there was
distinct rapture in her fear. She had not been so actively happy
since she was a child and had been left at home with the measles one
Sunday when the rest of the family had gone to church, and she had
run away and gone wading in the brook, at the imminent risk not only
of condign punishment, but of the measles striking in. She felt now
just as then, as if something terrible and mysterious were striking
in, and she fairly smacked her soul over it.

Mrs. Lee no longer shrank; she stood up straight; she also thrust her
chin forward; her nose sharpened, her blue eyes contracted under her
light brows. She even forgot her role of obligation, and did not give
Mrs. Van Dorn the precedence; she actually pushed before her. Mrs.
Van Dorn had closed the front door very softly, and they stood in a
long, narrow hall, with an obsolete tapestry carpet, and
large-figured gold and white paper revealing its gleaming scrolls in
stray patches of light. Mrs. Lee went close to an old-fashioned
black-walnut hat-tree, the one article of furniture besides a chair
in the hall.

"Was this theirs?" she whispered to Mrs. Van Dorn.

Mrs. Van Dorn nodded.

Mrs. Lee deliberately removed the nice white kid glove from her right
hand, and extending one small taper forefinger, rubbed it over the
surface of the black-walnut tree; then she pointed meaningly at the
piece of furniture, which plainly, even in the half-light, disclosed
an unhousewifely streak. She also showed the dusty forefinger to the
other lady, and they both nodded with intense enjoyment.

Then Mrs. Lee folded her silk skirts tightly around her and lifted
them high above her starched white petticoat lest she contaminate
them in such an untidy house; Mrs. Van Dorn followed her example, and
they tiptoed into the double parlors. They were furnished, for the
most part, with the pieces dating back to the building of the house,
in one of the ugliest eras of the country, both in architecture and
furniture. The ceilings in these rather small square rooms were so
lofty that one was giddy with staring at the elaborate cornices and
the plaster centrepieces. The mantels were all of massively carved
marble, the windows were few and narrow, the doors multitudinous, and
lofty enough for giants. The parlor floor was carpeted with tapestry
in enormous designs of crimson roses, in deliriums of arabesques,
though there were a few very good Eastern rugs. The furniture was
black-walnut, upholstered in crimson plush; the tables had marble
tops; the hangings were lace under heavily fringed crimson
lambrequins dependent from massive gilt mouldings. There were a
bronze clock and a whatnot and a few gilt-framed oil-paintings of the
conventional landscape type, contemporary with the furniture in
American best parlors. Still, there were a few things in the room
which directly excited comment on the part of the visitors. Mrs. Lee
pointed at some bronzes on the shelf.

"Those are theirs, aren't they?" said she.

"Yes, the Ranger girls had some very handsome Royal Worcester vases.
I guess James Ranger saw to it that those weren't left here."

Mrs. Van Dorn eyed the bronzes with outward respect, but she did not
admire them. Banbridge ladies, as a rule, unless they posed, did not
admire bronzes. She also viewed with some disapproval a number of
exquisite little Chinese ivory carvings on the whatnot. "Those are
theirs," said she. "The Ranger girls had some handsome bound books
and a silver card-receiver, and a bust of Clytie on top of the
whatnot. I suppose these are very expensive; I have always heard so.
I never priced any, but it always seemed to me that they hardly
showed the money."

"I suppose they have afternoon tea," said Mrs. Lee, regarding a
charming little inlaid tea-table, decked with Dresden.

"Perhaps so," replied Mrs. Van Dorn, doubtfully. "But I have noticed
that when tea-tables are so handsome, folks don't use them. They are
more for show. That cloth is beautiful."

"There is a tea-stain on it," declared Mrs. Lee, pointing
triumphantly.

"That is so," assented Mrs. Van Dorn. "They must use it." She looked
hard at the stain on the tea-cloth. "It's a pity to get tea on such a
cloth as that," said she. "It will never come out."

"Oh, I don't believe that will trouble them much," said Mrs. Lee,
with soft maliciousness. She indicated with the pointed toe of her
best calling-shoe, a hole in the corner of the resplendent Eastern
rug.

"Oh," returned Mrs. Van Dorn.

"I know it is considered desirable to have these Oriental things
worn," said Mrs. Lee, "but there is no sense in letting an expensive
rug like this wear out, and no good house-keeper would."

"Well, I agree with you," said Mrs. Van Dorn.

Presently they passed on to the other rooms. They made a long halt in
the dining-room.

"That must be their solid silver," said Mrs. Van Dorn, regarding
rather an ostentatious display on the sideboard.

"The idea of going away and leaving all that silver, and the doors
unlocked!" said Mrs. Lee.

"Evidently they are people so accustomed to rich things that they
don't think of such risks," said Mrs. Van Dorn, with a curious effect
of smacking her lips over possessions of her own, instead of her
neighbors. She in reality spoke from the heights of a small but solid
silver service, and a noble supply of spoons, and Mrs. Lee knew it.

"I suppose they must have perfectly beautiful table-linen," remarked
Mrs. Lee, with a wistful glance at the sideboard-drawers.

"Yes, I suppose so," assented Mrs. Van Dorn, with a half-sigh. Her
eyes also on the closed drawers of the sideboard, were melancholy,
but there was a line which neither woman could pass. They could pry
about another woman's house in her absence, but they shrank from
opening her drawers and investigating her closets. They respected all
that was covered from plain sight. Up-stairs it was the same. Things
were strewn about rather carelessly, therefore they saw more than
they would otherwise have done, but the closet-doors and the
bureau-drawers happened to be closed, and those were inviolate.

"If all their clothes are as nice as these, they must have wardrobes
nicer than any ever seen in Banbridge," said Mrs. Lee, fingering
delicately a lace-trimmed petticoat flung over a chair in one of the
bedrooms. "This is real lace, don't you think so, Mrs. Van Dorn?"

"I don't think. I know," replied Mrs. Van Dorn. "They must have
elegant wardrobes, and they must be very wealthy people. They--"
Suddenly Mrs. Van Dorn cut her remarks short. She turned quite pale
and clutched at her companion's silk-clad arm. "Hush!" she whispered.
"What was that?"

Mrs. Lee, herself ashy white, looked at her. Both had distinctly
heard a noise. Now they heard it again. The sound was that of
footsteps, evidently those of a man, in the lower hall.

"What shall we do? Oh, what shall we do?" said Mrs. Lee, in a thin
whisper. She trembled so that she could scarcely stand.

Mrs. Van Dorn, trying to speak, only chattered. She clutched Mrs. Lee
harder.

"Is there a back staircase? Oh, is there?" whispered Mrs. Lee. "Is
there?" The odor of a cigar stole softly through the house. "I can
smell his cigar," whispered Mrs. Lee, in an agony.

Mrs. Van Dorn pulled herself together. She nodded, and began pulling
Mrs. Lee towards the door.

"Oh," panted Mrs. Lee, "anything except being caught up-stairs in
their bedrooms! They might think--anything."

"Hurry!" hissed Mrs. Van Dorn. They could hear the footsteps very
distinctly, and the cigar-smoke made them want to cough. Holding
their silk skirts like twisted ropes around them so they should not
rustle, still clinging closely one to the other, the two women began
slowly moving, inch by inch, through the upper hall, towards the back
stairs. These they descended in safety, and emerged on the lower hall.

They were looking for a rear door, with the view of a stealthy egress
and a skirting of the bushes on the lawn unobserved until they should
gain the shelter of the carriage, when there was a movement at their
backs, and a voice observed, "Good-afternoon, ladies," and they
turned, and there was Captain Arthur Carroll. He was a man possibly
well over forty, possibly older than that, but his face was as smooth
as a boy's, and he was a man of great stature, with nevertheless a
boyish cant to his shoulders. Captain Arthur Carroll was a very
handsome man, with a viking sort of beauty. He was faultlessly
dressed in one of the lightest of spring suits and a fancy waistcoat,
and he held quite gracefully the knot of violets which had fallen
from Mrs. Van Dorn's bonnet.

The two stood before him, gasping, coloring, trembling. For both of
them it was horrible. All their lives they had been women who had
held up their heads high in point of respectability and more. None
was above them in Banbridge, no shame of wrong-doing or folly had
ever been known by either of them, and now both their finely bonneted
heads were in the dust. They stood before this handsome, courteously
smiling gentleman and were conscious of a very nakedness of spirit.
Their lust of curiosity was laid bare, they were caught in the act.
Mrs. Van Dorn opened her mouth, she tried to speak, but she only made
a strange, croaking sound. Her face was now flaming. But Mrs. Lee was
pale, and she stood rather unsteadily.

Arthur Carroll at first looked merely bewildered. "Aren't the ladies
at home?" said he. "Have you seen the ladies?" He glanced at Mrs. Van
Dorn's deflowered bonnet, and extended the bunch of violets. "Yours,
I think," he said. Mrs. Van Dorn took them with an idiotic
expression, and he asked again if they had seen the ladies.

The spectacle of two elderly, well-dressed females of Banbridge
quaking before him in this wise, and of their sudden appearance in
his house, was a mystery too great to be grasped at once even by a
clever man, and he was certainly a clever man. So he stared for a
second, while the two remained standing before him, holding their
card-cases in their shaking, white-gloved fingers, and Mrs. Van Dorn
with the violets; then suddenly an expression of the most delighted
comprehension and amusement overspread his face.

"Oh," he said, politely, with a great flourish, as it were of
deference, "the ladies are not in. They will be exceedingly sorry to
have missed your call. But will you not come in and sit down?"

Mrs. Van Dorn gained voice enough to gasp that she thought they must
go. Captain Carroll stood back, and the two women, pressing closely
together, tottered through the hall towards the front door.

Captain Carroll followed, beaming with delighted malice. "I hope you
will call again, when the ladies are home," he said to Mrs. Van Dorn,
whom he recognized as the leader.

She made an inarticulate attempt at "Thank you." She was making for
the door, like a scared hare to the entrance of its cover.

"But I have not your names, ladies, that I may inform Mrs. Carroll
who has called?" said Captain Carroll, in his stingingly polite voice.

Both women looked over their shrinking shoulders at him at that.
Suddenly the hideous consequences of it all, the afterclap, sounded
in their ears. That was the end of their fair fame in Banbridge, in
their world. Life for them was over. Their faces, good, motherly,
elderly village faces, after all, were pitiful; the shame in them was
a shame to see, so ignominious was it. They stood convicted of such a
mean fault, that the shame was the meaner also.

Suddenly Mr. Carroll's face changed. It became broadly comprehensive,
so generously lenient that it was fairly grand. A certain gentleness
also was evident, his voice was kind.

"Never mind, ladies," said Arthur Carroll. "There is really very
little use in your telling me your names, because my memory is so
bad. I remember neither names nor faces. If I should meet you on the
street, and should fail to recognize you on that account, I trust
that you will pardon me. And--" said Captain Carroll, "on that
account, I will not say anything about your call to the ladies of my
family; I should be sure to get it all wrong. We will wait, and trust
that you will find them at home the next time you call.
Good-afternoon, ladies." Captain Carroll had further mercy. He
allowed the ladies to leave the house unattended and to dive
desperately into the waiting coach.

"Home at once," Mrs. Van Dorn cried, hoarsely, to Samson Rawdy,
waking from his nap in some bewilderment.

Captain Carroll was standing on the porch with a compound look of
kindest pity and mirth on his face when the Carroll ladies came
strolling round that way from the pond. He kissed them all, as was
his wont; then he laughed out inconsequently.

"What are you laughing at, dear?" asked Amy.

"At my thoughts, sweetheart."

"What are your thoughts, daddy?" asked Charlotte.

"Thoughts I shall never tell anybody, honey," he replied, with
another laugh. And Captain Arthur Carroll never did tell.



Chapter III


History often repeats itself where one would least expect it, and the
world-old tide of human nature has a way of finding world-old
channels. Therefore it happened in Banbridge, as in ancient times,
that there was a learned barber, or perhaps, to be more strictly
accurate, a barber who thought that he was learned. He would have
been entirely ready, had his customers coincided with his views, to
have given his striped pole its old signification of the ribbon
bandage which bound the arm of a patient after bleeding, and added
surgery to his hair-cutting and his beard-shaving. John Flynn had the
courage of utter conviction as to his own ability to master all
undertakings at which he chose to tilt. An aspiration once conceived,
he never parted with, but held to it as a part of his life.
Non-realization made not the slightest difference. His sense of time
as a portion of eternity never left him, and therefore his patience
under tardy fulfilment of his desires never faltered. Some ten years
before, he decided that he would at some earlier or later date become
mayor of Banbridge, and his decision was still impregnable. After
every new election of another candidate, he begged his patrons for
their votes another time, and was not in the least disturbed nor
daunted that they had failed in their former promises. Flynn's
good-nature was as unfaltering as his self-esteem, perhaps because of
his self-esteem. He only smiled with fatuous superiority when from
time to time, after the elections, his patrons would chaff him about
his failure to secure the mayoralty. They did so with more effect
since there were always among the horse-players on such occasions a
few who would cast votes for the barber, esteeming it as a choice and
perennial joke, and his reading his name among the unsuccessful
candidates served to foster his delusion and keep Flynn's ambition
alive.

One Sunday, shortly after the Carrolls had moved to Banbridge, John
Flynn was shaving Jacob Rosenstein, who kept the principal dry-goods
store of the village, and a number of men were sitting and lounging
about, waiting their turns. Flynn's shop was on the main street in
the centre of the business district--his shop, or his "Tonsorial
Parlor," as his sign had it. It was quite an ornate establishment.
There was a lace lambrequin in the show-window, a palm in each
corner, between which stood a tank of gold-fish, and below the lace
lambrequin swung a gilt cage containing an incessantly hopping,
though silent, yellow canary.

Flynn was intensely proud and fond of the establishment, and was
insulted if it was alluded to as a barber-shop. He himself never even
thought of it, much less spoke of it, as such. "Well, I must be going
to the 'Parlor,'" he would say when setting out to business. He was
unmarried, and lived in a boarding-house.

As Flynn shaved Rosenstein, who was naturally speechless, his
landlady's husband, Billy Amidon, was talking a good deal. Amidon was
always shaved for nothing, in consideration of the fact that his wife
supported him with board money, and the barber had an undefined
conviction that it was mean to take it back after he had just paid
it. Amidon was a notorious talker, and was called a very "dry sort of
man," which, in the village vernacular, signified that he was
esteemed a wit.

"Well," he said to another man, who was leaning with a relaxation of
all his muscles against the little strip of counter, which contained
a modest assortment of hair-oils and shaving-brushes and soaps which
nobody was ever seen to buy--"well, John has lost ten pounds since
the election, Tappan."

Tappan ran a milk-route between Banbridge and Ardmoor, a little
farming-place six miles out. Tappan was an Ardmoor man. His
milk-wagon stood in front of the "Tonsorial Parlor." He had a drink
of beer at Frank Steinbach's saloon next door, and now was waiting
for his Sunday shave before going home. His milk-peddling was over
for the day. He was a hard-working-man, and had been on the road
since four o'clock. He had a heavy look about his eyes, and he
greeted Amidon's facetiousness with a weary and surly hitch.

"Has he?" he replied, indifferently.

But a very young, very small man, sitting in one of the "Parlor"
arm-chairs, laughed like a child, with intense enjoyment. "Yep," he
said, "I've noticed that. As much as ten pounds has went since
election, sure."

"Shet up," replied Flynn, carefully scraping his patron's face. He
said "Shet up" with an expression of foolish pride. The postmaster of
Banbridge, who was sitting somewhat aloof and held himself with a
constraint of exclusiveness (he was new to his office and had not yet
lost the taste of its dignity), laughed.

"Let me see, how many votes did you have this year, John?" he asked,
condescendingly.

"Five," replied John, with open exultation.

"Now, John, why didn't you get more than that, I'd like to know?"

Flynn laughed knowingly. "Oh," he said, "it's the old story--not
money enough."

"But a lot promised they'd vote for you, didn't they, John?"
persisted the postmaster, Sigsbee Ray, with a wink of humorous
confidence at the others.

"Yep, but damme, who expects anybody to keep an election promise if
he ain't paid for it? I ain't unreasonable. What's elections for? You
wait."

"Haven't you given up yet, John?"

"Well, I guess not. You wait."

"Say, John," interposed Amidon, "how much did you pay them five what
voted for you this year, hey?"

Flynn looked up from Rosenstein's belathered face with a burst of
simple triumph. "I didn't pay any of them a penny," said he. "There
is damn fools everywhere, and you wait," said he, "an' see ef there
ain't more come to light next time. I'll fetch it yet, along of the
fools, an' ef I can raise a leetle money, an' I begin to see my way
clear to that."

"How's that?" John was asked by the small young man.

"I'm layin' low 'bout that," replied John, mysteriously.

"Now, John," said the postmaster, "you wouldn't lay low if there was
a good chance to make some money, and not give us poor devils a
chance?"

The postmaster spoke consciously. He expected what came, the buzz of
remonstrance at his classing himself in his new office with poor
devils.

"You'd better talk about poor devils," growled the milkman, Tappan.
"You'd better talk. Huh! here you be, don't hev to git to work till
eight o'clock, an' quittin' at eight nights, and fifteen hundred a
year. You'd better talk, Mr. Ray. If you was a man gittin' up at
three of a winter's mornin', and settin' out with a milk-route at
four, an' makin' 'bout half a penny a quart, an' cussed at that
'cause it ain't all cream--if you was as dead tired as I be this
minute you might talk."

"Well, I'm willing to allow that I am not as hard pushed as you are,"
said the postmaster, with magnanimous humility.

"You'd better. Poor devils, huh! I guess I know what poor devils be,
and the hell they're in. Bet your life I do. Huh!"

"I'm a poor devil 'nough myself, when it comes to that," said Amidon,
"but I reckon you kin speak for yourself when it comes to talkin'
about bein' in hell, Tappan. Fur's I'm concerned, I'm findin' this a
purty comfertable sort of place."

Amidon was a tall man, and he stretched his length luxuriously as he
spoke. Tappan eyed him malignantly. He was not a pleasant-tempered
man, and now he was both weary and impatient of waiting for his turn
with the barber.

"I should think any man might be comfortable, ef he had a wife takin'
boarders to support him, but mebbe if she was to be asked to tell the
truth, she'd tell a different story," he said. Tappan spoke in a tone
of facetious rage, and the others laughed, all except the barber. He
had a curious respect for his landlady's husband.

"Ef a lady has the undisposition to let her husband subside on her
bounty, it is between them twain. Who God has joined together, let no
man set asunder," said he, bombastically, and even the surly milkman,
and Rosenstein under his manipulating razor, when a laugh was
dangerous, laughed. John Flynn, when he waxed didactic, and made use
of large words and phrases, was the comic column of Banbridge.

Amidon, thus defended, chuckled also, albeit rather foolishly, and
slouched to the door. "Guess I'll drop up and git the Sunday paper.
I'll be in later on, John," he mumbled. He had the grace to be
somewhat ashamed both by the attack and by the defence, and was for
edging out, but stopped on the threshold of the door, arrested by
something which the small man said.

"Talkin' about poor devils, there's one man in Banbridge ain't no
poor devil. S'pose you know we've got a J. P. Morgan right amongst
us?"

"Who?" asked the postmaster; and Amidon, directly now the
conversation was thoroughly shifted from himself, returned to his
former place.

"I know who he means," said he, importantly. "Oh, it's the man what's
rented the Ranger place. They say he's a millionaire."

The milkman straightened himself interestedly. "I rather guess he
is," said he. "They take two quarts of cream every morning, and three
quarts of milk."

"Lord!" said the barber, gaping over his patron's head. "Lord!"

Although very short and slight, the barber had a large face, simple,
amiable with a smirk of conceit as to the lower part; his forehead
was very large and round, as was his head, and his blue eyes were
very placid, even beautiful. The barber never laughed.

"Two quarts of cream!" said the small man. "Whew!"

"He must be rich if he takes all that cream," said the postmaster. "A
half a pint a day about breaks me, but my wife must have it for her
coffee."

Rosenstein had so far got his freedom of speech, for the barber had
never ceased operation to speak, though rather guardedly. "He must be
rich," he said. "Any man in Banbridge that buys as much as he does
from a store in the place, an' wants his bills regular every Saturday
night, has got somethin'."

"Has he paid 'em?" asked the postmaster.

"All except the last one, an' that he didn't pay because I couldn't
cash a check for five hundred and give him the balance. 'Lord, sir,'
says I, 'ef you want a check of that value cashed, you'll have to go
to John Wanamaker. That's as much as I take in Banbridge in a whole
year.' 'Well, mebbe you'll do better this year,' says he, laughing,
and goes out. He's a fine-spoken man, an' it was a lucky day for
Banbridge when he come here."

"He don't buy many postage-stamps," said the postmaster,
thoughtfully, "but he asked me if I should be able to let him have as
much as ten dollars' worth at a time, ef he wanted 'em, an' I said I
should, an' I've just ordered in more. An' he has a big mail."

The barber had been opening his mouth and catching his breath
preparatory to speaking and saying more than any of them. Now he
spoke: "That man's wuth a mighty lot of money now," said he, "but
what he's wuth now ain't nothin' to what he's goin' to be wuth some
day."

"What do you mean, John?" asked Amidon, patronizingly.

"Well, now, I'll tell you what I mean. That man, it's Cap. Carroll
what's just arraigned to Banbridge that you're all talkin' about,
ain't it?"

"Yes. Go ahead."

"Well, now, Cap. Carroll is agoin' to be one of them great
clapatalists, ef he ain't now," he said.

"How?"

"Well, he got holt of some stock that's goin' to bust the market and
turn Wall Street into a mill-stream in less than a year, ef it keeps
on as it has went so fur."

"What is it?" asked the small man.

The milkman sighed wearily. "Oh, slow up yer jaw, and gimme a chance
sometime," he growled. "I want to git home an' git my breakfast. I'm
hungry."

Flynn began hurriedly finishing off Rosenstein, talking with no less
eagerness as he did so. "Well, it's Bonaflora mining-stock, ef you
want to know," he said, importantly.

"Where is it?" asked the postmaster, with a peculiar smile.

"Out West somewhere. It ain't but fifty cents a share, an' it's goin'
up like a skyrocket, an' there's others. There's a new railroad out
there, an' other mines, an' a new invention for makin' fuel out of
coal-dust, an' some other things."

"Is Captain Carroll the president of them?" asked the small man, with
an impressed air. He was very young, and eager-looking, and very
shabby. He grubbed on a tiny ancestral farm, for a living for himself
and wife and four children, young as he was. He had never had enough
to eat, at least of proper food. He did not come to the "Tonsorial
Parlor" to be shaved, for he hacked away at his innocent cheeks at
home with his deceased father's old razor, but he loved a little
gossip. In fact, John Flynn's barber-shop was his one dissipation.
Sometimes he looked longingly at a beer-saloon, but he had no money,
unless he starved Minna and the children, and for that he was too
good and too timid. His Minna was a stout German girl, twice his
size, and she ruled him with a rod of iron. She did not approve of
the barber-shop, and so the pleasure had something of the zest of a
forbidden one.

Every Sunday he was at his wit's end, which was easily reached, to
invent a suitable excuse for his absence. To-day it had been to see
if Mrs. Amidon did not want to buy some apples. Some of their last
winter's store had been miraculously preserved, and Minna saw the way
to a few pennies thereby. He could quite openly say that he had been
to the barber-shop to-day, having seen Amidon there, therefore he was
quite easy in his mind, and leaned back in his chair with perfect
content. One of the children at home cried all the time. A yawning
mouth of wrath at existence was about all he ever saw of that
particular baby, and Minna almost always scolded, and this was a
haven of peace to little Willy Eddy.

Here he felt like a man among men; at home he felt like nothing at
all among women. The children were all girls. Sometimes he wondered
if a boy-baby might not have been a refuge. He was not very clean;
his hands were still stained with picking over potatoes the day
before; his shoulders in their rusty coat had a distinct hunch; but
he was radiantly happy talking of the rich Captain Carroll. He seemed
to taste the honey of the other man's riches and importance in his
own mouth. Willy Eddy did not know the meaning of envy. He had such a
fund of sympathetic imagination that he possessed the fair
possessions of others like a child with fairy tales.

"Is he president of all of them?" asked little Willy Eddy, with
gusto, and looked as if he himself held them all in his meagre
potato-stained hands.

"No," replied the barber, with importance--"no, he's more than a
president. A president is nothin' except a figger-head. I don't care
what he's president of, whether it is of this great country or of
railroads or what not. They could git along without the president,
but they can't without this gentleman. He's the promoter."

"Oh!" said the small man.

The milkman sighed wrathfully again. "Oh, hang it all!" he said.
"I've seed promoters. It's mostly their own pockets they promote."

"Well, I don't know," said the postmaster, as one with authority. "I
don't know. Captain Carroll was in the office the other day, and we
had a little talk, and it struck me that some of the ventures he is
interested in were quite promising. And it is different with a man of
his wealth. When a poor man takes up anything of the kind, you can
suspect, but this is different. He said to me that he had no
occasion, so far as the money was concerned, to turn his finger over
for any of them or to open his mouth concerning them. He said he
would not be afraid to stake every dollar he had in the world on them
if it was necessary."

Flynn had daintily anointed Rosenstein's shaven face with witch-hazel
and was now dusting it with powder. Tappan was slouching towards the
chair.

"Have you bought some of the stock?" the barber asked, abruptly, of
the postmaster, who smiled mysteriously and hedged.

"Well, maybe I have, and maybe again I haven't," said he. "Have you,
John?"

"Not yet," replied the barber. "I am deflecting upon the matter. It
requires considerable loggitation when a man has penuriously saved a
circumscribed sum from the sweat of his brow."

"That's so. Don't be rash, John," said Amidon.

It was not especially funny, but since Amidon intended it to be, they
all obligingly laughed, except Tappan, who set himself with a grunt
in the chair and had the white sheet of which Rosenstein had been
denuded tied around his neck.

Rosenstein, who was a lean man, with a much-lined face, cast a glance
at himself in the looking-glass, and heaved an odd sigh as he turned
away to get his hat.

"You don't seem to be much stuck on your looks, old man," remarked
Amidon.

Rosenstein cast a perfectly good-humored but rather melancholy look
at Amidon. "No; I never was," he replied, soberly. "Can't remember
when I wouldn't have preferred to meet some other fellow in the
looking-glass. It's such an awful thing, the intimacy with himself
that's forced on a man when he comes into this world."

"That's so," assented Amidon, rather stupidly, but he was not to be
abashed with the other man's metaphysics. Rosenstein did credit to
his German ancestry at times, and was then in deep waters for his
village acquaintances.

"Who would you ruther meet in the lookin'-glass than yerself?"
pursued Amidon.

"Not you," replied Rosenstein, with unexpected repartee, and was
going out amid a chorus of glee at Amidon's discomfiture when another
man darkened the doorway, and the storekeeper fell back as Captain
Carroll entered amid a sullen silence.

The postmaster rose, and in a second the small man and Amidon
followed his example. Carroll greeted them all with a cordiality
which had in it a certain implication of admiring confidence. Not a
man there but felt at once that this new-comer had a most flattering
recognition of himself in particular, to the exclusion of all the
others. It was odd how he contrived to produce this impression, but
produce it he did. It was Arthur Carroll's great charm, the great
secret of a remarkable influence over his fellow-men. He appealed
with consummate skill to the selfish side of every one with whom he
came in contact, he exalted him in his own eyes far above the masses
with whom he was surrounded, by who could tell what subtle alchemy.
Each man preened unconsciously his panoply of spiritual pride under
this other man's gentle, courteous eyes. Even Rosenstein straightened
himself. And besides, this was the respectful admiration which the
man himself excited, by reason of his fine appearance and address,
his good looks, his irreproachable clothes, and his reputed wealth.

Arthur Carroll made an entrance into the "Tonsorial Parlor."
Moreover, the other men could see out in front of the establishment,
the coach, the coachman in livery--the first livery on record as
actually resident in Banbridge; liveries had passed through, but
never before tarried--the fretting steeds with their glittering
equipment. Around the coach had already gathered several small boys,
huddled together, and transfixed with awe too deep for impudence.

Carroll, having greeted the men, said good-morning urbanely to the
barber, who had ceased lathering Tappan and was looking at him
indeterminately. It seemed dreadful to him that this great man should
have to wait for the milkman. The barber was a conservative to the
core, and would speak of the laboring-classes and tradesmen as if he
himself were on the other side of the highway from birth. Tappan
himself, who, as said before, was naturally surly, was also a
dissenter on principle, and had an enlarged sense of injury, had
qualms at keeping waiting a man who patronized him to the extent of
two quarts of cream and three quarts of milk daily. It was like
quarrelling with his bread-and-butter, as he put it, when alluding to
the affair later on.

"I ain't goin' through the world seein' no men as is better 'n I be,"
he said, "but there's jest this much about it, I ain't a fool, an' I
know enough to open the door when a man wants to walk through to pay
me some money. Ef Carroll hadn't been takin' that much cream and
milk, I'd set there in that barber's-chair ef I'd had a year's beard
to shave, an' I'd kept him waitin', and enjoyed it, but, as it was, I
did what I did."

What Tappan did was to wave back Flynn's lathering-hand, and to say,
rather splutteringly, that he would wait, "ef Captain Carroll was in
a hurry."

But Captain Carroll was in no hurry, it seemed, and, moreover, gave
the impression that if he had been about to catch a railroad train to
keep an important business engagement, he would not have dreamed of
thrusting himself in before the milkman with his milk all delivered.
He, moreover, gave the impression that he considered the milkman a
polished gentleman for his handsome offer, and all this without
saying so much. Captain Carroll seated himself, and completed the
impression by tendering everybody cigars. Then the "Tonsorial Parlor"
and its patrons waiting for a Sunday-morning shave became a truly
genteel function. Willy Eddy, who was dreamily imaginative, and read
the Sunday papers when his Minna gave him a chance and did not chide
him for the waste of money, remembered things he had read about the
swagger New York clubs. He smoked away and made-believe he was a
clubman, and enjoyed himself artlessly. The sun got farther around
and the south window was a sheet of burning radiance. It became
rather too warm, and on Carroll making a motion to move his chair
into the shade, every other man moved into the sunshine, and sat
sweltering and smoking in a fatuous vainglory. The canary bird
hopped faster and faster. The gold-fishes swam with a larger
school of bright reflections. A bumblebee flew in the open window
and buzzed dangerously near the hero's head. Willy Eddy rose and,
ostentatiously, at his own risk, drove the intruder away, and was
gratefully thanked. Truly hero-worship, while it is often foolish and
fool-making, is not the worst sentiment of mankind. When the great
man made a move to order his coachman to take the wonderful rig away,
and drive, because the horses were restive and needed exercise, and
he himself--the delicate humor of the thing--also needed exercise and
would walk home, Amidon sped in his service as he had never sped in
the service of the long-suffering wife, at that moment struggling
painfully with the Sunday dinner, and bringing wood from the shed to
replenish the fire.

Carroll did not need to lead up to his mining and other interests.
The subject was broached at once by the others. The postmaster opened
it. He spoke with less humility than the others, as being more on a
footing of equality.

"Well, captain, heard lately from the Boniflora?" he asked,
knowingly. And Carroll replied that he had received a letter from the
manager the night before which gave most encouraging information
concerning the prospects.

"Anything of the United Fuel?" continued the postmaster.

"Large block just sold, at an advance of six and three-eighths,"
replied Carroll, blowing the smoke from his mouth. Carroll inspired
confidence by the very quietness and lack of enthusiasm with which he
spoke of his enterprises. All his listeners thought privately that he
was in no way anxious to sell his stock, after all. Perhaps,
moreover, he did not intend to sell any but large blocks. Little
Willy Eddy ventured to ask for information on the latter point.

"Mebbe you don't keer nothin' about sellin' of it unless it is in big
lumps?" he queried, timidly. He was thinking of a matter of $250
which his father had saved from pension-money, and was still in the
savings-bank. Carroll replied (but with the greatest indifference)
that they often sold stock in very small blocks, and the confidence
of them waxed apace. Amidon thought of a little money which his wife
had saved from her boarders, and the barber immediately resolved to
invest every cent he had in the United Fuel. Such was Captain
Carroll's graciousness and urbanity that he idled away an hour in the
barber-shop, and the other men melted away, although reluctantly,
from an atmosphere of such effulgence. The milkman's hollow stomach
drove him home for his breakfast. Little Willy Eddy thought uneasily
of his Minna, and took his departure. The postmaster had a Sunday
mail to sort. And Amidon went out to get a drink of beer; Carroll's
cigar had dried his throat. Carroll was shaven last, and Flynn did
his best by him, even unto a new jar of cold cream, double the
quantity of witch-hazel, and a waste of powder. Then after he had
carefully adjusted his hat, and was at last about to go, Flynn
stopped him.

"Beg your pardon, sir," said he, "but--"

"But what?" said Carroll, rather kindly.

The barber's lip was actually quivering. The magnitude and importance
of what he was about to propose almost affected his weakly emotional
nature to tears.

He finally made out to say, while tears were actually rolling down
his cheeks under Carroll's puzzled regard, that he had $1000 which he
had saved, and he would like to invest every penny of it in United
Fuel. And before Carroll knew what he was at, he had actually
produced $1000 in a bulky roll of much-befingered notes, from some
hiding-place, and was waving them before Carroll's eyes.

"Here," said he, "here is the money. You may as well take it now. You
can get the securities in New York to-morrow, and bring them out on
the train. Here is the money. Take it."

Arthur Carroll did not move to take the money. He stood looking at
the excited man with a curious expression. In fact, his face seemed
to reflect the emotion of the barber's. His voice was a trifle husky.

"Is that all you have saved?" he asked.

"Every dollar," replied the barber, continuing to wave and thrust the
bills, but he raised an edge of his apron to his eyes, overflowing
with the stupendousness of it. "Every dollar. I might have saved
more, but I've been laid up winters considerable with grippe, and
folks don't like to be shaved by a grippy barber. Dunno's I blame
'em. I've had to hire, and hirin' comes high. I've had considerable
to do for a widder with four children, too--she's my brother's
widder--an', take it all together, I 'ain't been able to save another
dollar. But that don't make no odds, as long as I'm going to double
it in that stock of yourn. Take it."

Carroll backed away almost sternly. "I don't want your money," he
said.

The barber stood aghast. Captain Carroll had actually a look of
offence.

"I hope as I hain't done nothin' that ain't reg'lar," he stammered.

Captain Carroll stepped close to him. He laid one white long-fingered
hand on the barber's white jacket-sleeve. He whispered with slyest
confidence, although no one was within hearing:

"You keep that money a little while longer," he whispered. "I
wouldn't say it to every man, but I will to you. There's going to be
a lawsuit, and the stock may drop a point or two. It won't drop much,
and it will recover more than it loses, but then is the time to buy,
especially when you want a big block, and--I'll let you know."

"Thank you, thank you," said the barber, restoring the bills to a
greasy old pocket-book. He was faint with gratitude. "All right," he
said, and he nodded and winked with intensest comprehension. "All
right. You let me know."

"Yes, I'll let you know when it is best to invest," repeated Carroll.
He turned on the threshold. "See here," he said, "if I were you, I'd
put that money in a bank. I wouldn't keep it here."

"Oh, nobody knows it's here, except you, and you are safe, I ruther
guess."

The barber laughed like a child. Carroll went out and passed up the
street. He heard from the Episcopal church the sound of singing.
Finally he left it behind. He was passing along a short extent where
there were no houses. On one side there was a waste tract of land,
and on the other a stretch of private grounds. The private grounds
were bordered by a budding hedge, the waste lot bristled with strong
young weeds. Carroll, as he swung along with his stately carriage of
the head and shoulders, took out his pocket-book. It was an
important-looking affair, the size of bank-notes. He opened it. There
was not a vestige of money within. He laughed a little softly to
himself, and replaced it. He lived on a street which diverged at
right angles from the main street. Just as he was about turning the
corner, a runabout in which were seated two men passed him. It
stopped, and the men turned and looked back at him. Then before
Carroll turned the corner, one hailed him:

"Hullo!" he said.

"Hullo!" returned Carroll, and stood waiting while the man swung his
trap round with cautious hisses--he drove a high-stepping mare.

"Are you a man by the name of Carroll?" said he, holding the fretting
mare tightly, and seesawing the lines, as she tried to dart first one
way, then the other.

Carroll nodded.

"Well, look a-here," said the man, "I heerd you wanted to buy some
hosses."

"You heard rightly," said Carroll.

"Wall, I've got a pair that can't be beat. Kentucky bred,
four-year-old, sound as a whip. Not an out."

"Are you a trader?"

"Yep. Hed them hosses in last week. New-Yorker jest sent for 'em,
then he died sudden, and his heirs threw 'em on the market at a
sacrifice."

Carroll looked at the men, and they looked at him. The two men in the
runabout resembled each other, and were evidently brothers. Carroll's
eyes on the men were sharp, so were theirs on him. Carroll's eyes
were looking for knavery, and the men's were looking for suspicion of
knavery.

"How much?" asked Carroll, finally.

The men looked at each other. One made a motion with his lips; the
other nodded.

"Fifteen hundred," said the first speaker, "and damned cheap."

"Well, you can bring them around, and I'll look at them," said
Carroll. "Any night after seven."

Carroll walked on, turning up the road which led to his own house,
and the men whirled about again and then drove on, the mare breaking
into a gallop.



Chapter IV


In Banbridge no one in trade was considered in polite society, with
one exception. The exception was Randolph Anderson. Anderson had
studied for the law. He had set up his office over the post-office,
hung out his innocent and appealing little sign, and sat in his new
office-chair beside his new desk, surrounded by the majesty of the
lettered law, arranged in shelves in alphabetical order, for several
years, during which his affairs were constantly on a descending
scale. Then at last came a year when scarcely one client had darkened
his doors except Tappan, who wanted to sue a delinquent customer and
attach some of his personal property. After ascertaining that the
personal property had been cannily transferred to the debtor's wife,
he had told Anderson, upon the presentation of a modest bill, that he
was a fraud and he could have done better himself. Beside this
backward stroke of business, Anderson had that year a will to draw
up, for which he was never paid, and had married a couple who had
reimbursed him in farm produce. At the expiration of that year the
lawyer, having to all intents and purposes been given up by the law,
gave it up in his turn. Every cent of the money which he had
inherited from his father had been expended. Nothing remained except
his mother's small property, which barely sufficed to support her.
Anderson then borrowed money from his uncle, who was well-to-do,
giving him his note for three years, rented a store on Main Street,
purchased a stock of groceries, and went into trade. His course made
quite a sensation. He was the first Anderson in the memory of
Banbridge, where the name was an old one, to be outside the genteel
pale of a profession. His father had been a physician, his
grandfather a clergyman.

"If my son had studied medicine instead of law, he could have at
least subsisted upon the proceeds of his profession," his mother
said, with the gentle and dignified dissent which was her attitude
with regard to her son's startling move. "People are simply obliged
by the laws of the flesh to go through measles and whooping-coughs
and mumps, and they have to be born and die, and when they get in the
way of microbes they have to be ill and they have to call in a
physician, and some few of them pay him, so he can manage at least to
live. Of course law is different. If people haven't any money they
can forego quarrels, unless they are forced upon them. Quarrels are
luxuries. It really began to seem to me that all the opportunity for
a lawyer in Banbridge was in the simple line of suing some one for
debt, and there is always that way, which does seem to me rather
dishonest, of putting the property out of one's hands."

There was undoubtedly much truth in what Mrs. Sylvia Anderson said.
She was a shrewd old woman, with such a softly feminine manner that
she misled people into thinking the contrary. Banbridge folk rather
pitied Randolph Anderson for having such a sweetly helpless and
incapable mother, albeit very pretty and very much of a lady.

Mrs. Anderson was a large woman, but delicately articulated, with
small hands, and such tiny feet that she toppled a little when she
walked. Her complexion was like a child's, and she fluffed her thick
white locks over her ears and swathed her throat high in soft laces,
concealing all the aged lines in face and figure with innocent
feminine arts.

Randolph adored his mother. He had never cared for any other woman.
He had sat at his mother's little feet all his life, although he had
at times his own masculine way, as in the matter of the deserting of
his profession for trade. He had remained firm, although his mother
had said much against it.

"Frankly, I do not approve of it, dear," she said. "I agree, but I do
not approve. I do not like it, that you should desert the trodden
path of your forebears. It is not so much that I am proud, but I am
conservative. I believe there is a certain harmony between the man
and the road his race have travelled. I believe he is a very sorry
figure on another, especially if it be on a lower level."

"I don't think it is a question of level," said Randolph. "A road is
simply a question of progress."

"Well, perhaps," said his mother, "but in that case the state of
things is the same. A grocer would cut a sorry figure on your road,
even if it ran parallel towards the same goal, and a lawyer would cut
a sorry figure on a grocer's. Frankly, dear, I really doubt if you
will make a good grocer."

Randolph laughed. "At least I hope I can earn our bread-and-butter,"
he said. Then he went on seriously. "It is just here," he said--"you
and I are not sordid. Neither of us cares about money for itself, but
here we are on this earth, with that existence which has its money
price, and obligations imposed upon us. We cannot shirk it. We must
live, and in order to live we must have a certain amount of money.
Now all we have in this world for material goods is this old house
and your little pittance. We have not a cent besides. If we were to
try living on that, it would not last out your lifetime. If it would,
I should not combat your prejudices, but we could lie on our oars and
eat up the old place, and later on I would hustle for myself. But it
will not. Now, I have demonstrated that I cannot earn anything by my
profession. I have tried it faithfully and well. Last year I did not
earn enough to pay my office rent. I never shall in Banbridge, and
there is no sense whatever in my striking out in a new place with no
prestige and no money. You and I simply want enough to live on,
enough money to buy the wherewithal to keep the flame of life
comfortably burning, and I can think of no other way than this
grocery business. People must eat. You are certainly sure of earning
something, if you offer people something they want. In my profession
there is nothing that they do want."

"But your education," said his mother. She thought of the rows of
law-books of whose contents she fondly believed her son a master.

"Oh, that is mine still," said Randolph, "but other people don't want
it. There is no use, mother, in evading the question. We live in an
age of market values. We must consider them. Butter and cheese have a
sure market value, and the knowledge of the law in my head has not.
Nobody wants it enough to pay anything for it, to give us a moneyed
equivalent wherewith we may buy the things we need. Therefore, if
nobody wants that, we must offer them something else. When it comes
to the rights of our fellow-men to spend their own money as they
choose, that is inalienable. It is about the most firmly established
right in the country. No; people cannot be coerced into buying my
little store of knowledge, therefore I will try them with my little
store of butter and cheese and eggs and molasses."

Randolph Anderson laughed. Aside from regard for his mother's
feelings, he had not the slightest scruple against his business
venture. On the contrary, it rather amused him. He must have had a
latent taste for business, for he quite enjoyed studying the markets
and purchasing his stock in trade. He purchased wisely, too. He
offered a choice stock of goods, or, rather, his two salesmen did. He
himself did not sell much over his own counters, except in the case
of a great rush of business. But it was not from the least sensation
of superiority. It was merely because of a distrust of his own
ability to acquit himself well in such a totally different branch of
industry. Anderson was cast on unusually simple and ingenuous lines.
Nobody would have believed it, but he was actually somewhat modest
and shy before his own clerks, and realized sensitively his own lack
of experience. So he had a way of subsiding when customers appeared,
and retreating to his office in the rear of the building. He spent
most of his time in this office. It was a very pleasant one,
overlooking the river, on which steamboats and canal-boats travelled
to the city. From Anderson's office the bank of red clay soil sloped
to the water's edge. He could see the gleam of the current through
the shag of young trees which found root in the unpromising soil. Now
and then the tall mast of a sailing-vessel glided by, now the
smoke-stack of a steamer. Often the quiet was broken by the panting
breath of a tug. Often into his field of vision flapped the wet
clothes from the line strung along the deck of a canal-boat. The
canal ran along beside the regular current of the river, separated
from it by a narrow tow-path. Farther down, the great railroad bridge
crossed the stream, and at all hours he could catch the swift glisten
of the train-windows as they shot past.

Anderson's office was about twelve by fourteen, and lined with
shelves on two sides. On these he had books, not law-books. Those he
had relegated to the library at home. He had probably in the depths
of his consciousness a sensation of melancholy at the contemplation
of those reminders of his balked career. No man, no matter how
gracefully he may yield to it, cares to contemplate failures. He had
filled these shelves with books of which he was fond, for daily
reading. They were most of them old. He had little money with which
to purchase new ones. He had been forced to rely upon those which his
father and grandfather had accumulated. There were, however, a few
recent and quite valuable books which he had acquired since his
venture in trade, upon entomology, especially books upon butterflies.
Since his retreat from the law he had developed suddenly, perhaps by
the force of contrast, or the opposite swing of the pendulum, an
overwhelming taste for those airy flowers of animated life. The two
walls of the office not occupied with books were hung with framed
specimens. He had also under the riverward window a little table
equipped with the necessary paraphernalia for mounting them. Many a
sunny day in the season he spent in the fields on this gentle hunt.
There was a broad sill to the window, and upon it stood a box filled
with green plants. When the season was enough advanced and the window
always open, the trailing vines rooted in the box hung far down
outside, and the women on the passing canal-boats looked up at them.
The window-ledge was wide enough, moreover, for an old red cushion
upon which slept in the sun when he was not afield for love or war or
prey, a great cat striped like a tiger, with fierce green eyes, and a
mighty purr of comfort, and a rounding back of affection for
Anderson's legs when he talked to him.

Anderson had two comfortable old chairs in his office, and a goodly
assortment of pipes, for he was a great smoker. He made tobacco a
part of his grocery business, and had a strong sense of comfort in
reflecting upon the unlimited supply. He had been forced, in the last
days of his law-practice, to stint himself even in this creature
comfort. On the whole, he was much happier when fairly established in
trade than he had ever been before. He was so absorbed in his
business (all the details of which he mastered), in his books, and
his butterflies, that he saw very little of the people, and knew very
little of what was going on in Banbridge, except through his mother.
Mrs. Anderson, in spite of her years, and a certain lack of strength
which had always hampered her, was quite prominent in Banbridge
society. She was one of the old women whom young girls adore, even
when the adoration is not increased by the existence of a
marriageable son. Sometimes the old lady would regard an unmarried
female-caller with a soft suspicion of ulterior motives, but she
never whispered them to her son. Sylvia Anderson had a lovely, fine
delicacy where the foibles of her own sex were concerned. She was so
essentially feminine herself that she was never quite rid of her
maiden sense of alienation even with her son. She would have been
much happier with a daughter, although she was very fond of her son.

One afternoon in May, a short time after Mrs. Van Dorn and Mrs. Lee
had made their circuit of calls which had included her, some other
ladies were making the rounds in the calling-coach, which drew up
before her door. There were three ladies, two of them unmarried. They
were an elder aunt, her young unmarried niece, and a married lady who
had been the girl friend of the aunt. They made a long call, and Mrs.
Anderson entertained them with tea in her pink-and-gold china cups,
with cream in the little family silver cream-jug, and with slices of
pound-cake. It was an old custom of Mrs. Anderson's which she had
copied all through her married life from Madam Anderson, Randolph's
grandmother, the widow of old Dr. Anderson, the clergyman.

"I always make it a custom, my dear, to keep pound-cake on hand, and
have some of the best green tea in the caddy, and then when callers
come of an afternoon I can offer them some refreshment," she had said
when her son's wife first came to live with her. So Mrs. Anderson had
antedated the modern fashion in Banbridge, but she did not keep a
little, ornate tea-table in her parlor. The cake and tea were brought
in by the one maid on a tray covered with a polka-dotted damask.

This afternoon the callers had their cake and tea, and lingered long
afterwards. Now and then Mrs. Anderson glanced imperceptibly at the
window, thinking her son might pass. She regarded the unmarried aunt
and the young niece with asides of reflection even while she talked
to them. The niece was not pretty, but her bloom of youth under the
roses of her spring hat was ravishing. The aunt had never been
pretty; and, moreover, her bloom had gone, but she was well dressed,
and her thin figure was full of grace. She sat in her chair with
delicate erectness, the folds of her gray gown was disposed over her
supple length of limb with charming effect. She also had a sort of
eager, almost appealing amiability. It was as if she said:

"Yes, I know I am no longer young. I am not fair to see, but indeed I
mean well by you. I would do much for you. I even love you. Cannot
you love me for that?" and that was softly compelling.

Mrs. Anderson reflected that a man might easily admire either of
these women. Her manner, in spite of herself, cooled towards them.
She did not think of the third woman, who was married, except to ply
her with cake and tea and inquire for her husband and children. The
woman, after she had finished her cake and tea, sat sunken in her
corsets, under her loosely fitting black silk, and looked stupidly
amiable. She rose with a slight sigh of relief when at last the
others made a motion to go. She thought of her supper at home, and
the children long out of school. It was past supper-time for
Banbridge. The sun was quite low. An hour ago a little herd of cows
had pelted by in a cloud of dust, with great udders swinging
perilously, going home to be milked.

"That Flannigan boy always runs those cows home," said the aunt,
disapprovingly, as she passed the window.

"I have always heard it was bad for the milk," assented Mrs. Anderson.

Now that her callers were on the move, Mrs. Anderson was exceedingly
cordial. She said something further about the quality of the cream
obtained from the cows, and the aunt said yes, it was very good,
although so dear. The old lady kissed both the aunt and the niece
when they at last went out of the door, and said she was so glad that
she was at home, and begged them to come again. She stood in the door
watching them get into the coach. The young girl's face in the
window, with her beflowered hat, a rose crowned with roses, in the
dark setting of the window, was beautiful. Even the aunt's face,
older and more colorless, except for an unlovely flush of excitement,
was pathetically compelling and charmed. Mrs. Anderson, filling up
the doorway with her stately bulk, swept around by her soft black
draperies, her fair old face rising from a foam of lace, and
delicately capped with lace, on which was a knot of palest lavender,
stood in a frame of luxuriant Virginia-creeper, and smiled and nodded
graciously to her departing guests, while wondering if they would
meet her son coming home. After that followed a reflection as to the
undesirability of either of them as a possible daughter-in-law.

Just as she was turning to enter the house, after the coach had
rolled out of sight, she saw her son coming down the street under the
green shade of the maples which bordered it. The mother went toddling
on her tiny feet down the steps to the gate to meet her son. The
house stood quite close to the road; indeed, only a little
bricked-path separated it from the sidewalk. All the ground was at
the sides and back. The house was a square old affair with a row of
half-windows in the third-story, or attic, and considerable good old
panel-work and ornamentation about it. On the right side of the house
was a large old flower-garden, now just beginning to assert itself
anew; on the left were the stable and some out-buildings, with a
grassy oval of lawn in the centre of a sweep of drive; in the rear
was a kitchen-garden and a field rising to the railroad, for
railroads circled all Banbridge in their vises of iron arms. A
station was only a short distance farther up this same street. As
Mrs. Anderson stood waiting and her son was advancing down the street
a train from the city rumbled past. When Randolph had come up, and
they had both entered the house, a carriage passed swiftly and both
saw it from the parlor window.

"Do you know who's carriage that is?" asked Mrs. Anderson. "It is
something new in Banbridge, isn't it?"

"It belongs to those new people who have moved into the Ranger
place," replied Randolph. He wore a light business-suit which suited
him, and he looked like a gentleman, as much so as when he had come
from a law-office instead of a grocery-store. Indeed, he had been
much shabbier in the law-office and had not held his head so high. In
the law-office he had constantly been confronted with the possibility
of debt. Here he was free from it. He had been smoking, as usual, and
there was about his garments an odor of mingled coffee and tobacco.
He had been selling coffee, and grinding some. One of his two
salesmen was ill, and that was why he was so late. The new carriage
rolled silently on its rubber tires along the macadamized road; the
high black polish and plate-glass flashed in the sunlight, the
coachman in livery sat proudly erect and held his whip stylishly, the
sleek horses pranced, seeming scarcely to touch the road with their
dainty hoofs.

"Those are fine horses," said Randolph.

"Yes," assented his mother. "They must be very wealthy people, I
suppose."

"It looks so," replied Randolph.

His mother, still staring out of the window, started. "Why," she
said, "the coachman is turning around!"

"Perhaps he has forgotten something at the station," said Randolph.

"Why, it is stopping here!" cried Mrs. Anderson, wonderingly. The
carriage indeed stopped just before the Anderson gate, and remained
there perfectly still. The coachman gazed intently at the house, but
made no motion to get down. At a window was seen a gentleman's face;
past him the fresh face of a girl, also gazing. Randolph looked out,
and the gentleman in the carriage made an imperious beckoning motion.

"Why, he is beckoning you!" said Mrs. Anderson, amazedly and
indignantly.

Anderson moved towards the door.

"You are not going out when you are beckoned to in that way?" cried
his mother.

Anderson laughed. "You forget, mother," he said, "that a grocer is at
the beck and call of his patrons."

"I am ashamed of you!" she said, hotly, her fair old face flushing,
"to have no more pride--"

Anderson laughed again. "I am too proud to have pride," he said, and
went out of the room. He went leisurely down the steps, and crossed
the little brick walk to the gate, and then approached the carriage.
The gentleman inside, with what seemed an unpremeditated movement,
raised his hat. Randolph bowed. Carroll smiled in the gentle,
admiring way which he had.

"Perhaps I have made a mistake," he said, "but I was directed here. I
was told that Anderson, who keeps the grocery, lives here."

"I am Anderson," replied Randolph, with dignity and a certain high
scorn, and purposely leaving off the Mr. from his name.

Arthur Carroll no longer smiled, but his voice had a certain
urbanity, although it rang imperiously. "Now, see here," he said. "I
want to know why you did not do as I left instructions at your shop?"

"To what do you refer?" inquired Anderson, quietly.

"I want to know why you did not send in your bill last Saturday
night, as I ordered." Carroll's voice was so loud that Mrs. Anderson,
in the house, heard him distinctly through the open windows.

"I did not know that you had so ordered," replied Anderson, still
quietly, with a slight emphasis on the ordered. He looked slightly
amused.

"Well, I did. I told your clerk to be sure to send in my bills
promptly every Saturday morning. I wish to settle weekly."

"The mistake was doubtless due to the fact that my clerk has been at
home ill for the last three days," said Anderson. "This is the first
time I have heard of your order."

"Well," said Carroll, "send it in at once now, and don't let it
happen again."

Although the tone was harsh and the words were imperious, still they
were not insolent. There was even an effect of _camaraderie_ about
them. At the last he flashed a quick smile at Anderson, which
Anderson returned. He was dimly conscious all the time of Charlotte's
very pretty face past her father's, peeping around his gray shoulder
with a large-eyed, rather puzzled expression. Carroll nodded slightly
after the smile, and told the coachman to go on, and the horses
sprang forward after a delicate toss of their curving forelegs.

Randolph re-entered the house, and his mother, who was waiting, faced
him with soft indignation.

"I must say, my son, that I am surprised that you submit to being
addressed in such a fashion as that," she said, her blue eyes
darkening at him.

Randolph laughed again. "There was no real insolence about it, after
all, mother," he replied.

"It sounded so," said she.

"That was because you could not see his face," said Randolph. "He
looked very amiable."

"He was angry because he did not get his bill Saturday?" said Mrs.
Anderson, interrogatively.

"Yes. He must have given the order to Sam Riggs the day before he
went home ill, I suppose."

"He must be a very wealthy man," said Mrs. Anderson. "It is rather
good of him to be so anxious to pay his bill every week."

"Yes, it is a very laudable desire," said Randolph. "I only hope his
ability may equal it."

His mother looked at him with quick surprise. "Why, you surely don't
think--" she said.

"I think nothing. The man is all right, so far as I know. He seems a
gentleman, and if he is well off he is a very desirable acquisition
to Banbridge."

"Who was that with him in the coach?" asked Mrs. Anderson.

"One of his daughters, I should judge. I hear he has two."

"Pretty?"

"Well, I hardly know. Have you had any callers?"

"Yes. I suppose you met them. They made a very long call."

"You mean the Egglestons?"

"Yes, Miss Josie and little Agnes Eggleston and Mrs. Monroe. They
stayed here over an hour. I thought you would meet them."

"Yes, I met them just as I turned from Main Street," replied
Randolph, soberly, but he was inwardly amused. He understood his
mother. But there was something which he did not tell her concerning
his experience with the new-comers, the Carrolls. Shortly, she went
out to give some directions about tea, and Randolph, sitting beside a
window in the parlor with an evening paper, drew from his pocket a
letter just received in the mail, and examined it again. It was from
a city bank, and it contained a repudiated check for ten dollars,
made out by Captain Arthur Carroll, and which Anderson had cashed a
few days previous at the request of the pretty young girl in the
carriage, who to-night had sat there looking at him and did not
speak, either because she had forgotten his face as he did her the
little favor, or because he was so far away from her social scale
that she was innocently unaware of any necessity for it.



Chapter V


Randolph Anderson had a large contempt for money used otherwise than
for its material ends. A dollar never meant anything to him except
its equivalent in the filling of a need. Generosity and the impulse
of giving were in his blood, yet it had gone hard several times with
people who had tried to overreach him even to a trifling extent. But
now he submitted without a word to losing ten dollars through cashing
Arthur Carroll's worthless check. He himself was rather bewildered at
his tame submission. One thing was certain, although it seemed
paradoxical; if he had not had suspicions as to Arthur Carroll's
perfect trustworthiness, he would at once have gone to him with the
check.

"I dare say he overdrew his account without knowing it, as many an
honest man does," he reasoned, when trying to apologize to himself
for his unbusiness-like conduct, but always he knew subconsciously
that if he had been perfectly sure of that view of it he would not
have hesitated to put it to the proof. For some reason, probably
unconfessed rather than actually hidden from himself, he shrank from
a possible discovery to Arthur Carroll's discredit. When a man of
Randolph Anderson's kind replies to a question concerning the beauty
of a young girl that he does not know, the assumption is warranted
that he has given the matter consideration. A man usually leaps to a
decision of that kind, and if he has no ulterior motive for
concealment, he would as lief proclaim it to the house-tops.

Usually Randolph Anderson would no more have hesitated about giving
his opinion as to a girl's looks than he would have hesitated about
giving his candid opinion of the weather. For the most part a woman's
face had about as much effect upon his emotional nature as the face
of a day. He saw that it was rosy or gray, smiling and sunny, or
frowning or rainy, then he looked unmovedly at the retreating backs
of both. It was all the same thing. Anderson was a man who dealt
mostly with actualities where his emotions were concerned. With some,
love-dreams grow and develop with their growth and development; with
some not. The latter had been true with Randolph Anderson. Then, too,
he was scarcely self-centred and egotistical enough for genuine
air-castles of any kind. To build an air-castle, one's own
personality must be the central prop and pillar, for even anything as
unsubstantial as an air-castle has its building law. One must rear
around something, or the structure can never rise above the horizon
of the future.

Anderson had stored his mind with the poetic facts of the world
rather than projected his poetic fancies into the facts of the world.
He saw things largely as they were, with no inflorescence of rainbows
where there was none; but there are actual rainbows, and even
auroras, so that the man who does not dream has compensations and a
less chance of disillusion. Of course Anderson had thought of
marriage; he could scarcely have done otherwise; but he had thought
of it as an abstract condition pertaining to himself only in a
general way as it pertains to all mankind. He had never seen himself
plainly enough in his fancy as a lover and husband to have a pang of
regret or longing. He had been really contented as he was. He had a
powerful mind, and the exercising of that held in restraint the
purely physical which might have precipitated matters. Some men
advance, the soul pushing the body with more or less effort; some
with the soul first, trailing the body; some in unison, and these are
they who make the best progress as to the real advancement. Anderson
moved, on the whole, in the last way. He was a very healthy man, mind
and body, and with rather unusual advantages in point of looks. This
last he realized in one way but not in another. He knew it on general
principles; he recognized the fact as he recognized the fact of his
hands and feet; but what he actually saw in the looking-glass was not
so much the physical fact of himself as the spiritual problem with
its two known quantities of need and circumstance, and its great
unknown third which took hold of eternity. Anderson, although not in
a sense religious, had a religious trend of thought. He went every
Sunday with his mother to the Presbyterian church where his
grandfather had preached to an earlier generation.

On the Sunday after his encounter with Arthur Carroll with reference
to the bill, he went to church as usual with his mother.

Mrs. Anderson was a picture of a Sunday, in a rich lavender silk and
a magnificent though old-fashioned lace shawl which floated from her
shoulder in a fairy net-work of black roses. She would never wear
plain black like most women of her age. She was one of the blue-eyed
women who looks well in lavender. Her blue eyes, now looking at her
son from under the rich purples and lavenders of the velvet pansies
on her bonnet, got an indeterminate color like myrtle blossoms. A
deeper pink also showed on her cheeks because of the color of her
gown.

"Mother, you are just such a mixture of color as that lilac-bush,"
said her son, irrelevantly, looking from her to a great lilac-bush in
the corner of the yard they were passing. It was tipped with rose on
the delicate ends of its blooming racemes, which shaded to blue at
the bases.

"Did you see those new people in church to-day?" said she.

"Yes, I think I did," replied Randolph. "They sat just in front of
the Egglestons, didn't they?"

"Yes," said his mother, "they did sit there. There is quite a large
family. The ladies are all very nice-looking, too, and they all look
alike. If they are going to church, such a family as that, and so
well off, they will be quite an acquisition to Banbridge."

"Yes," said Randolph. He spoke absently, and he looked absently at a
great wistaria which draped with pendulous purple blooms the veranda
of a house which they were just passing. It arrested his eyes as with
a loud chord of color, but his mind did not grasp it at all.
Afterwards he could not have said he had seen it. As is often the
case, while his eyes actually saw one thing, his consciousness saw
another. Great, purple, pendulous flowers filled his bodily vision,
and the head and shoulders of a young girl above a church pew his
mental outlook. Had he seen the Carrolls in church--had he, indeed?
Had he seen anything besides them, or rather besides one of them? Had
he not, the moment she came up the aisle and entered the pew, seen
her with a very clutch of vision? He could not have described one
article of her dress, and yet it was complete in his thought. She had
worn a soft silk of a dull-red shade, with a frill of cream lace
about the shoulders, and there were pink roses under the brim of her
dull-red hat, and under the roses was her face, shaded softly with a
great puff of her dark hair. And her dark eyes under the dark hair
had in them the very light of morning dew, which sparkled back both
this world and heaven itself into the eyes of the looker, all
reflected in tiny crystal spheres. Suddenly the man gazing across the
church had seen in this girl's face all there was of earth and the
overhang of heaven; he had seen the present and the future. It is
through the face of another human being that one gets the furthest
reach of human vision, and that furthest reach had now come for the
first time to Randolph Anderson. All at once a quiver ran through his
entire consciousness from this elongated vision, and he realized
sight to its uttermost. Yet it did not dawn on him that he was in
love with this girl. He would have laughed at the idea. He had seen
her only twice; he had spoken to her only once. He knew nothing of
her except that she had given him a worthless check to cash. Love
could not come to him in this wise, and it had not, in fact. He had
only attained to the comprehension of love. He had gotten faith, he
had seen the present world and the world to come in the light of it,
but not as yet his own soul. Yet always he saw the girl's head under
the pink roses under the brim of the dark-red hat. It was evidently a
favorite headgear of hers. She had worn it with a white dress when
she had come to the store to get the check cashed. But he had not
seen her so fully then. His little doubt and bewilderment over the
check had clouded his vision. Now, since he had seen her in the
church-pew, his last thrifty scruple as to ignoring the matter of the
check left him. He felt that he could not put his doubt of her father
to the proof. Suppose that the account had not been carelessly
overdrawn-- Suppose-- He never for one instant suspected the girl. As
soon suspect a rosebud of foregoing its own sweet personality, and of
being in reality something else, say a stinging nettle. The girl
carried her patent royal of youth and innocence on her face. He made
up his mind to say nothing about the check, to lose the ten dollars,
and, since dollars were so far from plenty with him, to sacrifice
some luxury for the luxury of the loss. He made up his mind that he
could very well do without the book with colored plates of South
American butterflies which he had thought of purchasing. Much better
live without that than rub the bloom off a better than butterfly's
wing. Better anything than disturb that look of innocent ignorance on
that girl's little face.



Chapter VI


It was the next day that Randolph Anderson, on his way home at noon,
saw ahead of him, just as he turned the corner from Main to Elm
street, where his own house was, a knot of boys engaged in what he at
first thought was a fight or its preliminaries. There was a great
clamor, too. In the boughs of a maple in the near-by yard were two
robins wrangling; underneath were the boys. The air was full of the
sweet jangle of birds and boyish trebles, for all the boys were
young. Anderson, as he came up, glanced indifferently at the
turbulent group and saw one boy who seemed to be the centre of
contention. He was backed up against the fence, an ornate iron affair
backed by a thick hedge, the green leaves of which pricked through
the slender iron uprights. In front of this green, iron-grated wall,
which was higher than his head, for he was a little fellow, stood a
boy, who Anderson saw at a glance was the same one whom he had seen
with the Carrolls in church the day before. His hair was rather long
and a toss of dark curls. His face was as tenderly pretty as his
sister's, whom he strongly resembled, although he was somewhat fairer
of complexion. But it was full of the utmost bravado of rage and
defiance, and his two small hands were clinched, until the knuckles
whitened, in the faces of the little crowd who confronted him. The
color had not left his face, for his cheeks burned like roses, but
his pretty mouth was hard set and his black eyes blazed. The boys
danced and made threatening feints at him. They called out confused
taunts and demands whose purport Anderson at first did not
comprehend, but the boy never swerved. When one of his tormentors
came nearer, out swung the little white fist at him, and the other
invariably dodged.

Anderson's curiosity grew. He went closer. Amidon and Ray, the
postmaster, on his way home to his dinner, also joined him, and the
little barber, smelling strongly of scented soap and witch-hazel.
They stood listening interestedly.

"Most too many against one," remarked the postmaster.

"He don't look scared," said Amidon. "He's Southern, and he's got
grit. He's backed up there like the whole Confederacy."

A kindly look overspread the sleek, conceited face of the man. His
forebears were from Alabama. His father had been a small white
slave-owner who had drifted North, in a state of petty ruin after the
war, and there Amidon, who had been a child at the time, had grown up
and married the thrifty woman who supported him. The wrangle
increased, the boys danced more energetically, the small fists of the
boy at bay were on closer guard.

"Hi, there!" sung out Amidon. "Look at here; there's too many of ye.
Look out ye don't git into no mischief, now."

"Hullo, boys! what's the trouble?" shouted the postmaster, in a voice
of authority. He was used to running these same boys out of his
office when they became too boisterous during the distribution of the
mails, making precipitate dashes from the inner sanctum of the United
States government. They were accustomed to the sound of his important
shout, and a few eyes rolled over shoulder at him. But they soon
plunged again into their little whirlpool of excitement, for they
were quick-witted and not slow to reason that they were now on the
king's highway where they had as much right as the postmaster, and
could not be coerced under his authority.

"What is it all about?" the postmaster called, loudly, above the
hubbub, to Anderson.

Anderson shook his head. He was listening to the fusillade of
taunting, threatening yells, with his forehead knitted. Then all
at once he understood. Over and over, with every pitch possible
to the boyish threats, the cry intermingling and crossing until
all the vowels and consonants overlapped, the boys repeated:
"Yerlie--yerlie--yerlie--" They clipped the reproach short; they
elongated it into a sliding thrill. From one boy, larger than the
others, and whose voice was changing, came at intervals the demand,
in a hoarse, cracking treble, with sudden descents into gulfs of
bass: "Take it ba-ck! Take it ba-ck!"

Always in response to that demand of the large boy, who was always
the one who danced closest to the boy at bay, came the reply, in a
voice like a bird's, "Die first--die first."

After a most energetic dash of this large boy, Anderson stepped up
and caught him by the shoulder on his retreat from the determined
little fist. He knew the large boy; he was a nephew of Henry Lee,
whose wife had invaded the Carroll house in the absence of the family.

"See here, Harry," said Anderson, "what is this about, eh?"

The large boy, who, in spite of his size, was a youngster, looked at
once terrifiedly and pugnaciously into his face, and beginning with a
whimper of excuse to Anderson, ended with a snarl of wrath for the
other boy. "He tells lies, he does. He tells lies. Ya-h!" The boy
danced at the other even under Anderson's restraining hand on his
shoulder. "Yerlie--yerlie! Ya-h!" he yelled, and all the others
joined in. The chorus was deafening. Anderson's hand on the boy's
shoulder tightened. He shook him violently. The boy's cap fell off,
and his shock of fair hair waved. He rolled eyes of terrified wonder
at his captor. "What, wha-at?--" he stammered. "You lemme be. You--
Wha-at?"

"I'll tell you what, you big bully, you," said Anderson, sternly.
"That boy there is one to a dozen, and he's the smallest of the
lot--he's half your size. Now, what in thunder are you all about,
badgering that little chap so?"

A sudden silence prevailed. They all stood looking from under lowered
eyebrows at the group of watching men; their small shoulders under
their little school-jackets were seen to droop; scarcely a boy but
shuffled his right leg, while their hands, which had been gyrating
fists, unclinched and twitched at their sides. But the boy did not
relax for a second his expression of leaping, bounding rage, of a
savage young soul in a feeble body. Now he included Anderson and the
other men. He held his head with the haughtiness of a prince. He
seemed to question them with silent wrath.

"Who are you who dare to come here and interfere in my quarrel?" he
seemed to say. "I was sufficient unto myself. I needed none of your
protection. What if I was one to a dozen? Look at _me!_" His little
hands did not for a second unclinch. He was really very young,
probably no more than ten. He was scarcely past his babyhood, but he
was fairly impressive, not the slightest maturity of mind, but of
spirit. He could never take a fiercer stand against odds than now if
he lived to be a hundred.

Anderson approached him, in spite of himself, with a certain respect.
"What is the matter, young man?" he inquired, gravely.

The boy regarded him with silent resentment and scorn; he did not
deign an answer. But the big boy replied for him promptly:

"He--he said his father kept a tame elephant when they lived in New
York State, and he--he used to ride him--"

He spoke in a tone of aggrieved virtue, and regarded the other with a
scowl. The men guffawed, and after a second the boys also. Then a
little fellow behind the ringleader offered additional testimony.

"He said he used to get up a private circus once a week, every
Saturday, and charge ten cents a head, and made ten dollars a week,"
he said. Then his voice of angry accusation ended in a chuckle.

Anderson kept his face quite grave, but all the others joined in the
chorus of merriment. The little fellow backed against the iron fence
gave an incredulous start at the sound of the laughter, then the red
roses faded out on his smooth cheeks and he went quite white. The
laughter stung his very soul as no recrimination could have done. He
suffered tortures of mortified pride. His fists were still clinched,
but his proud lip quivered a little. He looked very young--a baby.

Anderson stepped to his aid. He raised his voice. "Now, look here,
boys," he said. But he made no headway against the hilarity, which
swelled higher and higher. The crowd increased. Several more men and
boys were on the outskirts. An ally pressed through the crowd to
Anderson's side.

"Now, boys," he proclaimed, and for a moment his thin squeak weighted
with importance gained a hearing--"now, boys," said the barber, "this
little feller's father is an extinguished new denizen of Banbridge,
and you ain't treatin' of him with proper disrespect. Now--" But then
his voice was drowned in a wilder outburst than ever. The little
crowd of men and boys went fairly mad with hysterical joy of mirth,
as an American crowd will when once overcome by the humor of the
situation in the midst of their stress of life. They now laughed at
the little barber and the boy. The old familiar butt had joined
forces with the new ones.

"They have formed a trust," said Amidon, deserting his partisanship,
now that it had assumed this phase of harmless jocularity.

But the boy at bay, as the laughter at his expense increased, was
fairly frantic. He lost what he had hitherto retained, his
self-possession. "I tell you I did!" he suddenly screamed out, in a
sweet screech, like an angry bird, which commanded the ears of the
crowd from its strangeness. "I tell you I did have an elephant, I did
ride him, and I did have a circus every Saturday afternoon, so there!"

The "so there" was tremendous. The words vanished in the sound. The
boyish expression denoting triumphant climax became individual, the
language of one soul. He fired the words at them all like a charge of
shot. There was a pause of a second, then the laughter and mocking
were recommencing. But Anderson took advantage of the lull.

"See here, boys," he shouted, "there's been enough of this. What is
it to you whether he had a dozen elephants and rode them all at once,
and had a circus every day in the week with a dozen tame bears thrown
in? Clear out and go home and get your dinners. Clear out! Vamoose!
Scatter!" His tone was at once angry and appealing. It implied
authority and comradeship.

Anderson had given great promise as a speaker during his college
course. He was a man who, if he exerted himself, could gauge the
temper of a mob. The men on the outskirts began moving away easily;
the boys followed their example. The little barber took the boy
familiarly by the arm.

"Now, you look at here," said he. "Don't you hev them chaps
a-pesterin' of you no more, an' ef they do, you jest streak right
into my parlor an' I'll take care of ye. See?"

The boy twitched his arm away and eyed the barber witheringly. "I
don't want anything to do with you nor your old barber-shop," said he.

"You had better run along, John," said Anderson to the barber, who
was staring amazedly, although the complacent smirk upon his face was
undiminished.

"I guess he's a child kinder given to speakin' at tandem," he said,
as he complied with Anderson's advice.

The boy turned at once to the man. "What business had that barber
telling me to go into his old barber-shop?" demanded he. "I ain't
afraid of all the boys in this one-horse town."

"Of course not," said Anderson.

"I did have an elephant when I lived in Hillfield, and I did ride
him, and I did have circuses every Saturday," said the boy, with
challenge.

Anderson said nothing.

"At least--" said the child, in a modified tone. Anderson looked at
him with an air of polite waiting. The boy's roses bloomed again. "At
least--" he faltered, "at least--" A maid rang a dinner-bell
frantically in the doorway of the house near which they were
standing. Anderson glanced at her, then back at the boy. "At least--"
said the boy, with a blurt of confidence which yielded nothing, but
implied the recognition of a friend and understander in the
man--"at--least I used to make believe I had an elephant when I lived
in Hillfield."

"Yes?" said Anderson. He made a movement to go, and the boy still
kept at his side.

"And--" he added, but still with no tone of apology or confession, "I
might have had an elephant."

"Yes," said Anderson, "you might have."

"And they did not know but what I might," said the boy, angrily.

Anderson nodded judicially. "That's so, I suppose; only elephants are
not very common as setter dogs for a boy to have around these parts."

"It was a setter dog," said the boy, with a burst of innocence and
admiration. "How did you know?"

"Oh, I guessed."

"You must be real smart," said the boy. "My father said he thought
you were, and somehow had got stranded in a grocery store. Did you?"

"Yes, I did," replied Anderson.

Anderson was now walking quite briskly towards home and dinner, and
the boy was trotting by his side, with seemingly no thought of
parting. They proceeded in silence for a few steps; then the boy
spoke again.

"I began with the setter dog," said he. "His name was Archie, and he
used to jump over the roof of a part of our house as high as"--he
looked about and pointed conclusively at the ell of a house across
the street--"as high as that," he said, with one small pink finger
indicating unwaveringly.

"That must have been quite a jump," remarked Anderson, and his voice
betrayed nothing.

"That setter was an awful jumper," said the little boy. "He died last
winter. My sisters cried, but I didn't." His voice trembled a little.

"He must have been a fine dog," said Anderson.

"Yes, sir, he could jump. I think that piece of our house he used to
jump over was higher than that," said the boy, reflectively, with the
loving tone of a panegyrist who would heap more and more honors and
flowers upon a dear departed.

"A big jump," said Anderson.

"Yes, sir, he was an awful jumper. Those boys they said I lied. First
they said he couldn't do it, then they said I didn't have any dog,
and then I--"

"And then you said you had the elephant?"

"Yes, sir. Say, you ain't going to tell 'em what I've told you?"

"You better believe I'm not. But I tell you one thing--next time, if
you'll take my advice, you had better stick to the setter dog and let
elephants alone."

"Maybe it would be better," said the boy. Then he added, with a
curious sort of naive slyness, "But I haven't said I didn't have any
elephant."

"That's so," said Anderson.

Suddenly, as the two walked along, the man felt a hard, hot little
hand slide into his. "I guess you must be an awful smart man," said
the boy.

"What is your name?" said Anderson, in lieu of a disclaimer, which
somehow he felt would seem to savor of mock modesty in the face of
this youthful enthusiasm.

"Why, don't you know?" asked the boy, in some wonder. "I thought
everybody knew who we were. I am Captain Carroll's son. My name is
Eddy Carroll."

"I knew you were Captain Carroll's son, but I did not know your first
name."

"I knew you," said the boy. "I saw you out in the field catching
butterflies."

"Where were you?"

"Oh, I was fishing. I was under those willows by the brook. I kept
pretty still, and you didn't see me. Have to lay low while you're
fishing, you know."

"Of course," said Anderson.

"I didn't catch anything. I don't believe fish are very thick in the
brooks around here. I used to catch great big fellers when I lived in
Hillfield. One day--"

"When do you have your dinner at home?" broke in Anderson.

"'Most any time. Say, Mr. Anderson, what are you going to have for
dinner?"

Anderson happened to know quite well what he was going to have for
dinner, because he had himself ordered it on the way to the store
that morning. He answered at once:

"Roast lamb and green pease and new potatoes," said he.

"Oh!" said the boy, with unmistakable emphasis.

"And I am quite sure there is going to be a cherry-dumpling for
dessert," said Anderson, reflectively.

"I like all those things," stated the boy, with emphasis that was
pathetic.

The man stopped and looked down at the boy. "Now, see here, my
friend," said he. "Honest, now, no dodging. Never mind if you do like
things. Honest--you can't cheat me, you know--"

The boy looked back at him with eyes of profound simplicity and
faith. "I know it," he replied.

"Well, then, now you tell me, honest, if you do stay and have dinner
with me won't your folks, your mother and your sisters, worry?"

The boy's face, which had been rather anxious, cleared at once. "Oh
no, sir!" he replied. "Amy never worries, and Ina and Charlotte
won't."

"Who is Amy?"

"Amy? Why, Amy is my mother, of course."

"And you are sure she won't worry?"

"Oh no, sir." The boy fairly laughed at the idea. His honesty in this
at least seemed unmistakable.

"Well, then," said Anderson, "come along and have dinner with me."

The boy fairly leaped with delight as, still clinging to the man's
hand, he passed up the little walk to the Anderson house. He could
smell the roast lamb and the green pease.



Chapter VII


Arthur Carroll went on business to the City every morning. He brought
up to the station in the smart trap, the liveried coachman, with the
mute majesty of his kind, throned upon the front seat. Sometimes one
of Carroll's daughters, as delicately gay as a flower in her light
daintiness of summer attire, was with him. Often the boy, with his
outlook of innocent impudence, sat beside the coachman. Carroll
himself was always irreproachably clad in the very latest of the
prevailing style. Had he not been such a masterly figure of a man, he
would have been open to the charge of dandyism. He was always gloved;
he even wore a flower in the lapel of his gray coat. He carried
always, whatever the state of the weather, an eminent umbrella with a
carved-ivory handle. He equipped himself with as many newspapers from
the stand as would an editor of a daily paper. The other men drew
conclusions that it was highly necessary for him to study the state
of the market and glean the truth from the various reports.

One morning Henry Lee was also journeying to the City on the
eight-o'clock train. He held a $2500 position in a publisher's
office, and felt himself as good as any man in Banbridge, with the
possible exception of this new-comer, and he accosted him with regard
to his sheaf of newspapers.

"Going to have all the news there is?" he inquired, jocularly.

Carroll looked up and smiled and nodded. "Well, yes," he replied. "I
find this my only way--read them all and strike an average. There is
generally a kernel of truth in each."

"That's so," said Lee.

Carroll glanced speculatively at the ostentatiously squared shoulders
of the other man as he passed through the car.

When the train reached Jersey City, Carroll, leaving his newspapers
fluttering about the seat he had occupied, passed off the train and
walked with his air of careless purpose along the platform.

"This road is a pretty poorly conducted concern," said a voice behind
him, and Lee came up hurriedly and joined him.

"Yes," replied Carroll, tentatively. His was not the order of mind
which could realize its own aggrandizement by wholesale criticism of
a great railroad system for the sake of criticism, and, moreover, he
had a certain pride and self-respect about maintaining the majesty of
that which he must continue to patronize for his own ends.

"Yes," said Lee, moving, as he spoke, with a sort of accelerated
motion like a strut. He was a much shorter man than Carroll, and he
made futile hops to get into step with him as they proceeded. "Yes,
sir, every train through the twenty-four hours is late on this road."

Carroll laughed. "I confess that rather suits me, on the whole. I am
usually late myself."

They walked together to the ferry-slip, and the boat was just going
out.

"Always lose this boat," grumbled Lee, importantly.

Carroll looked at his watch, then replaced it silently.

"Going to miss an appointment?" questioned Lee.

"No, think not. These boats sail pretty often."

"I wish the train-service was as good," said Lee.

The two men stood together until the next boat came in, then boarded
it, and took seats outside, as it was a fine day. They separated a
couple of blocks from the pier. Lee was obliged to take an up-town
Elevated.

"I suppose you don't go my way?" he said to Carroll, wistfully.

"No," said Carroll, smiling and shaking the ashes from his cigar.
Both men had smoked all the way across--Carroll's cigars.

"And I tell you they were the real thing," Lee told his admiring wife
that night. "Cost fifteen cents apiece, if they cost a penny; no
cheap cigars for him, I can tell you."

Carroll said good-morning out of his atmosphere of fragrant smoke,
and Lee, with a parting wave of the hand, began his climb of the
Elevated stairs. He cast a backward look at Carroll's broad, gray
shoulders swinging up the street. Even a momentary glimpse was enough
to get a strong impression of the superiority of the man among the
crowd of ordinary men hastening to their offices.

"I wonder where he is going? I wonder where his office is?" Lee said
to himself, accelerating his pace a little as the station began to
quiver with an approaching train.

What Lee asked himself many another man in Banbridge asked, but no
one knew. No one dared to put the question directly to Carroll
himself.

Arthur Carroll had never been a man who opened wide all the doors of
his secrets of life to all his friends and acquaintances. Some had
one entrance, some another, and it is probable that he always
reserved ways of entrance and egress unknown to any except himself.
At the very time that he evaded the solicitude of Banbridge with
regard to his haunts in the City he was more than open, even
ostentatious concerning them to some parties in the City itself, but
he was silent regarding Banbridge. It may have been for the reason
that he did not for the present wish to mix the City and Banbridge,
that he wished to preserve mysteries concerning himself in the regard
of both. It is certain that nobody in his office, where he roused
considerable speculation even among a more engrossed and less
inquisitive class, knew where he lived. The office had not heard of
Banbridge; Banbridge had heard of the office, but knew nothing about
it. The office, in a way, was not nearly as wise as Banbridge, for it
knew nothing whatever of his family affairs. There was therein much
speculation and, more than that, heart-burning as to whether Captain
Carroll was or was not married. In the inner office, whence issued a
mad tick of type-writers all through business hours, were two girls,
one quite young and very pretty, the other also young, but not so
pretty, both working for very small returns. There was also a
book-keeper, a middle-aged man, and vibrating from the inner to the
outer office was a young fellow with an innocent, high forehead and
an eager, anxious outlook of brown eyes and a fashion of seeming to
hang suspended on springs of readiness for motion when an order
should come.

This young fellow, who sped in and out with that alacrity at the word
of command, who hastened on errands with such impetus that he
inspired alarm among the imaginative, had acquired a curious
springiness about his hips that almost gave the effect of
dislocation. He winked very fast, having gotten a nervous trick. He
hurried ceaselessly. He had upon him the profound conviction of not
time enough and the need of haste. He was in love with the prettier
of the stenographers, and his heart was torn when he heard the
surmises as to his employer's married or single estate. He used to
watch Carroll when he left the office at night, and satisfied himself
that he turned towards Sixth Avenue, and then he satisfied himself no
more. Carroll plunged into mystery at night as he did for Banbridge
in the morning. It was borne in upon the clerk who had an opulent
imagination that Carroll was a great swell and went every night to
one of the swellest of the up-town clubs, where he resided in luxury
and the most genteel and lordly dissipation. He had, at the same
time, a jealousy of and a profound pride in Carroll. Carroll himself
had a sort of kindly scorn of him, and treated him very well. He was
not of the description of weak character who antagonized him.

As for the girls in the inner office, Carroll only recognized them
there. Seen on the street, away from the environment, he would simply
not have dreamed he had ever seen them. He knew them only in their
frames. As for the middle-aged man at the book-keeper's desk, he
disturbed him in a way that he would not admit to himself. He spoke
to him rather curtly. If he could avoid speaking to him he did so. He
had a way of sending directions to the book-keeper by the young man.
The book-keeper, if he also surmised Carroll's private life, gave no
sign, although he had ample time. He sat at his desk faithfully from
eight o'clock until half-past four, but the work which he had to do
was somewhat amazing to a mind which stopped to reason. Sometimes
even this man, who understood the world in general as a place to be
painfully clambered and tramped and even crawled over, to the
accomplishment of the ulterior end of remaining upon it at all, and
who paid very little attention to other people's affairs, except as
they directly concerned the tragic pettiness of his own, wondered a
little at the nature of the accounts which he faithfully kept.

This book-keeper, whose name was William Allbright, lived in Harlem,
so far up that it seemed fairly in the country, and on the second
floor of a small, ancient building which, indeed, belonged to the
period when Harlem was country and which remained between two modern
apartment houses. The book-keeper had a half-right in a little green
backyard, wherein flourished with considerable energy an aged
cherry-tree, from which the tenants always fondly hoped for cherries.
The cherries never materialized, but the hope was something. The
book-keeper's elder sister, who kept house for him, was fond of
gazing at the cherry-tree, with its scanty spread of white blossoms,
and dreaming of cherries. She was the fonder because she had almost
no dreams left. It is rather sad that even dreams go, as well as
actualities. However, the sister seemed not to mind so very much.
Very little, except the pleasure which she took in watching the
cherry-tree, gave evidence that she lamented anything that she had
lost or merely missed in life. In general she had an air of such
utter placidity and acquiescence that it almost amounted to numbness.
The book-keeper at this time of year scratched away every evening
with a hoe and trowel in his half of the backyard, where he was
making a tiny garden-patch.

The garden represented to him, as the tree did to his sister, his one
ladder by which his earthly dreams might climb higher. One night he
came home and there were three green spears of corn piercing the
mould, and he fairly chuckled.

"The corn has come up," said he.

"So it has," said his sister.

A widow woman and her son, who worked in one of the great retail
stores, lived down-stairs in the building. The young man, rather
consequential but interested, strolled out in the backyard and
surveyed the corn. The widow, who was consumptive, thrust her head
and shoulders, muffled in a white shawl, out of her kitchen window
into the soft spring air.

"So the corn has come up," said the son, throwing himself back on his
heels with a lordly air. The mother smiled dimly at the green spears
from between the woolly swaths of her shawl. She coughed, and pulled
the white fleece closely over her mouth and nose. Then only her eyes
were visible, which looked young as they gazed at the green spears of
corn. The book-keeper nodded his elderly, distinctly commonplace, and
unimportant head with the motion of a conqueror who marshals armies.

After all, it is something for a man to be able to call into life,
even if under the force which includes him also, the new life of the
spring. It is a power like that of a child in leading-strings, but
still power. After the mother and son had gone away and he and his
sister were still out in the cool, and the great evening star had
come out and it was too dark to work any longer, for the first time
he said something about the queer accounts in his books in Captain
Carroll's office.

"I suppose it is all right," he said, leaning a second on his hoe and
staring up at the star, "but sometimes my books and the accounts I
keep look rather--strange to me."

"He pays you regularly, doesn't he?" inquired the sister. The
question of pay could sting her from her numbness. Once there had
been a period, years ago, before Carroll's advent, of no pay.

"Oh yes," replied the brother. "He pays me. He has never been more
than a week behind. Captain Carroll seems like a very smart man. I
wonder where he lives. I don't believe anybody in the office knows.
He went away very early this afternoon. I don't know whether he lives
in the City or in the country. I thought maybe if he did live in the
country he wanted to get home and go driving or something."

It had been as the book-keeper surmised. Carroll had gone early to
his home in the country with the idea of a drive. But when he reached
home he found a state of affairs which precluded the drive. It seemed
that young Eddy Carroll was given to romancing in more respects than
one, and had not told the truth to Anderson when he had been asked if
his family would feel anxious at his non-return to dinner. Eddy knew
quite well that they would be anxious. In spite of a certain
temperamental aversion to worry, the boy's mother and sisters were
wont to become quite actively agitated if he failed to appear at
expected times and seasons. Eddy Carroll, in the course of a short
life, had contrived to find the hard side of many little
difficulties. He had gotten into divers forms of mischief; he had met
with many accidents. He had been almost drowned; he had broken an
arm; he had been hit in the forehead by a stone thrown by another boy.

When Arthur Carroll reached home that afternoon he found his wife in
hysterical tears, his sister trying to comfort her, and the two
daughters and the maid were scouring the town in search of the boy.
School was out, and he had still not come home. Carroll heard the
news before he reached home, from the coachman who met him at the
station.

"Mr. Eddy did not come home this noon," said the man, with much
deference. He was full of awe at his employer, being a simple sort,
and this was his second place, his first having been with the salt of
the earth who made no such show as Carroll. He reasoned that virtue
and appearances must increase according to the same ratio. "Mrs.
Carroll sent me to the school this noon," said the man, further, "and
the ladies are very much worried. The young ladies and Marie are out
trying to find him." Marie was the maid, a Hungarian girl.

"Well, drive home as fast as you can," said Carroll, with a sigh. He
reflected that his drive was spoiled; he also reflected that when the
boy was found he should be punished. Yet he did not look out of
temper, and, in fact, was not. It was in reality almost an
impossibility for Arthur Carroll to be out of temper with one of his
own family.

When Carroll reached home his wife came running down the stairs in a
long, white tea-gown, and flung her arms around his neck. "Oh,
Arthur!" she sobbed out. "What do you think has happened? What do you
think?"

Carroll raised his wife's lovely face, all flushed and panting with
grief and terror like a child's, and kissed it softly. "Nothing, Amy;
nothing, dear," he said. "Don't, my darling. You will make yourself
ill. Nothing has happened."

His sister Anna's voice, clear and strained, came from the top of the
stairs. She stood there, holding an unbuttoned dressing-sack tightly
across her bosom. The day was warm and neither of the ladies had
dressed. "But, Arthur, he has not been home since morning," said Anna
Carroll, "and Martin has been to the school-house, and the master
says that Eddy did not return at all after the noon intermission, and
he did not come home to dinner, after all."

"Yes, he did not come home to dinner," said Mrs. Carroll; "and the
butcher did send the roast of veal, after all. I was afraid he would
not, because he had not been paid for so long, and I thought Eddy
would come home so hungry. But the butcher did send it, but Eddy did
not come. He cannot have had a thing to eat since morning, and all he
had for breakfast were rolls and coffee. Thee egg-woman would not
leave any more eggs, she said, until she was paid for the last two
lots, and--"

Carroll pulled out a wallet and handed a roll of notes, not to his
wife, but to his sister Anna, who came half-way down the stairs and
reached down a long, slender white arm for it.

"There," said he, "pay up the butcher and the egg-woman to-morrow. At
least--"

"I understand," said Anna, nodding.

"What do you care whether the butcher or the egg-woman are paid or
not, when all the boy we've got is lost?" asked Mrs. Carroll, looking
up into her husband's face with the tears rolling over her cheeks.

"That's so," said Anna, and she gave the roll of notes a toss away
from her with a passionate gesture. "Arthur, where do you suppose he
is?"

The notes fell over the banisters into the hall below.

Carroll watched them touch the floor as he answered, "My dear sister,
I don't know, but boys have played truant before, and survived it;
and I have strong hopes of our dear boy." Carroll's voice, though
droll, was exceedingly soft and soothing. He put an arm again around
his wife, drew her close to him, and pressed her head against his
shoulder. "Dear, you will be ill," he said. "The boy is all right."

"I am sure this time he is shot," moaned Mrs. Carroll.

"My dear Amy!"

"Now, Arthur, you can laugh," said his sister, coming down the
stairs, the embroidered ruffles of her white cambric skirt fluttering
around her slender ankles in pink silk stockings, and her little feet
thrust into French-heeled slippers, one of which had an enormous bow
and buckle, the other nothing at all. "You may laugh," said Anna
Carroll, in a sweet, challenging voice, "but why is it so unlikely?
Eddy Carroll has had everything but shooting happen to him."

"Yes, he has been everything except shot," moaned Mrs. Carroll.

"My dearest dear, don't worry over such a thing as that!"

"But, Arthur," pleaded Mrs. Carroll, "what else is there left for us
to worry about?"

