Entire PG Edition of The Works of William Dean Howells
William Dean Howells
Part 45 out of 78
he was back behind those barricades at Berlin. Well, he's a splendid old
fellow; pity he drinks, as I remarked once before."
When March left the office he did not go home so directly as he came,
perhaps because Mrs. March's eye was not on him. He was very curious
about some aspects of the strike, whose importance, as a great social
convulsion, he felt people did not recognize; and, with his temperance in
everything, he found its negative expressions as significant as its more
violent phases. He had promised his wife solemnly that he would keep
away from these, and he had a natural inclination to keep his promise;
he had no wish to be that peaceful spectator who always gets shot when
there is any firing on a mob. He interested himself in the apparent
indifference of the mighty city, which kept on about its business as
tranquilly as if the private war being fought out in its midst were a
vague rumor of Indian troubles on the frontier; and he realized how there
might once have been a street feud of forty years in Florence without
interfering materially with the industry and prosperity of the city.
On Broadway there was a silence where a jangle and clatter of horse-car
bells and hoofs had been, but it was not very noticeable; and on the
avenues, roofed by the elevated roads, this silence of the surface tracks
was not noticeable at all in the roar of the trains overhead. Some of
the cross-town cars were beginning to run again, with a policeman on the
rear of each; on the Third Avenge line, operated by non-union men, who
had not struck, there were two policemen beside the driver of every car,
and two beside the conductor, to protect them from the strikers. But
there were no strikers in sight, and on Second Avenue they stood quietly
about in groups on the corners. While March watched them at a safe
distance, a car laden with policemen came down the track, but none of the
strikers offered to molest it. In their simple Sunday best, March
thought them very quiet, decent-looking people, and he could well believe
that they had nothing to do with the riotous outbreaks in other parts of
the city. He could hardly believe that there were any such outbreaks; he
began more and more to think them mere newspaper exaggerations in the
absence of any disturbance, or the disposition to it, that he could see.
He walked on to the East River
Avenues A, B, and C presented the same quiet aspect as Second Avenue;
groups of men stood on the corners, and now and then a police-laden car
was brought unmolested down the tracks before them; they looked at it and
talked together, and some laughed, but there was no trouble.
March got a cross-town car, and came back to the West Side. A policeman,
looking very sleepy and tired, lounged on the platform.
"I suppose you'll be glad when this cruel war is over," March suggested,
as he got in.
The officer gave him a surly glance and made him no answer.
His behavior, from a man born to the joking give and take of our life,
impressed March. It gave him a fine sense of the ferocity which he had
read of the French troops putting on toward the populace just before the
coup d'etat; he began to feel like the populace; but he struggled with
himself and regained his character of philosophical observer. In this
character he remained in the car and let it carry him by the corner where
he ought to have got out and gone home, and let it keep on with him to
one of the farthermost tracks westward, where so much of the fighting was
reported to have taken place. But everything on the way was as quiet as
on the East Side.
Suddenly the car stopped with so quick a turn of the brake that he was
half thrown from his seat, and the policeman jumped down from the
platform and ran forward.
Dryfoos sat at breakfast that morning with Mrs. Mandel as usual to pour
out his coffee. Conrad had gone down-town; the two girls lay abed much
later than their father breakfasted, and their mother had gradually grown
too feeble to come down till lunch. Suddenly Christine appeared at the
door. Her face was white to the edges of her lips, and her eyes were
"Look here, father! Have you been saying anything to Mr. Beaton?"
The old man looked up at her across his coffee-cup through his frowning
Mrs. Mandel dropped her eyes, and the spoon shook in her hand.
"Then what's the reason he don't come here any more?" demanded the girl;
and her glance darted from her father to Mrs. Mandel. "Oh, it's you, is
it? I'd like to know who told you to meddle in other people's business?"
"I did," said Dryfoos, savagely. "I told her to ask him what he wanted
here, and he said he didn't want anything, and he stopped coming. That's
all. I did it myself."
"Oh, you did, did you?" said the girl, scarcely less insolently than she
had spoken to Mrs. Mandel. "I should like to know what you did it for?
I'd like to know what made you think I wasn't able to take care of
myself. I just knew somebody had been meddling, but I didn't suppose it
was you. I can manage my own affairs in my own way, if you please, and
I'll thank you after this to leave me to myself in what don't concern
"Don't concern me? You impudent jade!" her father began.
Christine advanced from the doorway toward the table; she had her hands
closed upon what seemed trinkets, some of which glittered and dangled
from them. She said, "Will you go to him and tell him that this
meddlesome minx, here, had no business to say anything about me to him,
and you take it all back?"
"No!" shouted the old man. "And if--"
"That's all I want of you!" the girl shouted in her turn. "Here are your
presents." With both hands she flung the jewels-pins and rings and
earrings and bracelets--among the breakfast-dishes, from which some of
them sprang to the floor. She stood a moment to pull the intaglio ring
from the finger where Beaton put it a year ago, and dashed that at her
father's plate. Then she whirled out of the room, and they heard her
The old man made a start toward her, but he fell back in his chair before
she was gone, and, with a fierce, grinding movement of his jaws,
controlled himself. "Take-take those things up," he gasped to Mrs.
Mandel. He seemed unable to rise again from his chair; but when she
asked him if he were unwell, he said no, with an air of offence, and got
quickly to his feet. He mechanically picked up the intaglio ring from
the table while he stood there, and put it on his little finger; his hand
was not much bigger than Christine's. "How do you suppose she found it
out?" he asked, after a moment.
"She seems to have merely suspected it," said Mrs. Mandel, in a tremor,
and with the fright in her eyes which Christine's violence had brought
"Well, it don't make any difference. She had to know, somehow, and now
she knows." He started toward the door of the library, as if to go into
the hall, where his hat and coat hung.
"Mr. Dryfoos," palpitated Mrs. Mandel, "I can't remain here, after the
language your daughter has used to me--I can't let you leave me--I--I'm
afraid of her--"
"Lock yourself up, then," said the old man, rudely. He added, from the
hall before lie went out, "I reckon she'll quiet down now."
He took the Elevated road. The strike seemed a vary far-off thing,
though the paper he bought to look up the stockmarket was full of noisy
typography about yesterday's troubles on the surface lines. Among the
millions in Wall Street there was some joking and some swearing, but not
much thinking, about the six thousand men who had taken such chances in
their attempt to better their condition. Dryfoos heard nothing of the
strike in the lobby of the Stock Exchange, where he spent two or three
hours watching a favorite stock of his go up and go down under the
betting. By the time the Exchange closed it had risen eight points, and
on this and some other investments he was five thousand dollars richer
than he had been in the morning. But he had expected to be richer still,
and he was by no means satisfied with his luck. All through the
excitement of his winning and losing had played the dull, murderous rage
he felt toward they child who had defied him, and when the game was over
and he started home his rage mounted into a sort of frenzy; he would
teach her, he would break her. He walked a long way without thinking,
and then waited for a car. None came, and he hailed a passing coupe.
"What has got all the cars?" he demanded of the driver, who jumped down
from his box to open the door for him and get his direction.
"Been away?" asked the driver. "Hasn't been any car along for a week.
"Oh yes," said Dryfoos. He felt suddenly giddy, and he remained staring
at the driver after he had taken his seat.
The man asked, "Where to?"
Dryfoos could not think of his street or number, and he said, with
uncontrollable fury: "I told you once! Go up to West Eleventh, and drive
along slow on the south side; I'll show you the place."
He could not remember the number of 'Every Other Week' office, where he
suddenly decided to stop before he went home. He wished to see
Fulkerson, and ask him something about Beaton: whether he had been about
lately, and whether he had dropped any hint of what had happened
concerning Christine; Dryfoos believed that Fulkerson was in the fellow's
There was nobody but Conrad in the counting-room, whither Dryfoos
returned after glancing into Fulkerson's empty office. "Where's
Fulkerson?" he asked, sitting down with his hat on.
"He went out a few moments ago," said Conrad, glancing at the clock.
"I'm afraid he isn't coming back again today, if you wanted to see him."
Dryfoos twisted his head sidewise and upward to indicate March's room.
"That other fellow out, too?"
"He went just before Mr. Fulkerson," answered Conrad.
"Do you generally knock off here in the middle of the afternoon ?" asked
the old man.
"No," said Conrad, as patiently as if his father had not been there a
score of times and found the whole staff of Every Other leek at work
between four and five. "Mr. March, you know, always takes a good deal of
his work home with him, and I suppose Mr. Fulkerson went out so early
because there isn't much doing to-day. Perhaps it's the strike that
makes it dull."
"The strike-yes! It's a pretty piece of business to have everything
thrown out because a parcel of lazy hounds want a chance to lay off and
get drunk." Dryfoos seemed to think Conrad would make some answer to
this, but the young man's mild face merely saddened, and he said nothing.
"I've got a coupe out there now that I had to take because I couldn't get
a car. If I had my way I'd have a lot of those vagabonds hung. They're
waiting to get the city into a snarl, and then rob the houses--pack of
dirty, worthless whelps. They ought to call out the militia, and fire
into 'em. Clubbing is too good for them." Conrad was still silent, and
his father sneered, "But I reckon you don't think so."
"I think the strike is useless," said Conrad.
"Oh, you do, do you? Comin' to your senses a little. Gettin' tired
walkin' so much. I should like to know what your gentlemen over there on
the East Side think about the strike, anyway."
The young fellow dropped his eyes. "I am not authorized to speak for
"Oh, indeed! And perhaps you're not authorized to speak for yourself?"
"Father, you know we don't agree about these things. I'd rather not
"But I'm goin' to make you talk this time!" cried Dryfoos, striking the
arm of the chair he sat in with the side of his fist. A maddening
thought of Christine came over him. "As long as you eat my bread, you
have got to do as I say. I won't have my children telling me what I
shall do and sha'n't do, or take on airs of being holier than me. Now,
you just speak up! Do you think those loafers are right, or don't you?
Conrad apparently judged it best to speak. "I think they were very
foolish to strike--at this time, when the Elevated roads can do the
"Oh, at this time, heigh! And I suppose they think over there on the
East Side that it 'd been wise to strike before we got the Elevated."
Conrad again refused to answer, and his father roared, "What do you
"I think a strike is always bad business. It's war; but sometimes there
don't seem any other way for the workingmen to get justice. They say
that sometimes strikes do raise the wages, after a while."
"Those lazy devils were paid enough already," shrieked the old man.
"They got two dollars a day. How much do you think they ought to 'a'
Conrad hesitated, with a beseeching look at his father. But he decided
to answer. "The men say that with partial work, and fines, and other
things, they get sometimes a dollar, and sometimes ninety cents a day."
"They lie, and you know they lie," said his father, rising and coming
toward him. "And what do you think the upshot of it all will be, after
they've ruined business for another week, and made people hire hacks, and
stolen the money of honest men? How is it going to end?"
"They will have to give in."
