Peter: A Novel of Which He is Not the Hero
F. Hopkinson Smith
Part 4 out of 8
"Lovely? Why, it is the most wonderful place I ever saw; I could
hardly believe my senses. I am quite sure old Aunt Hannah is
cooking behind that door--" here he pointed to the kitchen--"and
that poor old Tom will come hobbling along in a minute with 'dat
mis'ry' in his back. How in the world you ever did it, and what--"
"And did you hear my frogs?" interrupted his hostess.
"Of course he didn't, Felicia," broke in Peter. "What a question
to ask a man! Listen to the croakings of your miserable tadpoles
with the prettiest girl in seven counties--in seven States, for
that matter--sitting beside him! Oh!--you needn't look, you.
minx! If he heard a single croak he ought to be ducked in the
puddle--and then packed off home soaking wet."
"And that is what he is going to do himself," rejoined Ruth,
dropping into a chair which Peter had drawn up for her.
"Do what!" cried Peter.
"Pack himself off--going by the early train--nothing I can do or
say has made the slightest impression on him," she said with a
toss of her head.
Jack raised his hands in protest, but Peter wouldn't listen.
"Then you'll come back, sir, on Saturday and stay until Monday,
and then we'll all go down together and you'll take Ruth across
the ferry to her father's.
"Thank you, sir, but I am afraid I can't. You see, it all depends
on the work--" this last came with a certain tone of regret.
"But I'll send MacFarlane a note, and have you detailed as an
escort of one to bring his only daughter----"
"It would not do any good, Mr. Grayson."
"Stop your nonsense, Jack--" Peter called him so now--"You come
back for Sunday." These days with the boy were the pleasantest of
"Well, I would love to--" Here his eyes sought, Ruth--"but we have
an important blast to make, and we are doing our best to get
things into shape before the week is out."
"Well, but suppose it isn't ready?" demanded Peter.
"But it will be," answered Jack in a more positive tone; this part
of the work was in his hands.
"Well, anyhow, send me a telegram."
"I will send it, sir, but I am afraid it won't help matters. Miss
Ruth knows how delighted I would be to return here and see her
"Whether she does or whether she doesn't," broke in Miss Felicia,
"hasn't got a single thing to do with it, Peter. You just go back
to your work, Mr. Breen, and look after your gunpowder plots, or
whatever you call them, and if some one of these gentlemen of
elegant leisure--not one of whom so far has offered his services--
cannot manage to escort you to your father's house, Ruth, I will
take you myself. Now come inside the drawing-room, every one of
you, or you will all blame me for undermining your precious
healths--you, too, Major, and bring your cigars with you. So you
don't drop your ashes into my tea-caddy, I don't care where you
It was late in the afternoon of the second day when the telegram
arrived, a delay which caused no apparent suffering to any one
except, perhaps, Peter, who wandered about with a "Nothing from
Jack yet, eh?" A question which no one answered, it being
addressed to nobody in particular, unless it was to Ruth, who had
started at every ring of the door-bell. As to Miss Felicia--she
had already dismissed the young man from her mind.
When it did arrive there was a slight flutter of interest, but
nothing more; Miss Felicia laying down her book, Ruth asking in
indifferent tones--even before the despatch was opened--"Is he
coming?" and Morris, who was playing chess with Peter, holding his
pawn in mid-air until the interruption was over.
Not so Peter--who with a joyous "Didn't I tell you the boy would
keep his promise--" sprang from his chair, nearly upsetting the
chess-board in his eagerness to hear from Jack, an eagerness
shared by Ruth, whose voice again rang out, this time in an
"Hurry up, Uncle Peter--is he coming?"
Peter made no answer; he was staring straight at the open slip,
his face deathly pale, his hand trembling.
"I'll tell you all about it in a minute, dear," he said at last
with a forced smile. Then he touched Morris's arm and the two left
The Scribe would willingly omit this chapter. Dying men, hurrying
doctors, improvised stretchers made of wrenched fence rails;
silent, slow-moving throngs following limp, bruised bodies,--are
not pleasant objects to write about and should be disposed of as
quickly as possible.
Exactly whose fault it was nobody knew; if any one did, no one
ever told. Every precaution had been taken each charge had been
properly placed and tamped; all the fulminates inspected and the
connections made with the greatest care. As to the battery--that
was known to be half a mile away in the pay shanty, lying on Jack
Nor was the weather unfavorable. True, there had been rain the day
before, starting a general thaw, but none of the downpour had
soaked through the outer crust of the tunnel to the working force
inside and no extra labor had devolved on the pumps. This, of
course, upset all theories as to there having been a readjustment
of surface rock, dangerous sometimes, to magnetic connections.
Then again, no man understood tunnel construction better than
Henry MacFarlane, C.E., Member of the American Society of
Engineers, Fellow of the Institute of Sciences, etc., etc. Nor was
there ever an engineer more careful of his men. Indeed, it was his
boast that he had never lost a life by a premature discharge in
the twenty years of his experience. Nor did the men, those who
worked under him--those who escaped alive--come to any definite
conclusion as to the cause of the catastrophe: the night and day
gang, I mean,--those who breathed the foul air, who had felt the
chill of the clammy interior and who were therefore familiar with
the handling of explosives and the proper tamping of the charges
--a slip of the steel meaning instantaneous annihilation.
The Beast knew and could tell if he chose.
I say "The Beast," for that is what MacFarlane's tunnel was to me.
To the passer-by and to the expert, it was, of course, merely a
short cut through the steep hills flanking one end of the huge
"earth fill" which MacFarlane was constructing across the
Corklesville brook, and which, when completed would form a road-
bed for future trains; but to me it was always The Beast.