Carroll's mouth twitched a little, but he looked and spoke quite
gravely. "Well," he said, "I am going now, and I shall find the boy
and bring him home safe and sound, and-- Amy, darling, have you eaten
anything?"

"Oh, Arthur," cried his wife, reproachfully, "do you think I could
eat when Eddy did not come home to dinner, and always something
dreadful has happened other times when he has not come? Eddy has
never stayed away just for mischief, and then come home as good as
ever. Something has always happened which has been the reason."

"Well, perhaps he has stayed away for mischief alone, and that is
what has happened now instead of the shooting," said Carroll.

"Arthur, if--if he has, you surely will not--"

"Arthur, you will not punish that boy if he does come home again safe
and sound?" cried his sister.

Carroll laughed. "Have either of you eaten anything?" he asked.

"Of course not," replied his sister, indignantly.

"How could we, dear?" said his wife. "I had thought I was quite
hungry, and when the butcher sent the roast, after all--"

"Perhaps I had better wait and not pay him until he does not send
anything," murmured Anna Carroll, as if to herself. "And when the
roast did come, I was glad, but, after all, I could not touch it."

"Well, you must both eat to-night to make up for it," said Carroll.

"I had thought you would as soon have it cold for dinner to-night,"
said Mrs. Carroll, in her soft, complaining voice. "We would not have
planned it for our noon lunch, but we were afraid to ask the butcher
for chops, too, and as long as there were no eggs for breakfast, we
felt the need of something substantial; but, of course, when that
darling boy did not come, and we had reason to think he was shot, we
could not--" Mrs. Carroll leaned weepingly against her husband, but
he put her from him gently.

"Now, Amy, dearest," said he, "I am going to find Eddy and bring him
home, and--you say Marie has gone to hunt for him?"

"Yes, she went in one direction, and Ina and Charlotte in others,"
said Anna Carroll.

"Well," said Carroll, "I will send Marie home at once, and I wish you
would see that she prepares an early dinner, and then we can go for a
drive afterwards."

"Eddy can go, too," said Mrs. Carroll, quite joyously.

"No, Amy," said Carroll, "he will most certainly not go to drive with
us. There are times when you girls must leave the boy to me, and this
is one of them." He stopped and kissed his wife's appealing face, and
went out. Then the carriage rolled swiftly round the curve of drive.

"He will whip him," said Anna to Mrs. Carroll, who looked at her with
a certain defiance.

"Well," said she, "if he does, I suppose it will be for his good. A
man, of course, knows how to manage a boy better than a woman,
because he has been a boy himself. You know you and I never were
boys, Anna."

"I know that, Amy," said Anna, quite seriously, "and I am willing to
admit that a man may know better how to deal with a boy than a woman
does, but I must confess that when I think of Arthur punishing Eddy
for the faults he may have--"

"May have what?" demanded Mrs. Carroll, quite sharply for her.

"May have inherited from Arthur," declared Anna, boldly, with soft
eyes of challenge upon her sister-in-law.

"Eddy has no faults worth mentioning," responded Mrs. Carroll,
seeming to enlarge with a sort of fluffy fury like an angry bird;
"and the idea of your saying he inherits them from his father. You
know as well as I do, Anna, what Arthur is."

"I knew Arthur before you ever did," said Anna, apologetically.
"Don't get excited, dear."

"I am not excited, but I do wonder at your speaking after such a
fashion when we don't know what may have happened to the dear boy. Of
course Arthur will not punish him if he is shot or anything."

"Of course not."

"And if he is not shot, and Arthur should punish him, of course it
will be all right."

"Yes, I suppose it will, Amy," said Anna Carroll.

"Arthur feels so sure that nothing has happened to him that I begin
to think so myself," said Mrs. Carroll, beginning to ascend the
stairs with a languid grace.

"Yes, he has encouraged me," assented Anna. "I suppose we had better
dress now."

"Yes, if we are going to drive directly after dinner. I'll put on my
cream foulard, it is so warm. I suppose we have, perhaps, worried a
little more than was necessary."

"I dare say," said Anna, trailing her white frills and laces before
her sister the length of the upper hall. "I think I'll wear my blue
embroidered linen."

"You said the bill for that came yesterday?"

"No, six weeks ago; certainly six weeks ago. You know I had it made
very early. Oh yes, the second or third bill did come yesterday. I
have had so many, I get mixed over those bills."

"Well, it is a right pretty gown, and I would wear it if I were you,"
said Mrs. Carroll.



Chapter VIII


Shortly after Captain Carroll started upon his search for his missing
son, Randolph Anderson, sitting peacefully in his back office, by the
riverward window, was rudely interrupted. He was mounting some new
specimens. Before him the great tiger cat lay blissfully on his red
cushion. He was not asleep, but was purring loudly in what resembled
a human day-dream. His claws luxuriously pricked through the velvet
of his paws, which were extended in such a way that he might have
served as a model for a bas-relief of a cat running a race. Now and
then the tip of his tail curled and uncurled with an indescribable
effect of sensuousness. The green things in the window-box had grown
luxuriantly, and now and then trailing vines tossed up past the
window in the infrequent puffs of wind. The afternoon was very warm.
The temperature had risen rapidly since noon. Down below the wide
window ran the river, unseen except for a subtle, scarcely
perceptible glow of the brilliant sunlight upon the water. It was a
rather muddy stream, but at certain times it caught the sunlight and
tossed it back as from the facets of brown jewels.

The murmur of the river was plainly audible in the room. It was very
loud, for the stream's current was still high with the spring rains.
The rustle of the trees which grew on the river-bank was also
discernible, and might have been the rustle of the garments of nymphs
tossed about their supple limbs by the warm breeze. In fact, a like
fancy occurred to Anderson as he sat there mounting his butterflies.

"I don't wonder those old Greeks had their tales about nymphs
closeted in trees," he thought, for the rustle of the green boughs
had suggested the rustle of women's draperies.

Then he remembered how Charlotte Carroll's skirts had rustled as she
went out of the store that last afternoon when he had spoken to her.
There was a soft crispness of ruffling lawns and laces, a most
delicate sound, a maidenly sound which had not been unlike the sound
of the young leaves of the willows overfolding and interlacing with
one another when the soft breeze swelled high. Now and then all the
afternoon came a slow, soft wave of warm wind out of the west, and
all sounds deepened before it, even the purring song of the cat
seemed to increase, and possibly did, from the unconscious assertion
of his own voice in the peaceful and somnolent chorus of nature. It
was only spring as yet, but the effect was as of a long summer
afternoon. Anderson, who was always keenly sensitive to all phases of
nature and all atmospheric conditions, was affected by it. He
realized himself sunken in drowsy, unspeculative contentment. Even
the strange, emotional unrest and effervescence, which had been more
or less over him since he had seen Charlotte Carroll, was in
abeyance. After all, he was not a passionate man, and he was not very
young. The young girl seemed to become merely a part of the gracious
harmony which was lulling his soul and his senses to content and
peace. He was conscious of wondering what a man could want more than
he had, as if he had suspected himself of guilt in that direction.

Then, suddenly, pell-mell into the office, starling the great cat to
that extent that he sprang from his red cushion on the window-ledge,
and slunk, flattening his long body against the floor, under the
table, came the boy Eddy Carroll. The boy stood staring at him rather
shamefacedly, though every muscle in his small body seemed on a
twitch with the restrained impulse of flight.

"Well," said Anderson, finally, "what's the trouble, sir?"

Then the boy found his tongue. He came close to the man.

"Say," he said, in a hoarse whisper, "jest let a feller stay in here
a minute, will you?"

Anderson nodded readily. He understood, or thought he did. He
immediately jumped to the conclusion that the teasing boys were at
work again. He felt a little astonished at this headlong flight to
cover of the boy who had so manfully stood at bay a few hours before.
However, he was a little fellow, and there had been a good many of
his opponents. He felt a pleasant thrill of fatherliness and
protection. He looked kindly into the little, pink-flushed face.
"Very well, my son," said he. "Stay as long as you like. Take a
seat." The boy sat down. His legs were too short for his feet to
touch the floor, so he swung them. He gazed ingratiatingly at
Anderson, and now and then cast an apprehensive glance towards the
door of the office. Anderson continued mounting his butterflies, and
paid no attention to him, and the boy seemed to respect his silence.
Presently the great cat emerged quite boldly from his refuge under
the table, crouched, calculated the distance, and leaped softly back
to his red cushion. The boy hitched his chair nearer, and began
stroking the cat gently and lovingly with his little boy-hand,
hardened with climbing and playing. The cat stretched himself
luxuriously, pricked his claws in and out, shut his eyes, and purred
again quite loudly. Again the little room sang with the song of the
river, the wind in the trees, and the cat's somnolent note. The
afternoon light rippled full of green reflections through the room.
The boy's small head appeared in it like a flower. He smiled tenderly
at the cat. Anderson, glancing at him over his butterflies, thought
what an angelic aspect he had. He looked a darling of a boy.

The boy, stroking the cat, met the man's kindly approving eyes, and
he smiled a smile of utter confidence and trust, which conveyed
delicious flattery. Then suddenly the hand stroking the cat desisted
and made a dive into a small jacket-pocket and emerged with a
treasure. It was a great butterfly, much dilapidated as to its
gorgeous wings, but the boy looked gloatingly from it to the man.

"I got it for you," he whispered, with another glance at the office
door. Anderson recognized, with the dismay of a collector, a fine
specimen, which he had sought in vain, made utterly worthless by
ruthless handling, but he controlled himself. "Thank you," he said,
and took the poor, despoiled beauty and laid it carefully on the
table.

"It got broke a little, somehow," remarked the boy; "it's wings are
awful brittle."

"Yes, they are," assented Anderson.

"I had to chase it quite a spell," said the boy, with an evident
desire not to have his efforts underestimated.

"Yes, I don't doubt it," replied Anderson, with gratitude well
simulated.

"It seemed rather a pity to kill such a pretty butterfly as that,"
remarked the boy, unexpectedly, "but I thought you'd like it."

"Yes, I like to have a nice collection of butterflies," replied
Anderson, with a faint inflection of apology. In reality, the
butterflies' side of it had failed to occur to him before, and he
felt that an appeal to science in such a case was rather feeble. Then
the boy helped him out.

"Well," said he, "I do suppose that a butterfly don't live very long,
anyhow; he has to die pretty soon, and it's better for human beings
to have him stuck on a pin and put where they can see how handsome he
is, rather than have him stay out in the fields, where the rain would
soak him into the ground, and that would be the end of him. I suppose
it is better to save anything that's pretty, somehow, even if the
thing don't like it himself."

"Perhaps you are right," replied Anderson, regarding the boy with
some wonder.

"Maybe he didn't mind dying 'cause I caught him any more than just
dying himself," said Eddy.

"Maybe not."

"Anyhow, he's dead," said the boy.

He watched Anderson carefully as he manipulated the insect.

"I'm sorry his wing got broken," he said. "I wonder why God makes
butterflies' wings so awful brittle that they can't be caught without
spoiling 'em. The other wing ain't hurt much, anyhow."

A sudden thought struck Anderson. "Why, when did you get this
butterfly?" he asked.

The boy flushed vividly. He gave a sorrowful, obstinate glance at the
man, as much as to say, "I am sad that you should force me into such
a course, but I must be firm." Then he looked away, staring out of
the window at the tree-tops tossing against the brilliant blue of the
sky, and made no reply.

Anderson made a swift calculation. He glanced at a clock on the wall.
"Where did you get this butterfly?" he inquired, harmlessly, and the
boy fell into the net.

"In that field just beyond the oak grove on the road to New
Sanderson," he replied, with entire innocence.

Anderson surveyed him sharply.

"When is afternoon school out?" asked Anderson.

"At four o'clock," replied the boy, with such unsuspicion that the
man's conscience smote him. It was too easy.

"Well," said Anderson, slowly. He did not look at the boy, but went
on straightening the mangled wing of the butterfly which he had
offered on his shrine. "Well," he said, "how did you get time to go
to that field and catch this butterfly? You say it took a long time,
and that field is a good twenty minutes' run from here, and it is a
quarter of five now." The boy kicked his feet against the rounds of
his chair and made no reply. His forehead was scowling, his mouth
set. "How?" repeated Anderson.

Then the boy turned on the man. He slid out of his chair; he spoke
loudly. He forgot to glance at the door. "Ain't you smart?" he cried,
with scorn, and still with an air of slighted affection which
appealed. "Ain't you smart to catch a feller that way? You're mean,
if you are a man, after I've got you that big butterfly, too, to turn
on a feller that way."

Anderson actually felt ashamed of himself. "Now, see here, my boy,"
he said, "I'm grateful to you so far as that goes."

"I didn't run away from school," declared Eddy Carroll, looking
straight at Anderson, who fairly gasped.

He had seen people lie before, but somehow this was actually
dazzling. He was conscious of fairly blinking before the direct gaze
of innocence of this lying little boy. And then his elderly and
reliable clerk appeared in the office door, glanced at Eddy, whom he
did not know, and informed Anderson, in a slightly impressed tone,
that Captain Carroll was in the store and would like to speak to him.
Anderson glanced again at his young visitor, who had got, in a
second, a look of pale consternation. He went out into the store at
once, and was greeted by Carroll with the inquiry as to whether or
not he had seen his son.

"My boy has not been seen since he started for school this morning,"
said Carroll. "I came here because another little boy, one of my
son's small school-fellows, who has succeeded in treading the paths
of virtue and obedience, volunteered the information, without the
slightest imputation of any guilty conspiracy on your part, that you
had been seen leading my son home to your residence to dinner," said
Carroll.

"Your son made friends with me on his way from school this noon,"
said Anderson, simply, "and upon his evident desire to dine with me I
invited him, being assured by him that his so doing would not
occasion the slightest uneasiness at home as to his whereabouts."

Anderson was indignant at something in the other man's tone, and was
careful not to introduce in his tone the slightest inflection of
apology.

He made the statement, and was about to add that the boy was at that
moment in his office, when Carroll interrupted. "I regret to say that
my son has not the slightest idea of what is meant by telling the
truth. He never had," he stated, smilingly, "especially when his own
desires lead him to falsehood. In those cases he lies to himself so
successfully that he tells in effect the truth to other people. He,
in that sense, told the truth to you, but the truth was not as he
stated, for the ladies have been in a really pitiable state of
anxiety."

"He is in my office now," said Anderson, coldly, pointing to the door
and beginning to move towards it.

"I suspected the boy was in there," said Carroll, and his tones
changed, as did his face. All the urbanity and the smile vanished. He
followed Anderson with a nervous stride. Both men entered the little
office, but the boy was gone. Both stood gazing about the little
space. It was absolutely impossible for anybody to be concealed
there. There was no available hiding-place except under the table,
and the cat occupied that, and his eyes shone out of the gloom like
green jewels.

"I don't see him," said Carroll.

Then Anderson turned upon him.

"Sir," he said, with a kind of slow heat, "I am at a loss as to what
to attribute your tone and manner. If you doubt--"

"Not at all, my dear sir," replied Carroll, with a wave of the hand.
"But I am told that my son is in here, and when, on entering, I do
not see him, I am naturally somewhat surprised."

"Your son was certainly in this room when I left it a moment ago, and
that is all I know about it," said Anderson. "And I will add that
your son's visit was entirely unsolicited--"

"My dear sir," interrupted Carroll again, "I assure you that I do not
for a moment conceive the possibility of anything else. But the fact
remains that I am told he is here--"

"He was here," said Anderson, looking about with an impatient and
bewildered scowl.

"He could not have gone out through the store while we were there,"
said Carroll, in a puzzled tone.

"I do not see how he could have done so unobserved, certainly."

"The window," said Carroll, taking a step towards it.

"Thirty feet from the ground; sheer wall and rocks below. He could
not have gone out there without wings."

"He has no wings, and I very much fear he never will have any at this
rate," said Carroll, moving out. "Well, Mr. Anderson, I regret that
my son should have annoyed you."

"He has not annoyed me in the least," Anderson replied, shortly. "I
only regret that his peculiar method of telling the truth should have
led me unwittingly to occasion your wife and daughters so much
anxiety, and I trust that you will soon trace him."

"Oh yes, he will turn up all right," said Carroll, easily. "If he was
in your office a moment ago, he cannot be far off."

There was the faintest suggestion of emphasis upon the "if."

Anderson spoke to the elderly clerk, who had been leaning against the
shelves ranged with packages of cereal, surmounted by a flaming row
of picture advertisements, regarding them and listening with a
curious abstraction, which almost gave the impression of stupidity.
This man had lived boy and man in one groove of the grocer business,
until he needed prodding to shift him momentarily into any other.

In reality he managed most of the details of the selling. He heard
what the two men said, and at the same time was considering that he
was to send the wagon round the first thing in the morning with pease
to the postmaster's, and a new barrel of sugar to the Amidons, and he
was calculating the price of sugar at the slight recent rise.

"Mr. Price," said Anderson to him, "may I ask that you will tell this
gentleman if a little boy went into my office a short time ago?"

The clerk looked blankly at Anderson, who patiently repeated his
question.

"A little boy," repeated the clerk.

"Yes," said Anderson.

Price gazed reflectively and in something of a troubled fashion at
Anderson, then at Carroll. His mind was in the throes of displacing a
barrel of sugar and a half-peck of pease by a little boy. Then his
face brightened. He spoke quickly and decidedly.

"Yes," said he, "just before this gentleman came in, a little boy,
running, yes."

"You did not see him come out while we were talking?" asked Anderson.

"No, oh no."

Carroll asked no further and left, with a good-day to Anderson, who
scarcely returned it. He jumped into his carriage, and the swift tap
of the horse's feet died away on the macadam.

"Sugar ought to bring about two cents on a pound more," said the
clerk to Anderson, returning to the office, and then he stopped short
as Anderson started staring at an enormous advertisement picture
which was stationed, partly for business reasons, partly for
ornament, in a corner near the office door. It was a figure of a
gayly dressed damsel, nearly life-size, and was supposed by its
blooming appearance to settle finally the merit of a new health food.
The other clerk, who was a young fellow, hardly more than a boy, had
placed it there. He had reached the first fever-stage of admiration
of the other sex, and this gaudy beauty had resembled in his eyes a
fair damsel of Banbridge whom he secretly adored.

Therefore he had ensconced it carefully in the corner near the office
door, and often glanced at it with reverent and sheepish eyes of
delight. Anderson never paid any attention to the thing, but now for
some reason he glanced at it in passing, and to his astonishment it
moved. He made one stride towards it, and thrust it aside, and behind
it stood the boy, with a face of impudent innocence.

Anderson stood looking at him for a second. The boy's eyes did not
fall, but his expression changed.

"So you ran away from your father and hid from him?" Anderson
observed, with a subtle emphasis of scorn. "So you are afraid?"

The boy's face flashed into red, his eyes blazed.

"You bet I ain't," he declared.

"Looks very much like it," said Anderson, coolly.

"You let me go," shouted the boy, and pushed rudely past Anderson and
raced out of the store. Anderson and the old clerk looked at each
other across the great advertisement which had fallen face downward
on the floor.

"Must have come in from the office whilst our back was turned, and
slipped in behind that picture," said the clerk, slowly.

Anderson nodded.

"He is a queer feller," said the clerk, further.

"He certainly is," agreed Anderson.

"As queer as ever I seen. Guess his father 'll give it to him when he
gits home."

"Well, he deserves it," replied Anderson, and added, in the silence
of his mind, "and his father deserves it, too," and imagined vaguely
to himself a chastening providence for the eternal good of the father
even as the father might be for the eternal good of his son. The
man's fancy was always more or less in leash to his early training.

Just then the younger clerk, Sam Riggs, commonly called Sammy,
entered, and espying at once with jealous eyes the fallen state of
his idol in the corner, took the first opportunity to pick her up and
straighten her to her former position.



Chapter IX


Little Eddy Carroll, running on his slim legs like a hound, raced
down the homeward road, and came in sight of his father's carriage
just before it turned the corner. Carroll had stopped once on the
way, and so the boy overtook him. When Carroll stopped to make an
inquiry, he caught a glimpse of the small, flying figure in the rear;
in fact, the man to whom he spoke pointed this out.

"Why, there's your boy, now, Cap'n Carroll," he said, "runnin' as
fast after you as you be after him." The man was an old fellow of a
facetious turn of mind who had done some work on Carroll's garden.

Carroll, after that one rapid, comprehensive glance, said not another
word. He nodded curtly and sprang into the carriage; but the old man,
pressing close to the wheel, so that it could not move without
throwing him, said something in a half-whisper, as if he were ashamed
of it.

"Certainly, certainly, very soon," replied Carroll, with some
impatience.

"I need it pooty bad," the old man said, abashedly.

"Very soon, I tell you," repeated Carroll. "I cannot stop now."

The old man fell back, with a pull at his ancient cap. He trembled a
little nervously, his face was flushed, but he glanced back with a
grin at Eddy racing to catch up.

"Drive on, Martin," Carroll said to the coachman.

The old gardener waited until Eddy came alongside, then he called out
to him. "Hi!" he said, "better hurry up. Guess your pa is goin' to
have a reckonin' with ye."

"You shut up!" cried the boy, breathlessly, racing past. When finally
he reached the carriage, he promptly caught hold of the rear, doubled
up his legs, and hung on until it rolled into the grounds of the
Carroll place and drew up in the semicircle opposite the front-door.
Then he dropped lightly to the ground and ran around to the front of
the carriage as his father got out. Eddy without a word stood before
his father, who towered over him grandly, confronting him with a
really majestic reproach, not untinctured with love. The man's
handsome face was quite pale; he did not look so angry as severe and
unhappy, but the boy knew well enough what the expression boded. He
had seen it before. He looked back at his father, and his small,
pink-and-white face never quivered, and his black eyes never fell.

"Well?" said Carroll.

"Where have you been?" asked Carroll.

The anxious faces of the boy's mother and his aunt became visible at
a front window, a flutter of white skirts appeared at the entrance of
the grounds. The girls were returning from their search.

"Answer me," commanded Carroll.

"Teacher sent me on an errand," he replied then, with a kind of
doggedness.

"The truth," said Carroll.

"I went out catching butterflies, after I had dined with Mr. Anderson
and his mother."

"You dined with Mr. Anderson and his mother?"

"Yes, sir. You needn't think he was to blame. He wasn't. I made him
ask me."

"I understand. Then you did not go to school this afternoon, but out
in the field?"

"Yes, sir."

Carroll eyed sharply the boy's right-hand pocket, which bulged
enormously. The girls had by this time come up and stood behind Eddy,
holding to each other, their pretty faces pale and concerned.

"What is that in your pocket?" asked Carroll.

"Marbles."

"Let me see the marbles."

"It ain't marbles, it's candy."

"Where did you get it?"

"Mr. Anderson gave it to me."

Carroll continued to look his son squarely in the eyes.

"I stole it when they wasn't looking," said the boy; "there was a
glass jar--"

"Go into the house and up to your own room," said Carroll.

The boy turned as squarely about-face as a soldier at the word of
command, and marched before his father into the house. The four
women, the two at the window, the two on the lawn, watched them go
without a word. Ina, the elder of the two girls, put her handkerchief
to her eyes and began to cry softly. Charlotte put her arm around her
and drew her towards the door.

"Don't, Ina," she whispered, "don't, darling."

"Papa will whip him very hard," sobbed Ina. "It seems to me I cannot
bear it, he is such a little boy."

"Papa ought to whip him," said Charlotte, quite firmly, although she
herself was winking back the tears.

"He will whip him so hard," sobbed Ina. "I quite gave up when papa
found the candy. Stealing is what he never will forgive him for, you
know."

"Yes, I know. Don't let poor Amy see you cry, Ina."

"Wait a minute before we go in. You remember that the time papa
whipped me, the only time he ever did, when--"

"Yes, I remember. You never did again, honey."

"Yes, it cured me, but I fear it will not cure Eddy. A boy is
different."

"Stop crying, Ina dear, before we go in."

"Yes--I--will. Are my eyes very red?"

"No; Amy will not notice it if you keep your eyes turned away."

But Mrs. Carroll turned sharply upon Ina the moment she saw her. The
two elder ladies had left the parlor and retreated to a small
apartment on the right of the hall, called the den, and fitted up
with some Eastern hangings and a divan. Upon this divan Anna Carroll
had thrown herself, and lay quite still upon her back, her slender
length extended, staring out of the window directly opposite at the
spread of a great oak just lately putting forth its leaves. Mrs.
Carroll was standing beside her, and she looked at the two girls
entering with a hard expression in her usually soft eyes.

"Why have you been crying?" she asked, directly, of Ina. Her hair was
in disorder, as if she had thrust her fingers through it. It was
pushed far off from her temples, making her look much older. Red
spots blazed on her cheeks, her mouth widened in a curious, tense
smile. "Why have you been crying?" she demanded again when Ina did
not reply at once to her question.

"Because papa is going to whip Eddy," Ina said then, with directness,
"and I know he will whip him very hard, because he has been stealing."

"Well, what is that to cry about?" asked Mrs. Carroll, ruffling with
indignation. "Don't you think the boy's father knows what is best for
his own son? He won't hurt him any more than he ought to be hurt."

"I only hope he will hurt himself as much as he ought to be hurt,"
muttered Anna Carroll on the divan. Mrs. Carroll gave her
sister-in-law one look, then swept out of the room. The tail of her
rose-colored silk curled around the door-sill, and she was gone. She
passed through the hall, and out of the front-door to the lawn,
whence she strolled around the house, keeping on the side farthest
from the room occupied by her son.

"Hark!" whispered Ina, a moment after her mother had gone.

They all listened, and a swishing sound was distinctly audible. It
was the sound of regular, carefully measured blows.

"Amy went out so she should not hear," whispered Ina. "Oh, Dear!"

"It is harder for her than for anybody else because she has to uphold
Arthur for doing what she knows is wrong," said Anna Carroll on the
divan. She spoke as if to herself, pressing her hands to her ears.

"Papa is doing just right," cried Charlotte, indignantly. "How dare
you speak so about papa, Anna?"

"There is no use in speaking at all," said Anna, wearily. "There
never was. I am tired of this life and everything connected with it."

Ina was weeping again convulsively. She also had put her hands to her
ears, and her piteous little wet, quivering face was revealed.

"There is no need of either of you stopping up your ears," said
Charlotte. "You won't hear anything except the--blows. Eddy never
makes a whimper. You know that."

She spoke with a certain pride. She felt in her heart that a whimper
from her little brother would be more than she herself could bear,
and would also be more culpable than the offence for which he was
being chastised. She said that her brother never whimpered, and yet
she listened with a little fear that he might. But she need have had
no apprehension. Up in his bedroom, standing before his father in his
little thin linen blouse, for he had pulled off his jacket without
being told, directly when he had first entered the room, the little
boy endured the storm of blows, not only without a whimper, but
without a quiver.

Eddy stood quite erect. His pretty face was white, his little hands
hanging at his sides were clinched tightly, but he made not one sound
or motion which betrayed pain or fear. He was counting the blows as
they fell. He knew how many to expect. There were so many for running
away and playing truant, and so many for lying, more for stealing, so
many for all three. This time it was all three. Eddy counted while
his father laid on the blows as regularly as a machine. When at last
he stopped, Eddy did not move. He spoke without moving his head.

"There are two more, papa," he said. "You have stopped too soon."

Carroll's face contracted, but he gave the two additional blows. "Now
undress yourself and go to bed," he told the boy, in an even tone. "I
will have some bread and milk sent up for your supper. To-morrow
morning you will take that candy back to the store, and tell the man
you stole it, and ask his pardon."

"Yes, sir," said Eddy. He at once began unfastening his little blouse
preparatory to retiring.

Carroll went out of the room and closed the door behind him. His
sister met him at the head of the stairs and accosted him in a sort
of fury.

"Arthur Carroll," said she, tersely, "I wish you would tell me one
thing. Did you whip that child for his faults or your own?"

Carroll looked at her. He was very pale, and his face seemed to have
lengthened out and aged. "For both, Anna," he replied.

"What right have you to punish him for your faults, I should like to
know?"

"The right of the man who gave them to him."

"You have the right to punish him for your faults--_your_ faults?"

"I could kill him for my faults, if necessary."

"Who is going to punish you for your faults? Tell me that, Arthur
Carroll."

"The Lord Almighty in His own good time," replied Carroll, and passed
her and went down-stairs.



Chapter X


The next morning, just before nine o'clock, Anderson was sitting in
his office, reading the morning paper. The wind had changed in the
night and was blowing from the northwest. The atmosphere was full of
a wonderful clearness and freshness. Anderson was conscious of
exhilaration. Life assumed a new aspect. New ambitions pressed upon
his fancy, new joys seemed to crowd upon his straining vision in
culminating vistas of the future. Without fairly admitting it to
himself, it had seemed to him as if he had already in a great measure
exhausted the possibilities of his own life, as if he had begun to
see the bare threads of the warp, as if he had worn out the first
glory of the pattern design. Now it was suddenly all different. It
looked to him as if he had scarcely begun to live, as if he had not
had his first taste of existence. He felt himself a youth. His senses
were sharpened, and he got a keen delight from them, which stimulated
his spirit like wine. He perceived for the first time a perfume from
the green plants in his window-box, which seemed to grow before his
eyes and give an odor like the breath of a runner. He heard whole
flocks of birds in the sky outside. He distinguished quite clearly
one bird-song which he had never heard before. His newspaper rustled
with astonishing loudness when he turned the pages, his cigar tasted
to an extreme which he had never before noticed. The leaves of the
plants and the tree-boughs outside cut the air crisply. His
window-shade rattled so loudly that he could not believe it was
simply that. A great onslaught of the splendid wind filled the room,
and everything waved and sprang as if gaining life. Then suddenly,
without the slightest warning, came a shower of the confection known
as molasses-peppermints through the door of the office. They are a
small, hard candy, and being thrown with vicious emphasis, they
rattled upon the bare floor like bullets. One even hit Anderson
stingingly upon the cheek. He sprang to his feet and looked out.
Nothing was to be seen except the young clerk, standing, gaping and
half frightened, yet with a lurking grin. Anderson regarded him with
amazement. An idea that he had gone mad flashed through his mind.

"What did you do that for, Sam?" he demanded.

"I didn't do it."

"Who did?"

"That kid that was in here last night. That Carroll boy. He run in
here and flung that candy, and out again, before I could more 'n' see
him. Didn't know what were comin'."

Anderson returned to his office, and as he crossed the threshold
heard a duet of laughter from Sam and the older clerk. His feet
crushed some of the candy as he resumed his seat. He took up his
newspaper, but before he had fairly commenced to read he heard the
imperious sound of a girl's voice outside, a quick step, and a
dragging one.

"Come right along!" the girl's voice ordered.

"You lemme be!" came a sulky boy's voice in response.

"Not another word!" said the girl's. "Come right along!"

Anderson looked up. Charlotte Carroll was entering, dragging her
unwilling little brother after her.

"Come," said she again. She did not seem to regard Anderson at all.
She held her brother's arm with a firm grip of her little, nervous
white hand. "Now," said she to him, "you pick up every one of those
molasses-peppermint drops, every single one."

The boy wriggled defiantly, but she held to him with wonderful
strength.

"Right away," she repeated, "every single one."

"Let me go, then," growled the boy, angrily. "How can I pick them up
when you are holding me this way?"

The girl with a swift motion swung to the office door in the faces of
the two clerks, the grinning roundness of the younger, and the
half-abstracted bewilderment of the elder. Then she placed her back
against it, and took her hand from her brother's arm. "Now, then,
pick them up, every one," said she.

Without another word the boy got down on his hands and knees and
began gathering up the scattered sweets. Anderson had risen to his
feet, and stood looking on with a dazed and helpless feeling. Now he
spoke, and he realized that his voice sounded weak.

"Really, Miss Carroll," he said, "I beg-- It is of no consequence--"
Then he stopped. He did not know what it was all about; he had only a
faint idea of not putting any one to the trouble to pick up the
debris on his office floor.

Charlotte regarded him as sternly as she had her brother. "Yes, it is
of consequence. Papa told him to bring them back and apologize."

Anderson stared at her, bewildered, while the little boy crawled like
a nervous spider around his feet.

"Why bring them back to me?" he queried. For the moment the ex-lawyer
forgot that molasses-peppermint balls yielded a part of his revenue,
and were offered by him to the public from a glass jar on his shelf.
He cast about in his mind as to what he could possibly have to do
with those small, hard, brown lollipops rolling about on his office
floor.

"You had them in a glass jar," said Charlotte, in an accusing voice,
"right in his way, and--when he came home last night he had them in
his pocket, and--papa whipped him very hard. He always does when-- My
brother is never allowed to take anything that does not belong to
him, however unimportant," she concluded, proudly.

Anderson continued to look at her in a sort of daze.

"No," she added, severely, "he is not. No matter if he is so young,
no more than a child, and a child is very fond of sweets, and--they
were left right in his way."

Anderson looked at her with the vague idea floating through his mind
that he owed this sweet, reproachful creature an abject pardon for
keeping his molasses-peppermint balls in a glass jar on his own shelf
and not locking them away from the lustful eyes of small boys.

"Papa told Eddy that he must bring them back this morning and ask
your pardon," said Charlotte, "and when he came running out of the
store I suspected what he had done; and when I found out, I made him
come back. Pick up every one, Eddy."

"Here is one he stepped on his own self and smashed all to nothing,"
said Eddy, in an aggrieved tone. "I can't pick that up, anyhow."

"Pick up what you can of it, and put it in the paper bag."

"I shouldn't think he could sell this to anybody without cheating
them," remarked Eddy, in a lofty tone, in spite of his abject
position.

"Never you mind what he does with it. You pick up every single
speck," ordered the girl; and the boy scraped the floor with his
sharp finger-nails, and crammed the candy and dust into a small paper
bag. The girl stood watchfully over him; not the smallest particle
escaped her eyes. "There's some more over there," said she, sharply,
when the boy was about to rise; and Eddy loped like some small animal
on all-fours towards a tiny heap of crushed peppermint-drops.

"He must have stepped on this, too," he muttered, with a reproachful
glare at Anderson, who had never in his life felt so at a loss. He
was divided between consternation and an almost paralyzing sense of
the ridiculous. He was conscious that a laugh would be regarded as an
insult by this very angry and earnest young girl. But at last Eddy
tendered him the bag with the rescued peppermint-drops.

"I shouldn't think you would ask more than half-price for candy like
this, anyway," said Eddy, admonishingly, and that was too much for
the man. He shouted with laughter; not even Charlotte's face, which
suddenly flushed with wrath, could sober him. She looked at him a
moment while he laughed, and her face of severe judgment and anger
intensified.

"Very well," said she, "if you see anything funny about this, I am
glad, Mr. Anderson."

But the boy, who had viewed with doubt and suspicion this abrupt
change of aspect on the part of the man, suddenly grinned in
response; his black eyes twinkled charmingly with delight and fun.
"Say, _you're_ all right," he said to Anderson, with a confidential
nod.

"Eddy!" cried Charlotte.

"Now, Charlotte, you don't see how funny it is, because you are a
girl," said Eddy, soothingly, and he continued to grin at the man,
half-elfishly, half-innocently. He looked very small and young.

The girl caught hold of his arm. "Come away immediately," she said,
in a choking voice. "Immediately."

"It's just like a girl to act that way about my going, as if I wanted
to come myself at all," said the boy, following his sister's pulling
hand, and still grinning understandingly at Anderson over his
shoulder.

Charlotte turned in the doorway and looked majestically at Anderson.
"I thought, when I obliged my brother to return here and pick up the
candy, that I was dealing with a gentleman," said she. "Otherwise I
might not have considered it necessary."

Even then Anderson could scarcely restrain his laughter, although he
was conscious that he was mortally offending her. He managed to gasp
out something about his surprise and the triviality of the whole
affair of the candy.

"I regret that you should consider the taking anything without leave,
however worthless, as trivial," said she. "I have not been so brought
up, and neither has my brother." She said this with an indescribable
air of offended rectitude. She regarded him like a small, incarnate
truth and honesty. Then she turned, and her brother was following
with a reluctant backward pull at her leading hand, when suddenly he
burst forth with a shout of malicious glee.

"Say, you are making me go away, when I haven't given him back his
old candy, after all! He didn't take it."

Charlotte promptly caught the paper bag from her brother's hand,
advanced upon Anderson, and thrust it in his face as if it had been a
hostile weapon. Anderson took it perforce.

"Here is your property," said she, proudly, but she seemed almost as
childish as her brother.

"I ain't said any apology, either," said Eddy.

"The coming here and returning it is apology enough," said Anderson.

He looked foolishly at the ridiculous paper bag, sticky with
lollipops. For the first time he felt distinctly ashamed of his
business. It seemed to him, as he realized its concentration upon the
petty details of existence, its strenuous dwelling upon the small,
inane sweets and absurdities of daily life which ought to be
scattered with a free hand, not made subjects of trade and barter, to
be entirely below a gentleman. He gave the paper bag an impatient
toss out of the open window over the back of the sleeping cat, which
started a little, then stretched himself luxuriously and slept again.

"There, he's thrown it out of the window!" proclaimed Eddy. He looked
accusingly at Charlotte. "I might just as well have kept it as had it
thrown out of the window," said he. "What good is it to anybody now,
I'd like to know?"

"Never mind what he has done with it," said Charlotte. "Come at once."

"Papa told me I must apologize. He will ask me if I did."

"Apologize, then. Be quick."

"It is not--" began Anderson, who was sober enough now, and becoming
more and more annoyed, but Charlotte interrupted him.

"Eddy!" said she.

"I am very sorry I took your candy," piped Eddy, in a loud,
declamatory voice which was not the tone of humble repentance. The
boy, as he spoke, eyed the man with defiance. It was as if he blamed
him, for some occult reason, for having his own property stolen. The
child's face became, under the forced humiliation of the apology,
revolutionary, anarchistic, rebellious. He might have been the
representative, the walking delegate, of some small cult of rebels
against the established order of regard for the property-rights of
others. The sinner, the covetous one of another's sweets, became the
accuser. Just as he was going out of the door, following the pink
flutter of his sister's muslin gown, he turned and spoke his whole
mind.

"You had a whole big glass jar of them, anyhow," said he, "and I
didn't have a single one. You might have given me some, and then I
shouldn't have stolen them. It's your own fault. You ought not to
have things that anybody else wants, when they haven't got money to
pay for them. It's a good deal wickeder than stealing. It was your
own fault."

But Eddy had then to deal with his sister. She towered over him,
pinker than her pink muslin. The ruffles seemed agitated all over her
slender, girlish figure, like the plumage of an angry bird. She
caught her small brother by the shoulders, and shook him violently,
until the dark hair which he wore rather long waved and his whole
head wagged.

"Eddy Carroll," she cried, "aren't you ashamed of yourself? Oh,
aren't you ashamed of yourself? Begging, yes, _begging_ for candy! If
you want candy, you will buy it. You will not beg it nor take it
without permission. If you cannot buy it, you will go without, if you
are a brother of mine."

The boy for the first time quailed somewhat. He looked at her, and
raised a hand childishly as if to ward off something.

"I didn't ask, Charlotte," he half whimpered. "If he was to offer me
any now, I would not take it. I would just fling it in his face. I
would, Charlotte; I would, honest."

"I heard you," said Charlotte.

"I didn't ask him. I said if he had given me a little of that candy,
I wouldn't have been obliged to take any. I said--"

"I heard what you said. Now you must come at once."

Anderson said good-morning rather feebly. Charlotte made a distant
inclination of her head in response, and they were gone, but he heard
Eddy cry out, in a tone of reproachful glee:

"There! you've made me late at school, Charlotte. Look at that clock;
it's after nine. You've made me late at school with all that fussing
over a few old peppermint-drops."



Chapter XI


Anderson, after they were gone, sat staring out of the window at the
green spray of the spring boughs. His mouth was twitching, but his
forehead was contracted. This problem of feminity and childhood which
he had confronted was too much for him. The boy did not perplex him
quite so much--he did not think so much about him--but the girl, the
pure and sweet unreason of her proceedings, was beyond his mental
grasp. The attitude of reproach which this delicate and altogether
lovely young blossom of a thing had adopted towards him filled him
with dismay and a ludicrous sense of guilt. He had a keen sense of
the unreason and contrariness of her whole attitude, but he had no
contempt towards her on account of it. He felt as if he were facing
some new system of things, some higher order of creature for whom
unreason was the finest reason. He bowed before the pure, unordered,
untempered feminine, and his masculine mind reeled. And all the time,
deeper within himself than he had ever reached with the furthest
finger of his emotions, whether for pain or joy, he felt this
tenderness, which was like the quickening of another soul, so alive
was it. He felt the wonder and mystery of the awakening of love in
his heart, this reaching out with all the best of him for the
protection and happiness of another than himself. He saw before him,
with no dimming because of absence, the girl's little, innocent, fair
face, and such a tenderness for her was over him that he felt as if
he actually clasped her and enfolded her, but only for her protection
and good, never for himself.

"The little thing," he thought over and over--"the little, innocent,
beautiful thing! What kind of a place is she in, among what kind of
people? What does this all mean?"

Suspicions which had been in his mind all the time had developed. He
had had proof in divers ways. He said to himself, "That man is a
scoundrel, a common swindler, if I know one when I see him." But
suspicions as to the girl had never for one minute dwelt in his
furthest fancy. He had thought speculatively of the possible
complicity of the other women of the household, but never of hers.
They were all very constant in their church attendance; indeed,
Carroll had given quite a sum towards the Sunday-school library, and
he had even heard suggestions as to the advisability of making him
superintendent and displacing the present incumbent, who was
superannuated. Sometimes in church Anderson had glanced keenly from
under the quiet droop of languid lids at the Carrolls sitting in
their gay fluff and flutter of silks and muslins and laces, and
wondered, especially concerning Mrs. Carroll and her sister-in-law.
It seemed almost inconceivable that they were ignorant, and if not,
how entirely innocent! And then the expressions of their pretty,
childish faces disarmed him as they sat there, their dark, graceful
heads drooping before the divine teaching with gentle acquiescence
like a row of flowers. But there was something about the fearless
lift to Charlotte's head and the clear regard of her dark eyes which
separated her from the others. She bloomed by herself, individual,
marked by her own characteristics. He thought of her passionate
assertion of the principles of her home training with pity and
worshipful admiration. It was innocence incarnate pleading for guilt
which she believed like herself, because of the blinding power of her
own light. "She thinks them all like herself," he said to himself.
"She reasons from her knowledge of herself." Then reflecting how
Carroll had undoubtedly sent his son to return his pilfered sweets,
he began to wonder if he could possibly have been mistaken in his
estimate of the man's character, if he had reasoned from wrong
premises, and from that circumstantial evidence which his experience
as a lawyer should have led him to distrust.

Suddenly a shadow flung out across the office floor and a man stood
in the doorway. He was tall and elderly, with a shag of gray beard
and a shining dome of forehead over a nervous, blue-eyed face. He was
the druggist, Andrew Drew, who had his little pharmacy on the
opposite side of the street, a little below Anderson's grocery. He
united with his drug business a local and long-distance telephone and
the Western Union telegraph-office, and he rented and sold
commutation-books of railroad tickets to the City.

"Good-day," he said. Then, before Anderson could respond, he plunged
at once into the subject on his mind, a subject that was wrinkling
his forehead. However, he first closed the office door and glanced
around furtively. "See here," he whispered, mysteriously; "you know
those new folks, the Carrolls?" With a motion of his lank shoulder he
indicated the direction of the Carroll house.

Anderson's expression changed subtly. He nodded.

"Well, what I want to know is--what do you think of him?"

"I don't quite understand what you mean," Anderson replied, stiffly.

"Well, I mean-- Well, what I mean is just this"--the druggist made a
nervous, imperative gesture with a long forefinger--"this, if you
want to know--is he _good?_"

"You mean?"

"Yes, is he good?"

"He has paid his bills here," Anderson said. He offered the other man
a chair, which was declined with a shake of the head.

"No, thank you, can't stop. I've left my little boy in the store all
alone. So he has paid you?"

"Yes, he has paid his bills here," Anderson replied, with a guilty
sense of evasion, remembering the check.

"Well, maybe he is all right. I'll tell you, if you won't speak of
it. Of course he may be all right; and I don't want to quarrel with a
good customer. All there is--he came rushing in three weeks ago
to-day and said he was late for the train, and he had used up his
commutation and had come off without his pocket-book, and of course
could not get credit at the station office, and if I had a book he
would take it and write me a check. While he was talking he was
scratching a check on a New York bank like lightning. He made a
mistake and drew it for ten dollars too much; and I hadn't a full
book anyway, only one with thirty-five tickets in it, and I let him
have that and gave him the difference in cash--fifteen dollars and
forty-two cents. And--well--the long and short of it is, the check
came back from the bank, no good."

"Did you tell him?"

"Haven't seen him since. I went to his house twice, but he wasn't
home. I tried to catch him at the station, but he has been going on
different trains lately; and once when I got a glimpse of him the
train was in and he had just time to swing on and I couldn't stop him
then, of course. Then I dropped him a line, and got a mighty smooth
note back. He said there was a mistake; he was very sorry; he would
explain at once and settle; and that's over a week ago, and--"

"Probably he will settle it, if he said so," said Anderson, with the
memory of the little boy who had been sent to return the stolen candy
in his mind.

"Well, I hope he will, but--" The druggist hesitated. Then he went
on: "There is something else, to tell the truth. One of his girls
came in just now and asked me to cash a check for twenty-five
dollars--her father's check, but on another bank--and--I refused."

Anderson flushed. A great gust of wind made the window rattle, and he
pulled it down with an irritated jerk.

"Do you think I did right?" asked the druggist, who had a nervous
appeal of manner. "Maybe the check was good. I hated to refuse, of
course. I said I was short of ready money. I don't think she
suspected anything. She is a nice-spoken girl. I don't suppose she
knew if the check wasn't good."

"Any man who thinks so ought to be kicked," declared Anderson, with
sudden fury, and the other man started.

"I told you I didn't think so," he retorted, eying him with some
wonder and a little timidity. "But I declare I didn't know what to
do. There was that other check not accounted for yet; and I can't
afford to lose any more, and that's a fact. Then you think I ought to
have cashed it?"

Anderson's face twitched a little. Then he said, as if it were wrung
out of him, "On general principles, I should not call it good
business to repeat a transaction of that kind until the first was
made right."

The druggist looked relieved. "Well, I am glad to hear you say so. I
hated to--"

"But Captain Carroll may be as good pay in the end as I am,"
interrupted Anderson. "He seems to me to have good principles about
things of that kind."

"Well, I'll cash the next check," said Drew, with a laugh. "I must go
back, for I left my little boy alone in the store."

The druggist had scarcely gone before the old clerk came to the
office door. "That young lady who was here a little while ago wants
to speak to you, Mr. Anderson," he said, with an odd look.

"I will come out directly," replied Anderson, and passed out into the
store, where Charlotte Carroll stood waiting with a heightened color
on her cheeks and a look of mingled appeal and annoyance in her eyes.

"I beg your pardon," she said, "but can you cash a check for me for
twenty-five dollars? It will be a great favor."

"Certainly," replied Anderson, without the slightest hesitation. He
was conscious that both clerks, the man and the boy, were watching
him with furtive curiosity, and he was aware that Carroll's
unreliability in the matter of his drafts had become widely known. He
passed around the counter to the money-drawer.

"Money seems to be very scarce in Banbridge this morning," remarked
Charlotte, in a sweet, slightly petulant voice. She was both angry
and ashamed that she had been forced to apply to Anderson to cash the
check. "I have been everywhere, and nobody had as much as twenty-five
dollars," she added.

Anderson heard a very faint chuckle, immediately covered by a cough,
from Sam Riggs. He began counting out the notes, being conscious that
the man and the boy were regarding each other with meaning, that the
boy's elbow dug the man's ribs. He handed the money to Charlotte with
a courteous bow, and she gave him in return the check, which was
payable to her mother, and which had been indorsed by her.

"Thank you very much indeed," she said, but still in a piqued rather
than very grateful voice. She really had no suspicion that any
particular gratitude was called for towards any one who cashed one of
her father's checks.

"You are quite welcome," Anderson replied.

"It is a great inconvenience not having a bank in Banbridge," she
remarked, accusingly, as she went out of the door with a slight nod
of her pretty head. Then suddenly she turned and looked back. "I am
very much obliged," she said, in an entirely different voice. Her
natural gentleness and courtesy had all at once reasserted
themselves. "I trust I have not inconvenienced you," she added, very
sweetly. "I would have waited until papa came home to-night and got
him to cash the check. He was a little short this morning, and had to
use some money before he could go to the bank, but my sister and I
are very anxious to take the eleven-thirty train to New York, and we
had only a dollar and six cents between us." She laughed as she said
the last, and Anderson echoed her.

"That is not a very large amount, certainly, to equip two ladies to
visit the shopping district," he said.

"I am very glad to accommodate you, and it is not the slightest
inconvenience, I assure you."

"Well, I am very much obliged, very much," she repeated, with a
pretty smile and nod, and she was gone with a little fluttering hop
like a bird down the steps.

"He's got stuck," the boy motioned with his lips to the old clerk as
Anderson re-entered the office, and the man nodded in assent. Neither
of them ventured to express the opinion to Anderson. Both stood in a
certain awe of him. The former lawyer still held familiarity somewhat
at bay.

However, there followed a whispered consultation between the two
clerks, and both chuckled, and finally Sam Riggs advanced with
bravado to the office door.

"Mr. Anderson," he said, with mischief in his tone, and Anderson
turned and looked at him inquiringly. "Oh, it is nothing, not worth
speaking of, I suppose," said Sammy Riggs, "but that kid, the Carroll
boy, swiped an apple off that basket beside the door when he went out
with his sister. I saw him."



Chapter XII


Anderson was in the state of mind of a man who dreams and is quite
aware all the time that he is dreaming. He deliberately indulged
himself in this habit of mind. "When I am ready, I shall put all this
away," he continually assured his inner consciousness. Then into the
delicious charm of his air-castle he leaped again, mind and body. In
those days he grew perceptibly younger. The fire of youth lit his
eyes. He fed on the stimulants of sweet dreams, and for the time they
nourished as well as exhilarated. Everybody whom he met told him how
well he looked and that he was growing younger every day. He was
shrewd enough to understand fully the fact that they considered him
far from youth, or they would not have thus expressed themselves, but
the triumph which he felt when he saw himself in his looking-glass,
and in his own realization of himself, caused him to laugh at the
innuendo. He felt that he _was_ young, as young as man could wish to
be. He, as before said, had never been vain, but mortal man could not
have helped exultation at the sight of that victorious visage of
himself looking back at him. He did not admit it to himself, but he
took more pains with his dress, although he had always been rather
punctilious in that direction. All unknown to himself, and, had he
known it, the knowledge would have aroused in him rebellion and
shame, he was carrying out the instinct of the love-smitten male of
all species. In lieu of the gorgeous feathers he put on a new coat
and tie, he trimmed his mustache carefully. He smoothed and lighted
his face with the beauty of joy and hope and of pleasant dreams. But
there was, since he was a man at the head of creation, something more
subtle and noble in his preening. In those days he became curiously
careful--although, being naturally clean-hearted, he had little need
for care--of his very thoughts. Naturally fastidious in his soul
habits, he became even more so. The very books he read were, although
he was unconscious of it, such as contributed to his spiritual
adornment, to fit himself for his constant dwelling in his country of
dreams. Certain people he avoided, certain he courted. One woman, who
was innately coarse, although her life had hedged her in safely from
impropriety, was calling upon his mother one afternoon about this
time. She was the wife of the old Presbyterian clergyman, Dr. Gregg.
She was a small, solidly built woman, in late middle life, tightly
hooked up in black silk as to her body, and as to her soul by the
prescribed boundaries of her position in life. Anderson, returning
rather earlier than usual, found her with his mother, and retreated
with actual rudeness, the woman became all at once so repellent to
him.

"My son gets very tired," Mrs. Anderson said, softly, as she passed
the pound-cake again to her caller. "Quite often, when he comes in,
he goes by himself and has a quiet smoke before he says much even to
me."

Mrs. Gregg was eating the pound-cake with such extreme relish that
Mrs. Anderson, who was herself fastidious, looked away, and as she
did so heard distinctly a smack of the other woman's lips.

"He grows handsomer and younger every time I see him," remarked Mrs.
Gregg when she had swallowed her mouthful of cake and before she took
another.

Mrs. Anderson repeated the caller's compliment to her son later on
when the two were at the supper-table. "Yes, she paid you a great
compliment," said she; "but, dear, why did you run out in that way?
It was almost rude, and she the minister's wife, too."

"I don't see how Dr. Gregg keeps up his necessary quota of saving
grace, living with her," said Anderson.

"Why, my dear, I think she is a good woman."

"She is a bottled-up vessel of wrath," said Anderson.

"My son, I never heard you speak so before, and about a lady, too."

Anderson fairly blushed before his mother's mild eyes of surprise.
"Mother, you are right," he said, penitently. "I ought to be ashamed
of myself, and I am. I know I was rude, but I did not feel like
seeing her to-day. Of course she is a good woman."

Mrs. Anderson looked a little reflective. Now that her son had taken
a proper attitude with regard to her sister-woman, she began to feel
a little critical license herself. "I will admit that she has little
mannerisms which are not exactly agreeable and must grate on Dr.
Gregg," said she. As she spoke she seemed to hear again the smacking
of the lips over the pound-cake. Then she looked scrutinizingly at
her son. "But," she said, "I do believe she was right, Randolph,
about your looks."

"Nonsense," said Randolph, laughing.

It was a warm night. After supper they both went out on the front
porch. Mrs. Anderson sat gazing at her son from between the folds of
a little, white lace kerchief which she wore over her head, to guard
against possible dampness.

"Randolph," said she, after a while.

"What is it, mother, dear?"

"Do you feel well?"

"Of course I feel well. Why?"

"You look too well to be natural," said she, slowly.

"Mother, what an absurdity!"

"It is so," said she. "I had not noticed it until Mrs. Gregg spoke,
but I see it now. I don't know where my eyes have been. You look too
well."

Randolph laughed. "Now, mother, don't you think that sounds foolish?"

Mrs. Anderson continued to regard him with an expression of maternal
love and severity, which pierced externals more keenly than an X-ray.
"No," said she, "I do not think it is foolish. You look too well to
be natural. You look this minute as young in your face as you did
when I had you in petticoats."

Randolph laughed loudly at that, but his mother was quite earnest.

She was not satisfied, and continued arguing the matter until she
became afraid of the increasing dampness and went into the house, and
the son drew a breath of relief. The mother little dreamed, with all
her astuteness, of what was really transpiring. She did not know that
when she had seated herself beside her son on the porch she had
displaced with her gentle, elderly materiality the sweetest phantom
of a beloved young girl. She did not know that when she entered the
house the delicate, evanescent thing returned swifter than thought
itself, and filled with the sweet presence that vacuum in her son's
heart which she herself had never filled, and nestled there through a
delicious hour of the summer night. She did not dream, as she sat by
the window, staring out drowsily into the soft shadows and heard no
murmur from her son on the porch, that in reality the silence of his
soul was broken by words and tones which she had never heard from his
lips, although she had brought him into the world.

Anderson never admitted to himself the possibility of his dreams
coming true. While his self-respect never wavered, while he viewed
himself with no unworthy disparagement, he still saw himself as he
was: verging towards middle age, unsuccessful according to the
standard of the world. He was one of those inglorious failures, a man
who has failed to follow out his chosen course of life. He was one
who had turned back, overcome confessedly by odds. He told himself
proudly and simply that his earning of money was, to one simple and
honest end--the prolonging of existence on the earth for the good of
one's fellow-beings, and one's own growth; that he was attaining that
end more completely in his little grocery store than he had ever done
in his law-office. Yet always he saw himself, in a measure, as others
saw him, and the humility of his position in the eyes of the world
asserted itself. While he felt not the slightest bend in the
erectness of his own soul because of it, while it even amused him, he
never forgot the supercilious courtesy of the girls' father towards
him. He recognized, even while feeling himself on superior heights,
the downward vision of the man who robbed him. It was true that he
paid scorn for scorn, but he was forced to take as well as give.

He also was not in the slightest doubt as to Charlotte's own attitude
towards him. He understood to the full the signification of the word
grocer for her. He was, to her mind, hardly a man at all, rather a
mechanical dispenser of butter and eggs for the needs of a superior
race. But he understood also the childish innocence and
involuntariness of this view of hers. He recognized even the
ludicrousness of the situation which perverted tragedy to comedy,
almost Cyrano fashion. He compared himself to Cyrano.

"As well consider the possibility of marriage with a girl of her
training, even although it is on a false basis, with a monstrosity of
nose on my face, as with the legend of retail grocery across my
scutcheon," he told himself. He even laughed over it.

Therefore, being of a turn of mind which can rear for itself airy
towers of delight over the values of insufficiency of life, and
having an access of spirituality which enabled him to get a certain
reality from them, he dreamed on, and let his new love irradiate his
own life, like a man carrying a lantern on a dark path. There are
those that are born to sunlit paths, and there are those whom a
beneficient Providence has supplied with lanterns of compensation,
and the latter are not always the unhappier nor the less progressive.
Never admitting to himself the possibility of the actual presence of
the girl in the house as his wife, he yet peopled the rooms with her.
He rose up in spirit before her entering a door. There were especial
nooks wherein his fancy could project her with such illusion that his
heart would leap as if at the actual sight of her. In particular was
there one window in the sitting-room which, being in a little
projection of the house, overlooked a special little view of its own.
From this window between the folds of the muslin curtains could be
seen a file of blooming hollyhocks. Behind them a grassy expanse
arose with a long ascent, and the rosette--like blossoms of pink and
pale-gold, with gray-green bosses of leaves, lay against the green
field like the design on a shield.

In this window was an old-fashioned rocking-chair cushioned softly
with faded, rose-patterned chintz, and before it stood always a small
footstool covered with dim-brown canvas on which was a wreath of
roses done in cross-stitch by his mother in her girlhood. Anderson
loved to see Charlotte sitting in this chair with her feet on the
footstool, her pretty head leaning back against the faded roses of
the chintz, the delicate curve of her cheek towards him, as she
swayed gently back and forth and seemed to gaze peacefully out of the
window at the hollyhocks blooming against the green hill. It was
characteristic of the man's dreams that the girl's face in them was
turned a little from him. She never saw him when he entered, she
never broke the sweet silence of her own dreams within dreams, for
him, and he never, even in dreams, touched the soft curve of that
averted cheek, or even one of the little hands lying as lightly as
flowers in her muslin lap. Anderson, the commonplace man in the
grocery business, in the commonplace present, dreamed as reverently
and spiritually of the lady of his love as Dante of his Beatrice, or
Petrarch of his Laura. He would go down to the grave with his songs
all unsung; but the man was a poet, as are all who worship the god,
and not the likeness of themselves in him. As Anderson sat on the
porch that summer night, to his fancy Charlotte Carroll sat on the
step above him. Without fairly looking he could see the sweep of her
white draperies and the mild fairness, producing the effect of
luminosity, of her face in the dusk.

Then suddenly Charlotte herself dispelled the illusion. She passed by
with her sister Ina and a young man. Anderson heard the low, sweet
babble of girls' tongues and a hearty, boyish laugh before they came
opposite the porch. He knew at once that Charlotte was one of the
girls. He could not see them very plainly when they passed, for the
moon had not yet risen and the shadows of the trees were dense. He
had glimpses of pale contours and ruffling white draperies floating
around the young man, who walked on the outside. He towered above
them both with stately tenderness. He was smoking, and Anderson noted
that with a throb of anger. He had an old-fashioned conviction that a
man should not smoke when walking with ladies. He was sitting
perfectly motionless when they came alongside, and all at once one of
the girls, Ina, the eldest, perceived him, and started violently with
an exclamation. All three laughed, and the young man said, raising
his hat, "Good-evening, Mr. Anderson."

Anderson returned the salutation. He thought, but was not quite sure,
that Charlotte nodded. He heard, quite distinctly, Ina remark, when
they were scarcely past, in a voice of girlish scorn and merry
ridicule:

"Is the grocer a friend of yours, Mr. Eastman?"

Anderson was sure that he heard a "Hush! he will hear you!" from
Charlotte, before young Frank Eastman replied, like a man:

"Yes, every time, Miss Carroll, if he will do me the honor to let me
call him one. Mr. Anderson is a mighty fine gentleman."

The girl's voice said something in response with a slightly abashed
but still jibing inflection, but Anderson could not catch it. They
passed out of sight, the cigar-smoke lingering in their wake.
Anderson inhaled it with no longer any feeling of disapprobation. He
slowly lit a cigar himself, and smoked and meditated. The presence on
the step above him was for the time dispelled by her own materiality.
The dream eluded the substance. Anderson thought of the young man who
had walked past with a curious feeling of something akin to
gratitude. "Frank Eastman is a fine young fellow," he thought. He had
known him ever since he had been a child. He had been one of the boys
whom everybody knew and liked. He had grown up a village favorite.
The thought flashed through Anderson's mind that here was a possible
husband for Charlotte, and probably a good husband.

"He is an only son," he told himself; "he will have a little money.
He is as good as and better than young men average, and he is
charming, a man to attract any girl."

Anderson, when he had finished his cigar and one more, and had gone
into the house to read a little before going to bed, quite decided
that Charlotte Carroll was to marry young Frank Eastman. He walked
remorselessly over the step where his fancy had placed her, and when
he glanced at her pretty little nook in the sitting-room, as he
passed through with his lamp and his book, it was vacant. Anderson
felt a rigid acquiescence, and read his book with interest until
after midnight.

In the mean time Charlotte, her sister Ina, and young Eastman
sauntered slowly along through the shadowy streets of Banbridge. The
girls held up their white gowns over their lace petticoats. They wore
no hats, and their pretty, soft, dark locks floated like mist around
their faces. The young man pressed Ina's arm as closely and lovingly
as he dared. He was yet young enough and innocent enough to be in his
heart of hearts as afraid of a girl as, when a child, he had been
afraid of his mother. He thought Ina Carroll something wonderful;
Charlotte he scarcely thought of at all except with vague approbation
because she was Ina's sister. He took the girls into Andrew Drew's
drug store for ice-cream soda. He watched, with happy proprietorship,
the girls dally daintily with the long spoons in the sweet, cold
mixture. Seen in the electric light of the store, they had a
bewildering and fairly dazzling splendor of youth and bloom. Their
faces, freshened to exquisite tints by the damp night air, shone
forth from the floating film of dark hair with the unquestioning
delight of the passing moment. There was in these young faces at the
moment no shadow of the past or future. They were pure light. Young
Eastman, eating his ice-cream, looked over his glass at Ina Carroll
and realized the dazzle of her in his soul. She felt his look and
smiled at him pleasantly, yet with a certain gay defiance. Charlotte
caught both looks. She stirred her ice-cream briskly into the liquid
and drank it.

"Come, honey," she said to Ina. "It is time to go home."

A man stood near the door as they passed and raised his hat eagerly.

"Who is that man?" Ina said to young Eastman when they were on the
sidewalk.

"His name is Lee."

When the party had gone out, Lee turned with his self-conscious,
consequential air. Ray, the postmaster, was standing at the counter.
Little Willy Eddy also was there. He lingered about the
soda-fountain. Nobody knew how badly he wanted a drink of soda. He
was like a child about it, but he was afraid lest his Minna should
call him to account for the five cents.

"Pretty fine-looking girls," observed Lee to Ray and Drew.

"Yes," assented Ray. "You know them?"

"Well, no, not directly, but Captain Carroll and I are quite intimate
in a business way."

The druggist looked up eagerly. "You think he is good?" he asked.

"I have heard some queer things lately," said the postmaster.

Lee faced them both. "Good?" he cried. "Good? Arthur Carroll good?
Why, I'd be willing to risk every dollar I have in the world, or ever
hope to have. He's the smartest business man I ever saw in my life. I
tell you he's A No. 1. He's got a business head equal to any on the
Street, I don't care who it is. Well, all I have to say, _I_ am not
afraid of him! No, sir!"

"I heard he had some pretty promising stock to sell," said the
postmaster.

"Promising? No, it is not promising! Promising is not the word for
it. It is sure, dead sure."

Little Willy Eddy drew very near.

"What is it selling at?" asked Ray.

"One dollar and sixty cents," replied Lee, with an intonation of
pride and triumph.

"Cheap enough," said Ray.

"Yes, sir, one dollar and sixty cents, and it will be up to five in
six months and paying dividends, and up to fifty, with ten-per-cent.
dividends, in a year and a half."

Little Willy Eddy had in the savings-bank a little money. Before he
left he had arranged with Henry Lee to invest it through his
influence with the great man, Carroll, and say nothing about it to
any one outside. Willy hoped fondly that his Minna might know nothing
about it until he should surprise her with the proceeds of his great
venture. Then Willy Eddy marched boldly upon the soda-fountain.

"Give me a chocolate ice-cream soda," he said, like a man.



Chapter XIII


Three days later, at dinner, Charlotte Carroll said something about
the difficulty she had had about getting the check cashed.

"It is the queerest thing," said she, in a lull of the conversation,
pausing with her soup-spoon lifted, "how very difficult it is to get
a check for even a small amount cashed in Banbridge."

Carroll's spoon clattered against his plate. "What do you mean?" he
asked, sharply.

Charlotte looked at him surprised. "Why, nothing," said she, "only I
went to every store in town to get your check for twenty-five dollars
cashed, and then I had to go to Anderson's finally. I should think
they must be very poor here. Are they, papa?"

Carroll went on with his soup. "Who gave you the check to cash?" he
said, in a low voice.

"Aunt Anna," replied Charlotte. "Why?"

Anna spoke quite eagerly, and it seemed apologetically. "Arthur,"
said she, "the girls were very anxious to go to the City."

"Yes," said Ina, "I really had to go that day. I wanted to get that
silk. I had that charged; there wasn't money enough; but it has not
come yet. I don't see where it is."

"I let Charlotte take the check," Anna Carroll said again, still with
an air of nervous apology, "but I saw no reason why-- I thought--"

"You thought what?" said Carroll. His voice was exceedingly low and
gentle, but Anna Carroll started.

"Nothing," said she, hastily. "Nothing, Arthur."

"Well, I just went everywhere with it," Charlotte said again; "then I
had to go to Anderson, after all. I just hated to. I don't like him.
He laughed when Eddy and I went there to take back the candy."

"He laughed because we took it back--a little thing like that," said
Eddy.

Carroll looked at him, and the boy cast his eyes down and took a
spoonful of soup with an abashed air.

"He was the only one in Banbridge that seemed to have as much as
twenty-five dollars in his money-drawer," said Charlotte. "I began to
think that Ina and I should have to give up going to New York."

"Don't take any more checks around the shops here to cash, honey,"
said Carroll. "Come to me; I'll fix it up some way. Amy, dear, are
you all ready for the drive?"

"Yes, dear," said Mrs. Carroll. She looked unusually pretty that
night in a mauve gown of some thin, soft, wool material, with her old
amethysts. Even her dark hair seemed to get amethystine shadows, and
her eyes, too.

Carroll regarded her admiringly.

"Amy, darling, you do get lovelier every day," he said.

The others laughed and echoed him with fond merriment.

"Doesn't she?" said Ina.

"Amy's the prettiest girl in this old town," said Eddy, and all the
Carrolls laughed like children.

"Well, I'm glad you all admire me so much," Mrs. Carroll said, in her
sweet drawl, "because--"

"Because what, honey?" said Carroll. The boy and the two girls looked
inquiringly, but Anna Carroll smiled with slightly vexed knowledge.

"Well," said Mrs. Carroll, "you must all look at me in my purple gown
and get all the comfort you can out of it; you must nourish
yourselves through your aesthetic sense, because this soup is all you
will get for dinner, except dessert. There is a little dessert."

Poor little Eddy Carroll made a slight, half-smothered exclamation.
"Oh, shucks!" he said, then he laughed with the others. None of them
looked surprised. They all laughed, though somewhat ruefully.

"Anna came this forenoon and asked me what she should do," Mrs.
Carroll said, in her soft tone of childlike glee, as if she really
enjoyed the situation. "Poor Anna looked annoyed. This country air
makes Anna hungry. Now, as for me, I am not hungry at all. If I can
have fruit and salad I am quite satisfied. It is so fortunate that we
have those raspberries and those early pears. Those little pears are
quite delicious, and they are nourishing, I am sure. And then it is
providential that we have lettuce in our own garden. And the grocer
did not object in the least to letting last week's bill run and
letting us have olive-oil and vinegar. I have plenty, so I can regard
it all quite cheerfully; but Anna, poor darling, is hungry like a
pussy-cat for real, solid meat. Well, Anna comes, face so long"--Mrs.
Carroll drew down her lovely face, to a chorus of admiring laughter,
Anna Carroll herself joining. Mrs. Carroll continued. "Yes, so long,"
and made her face long again by way of encore. "And I said, 'Why,
Anna, honey, what is the matter?' 'Amy,' said she, 'this is serious,
very serious. Why, neither the butcher nor the egg-man will trust us.
We have only money enough to part pay one of them, just to keep them
going,' says she, 'and what shall I do, Amy?' 'It's either to go
without meat or eggs,' says I. 'Yes, Amy, honey,' says she. 'And you
can't pay them each a little?' says I, 'for I am real wise about that
way of doing, you know.'" Mrs. Carroll said the last with the air of
a precocious child; she looked askance for admiration as she said it,
and laughed herself with the others. "'No,' says poor Anna--'no, Amy,
there is not enough money for two littles, only enough for one
little. What shall we do, Amy?' 'Well,' says Amy, 'we had chops for
lunch.' 'Those aren't paid for, and that is the reason we can't have
beef for dinner,' says Anna. 'Well,' says Amy, 'we had those chops,
didn't we? And the butcher can't alter that, anyway; and we are all
nourished by those chops, and dear Arthur has had his good luncheon
in the City, and there is soup-stock in the house, and things to make
one of those delicious raspberry-puddings, and we cannot starve, we
poor but honest Carrolls, on those things; and eggs are cheaper, are
they not, honey, dear?' 'Yes,' says Anna, with that sort of groan she
has when her mind is on economy--'yes, Amy, dear.' 'And,' says I,
'Arthur always wants his eggs for breakfast, and he does not like
cold meat in the morning, and if he went to business without his
eggs, and there was an accident on his empty stomach, only think how
we would feel, Anna. So we will have,' says Amy, 'soup and pudding
for dinner, and eggs for breakfast, and we will part pay the egg-man
and not the butcher.' And then Amy puts on her new gown and does all
she can for her family, to make up for the lack of the roast."

"Did you say it was raspberry-pudding, Amy?" asked Eddy, anxiously.

"Yes, honey, with plenty of sauce, and you may have some twice if you
want it."

"Ring the bell, dear," said Carroll.

"You don't mind, Arthur, do you?" Mrs. Carroll asked, with a
confident look at him.

Carroll smiled. "No, darling, only I hope none of you are really
going hungry."

They all laughed at him. "Soup and pudding are all one ought to eat
in such hot weather," Charlotte said, conclusively.

She even jumped up, ran to her father, and threw her arms around his
neck and kissed him, to reassure him. "You darling papa," she
whispered in his ear, and when he looked at her tears shone in her
beautiful eyes.

Carroll's own face turned strangely sober for a second, then he
laughed. "Run back to your seat and get your pudding, sweetheart," he
said, with a loving push, as the maid entered.

People thought it rather singular that the Carrolls should have but
one maid, but there were reasons. Carroll himself, when he first
organized his Banbridge establishment, had expressed some dissent as
to the solitary servant.

"Why not have more?" he asked, but Anna Carroll was unusually decided
in her response.

"Amy and I have been talking it over, Arthur," said she, "and we have
decided that we would prefer only Marie."

"Why, Anna?" Carroll had asked, with a frown.

"Now, Arthur, dear, don't look cross," his wife had cried. "It is
only that when the truce is over with the butcher and baker--and
after a while the truce always is over, you know, you poor, dear boy,
ever since you--ever since you were so badly treated about your
business, you know, and when the butcher and the baker turn on us,
Anna and I have decided it would be better not to have a trust in the
kitchen. You know there has always been a trust in the kitchen, and
two or even three maids saying they will not make bread and roast and
wash the dishes, and having a council of war on the back stoop with
the baker and grocer, are so much worse than one maid, don't you
know, precious?"

"The long and the short of it is, Arthur," Anna Carroll said, quite
bluntly, "it is much less wearing to get on with one maid who has not
had her wages, and much easier to induce her to remain or forfeit all
hope of ever receiving them, than with more than one."

Only the one maid was engaged, and now Anna's prophecy had come to
pass, and she was remaining for the sake of her unpaid wages. She was
a young girl, and pretty for one of her sisterhood, who perpetuate,
as a rule, the hard and strenuous lineaments and forms held to hard
labor, until they have attained a squat solidity of ungraceful
muscle. This little Hungarian Marie was still not overdeveloped
muscularly, although one saw her hands with a certain shock after her
little, smiling face, which still smiled, despite her wrongs. Nothing
could exceed the sweetness of the girl's disposition, although she
came of a fierce peasant line, quick to resort to the knife as a
redresser of injuries, and quick to perceive injuries.

Marie still danced assiduously about her tasks, which were manifold,
for not one of the Carroll women had the slightest idea of any
accountability in the matter of household labor. It never occurred to
one of them to make her bed, or even hang up her dress, but, instead,
to wonder why Marie did not do it. However, if Marie really had an
ill day, or, as sometimes happened, was up all night at a ball, they
never rebelled or spoke an impatient word. The beds simply remained
unmade and the dresses where they had fallen. The ladies always had a
kindly, ever-caressing smile or word for little Marie. They were
actually, in a way, fond of her, as people are fond of a pretty
little domestic beast of burden, and Marie herself adored them. She
loved them from afar, and one of her great reasons for wishing to
stay for her wages was to buy some finery after the fashion of
Charlotte's and Ina's. Marie had not asked for her wages many times,
and never of Captain Carroll, but to-night she took courage. There
was a ball that week, Thursday, and her poor, little, cheap muslin of
last season was bedraggled and faded until it was no longer wearable.
Marie waylaid Captain Carroll as he was returning from the stable,
whither he had been to see a lame foot of one of the horses. Marie
stood in her kitchen door, around which was growing lustily a wild
cucumber-vine. She put her two coarse hands on her hips, which were
large with the full gathers of her cotton skirt. Around her neck was
one of the garish-colored kerchiefs which had come with her from her
own country. It was an ugly thing, but gave a picturesque bit of
color to her otherwise dingy garb.

"Mr. Captain," said Marie, in a very small, sweet, almost infantile
voice. It was frightened, yet with a certain coquetry in it. This
small Hungarian girl had met with very few looks and words in her
whole life which were not admiring. In spite of her poor estate she
had the power of the eternal feminine, and she used it knowingly, but
quite artlessly. She knew exactly how to speak to her "Mr. Captain,"
in such a way that a smile in response would be inevitable.

Carroll stopped. "Well, Marie?" he said, and he smiled down into the
little face precisely after the manner of her calculation.

"Mr. Captain," said she again, and again came the feeler after a
smile, the expression of droll sweetness and appeal which forced it.

"Well, Marie," said Carroll, "what is it? What do you want?"

Marie went straight to the point. "Mine vages," said she, and a bit
of the coquetry faded, and her small smile waxed rather piteous. She
wanted that new dress for the ball sadly.

Carroll's face changed; he compressed his mouth. Marie shrank a
little with frightened eyes on his face.

"How much is it, Marie?" asked Carroll.

"Tree mont vage, Mr. Captain," answered Marie, eagerly, "I haf not
had."

Carroll took out his pocket-book and gave her a ten-dollar note.

Marie reached out for it eagerly, but her face fell a little. "It is
tree mont, Mr. Captain," she ventured.

"That is all I can spare to-night, Marie," said Carroll, quite
sternly. "That will have to answer to-night."

Marie smiled again, eying him timidly. "Yes, it will my dress get for
the ball, Mr. Captain."

Marie stood framed in her wild cucumber-vine, regarding the captain
with her pretty ingratiation, but not another smile she got. Carroll
strolled around to the front of the house, and in a second the
carriage rolled around from the stable. Marie nodded to the coachman;
there was never a man of her acquaintance but she had a pretty,
artless salutation always ready for him. She shook her ten-dollar
note triumphantly at him, and laughed with delight.

"Got money," said she. Marie had a way of ending up her words,
especially those ending in y, as if she finished them up with a kiss.
She pursed up her lips, and gave a most fascinating little nip to her
vowels, which, as a rule, she sounded short. "Money," said she again,
and the ten-dollar note fluttered like a green leaf from between the
large thumb and forefinger of her coarse right hand.

The coachman laughed back in sympathy. He was still smiling when he
drove up beside his employer at the front-door. He leaned from his
seat just as the flutter of the ladies' dresses appeared at the
front-door, and said something to Carroll, with a look of pleased
expectation. That money in Marie's hand had cheered him on his own
account.

Carroll looked at him gently imperturbable. "I am sorry, Martin. I
shall be obliged to ask you to wait a few days," he said, with the
utmost courtesy.

The man's honest, confident face fell. "You said--" he began.

"What did I say?" Carroll asked, calmly.

"You said you would let me have some to-night."

"Yes, I remember," Carroll said, "but I have had an unexpected demand
since I returned from the City, and it has taken every cent of ready
money. I must ask you to wait a few days longer. You are not in
serious need of anything, Martin?"

"No, sir," said the man, hesitatingly.

"I was going to say that if you were needing any little thing you
might make use of my credit," said Carroll. As the ladies, Mrs.
Carroll and Miss Carroll, came up to the carriage, Carroll thrust his
hand in his pocket and drew forth a couple of cigars, which he handed
to the coachman with a winning expression. "Here are a couple of
cigars for you, Martin," he said.

"Thank you, sir," replied the coachman.

He put the cigars in his pocket and took up the lines. As he drove
down the drive and along the shady Banbridge road he was wondering
hard if Marie had got the money which Carroll had intended to pay
him. He did not mind so much if she had it. Marie was Hungarian, and
Martin had not much use for outlandish folk on general principles,
but he had a sneaking admiration for little Marie. "Now she can go to
her ball," thought he. Marie said the word as if it had one l and a
short a--bal. Martin smiled inwardly at the recollection, though he
did not allow his face of important dignity to relax.

He thought, further, that, after all, he need not worry about his own
pay. Carroll had paid Marie and would pay him. He thought comfortably
of the cigars, which were sure to be good. His original respect and
admiration for his employer swelled high in his heart. He felt quite
happy driving his high-stepping horses over the good road. The
conversation of the ladies at his back, and of Carroll at his side,
passed his ears, trained not to hear, as unintelligibly as the babble
of the birds. Martin had no curiosity.

While their elders were driving, the Carroll sisters and the brother
were all out on the front porch. Ina was rocking in a rattan chair,
Charlotte sat on the highest step of the porch leaning against a
fluted white pillar, the boy sprawled miserably on the lowest step.

"It's awful dull," he complained.

Charlotte looked down at him commiseratingly from her semicircle of
white muslin flounces. "I'll play ball with you awhile, Eddy, dear,"
said she.

The boy sniffed. "Don't want to play ball with a girl," he replied.

Charlotte said nothing.

Eddy twitched with his face averted. Then suddenly he looked up at
his sister. "Charlotte, I love to play ball with you," said he,
sweetly, "only, you see, I can't pitch hard enough, your hands are so
awful soft, and I feel like I could pitch awful hard to-night."

"Well, I tell you what you may do, dear," said Ina.

"What?"

"Go down to the post-office and get the last mail."

Eddy started up with alacrity. "All right," said he.

"And you may run up-stairs to my room," said Charlotte, "and hunt
round till you find my purse, and get out ten cents and buy yourself
an ice-cream."

Eddy was up and out with a whoop.

"Are you expecting a letter, honey?" asked Charlotte of her sister.

Ina laughed evasively. "I thought Eddy would like to go," said she.

"Now, Ina, I know whom you are expecting a letter from; you can't
cheat me."

Ina laughed rather foolishly; her face was pink.

Charlotte continued to regard her with a curious expression. It was
at once sad, awed, and withal confused, in sympathy with the other
girl. "Ina," said she.

"Well, honey?"

"I think you ought to tell me, your own sister, if you are--"

"What--"

"Ina, I really think--"

"Oh, hush, dear!" Ina whispered. "Here comes Mr. Eastman."

Young Frank Eastman, in his light summer clothes, came jauntily
around the curve of the drive, his straw hat in hand, and the sisters
fluttered to their feet to greet him. Then Eddy reappeared with the
dime securely clutched, and inquired anxiously of Charlotte if she
cared whether he bought soda or candy with it. Young Eastman ran
after him down the walk and had a whispered conference. When the boy
returned, which was speedily, he had a letter for his sister Ina and
a box of the most extravagant candy which Banbridge afforded. The
young people sat chatting and laughing and nibbling sweets until
nearly ten o'clock. Then young Eastman took his leave.

He was rather desirous to be gone before Captain Carroll returned.
Although Carroll always treated him with the most punctilious
courtesy, even going out of his way to speak to him, the young man
always felt a curious discomfort, as if he realized some covert
disapprobation on the elder's part.

"They are late," Ina said, after the caller's light coat had
disappeared behind the shrubbery.

"I suppose they waited for the moon to rise," Charlotte replied. "You
know Amy dearly loves to drive by moonlight."

"Well, let's go to bed, and not wait," Ina said, with a yawn. "I'm so
sleepy." She had sat with her letter unopened in her lap all evening.

"All right," assented Charlotte.

"I'm going to sit here till they come," said Eddy.

"Very well," said Charlotte, "but mind you don't stir off the porch."

The two girls went up to their own rooms. They occupied adjoining
ones. Charlotte slept in a small room out of the larger one which was
Ina's.

Charlotte came in from her room brushing out her hair, and Ina was
reading her letter. She looked up with a blushing confusion and
crumpled the paper involuntarily.

"Oh, you needn't start so," said Charlotte. "I know whom the letter
is from. It's that old Major Arms."

"He is not old. He is no older than papa, and you don't call him
old," Ina retorted, resentfully.

"I don't call him old for a father, but I would for--"

"Well, he isn't a--yet."

"Ina, you ought to tell me."

"Well, I'm going to marry Major Arms, so there!"

"Oh, Ina!"

The two girls stood staring at each other for a moment, then they ran
to each other. "Oh, Charlotte! oh, Charlotte!" sobbed Ina,
convulsively.

"Oh, Ina! oh, honey!"

"I'm going to, Charlotte. Oh, I am going to!"

"Ina, do you, do you--"

"What?"

"Love that old Major Arms?" Charlotte spoke out, in a tone of almost
horror.

"I don't know. Oh, I don't know," sobbed Ina.

"Ina, you don't love--Mr. Eastman better?"

"No, I don't," replied Ina, in a tone of utter conviction.
"Charlotte, do you know what would happen if I married Mr. Eastman?
Do you?"

"No, I don't."

"All my life long I would be at war with the butcher and baker, just
as--just as we always are."

"Ina Carroll, you aren't getting married just for that? Oh, that is
dreadful!"

"No, I am not," said Ina. "You call Major Arms old, and you don't
see--you don't see how a girl can ever fall in love with him, but--I
think he's splendid. Yes, I do. You can laugh, Charlotte, but I do.
And it is a good deal to marry a man you can honestly say you think
is splendid! But you can do a thing, for a very good, even a noble
reason, and all the time know there is another reason not quite so
noble, that you can't help but take some comfort in. And that is the
way I do with this. Charlotte, poor papa does just the best he can,
and there never was a man like him; Major Arms isn't anything in
comparison with papa. I never thought he was, but there is one thing
I am very tired of in this world, and I can't help thinking with a
good deal of pleasure that when I am married I will be free from it."

"What is that, honey?" The two girls had sat down on Ina's
window-seat, and were nestling close together, with their arms around
each other's waist, and the two streams of dark hair intermingling.

"I am heartily tired," said Ina, in a tone of impatient scorn, "of
this everlasting annoyance to which we are subjected from the people
who want us to pay them money for the necessaries of life. We must
have a certain amount of things in order to live at all, and if
people must have the money for them, I want them to have it, and not
have to endure such continual persecution."

"Ina," said Charlotte, in a piteous, low voice, "do you think papa is
very poor?"

"Yes, honey, I am afraid he is very poor."

Charlotte began to weep softly against her sister's shoulder.

"Don't cry, honey," soothed Ina. "You can come and stay with me a
great deal, you know."

"Ina Carroll, do you think I would leave papa?" demanded Charlotte,
suddenly erect. "Do you think--I would? You can, if you want to, but
I will not."

"It costs something to support us, dear," said Ina. "Don't be angry,
precious."

"I will never have another new dress in all my life," said Charlotte.
"I won't eat anything. I tell you I never will leave papa, Ina
Carroll."



Chapter XIV


It was about a week later when Anderson, going into the drug store
one evening, found young Eastman in the line in front of the
soda-fountain. A girl in white was with him, and Anderson thought at
first glance that she was Charlotte Carroll, as a matter of
course--he had so accustomed himself to think of the two in union by
this time. Then he looked again and saw that the girl was much larger
and fair-haired, and recognized her as Bessy Van Dorn, William Van
Dorn's daughter. The girl's semi-German parentage showed in her
complexion and high-bosomed, matronly figure, although she was so
young. She had a large but charming face, full of the sweetest
placidity; her eyes, as blue as the sky, looked out upon the world
with amiable assent to all its conditions. It required no acuteness
to predict this as an ideal spouse for a man of a nervous and
irritable temperament; that there was in her nature that which could
supply cushioned fulnesses to all the exactions of his. She sat on a
high stool and sipped her ice-cream soda with simple absorption in
the pleasant sensation. She paid no attention whatever to her escort
beside her, who took his soda with his eyes fixed on her. Her chin
overlapping in pink curves like a rose, was sunken in the lace at her
neck as she sipped. She did not sit straight, but rested in her
corsets with an awkward lassitude of enjoyment. It was a very warm
night, but she paid no attention to that. She was without a hat, and
the beads of perspiration stood all over her pink forehead, and her
thin white muslin clung to her plump neck and arms. There was
something almost indecent about the girl's enjoyment of her soda.
Hardly a man in the shop but was watching her. Anderson gazed at her
also, but with covert disgust and a resentment which was absurd. He
scowled at the young fellow with her. He felt like a father whose
daughter has been flouted by the man of her choice. "What the devil
does the boy mean, taking soda here with that Van Dorn girl?" he
asked himself. He felt like a reckoning with him, and chafed at the
impossibility of it. When the couple rose to go Anderson met the
young man's salutation with such a surly response and such a stern
glance that he fairly started. The men stared as the two went out,
their shoulders touching as they passed through the door. The girl
was round-shouldered from careless standing, but she moved with a
palpitating grace of yielding, and the smooth, fair braids which
bound her head shone like silver.

"Guess that's a go," a man said, with a chuckle; "a narrower door
would have suited them just as well."

"Mighty good-looking girl," said Amidon.

"Healthy girl," said another. "If more young fellows had the
horse-sense to marry girls like that, I'd give up medicine and go on
a ranch." The Banbridge doctor said that. He was rather young, and
had been in the village about five years. He had taken the practice
of an old physician, a distant relative who had died six months
before. Dr. Wilson was called a remarkably able man in his
profession. He had been having several prescriptions filled, and kept
several waiting. He was a large man with a coarsely handsome physique
and a brutal humor with women. He was not liked personally, but the
people rather bragged about their great physician and were proud when
he was called to the towns round about.

"There's no getting Dr. Wilson, for a certainty, he has such an
enormous practice!" they said, with pride.

"That girl is as handsome and healthy as an Alderney cow," he added,
now, and the men laughed.

"She's a stunner," said Amidon.

Anderson went out abruptly without waiting to make his purchase. He
felt as repelled as only a man of his temperament can feel. No woman
could equal his sense of utter disgust, first with the quite innocent
girl herself, next with the young physician for his insistence upon
the subject. His wrath against young Eastman, his unreasoning and
ridiculous wrath, swelled high as he dwelt upon the outrage of his
desertion of a girl like his little Charlotte, that little creature
of fire and dew, for this full-blown rose of a woman--the outrage to
her and to himself. When he got home, his mother inquired anxiously
what the matter was.

"Nothing, dear," he replied, brusquely.

"You look as if something worried you," said she. She had been taking
a little evening toddle on her tiny, slippered feet out in the
old-fashioned flower-garden beside the house, and she had a little
bunch of sweet herbs, which she dearly loved, in her hand. She
fastened a sprig of thyme in his coat as she stood talking to him,
and the insistent odor seemed as real as a presence when he breathed.
"nothing has gone wrong with your business, has there?" she inquired,
lovingly.

"No, mother," he replied, and moved away from her gently, with the
fragrance of the thyme strong in his consciousness.

His mother put her sweet nosegay in water. Then she went to bed, and
Anderson sat on the stoop. Young Eastman and the Van Dorn girl passed
after he sat there, and he thought with a loving passion of
protection of poor little Charlotte alone at home. "I'll warrant the
poor child is watching for that good-for-nothing scoundrel this
minute," he told himself. He would have liked to knock young Eastman
down; it would have delighted his soul to kick him; he would have
given a good deal to have had him at the top of the steps.

The weather was intensely warm. He heard his mother fling her bedroom
blinds wide open to catch all the air. The sky was clear, but all
along the northwest horizon was a play of lightning from a
far-distant storm.

Anderson lit another cigar. The night seemed to grow more and more
oppressive. When a breath of wind came, it was like a hot breath of
some fierce sentiency. A disagreeable odor from something was also
borne upon it. The odors of the flowers seemed in abeyance. The play
of blue-and-rosy light along the northwest horizon continued.
Anderson got a certain pleasure from watching it. Nature's
spectacularity diverted him, as if he had been a child, from his own
affairs, which seemed to give him a dull pain. Between the flashes he
asked himself why.

"It is just right," he told himself; "just what I desired. Why do I
feel this way?"

Presently he decided with self-deception that it was because of the
recent scene in the drug store. He remembered quite distinctly the
young man's gaze at the stout, blue-eyed girl. "What right had the
fellow to look at another girl after that fashion?" he said to
himself. Then it struck him suddenly as being perhaps impossible for
him ever to look at Charlotte in just that fashion. He thought with a
thrill of indignant pride that there was a maiden who would have the
best of love as her right. Then sitting there he heard a quick tread
and a trill of whistle as meaningless as that of a robin, and young
Eastman himself came alongside. He stopped before the gate.

"Hullo!" he said, suddenly.

"Hullo!" responded Anderson.

"Got a match?" said Eastman.

"Sure."

Eastman sprang up the steps until he came in reach of Anderson's
proffered handful of matches. "Hotter 'n blazes," he remarked, as he
scratched a match on his trousers leg.

"Hottest night of the season so far, I think," responded Anderson.

"I'm about beat out with it," said Eastman, lighting his cigar with
no difficulty in the dead atmosphere. He threw himself sprawling on
the step at Anderson's feet, without any invitation. "Whew!" he
sighed.

"It 'll be hotter than hades in the City to-morrow," he remarked,
after a moment's silence.

Anderson muttered an assent. He was considering as nervously as a
woman whether he should say anything to this boy. While he was
hesitating, young Eastman himself led up to it.

"Saw you in the drug store just now," he remarked.

"Yes; you were with--"

"Bessy Van Dorn--yes. Pretty girl?" Eastman spoke with the
insufferable air of patronizing criticism of extreme masculine youth
towards the opposite sex.

"Very," replied Anderson, dryly.

The young fellow gave a furious puff at his cigar. The smoke came
full in Anderson's face. "Passed here the other evening with two
other young ladies while you were sitting here," young Eastman
remarked, in a curious tone. It was full of pain, but it had a
reckless, devil-may-care defiance in it also.

"Yes," said Anderson, "I think you did. About a week ago, wasn't it?"

"Week ago yesterday. Well, I suppose you've heard the news. It's all
over town."

"You mean--"

"She's engaged."

Anderson felt bewildered. "Yes?" he replied, questioningly.

"She's engaged," the young fellow repeated, with a sobbing sigh,
which he ended in a laugh. "They all do it, sir."

Anderson was too puzzled to say anything.

"Suppose you've heard about the man?" said Eastman, in a nonchalant
voice. He inhaled the smoke from his cigar with an air of abstract
enjoyment.

Anderson unassumedly stared at him. "Why, I thought it was--"

"Who?" asked the young fellow, eagerly.

Anderson hesitated.

"Who did you think it was?" Eastman persisted. He had a pitiful
wistfulness in his face upturned to the older man. It became quite
evident that he had a desire to hear himself named as the accepted
suitor.

"Why, I thought that you were the man!" Anderson answered.