"Oh, give in, heigh! And what will you say then, I should like to know?
How will you feel about it then? Speak!"
"I shall feel as I do now. I know you don't think that way, and I don't
blame you--or anybody. But if I have got to say how I shall feel, why, I
shall feel sorry they didn't succeed, for I believe they have a righteous
cause, though they go the wrong way to help themselves."
His father came close to him, his eyes blazing, his teeth set. "Do you
dare so say that to me?"
"Yes. I can't help it. I pity them; my whole heart is with those poor
"You impudent puppy!" shouted the old man. He lifted his hand and struck
his son in the face. Conrad caught his hand with his own left, and,
while the blood began to trickle from a wound that Christine's intaglio
ring had made in his temple, he looked at him with a kind of grieving
wonder, and said, "Father!"
The old man wrenched his fist away and ran out of the house. He
remembered his address now, and he gave it as he plunged into the coupe.
He trembled with his evil passion, and glared out of the windows at the
passers as he drove home; he only saw Conrad's mild, grieving, wondering
eyes, and the blood slowly trickling from the wound in his temple.
Conrad went to the neat-set bowl in Fulkerson's comfortable room and
washed the blood away, and kept bathing the wound with the cold water
till it stopped bleeding. The cut was not deep, and he thought he would
not put anything on it. After a while he locked up the office and
started out, be hardly knew where. But he walked on, in the direction he
had taken, till he found himself in Union Square, on the pavement in
front of Brentano's. It seemed to him that he heard some one calling
gently to him, "Mr. Dryfoos!"
Conrad looked confusedly around, and the same voice said again, "Mr.
Dryfoos!" and he saw that it was a lady speaking to him from a coupe
beside the curbing, and then he saw that it was Miss Vance.
She smiled when, he gave signs of having discovered her, and came up to
the door of her carriage. "I am so glad to meet you. I have been
longing to talk to somebody; nobody seems to feel about it as I do. Oh,
isn't it horrible? Must they fail? I saw cars running on all the lines
as I came across; it made me sick at heart. Must those brave fellows
give in? And everybody seems to hate them so--I can't bear it." Her
face was estranged with excitement, and there were traces of tears on it.
"You must think me almost crazy to stop you in the street this way; but
when I caught sight of you I had to speak. I knew you would sympathize--
I knew you would feel as I do. Oh, how can anybody help honoring those
poor men for standing by one another as they do? They are risking all
they have in the world for the sake of justice! Oh, they are true heroes!
They are staking the bread of their wives and children on the dreadful
chance they've taken! But no one seems to understand it. No one seems to
see that they are willing to suffer more now that other poor men may
suffer less hereafter. And those wretched creatures that are coming in
to take their places--those traitors--"
"We can't blame them for wanting to earn a living, Miss Vance," said
"No, no! I don't blame them. Who am I, to do such a thing? It's we
--people like me, of my class--who make the poor betray one another.
But this dreadful fighting--this hideous paper is full of it!" She held
up an extra, crumpled with her nervous reading. "Can't something be done
to stop it? Don't you think that if some one went among them, and tried
to make them see how perfectly hopeless it was to resist the companies
and drive off the new men, he might do some good? I have wanted to go
and try; but I am a woman, and I mustn't! I shouldn't be afraid of the
strikers, but I'm afraid of what people would say!" Conrad kept pressing
his handkerchief to the cut in his temple, which he thought might be
bleeding, and now she noticed this. "Are you hurt, Mr. Dryfoos?
You look so pale."
"No, it's nothing--a little scratch I've got."
"Indeed, you look pale. Have you a carriage? How will you get home?
Will you get in here with me and let me drive you?"
"No, no," said Conrad, smiling at her excitement. "I'm perfectly well--"
"And you don't think I'm foolish and wicked for stopping you here and
talking in this way? But I know you feel as I do!"
"Yes, I feel as you do. You are right--right in every way--I mustn't
keep you--Good-bye." He stepped back to bow, but she put her beautiful
hand out of the window, and when he took it she wrung his hand hard.
"Thank you, thank you! You are good and you are just! But no one can do
anything. It's useless!"
The type of irreproachable coachman on the box whose respectability had
suffered through the strange behavior of his mistress in this interview
drove quickly off at her signal, and Conrad stood a moment looking after
the carriage. His heart was full of joy; it leaped; he thought it would
burst. As he turned to walk away it seemed to him as if he mounted upon
the air. The trust she had shown him, the praise she had given him, that
crush of the hand: he hoped nothing, he formed no idea from it, but it
all filled him with love that cast out the pain and shame he had been
suffering. He believed that he could never be unhappy any more; the
hardness that was in his mind toward his father went out of it; he saw
how sorely he had tried him; he grieved that he had done it, but the
means, the difference of his feeling about the cause of their quarrel,
he was solemnly glad of that since she shared it. He was only sorry for
his father. "Poor father!" he said under his breath as he went along.
He explained to her about his father in his reverie, and she pitied his
He was walking over toward the West Side, aimlessly at first, and then at
times with the longing to do something to save those mistaken men from
themselves forming itself into a purpose. Was not that what she meant
when she bewailed her woman's helplessness? She must have wished him to
try if he, being a man, could not do something; or if she did not, still
he would try, and if she heard of it she would recall what she had said
and would be glad he had understood her so. Thinking of her pleasure in
what he was going to do, he forgot almost what it was; but when he came
to a street-car track he remembered it, and looked up and down to see if
there were any turbulent gathering of men whom he might mingle with and
help to keep from violence. He saw none anywhere; and then suddenly, as
if at the same moment, for in his exalted mood all events had a dream-
like simultaneity, he stood at the corner of an avenue, and in the middle
of it, a little way off, was a street-car, and around the car a tumult of
shouting, cursing, struggling men. The driver was lashing his horses
forward, and a policeman was at their heads, with the conductor, pulling
them; stones, clubs, brickbats hailed upon the car, the horses, the men
trying to move them. The mob closed upon them in a body, and then a
patrol-wagon whirled up from the other side, and a squad of policemen
leaped out and began to club the rioters. Conrad could see how they
struck them under the rims of their hats; the blows on their skulls
sounded as if they had fallen on stone; the rioters ran in all
One of the officers rushed up toward the corner where Conrad stood, and
then he saw at his side a tall, old man, with a long, white beard, who
was calling out at the policemen: "Ah, yes! Glup the strikerss--gif it to
them! Why don't you co and glup the bresidents that insoalt your lawss,
and gick your Boart of Arpidration out-of-toors? Glup the strikerss--
they cot no friendts! They cot no money to pribe you, to dreat you!"
The officer lifted his club, and the old man threw his left arm up to
shield his head. Conrad recognized Zindau, and now he saw the empty
sleeve dangle in the air over the stump of his wrist. He heard a shot in
that turmoil beside the car, and something seemed to strike him in the
breast. He was going to say to the policeman: "Don't strike him! He's
an old soldier! You see he has no hand!" but he could not speak, he
could not move his tongue. The policeman stood there; he saw his face:
it was not bad, not cruel; it was like the face of a statue, fixed,
perdurable--a mere image of irresponsible and involuntary authority.
Then Conrad fell forward, pierced through the heart by that shot fired
from the car.
March heard the shot as he scrambled out of his car, and at the same
moment he saw Lindau drop under the club of the policeman, who left him
where he fell and joined the rest of the squad in pursuing the rioters.
The fighting round the car in the avenue ceased; the driver whipped his
horses into a gallop, and the place was left empty.
March would have liked to run; he thought how his wife had implored him
to keep away from the rioting; but he could not have left Lindau lying
there if he would. Something stronger than his will drew him to the
spot, and there he saw Conrad, dead beside the old man.
In the cares which Mrs. March shared with her husband that night she was
supported partly by principle, but mainly by the, potent excitement which
bewildered Conrad's family and took all reality from what had happened.
It was nearly midnight when the Marches left them and walked away toward
the Elevated station with Fulkerson. Everything had been done, by that
time, that could be done; and Fulkerson was not without that satisfaction
in the business-like despatch of all the details which attends each step
in such an affair and helps to make death tolerable even to the most
sorely stricken. We are creatures of the moment; we live from one little
space to another; and only one interest at a time fills these. Fulkerson
was cheerful when they got into the street, almost gay; and Mrs. March
experienced a rebound from her depression which she felt that she ought
not to have experienced. But she condoned the offence a little in
herself, because her husband remained so constant in his gravity; and,
pending the final accounting he must make her for having been where he
could be of so much use from the first instant of the calamity, she was
tenderly, gratefully proud of all the use he had been to Conrad's family,
and especially his miserable old father. To her mind, March was the
principal actor in the whole affair, and much more important in having
seen it than those who had suffered in it. In fact, he had suffered
"Well, well," said Fulkerson. "They'll get along now. We've done all we
could, and there's nothing left but for them to bear it. Of course it's
awful, but I guess it 'll come out all right. I mean," he added,
"they'll pull through now."
"I suppose," said March, "that nothing is put on us that we can't bear.
But I should think," he went on, musingly, "that when God sees what we
poor finite creatures can bear, hemmed round with this eternal darkness
of death, He must respect us."
"Basil!" said his wife. But in her heart she drew nearer to him for the
words she thought she ought to rebuke him for.
"Oh, I know," he said, "we school ourselves to despise human nature.
But God did not make us despicable, and I say, whatever end He meant us
for, He must have some such thrill of joy in our adequacy to fate as a
father feels when his son shows himself a man. When I think what we can
be if we must, I can't believe the least of us shall finally perish."
"Oh, I reckon the Almighty won't scoop any of us," said Fulkerson, with a
piety of his own.
"That poor boy's father!" sighed Mrs. March. "I can't get his face out
of my sight. He looked so much worse than death."
"Oh, death doesn't look bad," said March. "It's life that looks so in
its presence. Death is peace and pardon. I only wish poor old Lindau
was as well out of it as Conrad there."
"Ah, Lindau! He has done harm enough," said Mrs. March. "I hope he will
be careful after this."
March did not try to defend Lindau against her theory of the case, which
inexorably held him responsible for Conrad's death.
"Lindau's going to come out all right, I guess," said Fulkerson. "He was
first-rate when I saw him at the hospital to-night." He whispered in
March's ear, at a chance he got in mounting the station stairs: "I didn't
like to tell you there at the house, but I guess you'd better know. They
had to take Lindau's arm off near the shoulder. Smashed all to pieces by
In the house, vainly rich and foolishly unfit for them, the bereaved
family whom the Marches had just left lingered together, and tried to get
strength to part for the night. They were all spent with the fatigue
that comes from heaven to such misery as theirs, and they sat in a torpor
in which each waited for the other to move, to speak.
Christine moved, and Mela spoke. Christine rose and went out of the room
without saying a word, and they heard her going up-stairs. Then Mela
"I reckon the rest of us better be goun' too, father. Here, let's git
She put her arm round her mother, to lift her from her chair, but the old
man did not stir, and Mela called Mrs. Mandel from the next room.
