A TAME SURRENDER
A STORY OF THE CHICAGO STRIKE
CAPTAIN CHARLES KING, U.S.A.
AUTHOR OF "THE COLONEL'S DAUGHTER," "MARION'S FAITH," "CAPTAIN BLAKE," "A SOLDIER'S SECRET," "SERGEANT CROESUS," "CAPTAIN CLOSE," ETC.
J.B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY
COPYRIGHT, 1895 AND 1896, BY J.B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY.
PRINTED BY J.B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY, PHILADELPHIA, U.S.A.
In her dainty bathing-dress, Miss Allison's wings were discarded Frontispiece.
"May I trouble you for those despatches, Mr. Elmendorf?" 176
"All that space in there will be needed in five minutes from this time." 207
"Is it potent—only at Christmas?" 277
A TAME SURRENDER.
She had met him the previous summer on the Rhine, and now "if they aren't engaged they might as well be," said her friends, "for he is her shadow wherever she goes." There was something characteristically inaccurate about that statement, for Miss Allison was rather undersized in one way and oversized in another; at least that, too, is what her friends said. She was not more than five feet in height nor less than five feet in breadth "measured from tip to tip of her wings," as her brother said. Miss Allison had wings, not because she was an angel, but because it was the fashion,—wings that sprouted at her fair, plump, shapely shoulders and billowed out like balloons. Her brother Cary, above referred to, a sixteen-year-old specimen of Young American impudence and independence, said further of her, in the spring of '94, that if Floy's sleeves were only inflated with gas she could float on air as easily as she did on water, and on water Miss Allison was buoyancy personified. On water, too, and in her dainty bathing-dress, Miss Allison's wings were discarded and her true proportions more accurately defined. She was anything but slender. She was simply deliciously, exquisitely rounded now; but the question which so disturbed her feminine friends as to call for perennial repetition was, What would she be a few years hence? This, however, was a matter that seemed to give the lady in question no uneasiness whatever. Certainly it resulted in no loss of flesh. Perhaps it might have been better for her future figure if it had. With her perfect health, digestion, and disposition, there was absolutely no way of worrying off a pound or two a week. She was the soul of good nature and content. She had an indulgent father, a luxurious home, abundant wealth, an unimpeachable complexion, character, and social position. She had a swarm of enviously devoted girl friends on the one hand and selfishly devoted male admirers on the other, or on both if she chose. She was absolutely without a mean or unkind thought of anybody. She was full of every generous impulse. She was lazy and energetic by turns, had been a romping idler in her earlier school-days, and had been polished off and finished in an expensive Eastern establishment without finishing anything herself. She had lived an almost unshadowed life, had laughed off a dozen lovers when she went abroad in '93, and had then fallen in with her fate across the water.
There was really no excuse for her falling in love with Mr. Floyd Forrest. An utter dissimilarity to her other admirers, a romantic and somewhat absurd adventure, and, above all, proximity, were what did it. He must have been over ten years her senior; she was barely twenty when they met. He was tall, slender, and strong, with deep burning brown eyes and heavy brows and lashes. She was short and plump and distractingly fair and fresh and blue-eyed,—big melting blue eyes, too, they were. His lips were well-nigh hidden by a heavy moustache; hers were well-nigh faultless in their sweet, warm, rosy curves, faultless as the white, even teeth that gleamed in her merry laughter. He was reserved and taciturn, even gloomy at times, facts which, through no fault or connivance of hers, were presently explained and only served to heighten the interest she had begun to feel in him. She was frankness, almost loquacity itself,—a girl who could no more keep a secret than she could harbor a grudge. He was studious, thoughtful, forever reading. She loved air, sunshine, action, travel, tennis, dancing, music (of the waltz variety), and, beyond her Bible and her Baedeker, read nothing at all, and not too much of them! She was with her aunt and some American friends when first she met him. It was the morning they hove in sight of England, and the steamer was pitching through a head sea. Her party were wretchedly ill; she was aggressively well. She had risen early and gone up to the promenade deck in hopes of getting the first glimpse of Bishop's Rock, and found the spray dashing high over the bows, drenching her accustomed perch on the forward deck and keeping people within-doors.
It was too early for those who had been her beaux and gallants on the swift spring run; a late session in the smoking-room the night before had kept them below. Only one man was visible at the rail under the bridge,—the tall, dark, military-looking American who seemed to divide his time between reading and tramping on the promenade deck, pacing the planks with long, swinging stride and never seeming to care for other society than his own thoughts. He was on deck and keenly enjoying the strong, salt wind and its whistling load of spray; and, clinging to the stanchions at the saloon door, wistfully did Miss Allison regard him, but only as the means to an end. She wanted to get there, and did not see a way without a helping hand, and just here old Neptune seemed to tender it. A huge, foam-crested billow came sweeping straight from the invisible shores of Albion, burst in magnificent deluge upon the port bow, lifted high in air one instant the heaving black mass of the stem, then let it down with stomach-stirring swish deep into the hollow beyond,—deep, deep into the green mountain that followed, careening the laboring steamer far over to starboard, and shooting Miss Allison, as plump and pleasing a projectile as was ever catapulted, straight from the brass-bound door-way, across the slippery deck and into the stranger's welcoming arms. Springing suddenly back from under the bridge to avoid the coming torrent, Mr. Forrest was spun along the rail until nearly opposite the companion-way, and just in the nick of time.
"I think I'd have gone overboard if it hadn't been for you," said Miss Allison, all smiles and salt water, as she clung to the rail a moment later, while Mr. Forrest's steamer-cap, bumped off in the collision, rode helplessly astern on the crest of the hissing wave. "But I couldn't swim like your cap. Do take my Tam," she cried, tearing off her knitted head-gear and letting her soft, fair curls whip out into so many briny strings.
"I'll use this," he shouted, turning up the capote of his ulster, while the cape thrashed furiously in the wind. "Will you pardon my saying you are a trifle venturesome?"
"Oh, I love the ocean and the wind and the sea," she cried, enthusiastically. "Don't you pity people who are too ill or too lazy to get up and see this?" And she stretched forward one white, dimpled, dainty hand over the seething waters. "Dare we get over on the other side?"
"You couldn't stand there," he said, briefly, "and would be drenched if you could. Best stay here."
And stay they did until breakfast, by which time she had told him a great deal about herself and learned next to nothing about him.
"Remember," she said, "you are to give me your address, and I'm to send you a new steamer-cap to replace the one I knocked overboard." And he merely smiled, thanked her, said it was entirely unnecessary, but did not present the expected card at all. "Perhaps he hadn't any," suggested Aunt Lawrence, after they got into sheltered waters off the Start Point. "He doesn't look like a society man. There are so many of these commercial people travelling now."
"Oh, he didn't talk at all like a drummer," said Miss Allison in prompt defence of her new protector. "In fact, I don't think he talked at all."
"Not if you had first innings, Flo," drawled Master Cary, from the shelter of his steamer-rug. "He ain't a drummer, but like's not he's been one. He's an army officer. Hubbard said so." Hubbard was one of the belated admirers.
Whether soldier or not, however, Mr. Forrest did not prosecute the chance acquaintance. He lifted the successor to the shipwrecked cap on passing Miss Allison's party later in the day, but never approached them nearer, never seemed to see the invitation in Miss Allison's shining blue eyes. "Really, Cary," said she, as they neared Southampton, "you must go and get his address and the size of the steamer-cap." But Cary was the type of the traditional younger brother, a spoiled one at that, and Cary wouldn't. It was Mr. Hubbard who went on the mission and came back with the man.
"Pray don't think of getting me a cap," said Mr. Forrest, bowing and smiling rather gravely. "I'd much rather you did not. Indeed, it wouldn't find me, as I make no stay in England at all. I—I wish you a very pleasant sojourn," he finished, somewhat abruptly, and with a comprehensive bow to the party backed away.
But just two months later they ran upon him on the Rhine. The express steamer had picked them up at Bonn and paddled them up the crowded stream to Coblentz, and there at the dock, chatting with two immensely swell Prussian officers, was Mr. Forrest.
"Here's your drummer again, Flo," said Cary, turning disdainfully from the contemplation of the battlements of Ehrenbreitstein. "Just catch on to the cut of those Dutch trousers, will you?" indicating by a nod of his sapient head the tight-fitting, creaseless garments in which were encased the martial lower limbs visible below the long, voluminous skirts of their double-breasted frock-coats. Flo gazed with frank animation in her eyes, but Forrest never saw her until after he had waved adieu to his German friends, standing in statuesque and superb precision at the salute beyond the foaming wake of the Deutscher Kaiser.
"I knew we'd see you again," said Miss Allison, smiling sunshine up into his face, "and I've brought your cap. It's in one of those trunks now," she concluded, indicating the pile of luggage on the deck abaft the wheel. Hubbard and other admirers, who had besieged her on the steamer, were no longer in attendance. In their stead was a well-groomed, sedate, prosperous-looking man referred to as "my father" when Mr. Forrest was presented a moment later, and with him, conversing eagerly and fluently in a high-pitched, querulous voice, was a younger man whose English was as pure as his accent was foreign. "Mr. Elmendorf," said Miss Allison, but she did not explain, as perhaps she might have done, "Cary's tutor." Forrest bowed civilly to both, but looked hard at the latter, and Miss Allison presently went on to explain. "Father joined us nearly a week ago. He couldn't come before. I wish I could have stayed to see the World's Fair, but auntie was so miserable the doctor said she must get away from Chicago at once, and so we had to come. Then Cary's a perfect hoodlum at home,—one scrape after another as fast as he can get in and father can get him out. They sent him with us," she continued, in the flow of her boundless confidences.