"Everybody thought so, I guess," the young fellow said, with an
absurd and childlike pride in the semblance in the midst of his grief
over the reality. "But--" He hesitated, and Anderson waited, looking
above at the play of lightning in the sky and smoking. "She's gone
and got engaged to a man old enough to be her father. Lord! I guess
he's older than her father--old enough to be her grandfather!" cried
the young fellow, with a burst of grief and rage and shame. "Yes,
sir, old enough to be her grandfather," he repeated. His voice shook.
His cigar had gone out. He struck a match and the head flew off. He
swore softly and struck another. Sometimes a match refusing to ignite
changes mourning to wrath and rebellion. The third match broke short
in two and the burning head flew down on the sidewalk. "Wish I had
hold of the man that made 'em," young Eastman said, viciously; and in
the same breath: "What can the girl be thinking of, that she flings
herself away like that? Hang it all, is a woman a devil or a fool?"

Anderson removed his cigar long enough to ask a question, then
replaced it. "Who is the man?" he inquired, in a slow, odd voice.

"Oh, he is an old army officer, a major--Major Arms, I believe his
name is. He's somebody they've known a long time. He lives in
Kentucky, I believe, in the same place where the Carrolls used to
live and where she went to school. Oh, it's a good match. They're
just tickled to death over it. Her sister feels rather bad, I guess,
but, Lord! she'd do the same thing herself, if she got the chance.
They're all alike." The boy said the last with a cynical bitterness
beyond his years. He sneered effectively. He crossed one leg over the
other and puffed his relighted cigar. The last match had ignited.
Anderson said nothing. He was accommodating his ideas to the change
of situation. Presently young Eastman spoke again. "Well," he said,
in a tone of wretched conceit, "girls are as thick as flowers, after
all, and a lot alike. Bessy Van Dorn is a beauty, isn't she?"

"I don't think she's much like the other," said Anderson, shortly.

"She's full as pretty."

Anderson made no reply.

"I don't believe Bessy would go and marry a man old enough to be her
grandfather," said the boy, with a burst of piteous challenge. Then
suddenly he tossed his cigar into the street and flung up his hands
to his head with a despairing gesture. "Oh, my God!" he groaned.

"Be a man," Anderson said, in a kind voice.

"I am a man, ain't I? What do you suppose I care about it? I don't
want to marry and settle down yet, anyway. I like to fool with the
girls, but as for anything else-- I am a--man. If you think I am
broken up over this, if anybody thinks I am-- Lord--" The young
fellow rose and squared his shoulders. He looked down at Anderson.
"There's one thing I want to say," he added. "I don't want you to
think--I don't want to give the impression that she--that she has
been flirting, or anything like that. She hasn't. Of course she might
have been a little franker, I will admit that, for I have been there
a good deal, but I don't suppose she thought it was anything serious,
and it wasn't. She was right. But she did not flirt. Those girls are
not that sort. Great Scott! I should like to see a man venture on any
little familiarities with them--holding hands, or a kiss, or
anything. They respect themselves, those girls do. They have been
brought up better than the Banbridge girls. Oh no, she hasn't treated
me badly or anything, and of course I don't care a damn about her
getting married, only I'll be hanged if I like, on general
principles, to see a pretty young girl throwing herself away on a man
old enough to be her father. It's wrong--it's indecent, you know."
Again the boy's voice seemed bursting with wrath and grief and shame.

Anderson rose, went into the house, and was out again in a few
seconds. He had a cigar-box in his hand. "Try one of these," he said.
"It's a brand new to me, and I think it fine. I think you'll agree
with me."

"Thanks," said Eastman, with a sound in his voice like a heart-broken
child's. He almost sobbed, but he took the cigar gratefully. "Well, I
must be going," he said. "Mother 'll wonder where I am. It was too
deuced hot to go to bed, so I've been strolling around. But I've got
to turn in sometime. These nights are too hot to sleep, anyhow."

"Yes, they are pretty tough," said Anderson. "Wish we could have a
shower."

"So do I. Say, this cigar is a dandy."

"I thought you'd like it. Of course it isn't a cigar that everybody
would like. It requires some taste, perhaps a cultivated taste."

"Yes, that's so," replied the boy, with a pleased air. "I guess it
does. I shouldn't say every man would appreciate this."

"Have another," said Anderson, and he pressed a couple into the hot
young hand, which was greedily reached out for a little solace for
its owner's wounded heart and self-love.

"Thanks. I suppose I have quite a good taste for a good cigar. I
don't believe it would be very easy to palm off a cheap grade on me.
Good-night, Mr. Anderson."

"Good-night," said Anderson, and was conscious of pity and amusement
as the boy went away and his footsteps died out of hearing. As for
himself, he was in much the same case as before, only the time had
evidently arrived for him to dismiss his dreams and the lady of them.
He did not think so hardly of her for being willing to marry the
older man as the disappointed young man did. He considered himself as
comparatively old, and he had a feeling of sympathy for the other old
fellow who doubtless loved her. He was prepared to think that she had
done a wiser thing than to engage herself to young Eastman,
especially if the man was rich enough to take care of her. The
position would be good, too. He thought generously of that
consideration, although it touched him in his tenderest spot of
vanity. "She will do well to marry an ex-army officer," he thought.
"She will have the entree to any society." Presently he arose and
went up-stairs to bed. He passed roughly by the nook where he had so
often fancied her sitting, and closed, as it were, the door of his
fancy against her with a bang. He set a lamp on a table at the head
of his bed and read his political economy until dawn. It was, in
fact, too hot for any nervous person to sleep. Now and then his
thoughts wandered, the incessant drone of the night insects outside
seemed to distract his attention from his book like some persistent
clamor of nature recalling him to his leading-strings in which she
had held him from the first. But resolutely he turned again to his
book. At dawn he fell asleep, and woke an hour later to another
steaming day.



Chapter XV


"I think we shall have thunder-showers to-day," Mrs. Anderson
remarked, as she poured the coffee at the breakfast-table. Even this
old gentlewoman, carefully attired in her dainty white lawn wrapper,
had that slightly dissipated, bewildered, and rancorous air that
extreme heat is apt to impart to the finest-grained of us. Her fair
old face had a glossy flush, her white hair, which usually puffed
with a soft wave over her temples, was stringy. She allowed her
wrapper to remain open at the neck, exposing her old throat, and
dispensed with her usual swathing of lace. She confessed that she had
not been able to sleep at all; still she kept her trust in
Providence, and would scarcely admit to discomfort. "I am sure there
will be showers, and cool the air," she said, with her sweet
optimism. As she spoke she fanned herself with the great palm-leaf
fan with a green bow on the stem, which she was never without during
this weather. "It is certainly very warm so early in the season. One
must feel it a little, but it is always so delightful after a shower
that it compensates."

"You are showing a lovely Christian spirit, mother," Anderson
returned, smiling at her with fond amusement, "but don't be
hypocritical."

"My son, what do you mean?"

"Mother, dear, you don't really like this weather. You only pretend
to because man did not make it."

"Randolph!"

"Only think how you would growl if the mayor and aldermen, or even
the president, made this weather!"

"My son, they did not," Mrs. Anderson responded, solemnly.

"No, and that settles it, I suppose. If they did, you would say at
once they ought to be forced to resign from their offices. Now,
mother, be resigned all you like, but don't be pleased, for you can't
cheat the Providence that made this beastly heat, and must know
perfectly well how beastly it is, better than you or I do, and won't
think any more of us for any pretence in the matter."

"You shock me, dear. And, besides, I did not say that I liked it. I
said I liked the weather after a shower. You look pale this morning,
dear, and you don't talk quite like yourself. I do wish you would
take an umbrella when you go to the office to-day. It is so very
warm." Mrs. Anderson had a chronic fear of sunstroke.

When Randolph went away without his umbrella, as he usually did,
being, dearly as he loved his mother, impervious to some of her
feminine demands, she watched him, standing in the doorway and
shaking her head with a dubious air.

That noon she was quite contented, for he did actually carry his
umbrella. The sky in the northwest was threatening, although the sun
still shone fiercely in the south. She herself sat on the doorstep in
the shade, and fairly panted like a corpulent old dog. Her mouth was
open and her tongue even lolled a little. She was, in reality,
suffering frightfully. She had both flesh and nerves, and, given
these two adverse conditions to endurance, and the mercury ninety in
the shade, there is torture although the spirit is strong.

Although the sky was threatening all the afternoon, it was not until
four o'clock that the northwest sky grew distinctly ominous and the
rumble of the thunder was audible. Then Mrs. Anderson called her
maid, and they proceeded to close tightly all the windows against the
rising wind.

"It is very dangerous indeed to have a draught in the house in a
thunder-shower," Mrs. Anderson always said while closing them.

Then she hurriedly divested herself of the white lawn wrapper which
she had worn all day, and put on her black summer silk gown, with a
wrap and a bonnet and an umbrella at hand. Mrs. Anderson was not
afraid of a thunder-shower in the ordinary sense, but her imagination
never failed her. Therefore she was always dressed, in case the worst
should happen and she be forced to flee from a stricken house. She
also had her small and portable treasures ready at hand. Then she sat
down in the middle of the sitting-room well out of range of the
chimney, and prayed for her own and her son's safety, and
incidentally for the safety of the maid, who was in the adjoining
room with the door open, and for the house and her son's store. She
always did thus in a thunder-shower, but she never told any one this
innocent childish secret of an innocent old soul.

She thought with a sort of undercurrent of faithlessness of the great
draught in her son's store if the large front doors and the office
door were both open, as there was a strong probability of their
being. She thought uneasily that her son might be that very moment in
that draught, as indeed he was. He stood in the strong current of
fresh storm-air, with its pungent odors, more like revelations than
odors, of things which had been in abeyance for some time past in the
drought. The smell of the wet green things was like a paean of joy.
It was a call of renewed life out of concealed places of fainting and
hiding. There were scents of flowers and fruits, and another strange
odor, like the smell of battle, from all the ferment on the earth
which had precipitated the storm. It was quite a severe
thunder-shower. The rain had held off for a fierce prelude, then it
came in solid cataracts. Then it was that Charlotte Carroll rushed
into the store. She was dripping, beaten like a flower, by the force
of the liquid flail of the storm. She had pulled off the
rose-wreathed hat which was dear to her heart, and she had it under
her dress skirt, which she held up over her lace-trimmed petticoat
modestly, with as little revelation as might be. Her dark head
glistened with the rain.

Anderson stepped forward quickly. "Pray come into the office, Miss
Carroll," he said.

But she remained standing in front of the door, having removed her
hat furtively from its shelter. "No, thank you," said she, "I would
rather stay here. I like to watch it."

Anderson fetched a chair from his office, but she thanked him and
said that she preferred standing.

"I thought I had time to get to Madame Griggs's on the other side of
the street," said she, "but all at once it came down."

Anderson felt her ungraciousness, but she herself did not seem to
realize it at all. Presently she gave a little sidewise smile at him,
and comprehended in the smile the old clerk and the boy who hovered
near.

"It is a fine shower," said she, with a kind of confidential glee. As
she spoke she looked out at the snarl of rain shot with lances of
electric fire, and there was a curious elation, almost like
intoxication, in her expression. She was in a fine spiritual
excitement.

"Yes," said Anderson. "We needed rain."

Just then the world seemed swimming in blue light and there was a
terrific crash. Anderson, who never thought of any personal fear in a
tempest, looked rather apprehensively at the girl. He recalled his
mother's fear of draughts.

"Perhaps you had better move back a little; that was quite near," he
said. Somehow the little fears and precautions which he scorned for
himself seemed to apply quite reasonably to this little, tender,
pretty creature with the lightning playing around her and the thunder
breaking over her defenceless head.

Charlotte laughed. "Oh, I am not afraid," said she. Then she added,
quite innocently, with more of personal appeal than she had ever used
towards him, "Are you?"

"No," said Anderson.

"I like it," said she, staring out at the swaying, brandishing
maples, and the street which ran like a river, with now and then a
boiling pool.

"I am afraid you are wet," said Anderson.

"Yes," said she, "but that is nothing. My dress won't hurt. It is
just white lawn, you know. All that would be hurt is my hat, and that
is hardly damp. I took it off." She held it up carefully on one hand,
and gazed solicitously at it. "It is my best hat," said she, simply.
"No, I don't think it is hurt at all." She looked sharply towards the
counter. "The counter is clean, isn't it?" said she. "I might lay my
hat there. I don't want to put it on until my hair gets dry."

The old clerk smiled covertly, the boy grinned at her in a fascinated
way. Anderson regarded her with worshipful amazement. This little,
artless revelation of the innermost vanity of a woman's heart touched
him. It was to him inconceivable that she should so care for the
welfare of that flower-bedecked oval of straw, and yet he thought it
adorable of her to care. He stared at the hat as if it had been a
halo, then he turned and looked anxiously at the counter.

"Get a sheet of clean paper," he ordered the boy, and frowned at him
for his grin.

The boy obeyed solemnly.

"I think that will not soil your hat," Anderson said, when the
preparations were complete.

"Oh, thank you," she said, and handed him the hat.

Anderson touched it gingerly as if it were alive, and placed it
upside down on the clean sheet of paper.

"The other way up, please," said she, and Anderson changed it in
alarm.

"I hope I have not injured it," he said.

She was laughing openly at him. "No," she replied, "but you put it
right on the roses. Men don't know how to handle girls' hats, do
they?"

"No; I fear they don't," replied Anderson.

He remained leaning against the counter near the door; the old clerk
lounged against the next one, on the end of which Sam Riggs was
perched. Charlotte remained standing in the doorway, leaning slightly
against the post, and they all watched the storm, which was fast
reaching its height. The flashes of lightning were more frequent, the
crashes of thunder followed fast, sound overlapping sight. The rain
became a flood. The girl watched, with the intense, self-forgetful
delight of a child, the plash of the great blobs of rain on the
macadamized road outside. They came to look to her exactly like
little figures chasing one another in an unintermittent race of
annihilation. She smiled, watching them. Anderson, looking from the
rain to her, saw the smile, and thought with a little pang that she
was probably thinking of her own happiness when she smiled to herself
like that. He kept his eyes fixed upon her for a moment, her
glistening dark head, her smooth cheek, her smiling mouth, her
shoulders faintly pink through her thin white gown, which, being wet,
clung to them. Charlotte's shoulders were thin, but the hollowing
curve from the throat to the arm was ravishing. Anderson's face
hardened a little. He looked away again at the rain.

All at once Charlotte glanced up from the dancing flight of the
rain-drops on the road, and laughed. "Why," she cried, "there is Ina!
There is my sister!"

Anderson looked, and in a second-story window opposite was a girl's
head in a violet-trimmed hat. She was smiling and nodding. Charlotte
waved her hand to her.

"I'll be over as soon as it holds up a little," she cried out. "Did
you get wet?"

The girl in the window hollowed a slim hand over an ear.

"Did you get caught in the shower? Did you get wet?" called Charlotte.

The girl in the window shook her head gayly.

"She didn't," Charlotte said, with an absurd but charming confidence
to Anderson; "but, anyway, she didn't have on her very best hat."

"I am very glad," Anderson replied, politely. He read a sign fastened
beneath the window which framed the girl's head--"Madame Estelle
Griggs, Modiste." He reflected that she was the Banbridge dressmaker,
and that Charlotte was probably having her trousseau made there,
which was a deduction that only a masculine mind of vivid imagination
could have evolved.

Charlotte was gazing eagerly across at her sister. "It does not rain
nearly so hard now," said she. "I think I might venture." She looked
irresolutely at her hat on the counter.

"I can let you have an umbrella," said Anderson.

"Thank you," said Charlotte, "but my hair is still so wet, and my hat
is lined with pink chiffon, you know."

"Yes," said Anderson, respectfully. He did not know what pink chiffon
was, but he understood that water would injure it.

"If I might leave my hat here," said Charlotte, "until I come back--"

"Certainly," replied Anderson.

"Then I think I can go now. No, thank you; I won't take the umbrella.
I am about as wet as I can be now, and, besides, I like to feel the
rain on my shoulders."

With a careful but wary gathering up of her white skirts, with chary
disclosures of lace and embroidery and little skipping shoes, she was
gone in a snowy whirl through the mist across the street. She seemed
to fly over the puddles. The girl's head disappeared from the
opposite window and Anderson heard quite distinctly the outburst of
laughter and explanation.

"You had better get a sheet of tissue-paper and put it over that," he
said to Sam Riggs, and he pointed at Charlotte's hat on the counter.
Then he went back to his office and wrote some letters. He resolved
that he would not see Charlotte when she returned for her hat.

Presently the sun shone into the office, and a new light seemed to
come from the rain-drenched branches outside the window. Anderson
continued to write, feeling all the time unhappiness heavy in his
heart. He also had a sense of injury which was foreign to him. He was
distinctly aware that he had an unfair allotment of the good things
of life. Yet there was a question dinning through his consciousness:
"Why should I have so little?" Then the world-old query considering
personal responsibility for misery swept over him. "What have I
done?" he asked himself, and answered himself, with a fierce
challenge of truth, that he had done nothing. Then the habit of his
life of patience, which was at the same time a habit of bravery,
asserted itself. He wrote his letters carefully and closed his ears
to the questions.

It was about half an hour later, and he was thinking about going
home, when Sam Riggs came to the office door and informed him that
Mrs. Griggs wanted to see him.

Mrs. Griggs was Madame nowhere except on her sign and in the mouths
of a few genteel patrons who considered that Madame had a more
fashionable sound than Mrs.

"Ask her to come in here," Anderson said, and directly the dressmaker
appeared. She was a tiny, thin, nervous creature with restless,
veinous little hands, and a long, thin neck upon which her small
frizzled head vibrated constantly like the head of a bird. Anderson
knew her very well. Back in his childhood they had been schoolmates.
He remembered distinctly little Stella Mixter. She had been a sharp,
meagre, but rather pretty little girl, with light curls, and was
always dressed in blue. She wore blue now, for that matter--blue
muslin, ornate with lace and ribbons. She had had a sad and hard
life, but her spirit still asserted itself. Her husband had deserted
her; she had lost her one child; she worked like a galley-slave, but
she still frizzed her hair carefully, and never neglected her own
costume even in her greatest rush of business, and that in a
dressmaker showed deathless ambition and self-respect.

Anderson greeted her and offered her a chair. She seated herself with
a conscious elegance, and disposed gracefully around her thin knees
her blue muslin flounces. There was a slight coquetry in her manner,
although she was evidently anxious about something. She looked around
and spoke in a low voice.

"I want to ask you something," she said, in a whisper.

"Certainly," said Anderson.

"You used to be a lawyer, and I don't suppose you have forgotten all
your law, if you are in the grocery business now." There was about
the woman the very naivete of commonplacedness and offence.

Anderson smiled. "I trust not, Mrs. Griggs," he replied.

"Well"--she lowered her voice still more--"I wanted to ask you-- I've
got a big job of work for--that Carroll girl that's going to be
married, and I've heard something that made me kind of uneasy. What I
want to know is, do you s'pose I'm likely to get my pay?"

"I know nothing whatever about the family's financial standing,"
Anderson replied, after a slight pause. He spoke constrainedly, and
did not look at his questioner.

"You don't know whether I'm likely to get my pay or not?"

Anderson looked at her then, the little, nervous, overworked, almost
desperate creature, fighting like a little animal in her bay of life
against the odds which would drive her from it, and he felt in a
horrible perplexity. He felt also profane. Why could not he be left
out of this? he inquired, with concealed emphasis. Finally he said
that he would rather not advise in a case about which he knew so
little.

"I'm willing to pay," said the dressmaker, with her artless vulgarity.

"It is not that," Anderson said, quickly, with some asperity.

"I don't know," said the dressmaker, innocently deepening the
offence, "but what you didn't feel as if you could give law-advice
for nothin', even if you had quit the law. I s'pose it cost you a
good deal to learn the law, and I know you didn't git your money
back." She spoke with the kindest sympathy.

"That has nothing to do with it," Anderson repeated, with an
inflection of irritated patience. "I cannot give any advice because I
know nothing whatever about the matter."

"Can't you find out?"

"That belongs to the business which I have given up."

"Well, I s'pose it does," admitted Madame Griggs, with a sigh. "I
wouldn't have bothered you if I hadn't been at my wit's end."

"I am willing to do anything in my power--" began Anderson, with a
softened glance at the absurdly pathetic little figure, "but--"

"Then you think I had better not trust them?"

"No; I said--"

"You think I had better send her word I've changed my mind, and can't
do her work?"

Anderson winced. "No; I did not say so," he replied, vehemently. "I
merely said that you must settle--"

"Then you think I had better keep on with it?"

"If you think best," said Anderson, emphatically. "Really, Mrs.
Griggs, I cannot settle this matter for you. You often trust people
in your business. You must decide yourself."

The dressmaker arose. "Well, I guess it's all right," said she.
"She's a lovely girl, and so are they all. Her mother seems sort of
childish, but she's real sweet-spoken. I guess it's all right, but
I'd heard some things, and I thought I would ask you what you
thought. I thought it wouldn't do any harm. Now I feel a good deal
easier about it. Good-afternoon. What a tempest we've had!"

"Yes," said Anderson. "Good-afternoon." He was conscious of a mental
giddiness as he regarded her.

"We needed it, and I do think it has cooled the air a little. I'm
very much obliged. I don't suppose there is any use in my offering to
pay you, now you're in the grocery business?"

"Certainly not. I have done nothing to admit of any question of
payment," replied Anderson, curtly.

"Well, I s'pose you throw it in along with the butter and eggs," said
Madame Griggs, with a return of her slight coquetry. "By-the-way, I
wish you'd send over five pounds of that best butter. Good-afternoon."

"Good-afternoon."

The dressmaker turned in the doorway and looked back. "I'm so glad to
have my mind settled about it," she said, with a pathos which
overcame her absurdity and vulgarity. "I do work awful hard, and it
doesn't seem as if I could lose my money." She appeared suddenly
tragic in her cheap muslin and her frizzes. She looked old and her
features sharpened out rigidly.

Anderson, looking after her, felt both bewilderment and compunction.
He thought for a moment of going after her and saying something
further; then he heard a flutter and a quick sweet voice, and he knew
that Charlotte had come for her hat. He heard her say: "Where? Oh, I
see; all covered up so nicely. Thank you. I did not come before,
because the trees were dripping. Thank you." Then there was a silence.

Anderson got his hat and went out through the store. The old clerk
was fussing over some packages on the counter.

"That young lady came for her hat," he remarked.

"Did she?"

"Yes. She's a pretty-spoken girl. Her sister's goin' to git married
before long, I hear."

Anderson stopped and stared at him. "No; this is the one."

"No; her sister. I had it straight."

Anderson went out. Everything was wonderful outside. The world was
purified of dust and tarnish as a soul of sin. The worn prosaicness
of nature was adorned as with jewels. Everything glittered; a
thousand rainbows seemed to hang on the drenched trees. New blossoms
looked out like new eyes of rapture; every leaf had a high-light of
joy. Anderson drew a long breath. The air was alive with the breath
of the sea from which the fresh wind blew. He walked home with a
quick step like a boy. He was smiling, and fast to his breast, like a
beloved child, he clasped his dream again.



Chapter XVI


There had been considerable discussion among the ladies of the
Carroll family with regard to the necessary finery for Ina's bridal.

"It is all very well to talk about Ina's being married in four
weeks," said Anna Carroll to her sister-in-law, one afternoon
directly after the affair had been settled. "If a girl gets married,
she has to have new clothes, of course--a trousseau."

"Why, yes, of course! How could she be married if she didn't have a
trousseau? I had a very pretty trousseau, and so would you if you had
been married, Anna, dear."

Anna laughed, a trifle bitterly. "Good Lord," said she, "if I had to
think of a trousseau for myself, I should be a maniac! The trousseau
would at any time have seemed a much more difficult matter than the
bridegroom."

"Yes, I know you have had a great many very good chances," assented
Mrs. Carroll, "and it would have seemed most of the time much easier
to have just managed the husband part of it than the new clothes,
because one doesn't have to pay cash or have good credit for a
husband, and one does for clothes."

"Well," said Anna Carroll, "that is the trouble about Ina. It was
easy enough for her to get the husband. Major Arms has always had his
eye on her ever since she was in short dresses; but what isn't at all
easy is the new clothes."

"I don't see why, dear."

"Well, how is it to be managed, if you will be so good as to inform
me, Amy?"

"How? Why, just go to the dressmaker's and order them, of course."

"What dressmaker's, dear?"

"Well, I think that last New York dressmaker is the best. She really
has imagination like a French dressmaker. She doesn't copy; she
creates. She is really quite an artist."

"Madame Potoffsky, you mean?"

"Yes, dear. The dressmaker whose husband they say was a descendant of
the Polish patriot. They say she herself is descended from a Russian
princess who eloped with the Polish patriot, and I can believe it.
There is something very unusual about her. She always makes me a
little bit nervous, because one does get to associating Russians,
especially those that run away with patriots, with bombs and things
of that kind, but she is a wonderful dressmaker. I certainly think it
would be wise to patronize her for Ina's trousseau, Anna."

Anna laughed, and rather bitterly, again. "Well, dear, I have my
doubts about our ability to patronize her," she said, "and, granting
that we could, you might in reality encounter the bomb as penalty."

"Anna, dear, what--"

"Amy, don't you know that Madame Potoffsky simply will not give us
any further credit?"

"Oh, Anna, do you think so?"

"I know. Amy, only think of the things we owe her for now--my linen,
my pongee, my canvas, your two foulards, Ina's muslin, Charlotte's
etamine! It is impossible."

"Oh, dear! Do we owe her for all those?"

"We do."

"Well, then, I fear you are right, Anna," Mrs. Carroll said, ruefully.

The two women continued to look at each other. Mrs. Carroll had a
curious round-eyed face of consternation, like a baby; Anna looked,
on the contrary, older than usual. Her features seemed quite
sharpened out by thought.

"What do you think we can do, Anna?" asked Mrs. Carroll, at length.
"Do you suppose if we told Madame Potoffsky just how it was, how dear
Ina was going to be married, and how interested we all were in having
her look nice and have pretty things that she would--"

"No, I don't think so," Anna said, shortly. "What does Madame
Potoffsky care about Ina and her getting married, except for what she
makes out of it?"

"But, Anna, she is very rich. Everybody says so. She has a beautiful
house, and a country-house, and keeps a carriage to go to her shop
in."

"Well, what of that?"

"I thought the Russians believed that rich people ought to do things
for people who were not rich, or else be blown up with bombs."

"Don't be silly, Amy, darling."

"I am quite in earnest, Anna, I really thought so."

"Well, you thought wrong then, dear. There is no reason in the world
why a dressmaker, if she is as rich as a Vanderbilt, should make
Ina's wedding-clothes for nothing, and she won't."

"Well, I suppose you are right, Anna, but what is to be done? How
about Miss Sargent? She was very good."

"Miss Sargent, Amy _dear!_"

"Do we own her much, Anna?"

"Owe her much? We owe her everything!"

"Madame Rogers?"

"Madame Rogers! The last time I asked her to do anything she insulted
me. She told me to my face she did not work for dead-beats."

"She was a very vulgar woman, Anna. I don't think I would patronize
her under any circumstances."

"No, I would not either, dear. But that finishes the New York
dressmakers."

"How about the Hillfield one?"

"Amy!"

"Well, I suppose you are right; but what--"

"We shall have to go to a dressmaker in Banbridge. We have never had
any work done here, and there can be no difficulty about it."

"But, Anna, how can we have her married with a trousseau made in
Banbridge?"

"It is either that or no trousseau at all."

Mrs. Carroll seldom wept, but she actually shed a few tears over the
prospect of a shabbily made trousseau for Ina. "And she will go in
the best society in Kentucky, too," she said, pitifully. "They'll
attribute it all to the lack of taste in the North," Anna said.

Ina herself made no objection whatever to employing the Banbridge
dressmaker; in fact, she seemed to have little interest in her
clothes at first. After a while she became rather feverishly excited
over them.

"I have always wondered why girls cared so much about their
wedding-clothes," she told her sister after two weeks, when the
preparations were well under way, "but now I know."

"Why?" asked Charlotte. The two were coming home from the
dressmaker's, where Ina had been trying on gowns for an hour. It was
late in the afternoon and nearly time for Captain Carroll's train.

"Why?" repeated Charlotte, when Ina did not answer at once.

"In order to keep from thinking so much about the marriage itself,"
said Ina, tersely. She did not look at her sister, but kept her eyes
fixed on the road ahead of her.

Charlotte, however, almost stopped. "Ina," said she, in a distressed
tone--"Ina, dear, you don't feel like that?"

"Why not?" inquired Ina, defiantly.

"Oh, Ina, you ought not to get married if you feel like that!"

"Why not? All girls feel like that when they are going to be married.
They must."

"Oh, Ina, I know they don't!"

"How do you know? You were never going to get married."

That argument was rather too much for Charlotte, but she continued to
gaze at her sister with a shocked and doubtful air as they walked
along the shady sidewalk towards home. "I am almost sure it isn't
right for a girl to feel so, anyhow," she said, persistently.

"Yes, it is, too," Ina said, laughing easily. "Charlotte, honey, I
really think my things are going to do very well. I really think so.
That tan canvas is a beauty, and so is the red foulard. She is really
a very good dressmaker."

"I think so too, dear," Charlotte agreed. "I like the wedding-gown,
too."

"Yes, so do I; it is very pretty, though that does not so much
matter."

"Why, Ina Carroll!"

Ina laughed mischievously. "Now I have shocked you, dear. Of course
it matters in one way, but I shall never wear it again after the
ceremony; and you know I don't care much about the Banbridge people,
and they will be the only ones to see me in it, and only that once."

"But, Ina, he--your--Major Arms."

Ina laughed again. "Oh, well, he thinks me perfectly beautiful
anyway," said she, in the tone of one to whom love was as dross
because of the superabundance of it.

"Ina," said Charlotte, with a solemn and timidly reflective air, "I
don't believe you think half as much of him as you would if he didn't
think so much of you."

"Yes, I do think just as much," said Ina, "but things always seem
worth rather more when they are in a showcase and marked more than
one can ever pay." Then she started, and exclaimed: "Good gracious,
there he is now!" She flushed all over her face and neck; then she
turned pale and cast a half-wild look around her as if she wanted to
run somewhere.

Indeed, at that moment the Carroll carriage drew up beside them, and
on the back seat sat Captain Carroll and a very handsome man
apparently about his own age, although at first glance he looked
older because of snow-white hair and mustache. He was as tall as
Carroll, and thinner, and less punctiliously attired, although he
wore his somewhat slouching clothes with a certain careless assurance
of being the master of them which Carroll, with all his elegance, did
not excel.

"Here we are!" called Carroll. He was smiling, although he had a
slightly worried look. The other man's black eyes were fixed with a
sort of tender hunger on Ina, who hung back a little as she and
Charlotte approached the carriage. It was actually Charlotte who
shook hands first with Major Arms, although she tried to give her
sister precedence.

Ina blushed a good deal, and smiled rather tremulously when her turn
came and her little hand was enveloped in the man's eager one.

"I--didn't know--I didn't--" she stammered.

"No, you didn't, did ye, honey?" said the major, in the broadest of
Southern drawls. "No, ye didn't. The old fellow thought he'd surprise
ye, honey." The man's face and voice were as frankly expressive of
delighted love as a boy's. "Arthur," said he, "over with ye to the
front seat and let me have my sweetheart in here with me. I want my
arms around her. Not another minute can I wait. Over with ye, boy!"

Carroll threw open the carriage door and sprang out. "Jump in, Ina,"
he said, and placed a hand under his daughter's arm. She gave a
smiling and not altogether unhappy, but still piteous, look at him,
and hung back slightly. "Jump in, dear," he said, again; and Ina was
in the carriage, and there was a sweep of a long gray-clad arm around
her and the sound of kisses.

"Now, Charlotte," said Carroll, "get in the front seat. I will walk
the rest of the way."

"No, papa," Charlotte replied, "I will walk with you. I would
rather." So the carriage rolled on, and Charlotte and Carroll
followed on foot.

"Did you expect him, papa?" asked Charlotte.

"No, honey. The first thing I knew he came up to me on the ferry. He
came on this morning; he has been in New York all day. I guess he
wanted to buy something for Ina."

"Her ring?" asked Charlotte, in a slightly awed tone.

"Very likely."

"Papa, is Major Arms rich?" asked Charlotte.

"Quite, I think, dear. I don't know how much he has in reality, but
he has his pay from the government--he is on the retired list--and he
owns considerable property. He has enough and to spare, there is no
doubt about that."

"So if Ina has things and people trouble her for payment she can pay
them," remarked Charlotte, thoughtfully.

"Yes," said Carroll, shortly. He quickened his pace, and Charlotte
made a little run to get into step again.

"That will be very nice," said she. "Do you think he will be good to
her, papa?"

"Sure as I am of anything in this world, dear."

"It would be dreadful if he wasn't. Whatever else Ina or any of us
haven't had, we've always had that. We've always lived with folks
that loved us and were good to us. That would kill Ina and me
quickest of anything, papa."

"He will be good to her, dear," said Carroll, pleasantly. He looked
down at Charlotte and laughed. "It's all right, baby," he said.
"She's got one man in a thousand--one worth a thousand of your old
dad."

"No, she hasn't," said Charlotte, with indignation. She caught her
father's arm and clung to it lovingly. "There is nobody in the world
so good as you," said she, with fervor. "I wouldn't leave you for any
man in the world, papa."

"You wait," Carroll said, laughing.

"Papa, you don't wish I were going to be married too? You don't want
me to go away like Ina?" Charlotte demanded, with a sudden grieved
catch in her voice.

"I never want you to go, darling," Carroll replied, and he looked
down with adoration at the little face whose whole meaning seemed one
of innocent love for and belief in him. He realized the same terror
at the mere fancy of losing this artless and unquestioning devotion
as one might feel at the fancy of losing his only prop from the edge
of a precipice. The man really had for an instant a glimpse of a
sheer descent in his own nature which might be ever before his
sickened vision if this one little faith and ignorance were removed.
In a curious fashion a man sometimes holds an innocent love between
himself and himself, and Carroll so held Charlotte's.

"I will never leave you for any other man. I don't care who he is,"
Charlotte reiterated, and this time her father let her assertion go
unchallenged. He pressed the little, clinging hand on his arm closer.

Charlotte looked at him as she might have looked at a king as he
walked along in his stately fashion. She was unutterably proud of him.

The carriage had reached the house some time before they arrived. The
man was just driving round to the stable when they came up to the
front door. The guest and Ina were nowhere to be seen, but on the
porch stood Mrs. Carroll and Anna. They were both laughing, but Anna
looked worried in spite of her laugh.

"What do you think, Arthur," whispered Mrs. Carroll, with a cautious
glance towards a chamber window. "Here he has come, the son-in-law,
and there is no meat again for dinner." Mrs. Carroll burst into a
peal of laughter.

"I don't see much to laugh at," said Anna, but she laughed a little.

Carroll made a step to the side of the porch and called to the
coachman. "Martin," he called, "don't take the horse out. Come back
here. We must send for something," he declared, a little brusquely
for him.

"It is all very well to send, Arthur," said Mrs. Carroll, "but the
butcher won't let us have it if we do send."

"It is no use, Arthur," Anna Carroll said. "We cannot get a thing for
this man's dinner, and not only to-day, but to-morrow and while he
stays, unless we pay cash."

Carroll turned to the coachman, who had just come alongside.
"Martin," he said, "you will have to drive to New Sanderson before
dinner. We cannot get the meat which Mrs. Carroll wishes, and you
will have to drive over there. Go to that large market on Main Street
and tell them that I want the best cut of porterhouse with the
tenderloin that he has. Tell him it is for Captain Carroll of
Banbridge. And I want you to get also a roast of lamb for to-morrow."

"Yes, sir," said the coachman. He gathered up the lines, but sat
looking hesitatingly at his employer.

"What are you waiting for?" asked Carroll. "Drive as fast as you can.
We are late as it is."

"Shall I pay, sir?" asked the man, timidly, in a low voice.

Carroll took out his pocket-book, then replaced it. "No, not
to-night," he said, easily. "Tell him it is for Captain Carroll of
Banbridge."

The man still looked doubtful and a trifle alarmed, but he touched
his hat and drove out of the grounds. Carroll turned and saw his wife
and sister staring at him.

"Oh, Arthur, dear, do you think the butcher will let him have it?"
whispered Mrs. Carroll.

"Yes, honey," said Carroll.

"If he shouldn't--"

"Don't worry; he will."

"It is one of your coups, isn't it, Arthur?" said Anna,
sarcastically, but rather admiringly. She and Mrs. Carroll both
laughed.

"We have never bought any meat in New Sanderson, so maybe Martin can
get it," Mrs. Carroll said, as she seated herself in one of the large
willow-rockers on the porch.

Dinner was very late that night at the Carrolls'. Even with a fast
horse, driving to New Sanderson and back consumed some time, but
Martin finally returned triumphant. When he drove into the yard it
was dusk and the family and the guest were all seated on the porch.
There was a steady babble of talk and laughter on the part of the
ladies, who were nervously intent on concealing, or at least
softening, the fact that dinner was so late that Major Arms might
well be excused for judging that there was to be no dinner at all.

Once, Ina had whispered to Charlotte, when the conversation among the
others swelled high: "What is the matter? Do you know?"

"Hush! Poor papa had to send to New Sanderson for meat," whispered
Charlotte.

Ina made a face of consternation; Charlotte looked sadly troubled.

"I'm afraid he is awfully hungry," whispered Ina. "I pity him."

"I pity papa," whispered Charlotte. She kept glancing at her father
with loving sympathy and understanding as the time went on. His face
was quite undisturbed, but Charlotte saw beneath the calm. When at
last she heard the carriage-wheels her heart leaped and she turned
pale. Then she dared not look at her father. Suppose Martin should
not have been successful. The eyes of all the family except Carroll
himself, who was talking about the tariff and politely supporting the
government against a hot-headed rebellion on the part of the ex-army
officer, were on him. Not an inflection in his voice changed when
Martin drove past the porch, but the others, even Eddy, who was
seated at his sister's feet on the porch-step, eyed the arrival with
undisguised eagerness. A brown-paper parcel was distinctly visible on
the seat beside Martin.

"Thank God!" Mrs. Carroll whispered, under her breath to her sister.
"He's got it."

Eddy gave vent to a small whoop of delight which he immediately
suppressed with a scared glance at his father. However, he could not
refrain from sniffing audibly with rapture when the first fragrance
of the broiling beefsteak spread through the house to the porch. Mrs.
Carroll giggled, and so did Ina, but Charlotte looked severely at her
brother.

"After all, though, the excessive tax on articles purchased by
travellers abroad and brought to this country serves as a legitimate
balance-wheel," said Carroll, coolly. One would not have thought that
he was in the least conscious of what was going on around him. "It is
mostly the very wealthy who go abroad and purchase articles of
foreign manufacture," he added, gently, "and it serves to even up
things a little for those who cannot go. It marks a notch higher on
the equality of possessions."

"Equality of fiddlesticks!" said the other man. "What the devil do
the masses of the poor in this country care about the foreign works
of art, anyhow? They don't want 'em. And what is going to compensate
this country for not possessing works of art which it will never
produce here, and which would tend to the liberal education of its
citizens?"

"Not many of its citizens in the broader sense would ever see those
works of art when they were here and shrined in the drawing-rooms of
the millionaires," said Carroll, smiling; "and as far as that goes,
the millionaires have them, anyhow. They are not stopped by the
tariff."

"Yes, they are, too, more than you think," declared the major; "and
not the millionaires alone are defrauded. Suppose I go over now, as I
may do"--he cast a glance at Ina--"as I may do, I say. Now there are
things over there that I want in my home--things that are not to be
had for love nor money in this country. Nothing of the sort is or
ever will be manufactured here. I am doing nothing whatever to injure
home industries if I bring them over. On the contrary, I am
benefiting the country by bringing to it articles which are, in a
way, an education which may serve as a stimulus to the growth of art
here. I enable those who can never go abroad, and to whom they will
be otherwise forever unknown, an opportunity to become acquainted
with them. But I have to leave them over there because I cannot
afford to pay this government for the privilege of spending my own
money and gratifying my own taste."

Anna Carroll, to cover her absorption in the beefsteak and the
dinner, joined in the conversation with feminine daring of
conclusion. "I suppose," said she, with a kind of soft sarcasm, "that
the government would not need to charge so much for its citizens'
privilege of buying little foreign vases and mosaics and breastpins
and little Paris frills if it did not conduct so many humanitarian
wars."

"The humanitarian wars are all right, all right," said the major,
hastily; "so far as that goes, all right."

"I suppose," said Mrs. Carroll, "that it would cost so much to bring
home gowns from Paris that no one can do it unless they have a great
deal of money. I understand that it costs more than it did."

"Yes," replied the major, "and this government can't see or won't see
that even in the matter of women's clothes it would pay in the end to
bring over every frill and tuck free of duty until our dressmakers
here had caught on to their tricks. Then we could pay them back in
their own coin. But, no; and the consequence is that we shall be
dependent on France for our best clothes for generations more."

"It does seem such a pity," said Mrs. Carroll. "It would be so nice
to have Ina's things made in Paris if it didn't cost anything to get
them over here--wouldn't it?"

"I would just as soon have my dresses made in Banbridge," said Ina.
"Madame Griggs is as good as a French dressmaker."

"She is fine," said Charlotte.

Ina blushed as the major looked at her with a look that penetrated
the dusk. Very soon Marie appeared in the doorway, and they went into
dinner.

"How lucky it is that Anderson does not object to trusting us and we
can have canned soup and pease," whispered Mrs. Carroll to Anna.

It was a very good dinner at last, and the guest was evidently
hungry, for he did justice to it. There were no apologies for the
delay. Carroll did not believe in apologies for such things. There
was a salad from their own garden, and a dessert of apple-pudding
from an early apple-tree in the grounds. The coffee was good, too.
There was no lack of anything which could be purchased at the grocery.

"That grocer must be a very decent sort of man as grocers go," Mrs.
Carroll was fond of remarking in those days. "I really don't know
what we should do if it were not for him."

After dinner was over it was nearly nine o'clock; Carroll and Major
Arms walked up and down the road before the house, smoking, leaving
the ladies on the porch. The ex-army officer had something which he
wished to discuss with his prospective father-in-law. He opened upon
the subject when they had gone a piece down the flagged sidewalk and
turned towards the house.

"What kind of arrangements have the ladies planned with regard
to"--he hesitated and stammered a bit boyishly, for this was his
first matrimonial venture, and he felt embarrassed, veteran in other
respects as he was--"to the--ceremony?" he finished up. Ceremony did
not have the personal sound that marriage did.

Carroll looked at him, smiling. "It is quite a venture for you, old
fellow, isn't it?" he said, laughingly, and yet his voice sounded
exceedingly kind and touched.

"Not with that child, Arthur," replied the other man, simply.

"Well, Ina is a good girl," assented Carroll. "Both of them are good
girls. She will make you a good wife."

"Nobody knows how sure I am of it, and nobody knows how I have looked
forward to this for years," said the other, fervently.

"I could not wish anything better for my girl," said Carroll, gently
and soberly.

"What about the matter of the--ceremony?" asked Arms, returning to
the first subject.

"I think they have decided that they would prefer the wedding in the
church, and a little reception at the house afterwards. Of course we
are comparatively strangers in Banbridge, but there are people one
can always ask to a function of the sort, and I think Ina--"

"Arthur, there is something I would like to propose."

"What, old fellow?"

Major Arms hesitated. Carroll waited, smoking as he sauntered along.
The other man held his cigar, which had gone out, in his mouth;
evidently he was nervous about his proposition. Finally he blurted it
out with the sharpness of a pistol-shot. "Arthur, I want to defray
the expenses of the wedding," he said.

Carroll removed his cigar. "See you damned first," said he, coolly,
but with emphasis, and then replaced it.

Major Arms turned furiously towards him, but he restrained himself.
"Why?" he said, with forced calm.

"Because if I cannot pay my daughter's bridal expenses she never
marries you nor any other man," said Carroll.

Then the Major blazed out. He stopped short and moved before Carroll
on the sidewalk. "If," said he--"if--you think I marry your daughter
if her father goes in debt for the wedding expenses, you are
mistaken."

Carroll said nothing. He stood as if stunned. The other went on with
a burst of furious truth: "See here, Arthur Carroll," said he, "I
like you, and you know how I feel about your girl. She is the one
thing I have wanted for my happiness all my life, and I know I can
take care of her and make her happy; and I like you in spite of--in
spite of your outs. I'm ashamed of myself for liking you, but I do;
but you needn't think I don't see you, that I don't know you, because
I do. I knew when you went to the dogs after you failed in your mine,
just as well as you did yourself. You went to the dogs, and you've
been at the dogs' ever since; you're there now, and you've dragged
your family with you so far as they're the sort to be dragged. They
aren't, altogether, lucky for them; the girls especially aren't, at
least not so far. Lord knows when it would come to them. But I'm
going to take Ina away from the dogs, out of sound of a yelp even of
'em; and, as for me, I'll be hanged if you get me there! I know you
for just what you are. I know you've prowled and preyed like a coyote
ever since you were preyed on yourself. I know you, but I love Ina.
But I tell you one thing, Arthur Carroll, now you can take your
choice. Either you let me pay the wedding expenses or you give up the
wedding."

"Ina," began Carroll, in a curious, helpless fashion, "she has set
her heart on the wedding--her--dress and everything."

"I can't help that," said Arms, sternly. "This is of more importance
even than her pleasure. Take your choice. Let me pay or let us be
married in the quietest manner possible."

"I consent to the latter," Carroll said, still in that beaten tone.

He seemed to shrink in stature, standing before the other man's
uprear of imperious will.

"All right," said Major Arms.

The two walked on in silence for a moment. Arms relit his cigar.
Suddenly Carroll spoke.

"No, I will not, either," he said, abruptly.

"Will not what?"

"I will not consent to the quiet wedding. Ina shall not be
disappointed. This means too much to a girl. Good God! it is the one
occasion of a woman's life, and women are children always. It is
cruelty to children."

"Then I pay," Arms said.

"No, I pay," said Carroll.

"You pay?"

"I pay," Carroll repeated, doggedly.

"How?"

"Never mind how. I tell you I give you my word of honor I pay every
dollar of those expenses the day after the wedding."

"You will rob Peter to pay Paul, then," declared Major Arms,
incredulously and wrathfully.

Carroll laughed in a hard fashion. "I would kill Peter, besides
robbing him, if it was necessary," he said.

"If you think I'll have that way out of it--"

"I tell you I will pay those expenses, every dollar, the next day,
and Ina shall have her little festival. What more do you want?"
demanded Carroll. "See here, Arms, you will take care of the girl
better than I can. I am at the dogs fast enough, and the dogs' is not
a desirable locality in which to see one's family. You can take care
of Ina, and God knows I want you to have her, but have her you shall
not unless you can show some lingering confidence in her father. Even
at the dogs' a man may have a little pride left. Either we have the
wedding as it is planned, and you trust me to settle the bills for
it, or you can give up my daughter."

Arms stood silent, looking at Carroll. "Very well," he said, finally.

"All right, then," said Carroll.

Arms remained staring at Carroll with a curious, puzzled expression.

"Good God! Arthur, how do you ever stand it living this sort of
life?" he cried, suddenly.

"I have to stand it," replied Carroll. "As well ask a shot fired from
a cannon how it likes being hurled through the air. I was fired into
this."

"You ought to have had some power of resistance, some will of your
own."

"There are forces for every living man for which he has no power of
resistance. Mine hit me."

"If ever there was a damned, smooth-tongued scoundrel--" said Arms,
retrospectively.

"Where is he?" Carroll asked, and his voice sounded strange.

"There."

"How is he?"

"Prospering like the wicked in the psalms. There was one respect in
which you showed will and self-control, Arthur--that you didn't shoot
him!"

"I was a fool," said Carroll.

"He wasn't worth hanging for," said the major, shortly.

"I'd hang five times over if I could get even with him," said Carroll.

"I don't wonder you feel so."

"Feel so! You asked me just now how I stood this sort of life. I
believe my hate for that man keeps me up like a stimulant. I believe
it keeps me up when I see other poor devils that I--"

Suddenly Arms reached out his hand and grasped Carroll's. "Good God!
old fellow, I'm sorry for you!" he said. "You are too good for the
dogs."

"Yes, I know I am," said Carroll, calmly.

The two men returned to the house and sat on the porch with the
ladies. About half-past ten Anna Carroll said good-night, then Mrs.
Carroll. Then Charlotte rose, and Ina also followed her up-stairs.

"Ina," cried Charlotte, in a sort of angry embarrassment, when they
had reached her chamber, "you've got to go back; indeed you have."

"I suppose I ought." Ina was blushing furiously, her lip quivered.
She was twisting a ring on her engagement-finger.

"You have even kept the stone side in, so nobody could see that
beautiful ring he brought you. You are mean--mean!" said Charlotte.

"You just imagine that," said Ina, feebly. As she spoke she held up
her hand, and a great diamond flashed rose and green and white.

"No, I don't imagine it. I have not seen it once like that. You ought
to be ashamed of yourself. You must go straight back down-stairs.
People when they are engaged always sit up alone together. You are
not doing right coming up here with me."

"What are you scolding me for? Who said I was not going back?"
returned Ina, with resentful shame.

"You know you were not."

"I was."

"Well, good-night, honey," said Charlotte, in a softer tone.

"Good-night."

Charlotte kissed her sister, and saw her leave the room and go down
to her lover with a curious mixture of pity and awe and wrath and
wistful affection. It almost seemed to her that Ina was happy,
although afraid and ashamed to be, and it made her seem like a
stranger to the maiden ignorance of her own heart.



Chapter XVII


There was a good deal of talk in Banbridge when Ina Carroll's
wedding-invitations were out. There were not many issued. When it
came to making out the list, the number of persons who, from what the
family considered as a reasonable point of view, were possible, was
exceedingly small.

"Of course we cannot ask such and such a one," Mrs. Carroll would
say, and the others would acquiesce simply, with no thought of the
possibility of anything else.

"There's that young man who goes on the train every morning with
papa," said Charlotte. "His name is Veazie--Francis Veazie. He has
called here. They live on Elm Street. His father is that nice-looking
old gentleman who walks past here every day, on his way to the mail,
a little lame."

"Charlotte, dear," said Ina, "don't you remember that somebody told
us that that young man was a floor-walker in one of the department
stores?"

"Oh, sure enough," said Charlotte, "I do remember, dear."

"There are really very few indeed in a place like Banbridge whom it
is possible to invite to a wedding," said Mrs. Carroll.

Banbridge itself shared her opinion. Those who were bidden to the
wedding acquiesced in their selectedness and worthiness; those who
were not bidden, with a very few exceptions of unduly aspiring souls,
acquiesced calmly in their own ineligibility. Banbridge, for a
village in the heart of a republic, had a curious rigidity of
establishment and content as to its social conditions. For the most
part those who were not invited would have been embarrassed and even
suspicious at receiving invitations. But they talked. In that they
showed their inalienable republican freedom. They moved along as
unquestioningly as European peasants, in their grooves, but their
tongues soared. In speech, as is the way with an American, they held
nothing sacred, not even the institutions which they propped, not
even themselves. They might remain unquestioningly, even preferredly,
outside the doors of superiority, but out there they raised a clamor
of self-assertion. Their tongues wagged with prodigious activity
utterly unleashed. In the days before Ina Carroll's wedding all
Banbridge seethed and boiled like a pot with gossip, and gossip full
of malice and sneer, and a good deal of righteous indignation.
Anderson heard much of it. Neither he nor his mother was asked to the
wedding. The Carrolls had not even considered the possibility of such
a thing. Mrs. Anderson spoke of it one evening at tea.

"I hear they are going to have quite a wedding at those new
people's," said she; "a wedding in the church, and reception
afterwards at the house. Miss Josie Eggleston and Agnes and Mrs.
Monroe were in here this afternoon, and they were speaking about it.
They said the young lady was having her trousseau made at Mrs.
Griggs's, and everybody thought it rather singular. They are going to
the wedding and reception. They inquired if we were going, and I said
that we had not been invited, that we had not called. I have been
intending to call ever since they came, but now, of course, it is out
of the question until after the wedding." Mrs. Anderson spoke with a
slight regret. A mild curiosity was a marked trait of hers. "I
suppose we could go to the church even if we had no invitation; I
suppose many will do that," she said, a little wistfully, after a
pause.

"Do you think it wise, without an invitation?" asked Anderson, rather
amusedly.

"Why, I don't know, really, dear, that it could do any harm--that is,
lower one's dignity at all. Of course it is not as if we had called.
If we had called and then received no invitation, the slight would
have been marked. But of course we were not invited simply because we
had not called--"

"Still, I think I should rather not go, under the circumstances,
mother," Anderson said, quietly.

"Well, perhaps you are right, dear," said his mother. "It seems to me
that you may be a trifle too punctilious; still, it is best to err on
the safe side, and, after all, these are new people; we know very
little about them, after all." Nothing was further from Mrs. Anderson
than the surmise that, even had she called, no invitation would have
come from these unknown new people to the village grocer and his
mother. Mrs. Anderson, even with her secret and persistent dissent to
her son's giving up his profession and adopting trade, never dreamed
of any possible loss of social prestige. She considered herself and
her son established in their family traditions beyond possibility of
shaking by such minor matters. Anderson did not enlighten her.

"Mrs. Monroe said that she had heard that the Carrolls were owing a
good deal," said she, presently. "She said she heard that Blumenfeldt
said he must have cash for the flowers for the decorations. They have
ordered a great many palms and things. She said she heard that
Captain Carroll told him that the money would be forthcoming, and
scared him out of his wits, he was so high and mighty, and the
florist just gave right in and said he should have all he wanted. She
said Mr. Monroe was in there and heard it. I hope Mrs. Griggs will
get her pay. They don't owe you, I hope, dear?"

"Don't worry about me, mother?" Randolph replied, smiling. However,
she had placed a finger upon a daily perplexity of his. The Carrolls
indeed owed him, and every day the debt was increasing. He felt that
his old clerk regarded him with wonder at every fresh entry on the
books. That very day he had come into the office to inform him, in a
hushed voice, that the Carrolls had sent for a pail of lard and a box
of butter, besides a bag of flour, and to inquire what he should do
about supplying them.

"The girl hasn't brought any money," said he, further, in an ominous
whisper.

Anderson, glancing out, saw the small, sturdy, and smiling face of
the Hungarian girl employed by the Carrolls. She was gazing straight
through at him in the office with a shrewd expression in her
untutored black eyes. "Send the order," Anderson replied, in a low
voice.

"But," began the clerk.

"It's all right," said Anderson. He dipped his pen in the ink and
went on with the letter he was writing. The clerk retreated with a
long, anxious, wondering look, which the other man felt.

The Hungarian girl plodded smiling forth with the promise to have the
groceries sent at once. Stepping flat-footedly and heavily through
the door, she caught her cotton skirt on a nail, and, lo! a rent. The
boy, who was a gallant soul for all femininity in need, hurried to
her aid with some pins gathered from the lapel of his gingham coat.
Little Marie, with a coquettish shake of her head and a blush and
smile began repairing the damage.

"It is the cloth that is easy broke," explained she, when she lifted
her suffused but still smiling face, "and I a new one will have when
I haf my money, my vage." With that Marie was gone, her poor gown
scalloping around her heavy, backward heels, her smiling glance of
artless coquetry over her shoulder to the last, and the boy and the
old clerk looked at each other. The boy whistled.

Just then the delivery-wagon drove up in front of the store. The
driver, who was a young fellow in the first stages of pulmonary
consumption, got down with weakly alacrity from the seat and came in
to get the new orders. He coughed as he entered, but he looked
radiant. He was driving the delivery-wagon in the hope of recovering
his health by out-of-door life, and he was, or flattered himself that
he was, perceptibly gaining.

"Where's the next delivery?" he inquired, hoarsely.

"Wait a minute," said the old clerk, and again invaded the office.

"They 'ain't paid their hired girl," he said, in a whisper. "Had we
better--"

"Better what?" said Anderson, impatiently, though he looked confused.

"Better send them things to the Carrolls'?"

"Didn't I tell you? What--"

"Oh, all right, sir," said the clerk, and retreated hastily. At times
he had an awe of his employer.

"Goin' to take all that truck to the Carrolls'?" inquired the
consumptive deliverer.

"Yep," replied the boy, lugging out the flour-bag.

"Credit," whispered the man.

The boy nodded.

The man essayed a whistle, but he coughed. "Well, it's none of my
funeral," he declared, when he got his breath, "but I hear he's a
dead-beat. I s'pose he knows what he is about."

"If he don't, nobody is goin' to tell him, you bet," said the boy,
succinctly.

"Well, it's none of my funeral," said the man, and he coughed again,
and gathered up the reins, and drove away in a cloud of dust down the
street. It had not rained for two weeks and the roads gave evidence
of it.

Anderson, back in his office, heard the sound of the retreating
wheels with a feeling of annoyance, even scorn of himself for his
gullibility, and his stress upon the financial part of the affair.

He was losing a good deal of money, and he did not wish to do so. "I
am a fool," he told himself, with that voice of mentality which
sounds the loudest, to the consciousness, of any voice on earth. He
frowned, then he laughed a little, and began mounting a fine new
butterfly specimen. "Other men marry and spend their hard earnings in
that way, on love," said he. "Why should I not spend mine after this
fashion if I choose?"

That noon, as he passed out of the store on his way home to dinner,
Ina and Charlotte came out of the dressmaker's opposite. They looked
flushed and happily excited. Charlotte carried a large parcel. They
rushed past without seeing him at all, as he gained the opposite
sidewalk. He walked along, grave and self-possessed. Nobody seeing
him would have dreamed of his inward perturbation, that spiritual
alienation as secret as the processes of the body.

Nobody could have suspected how his fond thought and yearning
followed one of those small, hurrying, girlish figures. In a way the
man, even with his frustrated aims in the progress of life, was so
superior to the little, unconscious feminine thing whose chief assets
of life were her youth and innocence, and even those of slight weight
against the man's age and innocence, that it seemed a pity.

It was not a case of pearls before swine, but seemingly rather of
pearls before canary-birds or butterflies, which would not defile
them, but flutter over them unheedingly.

However, it may be better to cast away one's pearls of love before
anything, rather than keep them. Anderson, walking along home to his
dinner in the summer noon, loving foolishly and unreasonably this
young girl who would never, probably, place the slightest value on
his love, was not actively unhappy. After he had turned the corner of
the street on which his house stood he heard the whistle of the
noon-train, and soon the carriages from the station came whirling in
sight.

Samson Rawdy came first, driving a victoria in which sat the
gentleman who had been pointed out to him as Ina Carroll's _fiance_.
He glanced at him approvingly, and the thought even was in his mind
that had this stranger been going to marry Charlotte, instead of her
sister, he could have had nothing to say against his appearance.
Suddenly, Major Arms in the victoria looked full at him and bowed,
raising his hat in his soldierly fashion. Anderson was surprised, but
returned the salutation promptly.

"Who was that gentleman bowing to you?" his mother asked, as he went
up the front steps. She was standing on the porch in her muslin
morning panoply.

"He is the gentleman who is to marry the eldest daughter of Captain
Carroll," replied Anderson.

"Do you know him?"

"No."

"He bowed."

"I suppose he thought he recognized me."

"He looks old enough to be her grandfather, but he looks like a fine
man. I hope she will make him a good wife. It is a risk for a man of
his age, marrying a little young thing. I wonder why Samson Rawdy was
bringing him from the station. Strange the Carroll carriage didn't
meet him, wasn't it?"

"Perhaps they were not expecting him," replied Randolph, which was
true.

The carriage occupied by Major Arms and Samson Rawdy overtook Ina and
Charlotte before they had walked far, in front of Drake's drug-store.
They had stopped in there for soda, in fact, and were just coming out.

"Why, there's Major Arms!" cried Charlotte, so loudly that some
lounging men in the drug-store heard her. Drake, Amidon, and the
postmaster, who had just stopped, stood in the doorway, with no
attempt to disguise their interest, and watched Major Arms spring out
of the carriage like a boy, kiss his sweetheart, utterly unmindful of
their observance, then assist the sisters to the back seat, and
spring to the front himself.

"Pretty spry for an old boy," remarked the postmaster as the carriage
rolled away.

"Oh, he's Southern," returned Amidon, easily. "That is why. Catch a
Yankee his age with joints as limber. The cold winters here stiffen
folk up quick after they get middle-aged."

"You don't seem very stiff in the joints," said Drake, jocularly.
"Guess you are near as old as that man."

"I'm a right smart stiffer than I'd been ef I'd stayed South,"
replied Amidon.

Then the postmaster wondered, as Mrs. Anderson had done, why Major
Arms was driving up with Samson Rawdy rather than in the Carroll
carriage, and the others opined, as Randolph had done, that they had
not expected him.

"I don't see, for my part, what they get to feed him on when he
comes," said Amidon, wisely.

The postmaster and Drake looked at him with expressions like
hunting-dogs, although a certain wisdom as to his meaning was evident
in both faces.

"I suppose it's getting harder and harder for them to get credit,"
said Drake.

"Harder," returned Amidon. "I guess it is. I had it from Strauss this
morning, that he wouldn't let them have a pound of beef without cash,
and I know that Abbot stopped giving them anything some time ago."

"How do they manage, then?" asked the postmaster.

"Strauss says sometimes they send a little money and get a little,
the rest of the time he guesses they go without; live on
garden-sauce--they've got a little garden, you know, or grocery
stuff."

"Can they get trusted at the grocer's?"

"Ingram won't trust 'em, but Anderson lets 'em have all they want,
they say."

"S'pose he knows what he's about."

"Lawyers generally do," said Drake.

"He wasn't much of a lawyer, anyhow," said Amidon.

"That's so. He didn't set the river afire," remarked the postmaster.

"I don't believe, if Anderson trusts him, but he knows what he is
about," said the druggist. "I guess he knows he's goin' to get his
pay."

"Mebbe some of those fine securities of his will come up sometime,"
Amidon said. "I heard they'd been slumpin' lately. Guess there's some
Banbridge folks got hit pretty bad, too."

"Who?" asked Drake, eagerly.

"I heard Lee was in it, for one, and I guess there's others. I must
light out of this. It's dinner-time. Where's that arrow-root? My
wife's got to make arrow-root gruel for old Mrs. Joy. She's dreadful
poorly. Oh, there it is!"

Amidon started, and the postmaster also. In the doorway Amidon
paused. "Suppose you knew Carroll was away?" he said.

"No," said Drake.

"Yes, he's been gone a week; ain't coming home till the day before
the wedding. Their girl told ours. We've got a Hungarian, too, you
know. Carroll's girl can't get any pay. It's a dam'ed shame."

"Why don't she leave?"

"Afraid she'll lose it all, if she does. Same way with the coachman."

"Where's Carroll gone?" asked the postmaster.

"Don't know. The girl said he'd gone to Chicago on business."

"Guess he'll want to go farther than Chicago on business if he don't
look out, before long. I don't see how he's goin' to have the
weddin', anyway. I don't believe anybody 'll trust him here, and,
unless I miss my guess, he won't find it very easy anywhere else."

"They say the man the girl's goin' to marry is rich. Maybe he'll foot
the bills," said Drake.

"Mebbe he is," assented Amidon. Then he went out in earnest, and the
postmaster with him.

"Look at here," said Amidon, mysteriously, as the two men separated
on the next corner. "I'll tell you something, if you want to know."

"What?"

"I believe Drake trusts those Carrolls a little."



Chapter XVIII


There was in Banbridge, at this date, almost universal distrust of
Carroll, but very little of it was expressed, for the reason, common
to the greater proportion of humanity: the victims in proclaiming
their distrust would have proclaimed at the same time their
victimization. It was quite safe to assume that the open detractors
of Carroll had not been duped by him; it was also quite safe to
assume that many of those who either remained silent or declared
their belief in him had suffered more or less. The latter were those
who made it possible for the Carrolls to remain in Banbridge at all.
There were many who had a lingering hope of securing something in the
end, who did not wish Carroll to depart, and who were even uneasy at
his absence, although the fact of his family remaining and of the
wedding preparations for his daughter going on seemed sufficient to
allay suspicions. It is generally true that partisanship, even of the
few, counts for more than disparagement of the many, with all
right-intentioned people who have a reasonable amount of love for
their fellow-men. Somehow partisanship, up to a certain limit, beyond
which the partisan appears a fool to all who listen to him, seems to
give credit to the believer in it. At all events, while the number of
Arthur Carroll's detractors was greatly in advance of his adherents,
the moral atmosphere of Banbridge, while lowering, was still very far
from cyclonic for him. He got little credit, yet still friendly,
admiring, and even obsequious recognition.

The invitations to his daughter's wedding had been eagerly accepted.
The speculations as to whether the bills would be paid or not added
to the interest. In those days the florist and the dressmaker were
quite local celebrities. They looked anxious, yet rather pleasantly
self-conscious. The dressmaker bragged by day and lay awake by night.
Every time the florist felt uneasy, he slipped across to the nearest
saloon and got a drink of beer. After that, when asked if he did not
feel afraid he would lose money through the Carroll wedding, he said
something about the general esteem in which people should be held who
patronized local industries, in his thick German-English, grinned,
and shambled back, his fat hips shaking like a woman's, to his
hot-houses, and pottered around his geraniums and decorative palms.

On the Sunday morning before the wedding there were an unusual number
of men in the barber-shop--old Eastman, Frank's father, who generally
shaved himself, besides Amidon, Drake, the postmaster, Tappan the
milkman, and a number of others. Amidon was in the chair, and spoke
whenever it did not seem too hazardous. He had just had his hair cut
also, as a delicate concession to the barber on the part of a free
customer on a busy morning, and his rather large head glistened like
a silver ball.

"Reckon Carroll must have gone out West promotin' to raise a little
wind for the weddin'," he said.

"I haven't seed him, and I atropined he had not come back yet,"
remarked the barber.

Lee looked up from his Sunday paper--all the men except young Willy
Eddy were provided with Sunday papers; he waited patiently for a
spare page finished and thrown aside by another. Besides the odors of
soap and perfumed oils and bay-rum and tobacco-smoke, that filled the
little place, was the redolence of fresh newspapers, staring with
violent head-lines, and as full of rustle as a forest.

Lee looked up from his paper, and gave his head a curious,
consequential toss. He had been shaved himself, and his little tuft
of yellow beard was trimmed to a nicety. He looked sleek and
well-dressed, and he had always his indefinable air of straining
himself furtively upon tiptoe to reach some unattainable height.
Lee's consequentiality had something painful about it at times.

"I guess Captain Carroll hadn't any need to go out West promoting. I
rather think he can find all the business he wants right here," he
said.

Tappan the milkman, bearded and grim, looked up from an article on
the coal strike. "Guess he _can_ find about fools enough right here
to work on, that's right," said he, and there was a laugh.

Lee's small blond face colored furiously; his voice was shrill in
response. "Perhaps those he doesn't work, as you call it, are bigger
fools than those he does," said he.

"Say," said the milkman, with a snarling sort of humor. He fastened
brutally twinkling eyes on Lee. Everybody waited; the little barber
held the razor poised over Amidon's chin. "When do your next
dividends come in?" he inquired.

Lee gave an angry sniff, and flirted up his paper before his face.

"Why don't ye say?" pressed Tappan, with a hard wink at the others.

"I don't know that it is any of your business," replied Lee.

"Ask when the millennium's comin'," said Amidon, in the chair.

"I wish I was as sure of the millennium as I am of those dividends,"
declared Lee, brought to bay.

"Glad you've got faith in that dead-beat. He's owin' me for fifteen
dollars' worth of milk-tickets, and I can't get a dam'ed penny of
it," said Tappan. He gave the sheet of paper he held a vicious
crumple and flung it to the floor, whence little Willy Eddy timidly
and softly gathered it up. "Gettin' up at four o'clock in the
mornin'," continued the milkman, in a cursing voice, "an' milkin' a
lot of dam'ed old kickin' cows, and gittin' on the road half-dead
with sleep, to make a present to whelps like him, goin' to the City
dressed up like Morgan hisself, ridin' to the station in a carriage
he 'ain't paid for, with a man drivin' that can't git a cent out of
him. Talk about coal strikes! Lord! I could give them miners points.
Strikin' for eight hours a day! Lord! what's that? Here I've got to
go home an' hay, if it _is_ Sunday, to git enough for them dam'ed
cows to eat in the winter! Eight hours! Hm! I work eighteen an' I
'ain't got anybody over me to strike again', 'cept the Almighty, an'
I ruther guess He wouldn't make much account of it. Guess he'd starve
me out ef I quit work, and not make much bones of it. I _can_ stop
peddlin' milk to sech as Carroll, but the milk sours, an' hanged if I
know who suffers most. Here's my wife been makin' dam'ed little
pot-cheeses out of the sour milk as 'tis, and sellin' 'em for two
cents apiece. They're hangin' all over the bushes tied up in little
rags. She's got to work all day to-day makin' butter to save the
cream, and then I s'pose I've got to hustle round and find somebody
to give the butter to. Carroll ain't the only one. I wish they all
had to work as hard as I do one day for the things they git for
nothin', the whole bilin' lot of 'em. He's the worst, though. What
business did he have settlin' down on us here in Banbridge, I'd like
to know? If he'd got to steal to feather his nest, why didn't he go
to some other place, confound him?" The milkman's voice and manner
were malignant.

The barber looked at him with some apprehension, but he spoke, still
holding his razor aloft. "Now I rather guess you are jumpin' at
exclusions too hasty, Mr. Tappan," said he, in an anxiously pacific
voice. "I don't know about them dividends Mr. Lee's talkin' about.
Captain Carroll, he gave me a little dip." The barber winked about
mysteriously. "He told me he'd tell me when to come in, and he ain't
told me yet, but I ain't no disprehension, but he's all right.
Captain Carroll is a gentleman, he is." Flynn's voice fairly quivered
with affectionate championship. There were tears in his foolish eyes.
He bent over Amidon's face, which grinned up at him cautiously
through the lather.

"Let him pay me them milk-tickets, then, if he's all right," Tappan
said, viciously.

"He will when he's disembarrassed and his adventures are on a
dividend-paying adipoise," said the barber, in a tearful voice.

"I think he is all right," said the druggist.

Then little Willy Eddy added his pipe. He had been covertly smoothing
out Tappan's crumpled newspaper. "He's real nice-spoken," said he. "I
guess he will come right in time."

Tappan turned on him and snatched back his newspaper. "Here, I ain't
done with that," he said; "I've got to take it home to my wife." Then
he added, "For God's sake, you little fool, he ain't been swipin'
anything from you, has he?"

Then the barber arose to the situation. He advanced, razor in hand.
He strode up to the milkman and stood dramatically before him, arm
raised and head thrown back. "Now, look at here," he proclaimed, in a
high falsetto, "I ain't agoin' to hear no asparagusment of my
friends, not here in this tonsorial parlor. No, sir!" There was
something at once touching, noble, and absurd about the
demonstration. The others chuckled, then sobered, and watched.

Tappan stared at him a second incredulously. Then he grinned, showing
his teeth like a dog.

"Lord! then that jailbird is one of your friends, is he?" he said. He
had just lit his pipe. He puffed at it, and deliberately blew the
smoke into the little barber's face.

Flynn bent over towards him with a sudden motion, and his mild,
consequential face in the cloud of smoke changed into something
terrible, from its very absurdity. His blue eyes glittered greenly;
he lifted the razor and cut the air with it close to the other man's
face. Tappan heard the hiss of it, and drew back involuntarily, his
expression changing.

"What the devil are you up to?" he growled, with wary eyes on the
other's face.

The barber continued to hold the razor like a bayonet in rest, fixed
within an inch of the other's nose. "I'm up to kickin' you out of my
parlor if you don't stop speakin' individuously disregardin' my
friends," said he, with an emphasis which was ridiculous and yet
impressive. The other men chuckled again, then grew grave.

"Come back here and finish up my job, John," Amidon called out; yet
he watched him warily.

"Here, put up that razor!" the postmaster called out.

"I'll put it up when you stop speakin' mellifluously of my friends,"
declared the barber. "There ain't nobody in this parlor goin' to
speak a word against Captain Carroll if I'm in hearin'; there ain't
an honester man in this town."

The barber's back was towards the door. Suddenly Tappan's eyes stared
past him, his grin widened inexplicably. Flynn became aware of a
pregnant silence throughout the shop. He turned, following Tappan's
gaze, and Arthur Carroll stood there. He had entered silently and had
heard all the last of the discussion. Every face in the shop was
turned towards him; he stood looking at them with the curious
expression of a man taken completely off guard. All the serene force
and courtesy which usually masked his innermost emotions had, as it
were, slipped off; for a flash he stood revealed, soul-naked, for any
one who could see. None there could fully see, although every man
looked, sharpened with curiosity and suspicion. Carroll was white and
haggard, unsmiling, despairing, even pathetic; his eyes actually
looked suffused. Then in a flash it was over, and Arthur Carroll in
his usual guise stood before them--it was like one of those
metamorphoses of which one reads in fairy tales. Carroll stood there
smiling, stately, gracefully, even confidentially condescending. It
was as if he appealed to their sense of humor, that he, Carroll,
stood among them addressing them as their equals.

"Good-day, gentleman," he said, and came forward.

Little Willy Eddy sprang up with a frightened look and gave him his
chair, murmuring in response to Carroll's deprecating thanks that he
was just going; but he did not go. He remained in the doorway
staring. He had a vague idea of some judgment descending upon them
all from this great man whom they had been slandering.

"Well, how are you, captain?" said Lee, speaking with an air of
defiant importance. It became evident that what had gone before was
to be ignored by everybody except Tappan, who suddenly rose and went
out, muttering something which nobody heard. Then the lash of a whip
was heard outside, a "g'lang," with the impetus of an oath, and a
milk wagon clattered down the street.

Carroll replied to Lee, urbanely: "Fine," he said, "fine. How are
you, Mr. Lee?"

"Seems to me you are not looking quite up to the mark," Lee remarked,
surveying him with friendly solicitude.

The little barber had returned to Amidon in the chair, and was
carefully scraping his cheek with the razor.

"Then my looks belie me," Carroll replied, smiling. He offered a
cigar to Lee and to the druggist, who sat next on the other side.

"Been out of town?" asked the druggist.

"Yes," replied Carroll.

Drake looked at him hesitatingly, but Amidon, speaking stiffly and
cautiously, put the question directly: "Where you been, cap'n?"

"A little journey on business," Carroll answered, easily, lighting
his cigar.

"When did you get home?" asked Amidon.

"This morning."

"You certainly look as if you had lost flesh," said Lee, with
obsequious solicitude.

"Well, it is a hard journey to Chicago--quite a hard journey,"
remarked the druggist, with cunning.

"Not on the fast train," said Carroll.

"So you went on the flyer?" said the postmaster.

Carroll was having some difficulty in lighting his cigar, and did not
reply.

"Did you go on the flyer?" persisted the postmaster.

"No, I did not," replied Carroll, with unmistakable curtness.

The postmaster hemmed to conceal embarrassment. He had been shaved
and had only lingered for a bit of gossip, and now the church-bells
began to ring, and he was going to church, as were also Lee, the
druggist, and most of the others. They rose and lounged out, one
after another; little Willy Eddy followed them. Flynn finished
shaving Amidon, who also left, and finally he was left alone in the
shop with Carroll, who arose and approached the chair.

"Sorry to keep you waitin', Captain Carroll," said Flynn, preparing a
lather with enthusiasm.

"The day is before me," said Carroll, as he seated himself.

"I hope," said Flynn, beating away his hand in a bowl of mounting
rainbow bubbles--"I hope that--that--your feelings were not hurt
at--at--our eavesdropping."

"At what?" asked Carroll, kindly and soberly.

"At our eavesdropping," reported the barber, with a worshipful and
agitated glance at him.

"Oh!" answered Carroll, but he did not smile. "No," he said, "my
feelings were not hurt." He looked at the small man who was the butt
of the town, and his expression was almost caressing.

Flynn continued to beat away at the lather, and the rainbow bubbles
curled over the edge of the bowl. "You said that you would devise me
when the time had come for me to invest that money," he said,
diffidently, and yet with a noble air of confidence and loyalty.

"It hasn't come yet," Carroll replied.



Chapter XIX


As Ina Carroll's wedding-day drew nearer, the excitement in Banbridge
increased. It was known that the services of a New York caterer had
been engaged. Blumenfeldt was decorating the church, Samson Rawdy was
furbishing up all his vehicles and had hired supplementary ones from
New Sanderson.

"No girl has ever went from this town as that Carroll girl will," he
told his wife, who assisted him to clean the carriage cushions.

"I s'pose the folks will dress a good deal," said she, brushing
assiduously.

"You bet," said her husband.

"Well, they won't get no dirt on their fine duds off _your_
carriage-seats," said she. She was large and perspiring, but full of
the content of righteous zeal. She and Samson Rawdy thoroughly
enjoyed the occasion, and he was, moreover, quite free from any money
anxiety regarding it. At first he had been considerably exercised. He
had come home and conferred with his wife, who was the business
balance-wheel of the family.

"Carroll has been speakin' to me about providin' carriages for his
daughter's weddin', an' I dunno about it," said he.

"How many does he want?" inquired his wife. He had sunk on his
doorstep on coming home at dusk, and sat with speculative eyes on the
pale western sky, while his wife sat judicially, quite filling with
her heated bulk a large rocking-chair, placed for greater coolness in
front of the step, in the middle of the slate walk.

"He wants all mine and all I can hire in New Sanderson," replied
Rawdy.

"Lord!" ejaculated his wife. "All them?"

"All them," replied Rawdy, moodily triumphant.

"Well," said his wife, "that ain't the point."

"No, it ain't," agreed Rawdy.

"The point is," said she, "is he agoin' to or ain't he agoin' to pay."

"That's so," said Rawdy.

"He's a-owin' everybody, ain't he?" said the wife.

"Pooty near, I guess."

"Well, you ain't goin' to let one of your cerridges go, let alone
hirin', unless he pays ahead."

"Lord! Dilly, how'm I goin' to ask him?" protested Rawdy.

"How? Why, the way anybody would ask him. 'Ain't you got a tongue in
your head?" demanded she.

"You dunno what a man he is. I asked him the other night when I drove
him up, and it wa'n't a job I liked, I can tell you."

"Did he pay you?"

"Paid me some of it."

"He's owin' you now, ain't he?"

"Well, he ain't owin' much, only the few times their cerridge 'ain't
been down. It ain't much, Dilly."

"But it's something."

"Yes; everythin' that ain't nothin' is somethin', I s'pose."

"And now you're goin' right on an' lettin' him have all your
cerridges, and you'll be wantin' me to help clean the seats, too,
I'll warrant, and you're agoin' to hire into the bargain, with him
owin' you and owin' everybody else in town."

"Now, Dilly, I didn't say I was agoin' to," protested Rawdy.

"An' me needin' a new dress, and 'ain't had one to my back for two
years, and them Carroll women in a different one every time they
appear out, and the girl having enough clothes for a Vanderbilt. I
guess Stella Griggs will rue the day. She's a fool, and always was.
If you can afford to give that man money you can afford to get me a
new dress. I'd go to the weddin'--it's free, in the church--if I had
anything decent to wear."

"Now, Dilly, what can I do? I leave it to you," asked Samson Rawdy,
with confessed helplessness.

"Do?" said she. "Why, tell him he's got to pay ahead or he can't have
the cerridges. If you're afraid to, I'll ask him. I ain't afraid."

"Lord! I ain't afraid, Dilly," said Rawdy.

"You'd better clean up, after supper, an' go up there and tell him,"
said Dilly Rawdy, mercilessly.

In the end Rawdy obeyed, having shaved and washed, and set forth.
When he returned he was jubilant.

"He's a gentleman, I don't care what they say," said he, "and he
treated me like a gentleman. Gave me a cigar, and asked me to sit
down. He was smokin', himself, out on the porch. The women folks were
in the house.

"Did he pay you?" asked Mrs. Rawdy.

Then Rawdy shook a fat roll of bills in her face. "Look at here,"
said he.

"The whole of it?"

"Every darned mill; my cerridges and the New Sanderson ones, too."

"Well, now, ain't you glad you did the way I told you to?"

"Lord! he'd paid me, anyway," declared Rawdy. "He's a gentleman.
Women are always dreadful scart."

"It's a pity men wasn't a little scarter sometimes," said his wife.

Rawdy, grinning, tossed a bill to her. "Wa'n't you sayin' you wanted
a dress?" said he.

"I ruther guess I do. I 'ain't had one for two years."

"I guess I'd better git a silk hat to wear. I suppose I shall have to
drive some of the Carrolls' folks," said Rawdy, with a timid look at
his wife. A silk hat had always been his ambition, but she had always
frowned upon it.

"Well, I would," said she, cordially.

Samson Rawdy told everybody how Carroll had paid him in
advance--"every cent, sir; and he didn't believe, for his part, half
the stories that were told about him. He guessed that he paid, in the
long run, as well as anybody in Banbridge. Carroll wa'n't the only
one that hadn't paid him, not by a long-shot. He guessed some of them
that talked about Carroll had better look to home. He called Carroll
a gentleman, and any time when anything happened that his carriage
wa'n't on hand when the train come in, he was ready an' willin' to
drive him up, or any of his folks, an' if they didn't have a quarter
handy right on the spot, he wa'n't goin' to lay awake sweatin' over
it."

Rawdy's testimony prevented Blumenfeldt, the florist, from asking for
his pay in advance, as he had intended. He and his son and daughter,
who assisted him in his business, decorated the church and the
Carroll house, and wagons laden with palms and flowers were
constantly on the road. Tuesday, the day before the wedding, was
unusually warm. Banbridge had an air of festive weariness. Everybody
who passed the church stopped and stared at the open doors and the
wilting grass leaves strewn about.

Elsa Blumenfeldt, in a blue shirt-waist and black skirt, with the
tightest of fair braids packed above a round, pink face, with eyes so
blue they looked opaque, tied and wove garlands with the stolid
radiance of her kind. Her brother Franz worked as she did. Only the
father Blumenfeldt, who was of a more nervous strain, flew about in
excitement, his fat form full of vibrations, his fat face blazing,
contorting with frantic energy.

"It iss ein goot yob," he repeated, constantly--"ein goot yob." Not a
doubt was left. When he came in contact with Carroll he bowed to the
ground; he was full of eager protestations, of almost hysterical
assertions. All day long he was in incessant and fruitless motion,
buzzing, as it were, over his task, conserving force only in the heat
of his own spirit, not in the performance of the work. Meanwhile the
son and daughter, dogged, undiverted, wrought with good results,
weaving many a pretty floral fancy with their fat fingers. Eddy
Carroll had taken it upon himself to guard the church doors and
prevent people from viewing the splendors before the appointed time.
All the morning he had waged war with sundry of his small associates,
who were restrained from forcible entry only by the fear of the
Blumenfeldt family.

"Mr. Blumenfeldt says he'll run anybody out who goes in, and kick 'em
head over heels all the way down the aisle and down the steps," Eddy
declared, mendaciously, to everybody, even his elders.

"I think you are telling a lie, little boy," said Mrs. Samson Rawdy,
who had come with a timid female friend on a tour of inspection. Mrs.
Rawdy, in virtue of her husband's employment, felt a sort of
proprietorship in the occasion.

"There won't be a mite of trouble about our goin' in to see the
church," she told the friend, who was a humble soul.

But Mrs. Rawdy reckoned without Eddy Carroll. When she told him that
he was telling a lie, he smiled sweetly at her.

"You're telling a lie yourself, missis," said he.

Mrs. Rawdy essayed to push past him, but as he stood directly in the
door, and she was unable, on account of her stout habit of body, to
pass him, and hardly ventured to forcibly remove him, she desisted.
"You are a sassy little boy," said she, "and if your sister is as
sassy as her brother, I pity the man that's goin' to marry her."

In reply Eddy made up an impish face at her as she retreated. Then he
entered the church himself to inspect progress, returning immediately
to take up his position of sentry again. About noon Anderson passed
on his way to the post-office, and nodded.

"You can't come in," the boy called out.

"All right," Anderson responded. But then Eddy made a flying leap
from the church door and caught hold of his arm.

"Say, you can, if you won't tell anybody about it," he whispered, as
if the curious village was within ear-shot.

"I am afraid I cannot stop now, thank you," Anderson replied, smiling.

"You ain't mad, are you?"

Anderson assured him that he was not.

"They didn't tell me to keep folks out," Eddy explained, "but I made
up my mind I didn't want everybody seeing it till it was done. It's
going to be a stunner, I can tell you. There's palms and pots of
flowers, and yards and yards of white and green ribbon tied in bows,
and the pews are all tied round with evergreen boughs, and to-morrow
the smilax is going up. I tell you, it's fine."

"It must be," said Anderson. He strove to move on, but could not
break free from the boy's little, clinging hand. "Just come up the
steps and peek in," pleaded Eddy. So Anderson yielded weakly and let
himself be pulled up the steps to the entrance of the church.

"Ain't it handsome?" asked Eddy, triumphantly.

"Very," replied Anderson.

"Say," said Eddy, "was it as handsome when you were married yourself?"

"I never was married," replied Anderson, laughing.

"You weren't?" said Eddy, staring at him. "Why, I thought you were a
widow man."

"No," said Anderson.

"Well, why were you never married?" asked Eddy, sharply.

"Oh, for a good many reasons which I have never formulated
sufficiently to give," replied Anderson.

"I hate big words," said Eddy, "and I didn't think you would do it.
It's mean."

"So it is," said Anderson, with a kindly look at him. "Well, all I
meant was I couldn't give my reasons without thinking it over."

"Perhaps you'll tell me when you get them thought over," said Eddy,
accepting the apology generously.

"Perhaps."

Anderson turned to go, after saying again that the church was very
handsomely decorated, and Eddy still kept at his side.

"You didn't stay not married because you couldn't get a girl to marry
you, anyhow, I know that," said he, "because you are an awful
handsome man. You are better-looking than major Arms. I should think
Ina would a heap rather have married you."

"Thank you," said Anderson.

"You are going to the wedding, aren't you?" asked Eddy.

"No, I think not."

"Why not?"

"I am very busy."

"Why, you don't keep your store open Wednesday evening?" asked Eddy,
regarding him sharply.

"I have letters to write," replied Anderson.

"Oh, shucks! let the letters go!" cried the boy. "There's going to be
stacks of fun, and lots of things to eat. There's chicken salad and
lobster, and sandwiches, and ice-cream and cake, and coffee and cake,
and--" The boy hesitated; then he spoke again in a whisper of triumph
that had its meaning of pathos: "They are all paid for. I know, for I
heard papa tell Major Arms. The carriages are paid for, too, and the
florist is going to be paid."

"That's good," said Anderson.

"Yes, sir, so the things are sure to be there. They won't back out at
the last minute, as they do sometimes. Awful mean, too. Say, you'd
better come. Your mother can come, too. She likes ice-cream, don't
she?"

Anderson said that he believed she did.

"Well, she'll be sure to get all she can eat," said Eddy. "Tell her
to come. I like your mother." He clung closely to the man's arm and
walked along the street with him, forgetting his post as guardian of
the church. "You'll come, won't you?" he said.

"No. I shall be too busy, my son," said Anderson, smiling; and
finally Eddy retreated dissatisfied. When he went home an hour later
he burst into the house with a question.

"Say," he asked Charlotte, "I want to know if Mr. Anderson and his
mother were asked to the wedding."

Charlotte was hurrying through the hall with white and green ribbons
flying around her, en route to trim the bay-window where the bridal
couple were to stand to receive the guests. "Oh, Eddy, dear," she
cried, "I can't stop now; indeed I can't. I don't know who was
invited and who not."

"But, Charlotte," Eddy persisted, "I want to know particularly.
Please tell me, honey."

Then Charlotte stopped and looked back over her great snarl of white
and green ribbon. "Who did you say, dear?" she asked. "Hurry! I can't
stop."

"Mr. Anderson," repeated Eddy. "Mr. Anderson and his mother."

"Mr. Anderson and his mother?" repeated Charlotte, vaguely, and just
then Anna Carroll came with a little table which was to support a
bowl of roses in the bay-window.

"Mr. Anderson," said Eddy again.

"I don't know who you mean, Eddy, dear," said Charlotte.

"Why, yes, you do, Charlotte, Mr. Anderson and his mother."

"What is it?" asked Anna Carroll. "Eddy, you must not stop us for
anything. We are too busy."

"You might just tell me if they are asked to the wedding," said Eddy,
in an aggrieved tone. "That won't take a minute. Mr. Anderson. He
keeps store."

"Gracious!" cried Anna Carroll. "The child means the grocer! No,
dear, he isn't asked."

"Why, I never thought!" said Charlotte. "No, dear, he isn't asked."

"Why not?" asked Eddy.

"We couldn't ask everybody, honey," replied Anna. "Now you must not
hinder us another minute."

But Eddy danced persistently before them, barring their progress.

"He isn't everybody," he said. "He's the nicest man in this town. Why
didn't you ask him? Didn't you think he was nice enough, I'd like to
know?"

"Of course he is nice, dear," said Charlotte; "very nice." She
flushed a little.

"Why didn't you ask him, then?" demanded Eddy. "I call it mean."

Anna took Eddy by his small shoulders and set him aside.

"Eddy," she said, sternly, "not another word. We could not ask the
grocer to your sister's wedding. Now, don't say another word about
it. Your sister and I are too busy to bother with you."

"I don't see why you won't ask him because he's a grocer," Eddy
called, indignantly, after her. "He's the nicest man here, and he
always lets us have things, whether we pay him or not. I have heard
you say so. I think you are awful mean to take his groceries, and eat
'em, and use them for Ina's wedding, and then not ask him, just
because he is a grocer."

Anna's laughter floated back, and the boy wondered angrily what she
was laughing at. Then he went by himself about righting wrongs. He
hunted about until he found on his mother's desk some left-over
wedding-cards, and he sent invitations to both the wedding and
reception to Randolph Anderson and his mother, which were received
that night.

Randolph carried them home, and his mother examined them with
considerable satisfaction.

"We might go to the ceremony," said she, with doubtful eyes on her
son's face.

"I really think we had better not, mother."

"You think we had better not, simply to the ceremony? Of course I
admit that we could not go to the reception at the house, since we
have not called, but the ceremony?"

"I think we had better not; this very late invitation--"

"Oh, Randolph, that is easily accounted for. It is so easy to
overlook an invitation."

But Randolph persisted in his dissent to the proposition to attend.
He was quite sure how the invitation had happened to come at all, and
later on in the day he was confirmed in his opinion when Eddy Carroll
made a rush into his office and inquired, breathlessly, if he had
received his invitation and if he was coming.

"Because I found out you hadn't been asked, and I told them it was
mean, and I sent you one myself," said he, with generous indignation.

Anderson finally compromised by going with him to the church and
viewing the completed decorations. He also presented him with a
package of candy from his glass jars when he followed him back to the
store.

"Say, you are a brick," Eddy assured him. "When I am a man I am going
to keep a grocery store. I'd a great deal rather do that than have a
business like papa's. If you have the things yourself in your own
store, you don't have to owe anybody for them. Good-bye. If you
should get those letters done, you come, and your mother, and I'll
look out you have everything you want; and I'll save seats in the pew
where I sit, too."

"Thank you," said Anderson, and was conscious of an exceedingly warm
feeling for the child flying out of the store with his package of
sweets under his arm.



Chapter XX


Carroll had arrived home very unexpectedly that Sunday morning. The
family were at the breakfast-table. As a usual thing, Sunday-morning
breakfast at the Carrolls' was a desultory and uncertain ceremony,
but when Major Arms was there it was promptly on the table at eight
o'clock. He had not yet, in the relaxation of civilian life, gotten
over the regular habits acquired in the army.

"It isn't hard you'll find the old man on you, sweetheart," he told
Ina, "but there's one thing he's got to have, and that is his
breakfast, and a good old Southern one, with plenty to eat, at eight
o'clock, or you'll find him as cross as a bear all day to pay for it."

Ina laughed and blushed, and sprinkled the sugar on her cereal.

"Ina will not mind," said Mrs. Carroll. "She and Charlotte have never
been sleepy-heads."

Eddy glanced resentfully at his mother. He was a little jealous in
these days. He had never felt himself so distinctly in the background
as during these preparations for his sister's wedding.

"I am not a sleepy-head, either, Amy," said he.

"It is a pity you are not," said she, and everybody laughed.

"Eddy is always awake before anybody in the house," said Ina, "and
prowling around and sniffing for breakfast."

"And you bet there is precious little breakfast to sniff lately,
unless we have company," said Eddy, still in his resentful little
pipe; and for a second there was silence.

Then Mrs. Carroll laughed, not a laugh of embarrassment, but a
delightful, spontaneous peal, and the others, even Major Arms, who
had looked solemnly nonplussed, joined her.

Eddy ate his cereal with a sly eye of delight upon the mirthful
faces. "Yes," said he, further. "I wish you'd stay here all the time,
Major Arms, and stay engaged to Ina instead of marrying her; then all
the rest of us would have enough to eat. We always have plenty when
you are here."