Between them they raised her to her feet.
"Ain't there anybody agoin' to set up with it?" she asked, in her hoarse
pipe. "It appears like folks hain't got any feelin's in New York.
Woon't some o' the neighbors come and offer to set up, without waitin' to
"Oh, that's all right, mother. The men 'll attend to that. Don't you
bother any," Mela coaxed, and she kept her arm round her mother, with
"Why, Mely, child! I can't feel right to have it left to hirelin's so.
But there ain't anybody any more to see things done as they ought. If
Coonrod was on'y here--"
"Well, mother, you are pretty mixed!" said Mela, with a strong tendency
to break into her large guffaw. But she checked herself and said:
"I know just how you feel, though. It keeps acomun' and agoun'; and it's
so and it ain't so, all at once; that's the plague of it. Well, father!
Ain't you goun' to come?"
"I'm goin' to stay, Mela," said the old man, gently, without moving.
"Get your mother to bed, that's a good girl."
"You goin' to set up with him, Jacob?" asked the old woman.
"Yes, 'Liz'beth, I'll set up. You go to bed."
"Well, I will, Jacob. And I believe it 'll do you good to set up.
I wished I could set up with you; but I don't seem to have the stren'th
I did when the twins died. I must git my sleep, so's to--I don't like
very well to have you broke of your rest, Jacob, but there don't appear
to be anybody else. You wouldn't have to do it if Coonrod was here.
There I go ag'in! Mercy! mercy!"
"Well, do come along, then, mother," said Mela; and she got her out of
the room, with Mrs. Mandel's help, and up the stairs.
From the top the old woman called down, "You tell Coonrod--" She stopped,
and he heard her groan out, "My Lord! my Lord!"
He sat, one silence in the dining-room, where they had all lingered
together, and in the library beyond the hireling watcher sat, another
silence. The time passed, but neither moved, and the last noise in the
house ceased, so that they heard each other breathe, and the vague,
remote rumor of the city invaded the inner stillness. It grew louder
toward morning, and then Dryfoos knew from the watcher's deeper breathing
that he had fallen into a doze.
He crept by him to the drawing-room, where his son was; the place was
full of the awful sweetness of the flowers that Fulkerson had brought,
and that lay above the pulseless breast. The old man turned up a burner
in the chandelier, and stood looking on the majestic serenity of the dead
He could not move when he saw his wife coming down the stairway in the
hall. She was in her long, white flannel bed gown, and the candle she
carried shook with her nervous tremor. He thought she might be walking
in her sleep, but she said, quite simply, "I woke up, and I couldn't git
to sleep ag'in without comin' to have a look." She stood beside their
dead son with him. "well, he's beautiful, Jacob. He was the prettiest
baby! And he was always good, Coonrod was; I'll say that for him.
I don't believe he ever give me a minute's care in his whole life.
I reckon I liked him about the best of all the children; but I don't know
as I ever done much to show it. But you was always good to him, Jacob;
you always done the best for him, ever since he was a little feller.
I used to be afraid you'd spoil him sometimes in them days; but I guess
you're glad now for every time you didn't cross him. I don't suppose
since the twins died you ever hit him a lick." She stooped and peered
closer at the face. "Why, Jacob, what's that there by his pore eye?"
Dryfoos saw it, too, the wound that he had feared to look for, and that
now seemed to redden on his sight. He broke into a low, wavering cry,
like a child's in despair, like an animal's in terror, like a soul's in
the anguish of remorse.
The evening after the funeral, while the Marches sat together talking it
over, and making approaches, through its shadow, to the question of their
own future, which it involved, they were startled by the twitter of the
electric bell at their apartment door. It was really not so late as the
children's having gone to bed made it seem; but at nine o'clock it was
too late for any probable visitor except Fulkerson. It might be he, and
March was glad to postpone the impending question to his curiosity
concerning the immediate business Fulkerson might have with him. He went
himself to the door, and confronted there a lady deeply veiled in black
and attended by a very decorous serving-woman.
"Are you alone, Mr. March--you and Mrs. March ?" asked the lady, behind
her veil; and, as he hesitated, she said: "You don't know me! Miss
Vance"; and she threw back her veil, showing her face wan and agitated in
the dark folds. "I am very anxious to see you--to speak with you both.
May I come in?"
"Why, certainly, Miss Vance," he answered, still too much stupefied by
her presence to realize it.
She promptly entered, and saying, with a glance at the hall chair by the
door, "My maid can sit here?" followed him to the room where he had left
Mrs. March showed herself more capable of coping with the fact. She
welcomed Miss Vance with the liking they both felt for the girl, and with
the sympathy which her troubled face inspired.
"I won't tire you with excuses for coming, Mrs. March," she said, "for it
was the only thing left for me to do; and I come at my aunt's
suggestion." She added this as if it would help to account for her more
on the conventional plane, and she had the instinctive good taste to
address herself throughout to Mrs. March as much as possible, though what
she had to say was mainly for March. "I don't know how to begin--I don't
know how to speak of this terrible affair. But you know what I mean.
I feel as if I had lived a whole lifetime since it happened. I don't
want you to pity me for it," she said, forestalling a politeness from
Mrs. March. "I'm the last one to be thought of, and you mustn't mind me
if I try to make you. I came to find out all of the truth that I can,
and when I know just what that is I shall know what to do. I have read
the inquest; it's all burned into my brain. But I don't care for that--
for myself: you must let me say such things without minding me. I know
that your husband--that Mr. March was there; I read his testimony; and I
wished to ask him--to ask him--" She stopped and looked distractedly
about. "But what folly! He must have said everything he knew--he had
to." Her eves wandered to him from his wife, on whom she had kept them
with instinctive tact.
"I said everything--yes," he replied. "But if you would like to know--"
"Perhaps I had better tell you something first. I had just parted with
him--it couldn't have been more than half an hour--in front of
Brentano's; he must have gone straight to his death. We were talking,
and I--I said, Why didn't some one go among the strikers and plead with
them to be peaceable, and keep them from attacking the new men. I knew
that he felt as I did about the strikers: that he was their friend. Did
you see--do you know anything that makes you think he had been trying to
"I am sorry," March began, "I didn't see him at all till--till I saw him
"My husband was there purely by accident," Mrs. March put in. "I had
begged and entreated him not to go near the striking anywhere. And he
had just got out of the car, and saw the policeman strike that wretched
Lindau--he's been such an anxiety to me ever since we have had anything
to do with him here; my husband knew him when he was a boy in the West.
Mr. March came home from it all perfectly prostrated; it made us all
sick! Nothing so horrible ever came into our lives before. I assure you
it was the most shocking experience."
Miss Vance listened to her with that look of patience which those who
have seen much of the real suffering of the world--the daily portion of
the poor--have for the nervous woes of comfortable people. March hung
his head; he knew it would be useless to protest that his share of the
calamity was, by comparison, infinitesimally small.
After she had heard Mrs. March to the end even of her repetitions, Miss
Vance said, as if it were a mere matter of course that she should have
looked the affair up, "Yes, I have seen Mr. Lindau at the hospital--"
"My husband goes every day to see him," Mrs. March interrupted, to give.
a final touch to the conception of March's magnanimity throughout.
"The poor man seems to have been in the wrong at the time," said Miss
"I could almost say he had earned the right to be wrong. He's a man of
the most generous instincts, and a high ideal of justice, of equity--too
high to be considered by a policeman with a club in his hand," said
March, with a bold defiance of his wife's different opinion of Lindau.
"It's the policeman's business, I suppose, to club the ideal when he
finds it inciting a riot."
"Oh, I don't blame Mr. Lindau; I don't blame the policeman; he was as
much a mere instrument as his club was. I am only trying to find out how
much I am to blame myself. I had no thought of Mr. Dryfoos's going
there--of his attempting to talk with the strikers and keep them quiet;
I was only thinking, as women do, of what I should try to do if I were a
"But perhaps he understood me to ask him to go--perhaps my words sent him
to his death."
She had a sort of calm in her courage to know the worst truth as to her
responsibility that forbade any wish to flatter her out of it. "I'm
afraid," said March, "that is what can never be known now." After a
moment he added: "But why should you wish to know? If he went there as a
peacemaker, he died in a good cause, in such a way as he would wish to
die, I believe."
"Yes," said the girl; "I have thought of that. But death is awful; we
must not think patiently, forgivingly of sending any one to their death
in the best cause."--"I fancy life was an awful thing to Conrad Dryfoos,"
March replied. "He was thwarted and disappointed, without even pleasing
the ambition that thwarted and disappointed him. That poor old man, his
father, warped him from his simple, lifelong wish to be a minister, and
was trying to make a business man of him. If it will be any consolation
to you to know it, Miss Vance, I can assure you that he was very unhappy,
and I don't see how he could ever have been happy here."
"It won't," said the girl, steadily. "If people are born into this
world, it's because they were meant to live in it. It isn't a question
of being happy here; no one is happy, in that old, selfish way, or can
be; but he could have been of great use."
"Perhaps he was of use in dying. Who knows? He may have been trying to
"Oh, Lindau wasn't worth it!" cried Mrs. March.
Miss Vance looked at her as if she did not quite understand. Then she
turned to March. "He might have been unhappy, as we all are; but I know
that his life here would have had a higher happiness than we wish for or
aim for." The tears began to run silently down her cheeks.
"He looked strangely happy that day when he left me. He had hurt himself
somehow, and his face was bleeding from a scratch; he kept his
handkerchief up; he was pale, but such a light came into his face when he
shook hands--ah, I know he went to try and do what I said!" They were
all silent, while she dried her eyes and then put her handkerchief back
into the pocket from which she had suddenly pulled it, with a series of
vivid, young-ladyish gestures, which struck March by their incongruity
with the occasion of their talk, and yet by their harmony with the rest
of her elegance. "I am sorry, Miss Vance," he began, "that I can't
really tell you anything more--"
"You are very kind," she said, controlling herself and rising quickly.
"I thank you--thank you both very much." She turned to Mrs. March and
shook hands with her and then with him. "I might have known--I did know
that there wasn't anything more for you to tell. But at least I've found
out from you that there was nothing, and now I can begin to bear what I
must. How are those poor creatures--his mother and father, his sisters?
Some day, I hope, I shall be ashamed to have postponed them to the
thought of myself; but I can't pretend to be yet. I could not come to
the funeral; I wanted to."
She addressed her question to Mrs. March, who answered: "I can
understand. But they were pleased with the flowers you sent; people are,
at such times, and they haven't many friends."
"Would you go to see them?" asked the girl. "Would you tell them what
I've told you?"
Mrs. March looked at her husband.
"I don't see what good it would do. They wouldn't understand. But if it
would relieve you--"
"I'll wait till it isn't a question of self-relief," said the girl.