This illusion was helped by its low-browed, rocky head, crouching
close to the end of the "fill," its length concealed in the clefts
of the rocks--as if lying in wait for whatever crossed its path--
as well as its ragged, half-round, catfish gash of a mouth from
out of which poured at regular intervals a sickening breath--
yellow, blue, greenish often--and from which, too, often came
dulled explosions, followed by belchings of debris which
centipedes of cars dragged clear of its slimy lips.
So I reiterate, The Beast knew.
Every day the gang had bored and pounded and wrenched, piercing
his body with nervous, nagging drills; propping up his backbone,
cutting out tender bits of flesh, carving--bracing--only to carve
again. He had tried to wriggle and twist, but the mountain had
held him fast. Once he had straightened out, smashing the tiny
cars and the tugging locomotive; breaking a leg and an arm, and
once a head, but the devils had begun again, boring and digging
and the cruel wound was opened afresh. Another time, after a big
rain, with the help of some friendly rocks who had rushed down to
his help, he had snapped his jaws tight shut, penning the devils
up inside, but a hundred others had wrenched them open, breaking
his teeth, shoring up his lips with iron beams, tearing out what
was left of his tongue. He could only sulk now, breathing hard and
grunting when the pain was unbearable. One thought comforted him,
and one only: Far back in his bulk he knew of a thin place in his
hide,--so thin, owing to a dip in the contour of the hill,--that
but a few yards of overlying rock and earth lay between it and the
Here his tormentors had stopped; why, he could not tell until he
began to keep tally of what had passed his mouth: The long trains
of cars had ceased; so had the snorting locomotives; so had the
steam drills. Curious-looking boxes and kegs were being passed in,
none of which ever came back; men with rolls of paper on which
were zigzag markings stumbled inside, stayed an hour and stumbled
out again; these men wore no lamps in their hats and were better
dressed than the others. Then a huge wooden drum wrapped with wire
was left overnight outside his lips and unrolled the next morning,
every yard of it being stretched so far down his throat that he
lost all track of it.
On the following morning work of every kind ceased; not a man with
a lamp anywhere--and these The Beast hated most; that is, none
that he could see or feel. After an hour or more the head man
arrived and with two others went inside. The head man was tall and
fair, had gray side whiskers and wore a slouch hat; the second man
was straight and well built, with a boyish face tanned by the
weather. The third man was short and fat: this one carried a plan.
Behind the three walked five other men.
All were talking.
"The dip is to the eastward," the head man said. "The uplift ought
to clear things so we won't have to handle the stuff twice. Hard
to rig derricks on that slope. Let's have powder enough, anyhow,
The fat man nodded and consulted his plan with the help of his
eye-glasses. Then the three men and the five men passed in out of
The Beast was sure now. The men were going to blow out the side of
the hill where his hide was thinnest so as to make room for an
An hour later a gang in charge of a red-shirted foreman who were
shifting a section of toy track on the "fill" felt the earth shake
under them. Then came a dull roar followed by a cloud of yellow
smoke mounting skyward from an opening high up on the hillside.
Flashing through this cloud leaped tongues of flame intermingled
with rocks and splintered trees. From the tunnel's mouth streamed
a thin, steel-colored gas that licked its way along the upper
edges of the opening and was lost in the underbrush fringing its
"What's that?" muttered the red-shirted foreman--"that ain't no
blast--My God!--they're blowed up!"
He sprang on a car and waved his arms with all his might: "Drop
them shovels! Git to the tunnel, every man of ye: here,--this
way!" and he plunged on, the men scrambling after him.
The Beast was a magnet now, drawing everything to its mouth. Gangs
of men swarmed up the side of the hill; stumbling, falling;
picking themselves up only to stumble and fall again. Down the
railroad tracks swept a repair squad who had been straightening a
switch, their foreman in the lead. From out of the cabins
bareheaded women and children ran screaming.
The end of the "fill" nearest the tunnel was now black with
people; those nearest to the opening were shielding their faces
from the deadly gas. The roar of voices was incessant; some
shouted from sheer excitement; others broke into curses, shaking
their fists at The Beast; blaming the management. All about stood
shivering women with white faces, some chewing the corners of
their shawls in their agony.
Then a cry clearer than the others soared above the heads of the
terror-stricken mob as a rescue gang made ready to enter the
"Water! Water! Get a bucket, some of ye! Ye can't live in that
smoke yet! Tie your mouth up if you're going in! Wet it, damn ye!
--do ye want to be choked stiff!"
A shrill voice now cut the air.
"It's the boss and the clerk and Mr. Bolton that's catched!"
"Yes--and a gang from the big shanty; I seen 'em goin' in,"
shouted back the red-shirted foreman.
The volunteers--big, brawny men, who, warned by the foreman, had
been binding wet cloths over their mouths, now sprang forward,
peering into the gloom. Then the sound of footsteps was heard--
nearer--nearer. Groping through the blue haze stumbled a man, his
shirt sleeve shielding his mouth. On he came, staggering from side
to side, reached the edge of the mouth and pitched head-foremost
as the fresh air filled his lungs. A dozen hands dragged him
clear. It was Bolton.
His clothes were torn and scorched; his face blackened; his left
hand dripping blood. Two of the shanty gang were next hauled out
and laid on the back of an overturned dirt car. They had been near
the mouth when the explosion came, and throwing themselves flat
had crawled toward the opening.
Bolton was still unconscious, but the two shanty men gasped out
the terrible facts: "The boss and the clerk, was jes' starting out
when everything let go"; they choked; "ther' ain't nothing left of
the other men. We passed the boss and the clerk; they was blowed
agin a car; the boss was stove up, the clerk was crawlin' toward
him. They'll never git out alive: none on 'em. We fellers was jes'
givin' up when we see the daylight and heared you a-yellin'."
A hush now fell on the mass of people, broken by the piercing
shriek of a woman,--the wife of a shanty man. She would have
rushed in had not some one held her.
Bolton sat up, gazing stupidly about him. Part of the story of the
escaped men had reached his ears. He struggled to his feet and
staggerd toward the opening of the tunnel. The red-shirted foreman
caught him under the armpits and whirled him back.