He looked around for further applause, but he did not get it.
Charlotte gave him a sharp poke in the side to institute silence.

"What are you poking me for, Charlotte?" he asked, aggrievedly. She
paid no attention to him.

"Don't you think it is strange we don't hear from papa?" said
Charlotte.

Major Arms stared at her. "Do you mean to say you have not heard from
him since he went away?" he asked.

"Not a word," replied Mrs. Carroll, cheerfully.

"I am a little uneasy about papa," said Ina, but she went on eating
her breakfast quite composedly.

"I should be if I had ever known him to fail to take care of
himself," said Mrs. Carroll.

"It's the other folks that had better look out," remarked Eddy, with
perfect innocence, though would-be wit. He looked about for applause.

Arms's eyes twinkled, but he bent over his plate solemnly.

"Eddy, you are talking altogether too much," Anna Carroll said.

"You are unusually silly this morning, Eddy," said Charlotte. "There
is no point in such a remark as that."

"You said Arthur had gone to Chicago?" Arms said to Mrs. Carroll.

"Well, the funny part of it is, we don't exactly know whether he has
or not," replied Mrs. Carroll, "but we judge so. Arthur had been
talking about going to Chicago. He had spoken about the possibility
of his having to go for some time, and all of a sudden that morning
came a telegram from New York saying that he was called away on
business."

"Amy, of course he went to Chicago," Anna Carroll said, quickly. "You
know there is no doubt of it. He said he might have to go there on
business, and he had carried a dress-suit case in to the office, to
have it ready, and he had given you the Chicago hotel address."

"Yes, so he did, Anna," assented Mrs. Carroll. "I suppose he must
have gone to Chicago."

"You have written him there, I suppose?" said Arms, who was evidently
perturbed.

"Oh yes," replied Mrs. Carroll, easily, "I have written three times."

"Did you put a return address on the corner of the envelope in case
he was not there?"

"Oh no! I never do. I thought only business men did that."

"Amy doesn't even date her letters," said Ina.

"I never can remember the date," said Mrs. Carroll, "and I never can
remember whether it is Banbridge or Banridge, so I never write the
name of the place, either."

"And she always signs her name just Amy," said Charlotte.

"Yes, I do, of course," said Mrs. Carroll, smiling.

Arms turned to Anna Carroll. "You have not felt concerned?" said he
to her.

"Not in the least," she replied, calmly. "I have no doubt that he has
gone to Chicago, and possibly his business has taken him farther
still. I think nothing whatever of not hearing from him. Arthur, with
all of his considerateness in other respects, has always been
singularly remiss as to letters."

"Yes, he has, even before we were married," agreed Mrs. Carroll. "Not
hearing from Arthur was never anything to worry about."

"And I think with Amy that Arthur Carroll is perfectly well able to
take care of himself," said Anna, further, with her slight inflection
of sarcasm.

"I understood that he was going to Chicago, from something he said to
me some time ago," Arms said, thoughtfully.

"Of course he has gone there," Anna Carroll said again, with a sharp
impatience.

And then there was a whirring flash of steel past the window, and the
fiercely hitching curve of a boy's back.

"It's Jim Leech on his wheel, and he's got a telegram," proclaimed
Eddy, and made a dash for the door.

There was a little ripple of excitement. Charlotte jumped up and
followed Eddy, but he re-entered the room dancing aloof with the
telegram. In spite of her efforts to reach it, he succeeded in
tearing it open. Charlotte was almost crying and quite pale.

"Eddy," she pleaded, "please give it to me--please."

"Eddy, bring that telegram here," commanded his aunt, half rising
from her seat.

"It is only from Arthur, saying he is coming, of course," said Mrs.
Carroll, calmly sipping her coffee. "Arthur always telegraphs when he
has been away anywhere and is coming home."

"Eddy!" said Charlotte.

But Eddy essayed reading the telegram with an effect of being in the
air, such was his defensive agility. "He's coming, I guess," he said.
"I don't think anything very bad has happened. I don't think it's an
accident or anything, but the writing is awful. I should think that
telegraph man would be ashamed to write like that."

"Eddy, bring that telegram to me," said Anna; "bring it at once." And
the boy finally obeyed.

Anna read the telegram and her nervous forehead relaxed. "It is all
right," said she; then she read the message aloud. It was dated New
York, the night before:

"Am in New York. Shall take the first train home in the morning."

"He sent it last night at eight o'clock, and we have only just got
it," said Ina.

"He is all right," repeated Anna.

"Of course he is all right," said Mrs. Carroll. "Why doesn't Marie
bring in the eggs? We have all finished the cereal?"

"Eggs! Golly!" cried Eddy, slipping into his chair.

"Why, it must be time for him now!" Charlotte said, suddenly.

Arms looked at his watch. "Yes, it is," he agreed.

It was not long before Samson Rawdy drove into the grounds, and
everybody sprang up at the sound of the wheels.

"There's papa!" cried Eddy, and led the way to the door, slipping out
before the others.

Carroll was engaged in a discussion with the driver. He nodded his
head in a smiling aside in response to the chorus of welcome from the
porch, and went on conferring with the liveryman, who was speaking in
a low, inaudible voice, but gesticulating earnestly. Presently
Carroll drew out his pocket-book and gave him some money.

"My!" said Eddy, in a tone of awe, "papa's paying him some money."

Still the man, Samson Rawdy, did not seem quite satisfied. Something
was quite audible here about the rest of the bill, but finally he
smiled in response to Carroll's low, even reply, raised his hat,
sprang into his carriage, and turned round in a neat circle while
Carroll came up the steps.

"Arthur, dear, where have you been?" asked his wife, folding soft,
silken arms around his neck and putting up her smiling face for his
kiss. "We have not heard a word from you since you went away."

"You got my telegram?" replied Carroll, interrogatively, kissing her,
and passing on to his daughters. Eddy, meantime, was clinging to one
of his father's hands and making little leaps upon him like a pet dog.

"Yes," cried everybody together, "the telegram just came--just a
minute ago."

Anna had kissed her brother, then stepped quietly into the house. The
others moved slowly after her.

"How are you, old man?" Carroll asked Major Arms.

"First rate," replied Arms, grasping the proffered hand, yet in a
somewhat constrained fashion.

"Why didn't you write, Arthur dear?" Mrs. Carroll asked, yet not in
the least complainingly or reproachfully. On the contrary, she was
smiling at him with the sweetest unreserve of welcome as she entered
the dining-room by his side.

"Breakfast is getting cold, papa," said Charlotte. "Come right in."

"We have got a bully breakfast. No end to eat," said Eddy, as he
danced at his father's heels.

Carroll need not have answered his wife's question then, for her
attention was diverted from it, but he did. "I was very busy, dear,"
he said, rather gravely. "You were no less in mind. In fact, I never
had you all any more in mind."

"You must have had a hard night's journey, papa," Charlotte said, as
they all sat down at the table, and Marie brought in the eggs.

"Yes, I had a very hard night," Carroll replied, still with a curious
gravity.

Charlotte regarded him anxiously. "Why, papa," she said, "aren't you
well?"

"Very well indeed, honey," Carroll replied, and he smiled then.

The others looked at him. "Why, papa, you _do_ look sick!" cried Ina.

"Arthur, dear, you look as if you had been ill a month, and I never
noticed it till now, I was so glad to see you," cried Mrs. Carroll.
Suddenly she jumped from her seat and passed behind her husband's
chair and drew his head to her shoulder. "Arthur, dearest, are you
ill?"

"No, I am not, sweetheart."

"But, Arthur, you have lost twenty pounds!"

"Nonsense, dear!"

"Haven't you had anything to eat, papa?" Eddy asked, with sharp
sidewise eyes on his father.

Then Anna Carroll spoke. "Can't you see that Arthur wants his
breakfast?" said she, and in her tone was a certain impatience and
pity for her brother.

Major Arms, however, was not a man to take a hint. He also was
scrutinizing Carroll. "Arthur," he suddenly exclaimed, "what on earth
is the matter, lad? You do look pretty well knocked up."

Carroll loosened his wife's arm and gave her an exceedingly gentle
push. He laughed constrainedly at the same time. "Anna is about
right," he said. "I am starved. Wait until I have eaten my breakfast
before you pass judgment on my appearance."

"Haven't you eaten anything since you left Chicago, papa?" asked Ina.

"Never mind, dear," he replied, in an odd, curt tone, and she looked
a little grieved.

"Did you come on the flyer, papa?" asked Eddy. "What are you nudging
me for, Charlotte?"

"Papa doesn't want any more questions asked. He wants his breakfast,"
said Charlotte.

"No, I did not come on the flyer," Carroll answered, in the same curt
tone. Then for a moment there was silence, and Carroll ate his
breakfast.

It was Major Arms who broke the silence. "You got in last night," he
said, with scarcely an inflection of interrogation.

But Carroll replied, "I was in the hotel at midnight."

"We have been frightfully busy since you left, Arthur dear," said
Mrs. Carroll. "It is a tremendous undertaking to make a wedding."

"How do the preparations go on?" asked Carroll, while Ina bent over
her plate with a half-annoyed, half-pleased expression.

"Very well," replied Mrs. Carroll. "Ina's things are lovely, and the
dressmaker is so pleased that we gave her the trousseau. It will be a
lovely wedding."

"Where have you been all the week?" Carroll asked of Arms, who was
gazing with an utter openness of honest delight at Ina.

"Here some of the time, and in New York. I had to run up to Albany on
business for two days. I got home Wednesday night too late to come
out here, and I went into Proctor's roof-garden to see the vaudeville
show."

"Did you?" remarked Carroll, in an even voice. He sugared his cereal
more plentifully.

"Yes. I had the time on my hands. It was a warm night and I did not
feel like turning in, and I was trailing about and the lights
attracted me. And, by Jove! I was glad I went in, for I saw something
that carried me back--well, I won't say how many years, for I'm
trying to be as much of a boy as I can for this little girl
here--but, by Jove! it did carry me back, though."

"What was it?" asked Charlotte.

"Well, dear, it was nothing except a dance by a nigger. Maybe you
wouldn't have thought so much of it. I don't know, though; it did
bring down the house. He was called back I don't know how many times.
It was like a dance an old fellow on my father's plantation used to
dance before the war. Arthur, you must have seen old Uncle Noah dance
that. Why, now I think of it, you used to dance it yourself when you
were a boy, and sing for the music just the way he did. Don't you
remember?"

Carroll nodded laughingly, and went on eating.

"Used to--I guess you did! I remember your dancing that at Bud
Hamilton's when Bud came of age. Old Noah must have been gone then.
It was after the war."

"Oh, papa," cried Eddy, in a rapture, "do dance it sometime, won't
you?"

"I'll tell you what we will all do," cried Major Arms, with
enthusiasm, "we'll all go to the City to-morrow night, and we'll see
that dance. I tell you it's worth it. It's a queer thing, utterly
unlike anything I have ever seen. It is a sort of cross between a
cake-walk and an Indian war-dance. Jove! how it carried me back!"
Arms began to hum. "That's it, pretty near, isn't it, Arthur?" he
asked.

"Quite near, I should say," replied Carroll.

"Oh, papa, won't you sing and dance it after breakfast?" cried Eddy.

"Now, hush up, my son," said Arms. "Your father has the dignity of
his position to support. A gentleman doesn't dance nigger dances when
he is grown up and the head of a family. It's all very well when he
is a boy. But we'll all go to New York to-morrow night and we'll see
that dance."

"There is a great deal to do," Anna Carroll remarked.

"Nonsense!" said the major. "There's time enough. Where are the
Sunday papers? I'll see if it is on to-morrow. Have they come yet?"

"I am going down to get shaved, and I will bring them up," Carroll
said.

"Don't they bring them to the door in Banbridge?" asked Arms,
wonderingly.

"They used when we first came here," said Eddy. "I guess--" Then he
stopped in obedience to a look from his aunt.

"I will bring them when I come home," repeated Carroll.

"Well, we'll all go in to-morrow night, and we'll see that dance,"
said the major.

But when Carroll, on his return from the barber's shop, brought the
papers, Major Arms discovered, much to his disappointment, that that
particular attraction had been removed from the roof-garden. There
was a long and flattering encomium of the song and dance which upheld
him in his enthusiasm.

"Yes, it was a big thing; you can understand by what it says here,"
said he, "I was right. I'm mighty sorry it's off."



Chapter XXI


Anderson on Wednesday evening sat on the porch and saw the people
stream by to the wedding. Mrs. Anderson, although it was a very
pleasant and warm evening, did not come outside, but sat by the
parlor window, well-screened by the folds of the old damask curtain.
The wedding was at eight, and by quarter-past seven the people began
to pass; by half-past seven the street was quite full of them. It
seemed as if all Banbridge was gathering. A church wedding was quite
an unusual festivity in the town, and, besides, there had always been
so much curiosity with regard to the Carrolls that interest was
doubled in this case. His mother called to him softly from the
parlor. "There are a great many going, aren't they?" said she.

"Yes, mother," replied Anderson. He distinctly heard a soft sigh from
the window, and his heart smote him a little. He realized dimly that
a matter like this might seem important to a woman. Presently he
heard a soft flop of draperies, and his mother stood large and white
and mild behind him.

"They are nearly all gone who are going, I think?" said she,
interrogatively.

Anderson looked at his watch, holding it towards the light of the
moon, which was just coming above the horizon. The daylight had paled
with suddenness like a lamp burning low from lack of oil. "Yes; they
must be all gone now," said he. "It is eight o'clock."

He rose and placed a chair for his mother, and she settled into it.

"I thought I would not come out here while the people were passing,"
said she. "I have my _matinee_ on, and I am never quite sure that it
is dress enough for the porch."

Anderson looked at the lacy, beribboned thing which his mother wore
over her black silk skirt, and said it was very pretty.

"Yes, it is," said she, "but I am never sure that it is just the
thing to be out of my own room in. I suppose the dresses to-night
will be very pretty. Miss Carroll ought to make a lovely bride. She
is a very pretty girl, and so is her sister. I dare say their dresses
will be prettier than anything of the kind ever seen in Banbridge."

There was an indescribable wistfulness in Mrs. Anderson's voice.
Large and rather majestic woman that she was, she spoke like a
disappointed child, and her son looked at her with wonder.

"I don't understand how a woman can care so much about seeing pretty
dresses," he said, not unkindly, but with a slight inflection of
amused scorn.

"No," said his mother, "I don't suppose you can, dear. I don't
suppose any man can." And it was as if she regarded him from feminine
heights. At that moment the longing, never quite stilled in her
breast, for a daughter, a child of her own kind, who would have
understood her, who would have gone with her to this wedding, and
been to the full as disappointed as she was to have missed it, was
strong upon her. She was very fond of her son, but at the moment she
saw him with alien eyes. "No, dear, I don't suppose you can
understand," she repeated; "you are a man."

"If you had really cared so much, mother--if I had understood," he
said, gently, "you might have gone. You could have gone with the
Egglestons."

"There was no reason why we could not have gone by ourselves," said
she, "and sat with the invited guests, where we could have seen
everything nicely, since we had an invitation."

Anderson opened his mouth to tell his mother of the true source of
the invitation; then he hesitated. He had a theory that it was
foolish, in view of the large alloy of bitterness in the world, to
destroy the slightest element of sweet by a word. It was quite
evident that his mother, for some occult reason, took pleasure in the
invitation. Why destroy it? So he repeated that she might have gone,
had she cared so much; and feeling that he was showing a needless
humility in his own scruples, he added that he would have gone with
her. Then his mother declared that she did not, after all, really
care, that it was a warm night and she would have been obliged to
dress, and after fanning herself a little while, went in the house
and to bed, leaving him marvelling at the ways of women. The problem
as to whether his mother had really wished very much to go to the
wedding and whether he had been selfish and foolish in opposing her
wish or not, rather agitated him for some minutes. Then he gave it
up, and relegated women to a place with the fourth dimension on the
shelf of his understanding. The moon was now fairly aloft, sailing
triumphant in a fleet of pale gold and rosy clouds. The night was
very hot, the night insects were shrieking in their persistent
dissonances all over the street. Shadows waved and trembled over the
field of silver radiance cast by the moon. No one passed. He could
not see a window-light in any of the houses. Everybody had gone to
the wedding, and the place was like a deserted village. Anderson felt
unutterably lonely. He felt outside of all the happy doors and
windows of life. Discontent was not his failing, but all at once the
evil spirit swept over him. He seemed to realize that instead of
moving in the broad highway trod by humanity he was on his own little
side-path to the tomb, and injury and anger seized him. He thought of
the man who was being married so short a distance away, and envy in a
general sense, with no reference even to Charlotte, swept over him.
He had never been disturbed in very great measure with longing for
the happiness that the other man was laying hold of, but even that
fact served to augment his sense of injury and resentment. He felt
that it was due to circumstances, in a very large degree to the
inevitable decrees of his fate, that he had not had the longing, and
not to any inherent lack of his own nature. He felt that he had had a
double loss in both the hunger and the satisfaction of it, and now,
after all, had come at last this absurd and hopeless affection which
had lately possessed him. To-night the affection, instead of seeming
to warm the heart of a nobly patient and reasonable man, seemed to
sting it.

Suddenly out of the hot murk of the night came a little puff of cool
wind, and borne on it a faint strain of music. Anderson listened. The
music came again.

"It cannot be possible that the wedding is just about to begin," he
thought, "not at this hour."

But that was quite possible with the Carrolls, who, with the
exception of the head of the family, had never been on time in their
lives. It was nearly nine o'clock, and the guests had been sitting in
a subdued impatience amid the wilting flowers and greens in the
church, and the minister had been trying to keep in a benedictory
frame of mind in a stuffy little retiring-room, and now the
wedding-party were just entering the church. A sudden impulse seized
Anderson. He stole inside the house, and looked and listened in the
hall. Everything was dark up-stairs, and silent. Mrs. Anderson always
fell asleep like a baby immediately upon going to bed.

Anderson got his hat from the hall-tree, and went out, closing the
door with its spring-lock very cautiously. Then he slipped around the
house and listened. He could hear a soft, cooing murmur of voices
from the back stoop. The servant, as usual, was keeping tryst there
with her lover. He walked a little farther and came upon their
consolidated shadow of love under the wild-cucumber vine which
wreathed over the trellis-hood of the door. The girl gave a little
shriek and a giggle, the man, partly pushed, partly of his own
volition, started away from her and stood up with an incoherent growl
of greeting.

"Good-evening," said Anderson. "Jane, I am going out, and my mother
has gone up-stairs. If you will be kind enough to have a little
attention in case she should ring." Anderson had fixed an electric
bell in his mother's room, which communicated with the kitchen.

"Yes, sir," said the girl, with a sound between a gasp and a giggle.

"I have locked the front-door," said Anderson.

"Yes, sir," said the girl, again.

Anderson went around the house, and the sound of an embarrassed and
happy laugh floated after him. He felt again the sense of injury and
resentment, as if he were shut even out of places where he would not
care to be, even out of the humblest joys of life, out of the
kitchens as well as the palaces.

Anderson strolled down the deserted street and turned the corner on
to Main Street. Then he strolled on until he reached the church. It
was brilliantly lighted. Peering people stood in the entrance and the
sidewalk before it was crowded. There was a line of carriages in
waiting. But everything was still except for the unintermittent
voices of the night, which continued like the tick of a clock
measuring off eternity, undisturbed by anything around it. From the
church itself a silence which could be sensed seemed to roll,
eclipsing the diapason of an organ. Not a word of the minister's
voice was audible at that distance. Instead was that tremendous
silence and hush. Anderson wondered what that pretty, ignorant little
girl in there was, to dare to tamper with this ancient force of the
earth? Would it not crush her? If the man loved her would he not,
after all, have simply tried to see to it that the fair little
butterfly of a thing had always her flowers to hang over: the little
sweets of existence, the hats and frocks and ribbons which she loved,
and then have gone away and left her? A great pity for the bride came
over him, and then a flood of yearning tenderness for the other girl,
greater than he had ever known.

In his awe and wonder at what was going on all his own rebellion and
unhappiness were gone. He felt only that yearning for, and terror
for, that little, tender soul that he loved, exposed to all the
terrible and ancient solemn might of existence, which the centuries
had rolled up until her time came. He longed to shield her not only
from sorrow, but from joy. He took off his hat and stood back in the
shadow of a door on the opposite sidewalk. It seemed to him that the
ceremony would never end. It was, in fact, unusually long, for the
Banbridge minister had much to say for the edification of the bridal
pair, and for his own aggrandizement. But at last the triumphant peal
of the organ burst forth, and the church swarmed like a hive. People
began to stir.

All the heads turned. The rustle of silk was quite audible from
outside, also a gathering sibilance of whispers and rustling stir of
curious humanity, exactly like the swarming impetus of a hive. Fans
fluttered like butterflies over all this agitation of heaving
shoulders and turning heads in the church. Outside, the people
standing about the steps and on the sidewalk separated hurriedly and
formed an aisle of gaping curiosity. A carriage streaming with white
ribbons rolled up, the others fell into line. Anderson could see
Samson Rawdy on the white-ribboned wedding-coach, sitting in majesty.
He was paid well in advance; his wife, complacent and beaming in her
new silk waist, was in the church. The contemplation of the new
marriage had brought a wave of analogous happiness and fresh love for
her over his soul. He was as happy with his own measure of happiness
as any one there. Every happiness as well as every sorrow is a source
of centrifugal attraction.

Anderson, watching, saw presently, the bridal party emerge from the
church. To his fancy, which naturally looked for similes to his
beloved pursuits of life, he saw the bride like a white moth of the
night, her misty veil, pendant from her head to her feet, carrying
out the pale, slanting evanescence of the moth's wings. She moved
with a slight wavering motion suggestive of the flight of the vague
winged thing which flits from darkness to darkness when it does not
perish in the candle beams. This moth, to Anderson, was doing the
latter, fluttering possibly to her death, in the light of that awful
primaeval force of love upon which the continuance of creation hangs.
Again, a great pity for her overwhelmed him, and a very fierceness of
protection seized him at the sight of Charlotte following her sister
in her bridesmaid's attire of filmy white over rose, with pink roses
in her hair.

Anderson stood where he could see the faces of the bridal party quite
plainly in the glare of the electric light. Charlotte, he saw, with
emotion, had an awed, intensely sober expression on her charming
face, but the bride's, set in the white mist of her thrown-back veil,
was smiling lightly. He saw Arms bend over and whisper to her, and
she laughed outright with girlish gayety. Anderson wondered what he
said. Arms had smiled, yet his face was evidently moved. What he had
said was simple enough: "Fighting Indians is nothing to getting
married, honey."

Ina laughed, but her husband's lips quivered a little. She herself
realized a curious self-possession greater than she had ever realized
in her whole life. It is possible that the world is so old and so
many women have married in it that a heredity of self-control
supports them in the midst of an occasion which has quickened their
pulses in anticipation during their whole lives. But the bridegroom
was not so supported. He was manifestly agitated and nervous,
especially during the reception which followed the ceremony. He stood
with forced amiability responding to the stilted congratulations and
gazing with wondering admiration at his bride, whose manner was the
perfection of grace.

"Lord, old man!" he whispered once to Carroll, "this part of it is a
farce for an old fellow like me, standing in a blooming bower, being
patted on the head like a little poodle-dog."

Carroll laughed.

"She likes it, now," whispered Arms, with a fond, proud glance at Ina.

"Women all do," responded Carroll.

"Well, I'd stand here a week if she wanted to, bless her," Arms
whispered back, and turned with a successful grimace to acknowledge
Mrs. Van Dorn's carefully worded congratulations. As she turned away
she met Carroll's eyes, and a burning blush overspread her face to
her pompadour crest surmounting her large, middle-aged face. She
suddenly recalled, with painful acuteness, the only other occasion on
which she had been in the house; but Carroll's manner was perfect,
there was in his eyes no recollection whatever.

Mrs. Carroll was lovely in pale-mauve crape embroidered with violets,
a relic of past splendors, remodelled for the occasion in spite of
doubts on her part, and her beautiful old amethysts. Anna had urged
it.

"I shall wear my cream lace, which no one here has ever seen, and I
think, Amy, you had better wear that embroidered mauve crape," she
said.

"But, Anna," said Mrs. Carroll, "doesn't it seem as if Ina's mother
ought not to wear an old gown at the dear child's wedding? I would as
lief, as far as I am concerned, but is it doing the right thing?"

"Why not?" asked Anna, rather tartly. Lately her temper was growing a
little uncertain. Sometimes she felt as if she had been beset all her
life by swarms of gnats. "No one here has ever seen the dress," said
she. "And what in the world could you have prettier, if you were to
get a new one?"

"Oh, this Banbridge dressmaker is really making charming things,"
said Mrs. Carroll, rather eagerly. She had a childish fondness for
new clothes. "She would make me a beautiful dress, so far as that
goes, Anna, dear."

"She has all she can do with Ina's things."

"I reckon she could squeeze in one for me, Anna. Don't you think so?"

"Then there is the extra expense," said Anna.

"But she does not hesitate in the least to trust us," said Mrs.
Carroll. "But maybe you are right, Anna. That embroidered mauve is
lovely, and perfectly fresh, and it is very warm to fuss over
another, and then my amethysts look charming with that."

Therefore, Mrs. Carroll wore the mauve and the amethysts, and was by
many considered handsomer than either of her daughters. There had
been some discussion about giving the amethysts to Ina for a
wedding-gift, but finally a set of wonderful carved corals, which she
had always loved and never been allowed to wear, were decided upon.
Anna had given a pearl brooch, which had come down from her paternal
grandmother, and Carroll had presented her with a large and evidently
valuable pearl ring which had excited some wonder in the family.

"Why, Arthur, where did you get it?" his wife had cried,
involuntarily; and he had laughed and refused to tell her.

Ina herself, while she received the ring with the greatest delight,
was secretly a little troubled. "I am afraid poor papa ought not to
have given me such a present as this," she said to Charlotte, when
the two girls were in their room that night. As she spoke she was
holding the pearl to the lamp-light and watching the beautiful pink
lights. It was a tinted pearl.

"It is a little different, because you are going away, and papa will
never buy you things again," said Charlotte. "I should not worry,
dear." For the few days before her marriage, Charlotte had gotten a
habit of treating her sister with the most painstaking consideration
for her nerves and her feelings, as if she were an invalid. She was
herself greatly troubled at the thought that her father had
overtasked his resources to purchase such a valuable thing, but she
would not for worlds have intimated such a thing to Ina.

"Well, I do worry," said Ina. "I cannot help it. It was too much for
poor papa to do." She even shed a few tears over the pearl, and
Charlotte kissed and coddled her a good deal for comfort.

"It is such a beauty, dear," she said. "Look at it and take comfort
in it, darling."

"Yes, it is a beauty," sobbed Ina. "I never saw such a pearl except
that one of poor papa's, the one he has in his scarf-pin that
belonged to that friend of his who died, you know."

"Yes, dear," said Charlotte, "I know. It is another just such a
beauty. Don't cry any more, honey. Think how happy you are to have
it."

But Charlotte herself, after she had gone to bed in her own little
room, had sobbed very softly lest her sister should hear her, until
Ina was asleep. Her sister's remarks had brought a suspicion to her
own mind. "Poor papa!" she kept whispering softly, to herself. "Poor
papa!" It seemed to her that her heart was breaking with
understanding of and pity for her father.

Charlotte's own gift to Ina had been some pieces of embroidery. She
was the only one in the family who excelled in any kind of
handicraft. "Ina will like this better than anything," she had told
her aunt Anna, "and then it will not tax poor papa, either. It will
cost nothing."

Her aunt had looked at her a minute, then suddenly thrown her arms
around her and kissed her. "Charlotte, you little honey, you are the
best of the lot!" she had said.

Charlotte herself, the night of the wedding, was looking rather pale
and serious. Many observed that she was the least good-looking of the
family. Several Banbridge young men essayed to make themselves
agreeable to her, but she did not know it. She was very busy. Besides
their one maid there were the waiters sent by the caterer, and Eddy
was exceedingly troublesome. He was a nervous boy, and unless
directly under his father's eye, almost beyond restraint when
impressed, as he was then, with an exaggerated sense of his own
importance. His activities took especially the form of indiscriminate
and superfluous helping the guests to refreshments, until the waiters
waxed fairly murderous, and one of them even appealed to Anna
Carroll, intimating in Eddy's hearing that unless the young gentleman
left matters to them the supply of salad would run short.

"Why didn't we have more, then?" inquired Eddy, quite audibly, to the
delight of all within ear-shot. "I thought we were going to have
plenty for everybody this time."

"Eddy dear," whispered Charlotte, taking his little arm, "come with
me into the hall and help me put back some roses that have fallen out
of the big vase. I am afraid I shall get some water on my gown if I
touch them, and I noticed just now that some one had brushed against
them and jostled some out."

"Charlotte, why didn't we have salad enough?" persisted Eddy, as he
followed his sister, pulling back a little at her leading hand.

"Hush, dear; we have enough, only you had better leave it to the
waiters, you know."

"Everybody has taken it that I have passed it to," said Eddy. "I have
given that gentleman over there four plates heaped up."

"Oh, hush, Eddy dear!" whispered Charlotte, in an agony.

By this time they were in the hall, and Eddy, still full of
grievances, was picking up the scattered roses. "I suppose there
won't be enough salad for my friend and his mother when they come,"
said he, further.

"Who are your friend and his mother, darling?"

"Mr. Anderson and his mother," declared Eddy, promptly. "He is the
best man in this town, and so is his mother."

"Mr. Anderson, dear?"

"Yes. You know who I mean. You ought to know. He always lets us have
all we want out of his store. He and his mother are the nicest people
in this town except us."

Charlotte looked at her little brother and her face flushed softly.
"But, dear," she whispered, "they did not have any invitations to the
reception."

"Yes, they did," declared Eddy, triumphantly.

"Why, who sent them?"

"I did," said Eddy.

Charlotte regarded her little brother with a curious expression. It
was amused, and yet strangely puzzled, but more as if the puzzle were
in her own mind than elsewhere. It was as if she were trying to
remember something.

"Don't you think he is a nice man?" asked Eddy, looking sharply at
her.

"Yes, dear, I think so. I don't know anything to the contrary."

"Don't you think he is handsome?"

Suddenly Charlotte saw Anderson's face in her thoughts for the first
time very plainly. "Yes," she said, "of course. Let us go in the
other room, Eddy, and see if Amy doesn't want anything." She led Eddy
forcibly into the parlor.

"It is so late, I am afraid he won't come," the little boy said,
disappointedly, when the clock on the mantel struck eleven just as
they entered.

It was not long after that when the company began to disperse. The
bride and groom were to take a midnight-train, and the bride and her
sister stole away up-stairs for the changing of the bridal for the
travelling costume.

Charlotte unfastened her sister's wedding-gown, and she was striving
her best to keep the tears back. Ina, on the contrary, was gayer than
usual.

"It is very odd," said she, as Charlotte hooked the collar of her
gray travelling-gown, "how a girl looks forward to getting married,
all her life, and thinks more of it than anything else, and how,
after all, it is nothing at all. You can remember that I said so,
Charlotte, when you come to get married. You needn't dread it as if
it were some tremendous undertaking. It isn't, you know."

"You speak exactly as if you had died, and were telling me not to
dread dying," said Charlotte. She laughed, and the laugh was almost a
sob.

"What an idea!" cried Ina, laughing. "Of course I am very sad at
leaving home and you all, you darling, but the getting married is not
so much, after all. You will find that I am right."

"I shall never get married," said Charlotte.

"Nonsense, honey! 'Deed you will."

"No, I shall not. I shall stay with papa."

"Yes, you will. Say, honey, Robert"--Ina said Robert quite easily and
prettily now--"Robert has a stunning cousin, young enough to be his
son. His name is Floyd--Floyd Arms. Isn't that a dear name? And his
father has just died, and he has the next place to ours."

"Don't be foolish, dear."

"Robert says he is a fine fellow."

"I know all about him. I have seen Floyd Arms," said Charlotte,
rather contemptuously.

"Oh, so you have! He was home that last time you were in Acton,
wasn't he? You spoke of him when you came home."

"Yes, the last term I was at school," said Charlotte. "Let me pin
your veil, sweetheart."

"Don't you think he was handsome?"

"No, I don't, not so very," said Charlotte.

"Oh, Charlotte, where did you ever see a handsomer man, unless it was
papa or Robert?"

"I have seen much handsomer men," declared Charlotte, firmly, as she
carefully pinned her sister's veil.

"Well, I would like to know where? Not in this town?"

"Yes, in this town."

"Who?"

"Mr. Anderson."

"The grocer?"

"Yes," said Charlotte, defiantly. The veil was pinned, and Ina turned
and looked at her, a rosy vision behind a film of gray lace. "You
look lovely," said Charlotte, who had a soft pink in her cheeks.

"I think this hat is a beauty," said Ina. "Wasn't it lucky that New
Sanderson milliner was so very good, and did not object to giving
credit? Why, Mr. Anderson is the grocer! That is the man you mean,
isn't it, honey?"

"Yes," replied Charlotte, still with defiance.

"Oh, well, that doesn't count," said Ina, turning for a last view of
herself in the glass. "This dress fits beautifully."

"I don't see what that has to do with it," said Charlotte, as they
left the room. She felt, even in the midst of parting, and without
knowing why, a little indignation with her sister.

On the threshold, Ina paused suddenly and flung her arms around the
other girl. "Oh, honey," she said, with a half-sob--"oh, honey, how
can we talk of who is handsome and who isn't, whether he is the
butcher, the baker, or the candlestick-maker, when, when--" The two
clung together for a minute, then Charlotte put her sister gently
away.

"You will muss your veil, dearest," said she, "and it is almost time
to go, and Amy and papa will want the last of you."

That night, after the bridal pair had departed and everybody else had
gone to bed, Anna Carroll and her brother had a little conference in
the parlor amid the debris of the wedding splendor. The flowers and
greens were drooping, the room and the whole house had that peculiar
phase of squalidness which comes alone from the ragged ends of
festivities; the floors were strewn with rice and rose leaves and
crumbs from the feast; plates and cups and saucers or fragments stood
about everywhere; the chairs and the tables were in confusion. Anna,
who had been locking up the silver for the night, had come into the
parlor, and found her brother standing in a curious, absent-minded
fashion in the middle of the floor.

"Why, Arthur!" said she. "I thought you had gone to bed."

"I am going," said he, but he made no move.

Anna looked at him, and her expression was weary and a little bitter.
"Well, it is over," said she.

Carroll nodded. "Yes," he said, with a half-suppressed sigh.

Anna glanced around the room. "This house is a sight for one maid to
wrestle with," said she; and her brother, beyond a glance of the
utmost indifference around the chaotic room, did not seem to notice
her remark at all. However, that she did not resent. Indeed, she
herself was so far from taking the matter to heart that she laughed a
little as she continued to survey the ruins.

"Well, it went off well; it was a pretty wedding," said she, with a
certain tone of pleasure.

Carroll turned to her quite eagerly. "You think Ina was pleased?" he
said. "It was all as she wished it to be?"

"What could a girl have wished more?" cried Anna. "Everything was
charming, just as it should be. All I think about is--"

"What?" asked her brother.

"We have danced," said Anna. "What I want to know is, is the piper to
be paid, or shall we have to dance to another tune by way of
reprisal."

"The piper is paid," replied Carroll, shortly. He turned to go, but
his sister stepped in front of him.

"How?" she said.

Carroll looked down at her.

"Yes, you are quite right, Arthur," said she. "I am afraid. You are,
or may reasonably be, rather a desperate man. You have never taken
quite kindly to straits. If the piper is paid, I want to know how,
for my own peace of mind. By the piper I mean the creditors for all
this"--she glanced around the room--"the wedding flowers and feast
and carriages."

"I earned enough honestly," replied Carroll. He had a strangely
straightforward, almost boyish way of meeting her sharp gaze.

"How?"

"You had better not press the matter, Anna."

"I do. I am afraid." She responded to his look with a certain bitter,
sarcastic insistence. "I have reason to be," said she. "You know I
have, Arthur Carroll. We are all on the edge of a precipice, but I,
for one, do not intend to let you drag me over, and I do not intend
that Amy and the children shall go, either, if I can help it. I want
to know where you got the money to pay for the wedding expenses, and
I want to know where you got that pearl ring you gave Ina. It never
cost a cent under three hundred dollars."

Carroll, looking at her, smiled a little sadly.

"It was then," said she, "Hart Lee's pearl that he left you when he
died--your scarf-pin."

Carroll smiled. Anna's face changed a little.

"I noticed that you had not worn it lately," said she.

"Sooner or later it would have been the child's. It might as well be
sooner," said Carroll, with a slightly annoyed air.

"Eddy should have had it," Anna said, with a jealous air.

"That child?"

"When he was older, of course."

"That is a long way ahead," said Carroll. He moved to go, but again
Anna stood before him.

"Arthur," said she, solemnly, "I am living with you and doing all I
am able. I am giving my strength for you and yours. You know that
as well as I do. You know upon whom the brunt here falls. I do not
complain. The one who has the best strength should bear the burden,
and I have the strength, such as it is. None of us Carrolls need brag
of strength, God knows. But I want to know how you came by that
money. Yes, I suspect, and I am not ashamed. I have a right to
suspect. How did you get that money?"

"I sang and danced for it in a music-hall, blackened up as a negro,"
said Arthur Carroll.

"Then that was you, Arthur!" gasped Anna.

"Yes. It was the one thing I could do to get that money honestly and
pay the bills, and I did it. I would not let Arms pay."

"I should think not," cried Anna. "We have not fallen quite so low as
that yet. But you--"

"Yes, I," said Carroll. "Now let us go to bed, Anna."

Anna stood aside, but as her brother turned to pass her she suddenly
put up her arms, and as he stooped she kissed him. He felt her cheek
wet against his. "Good-night, Arthur," she said, and all the
bitterness was gone from her voice.



Chapter XXII


It was a week to a day after the wedding, and Anderson had been to
the office for the morning mail, and was just returning to the store
when a watching face at a window of Madame Griggs's dress-making
establishment opposite suddenly disappeared, and when Anderson was
mounting the steps of the store piazza he heard a panting breath and
rattle of starched petticoats, and turned to see the dress-maker.

"Good-morning," she gasped.

"Good-morning, Mrs. Griggs," returned Anderson.

"Can I see you jest a minute on business? I have been watching for
you to come back from the office. I want to buy a melon, if it ain't
too dear, before I go, but I want to see you jest a minute in the
office first, if you ain't too busy."

"Certainly. Come right in," responded Anderson; but his heart sank,
for he divined her errand.

The dress-maker followed him into the office with a nervous teeter
and a loud rattle of starched cottons. That morning she was clad in
blue gingham trimmed profusely with white lace, and her face looked
infinitesimal and meagre in the midst of her puffs of blond frizzes.

"I should think that woman was dressed in paper bags by the noise she
makes," Sam Riggs remarked to the old clerk when the office door had
closed behind her.

"I should think it would kinder take her mind off things she starts
out to do," remarked Price. The rattle of the oscillating petticoats
had distracted his own mind from a nice calculation as to the amount
of a bill for a fractional amount of citron at a fractional increase
in the market-price. The old clerk was about to send a cost slip with
some goods to be delivered to a cash customer.

"Yep," responded Sam Riggs. "I should think she'd git rattled with
sech a rattlin' of her petticoats." The boy regarded this as so
supernaturally smart that he actually blushed with modest
appreciation of his own wit, and tears sprang to his eyes when he
laughed. But when he glanced at his fellow-clerk, Price was
calculating the cost of the citron, and did not seem to have noticed
anything unusual in the speech. Riggs, who was easily taken down,
felt immediately humiliated, and doubtful of his own humor, and
changed the subject. "Say," he whispered, jerking his index-finger
towards the office door, "you don't suppose she is settin' her cap at
the boss, do you?"

"Well, I guess she'd have to take it out in settin'," replied the old
clerk, in scorn. He had now the price of the citron fixed in his
head, and he trotted to the standing desk at the end of the counter
to enter it.

"I guess so, too," said Riggs. "Guess she'd have to starch her cap
stiffer than her petticoats before she'd catch him." Again Riggs
thought he must be funny, but, when the other clerk did not laugh,
concluded he must have been mistaken.

The conference in the office was short, and Price had hardly gotten
the slip made out when Madame Griggs emerged. Indeed, she had not
accepted Anderson's proffer of a chair.

"No," said she, "I can't set down. I 'ain't got but a minute. Two of
my girls is went on their vacation, an' I 'ain't got nobody but
Bessie Starley, an' I've promised Mis' Rawdy she should have her new
silk skirt before Sunday to wear to Coney Island. Mr. Rawdy has made
so much on hiring his carriages for the weddin' that he has bought
his wife a new black silk dress, an' now he is goin' to take her to
Coney Island Sunday, and hire the Liscom boy to take his place
drivin'. Now what I come in here for was--" Madame Griggs lowered her
voice; she drew nearer Anderson, and her anxious whisper whistled in
his ear. "What I want to know is," said she, "here's Mr. Rawdy, an' I
hear the caterer, were paid in advance, an' Blumenfeldt was paid the
day after the weddin', an' I ain't, an' I wonder if I'm goin' to be."

"Have you sent in your bill yet?" inquired Anderson.

"No, I 'ain't, but Captain Carroll asked Blumenfeldt for his bill an'
he paid the others in advance, an' he 'ain't asked for my bill."

"I do not see why you distress yourself until you have sent in your
bill," Anderson said, rather coldly.

"Now, don't you think so?"

"I certainly do not."

"Well," said she, "to tell the truth, I kinder hated to send it too
quick. I hated to have it look as if I was scart. It's a pretty big
bill, too, an' they seem like real ladies, an' the sister, the one
that ain't married, is as nice a girl as I ever see--nicer than the
other one, accordin' to my way of thinkin'. She ain't stuck up a
mite. The rest of them don't mean to be stuck up, but they be without
knowin' it. Guess they was brought up so; but Charlotte ain't. Well,
I kinder hated, as I say, to send that bill, especially as it is a
pretty big one. I made everything as reasonable as I could, but she
had a good many things, an' Charlotte had her bridesmaid's dress,
too, an' it's mounted up to considerable, an' I hated to have 'em
think I was dreadful scart. I 'ain't never been in the habit of
sendin' in a bill to nobody, not for some weeks after the things was
did, an' I didn't like to this time. But I says to myself, as long as
there had been so much talk round 'mongst folks about the Carrolls
not payin' their bills, I'd wait a week an' then I'd send it in. Now
it's jest a week ago to-day since the weddin', an' there ain't a
word. I thought mebbe they'd ask for the bill the way they did with
Blumenfeldt, an' now I want to know if you think I had better send
the bill or wait a little while longer."

Anderson replied that he thought it would do no harm, that he did not
like to advise in such a case.

The dress-maker eyed him sharply and with a certain resentment. "Now,
I want to know," said she. "I want you to speak right out and tell
me, if you think I'm imposin'."

"I don't quite understand what you mean," Anderson replied, in
bewilderment. He was horribly annoyed and perplexed, but his manner
was kind, for the memory of poor little Stella Mixter with her shower
of blond curls was strong upon him, and there was something
harrowingly pathetic about the combination of little, veinous hands
twitching nervously in the folds of the blue gingham, the painstaking
frizzes, the pale, screwed little face, and the illogical feminine
brain.

But the dress-maker's next remark almost dispelled the pathos. "I
want you to tell me right out," said she, "if it would make any
difference if I paid you. Of course I know you've given up law, an' I
'ain't thought of offerin' you pay for advice. I've traded all I can
in your store, though I always think you are a little dearer, and I
didn't know but you'd think that made it all right; but--"

"I do think it is all right," Anderson returned, quickly, "I assure
you, Mrs. Griggs, and I have never dreamed of such a thing as your
paying me. Indeed, I have given you no advice which I should have
felt justified in sending in a bill for, if I were practising my
profession."

"Well, I didn't think you had told me anything worth much," said
Madame Griggs, "but I know how lawyers tuck on for nothin', and I
didn't know but you might feel--"

"I certainly do not," said Anderson.

"Well," said Madame Griggs, "I am very much obliged to you. I'll send
the bill a week from to-day, and I feel a great deal better about it.
I don't have nobody to ask, and sometimes I feel as if I didn't have
a friend or a brother to ask whether I'd better do anything or not, I
should give up. I'm very much obliged, Mr. Anderson."

"You are very welcome to anything I have done," replied Anderson,
looking at her with a dismay of bewilderment. It was as if he had
witnessed some mental inversion which affected his own brain.
Anderson always pitied Madame Griggs, but never, after his
conferences with her concerning the Carrolls, did he in his heart of
hearts blame her husband for running away.

Madame Griggs's coquettish manner developed on the threshold of the
office. She smirked until her little, delicate-skinned face was a
net-work mask, and all the muscles quivered to the sight through the
transparent covering. She moved her thin, crooked elbows with a
flapping motion like wings as she smirked and thanked him again.

"I should think you'd like the grocery business a heap better than
law," said she, amiably, as she went out. "Oh, I want to get a melon
if they ain't too dear." She evidently expected Anderson himself to
wait upon her, and was a little taken aback that he did not follow
her. She lingered for a long time haggling with Price, with a
watchful eye on the office door, and finally departed without
purchasing.

Shortly after she had gone, Sam Riggs came for Anderson to inspect
some vegetables which had been brought in by a farmer. "He's got some
fine potatoes," said he, "but he wants too much for 'em, Price
thinks. He's got cabbages, too, and them's too high. Guess you had
better look at 'em yourself, Price says."

So Anderson went out to interview the farmer, sparsely bearded, lank,
and long-necked and seamy-skinned, his face ineffectual yet shrewd, a
poor white of the South strung on wiry nerves, instead of lax
muscles, the outcome of the New Jersey soil. He shuffled determinedly
in his great boots, heavy with red shale, standing guard over his
fine vegetables. He nodded phlegmatically at Anderson. He never
smiled. Occasionally his long facial muscles relaxed, but they never
widened. He was indefinably serious by nature, yet not melancholy,
and absolutely acquiescent in his life conditions. The farmer of New
Jersey is not of the stuff which breeds anarchy. He is rooted fast to
his red-clinging native soil, which has taken hold of his spirit. He
is tenacious, but not revolutionary. He was as adamant on the prices
of his vegetables, and finally Anderson purchased at his terms.

"You got stuck," Price said, after the farmer, in his rusty wagon,
drawn by a horse which was rather a fine animal, had disappeared down
the street.

"Well, I don't know," Anderson replied. "His vegetables are pretty
fine."

"Folks won't pay the prices you ought to ask to make a penny on it."

"Oh, I am not so sure of that. People want a good article, and very
few raise potatoes or cabbages or even turnips in their own gardens."

"Ingram is selling potatoes two cents less than you, and I rather
think turnips, too."

"Not these turnips."

"No, guess not. He has his from another man, but they look pretty
good, and half the folks don't know the dif."

"Well," Anderson replied, "sell them for less, if you have to, rather
than keep them. Selling a superfine article for no profit is
sometimes the best and cheapest advertisement in the world."

Anderson stood a while observing the display of vegetables and fruit
piled on the sidewalk before his store and in the store window. He
took a certain honest pleasure of proprietorship, and also an
artistic delight in it. He observed the great green cabbages, like
enormous roses, the turnips, like ivory carvings veined with purplish
rose towards their roots, the smooth russet of the potatoes. There
were also baskets of fine grapes, the tender pink bloom of Delawares,
and the pale emerald of Niagaras, with the plummy gloss of Concords.
There were enormous green spheres of watermelons, baskets of superb
peaches, each with a high light of rose like a pearl, and piles of
bartlett and seckel pears. There was something about all this
magnificent plenty of the fruits of the earth which was impressive.
It was to an ardent fancy as if Flora and Pomona had been that way
with their horns of plenty. The sordid question of market value,
however, was distinctly irritating, and yet it was justly so. Why
should not a man sell the fruits of the earth for dollars and cents
with artistic and honorable dignity as anything else? All commodities
for the needs of mankind are marketable, are the instruments of
traffic, whether they be groceries or books, boots and shoes, dishes
or furniture, or pictures; whether they be songs or sermons or corn
plasters or shaving-soap; whether they be food for the mind or the
body. What difference did it make which was dispensed? It was all a
question of need and supply. The minister preached his sermons for
the welfare of the soul; the Jew hawked his second-hand garments;
everything was interwoven. One must eat to live, to hear sermons, to
hear songs, to love, to think, to read. One must be clothed to tread
the earth among his fellows. There was need, and one supplied one
need, one another. All need was dignified by the man who possessed,
all supply was dignified if one looked at it in the right way. There
was a certain dignity even about his own need of two cents more on
those turnips, which were actually as beautiful as an ivory carving.
Anderson finally returned to his office, feeling a little impatient
with himself that, in spite of his own perfect contentment with his
business, he should now and then essay to justify himself in his
contentment, as he undoubtedly did. It was like a violinist screwing
his instrument up to concert-pitch, below which it would drop from
day to day.

Anderson had not been long in his office before he heard a quick
patter of feet outside, the peculiar clapping sound of swift toes,
which none but a child's feet can produce, and Eddy Carroll entered.
The door was ajar, and he pushed it open and ran in with no ceremony.
He was well in the room before he apparently remembered something. He
stopped short, ran back to the door, and knocked.

Anderson chuckled. "Come in," he said, in a loud tone, as if the door
was closed.

Then Eddy came forward with some dignity. "I remembered after I got
in that I ought to have knocked," said he. "I hope you'll excuse me."

"Certainly," said Anderson. "Won't you have a seat?"

Eddy sat down and swung his feet, kicking the round of the chair,
with his eyes fastened on Anderson, who was seated in the other
chair, smoking. "How old were you when you began to smoke?" the boy
inquired, suddenly.

"Very much older than you are," replied Anderson.

Eddy sighed. "Is it very nice to smoke?" said he.

Anderson was conscious that he was distinctly at a loss for a reply,
and felt like a defaulting Sunday-school teacher as he cast about for
one.

"Is it?" said Eddy again.

"Different people look at it differently," said Anderson, "and the
best way is for you to wait until you are a man and decide for
yourself."

"Is it nicer to be a man than it was to be a boy?" inquired Eddy.

"That, also, is a matter of opinion," said Anderson.

"You can do lots of things that a boy can't," said Eddy. "You can
smoke, and you can keep store, and have all the candy you want." Eddy
cast an innocent glance towards the office door as he spoke.

"Sam!" called Anderson; and when the young clerk's grinning face
appeared at the door, "Will you bring some of those peppermint-drops
here for this young man."

"I'd rather have chocolates, if you can't sell 'em any better than
the peppermint-drops," Eddy said, quickly.

When Sam reappeared with chocolates in a little paper bag, Eddy was
blissful. He ate and swung his feet. "These are bully," said he. "I
should think as long as you can have all the chocolates you want,
you'd rather eat those than smoke a pipe."

"It is a matter of taste," replied Anderson.

"I'm always going to eat chocolates instead of smoking," said Eddy.
"He gave me a lot. Say, I don't see how a boy can steal candy, do
you?"

"No. It is very wrong," said Anderson.

"You bet 'tis. I knew a boy in New York State, where we used to live
before we came here, that stole candy 'most every day, and he used to
bring it to school and give the other boys. He used to give me much
as a pound a day. Some days he used to give me much as five pounds."
Then Eddy Carroll, after delivering himself of this statement, could
not get his young, black eyes away from the fixed regard of the man's
keen, blue ones, and he began to wriggle as to his body, with his
eyes held firm by that unswerving gaze. "What you looking at me that
way for?" he stammered. "I don't think you're very polite."

"How much candy did that boy give you every day?" asked Anderson.

Eddy wriggled. "Well, maybe he didn't give me more 'n half a pound,"
he muttered.

"How much?"

"Well, maybe it wasn't more 'n a quarter. I don't know."

"How much?" persisted Anderson.

"Well, maybe it might have been three pieces; it was a good many
years ago. A fellow can't remember everything."

"How much?" asked Anderson, pitilessly.

"One piece."

"How much?"

"Well, maybe it wasn't any at all," Eddy burst out, in desperation,
"but I don't see what odds it makes. I call it an awful fuss about a
little mite of candy, for my part."

"Now about that boy?" inquired Anderson.

"Oh, shucks, there wasn't any boy, I s'pose." Eddy gazed resentfully
and admiringly at the man. "Say," he said, without the slightest
sarcasm, rather with affection and perfect seriousness, "you are
awful smart, ain't you?"

Anderson modestly murmured a disclaimer of any especial smartness.

"Yes, you are awful smart," declared Eddy. "Is it because you used to
be a lawyer that you are so smart?"

"The law may make a difference in a man's skill for finding out the
truth," admitted Anderson.

"Say," said the boy, "I've been thinking all along that when I was a
man I would rather be a grocer than anything else, but I don't know
but I'd rather be a lawyer, after all. It would be so nice to be able
to find out when folks were not telling the truth, and trying to hide
when they had been stealing and doing bad things. 'No, you don't,'
I'd say; 'no, you don't, mister. I see right through you.' I rather
think I'd like that better. Say?"

"What is it?" asked Anderson.

"Why didn't you come to the wedding? I saved a lot of things for you."

"I told you I thought I should not be able to come. I was very much
obliged for the invitation," said Anderson, apologetically.

"I looked for you till eleven o'clock. You ought to have come, after
I took all that trouble to get an invitation for you. I don't think
you were very polite."

"I am very sorry," murmured Anderson.

"I think you ought to be. You don't know what you missed. Ina looked
awful pretty, but Charlotte looked prettier, if she wasn't the bride.
Don't you think Charlotte is an awful pretty girl?"

"Very," replied Anderson, smiling.

"You'd better. I heard her say she thought you was an awful handsome
man, the handsomest man in this town. Say, I think Charlotte would
like to get married, now Ina is married. I guess she feels kind of
slighted. Why don't you marry Charlotte?"

"Wouldn't you like some of those molasses-peppermints, now you have
finished the chocolates?" asked Anderson.

"No, I guess not, thank you. I don't feel very well this morning.
Say, why don't you? She's an awful nice girl--honest. And maybe I
would come and live with you. I would part of the time, anyway, and I
would help in the store."

"You had better run out and ask Sam to give you some peppermints,"
repeated Anderson, desperately.

"No, thank you. I'm real obliged, but I guess I don't feel like it
now. But I tell you what I had a good deal rather have?"

"What is that?"

"What are you going to have for dinner?"

"Now, see here, my son," said Anderson, laughing. "We are going to
have a fine dinner, and I should be exceedingly glad to have you as
my guest, but this time there must be no dining with me without your
mother's knowledge."

"Oh, Amy won't care."

"Nevertheless, you must go home and obtain permission before I take
you home with me," said Anderson, firmly.

"I don't think you are very polite," said Eddy; but it ended in his
presently saying that, well, then, he would go home and ask
permission; but it was not of the slightest use. "They would all want
me to stay, if they thought anything of me. I know Amy would. Amy
said this morning I was the worst off of them all, because I had such
a misfortunate appetite." The boy's ingenuous eyes met the man's
fixed upon him with a mixture of amusement and compassion. "You see,"
added Eddy, simply, "all the things left over from the wedding, the
caterers let us have; papa said not to ask him, and Amy wouldn't, but
Aunt Anna did, and there was a lot, though folks ate so much. There
was one gentleman ate ten plates of salad--yes, he did. I saw him. He
was the doctor, so I suppose he wasn't ill afterwards. But there was
a lot left. Of course the ice-cream melted, but it was nice to drink
afterwards, and there was a lot of salad and cake and rolls. The
cakes and rolls lasted longest. I got pretty tired of them. But now
those are all gone, and the butcher won't let us have any more meat,
though he trusted us two days after the wedding, because he heard
papa paid the florist and the liveryman, but now he has stopped
again. Of course we have things from here, but you don't keep meat.
Why don't you keep meat?"

The absurd pathos of the whole was almost too much for Anderson. He
rose and went to the window and looked out as he replied that it was
not unusual for a grocer to include meat in his stock of trade.

"I know it isn't," said Eddy, "but it would be so nice for us if you
did, and all the poor people the butcher wouldn't trust. Did you ever
get real hungry, and have nothing except crackers and little
gingersnaps and such things?"

"No, I don't know that I ever did."

"Well, it is awful," said Eddy, with emphasis. He started up. "Well,"
he said, "I'm going to run right home and ask Amy. She'll let me
come. What did you say you were going to have for dinner?"

"Roast beef," replied Anderson.

"Goody!" cried the boy, and was off.

Anderson, left alone, sat down and thought disturbedly. The utter
futility of any efforts to assist such a family was undeniable.
Nothing could be done. For a vivid instant he had an idea of rushing
to the market and setting up surreptitiously a term of credit for the
Carrolls, by paying their bills himself, but the absurdity of the
scheme overcame him. The ridiculousness of his actually feeding this
whole family because of his weakness in giving credit when not
another merchant in the town would do so struck him forcibly. Yet
what else could he do? He had done a foolish thing in allowing his
thoughts and imaginations which were not those of a youth, and were
susceptible of control had he made the effort, to dwell upon this
girl, who had never even thought of him in the same light. It was
romance gone mad. He, an older man who had passed beyond the period
when dreams are a part of the physical growth, and unrestrainable,
had indulged himself in dreams, and now he must pay in foolish
realities. He thought uneasily what a laughing-stock he would become
if by any means the fact of his continued credit to this non-paying
family were to become known, and he saw no earthly reason why it
should not become known. However, no one could possibly suspect the
reason for his unbusiness-like credulity. It was simply impossible
that it should enter into any one's head to suspect him of a passion
for that little Carroll girl, as they would express her. If he had
been extending sentimental credit to the Egglestons, people might
have been quick to discover the reason in a lurking and extremely
suitable affection for one of them, but this was out of the question.

However, Anderson had not a very long time for his reflections, for
Eddy Carroll was back, beaming. "Yes, Amy says I can come," he
announced.

"That is good," Anderson replied, hospitably, but he eyed him
sharply. "You went very quickly," said he.

"Got a ride on the ice wagon," said he. "The ice-man is a good
feller. I asked him why he had stopped bringing us ice, and he said
if he was running the business, instead of jest carting for the boss,
he'd give us all the ice we wanted for nothing. He was going up past
our house, and when we got there he gave me a big chunk of ice, and I
went and got Marie, and we lugged it into the kitchen together. Lucky
Aunt Anna or Charlotte didn't see me."

"Why?" asked Anderson.

"Oh, nothing, only they wouldn't have let me take it. Say, Marie was
crying. Her eyes looked as red as a rabbit's. I asked her what the
matter was, and she said she hadn't been paid her wages. Say, isn't
it too bad everybody makes such a fuss about being paid. It worries
Aunt Anna and Charlotte awfully. Women are dreadful worriers, ain't
they?"

"Perhaps they are," replied Anderson, and got out a book with colored
plates of South American butterflies. "I think you will like to look
at these pictures," said he. "I have some letters to write."

"All right," said Eddy, and spread his little knees to form a place
for the big book. "I am glad I wasn't a girl," he said, in pursuance
of his train of thought. "Golly, what a whopper butterfly!"

"Yes, that is a big fellow," said Anderson.

"I caught one once twice as big as that in a place where we used to
live."

"Don't talk any more, son," said Anderson.

"All right," returned Eddy, generously, and turned the pages in
silence.

It was nearly noon when Sam Riggs came to the office door to announce
Charlotte; but she followed closely behind, and saw her brother over
the butterfly-book. She was so surprised that she scarcely greeted
Anderson.

"Why, Eddy Carroll, you here?" said she.

"Yes, Charlotte," replied Eddy, with a curious meekness.

"How long have you been here, dear?"

"Oh, quite a while, Charlotte. Mr. Anderson has given me this
beautiful book to look at. It's full of butterflies."

"That is very kind," said Charlotte. "You must be very careful."

"Yes, I am," replied Eddy. "I ate up the candy before I touched it.
Mr. Anderson gave me some bully candy, Charlotte."

"That was kind," Charlotte replied, smiling a little uneasily,
Anderson thought.

Then she turned to him. She had been all the time fumbling with a
dainty little green purse, and Anderson saw, with a comical dismay, a
check appear. She held it fluttering between a rosy thumb and finger
in his direction. "Mr. Anderson, I brought in this check," she began,
a little hesitatingly, "and--"

"You would like it cashed?" asked Anderson.

"No, not this time," said she. "Papa left it this morning for my
mother, and I-- Mr. Anderson, I know we are owing you, and this is a
check for twenty-five dollars, and I should like to pay it to you for
your bill." At the last Charlotte's hesitation vanished. She spoke
with pride and dignity. In reality the child felt that she was doing
a meritorious and noble thing. She was taking money which had been
left to spend, to pay a bill. Moreover, she had not the slightest
idea that the twenty-five dollars did not discharge the whole of the
indebtedness to Anderson. She had quite a little dispute with her
mother to obtain possession of it for that purpose.

"I think you are very foolish, dear," Mrs. Carroll had said. "You
might get Mr. Anderson to cash it, and then go to New York and get
yourself a new hat. You really need a new hat, Charlotte."

"I would rather pay that bill," Charlotte replied.

"But I don't see why, dear. It would really be much wiser to pay the
butcher's bill, and then we could have some meat for dinner. All we
have is eggs. Don't you think Charlotte is very foolish, Anna?"

"I have nothing to say," replied Anna Carroll.

"Why not, Anna? You act very singularly lately, dear."

"I want Charlotte to do as she thinks best, and as you think best,
Amy," replied Anna Carroll, who was looking unusually worn, in fact
ill, that morning.

"I think Charlotte had much better get the check cashed and go to New
York and buy herself a new hat," said Mrs. Carroll.

"No, I don't need a new hat," said Charlotte, and it ended in her
going with the check to Anderson to pay his bill.

In spite of his annoyance, the utter absurdity of the whole thing was
too much for Anderson. He had little doubt that the check was no more
valuable than its predecessors, and now in addition this was supposed
to liquidate a bill of several times the amount which it was supposed
to represent. But his mind was quickly made up. Rather than have
brought a cloud over the happy, proud face of that girl, he would
have sacrificed much more. He cast a glance around. Luckily Price,
the elder clerk, was engaged in the front of the store, and Riggs was
assisting the man who delivered the goods to carry some parcels to
the wagon. Therefore no one witnessed this folly.

"Thank you, Miss Carroll," he said, pleasantly, and took the check
from the hand which trembled a little. Charlotte was pale that
morning. It was quite true that she had not sufficient nourishing
food for several days. But she was very proud and happy now, and she
looked at Anderson as he received the check with a different
expression from any which her face had hitherto worn for him. In
fact, for the first time, although she was in reality simple and
humble enough, she realized him on a footing with herself. And she
could not have told what had led to this reversion of her feelings,
nor would it have been easy for any one to have told. The forces
which stir human emotions to one or another end are as mysterious
often as are the sources of the winds which blow as they list. The
check was indorsed by Anna Carroll, to whom it had been made payable.
She had taken it from her brother that morning with a fierce nip of
thumb and finger, as if she were a mind to tear it in two. She had no
idea that it was of any value, but, in fact, at the moment of her
receiving it the money was in the bank. Before Anderson had sent it
in the account was again overdrawn. Arthur Carroll was getting in
exceedingly deep waters, to which his previous ventures had been as
shallows.

Charlotte smiled at Anderson as he took the check. She did not think
of a receipt, and Anderson did not carry the matter to the farcial
extent of giving her one. He put the check in his pocket-book and
inquired whether she had any orders to give, and she did order some
crackers, cheese, and eggs, which he called to Riggs to carry to the
delivery wagon.

After that was settled, Charlotte turned again to Eddy. "When are you
coming home, dear?" said she.

"Pretty soon," replied Eddy, with an uneasy hitch.

Anderson, who had had his suspicions, spoke. "I have invited your
brother to dine with me, and he has been home to ask permission, he
tells me," said Anderson, and Eddy cast a bitterly reproachful glance
at him, as if he had been betrayed by an accomplice.

"Did you go home to ask permission, Eddy?" asked Charlotte, gravely.

Eddy nodded and hitched.

"Whom did you ask?"

Eddy hesitated. He was casting about in his mind for the lie likely
to succeed.

"Whom?" repeated Charlotte.

"Amy."

"Amy just asked me if I knew where you were," said Charlotte,
pitilessly.

Eddy looked intently at his butterfly-book. "This is a whopper," said
he.

"Come, Eddy," said Charlotte.

"This is the biggest one of all," said Eddy.

"Eddy," said Charlotte.

Eddy looked up. "I'm going to dinner with Mr. Anderson," said he.

"Aunt Anna said I might."

"You said Amy said you might," said Charlotte. "Eddy Carroll, don't
you say another word. Come right home with me."

Then suddenly the boy broke down. All his bravado vanished. He looked
from her to Anderson and back again with a white, convulsed little
face. Eddy was a slight little fellow, and his poor shoulders in
their linen blouse heaved. Then he wept like a baby.

"I--want to--go," he wailed. "Charlotte, I want to--g-o. He is going
to have--roast beef for dinner, and I--am hungry."

Charlotte turned whiter than Eddy. She marched up to her brother. She
did not look at Anderson. "Begging!" said she. "Begging! What if you
are hungry? What of it? What is that? Hunger is nothing. And then you
have no reason to be hungry. There is plenty in the house to
eat--plenty!" She glanced with angry pride at Anderson, as if he were
to blame for having heard all this. "Plenty!" she repeated, defiantly.

"Plenty of old cake left over from Ina's wedding, and dry old
crackers, and not enough eggs to go round," returned Eddy. "I am
hungry. I am, Charlotte. All I have had since yesterday noon is five
crackers and three pickles and one egg and a piece of chocolate cake
as hard as a brick, besides one little, round, dry cake with one
almond on top in the middle. I'm real hungry, Charlotte. Please let
me go!"

Anderson quietly went out of the office. He passed through the store
door, and stood there when presently Charlotte and Eddy passed him.

"Good-morning," said Charlotte, in a choked voice.

Eddy looked at him and sniffled, then he flung out, angrily, "What
you going to take to our house?" he demanded of the consumptive man
gathering up the reins of the delivery-wagon.

"Hush!" said Charlotte.

"I won't hush," said Eddy. "I'm hungry. What are you taking up to our
house? Say!"

"Some crackers and cheese and eggs," replied the man, wonderingly.

"Crackers and cheese and old store eggs!" cried Eddy, with a howl of
woe, and Charlotte dragged him forcibly away.

"What ails that kid?" Riggs asked of the man in the wagon.

"I believe them folks are half starved," replied the man.

Riggs glanced cautiously around, but Anderson had returned to his
office. "I don't believe anybody in town but us trusts 'em," said he,
in a whisper.

"Well, I'm sorry for his folks, but he'd ought to be strung up," said
the man. "Why in thunder don't he go to work. I guess if he was
coughin' as bad as I be at night, an' had to work, he might know a
little something about it. I ain't in debt, though, not a dollar."



Chapter XXIII


When a strong normal character which has consciously made wrong
moves, averse to the established order of things, and so become a
force of negation, comes into contact with weaker or undeveloped
natures, it sometimes produces in them an actual change of moral
fibre, and they become abnormal. Instead of a right quantity on the
wrong track, they are a wrong quantity, and exactly in accordance
with their environments. In the case of the Carroll family, Arthur
Carroll, who was in himself of a perfect and unassailable balance as
to the right estimate of things, and the weighing of cause and
effect, who had never in his whole life taken a step blindfold by any
imperfection of spiritual vision, who had never for his own solace
lost his own sense of responsibility for his lapses, had made his
family, in a great measure, irresponsible for the same faults. Except
in the possible case of Charlotte, all of them had a certain measure
of perverted moral sense in the direction in which Carroll had
consciously and unpervertedly failed. Anna Carroll, it is true, had
her eyes more or less open, and she had much strength of character;
still it was a feminine strength, and even she did not look at
affairs as she might have done had she not been under the influence
of her brother for years. While she at times waxed bitter over the
state of affairs, it was more because of the constant irritation to
her own pride, and her impatience at the restraints of an alien and
dishonest existence, than from any moral scruples. Even Charlotte
herself was scarcely clear-visioned concerning the family taint. The
word debt had not to her its full meaning; the inalienable rights of
others faded her comprehension when measured beside her own right of
existence and of the comforts and delights of existence. Even to her
a new hat or a comfortable meal was something of more importance than
the need of the vender thereof for reimbursement. The value to
herself was the first value, her birthright, indeed, which if others
held they must needs yield up to her without money and without price,
if her purse happened to be empty. Her compunction and sudden
awakening of responsibility in the case of Randolph Anderson were due
to an entirely different influence from any which had hitherto come
into her life. Charlotte, although she was past the very first of
young girlhood, being twenty, was curiously undeveloped emotionally.
She had never had any lovers, and the fault had been her own, from a
strange persistence of childhood in her temperament. She had not
attracted, from her own utter lack of responsiveness. She was like an
instrument which will not respond to the touch on certain notes, and
presently the player wearies.

She was a girl of strong and jealous affections, but the electric
circuits in her nature were not yet established. Then, also, she had
not been a child who had made herself the heroine of her own dreams,
and that had hindered her emotional development.

"Charlotte," one of her school-mates, had asked her once, "do you
ever amuse yourself by imagining that you have a lover?"

Charlotte had stared at the girl, a beautiful, early matured,
innocently shameless creature. "No," said she. "I don't understand
what you mean, Rosamond."

"The next moonlight night," said the girl, "Imagine that you have a
lover."

"What if I did?"

"It would make you very happy, almost as happy as if you had a real
one," said the girl, who was only a child in years, though, on
account of her size, she had been put into long dresses. She had far
outstripped the boys of her own age, who were rather shy of her.

Charlotte, who was still in short dresses, looked at her, full of
scorn and a mysterious shame. "I don't want any lover at all,"
declared she. "I don't want an imaginary one, or a real one, either.
I've got my papa, and that's all I want." At that time Charlotte
still clung to her doll, and the doll was in her mind, but she did
not say doll to the other girl.

"Well, I don't care," said the other girl, defiantly. "You will
sometime."

"I sha'n't, either," declared Charlotte. "I never shall be so silly,
Rosamond Lane."

"You will, too."

"I never will. You needn't think because you are so awful silly
everybody else is."

"I ain't any sillier than anybody else, and you'll be just as silly
yourself, so now," said Rosamond.

After that, when Charlotte saw the child sitting sunken in a reverie
with the color deepening on her cheeks, her lips pouting, and her
eyes misty, she would pass indignantly. She remembered her in after
years with contempt. She spoke of her to Ina as the silliest girl she
had ever known.

Now the child's words of prophecy, spoken from the oldest reasoning
in the world, that of established sequence and precedent, did not
recur to Charlotte, but she was fulfilling them.

Ina's marriage and perhaps the natural principle of growth had
brought about a change in her. Charlotte had sat by herself and
thought a good deal after Ina had gone, and naturally she thought of
the possibility of her own marriage. Ina had married; of course she
might. But her emotions were very much in abeyance to her affections,
and the conditions came before the dreams were possible.

"I shall never marry anybody who will take me far away from papa!"
said Charlotte. "Perhaps I shall be less of a burden to poor papa if
I am married, but I shall never go far away."

It followed in Charlotte's reasoning that it must be a man in
Banbridge. There had been no talk of their leaving the place. Of
course she knew that their stay in one locality was usually short,
but here they were now, and it must be a man in Banbridge. She
thought of a number of the crudely harmless young men of the village;
there were one or two not so crude, but not so harmless, who held her
thoughts a little longer, but she decided that she did not want any
of them, even if they should want her. Then again the face of
Randolph Anderson flashed out before her eyes as it had done before.
Charlotte, with her inborn convictions, laughed at herself, but the
face remained.

"There isn't another man in this town to compare with him," she said
to herself, "and he is a gentleman, too." Then she fell to
remembering every word he had ever said to her, and all the
expressions his face had ever taken on with regard to her, and she
found that she could recall them all. Then she reflected how he had
trusted them, and had never failed to fill their orders, when all the
other tradesmen in Banbridge had refused, and that they must be owing
him.

"I shouldn't wonder if we were owing him nearly twenty-five dollars,"
Charlotte said to herself, and for the first time a thrill of shame
and remorse at the consideration of debt was over her. She had heard
his story. "There he had to give up his law practice because he could
not make a living, and go into the grocery business, and here we are
taking his goods and not paying him," thought she. "It is too bad." A
feeling of indignation at herself and her family, and of pity for
Anderson came over her. She made up her mind that she would ask her
father for money to pay that bill at least. "The butcher can wait,
and so can all the others," she thought, "but Mr. Anderson ought to
be paid." Besides the pity came a faint realization of the other side
of the creditor's point of view. "Mr. Anderson must look down upon us
for taking his property and not paying our bills," she thought. She
knew that some of the wedding bills had been paid, and that led her
to think that her father might have more money than usual, but she
overheard some conversation which passed between Carroll and his
sister on the morning when he gave her the check.

"Now about that?" Anna had asked, evidently referring to some bill.

"I tell you I can't, Anna," Carroll replied. "I used the money as it
came on those bills for the wedding. There is very little left." Then
he had hurriedly scrawled the check, which she took in spite of her
incredulousness of its worth. Therefore Charlotte, when the check had
been offered her for a new hat, for Anna had carelessly passed it
over to her sister-in-law, had eagerly taken it to pay Anderson.

"I paid the grocery bill," Charlotte told her aunt when she returned.

Anna was in her own room, engaged in an unusual task. She was setting
things to rights, and hanging her clothes regularly in her closet,
and packing her bureau drawers. Charlotte looked at her in
astonishment after she had made the statement concerning the grocery
bill.

"What are you doing, Anna?" said she.

Anna looked up from a snarl of lace and ribbons and gloves in a
bureau drawer. "I am putting things in order," said she.

Then Mrs. Carroll crossed the hall from her opposite room, and
entered, trailing a soft, pink, China-silk dressing-gown. She sank
into a chair with a swirl of lace ruffles and viewed her
sister-in-law with a comical air of childish dismay. "Don't you feel
well, Anna, dear?" asked she.

"Yes. Why?" replied Anna Carroll, folding a yard of blue ribbon.

"Nothing, only I have always heard that if a person does something
she has never done before, something at variance with her character,
it is a very bad sign, and I never knew you to put things in order
before, Anna, dear."

"Order is not at variance with my character," said Anna. "It is one
of my fundamental principles."

"You never carried it out," said Mrs. Carroll. "You know you never
did, Anna. Your bureau drawers have always looked like a sort of
chaos of civilization, just like mine. You know you never carried out
the principle, Anna, dear."

"A principle ceases to be one when it is carried out," said Anna.

"Then you don't think you are going to die because you are folding
that ribbon, honey?"

Anna took up some yellow ribbon. "There is much more need to worry
about Charlotte," said she, in the slightly bitter, sarcastic tone
which had grown upon her lately.

Mrs. Carroll looked at Charlotte, who had removed her hat and was
pinning up her hair at a little glass in a Florentine frame which
hung between the windows. The girl's face, reflected in the glass,
flushed softly, and was seen like a blushing picture in the fanciful
frame, although she did not turn her head, and made no rejoinder to
her aunt's remark.

"What has Charlotte been doing?" asked Mrs. Carroll.

"She has been doing the last thing which any Carroll in his or her
senses is ever supposed to do," replied Anna, in the same tone, as
she folded her yellow ribbon.

"What do you mean, Anna, dear?"

"She has been paying a bill before the credit was exhausted. That is
sheer insanity in a Carroll. If there is anything in the old Scotch
superstition, she is fey, if ever anybody was."

"What bill?" asked Mrs. Carroll.

"Mr. Anderson's," replied Charlotte, faintly, still without turning
from the glass which reflected her charming pink face in its gilt,
scrolled frame.

"Mr. Anderson's?"

"The grocer's bill," said Charlotte.

"Oh! I did not know what his name was," said Mrs. Carroll.

"He probably is well acquainted with ours, on his books," said Anna.

Mrs. Carroll looked in a puzzled way from her to Charlotte, who had
turned with a little air of defiance. "Had he refused to let us have
any more groceries?" said she.

"No," said Charlotte.

"I told you he had not," said Anna, shaking out a lace handkerchief,
which diffused an odor of violet through the room.

"Then why did you pay him, honey?" asked Mrs. Carroll, wonderingly,
of Charlotte.

"I paid him just because he had trusted us," said she, in a voice
which rang out clearly with the brave honesty of youth.

Suddenly she looked from her mother to her aunt with accusing eyes.
"I don't believe it is right to go on forever buying things and never
paying for them, just because a gentleman is kind enough to let you,"
said she.

"I thought you said it was the grocer, Charlotte, honey," said Mrs.
Carroll, helplessly.

"He is a gentleman, if he is a grocer," said Charlotte, and her cheek
blazed.

Anna Carroll looked sharply at her from her drawer, then went on
folding the handkerchief.

"He is a lawyer, and as well-educated as papa," Charlotte said,
further, in her clear, brave voice, and she returned her aunt's look
unflinchingly, although her cheeks continued to blush.

Mrs. Carroll still looked bewildered. "How much did you pay him,
Charlotte, dear?" she asked.

"Twenty-five dollars."

"The whole of the check Arthur gave you?"

"Yes, Amy."

"But you might have bought yourself a hat, honey, and you did need
one. I can't quite understand why you paid the grocer, when he had
not refused to let us have more groceries, and you might have bought
a hat."

Anna, packing the drawer, began to laugh, and Charlotte, after
frowning a second, laughed also.

"My hat with the roses looks very nice yet, Amy, dear," said she,
sweetly and consolingly.

"But it is getting so late for roses," Mrs. Carroll returned.

"The milliner in New York where Ina got her hats has been paid; maybe
she will trust Charlotte for a hat. Don't worry, Amy," said Anna,
coolly.

Mrs. Carroll brightened up. "Sure enough, Anna," said she. "She was
paid because she wouldn't trust us, and maybe now she will be willing
to again. I will go in to-morrow, and I think I can get a hat for
myself."

"I saw the dress-maker looking out of the window," said Charlotte.

"She did very well," said Mrs. Carroll.

"I suppose there is no money to pay her?" said Charlotte.

"No, honey, I suppose not, but dear Ina has the dresses and you have
your new one."

"That makes me think. I think her bill is on the table. It came two
or three days ago. I haven't opened it, because it looked like a
bill. Eddy brought it in when I was in here. Yes, there it is."
Charlotte, near the table, took up the envelope and opened it. "It is
only one hundred and fifty-eight dollars," said she.

"That is very cheap for so many pretty dresses," said Mrs. Carroll,
"but I suppose it is all clear profit. I should think dress-makers
would get rich very easily."

That night Charlotte was the last to go to her room--that is, the
last except her father. He was still smoking in the little room on
the left of the hall. They had been playing whist in there; then they
had had some sherry and crackers and olives. Major Arms had sent out
a case of sherry before the wedding, and it was not all gone. Now
Carroll was smoking a last cigar before retiring, and the others
except Charlotte had gone. She lingered after she had kissed her
father good-night.

"Papa," said she, tentatively. She looked very slim and young in her
little white muslin frock, with her pretty hair braided in her neck.

"Well, sweetheart, what is it?" asked Carroll, with a tender look of
admiration.

Charlotte hesitated. Then she spoke with such desire not to offend
that her voice rang harsh. "Papa," said she, "do you think--"

"Think what, honey?"

"Do you think you can pay the dress-maker's bill?"

"Pretty soon, dear," said Carroll, his face changing.

"To-morrow?"

"I am afraid not to-morrow, Charlotte."

"She worked very hard over those dresses, and she bought the things,
and it is quite a while. I think she ought to be paid, papa."

"Pretty soon, dear," said Carroll again.

Charlotte turned without another word and went out of the room. Her
silence and her retreat were full of innocent condemnation. Carroll
smoked, his face set and tense. Then there was a flutter and
Charlotte was back. She did not speak this time, but she ran to her
father, threw her slight arms around his neck, and kissed him, and it
was the kiss of love which follows the judgment of love. Then she was
gone again.

Carroll removed his cigar and sat staring straight ahead for a
moment. Then he gave the cigar a fling into a brass bowl and put his
head on his arms on the table.



Chapter XXIV


Charlotte, before her sister was married, had been in the habit of
taking long walks with her. Now she went alone.

The elder women of the family never walked when they could avoid
doing so. Mrs. Carroll was, in consequence, putting on a soft
roundness of flesh like a baby, and was daily becoming a creature of
more curves and dimples. Anna did not gain flesh, but she moved more
languidly, and her languor of movement was at curious odds with the
subdued eagerness of her eyes. In these days Anna Carroll was not
well; her nerves were giving way. She slept little and ate little.

"You are losing your appetite, Anna, dear," Mrs. Carroll said once at
the dinner-table.

"A fortunate thing, perhaps," retorted Anna, with her little, veiled
sting of manner, and at that Carroll rose abruptly and left the table.

"What is the matter, Arthur?" his wife called after him. "I don't see
what ails Arthur lately," she said, with a soft tone of complaint,
when the door had closed behind him and he had made no response.

Charlotte adored her Aunt Anna, and seldom took any exception to
anything which she said or did, but then she turned upon her.

"Poor papa is hurt by what Aunt Anna said," she declared, severely,
"and I don't wonder. Here he cannot afford to buy as much to eat as
he would like, and hasn't enough to pay the butcher, and Aunt Anna
says things like that. I don't wonder he is hurt. It is cruel." Tears
flashed into Charlotte's eyes. She looked accusingly at her aunt, who
laughed.

"I think as much of your father as you do," said she, "and I know him
better. Don't fret, honey."

"Your aunt is ill, dear," said Mrs. Carroll, who always veered to the
side of the attacked party, and who, moreover, seldom grasped
sarcasm, "and besides, sweetheart," she added, "I don't see what she
said that could have hurt Arthur's feelings." Just then Carroll
passed the window towards the stable. "There," she cried,
triumphantly, "he is just going around to order the carriage. He had
finished his luncheon. He never did care much for that kind of
pudding. You are making too much of it, Charlotte, dear."

"No, I am not," said Charlotte, firmly. "Papa did not like the way
Anna spoke; he was hurt. It was cruel." She got up and left the table
also, and a soft sob was heard as she closed the dining-room door
behind her.

"That dear child is so sensitive and nervous, and she thinks so much
of Arthur," Mrs. Carroll said. "Give me the pudding sauce, Marie."

Eddy, who had been busily eating his pudding, looked up from his
empty plate. "Aunt Anna did mean it was fortunate she had lost her
appetite, because there wasn't enough to eat," he declared, in his
sweet treble. "You ain't very sharp, Amy. She did mean that, and that
was the reason papa went out. But it was true, too. There isn't
enough to eat. I haven't had near enough pudding, and it is all gone.
The dish is scraped. There is none left for Marie and Martin, either."

"I want no pudding," said Marie, unexpectedly, from behind Mrs.
Carroll's chair. She spoke with a certain sullenness, and her eyes
were red. She had a large, worn place in the sleeve of her white
shirt-waist, and she was given to lifting her arm and surveying it
with an air of covert injury and indignation.

"The omelet is all gone, too," said Eddy. "Marie and Martin haven't
got anything to eat."

"Oh, hush, dear!" said Mrs. Carroll. "Marie can cook another omelet."
The Hungarian girl opened her mouth as if to speak, then she shut it
again. An indescribable expression was on her pretty, peasant face,
the face of a down-trodden race, who yet retained in spirit a spark
of rebellion and resentment. Marie, in her ragged blouse, with her
countenance of inscrutable silence, standing behind her mistress's
chair, surveying the denuded table, was the embodiment of a folk-lore
song. She had been in America only a year and a half, and the Lord
only knew what she had expected in that land of promise, and what
bright visions had been dispelled, and how roughly she had been
forced back upon her old point of view of the world. The girl was
actually hungry. She had no money; her clothes were worn. Her naive
coquetry of expression had quite faded from her face. Her cheek-bones
showed high, her mouth was wide and set, her eyes fixed with a sort
of stolid and despairing acquiescence. The salient points of the Slav
were to the surface, the little wings of her hope and youth folded
away. She had fallen in love, moreover, and been prevented from
attending a wedding-feast where she would have met him that day, on
account of a lack of money for a new waist, and car fare. She knew
another girl who was gay in a new gown, and at whom the desired one
had often looked with wavering eyes. Her heart was broken as she
stood there. She was one of the weariest of the wheels within wheels
of Arthur Carroll's miserable system of life.

"I don't believe there are any more eggs to make an omelet," said
Eddy.

"The grocer still trusts us," said Mrs. Carroll; "besides, he has
been paid. Eddy, dear, you must not speak so to your aunt. Run out,
if you have finished your luncheon, and ask your father when he is
going to drive."

Carroll had not gone, as usual, to the City that day.

Mrs. Carroll and Anna rose from the table and went into the den on
the left of the hall.

"You must not mind the children speaking so, Anna, dear," Mrs.
Carroll said. "They would fly at me just the same if they thought I
had said anything to hurt Arthur."

"I don't mind, Amy," Anna replied, dully. She threw herself upon the
divan with its Oriental rug, lying flat on her back, with her hands
under her head and her eyes fixed upon a golden maple bough which
waved past the window opposite. She looked very ill. She was quite
pale, and her eyes had a strange, earnest depth in dark hollows.

Mrs. Carroll looked a little more serious than was her wont as she
sat in the willow rocker and swayed slowly back and forth. "I
suppose," she said, after a pause, "that it will end in our moving
away from Banbridge."

"I suppose so," Anna replied, listlessly.

"You don't mind going, do you, Anna, dear?"

"I mind nothing," Anna Carroll said. "I am past minding."

Mrs. Carroll looked at her with a bewildered sympathy. "Why, Anna,
dear, what is the matter?" she said.

"Nothing, Amy."

"You are feeling ill, aren't you?"

"Perhaps so, a little. It is nothing worth talking about."

"Are you troubled about anything, honey?"

Anna did not reply.

"I can't imagine what you have to trouble you, Anna. Everything is as
it has been for a long time. When we move away from Banbridge there
will be more for a while. I can't see anything to worry about."

"For God's sake, keep your eyes shut, then, Amy, as long as you can,"
cried Anna, suddenly, with a tone which the other woman had never
heard before. She gazed at her sister-in-law a minute, and her
expression of childish sweetness and contentment changed. Tears came
in her eyes, her mouth quivered.

"I don't know what you mean, Anna," she said, pitifully, like a
puzzled child.

Anna sprang up from the divan and went over to her and kissed her and
laughed. "I mean nothing, dear," she said. "There is no more to worry
about now than there has been all along. People get on somehow. We
are in the world, and we have our right here, and if we knock over a
few people to keep our footholds, I don't know that we are to blame.
It is nothing, Amy. I have felt wretched for a few days, and it has
affected my spirits. Don't mind anything I have said. We shall leave
Banbridge before long, and, as you say, we shall get on better."

Mrs. Carroll gave two or three little whimpers on her sister-in-law's
shoulder, then she smiled up at her. "I guess it is because you don't
feel well that you are looking on the dark side of things so," said
she. "You will feel better to go out and have a drive."

"Perhaps I shall," replied Anna.

"We shall go for a long drive. There will be plenty of time, it is so
early. How lovely it would be if we had our automobile, wouldn't it,
Anna? Then we could go any distance. Wouldn't it be lovely?"

"Very," replied Anna.

Then Eddy burst into the room. "Say, Amy," he cried, "there's a great
circus out in the stable. Papa and Martin are having a scrap."

"Eddy, dear," cried Mrs. Carroll, "you must not say scrap."

"A shindy, then. What difference does it make? Martin he won't
harness, because he hasn't been paid. He just sits on a chair in the
door and whittles a stick, and don't say anything, and he won't
harness."

"We have simply got to have an automobile," said Mrs. Carroll.

"How do you know it is because he hasn't been paid, Eddy?" asked Anna.

"Because he said so; before he wouldn't say anything, and began
whittling. Papa stands there talking to him, but it don't make any
difference."

"With an automobile it wouldn't make any difference," said Mrs.
Carroll. "An automobile doesn't have to be harnessed. I don't see why
Arthur doesn't get one."

Anna Carroll sat down on the nearest chair and laughed hysterically.

Mrs. Carroll stared at her. "What are you laughing at, Anna?" said
she, with a little tone of injury. "I don't see anything very funny.
It is a lovely day, and I wanted to go to drive, and it would do you
good. I don't see why people act so because they are not paid. I
didn't think it of Martin."

"I'll go out and see if he has stirred yet," cried Eddy, and was off,
with a countenance expressive of the keenest enjoyment of the
situation.

Out in the stable, beside the great door through which was a view of
the early autumn landscape--a cluster of golden trailing elms, with
one rosy maple on a green lawn intersected by the broad sweep of
drive--sat the man in a chair, and whittled with a face as
imperturbable as fate. Carroll stood beside him, talking in a low
tone. He was quite pale. Suddenly, just as the boy arrived, the man
spoke.

"Why in thunder, sir," said he, with a certain respect in spite of
the insolence of the words--"why in thunder don't you haul in, shut
up shop, sell out, pay your debts, and go it small?"

"Perhaps I will," Carroll replied, in a tone of rage. His face
flushed, he raised his right arm as if with an impulse to strike the
other man, then he let it drop.

"Sell the horses, papa?" cried Eddy, at his elbow, with a tone of
dismay.

Carroll turned and saw the boy. "Go into the house; this is nothing
that concerns you," he said, sternly.

"Are the horses paid for, papa?" asked Eddy.

"I believe they ain't," said the man in the chair, with a curious
ruminating impudence. Carroll towered over him with an expression of
ignoble majesty. But Eddy had made a dart into a stall, and the tramp
of iron hoofs was suddenly heard.

"I can harness as well as he can," a small voice cried.

Then Martin rose. "I'll harness," he said, sullenly. "You'll get
hurt"--to the boy. "She don't like children round her." He took hold
of the boy's small shoulders and pushed him away from the restive
horse, and grasped the bridle. Carroll strode out of the stable.

"Say," said Eddy, to the man.

"Well, what? I've got to have my pay. I've worked here long enough
for nothin'."

"When I'm a man I'll pay you," said Eddy, with dignity and severity.
"You must not speak to papa that way again, Martin."

Martin looked from the tall horse to the small boy, and began to
laugh.

"I'll pay you with interest," repeated the boy, and the man laughed
again.

"Much obleeged," said he.

"I don't see, now, why you need to worry just because papa hasn't
paid you," said Eddy, and walked out of the stable with a gait
exactly like his father.

The man threw the harness over the horse and whistled.

"He's harnessing," Eddy proclaimed when he went in.

His mother was pinning on her veil before the mirror over the hall
settle. Anna was just coming down-stairs in a long, red coat, with a
black feather curling against her black hair under her hat.

"Where is Charlotte?" asked Mrs. Carroll.

"She has gone off to walk," said Eddy.

"Well," said Mrs. Carroll, "you must go after her and walk with her,
Eddy."

"I don't want to, Amy," said Eddy. "I want to go to drive."

Then Carroll came down-stairs and repeated his wife's orders. "Yes,
Eddy, you must go to walk with your sister. I don't wish her to go
alone," said he peremptorily. He still looked pale; he had grown thin
during the last month.

"I don't see why Charlotte don't get married, too, and have her
husband to go with her," said Eddy, as he went out of the door.
"Tagging round after a girl all the time! It ain't fair."

"Eddy!" called Carroll, in a stern voice; but the boy had suddenly
accelerated his pace with his last words, and was a flying streak at
the end of the drive.

"Where 'm I goin' to find her?" he complained to himself. He hung
about a little until he saw the carriage emerge from the grounds and
turn in the other direction, then he went straight down to the main
street. Just as he turned the corner he met a small woman, carefully
dressed and frizzed, who stopped him.

"Is your mother at home, little boy?" she asked, in a nervous voice.
There were red spots on her thin cheeks; she was manifestly trembling.

The boy eyed her with a supercilious scorn and pity. He characterized
her in his own mind of extreme youth and brutal truth as an ugly old
woman, and yet he noted the trembling and felt like reassuring her.
He took off his little cap. "No, ma'am," said he. "Amy has gone to
drive."

"I wanted to see your mother," said the woman, wonderingly.

"Amy is my mother," replied the boy.

"Oh!" said the woman.

"They have all gone," said Eddy.

"Then I shall have to call another time," said the woman, with a
mixture of ingratiation and despair.

The boy eyed her sharply. "Say," he said, "are you the dressmaker
that made my sister Ina's clothes for her to be married?"

"Yes, I be," replied Madame Griggs.

"Then," said Eddy, "I can tell you one thing, there isn't any use for
you to go to my house now to get any money. I suppose you haven't
been paid."