She left them to long debate of the event. At the end Mrs. March said,
"She is a strange being; such a mixture of the society girl and the
Her husband answered: "She's the potentiality of several kinds of
fanatic. She's very unhappy, and I don't see how she's to be happier
about that poor fellow. I shouldn't be surprised if she did inspire him
to attempt something of that kind."
"Well, you got out of it very well, Basil. I admired the way you
managed. I was afraid you'd say something awkward."
"Oh, with a plain line of truth before me, as the only possible thing,
I can get on pretty well. When it comes to anything decorative, I'd
rather leave it to you, Isabel."
She seemed insensible of his jest. "Of course, he was in love with her.
That was the light that came into his face when he was going to do what
he thought she wanted him to do."
"And she--do you think that she was--"
"What an idea! It would have been perfectly grotesque!"
Their affliction brought the Dryfooses into humaner relations with the
Marches, who had hitherto regarded them as a necessary evil, as the
odious means of their own prosperity. Mrs. March found that the women of
the family seemed glad of her coming, and in the sense of her usefulness
to them all she began to feel a kindness even for Christine. But she
could not help seeing that between the girl and her father there was an
unsettled account, somehow, and that it was Christine and not the old man
who was holding out. She thought that their sorrow had tended to refine
the others. Mela was much more subdued, and, except when she abandoned
herself to a childish interest in her mourning, she did nothing to shock
Mrs. March's taste or to seem unworthy of her grief. She was very good
to her mother, whom the blow had left unchanged, and to her father, whom
it had apparently fallen upon with crushing weight. Once, after visiting
their house, Mrs. March described to March a little scene between Dryfoos
and Mela, when he came home from Wall Street, and the girl met him at the
door with a kind of country simpleness, and took his hat and stick, and
brought him into the room where Mrs. March sat, looking tired and broken.
She found this look of Dryfoos's pathetic, and dwelt on the sort of
stupefaction there was in it; he must have loved his son more than they
ever realized. "Yes," said March, "I suspect he did. He's never been
about the place since that day; he was always dropping in before, on his
way up-town. He seems to go down to Wall Street every day, just as
before, but I suppose that's mechanical; he wouldn't know what else to
do; I dare say it's best for him. The sanguine Fulkerson is getting a
little anxious about the future of 'Every Other Week.' Now Conrad's
gone, he isn't sure the old man will want to keep on with it, or whether
he'll have to look up another Angel. He wants to get married, I imagine,
and he can't venture till this point is settled."
"It's a very material point to us too, Basil," said Mrs. March.
"Well, of course. I hadn't overlooked that, you may be sure. One of the
things that Fulkerson and I have discussed is a scheme for buying the
magazine. Its success is pretty well assured now, and I shouldn't be
afraid to put money into it--if I had the money."
"I couldn't let you sell the house in Boston, Basil!"
"And I don't want to. I wish we could go back and live in it and get the
rent, too! It would be quite a support. But I suppose if Dryfoos won't
keep on, it must come to another Angel. I hope it won't be a literary
one, with a fancy for running my department."
"Oh, I guess whoever takes the magazine will be glad enough to keep you!"
"Do you think so? Well, perhaps. But I don't believe Fulkerson would
let me stand long between him and an Angel of the right description."
"Well, then, I believe he would. And you've never seen anything, Basil,
to make you really think that Mr. Fulkerson didn't appreciate you to the
"I think I came pretty near an undervaluation in that Lindau trouble.
I shall always wonder what put a backbone into Fulkerson just at that
crisis. Fulkerson doesn't strike me as the stuff of a moral hero."
"At any rate, he was one," said Mrs. March, "and that's quite enough for
March did not answer. "What a noble thing life is, anyway! Here I am,
well on the way to fifty, after twenty-five years of hard work, looking
forward to the potential poor-house as confidently as I did in youth.
We might have saved a little more than we have saved; but the little more
wouldn't avail if I were turned out of my place now; and we should have
lived sordidly to no purpose. Some one always has you by the throat,
unless you have some one else in your grip. I wonder if that's the
attitude the Almighty intended His respectable creatures to take toward
one another! I wonder if He meant our civilization, the battle we fight
in, the game we trick in! I wonder if He considers it final, and if the
kingdom of heaven on earth, which we pray for--"
"Have you seen Lindau to-day?" Mrs. March asked.
"You inferred it from the quality of my piety?" March laughed, and then
suddenly sobered. "Yes, I saw him. It's going rather hard with him,
I'm afraid. The amputation doesn't heal very well; the shock was very
great, and he's old. It 'll take time. There's so much pain that they
have to keep him under opiates, and I don't think he fully knew me. At
any rate, I didn't get my piety from him to-day."
"It's horrible! Horrible!" said Mrs. March. "I can't get over it!
After losing his hand in the war, to lose his whole arm now in this way!
It does seem too cruel! Of course he oughtn't to have been there; we can
say that. But you oughtn't to have been there, either, Basil."
"Well, I wasn't exactly advising the police to go and club the railroad
"Neither was poor Conrad Dryfoos."
"I don't deny it. All that was distinctly the chance of life and death.
That belonged to God; and no doubt it was law, though it seems chance.
But what I object to is this economic chance-world in which we live, and
which we men seem to have created. It ought to be law as inflexible in
human affairs as the order of day and night in the physical world that if
a man will work he shall both rest and eat, and shall not be harassed
with any question as to how his repose and his provision shall come.
Nothing less ideal than this satisfies the reason. But in our state of
things no one is secure of this. No one is sure of finding work; no one
is sure of not losing it. I may have my work taken away from me at any
moment by the caprice, the mood, the indigestion of a man who has not the
qualification for knowing whether I do it well, or ill. At my time of
life--at every time of life--a man ought to feel that if he will keep on
doing his duty he shall not suffer in himself or in those who are dear to
him, except through natural causes. But no man can feel this as things
are now; and so we go on, pushing and pulling, climbing and crawling,
thrusting aside and trampling underfoot; lying, cheating, stealing; and
then we get to the end, covered with blood and dirt and sin and shame,
and look back over the way we've come to a palace of our own, or the
poor-house, which is about the only possession we can claim in common
with our brother-men, I don't think the retrospect can be pleasing."
"I know, I know!" said his wife. "I think of those things, too, Basil.
Life isn't what it seems when you look forward to it. But I think people
would suffer less, and wouldn't have to work so hard, and could make all
reasonable provision for the future, if they were not so greedy and so
"Oh, without doubt! We can't put it all on the conditions; we must put
some of the blame on character. But conditions make character; and
people are greedy and foolish, and wish to have and to shine, because
having and shining are held up to them by civilization as the chief good
of life. We all know they are not the chief good, perhaps not good at
all; but if some one ventures to say so, all the rest of us call him a
fraud and a crank, and go moiling and toiling on to the palace or the
poor-house. We can't help it. If one were less greedy or less foolish,
some one else would have and would shine at his expense. We don't moil
and toil to ourselves alone; the palace or the poor-house is not merely
for ourselves, but for our children, whom we've brought up in the
superstition that having and shining is the chief good. We dare not
teach them otherwise, for fear they may falter in the fight when it comes
their turn, and the children of others will crowd them out of the palace
into the poor-house. If we felt sure that honest work shared by all
would bring them honest food shared by all, some heroic few of us, who
did not wish our children to rise above their fellows--though we could
not bear to have them fall below--might trust them with the truth. But
we have no such assurance, and so we go on trembling before Dryfooses and
living in gimcrackeries."
"Basil, Basil! I was always willing to live more simply than you. You
know I was!"
"I know you always said so, my dear. But how many bell-ratchets and
speaking-tubes would you be willing to have at the street door below?
I remember that when we were looking for a flat you rejected every
building that had a bell-ratchet or a speaking-tube, and would have
nothing to do with any that had more than an electric button; you wanted
a hall-boy, with electric buttons all over him. I don't blame you. I
find such things quite as necessary as you do."
"And do you mean to say, Basil," she asked, abandoning this unprofitable
branch of the inquiry, "that you are really uneasy about your place?
that you are afraid Mr. Dryfoos may give up being an Angel, and Mr.
Fulkerson may play you false?"
"Play me false? Oh, it wouldn't be playing me false. It would be merely
looking out for himself, if the new Angel had editorial tastes and wanted
my place. It's what any one would do."
"You wouldn't do it, Basil!"
"Wouldn't I? Well, if any one offered me more salary than 'Every Other
Week' pays--say, twice as much--what do you think my duty to my suffering
family would be? It's give and take in the business world, Isabel;
especially take. But as to being uneasy, I'm not, in the least. I've
the spirit of a lion, when it comes to such a chance as that. When I see
how readily the sensibilities of the passing stranger can be worked in
New York, I think of taking up the role of that desperate man on Third
Avenue who went along looking for garbage in the gutter to eat. I think
I could pick up at least twenty or thirty cents a day by that little
game, and maintain my family in the affluence it's been accustomed to."
"Basil!" cried his wife. "You don't mean to say that man was an
impostor! And I've gone about, ever since, feeling that one such case in
a million, the bare possibility of it, was enough to justify all that
Lindau said about the rich and the poor!"
March laughed teasingly. "Oh, I don't say he was an impostor. Perhaps
he really was hungry; but, if he wasn't, what do you think of a
civilization that makes the opportunity of such a fraud? that gives us
all such a bad conscience for the need which is that we weaken to the
need that isn't? Suppose that poor fellow wasn't personally founded on
fact: nevertheless, he represented the truth; he was the ideal of the
suffering which would be less effective if realistically treated. That
man is a great comfort to me. He probably rioted for days on that
quarter I gave him; made a dinner very likely, or a champagne supper; and
if 'Every Other Week' wants to get rid of me, I intend to work that
racket. You can hang round the corner with Bella, and Tom can come up to
me in tears, at stated intervals, and ask me if I've found anything yet.
To be sure, we might be arrested and sent up somewhere. But even in that
extreme case we should be provided for. Oh no, I'm not afraid of losing
my place! I've merely a sort of psychological curiosity to know how men
like Dryfoos and Fulkerson will work out the problem before them."
It was a curiosity which Fulkerson himself shared, at least concerning
Dryfoos. "I don't know what the old man's going to do," he said to March
the day after the Marches had talked their future over. "Said anything
to you yet?"
"No, not a word."
"You're anxious, I suppose, same as I am. Fact is," said Fulkerson,
blushing a little, "I can't ask to have a day named till I know where I
am in connection with the old man. I can't tell whether I've got to look
out for something else or somebody else. Of course, it's full soon yet."
"Yes," March said, "much sooner than it seems to us. We're so anxious
about the future that we don't remember how very recent the past is."
"That's something so. The old man's hardly had time yet to pull himself
together. Well, I'm glad you feel that way about it, March. I guess
it's more of a blow to him than we realize. He was a good deal bound up
in Coonrod, though he didn't always use him very well. Well, I reckon
it's apt to happen so oftentimes; curious how cruel love can be. Heigh?
We're an awful mixture, March!"