"That ain't no place for you!" he cried--"I'll go!"
A muffled cry was heard. It came from a bystander lying flat on
his belly inside the mouth: he had crawled in as far as he could.
"Here they come!"
New footfalls grew distinct, whether one or more the listeners
could not make out. Under the shouts of the red-shirted foreman to
give them air, the throng fell back.
Out of the grimy smoke two figures slowly loomed up; one carried
the other on his back; whether shanty men or not, no one could
The crowd, no longer controlled by the foreman, surged about the
opening. Ready hands were held out, but the man carrying his
comrade waved them aside and staggered on, one hand steadying his
load, the other hanging loose. The big foreman started to rush in,
but stopped. Something in the burdened man's eye had checked him,
it was as if a team were straining up a steep hill, making any
"It's the boss and the clerk!" shouted the foreman. "Fall back,
men,--fall back, damn ye!"
The man came straight on, reached the lips of the opening, lunged
heavily to the right, tried to steady his burden and fell
The street lamps were already lighted on the following afternoon--
when Ruth, with Peter and Miss Felicia, alighted at the small
station of Corklesville. All through the day she had gone over in
her mind the words of the despatch:
Explosion in tunnel. MacFarlane hurt--serious--will recover. Break
news gently to daughter.
Bolton Asst. Engineer
Other despatches had met the party on the way down; one saying,
"No change," signed by the trained nurse, and a second one from
Bolton in answer to one of Peter's: "Three men killed--others
escaped. MacFarlane's operation successful. Explosion premature."
Their anxiety only increased: Why hadn't Jack telegraphed? Why
leave it to Bolton? Why was there no word of him,--and yet how
could Bolton have known that Peter was with Ruth, except from
young Breen. In this mortal terror Peter had wired from Albany:
"Is Breen hurt?" but no answer had been received at Poughkeepsie.
There had not been time for it, perhaps, but still there was no
answer, nor had his name been mentioned in any of the other
telegrams. That in itself was ominous.
This same question Ruth had asked herself a dozen times. Jack was
to have had charge of the battery--he had told her so. Was he one
of the killed?--why didn't somebody tell her?--why hadn't Mr.
Bolton said something?--why--why--Then the picture of her father's
mangled body would rise before her and all thought of Jack pass
out of her mind.
As the train rolled into the grimy station she was the first to
spring from the car; she knew the way best, and the short cut from
the station to where her father lay. Her face was drawn; her eyes
bloodshot from restrained tears--all the color gone from her
"You bring Aunt Felicia, Uncle Peter,--and the bags;--I will go
ahead," she said, tying her veil so as to shield her face. "No, I
won't wait for anything."
News of Ruth's expected arrival had reached the village, and the
crowd at the station had increased. On its inner circle, close to
a gate leading from the platform, stood a young man in a slouch
hat, with his left wrist bandaged. The arm had hung in a sling
until the train rolled in, then the silk support had been slipped
and hidden in his pocket. Under the slouch hat, the white edge of
a bandage was visible which the wearer vainly tried to conceal by
pulling the hat further on his head,--this subterfuge also
concealed a dark scar on his temple. Whenever the young man
pressed closer to the gate, the crowd would fall back as if to
give him room. Now and then one would come up, grab his well hand
and pat his shoulder approvingly. He seemed to be as much an
object of interest as the daughter of the injured boss.
When Ruth gained the gate the wounded man laid his fingers on her
gloved wrist. The girl started back, peered into his face, and
uttered a cry of relief.
"Mr. Breen!" For one wild moment a spirit of overwhelming joy
welled up in her heart and shone out of her eyes. Thank God he was
"Yes, Miss Ruth,--what is left of me. I wanted to see you as soon
as you reached here. You must not be alarmed about your father."
The voice did not sound like Jack's.
"Is he worse? Tell me quick!" she exclaimed, the old fear
"No. He is all right," he wheezed, "and is going to get well. His
left arm is broken and his head badly cut, but he is out of
danger. The doctor told me so an hour ago."
"And you?" she pleaded, clinging to his proffered hand.
"Oh! I am all right, too. The smoke got into my throat so I croak,
but that is nothing. Why, Mr. Grayson,--and Miss Felicia! I am so
glad, Miss Ruth, that you did not have to come alone! This way,
Without other words they hurried into the carriage, driving like
mad for the cottage, a mile away; all the worn look gone from
"And you're not hurt, my boy?" asked Peter in a trembling voice--
Jack's well hand in his own.
"No, only a few scratches, sir; that's all. Bolton's hand's in a
bad way, though; lose two of his fingers, I'm afraid."
"And how did you escape?"
"I don't know. I got out the best way I could. First thing I knew
I was lying on the grass and some one was pouring water over my
head; then they got me home and put me to bed."
"Oh, he came along with me. I had to help him some."
Peter heaved a sigh of relief, then he asked:
"How did it happen?"
"Nobody knows. One of the shanty men might have dropped a box of
fulminates. Poor fellow,--he never knew; they could find nothing
of him," Jack whispered behind his hand so Ruth would not hear.
"But when did you get out of bed?" continued Peter. He was less
Jack looked at Ruth and again lowered his voice; the sound of the
carriage preventing its hoarse notes from reaching her ears.
"About half an hour ago, sir; they don't know I have gone, but I
didn't want anybody to frighten Miss Ruth. I don't look so bad, do
I? I fixed myself up as well as I could. I have got on Bolton's
hat; I couldn't get mine over the bandages. My wrist is the worst
--sprained badly, the doctor says."