"No, I haven't," said Madame Griggs. Then she loosened the
flood-gates of her grievance upon the boy. "No, I haven't been paid,"
said she, "and I've worked like a dog, and I'm owing for the things I
bought in New York, and I'm owing my girls, and if I don't get paid
before long, I'm ruined, and that's all there is to it. I 'ain't been
paid, and it's a month since your sister was married, and they'll
send out to collect the bills from the stores, if I don't pay them.
It's a cruel thing, and I don't care if I do say it." The woman was
flouncing along the street beside the boy, and she spoke in a loud,
shrill voice. "It's a cruel thing," she repeated. "If I couldn't pay
for my wedding fix I'd never get married, before I'd go and cheat a
poor dress-maker. She'd ought to be ashamed of herself, and so had
all your folks. I don't care if I do say it. They are nuthin' but a
pack of swindlers, that's what they be."

Suddenly the boy danced in front of the furious little woman, and
stood there, barring her progress. "They ain't!" said he.

"They be."

"They ain't! You can't pay folks if you 'ain't got any money."

"You needn't have the things, then," sniffed Madame Griggs.

"My sister had to have the things to get married, didn't she? A girl
can't get married without the clothes."

"Let her pay for 'em, then."

"I'll tell you what to do!" cried Eddy, looking at her with a sudden
inspiration. "You are in debt, ain't you?"

"Yes, I be," replied Madame Griggs, hopping nervously along by the
boy's side, poor little dressmaker, aping French gentility, holding
her skirts high, with a disclosure of a papery silk petticoat and a
meagre ankle. Even in her distress she felt of her frizzes to see if
they were in order after a breeze had struck her in the sharp, eager
face. "Yes, I be."

"Well," said the boy, delightedly, "I can tell you just what to do,
you know."

"What, I'd like to know?" Madame Griggs said, in a snapping tone.

"Move away from Banbridge," said the boy.

"What for, I'd like to know?"

"Why, then, don't you see," explained Eddy Carroll, "you would get
away from the folks that you owe, and other folks that you didn't owe
would trust you for things. You'd get along fine. That's the way we
always do."

"Well, I never!" said Madame Griggs. Then she turned on him with
sudden fury. "So that's what your folks are goin' to do, be they?"
said she. "Go off and leave me without payin' my bill! That's the
dodge, is it?"

Eddy was immediately on the alert. He was young and innocent, but he
had a certain sharpness. He was quite well aware that a knowledge on
the part of the creditors of his family's flittings was not
desirable. "I 'ain't heard them say a word about moving away from
Banbridge," declared he. "What you getting so mad about, Missis?"

"I guess I've got some reason to be mad, if that's your folks' game.
The way I've worked, slavin' all them hot days and nights on your
sister's wedding fix. I guess--"

"We ain't going to move away from Banbridge as long as we live, for
all I know," said Eddy, looking at the bundle of feminine nerves
beside him with a mixture of terror and scorn. "You don't need to
holler so, Missis."

"I don't care how loud I holler, I can tell you that."

"We ain't going to move; and if we did, I don't see why you couldn't.
I was just telling you what you could do, if you owed folks and
didn't have any money to pay 'em, and you turn on a feller that way.
I'm going to tell my sister and mother, and they won't have you make
any more dresses for 'em." With that Eddy Carroll made a dart into
Anderson's grocery store, which he had reached by that time. The
dressmaker remained standing on the sidewalk, staring after him. She
looked breathless; red spots were on her thin cheeks.

Eddy went straight through the store to the office. The door stood
open, and the little place was empty except for the cat, which cast a
lazy glance at him from under a half-closed lid, stretched,
displaying his claws, and began to purr loudly. Eddy went over to the
cat and took him up in his arms and carried him out into the main
store, where William Price stood behind the counter. He was alone in
the store.

"Say," said Eddy, "where's Mr. Anderson?"

"He's gone out," replied the clerk, with a kind look at the boy. He
had lost one of his own years ago, and Eddy, in spite of his innocent
superciliousness, appealed to him.

"Where?" asked Eddy. The cat wriggled in his arms and jumped down.
Then he rolled over ingratiatingly at his feet. Eddy stooped down and
rubbed the shining, furry stomach.

"He took the net he catches butterflies with," replied the old clerk,
"and I guess he's gone to walk in the fields somewhere."

"I should think it was pretty late for butterflies," said Eddy. He
straightened himself and looked very hard at the glass jar of
molasses-balls on the shelf behind the clerk.

"There might be a stray one," said William Price. "It's a warm day."

"Shucks!" said Eddy. "Say, how much are those a pound?"

The clerk glanced around at the jar of molasses-balls. "Twenty-five
cents," replied he.

"Guess I'll take a pound," said Eddy. "I 'ain't got any money with
me, but I'll pay you the next time I come in."

The old clerk's common face turned suddenly grave, and acquired
thereby a certain distinction. He turned about, took off the cover of
the glass jar, and gathered up a handful of the molasses-balls and
put them in a little paper bag. Then he came forth from behind the
counter and approached the boy. He thrust the paper bag into a little
grasping hand, then he took hold of the small shoulders and looked
down at him steadily. The blue eyes in the ordinary face of an
ordinary man, unfitted for any work in life except that of an
underling, were full of affection and reproof. Eddy looked into them,
then he hitched uneasily.

"What you doing so for?" said he; then he looked into the eyes again
and was still.

"It's jest this," said William Price. "Here's a little bag of them
molasses-balls, I'll give 'em to ye; but don't you never, as long as
you live, buy anything you 'ain't either got the money to pay for in
your fist, ready, or know jest where it's comin' from. It's stealin',
and it's the wust kind of stealin', 'cause it ain't out an' out. I
had a boy once about your size."

"Where's he now?" asked Eddy, in a half-resentful, half-wondering
fashion.

"He's dead; died years ago of scarlet-fever, and I'd a good deal
rather have it so, much as I thought of him--as much as your father
thinks of you--than to have him grow up and steal and cheat folks."

"Didn't he ever take anything that didn't belong to him?" asked Eddy.

"Never. I guess he didn't. John wasn't that kind of a boy. I'd have
trusted him with anythin'."

"Then he must have gone to heaven, I suppose," said Eddy. He
looked soberly into the old clerk's eyes. "Thank you for the
molasses-balls," he said. "I meant to pay for 'em, but I don't know
just when I'd have the money, so I guess it's better for you to give
them to me. Mr. Anderson won't mind, will he?"

"No, he won't, for I shall put fives cents into the cash-drawer for
them," replied the old clerk, with dignity.

"I wouldn't want to have you take anything that Mr. Anderson wouldn't
like," said Eddy.

"I shouldn't," replied the old clerk, going back to his place behind
the counter, as a woman entered the store.

Eddy looked back as he went out, with a very sweet expression. "The
first five-cent piece I get I'll pay you," he said. He had popped a
molasses-ball into his mouth, and his utterance was somewhat impeded.
"I thank you very much, indeed," he said, "and I'm sorry your boy
died."

"Have you just lost a boy?" asked the woman at the counter.

"Twenty years ago," replied the clerk.

"Land!" said the woman. She looked at him, then she turned and looked
after Eddy, who was visible on the sidewalk talking with Madame
Griggs, and her face showed her mind. Madame Griggs had waited on the
sidewalk until Eddy came out of the store. Now she seized him by the
arm, which he promptly jerked away from her.

"When will your folks be home? That's what I want to know!" said she,
sharply.

"They'll be home to-night, I guess," replied Eddy.

"Then I'll be up after supper," said Madame Griggs.

"All right," said Eddy.

"You tell 'em I'm comin'. I've got to see your ma and your pa."

"Yes, ma'am," replied Eddy. He raised his little cap as the
dressmaker flirted away, then he started on a run down the street,
sucking a molasses-ball, which is a staying sweet, and soon he left
the travelled road and was hastening far afield.



Chapter XXV


It was September, but a very warm day. Charlotte had walked along the
highway for some distance; then when she came to a considerable grove
of oak-trees, she hesitated a moment, and finally left the road,
entered the grove, and sat down on a rock at only a little distance
from the road, yet out of sight of it. She was quite effectually
screened by the trees and some undergrowth. Here and there the oaks
showed shades of russet-and-gold and deep crimson; the leaves had not
fallen. In the sunlit spaces between the trees grew clumps of blue
asters. She saw a squirrel sitting quite motionless on a bough over
her head, with bright eyes of inquisitive fear upon her. She felt a
sense of delight, and withal a slight tinge of loneliness and risk.
There was no doubt that it was not altogether wise, perhaps not safe,
for a girl to leave the highway, or even to walk upon it if it were
not thickly bordered by dwellings, in this state. Charlotte was
fearless, yet her imagination was a lively one. She looked about her
with keen enjoyment, yet there was a sharp wariness in her glance
akin to that of the squirrel. When she heard on the road the rattle
of wheels, and caught the flash of revolving spokes in the sun, she
had a sensation of relief. There was not a house in sight, except far
to the left, where she could just discern the slant of a barn roof
through the trees. Everything was very still. While there was no
wind, it was cool in the shade, though hot in the sunlight. She
pulled her jacket over her shoulders. She leaned against a tree and
remained perfectly quiet. She had on a muslin gown of an
indeterminate green color, and it shaded perfectly into the coloring
of the tree-trunk, which was slightly mossy. Her dark head, too, was
almost indistinguishable against the tree, which at that height was
nearly black. In fact, she became almost invisible from that most
curious system of concealment in the world, that of assimilation with
nature. She was gathered so closely into the arms of the great mother
that she seemed one with her. And she was not alone in the shelter of
those mighty arms; there was the squirrel, as indistinguishable as
she. And there was another.

Charlotte with her bright, wary eyes, and the little animal with his,
in the tree, became aware of another sentient thing besides
themselves. Possibly the squirrel had been aware of it all the time.

Suddenly the girl looked downward at her right and saw within a
stone's-throw a man asleep. He was dressed in an ancient,
greenish-brown suit, and was practically invisible. His arm was
thrown over his weather-beaten face and he was sleeping soundly,
lying in a position as grotesquely distorted as some old tree-root.
He was, in fact, distorted by the storms of life within and without.
He was evidently a tramp, and possibly worse. His sleeping face could
be read like a page of evil lore.

When Charlotte perceived him she turned pale and her heart seemed to
stop. Her first impulse was to rise and make a mad rush for the road.
Then she became afraid to do that. The road was lonely. She heard no
sound of wheels thereon. It was true that she had entered the grove
and seated herself without awakening the man; he might quite possibly
be in a drunken sleep, difficult to disturb, but she might not be so
fortunate a second time. Her slightest motion might awaken him now.
So she sat perfectly still; she did not move a finger; it seemed to
her she did not breathe. When a slight breeze rustled the tree-boughs
over her head, and ruffled the skirt of her dress, her terror made
her sick. When the breeze struck him, the sleeping tramp made an
uneasy motion, and she felt overwhelmed. Soon, however, he began to
breathe heavily. Before his breathing had been inaudible. He was
evidently quite soundly asleep, yet if a breeze could disturb him,
what might not her rise and flight do? It seemed to her that she must
remain there forever. But the time would come when that sleeping
terror would awake, whether she disturbed him or not, when that
distorted caricature of man, as grotesque as a gargoyle on the temple
of life, would stretch those twisted legs and arms, and open his eyes
and see her; and then? She became sure, the longer she looked, that
this was not one of the harmless wanderers over the earth, one of the
Ishmaels, whose hand is turned only against himself. The great dark,
bloated face had a meaning that could not be mistaken even by eyes
for whom its meaning was written in a strange language. Innocence
read guilt by a strange insight of heredity which came to her from
the old beginning of things. She dared not stir. She felt petrified.
She realized that her one hope was in the passing of some one on the
road. She made up her mind that if she heard wheels she would risk
everything. She would spring up and run for her life and scream. Then
she wondered how loudly she could scream. Charlotte was not one of
the screaming kind of girls who lifts up her voice of panic at
everything. She tried to remember if she had ever screamed, and how
loudly. She kept her ears strained for the sound of wheels, her eyes
on the sleeping tramp. She dared not look away from him. Even the
squirrel remained motionless, with his round eyes of wariness fixed.
It was as if he too were afraid to stir. He retained his attitude of
alert grace, sitting erect on his little haunches, an acorn in his
paws, his bushy tail arching over his back like a plume.

Then slowly the man opened his eyes with a dazed expression, at first
a blur of consciousness. Then gradually the recognition of himself,
of his surroundings, of his life, came into them, and that
self-knowledge was unmistakable. There was no doubt about the man
with his twisted limbs and his twisted soul. He lay quite still a
while longer, staring. Charlotte, with her eyes upon him, and the
squirrel with his eyes upon him, never stirred. Charlotte heard her
heart beat, and wished for some way to stifle it, but that she could
not do. It seemed to her that the beating of her heart was like a
drum, as if it could be heard through all the grove. She realized
that she could not hear the sound of passing wheels on the road,
because of this terrible beating of her heart. It seemed inevitable
that the man would hear it. She felt then that she should take her
one little chance, that she should scream on the possibility of some
one passing on the road, and run, but she realized the futility of
it. Before she could move a step the man would be upon her. She felt,
moreover, paralyzed. She remained as perfectly motionless as the tree
against which she leaned, with her eyes full of utmost terror and
horror upon the waking man. He still looked straight ahead, and his
eyes were still retrospective, fixed inward rather than outward. He
still saw only himself and his own concerns.

Then he yawned audibly and spoke. "Damn it all!" he said, in a
curious voice, of rather passive rage. It was the voice of one at
variance with all creation, his hand against every man and every man
against him, and yet the zest of rebellion was not in it. In fact,
the man had been so long at odds with life that a certain
indifference was upon him. He had become sullen. As he lay there he
thrust a hand in his pocket, and again he spoke his oath against all
outside, against all creation. He had thought absently that he might
find a dime for a drink. Now that he had waked, he was thirsty, but
there was none. Then he yawned, stretched out his stiff, twisted
limbs with a sort of muffled groan, rested his weight upon one elbow,
and shambled up as awkwardly as a camel. The girl sat still in the
clutch of her awful fear. She no longer heard her heart beat. She was
casting about in her mind for a weapon. A great impulse of fight was
stirring in her. She felt suddenly that her little fingers were like
steel. She felt that she should kill that man if he touched her. The
fear never let go its clutch on her heart, but a fierceness as of any
wild thing at bay was over her. She realized that in another minute,
when he should see her, she would gather herself up, and spring,
spring as she had read of a tarantula springing; that she would be
first before the man, that she would kill him. Something which was
almost insanity was firing her brain.

The man, when he had stood up, it seemed to Charlotte, looked
directly at her. She was always sure that he did. But if he did, it
was with unseeing eyes. His brain did not compass the image of her
sitting there, leaning against the tree, a creature of incarnate
terror and insane fury. He seemed to keep his eyes fixed upon her for
a full second. Charlotte's nerves and muscles were tense with the
restrained impulse to spring. Then he slowly shuffled away. As he
passed, the squirrel slid like swiftness itself down the tree, and
across an open space to another. The girl sank limply upon herself in
a dead faint, and the tramp gained the road and trudged sullenly on
towards Ludbury.

When Charlotte came to herself she was still sitting there limply.
She could not realize all at once what had happened. Then she
remembered. She looked at the place where the tramp had lain, and so
forcibly did her terrified fancy project images that it was difficult
to convince herself that he was really gone. She seemed to still see
that gross thing lying there. Then she remembered distinctly that he
had gone.

She got up, but she could scarcely stand. She had never fainted
before, and she wondered at her own sensations. "What ails me?" she
thought. She strained her eyes around, but there was no sign of the
terrible man. She was quite sure that he had gone, and yet how could
she be sure? He might have gone out to the road and be sitting beside
it. A vivid recollection of tramps sitting beside that very road, as
she had been driving past, came over her. She became quite positive
that he was out on the road, and a terror of the road was over her.
She looked behind her, and the sunny gleam of an open field came
through the trees. The field was shaggy with blue asters and
golden-rod gone to seed, and white tufts of immortelles. Charlotte
stared through the trees at the field, and suddenly a man crossed the
little sunny opening. A great joy swept over her; he was Randolph
Anderson. Now she was sure that she was safe. She stumbled again to
her feet, and ran weakly out of the oak grove. There was a low fence
between the grove and the field, and when she reached that she
stopped. She felt this to be insurmountable for her trembling limbs.
"Oh, dear!" she said, aloud, and although the man was holding his
butterfly-net cautiously over the top of a clump of asters so far
away that it did not seem possible that he could hear her, he
immediately looked up. Then he hastened towards her. As he drew near
a look of concern deepened on his face. He had had an inkling at the
first glimpse of her that something was wrong. He reached the fence
and stood looking at her on the other side.

"I am afraid I can't get over," Charlotte said, faintly. She never
knew quite how she was over, lifted in some fashion, and Anderson
stood close to her, looking at her with his face as white as hers.

"What is it?" he asked. "Are you ill, Miss Carroll? What is it?"

"I have been frightened," said she. Without quite knowing what she
did, she caught hold of his arm and clung to him tightly.

"What frightened you?" asked Anderson, fairly trembling himself and
looking down at her.

"There was a man asleep in the grove, in there," explained Charlotte,
falteringly--she still felt faint and strange--"and--and--I sat down
there, and did not see him, and then he--he woke up and--"

Anderson seized her arm in a fierce clutch. "What?" he cried. "Where
is he? What? For God's sake!"

"He went away out in the road and did not seem to see--me. I sat
still," said Charlotte. Then she was very faint again, for he, too,
frightened her a little.

Anderson caught her, supporting her, while he tore off his coat. Then
he half carried her over to a ledge of rocks cropping out of the
furzy gold-and-blue undergrowth, and sat down beside her there.
Charlotte sat weakly where she was placed. She was deadly white and
trembling. Anderson hesitated a moment, then he put an arm around
her, removed her hat, and drew her head down on his shoulder.

"Now keep quiet a little while until you are better," he said. "You
are perfectly safe now. You say the man did not see you?"

Charlotte shook her head against his shoulder. She closed her eyes;
she was really very near a complete swoon, and scarcely knew where
she was or what was happening; only a vague sense of another will
thrust under her sinking spirit for a support was over her.

As for the man, he looked down at the little, pale face, with the
dark lashes sweeping the soft cheeks, at the mouth still trembling to
a sob of terror and grief, and a mighty wave of emotion was over him.
He realized that he held in his arms not only the girl whom he loved,
towards whom his whole being went out in protection and tenderness,
but himself, his whole future, even in some subtle sense his past. He
was like one on some height of the spirit, from which he overlooked
all that was, all that had gone before, and all that would come. He
was on the Delectable Mountain. Within himself he comprehended the
widest vision of earth, that which is given through love. The man's
face, looking at the woman's on his shoulder, became transfigured. It
was full of uttermost tenderness, of protection as perfect as that of
a father for his child. His heart, as he looked at her, was at once
that of a lover and a father. He unconsciously held her closer, and
bent his face down over hers softly, as if she had been indeed a
child.

"Poor little soul!" he whispered, and his lips almost touched her
cheek.

Then a wave of color came over the girl's face. "I am better," she
said, and raised herself abruptly. Anderson drew back and removed his
arm. He feared she was offended, and perhaps afraid of him. But she
looked piteously up in his face, and, to his dismay, began to cry.
Her nerves were completely unstrung. She was not a strong girl, and
she had, in fact, been through a period of mental torture which might
have befitted the Inquisition. She could still see the man's evil
face; her brain seemed stamped with the sight; terror had mastered
her. She was for the time being scarcely sane. The terrible
imagination of ill which had possessed her, as she sat there gazing
at the sleeping terror, still held her in sway. She was not naturally
hysterical, but now hysterics threatened her.

Anderson put his arm around her again and drew her head to his
shoulder. "You must not mind," he said, in a grave, authoritative
voice. "You are ill and frightened. You must not mind. Keep your head
on my shoulder until you feel better. You are quite safe now."
Anderson's voice was rather admonishing than caressing. Charlotte
sobbed wildly against his shoulder, and clung to him with her little,
nervous hands. Anderson sat looking down at her gravely. "Is your
mother at home?" he asked, presently.

"No," sobbed Charlotte; "they have all gone to drive."

"Nobody in the house?"

"Only Marie."

Anderson reflected. He was much nearer his own home than hers, and
there was a short-cut across the field; they would not need to strike
the road at all. He rose, with a sudden resolution, and raised the
weeping girl to her feet.

"Come," said he, in the same authoritative voice, and Charlotte
stumbled blindly along, his arm still around her. She had an
under-consciousness that she was ashamed of herself for showing so
little bravery, that she wondered what this man would think of her,
but her self-control was gone, because of the too tense strain which
had been put upon it. It was like a spring too tightly compressed,
suddenly released; the vibrations of her nerves seemed endless. She
tried to hush her sobs as she was hurried along, and succeeded in
some measure, but she was still utterly incapable of her usual mental
balance. Once she started, and clutched Anderson's arm with a gasp of
fear.

"Look, look!" she whispered.

"What is it?" he asked, soothingly.

"The man is there. See him?"

"There is nothing there, child," he said, and hurried her over the
place where her distorted vision had seen again the object of her
terror, in his twisted sleep in the grass.

Anderson began to be seriously alarmed about the girl. He did not
know what consequences might come from such a severe mental strain
upon such a nervous temperament. He hurried as fast as he dared,
almost carrying her at times, and finally they emerged upon the
garden at the right of his own house. The flowers were thinning out
fast, but the place was still gay with marigolds and other late
blossoms. As he passed the kitchen door he was aware of the maid's
gaping face of stupid surprise, and he called out curtly to her: "Is
my mother in the house?"

"Yes, sir. She's in the sitting-room," replied the maid, with round
eyes of curiosity upon the pair. Charlotte was making a desperate
effort to walk by herself, to recover herself, but Anderson was still
almost carrying her bodily. She wondered dimly at the strange
trembling of her limbs, at the way the bright orange and red of the
marigolds and nasturtiums swam before her eyes, and once again she
saw quite distinctly the evil face of the man peer out at her from
among them; but this time she said nothing, for her subconsciousness
of delusion was growing stronger.

Anderson went around to the front of the house, and his mother's
wondering face gazed from a window, then quickly disappeared. When he
reached the door she was there, filling it up with her large figure
in its voluminous white draperies.

"What--" she began, but Randolph interrupted her.

"Mother, this is Miss Carroll," he said. "She is not hurt, but she
has had a terrible fright and shock. Her people are all away from
home, and I brought her here; it was nearer. I want her to have some
wine, and rest, and get over it before she goes home."

Mrs. Anderson hesitated one second. It was a pause for the gathering
together of wits suddenly summoned for new and surprising
emergencies; then she rose to the occasion. She had her faults and
her weaknesses, but she was one of the women in whom the maternal
instinct is a power, and this girl appealed to it. She stretched
forth her white-clad arms, and she drew her away almost forcibly from
her son.

"You poor child!" said she, in a voice which harked back to her son's
babyhood. "Come right in. You go and get a glass of that port-wine,"
said she to Randolph, and she gave him a little push. She enveloped
and pervaded the girl in a voluminous embrace.

Charlotte felt the soft panting of a mother's bosom under her head as
she was led into the house. "You poor, blessed child," a soft voice
cooed in her ear, a soft voice and yet a voice of strength.
Charlotte's own mother had never been in the fullest sense a mother
to her; a large part of the spiritual element of maternity had been
lacking; but here was a woman who could mother a race, if once her
heart of maternal love was awakened.

Charlotte was not led; that did not seem to be the action. She felt
as if she were borne along by sustaining wings spread under her
weakness into a large, cool bedroom opening out of the sitting-room.
Then her dress was taken off, in what wise she scarcely knew; she was
enrobed in one of Mrs. Anderson's large, white wrappers, and was laid
tenderly in a white bed, where presently she was sipping a glass of
port-wine, with Mrs. Anderson sitting behind her and supporting her
head.

"No, you can't come in, Randolph," she heard her say to her son, and
her voice sounded almost angry. After Charlotte had swallowed the
wine, she lay back on the pillow, and she heard Mrs. Anderson talking
softly to her in a sort of delicious dream, caused partly by the
wine, which had mounted at once to her head, and partly by the sense
of powerful protection and perfect peace and safety.

"Poor lamb!" Mrs. Anderson said, and her voice sounded like the song
of a mother bird. "Poor lamb; poor, blessed child! It was a shame she
was so frightened, but she is safe now. Now go to sleep if you can,
dear child; it will do you good."

Charlotte smiled helplessly and gratefully, and after a happy stare
around the room, with its scroll-work of green on the walls,
reflecting green gloom from closed blinds, and another look of
childish wonder into the loving eyes bent over her, she closed her
own. Presently Mrs. Anderson tiptoed out into the sitting-room, where
Randolph was waiting, standing bolt-upright in the middle of the room
staring at the bedroom door. She beckoned him across the hall into
the opposite room, the parlor. The parlor had a musty smell which was
not unpleasant; in fact, slightly aromatic. There were wooden
shutters which were tightly closed, all except one, through an
opening in which a sunbeam came and transversed the room in a shaft
of glittering motes.

"What scared her so?" demanded Mrs. Anderson. She had upon her a new
authority. Anderson felt as if he had reverted to his childhood. He
explained. "Well," said his mother, "the poor child has had an awful
shock, and she is lucky if she isn't down sick with a fever. I don't
like to see anybody look the way she did. But I'm thankful the man
didn't see her."

"He might have been harmless enough," said Anderson.

Mrs. Anderson sniffed. "I don't see many harmless-looking ones round
here," said she. "An awful-looking tramp came to the door this
morning. I shouldn't wonder if it was the same one. I guess she will
be all right now. She looked quieted down, but she had an awful
shock, poor child."

"I wonder when I ought to take her home," said Anderson.

"Not for two hours," said his mother, decidedly. "She is going to
stay here till she gets rested and is a little over it."

"Perhaps she had better," said Anderson; "her folks may have gone on
a long drive, too."

"Did you know her before?" asked his mother, suddenly, and a sharp
expression came into her soft, blue eyes.

"I have seen her in the store," replied Anderson, and he was
conscious of coloring.

"She knew you, then?" said his mother.

"Yes. She was in the store this morning."

"It was lucky you were there."

"Oh, as for that, she was in no danger," said Anderson, coolly. "The
tramp had gone."

"If you hadn't been there, I believe that poor little thing would
have fainted dead away and lain there, nobody knows how long. It
doesn't do anybody any good to get such a fright, and she is a thin,
delicate little thing."

"Yes, she had quite a fright," said Anderson, walking over to the
window with the defective shutter. "This shutter must be fixed," said
he.

"I think she is prettier than the one that got married, but it is a
pity she belongs to such a family," said Mrs. Anderson. "Mrs.
Ferguson was just in here, and she says it is awful, that they are
owing everybody."

"That is not the girl's fault," Anderson rejoined, with sudden fire.

"No, I suppose not," said Mrs. Anderson, with an anxious look at him.
"Only, if she hasn't been taught to think it doesn't matter if debts
are not paid."

"Well, I don't think that poor child is to be blamed," Anderson said.

"Do they owe you?"

"She came in and paid me this morning."

"Oh, I'm glad of that!" said his mother, and Anderson was conscious
of intense guilt at his deception. Somehow half a lie had always
seemed to him more ignoble than a whole one, and he had told a half
one. He turned to leave the room, when there came a loud peal of the
door-bell.

"Oh, dear, that will wake her up!" said his mother.

Anderson strode past her to the door, and there stood Eddy Carroll.
He was breathless from running, and his pretty face was a uniform
rose.

"Say," he panted, "is my sister in here?"

"Hush!" said Anderson. "Yes, she is."

"I chased you all the way," said Eddy, "but I tumbled down and hurt
my knee on an old stone, and then I couldn't catch up." Indeed, the
left knee of Eddy's little knickerbockers showed a rub and a red
stain. "Where's Charlotte?"

"She is lying down. She was frightened, and I brought her here, and
she has had some wine and is lying down."

"What frightened her, I'd like to know? First thing I saw you were
lugging her off across the field. What frightened her?"

Anderson explained.

Eddy sniffed with utmost scorn. "Just like a girl," said he, "to get
scared of a man that was fast asleep, and wouldn't have hurt her,
anyway. Just like a girl. Say, you'd better keep her awhile."

"We are going to," said Mrs. Anderson.

"If she stays to supper, I might stay too, and then I could go home
with her, and save you the trouble," said Eddy to Anderson.



Chapter XXVI


There had been a mutter as of coming storm in Wall Street for several
weeks, and this had culminated in a small, and probably a sham,
tempest, with more stage thunder and lightning than any real.
However, it was on that very account just the sort of cataclysm to
overwhelm phantom and illusory ships of fortune like Arthur Carrolls.
That week he acknowledged to himself that his career in the City was
over, that it was high time for him to shut up his office and to
shake the dust of the City from his feet, for fear of worse to come.
Arthur Carroll had a certain method in madness, a certain caution in
the midst of recklessness, and he had also a considerable knowledge
of law, and had essayed to keep within it. However, there were
complications and quibbles, and nobody knew what might happen, so he
retreated in as good order as possible, and even essayed to guard as
well as might be his retreat. He told the pretty stenographers, with
more urbanity than usual, and even smiling at the prettier one, as if
the fact of her roselike face did not altogether escape him, that he
was feeling the need of a vacation and would close the office for a
couple of weeks. At the end of that period they might report. Carroll
owed both of these girls; both remembered that fact; both reflected
on the possibility of their services being no longer required, but
such was the unconscious masculine charm of the man over their
foolish and irresponsible feminity that they questioned nothing.
Their eyes regarded him half-shyly, half-boldly under their crests of
blond pompadours. The younger and prettier blushed sweetly, and
laughed consciously, as if she saw herself in a mirror; the other's
face deepened like a word under a strenuous pencil--the lines in it
grew accentuated. Going down-stairs, the pretty girl nudged the other
almost painfully in the side.

"Say," she whispered, "did you see him stare at me. Eh?"

The other girl drew away angrily. "I don't know as I did," she
replied, in a curt tone.

"He stared like everything. Say, I don't believe he's married."

"I don't see what difference it makes to you whether he's married or
not."

"Sho! Guess I wouldn't be seen goin' with a married man. What do you
take me for, Sadie Smith?"

"Wait till there's any question of goin' before you worry. I would."

"Maybe I sha'n't have to wait long," giggled the other. When she
reached the sidewalk, she stood balancing herself airily, swinging
her arms, keeping up a continuous flutter of motion like a bird, to
keep warm, for the wind blew cold down Broadway. She was really
radiant, vibrant with nerves and young blood, sparkling and dimpling,
and bubbling over, as it were, with perfect satisfaction with herself
and perfect assurance of what lay before her. The other stood rather
soberly beside her. They were both waiting for a car up Broadway. The
young man who was in love with the pretty one came clattering down
the stairs. There had been something wrong with the elevator, and it
was being repaired. He also had to wait for a car, and he joined the
girls. He approached the pretty girl and timidly pressed his shoulder
against hers in its trim, light jacket. She drew away from him with a
sharp thrust of the elbow.

"Go 'long," said she, forcibly. She laughed, but she was evidently in
earnest.

The young man was not much abashed. He stood regarding her, winking
fast.

"Say," he said, with a cautious glance around at the staircase,
"s'pose the boss is goin' to quit?"

Both girls turned and stared at him. The elder turned quite pale.

"What do you mean, talking so?" said she, sharply.

"Nothin', only I thought it was a kind of queer time of year for a
man to take a vacation, a man as busy as the boss seems to be.
And--it kind of entered my head--"

"If anything entered your head, do, for goodness' sake, hang on to
it," said the pretty girl, pertly. Then her car whirred over the
crossing and ground to a standstill, and she sprang on it with a
laugh at her own wit. "Good-night," she called back.

The other two, waiting for another car, were left together. "You
don't think Mr. Carroll means to give up business?" the girl said, in
a guarded tone.

"Lord, no! Why, he has so much business he can hardly stagger under
it, and he must be making money. I was only joking."

"I suppose he's good pay," the girl said, in a shamed tone.

"Good pay? Of course he is. He don't keep right up to the mark--none
of these lordly rich men like him do--but he's sure as Vanderbilt. I
should smile if he wasn't."

"I thought so," said the girl. "I didn't mean to say I had any doubt."

"He's sure, only he's a big swell. That's always the way with these
big swells. If he hadn't been such a swell, now, he'd have paid us
all off before he took his vacation. But, bless you, money means so
little to a chap like him that it don't enter into his head it can
mean any more to anybody else."

"It must be awful nice to have money enough so you can feel that
way," remarked the girl, with a curious sigh.

"That's so." The young man craned his neck forward to look at an
approaching car, then he turned again to the girl. "Say," he
whispered, pressing close to her in the hurrying throng, and speaking
in her ear, "she's dead stuck on him, ain't she?" By two jerks, one
of his right shoulder, one of his left, with corresponding jerks of
his head, up the stairs and up Broadway, he indicated his employer
and the girl who had just left on the car.

"She's a fool," replied the girl, comprehensively.

"Think she 'ain't got no show?"

The girl sniffed.

The young man laughed happily. "Well," he said, "I rather think he's
married, myself, anyhow."

"I don't think he's married," returned the girl, quickly.

"I do. There's our car. Come along."

The girl climbed after the young man on to the crowded platform of
the car. She glanced back at the office window as the car rumbled
heavily up Broadway, and it was a pathetic glance from a rather
pathetic young face with a steady outlook upon a life of toil and
petty needs.

William Allbright had lingered behind the rest, and was in the office
talking with Carroll, who was owing him a month's salary. Allbright,
respectfully and apologetically, but with a considerable degree of
firmness, had asked for it.

"It is not quite convenient for me to pay you to-night, Mr.
Allbright," Carroll replied, courteously. "I was expecting a
considerable sum to-day, which would have enabled me to square off a
number of other debts beside yours. You know that matter of Gates &
Ormsbee?"

"Yes, sir," replied Allbright, rather evasively. He had curious
misgivings lately about this very Gates & Ormsbee, who figured in
considerable transactions on his books.

"Well," continued Carroll, rather impatiently, looking at his watch,
"you know they failed to meet their note this morning, and that has
shortened me with ready money."

"How long do you expect to keep the office shut, sir?" inquired the
clerk, respectfully, but still with a troubled air, and with serious
eyes with the unswerving intentness of a child's upon Carroll's face.

"About two weeks," answered Carroll. "I must have that much rest. I
am overworked." It was, indeed, true that Carroll looked fagged and
fairly ill.

"And then you expect to resume business?" questioned Allbright, with
a mild persistence. He still kept those keen, childlike eyes of his
upon the other man's face.

"What else would you understand from what I have already said?" said
Carroll. He essayed to meet the other man's eyes, then he turned and
looked out of the window, and at that minute the girl who had worked
at the type-writer in the back office looked up at him from the
crowded platform of the car with her small, intense face, whose
intensity seemed to make it stand out from the others around her as
from a blurred background of humanity. "May I ask you to kindly wait
a moment, Mr. Allbright?" Carroll said, and went out hurriedly,
leaving Allbright standing staring in amazement. There had been
something in his employer's manner which he did not understand. He
stood a second, then presently made free to take up a copy of the
Wall Street edition of the Sun, and sit down to glance over the panic
reports. It was not very long, however, before he heard Carroll
approaching the door. Carroll entered quite naturally, and the
unusual expression which had perplexed the clerk was gone from his
face. His mind seemed to be principally disturbed by the trouble
about the elevator.

"It is an outrage," he said, in his fine voice, which was courteous
even while pronouncing anathema. "The management of this block is not
what it should be."

Allbright had risen, and was standing beside the desk on which lay
the Sun. "It hasn't been acting right for a week past," he said,
referring to the elevator.

"I know it hasn't, and there might have been an accident. It is an
outrage. And they are taking twice as long to repair it as they
should. I doubt if it is in working order by to-morrow." As he spoke,
Carroll was taking out his pocket-book, which he opened, disclosing
neatly folded bank-notes. "By-the-way, Mr. Allbright," he said, "I
find I can settle my arrears with you to-night, after all. I happened
to think of a party from whom I might procure a certain sum which was
due me, and I did so."

Allbright's face brightened. "I am very glad, sir," he said. "I was
afraid of getting behind with the rent, and my sister has not been
very well lately, and there is the doctor's bill."

"I am very glad also," said Carroll. "I dislike exceedingly to allow
these things to remain unpaid." As he spoke he was counting out the
amount of Allbright's month's salary. He then closed the pocket-book
with a deft motion, but not before the clerk had seen that it was
nearly empty. He also saw something else before Carroll brought his
light overcoat together over his chest. "It is really cold to-night,"
he said.

"I am very much obliged to you, sir, for the money," Allbright said,
putting the notes in his old pocket-book. Then he replied to
Carroll's remark concerning the weather, that it was indeed cold, and
he thought there would be a frost.

"Yes, I think so," said Carroll.

Then Allbright put on his own rather shabby, dark overcoat and his
hat and took his leave. Much to his surprise, Carroll extended his
hand, something which he had never done before.

"Good-bye," he said.

Allbright shook the extended hand, and felt a sudden, unexplained
emotion. He returned the good-bye, and wished Mr. Carroll a pleasant
vacation and restoration to health.

"I am tired out and ill," Carroll admitted, in a weary voice, and his
eyes, as they now met the other man's, were haggard.

"There's two weeks' vacation," Allbright told his sister when he
reached home that night, "and I don't know, but I'm afraid business
ain't going just to suit Captain Carroll, and that's the reason for
it."

"Has he paid you?" asked his sister, quickly, and her placid forehead
wrinkled. Her illness had made her irritable.

"Yes," replied her brother. He looked at her meditatively. He was
about to tell her something--that he was almost sure that Carroll had
gone out and pawned his watch to pay him--then he desisted. He
reflected that his sister was a woman, and would in all probability
tell the woman down-stairs and her son about it, and that it would be
none of their business whether he worked for a man who was honest
enough, or hard up enough, to pawn his watch to pay him his month's
salary or not. He was conscious of sentiments of loyalty both to
himself and to Carroll. During the next two weeks he often strolled
in the neighborhood of the office and stood looking up at the
familiar windows. One day he saw some men carrying away a desk which
looked familiar, but he was not sure. He hesitated about asking them
from what office they had removed it until they had driven away and
it was too late. He went up on the elevator and surveyed the office
door, but it looked just as usual, with the old sign thereon. He
tried it softly, but it was locked.

When he reached the sidewalk he encountered Harrison Day, the young
clerk. He did not see him at first, but a nervous touch on his arm
arrested his attention, and then he saw the young man's face with its
fast-winking eyes.

"Say," said Harrison Day, "it's all right, ain't it?"

"What's all right?" demanded Allbright, a trifle shortly, drawing
away. He had never liked Harrison Day.

"Oh, nothin', only it's ten days since he went, and I thought I'd
look round to see how things were lookin'. You s'pose he's comin'
back all right?"

"I haven't any reason to think anything else."

"Well, I thought I'd look around, and when I saw you I thought I'd
ask what you thought. The girls are kind of uneasy--that is, Sadie
is--May don't seem to fret much. Say!"

"What?"

"Did he pay you?"

"Yes, he did."

"Ain't he owin' you anything?"

"No, he is not."

The young man gave a whistle of relief. "Well, I s'pose he's all
right," he said. "He 'ain't paid the rest of us up yet, but I s'pose
it's safe enough."

A faithful, even an affectionate look came into the other man's face.
He remembered his suspicions about the watch, and reasoned from
premises. "I have no more doubt of him than I have of myself," he
replied.

"You s'pose the business is goin' on just the same, then?"

"Of course I do," Allbright replied, almost angrily. And then a man
who had just emerged from the street door coming from the elevator
accosted him.

"Can you tell me anything about a man by the name of Carroll that's
been running a sort of promoting business up in No. 233," he asked,
and his face looked reddened unnaturally. The young man thought he
had probably been drinking, but Allbright thought he looked angry.
The young man replied before Allbright opened his mouth.

"He's gone on a vacation," he said.

"Queer time of year for a vacation," snapped the man, who was long
and lean and full of nervous vibrations.

"He was overworked," said Harrison Day.

"Guess he overworked cheating me out of two thousand odd dollars,"
said the man, and both the others turned and stared at him.

Then Allbright spoke. "That is a statement no man has any right to
make about my employer unless he is in a position to prove it," he
said.

"That is so," said Harrison Day. He was a very small man, but he
danced before the tall, lean one, who looked as if all his flesh
might have resolved to muscle.

The man looked contemptuously down at him and spoke to Allbright. "So
he is your employer?" he said, in a sarcastic tone.

"Yes, he is."

"This young man's also, I presume."

"Yes, he is," declared Day. But the man only heeded Allbright's
response that he was.

"Well," said the man, "may I ask a question?"

"Yes, you may," said Day, pertly, "but it don't follow that we are
goin' to answer it."

"May I ask," said the man, addressing Allbright, "if Captain Carroll
has paid you your salaries?"

"He has paid me every dollar he owed me," replied Allbright, with
emphasis, and his own face flushed.

Then the man turned to Day. "Has he paid you?" he inquired.

And Day, with no hesitation, lied. "Yes, sir, he has, every darned
cent," he declared, "and I don't know what business it is of yours
whether he has or not."

"When is he coming back?" asked the man, of Allbright, not heeding
Day.

"Next Monday," replied Allbright, with confidence.

"Where does he live?" asked the man.

Then for the first time an expression of confusion came over the
book-keeper's face, but Day arose to the occasion.

"He lives in Orange," replied Day.

"What street, and number?"

"One hundred and sixty-three Water Street," replied Day. His eyes
flashed. He was finding an unwholesome exhilaration in this
inspirational lying.

"Well," said the man, "I can tell you one thing, if your precious
boss ain't in this office Monday morning by nine o'clock sharp, he'll
see me at one hundred an sixty-three Water Street, Orange, New
Jersey, and he'll hand over my two thousand odd dollars that he's
swindled me out of, or I'll have the law on him." With that the man
swung himself aboard a passing car, and Allbright and Day were left
looking after him.

"That feller had ought to have been knocked down," said Day.

Allbright turned and looked at him gravely. "So, Captain Carroll
lives in Orange?" he said.

"He may, for all I know."

"Then you don't know?"

"Do you?"

"No; I never have known exactly."

"Well, I haven't, but I wasn't goin' to let on to that chap. And he
may live jest where I said he did, for all I know. Say!"

"What?"

"You s'pose it is all right?"

Allbright hesitated. His eyes fell on three gold balls suspended in
the air over a door a little way down a cross street. "Yes," he said.
"I believe that Captain Arthur Carroll will pay every man he owes
every dollar he owes."

"Well, I guess it's all right," said Day. "I'm goin' to take the
girls to Madison Square Garden to-night. I'm pretty short of cash,
but you may as well live while you do live. I wonder if the boss is
married."

"I don't know."

"I guess he is," said Day, "and I guess he's all right and above
board. Good-bye, Allbright. See you Monday."

But Monday, when the two stenographers, the book-keeper, and the
clerk met at the office, they found it still locked, and a sign "To
let" upon the door.

"Mr. Carroll gave up his office last Saturday," said the man in the
elevator. "The janitor said so, and they have taken his safe out for
rent. Guess he bust in the Wall Street shindy last week."

Out on the sidewalk the four looked at one another. The pretty
stenographer began to cry in a pocket-handkerchief edged with wide,
cheap lace.

"I call it a shame," she said, "and here I am owing for board, and--"

"Don't cry, May," said Day, with a caressing gesture towards her in
spite of the place. "I guess it will be all right. He has all our
addresses, and we shall hear, and you won't have a mite of trouble
getting another place."

"I think I am justified in telling you all not to worry in the least,
that you will be paid every dollar," said Allbright; but he looked
perplexed and troubled.

"It looks mighty black, his not sending us word he was going to close
the office," said Day; and then appeared the tall, lean man who
wanted his two thousand odd dollars. He did not notice them at all,
but started to enter the office-building.

"Come along quick before he comes back," whispered Day. He seized the
astonished girls each by an arm and hustled them up the street, and
Allbright, after a second's hesitation, followed them just as the
irate man emerged from the door.



Chapter XXVII


Arthur Carroll, when he had started on his drive with his wife and
sister that afternoon, was in one of those strenuous moods which seem
to make one's whole being tick with the clock-work of destiny and
cause everything else, all the environment, and the minor happenings
of life, to appear utterly idle. Even when he talked, and apparently
with earnestness, it was always with that realization of depths,
which made his own voice ring empty and strange in his ears. He heard
his wife and sister chatter with the sense of aloofness of the
inhabitant of another planet; he thought even of the financial
difficulties which harassed him, and had caused this very mood, with
that same sense of aloofness. When Anna wondered where Charlotte had
gone to walk, and Mrs. Carroll remarked on the possibility of their
overtaking her, his mind made an actual effort to grasp that simple
idea. He was running so deep, and with such awful swiftness, in his
own groove of personal tragedy, that the daughter whom he loved, and
had seen only a few moments ago, seemed almost left out of sight of
his memory. However, all the while the usual trivialities of his life
and the lives of those who belonged to him went on with the same
regularity and reality as tragedy, and with as certain a trend to a
catastrophe of joy or misery.

On that day when Charlotte had her fright from the tramp, she
remained at the Anderson's to supper. Eddy had also remained. When
Charlotte had waked from her nap, he followed Anderson into the
sitting-room, where was Charlotte in Mrs. Anderson's voluminous,
white frilly wrapper, a slight young figure scalloped about by soft,
white draperies, like a white flower, seated comfortably in the
largest, easiest chair in the room. Mrs. Anderson was standing over
her with another glass of wine, and a china plate containing two
great squares of sponge-cake.

"Do eat this and drink the wine, dear," she urged. "It is nearly an
hour before supper now."

"Then I really must go home, if it is so late," Charlotte cried. She
made a weak effort to rise. She was still curiously faint when she
essayed to move.

"You are going to stay here and have supper, and after supper my son
shall take you home. If you are not able to walk, we shall have a
carriage."

"I think I must go home, thank you," Charlotte repeated, in a sort of
bewildered and grateful dismay.

"If you think your mother will feel anxious, I will send and inform
her where you are," said Mrs. Anderson, "but you must stay, my dear."
There was about her a soft, but incontrovertible authority. It was
all gentleness, like the overlap of feathers, but it was compelling.
It was while Mrs. Anderson was insisting and the girl protesting that
Anderson, with Eddy at his heels, had entered the room.

"Why, Eddy dear, is that you?" cried Charlotte.

Eddy stood before her and surveyed her with commiseration and a
strong sense of personal grievance and reproach. "Yes, it's me," said
he. "Papa told me to go to walk with you, and I didn't know which way
you went, and I couldn't find out for a long time. Then I saw Mr.
Anderson taking you here, and I ran, but I couldn't catch up. He's
got awful long legs." Eddy looked accusingly at Anderson's legs.

"It was too bad," said Charlotte.

"You were awful silly to get so scared at nothing," Eddy pursued. "I
saw that tramp. He looked to me like a real nice man. Girls are
always imagining things. You'd better eat that cake, Charlotte. You
look awful. That looks like real nice cake."

"Bless your heart, you shall have some," Mrs. Anderson said, and Eddy
accepted with alacrity the golden block of cake which was offered him.

"Why, Eddy!" Charlotte said.

"Now, Charlotte, you know we never have cake like this at home," Eddy
said, biting into the cake. "Not since the egg-man won't trust us any
more. I know this kind of cake takes lots of eggs. I heard Marie say
so when Amy asked her to make it."

Charlotte colored pitifully, and made another effort to rise.
"Indeed, I think we must go now," said she. "Come, Eddy."

Mrs. Anderson turned to her son for support. "I tell her she must not
think of going until after tea," she said. "Then if she is not able
to walk, we will get a carriage."

Eddy removed the fast-diminishing square of cake from his mouth and
regarded his sister with an expression of the most open
ingenuousness. "Now, Charlotte, I'll tell you something," he said.

"What, dear?"

"You might just as well stay, and I'll tell you why. Papa and Amy and
Anna won't be home until after seven."

"Until after seven?"

"No. They are going to Addison."

"To Addison?"

Addison was a large town some fifteen miles from Banbridge.

"Yes; and they are going to get dinner there."

"Eddy, are you sure?"

"Yes, of course I am sure," replied Eddy, with the wide-open eyes of
virtue upon his sister's face. "Amy told me to tell you."

"Now, Eddy."

Eddy took another bite of his cake. "I think you are pretty mean to
speak that way. I never spoke to you so," he said. "When you say a
thing is so, I never say 'Now, Charlotte!'" Eddy, having imitated his
sister's doubtful tone exactly, took another bite of cake.

"Well, if Amy really said so," Charlotte returned, and still with a
faint accent of incredulity. It was very seldom that the Carrolls
took the drive to Addison. However, it was an exceedingly pleasant
day, and it did seem possible.

"Well, she did," Eddy declared, stoutly; and there was in his
declaration a slight trace of truth, for Mrs. Carroll had mentioned,
on starting, that it was such a lovely day, that if they had got an
earlier start they might have driven to Addison; and Anna had replied
that it was too late now, for they would not get home in time for
dinner if they went there. The rest Eddy had manufactured to serve
his own small ends--which a stay at the Andersons' to tea, for which
he had, remembering his dinner there, the pleasantest anticipations.
"You had better stay, Charlotte," Eddy urged, furthermore, "for you
do look awful pale, and as if you ought to have something nourishing
to eat, and you know we won't get much home. The mutton all went this
noon, and you know, unless papa got some in Addison, we wouldn't be
likely to get any here. I heard Anna talking about the butcher only
this morning. Papa hasn't been able to pay him for a very long time,
you know, Charlotte."

Then Charlotte raised herself hastily. "We must go home," she said,
with a fierce emphasis; but the effort was too much. She sank back,
and Mrs. Anderson sent her son for the camphor-bottle.

"Now," said she to Anderson, "you had better take him out and show
him the dog. I'll fix it up." She nodded assuringly towards the
little pale face against the rose-patterned chintz.

"Come along, son," said Anderson to the boy, and led him out in the
garden. "You must not talk quite so much, young man," he said to him,
when they were on their way to the dog-kennel, which was backed up
against the terrace at the rear of the house, and before which stood
chained fast a large dog with a bad reputation. "You had better not
touch him," charged Anderson, as they approached. Then he repeated,
"No, you must not talk quite so much."

"Why not?" demanded Eddy. "He don't look very cross."

"Because," said the man, "there are certain things in every family
which it is better for a member of the family not to repeat outside
his home."

"What did I say?" asked Eddy, wonderingly. "He is wagging his tail.
He shakes all over. He wouldn't do that unless his tail was wagging.
I can't see his tail, but it must be wagging. What did I say?"

"When it comes to the family's household affairs--" Anderson said.

"Oh, you mean what I said about the butcher, huh? Oh, that don't do
any harm. Everybody in Banbridge knows about those things. I don't
see what difference that makes. Folks have to have things, don't
they? I don't believe that dog would bite me. He is wagging just as
hard as he can. Don't they?"

"Yes, of course," agreed Anderson, "but--"

"And if they don't have the money to pay for things, what are they
going to do? You wouldn't want all us Carrolls to die, would you?"

Anderson smiled, and stood between the boy and the kennel.

"I ain't afraid of him," said Eddy. "You wouldn't, would you?"

"Oh, of course not," replied Anderson.

"I shouldn't think you would, especially Charlotte. Say, I think
Charlotte is a real pretty girl, if she is my sister. Say, why can't
I pat him?"

"You had better not. He bit a boy about your size once."

"Hm! I ain't afraid he'll bite me. Don't you think she is? I don't
think you are very polite not to say right off."

"Very pretty, indeed," replied Anderson, laughing. Then he spoke to
the dog, a large mongrel with a masterly air, and an evident strain
of good blood under his white and yellow hide.

"How much did you pay for that dog?" inquired Eddy.

"I didn't pay anything," replied Anderson. "Somebody left him in the
street in front of my office when he was a puppy, or he strayed
there. I never knew which."

"So you took him in?"

"Yes."

"Do you always keep him shut up here?"

"A great part of the time. Sometimes he stays in my store nights. He
is a very good watch-dog."

"You keep him shut up because he bit a boy?"

"Most of the time. He is a little uncertain in his temper, I am
afraid."

"Didn't he bite any one but that one boy?"

"No, not that I know of. But he has sprang at a good many people and
frightened them, and I have either to keep him tied or shoot him."

"He didn't kill the boy?"

Anderson laughed. "Oh no! He was not very badly bitten."

"Well, I know one thing," said Eddy, with conviction. "I would not
like a nice dog like that shut up all his life because he had bitten
me."

Before Anderson knew what he was about to do, Eddy had made a spring,
leaping up sideways in the air like a kitten, and was close to the
dog. And the dog, upon whom there was no reliance to be placed,
except in the case of Anderson himself, hardly stopping for a
premonitory growl, had seized upon the boy's little arm. Having a
strain of pure bulldog in him, it was considerable trouble to make
him let go, and Anderson had to use a good deal of force at his
collar and a thick stick.

Eddy, meanwhile, made not a whimper, but kept his whitening lips
close shut. Luckily he had on a thick jacket, although the day was so
warm, and when Anderson drew away at last from the furious, straining
animal, and examined the injured member, he found only a slight
wound. The marks of the dog's teeth were plainly visible, and there
were several breaks of the surface and a little blood, but it was
certainly not alarming, and the animal's usual temper made it
improbable that any ultra consequences need be feared.

Eddy was trembling and very pale, but he still made not a whimper, as
Anderson examined his arm.

"Well, my son," said Anderson, who was as white as the boy, "I think
there is not much harm done. But it is lucky you had on such a thick
sleeve. I can tell you that."

"That was because we have not paid the Chinaman, and he wouldn't send
home my blouses this week. It was so warm I wanted to wear a blouse,
but they were all at the Chinaman's." Eddy's teeth chattered as he
spoke, his childish lips quivered, and tears were in his eyes. He
continued to tremble violently, but he did not for a moment give way.
He even shook off the protecting arm which Anderson placed around his
little shoulders.

"Come, we will go in the house and have this tied up," said Anderson.

But Eddy rebelled. "I don't want a lot of women fussing over a little
thing like this," said he, stoutly. "It isn't anything at all."

"No, it is not very serious, but all the same it had better be tied
up, and I have something I want to put on it. I tell you what we will
do. We will go around the back way. I will take you in the kitchen
door and up the backstairs to my room, and doctor it unknown to
anybody."

"I don't want Charlotte to know anything about it; she will be just
silly enough to faint away again. Girls always do make such an awful
fuss over nothing," said Eddy.

"All right," said Anderson. "Come along, my boy."

Anderson started, and the boy followed, but suddenly he stopped and
ran back before Anderson dreamed what he was about. He stopped in
front of the kennel, and danced on obviously trembling legs a dance
of defiance before the frantic dog.

Anderson grabbed him by the shoulders.

"Come at once," he said, quite sternly.

Eddy obeyed at once. "All right," he said. "I just wanted him to see
I wasn't afraid of him, that was all."

Eddy and Anderson entered the house through the kitchen door,
ascended the backstairs noiselessly, and gained Anderson's room,
where the wound was bound up after an application of a stinging
remedy which the boy bore without flinching, although it was
considerably more painful than the bite itself. He looked soberly
down at his arm, now turning black and blue from the bruise of the
dog's teeth, beside the inflamed spots where they had actually
entered, while Anderson applied the violent remedy.

"Well," he said, "I suppose I was to blame. I ought to have minded
you."

"Yes, I suppose you ought, my son," assented Anderson, continuing to
handle the wound gently.

"And I suppose that is an exclusive dog. He doesn't like everybody
going right up to him. Say, I guess he is a pretty smart dog, but I
guess I should rather be his master than anybody else. He never bit
you, did he?"

"No."

"I should think he would be an awful nice watch-dog," said Eddy.

Anderson bound the arm tightly and smoothly with a bandage. When the
arm was finally dressed the jacket-sleeve could go over it, much to
Eddy's satisfaction.

"Say, this jacket ain't paid for," he said. "Isn't it lucky that the
man where Amy bought it didn't know we didn't have much money to pay
for things lately and trusted us. If I had on my old jacket, the
sleeves were so short and tight, because I had outgrown it, you know,
I'd been hurt a good deal worse, and it was lucky we hadn't paid the
Chinaman, too. It was real-- What do you call it?"

"I don't know what you mean?" said Anderson, smiling.

"It was real-- Oh, shucks! you know. What is it folks say when they
don't go on a railroad train, and there's an accident, and everybody
that did go is killed. You know."

"Oh, providential?"

"Yes, it was real providential."

"Suppose we go down."

"All right. Say, you mind you don't say a word about this to your
mother or Charlotte."

"Yes, I promise."

"Your mother is an awful nice lady," said Eddy, in a whisper,
descending the stairs behind Anderson, "but I don't want her fussing
over me as if I was a girl, 'cause I ain't."

When the two entered the sitting-room, Charlotte started and looked
at her brother.

"Eddy Carroll, what is the matter?" she cried.

"Nothing," declared the little boy, stoutly, but he manifestly
tottered.

"Why, the dear child is ill!" cried Mrs. Anderson. "Randolph, what
has happened?"

"Nothing!" cried Eddy, holding on to his consciousness like a hero.
"Nothing; and I ain't a dear child."

"It is nothing, mother," said Anderson, quickly coming to his rescue.

Charlotte was eying wisely the knee of Eddy's knickerbockers. "Eddy
Carroll," said she, with tender severity, "your knee must be paining
you terribly."

Eddy quickly grasped at the lesser evil. "It ain't worth talking
about," he responded, stoutly.

"I can see blood on your knee, dear. It must be bad to make you turn
so pale as that."

With a soft swoop like a mother hen, Mrs. Anderson descended upon the
boy, who did not dare resist that gentle authority. She tenderly
rolled up the leg of the little knickerbockers and examined the
bruised, childish knee. Then she got some witch-hazel and bound it
up. While she was doing so, Eddy gazed over her head at Anderson with
the knowing and confidential twinkle which one man gives another when
tolerant of womanly delusion. He even indulged in an apparently
insane chuckle when Mrs. Anderson finished, and smoothed his little,
dark head, and told him that now she was sure it would feel better.

"Eddy," cried Charlotte, "what are you doing so for?"

"Nothing," replied Eddy. "I was thinking how funny I looked when I
tumbled down." But he rolled his eyes, comically around at Anderson.
His arm was paining him frightfully, and it struck him as the most
altogether exquisite joke that Mrs. Anderson should be treating his
knee, which did not pain him at all, so sympathetically.



Chapter XXVIII


During the progress of the tea at the Andersons' Eddy kept furtively
glancing at his sister with an expression which signified
congratulation.

"Ain't you glad you stayed?" the expression said, quite plainly.

"Did you ever have such nice things to eat? And only think what a
snippy meal we should have had at home!"

Charlotte met the first of the glances with a covertly chiding look
and an imperceptible shake of her head; then she refused to meet
them, keeping her eyes away from her exultant brother. She herself
was actually hungry, poor child, for the truth was that for the last
few days it had been somewhat short commons at the Carrolls', and
Charlotte was one of the sort who, under such circumstances, are
seized with a sudden loss of appetite. She had really eaten very
little for some hours, and now, in spite of a curious embarrassment
and agitation, which under ordinary circumstances would have lessened
her desire for food, she herself ate eagerly. The meal was both
dainty and abundant. Mrs. Anderson had always prided herself upon the
meals she set before guests. There was always in the house a store of
sweets to be drawn from on such occasions, and while Anderson had
been binding up Eddy's wound, the maid had been sent to the market
for a chicken to supplement the beefsteak which had been intended for
the family supper. So there was fried chicken and celery salad, and
the most wonderful cream biscuits, and fruit and pound cake, and
quince preserves--quarters of delectable, long-drawn-out flavor in a
rosy jelly--and tea and thick cream and loaf-sugar in the old, solid
service with its squat pieces finished with beading. Eddy gloated
over it all openly. He fairly forgot his manners, for, after all, he
was, although in a desultory sort of way, a well-bred boy. The
Carrolls, as far as their manners went, were gentlefolk, and came of
a long line of gentlefolk. But it happened that the china which had
come to them from their forebears had for the most part been broken
in the course of their wanderings from place to place, and in its
place was an ornate and rather costly, and unpaid-for, set. Eddy now
quite openly lifted the saucer of thin, pink-and-gold china, in which
his teacup rested, and held it to the light.

"Whew, ain't it thin?" he ejaculated.

"Why, Eddy!" Charlotte cried, flushing with dismay.

"I don't care. It is awful thin," persisted the boy. He held the
saucer before his eyes. "I can see you through it; yes, I can," said
he.

But Mrs. Anderson, although her old-fashioned ideas of the decorous
behavior due from children at table were somewhat offended, and she
later told her son that it did seem to her that the boy must have
been somewhat neglected, was yet very susceptible to flattery of
those teacups, which had descended to her from her own mother, and
which she had always regarded as superior to any of the Anderson
family china, of which there was quite a store. So she merely smiled
and remarked gently that the china was very old, and she believed
quite rare, and it was, indeed, unusually thin, yet not a piece of
the original set had been broken.

"Why didn't we have china like this instead of that we have?"
demanded Eddy of Charlotte.

"Hush, dear," said Charlotte. "This china is so very old and
valuable, you know, that not every one could--that we could not-- I
believe we had some very pretty china in our family, but it all got
broken," she added.

"It didn't begin to be so pretty as this," said Eddy. "I remember it.
The cups were like bowls, and there were black wreaths around them.
There weren't any handles, either. I don't see why we couldn't have
got some china as pretty as this. Suppose it was valuable. Why, I
don't believe that we have now is paid for. What difference would it
make?"

Charlotte blushed so that Mrs. Anderson felt an impulse to draw the
poor, little, troubled head upon her shoulder and tell her not to
mind.

"Let me give you some more of the quince preserve, dear," she said,
in the softest voice; and Charlotte, who did not want it, passed her
little glass dish to take advantage of the opportunity afforded her
to cover her confusion.

"What difference would it make, say, Charlotte?" persisted Eddy.

"Hush, dear," said Charlotte, painfully.

"Here, son, pass your plate for this chicken," said Anderson; and
Eddy, with a shrewd glance of half-comprehension from one to the
other, passed his plate and subsided, after a muttered remark that he
didn't see why Charlotte minded.

"Wasn't that a bully supper?" he whispered, pressing close to his
sister when they entered the sitting-room after the meal was finished.

"Hush, dear," she whispered back.

"Ain't you glad you stayed? You wouldn't, if it hadn't been for me."

Charlotte turned and looked at him sharply. Mrs. Anderson had
lingered in the dining-room to give some directions to the maid, and
Anderson had stepped out on the porch for a second's puff at a cigar.

"Eddy Carroll," said she, in a whisper, "you didn't?"

Eddy faced her defiantly. "Didn't what?"

"You didn't tell a lie about that?"

Eddy lowered his eyes, frowned, and scraped one foot in a way he had
when embarrassed. "Amy did say something about it was such a pleasant
day and Addison," he replied, doggedly.

"But did she say they were really going there, and would not be back?"

"Anna said if they went there they could not get back."

"But did she say they were going? Tell me the truth, Eddy Carroll."

Eddy scraped.

"I see they did not," said Charlotte, severely.

"Eddy, I don't know what papa will say."

"I know," said Eddy, simply, with a curious mixture of ruefulness and
defiance. Then he added: "If you want to be mean enough to tell on a
feller, after he's been the means of your having such a supper as
that (and you were hungry, too; you needn't say you wasn't; you ate
an awful lot yourself), you can."

"I am not going to tell unless I am asked, when I certainly shall not
tell a lie," replied Charlotte; "but papa will find it out himself, I
am afraid, Eddy."

"I shouldn't wonder if he did," admitted Eddy.

"And then, you know--"

"Yes, I know; but I don't care. I have had that bully supper, anyhow.
He can't alter that. And, say, Charlotte."

"What?" asked Charlotte, severely. "I am ashamed of you, Eddy."

"I don't see why papa don't get a store, like him"--he jerked an
expressive shoulder towards the scent of the cigar smoke--"and then
we could have things as good as they do."

But then Charlotte turned on him with fierceness none the less
intense, although necessarily subdued. "Eddy Carroll," she whispered,
with a long-drawn sibilance, "to turn on your father, a man like
papa! Eddy Carroll! Poor papa does the best he can, always, always."

"I suppose he does," said Eddy, quite loudly. "My, Charlotte, you
needn't act as if you were going to bite a feller. I've had enough
of--"

"What?" asked Charlotte.

"Nothing," said Eddy. His arm was paining him quite severely. It had
been quite an ordeal for him to manage his knife and fork at supper
without betrayal.

"What were you going to say?" persisted Charlotte.

"Nothing," said Eddy, doggedly--"nothing at all. Don't act so fierce,
Charlotte. It isn't lady-like. Amy never speaks so awful quick."

Charlotte began putting on her hat, which had been left on the
sitting-room table. "I am ashamed of you," she whispered again. "I
was ashamed of you all tea-time."

Eddy whistled in a mannish fashion. Charlotte continued adjusting her
hat and smoothing her fluff of dark hair. Her face, in the mirror
which hung between the two front windows, looked not so angry as
sorrowful, and with a dewy softness in the pretty eyes, and a slight
quiver about the soft mouth. Eddy glanced several times at this
reflected face; then he stole, with a sudden, swift motion, up behind
his sister, threw his arms around her neck, although it hurt him
cruelly, and laid his boyish cheek against her soft, girlish one.

"No, you need not think that will make up," whispered Charlotte. But
she herself pressed her cheek tenderly against his, and then laughed
softly. "Try not to do so again, dear," she said. "It mortified me,
and it is not being a credit to papa. Think a little and try to
remember how you have been brought up."

"Charlotte," whispered Eddy, in the softest, most furtive of
whispers, casting a glance over his shoulder.

"What is it, dear?"

"I suppose they"--he indicated by a motion of his shoulder his host
and hostess--"are just as nice people as--we are--as the Carrolls."

"Of course they are," replied Charlotte, hastily. She pushed Eddy
away softly and began to fuss again with her hat. "We must go home
right away," she said, "or they will worry."

"There is no need of his going home with you, as long as I am here,"
said Eddy.

"Of course not," replied Charlotte.

But it seemed that Anderson himself had other views, and his mother
also, for although a sudden and not altogether easy suspicion had
come to her, she whispered aside to him that he must certainly
accompany the two home.

"It is quite dark already," she said, "and it is not fit for that
child to go alone with nobody but that boy, after the fright she has
had this afternoon. She is just in the condition now when a shadow
might upset her. You really must go with her, Randolph."

"I have no intention of doing anything else, mother," Randolph
replied, laughing. He had been, indeed, taking his overcoat from the
tree in the hall when his mother had come out to speak to him.
Charlotte had said, on rising from the table, that she must go home
at once.

Mrs. Anderson enveloped the girl in her large, gentle,
lavender-scented embrace, and received with pleasant disclaimers her
assurances of obligations and thanks; then she stood in the window
and, with a little misgiving, and a ready imagination for future
trouble, watched them emerge from the little front yard and disappear
down the street under the low-growing maple branches which were
turning slowly, and flashed gold over their heads in electric lights.
She reflected judicially that while Charlotte was undoubtedly a sweet
girl, and very pretty, very pretty, indeed, and, while her own heart
was drawn to her, yet she would make no sort of wife for her son. She
remembered with a shudder Eddy's remarks at the table.

"He is a pretty little boy, too," she thought, with a maternal
thrill, remembering her own son at that age. When she returned to the
dining-room to wash the pink-and-gold cups and saucers, in her little
bowl of hot water on the end of the table, as was her custom when the
best china had been used, the maid, who was clearing the table, and
who had been encouraged to conversation from the lack of another
woman in the house, and her mistress's habit of gentle garrulity,
spoke upon the subject in her mind.

"Them was them Carrolls that lives in the Ranger place, was they
not?" said she. The maid was a curious product of the region, having
somewhat anomalously graduated at a high-school in New Sanderson
before entering service, and gotten a strange load of unassimilated
knowledge, which was particularly exemplified in her English. She
scorned contractions, but equally scorned possessives and legitimate
tenses. She wrote a beautiful hand, using quite ambitious words, but
she totally misinterpreted the meaning of these very words in current
literature, particularly the cook-book. Her bread was as heavy with
undigested facts as is the stomach of a dyspeptic with food, but she
was, in a way, a good servant, very faithful, attached to Mrs.
Anderson, and a guileless purveyor of gossip, which rendered her
exceedingly entertaining. She sniffed meaningly now in response to
Mrs. Anderson's affirmative with regard to the identity of the recent
guests.

"They did not fail to eat enough," said she, presently, packing up
the plates and looking at her mistress, who was drying carefully a
pink-and-gold cup on a soft towel.

"Yes, they seemed to relish the food," responded Mrs. Anderson.

The maid sniffed again, and her sniff meant the gratification of the
cook who sees her work appreciated, and something else--an indulgent
scorn. "Well, I guess there is reason enough for them relishing it,"
said she.

Mrs. Anderson made a soft, interrogatory noise, all that was
consistent with her dignity and her sense of honor as a recent
hostess towards departed guests.

The maid went on. "They do say," said she, "them as knows, that them
Carrolls do not have enough to eat."

Mrs. Anderson made a little exclamation expressive of horror and pity.

"Yes, they do say so," the maid went on, solemnly. "They do say, them
that knows, that them Carrolls be owing everybody in Banbridge, and
have cheated folks that have trusted in them awful."

"Well, I am sorry if it is so," said Mrs. Anderson, with a sigh, "but
of course this young lady who was here to-night and her little
brother can't be to blame in any way, Emma."

The maid sniffed with a deprecating disagreement. "Mebbe they be
not," said she. She was rather a pretty girl, in her late girlhood,
thin and large-boned, with a bright color on her evident cheek-bones,
and with small, sparkling, blue eyes. She was extremely neat and
trim, moreover, in her personal habits, and to-night was quite
gorgeously arrayed in a light silk waist and a nice black skirt. She
was expecting her beau to take her to evening prayer-meeting. She was
a very religious girl, and had reclaimed her beau, who had had a
liking for the gin-mills previous to keeping company with her.

"Of course they are not," said Mrs. Anderson, with some warmth of
partisanship, remembering poor little Charlotte's pretty, anxious
face and her tiny, soft, clinging hands. She glanced, as she spoke,
at the maid's large, red-knuckled fingers with a mental comparison.

The maid was fixed in her own rendering of English verbs, and had
told her beau that her mistress did not speak just right, like most
old folks.

"Mebbe they be not," she said, with firm doubt. Then she added, "It
would not hurt them Carroll ladies, that young lady, nor her mother,
nor her aunt, if they was to take hold, and do the housework them own
selves, instead of keeping a girl, who they do not never pay."

"Oh, dear! Do you know that?"

"Indeed I do know that! Ed, he told me. He had it straight from them
Hungarians who live in the house back of his married sister's. The
Carroll girl, she goes there, and she told them, and them told Ed's
sister."

"Perhaps she has had some of her wages. You don't mean she has not
been paid at all?" Mrs. Anderson said.

"I mean not at all," the maid said, firmly. "That girl that works for
them Carrolls has not been paid, not at all."

"Why does she remain there, then?"

"She would have went a long time ago if she not been afraid, lest, if
she had went, it would have come about that she would have lost all
she was going to lose as well as that which she had lost before,"
replied the girl, and Mrs. Anderson, being accustomed to her method
of expression, understood.

"It is dreadful," she said.

"They say he has about ruined a great many of the people in Banbridge
who have trusted them," said the maid, with a sly, keen glance at her
mistress. She had heard that Mr. Anderson was one of the losers, and
she wondered.

"They have paid my son promptly, I believe," said Mrs. Anderson,
although a little reluctantly. She always disliked alluding to the
store to her maid, much more so than towards her equals. But that the
maid misunderstood. She often told her beau that Mrs. Anderson was
not a bit set up nor proud-feeling, if her son _did_ have a store.
Therefore, to-night she understood humility instead of pride from her
mistress's tone, and looked at her admiringly as she daintily
polished the delicate pink-and-gold cups.

"I am very glad, indeed, that Mr. Randolph has not lost nothing
through them," she replied.

"No, he has not," Mrs. Anderson repeated. "I dare say it is all
exaggerated. The young lady who was here to-night seems like a very
sweet girl."

Mrs. Anderson said that from a beautiful sense of loyalty and
justice, while in her mind's eye she saw her beloved son walking
along through the early night with the young lady on his arm, and
perhaps falling desperately in love, even at this date, and beginning
to think of matrimony with a member of a family about which such
tales were told in Banbridge.

But the harm had been done long before she had dreamed of it, and her
son had been very much in love with the girl on his arm before he had
scarcely known her by sight. Anderson that night felt in a sort of
dream. He was for the first time practically alone with Charlotte,
for Eddy accompanied them very much after the fashion of an extremely
lively little dog. He ran ahead, he lagged behind, and made dashes
ahead with wild whoops. He hid behind trees, and sprang out at them
when they passed. He was frequently startlingly obvious, but could
not be said to actually be with them. He had wondered frankly, before
they started, as to why Anderson wished to accompany them at all.

"I don't see why you want to go 'way up to our house when Charlotte
has got me," he said. "Ain't you tired?"

Something in Anderson's persistency seemed to strike him as
significant, for he walked behind them quite soberly, with his eye
upon their backs in a speculative fashion at first; then he seemed to
be seized with wild excitement, and began frantic demonstrations to
attract Anderson's attention. In reality the boy was jealous,
although nobody dreamed of such a thing.

"A man will never notice a feller when a pretty girl's around; and
she ain't so very pretty, either," he said to himself. He regarded
Anderson as his find, and was naturally indignant with Charlotte. So
all the way home he darted and veered about them, in order to divert
the man's mind from the girl to the faithful little boy, but with no
avail. Once or twice Charlotte spoke reproachfully to him, and that
was all. Anderson never spoke a word to him, and his grief and
jealousy grew.

Anderson, walking along the shadowy street with Charlotte's little
hand in his arm, would have been oblivious to much more startling
demonstrations than poor Eddy's. He was profoundly agitated, stirred
to the depths, and for that very reason he acquitted himself with
more dignity and quiet calm than usual. He held himself with such a
tight rein that his soul ached, but he never relaxed his hold. He
told himself that it would be monstrous if by a word or gesture, by a
tone of the voice, he betrayed anything to this little, innocent,
timid, frightened girl on his arm. He never dreamed of the remotest
possibility of dreams on her part. The soul beside him, seemingly
separated only by thin walls of flesh, was in reality separated by an
abyss of the imagination. But every minute his heart seemed to
encompass her more and more tenderly, seemed to enfold her, shielding
her from itself with its own love. Now and then he looked down at
her, and the sight of the little, pale, flower-like face turned
towards his with a serious, guileless scrutiny, like a baby's, caused
him to fairly tremble with his passion of protection and adoration.
They talked very little. Charlotte, if the truth were told, in spite
of the tender nursing she had received, was still feeling rather
shaken, and she had also a curious sense of timid and excited
happiness, which tied her tongue and wove her thoughts even into an
incoherent dazzle. When Anderson spoke, it was very coolly, on quite
indifferent topics, and Charlotte answered him in her soft, rather
unsteady little voice, and then conversation lagged again. It was on
Anderson's tongue to question her closely as to her entire recovery
from her fright of the afternoon, but he did not even do that, being
afraid to trust his voice.

As they drew near the Carroll house, a doubt and perplexity which had
been haunting Charlotte, assumed larger proportions, and Anderson
himself had a thought also of the complication. Charlotte was
wondering if she should ask him in. She was wondering what her mother
and aunt would think. She knew what they would do, of course--that
is, so far as their reception of the man who had befriended her, and
whose mother had befriended her was concerned. They were gentlewomen.
And she knew quite certainly about her father. But she wondered as to
their real attitude, their mental attitude, and she wondered still
more with regard to Anderson. Would he expect to be invited in? In
what fashion did he read his own social status in the village.
Anderson also was considering, during the last of the way, if he
should enter the Carroll house and present his apologies and his
mother's for having urged the fugitive members of the family to
remain, and he wondered a good deal as to the desirable course for
him to adopt, even supposing he were invited. While he had no
consciousness whatever of any loss of prestige among people whom he
had always known in the village, while, in fact, he never gave it a
thought--yet he knew reasonably that outsiders might possibly look at
matters differently, that his own unshaken estimate of himself, the
estimate which was the same in a grocery-store as in a lawyer's
office, might not be accepted. He recognized the fact with amusement
rather than indignation, but he recognized it. He wondered how the
girl would look at it all, whether she would ask him in to make the
acquaintance of her family, and whether, if she did so he should
accept.

But Charlotte came to have no doubt whatever that she should ask him.
Suddenly a great wave of loyalty towards this new friend came over
her, loyalty and great courage.

"Of course I shall ask him, when he has done all he has for me, he
and his mother," she decided. "I shall, and I don't care what they
think. I don't care. He is a gentleman, as much a gentleman as papa."
Charlotte walked more erect, the pressure of her hand on Anderson's
arm tightened a little unconsciously. When they reached the Carroll
grounds she spoke very sweetly, and not at all hesitatingly.

"You will come in and let my family thank you for your kindness to
me, Mr. Anderson," she said.

Anderson smiled down at her, and hesitated. "I do not require any
thanks. What I have done was only a pleasure," he said. In his
anxiety to control his voice, he overdid the matter, and made it
exceedingly cool.

"He means he would have done just the same for any other girl, and it
is silly for me to think he needs to be thanked so much for it,"
thought Charlotte, like a flash. She was full of the hair-splitting
fancies of young girlhood in their estimate of a man. Her heart sank,
but she repeated, still sweetly, though now a little more formally:
"Then please come in and meet my father and mother and aunt. I should
like to have you know them, and I am sure it would be a great
pleasure to them."

"Thank you, Miss Carroll," Anderson said, slowly. Then, while he
hesitated, came suddenly the sound of a shrill, vituperating voice
from the house, a voice raised in a solo-like effect, the burden of
which seemed both grief and rage, and contumely.

Eddy, who had given one of his dashes ahead, when they reached the
grounds, came flying back. "Say," he said, "there's an awful shindy
in the house. The dressmaker is pitching into papa for all she is
worth, and there are some other folks, but she's goin' it loudest;
but they are all going it! Cracky! Hear 'em!"

Indeed, at that second the solo became a chorus. The house seemed all
clamorous with scolding voices. The door stood open, and the
hall-light streamed out in the hall.

"Marie, she's in there, too," said Eddy, in an odd sort of glee, "and
Martin. They are all pitching into papa for their money, but he's
enough for them." It became evident why the boy's voice was gleeful.
He was pitting his father, with the most filial pride and confidence,
against his creditors.

Anderson held out his hand to Charlotte. "Good-night," he said,
hastily, "and I hope you will feel no ill effects to-morrow from your
fright." Then he was gone before Charlotte could say anything more.

"It's an awful shindy," Eddy said, still in that tone of strange
glee, to his sister. To his great amazement, she caught him suddenly
by his arm, the hurt one, but he did not flinch.

The girl began to cry. "Oh, Eddy!" she sobbed, pitifully. "Oh, Eddy
dear!"

"What are you crying for, Charlotte?" asked Eddy, giving his head a
rough caressing duck against hers. "Papa's enough for them; you know
that. He ain't a mite scared."



Chapter XXIX


Anderson, as he went away that night, had before his eyes Charlotte's
little face, the intensity of which had seemed to make it fairly
luminous in the dim light, as she had turned it towards him. There
was in that face at once unreasoning and childish anger that he was
there at all, and in a measure a witness of the distress and disgrace
of herself and her family, and a piteous appeal for help--at once a
forbidding and a beseeching. For Anderson, naturally, the forbidding
seemed most in evidence as an impulse to action. He felt that he must
withdraw immediately and save them all the additional mortification
that he could. So he hurried away down the road, with the girl's face
before his eyes, and the sound of the scolding voice in the house in
his ears. The voice carried far. In spite of the wrath in it, it was
a sweet, almost a singing, voice, high-pitched but sonorous. It was
the voice of little Willy Eddy's German wife, and it came from a pair
of strong lungs in a well-developed chest, and was actuated by a
strong and indignant spirit. Arthur Carroll, listening to her, was
conscious of an absurdly impersonal sentiment of something like
admiration. The young woman was really in a manner superb. The
occasion was trivial, even ignoble. Carroll felt contemptuous both
for her and for himself, and yet she dignified it to a degree. Minna
Eddy was built on a large scale; she was both muscular and stout. Her
short, blue-woollen skirt, increasing with its fulness her firm hips,
disclosed generously her sturdy feet and ankles, which had a certain
beauty of fitness as pedestals of support for her great bulk of
femininity. She had come out just as she had been about her household
tasks, and her cotton blouse, of an incongruous green-figured
pattern, was open at the neck, disclosing a meeting of curves in a
roseate crease, and one sleeve, being badly worn, revealed a pink
boss of elbow. Minna Eddy had a distinctly handsome face, so far as
feature and color went. It was a harmonious combination of curves and
dimples, all overspread with a deep bloom, as of milk and roses, and
her fair hair was magnificent. She had a marvellous growth both for
thickness and length, and it was plaited smoothly, covering the back
of the head as with a mat. She had come out with a blue handkerchief
tied over her head, but she had torn it off, and waved it like a flag
of battle in one fat, muscular hand as she lifted on high her voice
of musical wrath. She spoke good English, although naturally
tinctured by the abuses of the country-side. She had come to America
before she could talk at all, and all her training had been in the
country. The only trace of her German descent was in the sounds of
certain letters, especially _d_ and _v_. She said _t_ for _d_, and
_f_ for _v_. Carroll noticed that as he noticed every detail. His
senses seemed unnaturally acute, as possibly any animal's may be when
at bay, and when the baiting has fairly begun.

A little behind Minna Eddy, and at her right, stood her husband, with
a face of utter discomfiture and terror. Now and then he reached out
a small, twitching hand and made an ineffectual clutch at her elbow
as she talked on. At times he rolled terrified and appealing eyes at
Carroll. He seemed even to be begging for his partisanship, although
the absurdity of that was obvious.

"Oh, you other man," his eyes seemed to say, "see how terrible a
woman can be! What can we do against such might as this?" The room
was quite full of people, but Minna Eddy had the platform.

"You, you, you!" she repeated before every paragraph of invective,
like a prelude and refrain. "You, you, you!" and she fairly hurled
the words at Carroll--"you, you, you! gettin' my man"--with a fierce
backward lunge of her bare right elbow towards her husband, who
shrank away, and a fierce backward roll of a blue eye--"gettin' my
man to take all his money and spend it for no goot. You, you, you!
When I haf need of it for shoes and stockings for the children, when
I go with my dress in rags. You, you, you!" She went on and on, with
a curious variety in the midst of monotony. The stream of her
invective flowed on like a river with ever-new ripples. There was a
species of fascination in it for the man who was the object of it,
and there seemed to be also a compelling quality for the others in
the room. There had been no preconcerted movement among Carroll's
creditors, but a number of them had that evening descended upon him
in a body. In the parlor were the little dressmaker; the druggist;
the butcher; Tappan, the milkman; the two stenographers, and Harrison
Day, the clerk, who had come on the seven-o'clock train from New
York; two men with whom he had dealings in a horse-trade; an old man
who had made the garden the previous spring; and another butcher who
had driven over from New Sanderson. In the dining-room door stood
Marie, the Hungarian maid, and behind her was the coachman. Carroll
stood leaning against the corner of the mantel-piece; some of the
others were defiantly yet deprecatingly seated, some were standing.
Anna Carroll, quite pale, with an odd, fixed expression, stood near
her brother. When Charlotte entered the house, she took up a position
in the hall, leaning against the wall, near the door. She could hear
every word, but she was quite out of sight. She leaned heavily
against the wall, for her limbs trembled under her, and she could
scarcely stand. Her aunt had looked around as she entered, and a
question as to where she had been had shaped itself on her lips: then
her look of inquiry and relief had died away in her expression of
bitter concentration upon the matter in hand. She had been alarmed
about Charlotte, as they had all been. Mrs. Carroll had called softly
down the stairs to know if Charlotte had come, and the girl had
answered, "Yes, Amy dear."

"Where have you been, dear?" asked the soft voice, from an indistinct
mass of floating white at the head of the stairs.

"I'll tell you by-and-by, Amy dear."

"I was alarmed about you," said the voice, "it was so late; about you
and Eddy."

"He has come, too."

"Yes, I heard him." Then the voice added, quite distinctly petulant,
"I have a headache, but it is so noisy I cannot get to sleep." Then
there was a rustle of retreat, and Charlotte leaned against the wall,
listening to the hushed turmoil surmounted by that voice of
accusation in the parlor. Eddy stood full in the doorway, in a
boyish, swaggering attitude, his hands on his hips, and bent
slightly, with sharp eyes of intense enjoyment on Minna Eddy.
Suddenly, Carroll turned and caught sight of him, and as if perforce
the boy's eyes turned to meet his father's. Carroll did not speak,
but he raised his hand and pointed to the hall with an upward motion
for the stairs, and Eddy went, with a faint whimper of remonstrance.
The scolding woman saw the little, retreating figure, and directly
the torrent of her vituperation was turned into a new course.

"You, you, you!" she proclaimed; "dressin' your boy up in fine
clothes, while mine children have went in rags since you have came to
Banbridge! You, you, you! gettin' all my man's money, and dressin' up
your boy in clothes that I haf paid for! You, you, you!"

But Minna Eddy had unwittingly furnished the right key-note for a
whole chorus. Madame Griggs, who had been rocking jerkily in a small,
red-plush chair which squeaked faintly, sprang up, and left it still
rocking and squeaking.

"Yes," said she, "yes, that is so. Look at the way the whole family
dress, at other people's expense!"

She was hysterical still, yet she had not lost her sense of the
gentility of self-restraint. That would come later. Her face worked
convulsively, red spots were on her thin cheeks, but there was still
an ingratiating, somewhat servile, tone in her voice, and she looked
scornfully at Minna Eddy. Then J. Rosenstein, who kept the principal
dry-goods store in Banbridge, bore his testimony. His grievances were
small, but none the less vital. His business dealings with the
Carrolls had been limited to sundry spools of thread and kitchen
towellings and buttons, but they were as lead in his estimate of
wrong, although he had a grave, introspective expression, out of
proportion to the seeming triviality of the matter in his mind. He
held in one long hand a slip of paper, and eyed Carroll with
dignified accusation.

"This is the fifth bill I have made out," he remarked, and he raised
his voice to the pitch of his brethren of the Bowery when they hawk
in the street. "The fifth bill I have made out, and it is only for
one dollar and fifty-three cents, and I am poor."

His intellectual Semitic face took on an ignoble expression of one
who squeezes justice to petty ends for his own deserts. His whine
penetrated the rising chorus of the other voices, even of the
butcher, who was a countryman of his own, and who said something with
dolorous fervor about the bill for meat which had been running for
six weeks, and not a dollar paid. He was of a more common sort, and
rendered a trifle indifferent by a recent visit to a beer-saloon. He
was also somewhat stupefied by an excess of flesh, as to the true
exigencies of life in general. After he had spoken he coughed
wheezily, settled his swelling bulk more comfortably in the
red-velvet chair, and planted his wide-apart, elephantine legs more
firmly on the floor, while he mentally appraised the Oriental rug
beneath his feet, with a view to the possibility of his taking that
in lieu of cash, and making a profitable bargain for its ultimate
disposal with a cousin in trade in New York. Looking up, he caught
Rosenstein's eyes just turning from a regard of the same rug, and the
two men's thoughts met with a mental clash. Then the New Sanderson
butcher, who was a great, handsome, blond man with a foam of yellow
beard, German, but not Jew, strolled silently over to them, and with
sharp eyes on the rug, conferred with the other two in low, eager
whispers. From that time they paid little attention to what was going
on around them. They talked, they gesticulated, they felt of the rug.

Madame Griggs, settling her skirts genteelly, spoke again. "I guess
my bill has been running fully as long as anybody's here," she said,
in her small, shrill voice. She eyed the two stenographers as she
spoke, with jealous suspicion. There was a certain smartness about
their attire, and she suspected them of being City dress-makers. She
also suspected the strange young man with them of being a City
lawyer, whom they had brought with them to urge their claims. Madame
Stella Griggs had a ready imagination. The two stenographers had not
spoken at all. From time to time the prettier wept, softly, in her
lace-edged handkerchief; the other looked pale and nervous. Whenever
she looked at Carroll her mouth quivered. The young man sat still and
winked furiously. He had discovered Carroll's address and informed
the girls, and they had planned this descent upon their employer. Now
they were there, they were frightened and intimidated and distressed.
They were a gentle lot, of the sort that are born to be led. Their
resentment and sense of injustice overwhelmed them with grief, rather
than a desire for retaliation. They were in sore straits for their
money, yet all would have walked again into the snare, and they
regarded Carroll with the same awed admiration as of old. No one but
felt commiseration for him, and trust in his ultimate payment of
their wages. They regarded the other creditors with a sort of mild
contempt. They felt themselves of another kind, especially from the
Germans and Jews. When Willy Eddy's wife had declaimed, one
stenographer had whispered to the other, "How vulgar!" and the other
had responded with a nod and curl of a lip of scorn. They met Madame
Griggs's hostile regard with icy stares. The less pretty girl said to
the young man that she thought it was mean for a dressmaker to come
there and hound folks like that, and he nodded, winking
disapprovingly at poor Madame Griggs, who was just then cherishing
the wild idea of consulting him for herself in his supposed capacity
of a lawyer. The stenographer, turning from her remark to the clerk,
met the laughing but impertinent gaze of one of the horse-trading
men, and she turned her back upon him with an emphasis that provoked
a chuckle from his companion.

"Got it in the shoulder then, Bill," he remarked, quite audibly, and
the other reddened and grinned foolishly. They were rough-looking men
with a certain swagger of smartness. They regarded Carroll with a
swearing emphasis, yet with a measure of reluctantly compelled
admiration.

"I'll be damned if he ain't the first that ever got the better of Jim
Dickerson," one had said to the other, as they had driven up to the
house that evening. "I'll be ---- damned if I see now how he got the
better of me," the other rejoined, with a bewildered expression. As
he spoke his mind revolved in the devious mesh of trap which he had
set for Carroll, and realized the clean cutting of it by Carroll by
the ruthless method of self-interest. Neither man had spoken besides
a defiant response to Carroll's polite "Good-evening," when they had
entered. They sat and watched and listened. Occasionally one raised a
hand, and an enormous diamond glowed with a red light like a ruby. In
the four-in-hand tie of the other a scarf-pin in the shape of a
horse's head with diamond eyes caught the light with infinitesimal
sparks of fire. Above it his clean-shaven, keen, blue-eyed face kept
watch, sharply ready to strike anger as the diamonds struck light,
and yet with a certain amusement. He had shown his teeth in a smile
when Willy Eddy's wife pronounced her tirade. He did so again when
she reopened, having regained her wind. When she spoke this time, she
glared at Anna Carroll with a dazzling look of spite.

"There ain't no red silk dresses for me to rig out in," said she, and
she pointed straight at Anna's silken skirts. "No, there ain't, and
there won't be, so long as my man's money goes to pay for _hers_."
She said "hers" with a harder emphasis than if she said "yours."

Anna never returned her vicious look, she never moved a muscle of her
handsome face, nor changed color. She continued to stand beside her
brother, with a curious expression of wide partisanship, and of
regard for these people as objects of offence as a whole, rather than
as individuals.

"Folks can pretend to be deaf if they want to," said Minna Eddy, "but
they hear, an' they'll hear more."

"That was fifteen dollars beside the findings, and they amounted to
twelve dollars and sixty-three cents more," said Madame Griggs, and
this time she addressed the young man whom she took to be a lawyer.
She met his nervous winks with a piteous smile of appealing
confidence. She wondered if possibly he might not be willing to
undertake her cause in connection with the other supposed
dressmakers' at a reduced rate. Nobody paid the slightest attention
when she spoke, Anna Carroll least of all.

Suddenly, Henry Lee tiptoed into the room. He came in smiling and
nervous. When he saw the assembled company he started, and gave an
inquiring glance at Carroll, who regarded him in an absent-minded
fashion, as if he hardly comprehended the fact of his entrance. It
was the glance of a man whose mind is too crowded to admit of more.
But Lee went close to him, bowing low to Anna, and extending his hand
with urbanity, flustered, it is true, yet still with urbanity.

"Good-evening, captain," he said, and even then, in sore distress of
mind as he was, he looked about at the company for admiration for
this proof of his intimacy with such a man.

"Good-evening," Carroll said, mechanically, and he shook hands. Anna
Carroll also said "Good-evening," and smiled automatically.