"Herr Max is a very highly educated young man, but I don't think he's doing Cary any good."
That night at Mainz there was an episode. Mr. Allison senior, fatigued, had gone to bed as soon as they reached their hotel. Mrs. Lawrence,—"auntie," that is,—Miss Allison, and their maid were billeted in very comfortable rooms under Herr Schnorr's hospitable roof. Elmendorf stepped in to write letters, and Cary sneaked out for a smoke. It was after ten. The shops were closed. Cigarettes had been strictly forbidden, and the boy's small stock of contraband had been discovered and seized that morning at Bonn. Herr Max wrote currente calamo, and as he turned off page after page he lost all thought of his charge. Among Cary's treasured possessions was a calibre 32 Smith & Wesson, and with this pellet-propeller in his hip-pocket the boy fancied himself as dangerous as an anarchist. Twice had it been captured by paterfamilias and twice recovered, the last time at Cologne. Carrying concealed weapons was as much against the law in Cologne as it is in Chicago, and much more of an offence, but nothing had there occurred to impel him to draw it. The boat-landing was not five hundred yards away. There under the arching lights of its beautiful bridge, sparkling with the reflection of myriad stars, silently flowed the Rhine, and there lay the Deutscher Kaiser, with her well-stocked larder and wine-room. Thither went the boy in quest of forbidden fruit. A waiter to whom he had confided his desire had promised to have the cigarettes on hand, and kept his promise. For one small package he demanded a four-mark piece,—a silver coin of about the size and rather more than the value of the American dollar. Cary responded with "What you giving us?" which the Teutonic kellner couldn't understand. The boy proffered a mark, the German equivalent for the American quarter, and sought vainly through the misty memories of his lessons for the German equivalent of "Size me up for a chump?" The waiter had friends and fellow-conspirators, the boy had none, and when a grab was made for his portemonnaie he backed against the stone wall and whipped out his pygmy six-shooter. Miss Allison, looking out from her casement over the moonlit beauty of the scene before her, had recognized her brother's form and later his uplifted voice. She knew there was trouble, and felt that worse would follow unless prompt measures were taken. She was not dressed for promenade, being already in peignoir, slippers, and dishevelled hair; but the sudden sound of a shot and a scream banished her scruples. She darted into the corridor and on towards the head of the stairs just in time to collide once again with her Atlantic protector, but was not received with open arms. Forrest bade her run back to her room while he sped on to the boy. German police are slow, if sure, but the waiter's associates were quick enough. They had scattered before the police could converge, and Forrest was first at the scene. Just as he supposed, the boy had peppered himself.
It was only a flesh-wound, something to scare and distress and confine Young America to his bed for ten days, and so to be bragged about prodigiously later on. But the injury to German institutions, the affront to the majesty of German law, was not so slight. It took some days of consular and diplomatic correspondence and a week of official espionage to satisfy the local authorities that no deep-rooted conspiracy was at the bottom of this discovery of murderous weapons in the hands of the Amerikaner. In the care of the patient and in all the formalities attendant upon the case, Mr. Forrest proved of infinitely more value than the accomplished tutor. The former, an officer reared with deep regard for established law and order, accepted the situation as a fact, the laws as incontrovertible, and considered himself and friends, although involuntarily, as the offenders. The German-American scholar, on the contrary, spent fruitless hours in striving to argue the officials out of their stand and in preaching a crusade against the laws they were sworn to obey. Forrest won their regard and Elmendorf their distrust, if not disgust, and from the moment Forrest reappeared bearing the limp and lamenting Cary in his arms, Miss Allison had chosen to look upon him as in some sense the family's good angel. They were much together for a week about young Cary's bedside, and the boy swore that if he had "a feller like him for a toot" he wouldn't mind trying to obey. Then, when Forrest had to go his way, she found that she missed him as she never before had missed mortal man. It was the first shadow on her life since her mother's death, five years before.
In September, most unexpectedly, they met him again at Geneva. Cary had been feeding the swans in the blue waters about the little isle of J.J. Rousseau, and was figuring how much he'd have to pay in costs and fines if he yielded to his consuming desire to "drop a donick" on the head of one of them that had spit at him, when Flo suddenly gasped, "Oh! there's——" and stopped short. Loungers and passers-by looked up and shrugged their Gallic shoulders and exchanged glances of commiseration at sight of a sixteen-year-old boy rushing yelling after a cab. But the boy was fleet, despite his recent flesh-wound, and presently reappeared, dragging a man by the arm, who bared his brown head and bowed low over a frankly extended hand. He looked a trifle dusty and travel-stained to Cary's critical eye, and the boy meant to comment on the foreign cut of his Norfolk jacket and knickerbockers, provided a chance were afforded him to enter a remark edgewise, but Florence, with glowing cheeks and sparkling eyes, was pouring forth a volume of welcome and explanation all in one. Forrest was on his way to the station en route to Montreux.
"Oh, don't go by rail! Wait and take the boat with us; it's so much lovelier!"
Over at the quay lay moored the Major Davel, and thither Forrest bade the cabman take his luggage. It was indeed lovelier,—the evening voyage up that beautiful Alp-locked lake,—and while auntie, fatigued with her day's shopping and sight-seeing, snoozed placidly in the salon, and Cary, on honor not to smoke cigarettes again until his next birthday, was puffing a Swiss "penny-grab" at the bow, Mr. Forrest and this fair, joyous girl sat and talked while the sun went down over the Jura and turned to purple and gold and crimson the dazzling summits of Mont Blanc and the far-away peaks up the valley of the Rhone. Elmendorf was enjoying a week's leave, Mr. Allison was sampling the waters at Carlsbad, and auntie and Florence had Cary on their hands. The boy adored Forrest by this time. Couldn't Forrest spend a day or two? They would take him to Chillon and up to the Rochers de Naye. There was a view worth seeing! "I can stand on that point up yonder," said Cary, "a mile and a quarter high, and fire a stone down the chimney of the hotel at Territet." And they did take him, for Forrest remained four days. Mr. Elmendorf wrote that, on the advice of his physician, he had asked for a week more to spend in quiet at his home in the shades of his alma mater in a placid old German town. Stopping at Berne a few hours after leaving his friends on Lac Leman, Mr. Forrest found the quaint old capital crowded. A congress of Socialists had been called, and from all over Europe the exponents of the Order were gathered, and almost the first voice to catch his ear as Forrest strolled through the throng in the open platz near the station was high-pitched, querulous, and oddly familiar. Turning sharply the officer came face to face with Mr. Elmendorf, still presumably recuperating in the shades of the university at Jena; and that night Mr. Elmendorf called upon him at his hotel.
"I found myself so much better," said he, "that I decided to push ahead, and, still availing myself of my leave, to stop and see some of these most interesting old Helvetic cities. My coming here to-day was fortuitous, yet possibly unfortunate. Mr. Allison has a deep-rooted prejudice against anything of this kind,—against anything, I may say, that has a tendency to improve the condition of the laboring man,—and, while I have nothing to shrink from in the matter, I prefer not to offend the sensibilities, whether right or wrong, of my employer, and therefore should, on his account, ask that you make no mention, should you write, of having seen me here." And Elmendorf waited a moment.
"I shall not be apt to write," said Forrest, coldly, after a pause.
"Well—in case you—you see any of the family again. If it's all the same to you——"
"I shall not volunteer any information, Mr. Elmendorf; but should I ever be asked the direct question, since you have nothing to shrink from in the matter, there need be, I presume, no hesitancy in my saying that I saw you here."
"Oh, not at all,—not at all," was the answer, though in tone by no means cheery or confident; and Elmendorf departed with the conviction that Forrest did not like him,—which was simply a case of reciprocity.
There was yet another meeting, as unexpected as its predecessors, between the Allisons and Mr. Forrest, and this was of all perhaps the most decisive. Forrest's leave was soon to expire. He was returning from Vienna to Paris, and met Allison senior at Basle. The Bohemian waters, or the rest and regimen, or both combined, had greatly benefited the merchant. His manner was brisk and buoyant, his face shone with health and content. He was cordiality itself to the man whom he had greeted with but cool civility on the Rhine. "I feel ready for anything," said he, "and am going back at once. Cary and Elmendorf go with me, but Flo and her aunt want to stay awhile in Paris. Look them up, will you, if you go there?—Hotel Lafond." Forrest promised. He was going to Metz and Luxembourg on the way, and purposed spending only a few days in the capital. He found the ladies packing and almost ready to start. Once again he crossed the Atlantic in Miss Allison's company, and this time, though there might have been Hubbards and other gallants aboard, she had no use for them. It was Mr. Forrest's figure her eye sought the moment she came on deck, Forrest's arm on which she leaned in the joyous, exhilarating tramps on the breezy promenade. Every woman on board except Aunt Lawrence believed her engaged to him before they were half-way over, and would have sworn to it at Sandy Hook. Anything more blissful, gladsome, confident than her manner at first could hardly be described, but when it presently began to give way to something half shy, half appealing, almost tender,—when long silences and down-drooping lashes replaced the ceaseless prattle and frankly uplifted eyes,—then there was little room for doubt in Aunt Lawrence's mind that Flo had flung herself away.