If Ruth heard she made no answer, nor did she speak during the
ride. Now and then she would gaze out of the window and once her
fingers tightened on Miss Felicia's arm as she passed in full view
of the "fill" with the gaping mouth of the tunnel beyond. Miss
Felicia was occupied in watching Jack. In fact, she had not taken
her eyes from him since they entered the carriage. She saw what
neither Peter nor Ruth had seen;--that the boy was suffering
intensely from hidden wounds and that the strain was so great he
was verging on a collapse. No telling what these foolish
Southerners will do, she said to herself, when a woman is to be
looked after,--but she said nothing of all this to Ruth.
When the carriage stopped and Ruth with a spring leaped from her
seat and bounded upstairs to her father's bedside, Miss Felicia
holding Jack's hand, her eyes reading the boy's face, turned and
said to Peter:
"Now you take him home where he belongs and put him to bed; and
don't you let him get up until I see him. No--" she continued in a
more decided tone, in answer to Jack's protest--"I won't have it.
You go to bed just as I tell you--you can hardly stand now."
"Perhaps I had better, Miss Felicia. I am a little shaky," replied
Jack, in a faint voice, and the carriage kept on its way to Mrs.
Hicks's leaving the good lady on MacFarlane's porch.
MacFarlane was asleep when Ruth, trembling with excitement,
reached the house. Outside the sick room, lighted by a single
taper, she met the nurse whose few hurried words, spoken with
authority, calmed her, as Jack had been unable to do, and
reassured her mind. "Compound fracture of the right arm, Miss,"
she whispered, "and badly bruised about the head, as they all
were. Poor Mr. Breen was the worst."
Ruth looked at her in astonishment. That was why he had not lifted
his hat, she thought to herself, as she tiptoed into the sick room
and sank to her knees beside her father's bed.
The injured man opened his eyes, and his free hand moved slowly
till it rested on his daughter's head.
"I got an awful crack, Ruth, but I am all right now. Too bad to
bring you home. Who came with you?"
"Aunt Felicia and Uncle Peter," she whispered as she stroked his
"Mighty good of them--just like old Peter. Send the old boy up--I
want to see him."
Ruth made no answer; her heart was too full. That her father was
alive was enough.
"I'm not pretty to look at, am I, child, but I'll pull out; I have
been hurt before--had a leg broken once in the Virginia mountains
when you were a baby. The smoke was the worst; I swallowed a lot
of it; and I am sore now all over my chest. Poor Bolton's badly
crippled, I hear--and Breen--they've told you about Breen, haven't
they, daughter?" His voice rose as he mentioned the boy's name.
Ruth shook her head.
"Well, I wouldn't be here but for him! He's a plucky boy. I will
never forget him for it; you mustn't either," he continued in a
more positive tone.
The nurse now moved to the bed.
"I would not talk any more, Mr. MacFarlane. Miss Ruth is going to
be at home now right along and she will hear the story."
"Well, I won't, nurse, if you don't want me to--but they won't be
able to tell her what a fix we were in--I remember everything up
to the time Breen dragged me from under the dirt car. I knew right
away what had happened and what we had to do; I've been there
"There,--that will do, Mr. MacFarlane," interrupted the nurse.
"Come, Miss Ruth, suppose you go to your room for a while."
The girl rose to her feet.
"You can come back as soon as I fix your father for the night."
She pointed significantly to the patient's head, whispering, "He
must not get excited."
"Yes, dear daddy--I will come back just as soon as I can get the
dust out of my hair and get brushed up a little," cried Ruth
bravely, in the effort to hide her anxiety, "and then Aunt Felicia
Once outside she drew the nurse, who had followed her, to the
window so as to be out of hearing of the patient and then asked
"What did Mr. Breen do?"
"I don't know exactly, but everybody is talking about him."
At this moment Miss Felicia arrived at the top of the stairs: she
had heard Ruth's question and had caught the dazed expression on
the girl's face.
"I will tell you, my dear, what he did, for I have heard every
word of it from the servants. The blast went off before he and
your father had reached the opening of the tunnel. They left your
father for dead, then John Breen crawled back on his hands and
knees through the dreadful smoke until he reached him, lifted him
up on his shoulders and carried him out alive. That's what he did;
and he is a big, fine, strong, noble fellow, and I am going to
tell him so the moment I get my eyes on him. And that is not all.
He got out of bed this afternoon, though he could hardly stand,
and covered up all his bruises and his broken wrist so you
couldn't see them, and then he limped down to the station so you
would get the truth about your father and not be frightened. And
now he is in a dead faint."
Ruth's eyes flamed and the color left her cheeks. She stretched
out both hands as if to keep from falling.
"Saved daddy!" she gasped--"Carried him out on--Oh! Aunt
Felicia!--and I have been so mean! To think he got up out of bed
and--and--" Everything swam before her eyes.
Miss Felicia sprang forward and caught her in her arms.
"Come!--none of this, Child. Pull yourself together right away.
Get her some water, nurse,--she has stood all she can. There now,
dearie--" Ruth's head was on her breast now. "There--there--Such a
poor darling, and so many things coming all at once. There,
darling, put your head on my shoulder and cry it all out."
The girl sobbed on, the wrinkled hand patting her cheek.
"Oh, but you don't know, aunty--" she crooned.
"Yes, but I do--you blessed child. I know it all."
"And won't somebody go and help him? He is all alone, he told me
"Uncle Peter is with him, dearie.'"
"Yes,--but some one who can--" she straightened up--"I will go,
aunty--I will go now."
"You will do nothing of the kind, you little goose; you will stay
just where you are."
"Well, won't you go, then? Oh, please--please--aunty." Peter's
bald head now rose above the edge of the banisters. Miss Felicia
motioned him to go back, but Ruth heard his step and raised her
tear-drenched face half hidden in her dishevelled hair.
"Oh, Uncle Peter, is Jack--is Mr. Breen--"
Miss Felicia's warning face behind Ruth's own, for once reached
Peter in time.
"In his bed and covered up, and his landlady, Mrs. Hicks, sitting
beside him," responded Peter in his cheeriest tones.