"A fine evening," said Lee, but he got no rejoinder to that. He
looked at the company, and his small, smug, fatuous face, which was
somewhat pale and haggard, frowned with astonishment. Again he looked
for information into Carroll's unanswering face. He looked at an
empty chair near him; then he looked at Carroll and his sister
standing, and did not seat himself. He also leaned against the mantel
on the other corner from Carroll, and endeavored to assume an
unconcerned air, as if it were quite the usual thing for him to drop
into the house and encounter such a nondescript company. He looked
across at the druggist and postmaster, and bowed with flourishing
politeness. He said to Carroll, endeavoring to make his voice so
unobtrusive that it would be unheard by the company, but with the
non-success usual to a nervous and self-conscious man, that he had a
word to say to him later on when he was at liberty, some matter of
business which he wished to talk over with him.

"Very well," Carroll replied. Then Lee followed up his remark, which
had in a measure reassured him.

"Got a cigar handy, captain?" said he. "I came off without one in my
pocket."

Carroll took out his cigar-case and extended it to Lee, who took a
cigar, bit the end off, and scratched a match. Carroll handed the
case mechanically to the postmaster and Drake, who were near. They
refused, and he took one himself, as if he did not realize what he
was doing, and lit it, his calm, impassively smiling face never
changing. He might have been lighting a bomb instead of a cigar, for
all the actual realization of the action which he had. He accepted a
light from Lee, who had lit his first with trembling haste. At the
first puff which he gave, at the first evidence of the fragrant aroma
in the room, one turbulent spirit, which had hitherto remained under
restraint, burst bounds and overwhelmed all besides. Even Minna Eddy,
who was fast warming to a new outburst, even Madame Griggs, who had
both hands pressed to her skinny throat because of a lump of emotion
there, and whose sunken temples were beating to the sight under the
shade of her protuberant frizzes, looked in a hush of wonder and
alarm at this furious champion of his own wrongs. Even the two
butchers and the dry-goods merchant looked away from the glowing
Oriental web upon which they stood. The weeping stenographer sat with
her damp little wad of lace-edged handkerchief in her hand and stared
at him with her reddened eyes; the other held her flaccid purse, and
looked at the speaker. Now and then she nudged violently the friend,
who did not seem to notice it.

Tappan, the milkman, arose to his feet. He had been sitting with a
stiff sprawl in the corner of a small divan. He arose when the
fragrance of that Havana cigar smote his nostrils like the odor of
battle. He was in great boots stained with the red shale, for the
roads outside Banbridge were heavy from a recent rain. He was
collarless, his greasy coat hung loosely over his dingy flannel
shirt. He was unshaven, and his face was at once grim and sardonic,
bitter and raging. It was the face of an impotent revolutionist, who
cursed his impotence, his lack of weapons, his wrong environments for
his fierce spirit. He belonged in a country at war. He had the
misfortune to be in a country at peace. He belonged in a field of
labor wherein weapons and armed men, sown by the need of justice,
sprang from the soil. He was in a bucolic pasture, with no appeal. He
was a striker with nothing save fate against which to strike. He
raged behind prison-bars of circumstance. Now, for once, was an enemy
for his onslaught, although even here he was restricted. He was held
in check by his ignoble need. He feared lest, in smiting with all the
force at his command, the blow recoil upon himself. He feared lest he
lose all where he might lose only part. But when he began to speak
his caution left him. There was real fire in the grim, unshaven man;
the honest fire of resentment against wrong, the spirit of
self-defence against odds. He was big enough to disregard
self-interest in his defence, and he was impressive. He sniffed as a
preliminary to his speech, and there was in that sniff fury, sarcasm,
and malignancy. Then he opened his mouth, and before the words came a
laugh or the travesty of one. There was something menacing in his
laugh. Then he spoke.

"Cigar!" he said. "Have a cigar? Will you have a cigar? Oh yes, a
cigar." His voice was murderously low and soft. He even lisped
slightly. "A cigar," he repeated. "A cigar. Oh, Lord! If men like me
git a hand of chewing-tobacco once a month, they think they are
damned lucky. Cigar, Lord!" Then the soft was out of his voice. He
cut his words short, or rather he seemed to hammer them down into the
consciousness of his auditors. He turned upon the others. "Want to
know how that good-for-nothin' liar an' thief gits them cigars?" he
shouted. "Want to know? Well, I'll tell you. I give 'em to him, an'
you did. How many of you can smoke cigars like them, hey? Smell 'em.
Ten or fifteen cents apiece; mebbe more. We give 'em to him. Yes,
sir, that's jest what we did. He took the money he owed us for milk
and meat and dress-makin' an' other things to buy them cigars. You
got up early an' worked late to pay for 'em; he didn't. I got up at
half-past three o'clock in the mornin'--half-past three in the
winter, when he was asleep in his bed, damn him. The time will come
when he won't sleep more than some other folks. I got up at half-past
three o'clock, and I snatched a mouthful of breakfast, fried cakes
and merlasses, that he'd 'a' turned up his nose at. He had beefsteak
an' eggs at our expense, he did, an' I had a cup of damned weak
coffee, cause I was too honest or too big a fool, whichever you call
it, to buy any coffee I couldn't pay for. He'd 'a' turned up his nose
at sech coffee. An' I went without sugar in it, an' I went without
milk, so's to give it to him, so's he could git cigars. And as for
cream, cream, cream! Lord! Couldn't git enough cream to give him. He
was always yellin' for cream. Cream! My wife an' me would no more of
thought of our puttin' cream in our coffee than we'd thought of
putting in five-dollar gold pieces to sweeten it. No, we saved the
cream for him. My wife don't look so young and fat as his wife. His
wife has been fed on our cream." Tappan looked hard at Anna Carroll,
whom he evidently took for Carroll's wife. He took note of her dress.
"My wife never had a silk gown," said he. "Lord! I guess she didn't!
She had to git up as early as I did, an' wash milk-pans, so we could
give milk to that man, an' he could save money on us to git his wife
a silk gown. Lord! Jest look--"

Then Madame Griggs spoke, her small, deprecatory snarl raised almost
to hysterical pitch. She was catching the infection of this bigger
resentment and sense of outraged justice.

"He didn't save money to git his wife that silk gown with your milk
money," said she, "for I made that gown, an' I got the material, an'
I 'ain't been paid a cent. That was one of the gowns I made when Ina
was married. That silk cost a dollar and a quarter a yard. I could
have got it at ninety-eight cents at a bargain, but that wa'n't good
enough for her. He didn't take your milk money for that. He didn't
take any money to pay anybody for anything he could run in debt for,
I can tell you that. He must have paid somebody that wouldn't wait
an' wouldn't be cheated."

"Must have been dealin' with a trust, then," said one of the
horsemen, with a loud laugh. "Guess he's been cheatin' 'most
everything else."

"And that lady ain't his wife, neither," said Madame Griggs to
Tappan. "That's his sister. I made another gown for his wife, a
lighter shade, an' I 'ain't been paid for that, neither." Suddenly
she burst into a hysterical wail. "Oh, dear!" she sobbed. "Oh, dear!
Here I've worked early an' late. Here I've got up in the mornin'
before light an' worked till most dawn, an' me none too strong, never
was, and always havin' to scratch for myself, a poor, lone woman, an'
here I am in debt, an' they sendin' out for the money; an' I've
worked so hard to build up my business, an' tried to make things
nice, an' please, an' here I've got to fail. Oh, dear!" Suddenly she
made a weak rush across the room, her silk petticoat giving out a
papery rustle, her frizzes vibrating like wire under her hat, crested
with ostrich plumes. She danced up to Carroll and looked at him with
indescribable piteousness of accusation. "Why couldn't you, if you
had to cheat, cheat a man an' not a woman like me?" she demanded, in
her high-pitched tremolo.

Carroll took his cigar from his mouth and looked at her. His face was
quite pale and rigid. Even Tappan stopped, watching the two. Madame
Griggs held up, with almost a sublimity of accusation, her tiny,
nervous, veinous hands. The fingers were long and the knuckles were
slightly enlarged with strenuous pullings of needles and handling of
scissors; the forefinger was calloused. "Look at my hands," said she.
"See how thin they be. I've worked them 'most to the bone for your
folks. I took a lot of pride in havin' your daughter look nice when
she was married. If I was a man an' goin' to steal, I'd steal from
somebody besides a woman with no more strength than I have, all alone
in the world, and that's been knocked hard ever since she can
remember." Then she brought a stiffly starched little handkerchief
from the folds of a small purse, and she wept with a low, querulous
wail like a baby. Standing before Carroll, "Oh, dear! Oh, dear!
Oh--dear!" she wailed.

Carroll laid a hand on her shaking shoulder. It felt to him like a
vibrating bone, so meagre it was. He bent over her and said something
that the others did not hear, but her wild rejoinder gave them the
key. She was fairly desperate; all her obsequiousness had
disappeared. She was burning with her wrongs; she even took a certain
pleasure in letting herself loose. She shook her shoulder free from
his touch. She turned on him, her tearful, convulsed face uncovered,
her frizzes tossing, as bold and unrestrained in her wrath as was
Minna Eddy, who came forward to her side as she spoke.

"You needn't come wheedlin' around me," she cried. "I don't believe a
word of it, not a word. I'll believe it when I see the color of your
cash. You're dreadful soft-spoken, an' so is your wife an' your
sister an' your daughters. Dreadful soft-spoken! Plenty of soft soap
runnin' all over every time you open your mouth. I don't want soft
soap. Soft soap won't buy me bread an' butter, nor pay my debts.
Folks won't take any soft soap from me instead of money. They want
dollars an' cents, an' that's what I want every time, dollars an'
cents, an' not soft soap. Yes, it's dollars an'--cents--and not so-ft
soa-p." Suddenly the dress-maker, borne high on a wave of hysteria,
disclosing the innate coarseness which underlay all her veneer of
harmless gentility and fine manners, raised a loud, shrill laugh,
ending in a multitude of reverberations like a bell. There was about
this unnatural metallic laughter something fairly blood-curdling in
its disclosure of overstrained emotion. She laughed and laughed,
while the room was silent except for that, and every eye was fixed
upon her. Poor, little Estella Griggs, of all that accusing company
of Arthur Carroll's petty creditors, had the floor. She laughed and
laughed. She threw back her head. Her plumed hat was tilted rakishly
one side; her frizzes tossed high above her forehead, revealing the
meagre temples; her skinny throat seemed to elongate above her
ribboned collar; her thin cheeks, folded into a multitude of lines by
her distorting mirth, glowed with a hard red; her eyes gleamed with a
glassy brilliance. Then, suddenly, that long, skinny throat seemed to
swell visibly. She choked and gurgled, then came a wild burst of
sobbing. Hysteria had reached its second stage. It was frightful.

"Good God!" said one of the horsemen, under his breath.

"That's so," said the other. "Let's git out of this."

They elbowed their way out of the room. "See you again," one of them
said, curtly, to Carroll as he passed.

"See you to-morrow about that little affair of ours, an' by G--,
you've got to pony up, you can take your oath on that, an' don't you
forget it," whispered the other in Carroll's ear, with a fierce
emphasis, and yet he half grinned with a masculine sympathy in this
ultra crisis.

"It's gitting too thick," said the other horseman. "See you
to-morrow, and, by G--, you've got to do somethin' or there'll be
trouble."

Carroll nodded. He was ashy white. He had strong nerves, but he was
delicately organized, man though he was, and with unusual
self-control. He felt now a set of sensations verging on those
displayed by the laughing, sobbing woman before him. He was conscious
of an insane desire to join in that laugh, in those sobbing shrieks.
His throat became constricted, his hands became as ice. The tragic
absurdity of the situation filled him at once with a monstrous mirth
and grief. The antitheses of emotion struggled together within him.
He looked at the little, frantic creature before him, and opened his
mouth to speak, but he said nothing. Anna Carroll caught his elbow.

"Come away, Arthur," she whispered.

She was trembling herself, but she had been braced to something of
this kind from being a woman herself, and was not so intimidated.
Carroll strove to speak again. Minna Eddy suddenly joined in her
torrent of vituperation with the dress-maker's. She caught up the
soft-soap idea with a peal of laughter more sustained than that of
Madame Griggs, for she had a better poise of mentality, and her wrath
was untempered with the grief and self-pity of a small, helpless
woman who was fitted by nature for petting rather than for warfare.

"Soft soap!" shouted Minna Eddy, while her small husband vainly
clutched at her petticoats. "Soft soap! Lord! I makes my own soft
soap. I has plenty to clean with. I don't want no soft soap. I want
money." She laughed loud and long, a ringing, mocking peal. Madame
Griggs's loud sobbing united with it. The dissonance of unnatural
mirth and grief was ghastly.

"Good God! Hear them!" whispered Sigsbee Ray to the druggist.

"I'd rather owe fifty men than one woman," the druggist whispered
back.

Lee edged nearer the women and strove to speak. He had a purpose.

Carroll, gazing at the women in a fascinated way, again opened his
mouth in vain, and again Anna dragged backward at his arm.

"For Heaven's sake, Arthur, come out of this," she whispered, and he
yielded for the second. He let himself be impelled to the door, then
suddenly he recovered himself and stepped forward with an accession
of dignity and authority which carried weight even in the face of
hysterical unreason. He raised his hand and spoke, and there was a
hush. Madame Griggs and Minna Eddy remained quiet, like petrified
furies, regarding the man's pale face of assertive will.

"I beg you to be quiet a moment and listen to me," he said. "I can do
nothing for any of you to-night, and, what is more, I will not do
anything to-night. It is impossible for me to deal with you in such
an unexpected fashion as this, in such numbers. I have not gone into
bankruptcy; no meeting of my creditors had been called. I have and
you have no legal representative here. Now I am going, and I advise
you all to do likewise. I beg you to excuse me. I know you all, I
know the amount of my indebtedness to you all, and I promise you all,
if I live, the very last dollar I owe you shall be paid. You must,
however, give me a little time, or nobody will get anything. I will
communicate with you all later on. Nobody shall lose anything, I say.
Now you must excuse me."

"Look at him; he's sick," whispered the pretty stenographer to the
other, whose soft, little sob of response alone broke the hush as
Carroll went out with his sister at his side. Their shadows moved
across the room as they ascended the stairs in the hall. The
creditors, left alone, regarded one another in a hesitating fashion.
The two women, Minna Eddy and Estella Griggs, remained quiet.
Presently the two butchers and the dry-goods merchant, standing about
the Oriental rug, quite a fine Bokhara, resumed their whispered
colloquy regarding it, then they went out. Lee began talking to the
druggist and the postmaster, with Willie Eddy at his elbow listening
eagerly.

"Carroll's sick," said Lee, with a curious effect of partisanship
towards himself, as well as Carroll. "He's sick, and it is too bad.
His nerves are a wreck."

"Well, our nerves are becoming wrecks," the postmaster rejoined,
dryly.

"That's so," said the druggist, with a worried look. "I don't know
but I'll have to mortgage my stock. I've lost more than I can afford
in that United Fuel."

"I don't like to own up I've been bit," said the postmaster, "but
when it comes to being sick, and nerves being wrecks, there are
others with full as much reason as Carroll."

"He'll pay up every cent," said Lee, eagerly.

"Maybe he will pay his debts," said the postmaster. "I am not going
to say he won't. I suppose he means to. But when it comes to making
things good, when he has simply led you by the nose into disastrous
speculations, I don't know. Bigger men than Arthur Carroll don't do
it."

"That's so," said Drew. "It's one thing to pay your butcher's bill in
the long run, and be above stealing goods off the counter, but a man
can cheat his fellow-men in a stock trade and think pretty well of
himself, and other folks think well of him."

"That's so," said Sigsbee Ray.

"I haven't any doubt that he will arrange that," said Lee. "And, for
that matter, the United Fuel may look up yet. I had a prospectus--"

"Prospectus be damned!" said the postmaster. He seldom used an oath,
and his tongue made a vicious lurch over it.

The druggist gave an enormous sigh. "Well, it won't come up to-night,
and I've left my little boy alone in the store," said he. "I've got
to be going."

"So have I," said the postmaster. "My wife is alone."

"My wife always stands up for Carroll," said Lee, trotting nervously
after the other men as they left the room. "Says she guesses he will
end up by paying his bills as well as other men that are blaming him."

"Hope to God he will," said the postmaster.

The clerk and the two stenographers from Carroll's office had been
having their heads together over a time-table. They also slipped out
after the three men. The elder one still sniffed softly in her
handkerchief.

The young man looked around at the stair up which Carroll had
disappeared, and winked as he went out. There were left Carroll's
coachman, the Hungarian girl, Madame Estella Griggs, Willy Eddy, and
his wife. The coachman heard a noise of pounding in the stable and
ran out. Marie remained in the doorway looking at the others with her
piteous red eyes; Minna Eddy advanced towards her.

"They owe you your wages, don't they?" said she, with no sympathy,
but rather a menace.

Little Marie shrank back. "Yis," said she, pursing her lips.

"You're a fool!" said Minna Eddy.

Marie smiled feebly at her.

Minna Eddy stood glaring around the room. Her husband was at her
elbow, watching her anxiously.

"Come home now, Minna," he pleaded.

But she stamped her foot suddenly. "I ain't goin' to stand it!" she
declared. "I'm goin' to take what I can get, I be." Her eyes rested
first upon one thing, then another, then she looked hard at the
Oriental rug, which the three tradesmen had discussed. Then she
swooped upon it and began gathering it up from the floor.

"Oh, Minna! Oh, Minna!" gasped little Willy Eddy.

"You lemme be," she said, fiercely. "I see'd them men lookin' at
this. It ain't handsome, but it's worth good money. I heard something
they said. I ain't goin' to lose all that money. I'm goin' to take
what I can git, I be."

"Minna, you--"

"Lemme be."

"It ain't accordin' to law, Minna."

"What do you s'pose I care about the law?" She turned to Estella
Griggs, who was watching her eagerly, with a gathering light of
fierce greed in her eyes. "If you take my advice you'll help yourself
to something while you have the chance," said she.

"Oh, Minna, it's stealin'! You'll be liable--"

"Liable to nothin'. Stealin'! If folks don't steal no more 'n I do,
I'll risk 'em. I'm a-takin' my lawful pay, I be. If you take my
advice, you'll take somethin', too."

Minna Eddy moved from the room with the rug gathered up in a roll in
her arms, but Marie had been gradually recovering herself. Now she
came forward.

"You must not take that; that iss not your rug," said she. "You must
not take that."

"Git out," said Minna Eddy. She thrust at the Hungarian with her
rug-laden arms, but the little peasant was as strong as she. Marie
caught hold of the rug and pulled; Minna also pulled.

"You lemme go," said Minna, with a vicious voice, but lowered, for
obvious reason.

"You must not take that," said Marie. She was, however, rather
fainter-hearted than the other woman.

Minna suddenly got the mastery. The Hungarian almost tumbled
backward. Minna, with the rug, was out of the room, her trembling,
almost whimpering husband at her heels. Madame Griggs looked at
Marie. Her distorted face was at once greedy, anguished, and cunning.
She began to gasp softly.

"Oh! Oh!" said she. "Oh!"

Marie regarded her in wondering agitation.

"Water! water! quick! Oh, get some water!" moaned Madame Griggs. "I
am faint! Water!" She sank into a chair, her head fell back. She
rolled her eyes at the terrified girl; she gasped feebly between her
parted lips.

Marie ran. Then up rose Madame Estella Griggs. She swept the
tea-table of its little Dresden service and some small, silver
spoons. She gathered them up in a little, lace-trimmed table-cover,
and she fled with that booty and a sofa-pillow which she caught from
the divan on her way out.

When Marie returned she stood gaping with the glass of water. She was
not over-shrewd, but she took in at once the situation. She
understood that the second lady had fled like the first, with the
teacups, the spoons, the table-cover, and the sofa-pillow. She stood
looking desolately around the room, and her simple heart tasted its
own bitterness.



Chapter XXX


Charlotte had followed her father and aunt up-stairs that night,
starting up softly like a shadow from her place in the hall. She went
silently behind them until they reached the open door of Anna's room;
then her father turned and saw her.

"You here, Charlotte?" he said.

"Yes, papa," replied Charlotte, turning a pitiful but altogether
stanch little face up to his.

He put his arm around her, drew her head against his shoulder, tipped
up her face, and kissed her. "Go to bed now, darling," he whispered.

"Papa, I can't; I--"

"There is nothing you can do, sweetheart; there is nothing for you to
worry about. Papa will take care of you always, whatever happens. Go
to bed now, and go to sleep, honey."

"But, papa, I can't sleep. Let me stay and--"

"No, dear. There is nothing you can do. It will only worry me to have
you stay. Go to bed, and put all this out of your mind. It will all
come right in the end."

Carroll kissed Charlotte again, and put her gently from him, and she
disappeared in her own room with a suppressed sob.

"I am glad Ina is out of the way," Anna said, but with no bitterness.

"So am I," Carroll agreed, simply.

"I wish Charlotte had as good a man to look out for her," said Anna.

Carroll straightened himself with quick pride. "I shall look out for
her," he said. "You need not think I am quite out of the running yet,
when it comes to looking out for my own flesh and blood."

"No, of course you are not, Arthur. I did not mean to imply any such
thing," Anna rejoined, hastily. "I was only-- Come into my room. Amy
is fast asleep by this time, and if she is not she has a headache,
and you might as well try to consult with an infant in arms as Amy
with a headache. And something has to be done."

"Yes, you are right, Anna," Carroll replied, with a heavy sigh.

"Those people will all go when they get tired of waiting. There is no
use in our bothering with them any more to-night. Come in."

Anna led the way into her room, and closed the door. A lamp burned
dimly on the dresser amid a confusion of laces and ribbons. The whole
room looked in a soft foam of dainty disorder. Anna did not turn the
light up. She stood looking at her brother in the half-light, and her
face was at once angry and tender.

"Well?" said she, with a sigh of desperate inquiry.

"Well?" rejoined Carroll.

"What next?"

"The Lord knows!"

"Something has to be done. We are up against a dead wall again. And
for some reason it strikes me as a deader wall than ever before."

Carroll nodded.

"We cannot stay in Banbridge any longer?" Anna said, interrogatively.

"We may have to," Carroll replied, curtly.

"You mean?"

"There may be a little difficulty about getting out. We could not
leave the State, anyhow, and--"

"And what? We can go somewhere else in the State, I suppose. I am not
particularly in love with this section of the union, but it all makes
little difference after one reaches a certain point."

"Poor old girl!" said Carroll.

Anna looked at him, and her eyes suffused and her mouth quivered.
Then she smiled her usual smile of mocking courage, even bravado.
"Oh, well," said she, "I have faced the situation and chewed my cud
of experience for a good many years now, and I am used to it. I may
even end up by tasting the sweet in the bitter."

"You had as hard an experience in another line as I had. I don't know
but it was harder."

"No harder, I reckon," Anna replied, almost indifferently. "It was
the same thing--the doll stuffed with sawdust, and all that; you with
a friend, and I with a lover. Well, it is all over now."

"It isn't; that is the worst of it," Carroll said, gloomily.

"I don't see why."

"A sequence is never over. There is even all eternity for it."

"Well, the first of the sequence is over, anyhow. All we have to
consider is the succeeding stages."

"That is about enough."

Anna laughed. "I agree with you there, dear. Well, I suppose the
stage of the sequence for immediate consideration is the feasibility
of emerging into the next stage. You think it is likely to be more
difficult for the wandering tribe of Carroll to make their exodus
with grace and dignity than usual?"

"It rather looks that way now."

"I suppose that promoting business, that business transacted in the
New York office, got you into rather hotter waters than usual."

Carroll nodded.

"There _was_ an office, I suppose."

Carroll nodded again, laughing a little. Anna laughed too. "One never
knows," said she. "I suppose that was a delegation from the office,
to-night, the two pretty girls and the winking young man."

"Yes," said Carroll.

Anna had flung herself into an easy-chair beside him. Carroll
remained standing. She leaned her head back and crossed her hands
behind her neck in a way she had. She was a thing of lithe grace in
her soft red silk. The dim light obliterated all the worn lines in
her face. Carroll regarded her even in the midst of the distressful
stress of affairs with a look of admiration. It was an absent-minded
regard, very much as a mourner might notice a stained-glass window in
a church while a funeral was in progress. It was the side-light of
grace on affliction involuntarily comprehended, from long training,
by the exterior faculties. Carroll even said, half perfunctorily:

"You look well to-night. That red gown suits you, honey."

"The gown that that poor little beggar of a dress-maker is not paid
for," said Anna.

Carroll frowned. "I did not have enough for that," he said. "It was
impossible. I paid the other bills."

"All dressmakers have to be cheated," said Anna. "I never knew one
that wasn't. I may as well reap the benefit of a universal law of
cause and result, as some other woman." Her voice rang hard, but she
looked up affectionately at her brother. Suddenly she reached out her
hand, caught his, and kissed it. "There is one thing we Carrolls pay
in full, and never run in debt for, and that is our affection for and
belief in one another," said she. "We have our hearts full of one
coin, anyway."

"I suppose the world at large would prefer our pockets full of the
coin of the realm," answered Carroll, but he looked fondly down at
his sister.

"I suppose so. If I had not worn this dress, I should send it back to
that dressmaker."

"But you have worn it."

"Oh yes. Of course it is out of the question now. It is very pretty.
Well, Arthur, if we go back far enough we are not responsible for
this dress. We are responsible for none of the disasters which follow
in our wake. That man down in Kentucky precipitated the whole thing.
Arthur, you do look like a fiend whenever I mention that man!"

"I feel like one," Carroll replied, coolly.

"Well, that man was directly responsible for the whole wreck--the
general wreck, I mean. My own wreck is an individual matter, and,
after all, I never fairly lowered my sails for that especial gale. I
never will own to it."

"You were a brave girl, Anna."

"But the other wreck, the whole wreck, that man of yours is
responsible for. And we were not half a bad lot, Arthur."

"Maybe not; but when the ship breaks up, it does not make so much
difference what the timbers were, nor how she was built."

"I suppose you are right. Well, what is to be done with the old masts
and sails and things?"

"I know what is to be done with a part of it."

"What part of it?"

"Well, to depart from similes, the female contingency."

"The female contingency?"

"Yes, and the juvenile. You and Amy and Charlotte and Eddy."

"What do you mean, Arthur?"

"You are going down to Kentucky to the old place, to spend the winter
with Aunt Catherine."

"Aunt Catherine wrote you?"

"Yes."

"When?"

"I got the letter day before yesterday."

"She invited us?"

"Yes, honey."

"Not you?"

"There was no reason why she should invite me."

"Aunt Catherine never had any feeling for you."

"Perhaps she has had as much as I deserve. You know I have, to put it
frankly, rather broken the record of an honorable family for--"

"For what?"

"For honor, dear."

Then Anna broke out, passionately. "I don't care! I don't care!" she
cried. "I don't care what she thinks; I don't care what anybody
thinks! I don't care what you do or don't do, you are the best man
that ever lived, Arthur." She began to weep suddenly, feeling blindly
for her handkerchief.

Carroll pulled her head against his shoulder. "Dear," he whispered,
"don't; you must not, darling, you are worn out. You are not well."

"Arthur, are you sure--are you sure that you have not rendered
yourself liable? Arthur, are you sure that they cannot arrest you for
anything you have done this time?"

"Quite sure, Anna."

"You have looked out for that?"

"Yes."

"They can't arrest you?"

"No. Anna, you are nervous."

"Martin was impudent yesterday, when you were out, about his pay. He
talked about going to a lawyer."

Carroll made an impatient movement. "If he does not stop coming to
you about it--"

"He is afraid of you. Then Maria came and cried. She says she has
lost her lover, because she did not have decent clothes to wear."

"Anna, they shall not trouble you again. Don't, dear. Why, I never
knew you to fret so before!"

"I never did. I never minded it all so much before. I think I am ill.
There is a dull pain all the time in the back of my neck, and I do
not sleep at all well. Then my mental attitude seems suddenly to have
changed. I was capable of defiance always, of seeing the humor in the
situation, even if it was such an oft-repeated joke, and such a
mighty poor one; but now, even if I start with a glimpse of the funny
side of it, suddenly I collapse, and all at once I am beaten."

Carroll stroked her graceful, dark head. "There is nothing for it but
you must go, honey."

"Arthur, I will not. It may be better for the others, but as for me,
I will not."

"Yes, you will, Anna, honey."

"Arthur Carroll!"

"You must, dear. Frankly, Anna, you know how I shall feel about
parting with you all, but it will be a load off my mind. If a man is
not able to care for his own, it is better for him and for them that
they should go where they will be cared for."

"You need not speak in that way, Arthur. You have done all you could.
All this would never have been if it had not been for us, and your
wanting us to have everything. We have been a helpless lot. None of
us have ever blamed you or complained, not even Amy, baby as she is."

"I know it, dear, but it is better for you all to go."

"You have done all you could, always," Anna repeated, in a curious,
sullen fashion.

"Well, we will leave that. If Aunt Catherine takes you all this
winter, it will go hard if I do not pay her in some way later on; but
the point is now, you must all go."

Anna shook her head obstinately.

Carroll bent down and kissed her. "Good-night, dear," he said. "Try
to sleep."

"I wonder if those people are all gone."

"Yes, I think so. I heard Marie lock the door. Good-night."

Anna rose and threw her arms around her brother's neck. "Whatever
happens, you have got your old sister left," she said, with a soft
sob.

"Nobody is going to attach her for my debts," Carroll said, laughing,
but stroking her head fondly.

"No, she is not an available asset. I never will go, Arthur. The
others may do as they think best. I will not go."

"Not to-night, Anna, honey," Carroll said, as he went out of the room.

Anna Carroll, left alone, rose languidly, unfastened her red silk
gown, and let it fall in a rustling circle around her. She let down
her soft, misty lengths of hair, in which was a slight shimmer of
white, and brushed it. Standing before her dresser, using her
ivory-backed brush with long, even strokes, her reflected face showed
absolutely devoid of radiance. The light was out of it--the light of
youth, and, more than the light of youth, the light of that which
survives youth, even the soul itself. And yet there was in this face,
so unexpectant and quiescent that it gave almost the effect of
dulness, a great strength and charm which were the result of an
enduring grace of attitude towards all the stresses of life. Anna
Carroll carried about with her always, not for the furbishing of her
hair nor the embellishment of her complexion, but for the maintenance
of the grace and dignity of her bearing towards a hard and
inscrutable fate, a species of mental looking-glass. She never for a
minute lost sight of herself as reflected in it. She had not been a
happy woman, but she had worn her unhappiness like a robe of state.
She had had a most miserable love-affair in her late youth, but no
one except her brother could have affirmed with any certainty that it
had occasioned her a moment's pang.

She was hopeless as regarded any happiness for herself in a strictly
personal sense. She knew that her destiny as a woman had been
unfulfilled, but she would rather have killed herself than pitied
herself. She was as hard to herself and her own possible weakness as
she was to anybody on earth, possibly harder. She cheated the
dressmaker, she ate at the expense of others, as she would have
cheated herself had she known how. It did not occur to her to go
without anything which she could by any means get; not because she
wanted it so keenly, as from another phase of the same feeling which
had led Minna Eddy to appropriate the rug, and Estella Griggs the
paraphernalia of the tea-table and the sofa-pillow. She had herself
been duped in a larger sense; she was a creditor of Providence. She
considered that she had a right to her hard wages of mere existence,
when they came in her way, were they in the form of red silk gowns or
anything else. She would admit no wrong in her brother, for the same
reason, reserving only the right to condemn him at times on the boy's
account. She began thinking about the boy as she went on with her
preparations for bed. Her face lit up a little as she reflected upon
the benefit it might be to Eddy to be in Kentucky. She thought of the
dire possibility of serious complications for Arthur in this
culminating crisis of his affairs.

"Better for the child to be out of it," she said to herself, and that
singular anger with Arthur for the sake of the boy, which was like
anger with him for his own sake, came over her. She identified the
two. She saw in Eddy the epitome of his father, the inheritor of his
virtues and faults, and his retribution, his heir-at-large by the
inscrutable and merciless law of heredity. "Yes, it is better for
Eddy to be out of it," she repeated to herself, with the same
reasoning that she might have used had she been proposing to separate
her brother's better self from his worse. But she resolved more
firmly that she would not go herself. She would urge the others'
going, but she would remain.



Chapter XXXI


But in spite of Anna Carroll's resolve, she went to Kentucky with the
others in two weeks' time. She had had quite a severe attack of
illness after that night, and it had left her so weakened in body
that she had not strength to stand against her brother's urging.
Then, too, Mrs. Carroll had displayed an unexpected reluctance to
leave. She had evinced a totally new phase of her character, as
people who are unconquerable children always will when least expected
to do so. Instead of clinging to her husband and declaring that she
could not leave, with an underlying submission at hand, she
straightened herself and said positively that she would not go. She
was quite pale, her sweet face looked as firm as her husband's.

"I am not going to leave you, Arthur," she said. "If your sister
stays with you, your wife can. Your sister can go, and take Eddy, but
your wife stays. I don't care what happens. I don't care if Marie and
Martin do go. Marie is not cooking so well lately, anyway, and I
never did like the way Martin went around corners. We can get new
servants I shall like much better. I shall go into the City myself
next week to the intelligence office. I am not afraid to go. I don't
like to cross Broadway, but I can take a cab from the station. I will
sit there in a row all day with those other women, until I get a
good maid, if it is necessary. I don't care in the least if Marie
and Martin do go. You can get another man who will turn the
corners more carefully. And I don't mind because somebody took that
rug--somebody--who was not paid. I think it was a very rude thing
to do. I think when you take things that way it is no better than
burglary, but I should not make any fuss about it. Let the woman have
the rug. Although it does seem as if anybody had the rug, it ought to
be that man we bought it of in Hillfield. You know he did not seem to
like it at all, because he was not paid for it. But maybe he did not
come by it honestly himself. He was a singular-looking man--a Syrian
or Armenian or a Turk, and one never knows about people like that. I
don't mind in the least; it is all right. And I don't care about the
teacups and things. One of the cups was nicked, and I really like
Sevres much better than Dresden. I should have got Sevres when I
bought them, only the man who had the Sevres I wanted would not give
us credit. We had no charge account there. I don't mind in the least;
but I think that dressmaker was very impolite to take the things,
because, of course, we shall never feel that we can conscientiously
give her any more of our custom; and we have given her a great deal
of work, with dear Ina's wedding and everything, more than anybody in
Banbridge. No, I don't mind in the least about these things. I can
rise above that when it is a question of my husband. And when you
talk of having to leave Banbridge, that does not daunt me at all. On
the whole, I would rather leave Banbridge. I should like to live a
little nearer the City, and I should like more grounds, and a house
with more conveniences. For one thing, we have no butler's pantry
here, and that is really a great inconvenience. Take it altogether,
the house, and the distance from New York, I shall not be at all
sorry to move. And" (Mrs. Carroll's sweet face looked hard and set,
her gently pouting mouth widened into a straight line; she had that
uncanny expression of docile and yielding people when they assume a
firm attitude), "I shall not go away and leave you, Arthur," she
repeated; "Anna shall not stay here with you and I go to Aunt
Catherine's. If any one stays, I stay. I am your wife, and I am the
one to stay. I know my duty."

"Amy, dear," said Carroll, "it will really make me happier to know
that you are more comfortable and happy than I can make you this
winter."

"I shall not be comfortable and happy," said she. "No, Arthur, you
need not pet me; I am quite in earnest. You treat me always as if I
were a child. You do, and all the rest, even my own children. And I
think myself that two-thirds of me is a child, but one-third is not,
and now it is the one-third that is talking, and quite seriously. It
is I who am going to stay with you, and not Anna."

"Anna is not going to stay either, sweetheart," Carroll said.

A quick change came over Mrs. Carroll's face. She looked inquiringly
at her sister-in-law. "Anna said she would not go," she said.

"She has thought better of it," Carroll said, quietly.

"Yes, Amy, I am going," Anna said, wearily, "and I don't think you
had better decide positively to-night whether you will go or not.
Leave it until to-morrow."

"But how could you get along without anybody to keep house for you
all winter, Arthur?" asked Mrs. Carroll.

"As thousands of men get along," Carroll replied. "I can take my
meals at the inn, and somebody could be got to come by the day and
see to the furnace and the house."

"I suppose somebody could," Mrs. Carroll agreed, a frown of
reflection on her smooth forehead.

She wept piteously when it came to parting, two weeks later, but she
went.

They all started early in the morning. Carroll accompanied them to
the station, and was well aware of an unusual number of persons being
present to see the train start. He knew the reason: a rumor had
gotten about that he as well as his family was to leave Banbridge and
the State. He knew that if he had made a motion to get on the train,
there might have been a scene, and he bade his family good-bye on the
platform, before his covert audience of creditors. Lee was there,
ostentatiously shaking hands with the ladies, but secretly watchful.
Tappan was surlily attentive, leaving his milk-wagon tied in front of
the station. Minna Eddy and Willy had driven down in their wagon from
their little farm. Four children were huddled in behind. Minna had
gotten out and stood on the platform. Willy sat on the seat holding
the baby and the reins. There had been a thaw; the roads outside were
heavy, and their old mule was harnessed up with their old horse.
Willy had been somewhat afraid to come.

"Suppose he should make a fuss about that," he said, pointing to the
Bokhara rug which adorned their little sitting-room.

"I ain't afraid of his making any fuss about that old mat," said
Minna; "I guess he knows what he's about. It's him that's afraid, an'
not me. An old mat that's worth about fifty cents! It ain't half so
pretty as one that Frank Olsen's wife got in New Sanderson for four
dollars and ninety-eight cents. I'm goin' to have some more of them
things, an' he ain't goin' to git out of Banbridge, if I have to hang
on to his coat-tails. You lemme go, Willy Eddy."

Therefore they came, starting before daylight in the frosty
morning. Carroll was conscious of them all, of the druggist and
the postmaster; of the two horsemen with whom he had had a
half-settlement, and who were now about to force the remainder; of
the two butchers and the dry-goods merchant, who had been exceedingly
nasty about the rug, and persisted in thinking that the Carrolls were
responsible for its disappearance. They had now other chattels in
view, and were only delayed from taking prompt measures by the
uncertainty as to what belonged to Carroll, or to his wife, or to the
owner of the house. There was also lurking around the corner of the
station, but quite ready for immediate action should it be necessary,
another man, who represented the arm of the local law. There was also
Madame Estelle Griggs, and, curiously enough, the sight of that
little, meagre-bedecked figure and that small, rasped, piteous face
of nervous suspicion affected Carroll more forcibly than did any of
the others. He was conscious of a sensation of actual fear as he
caught sight of the waving plume, of the wiry frizzes, of the sharp,
frost-reddened face, of those watchful, unhappy eyes. He realized
that if she should make a scene there, if he should hear again that
laugh and those wailing sobs, he could not answer for what he might
do. There even flashed across his mind a mental picture of the
on-rush of the train, and of a man hurling himself before it, to get
for once and all out of sight and sound of the unspeakable,
grotesque, unmanning shame of the thing. It was when he saw her that
he resolved that he would not put his foot on the train, lest she
might think he meant to go. However, she would probably have made no
manifestation. She was herself in mortal terror of retribution
because of the things which she had confiscated in payment of her
debt. She had little of Minna Eddy's strength of confidence in her
own proceedings. She had, however, consoled herself by the reflection
that possibly nobody knew that she had taken them. She had hidden
them away under her mattress, and slept uneasily on the edge of the
bed, lest she break the cups and saucers. If it had not been so early
in the morning, presumably too early for visitors from the City, she
would not have dared show herself at the station. In these days she
sewed behind closed doors, with her curtains down. She went to her
customer's houses for tryings-on, instead of having her patrons come
to her. She was always ready, working with her eyes at the parting of
the curtains, to flee down a certain pair of outside back-stairs, and
cut across the fields, should men be sent out from the City to
collect money. Rosenstein's store was under her little apartment, and
she knew she could trust him not to betray her. The dressmaker was in
these days fairly tragic in appearance, with a small and undignified,
but none the less real, tragedy. It was the despair of a small nature
over small issues, but none the less despair. Carroll would have paid
that bill first of all, had he had the money, but none but himself
knew how little money he had. Had the aunt in Kentucky not sent the
wherewithal for the railway fares, it was hard to be seen how the
journey could have been taken at all. It had even occurred to Carroll
that some jewelry must needs be sacrificed. He had made up his mind,
in that case, that Anna would be the one to make the sacrifice. She
had an old set of cameos from her grandmother, which he knew were
valuable if taken to the right place. Anna had considered the matter,
and would have spared him the suggestion had not the check come from
the aunt to cover all the expenses of the trip, with even some to
spare. With the extra, Mrs. Carroll insisted upon buying a new hat
for Charlotte. Charlotte that morning showed little emotion. She was
looking exceedingly pretty in the new hat and her little, blue
travelling-gown. Madame Griggs eyed that and reflected that she had
not made it herself, that it must have been a last winter's one,
although it had kept well in style, and she wondered if the
dressmaker who made it had been paid. Charlotte in parting from her
father showed no emotion. He kissed her, and she turned away directly
and entered the train. There was an odd expression on her face. She
had not spoken a word all the morning except to whisper to Eddy to be
still, when he remarked, loudly, on the number of people present at
the station.

"All this crowd isn't going, is it?" he demanded.

"Hush!" Charlotte whispered, peremptorily, and he looked curiously at
her.

"What is the matter with you this morning, anyhow?" he inquired,
loudly. Eddy had in a leash a small and violently squirming puppy,
which had lately strayed to the Carroll place, and been found wagging
and whining ingratiatingly around the stable. Eddy had adopted it,
and even meditated riding in the baggage-car to relieve its
loneliness should the conductor prove intractable concerning its
remaining in the passenger-coach. Eddy, of the whole party of
travellers, was the only one who presented an absolutely undisturbed
and joyously expectant countenance. He had the innocent selfishness
of childhood. He could still be single-eyed as to the future, and yet
blameless. He loved his father, but had no pangs at parting, when the
wonders of the journey and the new country were before him. His heart
also delighted in the puppy, leaping and abortively barking at his
side. He kissed his father good-bye as the train approached, and was
following the others, with the little dog straining at his leash,
when his onward progress was suddenly arrested, another grimy little
hand tugged at the leash.

"Say, what you goin' off with my dog for?" demanded the owner of the
hand, another boy, somewhat older than Eddy, and one of his
schoolmates.

Eddy, belligerent at once, faced about. He caught up the wriggling
puppy with such a quick motion that he was successful and wrenched
the other boy's hand from the leash.

"It isn't your dog. It's my dog. What you talking about?" he growled
back.

"You lie!"

"Lie yourself!"

"Gimme that dog!"

"It's my dog!"

"Where'd ye git it?" sneered the other, making clutches at the puppy.

"My papa bought him for me in New York."

"Hm! All the way your father could git a dog like that is to steal
him. Your father 'ain't got no money. You stole him. You steal jest
like your father. Gimme the dog."

The claimant boy laid such insistent hands on the puppy, and Eddy so
resisted, that the little animal yelped loudly.

Carroll stepped up. His lips were ashy. This last idiotic episode was
unnerving him more than all that had gone before. "Give that boy his
dog," he commanded Eddy, sternly.

Eddy clung more tightly to the little dog, and began to whimper.
"But, papa--"

"Do as I tell you."

"He came to our stable, and he didn't have any collar on, and a dog
without any collar on--"

"Do as I tell you."

But Eddy had found an unexpected ally. Anderson had come on the
platform as the train approached. He was going on business to New
Sanderson, and he had furtively collared the owner of the puppy,
thrust something into his hand, whispered something, and given him a
violent push. The boy fled. When Carroll turned, the boy who had been
imperiously aggressive at his elbow was nowhere to be seen. Several
of the by-standers were grinning. Anderson was moving along to be at
the side of his car, as the train approached. It had all happened in
a very few seconds. Eddy clung fast to the puppy. There was no time
for anything, and the female Carrolls were pressing softly about for
the last words.

"I don't think the puppy belonged to that boy," Mrs. Carroll said.
"He was just a little, stray dog."

She had seen nothing of what Anderson had done, and neither had the
others. There was manifestly nothing more to be done. It was an
absurdity for Carroll to load himself up with that squirming puppy,
when the ownership seemed so problematic. He bade them all good-bye
again, and they got on the train. The women's pretty, wistfully
smiling faces appeared at windows, also Eddy's, and the innocently
wondering visage of the puppy. Anderson was in the smoking-car. As
the train passed, Carroll saw his face at a window, and bowed,
raising his hat half-mechanically. Anderson was conscious of a
distinct sensation of pity for him, the more so that he was helpless
and rebelliously depressed himself. He meditated upon the
advisability of going into the other car, the Pullman, before the
arrival of the train at New Sanderson, and bidding Charlotte
farewell. He finally decided not to do so. He had no reason to think
that she would care especially to have him, and while his
self-respect, in spite of his perfect cognizance of the disadvantages
of his position, was sufficient not to make him hesitate on that
account, he had had a feeling against intruding upon the possible
sadness of the ladies when making what they must recognize as a
forced exit from their home under humiliating circumstances. It did
not occur to him that they might possibly not feel so.

Carroll, left on the platform while the train steamed out of sight,
in its backward trail of smoke full of rainbow lights in the frosty
air, turned to go home. He was going to walk. Martin had driven the
family to the station, and had himself gotten on the rear car of the
train. He was about seeking employment in New Sanderson. One of the
horsemen had driven off with the rig; the other was waiting for a
word with Carroll. The discussion was short, heated, and profane on
one side; calm, low, and imperturbable on the other.

"You'll have it in the end," Carroll said, as he turned to go.

"The end has got to come pretty darned quick," the other retorted,
jumping into his little trotting-gig and spinning off.

The others of the crowd had melted away rather quickly. Minna Eddy
had clambered into the wagon and gathered up the reins, while her
husband retained the wailing baby. In truth, in spite of her bravado,
she had some little doubts as to the wisdom of her confiscation of
the rug. Madame Griggs, actuated by a similar doubt, also fluttered
away swiftly down the street. The men also, upon making sure that
Carroll was not intending to abscond, retreated. Carroll was quite
alone when the horseman spun away in his gig, with its swift spokes
flashing in blinding rings of light as he disappeared around the
curve. It was one of those mornings in the fall when the air is so
clear that the sunlight seems intensified. There had been a hard
frost the night before, and a delicate rime was still over the
ground, only melting in the sunniest spots. Only the oak leaves, a
brownish-red shag mostly on the lower branches, were left on the
trees. The door-yards were full of dried chrysanthemums, the windows
gay with green-house plants. The air was full of the smell of smoke
and coffee and frying things, for it was Banbridge's breakfast-hour.
Men met Carroll on their way to the next train to the City, walking
briskly with shoulders slightly shrugged before the keen wind. They
bowed to him with a certain reserve. He met one young girl carrying a
music-roll, who wore on her face an expression of joy so extreme that
it gave the effect of a light. Carroll noticed it absently, this
alien joy with which he had no concern. As the girl passed him, he
perceived a strong odor of violet from her dainty attire, and it
directly, although he was unaware of the connection, caused him to
remember the episode of his discovering the two women, Mrs. Van Dorn
and Mrs. Lee, spying out the secrets in his house. That same odor had
smote his nostrils when he entered the door. He reviewed from that
starting-point the succeeding stages of his stay in Banbridge, the
whole miserable, ignominious descent from a fictitious prosperity to
plain, evident disgrace and want. He was returning to his desolate
house. Martin had gone, wretchedly and plainly incredulous of
Carroll's promise to finally pay him every cent he owed him. Maria
had packed her box, and tied two gay foreign handkerchiefs into bags
to contain her ragged possessions. He was to be entirely alone. He
could remain in the house probably only for a short time, until the
owner should find a new tenant. He walked along with his head up,
retaining his old stately carriage. As he turned the street corner on
which his house stood, he saw a figure advancing, and his heart stood
still. He thought he recognized Charlotte, incredible although it
was, since he had just seen her depart on the train. But surely that
was Charlotte approaching, although she carried strange parcels. The
girl was just her height, she even seemed to walk like her, and she
surely wore a dress of which Charlotte was very fond. It was of a
dusky red color, the skirt hanging in soft pleats. The hat was also
red with a white wing. There was fur on the coat, and Carroll could
see the fluff of it over the girlish shoulders. He could see the
stiff white gleam of the wing. Then he saw who it was--Marie, with a
yellow handkerchief gathered into a bag in one hand, and a little
kitten which she had cherished, in a paper bag in the other. The
kitten's black head protruded, and it was mewing shrilly. Marie was
radiant with smiles, and she wore Charlotte's dress. She had stolen
up-stairs and viewed herself in the mirror in Mrs. Carroll's room,
and she had hopes of herself in that costume even without any money
in her pocket. She was dreaming her humble little love-dream again.
She smiled up at Carroll in a charming fashion as they met.

"Good-bye," said she, with her pretty little purse of the mouth. They
had already had an interview concerning her wages that morning.

Carroll said good-bye with a stiff motion of his mouth. He realized
that Charlotte had given Marie her dress. Somehow the sight of Marie
in that dress almost made a child of the man.



Chapter XXXII


Carroll, when he reached his house, went up to the front door,
unlocked it, and entered. At once there smote upon his consciousness
that strange shock of emptiness and loneliness which has the effect,
for a sensitive soul entering a deserted house, of a menacing roar of
sound. He went through the hall to the little smoking-room or den on
the right, opposite the dining-room, and the first thing which he saw
on the divan was Charlotte's little chinchilla muff which she had
forgotten. He regarded it with the concern of a woman, reflecting
that she would miss it; and he must send it to her, and was wondering
vaguely about a suitable box, when he became aware of a noise of
insistent knocking mounting in a gradual crescendo from propitiatory
timidity to confidence. The knocking was on the kitchen door, and
Carroll went hurriedly through the house. When he reached the door it
was open, and a tramp was just entering, with head cautiously thrust
forward. When he saw Carroll, the unshaven, surly face manifestly
became dismayed. He turned to go, with a mutter which savored of
appeal, excuse, and defiance, but Carroll viciously accelerated his
exit with a thrust between the shoulders.

"What the devil are you doing here?" demanded Carroll.

The man, rolling surly yet intimidated eyes over his shoulder, after
a staggering recovery from a fall, muttered something in an
unintelligible _patois_, the grovelling, slurring whine of his kind.

"Well, get out of this!" shouted Carroll.

The man went, shuffling along with a degree of speed, lifting his
clumsily shod feet with a sort of painful alacrity as if they were
unduly heavy. His back, in its greenish-brown coat, was bent. He was
not a very young man, although vigorous. Carroll stood looking at the
inglorious exit of this Ishmael, and he was conscious of a feeling of
exhilaration. He felt an agreeable tingling in his fists, which were
still clinched. The using of them upon a legitimate antagonist in
whose debt he was not, and never had been, acted like a tonic. Then
suddenly something pathetic in that miserable retreating back struck
the other man, who also had reason to turn his back on and retreat
from his kind; a strange understanding came over him. He seemed to
know exactly how that other man, slinking away from his door, felt.

"Hullo, you!" he called out.

The man apparently did not hear, or did not think the shout meant for
him. He kept on.

Carroll shouted again. "Hullo, you! Come back here!"

Then the man turned, and his half-scared, half-defiant face fronted
Carroll. He growled an inarticulate inquiry.

"Come back here!" repeated Carroll.

The tramp came slowly, suspiciously, one hand slyly lifted as one
sees a wary animal with a paw ready for possible attack.

"Wait here," said Carroll, indicating the stoop with a gesture, "and
I will see if I can find something for you to eat."

The man reached the door and paused, and remained standing, still
with that wary lift of hand and foot in readiness for defence or
flight, while Carroll rummaged in the pantry, which was a lean
larder. At last he emerged with half a pie and a piece of cake. He
extended them to the tramp, who viewed them critically and mumbled
something about meat.

"Take these and clear out, or leave them and clear out!" shouted
Carroll, and again the sense of exhilaration was over him.

The man took the proffered food and slunk rapidly out of the yard.

Carroll laughed, and closed and bolted the kitchen door, which Marie
had left unlocked. Then he returned to the den and sat down with the
morning paper and a cigar. He skimmed over the contents, the rumors
of wars, and cruelties, the Wall Street items, the burglaries, the
fires, the defalcations, the suicides, the stresses of the world,
creation old, enduring in their fluctuations and recurrences like the
sea, beating with the same force upon the hearts of every new
generation. Carroll, as he sat there idly smoking, fell to thinking
abstractedly in that vein. He had a conception of a possible ocean of
elemental emotion, of joy and passion, of crime and agony and greed,
ever swelling and ebbing upon the shores of humanity. He had a mind
of psychological cast, although it had been turned of a necessity
into other channels. Finally he turned wholly to himself and his own
difficulties, which had reached possibly the worst crisis of his
life. He had never been in such a hard place as this. He had
heretofore seen a loop-hole out, into another labyrinth in the end,
it is true, still a way out. Now he saw none except one; that was
into a fiery torture, and whether it was or was not the torture of
beneficial sacrifice he could not tell.

As he sat there his face grew older with the laboring of his mind
over the track of his failures and over the certain difficulties of
the future. He sat there all the morning. Noon came, but he did not
think of food, although he had eaten little that morning. He lit
another cigar and took up the paper again, and read an account of the
suicide of a bank defaulter by shooting himself through the brain. He
fell to thinking of suicide in his own case, as a means of egress
from his own difficulties, but he thought idly, rather as a means of
amusement, and not with the slightest seriousness. He had a
well-balanced brain naturally, and maintained the balance even in the
midst of misfortune. However, a balance, however perfect, indicates
by its very name something which may be disturbed. He thought over,
idly, various means of unlawful exit from the world, and applied them
to his own case. He decided against the means employed by the
desperate bank cashier; he decided against the fiery draught of acid
swallowed by a love-distracted girl; he decided against the leap from
a ferry-boat taken by an unknown man, whose body lay unidentified in
the morgue; he decided against illuminating gas, which had released
from the woes of life a man and his three children; he thought rather
favorably of charcoal; he thought also rather favorably of morphine;
he thought more favorably still of the opening of a vein, employed by
fastidious old Romans who had enough of feast and gladiators and life
generally and wished for a chance to leave the entertainment. All
this was the merest idleness of suggestion, a species of rather
ghastly amusement, it is true, but none the less amusement, of an
unemployed and melancholy mind. But suddenly, something new and
hitherto unexperienced was over him, a mood which he had never
imagined, a possibility which he had never grasped. His brain, tried
to the extreme by genuine misery, tried in addition by dangerous
suggestion, lost its perfect poise for the time. A mighty hunger and
thirst--a more than hunger and thirst--a ravening appetite, a passion
beyond all passions which he had ever known, was upon him, had him in
its clutches. He knew for the first time the most monstrous and
irresistible passion of the race, the passion for release from mortal
existence, the passion for death. At that moment he felt, and
probably felt truly, that had he been in dire peril, he would not
have lifted a finger in self-preservation. He turned his eyes inward
upon himself with greed for his own life, for his own blood, and back
of that was the ravening thirst for release from the world and the
flesh and the miseries which appertained to them, as one suffocating
might thirst for air. He realized suddenly himself, stifling and
agonizing, behind a window which he had no need to wait for an
overruling Providence to open, which was not too heavy for his own
mortal strength, which he could open himself. He realized that
whatever lay outside _was_ outside; it was air outside this air,
misery outside this particular phase which was driving him mad. His
imagination dwelling upon the different means of suicide, now became
judicial. He thought seriously upon the drawbacks to one, the
advantages of another. Then since the man was essentially unselfish
and fond of his own flesh and blood, he began to reflect upon the
horror of a confessed suicide to them. He began to study the
feasibility of a suicide forever undiscovered. He began to plan how
the thing might distress his family as little as possible. His cigar
went out as he sat and studied. The furnace fire was low and the room
grew cold. He never noticed it. He studied and studied the best means
of suicide, the best means of concealing it, and all the time the
greed for it was increasing until his veins seemed to run with a
liquid fire of monstrous passion, the passion of a mortal man for his
own immolation upon fate, and all the time that sense of intolerable
suffocation by existence itself, by the air of the world, increased.

He had now arrived at a state of mind where every new phase was
produced by suggestion. He was, in a sense, hypnotized. Everything
served to swing him this way or that, up or down. The sight of a
little perfume-bottle on the table, a dainty glass thing traced over
with silver, set him thinking eagerly of another little bottle, of
glass with a silver stopper, his wife's vinaigrette which she was
fond of using when her head ached. From that, the contemplation of
inhaling aromatic salts, he went naturally enough to the inhaling of
more potent things which assuage pain, and could assuage, if taken in
sufficient quantities, the pain of life itself. He remembered the
exaltation which he had experienced once when given chloroform for a
slight operation. Directly the idea of repeating that blissful
sensation seized upon him he was mad for it. To go out of life like
that, to take that way of opening the window into eternity, into
another phase of existence or into oblivion, what ecstasy! He
remembered that when under the chloroform, a wonderful certainty, a
comprehension, seemingly, of the true import of life and death and of
the hereafter, had seized him. He remembered a tremendous assurance
which he had received under the influence of the drug, of the
ultimate joy beyond this present existence, of the ultimate end in
bliss of all misery, of the tending of death to the fulness of life.
He remembered a rapture beyond words, an enthusiasm of gratitude for
such an immortal delight for the power which he had sometimes
rebelled against and reviled for placing him in the scale of
existence. He remembered how all his past troubles seemed as only
stepping-stones to supernal heights, how he could have kissed them
for thankfulness that he had been forced by an all-wise Providence
over the agony of the ascent to such rapture. Immediately his
thoughts centred upon chloroform. He looked across at the divan with
its heaped-up pillows, and his mind, acting always from suggestion,
became filled with the picture of his peaceful bed up-stairs, and
himself lying thereon, oblivious to all his miserable cares and
worries, passing out of reach of them on an ecstatic flight propelled
by the force of the winged drug. He began to consider the possibility
of obtaining chloroform. At once the instinct of secrecy asserted
itself. He decided that he could not, under the circumstances, go
into the drug-store in Banbridge and ask for a quantity of the drug
sufficient for his purposes. He realized that to do so would be to
incur suspicion. He doubted if he could maintain a perfectly unmoved
countenance while asking for it. He felt that his face would bear
evidence to his wild greed. He heard, as he sat there, the whistle,
then the rumble of a heavy freight-train a quarter of a mile distant,
and at once he thought of the feasibility of going to New York for
the chloroform. He looked at his watch and reflected that he had lost
the noon train. He also reflected as to the possible suspicion which
he might awaken of going to join his family, and making his final
exodus from the town and his creditors. He placed his watch in his
pocket, and his eyes fell on the electric-light fixture, with a red
silk shade over the bulb, and at once his mind conceived the idea of
his going somewhere on the trolley-cars. He thought of going to New
Sanderson; then dismissed that as not feasible. He knew too many
people in that place, and had too many creditors. Then he thought of
going to Port Willis, which was also connected with Banbridge by a
trolley-line, and was about the same distance. Again he looked at his
watch. It was nearly two o'clock. He wondered absently where the day
had gone, that it was so late. He had not the least idea as to the
times and seasons of the Port Willis trolley-cars, but he directly
arose to make ready. As he did so he heard a distressful mew, and the
black kitten which Marie had essayed to carry with her that morning
made a leap to the window-sill. The little animal looked in, fixed
his golden, jewel-like eyes on the man, and again uttered an
appealing, accusatory wail. Then she rubbed her head with a pretty,
caressing motion against the window-glass. She had evidently escaped
from the Hungarian and sped home. Carroll opened the window, and the
cat arched her back and purred, hesitating. Carroll waited patiently.
Finally she stepped across the sill, and he closed the window. Then
he called the cat into the kitchen, but he could find no milk for
her, nothing except a tiny scrap of beefsteak. The cat followed him
around the kitchen, slinking with her furry stomach sweeping the
floor, and mewed loudly, with alert eyes of watchful fear, exactly as
if she were in a strange place. The strangeness in the house
intimidated her. She missed the wonted element of the human, and the
very corners of her familiar kitchen looked strange to her. She would
not even eat her meat, but ran under the table and wailed loudly,
with wild eyes of terror on Carroll. He went out, shutting the door
behind him, and her loud inquiring wail floated after him.

Carroll brushed his overcoat and hat carefully, and put them on. He
went out of the house and took the road to the trolley-line. It was
still very cold, and the rime of the morning lay yet on the shaded
places. In the road, in the full glare of the sun, were a few dark,
damp places. The sky was very clear, with a brisk wind from the
northwest. It was at Carroll's back and urged him along. He walked
quite rapidly. He had a curious singleness of purpose, as unreasoning
and unreflective as an animal in search of food. He was going to Port
Willis for chloroform to satisfy a hunger keener than any animal's,
to satisfy the keenest hunger of which man, body and soul together,
is capable, a hunger keener than that of love or revenge, the hunger
for the open beyond the suffocating fastnesses of life. He met
several people whom he knew, and bowed perfunctorily. One or two
turned and looked after him. Two ladies, starting on a round of
calls, Mrs. Lee and Mrs. Van Dorn, again looked forth from the window
of Samson Rawdy's best coach, and at the intent man hurrying along
the sidewalk.

"I wonder where's he going," Mrs. Lee said, in a hushed tone. She was
just approaching a house where they meditated calling, and she was
rubbing on her violet-scented white gloves. Mrs. Lee looked worn and
considerably thinner than usual, and she was uncomfortably conscious
of her last season's bonnet. "My bonnet doesn't look very well to
make calls," she had remarked, when she entered the coach, hired, as
usual, at her companion's expense.

"It looks very well indeed," said Mrs. Van Dorn, in a covertly
triumphant voice. She herself wore a most gorgeous new bonnet with a
clump of winter roses crowning her gray pompadour. "It isn't the one
you wore last winter, is it?" asked she.

"Yes," admitted Mrs. Lee.

"You don't mean it! I thought it was new," said Mrs. Van Dorn, lying
comfortably.

"No, it's my old bonnet. I thought maybe it would do a while longer,"
said Mrs. Lee, meekly.

"I heard yesterday that a good many folks in Banbridge had been
losing money through Captain Carroll," said Mrs. Van Dorn, with
appositeness.

Mrs. Lee colored. "Have they?" said she.

"I heard so."

"Who is that man coming?" said Mrs. Lee, quickly, striving to turn
the conversation. Then she directly saw that the man was Carroll
himself.

"Why, it's Captain Carroll himself!" said Mrs. Van Dorn, and then
Mrs. Lee wondered, in her small, hushed voice, where he was going.

Samson Rawdy, driving, looked sharply at him. He even leaned far out
from the seat after he had passed, and watched to make sure he did
not take the road to the railroad station. Then he began, for the
hundredth time mentally, calculating the amount that was still owing
him. It was not much, only a matter of two dollars and some cents,
but his mind dwelt upon it.

"Seems to me he looked queer," Mrs. Lee remarked, thoughtfully, after
Carroll had passed.

"How do you mean?"

"I don't know. There was something about the way he was walking made
me think so. I suppose he doesn't know what way to turn."

"Well, I don't pity him," said Mrs. Van Dorn, with subdued
vindictiveness. "I don't see what a man is thinking of to come into a
place and conduct himself as he has done. They say he is in debt
everywhere, and has cheated everybody who didn't know any better than
to be cheated."

Mrs. Van Dorn spoke with point. She had heard on very good authority
that Mrs. Lee's husband had lost heavily through his misplaced
confidence in Carroll. Mr. Lee knew that she knew, but she stood up
bravely for the maligned man hurrying towards the Port Willis
trolley-car.

"Well, I don't know," said she. "You can't always tell by what people
say. It always seems to me that Banbridge folks are pretty ready to
talk, anyway. We don't know how much temptation the poor man has had,
and maybe he never meant to cheat anybody."

"Never meant!" repeated Mrs. Van Dorn, sarcastically. "Why, that is
the way he has been doing right along everywhere he has lived. Why, I
had it straight from a lady I met who had visited in Hillfield, New
York, where they used to live before they came here. Never meant!"

"Maybe he didn't," persisted Mrs. Lee. She was a grateful soul, and,
even if capable of small and petty acts, was of fine grain enough to
bear no rancor towards the discoverer of them; but the other woman
was built on a different plan.

"I don't take any stock in him at all," she said, with a species of
delight. She looked out of the small, rear window of the coach as she
spoke. "He's going to Port Willis," she said. "He's getting in the
trolley-car."

Samson Rawdy also turned his head and saw with a strained side glance
Carroll getting into the Port Willis trolley-car. Then he said:
"G'lang!" to his horses, and they turned a corner with a fine sweep,
while the ladies began getting their cards ready.

"I wonder what he's going to Port Willis for," said Mrs. Van Dorn,
reflectively and malignantly. "I suppose he's looking out for
somebody to cheat over there."

"Well, I pity him, poor man!" said Mrs. Lee. "If a man does cheat
other folks, he can't do it without cheating himself worst of all,
and it always turns out so in the end."

As is often the way with a simple tongue, hers spoke more wisdom that
it wot of. It was indeed quite true that poor Arthur Carroll, seating
himself in the Port Willis trolley-car, had in the bitter end cheated
himself worse than he had any of his creditors. He was more largely
in his own debt than in that of any other man; he had, in reality,
less of that of which he had cheated than had any of his victims.
Hardly one of them all was in such sore straits as he, for in
addition to his immediate personal necessities there was always the
incubus of the debts. And he was starting forth upon this trip with
the purpose in his overstrained, distorted brain of spending his last
reserve, and incurring a debt to himself which should never be paid
to all eternity.

Carroll seated himself in the car, which was already quite well
filled; there was not much time to spare before its scheduled
departure. He found a corner seat empty, and settled himself into it
with a bitter little sense of self-gratulation for at least that
minor alleviation of the situation. The corner seat in a Port Willis
trolley-car had distinct advantages aside from the physical comfort,
owing to the frequent crowding and the uncertain nature of the
component elements of the crowd.

Carroll settled back in his corner and surveyed his
fellow-passengers, waiting with a kind of stupid patience for the
starting of the car. There was a curious look of indifference to
remaining or going, on most of the faces, the natural result of the
universality of travel in America, the being always on the road for
all classes in order to cover the enormous distances in this great
country between home and work or amusement. All excitement over the
mere act of transit has passed; there is stolidity and acquiescence
as to delays and speed, unless there are great interests at stake. As
a rule, the people in the Port Willis trolley-car had not great
interests at stake; they were generally not highly organized,
nervously, and were to all appearances carried as woodenly from one
point to another as were the seats of the car. That afternoon a
German woman sat nearly opposite Carroll. She was well-dressed in a
handsome black satin skirt, with an ornate, lace-trimmed waist
showing between the folds of her seal cape. There were smart red
velvet roses and a feather in her hat. She sat with her feet far
apart, planted squarely to prevent her enormous slanting bulk from
slipping on the high seat. Her great florid face, a blank of animal
cognizance of existence, stared straight ahead, her triple chins were
pressed obstinately into the fur collar of her cape. She was the wife
of a prosperous saloon proprietor of Port Willis, which was a city of
saloons. She had herself been nourished on beer, until her naturally
strong will had become so heavy that it clogged her own purposes. Her
absently set face had a bewildered scowl as if at some dimly
comprehended opposition. Carroll surveyed her with a sort of
irritated wonder. No mathematical problem could present for him
difficulties as insuperable as this other human being, who, in a
similar stress to his own, would think of beer instead of chloroform,
and of sleep instead of death--indeed, for whom a similar stress
could not exist, so cushioned was both soul and body with stupidity
and flesh against the pricks and stabs of life.

Beside Carroll sat, sprawling his ungainly sideways length over the
seat, a lank countryman in top-boots red with the earth of the
country roads. His face, lantern-jawed, of the Abraham Lincoln type,
lacking the shrewd intelligence of the trained brain, was painfully
apathetic. He had scarcely looked up when Carroll took his seat
beside him. His lantern jaws worked furtively and incessantly with a
rotary motion over his quid of tobacco, which he chewed with the
humble and rudimentary comfort of an animal over its cud. He was
half-starved on his poor country fare, and the tobacco furnished his
stomach with imagination in lieu of solid food. Now and then he rose
and slouched to the door, and returned. At the other end of the car,
opposite, were two Hungarian women, short, squat, heavily oscillating
as to hips, clad in full, short skirts, aprons, and gay handkerchiefs
over strange faces, at once pitiful, stern, and intimidating. One of
the women was distinctly handsome, with noble features closely framed
by a snow-white kerchief. She had the expression of the pure and
unrelenting asceticism of a nun, but four children nearly of an age
were with her--one a baby in her arms, one asleep with heavy head on
her shoulder, the other two, a boy and girl, sitting on the seat with
their well-shod little feet sticking straight out, and their little
Slav faces, softened by infancy, looked unsmilingly out of the
opposite window. The baby in her lap was also strangely sullen and
solemn, with an intensely repellent little face in a soft, white
hood. The face of the baby looked like an epitome of weary, even
vicious, heredity. He looked older than his mother. Now and then she
bent, and her severe face took on an expression of majestic
tenderness. She pressed her handsome face close to the little,
elfish, even evil face of the child, and kissed it. Then the baby
smiled a fatuous, toothless smile, and he also was transformed; his
little glory of infancy seemed to illuminate the face marked with the
labors and sins and degradation of his progenitors. The other
Hungarian woman, who had with her one child, older than the baby,
very large and heavy, caught it up and kissed it with fervor, and the
child stared at her in return with a sort of patient wonder. Then the
two women exchanged smiles of confidence. Carroll watched,
remembering Amy with their children. She had been very charming with
the children, and, after all, there was not such a difference as
might appear at first. The thought flashed into Carroll's mind that
here was a little, universal well-spring of human nature which was
good to see, but the deadly pessimism and despair of his own mood
made him straightway corrupt the spring with his own dark conclusions.

"What is it all for?" he asked himself, bitterly. "Look at the
handsome alien creature there, with four young around her, and the
other with that unresponsive little brat. Any one of those children,
from the looks of their faces, is capable, if left to its own
unguided proclivities, of murdering the very parent who is now
caressing him; any one of them is hardly capable of doing anything in
life for his own good or happiness, or the good and happiness of the
world, if left to himself, as he will be. What does either of those
women know about training a child with those features, a child
distorted from birth?"

Beyond Carroll, on the same seat, sat two quite pretty young girls
with smart hats, and protuberant pompadours over pink-and-white
faces. They had loosened their coats, revealing coquettish neckwear.
They sat with feet crossed, displaying embroidered petticoats, at
which now and then the Hungarian women glanced with the hopeless
admiration with which one might view crown jewels. The two girls
covertly now and then reached forward their pretty heads and regarded
Carroll with half-bold, half-innocent coquettishness, but he did not
notice it. One whispered to the other how handsome he was, and did
she know who he was.

A rumble and jar became audible, and the New Sanderson car came up at
right angles on the track on the other road. The two cars connected.
Then passengers alighted from the New Sanderson car and entered the
waiting one. There was a distinct stir of excitement as they entered,
for it was evidently a bridal party. They were all Hungarians, and on
their way to Port Willis for the ceremony. There were the prospective
bride and groom and several friends of both sexes. They settled
themselves in the car, the girls huddled close together, the young
men by themselves. The bride was quite evident from the bridal
whiteness of her hat, a pitiful cheap affair bedecked with thin white
ribbon and a forlorn white plume; but although the bridegroom was as
unmistakable, it was difficult to tell how. Carroll decided that it
was because of the intensified melancholy and abjectness and shame of
his expression. Not one of the young men, who numbered as many as the
girls, but had it. They were all ignoble, contemptible, their faces
above their paper collars and hideous ties stained with miserable
imaginations. There was not a self-respecting face among them; but
the girls were better. There was in their faces an innocent gayety
like children. Instead of the painful, restrained grins of the young
men, they giggled artlessly when their eyes met. They were innocently
conscious of their flimsy and gaudy dresses of the cheapest lawn or
muslin on that cold day, with a multitude of frills of cheap lace and
bows of cheap ribbon, with bare hands adorned with blue or red stoned
rings protruding from their poor jacket-sleeves. The bride, afraid of
crushing her finery, had nothing over her shoulders in her thin white
muslin except one of the gay Hungarian kerchiefs. It was of an
exceedingly brilliant green color, a green greener than the grass of
spring. Above it her homely, downcast face showed beneath the
flapping white hat, which had a cluster of blue roses under the brim
next the dark streaks of her coarse hair. The face of the bride was
simple and rude in contour and line, the face of a peasant from a
long line of peasants, and it was complex with the simple complexity
of the simplest and most primal emotions, with love and joy and
wonder, the half-fearful triumph of swift inertia, attained at last
in the full element of life. The others were different; they were
dimpling and laughing and jesting in their unintelligible guttural.
Their faces knew nothing of the seriousness of the bride's. One of
them was exceedingly pretty, with a beauty unusual in her race. Her
high cheek-bones were covered with the softest rosy flesh, her wide
mouth was outlined by curves. She wore her cheap muslin with an air,
gathering up her petticoat, edged with the coarsest lace, daintily
from the muddy floor, revealing her large feet in heavy shoes and
white stockings. All the young men of the party except the
prospective groom, who sat entirely wrapped in his atmosphere of
grinning, shamefaced consciousness, glanced furtively at her from
time to time. She was quite aware of their glances, but she never
returned them. When a young man looked at her, she said something to
one of the girls, and laughed prettily, striking another pose for
admiration. She never, however, glanced at Carroll as did the two
pretty girls beyond him on the same seat. She seemed to have no
consciousness of any one in the car outside of those of her own race.
Indeed, the whole party, travelling in a strange land, speaking their
strange tongue, gave a curious impression of utter alienty. It was
almost as if they lived apart in their own crystalline sphere of
separation, as if they were as much diverse as inhabitants of Mars,
and yet they were bound on a universal errand, which might have
served to bring them into touch with the rest if anything could.
Carroll gathered an uncanny impression that he might be himself
invisible to these people, that, living in another element, they
actually could not see or fairly sense anything outside. He looked
from them to the two older women of the same race with their
children, and again his pessimistic attitude, evolved from his own
misery, set his mind in a bitterly interrogative attitude. He looked
at the bride and the mistakenly happy mother caressing the
evil-looking child, and a sickening disgust of the whole was over him.

The car started, and proceeded at a terrific speed along the straight
road. Carroll stared past the bulk of the German woman at the flying
landscape. Since noon the sky had become clouded; it threatened snow
if the wind should go down. The earth, which had been sodden with
rain a few days before, the mud from which showed dried on the
countryman's boots, was now frozen in a million wrinkles. The trees
stood leafless, extending their rattling branches, the old
corn-fields flickered with withered streamers; a man was mournfully
spreading dung over a slope of field. His old horse stood between the
shafts with drooping head. The man himself was old, and moved slowly
and painfully. A white beard of unusual length blew over his right
shoulder. Everything seemed aged and worn and weary, and full of
knowledge, to its undoing. To Carroll, in this mood, even the
bridal-party, even the children, seemed as old as age itself, puppets
evolved from the ashes of ages, working out a creation-old plan of
things.

The car was very close and hot--in fact, the atmosphere was
intolerable--but he felt chilly. He pulled his coat closer. Two young
men, countrymen, who had entered from the New Sanderson car, and sat
next the German woman, eyed him at the gesture, and their eyes fell
with a sort of dull dissent upon his handsome coat. One said
something to the other, and both laughed with boorish malice. Then
one, after glancing at the conductor, whose back was turned as he
talked to one of the pretty girls with pompadours, bent his head
hastily to the floor. Then he scraped his foot, and looked aloft with
an innocent and unconcerned expression. One of the pretty girls had
observed him, and said something to the conductor, pointing to a
printed placard over the man's head. The conductor looked at him, but
the man did not notice. He gave his fare, when it was demanded,
surlily. Then he bent his head again, when the conductor had turned
again, scraped his foot, and gave a sharp glance at the same time at
Carroll's long coat, which was almost within range. The German woman
suddenly awoke to nervous life and pulled her satin skirt aside, with
a look at the offender, to which he was impervious.

Then the car stopped in response to a signal, and a tiny, evidently
aged, woman with the activity of a child sprang on board. She had a
large bag which she bore on one meagre little arm as if it had been a
feather. Her wrinkled little face, rosily colored with the cold air,
peeped alertly from under quite a fine, youthful hat trimmed with
smart bows and a wing, but set crookedly on the head. Her sparse gray
hair was strained tightly back from her thin temples and wound
tightly at the back. Although she was undoubtedly old, her face could
no more be called old than could that of a bird. She kept it in
constant motion, bringing bright eyes to bear upon the different
passengers. She did not travel very far. She stopped the car,
springing alertly to her feet and pulling the bell-rope. Then she
hopped off as spryly as a sparrow, on her thin ankles, moving with
nervous haste. Then it was that Carroll noticed the boy for the first
time, although he was seated directly opposite, and the child looked
long and intently at the man. When the strange, agile old woman ran
through the car, the boy looked across with a look of innocent fun at
the man, and for the first time the two pairs of eyes met. It was not
in Carroll, whatever his stress of mind, to meet a smile like that
without response. He smiled back. Then the boy ducked his head with
fervor, and off came his little cap, like a gentleman.

He was a handsome little fellow, younger than Eddy by a year or two,
fair-haired and blue-eyed, with a most innocent and infantile
expression. He was rather poorly dressed, but he looked well cared
for, and he had the confident and unhesitating regard of a child who
is well-beloved. He had a little package of school-books under his
arm.

Carroll, after returning the child's smile, turned away. He did not
look again, although he felt that the blue eyes with a look of
insistent admiration were steadfastly upon his face. The country
through which the car was now passing was of a strange, convulsive
character. It was torn alike by nature and by man. Storms and winds
had battered at the clayey soil, spade and shovel had upturned it. It
was honey-combed and upheaved. There were roughly shelving hills
overhung with coarse dry grass like an old man's beard, there were
ragged chasms and gulfs, and all in raw reds and toneless browns and
drabs, darkened constantly by the smoke which descended upon them
from the chimneys of the great factories to the right. Over this raw
red and toneless drab surface crawled, on narrow tracks, little
wagons, drawn by plodding old horses, guided by plodding men. Beyond,
the salt river gleamed with a keen brightness like steel. The sky
above it was dull and brooding. The wind was going down. The whole
landscape was desolate, and with a strange, ragged, ignominious
desolation. The earth looked despoiled, insulted, dissected, as if
her sacred inner parts were laid bare by these poor pygmies, the
tools of a few capitalists grubbing at her vitals for the clay which
meant dollars.

In the most desolate part of this desolate country, the car was
stopped, and two Syrians laden with heavy grips got on. These tall,
darkly gaunt men, their sinister picturesqueness thinly disguised by
their Western garb, these Orientals in the midst of the extremest
phase of the New World, passed Carroll with grace, and seated
themselves, with a weary air, and yet an air of ineffable lengths of
time at command, suggestive of anything but weariness. There was
actually, or so Carroll fancied, a faint odor of attar of rose and
sandal-wood evident in the horribly close car. The men had in their
grips rosaries, and Eastern stuffs or Eastern trinkets of the
cheapest description.

To Arthur Carroll, regarding them, the fancy occurred, as it had
often occurred, of himself following a similar pursuit. He had
revolved in his mind all possible schemes of money-making, of winning
an honest living. All the more dignified methods, the methods
apparently suited to himself, seemed out of his reach. He pictured
himself laden with a heavy grip, with two of them, one painfully
poised on the hip, the other dragging at the hand, going about the
country, concealing his rage with abjectness and humility, striving
to dispose of his small and worthless wares for money enough to keep
the machinery going.

"I believe I would make a very good peddler," he thought. Although
his grace of address was involuntary, like any keenly intelligent and
retrospective man, he could not avoid being aware of it. He felt that
he could outstrip that saturnine Syrian in his own field.

Looking away from them, his eyes met the little boy's, also returning
from a sober, innocent contemplation of them, and the boy's eyes
again smiled at him with an odd, confidential expression. So clearly
wise and understanding was their direct regard, that it almost seemed
as if the child guessed at the man's thoughts; but that was, of
course, impossible. Carroll smiled at him again, and the little face
blushed and dimpled like a girl's with admiration and grateful
delight. He was a daintily built little boy, with nothing of Eddy's
little dash of manner, but he was charming. The car reached Port
Willis and proceeded along the principal street. Carroll suddenly
reflected that he must soon get off; he would reach the end of the
line. Again his errand loomed up before him. The necessity for
immediate action removed the paralyzing effect which the very horror
of it had had upon him for a time. Curiously enough, during the
half-hour in the car he had held, as it were, a little truce with
this fell appetite which had seized upon him. He had thought very
little of it. The strange inertia of passivity in motion of the other
passengers had seized upon him, but now was coming a period of
wakening. The passengers began to drop off. The bridal-party went out
chattering and laughing, the prospective bride with ugly red spots of
agitation on her high cheek-bones, the pretty girl holding up her
laced petticoats with the air of a princess. The stout German woman
got off in front of her husband's saloon. The Syrians stopped in
front of a store. Carroll rode through to the end of the line, and
there was then nobody left except himself, the two pretty girls, and
the little boy. The girls swept off before him, with a consciousness
of their backs in his sight. Carroll got off, and, to his utter
amazement, the little boy, pressing close to his heels, lifted a
small voice. It was an exceedingly small and polite little voice, as
sweet as a girl's, a thin treble.

"Be you Eddy Carroll's father?" asked the little voice.

Carroll looked down from his height at the small creature beside him.
The little, upturned face looked very far down. The little cap was
pushed back and the fair hair clung to the innocent forehead damply
like a baby's.

"Yes, my little man," said he, affably. "Who are you?"

"I go to school with him," said the little boy.

"Oh!" said Carroll.

"Has he went?" further inquired the little boy, wistfully. He was a
little scholar, but he had not learned as yet the practical
application of English. It was "has gone" in the book and "has went"
on the tongue.

"Yes; this morning," replied Carroll.

"I was in his classes," said the little voice.

"Why, you are younger than he is!" said Carroll.

"I guess I got my lessons better," admitted the little voice, but
with no conceit, rather with a measure of apology.

Carroll laughed. "You must have," said he. The boy had, undoubtedly,
a rather intellectual head, a full forehead, and eyes full of thought
and question.

"You go to school in Banbridge?" said Carroll, walking along the
street by the boy's side.

"Yes. I live here. My papa is dead and my mother dressmakes."

"Oh!" said Carroll. Suddenly, to his utter amazement, the small hand
which was free from the books was slid into his, and he was walking
up the street with the strange small boy clinging to his hand.
Carroll was conscious of a feeling of grotesque amusement, of
annoyance, and at the same time of pleasure and of exquisite
flattery. There was, strangely enough, in the child, nothing which
savored of the presuming or the forward. There was no more offence to
be taken than if an exceedingly small, timidly ingratiating, and
pretty dog had followed one. There was the same subtle compliment
implied, that the dog and the child considered him a man desirable to
be followed, a man to be trusted by such helplessness and ignorance
and loving admiration.

Carroll asked no more questions, but walked up the street with the
boy clinging to his hand. He thought of Eddy, but the touch of this
child was very different; the hand was softer, not so nervous.
Carroll, walking up the street, became forgetful of the child, who
remained silent, only glancing up at him now and then, timidly and
delightedly and admiringly. It was, in fact, to the boy, almost as if
he were walking hand in hand with a god. But to the man had returned
in full force the abnormal passion which had sent him thither. He
looked for a drug-store where he could buy chloroform. His mind was
as set upon that one end as a hunting-dog's upon his quarry. He could
not seem to grasp anything very intelligently but that one idea,
which crowded out every other for the time. The two passed store
after store, markets, beer-saloons, fruit-stalls, and dry-goods.
There were several blocks before the first drug-store was reached.
Carroll saw the red, green, and blue bottles in the windows, and
turned towards the door.

"Mr. Willard keeps this store; he's a nice man," volunteered the boy,
in his sweet treble.

Carroll looked down and smiled mechanically. "Is he?" he said.

"Yes. My mamma makes Mis' Willard's dresses. She's real good pay."

Carroll entered the store, the boy still keeping close hold of his
hand.

There was no one behind the counter, on which stood an ornate
soda-fountain with the usual appliances for hot and cold beverages. A
thought struck Carroll. He put his hand in his pocket and looked down
at the boy.

"Do you like chocolate?" he asked.

The boy blushed and hung his head.

"Do you?" persisted Carroll.

"I didn't ask for any," the boy said, in an exceedingly shamefaced
voice.

Carroll laughed as a man came from the rear of the store and paused
inquiringly behind the counter. "Give this little boy a cup of hot
chocolate, and make it pretty sweet," he said.

When the boy was seated, blissfully sipping his chocolate, Carroll
asked calmly for his chloroform. The druggist himself gave it to him
without any demur. There was that about Carroll's whole appearance
which completely allayed suspicion. It seemed inconceivable that a
man of such appearance, benevolently and genially treating a pretty
little boy to a cup of chocolate, should be essaying to purchase
poison for any nefarious purpose. The druggist put up the chloroform
in a bottle marked poison in red letters, changed the bill which
Carroll gave him in payment, and remarked that it was a cold day and
looked like snow. The boy was hurrying to finish his chocolate, that
he might follow again this object of his admiration, but Carroll
caught sight of the Banbridge car coming up the street, after having
made an unusually long wait at the terminus of the line.

"Take your time, my boy. I have to go," he said, and hurried out to
the car, leaving the boy staring wistfully after him with the
chocolate sweet upon his tongue.

Carroll, with his chloroform in his pocket, boarded the car, and
speeded again over the road to Banbridge. The way home seemed to him
like a dream. He was not conscious of much about him; his mind now
seemed concentrated on that small bottle in his pocket. He noticed
nobody in the car, but sat in his corner, with eyes fixed absently on
the flying landscape. The conductor had to speak twice before he
realized that he was asking for his fare. When the car reached the
end of the line in Banbridge, he sat still for a few seconds before
he collected himself enough to understand that the end of his journey
was reached, and it was time for him to get off the car and walk home.

Walking along the familiar way, his apathy began to fail and his
nervous excitement returned. He began to realize everything, this
hideous end to his failure of a life which was so rapidly
approaching. He realized that he was walking alone to his deserted
home, cold and cheerless, dark and silent. It was already dusk, the
days were short and the sky heavily clouded. The raw wind from the
northeast smote him hard in the face like a diffused flail of wrath.
He thought of his wife and children and sister speeding along to
their old home in the cheerful Pullman-car. He reflected that about
this time they would be thinking of going to the dining-car for their
dinner. He reflected that after the chloroform had done its work,
they would be well cared for in Kentucky, much better off than they
had ever been under his doubtful protection; that Eddy might grow up
to be a better man than his father, that Charlotte would marry down
there, that they would all be comfortable, and in the intense and
abnormal self-centredness of the mood which was upon him, that mood
which leads a man to escape from his own agony of life by the first
exit, that awful hunger for the beyond of his own soul, he never gave
a thought to the possible sufferings of his family, to their possible
grief at the loss of him. He actually hugged himself with the
contemplation of their comfort and happiness, which would follow upon
his demise, as he hugged himself upon the prospective ecstasy and
oblivion in the bottle in his pocket.

He came in sight of his house, and a bright light shone in the
dining-room window. He looked at it in bewilderment. His first
thought was an unreasoning one that some of his creditors had in some
unforeseen way taken possession. He went wearily around to the side
door. There was a light also behind the drawn curtain of the kitchen.
He opened the door and smelled broiling beefsteak and tea. Then
Charlotte, warm and rosy, laughing and almost weeping at the same
time, ran towards him with her arms held out.

"I have come back, papa," said she.



Chapter XXXIII


For the first time in his life Arthur Carroll had a perfect sense of
the staying power, of the impregnable support, of love and the
natural ties of humanity. Charlotte's slender arms closed around his
neck; she stood, half-weeping, half-laughing, leaning against him,
but in reality he leaned against her, the soul of the man against the
soul of the girl, and he got from it a strength which was stronger
than life or death. He felt that it bent not one whit before his
terrible weight of misery and perplexity. He was stayed.

"I came back, papa," Charlotte repeated. She was herself a little
terrified by what seemed to her a daring action; then, too, she dimly
perceived something beneath the surface which made her tremble. She
felt the despairing weight of the other soul against her own. She
stood still, clinging to her father, saying in her little, quivering
voice that she had come back, and he was quite still, until at last
he made a little sound like a dry sob, and Charlotte straightened
herself and took his hand firmly in her little, soft one. The girl
became all in a second a woman, with the full-fledged instincts of
one. She knew just what to do for a man in a moment of weakness. She
towered, by virtue of the maternal instinct within her, high above
her father in spiritual strength.

"Papa, come into the house," said she, and her voice seemed no longer
Charlotte's, but echoed from the man's far-off childhood. "Come into
the house, papa," she said; "come." And Carroll followed her into the
house, like a child, his hands clasped firmly and commandingly by the
little, soft one of his daughter.

Charlotte led her father into the dining-room, which was warm and
light. There was a Franklin stove in there, and a bright fire burned
in it.

"The furnace fire had gone out, and I could not do anything with
that, so I made a fire in this stove," Charlotte explained. "I made
it burn very easily." She spoke with a childish pride. It was, in
fact, the first time she had ever made a fire. "The fire in the
kitchen-range was low, too," she said, "but I put some coal on and I
poked it, and there is a beautiful bed of coals to cook the
beefsteak." Then Charlotte caught herself up short. "Oh, the
beefsteak will burn!" she cried, anxiously. "Do sit down, papa, and
wait a minute. I must see to the beefsteak."

With that Charlotte ran into the kitchen, and Carroll dropped into
the nearest chair. He felt dazed and happy, with the happiness of a
man waking to consciousness from an awful incubus of nightmare, and
yet a deadly sense of guilt and shame was beginning to steal over
him. That bottle of chloroform in his pocket stung his soul like the
worm, which gnaweth the conscience unceasingly, of the Scriptures. He
thought vaguely of removing it, of concealing it somewhere. He looked
at the china-closet, the door of which stood ajar; he looked at the
sideboard with its glitter of cut glass and silver; but reflected
that Charlotte might directly go to either and discover it, and make
inquiries. He kept it in his pocket.

He heard Charlotte running about in the kitchen. He continued to
smell the broiling beefsteak and tea, and also toast. He became
conscious of a healthy hunger. He had eaten nothing since morning,
and very little then. Then he gathered his faculties together enough
to wonder how this had come about; how and why Charlotte had
returned. But he sat still in the chair beside the Franklin stove. He
gazed steadily into the red glow of the coals, and a strange dimness
came over his vision. A species of counter-hypnotism seemed to
overcome him. He had been in an abnormal state, superinduced by
unhealthy suggestions of the imagination acting upon a mind ill at
ease; now his natural state gradually asserted itself. His mind swung
slowly back to its normal poise. When Charlotte entered, bearing a
platter of beefsteak, he turned to her quite naturally.

"How did it happen, darling?" he asked.

Charlotte looked at him, and her face, which had been anxious and
puzzled, lightened. She laughed. "I had my mind all made up, papa,"
she replied, in a triumphant little voice.

"That you would come back?"

"Yes, papa. I knew there was no use in saying I would not go. I knew
if I did, Amy would directly declare that she would not go either,
and I should spoil everything. So I decided that I would start with
the rest, and come back."

"How far did you go?"

"I went to Lancaster. I did not mean to go so far. I meant to get off
at New Sanderson, but I could not manage it. Amy wanted to play
pinochle, and I could not get away. But when we got to Lancaster, we
stopped awhile, and Amy was having a nap, and Anna was reading, and
the train made a long stop, and Eddy and I got out, and I told Eddy
what I was going to do, and gave him a little note. I had it all
written before I started. I said in the note that I was coming back,
that I did not want to go to Kentucky; that I was coming back and
would stay with you a little while, and then we would both go to
Kentucky and join the others. I said they were not to worry about me."

"What did you tell Eddy?"

"I told Eddy that you could not be left alone with nobody to cook for
you, and he must get on the train and not make any fuss, and tell the
others, and be a good boy, and he said he would. I saw him safely on
the train."

"How did you get here from Lancaster, child?"

"I took the trolley," Charlotte said. "There is a trolley from
Lancaster to New Sanderson, you know, papa."

Charlotte did not explain that the trolley from Lancaster to New
Sanderson was not running, and that she had walked six miles before
connecting with the trolley to Banbridge. "I got the meat in New
Sanderson," said she. "I got some other things, too. You will see. We
have a beautiful supper, papa."

Carroll looked at her, and she answered the question he was ashamed
to ask. "Aunt Catherine sent me a little money," she said. "She sent
me twenty-five dollars in a post-office order. She wrote me a letter
and sent me the money for myself. She said the shops were not very
good down there--you know they are not, papa--and I might like to buy
some little things for myself in New York before coming. I said
nothing about the money to Amy or the others, because I had this
plan. I even let Amy take that extra money and buy me the hat. I was
afraid I was mean, but I could not tell her I had the money, because
I wanted to carry out this plan, and I did not see how I could get
back or do anything unless I kept it, for I had no money at all
before. I have written a letter to Aunt Catherine, and she will get
it as soon as they get there. I don't think she will be angry; and if
she is, I don't care." Charlotte's voice had a ring of charming
defiance. She looked gayly at her father. "Come, papa," said she,
"the beefsteak is hot. Sit right up, and I will bring in the tea and
toast. There are some cakes, too, and a salad. I have got a beautiful
supper, papa. I never cooked any beefsteak before, but just look how
nice that is. Come, papa."