"Well, I wash my hands of it," said the pious lady. "It was Fate and her father. He deliberately threw them together again after my warning. Now I suppose he'll have to do something for him, for if Flo loves the man she'll marry him if he hasn't a penny beyond his pay,—which he probably hasn't. There ought to be a law against such things."
But never a confession or confidence did Flo have to offer. The ladies spent a week in New York before going West. Mr. Forrest went on about his business. It was when he met them at Chicago and calmly escorted them from their state-room on the Limited to their waiting carriage that Aunt Lawrence felt the time had come for her to speak; and speak she did the moment Mr. Forrest had closed the carriage door, raised his hat, and was left behind.
"Has that young man asked you to marry him, Florence?"
And Florence burst into tears.
From having been a bitter opponent of the possibility, Mrs. Lawrence from this moment veered squarely around. A month agone she would have resented his daring to speak of such a thing. Now she raged at his daring not to. Here they were home again at Chicago with all Florence's friends crowding about and rejoicing in her return, and here, said Aunt Lawrence, was this extraordinary young man detained on some mysterious duty on the staff of the general commanding, working in his office at the Pullman building by day and meeting Flo at dinners, dances, theatres, and operas by night, coming occasionally to the house, welcomed by her brother, the millionaire, with whom the young man often sat now and had long talks about the questions of the hour, welcomed shyly but unmistakably by Florence, adored by Cary, who took to paying long visits to the lieutenant's workshop and meeting those swells his brother officers, and looked upon with distrust only by Elmendorf and herself. Never before had the lady fancied the tutor or shown a disposition to listen to his dissertations, which were long. Now she rejoiced his soul by encouraging him. It was an easy step to discreet confidences with Forrest as the subject. Mr. Elmendorf became a seeker for truth. Other officers whom Florence met in society came to the house to call, and presently to dine. Mr. Elmendorf and his pupil were seldom absent from the table, and Mr. Elmendorf made martial acquaintances which, as a member of the Allison household, he was welcome to cultivate. One day he came in big with news, and that evening, after a long conference with Elmendorf, Mrs. Lawrence decided on another warning talk with her charming niece.
"Florence," she said, finally, "I am the last woman on earth to pry into any one else's affairs" (a conviction with regard to herself which is cherished by almost every woman), "but I have felt it my duty to learn something about Mr. Forrest's past life. I own I did object to him as a possible suitor, but better that than a man insincere in his intentions. What would you say were I to tell you what I have heard recently?"
Miss Allison turned and faced her aunt unflinchingly, "That he was engaged to Miss Hosmer,—now Mrs. Stuyvesant,—that she broke it off, and that he has never cared for any one since? I know all about it, auntie,—mainly from his own lips."
"Then all I've got to say is, you are the most extraordinary persons I ever met,—both of you."
There are many excellent people in this bright world who, like Mrs. Lawrence, are prone to assert that all they've got to say on a given subject is so and so, and then to stultify themselves by proceeding to talk a whole torrent. Mrs. Lawrence said a great deal in the course of this initial interview, and followed it up with a very great deal more. She considered Mr. Forrest's conduct worse than incomprehensible. What business had he to tell a girl his heart was buried in the past and pay her all lover-like attentions in the present? "He hasn't," said Miss Allison, promptly and flatly. "He has simply been kind and friendly. He would have been discourteous, un-American, had he done anything less." It wasn't he who told her he never had cared or would care for any one after Miss Hosmer; Kate Lenox told her that, and so did other girls here. When, then, did Mr. Forrest inform her of his broken engagement? asked Aunt Lawrence. "On the steamer coming home," said Florence. "He couldn't help himself. I met Mrs. Stuyvesant in Washington last winter,—such a lovely woman,—and some one said she was once engaged to an army officer and it was broken off; she found she didn't love him enough to leave her luxurious home to live on the frontier among Indians. I don't know how her name came up, or what prompted me to talk as I did. I was saying that I thought her cruel, heartless, and that she should have considered all that before ever she engaged herself to him; and then he simply put up his hand, saying, 'Do not speak of it, Miss Allison: I was the man.' It fairly took my breath away," said Florence,—which her aunt could hardly believe,—"and I didn't know what to say; and then he went on quietly to speak of her in the most beautiful way, and assured me there were other and graver reasons which led to her decision, some of which, at least, he could not gainsay, and Mr. Stuyvesant's wealth and social position had very little to do with the fact of her finally marrying him, as she did, and not until several years after the engagement was broken."
Indeed, Miss Allison waxed tearfully eloquent in defence of Mr. Forrest, whom she declared high-minded and honorable and manly. He wasn't in love with her, nor she with him,—not a bit; but she honored him and respected him and liked him better than any man she knew, and papa thought him such a superior man, and Cary was devoted to him, and he had been of infinite service to them abroad, and was welcome now and should be welcome any time—any time—to their doors, and if Aunt Lawrence or anybody spoke ill of him to her she'd defend him to the bitter end, and as for hinting or insinuating that he was trifling with her, it was simply outrageous—outrageous, and if Aunt Lawrence dared to let him suppose it was his duty to propose to her now she'd never forgive her,—never. And so Aunt Lawrence discovered that her blithe, merry, joyous niece of the years gone by had developed a fine temper of her own and a capacity for independent thought and action that was simply appalling.
Florence went dancing down into the parlor with flushed cheeks and briny, indignant eyes and the mien of an offended five-foot goddess, leaving Aunt Lawrence to the contemplation of the field of her disastrous defeat and the card of the unworthy object of their discussion:
"What on earth brings him here at this time of day?" quoth she, irate and ruffled. "For a man who is neither lover nor fiance, he assumes the airs and, for aught I know, the rights of both. The girl is as ill-balanced as her mother." And not all women, it must be owned, think too well of an only brother's wife. "The manners of these army men are simply uncouth. Who ever heard of calls at ten A.M.?"
It was but a few minutes before Miss Allison returned. In fact, she did not return to the scene of the late struggle,—a lovely boudoir overlooking the flashing blue waters of the lake from high over the intervening boulevard. Miss Allison went direct to her own rooms on the opposite side of the broad hall-way, and not until evening was Mrs. Lawrence favored with explanation.
"Why are you not dressed?" she somewhat caustically inquired, as her niece came down arrayed for dinner.
For answer Miss Allison contemplated her pretty white arms, and took a backward and downward glance at the fall of the trailing skirt of heavy silk, then—must it be recorded?—she calmly asked, "What's the matter with this?"
"This," said Aunt Lawrence, with marked emphasis, "may do for home dinners, but won't for an opera-party. Here it is seven. You can't change your dress before eight, and you simply can't go to the Langdons' box in that."
"I'm not going to the Langdons' box."
"You were, and Mr. Forrest was to dine here and take you."
"Mr. Forrest left for the West on sudden orders at noon, and came at ten to tell me."
Mrs. Lawrence's hands and eyes went up in mad dismay. "You don't mean to tell me you've given up going because that man's ordered off? Child, child, you are simply bent on ruining yourself socially. I don't wonder people say you're daft about him."
"Who says I'm daft about him?" queried Miss Allison, flushing instantly, but looking dangerous.
"Well, not just that, perhaps," returned Mrs. Lawrence. "But that's what they will say now. Surely Mrs. Langdon could ask somebody in his place who could have escorted you,—or else I could."
"Mrs. Langdon did invite somebody else,—two somebody elses, in fact, as my letter urged her to do. Fanny Tracy was wild to go, and Captain Farwell wild to take her. I did a charitable thing in suggesting them."
"Then the result of that piece of charity will be that all Chicago will say you are so much in love with that man you couldn't go 'Faust' when he went away."
"Chicago has too many other things to think of, and—— Where's papa?" said Miss Allison, turning abruptly from her aunt and moving with quick, impetuous step towards the heavy portiere that hung between the parlor and Mr. Allison's library. But she stopped short at the threshold, for there, just within the rich folds of the hanging barrier, apparently searching for some particular book among the shelves nearest the parlor and farthest from the library lights, and humming musically to himself as he did so, was Cary's tutor.
"I did not know you were here, Mr. Elmendorf," said Miss Allison, coldly. "I supposed you were in the study with my brother."
"I was until a moment ago. We needed a book, and I came down for it."