"Yes, that's the marvel and the curse, as Browning says."
"Why, that poor boy himself," pursued Fulkerson, had streaks of the mule
in him that could give odds to Beaton, and he must have tried the old man
by the way he would give in to his will and hold out against his
judgment. I don't believe he ever budged a hairs-breadth from his
original position about wanting to be a preacher and not wanting to be a
business man. Well, of course! I don't think business is all in all;
but it must have made the old man mad to find that without saying
anything, or doing anything to show it, and after seeming to come over to
his ground, and really coming, practically, Coonrod was just exactly
where he first planted himself, every time."
"Yes, people that have convictions are difficult. Fortunately, they're
"Do you think so? It seems to me that everybody's got convictions.
Beaton himself, who hasn't a principle to throw at a dog, has got
convictions the size of a barn. They ain't always the same ones, I know,
but they're always to the same effect, as far as Beaton's being Number
One is concerned. The old man's got convictions or did have, unless this
thing lately has shaken him all up--and he believes that money will do
everything. Colonel Woodburn's got convictions that he wouldn't part
with for untold millions. Why, March, you got convictions yourself!"
"Have I?" said March. "I don't know what they are."
"Well, neither do I; but I know you were ready to kick the trough over
for them when the old man wanted us to bounce Lindau that time."
"Oh yes," said March; he remembered the fact; but he was still uncertain
just what the convictions were that he had been so stanch for.
"I suppose we could have got along without you," Fulkerson mused aloud.
"It's astonishing how you always can get along in this world without the
man that is simply indispensable. Makes a fellow realize that he could
take a day off now and then without deranging the solar system a great
deal. Now here's Coonrod--or, rather, he isn't. But that boy managed
his part of the schooner so well that I used to tremble when I thought of
his getting the better of the old man and going into a convent or
something of that kind; and now here he is, snuffed out in half a second,
and I don't believe but what we shall be sailing along just as chipper as
usual inside of thirty days. I reckon it will bring the old man to the
point when I come to talk with him about who's to be put in Coonrod's
place. I don't like very well to start the subject with him; but it's
got to be done some time."
"Yes," March admitted. "It's terrible to think how unnecessary even the
best and wisest of us is to the purposes of Providence. When I looked at
that poor young fellow's face sometimes--so gentle and true and pure--
I used to think the world was appreciably richer for his being in it.
But are we appreciably poorer for his being out of it now?"
"No, I don't reckon we are," said Fulkerson. "And what a lot of the raw
material of all kinds the Almighty must have, to waste us the way He
seems to do. Think of throwing away a precious creature like Coonrod
Dryfoos on one chance in a thousand of getting that old fool of a Lindau
out of the way of being clubbed! For I suppose that was what Coonrod was
up to. Say! Have you been round to see Lindau to-day?"
Something in the tone or the manner of Fulkerson startled March. "No!
I haven't seen him since yesterday."
"Well, I don't know," said Fulkerson. "I guess I saw him a little while
after you did, and that young doctor there seemed to feel kind of worried
"Or not worried, exactly; they can't afford to let such things worry them,
I suppose; but--"
"He's worse?" asked March.
"Oh, he didn't say so. But I just wondered if you'd seen him to-day."
"I think I'll go now," said March, with a pang at heart. He had gone
every day to see Lindau, but this day he had thought he would not go, and
that was why his heart smote him. He knew that if he were in Lindau's
place Lindau would never have left his side if he could have helped it.
March tried to believe that the case was the same, as it stood now; it
seemed to him that he was always going to or from the hospital; he said
to himself that it must do Lindau harm to be visited so much. But be
knew that this was not true when he was met at the door of the ward where
Lindau lay by the young doctor, who had come to feel a personal interest
in March's interest in Lindau.
He smiled without gayety, and said, "He's just going."
"Oh no. He has been failing very fast since you saw him yesterday, and
now--" They had been walking softly and talking softly down the aisle
between the long rows of beds. "Would you care to see him?"
The doctor made a slight gesture toward the white canvas screen which in
such places forms the death-chamber of the poor and friendless. "Come
round this way--he won't know you! I've got rather fond of the poor old
fellow. He wouldn't have a clergyman--sort of agnostic, isn't he? A
good many of these Germans are--but the young lady who's been coming to
They both stopped. Lindau's grand, patriarchal head, foreshortened to
their view, lay white upon the pillow, and his broad, white beard flowed
upon the sheet, which heaved with those long last breaths. Beside his
bed Margaret Vance was kneeling; her veil was thrown back, and her face
was lifted; she held clasped between her hands the hand of the dying man;
she moved her lips inaudibly.
In spite of the experience of the whole race from time immemorial, when
death comes to any one we know we helplessly regard it as an incident of
life, which will presently go on as before. Perhaps this is an
instinctive perception of the truth that it does go on somewhere; but we
have a sense of death as absolutely the end even for earth only if it
relates to some one remote or indifferent to us. March tried to project
Lindau to the necessary distance from himself in order to realize the
fact in his case, but he could not, though the man with whom his youth
had been associated in a poetic friendship had not actually reentered the
region of his affection to the same degree, or in any like degree. The
changed conditions forbade that. He had a soreness of heart concerning
him; but he could not make sure whether this soreness was grief for his
death, or remorse for his own uncandor with him about Dryfoos, or a
foreboding of that accounting with his conscience which he knew his wife
would now exact of him down to the last minutest particular of their
joint and several behavior toward Lindau ever since they had met him in
He felt something knock against his shoulder, and he looked up to have
his hat struck from his head by a horse's nose. He saw the horse put his
foot on the hat, and he reflected, "Now it will always look like an
accordion," and he heard the horse's driver address him some sarcasms
before he could fully awaken to the situation. He was standing
bareheaded in the middle of Fifth Avenue and blocking the tide of
carriages flowing in either direction. Among the faces put out of the
carriage windows he saw that of Dryfoos looking from a coupe. The old
man knew him, and said, "Jump in here, Mr. March"; and March, who had
mechanically picked up his hat, and was thinking, "Now I shall have to
tell Isabel about this at once, and she will never trust me on the street
again without her," mechanically obeyed. Her confidence in him had been
undermined by his being so near Conrad when he was shot; and it went
through his mind that he would get Dryfoos to drive him to a hatter's,
where he could buy a new hat, and not be obliged to confess his narrow
escape to his wife till the incident was some days old and she could bear
it better. It quite drove Lindau's death out of his mind for the moment;
and when Dryfoos said if he was going home he would drive up to the first
cross-street and turn back with him, March said he would be glad if he
would take him to a hat-store. The old man put his head out again and
told the driver to take them to the Fifth Avenue Hotel. "There's a hat-
store around there somewhere, seems to me," he said; and they talked of
March's accident as well as they could in the rattle and clatter of the
street till they reached the place. March got his hat, passing a joke
with the hatter about the impossibility of pressing his old hat over
again, and came out to thank Dryfoos and take leave of him.
"If you ain't in any great hurry," the old man said, "I wish you'd get in
here a minute. I'd like to have a little talk with you."
"Oh, certainly," said March, and he thought: "It's coming now about what
he intends to do with 'Every Other Week.' Well, I might as well have all
the misery at once and have it over."
Dryfoos called up to his driver, who bent his head down sidewise to
listen: "Go over there on Madison Avenue, onto that asphalt, and keep
drivin' up and down till I stop you. I can't hear myself think on these
pavements," he said to March. But after they got upon the asphalt, and
began smoothly rolling over it, he seemed in no haste to begin. At last
he said, "I wanted to talk with you about that--that Dutchman that was at
my dinner--Lindau," and March's heart gave a jump with wonder whether he
could already have heard of Lindau's death; but in an instant he
perceived that this was impossible. "I been talkin' with Fulkerson about
him, and he says they had to take the balance of his arm off."
March nodded; it seemed to him he could not speak. He could not make out
from the close face of the old man anything of his motive. It was set,
but set as a piece of broken mechanism is when it has lost the power to
relax itself. There was no other history in it of what the man had
passed through in his son's death.
"I don't know," Dryfoos resumed, looking aside at the cloth window-strap,
which he kept fingering, "as you quite understood what made me the
maddest. I didn't tell him I could talk Dutch, because I can't keep it
up with a regular German; but my father was Pennsylvany Dutch, and I
could understand what he was saying to you about me. I know I had no
business to understood it, after I let him think I couldn't but I did,
and I didn't like very well to have a man callin' me a traitor and a
tyrant at my own table. Well, I look at it differently now, and I reckon
I had better have tried to put up with it; and I would, if I could have
known--" He stopped with a quivering lip, and then went on: "Then, again,
I didn't like his talkin' that paternalism of his. I always heard it was
the worst kind of thing for the country; I was brought up to think the
best government was the one that governs the least; and I didn't want to
hear that kind of talk from a man that was livin' on my money.
I couldn't bear it from him. Or I thought I couldn't before--before--"
He stopped again, and gulped. "I reckon now there ain't anything I
couldn't bear." March was moved by the blunt words and the mute stare
forward with which they ended. "Mr. Dryfoos, I didn't know that you
understood Lindau's German, or I shouldn't have allowed him he wouldn't
have allowed himself--to go on. He wouldn't have knowingly abused his
position of guest to censure you, no matter how much he condemned you."
"I don't care for it now," said Dryfoos. "It's all past and gone, as far
as I'm concerned; but I wanted you to see that I wasn't tryin' to punish
him for his opinions, as you said."
"No; I see now," March assented, though he thought, his position still
justified. "I wish--"
"I don't know as I understand much about his opinions, anyway; but I
ain't ready to say I want the men dependent on me to manage my business
for me. I always tried to do the square thing by my hands; and in that
particular case out there I took on all the old hands just as fast as
they left their Union. As for the game I came on them, it was dog eat
March could have laughed to think how far this old man was from even
conceiving of Lindau's point'of view, and how he was saying the worst of
himself that Lindau could have said of him. No one could have
characterized the kind of thing he had done more severely than he when he
called it dog eat dog.
"There's a great deal to be said on both sides," March began, hoping to
lead up through this generality to the fact of Lindau's death; but the
old man went on:
"Well, all I wanted him to know is that I wasn't trying to punish him for
what he said about things in general. You naturally got that idea, I
reckon; but I always went in for lettin' people say what they please and
think what they please; it's the only way in a free country."
"I'm afraid, Mr. Dryfoos, that it would make little difference to Lindau
"I don't suppose he bears malice for it," said Dryfoos, "but what I want
to do is to have him told so. He could understand just why I didn't want
to be called hard names, and yet I didn't object to his thinkin' whatever
he pleased. I'd like him to know--"
"No one can speak to him, no one can tell him," March began again, but
again Dryfoos prevented him from going on.
"I understand it's a delicate thing; and I'm not askin' you to do it.
What I would really like to do--if you think he could be prepared for it,
some way, and could stand it--would be to go to him myself, and tell him
just what the trouble was. I'm in hopes, if I done that, he could see
how I felt about it."