"But he fainted from pain--and--"
"Yes, but that's all over now, my dear," broke in Miss Felicia.
"But you will go, anyhow--won't you, aunty?" pleaded Ruth.
"Certainly--just as soon as I put you to bed, and that is just
where you have got to go this very minute," and she led the
overwrought trembling girl into her room and shut the door.
Peter stood for an instant looking about him, his mind taking in
the situation. Ruth was being cared for now, and so was
MacFarlane--the white cap and apron of the noiseless nurse passing
in and out of the room in which he lay, assured him of that.
Bolton, too, in the room next to Jack's, was being looked after by
his sister who had just arrived. He, too, was fairly comfortable,
though a couple of his fingers had been shortened. But there was
nobody to look after Jack--no father, mother, sister--nobody. To
send for the boy's uncle, or Corinne, or his aunt, was out of the
question, none of them having had more than a word with him since
his departure. Yet Jack needed attention. The doctor had just
pulled him out of one fainting spell only to have him collapse
again when his coat was taken off, and the bandages were loosened.
He was suffering greatly and was by no means out of danger.
If for the next hour or two there was anything to be done at
MacFarlane's, Peter was ready to do it, but this accomplished, he
would shoulder his bag and camp out for the night beside the boy's
bed. He had come, indeed, to tell Felicia so, and he meant to
sleep there whatever her protests. He was preparing himself for
her objections, when she reentered the room.
"How is young Breen?" Miss Felicia asked in a whisper, closing the
door behind her. She had put Ruth to bed, where she had again
given way to an uncontrollable fit of weeping.
"Pretty weak. The doctor is with him now."
"What did the fool get up for?" She did not mean to surrender too
quickly about Jack despite his heroism--not to Peter, at any
rate. Then, again, she half suspected that Ruth's tears were
equally divided between the rescuer and the rescued.
"He couldn't help it, I suppose," answered Peter, with a gleam in
his eyes--"he was born that way."
"Born! What stuff, Peter--no man of any common-sense would have--"
"I quite agree with you, my dear--no man except a gentleman. There
is no telling what one of that kind might do under such
circumstances." And with a wave of his hand and a twinkle in his
merry scotch-terrier eyes, the old fellow disappeared below the
Miss Felicia leaned over the banisters:
"Peter, PETER," she called after him, "where are you going?"
"To stay all night with Jack."
"Well, that's the most sensible thing I have heard of yet. Will
you take him a message from me?"
Peter looked up: "Yes, Felicia, what is it?"
"Give him my love."
Miss Felicia kept her promise to Ruth. Before that young woman,
indeed, tired out with anxiety, had opened her beautiful eyes the
next morning and pushed back her beautiful hair from her beautiful
face--and it was still beautiful, despite all the storms it had
met and weathered, the energetic, old lady had presented herself
at the front door of Mrs. Hicks's Boarding Hotel (it was but a
step from MacFarlane's) and had sent her name to the young man in
the third floor back.
A stout person, with a head of adjustable hair held in place by a
band of black velvet skewered by a gold pin, the whole surmounted
by a flaring mob-cap of various hues and dyes, looked Miss Felicia
all over and replied in a dubious tone:
"He's had a bad mash-up, and I don't think--"
"I am quite aware of it, my dear madam, or I would not be here.
Now, please show me the way to Mr. Breen's room--my brother was
here last night and--"
"Oh, the bald-headed gentleman?" exclaimed Mrs. Hicks. "Such a
dear, kind man; and it was as much as I could do to get him to bed
and he a--"
But Miss Felicia was already inside the sitting-room, her critical
eyes noting its bare, forbidding furnishing and appointment--she
had not yet let down her skirts, the floor not being inviting. As
each article passed in review--the unsteady rocking-chairs
upholstered in haircloth and protected by stringy tidies, the
disconsolate, almost bottomless lounge, fly-specked brass clock
and mantel ornaments, she could not but recall the palatial
entrance, drawing-room, and boudoir into which Parkins had ushered
her on that memorable afternoon when she had paid a visit to Mrs.
Arthur Breen--(her "last visit" the old lady would say with a sly
grimace at Holker, who had never forgiven "that pirate, Breen,"
for robbing Gilbert of his house).
"And this is what this idiot has got in exchange," she said to
herself as she peered into the dining-room beyond, with its
bespattered table-cloth flanked by cheap china plates and ivory
napkin rings--the castors mounting guard at either end.
The entrance of the lady with the transferable hair cut short her
"Mr. Breen says come up, ma'am," she said in a subdued voice. It
was astonishing how little time it took for Miss Felicia's
personality to have its effect.
Up the uncarpeted stairs marched the great lady, down an equally
bare hall lined on either side by bedroom doors, some marked by
unblacked shoes others by tin trays holding fragments of late or
early breakfasts, the flaring cap obsequiously pointing the way
until the two had reached a door at the end of the corridor.
"Now I won't bother you any more," said Miss Felicia. "Thank you
very much. Are you in here Mr. Breen?" she called in a cheery
voice as she pushed open the door, and advanced to his bedside:--
"Oh, you poor fellow! Oh, I AM so sorry!"
The boy lay on a cot-bed pushed close to the wall. His face was
like chalk; his eyes deep set in his head; his scalp one criss-
cross of bandages, and his right hand and wrist a misshapen lump
of cotton wadding and splints.
"No, don't move. Why, you did not look as bad as this yesterday,"
she added in sympathetic tones, patting his free hand with her
own, her glance wandering over the cramped little room with its
Jack smiled faintly and a light gleamed in his eyes. The memory of
yesterday evidently brought no regrets.