Mr. Allison's easy-chair and reading-lamp with the evening papers were all arranged as usual, awaiting, at the other end of the room, the coming of the master of the house. It was his custom to read there some hours each evening, and the library was the one room in which he reigned supreme. His books, papers, desks, and tables were sacred to his use, and might not at any time be disturbed by other hands. Even Mrs. Lawrence, who had her own books in her own little snuggery up-stairs, rarely ventured to touch her brother's library shelves. As for Florence, she never cared to. It was well known that Mr. Elmendorf had more than once been sharply rebuked for having helped himself without first seeking the owner's permission. Yet here he was again. The odd thing about it was that this end of the library was dark. The books on these shelves were huge folios, the size of some Brobdingnagian atlas, any one of which required all Mr. Elmendorf's strength to lift from its place. Miss Allison was not over-shrewd. She was frankness, guilelessness itself. She rarely saw through the meanness of man or the duplicity of woman. This, however, was not the first, but the second or third time that Mr. Elmendorf had been revealed behind those curtains when she was in conversation in the parlor, and it dawned upon her at last that Cary's tutor was as good a listener as talker, and there were times when Mr. Elmendorf was fluency itself. He was a shrewd fellow, too, and he read his sentence in her face.
"Miss Allison," said he, quitting his search and stepping boldly forward, "it would be idle in me to disguise, that I have unwittingly heard a portion of the conversation between your aunt and yourself; and, as your brother's friend and tutor, your father's trusted adviser in many a way, both professional and personal,—indeed, if I may say so without offence, as one who would gladly be your friend,—I feel bound to support Mrs. Lawrence in the view she takes of this—pardon me—unfortunate matter."
"Mr. Elmendorf!" interrupted Miss Allison, with eyes and cheeks aflame.
"Bear with me one moment," persisted Mr. Elmendorf, with deprecatory gesture. "I am aware that I have not possessed your friendship in the past; indeed, I may say I have been conscious of a distinctly hostile influence; but my devotion to your father and your brother and the interests of the family and all that may affect its good name make it mandatory upon me to speak. I appeal to Mrs. Lawrence to support me in my assertion that I am prompted only by the worthiest motives in thus apparently intrusively, officiously if you will, claiming your attention." Mrs. Lawrence bowed grave assent. She had many a time expressed her disapprobation of Mr. Elmendorf's propensity to interfere in domestic matters wherein he had no concern, but here was a case where unlooked-for support was accorded her side of an unfinished argument. Mrs. Lawrence considered all comment of Mr. Elmendorf on her affairs as utterly unwarrantable, but poor Flo really laid herself open to criticism.
It was Miss Allison who brought matters to a climax. "I refuse to listen," said she, with something very like a stamp of her plump little foot. "Mr. Elmendorf forgets himself entirely when he attempts to—to criticise my conduct."
"Pardon me, Miss Allison, it is not your conduct, it is, on the contrary, Mr. Forrest's, that I consider deserving criticism,—more than criticism. It is of him, not of yourself, that I feel it my duty to speak. I should be disloyal to my employer, to my friends, to my own sense of honor and propriety, were I to keep silence. I know whereof I speak when I say that he is unfit to step within these doors, to presume to address you even as an acquaintance; and if you will but listen——"
"But I won't listen. I forbid your ever daring to speak to me in any such way or on any such subject again." And, so saying, Miss Allison swept angrily from the room.
Elmendorf shrugged his shoulders. "You see," he said, in the high-pitched, querulous tone that so closely resembled a whine, "you see the hopelessness of arguing with a woman in love. I have only succeeded in making another enemy, and my position here will become all the more embarrassing."
"In so far as I can uphold you, Mr. Elmendorf," said Mrs. Lawrence, promptly, "you may count upon me. Flo is stubborn and hot-headed. She looks upon Mr. Forrest as a hero, whereas he is really a detriment to her social future. I rejoice in his being ordered West, and hope the duty will keep him a long time away from Chicago."
"Ah! did he say he was ordered away on any special duty?" asked Mr. Elmendorf.
"I certainly so understood Florence."
Mr. Elmendorf elevated his eyebrows and shrugged his shoulders anew. "That is very unlike the story that was told me at head-quarters," said he, significantly.
"What was that?" asked Mrs. Lawrence, with prompt and pardonable curiosity.
"That he was ordered away—under a cloud—in order to put an end to probable scandal."
"Gambling?" asked Mrs. Lawrence, whose own first-born left college prematurely because of fatal propensities in that line.
"W-e-l-l," answered Elmendorf, pursing up his lips, "I won't say there may not have been something of that kind, but the main trouble is more serious. I speak from excellent authority in saying that the general gave him just sixteen hours in which to pack and start, fixing the noon train to-day as the limit,—very probably to prevent his seeing the—er—woman in the case again."
Miss Allison declined to come down to dinner that night, and Mrs. Lawrence had no power to compel her attendance. What she hoped was that when Mr. Allison came in he would send his mandate; but Mr. Allison did not come. Instead there was a messenger from the club. Mr. Allison was unexpectedly detained by an important meeting of a board of directors, and might not be home until late. The butler made the announcement with his usual impassive face, and Mrs. Lawrence directed dinner served without further delay. When told to summon Master Cary, a servant presently returned with the information that that young gentleman had stepped out. "Slipped out," muttered Elmendorf between his teeth, for no sooner did Cary discover that "dad" was not to be home than he tobogganed down the baluster rail and shot forth into the surrounding darkness, and was blocks away among cronies of his own before his absence was discovered. "My brother is far too lax in his discipline with Cary," said Mrs. Lawrence, in that profound disapprobation which most people have of other people's methods, especially when their own system, or lack of it, has proved conspicuous failure.
"Mr. Allison," said Elmendorf, diplomatically, "is somewhat wedded to his theory, but that may not stand the test of practice. I had flattered myself that the few months of my tuition were beginning to bear good fruit, and that Cary was steadying, so to speak; but ever since the boy began to get this West Point idea into his head I have found him becoming more and more difficult to guide and control. Indeed, while I do not wish to be considered as complaining, I feel bound to say, since you have done me the honor to open the subject, that the influence of Mr. Forrest upon both your nephew and your brother has been detrimental to my usefulness in this household, so much so, in fact, as to prove at times a serious embarrassment."
Now, Mrs. Lawrence had by no means "opened the subject," as intimated by Mr. Elmendorf, but he was adroit in the manipulation of language. He noted unerringly the cloud of dissent in her face, and knew it would find verbal expression provided opportunity were afforded. To head off disclaimer, therefore, he resorted to the time-honored feminine expedient of talking down the other side and giving it no chance to be heard,—an easy matter with him, for when Elmendorf got to talking there was no telling when he would stop or what he might say. He was a man who loved talk for talk's sake, who had an almost maternal fondness for the sound of his own voice, and who petted and cajoled and patted and moulded his phrases and sentences as an indulgent mother might humor a child or a school-girl dress and adorn a doll. Before he had been two months an inmate of the household, old Allison had come to wish he had not begun by prescribing that Cary and his tutor should regularly appear at the family table. Once established there, Elmendorf speedily became dominant. If friends of Miss Allison dropped in to luncheon and the chat was of social matters or other girls, if Allison brought home fellow-magnates to take pot-luck at his hospitable board, if Mrs. Lawrence and her especial cronies discoursed on that never-ending problem, the servants, if Forrest and his army friends came informally, no matter what the subject or who the speakers, Elmendorf speedily "chipped in," as Cary expressed it, and once in could not be driven out. His pet theme was the wrongs of the wage-workers, his pet theory the doctrine of incessant change. His watchword seemed to be "Whatever is is wrong," for against the existing order of things in state, society, or home he was ever ready to wage determined war. Armed with propensities such as these, a profound conviction of his own sense and sagacity and consummate distrust in those of everybody else, it is easy to see that once encouraged to break the ice and join in the current of conversation he could not readily be eliminated. A man of good education was Elmendorf, and during the European trip he had not been so much in the way, but once home again, more and more as the winter wore on did the head of the household find himself wishing he had never set eyes on the man. He heard of him presently as addressing socialistic meetings and appearing prominently at the sessions of the labor unions. Then in the columns of papers of marked anarchistic tendencies, that had been under the ban ever since the riots of '86, long articles began to appear over his initials, and both in his speeches and in his contributions Elmendorf was emphatic in his condemnation of capital, and in his demands that labor should unite, unite everywhere, and by concerted and persistent effort wring from the congested coffers of capital—Elmendorf loved alliteration—a large share of its hoarded wealth. The hands that wrought the fabric, said he, should share and share alike in every profit. The man who riveted the bolt or swung the hammer deserved equal wage with him whose brain evolved the plan, or whose fortune built the mammoth plant and purchased the costly machinery.
"What I employed him for," said Allison, "was to prepare Cary for college, and to keep him out of mischief; but the boy's running wilder than before. Elmendorf's welcome to his theories, but not to the time they take from the education of my son." It presently transpired that many an evening when they were supposed to be in the study or at the library or the theatre, Elmendorf was off at some meeting of the laboring men, largely attended by loafers who labored not at all, and no one knew just where Cary had gone unless he chose to tell. Elmendorf had long since offended Miss Allison and her friends by intrusion in their talk; he had offended Mrs. Lawrence by comment and criticism on household affairs that were none of his business; he had annoyed Allison by persistence in taking part in the discussion when his business or professional friends happened in. He had time and again thrown down the gauntlet, so to speak, when Forrest or his comrades were present, and challenged the army men to debate as to whether there was the faintest excuse for the existence of even so small a force as ours in a land so great and free; but Forrest coolly—even courteously—refused to be drawn into controversy, and, though treating the tutor with scrupulous politeness, insisted on holding him at a distance. Naturally, therefore, Elmendorf hated the lieutenant and all who trained with him. None the less did he continue making frequent visits to the officers at head-quarters, and there the officers who met him on equal footing at Mr. Allison's table could not snub him. They grew suspicious of him, however, especially after reading his speeches, etc., which as the spring came on grew more and more significant, and so they shut up like so many clams on all professional topics whenever Elmendorf appeared.