A picture of Dryfoos going to the dead Lindau with his vain regrets
presented itself to March, and he tried once more to make the old man
understand. "Mr. Dryfoos," he said, "Lindau is past all that forever,"
and he felt the ghastly comedy of it when Dryfoos continued, without
"I got a particular reason why I want him to believe it wasn't his ideas
I objected to--them ideas of his about the government carryin' everything
on and givin' work. I don't understand 'em exactly, but I found a
writin'--among--my son's-things" (he seemed to force the words through
his teeth), "and I reckon he--thought--that way. Kind of a diary--where
he--put down--his thoughts. My son and me--we differed about a good-
many things." His chin shook, and from time to time he stopped. "I
wasn't very good to him, I reckon; I crossed him where I guess I got no
business to cross him; but I thought everything of--Coonrod. He was the
best boy, from a baby, that ever was; just so patient and mild, and done
whatever he was told. I ought to 'a' let him been a preacher! Oh, my
son! my son!" The sobs could not be kept back any longer; they shook the
old man with a violence that made March afraid for him; but he controlled
himself at last with a series of hoarse sounds like barks. "Well, it's
all past and gone! But as I understand you from what you saw, when
Coonrod was--killed, he was tryin' to save that old man from trouble?"
Yes, yes! It seemed so to me."
"That 'll do, then! I want you to have him come back and write for the
book when he gets well. I want you to find out and let me know if
there's anything I can do for him. I'll feel as if I done it--for my--
son. I'll take him into my own house, and do for him there, if you say
so, when he gets so he can be moved. I'll wait on him myself. It's what
Coonrod 'd do, if he was here. I don't feel any hardness to him because
it was him that got Coonrod killed, as you might say, in one sense of the
term; but I've tried to think it out, and I feel like I was all the more
beholden to him because my son died tryin' to save him. Whatever I do,
I'll be doin' it for Coonrod, and that's enough for me." He seemed to
have finished, and he turned to March as if to hear what he had to say.
March hesitated. "I'm afraid, Mr. Dryfoos--Didn't Fulkerson tell you
that Lindau was very sick?"
"Yes, of course. But he's all right, he said."
Now it had to come, though the fact had been latterly playing fast and
loose with March's consciousness. Something almost made him smile; the
willingness he had once felt to give this old man pain; then he consoled
himself by thinking that at least he was not obliged to meet Dryfoos's
wish to make atonement with the fact that Lindau had renounced him, and
would on no terms work for such a man as he, or suffer any kindness from
him. In this light Lindau seemed the harder of the two, and March had
the momentary force to say
"Mr. Dryfoos--it can't be. Lindau--I have just come from him--is dead."
"How did he take it? How could he bear it? Oh, Basil! I wonder you
could have the heart to say it to him. It was cruel!"
"Yes, cruel enough, my dear," March owned to his wife, when they talked
the matter over on his return home. He could not wait till the children
were out of the way, and afterward neither he nor his wife was sorry that
he had spoken of it before them. The girl cried plentifully for her old
friend who was dead, and said she hated Mr. Dryfoos, and then was sorry
for him, too; and the boy listened to all, and spoke with a serious sense
that pleased his father. "But as to how he took it," March went on to
answer his wife's question about Dryfoos--"how do any of us take a thing
that hurts? Some of us cry out, and some of us don't. Dryfoos drew a
kind of long, quivering breath, as a child does when it grieves--there's
something curiously simple and primitive about him--and didn't say
anything. After a while he asked me how he could see the people at the
hospital about the remains; I gave him my card to the young doctor there
that had charge of Lindau. I suppose he was still carrying forward his
plan of reparation in his mind--to the dead for the dead. But how
useless! If he could have taken the living Lindau home with him, and
cared for him all his days, what would it have profited the gentle
creature whose life his worldly ambition vexed and thwarted here?
He might as well offer a sacrifice at Conrad's grave. Children," said
March, turning to them, "death is an exile that no remorse and no love
can reach. Remember that, and be good to every one here on earth, for
your longing to retrieve any harshness or unkindness to the dead will be
the very ecstasy of anguish to you. I wonder," he mused, "if one of the
reasons why we're shut up to our ignorance of what is to be hereafter
isn't because if we were sure of another world we might be still more
brutal to one another here, in the hope of making reparation somewhere
else. Perhaps, if we ever come to obey the law of love on earth, the
mystery of death will be taken away."
"Well"--the ancestral Puritanism spoke in Mrs. March--" these two old men
have been terribly punished. They have both been violent and wilful, and
they have both been punished. No one need ever tell me there is not a
moral government of the universe!"
March always disliked to hear her talk in this way, which did both her
head and heart injustice. "And Conrad," he said, "what was he punished
"He?" she answered, in an exaltation--" he suffered for the sins of
"Ah, well, if you put it in that way, yes. That goes on continually.
That's another mystery."
He fell to brooding on it, and presently he heard his son saying,
"I suppose, papa, that Mr. Lindau died in a bad cause?"
March was startled. He had always been so sorry for Lindau, and admired
his courage and generosity so much, that he had never fairly considered
this question. "Why, yes," he answered; "he died in the cause of
disorder; he was trying to obstruct the law. No doubt there was a wrong
there, an inconsistency and an injustice that he felt keenly; but it
could not be reached in his way without greater wrong."
"Yes; that's what I thought," said the boy. "And what's the use of our
ever fighting about anything in America? I always thought we could vote
anything we wanted."
"We can, if we're honest, and don't buy and sell one another's votes,"
said his father. "And men like Lindau, who renounce the American means
as hopeless, and let their love of justice hurry them into sympathy with
violence--yes, they are wrong; and poor Lindau did die in a bad cause, as
you say, Tom."
"I think Conrad had no business there, or you, either, Basil," said his
"Oh, I don't defend myself," said March. "I was there in the cause of
literary curiosity and of conjugal disobedience. But Conrad--yes, he had
some business there: it was his business to suffer there for the sins of
others. Isabel, we can't throw aside that old doctrine of the Atonement
yet. The life of Christ, it wasn't only in healing the sick and going
about to do good; it was suffering for the sins of others. That's as
great a mystery as the mystery of death. Why should there be such a
principle in the world? But it's been felt, and more or less dumbly,
blindly recognized ever since Calvary. If we love mankind, pity them,
we even wish to suffer for them. That's what has created the religious
orders in all times--the brotherhoods and sisterhoods that belong to our
day as much as to the mediaeval past. That's what is driving a girl like
Margaret Vance, who has everything that the world can offer her young
beauty, on to the work of a Sister of Charity among the poor and the
"Yes, yes!" cried Mrs. March. "How--how did she look there, Basil?" She
had her feminine misgivings; she was not sure but the girl was something
of a poseuse, and enjoyed the picturesqueness, as well as the pain; and
she wished to be convinced that it was not so.
"Well," she said, when March had told again the little there was to tell,
"I suppose it must be a great trial to a woman like Mrs. Horn to have her
niece going that way."
"The way of Christ?" asked March, with a smile.
"Oh, Christ came into the world to teach us how to live rightly in it,
too. If we were all to spend our time in hospitals, it would be rather
dismal for the homes. But perhaps you don't think the homes are worth
minding?" she suggested, with a certain note in her voice that he knew.
He got up and kissed her. "I think the gimcrackeries are." He took the
hat he had set down on the parlor table on coming in, and started to put
it in the hall, and that made her notice it.
"You've been getting a new hat!"
"Yes," he hesitated; "the old one had got--was decidedly shabby."
"Well, that's right. I don't like you to wear them too long. Did you
leave the old one to be pressed?"
"Well, the hatter seemed to think it was hardly worth pressing," said
March. He decided that for the present his wife's nerves had quite all
they could bear.
It was in a manner grotesque, but to March it was all the more natural
for that reason, that Dryfoos should have Lindau's funeral from his
house. He knew the old man to be darkly groping, through the payment of
these vain honors to the dead, for some atonement to his son, and he
imagined him finding in them such comfort as comes from doing all one
can, even when all is useless.
No one knew what Lindau's religion was, and in default they had had the
Anglican burial service read over him; it seems so often the refuge of
the homeless dead. Mrs. Dryfoos came down for the ceremony. She
understood that it was for Coonrod's sake that his father wished the
funeral to be there; and she confided to Mrs. March that she believed
Coonrod would have been pleased. "Coonrod was a member of the 'Piscopal
Church; and fawther's doin' the whole thing for Coonrod as much as for
anybody. He thought the world of Coonrod, fawther did. Mela, she kind
of thought it would look queer to have two funerals from the same house,
hand-runnin', as you might call it, and one of 'em no relation, either;
but when she saw how fawther was bent on it, she give in. Seems as if
she was tryin' to make up to fawther for Coonrod as much as she could.
Mela always was a good child, but nobody can ever come up to Coonrod."
March felt all the grotesqueness, the hopeless absurdity of Dryfoos's
endeavor at atonement in these vain obsequies to the man for whom he
believed his son to have died; but the effort had its magnanimity, its
pathos, and there was a poetry that appealed to him in the reconciliation
through death of men, of ideas, of conditions, that could only have gone
warring on in life. He thought, as the priest went on with the solemn
liturgy, how all the world must come together in that peace which,
struggle and strive as we may, shall claim us at last. He looked at
Dryfoos, and wondered whether he would consider these rites a sufficient
tribute, or whether there was enough in him to make him realize their
futility, except as a mere sign of his wish to retrieve the past. He
thought how we never can atone for the wrong we do; the heart we have
grieved and wounded cannot kindle with pity for us when once it is
stilled; and yet we can put our evil from us with penitence, and somehow,
somewhere, the order of loving kindness, which our passion or our
wilfulness has disturbed, will be restored.
Dryfoos, through Fulkerson, had asked all the more intimate contributors
of 'Every Other Week' to come. Beaton was absent, but Fulkerson had
brought Miss Woodburn, with her father, and Mrs. Leighton and Alma, to
fill up, as he said. Mela was much present, and was official with the
arrangement of the flowers and the welcome of the guests. She imparted
this impersonality to her reception of Kendricks, whom Fulkerson met in
the outer hall with his party, and whom he presented in whisper to them
all. Kendricks smiled under his breath, as it were, and was then mutely
and seriously polite to the Leightons. Alma brought a little bunch of
flowers, which were lost in those which Dryfoos had ordered to be
It was a kind of satisfaction to Mela to have Miss Vance come, and
reassuring as to how it would look to have the funeral there; Miss Vance
would certainly not have come unless it had been all right; she had come,
and had sent some Easter lilies.
"Ain't Christine coming down?" Fulkerson asked Mela.
"No, she ain't a bit well, and she ain't been, ever since Coonrod died.
I don't know, what's got over her," said Mela. She added, "Well, I
should 'a' thought Mr. Beaton would 'a' made out to 'a' come!"