"I dared not look any other way," he answered faintly; "I was so
afraid of alarming Miss Ruth." Then after a pause in which the
smile and the gleam flickered over his pain-tortured face, he
added in a more determined voice: "I am glad I went, though the
doctor was furious. He says it was the worst thing I could have
done--and thought I ought to have had sense enough to--But don't
let's talk any more about it, Miss Felicia. It was so good of you
to come. Mr. Grayson has just left. You'd think he was a woman, he
is so gentle and tender. But I'll be around in a day or two, and
as soon as I can get on my feet and look less like a scarecrow
than I do, I am coming over to see you and Miss Ruth and--yes, and
UNCLE PETER--" Miss Felicia arched her eyebrows: "Oh, you needn't
look!--that's what I am going to call him after this; we settled
all that last night."
A smile overspread Miss Felicia's face. "Uncle Peter, is it? And I
suppose you will be calling me Aunt Felicia next?"
Jack turned his eyes: "That was just what I was trying to screw up
my courage to do. Please let me, won't you?" Again Miss Felicia
lifted her eyebrows, but she did not say she would.
"And Ruth--what do you intend to call that young lady? Of course,
without her permission, as that seems to be the fashion." And the
old lady's eyes danced in restrained merriment.
The sufferer's face became suddenly grave; for an instant he did
not answer, then he said slowly:
"But what can I call her except Miss Ruth?"
Miss Felicia laughed. Nothing was so delicious as a love affair
which she could see into. This boy's heart was an open book.
Besides, this kind of talk would take his mind from his miseries.
"Oh, but I am not so sure of that," she rejoined, in an
A light broke out in Jack's eyes: "You mean that she WOULD let me
call her--call her Ruth?"
"I don't mean anything of the kind, you foolish fellow. You have
got to ask her yourself; but there's no telling what she would not
do for you now, she's so grateful to you for saving her father's
"But I did not," he exclaimed, an expression as of acute pain
crossing his brows. "I only helped him along. But she must not be
grateful. I don't like the word. Gratitude hasn't got anything to
do with--" he did not finish the sentence.
"But you DID save his life, and you know it, and I just love you
for it," she insisted, ignoring his criticism as she again
smoothed his hand. "You did a fine, noble act, and I am proud of
you and I came to tell you so." Then she added suddenly: "You
received my message last night, didn't you? Now, don't tell me
that that good-for-nothing Peter forgot it."
"No, he gave it to me, and it was so kind of you."
"Well, then I forgive him. And now," here she made a little salaam
with both her hands--"now you have Ruth's message."
"I have what?" he asked in astonishment.
"Ruth's message." She still kept her face straight although her
lips quivered with merriment.
Jack tried to lift his head: "What is her message?" he asked with
expectant eyes--perhaps she had sent him a letter!
Miss Felicia tapped her bosom with her forefinger.
"ME!" she cried, "I am her message. She was so worried last night
when she found out how ill you were that I promised her to come
and comfort you; that is why it is ME. And now, don't you think
you ought to get down on your knees and thank her? Why, you don't
seem a bit pleased!"
"And she sent you to me--because--because--she was GRATEFUL that I
saved her father's life?" he asked in a bewildered tone.
"Of course--why shouldn't she be; is there anything else you can
give her she would value as much as her father's life, you
conceited young Jackanapes?"
She had the pin through the butterfly now and was watching it
squirm; not maliciously--she was never malicious. He would get
over the prick, she knew. It might help him in the end, really.
"No, I suppose not," he replied simply, as he sank back on his
pillow and turned his bruised face toward the wall.
For some moments he lay in deep thought. The last half-hour in the
arbor under the palms came back to him; the tones of Ruth's voice;
the casual way in which she returned his devouring glance. She
didn't love him; never had loved him; wouldn't ever love him.
Anybody could carry another fellow out on his back; was done every
day by firemen and life-savers,--everybody, in fact, who happened
to be around when their services were most needed. Grateful! Of
course the rescued people and their friends were grateful until
they forgot all about it, as they were sure to do the next day, or
week, or month. Gratitude was not what he wanted. It was love.
That was the way he felt; that was the way he would always feel.
He who loved every hair on Ruth's beautiful head, loved her
wonderful hands, loved her darling feet, loved the very ground on
which she walked "Gratitude!" eh! That was the word his uncle had
used the day he slammed the door of his private office in his
face. "Common gratitude, damn you, Jack, ought to put more sense
in your head," as though one ought to have been "grateful" for a
seat at a gambling table and two rooms in a house supported by its
profits. Garry had said "gratitude," too, and so had Corinne, and
all the rest of them. Peter had never talked gratitude; dear
Peter, who had done more for him than anybody in the world except
his own father. Peter wanted his love if he wanted anything, and
that was what he was going to give him--big, broad, all-absorbing
LOVE. And he did love him. Even his wrinkled hands, so soft and
white, and his glistening head, and his dabs of gray whiskers, and
his sweet, firm, human mouth were precious to him. Peter--his
friend, his father, his comrade! Could he ever insult him by such
a mean, cowardly feeling as gratitude? And was the woman he loved
as he loved nothing else in life--was she--was Ruth going to
belittle their relations with the same substitute? It was a big
pin, that which Miss Felicia had impaled him on, and it is no
wonder the poor fluttering wings were nigh exhausted in the
Relief came at last.
"And now what shall I tell her?" asked Miss Felicia. "She worries
more over you than she does over her father; she can get hold of
him any minute, but you won't be presentable for a week. Come,
what shall I tell her?"
Jack shifted his shoulders so that he could move the easier and
with less pain, and raised himself on his well elbow. There was no
use of his hoping any more; she had evidently sent Miss Felicia to
end the matter with one of her polite phrases,--a weapon which
she, of all women, knew so well how to use.
"Give Miss Ruth my kindest regards," he said in a low voice, still
husky from the effects of the smoke and the strain of the last
half-hour--"and say how thankful I am for her gratitude, and--No,
--don't tell her anything of the kind. I don't know what you are to
tell her." The words seemed to die in his throat.
"But she will ask me, and I have got to say something. Come,--out
with it." Her eyes were still on his face; not a beat of his wings
or a squirm of his body had she missed.