Carroll obediently drew his chair up to the table. It was daintily
set; there was even a little vase of flowers, rusty red
chrysanthemums, in the centre on the embroidered centrepiece.
Charlotte spoke of them when she brought in the tea and toast. "I
suppose I was extravagant, papa," she said, "but I stopped at a
florist's in New Sanderson and bought these. They did not cost
much--only ten cents for all these." She took her seat opposite her
father, and poured the tea. She put in the lumps of sugar daintily
with the silver tongs. Her face was beaming; she was lovely; she was
a darling. She looked over at her father as she extended his cup of
tea, and there was not a trace of self-love in the little face; it
was all love for and tender care of him. "Oh, I am so glad to be
home!" she said, with a deep sigh.

Carroll looked across at her with a sort of adoration and dependence
which were painful, coming from a father towards a child. His face
had lightened, but he still looked worn and pale and old. He was
become more and more conscious of the chloroform in his pocket, and
the shame and guilt of it.

"Why did you come back, honey?" he asked.

"I didn't want to go," Charlotte said, simply. "I wasn't happy going
away and leaving you alone, papa. I want to stay here with you, and
if you have to leave Banbridge I will go with you. I don't mind at
all not having much to get along with. I can get along with very
little."

"You would have been more comfortable with the others, dear," said
Carroll. He did not begin to eat his supper, but looked over it at
the girl's face.

"You are not eating anything, papa," said Charlotte. "Isn't the
beefsteak cooked right?"

"It is cooked beautifully, honey; just right. All is. I am glad to
see you come back. You don't just know what it means to me, dear, but
I am afraid--"

Charlotte laughed gayly. "I am not," said she. "Talk about
comfort--isn't this comfort? Please _do_ eat the beefsteak, papa."

Carroll began obediently to eat his supper. When he had fairly begun
he realized that he was nearly famished. In spite of his stress of
mind, the needs of the flesh reasserted themselves. He could not
remember anything tasting so good since his boyhood. He ate his
beefsteak and potatoes and toast; then Charlotte brought forward with
triumph a little dish of salad, and finally a charlotte-russe.

"I got these at the baker's in New Sanderson," said she. She was
dimpling with delight. She looked very young, and yet the man
continued to have that sense of dependence upon her. She exulted
openly over her supper, her cooking, and her return. "I don't know
but I was very deceitful, papa," she said, but with glee rather than
compunction. "Amy and Anna had no idea that I did not mean to go with
them to Aunt Catherine's, and oh, papa, what do you think I did? What
do you?"

"What, dear?"

"My trunk was packed with, with--some old sheets and blankets and
newspapers--and all my clothes are hanging in my closet up-stairs."
Charlotte laughed a long ring of laughter. "I knew I was deceitful,"
she said again, and laughed again.

Carroll did not laugh. He was thinking of the Hungarian girl in
Charlotte's red dress, but Charlotte thought he was sober on account
of her deceit.

"Do you think it was very wrong, papa?" she asked, with sudden
seriousness, eying him wistfully. "I will write and tell Amy to-night
all about it. I couldn't think of any other way to do, papa."

"I met Marie as I was coming home from the station this morning,"
Carroll said, irrelevantly.

Charlotte looked at him quickly, blushed, and raised her teacup.

"I thought at first, though I knew it could not be, that I saw you
coming," said he; "something about her dress--"

"Papa," said Charlotte, setting down her cup, and she was
half-crying--"papa, I had to. Marie was so shabby, and she said that
her lover had deserted her because she was so poorly dressed; and
though of course he could not be a very good man, nor very loyal to
desert her for such a reason as that, yet those people are different,
perhaps, and don't look at things as we do; and Marie has got another
place; but--but she--didn't have any money, you know, and she didn't
really have a dress fit to be seen, and that dress I gave her I did
not need at all--I really did not, papa. I have plenty besides, and
so I gave it to her, and my little Eton jacket, and I told her she
would certainly have every cent we owed her, and she seemed very
happy. She is going to a party to-night and will wear that dress. She
thinks she will get her lover back. Those Hungarian men must be queer
lovers. Marie said he would not marry her, anyway, until she had some
money for her dowry, but she thinks she may be able to keep him until
then with my red silk dress, and I told her she should certainly have
it all in time." Charlotte's voice, in making the last statement, was
full of pride and confidence without a trace of interrogation.

"She shall if I live, dear," said Carroll. All at once there came
over him, stimulated with food for heart and body, such a rush of the
natural instinct for life as to completely possess him. It seemed to
him that as a short time before he had hungered for death, he now
hungered for life. Even the desire to live and pay that miserable
little Hungarian servant-maid was a tremendous thing. The desire to
live for the smallest virtues, ambitions, and pleasures of life was
compelling force.

"I have something beautiful for breakfast to-morrow morning, papa,"
said Charlotte, "and I know how to make coffee." And he felt that it
was worth while living for to-morrow morning's breakfast alone. No
doubt this state of mind, as abnormal in its way as the other had
been, was largely due to physical causes, to the unprosaic quantity
of food in a stomach which had been cheated of its needs for a number
of days. The blood rushed through his veins with the added force of
reaction, supplying his brain. He was not happier--that could
scarcely be said--but he was swinging in the opposite direction.
Whereas he had wanted to die, because of his misery and failures, he
now wanted to live, to repair them, and the thought was dawning upon
him, to take revenge because of them. In this mood the consideration
of the bottle of chloroform in his pocket became more and more
humiliating and condemning. The sight of the girl's innocent,
triumphant, loving little face opposite overwhelmed him with a
stinging consciousness of it all. He felt at one minute a terrible
fear lest those clear young eyes of hers could penetrate his
miserable secret, lest she should say, suddenly: "Papa, what did you
go to Port Willis for? What have you in your pocket?"

Charlotte went to bed early, after she had cleared away the table and
washed the dishes, unwonted tasks for her, but which she performed
with a delight intensified by a feeling of daring.

"Papa, I have washed the dishes beautifully; I know I have," she
said, and she looked at him for praise, her head on one side, her
look half-whimsical, half-childishly earnest. "I don't see why it is
at all hard work to be a maid," said she.

"There are other things to do, dear, I suppose," Carroll said.

"I think I could easily learn to do the other things," said she. "I
don't quite know about the washing and ironing, and possibly the
scrubbing and sweeping." Charlotte surveyed, as she spoke, her hands.
She looked at the little, pink palms, made pinker and slightly
wrinkled by the dish-water; she turned them and surveyed the backs
with the slightly scalloping joints, and the thin-nailed fingers. She
shook her head. "I don't know," said she, again.

"I know," Carroll said, quickly. "Your father is going to take care
of you, Charlotte. It has not yet come to that pass that he is quite
helpless."

Charlotte did not seem to notice his hurt, indignant tone. She went
on reflectively. "It does seem," said she, "as if there were a great
many ways of being crippled besides not having all your arms and
legs; as if it were really being very much crippled if you are in a
place where there is work to be done, and your hands are not rightly
made for doing it. Now here I am, and I can't do Marie's work as well
as Marie did it, because she was really born with hands for washing
and ironing and scrubbing and sweeping, and I wasn't. A person is
really crippled when she is born unfitted to do the things that come
her way to be done, isn't she, papa?"

"There is no question of your doing such things, Charlotte," Carroll
said again, and Charlotte looked at him quickly.

"Why, papa!" said she, and went up to him and kissed him. She rubbed
her cheek caressingly against his, and his cheek felt wet. She
realized that with a sort of terror. "Why, papa, I did not mean any
harm!" she said.

"I will get a servant for you to-morrow, Charlotte," he said,
brokenly. "It has not yet come to pass that you have to do such
work." He spoke brokenly. He did not trust himself to look at the
girl, who was now looking at him intently and seriously.

"Papa, listen to me," said she. "Really, there is no scrubbing nor
sweeping nor washing nor ironing to be done here for quite a time.
Marie has left the house in very good condition. There is enough
money to pay for the laundry for some time, and as for the cooking,
you can see that I shall love to do that. You know Aunt Catherine
used to let me cook, that I always like to."

Carroll made no reply.

"Papa, you are not well; you are all worn out," Charlotte said. "Let
us go into the den, and you smoke a cigar and I will read to you."

Carroll shook his head. "No, dear, not to-night," he said.

"We will have a game of cribbage."

"No, dear, not to-night. You are tired, and you must go to bed. Take
a book and go to bed and read. You are tired."

"I am not very tired," said Charlotte, but therein she did not speak
the entire truth. Her spirit was leaping with happy buoyancy, but she
could scarcely stand on her feet, she was so fatigued with her
unaccustomed labor and the excitement of it all. There was a ringing
in her ears, and her eyelids felt stiff; she was also a little
hoarse. "Will you go to bed, too, papa?" said she, anxiously.

"I will go very soon, dear."

"Won't you want anything else before you go?"

"No, darling."

Charlotte stood regarding him with the sweetest expression of
protection and worshipful affection, and withal the naivete of a
child pleased with herself and what she has done for the beloved one.
"You _did_ have a good supper, didn't you, papa?" she asked.

"A beautiful supper, sweetheart."

"You never had a better?"

"Never so good, never half so good," said Carroll, fervently, smiling
down at her eager face.

"You are glad I came back, aren't you, papa?"

"Glad for my own sake, God knows, dear, but--"

"There are no buts at all," Charlotte cried, laughing. "No buts at
all. If you don't think I am happier and better off here with you
than I would be rattling down to Kentucky on that old railroad, and I
am always car-sick on a long journey, you know, papa."

Charlotte lit a lamp and bade her father good-night. She kissed him
and looked at him anxiously and with a little bewilderment. He had
seated himself, and was smoking with an abstracted air, his eyes
fixed on vacancy.

"Now, papa, you will go to bed very soon yourself, won't you?" she
urged. "You look sick, and I know you are tired out."

"Very soon, honey," Carroll replied.

After Charlotte had gotten into bed, and lay there with her lamp on a
stand beside her and her book in hand, she listened more than she
read. When in the course of half an hour she heard her father come up
the stairs and enter his own room, she gave a sigh of relief.
"Good-night, papa," she called out.

"Good-night, dear," he responded. Then Charlotte fell asleep with her
light burning and her book in her hand, and she did not hear her
father go softly over the stairs a second time.

As was said, his mind, in regaining its normal balance, had swung too
far to the opposite direction. His desire to live, that possessed
him, was as much too intense as his previous desire to die. He had
for the time being another fixed idea, not as dangerous in a sense as
the other, at least not to himself, but still dangerous. The
miserable little bottle of chloroform became, in this second abnormal
state of his mind, the key-note on which his strenuous thoughts
harped. It seemed to him that that bottle with its red label of
"Poison" was as horrible a thing to have as a blood-stained knife of
murder. It was in a sense blood-stained. It bore the stigma of the
self-murderer. It bore evidence to his hideous cowardice, his
unspeakable crime of spirit. He felt that he must do away with that
bottle; but how? After he was in his room, and the door locked, he
took the bottle from its neat wrapper of pink paper and looked at it.
It seemed like an absurdly easy thing to dispose of; but it did not,
when he reflected, seem easy at all. It was not a thing to burn, or
throw away. He thought of opening the window and giving it a fling;
but what was to hinder some one finding it in the morning under the
windows? The man actually sat down and gazed awhile at the small
phial of death with utter helplessness and horror; and as he did so,
the always smouldering wrath of his soul towards that man in
Kentucky, that man who had wronged him, swelled to its height. He had
always hated him, but his hate had never assumed such strength as
this. He became conscious, as he had never been before, that that man
was responsible for it all, even to the crowning horror and ignominy
of that bottle. He reflected that no man of his name had ever, so far
as he knew, stained it as he had done by his life; that no man of his
name had ever so stained the record of his race by the contemplation
of such a dastardly death. He felt, gazing at that bottle, every whit
as guilty as if he had drained the contents, and he told himself that
that man was responsible, that that man had murdered him in the worst
and subtlest way in which murder can be done; he had caused him to do
away with his own honor. He felt himself alive to his furthest fancy
with hate and a desire for revenge.

"I will live, and I will have the better of him yet," he muttered to
himself.

Every nerve tingled; his fingers clutched the bottle like hot
wires--that bottle which that other man had caused him to buy, and
which he could not get rid of, this palpable witness to his crime and
disgrace.

Finally he got up and threw up the window; then he put it down again.
It did not seem to him, in his unreasoning state, that he could
probably empty the chloroform out of the window without the slightest
danger of detection, and then scrape the label from the bottle. It
did not seem possible to him that Charlotte would not immediately
perceive the fumes of the drug which would cry to her from the
ground. Her room was next his own. He sat down again and gazed at the
bottle with the absurd bewilderment of a drunken man. Then he tried
stowing it away in a drawer of the dresser, behind a pile of shirts.
He even, after doing that, began to undress, but that did not satisfy
him. It seemed certain to him that Charlotte would find it in the
morning, and say, "Why, papa, what is this bottle marked 'Poison' in
your drawer?"

At last he unlocked his door, opened it, and stole softly
down-stairs. He unfastened the kitchen door, and went across the
field and garden behind the house, to the little pond beside the
rustic arbor, the little sentimental Idlewild of the original
dwellers in the house. It was a dark, waving night. It still did not
storm, and was warmer. It would probably rain before morning. The
wind smote his face damply. He had come out in his shirt-sleeves. He
moved slyly, like a thief; he felt like one, like a thief and a
murderer--a self-murderer, and a murderer, in will, of the man who
had caused him to commit the crime. He felt burning with hate as he
slunk across the field, of hate of the man who had brought him to
this, who had caused his financial and moral downfall. At that time,
had the man been near, his life would have been worth nothing.
Carroll thought, as he hurried on, holding fast to the bottle, how he
could overthrow him, uncork the bottle and hold it to his face, that
he might inhale the death he had meted out to him. It seemed to him
like the merest instinct of self-defence. He stumbled now and then
over the tangle of dry vines in the garden, among the corn-stalks. He
went like a guilty thing, instead of moving with his usual confident
state, the state of a gentleman from a long line of gentlemen. He had
become alive to his own shame, his own ignominy, and he had turned at
bay upon the one who had caused him, as he judged, to fall.

When he reached the little pond, he paused and looked about him for a
second. It was a desolate spot at that time of year and that hour.
The little sheet of water gleamed dully like an obscured eye of life.
The trees waved their slender arms over it. Something about the
summer-house creaked as a damp wind blew on his face. He saw through
the trees a faint gleam of light from a house window farther down the
road. He heard a rustle in the undergrowth on his right, probably a
stray cat or a bird. He stood there holding the bottle of chloroform
and hating that man; then he raised his arm and flung the thing into
the pond. There was a splash which sounded unnaturally loud, as if it
could be heard a long distance.

Then Carroll turned and went home across the field; the evidence of
his guilt was hidden away out of sight, but the memory and
consciousness of it was in his very soul and had become a part of
him, and his hate of the man who had brought him to it stalked by his
side like a demon across the fields.



Chapter XXXIV


The next morning Carroll looked ill, so ill that Charlotte regarded
him with dismay as she sat opposite him at the breakfast-table. She
was full of delight over her meal. She had gotten up early and made
the fire and cooked the breakfast; in fact, Carroll had been awakened
from the uneasy sleep into which he had fallen towards morning by the
fragrance of the coffee. He opened his eyes, and it took him some
time to adjust himself to his environment, so much had happened since
the morning before. He awoke in the same room, in the same bed, but
spiritual stresses had made him unfamiliar with himself. It took him
some time to recall everything--the departure of his family, his
journey to Port Willis, Charlotte's return, the chloroform--but that
which required no time to return, which was like a vital flame in him
from the first second of his consciousness, was his hatred of the man
who had done him the wrong. As he lay there reflecting he became
aware that he had always hated in just such measure as this, from the
very first moment in which he had become aware of the wrong, only he
had not himself fairly sensed the mighty power of the hate. He had
not known that it so permeated his very soul, so filled it with
unnatural fire. At last he arose and dressed and went down-stairs,
and greeted Charlotte, radiant and triumphant, and seated himself
opposite her at the table, when her face fell.

"You are certainly ill, papa," said she.

"No, dear," said Carroll. "I am not ill at all." This morning he
tried to eat, to please her, for his appetite of the night before had
gone. He was haggard and pale, and his eyes looked strained.

"You look very ill," said Charlotte. "Let me call the doctor for you,
papa, dear."

Carroll laughed. "Nonsense," he said. "I am as well as ever I was.
You make a baby of your old father, honey."

"Have another chop, then," said Charlotte.

And Carroll passed his plate for the chop, and ate it, although it
fairly nauseated him. He looked at the child opposite as he ate, and
she looked as beautiful as an angel, and as good as one to him. He
thought how the little thing had come back to him, her unfortunate
father, who had made such a muddle of his life, who had been able to
do so little for her; how she had given up the certainty of a happy
and comfortable home for uncertainty, and possibly privation, and the
purest gratitude and love that was so intense possessed him. Looking
at Charlotte, he almost forgot the hatred of the man who had brought
this upon him, and then the hatred awoke to fiercer life because of
the love.

Then, all unconsciously, Charlotte herself, seemingly actuated by a
species of mental telegraphy, spurred him on. "Papa," said she,
viewing him with approbation as he ate his second chop, "is that man
in Acton who treated you so dreadfully still living there?"

Carroll's face contracted. "Yes, dear," he said.

"If I had gone down there, and had seen that man, I should have been
afraid of the way I would have felt when I saw him," said Charlotte.
Her innocent girl's face took on an expression which was the echo of
her father's. "I suppose he is prosperous," she said.

"I think so, honey."

"I feel wicked when I think of him," said Charlotte, still with the
look which echoed her father's, "when I think of all he has made you
suffer, papa."

Carroll made no reply; the two looked at each other for a second. The
girl's soft face became almost terrible.

"I think if I were a man, and met him, and--had a pistol, I should
kill him," she said, slowly.

Carroll made an effort which fairly convulsed him. His face changed.
He sprang up, went over to Charlotte, took hold of her head, bent it
back, and kissed her. "For God's sake, honey, don't talk in that
way!" he said. "All this is not for you to meddle with nor trouble
your little head with."

"Yes it is, if it troubles you, Papa."

"I can manage my own troubles, and I don't want any little girl like
you trying to take hold of the heavy end," Carroll said, and laughed
quite naturally.

"Then you must not look so ill, papa."

"I am going to have another cup of coffee," Carroll said, and showed
diplomacy.

Charlotte delightedly poured out the coffee. "Isn't it very good
coffee?" she said.

"Delicious coffee."

"I am going to get a beautiful dinner for you," Charlotte said. The
second cup of coffee had reassured her. She began to think her father
did not look so ill, after all. She was herself in a state of perfect
content and happiness. She felt a sense of triumph, of daring, which
exhilarated her. She adored her father, and how cleverly she had
managed this coming back. How impossible she had made it for any one
to gainsay her! After breakfast her father went out, telling her he
should be home by noon, and she busied herself about the house. She
was an absolute novice about such work, but she found in it a charm
of novelty, and she developed a handiness which filled her with
renewed triumph. She kept considering what would her father have done
if she had not returned.

"He would have had no supper when he came home last night," Charlotte
said--"no supper, for he evidently was not going to the inn, and the
fire was out. How dreadful it would have been for him!" She imagined
perfectly her father's sensations of delighted surprise and relief
when he espied her, to welcome him, when he felt the warmth of the
fire, when he smelled the supper. The pure delight of a woman over
the comfort which she gives a child or a man whom she loves was over
her. She realized her father's comfort as she had never realized any
of her own. She fairly danced about her work. She put the bedrooms in
order, she washed the breakfast dishes. Then she meditated going
down-town and buying a fish for dinner. Carroll was very fond of
baked fish. About ten o'clock she had finished her work, and she put
on her hat and coat and set forth. She ordered the fish, and paid for
it. She gave the man a five-dollar note to change. He looked at it
suspiciously. When she had gone out, he and two other men who were
standing in the little market looked at one another.

"Guess the world's comin' to an end," he said, laughing, "when they
pay cash with five-dollar bills."

"Sure it was a good one?" said one of the other men.

"I thought all Carroll's family had went," said the third man.

"Guess they didn't have enough money to take this one, and you can't
beat the Pennsylvania Railroad nohow," said the fishman.

Charlotte went on to the butcher's, bought and paid for some ham,
then to Anderson's for eggs. The old clerk came forward as she
entered, and answered her question about the eggs.

"Do you want them charged?" he asked.

"No, I will pay for them," replied Charlotte, and took her little
purse, and just then Anderson, having heard her voice, looked
incredulously out of his office, his morning paper in hand. Charlotte
laid some money on the counter, and stepped forward at once. She saw
with a sort of wonder, and an agitation within herself for which she
could not account, that the man was deadly white, that he fairly
trembled.

"Good-morning, Mr. Anderson," she said.

Anderson was a man of self-control, but he gazed down at her fairly
speechless. He had been telling himself that she had gone as
certainly out of his life as if she were dead, and here she was again.

"I thought," he stammered, finally.

Charlotte's face of innocent wonder and disturbance flushed. "No, I
did not go, after all," she said, like a child. "That is, I started,
but I went no farther than Lancaster. They thought I was going--they
all did--but I could not leave papa alone, and so I came back." She
was incoherent. Her own confusion deepened. She tried to look into
the man's face, but her own eyes fell; her lips quivered. She was
almost crying, but she did not know why. She turned to the counter,
behind which stood the man with the package of eggs and the change.

"Send that package," Anderson said, brusquely.

"The wagon has gone."

"Send it as soon as it comes back. There will be time enough."

"I can manage if I don't have the eggs until noon," said Charlotte.

The clerk turned to put away the parcel in readiness for the
delivery-wagon, and again Anderson and the girl looked at each other.
Anderson had caught up his hat with his newspaper as he came out of
the office, and Charlotte looked at it.

"Were you going out?" she asked, timidly, and yet the question seemed
to imply a suggestion. She glanced towards the door.

Anderson muttered something about an errand, and went out with her.
They walked along the street together. Suddenly Charlotte looked up
in his face and began confiding in him. She told the whole story.

"You see, I couldn't leave papa," she concluded.

Anderson looked down at her, and the look was unmistakable. Charlotte
blushed and her face quivered.

"Then you are going to stay here all winter?" he said, in a low voice.

"Oh, no, I think not," she replied. "I think we shall go away."

Anderson's face fell. She had spoken very eagerly, almost as if she
were anxious to go.

She made it worse. "I don't think I should have come back if it had
not been for that," she said. "I did not see what poor papa could do
all alone, trying to move. I don't think I should."

"Yes," said Anderson, soberly.

"Perhaps I should not have," said she. She did not look at him. She
kept her eyes fixed on the frozen ground, but the man's face lighted.

They kept on in a vague sort of fashion and had reached the
post-office. They entered, and when Anderson had unlocked his box and
taken out his mail, and Charlotte had gotten some letters which
looked like bills for her father, he realized the he had no excuse to
go any farther with her. He bade her good-morning, therefore.
Charlotte said good-morning, and there was a little uncertainty and
wistfulness in her look and voice. She was very unsophisticated, and
she was wondering whether she should ask him to call, now her mother
and aunt had gone. She resolved that she would ask her father. As for
Anderson, he went back to the store in a sort of dream. He suddenly
began to wonder if the impossible could be possible. At one moment he
ridiculed himself for the absurdity of such an imagination, even, and
then the imagination returned. He reflected that he would have had no
such doubt if it had not been for his lack of success in his
profession. He charged himself with a lack of self-respect that he
should have doubts now.

"After all, I am a man," he told himself. "I am as good as ever I
was."

Then he considered, and rightly, that it was not his own just
estimate of himself which was to be taken into consideration in a
case of this sort, but that of the people. He realized that a girl
brought up as Charlotte Carroll had been might, knowing, as she must
finally know, her own father to be little better than a common
swindler, not even dream of the possibility of marrying a grocer. He
had to pass his old office on his way home to dinner that noon, and
he looked at it with more regret than he had ever done since leaving
it. The school was out and the children were streaming along the
street. The air was full of their chatter. Henry Edgecomb came up
behind him with a good-morning. He looked worn and nervous. Anderson
looked at him sharply after his greeting.

"What is the matter?" he asked.

"Nothing, only I am tired out," Edgecomb replied, wearily. "Sometimes
I envy you."

"Don't," said Anderson.

"I do. This friction with new souls and temperaments is wearing my
old one thin. I would rather sell butter and cheese."

"Rather do anything than desert the battle-field you have chosen,
because you are beaten," said Anderson, with sudden bitterness.

"Nonsense! You are not beaten."

"Yes, I am."

"You have simply taken up new weapons."

"Weights and balances," said Anderson, but his laugh was bitter.

He left Edgecomb at the corner, and, going up his own street,
reflected again. He began to wonder if possibly he would not have
done better to have stuck to his profession; if he could not have
left Banbridge and tried elsewhere--in the City. He wondered if he
had shown energy and manly ambition, if he had not been
poor-spirited. When he reached home his mother eyed him anxiously and
asked if he were ill.

"No," he said, "but I met Henry, and he looks wretchedly."

"He hasn't enough to eat," Mrs. Anderson said. "Harriet does not give
him enough to eat. It is a shame. If I were in his place I would get
married."

"He says he is tired out teaching. He talks about the friction of so
many natures on his."

"Of course there is a friction," said Mrs. Anderson, "but he could
stand it if he had more to eat. Let us have a dinner next Sunday
night; let us have a roast turkey and a pudding. We will have lunch
at noon. Henry is very fond of turkey, and it is late enough to get
good ones."

"Shall we ask Harriet?" inquired Anderson, with a lurking mischief.

His mother looked at him with quick suspicion. "You don't want her
asked?" she said.

"Why should she be asked? She never is."

"I don't know but with an extra dinner--"

"She has her mission," Mrs. Anderson said, with firmness. "You are
eating nothing yourself, Randolph." Presently she looked at her son
with an inscrutable expression. "Are the Carrolls all gone?" she
asked.

Anderson cut himself a bit of beefsteak carefully before replying.
"Some of them, I believe," said he.

"I heard Mrs. Carroll and her sister and daughter and the boy all
went yesterday morning. Josie Eggleston came in about the Rainy Day
Club meeting, this morning, and she told me." There was something so
interrogative in his mother's tone that Anderson was obliged to say
something.

"They all went except the daughter, I believe," he said.

"The girl who was here?"

"Yes."

"Then she didn't go?"

"She went as far as Lancaster, but she came back?"

"Came back?"

"Yes. She didn't want to leave her father alone, and--under a cloud,
as he seems to be, and she knew if she declared she was not going
there would be opposition--that, in fact, her mother would not go."

"I don't think much of her for going, anyway," said Mrs. Anderson.
"Leaving her husband all alone. I don't care what he had done, he was
her husband, and I dare say he cheated on her account, mostly. She
ought not to have gone."

"They wanted her to go; she is not very strong; and the sister is
really ill," said Anderson, "and so the daughter planned it. She went
as far as Lancaster, then she got off the train."

"Why, I should think her mother would be crazy?"

"She sent word back, a letter by Eddy. He got off the train with her;
the train stopped there a few minutes."

"Then she came back?"

"Yes."

"And she is going to stay with her father?"

"Yes."

"Oh!" said Mrs. Anderson.

After dinner Anderson sat beside the sitting-room window with his
noon mail, as was his custom, for a few minutes before returning to
the store, and his mother came up behind him. She stroked his hair,
which was thick and brown, and only a little gray on the temples.

"She is a very pretty girl, and I think she is a dear child to come
back and not leave her father alone," she said.

Anderson did not look up, but he leaned his head caressingly towards
his mother.

"I have been thinking," said she. "I am a good deal older; she is
only a little, young girl, and I am an old lady, and I have never
called there. You know I never call on new people nowadays, but she
must be very lonely, all alone there. I think I shall go up there and
call on her some afternoon this week, if it is pleasant. I have some
other calls I want to make on the way there, and I might as well."

"I will order the coach for you any afternoon you say, mother,"
replied Anderson.



Chapter XXXV


It was the next day but one that Mrs. Anderson, arrayed in her best,
seated in state in the Rawdy coach, was driven into the grounds of
the Carroll house. Charlotte answered her ring. The elder woman's
quick eye saw, with both pity and disapproval, that the girl was
unsuitably arrayed for housework in a light cloth dress, which was
necessarily stained and spotted.

"She had on no apron," she told her son that night. "I don't suppose
the poor child owns one, and of course she could not help getting her
dress spotted. Her little hands were clean, though, and I think she
tries hard. The parlor was all in a whirl of dust. She had just been
sweeping, and flirting her broom as people always do who don't know
how to sweep. The poor child's hair was white with dust, and I sat
down in a heap of it, with my best black silk dress, but of course I
wouldn't have seemed to notice it for anything. I brushed it off when
I got in the carriage. I said, 'You are doing your work?' And she
said, 'Yes, Mrs. Anderson.' She laughed, but she looked sort of
pitiful. The poor little thing is tired. She isn't cut out for such
work. I said her hands and arms didn't look as if she could sweep
very easily, but she bristled right up and said she was very strong,
very much stronger than she looked, and papa wanted to get a maid for
her, but she preferred doing without one. She wanted the exercise.
The way she said _preferred!_ I didn't try to pity her any more, for
that. Randolph--"

"What is it, mother?"

"How much has that child seen of you?"

"Not so very much, mother. Why?"

"I think she thinks a great deal about you."

"Nonsense, mother!" Anderson said. It was after tea that night, and
the mother and son sat together in the sitting-room. They had a fire
on the hearth, and it looked very pleasant. Mrs. Anderson had a fine
white apron over her best black silk, and she sat one side of the
table, knitting. Anderson was smoking and reading the evening paper
on the other. He continued to smoke and apparently to read after his
mother made that statement with regard to Charlotte. She looked at
him and knew perfectly well that he was not comprehending anything he
read.

"She is a very sweet girl," she said, presently, in an inscrutable
voice. "I don't like her family, and I must say I think her father,
from what I hear, almost ought to be in prison, but I don't think
that child is to blame."

"Of course not," said Anderson. He turned his paper with an air of
pretended abstraction.

"She says she thinks her father will leave Banbridge before long,"
said Mrs. Anderson, further.

Her son made no response. She sat thinking how, if Carroll did leave
Banbridge and the rest of the family were in Kentucky, why, the girl
could be judged separately; and if Randolph should fancy her--she was
not at all sure that he did--of Charlotte she had not a doubt. She
had never had a doubt of any woman's attitude of readiness to grasp
the sceptre, if it were only held out by her son. And she herself was
conscious of something which was almost infatuation for the girl.
Something about her appealed to her. She had an almost fierce impulse
of protection, of partisanship.

Anderson himself had not the least realization of his mother's actual
sentiments in the matter. It was the consequence in inconsequence of
a woman, which a man can seldom grasp. From what he had known of his
mother's character heretofore, a girl coming from such a family would
have been the last one to appeal to her for a daughter-in-law. She
had been plainly hostile to young women with much superior
matrimonial assets. He had often surmised that she did not wish him
to marry at all. He did not understand the possibility there is in
some women's natures of themselves falling in love, both individually
and vicariously, with the woman who loves their sons, or who is
supposed to love their sons.

"Captain Carroll came into the yard just as I drove out," said Mrs.
Anderson. "He is a very fine-looking man. It is a pity." Then she
added again, with an obscure accent of congratulation, "Well, if he
goes away nobody need say anything more against him."

Anderson reflected, without expressing it aloud, that it was doubtful
if Carroll's exit was possible, and, if possible, would be conducive
to silence from his creditors, but he apparently continued to read.

"He is a very handsome man," said his mother again, "and he has the
air of a gentleman. He bowed to me like a prince. He is a very
fine-looking man, isn't he?"

Before Anderson could reply the door-bell rang.

"I wonder who it is," Mrs. Anderson said, in a hushed voice.

"Somebody on business, probably," replied Anderson, rising. The maid
had gone out. As he went into the front hall his mother rustled
softly into the dining-room. She was always averse to being in the
room when men came on business. Sometimes commercial travellers
infringed upon Anderson's home hours, and she was always covertly
indignant. She was constantly in a state of armed humility with
regard to the details of business. She felt the incongruity of
herself, the elderly gentlewoman in the soft, rich, black silk, with
the scarf of real lace fastened with a brooch of real pearls at the
throat, with the cap of real lace, with the knots of lavender ribbon,
on her fluff of white curls, remaining in the room while the
discussion as to the rates of tea and coffee or sugar or soap went
on. So she slipped with her knitting-work into the dining-room, but
she dropped her ball of white wool, which remained beside the chair
which she had occupied in the sitting-room. She was knitting a white
shawl. She sat beside the dining-table, and continued to knit,
however, pulling furtively on the recreant ball, while her son
ushered somebody into the sitting-room, asked him politely to be
seated, and then closed the door. That prevented her from knitting
anymore, as the wool was held taut. So she finally laid her work on
the table and went out into the hall on her way up-stairs. The door
leading from the hall into the sitting-room was closed, and she
stopped and eyed curiously the hat and coat on the old-fashioned
mahogany table in the hall. She stood looking at them from a distance
of a few feet; then she wrapped her silk draperies closely around her
and slid closer. She passed her hand over the fine texture of the
coat, which was redolent of cigar smoke. She took up the hat. Then
she spied the top card on the little china card-basket on the table,
and took it up. It was Arthur Carroll's. She nodded her head,
remained standing a moment listening to the inaudible murmur of
conversation from the next room, then went up-stairs, to sit down in
her old winged arm-chair, covered with a peacock-pattern chintz, and
read until the visitor should be gone. She was fairly quivering with
astonishment and curiosity. But she was no more astonished than her
son had been when he had opened the front-door and seen Arthur
Carroll standing there. He had almost doubted the evidence of his
eyes, especially when Carroll had accepted his invitation to enter,
and had removed his coat and hat and followed him into the
sitting-room.

"It is a cold night," Anderson said, feeling that he must say
something.

"Very, for the season," replied Carroll, "and I have not yet, in
spite of my long residence North, grown sufficiently accustomed to
the heated houses and unheated out-of-doors to keep my top-coat on
inside, even if I remain only a few minutes."

The sumptuous lining of the coat gleamed as he laid it on the
hall-table; there was something unconquerable, sumptuous, genial,
undaunted yet about the man. He had the courtesy of a prince, this
poor American who had lived by the exercise of his sharper wits on
his neighbor's dull ones, if report said rightly. And yet Anderson,
as he sat opposite Carroll, and they were both smoking in a
comrade-like fashion, doubted. There was something in the man's face
which seemed to belie the theory that he was a calculating knave. His
face was keen, but not cunning, and, moreover, there was a strange,
almost boyish, sanguineness about it which brought Eddy forcibly to
mind. It was the face of a man who might dupe himself as well as
others, and do it with generous enthusiasm and self-trust. It was the
face of a man who might have bitter awakenings, as well as his dupes,
but who might take the same fatuous, happy leaps to disaster again.
And yet there was a certain strength, even nobility, in the face, and
it was distinctly lovable, and in no weak sense. He looked very like
Eddy as he sat there, and, curiously enough, he spoke almost at once
of him.

"I believe you were a friend of my son, Mr. Anderson," he remarked,
with his pleasant, compelling smile.

Anderson smiled in response. "I believe I had that honor," he
replied. Then he said something about his having gone, and how much
his father must miss him. "He is a fine little fellow," he added, and
was almost surprised at the expression of positive gratitude which
came into Carroll's eyes in response. He spoke, however, with a kind
of proud deprecation.

"Oh, well, he is a boy yet, of course," he said, "but there is a man
in him if fate doesn't put too many stumbling-blocks in his way."

"There is such a thing," said Anderson.

"Undoubtedly," said Carroll. "Moral hurdles for the strengthening of
the spirit are all very well, but occasionally there is a spirit
ruined by them."

"I think you are right," said Anderson; "still, when the spirit does
make the hurdles--"

"Oh yes, it is a very superior sort, after that," said Carroll,
laughing; "but when it doesn't-- Well, I hope the boy will have tasks
proportioned to his strength, and I hope he will have a try at them
all, anyhow."

"He seems to me like a boy that would," Anderson said. "What do you
think of making of him?"

"I hardly know. It depends. His mother has always talked a good deal
about Eddy's studying law, but I don't know. Somehow the law has
always seemed to me the road of success for the few and a slippery
maze to nowhere for the many."

A sudden thought seemed to strike Carroll; he looked a little
disturbed. "By-the-way," he said, "I forgot. You yourself--"

Anderson smiled. "Yes, I studied law," said he.

"And gave it up?"

"Yes. I could not make a living with it."

Carroll regarded the other man with a curious, wistful scrutiny. He
looked more and more like Eddy. His next question was as full of
naivete as if the boy himself had asked it, and yet the charming,
almost courtly state of the man never for one instant failed. "And
so," he said, "you tried selling butter and eggs instead of legal
wisdom?" The question might have been insolent from its purport, but
it was not.

Anderson laughed. "Yes," he replied. "People must eat to live, but
they can live without legal wisdom. I found butter and eggs were more
salable."

Carroll continued to regard him with that pathetic, wondering
curiosity. "And you have never regretted the change?" he asked.

"I don't say that, but, regret or not, I had to make it, and--I am
not exactly sure that I do regret it."

"But this--this new occupation of yours cannot be--precisely
congenial."

"That does not disturb me," Anderson said, a little impatiently.

Carroll looked at him with understanding. "I see you feel as I do
about that," he said. "It is rather proving one's self of the common
to hold back too strenuously from it, and yet"--he hesitated a
moment--"it takes courage, though," he said. Suddenly his eyes upon
the other man became full of admiration. "My daughter tells me, or,
rather, my son told me principally, that you are interested in
entomology?" he said.

"Oh, I dabble a little in it," Anderson replied, smiling.

Carroll's eyes upon him continued to hold their wistful questioning,
admiring expression. Anderson began to wonder what he had come for.
He was puzzled by the whole affair. Carroll, too, seemed to present
himself to him under a new guise. He wondered if his reverses had
brought about the change.

"I do not wish," said Carroll, "to display curiosity about affairs
which do not concern me, and I trust you will pardon me and give me
information, or not, as you choose; but may I ask how you happened,
when you became convinced that you were not to make a success in law,
why you chose your present business?"

"I have not the slightest objection to answering," said Anderson,
although he began to wonder if the other had called simply for the
purpose of gratifying his curiosity about his affairs--"not the
slightest. I simply tried to think of something which I should be
sure to sell, because people would be sure to buy, and I thought
of--butter and cheese. It all seems exceedingly simple to me, the
principle of obtaining enough money wherewith to live and buy the
necessaries of life. It is only to look about and possibly within and
see what wares you can command, for which people will be willing to
give their own earnings. It is all a question of supply and demand.
First you must study the demand, and then your own power of supply.
If you can interpret law like Rufus Choate, why, sell that; if you
can edit like Horace Greeley, sell that; if you can act like Booth or
sing like Patti, sell that; if you can dance like Carmencita, sell
that. It all remains with you, what you can do, sing or dance, or
sway a multitude, or sell butter and eggs; or possibly, rather, it
remains with the public and what it decides you can do--that is
better for one's vanity."

"Decidedly," agreed Carroll, with an odd, reflective expression.

"If the public want your song or your novel or your speech, they will
buy it, or your dance, and if they don't they won't, and you cannot
make them. You have to sell what the public want to buy, for you
yourself are only a unit in a goodly number of millions."

"And yet how extremely all-pervading that unit can feel sometimes,"
Carroll said, with a laugh.

He was silent again, puffing at his cigar, and again Anderson,
leaning back opposite and also smoking, wondered why he was there.
Then Carroll removed his cigar and spoke. His voice was a little
constrained, but he looked at Anderson full in the face.

"Mr. Anderson," he said, "I want to know if you will kindly tell me
how much I owe you, for I am one of the consumers of butter and eggs."

Anderson continued to smoke a second before answering. "I cannot
possibly tell you here, Mr. Carroll," he replied then.

"Of course I know I should have written and asked for the bill,"
Carroll said, "but I knew some had been paid, and--you have been most
kind, and--"

Anderson waited.

"In short," said Carroll, speaking quickly and brusquely, "I am under
a cloud here, and--your mother called to see my daughter this
afternoon, and I thought that possibly you would pardon me if I put
it all on a little different basis."

Carroll stopped, and again Anderson waited. He was becoming more and
more puzzled.

Then Carroll spoke quite to the point. "I could have sent for the
bill which you have so generously not sent, which you have so
generously allowed my poor, little daughter to think was settled,"
said he, "but if you had sent it I simply could not have paid it. I
could have written you what I wished to say, but I thought I could
say it better. I wish to say to you that I shall be obliged if you
will let me know the extent of my indebtedness to you, and if you
will accept my note for six months."

"Very well," said Anderson, gravely.

"If you will have the bill made out and sent me to-morrow, I will
send you my note by return mail," said Carroll.

"Very well, Mr. Carroll," replied Anderson.

Carroll arose to go. "You have a pleasant home here, Mr. Anderson,"
he said, looking around the room with its air of old-fashioned
comfort, even state.

"It has always seemed pleasant to me," said Anderson. An odd, kindly
feeling for Carroll overcame him. He extended his hand. "I am glad
you called, Captain Carroll," he said. He hesitated a moment. Then he
added: "You will necessarily be lonely with your family away. If you
would come in again--"

"I cannot leave my daughter alone much," Carroll answered, "but
otherwise I should be glad to. Thank you." He looked at Anderson with
evident hesitation. There was something apparently which he was about
to say, but doubted the wisdom of saying it.

"Your daughter is still with you?" Anderson said.

"Yes."

Then Anderson hesitated a second. Then he spoke. "Would you allow me
to call upon your daughter, Captain Carroll?" he asked, bluntly.

Carroll's face paled as he looked at him. "On my daughter?"

"Yes. Captain Carroll, will you be seated again for a few minutes. I
have something I would like to say to you."

Anderson was pale, but his voice was quite firm. He had a strange
sensation as of a man who had begun a dreaded leap, and felt that in
reality the worst was over, that the landing could in no way equal
the shock of the start. Carroll followed him back into the
sitting-room and sat down.

Anderson began at once with no preface. "I should like to marry your
daughter, if she can love me well enough," he said, simply.

"Does she know you at all, Mr. Anderson?" Carroll said, in a dazed
sort of fashion.

"She knows me a little. I have, of course, seen her in my store."

"Yes."

"And once, as you may remember, she came here."

"Yes, when she had the fright from the tramp."

"She cannot know me very well, I admit."

"I don't see that you know her very well, either, for that matter."

"I know her well enough," said Anderson. "I have no doubt as far as I
am concerned. My only doubt is for her, not only whether she can care
sufficiently for me, but whether, if she should care, it would be the
best thing for her. I am much older than she. I can support her in
comfort, but not in luxury, probably never in luxury; and you know my
position, that I have been forced to abandon a profession which would
give my wife a better social standing. You know all that; there is no
need of my dwelling upon it."

Anderson said that with an indescribable pride, and yet with a
perfect acquiescence in the situation. He looked at Carroll, who
remained quite pale, looking at him with an inscrutable expression of
astonishment. Finally he smiled a little.

"As they say in the comic column, this is so sudden, Mr. Anderson,"
he said.

"I can well imagine so," Anderson replied, smiling in his turn. "It
is rather sudden to me. Nothing was further from my intention than to
say this to-night."

Carroll looked at him soberly. "Mr. Anderson, it all depends upon the
child," he said. "If Charlotte likes you, that is all there is to be
said about it. You are a good man and you can take care of her. As
far as the other goes, I have no right to say anything. Frankly, I
should prefer that you had succeeded in your profession than in your
present business, on her account."

"So should I," said Anderson, gloomily.

"But it is all for her to decide. Come and call, and let matters take
their course. But--I shall say nothing to her about this. A girl like
Charlotte is a sensitive thing. Call and see. As far as I am
concerned--" Carroll paused a second. Then he rose and held out his
hand. "I have no reason whatever to object to you as a husband for my
daughter, and my son-in-law," he said.

"Thank you," said Anderson.

Carroll had gone out of the door, and Anderson was just about to
close it after him, when he turned back. "By-the-way, Mr. Anderson,"
he said, and Anderson understood that he was about to say what had
been on his mind before and he had refrained from expressing. "I want
to inquire if you have any acquaintance with the large grocery house
of Kidder & Ladd, in the City?" he asked.

"A slight business acquaintance," replied Anderson, wonderingly.

"I saw," said Carroll, in an odd, breathless sort of voice, "an
advertisement for a--floor-walker in that house. I wondered, in the
event of my applying for it, if you would be willing to give me a
letter of introduction to one of the firm, if you were sufficiently
acquainted."

"Certainly," said Anderson, but he was aware that he almost gasped
out the answer.

"I saw the advertisement," said Carroll again. "I have to make some
change in my business, and"--he essayed a laugh--"I have to think, as
we have agreed is the thing to do, of some salable wares in my
possession. It did occur to me that I might make a passable
floor-walker. I have even thought of a drum-major, but there seems no
vacancy in that line. If you would."

"Certainly," said Anderson again. "Would you like it now?"

"If it is not too much trouble."

Anderson hastened to the old-fashioned secretary in the sitting-room
and wrote a line of introduction on a card while Carroll waited.

"Thank you," Carroll said, taking it and placing it carefully in his
pocket-book. The two men shook hands again; Carroll went with his
stately stride down the street. It was snowing a little. Anderson
thought idly how he had not offered him an umbrella, as he saw the
flakes driving past the electric light outside as he pulled down the
window-curtains, but he was as yet too dazed to fully appreciate
anything. He was dazed both by his own procedure and by that of the
other man. It was as if two knights in a mock tourney had met, both
riding at full speed. He had his own momentum and that of the other
in the shock of meeting.

His mother's door opened as he went up-stairs with his night-lamp,
and her head in a white lace-trimmed cap, for she still clung to the
night-gear of her early youth, peered out at him.

"Who was it?" she asked, softly, as if the guest were still within
hearing.

"Captain Carroll."

"Oh!"

"He came on business."

"He stayed quite awhile. You had a little call with him?"

"Yes, mother."

She still looked at him, her face, of gentle, wistful curiosity,
dimly visible between the lace ruffles of her nightcap, in the door.

"He spoke of your calling there this afternoon, and he seemed much
pleased," Anderson said.

"Did he?"

"Yes."

"Well, good-night, dear," said Mrs. Anderson, with an odd,
half-troubled but rather enjoyable sigh. Her son kissed her, and she
disappeared. She got back into bed, and put her lamp out. The
electric light outside streamed into her room and brought back to her
mind moonlight reveries of her early maidenhood. She remembered how
she used, before she ever had a lover, to lie awake and dream of one.
Then she fell to planning how, in the event of Randolph's marrying,
the front chamber could be refurnished, and the furniture in that
room put in the northwest chamber, which was sparsely furnished and
little used except for storage purposes. Then the northwest room
could be the guest-chamber, and Randolph's present room would answer
very well for his books, and would be a study when the bed was taken
down.

She had the front chamber completely refurnished when she fell
asleep, and besides had some exciting and entirely victorious
feminine tilts with sundry women friends who had ventured to intimate
that her son had made an odd matrimonial choice. It was quite a cold
night, and she wondered if that child had sufficient clothing on her
bed. She was in reality, in her own way, as much in love with the
girl as her son.



Chapter XXXVI


Carroll, in the ensuing weeks, living alone with Charlotte, endured
a species of mental and spiritual torture which might have been
compared with the rack and wheel of the Inquisition. It seemed
to Arthur Carroll in those days as if torture was as truly one
of the elements incumbent upon man's existence as fire, water,
or air. He got an uncanny fancy that if it ceased he would cease.
He had all his life, except in violent stresses, that happy,
contented-with-the-sweet-of-the-moment temperament popularly supposed
to be a characteristic of the butterfly over the rose. But deprive
the butterfly of the rose and he might easily become a more tragic
thing than any in existence. Now Carroll was deprived of his rose, he
could get absolutely none of the sweets out of existence from whence
his own individuality manufactured its honey. Even Charlotte's
presence became an additional torment to him, dearly as he loved her
and as thoroughly as he realized what her coming back had done for
him, from what it had saved him. She had given him the impetus which
placed him back in his normal condition, but, back there, he suffered
even more, as a man will suffer less under a surgical operation
than when the influence of the anesthetics has ceased. There was
absolutely no ready money in the house during those weeks except the
sum which Charlotte's aunt had sent her, which was fast diminishing,
and a few scattering dollars, or rather, pennies, which Carroll
picked up in ways which almost unhinged his brain when he reflected
upon them afterwards. Whatever he had done before, the man tried in
those days every means to obtain an honest livelihood, except the one
which he knew was always open, and from which he shrank with such
repugnance that it seemed he could not even contemplate it and his
mind retain his balance. In his uneasy sleep at night he often had a
dream of that experience which had yielded him money, which might
yield him money again. He saw before him the sea of faces, of the
commonest American type, of the type whose praise and applause mean
always a certain disparagement. He saw his own face, his proud, white
face with the skin and lineaments of a proud family, stained into the
likeness of a despised race; he heard his own tongue forsaking the
pure English of his fathers for the soft thickness of the negro,
roaring the absurd sentimental songs; he saw his own stately limbs
contorted in the rollicking, barbaric dance--and awoke with a cold
sweat over him. He knew all the time that that was all was left to
him, but he snatched at everything. He could not obtain the
floor-walker position of which he had spoken to Anderson. He thought
that possibly his fine presence and urbane manner might recommend him
for a place of that sort, but it was already filled. He went to
several of the great department stores and inquired if there was a
vacancy. He felt that the superintendents to whom he applied regarded
his good points as he might have regarded the good points of a horse.
One of them told him that if he would give his address, he would be
given the preference whenever a vacancy occurred. Carroll knew that
he was mentally appraised as a promising person to direct ladies to
ribbon and muslin counters. He looked at another floor-walker
strutting up and down the aisle, and felt sure that he could do
better, and all this amused contempt for himself deepened and bored
its way into his very soul. He always asked himself, with the demand
of an unpitying judge, if he could not have done better for himself
if he had begun at once; if he had not at the first failure drifted
with no resistance, with the pleasant, easy, devil-may-careness which
was in his nature along with the sterner stuff which was now
upheaving and asserting itself, and taken what he could, how he
could. He had not, after all, had an absolutely unhappy home,
although it had been founded on the sands, and although that iron of
hatred of the man who had done him the wrong had been always in his
soul. The life he had led had been not one of active and voluntary
preying upon his fellow-men; it had been only the life of one who
must have the sweets of existence for himself and those he loved, and
he had gotten them, even if the flowers and the fruit hung over the
garden-walls of others. Now it suddenly seemed to him that he could
no longer do it, as he had done, even if the owners of the fruit and
flowers should be still unawares. Curiously enough, the old Pilgrim's
Progress which he had read as a child was very forcibly in his mind
in these days. He remembered the child that ate the fruit that hung
over the wall, and how the gripes, in consequence, seized him.
Something very like the conviction of sin was over the man, or,
rather, a complete consciousness of himself and his deeds, which is,
maybe, after all, the true meaning of the term. It was true that the
self-knowledge had seemed to come, perforce, because it was
temporarily out of his power to transgress farther; in other words,
because he was completely found out; but all the same, the knowledge
was there. He saw himself just as he was, had been--a great man
goaded on always by the small, never-ceasing prick of hatred, with
the sense of injury always stinging his soul, living as he chose,
having all that he could procure, utterly careless whether at the
expense and suffering of others or not. Now, for the first time, he
began to adjust himself in the place of others, and the adjusting
produced torment from the realization of their miseries, and worse
torment from realization of his own contemptibility. It really seemed
as if all positions which might have been in some keeping with the
man and his antecedents were absolutely out of his reach. Not a night
but he read the advertising columns until he was blind and dizzy.
Every morning he went to New York and hunted. The first morning he
had taken the train, he had actually to assure some of his watchful
creditors that he was going to return. Then all day he wandered about
the streets, making one of long lines of applicants for the vacant
positions. One morning he found himself in the line with William
Allbright. He recognized unmistakably the meek, bent back of the old
clerk three ahead of him in the line. A book-keeper had been
advertised for in a large wholesale house, and there were perhaps
forty applicants all awaiting their turn. His first impulse, when he
caught sight of his old clerk, was to leave the line himself; then
the nobility which was struggling for life within him asserted itself
and made him ashamed of his shame. He stood still with his head a
little higher, and moved on with the slowly moving line of men which
crawled towards the desk like a caterpillar. He saw Allbright turn
away rejected with a feeling of pity; the old man looked dejected.
Carroll reflected with a sensation of pride that at least he did not
owe him. He himself was rejected promptly after he had owned to his
age. The man four behind him was chosen. He was a very young man,
scarcely more than a boy, unless his looks belied him. He was
distinctly handsome, with the boy-doll style of beauty--curly, dark
hair, rosy cheeks, and a small, very carefully tended mustache. He
wore a very long and fashionable coat, and was evidently pleasantly
conscious of its flop around his ankles. His handsome face wore an
expression of pert triumph as he passed on into the inner office....
Carroll, who had lingered with an idle curiosity to ascertain who
was the successful applicant, heard a voice so near his ear that it
whistled. The voice was exceedingly bitter, even malignant.

"That's the way it goes, these times; that's the way it always goes,"
said the voice.

Carroll turned and gazed at the speaker, a man probably older than
himself; if not, he looked older, since his hair was quite white and
his carriage not so good.

"The employers nowadays are a pack of fools, a pack of fools!" said
the man. His long, rather handsome face, a face which should have
been mild in its natural state was twisted into a thousand sardonic
wrinkles. "A pack of fools!" he repeated. "Here they'll go and hire a
little whippersnapper like that every time, instead of a man who has
had experience and knows how to do the work, just because he's young.
Young! What's that? You'd think what they wanted was a man to keep
their books straight. I can keep books if I do say so, and that young
snip can't. Lord! He was in Avin & Mann's with me. Why, I tell you he
can't add up a column of figures three inches long straight, to save
his neck. The books will be in a pretty state. I'll give him just ten
days before they'll have to get an expert in to straighten out
things. Hope they will; serve 'em right. Here I am, can't get a job
to save my life, because my hair has turned and I've got a few more
years over my head, and I can keep books better than I ever could in
my life. Good Lord! You'd think it was what was inside a man's head
they'd be after, instead of the outside." He looked at Carroll.
"Guess I've got a little the advantage of you in age," he said, "but
I suppose that's the matter why you were given the cold shoulder."

"I shouldn't be surprised if you were right, sir," replied Carroll,
rather apathetically. He was going through all this without the
slightest hope, but only for the sake of feeling that he had done his
utmost before he took up with the alternative which so dismayed his
very soul. He himself looked old that morning. He had retained his
youthful appearance much longer than men usually do, but as he had
viewed his reflection in the glass that morning he had said to
himself that he at last was showing his years. His hair had turned
visibly gray in the last few weeks; lines had deepened; and not only
that, but the youthful fire had given place to the apathy and weary
resignation of age.

"But you look as if you could do more and better work in an hour than
that young bob-squirt could in a month," said the man at his side.

"Very likely," replied Carroll, indifferently.

"You don't seem to care much about it," the other man said. The two
had gone out of the building, and were walking slowly down the street.

"If they want young men, they do, I suppose," Carroll said.

"Been trying long?"

"Quite a time."

"Well, the employers are a set of G. D. fools!" said the other man.
An oath sounded horribly incongruous coming from his long, thin,
benevolent mouth.

"I don't see what you are going to do about it if they are," Carroll
replied, still with that odd patience. It seemed to him as if he was
getting a sort of fellow-feeling and intense personal knowledge of
his fellow-beings, which united him to them with ties stronger than
those of love. He felt as if he more than loved this rebellious
wretch beside him, as if he were one with him, only possessed of that
patience which gave him a certain power to aid him. "I suppose men
have the right to employ whom they choose," said Carroll. "If they
prefer young men who don't know how to do the work, to old men who
do, I suppose they have a right to engage them. And they may have
some show of reason for it. I don't see what can be done, anyway."

"I'll tell you what has got to be done, sir, and how we can help
ourselves," returned the other, with a ranting voice which made
people turn and stare at him. "I'll tell you. We've got to form a
union. There are unions for everything else. We have got to have a
union of older men qualified to work, who are shouldered out of it by
boys. Once that is done, we are all right. To-day in this country a
man can't hire whom he pleases in most things. The unions have put it
out of his power. The people have risen. We belong to a part of the
people who haven't risen. Now we must rise. Let us form a union, I
say. If they engage young men before us, there are ways of making
them smart for it, the employers as well as the employes. I tell you
that has got to be done."

Suddenly the men heard a laugh behind them. It was a woman's laugh,
shrill and not altogether pleasant--not the laugh of a young woman,
but the woman who came up with and immediately began to speak looked
quite young. She was undeniably pretty. Her blond pompadour drooped
coquettishly over one eye, her cheeks were pink, her face smooth, her
figure was really superb, and she was very well dressed, in a
tailor-made gown, smart furs, and a hat evidently of the
English-tailor make.

"Excuse me," she said, with perfect assurance, and yet with nothing
of offensive boldness, rather with an air of _camaraderie_, "but I
heard you talking, you two, and I thought I would give you a few
points. I don't know whether you know it or not, but I have recently
secured the position of cashier there, in Adkins & Somers's." She
motioned with one nicely gloved hand back towards the place they had
just left. "I got it in preference to about a dozen young girls,
too," she said, with triumph, "but I shouldn't have if--" She
hesitated a minute. The color on her cheeks deepened under the
floating veil, and there was, in consequence, a curious effect of two
shades of rose on her cheeks. "See here," she said, walking along
with them, "I don't know you two men from Adam, and I needn't take
the trouble, and if you don't like it you can lump it, but I'm going
to say something. I know I look young. I ain't fishing for a
compliment. I know it. I've got a looking-glass in a good light, and
I've got my eyes in my head, and, what's more, I'm spunky enough to
own it to myself if I don't look young; but I ain't young. I ain't
going to say how old I am, but I will say this much, I ain't young.
I've been married twice and I've had three children. My first husband
died, the second went off and left me. I've got a daughter fourteen
years old I'm keeping in school. She ain't going into a department
store, if I work my fingers to the bone." She said the last with a
fierce air that made her for a second really look younger. "Well,"
she went on. "I'll tell you, too. I had a good place for a number of
years, but the man died in September, and the man that took the
business put his sister in my place. Then I was out of a job. I
hadn't saved a cent, and I didn't know what I was going to do.
Mildred--that's my daughter--is big of her age and good-looking, and
she wanted to leave school and go to work, but I wouldn't let her.
Well, I studied up all the advertisements and I tried, and I couldn't
do a thing. Then I set my wits to work. I ain't one to give up in a
hurry; I never was. As I said before, I didn't have much money, but I
hire our little flat of a woman, and she's a good sort, and she's
willing to wait, and a month ago I took every cent I could raise and
I went through a course of treatment with a beauty-doctor. I had my
hair (it was turned some) dyed, and I was massaged until I felt like
a currant-bun, but I always had a good skin, and there was something
to work on, and I took my figure in hand; that wasn't very bad,
anyway, but I got new corsets, awful expensive ones, and had a tailor
suit made. I had to raise some money on a little jewelry I had, but I
made up my mind it was neck or nothing, and, sir, a month ago I got
that place in Adkins & Somers's at a thousand a year. They are good
men, too. You needn't think there's anything wrong." She looked at
them with an expression as if she was ready to spring at the
slightest intimation of distrust on their part. "It is only just that
people think they want young help and they are going to have it. I've
got the place and I'm in clover, and it's worth something looking so
much better, though it don't make much difference to me. All I care
about nowadays is my daughter."

The two men looked at the woman, Carroll with a courteous sympathy,
and the interest of an observer of human nature. She was of a
pronounced American type, coarse, vulgar, strident-voiced, smart,
with a shrewdly working brain and of an unimpeachable heart. She was
generosity and honesty itself, as she looked at the two men in a
similar strait to the one from which she had extricated herself.

The other man, who had a bitter, possibly a dangerous strain
developed by his misfortunes, laughed sardonically. "How long do you
think you can keep it up?" said he. "Hm?" Had he been less worn and
weary, and apparently even starved, his laugh and question would have
evoked a sharper response. As it was, the woman replied with the
utmost good-nature.

"Any old time," said she. "Lord! I ain't setting up for a kid. I
ain't fool enough to put on short skirts and pigtails, but I am
setting up for a young lady, and I can keep it up, anyhow. Lord! I
ain't so very old, anyhow. If I didn't look the way I do now, I
couldn't get a position, because they'd put me down for a
back-number; but I had something left for that beauty-doctor to work
on." Then she gazed critically at the two men. "It wouldn't take much
to make you into a regular dude," said she to Carroll. "You are
dressed to beat the band as it is. Say!" She gave him a confidential
wink.

"Well?" said Carroll.

"You are dressed most too well. It's all very well to look stylish,
to look as if you had been earning twenty-five hundred a year, but,
Lord! you look as if you had been getting ten! The bosses might be a
little afraid of you. They might say they didn't see how a man could
have dressed like you do, unless he had helped himself to some of the
firm's cash. See? I don't mean any offence. You look to me like a
real gentleman."

"Thank you," replied Carroll.

"If I was you I'd put on a pair of pants not quite so nicely creased,
and I'd sell that overcoat and get a good-style ready-made one. Your
chances would be a heap better--honest."

"Thank you," said Carroll, again. He was conscious of amusement and a
curious sense of a mental tonic from this loud-voiced, eagerly
helpful female.

"I'm right, you bet," said she. "But otherwise it wouldn't take much.
You go and have a little something put on your hair, and have your
face massaged a little, and if I was you I'd buy a red tie. You can
get a dandy red tie at Steele & Esterbrook's for a quarter. That one
you have on makes you look kinder pale. Then a red tie is younger.
Say, I'll tell you, if you would only have your mustache trimmed, and
wax the ends, it would make no end of difference."

"What are you going to do when you are asked how old you are? Lie?"
inquired the other man, in his bitter, sardonic voice.

This time the woman regarded him with slight indignation. "Say," said
she, "you'll never get a place if you don't act pleasanter. Places
ain't to be got that way, I can tell you. You've got to act as if
you'd eat nothin' but butter an' honey for a fortnight. If you feel
mad, you'd better keep it in your insides." Then she answered his
questions. "No, I ain't goin' to lie, and I ain't goin' to tell
anybody else to lie," said she. "Lying ain't my style. But it ain't
anybody's business how old you are, anyhow. I don't know what right a
man that I go to get a place from has got to ask how old I be. All he
has any right to know is whether I ain't too old to do my work. I
don't lie; no, siree. All I say is, and kinder laugh, 'Well, call it
twenty-five,' or you might call it thirty, and with some, again, you
might call it thirty-two or three. That ain't lyin' if I know what
lyin' is." As the woman spoke her face assumed precisely the
mischievous, challenging smile with which she had replied to similar
questions. Carroll laughed, and the other man also, although
grudgingly.

"Well," he said, "there's different ways of looking at a lie."

"It wouldn't be any manner of use for you to say you wouldn't see
twenty-eight again, no matter how much you got fixed up," the woman
retorted. "But I guess you can get something, if it ain't quite so
good. I have a gentleman friend who is over fifty and who said he was
thirty-seven, and he got a dandy place last week. But I tell you
you'll have to hustle more'n this other gentleman. You're bald, ain't
you?"

"I don't know what that has got to do with it," growled the man, and
he tried to quicken his pace; but she kept up with him.

"It's got a good deal to do with it," said she. "I know a place on
Sixth Avenue where you can get an elegant front-piece that nobody
could ever tell, for three dollars and forty-nine cents. Another
gentleman friend of mine--he's a sort of relation of mine; my sister
was his first wife--got one there. Yes, sir, you'll have to get one,
and you'll have to get your face massaged and your eyebrows blacked,
and, Lord! you'll have to have that beard shaved off and have a
mustache, if you get anything at all. Lord! you look as if you'd come
right out of the Old Testament. I don't see why you're wasting your
time hanging around offices for, without you see to that, first of
all. I should think your wife would tell you, but I suppose she's the
same sort. Now as for you," she added, turning again to Carroll, "if
you just get polished up a little bit--say, here's the card of my
beauty-doctor" (she produced a card from an ornate wrist-bag)--"you'll
look dandy."

Suddenly the woman, with a quick good-bye, turned to cross Broadway,
but her good-nature and sympathy had something fine and
inexhaustible, for even then she turned back to look encouragingly
upon the older, soured, bitter, ungrateful man with Carroll, and she
said: "You go 'long with him, and I guess you'll get a place, too.
Good-bye."

With that she was gone, passing as straight as if she owned an
unassailable right of way through the press of vehicles. Just as she
gained the opposite sidewalk a fire-engine thundered up.

"She had a close call from that," Carroll said. His face had altered.
He still looked amused.

"That woman couldn't get run over if she tried," said the other man.

"There ain't nothing made in the country that can run over her. It's
women like her that's keeping men out of the places that belong to
them by right."

"I am afraid there was some truth in her theory and her advice,"
Carroll said, laughing, and looking after the second engine clanging
through the scattering crowd.

"Well, I guess when I go to buying women's frizzes to wear to get a
place, she'll know it," said the other man. "Good lord! if it's the
outside of the head they want, why don't they get dummies and done
with it? I tell you what is needed is a new union."

Just at that moment they reached a restaurant from which came an odor
of soup. Carroll turned to his companion. "I am going in here to get
some lunch," he said. "I don't know what kind of a place it is, but
if you will go with me, I shall take pleasure in--"

But the man turned upon him fiercely. "I 'ain't got quite so low yet
that I have to eat at another man's expense," he said. "You needn't
think, because you wear a better coat than I do, that--" The man
stopped and nodded his head, speechless, and went on, and was out of
sight, but Carroll had seen tears in the angry eyes.

He went into the restaurant, took a seat at a table, and ordered a
bowl of tomato-soup. As he was sipping it he heard a voice pronounce
his name, and, glancing up, saw two pretty girls and a young man at a
near-by table. He recognized the young man as the one who had been
lately in his employ. About the girls he was not so sure, but he
thought they were the same who had come to Banbridge to plead for
their payment. They all bowed to him, and he returned the salutation.
They all had a severe and, at the same time, curious expression. One
of the girls whispered to the other, and although the words were not
audible, the sharp hiss reached Carroll's ears.

"Wonder what he's doing in this place," she said.

The other girl, the elder, craned her neck and observed what Carroll
was eating. "He hasn't got anything but a bowl of tomato-soup," she
replied.

"S'pose he's goin' through the whole bill," said the young man. The
three were themselves lunching frugally. One of the girls had also a
bowl of tomato-soup, the other a large piece of squash-pie. The young
man had a ham sandwich and a cup of coffee. Smoking was allowed in
the place, and the atmosphere was thick with cigarette smoke, and a
warm, greasy scent of boiling and frying. Carroll continued to eat
his soup. The three at the other table had nearly finished their
luncheons when he entered. Presently they rose and passed him. The
young man stopped. He paled a little. His old awe of Carroll was over
him. In spite of himself, the worshipful admiration he had had for
the man still influenced him. The poor young fellow, whose very
pertness and braggadocio were simple and childlike, really felt
towards the older man who had been his employer much as a faithful
retainer towards a feudal baron. His feeling towards him was
something between love and an enormous mental worship. His little,
ordinary soul seemed to flatten itself like an Oriental before his
emperor when he spoke to Carroll sipping his bowl of tomato-soup in
the cheap restaurant. He had, after all, that nobility of soul which
altered circumstances could not affect. He was just as deferential as
if Carroll had been seated at a table in Delmonico's, but the fact
remained that he was about to ask him again for his money. He was
horribly pressed. He had obtained another position in one of the
department stores, which paid him very little, and he was in debt,
while his clothes were in such a degree of shabbiness that they were
fairly precarious. The very night before he had sat up until midnight
mending a rent in his trousers, which he afterwards inked; and as for
his overcoat, he always removed that with a sleight-of-hand lest its
ragged lining become evident, and when ladies were about he put it on
in an agony lest his arms catch in the rents. He had even meditated
cutting out the lining altogether, although he had a cold. He was so
in debt that he had stopped eating breakfast; and the leaving off of
breakfast for other than hygienic reasons, and when it has not been
preceded by a heavy dinner the night before, is not conducive to
comfort. So he bent low over Carroll and asked him in a small voice
of the most delicate consideration, if he could let him have a little
on account.

Carroll had turned quite white when he approached him, but his regard
of him was unswerving. "It is impossible for me to-day, Mr. Day," he
replied, "but I assure you that you shall have every cent in the end."

The tears actually sprang into the young fellow's nervously winking
eyes. "It would be a great accommodation," he said, in the same low
tone.

"You shall have every cent as soon as I can possibly manage it,"
Carroll repeated.

"I have a position, but it does not pay me very much yet," said the
young fellow, "and--and--I am owing considerable, and--I need some
things."

His involuntary shrug of his narrow shoulders in his poor coat spoke
as loudly as words.

Carroll was directly conscious in an odd, angry, contemptuous sort of
fashion, and whether because of himself, or of that other man, or of
an overruling Providence, he would have been puzzled to say, of his
own outer garment of the finest cloth and most irreproachable make.
"As soon as I can manage it, every cent," he repeated, almost
mechanically, and took another sip of his soup. The young fellow's
winking eyes, full of tears, were putting him to an ignominious
torture.

The two girls had stood close behind the young man, waiting their
turns. Now the younger stepped forward, and she spoke quite audibly
in her high-pitched voice.

"Good-morning, Mr. Carroll," said she, with a strained pertness of
manner.

"Good-morning," Carroll returned, politely. He half arose from the
table.

The girl giggled nervously. Her pretty, even beautiful face, under
her crest of blond hair and the scoop of a bright red hat, paled and
flushed. "Oh, don't stop your luncheon," said she. "Go right on. I
just wanted to ask if you could possibly--"

"I am very sorry," Carroll replied, "but to-day it is impossible; but
in the end you shall not lose one dollar."

The girl pouted. Her beauty gave her some power of self-assertion,
although in reality she was of an exceedingly mild and gentle sort.

"That is very well," said she, "but how long do you think it will be
before we get to the end, Mr. Carroll?"

"I hope not very long," Carroll said, with a miserable patience.

"It had better not be very long," said she, and suddenly her high
voice pitched to tragedy. "If--if--I can't get another place that's
decent for a girl to take," said she, "and if I don't get what's
owing me before long, I shall either have to take one of them places
or get a dose." She said the last word with an indescribably hideous
significance. Her blue eyes seemed to blaze at Carroll.

Then the other girl pressed closer. "You needn't talk that way," said
she to the girl. "You know that I--"

"I ain't goin' to live on you," returned the other girl, violently.
People were beginning to look at the group.

"Now, you know, May," said the other girl, "my room is plenty big
enough for two, and I'm earning plenty to give you a bite till you
get a place yourself, and you know you may get that place you went to
see about yesterday."

"No, I won't," said May. "It seems to me it's pretty hard lines that
a poor girl can't get the money she's worked as hard for as I have."

The other girl pushed herself in front of May and spoke to Carroll,
and there was something womanly and beautiful in her face. "I have a
real good place," she said, in a low voice, and she enunciated like a
lady. "A real good place, and I'll look out for May till she gets
one, and I can wait until you are able to pay me."

"I will pay you all as soon as possible. I give you all my word I
will pay you in the end," said Carroll.

He seemed to see the three go out in a sort of dream. It did not
really seem to him that it was he, Arthur Carroll, who was sitting
there in that smoking, greasy atmosphere, before that table covered
with a stained cloth, over which the waiter had ostentatiously spread
a damp napkin, with that bowl of canned tomato-soup before him, and
that thick cup of coffee, with those three unhappy young creditors,
who had reviled and, worse than reviled, pitied him, passing out,
with the open glances of amused curiosity fastened upon him on every
side.

"Guess that dude is down on his luck," he heard a young man at his
left say.

"Guess he put the money he'd ought to have paid that young lady with
into his overcoat," his companion, a girl with a picture-hat, and a
wide lace collar over her coat, responded.

Carroll felt that he was overwhelmed, beaten, at bay before utter
ignominy. The thought flashed across him, as he tried to swallow some
more of the soup, that in some respects, if he had been a murderer or
a great bank defaulter with detectives on his track, the situation
would at least have been more endurable. The horrible pettiness of it
all, constituted the maddening sting of it. While he was thinking
this the girl they called May came flying back, her blond crest
bobbing, her cheeks blazing. She looked like a beautiful and
exceedingly vulgar little fury. She came close to Carroll, while the
other girl's voice was heard at the door pleading with her to come
back.

"I won't come back till I have said my say, so there!" she called
back. Then she addressed Carroll very loudly. She was transformed for
the time. Hysteria had her in its clutch. She was half-fed,
half-clothed, made desperate by repeated failures. There was also a
love affair in the background. She was, in reality, not so very far
removed from the carbolic-acid crisis. "I say," said she. "I say,
you! You'd better look out! You'd better pony up pretty quickly or
you'll get into trouble you don't count on. There was a man at the
office that morning after you quit, and if he should happen to walk
in here and see you, you'd have a policeman after you. You'd better
look out!"

Carroll felt his face flush hot. For the first time in his life he
was conscious of being actually down. He realized the sensation of
the under dog, and he realized his utter helplessness, his utter lack
of defence against this small, pretty girl who was attacking him.
Everybody in the place seemed listening. Some of the people at the
farther tables came nearer, other's were craning their necks. The
girl gave her head an indescribable toss, at once vicious,
coquettish, and triumphant. Her blond crest tossed, the scoop of her
red hat rocked.

"I thought I'd just tell you," said she. Then she marched, holding
her skirts tightly around her, with a disclosure of embroidered
ruffles and the contour of pretty hips, and there was a shout of
laughter in the place. Carroll pushed away his bowl of soup and
turned to a grinning waiter near him.

"My check," he said.

"I ain't your waiter," replied the man, insolently.

"Bring me my check for this soup and coffee," repeated Carroll, and
the man started. There was something in his look and tone that
commanded respect even in this absurdity. In reality, for the time,
he was almost a madman. His fixed idea reasserted itself. At that
moment, if it had been possible that his enemy, the man who had
precipitated all this upon him, could have entered the room, there
would have been murder done, and again for the moment his mind
overlapped on the wrong side of life, and the desire for death was
upon him. There was that in his face which hushed the laughter.

"They had better not hound that man much farther," one man at the
table on the right whispered to his companion, who nodded, with sharp
eyes on Carroll's face. They were both newspaper-men.

When Carroll had paid his bill and passed out, one of the men, young
and clean-shaven, pressed close to his side.

"Pardon me, sir," he said, "but if you would allow me to express my
regrets and sympathy--"

"No regrets nor sympathy are required, thank you, sir," replied
Carroll.

"If I could be of any assistance," persisted the man, who was short
in his weekly column and not easily daunted.

"No assistance is required, thank you, sir," replied Carroll.

The man retreated, and rejoined his companion at the table.

"Get anything out of him?" asked the other.

"No, but I can make something out of him, I guess."

"Poor devil!" said the other man.

"It might have paid to shadow him," said the first man, thoughtfully.
"I shouldn't wonder if he took a bee-line for a drug-store. He looked
desperate."

"Or perhaps the park. He looks like the sort that might have a pistol
around somewhere."

This man actually, after a second's reflection, left his luncheon and
hastened after Carroll, but he did not find him. Carroll had
recovered himself and had taken the Elevated up-town to answer
another advertisement. That was one for a book-keeper, and there was
also unsuccessful. Coming out, he stood on the corner, looking at his
list. He had written down nearly every want in the advertising
columns. Actually he had even thought of trying for a position as
coachman. He certainly could drive and could care for horses, and he
considered quite impartially that he might make a good appearance in
a livery on a fashionable turn-out. He had left now on his list only
two which he had not tried; one was for a superintendent to care for
a certain public building, a small museum. He had really a somewhat
better chance there, apparently, for he had at one time known one of
the trustees quite well. For that very reason he had put it off until
the last, for he dreaded meeting an old acquaintance, and, too, there
was a chance, though not a very good one, that the acquaintance might
work harm instead of advantage. Still, the trustee had been in Europe
for several years past, and the chances were that he would know
nothing derogatory to Carroll which would interfere with his
obtaining the position.

He reached the building, took the elevator to the floor on which was
situated the offices, and, curiously enough, the first person he saw,
on emerging from the elevator, was the man whom he knew, waiting to
ascend. The man, whose name was Fowler, recognized him at once, and
greeted him, but with constraint. Carroll immediately understood that
in some unforeseen way the news which travels in circles in this
small world had reached the other. He saw that he knew of his record
during the last years.

"I have not seen you for a number of years, Mr. Carroll," said Fowler.

"No," replied Carroll, trying to speak coolly, "but that is easily
accounted for; you have been abroad most of the time, living in
London, have you not?"

"Yes, for seven years," replied the other, "but now I am home in my
native land to end my days." Fowler was quite an elderly man, and
remarkably distinguished in appearance, clean-featured and
white-haired--indeed, he had cut quite a considerable figure in
certain circles on the other side. He was even taller than Carroll,
and portly in spite of the sharpness of his features.

"You are glad to be back in America?" Carroll said; he was almost
forgetting, for the moment, the object of his visit to the place. He
had years ago been on terms of social intimacy with this man.

"If I were not I would not say so," replied Fowler, with a diplomatic
smile. "I do not disparage my country nor give another the preference
in my speech, until I deliberately take out naturalization papers
elsewhere."

Carroll smiled.

"By-the-way," said Fowler, whose handsome face had hard lines
which appeared from time to time from beneath his polished
surface-urbanity, "I have not seen you for perhaps ten years, Mr.
Carroll, but I heard from you in an out-of-the-way place--that is, if
anything is out of the way in these days. It was in a little Arab
village in Egypt. I was going down the Nile with a party, and
something went wrong with the boat and we had to stop for repairs;
and there I found--quartered in a most amazing studio which he had
rigged up for himself out of a native hut and hung with things which
looked to me like nightmares, and making studies of the native
Egyptians--and I must say he seemed to be doing some fine work at
last--Evan Dodge."

Carroll understood then, perfectly, but he took it calmly. "I always
felt that Dodge had genuine ability," he said.

"He has the ability to strike twelve, but not to strike it often,"
said Fowler. "However, all his models in that place striking twelve
made it easier for him. His work was good, and I think it will be
heard from. He had some good tea, and a tea-kettle, and he made us a
cup, and we talked over the home news, Dodge and I and two other
gentlemen and three ladies of the party. You see, Dodge was
comparatively fresh from home. He had only been quartered there about
a month."

"Yes," said Carroll.

"He spoke of seeing you quite recently. He said he had had a studio
the summer before in Hillfield, where I believe you were living at
the time." Nothing could have excelled the smoothness and even
sweetness of Fowler's tone and manner; nothing could have excelled
the mercilessness of his blue eyes beneath rather heavy lids, and the
lines of his fine mouth.

"Yes, he did have a studio there," assented Carroll.

"I believe that is quite a picturesque country about there."

"Quite picturesque."

"Well, Dodge did not make a mistake going so far afield, though, for,
after all, his specialty is the human figure, and here it is only
trees that are not altered in their contour by the fashions. Yes, he
was doing some really fine work. There was one study of a child--"

"He made one very good thing in Hillfield," said Carroll, "a view
from the top of a sort of half-mountain there. I believe he sold it
for a large price."

"Well, I am glad of that," said Fowler. "Dodge has always been
hampered in that way. Yes, he told me all the news, and especially
mentioned having lived in the same village with you."

"Yes," said Carroll, with the dignity of a dauntless spirit on the
rack.

"I hope your wife and family are well," said Fowler, further.

"Quite well, thank you."

"Let me see--you are living in New York now?"

"No, I am at present in Banbridge."

"Banbridge?"

"In New Jersey."

"Let me see--your family consists of your wife and a daughter and
son?"

"Two daughters and a son. One daughter married, last September, Major
Arms."

"Arms? Oh, I know him. A fine man." Fowler regarded Carroll with a
slight show of respect. "But," he said, "I thought--Major Arms is
nearly quite your age, is he not?"

"He is much older than Ina, but she seemed very fond of him."

"Well, she has a fine man for a husband," said Fowler, still with the
air of respect. "Your son is quite a boy now?"

"He is only ten."

"Hardly more than a child."

"My wife and son and my sister are at present in Kentucky with my
wife's aunt, Miss Dunois; only my younger daughter is with me in
Banbridge."

"Catherine Dunois?"

"Yes."

"I used to know her very well. She was a beauty, with the spirit of a
duchess."

"The spirit still survives," said Carroll, smiling.

"She must be quite old."

"Nearly eighty."

The elevator going up stopped in response to a signal from Fowler. He
extended his hand. "Well, good-day," said Fowler. "I am glad we
chanced to meet."

"Well, it is a small world," replied Carroll, smiling. "The chances
for meeting are much better than they would be, say, in Mars."

"Much better, and for hearing, also. Good-day."

"Good-day."

Carroll saw the elevator with its open sides of filigree iron,
ascending, and the expression upon Fowler's calm, handsome face,
gazing backward at him, was unmistakable. It was even mocking.

Carroll touched the electric button of one of the downward elevators,
and was soon carried rapidly down to the street door. He felt, as he
gained the street, that he would rather starve to death than ask a
favor of Fowler. He did not ask for pity, or even sympathy, in his
downfall, but he did ask for recognition of it as a common accident
that might befall mankind, and a consequent passing by with at least
the toleration of indifference from those not actively concerned in
it; but in this man's face had been something like exultation, even
gloating, Carroll thought to himself, as he went down the street, in
the childish way that Eddy might have done, with a sort of wonder,
reflecting that he never in his life, that he could remember, had
done Fowler, even indirectly, a bad turn. He might easily have been
totally indifferent to his misfortunes, to his failings, but why
should they have pleased him?

Carroll walked rapidly along the street until he reached Broadway
again. It was a strange day; a sort of snow-fog was abroad. The air
was dense and white. Now and then a mist of sleet fell, and the
sidewalks were horribly treacherous. The children enjoyed it, and
there were many boys and a few girls with tossing hair sliding along
with cries of merriment.

Carroll thought of Eddy as one little fellow, who did not look unlike
him, fairly slid into his arms.

"Look out, my boy," Carroll said, good-humoredly, keeping him from
falling, and the little fellow raised his cap with a charming blush
and a "Beg your pardon, sir." A miserable home-sickness for them came
over Carroll as he passed on. He longed for the sight of his boy, or
his wife and Anna. He had grown, in a manner, accustomed to Ina being
away. There is something about marriage and the absence it causes
that brings one into the state of acquiescence concerning death. But
he longed for the others, and he thought of his poor little Charlotte
at home all day, and her loneliness. He looked at his watch, and
realized that he must hurry if he caught the train which would take
him to Banbridge at six o'clock. He had one more place on his list,
and that was far up-town. He crossed to the Elevated station and
boarded the first up-town train. What he was about to do was, in a
way, so monstrous, taking into consideration his antecedents, his
bringing-up, and all his forebears, that it had to his mind the
grotesqueness of a gargoyle on his house of life. He was now going to
apply for the last position on his list, that of a coachman for a
gentleman, presumably of wealth, in Harlem. The name was quite
unknown to him. It was German. He thought to himself in all
probability the owner was Jewish. This was absolutely his last
venture. He chose this as he would choose anything in preference to
the one which was always within reach. As the train sped along he
fell to thinking of himself in this position for which he was about
to apply. He imagined himself in livery sitting with a pair of sleek
bays well in hand. He reflected that at least he could do his work
well. He wondered idly about the questions he would be asked. He
considered suddenly that he must have a reference for a place of this
sort, and he tore a leaf out of his note-book, took out his
stylo-graphic pen, and scribbled a reference, signing his own name.
He reflected, as he did so, that it was odd that he, who had employed
so many doubtful methods to gain financial ends, should feel an
inward qualm at the proceeding. Still, he was somewhat amused at the
thought that Mr. A. Baumstein might write to him at Banbridge, and he
should in that case reply, repeating his own list of qualification
for the place. He wondered if they would ask if he were married, if
they would prefer him married, if he drank, if he would be forbidden
to smoke in the stables. He considered all the questions which he
should be likely to ask himself, in a similar case. He got a curious
feeling as if he were having an experience like Alice in Wonderland,
as if he were in reality going in at the back of his own experiences,
gaining the further side of his moon. He began to be almost impatient
to reach his station and see the outcome of it all. Strangely enough,
he never reflected on the good advice which the young woman that
morning had given him as to the undesirable gentility of his general
appearance. He never considered that as a drawback. When he reached
his station he got off the train, went down the stairs, crossed the
avenue, and up a block to the next street. When he found the number
of which he was in search he hesitated a second. He wondered at what
door he should apply. It manifestly could not be the front door. He
therefore went farther down the street and gained the one running
parallel, by which means he could reach the rear entrance of the
house. It had no basement entrance under the front door. It was a new
building, and quite pretentious, the most pretentious of a new and
pretentious block. He traversed the small back yard, bending his
stately head under a grove of servants' clothes which were swinging
whitely from a net-work of lines, and knocked on the door. His knock
was answered by a woman, presumably a cook, and she looked like a
Swede. Unaccountably to him, she started back with a look of alarm
and nearly closed the door, and inquired in good English, with a
little accent, what he wanted. Carroll raised his hat and explained.

"I saw an advertisement for a coachman," he said, briefly, "and I
have come to apply for the place if it is not already filled."

To his utter amazement the door was closed violently in his face, and
he distinctly heard the bolt shot. He was completely at a loss to
account for such a proceeding. He remained standing, staring at the
blank front of the door, and a light flashed across the room inside
and caused him to look at the windows. The light had been carried
into a room at the back, but he saw in the pale dimness of the
kitchen a group of women and one boy, and they were all staring out
at him. Then the boy started on a run across the room, and he heard a
door slam. Carroll waited. He could not imagine what it was all
about, and a feeling of desperation was coming over him. It seemed to
him that he must find something to do, that he could not go home
again. The position of coachman began to seem desirable to him.
Charlotte need not know what he was doing; no one need know. He had
resolved to give another name, and he would soon find another
position. This would be a makeshift. In this he could at least keep
himself to himself. He need associate with nothing except the horses,
and they were likely to be thorough-breds. It would not, after all,
be half so bad as some other things--guiding superb horses through
the streets and waiting at doors for his employers. To his mind, a
coachman--that is, a City coachman--wears always more or less of a
mask of stiff attention to duty. He could hide behind this mask. In
reality, Carroll was almost at the end of his strength. His pride had
suddenly become a forgotten thing. He was wretchedly worn out, and,
in fact, he was hungry, almost famished. He had eaten very little
lately, and poor Charlotte, in truth, knew little about cookery. He,
in reality, became for the time what in once sense he was
impersonating. He became a coachman in dire need of a job. Therefore
he waited. He reflected, while he waited, that if they did not hurry
he would miss his train and Charlotte would worry. In case he secured
the position she would certainly have to join the others in Kentucky;
there would be no other way, for he would be obliged to remain in the
City over night.

All at once the door before him was swung violently open and a
gentleman stood there. Carroll felt at once that he was Mr. A.
Baumstein.

"What do you want, sir?" inquired the gentleman, and his tone was
distinctly hostile, although he looked like a well-bred man, and it
seemed puzzling that he thus received an answer to his application.

"I saw your advertisement, sir--" Carroll began.

"My advertisement for what, pray?" repeated Mr. Baumstein.

"For a coachman," replied Carroll, "and I thought if you had not
already secured one--"

"Clear out, or I will call a policeman!" thundered Mr. Baumstein, and
again the door was slammed in his face.

Carroll then understood. A gentleman who would have been presentable
at the Waldorf-Astoria, at a gentleman's area door applying for a
position as coachman, was highly suspicious. He understood readily
how he would have looked at the matter had the cases been reversed.
He made his way out of the little yard, dodging the fluttering
banners of servants' clothes, and was conscious that his progress was
anxiously watched by peering eyes at the windows. He reflected that
undoubtedly that house would be doubly bolted and barred that night,
and he would not be surprised if a special policeman were summoned,
in view of the great probability that he was a gentleman burglar
spying out the land before he descended upon it in search of the
spoons and diamonds. Somehow the fancy tickled him to that extent
that he felt almost as hysterical as a woman. He laughed aloud, and
two men whom he met just then turned round and looked at him
suspiciously.

"Dopey, I guess," one said, audibly, to the other.

It was now in Carroll's mind to gain the Elevated as soon as
possible, and hurry down-town to his ferry and catch his train. He
consulted his watch, and saw that he had just about time, if there
were no delays. As he replaced his watch he remembered that he had,
besides his railroad book, very little money, only a little silver.
The helplessness of a cripple came over him. He recalled seeing a man
who had lost both his legs shuffling along on the sidewalk, with the
stumps bound with leather, carrying a little tray of lead-pencils
which nobody seemed to buy. He felt like that cripple. A man living
to-day in the heart of civilization, where money is in reality legs
and wings and hands, is nothing more than a torso without it, he
thought. He felt mutilated, unspeakably humiliated. It seemed more
out of his ability to get any honest employment than it had ever done
before. A number of laborers with their dinner-satchels, and their
pickaxes over their shoulders, passed him. They looked at him, as
they passed, with gloomy hostility. It was as if they accused him of
having something which of a right belonged to them. He fell to
wondering how he would figure in their ranks. He was no longer a very
young man. However, his muscles were still good and supple; it really
seemed to him that he might dig or pick away at rocks, as he had seen
men doing in that apparently aimless and hopeless and never-ending
fashion. He thought in such a case he should have to join the union,
and he really wondered if they would admit him, if he pawned his
clothes and should buy some poorer ones. He decided, passing himself
before himself in mental review, that he might be treated by the
leaders of a labor union very much as he had just been treated by Mr.
Baumstein at his area door. He also decided that men like those who
had just met him regard him with even worse suspicion and disfavor.
He remembered stories he had read of gentlemen, of students,
voluntarily joining the ranks of labor for the sake of information,
but it seemed somehow impossible when it was attempted in earnest.
Decidedly, his appearance was against him. He had the misfortune to
look too much like a man who did not need to dig to easily obtain, in
labor's parlance, a job to dig. Yet, while he thought of it, such was
the man's desperation, his rage against his odds of life, that it
seemed to him that a purely physical attack on the earth, to which he
was fastened by some indissoluble laws of nature which he could not
grasp, would be a welcome relief. He felt that with a heavy pick in
his hand he could strike savagely at the concrete rock, the ribs of
the earth, and almost enjoy himself. He felt that it would be like an
attack, although a futile and antlike one, at creation itself. All
this he thought idly, walking, even hurrying, along the slippery
pavement through the pale, sleety mist. He walked as rapidly as he
could, some of the time slipping, and recovering himself with a long
slide. He came to a block of new stone houses, divided from another
by a small space taken up by a little, old-fashioned, wooded
structure that might have been with propriety in Banbridge. He
noticed this, and the thought came to him that possibly it was the
property of some ancient and opinionated mortal who was either
holding it for higher prices or for the sake of some attachment or
grudge. And just as he reached it he saw coming from the opposite
direction his old book-keeper, William Allbright. Allbright, moving
with a due regard to the dangerous state of the pavement, had still
an alacrity of movement rather unusual to him. As he came nearer it
was plain to see that his soberly outlined face, long and
clean-shaven, was elated by something. He started when he recognized
Carroll, and stopped. Carroll felt, meeting him a sensation of
self-respect like a tonic. Here was at least one man to whom he owed
nothing, whom he had not injured. He held out his hand.

"How do you do, Mr. Allbright?" he said.

"Quite well, thank you, Mr. Carroll," replied Allbright, then his
delight, which makes a child of most men, could not be restrained.
"I have just secured a very good position in a wholesale
tea-house--Allen, Day & Co.," he said.

"That is good," said Carroll, echoing the other's enthusiasm. He
really felt a leap of joy in his soul because of the other's
good-fortune. He felt that in some way he himself needed to be
congratulated for his good-fortune, that he had been instrumental in
securing it. His face lit up. "I am delighted, Mr. Allbright," he
repeated.

"Yes, it is a very good thing for me," said Allbright, simply. "I was
beginning to get a little discouraged. I had saved a little, but I
did not like to spend it all, and I have my sister to take care of."

"I am very glad," Carroll said, still again.

Allbright then looked at him with a little attention, pushing, as it
were, his own self, intensified by joy, aside. "You are not looking
very well, Mr. Carroll," he said, deferentially, and yet with a
kindly concern.

"I am very well," said Carroll. Then he pulled out his watch again,
and Allbright noticed quickly that it was a dollar watch. He
remembered his suspicion. "I must hurry if I am to get my train,"
said Carroll. "You live here, Mr. Allbright?"