"Beaton's peculiar," said Fulkerson. "If he thinks you want him he takes
a pleasure in not letting you have him."
"Well, goodness knows, I don't want him," said the girl.
Christine kept her room, and for the most part kept her bed; but there
seemed nothing definitely the matter with her, and she would not let them
call a doctor. Her mother said she reckoned she was beginning to feel
the spring weather, that always perfectly pulled a body down in New York;
and Mela said if being as cross as two sticks was any sign of spring-
fever, Christine had it bad. She was faithfully kind to her, and
submitted to all her humors, but she recompensed herself by the freest
criticism of Christine when not in actual attendance on her. Christine
would not suffer Mrs. Mandel to approach her, and she had with her father
a sullen submission which was not resignation. For her, apparently,
Conrad had not died, or had died in vain.
"Pshaw!" said Mela, one morning when she came to breakfast, "I reckon if
we was to send up an old card of Mr. Beaton's she'd rattle down-stairs
fast enough. If she's sick, she's love-sick. It makes me sick to see
Mela was talking to Mrs. Mandel, but her father looked up from his plate
and listened. Mela went on: "I don't know what's made the fellow quit
comun'. But he was an aggravatun' thing, and no more dependable than
water. It's just like Air. Fulkerson said, if he thinks you want him
he'll take a pleasure in not lettun' you have him. I reckon that's
what's the matter with Christine. I believe in my heart the girl 'll die
if she don't git him."
Mela went on to eat her breakfast with her own good appetite. She now
always came down to keep her father company, as she said, and she did her
best to cheer and comfort him. At least she kept the talk going, and she
had it nearly all to herself, for Mrs. Mandel was now merely staying on
provisionally, and, in the absence of any regrets or excuses from
Christine, was looking ruefully forward to the moment when she must leave
even this ungentle home for the chances of the ruder world outside.
The old man said nothing at table, but, when Mela went up to see if she
could do anything for Christine, he asked Mrs. Mandel again about all the
facts of her last interview with Beaton.
She gave them as fully as she could remember them, and the old man made
no comment on them. But he went out directly after, and at the 'Every
Other Week' office he climbed the stairs to Fulkerson's room and asked
for Beaton's address. No one yet had taken charge of Conrad's work, and
Fulkerson was running the thing himself, as he said, till he could talk
with Dryfoos about it. The old man would not look into the empty room
where he had last seen his son alive; he turned his face away and hurried
by the door.
The course of public events carried Beaton's private affairs beyond the
reach of his simple first intention to renounce his connection with
'Every Other Week.' In fact, this was not perhaps so simple as it
seemed, and long before it could be put in effect it appeared still
simpler to do nothing about the matter--to remain passive and leave the
initiative to Dryfoos, to maintain the dignity of unconsciousness and let
recognition of any change in the situation come from those who had caused
the change. After all, it was rather absurd to propose making a purely
personal question the pivot on which his relations with 'Every Other
Week' turned. He took a hint from March's position and decided that he
did not know Dryfoos in these relations; he knew only Fulkerson, who had
certainly had nothing to do with Mrs. Mandel's asking his intentions.
As he reflected upon this he became less eager to look Fulkerson up and
make the magazine a partner of his own sufferings. This was the soberer
mood to which Beaton trusted that night even before he slept, and he
awoke fully confirmed in it. As he examined the offence done him in the
cold light of day, he perceived that it had not come either from Mrs.
Mandel, who was visibly the faltering and unwilling instrument of it,
or from Christine, who was altogether ignorant of it, but from Dryfoos,
whom he could not hurt by giving up his place. He could only punish
Fulkerson by that, and Fulkerson was innocent. Justice and interest
alike dictated the passive course to which Beaton inclined; and he
reflected that he might safely leave the punishment of Dryfoos to
Christine, who would find out what had happened, and would be able to
take care of herself in any encounter of tempers with her father.
Beaton did not go to the office during the week that followed upon this
conclusion; but they were used there to these sudden absences of his,
and, as his work for the time was in train, nothing was made of his
staying away, except the sarcastic comment which the thought of him was
apt to excite in the literary department. He no longer came so much to
the Leightons, and Fulkerson was in no state of mind to miss any one
there except Miss Woodburn, whom he never missed. Beaton was left, then,
unmolestedly awaiting the course of destiny, when he read in the morning
paper, over his coffee at Maroni's, the deeply scare-headed story of
Conrad's death and the clubbing of Lindau. He probably cared as little
for either of them as any man that ever saw them; but he felt a shock,
if not a pang, at Conrad's fate, so out of keeping with his life and
character. He did not know what to do; and he did nothing. He was not
asked to the funeral, but he had not expected that, and, when Fulkerson
brought him notice that Lindau was also to be buried from Dryfoos's
house, it was without his usual sullen vindictiveness that he kept away.
In his sort, and as much as a man could who was necessarily so much taken
up with himself, he was sorry for Conrad's father; Beaton had a peculiar
tenderness for his own father, and he imagined how his father would feel
if it were he who had been killed in Conrad's place, as it might very
well have been; he sympathized with himself in view of the possibility;
and for once they were mistaken who thought him indifferent and merely
brutal in his failure to appear at Lindau's obsequies.
He would really have gone if he had known how to reconcile his presence
in that house with the terms of his effective banishment from it; and he
was rather forgivingly finding himself wronged in the situation, when
Dryfoos knocked at the studio door the morning after Lindau's funeral.
Beaton roared out, "Come in!" as he always did to a knock if he had not
a model; if he had a model he set the door slightly ajar, and with his
palette on his thumb frowned at his visitor and told him he could not
come in. Dryfoos fumbled about for the knob in the dim passageway
outside, and Beaton, who had experience of people's difficulties with it,
suddenly jerked the door open. The two men stood confronted, and at
first sight of each other their quiescent dislike revived. Each would
have been willing to turn away from the other, but that was not possible.
Beaton snorted some sort of inarticulate salutation, which Dryfoos did
not try to return; he asked if he could see him alone for a minute or
two, and Beaton bade him come in, and swept some paint-blotched rags from
the chair which he told him to take. He noticed, as the old man sank
tremulously into it, that his movement was like that of his own father,
and also that he looked very much like Christine. Dryfoos folded his
hands tremulously on the top of his horn-handled stick, and he was rather
finely haggard, with the dark hollows round his black eyes and the fall
of the muscles on either side of his chin. He had forgotten to take his
soft, wide-brimmed hat off; and Beaton felt a desire to sketch him just
as he sat.
Dryfoos suddenly pulled himself together from the dreary absence into
which he fell at first. "Young man," he began, "maybe I've come here on
a fool's errand," and Beaton rather fancied that beginning.
But it embarrassed him a little, and he said, with a shy glance aside, "I
don't know what you mean."
"I reckon," Dryfoos answered, quietly, "you got your notion, though.
I set that woman on to speak to you the way she done. But if there was
anything wrong in the way she spoke, or if you didn't feel like she had
any right to question you up as if we suspected you of anything mean, I
want you to say so."
Beaton said nothing, and the old man went on.
"I ain't very well up in the ways of the world, and I don't pretend to
be. All I want is to be fair and square with everybody. I've made
mistakes, though, in my time--" He stopped, and Beaton was not proof
against the misery of his face, which was twisted as with some strong
physical ache. "I don't know as I want to make any more, if I can help
it. I don't know but what you had a right to keep on comin', and if you
had I want you to say so. Don't you be afraid but what I'll take it in
the right way. I don't want to take advantage of anybody, and I don't
ask you to say any more than that."
Beaton did not find the humiliation of the man who had humiliated him so
sweet as he could have fancied it might be. He knew how it had come
about, and that it was an effect of love for his child; it did not matter
by what ungracious means she had brought him to know that he loved her
better than his own will, that his wish for her happiness was stronger
than his pride; it was enough that he was now somehow brought to give
proof of it. Beaton could not be aware of all that dark coil of
circumstance through which Dryfoos's present action evolved itself;
the worst of this was buried in the secret of the old man's heart, a worm
of perpetual torment. What was apparent to another was that he was
broken by the sorrow that had fallen upon him, and it was this that
Beaton respected and pitied in his impulse to be frank and kind in his
"No, I had no right to keep coming to your house in the way I did,
unless--unless I meant more than I ever said." Beaton added: "I don't
say that what you did was usual--in this country, at any rate; but I
can't say you were wrong. Since you speak to me about the matter, it's
only fair to myself to say that a good deal goes on in life without much
thinking of consequences. That's the way I excuse myself."
"And you say Mrs. Mandel done right?" asked Dryfoos, as if he wished
simply to be assured of a point of etiquette.
"Yes, she did right. I've nothing to complain of."
"That's all I wanted to know," said Dryfoos; but apparently he had not
finished, and he did not go, though the silence that Beaton now kept gave
him a chance to do so. He began a series of questions which had no
relation to the matter in hand, though they were strictly personal to
Beaton. "What countryman are you?" he asked, after a moment.
"What countryman?" Beaton frowned back at him.
"Yes, are you an American by birth?"
"Yes; I was born in Syracuse."
"My father is a Scotch Seceder."
"What business is your father in?"
Beaton faltered and blushed; then he answered:
"He's in the monument business, as he calls it. He's a tombstone
cutter." Now that he was launched, Beaton saw no reason for not
declaring, "My father's always been a poor man, and worked with his own
hands for his living." He had too slight esteem socially for Dryfoos to
conceal a fact from him that he might have wished to blink with others.
"Well, that's right," said Dryfoos. "I used to farm it myself. I've got
a good pile of money together, now. At first it didn't come easy; but
now it's got started it pours in and pours in; it seems like there was no
end to it. I've got well on to three million; but it couldn't keep me
from losin' my son. It can't buy me back a minute of his life; not all
the money in the world can do it!"
He grieved this out as if to himself rather than to Beaton, who, scarcely
ventured to say, "I know--I am very sorry--"
"How did you come," Dryfoos interrupted, "to take up paintin'?"
"Well, I don't know," said Beaton, a little scornfully. "You don't.
take a thing of that kind up, I fancy. I always wanted to paint."
"Father try to stop you?"
"No. It wouldn't have been of any use. Why--"
"My son, he wanted to be a preacher, and I did stop him or I thought I
did. But I reckon he was a preacher, all the same, every minute of his
life. As you say, it ain't any use to try to stop a thing like that.
I reckon if a child has got any particular bent, it was given to it;
and it's goin' against the grain, it's goin' against the law, to try to
bend it some other way. There's lots of good business men, Mr. Beaton,
twenty of 'em to every good preacher?"
"I imagine more than twenty," said Beaton, amused and touched through his
curiosity as to what the old man was driving at by the quaint simplicity
of his speculations.
"Father ever come to the city?"
"No; he never has the time; and my mother's an invalid."
"Oh! Brothers and sisters?"
"Yes; we're a large family."
"I lost two little fellers--twins," said Dryfoos, sadly. "But we hain't
ever had but just the five. Ever take portraits?"