"Well just say how glad I am she is at home again and that her
father is getting on so well, and tell her I will be up and around
in a day or two, and that I am not a bit worse off for going to
the station yesterday."
"No,--unless you can think of something."
"And if I do shall I add it?"
"Oh,--then I know exactly what to do,--it will be something like
this: 'Please, Ruth, take care of your precious self, and don't be
worried about me or anything else, and remember that every minute
I am away from you is misery, for I love you to distraction and--
"Oh, Miss Felicia!"
"No--none of your protests, sir!" she laughed. "That is just what
I am going to tell her. And now don't you dare to move till Peter
comes back," and with a toss of her aristocratic head the dear
lady left the room, closing the door behind her.
And so our poor butterfly was left flat against the wall--all his
flights ended. No more roaming over honeysuckles, drinking in the
honey of Ruth's talk; no more soaring up into the blue, the
sunshine of hope dazzling his wings. It made no difference what
Miss Felicia might say to Ruth. It was what she had said to HIM
which made him realize the absurdity of all his hopes. Everything
that he had longed for, worked for, dreamed about, was over now--
the long walks in the garden, her dear hand in his, even the song
of the choir boys, and the burst of joyous music as they passed
out of the church door only to enter their own for life. All this
was gone--never to return--never had existed, in fact, except in
his own wild imagination. And once more the disheartened boy
turned his tired pain-racked face toward the bare wall.
Miss Felicia tripped downstairs with an untroubled air, extended
two fingers to Mrs. Hicks, and without more ado passed out into
the morning air. No thought of the torment she had inflicted
affected the dear woman. What were pins made for except to curb
the ambitious wings of flighty young men who were soaring higher
than was good for them. She would let him know that Ruth was a
prize not to be too easily won, especially by penniless young
gentlemen, however brave and heroic they might be.
Hardly had she crossed the dreary village street encumbered with
piles of half-melted snow and mud, than she espied Peter picking
his way toward her, his silk hat brushed to a turn, his gray
surtout buttoned close, showing but the edge of his white silk
muffler, his carefully rolled umbrella serving as a divining rod
the better to detect the water holes. No one who met him and
looked into his fresh, rosy face, or caught the merry twinkle of
his eyes, would ever have supposed he had been pouring liniment
over broken arms and bandaged fingers until two o'clock in the
morning of the night before. It had only been when Bolton's sister
had discovered an empty "cell," as Jack called the bedroom next to
his, that he had abandoned his intention of camping out on Jack's
disheartened lounge, and had retired like a gentleman carrying
with him all his toilet articles, ready to be set out in the
Long before that time he had captured everybody in the place: from
Mrs. Hicks, who never dreamed that such a well of tenderness over
suffering could exist in an old fellow's heart, down to the
freckled-faced boy who came for his muddy shoes and who, after a
moment's talk with Peter as to how they should be polished,
retired later in the firm belief that they belonged to "a gent way
up in G," as he expressed it, he never having waited on "the likes
of him before." As to Bolton, he thought he was the "best ever,"
and as to his prim, patient sister who had closed her school to be
near her brother--she declared to Mrs. Hicks five minutes after
she had laid her eyes on him, that Mr. Breen's uncle was "just too
dear for anything,"--to which the lady with the movable hair and
mob-cap not only agreed, but added the remark of her own, "that
folks like him was a sight better than the kind she was a-gettin'."
All these happenings of the night and early hours of this bright,
beautiful morning--and it was bright and sunny overhead despite
the old fellow's precautionary umbrella--had helped turn out the
spick and span gentleman who was now making his way carefully over
the unpaved road which stood for Corklesville's principal street.
Miss Felicia saw him first.
"Oh! there you are!" she cried before he could raise his eyes.
"Did you ever see anything so disgraceful as this crossing--not a
plank--nothing. No--get out of my way, Peter; you will just upset
me, and I would rather help myself."
In reply Peter, promptly ignoring her protest, stepped in front of
her, poked into several fraudulent solidities covering
unfathomable depths, found one hard enough to bear the weight of
Miss Felicia's dainty shoe--it was about as long as a baby's
hand--and holding out his own said, in his most courtly manner:
"Be very careful now, my dear: put your foot on mine; so! now give
me your hand and jump. There--that's it." To see Peter help a
lady across a muddy street, Holker Morris always said, was a
lesson in all the finer virtues. Sir Walter was a bungler beside
him. But then Miss Felicia could also have passed muster as the
gay gallant's companion.
And just here the Scribe remarks, parenthetically, that there is
nothing that shows a woman's refinement more clearly than the way
she crosses a street.
Miss Felicia, for instance, would no more have soiled the toes of
her shoes in a puddle than a milk-white pussy would have dampened
its feet in the splash of an overturned bowl: a calm survey up and
down; a taking in of the dry and wet spots; a careful gathering up
of her skirts, and over skimmed the slender, willowy old lady with
a one--two--and three--followed by a stamp of her absurd feet and
the shaking out of ruffle and pleat. When a woman strides through
mud without a shiver because she has plenty of dry shoes and good
ones at home, there are other parts of her make-up, inside and
out, that may want a looking after.
Miss Felicia safely landed on the dry and comparatively clean
sidewalk, Peter put the question he had been framing in his mind
since he first caught sight of that lady picking her way among the
"Well, how is he now?"
"His head, or his heart?" she asked with a knowing smile, dropping
her still spotless skirts. "Both are broken; the last into
smithereens. It is hopeless. He will never be any better. Oh,
Peter, what a mess you have made of things!"
"What have I done?" he laughed.
"Got these two people dead in love with each other,--both of them
--Ruth is just as bad--and no more chance of their ever being
married than you or I. Perfectly silly, Peter, and I have always
told you so--and now you will have to take the consequences."
"Beautiful--beautiful!" chuckled Peter; "everything is coming my
way. I was sure of Jack, for he told me so, but Ruth puzzled me.