For it was well known in the great community that "the regulars" were keeping close watch on the changing phases of what the papers termed "the situation." Twice or thrice before in the history of the city had its mobs overpowered the municipal authority and defied that of the State. Right or wrong, the majority among the prominent citizens believed that in greater force and fury than ever before the turbulent element among the people, taking advantage of some convenient strike, would break bounds once more, and nothing short of disciplined military force would down them. The State troops, vastly improved by the experiences of the past, had won their way to increased confidence and respect, but all the same people took comfort in the thought that only an hour's railway ride away there was posted a compact little body of regulars, and, despite the jealousy aroused in the heart of a free people through the existence of a standing army, it is marvellous to see how much comfort its proximity brings to law-abiding men.
Now, one of Elmendorf's theories, and one upon which he descanted by the hour, was that in the very nature of things it was impossible for people well to do in the world to sympathize with or understand the needs of those who were not so favored. Divine writ, said he, was with him. Just as impossible as for a camel to pass through the needle's eye or for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven was it that the wealthy could feel for the poor. Opulence and indigence were no more sympathetic than oil and vinegar. The poor must ever have a champion, a savior, a mediator, or they are ground beneath a relentless heel. It was Elmendorf's belief that no manufacturer, employer, landlord, capitalist, or manager could by any possible chance deal justly with the employed. It was a conviction equally profound that manifest destiny had chosen him to be the modern Moses who was to lead his millions out of the house of bondage. It was astonishing that with purpose so high and aim so lofty he could find time and inclination to meddle with matters so far beneath him; but the trouble with Elmendorf was that he was a born meddler, and, no matter what the occasion, from a national convention to a servants' squabble, he was ever eager to serve as adviser or arbitrator. It was his proclivities in this line that brought on the first clash with Mrs. Lawrence, for in a difference between the lady of the house and the belle of the kitchen, which was, as usual, none of his affair, Elmendorf took sides with the cook. In the light of his conduct on this occasion, Mrs. Lawrence declared him a pest, and she only recanted when thus unexpectedly he arrayed himself under her own banner against her recreant niece.
And so this evening they sat alone in the stately dining-room, and Elmendorf found in Mrs. Lawrence an eager and even sympathetic listener, for just so soon as the services of the butler could be dispensed with the tutor opened fire on Forrest and his alleged iniquities, and from this as entering wedge he found it easy to favor the aunt with his views as to what should be done towards reclaiming the niece, so lamentably and notoriously infatuated.
Mrs. Lawrence winced. It is all very well for a woman to say such things herself in the heat of argument and to the object of her wrath, but quite another matter to hear them applied by somebody else, and that somebody a dependent, so to speak, in the household. Mrs. Lawrence, it may be remembered, was indignant at Forrest first because she thought he meant to offer himself to Florence, and then because she thought he didn't. She did not want Florence to marry him, but still less did she want that he should not want her. That was unbearable. She upbraided Florence for seeing so much of Forrest, because it made people think her in love with him, and she raged at the people who dared to think as she said they did. Mrs. Lawrence, therefore, may with safety be set down as somewhat inconsistent.
"I do not think my niece is at all infatuated with Mr. Forrest, Mr. Elmendorf," said she, somewhat severely. "She admires him greatly, and there happens to be no one else to occupy her thoughts just now. I beg you, therefore, to dismiss that idea at once and for all time."
"I should be glad to do so, Mrs. Lawrence," replied the tutor, with much gravity, "and could do so, perhaps, were it not that you yourself gave me, in the conversation I was so unfortunate as accidentally to overhear, the confirmation. Would it not be better now, instead of working at cross-purposes in this matter, if you were to trust me more fully and enable me to act in harmony with your plans and wishes? I shrink from intruding unasked, but, believe me, I too have heard such talk as convinces me that it is high time Miss Allison's friends took counsel together to protect her good name."
Indignant, as most women would be, at being reminded of her own responsibility for a false impression, Mrs. Lawrence could have found it easy to put an end to the conference then and there, but for Elmendorf's adroit reference to "other talk." That piqued her curiosity and held her.
"What talk? Where?" she asked.
"I do not like to mention names, Mrs. Lawrence. My acquaintance among the officials at head-quarters has become extensive, and much is said in confidence to me that perhaps wouldn't be heard in their chat with others. Indeed, I may say that some among the more thoughtful and broad-minded of their number—there are a few such—have sought my views upon important questions of the day and have favored me with their opinions."
"And do you mean that Florence has been discussed there, among all those men,—those officers?" interrupted Mrs. Lawrence, with justifiable wrath.
Elmendorf shrugged his shoulders. "Of course I ought not to betray my hosts or give away their secrets, but do you suppose that there, any more than among the loungers of the clubs, a woman's name is never discussed?"
"I thought they prided themselves on being gentlemen," said Mrs. Lawrence, wrathfully; "and gentlemen would never permit it."
"Ah, my dear madam, there's the trouble. A man is not necessarily a gentleman because wealth and social position impel him to membership in one of these forcing-houses of luxurious iniquity we call clubs, or because four years in a West-Point monkey-jacket win him a commission as a genteel loafer. A woman's name is held far less in reverence among them than it is among the humblest of our masses. Oh, yes, I anticipate your question," said he, at this juncture, with deprecatory gesture and faint, significant smile. "True, I am not personally a member of any of those clubs, nor do I wish to be, but I know men and mingle with them elsewhere,—everywhere else, in fact. The roof of the club-house cloaks their misdeeds, and worse things are said and done beneath it than outside. As for officers, the only reason why there is apt to be a stronger percentage of common decency among them is that they are chosen from the masses of the people and sent to the Point simply to be moulded, not reformed. Mr. Forrest is an example of the so-called blue-blooded stock. His people are 'swells,' so to speak,—people whose heads are held very high and their morals correspondingly low,—people who think it condescension on their part to notice wage-workers except as menials. Hence I am in no wise surprised to hear of him as I do, even among those who are—well, of his own cloth."
"Surely, Mr. Elmendorf, the officers who have so often dined here do not entertain ill opinions of Mr. Forrest. Such men as Colonel Kenyon, Captain Waring, Major Cranston,—they have known him long and well, and they speak of him, to us at least, most highly."
Again the significant shrug of Elmendorf's shoulders and the sneer in his tone. "Oh, certainly," said he. "Noblesse oblige, or honor among thieves, whichever maxim you choose. I doubt not that in his younger days each of the eminently respectable trio you mention was no more a model of morality than is Mr. Forrest. I have, indeed, heard as much of Captain Waring; but one has only once to penetrate beyond the veil of that professional reserve which they assume, and the details of one another's lives are not such guarded secrets, after all."
"And you really mean that from them—among them you have learned these—these——"
"These particulars of Mr. Forrest's sudden orders to leave the city?" said Elmendorf, dryly, with another shrug. "From where else? Even to the name and station of the lady in the case."
Not half a mile away from the Allisons' costly residence was the home of Major Cranston, an officer of some thirty years' experience in the cavalry. It was an unpretentious, old-fashioned frame house, that had escaped the deluge of fire that swept the city in '71, and that looked oddly out of place now in the midst of towering apartment blocks or handsome edifices of brick and stone. But Cranston loved the old place, and preferred to keep it intact and as left to him at the death of his father until such time as he should retire from active service. Then he might see fit to rebuild. The property was now of infinitely more value than the house. "You could move that old barrack out to the suburbs, cut down them trees, and cut up the place into buildin'-lots and sell any one of them for enough to build a dozen better houses," said a neighbor who had prospered, as had the Cranstons, by holding on to the paternal estate. But Cranston smilingly said he preferred not to cut up or cut down. "Them" trees and he had grown up together. They were saplings when he was a boy, and had grown to sturdy oakhood when his own youngsters, plains-bred little cavaliers, used to gather their Chicago friends about them under the whispering leaves and thrill their juvenile souls with stirring tales of their doings "out in the Indian county." Louis Cranston was believed to have participated with his father's troop in many a pitched battle with the savage foe before his tenth birthday, and "Patchie," the younger, was known to be so called not because of his mother's having sprung from the distinguished family in which George Patchen was a patron saint, but because he had been born in the Arizona mountains and rocked in a Tonto cradle. Those two boys were now stalwart men, cattle-growers in the Far West, whose principal interest in Chicago was as a market for their branded steers. They had their own vines and fig-trees, their own wives and olive-branches, and after the death of the venerable grandparents the homestead on the shores of Lake Michigan was for some years untenanted.