"Yes," said Beaton, meeting this zigzag in the queries as seriously as
the rest. "I don't think I am good at it."
Dryfoos got to his feet. "I wish you'd paint a likeness of my son.
You've seen him plenty of times. We won't fight about the price, don't
you be afraid of that."
Beaton was astonished, and in a mistaken way he was disgusted. He saw
that Dryfoos was trying to undo Mrs. Mandel's work practically, and get
him to come again to his house; that he now conceived of the offence
given him as condoned, and wished to restore the former situation. He
knew that he was attempting this for Christine's sake, but he was not the
man to imagine that Dryfoos was trying not only to tolerate him, but to
like him; and, in fact, Dryfoos was not wholly conscious himself of this
end. What they both understood was that Dryfoos was endeavoring to get
at Beaton through Conrad's memory; but with one this was its dedication
to a purpose of self sacrifice, and with the other a vulgar and shameless
use of it.
"I couldn't do it," said Beaton. "I couldn't think of attempting it."
"Why not?" Dryfoos persisted. "We got some photographs of him; he
didn't like to sit very well; but his mother got him to; and you know how
"I couldn't do it--I couldn't. I can't even consider it. I'm very
sorry. I would, if it were possible. But it isn't possible."
"I reckon if you see the photographs once"
"It isn't that, Mr. Dryfoos. But I'm not in the way of that kind of
thing any more."
"I'd give any price you've a mind to name--"
"Oh, it isn't the money!" cried Beaton, beginning to lose control of
The old man did not notice him. He sat with his head fallen forward, and
his chin resting on his folded hands. Thinking of the portrait, he saw
Conrad's face before him, reproachful, astonished, but all gentle as it
looked when Conrad caught his hand that day after he struck him; he heard
him say, "Father!" and the sweat gathered on his forehead. "Oh, my God!"
he groaned. "No; there ain't anything I can do now."
Beaton did not know whether Dryfoos was speaking to him or not. He
started toward him. "Are you ill?"
"No, there ain't anything the matter," said the old man. "But I guess
I'll lay down on your settee a minute." He tottered with Beaton's help
to the aesthetic couch covered with a tiger-skin, on which Beaton had
once thought of painting a Cleopatra; but he could never get the right
model. As the old man stretched himself out on it, pale and suffering,
he did not look much like a Cleopatra, but Beaton was struck with his
effectiveness, and the likeness between him and his daughter; she would
make a very good Cleopatra in some ways. All the time, while these
thoughts passed through his mind, he was afraid Dryfoos would die.
The old man fetched his breath in gasps, which presently smoothed and
lengthened into his normal breathing. Beaton got him a glass of wine,
and after tasting it he sat up.
"You've got to excuse me," he said, getting back to his characteristic
grimness with surprising suddenness, when once he began to recover
himself. "I've been through a good deal lately; and sometimes it ketches
me round the heart like a pain."
In his life of selfish immunity from grief, Beaton could not understand
this experience that poignant sorrow brings; he said to himself that
Dryfoos was going the way of angina pectoris; as he began shuffling off
the tiger-skin he said: "Had you better get up? Wouldn't you like me to
call a doctor?"
"I'm all right, young man." Dryfoos took his hat and stick from him, but
he made for the door so uncertainly that Beaton put his hand under his
elbow and helped him out, and down the stairs, to his coupe.
"Hadn't you better let me drive home with you?" he asked.
"What?" said Dryfoos, suspiciously.
Beaton repeated his question.
"I guess I'm able to go home alone," said Dryfoos, in a surly tone, and
he put his head out of the window and called up "Home!" to the driver,
who immediately started off and left Beaton standing beside the
Beaton wasted the rest of the day in the emotions and speculations which
Dryfoos's call inspired. It was not that they continuously occupied him,
but they broke up the train of other thoughts, and spoiled him for work;
a very little spoiled Beaton for work; he required just the right mood
for work. He comprehended perfectly well that Dryfoos had made him that
extraordinary embassy because he wished him to renew his visits, and he
easily imagined the means that had brought him to this pass. From what
he knew of that girl he did not envy her father his meeting with her when
he must tell her his mission had failed. But had it failed? When Beaton
came to ask himself this question, he could only perceive that he and
Dryfoos had failed to find any ground of sympathy, and had parted in the
same dislike with which they had met. But as to any other failure, it
was certainly tacit, and it still rested with him to give it effect.
He could go back to Dryfoos's house, as freely as before, and it was
clear that he was very much desired to come back. But if he went back it
was also clear that he must go back with intentions more explicit than
before, and now he had to ask himself just how much or how little he had
meant by going there. His liking for Christine had certainly not
increased, but the charm, on the other hand, of holding a leopardess in
leash had not yet palled upon him. In his life of inconstancies, it was
a pleasure to rest upon something fixed, and the man who had no control
over himself liked logically enough to feel his control of some one else.
The fact cannot other wise be put in terms, and the attraction which
Christine Dryfoos had for him, apart from this, escapes from all terms,
as anything purely and merely passional must. He had seen from the first
that she was a cat, and so far as youth forecasts such things, he felt
that she would be a shrew. But he had a perverse sense of her beauty,
and he knew a sort of life in which her power to molest him with her
temper could be reduced to the smallest proportions, and even broken to
pieces. Then the consciousness of her money entered. It was evident
that the old man had mentioned his millions in the way of a hint to him
of what he might reasonably expect if he would turn and be his son-in-
law. Beaton did not put it to himself in those words; and in fact his
cogitations were not in words at all. It was the play of cognitions,
of sensations, formlessly tending to the effect which can only be very
clumsily interpreted in language. But when he got to this point in them,
Beaton rose to magnanimity and in a flash of dramatic reverie disposed of
a part of Dryfoos's riches in placing his father and mother, and his
brothers and sisters, beyond all pecuniary anxiety forever. He had no
shame, no scruple in this, for he had been a pensioner upon others ever
since a Syracusan amateur of the arts had detected his talent and given
him the money to go and study abroad. Beaton had always considered the
money a loan, to be repaid out of his future success; but he now never
dreamt of repaying it; as the man was rich, he had even a contempt for
the notion of repaying him; but this did not prevent him from feeling
very keenly the hardships he put his father to in borrowing money from
him, though he never repaid his father, either. In this reverie he saw
himself sacrificed in marriage with Christine Dryfoos, in a kind of
admiring self-pity, and he was melted by the spectacle of the dignity
with which he suffered all the lifelong trials ensuing from his
unselfishness. The fancy that Alma Leighton came bitterly to regret him,
contributed to soothe and flatter him, and he was not sure that Margaret.
Vance did not suffer a like loss in him.
There had been times when, as he believed, that beautiful girl's high
thoughts had tended toward him; there had been looks, gestures, even
words, that had this effect to him, or that seemed to have had it; and
Beaton saw that he might easily construe Mrs. Horn's confidential appeal
to him to get Margaret interested in art again as something by no means
necessarily offensive, even though it had been made to him as to a master
of illusion. If Mrs. Horn had to choose between him and the life of good
works to which her niece was visibly abandoning herself, Beaton could not
doubt which she would choose; the only question was how real the danger
of a life of good works was.
As he thought of these two girls, one so charming and the other so
divine, it became indefinitely difficult to renounce them for Christine
Dryfoos, with her sultry temper and her earthbound ideals. Life had been
so flattering to Beaton hitherto that he could not believe them both
finally indifferent; and if they were not indifferent, perhaps he did not
wish either of them to be very definite. What he really longed for was
their sympathy; for a man who is able to walk round quite ruthlessly on
the feelings of others often has very tender feelings of his own, easily
lacerated, and eagerly responsive to the caresses of compassion. In this
frame Beaton determined to go that afternoon, though it was not Mrs.
Horn's day, and call upon her in the hope of possibly seeing Miss Vance
alone. As he continued in it, he took this for a sign and actually went.
It did not fall out at once as he wished, but he got Mrs. Horn to talking
again about her niece, and Mrs. Horn again regretted that nothing could
be done by the fine arts to reclaim Margaret from good works.
"Is she at home? Will you let me see her?" asked Beacon, with something
of the scientific interest of a physician inquiring for a patient whose
symptoms have been rehearsed to him. He had not asked for her before.
"Yes, certainly," said Mrs. Horn, and she went herself to call Margaret,
and she did not return with her. The girl entered with the gentle grace
peculiar to her; and Beaton, bent as he was on his own consolation,
could not help being struck with the spiritual exaltation of her look.
At sight of her, the vague hope he had never quite relinquished, that
they might be something more than aesthetic friends, died in his heart.
She wore black, as she often did; but in spite of its fashion her dress
received a nun-like effect from the pensive absence of her face.
"Decidedly," thought Beaton, "she is far gone in good works."
But he rose, all the same, to meet her on the old level, and he began at
once to talk to her of the subject he had been discussing with her aunt.
He said frankly that they both felt she had unjustifiably turned her back
upon possibilities which she ought not to neglect.
"You know very well," she answered, "that I couldn't do anything in that
way worth the time I should waste on it. Don't talk of it, please.
I suppose my aunt has been asking you to say this, but it's no use.
I'm sorry it's no use, she wishes it so much; but I'm not sorry
otherwise. You can find the pleasure at least of doing good work in it;
but I couldn't find anything in it but a barren amusement. Mr. Wetmore
is right; for me, it's like enjoying an opera, or a ball."
"That's one of Wetmore's phrases. He'd sacrifice anything to them."
She put aside the whole subject with a look. "You were not at Mr.
Dryfoos's the other day. Have you seen them, any of them, lately?"
"I haven't been there for some time, no," said Beaton, evasively.
But he thought if he was to get on to anything, he had better be candid.
"Mr. Dryfoos was at my studio this morning. He's got a queer notion.
He wants me to paint his son's portrait."
She started. "And will you--"
"No, I couldn't do such a thing. It isn't in my way. I told him so.
His son had a beautiful face an antique profile; a sort of early
Christian type; but I'm too much of a pagan for that sort of thing."
"Yes," Beaton continued, not quite liking her assent after he had invited
it. He had his pride in being a pagan, a Greek, but it failed him in her
presence, now; and he wished that she had protested he was none. "He was
a singular creature; a kind of survival; an exile in our time and place.
I don't know: we don't quite expect a saint to be rustic; but with all
his goodness Conrad Dryfoos was a country person. If he were not dying
for a cause you could imagine him milking." Beaton intended a contempt
that came from the bitterness of having himself once milked the family
His contempt did not reach Miss Vance. "He died for a cause," she said.
"Of peace. He was there to persuade the strikers to be quiet and go
"I haven't been quite sure," said Beaton. "But in any case he had no
business there. The police were on hand to do the persuading."
"I can't let you talk so!" cried the girl. "It's shocking! Oh, I know
it's the way people talk, and the worst is that in the sight of the world
it's the right way. But the blessing on the peacemakers is not for the
policemen with their clubs."
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