"Yes. I have lived here for twenty years."

"Well, I am very glad to hear of your good-fortune. Good-day, Mr.
Allbright."

Carroll had not advanced three paces from Allbright before his feet
glissaded on the thin glare of the pavement, he tried to recover
himself, and came down heavily, striking his head; then he knew no
more for some time.



Chapter XXXVII


Charlotte had expected her father home at a little after six o'clock
that night. That was the train on which he usually arrived lately.
She had not the least idea what he was doing in the City. She
supposed he was in the office as he had been hitherto. She never
inquired. With all the girl's love for her father, she had a decided
respect. She was old-fashioned in her ways of never interfering or
even asking for information concerning a man's business affairs.

Charlotte went down to the station to meet her father, as she was
fond of doing. She had her dinner all ready. It was pretty bad, but
she was innocently unaware of it. In fact, she had much faith in it.
She had a soup which resembled greatly a flour paste, and that was in
its covered tureen on the range-shelf, keeping hot and growing
thicker. She had cooked a cheap cut of beef from a recipe in the
cook-book, and that was drying up by the side of the soup. Poor
Charlotte had no procrastination, but rather the failing of "Haste
makes waste" of the old proverb. She had her cheap cut of beef all
cooked at three o'clock in the afternoon, and also the potatoes, and
the accompanying turnips. Salad at that time of the year she could
not encompass in any form, but she had a singular and shrunken
pudding on the range-shelf beside the other things. She set the
coffee-pot well back where it would only boil gently, and the table
was really beautifully laid. The child's cheeks were feverishly
flushed with the haste she had made and her pride in her
achievements. She had swept and dusted a good deal that day, also,
and all the books and bric-a-brac were in charming arrangement. She
felt the honest delight of an artist as she looked about her house,
and she said to herself that she was not at all tired. She also said
that she was not at all hungry, even if she had only eaten a cracker
for luncheon and little besides for breakfast. She realized a
faintness at her stomach, and told herself that she must be getting
indigestion. Her little stock of money was very nearly gone. She had
even begun to have a very few things charged again at Anderson's.
Sometimes her father brought home a little money, but she understood
well enough that their financial circumstances were wellnigh
desperate. However, she had an enormous faith in her father that went
far to buoy her up. While she felt the most intense compassion for
him that he should be so hard pressed, it never occurred to her that
it could be due to any fault or lack of ability in him, and she had,
in reality, no doubt whatever of his final recovery of their sinking
fortunes. She wrote her mother that papa was going to the City every
day, that they were getting on very well, and while they had not yet
a maid, she thought it better to wait until they were perfectly
satisfied before engaging one. The letters she had received at first
from Mrs. Carroll had been childishly amazed and reproachful,
although acquiescent. Her aunt had written her more seriously and
with great affection. She told her to send for her at once if she
needed her, and she would come.

Charlotte, going down the street towards the station that night,
expected a letter by the five-o'clock train. She reached the
post-office, which was near the station, at a quarter before six, and
she found, as she anticipated, letters. There were several for her
father, which she thought, accusingly towards the writers, were
bills. It was odd that Charlotte, while not really morally perverted,
and while she admitted the right of people to be paid, did not admit
the right of any one to annoy her father by presenting his bill. She
looked at the letters, and, remembering the wretched expression on
her father's face on receiving some the night before, it actually
entered into her mind to tear these letters up and never let him see
them at all. But she put them in her little bag, and opened her own
letters and stood in the office to read them. The train was not due
for fifteen minutes yet, and was very likely to be late. She had
letters from her mother, Ina, and aunt. They all told of the life
they were leading there, and expressed hope that she and her father
were well, and there was a great deal of love. It was all the usual
thing, for they wrote every day. There were also letters from them
all for Carroll. The Carroll family, when absent from one another,
were all good correspondents, with the exception of Carroll. There
was even a little letter from Eddy, which had been missent, because
he had spelled Banbridge like two words--Ban Bridge.

Charlotte read her letters, smiling over them, standing aloof by the
window. The post-office was fast thinning out. There had been the
customary crowd there at the arrival of the mail--the pushing and
shrieking children and the heavily shuffling loungers--all people who
never by any possibility got any letters, but who found a certain
excitement in frequenting the office at such times. Just as Charlotte
finished her last letter and replaced it in the envelope, Anderson
came in for his mail. He did not notice her, but went directly to his
box, which had a lock, opened it, and took out a pile of letters.
Charlotte stood looking at him. He looked very good and very handsome
to her. She thought to herself how very much better-looking he was
than Ina's husband. There was something about the manly squareness of
his shoulders, as he stood with his back towards her, examining his
letters, which made her tremble a little, she could not have told
why. Suddenly he looked up and saw her, and she felt that the color
flashed over her face, and was ashamed and angry. "Why should I do
so?" she asked herself. She made a curt, stiff little bow in response
to Anderson's greeting, and he passed her going out of the office
with his letters. Then she felt distressed.

"I need not have been rude because I was such a little idiot as to
blush when a man looked at me," she told herself. "It was not his
fault. He has always been lovely to us." She reviewed in her mind
just her appearance when she had given him that stiff little bow, and
she felt almost like crying with vexation. "Of course he does not
care how I bow to him," she thought, and somehow that thought seemed
to give her additional distress, "but, all the same, I should have
been at least polite, for he is very much a gentleman. I think he is
much better bred, and he certainly knows much more than Ina's
husband, even if he does only keep a grocery store; but then army
officers are not supposed to know much except how to fight."

The heavy jar of a passing freight train made her look at the
post-office clock, and with her usual promptness, although it was
fully seven minutes before the train was due, even if it were on
time, and she was only about one minute's walk from the station, she
reflected that she must start at once if she were to meet her father.
So she stowed away her letters in her little bag, and fairly ran
across the icy slope between the office and the station. She saw, as
she hurried along, a child tumble down, and watched him jump up and
run off to make sure he was not hurt. When she reached the station
she did not go in the waiting-room, which seemed close and stuffy,
but remained out on the platform. The sun had set, but the western
sky, which was visible from that point, was a clear expanse of rose
and violet. Charlotte stood looking at it, and for a minute she was
able to find that standing-point outside her own little life and
affairs which exists for the soul. She did not think any more of the
money troubles, of her bowing so stiffly to Mr. Anderson. She forgot
not only her petty worries, but her petty triumphs and pleasures. She
forgot even the exceeding becomingness of a new way in which she had
dressed her hair. She forgot her coat, which she had herself trimmed
with fur taken from an old one of her mother's, and in which her
heart delighted. She forgot her supreme dinner warming on the
range-shelf at home. She forgot the joy she would soon have in seeing
her father alight from the train. The little, young, untrained
creature saw and knew for the moment only the eternal that which was
and is and shall be, and which the sunset symbolized. Her young face
had a rapt expression looking at it.

"Dandy sunset, ain't it?" said a voice at her ear. She looked and saw
Bessy Van Dorn, her large, blooming face, rosy with the cold, smiling
at her from under a mass of tossing black plumes on a picture-hat.
The girl was really superb in a long, fur-lined coat. She had driven
in a sleigh to the station, and she expected Frank Eastman on the
train, and was, with the most innocent and ignorant boldness in the
world, planning to drive him home, although she was not engaged to
him and he was not expecting her. Her face, turning from the
wonderful after-glow of the sunset to Charlotte's, had also something
of the same rapt expression in spite of her words.

"Yes, it is beautiful," replied Charlotte, but rather coldly. She was
a friendly little soul, but she did not naturally care for girls of
Bessy Van Dorn's particular type. She was herself too fine and small
before such a mass of inflorescence.

"It's cold," said Bessy Van Dorn, further, "but, land, I like it!
Have you been sleigh-riding?"

"No, I haven't," replied Charlotte.

"Oh, I forgot," said Bessy.

Charlotte knew what she had forgot--that the horses had gone for
debt--and she reddened, but the other girl's voice was honest.

"I'd like to take you sometime," said Bessy.

"Thank you," said Charlotte.

"I'd offer to take you home to-night," said Bessy, "but I've arranged
to take somebody else."

"Thank you. I could not go, anyway," said Charlotte. "I am down to
meet my father."

"Oh!" said Bessy. "Well, then you couldn't. A sleigh ain't quite wide
enough for three, unless one of 'em is your best young man," she
giggled. Charlotte felt ashamed.

"My father is," she said, sternly. She fairly turned her back on
Bessy Van Dorn, but she did not notice it, for the train was audible
in the distance, and Bessy began calculating her distance from the
car in which Frank Eastman usually rode, that she might be sure not
to miss him.

Charlotte stood on the platform, and also ran along by the side of
the train scanning anxiously the men who alighted. To her great
astonishment, her father was not among them. She could scarcely
believe it when the train went slowly past the station and her father
had not got off.

Bessy Van Dorn, driving Frank Eastman in her sleigh, with the fringe
of fur tails dangling over the back, looked around at Charlotte
slowly retreating from the station. "Why, her father didn't come!"
said she.

"Whose father?" asked young Eastman. He looked admiringly and even
lovingly at the girl, and yet in a slightly scornful and shamed
fashion. He hated to think of what some of the men he knew would say
about her meeting him at the station.

"Why, that poor little Charlotte Carroll's!" said Bessy. "Say," she
added, after a second's hesitation.

"What?" asked young Eastman.

"I've a good mind to ask her to ride. We're goin' her way. You don't
mind?"

"Not a bit," said young Eastman, but he did think uncomfortably of
Ina's sister seeing him with Bessy Van Dorn.

Bessie promptly stopped. They had not yet made the turn from the
station to the main road, and Charlotte was just behind them.

"Say," she called out, "get in here. I'll take you home--just as soon
as not."

"Thank you," replied Charlotte. "I have an errand. I am not going
home just yet."

"All right," replied Bessy, touching her horse. "I'd just as soon
have taken you as not, if you'd been going home."

"Thank you," Charlotte said, again.

"I declare, she looked as if she was just ready to cry," said Bessy
to Eastman, as they drove up the street.

She was quite right. Charlotte was horribly frightened by her
father's non-arrival on the train. He had never come on a later train
than that since the others had gone. The thought of returning alone
to her solitary home was more than she could bear. She remembered
that there was another train a half-hour later, and she resolved to
remain down for that. She thought that she would go to Mr. Anderson's
store and purchase some cereal for breakfast, that she might have
that charged. She was conscious, but she tried to stifle the
consciousness, of a hope that Mr. Anderson would be there, and she
might tell him that her father had not arrived on that train, and he
would reassure her. But Mr. Anderson had naturally gone straight home
from the post-office to supper. Charlotte ordered her cereal, and
also a few eggs. Then she went back to the station. It was nearly
twenty minutes before the train was due. She walked up and down the
platform, which extended east and west. The new moon was just rising,
a slender crescent of light, and off one upper horn burned a great
star. It was a wonderful night, cold, with a calmness and hush of all
the winds of heaven which was like the hush of peace itself.
Charlotte noticed everything, the calm night and the crescent moon,
but she came between herself and her own knowledge of it. Her mind
was fixed upon the train and the terrible possibility that her father
might not arrive on that. It seemed to her that if he did not arrive
on that it was simply beyond bearing. The possibility was too
terrible to be contemplated with reason, and yet she could not have
told just why she was in such a panic of fear. A thousand things
might happen to keep any business-man in the City later than he had
expected. He had often been so kept while the others were home; but
now she was alone, and she felt that he would certainly come unless
something most serious had detained him. Charlotte had naturally a
somewhat pessimistic turn of mind, and her imagination was active.
She imagined many things; she even imagined the actual cause of
Carroll's detention, among others, that he had slipped on the ice and
injured himself. The falling of the boy on her way to the six-o'clock
train had directly swerved her fancy in that direction. But she
imagined everything. That was only one of many casualties. The train
was a little late. She stood staring down the track at the unswerving
signal-lights, watching for the head-light of the locomotive, and it
seemed to her quite certain that there had been an accident on that
train. A thought struck her, and she went into the waiting-room and
asked the ticket-agent if the train was very late. The agent was
quite a young man, and he looked at her with a covert masculine
coquettishness as he replied, but she was oblivious of that. All she
thought of was that, if there had been an accident on the line and
the train was late on that account, he would surely be apt to know.
Her heart was beating so fast that she trembled; but he said ten
minutes, and said nothing about an accident, and she was reassured.
She turned to go, after thanking him, and he volunteered further
information.

"There is a freight ahead delaying the train," he said.

"Oh, thank you," replied Charlotte. Then she went out on the platform
again and watched for the head-light of the locomotive, staring down
the track past the twinkle of the signal-lights. Suddenly it flashed
into sight far off, but she saw it. She waited. Soon she heard the
train. A gateman crossed the tracks from the in-station, padlocking
the gates carefully after him. A baggage-master drew a trunk to the
edge of the platform. A few passengers came out of the waiting-room.

Charlotte waited, and the train came majestically around the curve
below the station. She moved along as it came up, keeping her eyes on
the cars. She seemed to have eyes with facets like a cut diamond. It
was really as if she saw all the car doors at once. But she moved
with a strange stiffness, and could not feel her hands nor feet; her
heart beat so fast and thick that it shook her like the pulse of an
engine. She moved along, and she saw every passenger who alighted.
Then the train steamed out of the station with slowly gathering
speed, and her father had not come on it.

Charlotte, when she actually realized the fact, the possibility of
which had seemed incredible, gained a little strength. It was like
the endurance of disaster which is sometimes more feasible than the
contemplation of it. She thought at once what to do. In the event of
her father having been delayed by some unforeseen business he would
surely telegraph. She at once crossed the slope from the station and
went to Andrew Drake's drug-store, where the telegraph-office was.
She asked if a telegram had come for her, if one had been sent to the
house. When the boy in charge answered no, she felt as if she had
received a stunning blow. She had then no doubt whatever that
something had happened to her father, some accident. The boy, who was
young and pleasant-faced, watched her with a vague sympathy. In a
moment she recovered herself. He might have sent a telegram which had
not arrived. It might come any moment. The boy directly had the same
thought. "The minute the telegram comes I'll get it up to you," he
said, earnestly. "I expect Mr. Drake back every minute, and I can
leave."

"Thank you," said Charlotte.

It was an hour and a half before the next train. She went out of the
store and walked miserably along the street to her deserted home.



Chapter XXXVIII


There is, to a human being of Charlotte Carroll's type, something
unutterably terrifying about entering, especially at nightfall, an
entirely empty house. The worst of it is it does not seem to be
empty. In reality, the emptiness of it is the last thing which is
comprehended. It is full to overflowing with terrors, with spiritual
entities which are much more palpable, when one is in a certain mood,
than actual physical presences. Charlotte approaching the house, saw,
first, glimmers of light on the windows, which were merely
reflections ostensibly from the electric light in the street, not so
ostensibly from other lights.

"Oh, there is some one in there," Charlotte thought to herself, and
again that horrible, pulsing, vibrating motion of her heart overcame
her. "Who is there?" she asked herself. She remembered that terrible
tramp whom she had seen asleep in the woods that day. He might have
been riding on some freight-train which had stopped at Banbridge, and
stolen across and entered the vacant house. She stood still, staring
at the cold glimmers on the windows. Then gradually she became
convinced that they were merely reflections which she saw. Aside from
her imagination, Charlotte was not entirely devoid of a certain
bravery, or, rather, of a certain reason which came to her rescue.
"What a little goose I am!" she told herself. "Those are only
reflections. They are the reflections of the light in the street." As
she studied it more closely she saw that the light, being intercepted
by the branches of the trees on the lawn, swaying in a light wind,
produced some of the strange effects at the windows which had seemed
like people moving back and forth in the rooms. Then all at once she
saw another glimmer of light on the front window of her father's room
which she could not account for at all. She moved in front of a long,
fan-shaped ray cast by the electric light in the street, and, looking
at the window, the reflection was still there. She could not account
for that at all, unless it was produced by a light from a house
window--which was probably the case. At all events, it disquieted
her. Still, she overcame her disinclination to enter the house
because of that. She reasoned from analogy. "All the other lights are
reflections," she told herself, "and of course that must be."
However, the main cause of her terror remained: the unfounded,
world-old conviction of presences behind closed doors, the almost
impossibility for a very imaginative person to conceive of an
entirely empty room or house--that is, empty of sentient life. She
had hidden the front-door key under the mat before the front door;
she had lived long enough in the country to acquire that absurdly
innocent habit. She groped for it, thought for a second, with a gasp
of horror, that it was not there. Then she felt it with her gloved
hand, fitted it in the lock, opened the door, and went in, and the
inner darkness smote her like a hostile crowd.

It was actually to the child as if she were passing through a thick
group of mysterious, inimical things concealed by the darkness. It
was as if she heard whispers of conspiracy; it was even as if she
smelled odors of strange garments and bodies. Every sense in her was
on the alert. She even tasted something bitter in her mouth. It was
all absurd. She reiterated in her ears that it was all absurd, but
she had now passed the point wherein reason can support. She had come
through an unusually active imagination into the unknown quantities
and sequences of life. She put out her hands and groped her way
through the darkness of the hall, and the fear lest she should touch
some one, some terrible thing, was as bad as the reality could have
been. She knew best where to find matches in the dining-room, so she
went through the hall, with a sort of mad rush in spite of her
blindness, and she gained the dining-room and felt along the shelf
for a little hammered-brass bowl where matches were usually kept. In
it she felt only two. The mantel-shelf was the old-fashioned marble
monstrosity, the perpetuation of a false taste in domestic
architecture, but it was excellent as to its facilities for
scratching matches. She rubbed one of the two matches under the shelf
on the rough surface, but it did not ignite. It evidently was a
half-burned match. She took the other. It seemed to her that if that
failed her, if she had to grope about the kitchen for more in this
thick blackness--for even the street-light did not reach this
room--she should die. She rubbed the last match against the marble,
and it blazed directly. She shielded it carefully with her hand from
the door draught, and succeeded in lighting a candle in one of a pair
of brass candlesticks which stood on the shelf. She then held the
flaring light aloft and looked fearfully around the room. Everything
was as usual, but, strangely enough, it did not reassure her. The
solitariness continued to hold terrible possibilities for her as well
as the darkness, and with the light also returned what had been for a
few minutes in abeyance before her purely selfish fear, the anxiety
over her father. She moved about the house with the candle, going
from room to room. It seemed to her that she could not remain one
minute if she did not do so. Every time before entering a room she
felt sure that it was occupied. Every time after leaving it she felt
sure that something unknown was left there. She went into the
kitchen, and saw her miserable little dinner drying up in the shelf
of the range, and then for the first time self-pity asserted itself.
She sat down and sobbed and sobbed.

"There, I got that nice dinner, that beautiful dinner," she said to
herself, quite aloud in a pitiful wail like a baby's, "and perhaps
poor papa will never even taste it. Oh dear! Oh dear!"

She rocked herself back and forth in the kitchen-chair, weeping. She
had set the candle on the table, and a draught of wind from some
unknown quarter struck it and the strangest lights and shadows flared
and flickered over the room and ceiling. Presently, Charlotte,
looking at them, became diverted again from her grief. She looked
about fearfully. Then she made a tremendous effort, rose, and lighted
a lamp. With that the room was not so frightful, yet it was still not
normal. The familiar homely articles of furniture assumed strange
appearances. She saw something on the range, a little object which
filled her with such unreasoning horror that it was almost sheer
insanity. It was simply because she could not for the moment imagine
what the little object, which had nothing in the least frightful
about it, could be. Finally she rose and looked, and it was only a
little iron spoon which she must have dropped there. She removed it,
but still the horror was over her. She lifted the cover from the dish
of meat, and again the tears came.

"Poor papa! poor papa!" she said.

Then she carried the lamp into the dining-room, and went into the
parlor. She had made herself quite satisfied that there was in
reality nothing menacing in the house except her own fears. She would
sit beside one of the front windows in the parlor, in the dark, in
order that she might not be seen, and she would watch for her father,
and she would also watch for any one who might approach the house
with any harmful intent.

Charlotte curled herself up in a large chair beside the window which
commanded the best view of the grounds and the drive. With the light
of the young moon there was really no possibility that anything could
approach unseen by her, unless by way of the fields from the back.
But that she did not think of. Her mind became again concentrated
upon her father and the possibility of either his return on the next
train or a telegram explaining his absence. She knew that the next
train from New York was due in Banbridge at a few minutes after
eight. She had no time-table, but she remembered Major Arms arriving
once, and she was quite certain that the train was due at
eight-seventeen. It might, of course, be late. She reflected, with a
sense of solid comfort, that the trains were rather more apt to be
late than not. She need not give up hope of her father's arriving on
this train until even nine o'clock, for besides the possibility of
the lateness there was also that of his walking rather than taking a
carriage from the station. In fact, he would probably walk, since he
was still in Samson Rawdy's debt. She might allow at least twenty
minutes for the walk from the station. She might allow more even than
that. She sat at the window, and waited, peering out. There was a
singular half-dusk rather than half-light from the new moon. The moon
itself was not visible from where she sat, for the window faced
north, but she could see over everything the sweet influence of it.
There was no snow on the lawn, which was a dry crisp of frost-killed
grass, as flat as if swept by a broom, and here and there were the
faintest patches and mottles of silver from this moon, aside from a
broad gleam of the garish light from the street-lamp. The bushes and
trees showed lines of silver. The moon was so young that the stars
were quite brilliant. Taking all the lights together--the electric
light in the street, the new moon, and the stars--the lawn was quite
visible, and even, because the leaves were now all gone from the
trees, the road for quite a distance beyond. Charlotte had a
considerable vista in which to watch for her father. The time passed
incredibly in this watching. She had upon her such a fear and even
premonition that he might not come, that the minutes passed with the
horrible swiftness that they pass for a criminal awaiting execution.
The first time she slipped out in the dining-room--with a last look
at the lawn and road, to be sure that he would not be there in the
mean time--to see what time it was by the clock on the shelf, she was
amazed. It was already eight o'clock. She had not dreamed it was more
than half-past seven. She crept back to her place by the parlor
window, with the feeling that much of her time of reprieve had
passed, and that she was so much the nearer the certainty of
tribulation. Instead of impatience she had rather the desire to defer
approaching disaster. While she watched, she had less and less hope
that her father would come on that train, and yet she kept her heart
alive by picturing her rapture when she should see his tall, dark
figure enter the lawn path, when she should run and unlock and unbar
the door and throw her arms around his neck. She made up her mind
that she should not confess to him what a panic she had been in
because of his non-arrival. She planned how she would run and set the
dinner, in which she still believed, on the table, and how hungry he
would be for it. She was quite sure that her poor father did not in
these days provide himself with sumptuous lunches in the city. But
all the time she reared these air-castles, she saw for a certainty
the dark sky of her trouble through them. For some premonition, or a
much modified form of prophecy, the rudimentary expression of a
divine sense in reality exists. It existed in Charlotte watching for
her father at the window, and yet so bound up was she in the
probabilities and present sequences of things that she still watched.
Now and then she made sure that she saw her father turn from the road
into the lawn, but the figure, to her horror, would remain standing
still in one place. It was simply a slender spruce which had seemed
to start out of a corner of the night with a semblance of life. Now
and then she actually did see a figure coming up the road,
approaching the entrance to the lawn, and her heart leaped up with
joy. She watched for it to enter, but that was the end. Whoever it
was, it had passed the house and gone farther up the road. Those were
the cruellest moments of any--the momentary revival of hope and then
the dashing it to the ground. By-and-by her eyes, strained with such
watching, began to actually deceive her. She saw, as she thought,
shadows, approach and enter the house. Several times she ran to the
door and opened it, and no one was there.

After she had gone out in the dining-room and seen that it was
eight-seventeen, the time when the train was due in Banbridge, she
watched for the train. She knew that she could hear the rush of the
train after it left the station; she could even catch a glimpse of
the rosy fire of the locomotive through the trees, since the track
was elevated. She therefore watched for that, but it was very late.
That was unmistakably a great solace for her. She actually had a
prayerful mood of thankfulness for the lateness of the train. It was
that much longer that she need not give up hope. There was a few
minutes that she felt quite easy. Suddenly she remembered how foolish
she had been to watch for her father, anyway, before she heard the
arrival of the train. She realized that her head was overstrained,
her reason failing her. "How could papa come before the train?" she
asked herself. But after a few minutes her fears reasserted
themselves. She watched for something inimical to appear crossing the
lawn instead of her father. And then she heard a train, and she felt
faint, but in a second she became aware that it was a long freight.
No passenger-train ever moved thus with the veritable chu-chu of the
children, the heavy panting of two engines. Then after that she
started again, for she heard a train, but it was as if she had been
let fall by some wanton hand from a cruel height, for that train was
clearly a fast express which did not stop at Banbridge. Then she
heard a faint rumble of another freight on the Lehigh Valley road.
Then at last came the train for which she had been looking, the train
on which her father might come, the train on which he surely would
come unless some terrible thing had happened. She heard distinctly,
with her sharpened ears, the stop of the train at the station, the
letting off of steam. She heard the engine-bell. She heard it resume
its advance with slowly gathering motion. She saw a rosy flash of
fire in the distance from the engine. Then she waited for
carriage-wheels, or for the sight of her father coming up the road.
It was quite soon that she heard carriage-wheels on the frozen
ground, and she ran to the door and opened it, but the carriage
passed. Samson Rawdy was taking home the next neighbor. "It will take
papa considerably longer if he walks," she told herself, and she
locked the door and returned to her station at the window. She saw
again a dark figure approaching on the road outside, and she thought
with a great throb of joy that he had surely come, but the figure did
not enter the grounds. She allowed twenty-five minutes for him to
walk from the station. She said to herself if, when twenty-five
minutes had elapsed, he had not come, she should certainly know that
he had not come on that train. She did not dare look at the clock,
but after a while, when she did so, she found it was twenty-seven
minutes after eight. Still that clock often gained. She ran out in
the kitchen and looked at the clock there, but that had stopped at
half-past seven. It was very seldom that anybody remembered to wind
up the kitchen-clock since Marie went. Her own little watch was at
the jeweller's in New Sanderson for repairs. She had nothing to
depend on except the dining-room clock, which, to her great comfort,
so often gained. She decided that she might wait until ten minutes of
nine by that clock before she gave up hope, but the next time she
went trembling out to look at it it was only three minutes before
nine. Then it occurred to her that her father might easily have had
an errand at one of the stores before coming home. The post-office
would be closed; she had no hope for that, but he might have had some
business. She thought that she might allow until half-past nine
before she entirely gave up her father having come on the
eight-seventeen train. It was then that she began running out on the
lawn to the entrance of the drive to watch for him. She put a Roman
blanket, which was kept on the divan in the den, over her head, and
she continually ran out across the lawn, and stood close to a tree,
staring down the road for some sign of her father. Curiously enough,
she was not nearly so terrified out-of-doors as in the house. The
strain of returning to that vacant house was much worse for her than
going across the lawn in the lonely night. She watched and watched,
and at last when she returned to the house and looked at the
dining-room clock, it was half-past nine, and she completely gave up
all hope of her father having come on that train.

A species of stupor, of terror and anxiety, seemed to overcome her.
She sat by the parlor window, still staring out from mere force of
habit. She knew that the next and last train that night was not due
until one-thirty, presumably nearly two o'clock. She knew that there
was not the slightest chance of her father's coming until then, but
her mind now centred on the telegram. It did seem as if there must be
a telegram, at least. All at once a figure appeared in the road and
swiftly turned into the drive. She thought at once that the boy in
the drug-store was bringing the telegram; still, she resolved not to
open the door until she was sure who it was. She peered closely from
the window, and it was unmistakably the drug-store boy who emerged
from the tree shadows and came up on the stoop. She ran to the door
and unfastened it, not waiting for him to ring. She held out her
trembling little hand for the telegram, but he kept his at his side.
He looked at her, grinning half-sympathetically, half-sheepishly. He
was an overgrown boy, perhaps three years younger than she, whom a
pretty girl overwhelmed with an enormous self-consciousness and
admiration.

"Where is it?" asked Charlotte, impatiently.

"I 'ain't got nothing'," said the boy.

"Then why--"

"I was going home from the store, and I thought I'd jest stop an' let
you know there wa'n't no telegrams yet. It wa'n't much out of my way."

Charlotte gasped.

"I thought it might be a relief to your mind to know," said the boy.
"I thought you might be watchin'. I saw your father didn't come on
that other train. I was up at the station on an errand."

"Thank you," said Charlotte, feebly.

The boy lingered a second with bashful eyes on her face, then he said
again that he thought he would just stop in and let her know. He was
going down the path, and she was just closing the door, when he
called back that she might have a telegram if her father sent it by
the postal-telegraph system.

"You won't get none from our place after now," he said, "for Mr.
Drake won't bring up none so late; but if your father sends that way,
you could get one, mebbe."

"Thank you," replied Charlotte, and the boy went away.

When Charlotte re-entered the house and locked the door, a loneliness
which was like a positive chill struck over her. It was much worse
now since she had been in communication with another human being.

"If he had only been a girl I would have gone down on my knees to him
to stay all night with me," she thought.

She tried to think if there was anybody in Banbridge whom she could
ask to stay with her, but she could think of none. She thought of
Marie, but she did not even know where she was. There was no woman
whom she could call upon. She resumed her seat beside the window. She
did not dream of going to bed. She had now to watch for the possible
postal telegram; it would not be time for the last train for hours
yet. She had the telegraph-messenger and some possible marauder to
watch for. She kept her eyes glued to the expanse of the lawn and
small stretch of road visible between the leafless trees. Now and
then a carriage passed; very seldom a walking shadow. She always
started at the sight of these, thinking the telegram might be about
to arrive. If the telegram should arrive she expected fully that it
would be of some terrible import. A thought struck her, something
that she might do. If her father was injured, if she were to be sent
for from the City, she resolved that she would have everything in
readiness for instant departure. There was a train which Banbridge
flagged after the arrival of the last train from New York. She lit a
lamp, went up-stairs, and packed a little travelling-bag with
necessaries, and made some changes in her dress, and felt a certain
relief in so doing. She had very little money, and a book with two or
three railroad tickets. She felt that she could start at a moment's
notice should the telegram arrive. All the time she was packing she
was listening for the door-bell. It became quite firmly fixed in her
mind what the telegram would be: that her father was terribly injured
and had been carried to a hospital, that she should at once go to the
hospital. It sometimes occurred to her that he might be even dead,
but that idea did not so take hold on her fancy as the other.

She left the lamp burning up-stairs, thinking suddenly that it would
be well to have the house present the appearance of being well
inhabited. She took her hat and coat and her little travelling-bag,
and she went back to the place by the parlor window and stared out at
the lawn again. It was growing very late. Soon it would be time for
her to watch for the last train. It really seemed to the girl an
incredible supposition of disaster that that train could pass by and
her father not appear, and that in the face of her morbid and
pessimistic conclusions. She was a mass of inconsistencies, of
incoherencies. She at once despaired and hoped with a hope that was
conviction. At last, when she saw by the clock that it only wanted a
few minutes before the time when the last train was due, her spirits
arose as if winged. She even went out in the kitchen and examined the
wretched dinner to make sure it was still hot. She put more coal on
the range. The house was growing very cold, and she knew that the
furnace fire needed attention, but she absolutely dared not go down
cellar alone at that time. They had very little coal, also, and had
been in the habit of letting the furnace fire die down at night. She
put on her coat when she returned from the kitchen, and sat again by
the window. She felt now an absolute certainty that her father would
arrive on this train. She felt that it was monstrous to assume that
her father would not come home all night and leave her alone with no
message. She felt even quite radiantly happy sitting there. She said
to herself what a little goose she had been. Even a noise made by
some coal falling in the kitchen-range failed to startle her. She now
hoped that the train would not be late, and it was, in fact, very
nearly on time. Then she watched for her father with not the
slightest doubt that he would come. It had come to that pass that her
credulity as to disaster had failed her. It was simply out of her
power to credit the possibility of his not coming on this train when
he had sent no telegram. She knew that there would be no carriage at
the station at that hour, unless he had telegraphed for one from New
York, and she questioned, in the state of their finances, if he would
do that. She was therefore sure of seeing his figure appear, coming,
with the stately stride which she knew so well, into view on the road
below the lawn.

She allowed twenty-five minutes for his appearance after she had seen
the train pass. She knew nothing could detain him in the village at
that time of night, and she was sure he would come within that time.
She looked at the dining-room clock and found that she had, if she
allowed that twenty-five minutes, just fifteen minutes to wait. She
sat shrugged up in her little fur-trimmed coat, for the house was
growing very cold, and stared intently at the pale glimmer of the
road. After the twenty-five minutes had passed, she went out in the
dining-room and looked at the clock. The time was more than passed;
there was no doubt. Her father had not come. The panic seized her.

She was now dashed from the heights of hope, and the shock was
double. She realized that her father had not come, would not come
that night; that she would probably have no telegram. She realized
that she was all alone in the house. Now again unreasoning fear as
well as the anxiety for her father seized her. Again the conviction
of the awful population of the empty rooms was upon her. She sat down
again by the window, and she tried to make her reasoning powers
reassert themselves.

"If anything comes this way, I shall see it in time, and I can run
out the back door and across to the neighbors," she told herself. "If
anything comes in the back way, I shall hear and have time to run out
the front door; and I know there is nothing in the house." But she
could not reassure herself, since what terrified her, and even
temporarily unbalanced her, was fear itself.

Fear multiplied, growing upon itself, spreading out new tentacles
with every throb of her imagination, filling the whole house. All her
life she had thought what a frightful thing it would be if ever she
were left alone by herself in a house, all night; and now worse than
that had come to pass, for she was not alone; the house was peopled
by fear and the creatures of fear. She heard noises constantly that
she could not account for, and she also saw things which she could
not account for. Again the small and trivial, acutely stinging horror
of some ordinary object in a new and awful guise possessed her. She
was almost paralyzed at the sudden glimpse of something on the divan
across the room. It was a long time before she could possibly totter
to investigate, and ascertain it was one of her own gloves. But it
did not strike her as at all funny. There was still something
frightful to her about the glove. She went back to the window, and
soon she distinctly heard a noise up-stairs, and then a shadow
crossed the ceiling. A new horror seized her--a horror of herself.
She felt that in another moment she might herself become a very part
and substance of the fear that was oppressing her. She had an
imagination of jumping up, of running about and screaming, of
breaking something. Then with that clutch at life and reason which is
life itself, which all dying and despairing things have at the last,
she thought again that there must be somebody, somebody in the whole
place to whom she could turn, somebody who would help her, who would
pity her. She had heretofore only thought of the possibility of
somebody who would come and stay with her; it now occurred to her
that she herself might be the one to go, and that she might escape
from this house of fear. It was suddenly to her as to a prisoner who
realizes that all the time his prison doors have been unbarred.

"What am I staying here for in this awful house by myself?" she
suddenly thought. When that idea came to her, the idea of escape, the
action of her mind became involuntary. There was only one to whom she
could run for aid. She remembered so vividly that the experience
seemed to repeat itself, her terror of the tramp in the woods, and
how she had seen Anderson. She sprang up. It became sure to her that
she must get away from that house, that she must not remain. The
imaginative girl, whom anxiety and want of food had weakened, as well
as fear, was fairly at the point of madness, or that hysteria which
is the border-land of it. She distinctly heard herself laugh as she
ran out of the room and out of the house. Her head was bare, but she
did not think of that. She had on her coat which she had worn because
of the coldness of the house. She fled across the lawn to the street.
Once on the road, she was saner, she felt only the natural impulse of
flight of any hunted thing. She fled down the road past the quiet
village houses, in which the people slept in their beds. The electric
lights were out, the moon was low. It was quite dark. Nobody except
herself was abroad in the night. A great pity for herself, a pity
that she might have felt for a little lonely child out by herself at
night, when everybody else was safe in their homes, came over her.
She sobbed as she ran; she even sobbed quite loudly. She did not feel
so afraid, as wild for somebody to take her in and comfort her. She
ran down the main street and turned up the one on which the Andersons
lived. When she reached the house it was quite dark, except for a
very faint glimmer in one of the upper front rooms. It was from the
little night-lamp which Mrs. Anderson always kept burning. The sight
of that light seemed to give Charlotte strength to get up the steps.
She had run so weakly that all the way she had a thought of the
terraces of steps leading to the Anderson house, if she could climb
them. She went up the steps, and then she pressed hard the electric
button on the door; she also raised the superfluous old brass knocker
which Mrs. Anderson cherished because it was a relic from her
husband's time; then she clanged that. Then she sank down on the step
in front of the door.



Chapter XXXIX


Almost at once a light flashed from an upper window in response to
Charlotte's knock and ring. Anderson himself had been in New York
that night with Henry Edgecomb to the theatre. A celebrated play was
on, in which a celebrated actress figured, and the two had taken one
of their rather infrequent excursions. Consequently, Anderson had not
been in the house more than an hour, and during that hour had been
writing some letters which he wished to get off in the early mail.
His room was at the back of the house, a long room extending nearly
the whole width, consequently his own brightly shining light had not
been visible to Charlotte coming up the street.

As he was not undressed, he lost no time in opening his door and
entering with his lamp the front hall. As he did so his mother's door
opened, and her delicate, alarmed old face, frilled with white
cambric, appeared.

"Oh, who is it at this time of night, do you suppose, Randolph?" she
whispered.

"I don't know, mother dear; don't be frightened."

But she came quite out in her white night draperies, which made her
appear singularly massive. "Oh, do you suppose there are burglars in
the store?" she said.

"No. Don't worry, mother."

"Do you suppose it is fire?"

"No; there is no alarm."

"Randolph, you won't open the door until you have asked who it is.
Promise me."

"It is nobody to be afraid of, mother."

"Promise me."

"It is probably Henry come back for something. Harriet may have
locked him out, and he forgotten his night-key." That was actually
what had flashed through Randolph's mind when he heard the knock and
ring.

"Well, I shouldn't wonder if it was," said Mrs. Anderson, in a
relieved tone.

"Go back to bed, mother, or you will catch your death of cold."

"But you will ask?"

"Yes, yes."

Anderson hurried down-stairs, and in consideration of his mother's
listening ears of alarm, he did call out, "Who is there?" at the same
time unlocking the door. It was manifest to his masculine
intelligence, unhampered by nerves, that no one with evil intent
would thus strive to enter a house with a clang of knocker and peal
of bell. He, therefore, having set the lamp on the hall-table, at
once unlocked the door, and Charlotte pulled herself to her feet and
her little, pretty, woe-begone face, in which was a new look for him
and herself, confronted him. Anderson did not say a word. He
somehow--he never remembered how--laid hold of the little thing, and
she was in the house, in the sitting-room, and in his arms, clinging
to him.

"Papa didn't come. Papa didn't come home," she sobbed, but so softly
that Mrs. Anderson, who was listening, did not hear.

Anderson laid his cheek down against the girl's soft, wet one, as if
it were the most natural thing in the world, as if he had been used
to so doing ever since he could remember anything. There was no
strangeness for either of them in it. He patted her poor little head,
which felt cold from the frosty night air.

"There, there, dear," he said.

"He didn't come home," she repeated, piteously, against his breast,
and it was almost as if she were accusing him because of it.

"Poor little girl!"

"Not on the last train. Papa didn't come on the last train,
and--there was no telegram, and I--I was all alone in the house,
and--and--I came." She sobbed convulsively.

Anderson kissed her cheek softly, he continued to smooth the little,
dark, damp head. "You did quite right," he whispered--"quite right,
dear. You are safe now. Don't!"

"Papa!"

"Oh, some business detained him in the City."

"What has happened to papa?" demanded Charlotte, in a shrill voice,
and it was again as if she were unconsciously accusing Anderson. When
a heart becomes confident of love, it is filled with wonder at any
evil mischance permitted, and accuses love, even the love of God.
"What has happened to papa? Where is he?" she demanded again. And it
was then that Mrs. Anderson, unseen by either of them, stood in the
doorway with an enormous purple-flowered wrapper surging over her
nightgown.

"Hush, dear!" whispered Anderson. "I am sure nothing has happened."

"Why are you sure?"

"If anything had happened I should have heard of it. I came out on
the last train myself. If there had been an accident I should
certainly have heard."

"Would you?"

"I surely should have. Don't, dear. Your father has just been
detained by business."

"Then why didn't papa telegraph?"

"He did not get it in the office in season. The office closes at
half-past eight," said Anderson, lying cheerfully.

"Does it?"

"Of course! There is nothing for you to worry about. Now I'll tell
you what we will do. My mother is awake. I will speak to her, and you
must go straight to bed, and go to sleep, and in the morning your
father will be along on the first train. He must have been as much
worried as you."

"Poor papa," said Charlotte.

"So you were all alone in the house, and you came down here all alone
at this time," said Anderson, in a tone which his mother had never
heard. But it was then that she spoke.

"Didn't her father come home?" she asked.

When the girl turned like a flash and saw her she seemed to realize
for the first time that she had been, and was, doing something out of
the wonted. A great, burning blush surged all over her. She shrank
away from the man who held her. She cowered before the other woman.

"No, papa didn't come," she stammered, "and--I didn't know what to
do, and I came here."

"You did quite right, you precious child," said Mrs. Anderson,
suddenly, in a voice of the tenderest authority. She held out her
arms and Charlotte fled to them. Mrs. Anderson looked over the girl's
head at her son with the oddest and most inexplicable reproach. "You
go up and see if the heat is turned on in that little room out of
mine," she commanded, "and then you go into the kitchen and see if you
can't find the milk, and set some on the stove to warm. You can pour
a little hot water in it to hurry it. If the fire isn't good, open
the dampers. And, Randolph, you get my hot-water bag out of my bed,
and fill it from the tea-kettle--that water will be hotter than the
bath-room, this time of night--and you bring it right up; be as quick
as you can." Then all in the same breath she was comforting
Charlotte. "Your father is all right, dear child. Don't you worry one
mite--not one mite. I remember once, when I was a girl, my father
didn't come home, and mother and I were almost crazy, and he came in
laughing the next morning. He had lost his last train because there
was a block on account of the ice. The river was frozen over. There
is nothing for you to worry about. Now come right up-stairs and go to
bed. There is a little room out of mine, as warm as toast, and you
won't be a bit afraid. There you were all alone in that great house,
you poor, blessed child."

Charlotte sobbed, but now with a certain comfort.

"I should have been so afraid, I should have lost my senses, all
alone in a house at your age," said Mrs. Anderson, all the time
gently impelling the girl along with her. "Of course there is nothing
to be afraid of, but one imagines things; and you came here all alone
at this time of the night!"

"Yes," responded Charlotte, with a gasp of the intensest self-pity,
sure of an echo.

Randolph ran up-stairs before his mother and Charlotte and snatched
the hot-water bottle out of his mother's bed, and was out the
opposite door, which connected with the back stairs leading to the
kitchen. As he went out he heard his mother say: "All that way alone
this time of night, you poor, precious child!" and Charlotte's
little, piteous, yet comforted sob in response, exactly as a hurt
baby might respond to commiserations. He felt his own knees tremble
as he went down-stairs, carrying the hot-water bottle, which had
always struck him as a rather absurd article, to be regarded with the
concessions which a man should make to the little, foolish devices
for the comfort of a softer and slighter sex. He hunted up the milk
in the ice-box, and warmed it with solicitude in a china cup, which,
luckily, did not break. The fire was still very good, and the water
in the tea-kettle quite boiling. It was not long before he knocked at
his mother's door, bearing the water-bottle dangling on one wrist,
and carrying the cup of milk. His mother opened the door just wide
enough to receive the articles.

"Is the milk hot?" she asked.

Randolph meekly replied that it had almost boiled.

"The water-bottle is hot, too," said his mother, in a satisfied tone.
"She is undressed. I got one of my nightgowns for her, and it is
quite warm in the little room. Now I am going to take this in to her,
and make her drink the milk, and I hope she will get to sleep."

"I hope she will," replied Randolph, in a sort of dazed fashion, and
there was a foolish radiance over his face, and he did not meet his
mother's eyes.

"I'm coming into your room a minute, after I see to her," said his
mother, and if the man had been a child the tone would have sounded
ominous.

"All right, mother," replied Anderson. He crossed the hall to his
room lined with books, with the narrow couch. It hardly seemed like a
bedroom, and indeed he spent much of his time, when not at the store,
there. He resumed his seat in the well-worn easy-chair beside his
hearth, upon which smouldered a fire, and waited. He still felt
dazed. He had that doubt of his own identity which comes to us at
times, and which is primeval under stress of a great surprise. The
old nursery rhyme of the old woman who had her petticoats clipped and
was not sure of herself, has a truth in it which dates from the
beginning of things. Anderson, sitting precisely as he had been
sitting before in the same chair by the same hearth--he had even
taken up the same book in which he had thought to read a chapter
after his letters were finished, before retiring--was as completely
removed from his former state as if he had been translated into
another planet. He looked around the long room, which had a dark,
rich coloring from the backs of old books, and some dark red
hangings, and even that had a curious appearance of unsubstantiality
to him. Or was it substantiality. Suddenly it seemed to him that
heretofore he had seen it all through a glass, and now with his
natural eyes. He had attained a height a nature whence the prospect
is untrammelled by imaginations and shows in the clear light of
reality. He thought of the girl whom his mother was coddling, tucking
into bed as if she were a baby, and such a wave of tenderness and
protection came over him that he felt newly vivified by it. It was as
if his very soul put forth arms and wings of love and defence.

"The dear little girl!" he thought to himself--"the dear little girl!"

The thought that she was safe under his roof, away from all fancied
and real terror, filled him with such a joy that he could scarcely
contain it. He imagined her nestling in that warm little bed out of
his mother's room, and the satisfaction that he might have felt had
she been his child instead of his sweetheart, filled him with pure
delight. He tried to imagine her terrors, her young-girl terrors,
alone in that house, her panic running alone through the night
streets, and he even magnified it through inability to understand it.
He said to himself that she might have almost gone mad, and again
that sublime joy, that immense sense of the protection and tenderness
of love, filled his soul, which seemed to put forth wings. Then the
door opened and his mother entered softly, slipping through in her
voluminous, purple-flowered draperies, with glimpses of white frills
and large padding feet in purple-knitted slippers. She still wore her
frilled nightcap, and her face confronted him from the white setting
with a curious severity. Her hair was put up on crimping-pins, and
her high forehead gave her a rather intellectual and stern
appearance, and she looked much older.

Randolph rose. "Sit down, mother," he said.

"No; I am not going to stop a minute. I am going back to her. She
seemed real quiet, and I think she'll go to sleep, but if she should
wake up and find herself alone she might be frightened."

Mrs. Anderson spoke as if of a baby in arms.

"Yes, she might; she has had a terrible shock," Anderson said, in
what he essayed to render a natural tone.

"Terrible shock! I should think she had, poor child!" said Mrs.
Anderson, and she seemed to reproach him.

"It was a long way for her to come alone," said Anderson, as if he
were trying to excuse himself.

"I should think it was. It's a good mile, and that wasn't the worst
of it. Worrying about her father, and all alone in the house! I was
always scared to death alone in a house, and I know what it means."
She still seemed reproachful.

"She must have been frightened."

"I should rather think she would have been." Suddenly his mother's
face regarding his took on a different expression; it became shrewd
and confidential. "Do you suppose her father has taken this way
of--?" she said.

"No," answered Randolph, emphatically.

"You don't?"

"No, I do not. I don't know the man very well, and I don't suppose
his record is to be altogether justified, but, if I know anything, he
would no more go voluntarily and leave that child alone all night to
worry over him than I would."

"Then you think something has happened to him?"

"I am afraid so."

"Do you think there has been an accident?"

"I don't know, mother."

His mother continued to look at him shrewdly. "Do you suppose he has
got into any trouble?" she asked, bluntly.

"I don't know, mother."

Then Mrs. Anderson's face suddenly resumed its old, reproachful
expression. "Well, I don't care if there has," said she. She
whispered, but her voice was intense. "I don't care if there has. I
don't care if he is in state-prison. That child has got to caring
about you, and you ought to--"

Anderson turned and looked at his mother, and her severe face
softened and paled. He looked to her at that moment more like his
father than himself. He was accusing her.

"Mother, do you think, if she cares, that I would ever desert her,
any more than father would have deserted you?" he demanded.

It was her turn to excuse herself. "I know you are honorable,
Randolph," she said, "but I saw when I came in, and I don't see how
you have seen enough of her to have it happen; but I know girls, and
I can see how she feels, and I didn't know but you might think if her
father--"

"What difference do you think her father makes to me, mother?" asked
Anderson.



Chapter XL


When Carroll came to himself that night after his fall, his first
conscious motion was for his dollar watch. He was in William
Allbright's bed. There were only two sleeping-apartments in the
little tenement. William was seated beside him, watching him with his
faithful, serious face; there was also a physician, keenly observant,
still closer to the injured man's head; and the sister, Allbright's
sister, was visible in the next room, seated in a chair which
commanded a good view of the bed. It was Allbright who had rescued
Carroll from the station-house; for when he did not rise, the usual
crowd, who directly attribute all failures to recover one's self from
a manifestly inappropriate recumbent position, had collected, and
several policemen were on the scene.

"I know this gentleman," Allbright said, in his rather humble, still
half-respectful, voice, which carried conviction. "I know this
gentleman. I have been a book-keeper in his office. He slipped on the
ice. I saw him fall. He is not drunk."

One of the policemen, who had been long in the vicinity and knew
Allbright, as from the heights of the law one might know an
unimportant and unoffending citizen, responded.

"All right," he said, laconically. "Hospital?"

"Guess he's hurted pretty bad," remarked another policeman, who was a
handsome athlete.

"Hospital?" inquired the first, who was a man of few words, of
Allbright.

"I guess we'd better have him taken to my house. It's right here,"
replied Allbright. "Then we'll call in Dr. Wilson and see how much is
the matter with him. Maybe he's only stunned. The hospital is apt to
be a long siege, and if there isn't any need of it--"

"His house is right here," said the first policeman to the second,
with a stage aside.

"All right," said the second.

A boy pulled Allbright by the sleeve. "Say, I'll go for the doc," he
cried, eagerly. He was enjoying the situation keenly.

"Well," replied Allbright, "be quick about it. Tell him there's a man
badly hurt at my house."

The boy sped like a rocket, and three more with him. They all yelled
as they ran. They were street gamins of the better class, and were
both sympathetic and entertained. They lived in a tenement-house near
Allbright, and knew him quite well by sight.

Meantime the two policemen carried Carroll the short distance to
William Allbright's house. He was quite unconscious, and it was an
undertaking of considerable difficulty to carry him up the stairs,
since the Allbrights lived in the second story.

The clerk in the department store, and his mother, who lived on the
first floor, came to their door in undress and offered their
hospitality, but Mr. Allbright declined their aid.

"No," he said. "I know him. It is Mr. Carroll. He had better be taken
up to my rooms."

When at last they laid the unconscious man on Allbright's bed, which
his sister, pale, and yet with a collectedness under such surprising
circumstances which spoke well for her, had opened, the policeman who
was not an athlete, and was, in fact, too stout, wiped his forehead
and said, "Gee."

The other remained looking at the injured man soberly.

"Guess he's hurted pretty bad," he remarked again.

"You bet," said the first. "Gee!"

Allbright's sister came with the camphor-bottle, which she kept in a
sort of folk-lore fashion, as her mother had used to do in the
country. Allbright brought the whiskey, of which he kept a small
supply in the house in case of dire need, and stood over Carroll with
that and a teaspoon, with a vague idea of trying to insinuate a few
drops into his mouth.

The two policemen clamped heavily down-stairs, agreeing that they
would remain until the doctor came, and see if it was to be the
hospital after all.

"Guess he's hurted pretty bad," remarked the handsome policeman for
the third time.

The doctor came quickly, almost on a run. He lived within a block,
and had not a large practice. He was attended by a large throng of
boys, for the three had served as a nucleus for many more. He turned
around to them with an imperative gesture as he entered the house
door.

"Now you scatter," said he. He was a fair man, but he had at once an
appeal of good-fellowship and a certain force of character. Besides,
there were the two policemen hovering near. The boys withdrew and
remained watching in the dark shadows cast by an opposite house. In
case the injured man was carried to the hospital, and the ambulance
should come, they could not afford to miss that. They had not so many
pleasures in life.

The doctor mounted the stairs; he had been there before, for
Allbright's sister was more or less of an invalid, and he at once
abetted Allbright's purpose of the few drops of stimulant on the
teaspoon, which the patient swallowed with a pathetic, gulping
passiveness like a baby's.

"He swallows all right," remarked Allbright's sister, in an agitated
voice. She stood aloof, waving the camphor-bottle; her eyes were
dilated, and her face had a pale, gaping look.

"You go out in the other room and stay there," said the doctor to
her, with the authority which a hysterical woman defers to and adores.

Allbright's sister was a very good woman, but she had sometimes
imagined, then directly driven the imagination from her with a
spiritual scourge like a monk of old, what might have happened if the
doctor were not already married.

Carroll's forehead was dripping with camphor, and there was danger
should he open his eyes. The doctor wiped the pale forehead gently
and spoke to him.

"Well, you had quite a hard fall, sir," he said, in a loud, cheerful
voice, and directly Carroll answered, like a somnambulist:

"Yes, quite a fall."

Then he seemed to lapse again into unconsciousness. The doctor and
Allbright remained working over him, but it was within fifteen
minutes before the time when the last train for Banbridge was due to
leave New York that he made the first absolutely conscious motion.

"He is feeling for his watch," said Allbright, in an agitated
whisper. His wits were sharpened with regard to Carroll's watch.
Carroll's coat and vest had been removed, and were hanging over a
chair. Allbright at once got the dollar watch from its pocket and
carried it over to the sick man. "Here is your watch, Mr. Carroll,"
he said, and his voice was full of both respectful and tender
inflections.

A sob was distinctly heard from Allbright's sister out in the
sitting-room. The woman from down-stairs, the department clerk's
mother, was now with her.

"He wants to see if his watch is safe, poor man," said she, in a
tearful voice, and Allbright's sister whimpered again.

"It's a wonder some of them kids didn't swipe it," said the
down-stairs woman, and Allbright's sister was conscious of a distinct
thrill of disgust in the midst of her excitement and pity. She was of
a superior sort to the down-stairs woman, and she often told her
brother she could not get used to folks using such language.

Poor Carroll was looking dimly at his watch, and Allbright at once
divined that he could not distinguish the time without his
eye-glasses. He therefore leaned over him--his own spectacles were on
his nose--and told him the time.

"It's almost seventeen minutes past twelve, Mr. Carroll," he said.

Carroll made a movement to rise, then subsided with a groan. "Where
am I?" he inquired, feebly, with a bewildered stare around the
strange room. Directly opposite him hung a large crayon portrait of
Allbright's father, a handsome man with a reverend beard like a
prophet, and his eyes became riveted upon that.

"You are in my house, Mr. Carroll," said Allbright, with a tender,
caressing motion of his hand towards him, like a woman.

"You had a fall on the ice, Mr. Carroll," said the physician, in a
tone of soothing explanation, "but you will soon be as good as new."

"How far up-town?" inquired Carroll, still gazing at the portrait,
which had an odd hardness of outline, and appeared almost as if
carved out of wood.

"You are at One Hundred and Twenty-fifth Street," replied Allbright.
"You are at my house, Mr. Carroll. You fell right out here, and I had
you carried in here."

Carroll tried again to rise, and made a despairing gasp. "Oh, my
God!" he said. "I have lost the last train out. There isn't time to
get down to the ferry, and there is that poor child all alone there,
and she won't know--"

"You can send a telegram," suggested the doctor. "Now, Mr. Carroll,
don't get excited."

"She will be all right," said Allbright.

"What is it?" asked the down-stairs woman, coming to the door.

"His daughter is all alone in the house, I guess, and he's worried
about her," explained Allbright.

"There ain't nothin' goin' to eat her, if she is, is there?" inquired
the down-stairs woman.

"I'll run with a telegram," said Allbright, eagerly, to the doctor.

But at that moment Carroll lapsed into unconsciousness. The
excitement had been too much for him. He lay as if asleep.

"Where does he live?" asked the doctor, of Allbright.

"I don't know exactly. Somewhere out on the Pennsylvania Railroad."

"You don't know?" repeated the doctor, with a faint accent of
surprise.

Allbright shook his head.

"You were book-keeper in his office?"

"Yes, but I haven't been there for some time. I never asked any
questions."

The doctor turned and looked at Carroll. Then he went out of the
room, with Allbright following, and gave him some directions. He
asked for a glass two-thirds full of water and poured some dark drops
into it.

"The minute he gets conscious again give him a spoonful of this," he
said, "and you had better sit beside him and watch him." Then he
turned to Allbright's sister, who was trembling from head to foot
with a nervous chill. "You take a dose of that whiskey your brother
gave him," he said, jerking his shoulder towards the inner room,
"then go to bed, and don't worry your head about him."

"Oh, doctor, he isn't going to die here?"

"Die here? No, nor nowhere else for one while. There is nothing the
matter with the man except he bumped his head rather too hard for
comfort."

"How long is he likely to be here on their hands?" inquired the
down-stairs woman.

"He will be able to go home in the morning, I think," said the doctor.

"Oh, doctor, you aren't going to go away and leave us with a strange
man as sick as he is?" asked Allbright's sister, hysterically. She
shook so that she could scarcely speak.

"You won't have to worry half so much over a strange man as you would
over one you know," replied the doctor, jocosely, "and he is not very
sick. He will be all right soon. Now you take some of your brother's
medicine and go to bed, for I have six cases to visit to-night before
I go home, and I don't want another."

Allbright's sister bridled with an odd, inexplicable pride. She did
not like to be a burden on her brother, nor make trouble, but there
was a certain satisfaction in having the down-stairs woman, who, she
had always suspected, rather made light of her ailments, hear for
herself that she was undoubtedly delicate. Even the minor and
apparently paradoxical pretensions of life are dear to their
possessors in lieu of others.

"Very well. I suppose I've got to mind the doctor," she replied, and
even smiled foolishly and blushed.

The doctor turned to Allbright.

"I think he will be all right in the morning," he said; "a bit
light-headed, of course, but all right. However, don't let him go
home before noon, on your life. I will look in in the morning before
he goes." And then he turned to Allbright's sister. "On second
thought, I will let you make a good big bowl of that gruel of yours
before you go to bed," he said; "then he can take it in the course of
the night if he is able; and beat him up some eggs in the morning."

"I'll make the gruel if she ain't able," said the down-stairs woman,
in a tone vibrating between kindness and scorn.

"Thank you. I am quite able to make it," said Allbright's sister, and
she was full of small triumph and persistency. Yes, she would make
the gruel, even if she was so very delicate that she ought to go at
once to bed. It was quite evident that she thought that the
down-stairs woman could not make gruel good enough for that man in
there, anyway.

"Well, I guess I'll go," said the down-stairs woman, "as long as I
don't seem to be of any use. If there was anything I could do, I'd
stay." And she went.

"The idea of her coming up here and trying to find out what was going
on!" Allbright's sister said to her brother as she was getting the
meal ready for the gruel. "I never saw such a curious woman."

"If we hadn't got so attached to the place we would move," said
Allbright, who was leaving his patient momentarily, to change his
shoes for slippers.

"I know it," said the sister, "but I can't help feeling attached to
the place, we have lived here so long; and there is that beautiful
cherry-tree out in the yard, and everything."

"That is so," said Allbright.

"I am glad Mr. Carroll didn't have to be carried to a hospital."

"I suppose he would have been if I had not happened to be right on
the spot," said Allbright, reflectively, to his sister.

"You think he'll be all right in the morning, don't you?"

"Oh yes, the doctor said so!"

Outside, the watching boys in the shadow of the church disappointedly
vanished, cheated of their small and grewsome excitement, when they
saw the doctor quietly walk towards his house and realized that there
was to be no ambulance and no hospital.

"Gee! I've had knocks harder 'n that, and never said nothin' about
it," said one boy as he scurried away with the others towards his
home in the high tenement-house.



Chapter XLI


It was quite early the next morning when Charlotte received the
telegram that her father had had a fall on the ice, was not badly
injured, and would be home on the noon train. Anderson had gone very
early to the telegraph-office. It was being ticked off in Andrew
Drake's drug-store when he inquired, and the boy viewed him with
intense curiosity when he took the message, but did not dare ask any
questions. Anderson hurried home with it to Charlotte, who was not
yet up. Mrs. Anderson had insisted upon her having her breakfast in
bed, and she had yielded readily. In fact, she was both too confused
and too ashamed to see Anderson. She dreaded seeing him. She was as
simple as a child, and she reasoned simply.

"He held me in his arms and kissed me last night, the way Major Arms
would have done with Ina," she told herself, "and of course I suppose
I must be engaged to him; but I don't know what he must think of me
for coming here the way I did. It was almost as if I asked him
first." She wondered if Mrs. Anderson had seen. But Mrs. Anderson's
manner to her was of such complete and caressing motherliness that
she could not have much fear of her. In reality, the older woman, who
had an active imagination, was slightly jealous, in view of future
possibilities.

"I wonder if they will think they ought to sit by themselves
evenings," she reflected. She looked at the girl's slight grace in
the bed, and the little, dark head sunken in the pillow, and she
wondered how in the world the mother of a girl like that could stay
one minute in Kentucky and leave her. "She must be a pretty woman!"
she thought to herself. Already she hated the other mother-in-law,
and she felt almost a maternal right to the girl. She recalled what
she had seen the night before, and thrills of tender reminiscence
came over her. "Randolph will make just such a good husband as his
father," she thought to herself, and then she rather resented his
superior right over the girl, as she might have done if it had not
been a question of her own son, and Charlotte had been her own
daughter. She loved her as she loved the daughter she had never had.
She stroked her hair softly as it curled over the pillow.

"You have such pretty hair, dear," she said, with positive pride. The
little, flushed face looked up at her.

Charlotte had just finished her breakfast. Anderson had brought the
telegram and gone, and the two were alone. It was arranged that
Charlotte was to get up in an hour, and that Mrs. Anderson was to go
home with her in one of Samson Rawdy's coaches.

"We will take my maid, and she can get the furnace fire started," she
said, "and help about the dinner."

"I had such a nice dinner all ready last night," Charlotte said, "and
I am afraid it must be spoiled now."

"Never mind. We will get another," said Mrs. Anderson.

Both Anderson and his mother had succeeded in quieting Charlotte's
lingering fears concerning her father.

"He probably got stunned," Anderson said; "and he cannot be very bad
or he would not be coming home on the noon train." He was talking to
Charlotte from his mother's room, with the door ajar.

There was something conclusive in Anderson's voice which reassured
Charlotte.

"My son would not say so unless he thought so," said Mrs. Anderson.
"He never says a thing he does not mean." She spoke with a double
meaning which Charlotte wholly missed. It had not occurred to her
that Mr. Anderson would have taken her in his arms last night and
kissed her and comforted her, if he had not been thoroughly in
earnest and in love with her. She supposed, of course, he wished to
marry her. All that troubled her was her own course in practically
proposing to him. Presently, after she and Mrs. Anderson were alone
together, she tried to say something about this to the other woman.

"I don't know as I ought to have come here last night," she said,
"but--"

"Where else would you have gone?" inquired Mrs. Anderson.

Charlotte looked up at her piteously. "I hope Mr. Anderson didn't
think I--I--ought not to," she whispered, and she felt her cheeks
blazing with shame. She did not know if Mrs. Anderson really knew,
but she was as much ashamed.

Mrs. Anderson stooped over her and laid her soft old cheek against
the soft young one. "My precious child!" she whispered. "I could not
help seeing last night, and this was just the place for you to come,
for this is your home, or is going to be; isn't it, dear?"

Charlotte put up her soft little arms around the other woman's neck,
and began to cry softly. "Oh," she sobbed, "I don't want him to think
that I--"

"Hush, dear! He will think nothing he ought not to think," said Mrs.
Anderson, who did not, in reality, know in the least what the girl
was troubled about, but rather thought it possible that she might
fear lest her son was not in earnest in his attentions, on her
father's account. She did not imagine Charlotte's faith and pride in
her father. "My son cares a great deal for you, dear child, or he
would never have done as he did last night," she said, "and some day
we are all going to be very happy."

Charlotte continued to sob softly, but not altogether unhappily.

"My son will make a very good husband," Mrs. Anderson said, with a
slight inflection of pride. "He will make a good husband, just as his
father did."

"He is the best man I ever saw, except papa," cried Charlotte then,
with a great gulp of blissful confession, and the two women wept in
each other's arms. "I will try and make him a good wife," Charlotte
whispered, softly.

"Of course you will, you precious child."

But suddenly Charlotte raised herself a little and looked at Mrs.
Anderson with a troubled face. "But I can't leave papa all alone,"
she said, "and your son would not want to leave you."

"Of course my son could not leave me," Mrs. Anderson said, quickly.

"I could not leave papa all alone."

"Well, we won't worry about that now, dear," Mrs. Anderson replied,
although her forehead was slightly knitted. "Your mother and aunt
will be back; some way will be opened. We will not worry about that
now."

Charlotte blushed painfully at the thought that she had been hasty
about making preparations for the marriage, and had shocked Mrs.
Anderson. "You don't think papa is very badly hurt?" she said.

"Why, of course not, dear. Didn't you hear what Randolph said? He
probably was stunned. It is so easy to get stunned from a fall on the
ice. My husband got a bad fall once, one icy Sunday as we were coming
home from the church. They had to carry him into Mr. John Bemis's
house, and he did not come to for several hours. I thought he was
killed. I never was so frightened except once when Randolph had the
croup. But he got all over it. His head was a little sore, but that
was all. I presume it was black and blue under his hair. Randolph's
father had beautiful thick hair just like his. I dare say he was not
hurt so badly, because of that. Your father has thick hair, hasn't
he?"

"Yes."

"Well, I dare say he struck on his head, just as my husband did, and
was stunned. I dare say that was just what happened. Of course he did
not break any bones, or he would not be coming home on the noon
train. I don't believe they would let him out from the hospital so
soon as that, even if he had only broken his arm."

"Oh, do you think they carried him to a hospital?"

"They took him somewhere where he was taken care of, or he would not
be coming home on the noon train," said Mrs. Anderson. "It is almost
time for you to get up, and I want you to drink another cup of
coffee. You came here without any hat, didn't you, poor child?"

"Yes."

"Well, I haven't got any hat, and you can't wear one of my bonnets,
but I have a pretty white head-tie that you can wear; and nobody will
see you in the closed carriage, anyway."

"I am making so much trouble," said Charlotte.

"You precious child!" said Mrs. Anderson; "when I think of you all
alone in that house!"

"It was dreadful," Charlotte said, with a shudder. "I suppose there
was nothing at all to be afraid of, but I imagined all kinds of
things."

"The things people imagine are more to be afraid of than the things
they see, sometimes," Mrs. Anderson said, wisely. "Now, I think
perhaps you had better get up, dear, and you must drink another cup
of coffee. I think there will be just about time enough for you to
drink it and get dressed before the carriage comes."

Mrs. Anderson took the pride in assisting the girl to dress that she
had done in dressing her son when he was a child. She even noticed,
with the tenderest commiseration instead of condemnation, that the
lace on her undergarments was torn, and that there were buttons
missing.

"Poor dear child, she never had any decent training," she said to
herself. She anticipated teaching Charlotte to take care of her
clothes, as she might have done if she had been her own girl baby. "I
guess her clothes won't look like this when I have had her awhile,"
she said to herself, eying furtively some torn lace on the girl's
slender white shoulder.

When they were at last driving through the streets of Banbridge, she
felt unspeakably proud, and also a little defiant.

"I suppose there are plenty of people who will say Randolph is a fool
to marry a girl whose father has done the way hers has," she told
herself, "but I don't care. There isn't a girl in Banbridge to
compare with her. I don't care; they can say what they want to." She
was so excited that she had put on her bonnet, which had a little jet
aigrette on top, awry. After a while Charlotte timidly ventured to
speak of it and straighten it, and the tenderest thrill of delight
came over the older woman at the daughterly attention.

She told Randolph that noon, after she had got home, that she was
really surprised to see how well the poor child, with no training at
all, had kept the house, and she said it, remembering quite
distinctly a white shade of dust in full view on the parlor-table.

"Her dinner was all dried up, of course," she said, "but I thought it
looked as if it might have been quite nice when it was first cooked."

Already Mrs. Anderson was becoming deceptive for the sake of the
girl. She had carried a box of provisions to the house, and they had
stopped at the fish-market and bought some oysters; and Mrs. Anderson
had taught Charlotte how to make a stew, and retreated before it was
quite time for Carroll to arrive. She felt in her heart of hearts
that she could not see him yet. Even her love for the girl did not
yet reconcile her to Carroll. Charlotte was so glad that her little
purse was in her coat-pocket and that she had enough money to pay for
the oysters. She felt that she could not have borne it had she been
obliged to borrow money of Mrs. Anderson. She felt that it would
reflect upon her father. Already she had an instinctive jealousy on
her father's account. She loved Mrs. Anderson, but she felt vaguely
that not enough was said, even there was not enough anxiety
displayed, with regard to her father. She reflected with the fiercest
loyalty that even although she did love Mr. Anderson, although she
had let him kiss her, although at the mere memory thrills of delight
overwhelmed her, she would not ever admit even to herself that he was
any better than her father--her poor father who had been hurt and
whom everybody was blaming and accusing. Directly after Mrs. Anderson
and the maid had gone, she began making the oyster-stew. It would not
be quite so good as if she had waited until her father had really
arrived, and Mrs. Anderson had told her so, but Charlotte could not
bear to wait. She wished him to have something nice and hot the
minute he came in. The water boiled and she made the tea. Mrs.
Anderson had said that the tea might be better for him than coffee,
and she also made toast. Then she went again into the parlor to the
window, as she had done the night before; but it was all so different
now. She was so happy that she was confused by it. She had not been
brought up, as one would say, religiously, although she had always
gone to church, but now she realized a strange uplifting of her
thoughts above the happiness itself, to a sense of God. She was
conscious of a thankfulness which at once exalted and humbled her.
She sat down beside the window and looked out, and everything, every
dry spear of grass and every slender twig on the trees, was streaming
like rainbows in the frosty air. It came to her what an unspeakable
blessing it was that she had been allowed to come into a world where
there were so many rainbows and so much happiness, and how nothing
but more rainbows and happiness could come of these. That there was
nothing whatever to dread in the future. And she thought how her
father was coming home, and she thought of all her horrible
imaginations of the night before as she might have thought of a
legion of routed fiends. And soon Samson Rawdy drove her father into
the grounds, and she ran to the door. She opened it and went to the
carriage with her arms extended, but he got out himself, laughing.

"Did you think I wanted help, honey?" he said, but though he laughed,
he walked weakly and his face was very pale.

He paid Samson Rawdy, who opened his mouth as if to say something,
then looked at Carroll's pale face and changed his mind, getting
rather stiffly up on his seat--he was growing stout--and driving away.

"Oh, papa!" Charlotte said, slipping her arm through his and nestling
close up to him as they went into the house.

Carroll bent down and kissed her. "Papa's poor little girl!" he said.
"It was mighty hard on her, wasn't it?"

"Oh, papa, you are not hurt very badly?"

"Not hurt at all, sweetheart. I, to put it simply, tumbled down on
the ice and hit my head, and was so stunned that I did not come to
myself until it was too late for the last train."

"Oh, papa, where were you? Did they carry you to a hospital?"

"No, dear. I was very near a man who used to keep my books before I
gave up my office, and he had me carried to his house, which was near
by, and he and his sister did everything for me, they and their
doctor."

"They must be such good people!" said Charlotte.

"Such good people that I can never pay them," said Carroll, in an odd
voice. They had entered the house and were going through the hall.
"Not in other ways than money," he added, quickly. "I owe him
nothing." It was the first time that Carroll had ever attempted to
justify himself to his child, but at that moment the sting of
thinking that she might suspect that he owed Allbright money was more
than he could bear.

When they were in the dining-room, Carroll turned and looked at
Charlotte. "My poor little girl! What did you think, and what did you
do?" said he.

She threw her arms around his neck again and clung to him. "Oh, papa,
when you didn't come, when the last train went by and you didn't
come, I thought--"

"Poor little sweetheart!"

"I went down to the six-o'clock train, and then I waited for the
next, and then I came home, and I watched, and the telegraph-boy came
to tell me there was no telegram, and I had the dinner keeping warm
on the back of the range; it was beefsteak cooked that way in the
cook-book, and there was a pudding," said Charlotte, incoherently,
and she began to weep against her father's shoulder.

In reality, the girl's nerves were nearer the overstrained point now
than they had been before. She was so glad to have her father home,
she was so dazed by her new happiness, and there was something about
her father's white face which frightened her in a subtle fashion.
There was a changed meaning in it beside the sick look.

"Poor little girl!" Carroll said again. "Did you have to stay here
alone all night?"

"No, papa. I stayed just as long as I could, and then I went out, and
I ran--"

"Where, dear?"

"I ran to--"

Carroll waited. Charlotte had turned her face as far away from him as
she could as she leaned against him, but one ear was burning red.

"I ran to the--Andersons'. You know Mr. Anderson, that time when I
was so frightened by the tramp-- You know I stayed there to tea,
that-- Mrs. Anderson was very kind," said Charlotte, in a stammering
and incoherent voice.

"Oh," said Carroll.

Suddenly Charlotte raised her head, and she looked at him quite
bravely, with an innocent confidence. "Papa," said she, "you needn't
think I am ever going to leave you, not until Amy and the others come
back, because I never will. You never will think so?"

"No, darling," said Carroll. His face grew paler.

"But," continued Charlotte, "when I went to the Andersons' last
night, I rang the bell, and I pounded with the knocker, too, I was so
frightened, and Mr. Anderson came right away. He had been to New York
himself, to the theatre, and he had not been home long, and--"

Carroll waited.

"I am never going to leave you, papa," said Charlotte, "and I love
you just as much. I love you just as much as I do--him, only, of
course, it is different. You needn't think I don't. There is nobody
like you. But he--if you don't mind, papa, I think I will marry Mr.
Anderson sometime, the way Ina did Major Arms."

Carroll did not speak for a moment. He continued looking at her with
an expression made up of various emotions--trouble, relief, shame.

"He is a very good man," said Charlotte, in a half-defensive tone.
"He is the best man I ever saw, except you, papa."

Carroll bent down and kissed her. "You are very sure you love him,
are you, dear?" he said.

"Why, papa, of course I am! I never could see how Ina could love
Major Arms enough to marry him, but I can see how anybody could be
glad to marry Mr. Anderson."

"Then I am very glad, sweetheart," Carroll said, with a curious
quietness, almost weariness.

"His mother is lovely, too," said Charlotte.

"That is nice, dear, for I suppose you will live with them."

"When Amy and the others come back," said Charlotte. "I am not ever
going to leave you, papa. You know it, don't you?"

"Yes, sweetheart," said Carroll, still with the same curious, weary
quiet.

Charlotte looked at him anxiously. "Does your head ache now, papa?"
she asked.

"No, dear."

"But you don't feel well. You are very pale."

"I feel a little weak, that is all, dear."

"You will feel better when you have had dinner. Mrs. Anderson came
home with me, she and her maid, and she gave me some lovely thin
slices of ham, and there is an oyster-stew, and some tea. Sit down,
papa dear, and we will have dinner right away."

Carroll made a superhuman effort to eat that dinner, but still the
look whose strangeness rather than paleness puzzled Charlotte never
left his face. She kept looking at him.

"You won't go to New York again to-morrow, will you, papa?" said she.

"No, dear. I don't think so."

"I wish you wouldn't go again this week, papa. To-day is Thursday."

"Perhaps I won't, dear."

After dinner Carroll lay down on the divan in the den and Charlotte
covered him up, and after a while he fell asleep; but even asleep,
when she stole in to look at him, there was the same strange
expression on his face. It was the face of a man whose mind is set
irrevocably to an end. A martyr going to the stake might have had
that same look, or even a criminal who was going to his doom with a
sense of its being his just deserts, and with the bravery that
befitted a man.

That evening Anderson came to call, and Carroll answered the
door-bell. He took him into the parlor, and spoke at once of the
subject uppermost in the minds of both.

"Charlotte has told me," Carroll said, simply. He extended his hand
with a pathetic, deprecatory air. "You know what you are doing when
you ask for my daughter's hand," he said. "You know she might have a
parentage which would reflect more credit upon her."

"I am quite satisfied," Anderson replied, in a low voice. All at
once, looking at the other man, it struck him that he had never in
his life pitied any one to such an extent, and that he pitied him all
the more because Carroll seemed one to resent pity.

"This much I will say--I can say it confidently now," said Carroll,
"I shall meet all my indebtedness. You will have no reason to
hesitate on that account," but he paused a moment. "I am driven to
resorting to any honest method which I can find to enable me so to
do," he continued. He made a slight emphasis upon the word honest.

"I can understand that as fully, possibly, as any man," Anderson
replied, gravely.

Carroll looked at him. "Yes, so you can," he said--"so you can. Well,
this much I will say for myself, Mr. Anderson. I am proud and glad to
confide my daughter to your keeping. I am satisfied, and more than
satisfied, with her choice."

"Thank you," replied Anderson. He felt a constraint, even
embarrassment, as if he had been a very young man. He was even
conscious of blushing a little.

"Sit down," said Carroll, placing a chair for him, and offering him a
cigar.

Then he went to call Charlotte. It was at that moment rather a hard
experience for Charlotte that it was not her mother instead of her
father who called her to go down and see her lover. She had thought,
with a passion of yearning, of her mother who had done the same
thing, and would understand, as she fluffed out her pretty hair
around her face in front of the glass in her room. When her father
called her she ran down, but instead of going at once into the
parlor, where she knew her lover was waiting for her, she ran into
the den. She felt sure that her father had retreated there. She found
him there, as she had thought, and she flung her arms around his neck.

"I am never going to leave you alone, you know, papa," she whispered.

"Yes, dear."

"Papa, come in there with me."

Carroll laughed then. "Run along, honey," he said, and gave her a
kiss, and pushed her softly out of the room.



Chapter XLII


Carroll, left alone, lighted another cigar from force of habit. It
was one of the abominably cheap ones which he had been smoking lately
when by himself. He never offered one to anybody else. But soon the
cigar went out and he never noticed it. He sat in a deep-hollowed
chair before a fireless hearth, and the strange expression upon his
face deepened. It partook of at once exaltation and despair. He heard
the soft murmur of voices from the parlor where the lovers were. He
reflected that he should tell Anderson, before he married Charlotte,
the purpose in his mind; that he owed it to him, since that purpose
might quite reasonably cause a man to change his own plans with
regard to marrying her. He decided that he would tell him that night
before he left. But he felt that it would make no difference to a man
of Anderson's type; that it was only for his own sake, the sake of
his own honor, that it was necessary to tell him at all. Then he fell
to thinking of what was before him, of the new life upon which he
would enter the next Monday, and it was actually to this man of wrong
courses but right instincts, this man born and bred of the best and
as the best, as if he were contemplating the flames of the stake or
the torture of the rack. He felt, in anticipation, his pride, his
self-respect, stung as with fire and broken as upon the wheel. He was
beset with the agonies of spiritual torture, which yet brought a
certain solace in the triumph of endurance. He had at once the agony
and the delight of the fighter, of the wrestler with the angel. What
he had set himself to do for the sake of not only making good to
others what they had lost through him, but what he had lost through
himself, was unutterably terrible to him. But while his face was
agonized, he yet threw back his head with the motion of the
conqueror. And he owned to himself that the conquest was even greater
because it was against such petty odds, because both the fight and
the triumph savored of the ignoble, even of the ridiculous. It would
be much easier to be a hero whom the multitude would applaud and
worship than a hero whom the multitude would welcome with laughter.
When comedy becomes tragedy, when the ignominious becomes victorious,
he who brings it about becomes majestic in spite of fate itself. And
yet withal the man sitting there listening to the soft murmur from
the other room felt that his own life, so far as the happiness which,
after all, makes life worth living for mortal weakness, was over. He
thought of his wife and sister and children, who would be all safely
sheltered, and, he hoped, even happy in time, although separated from
him; and while his soul rejoiced over that, he yet could not help
thinking of himself. Listening to the voices of the lovers in the
parlor, he thought how he and Amy used to make love, and how it was
all over, perhaps forever over. He smiled a little as he remembered
how his Charlotte had asked him to go with her to meet her lover.
Gentle and affectionate to his family as he was, Carroll was
essentially masculine. He could not in the least understand how the
girl felt. He felt a little anxious lest the child should not really
love Anderson, because she hesitated, since he could see no other
reason for her hesitation. However, when, about eleven o'clock, he
heard the stir of approaching departure, and went hurriedly into the
hall in order to intercept Anderson before he went, one glimpse of
the girl's little face reassured him. She seemed to at once have
grown older and younger. She was reflective, and fairly beaming with
utmost anticipations. She looked at Anderson as he had never seen her
look at any one. He had doubted a little about Ina; he had no doubt
whatever about Charlotte. "She is in love with him, fast enough," he
said to himself. He spoke to Anderson, and asked to have a word with
him before he went.

"Come back into the parlor a moment, if you please," he said. "I have
a word to say to you."

Anderson followed him into the room. He already had on his overcoat.
Carroll stood close to him and spoke in a low voice. His face was
ghastly when he had finished, but he looked proudly at the other man.

"Now it is for you to say whether you will advance or retreat, for I
think that, under the circumstances, nobody could say that you did
not do the last with honor," he concluded.

Anderson, who had also turned pale, stared at him a second, and his
look was a question.

"There is absolutely nothing else that I can do," replied Carroll,
simply; "it is my only course."

Anderson held out his hand. "I shall be proud to have your daughter
for my wife," he said.

"Remember she is not to know," Carroll said.

"Do you think the ignorance preferable to the anxiety?"

"I don't know. I cannot have her know. None of them shall know. I
have trusted you," Carroll said, with a sort of agonized appeal. "I
had, as a matter of honor, to tell you, but no one else," he
continued, still in his voice which seemed strained to lowness. "I
had to trust you."

"You will never find your trust misplaced," replied Anderson,
gravely, "but it will be hard for her."

"You can comfort her," Carroll said, with a painful smile, in which
was a slight jealousy, the feeling of a man outside all his loves of
life.

"When?" asked Anderson, in a whisper.

"Monday."

"She will, of course, come straight to my mother, and it can all be
settled as soon as possible afterwards. There will be no occasion to
wait."

"Amy may wish to come," said Carroll, "and Anna."

"Of course."

The two men shook hands and went out in the hall. Carroll went back
to the den, and left Charlotte, who was shyly waiting to have the
last words with her lover. Pretty soon she came fluttering into the
den.

"You do like him, don't you, papa?" she asked, putting her arms
around her father's neck.

"Yes, dear."

"But I am never going to leave you, papa, not for him nor anybody,
not until Amy and the others come back."

"You will never forget papa, anyway, will you, honey?" said Carroll,
and his voice was piteous in spite of himself.

"Forget you, papa? I guess not!" said Charlotte, "and I never will
leave you."

That was Thursday. The next afternoon Mrs. Anderson came and called
on Charlotte. She was glad that Carroll was not at home. She shrank
very much from meeting him. Carroll had not gone to New York, but had
taken the trolley to New Sanderson. He also went into several of the
Banbridge stores. The next Sunday morning, in the barber's shop,
several men exhibited notes of hand with Carroll's signature.

"I don't suppose it is worth the paper it is written on," said
Rosenstein, with his melancholy accent, frowning intellectually over
the slip of paper.

"He gave the dressmaker one, too," said Amidon, "and she is tickled to
death with it. The daughter had already asked her to take back a silk
dress she had made for her, and she has sold it for something. The
dressmaker thinks the note is as good as money."

"I've got one of the blasted things, too," said the milkman, Tappan.

"It's for forty dollars, and I'll sell out for ten cents."

"I'd be willing to make my davyalfit that Captain Carroll's notes
will be met when they are accentuated," said the little barber, in a
trembling voice of partisanship, looking up from the man he was
shaving; and everybody laughed.

Lee, who was waiting his turn, spoke. "Captain Carroll says he will
pay me the price I paid for the United Fuel stock, in a year's time,"
he said, proudly. "The stock has depreciated terribly, too. A pretty
square man, I call him."

"He's got more sides than you have, anyhow," growled Tappan, who was
bristling like a pirate with his week's beard; and everybody laughed
again, though they did not altogether know why.

However the recipients of Carroll's notes doubted their soundness,
they folded them carefully and put them in their pocketbooks. When
Carroll took the eight-o'clock train to New York the next morning,
several noticed it and thought it looked well for the payment of the
notes.

"Guess he's goin' to start another cheat," said the milkman, who had
stopped at the saloon opposite Rosenstein's. "I seed him git on the
eight-ten train."

Charlotte had been told by her father that he was going to New York
that morning, and she had risen early and prepared what she
considered a wonderful breakfast for him. She was radiant. Anderson
had called upon her the evening before. She had never been so happy.
Her father seemed in very good spirits, but she wondered why he
looked so badly. It was actually as if he had lost ten pounds since
the night before. He was horribly haggard, but he talked and laughed
in a manner rather unusual for him, as he ate his breakfast.
Charlotte watched jealously that he should do that. When he took his
second badly fried egg, she beamed, and he concealed his physical and
mental nausea.

When they were eating breakfast, much to Charlotte's amazement, the
village express drove into the yard.

"Why, there is the express, papa!" she said.

"Yes, honey," replied Carroll, calmly. "I have a trunk I want to send
to New York."

"Oh, papa, you are not going away?"

"Sending a trunk does not necessarily imply you are going yourself,
honey. I have a trunk to send in connection with some business."

"Oh!" said Charlotte, quite satisfied.

Carroll rose from the table and showed the expressman the way to his
room, and the trunk was brought down and carried away, and Charlotte
asked no more questions and thought no more about it. Carroll walked
to the station. When it was time for him to start, he went to
Charlotte, who was clearing away the breakfast dishes, and held her
in his arms and kissed her.

"Good-bye, papa's blessing," he said, and in spite of himself his
voice broke. The man had reached the limit of his strength.

But Charlotte, who was neither curious nor suspicious, and was,
besides, dazzled by her new happiness, only laughed. "Why, papa, I
should think you were going away to stay a year!" said she.

Carroll laughed too, but his laugh was piteous. He kissed her again.
"Well, good-bye, honey," he said. Just as he was going out of the
door he stopped, and said, as if it were a minor matter which he had
nearly forgotten, "Oh, by-the-way, sweetheart, I want you, at exactly
half-past nine, to go into the den and look in the third volume of
the Dutch Republic, and see what you will find."

Charlotte giggled. "A present!" said she. "I know it is a present,
but what a funny place to put it in, papa, the third volume of the
Dutch Republic."

"At exactly half-past nine," said Carroll. He kissed her again and
went away.

Charlotte stood watching him go out of the yard. It came into her
head that he must have had some very good luck, and had taken this
funny way of making her a present of some money. Of course it could
only be money which was to be hidden in such a place as a book. Poor
Charlotte's imaginations were tainted by the lack of money.

She could hardly imagine a pleasant surprise unconnected with money.
She hurried about her household tasks, and at exactly half-past nine,
for she was obedient as a child, she went into the den and got from
the case the third volume of the Dutch Republic. In it she found an
envelope. She thought that it contained money, but when she opened it
and found a letter, suddenly her heart failed her. She sat down
dizzily on the divan and read the letter. It was very short. It only
told her that her father loved her and loved them all; that he was
writing the others just what he was writing her; that he loved her,
but he was forced to go away and leave her, and not even let her know
where he was nor what he was doing--not for a long time, at least;
but that she was not to worry, and she was to go at once to Mrs.
Anderson, who would take care of her until she was married. Then he
bade God bless her, and said he was her loving father. Charlotte sat
with the letter in her lap, and the room looked dim to her. She heard
the door-bell ring, but she did not seem to realize what it was, not
even when it rang the second and the third time. But the front door
had been left unlocked when Carroll went, and Anderson came in
presently, and his mother was with him. Mrs. Anderson knew nothing
except that Carroll had gone, and nobody was to know where, or why,
but that there was nothing dishonorable about it, and Charlotte was
to come to them. She was quite pale herself when she saw Charlotte
sitting on the divan with the letter in her lap.

"I have a letter from papa," Charlotte said, piteously, in a
trembling voice. Then Anderson had her in his arms and was soothing
and comforting her, and telling her he knew all about it. It was all
right, and she was not to worry.

Mrs. Anderson stood watching them. "Where are your coat and hat,
child?" said she, presently. She, in reality, felt that she was the
proper person to have comforted the girl, under such circumstances,
and not a man who knew nothing about girls, nor how they would feel
when deserted, in a measure, by a father. When they were in the
carriage, she sat on the seat with Charlotte and kept her arm around
her, and looked across almost defiantly at her son.

"It is a terrible strain on the poor little thing, and if we are not
careful she will be down with a fever," she told Randolph, privately,
when they were home.

He laughed. "Take care of her all you want to, mother," he said.

After dinner he went up to the Carroll place. He had his instructions
from Carroll what to do. Some of the creditors were partly satisfied
with the things belonging to the Carrolls; some were taken to the
Anderson house for Charlotte. As for Charlotte herself, she was, in
reality, not so far from the fever which Mrs. Anderson had predicted.
She adored her father. Every day she watched for a letter. At last
Anderson told her as much as he could and not break his word to her
father.

"Your father is perfectly safe, dear," he said, "and he is earning a
great deal of money."

"What is he doing?" asked Charlotte, and her manner showed for the
first time suspicion of her father.

"Something perfectly honest, dear," Anderson replied, simply, "but he
does not want you to know and he does not want the others to know.
You just be contented and brave and make the best of it all."

That was not long before they were married. It had seemed best to
them all that they should not delay long. Mrs. Carroll did not come
to the wedding, because Ina was ill. Anna knew as well as Anderson
what her brother was doing. She had somehow comforted her
sister-in-law without telling her anything, but she did not think it
best to visit Banbridge. She had at times a feeling as if she herself
were doing what her brother was, and the shame and pride together
stung her in the same way. She wrote by every mail to Carroll, and
posted it in another town, and nobody knew. In one of the letters she
told him with an unconcealed glee that his old enemy, the man who had
brought about all this, had had a shock of paralysis.

"He will never speak again," she wrote. "He has become dead while he
is alive. After all, the Lord is just."

Carroll got that letter a few weeks after Charlotte was married. One
Sunday night he made a trip to Banbridge. He was close-shaven; he had
grown very thin; nobody would have recognized him, nobody did
recognize him, although he met several Banbridge people whom he used
to know on the train. It was after dark, but the winter sky was full
of stars, which seemed very near as he took his way up the street
towards the Anderson house. He walked slowly when he approached the
house, and frequently cast a look behind him, as if he were afraid of
being seen. When he reached the house he saw the curtains in the
sitting-room were not drawn, and a warm glow of home seemed to shine
forth into the wintry night. Carroll cautiously went up the steps,
very softly. He went far enough to see the interior of the room, and
he saw Charlotte and her husband sitting there. Mrs. Anderson was
there also. She was reading the Bible, as befitted a Sunday night.
Now and then she looked at Charlotte with a look of the utmost love
and pride. Anderson, who was reading the paper, looked up, and the
watching man saw him, and his eyes and Charlotte's met. The man
watching knew that no anxiety about him seriously troubled her then,
that she was entirely happy, and a feeling of sublime content and
delight that it should be so, and he quite outside of it all, came
over him.

He went softly down the steps and along the street to the station,
where he could get a train back to the City in a few moments. To his
own amazement, he was quite happy, he was even more than happy. A
species of exaltation possessed him. Even the thought of himself,
Arthur Carroll, posing nightly as a buffoon before the City crowds,
did not daunt him. He realized a kind of joyful acquiescence with
even that. He felt a happy patience when he considered the time that
might elapse before he could see his family again. He passed the
butcher's shop, and reflected with delight that he should be able to
meet the note which was due next day. He remembered happily that he
had been able to send Charlotte a little sum of money for her
_trousseau_, and that perhaps a part of it had bought the pretty,
rose-colored dress which she was wearing that night. Still, all this
did not altogether account for the wonderful happiness which seemed
to fill him as with light. He hurried along the street frozen in
ridges like a sea, and he remembered what Anna had written about the
man who had wronged him, and all at once he understood what filled
him with this exaltation of joy, and he understood that underneath
all the petty dishonors of his life had been a worse dishonor which
took hold of his very soul and precipitated all the rest, and that he
was now rid of it. He had no sense of triumph over his enemy, no joy
that the Lord had at last wreaked vengeance upon the man who had
injured him; but he was filled with an exceeding pity, and a sense of
forgiveness which he had never in his life felt before. He had never
forgiven before; now he forgave. He remembered, going along the
streets, the words of The Lord's Prayer, "Forgive my debts as I
forgive my debtors," and his very heart leaped with the knowledge
that forgiveness was due him because of his forgiveness of another,
and that the debt of honor to God and his own soul was paid.

THE END






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