But therein were stored the old furniture and the old books and pictures, all carefully guarded by one of Cranston's veteran sergeants, who, disabled by wounds and infirmities, was glad to accept his commander's offer to give to him and his a home and suitable pension in return for scrupulous care of the old place. At long intervals the master had come in on leave, and the neighbors always knew when to expect him, for the snow-shovel or the lawn-mower, holly wreaths or honeysuckles, seemed to pervade the premises, and old McGrath's neatest uniform was hung out to sun and air on the back piazza. Mac was a bibulous veteran at times, a circumstance of which place-hunters were not slow to take advantage on those rare occasions of the owner's home-coming, and many a time did the major receive confidential intimation from the Sheehans, Morriseys, and Meiswinkles in service in the neighborhood that McGrath was neglectful of his patron's premises and over-given to the flowing bowl; but in Mrs. McGrath's stanch protectorate, as in McGrath's own fidelity, Cranston had easy confidence. Twenty years of close communion all over the frontier give fair inkling as to one's characteristics, and Cranston had known Mac and his helpmeet even longer. "Dhrink, yer honor? Faith an' I do, as regularly as iver I drunk the captain's health and prosperity in the ould regiment; and I'd perhaps be doin' it too often, out of excessive ghratitude, but for Molly yonder. She convinces me wid me own crutch, sorr." And Molly confirmed the statement: "I let him have no more than is good for him, major, barrin' Patrick's Day and the First of April, that's Five Forks,—when he always dhrinks as many fingers at a time. Then he's in arrest till Appomattox, nine days close,—and then I let him out for a bit again. Never fear, major, I'm the dishbursin' officer of the family, an' the grocer has his orders." Mac had his other anniversaries, be it understood, on all of which occasions he repaired to Donnelly's Shades on a famous thoroughfare two blocks west of the Cranstons' back gate, and entertained all comers with tales of dragoon days that began in the 50's and spread all over the century. Shrewd historians of the neighborhood made it a point to look up the dates of Brandy Station and Beverly Ford, of Aldie, Winchester, and Waynesboro', of Yellow Tavern and Five Forks, as well as to keep tab on subsequent events of which history makes no mention, but which troopers know well, for Summit Springs, Superstition Mountain, Sunset Pass, and Slim Buttes—a daring succession of sibilant tongue-tacklers—were names of Indian actions from Dakota to the Gila the old soldier loved to dwell upon, even if Donnelly's whiskey had not put clogs on his tongue. Two things was Mac always sure of at the Shades,—good listeners and bad liquor; but the trooper who has tasted every tipple, from "pine-top" to mescal, will forgive the latter if sure of the former. Donnelly had his "ordhers," as Mrs. Mac said. The sergeant was to be accorded all respect and credit, and a hack to fetch him home when his legs got as twisted as his tongue: Mrs. McGrath would be around within forty-eight hours to audit and pay the accounts. Donnelly sought to swindle the shrewd old laundress at the start, and thereby lost Mac's valuable custom for six long and anniversary-laden months. Then he came to terms, and didn't try it again for nearly two years, which was remarkable in a saloon-man. This time Donnelly was forgiven only upon restitution of the amount involved and the presentation to Mrs. McGrath of a very ornate brooch in emeralds and brilliants—or something imitative thereof—representing the harp of Erin. From this time on things had gone smoothly.
A wonderful woman was Mrs. Mac, as her husband never failed to admit. She had slaved and saved for him in a score of garrisons. They had their little hoard carefully invested. They hired a young relative and countryman to do the hard work about the premises, and they guarded every item of the major's property with a fidelity and care that knew no lapse, for Mrs. Mac was never so scrupulous as when her lord was in his cups. "No," said Cranston, when a neighbor once asked him if he wasn't afraid of serious losses through Mac's occasional inebriety. "The more he drinks the stricter her vigilance, and she's the smarter of the two."
But there came a time when the major found it necessary to caution Mrs. Mac, and that was when it was brought to his ears that McGrath's nephew, the young Irish helper above referred to, was a frequent attendant at certain turbulent meetings held over on the west side, where he had been seen drunk on two occasions. "It's one thing to allow an old soldier like Mac his occasional indulgence," said Cranston; "he was started that way, and he never becomes riotous or ugly; but there is no excuse for the boy. Those meetings alleged to be held in the interests of the workingmen are attended mainly by tramps and loafers, fellows who couldn't be hired to do a day's honest work, and are addressed by professional demagogues who have no end but mischief in view. You saw what resulted here when you first came in, seven years ago. I don't want to hurt Mac's feelings by saying he's a bad example to his nephew, and I don't want to let him know where the boy has been spending his evenings. He'd break every bone in the youngster's skin if he thought he was consorting with anarchists and rioters; and I tell you because you couldn't have heard of it or you yourself would have taken the boy in hand."
"Taken him in hand, sorr? I'd 'a' broke the snow-shovel over the scandalous back av him if I'd heerd a worrd av it. He's aff to-day sparkin' the girls in the block beyant, but I'll wait for him to-night. Thank ye, sorr, for not tellin' Mac. It's his own poor sister's boy, an' like his own that was tuk from us at Apache, but Mac would kill him before he'd have him trainin' wid them Dutchmen and daygoes." (Mrs. McGrath did not share Mulvany's views that "There are Oirish and Oirish." Even Phoenix Park had failed to shake her view that anarchy and assassination belonged only to "foreigners." No Irishman, said she, was in the bloody bomb business of '86; and as for Dr. Cronin, that was a family matther entirely.) "But if Tim's been goin' to meetin' wid the like av them, he's been misguided by them as knows betther. Savin' your presence, major, what would the gentleman be doin' wid him that was here last week?"
Cranston looked at his housekeeper in surprise. "The gentleman who came to look over my books?—Mr. Elmendorf?"
"The same, sorr. He came three times while the major was away, and Tim was forever sayin' what a fine, smart man he was for a foreigner, and how he was for helpin' the poor man."
Cranston gave vent to a long whistle of surprise and sudden enlightenment. "When was Mr. Elmendorf last there?" he presently inquired.
"All last week, sorr; three times at least I let him into the library as usual, but he only stayed there awhile. He was talkin' outside wid Tim an hour."
The major turned away in deep thought. Only two months before, ordered from the Far West to take station at the new post near the city, he had met Elmendorf when dining at the Allisons'. The next morning he found him at head-quarters, chatting affably with the aides-de-camp, and later he encountered him at Brentano's. Just how it came about Cranston could not now remember, but he had invited Elmendorf to step in and look over some old books of his father's, and as the tutor became enthusiastic he was bidden to come again. Out at the post the major established his modest soldier home, much missing the companionship of his devoted wife, who was in Europe at the time with their only daughter. Every week, perhaps, he would run in for half a day to look over his possessions, but meantime he had given Elmendorf authority to make a complete catalogue of the books, as well as to make himself at home in the library, a room which Mrs. McGrath kept in apple-pie order. But the fame of Elmendorf had spread from the city to the garrison, and Cranston had already begun to wish he had been less impulsive in his invitation, when Mrs. Mac told him of the missionary work being done among his retainers by this stranger within his gates. The question now was, what action could be justifiably taken?
Entering the old dimly-lighted study, long sacred to his father's use and now sacred to his memory, the major found on every hand evidences that Elmendorf had indeed been at work. Out from their accustomed places on the shelves the books had been dragged, and were now stacked up about the room in perplexing disarray. Some lay open upon the table, others on the desk near the north window, his father's favorite seat, and here some of the rarest of the collection were now piled ten and fifteen deep. On the table in loose sheets were some pencilled memoranda on names, authors, and dates of publication. On the desk were several pads or blocks of the paper much used by writers for the press, and, face upward, among them, held by an old-fashioned glass paper-weight, were a dozen leaves closely pencilled in Elmendorf's bold hand. Cranston raised the weight, expecting to find some more memoranda concerning his precious books, but was not entirely surprised to read, in glaring head-lines, "The Wage-Worker's Weapon," followed by some vehement lines denunciatory of capital, monopoly, "pampered palates in palatial homes, boodle-burdened, beer-bloated legislators," etc., the sort of alliterative and inflammatory composition which, distributed in the columns of the papers of the Alarm and Arbeiter Zeitung stamp, was read aloud over the evening pipes and beer to knots of applauding men, mostly tramps and idlers, in a thousand groggeries throughout the bustling city. Cranston lifted the file from the desk as though to read beyond the first sheet, but on second thought replaced it. Something about the "threatening bayonets of Federal hirelings" at the foot of the first page promised lively developments farther on, and recalled vividly the editorials in similar strain that had been brought to the attention of the officials at head-quarters, more than one of whom had expressed the belief that they could spot the author on sight. Cranston turned from it in some disgust, and resumed the contemplation of the work already done. All he expected—all he had stipulated for—was a catalogue of the books,—something he himself had not had time to make, and a "job" which, to a man of scholarly tastes and education upon whose hands time was apparently hanging heavily and that equivalent of time, money, hanging not at all, would prove agreeable and acceptable. Cranston's father loved those books, and had grouped them on his shelves according to their subjects, history, art, science, the drama, the classics, standard fiction, and modern literature having received each its allotted space, and not for a heavy reward would the son have changed them; but here already were more than half these prized possessions tumbled promiscuously all over the room, and the soldier could have sworn in hearty trooper fashion over the disarray, but for the silent presence of his mother's portrait above the mantel facing the father's desk. He had heard only recently of the tutor's avowed proclivities for tearing down and stirring up the existing order of things, and here was conclusive evidence that the gifted Elmendorf proposed the complete rebuilding on his own lines of the fabric that was the revered father's happiest work, even while incidentally devoting some hours each day to stirring up a similar overturning in society. That Elmendorf was not destitute of practical business views, however, may be made apparent from the fact that when Cranston had intimated a desire to have him name the sum he would consider a fair compensation for the work, intending then to add a liberal percentage to the estimate, the scholar replied that it would have to depend upon the number of days and hours it took from other avocations, and it was now evident that a long engagement was in contemplation.
Closing the door after him and bidding Mrs. McGrath allow no one to enter the study until his return unless Mr. Elmendorf should come in, Major Cranston went in search of him. It was barely noon, up to which hour he was supposed to be closeted with his pupil at the Allisons' home. Then after a light luncheon it was his wont to sally forth on a tramp, Cary starting, but rarely returning, with him. When Cranston was at head-quarters a fortnight previous, the officers were speaking of the almost daily appearance about two o'clock of Mr. Elmendorf, who was possessed with a desire to get into the general's office and impress that magnate with his views concerning the impending crisis. The general, however, being forearmed, was always too busy to accord the interview, one experience having proved more than enough. Everybody was beginning to give Elmendorf the cold shoulder there, and by this time, reasoned Cranston, he must have had sense enough to discontinue his visits. Here, however, he underrated Elmendorf's devotion to his principles, for such was the tutor's conviction of their absolute wisdom and such his sense of duty to humanity that he was ready to encounter any snub rather than be balked in his determination to right the existing wrongs. Cranston did not want to go to the Allisons' and ask for Elmendorf. He had that to say which could not be altogether pleasant and was altogether personal, and he had no right to carry possible discord into a fellow-citizen's home. The Lambert Library, a noble bequest, stood within easy range of Allison's house and his own, a sort of neutral ground, and from there did Cranston despatch a special messenger with a note.
"Will Mr. Elmendorf kindly drop in at the Lambert Library when he has finished luncheon? I have to take the three P.M. train back to Sheridan, and desire five minutes' conversation relative to affairs at the study as I found them this morning," was all the major wrote, but it was nearly half-past one before that boy returned with the answer. There was no telephone at the Allisons', for the millionaire had long since ordered it out, finding his home peace broken up by incessant summonses from all manner of people. Cranston waited impatiently, and meant to upbraid the boy. "It wasn't my fault, sir: the gentleman was at lunch and wouldn't write until he had finished," was the explanation. Cranston tore open the unexpected reply:
"Mr. Elmendorf deeply regrets that an important engagement in a distant quarter of the city will render it impossible to meet Major Cranston as proposed. If the major will kindly write his suggestions they will receive all consideration and prompt acknowledgment."
"And it had taken Elmendorf," said Cranston, wrathfully, "at least three-quarters of an hour to concoct that palpable dodge."
The railway station was a mile away, and he had several matters to attend to. It was one of his weaknesses that when he had a thing to say and meant to say it, delay was a torment. The librarian was a man whom he knew well. "Mr. Wells, I've got to write quite a letter and do it quick," said he, entering the office. "Can I impose upon your good nature here?"
"Why, certainly, major. Miss Wallen will type it for you as fast as you can talk it," said the librarian, rising and indicating a slender girl who was bending busily over her typewriter.
"Oh, I didn't mean that," the major began; "and yet I don't know, I've sometimes had to dictate reports. The only thing is, I shouldn't care to hurt a man's feelings by letting him see that somebody else knew of the matter; yet I'll want to keep a copy, for I've got to give him a rasping."
"Miss Wallen can write a dozen copies at once, if you wish," said Wells; "and as for hurting anybody's feelings, nobody could extract a word from her on the subject."
"Then if the young lady will be so kind," said Cranston, bowing courteously, "I should be most glad to avail myself." Making no reply, the girl deftly fitted the sheets to the roller and waited expectant. "Don't go, Mr. Wells. I assure you there is no need," said Cranston, as the librarian started to leave the room.
"I've got to; it's my dinner-hour. Miss Wallen goes at twelve, and I after her return. If there's anything the office can do for you, don't hesitate to ask." And with that he was gone.
Miss Wallen's slim white hands were poised in readiness. "Chicago, June—, 1894," began the major. There was an instant of swift-clicking keys and a pause for more. "June—, 1894," repeated Cranston.
"Yes, sir, I have that."
"Already? I didn't suppose it could be done so fast. Do I give you the address now?"
"If you please."
"Mr. Max Elmendorf," he began. "Shall I spell it for you?"
The swift fingers faltered. Some strange sudden cloud overshadowed the bright intelligent face. The girl turned abruptly away a moment, then suddenly arose and hastened to the water-cooler under the great window across the room. Keeping her back resolutely towards the visitor, she swallowed half a glass of water, then presently resumed her seat. "Excuse me," she said. "I am ready now."
"You found the heat very trying, I fear," said the major. "Pray do not attempt this if you are tired after your walk. It can wait as well as not."
"It is something that doesn't have to be done to-day?" she asked, looking quickly up.
"Certainly not, if the sun has been too much for you. Has it?"
No answer for a moment. "It isn't the sun," finally replied Miss Wallen, "but I—should rather not take this."
That evening as Major Cranston was getting into uniform again and pondering not a little over the odd behavior of Mr. Wells's stenographer, the young lady in question, her day's library duties at an end, was walking thoughtfully homeward. She chose a route that carried her close to the dancing waters of the lake. It was a longer way, but she loved it and the fresh, cool wind sweeping inland from the seemingly boundless sheet of blue. She was a slender girl, rather above the medium height, a girl with dark earnest eyes and heavy coils of brown, lustrous hair, and a grave, sweet face, whereon already there were traced indelibly lines that told of responsibility and work and care. She dressed simply, inexpensively, yet with a certain style that well became the willowy grace of her figure. She moved swiftly, but without apparent effort. She walked well, bore herself well, and sped along on her homeward way as though absorbed in her thoughts, except when occasionally glancing out over the sparkling expanse to her right. Other women, and nurse-maids with romping children, dawdled about the sunny foot-path along the breakwater; Miss Wallen alone seemed walking with definite purpose. Nearly opposite the Grant Memorial the roadway swept close by the path, and here it became necessary for her to cross to the western side. Carriages were rolling almost ceaselessly by, and, seeing her waiting an opportunity, a Park policeman signalled to the drivers of those nearest at hand and beckoned to the girl to come on. She obeyed, somewhat timidly glancing about her. One carriage, drawn by spirited bays, had too much headway, and was well upon the crossing before the coachman could help it. It brought her almost face to face with the occupants, and for an instant hid her from the sight of the friendly policeman. When she disappeared, her eyes were downcast, her features placid, even a little pale; when, an instant later, he again caught sight of her, Miss Wallen's eyes were flashing and her soft cheeks aflame. A man in the carriage sitting opposite two ladies, one of middle age and dignified bearing, the other young and divinely fair, had seemed suddenly to recognize her and whipped off his hat in somewhat careless fashion. Taking no notice whatever of the salutation beyond coloring vividly, Miss Wallen passed quickly behind the carriage and was speedily over the crossing.
"A friend of yours, Mr. Elmendorf?" asked the elder lady, languidly.
"A friend of—Mr. Forrest's, rather," was the significant reply, and both ladies started, the younger turning to see who it could be, the elder staring one instant after her, then suddenly confronting Elmendorf again. One swift glance at her niece, and Mrs. Lawrence, with uplifted eyebrows, framed her question with sensitive, speechless lips. Elmendorf nodded sapiently. Then Miss Allison turned around.
"What's her name? Who is she?"
"Her name is Wallen. She is employed at the Lambert Library."
"Oh, indeed!" exclaimed Miss Allison, in quick and lively interest. "I've heard Mr. Forrest speak of her. I do wish we could see her again." Whereupon Mrs. Lawrence and Mr. Elmendorf exchanged glances of commiseration.
A quarter of a mile farther up the drive Mr. Elmendorf checked the driver. "If you will excuse me now, ladies, I have a call to make near here, and will leave you. Should Cary return before I do, kindly ask him not to go out again until I see him."
Mrs. Lawrence suggested driving him to his destination, but Elmendorf declined. Two minutes more, and he had disappeared from their view among the shrubbery, and in ten was rapidly walking southward along a busy thoroughfare. Just as he expected, coming up the opposite side of the street, moving swiftly and with downcast eyes, was Miss Wallen. Springily he crossed, and the next instant was lifting his hat in more respectful fashion than when in the park, half confronting, half turning as though to join her. Barely noticing him at all, Miss Wallen moved determinedly on, and Elmendorf, following, placed himself at her side.
"I could not but note your manner to me yesterday in the library, Miss Wallen, and indeed on several previous occasions, and in spite of it I venture to ask you to listen patiently to me for a moment. My object is such as to entitle my words to your respect, not resentment. It is for your own sake, your mother's, your name, that I brave your indignation again."
"If it is to repeat what you intimated the other day, Mr. Elmendorf," said the girl, in low, firm tone, "I refuse to listen. You have no right to speak in such a way."
"I have the right to try and save a poor girl from fatal error. I have devoted the best years of my life to the cause of the poor as against the rich, the down-trodden against the purse-proud. I should not have presumed to speak to you on such a subject had I not heard your name lightly, slightingly used among these very satraps whom Mr. Forrest hails as companions,—comrades. It is to protect you from the misjudgment, the censure of others that I strive to warn you. Pardon me if I recall to you that it was partially, at least, on my recommendation that you were given the position at the library, and that now my name as your endorser is measurably involved. Of course if after what I have to say you persist in receiving Mr. Forrest's—attentions, as we will call them, you must do so at your own risk."
"Mr. Elmendorf, I have told you that there is no truth whatever in these reports."
"I do not say there is. It is to warn you of the scandalous, outrageous things these people in so-called high society say of people who are in humbler walks of life that I ventured to relate what I'd heard. It is to obviate the possibility of them in future."
"I have told you, Mr. Elmendorf, that I need no such warning, that I will listen to no such affront. I refuse to believe that any gentleman of Mr. Forrest's set has spoken ill of me. I know none of them, they know nothing of me."
"Knew nothing, perhaps, until your name became linked with his,—how," said he, with significant shrug of his shoulders, "I know not, unless he himself has boyishly boasted of——"
But here Miss Wallen stopped short and faced him. "I will hear no more of this, either now or hereafter," she said, with blazing eyes, then turned abruptly, and entered the hall-way of an apartment-house close at hand and shut the door in his face. It was not her home, as Elmendorf knew very well, but possibly friends lived there who would give her refuge and welcome. At all events, he had received his conge, and there was nothing for it but to go; and go he did, in high dudgeon. Not until Miss Wallen, watching from an upper window in the room of a friend and fellow-worker, had seen him board a car and disappear with it far down the street, did she resume her homeward walk; and now her eyes were wet with indignant tears.
That Mr. Elmendorf should have asserted that it was through his influence, "partially, at least," Miss Wallen had received her appointment in the library was characteristic of Mr. Elmendorf. Coming to the city himself a stranger, only the year previous, he had spent some hours there each day in reading and writing and study, and had early made acquaintance with Mr. Wells, the librarian, greatly impressing that gentleman at first with the fluency of his chat and the extent of his travel, information, and culture. John Allison, millionaire and manager, was one of the trustees of the Lambert bequest, and when Cary came home from boarding-school in April—a premature appearance which the superintendent's letter fully explained—Allison didn't know what to do with him. "I wish I knew the right sort of tutor to take him in hand," said he to Wells, and Elmendorf, apparently deep in a volume across the office, heard, and promptly acted upon the hearing. He asked Wells for a letter of introduction and recommendation. Wells, having known the applicant less than a fortnight, was pleased with him and said what he could. Allison was impressed by the applicant's fluency and apparent frankness, and in less than a week the erudite Elmendorf found himself in halcyon waters. Then came the foreign trip, another thing to rejoice in; but before he sailed Elmendorf had had an opportunity of doing good to his kind, as he conceived it. Seeking an inexpensive lodging on his arrival in Chicago, he had found a neat, cheerful home under the roof of an elderly widow, a Mrs. Wallen, in a little house on the north side. She lived alone with her daughter, who, it presently transpired, was her main support. There was a son, a stalwart fellow, too, who, being only twenty-four and a man of some education and ability, should have been the mother's prop and stay in her declining years, and so he would have been, very possibly, but for the fact that he had provided himself with encumbrances of his own in the shape of a wife, two children, and numerous debts. He was provident in no other way. "Martin," as the mother fondly said, "would have made a mark in the world if he'd only been started right," but as Mart started himself he started wrong. So long as the father lived, both brother and sister had been well educated and gently reared, for Mr. Wallen was a man of scholarly tastes, but a poor man slaving on a poor man's salary. He had little to leave his children beyond his blessing and the care of their aging mother. Martin was already pledged to a girl schoolmate when the father died, and Jeannette, his sister, who seemed to be the only practical member of the household, promptly withdrew from school, invested her savings in a typewriter, spent her days in the care of her mother and the little house, two rooms in which were presently advertised as to let furnished, went to evening school at a business school, practised stenography and typewriting when not doing housework, washing dishes, or making clothes for her mother and herself, and patiently, pluckily, cheerily looked forward to the time when Mart could help. Mart spent six months "hunting for something to suit," and found nothing he liked so much as making love to his pretty, penniless neighbor. The clerkships he was offered didn't pay twenty dollars a week, which was the least he thought a man of his ability and education should accept. Jeannette told him the proper way was to take ten if he could get it, and work his way up; but Mart disapproved of women's interference in his affairs. It ended in his finally getting a bottom-of-the-list berth in the freight depot of a big railway, and a wife forthwith. Jeannette said nothing. She had taken Mart's measure and saw this coming. "If I do not soon have to take care of Mart's wife and babies, I'll be in luck," was the thought that possibly occurred to her; but she was a silent little body, much given to shrewd and common-sense observation of the world in which she lived. She was a sunny-natured, merry-hearted child in the old days, and even as she grew older and more burdened with care the little home still echoed to the sound of her blithe song as she flitted from room to room about her work, ever brave, hopeful, uncomplaining. "If I only had Jenny's spirits," said the widow to her one lodger, "I might do something, too," but, as she hadn't Jenny's spirits or disposition, by a good deal, the bereaved lady thought it unnecessary to try. It was Jenny who bore the burden of every detail, Jenny who did their humble marketing, Jenny who made the hard bargains with landlord and coal-merchant, Jenny who taught and supervised the one clumsy damsel who was brought in as cook, scullion, laundress, and maid-of-all-work, and Jenny who, after all, did more than she taught. It was Jenny who cut and fashioned almost every garment worn by either her mother or herself, who made and trimmed the modest little hats or bonnets, who watched the bargain-counters at the great retail shops and wished that women didn't have to wear gloves and buttoned boots; Jenny who had to follow up their flitting lodgers,—young men who folded their tents like the Arabs they were, and as silently stole away out of the house, leaving sometimes a big lodging-bill and little luggage; Jenny who presently had to nurse Mart's wife and baby, just as she expected, for Mart lost that job, and the house he had rented, and the furniture he hadn't paid for and that was seized just when most needed. So baby Number One first saw the light under the roof that Jenny's hard work paid for,—a lodger having opportunely "skipped." And all the while she managed to keep up her study and practice, and to do little odd jobs in copying, sitting far into the dawn sometimes with aching arms and wrists and burning eyes and whirling brain. There was no yielding to "beauty sleep" for poor Jenny. Dark circles often settled underneath the brave, steadfast eyes, and big, blinding tears sometimes welled up from unseen depths when no one was near to spy upon her woman's weakness, and the very people she slaved for were often querulous and complaining, and Mart's wife had about as much helpfulness as a consumptive old cow. Jenny had to tell Mart he must find work and pay their board, or some portion of it, and Mart got another berth at another railway depot, and, without paying anything whatever for the months he and his had lived under the mother's roof, or much for the new furniture, moved into another house, where the family circle was presently reinforced by the coming of another baby. Meantime, however, Jenny's skill, quickness, and accuracy had been steadily bringing her work into favor. A girl friend and fellow-student had a good position in a down-town office, where lawyers and business-men brought many a long paper demanding immediate copies, and thither Jenny moved her typewriter, shrewdly calculating that the money she could earn would more than offset the expense of a good servant at home. As for car-fare, she meant to walk: she needed exercise. As for luncheon, she'd carry it with her in her little basket. The plan worked well. There were some days and weeks in which she was given as much as she could possibly finish, but there were others—alack! many others—when nothing came. There was a winter when she wore old clothes, a winter through which other young women in the great hive of a business block were blooming in gowns and garments that were of latest mode and material. It was, so far as work was concerned, either a feast or a famine with her, and she longed for just such a position as that held by an older scholar, who was stenographer and typewriter on salary in the office of a great law firm and yet was enabled to take frequent transcribing or copying from outside; but for a billet of this kind she looked in vain. Then came another winter. How it affected Miss Wallen can best be told through this simple fact, that she was no longer able to ride home even in the dark wet evenings. Mart had again been turned out of house and home, and came with his ailing wife and wailing babies to the doting mother's door, and again was Jenny burdened with their maintenance. Mart had struck. There had been a scaling down of wages for all hands. Most of them, realizing that these were hard times and that other and better were coming, stood by the company. Mart was a leader at the meetings of the employees, and a brilliant orator. With all the eloquence of which he was capable he urged his fellows to stand together and strike. He was one of a committee of five sent to see the local manager. The manager showed the facts, and the other men were satisfied that things were about as he showed. They had been long in his employ, and Mart but a short time. The manager addressed himself to the old men, rather ignoring the new, and Mart's tongue and temper got away with him. He said he'd strike anyhow, and he did. He struck his own name off the company's books.
And so during these dark, dreary winter evenings, sometimes wet and raw, sometimes bitterly cold, quitting when she could her desk at five o'clock, yet often kept pegging away until later, Miss Jeannette Wallen walked those crowded blocks below the State Street bridge and all the many, many squares that interposed between her and her little home. As the days began to lengthen and the cold to strengthen, she sometimes reached there well-nigh frozen and exhausted, to be welcomed and regaled not so much with hot tea and loving words as by wailing infants and complaining women,—Mart being, as usual, away at some soul-stirring meeting, where much was said about the wrongs of the workingman, but nothing thought of those of the workingwoman.