Did she tell you she loved him?"
"No, stupid, of course she did not. But have I not a pair of eyes
in my head? What do you suppose I got up for this morning at such
an unearthly hour and went over to--Oh, such an awful place!--to
see that idiot? Just to tell him I was sorry? Not a bit of it! I
went to find out what was going on, and now I know; and what is to
become of it all nobody can tell. Here is her father with every
penny he has in the world in this work--so Holker tells me--and
here are a lot of damages for dead men and Heaven knows what else;
and there is Jack Breen with not a penny to his name except his
month's wages; and here is Ruth who can marry anybody she chooses,
bewitched by that boy--and I grant you she has every reason for
he is as brave as he can be, and what is better he is a gentleman.
And there lies Henry MacFarlane blind as a bat as to what is going
on! Oh!--really, Peter, there cannot be anything more absurd."
During the outbreak Peter stood leaning on his umbrella, a smile
playing over his smooth-shaven face, his eyes snapping as if at
some inwardly suppressed fun. These were the kind of outbursts
Peter loved. It was only when Felicia was about to come over to
your way of thinking that she talked like this. It was her way of
hearing the other side.
"Dreadful!--dreadful!" sighed Peter, looking the picture of woe.
"Love in a garret--everybody in rags,--one meal a day--awful
situation! Something's got to be done at once. I'll begin by
taking up a collection this very day. In the meantime, Felicia,
I'll just keep on to Jack's and see how his arm's getting on and
his head. As to his heart,--I'll talk to Ruth and see--"
"Are you crazy, Peter? You will do nothing of the kind. If you do,
But Peter, his hat in the air, was now out of hearing. When he
reached the mud line he turned, drew his umbrella as if from an
imaginary scabbard, made a military salute, and, with a suppressed
gurgle in his throat, kept on to Jack's room.
Somehow the sunshine had crept into the old fellow's veins this
morning. None of Miss Felicia's pins for him!
Ruth, from her place by the sitting-room window, had seen the two
talking and had opened the front door, before Miss Felicia's hand
touched the bell. She had already subjected Peter to a running
fire of questions while he was taking his coffee and thus had the
latest intelligence down to the moment when Peter turned low
Jack's light and had tucked him in. He was asleep when Peter had
peered into his cramped room early this morning, and the bulletin
therefore could go no further.
"And how is he, aunty?" Ruth asked in a breathless tone before the
front door could be closed.
"Getting on splendidly, my dear. Slept pretty well. It is a
dreadful place for any one to be in, but I suppose he is
accustomed to it by this time."
"And is he no worse for coming to meet us, Aunt Felicia?" Ruth
asked, her voice betraying her anxiety. She had relieved the old
lady of her cloak now, and had passed one arm around her slender
"No, he doesn't seem to be, dearie. Tired, of course--and it may
keep him in bed a day or two longer, but it won't make any
difference in his getting well. He will be out in a week or so."
Ruth paused for a moment and then asked in a hesitating way, all
her sympathy in her eyes:
"And I don't suppose there is anybody to look after him, is
"Oh, yes, plenty: Mrs. Hicks seems a kind, motherly person, and
then Mr. Bolton's sister runs in and out." It was marvellous how
little interest the dear woman took in the condition of the
patient. Again the girl paused. She was sorry now she had not
braved everything and gone with her.
"And did he send me any message, aunty?" This came quite as a
matter of form--merely to learn all the details.
"Oh, yes,--I forgot: he told me to tell you how glad he was to
hear your father was getting well," replied Miss Felicia searching
the mantel for a book she had placed there.
Ruth bit her lips and a certain dull feeling crept about her
heart. Jack, with his broken arm and bruised head rose before her.
Then another figure supplanted it.
"And what sort of a girl is that Miss Bolton?" There was no
curiosity--merely for information. "Uncle Peter was so full of her
brother and how badly he had been hurt he hardly mentioned her
"I did not see her very well; she was just coming out of her
brother's room, and the hall was dark. Oh, here's my book--I knew
I had left it here."
"Pretty?" continued Ruth, in a slightly anxious tone.
"No,--I should say not," replied the old lady, moving to the door.
"Then you don't think there is anything I can do?" Ruth called
Ruth picked up Miss Felicia's wrap from the chair where that lady
had thrown it, mounted the stairs, peered from between the pots of
geraniums screening a view of the street with the Hicks Hotel
dominating one corner, wondered which window along the desolate
front gave Jack light and air, and with whispered instructions to
the nurse to be sure and let her know when her father awoke, shut
herself in her room.
As for the horrible old ogre who had made all the trouble, nipping
off buds, skewering butterflies and otherwise disporting herself
after the manner of busybodies who are eternally and forever
poking their thin, pointed noses into what doesn't concern them,
no hot, scalding tears, the Scribe regrets to say, dimmed her
knowing eyes, nor did any unbidden sigh leap from her old heart.
Foolish young people ought to thank her really for what she had
done--what she would still try to do--and they would when they
were a year older.
Poor, meddling Miss Felicia! Have you forgotten that night thirty
years ago when you stood in a darkened room facing a straight,
soldierly looking man, and listened to the slow dropping of words
that scalded your heart like molten metal? Have you forgotten,
too, the look on his handsome face when he uttered his protest at
the persistent intermeddling of another, and the square of his
broad shoulders as he disappeared through the open door never to
Some of the sunshine that had helped dry the muddy road, making
possible the path between Jack's abode and MacFarlane's hired
villa--where there was only room for Miss Felicia, Peter still
occupying his cell at Mrs. Hicks's, but taking his meals with
Ruth, so that he could be within call of MacFarlane when needed--
some of this same sunshine, I say, may have been responsible for
the temporary drying up of Ruth's tears and the establishing of
various ways of communication between two hearts that had for some
days been floundering in the deeps. Or, perhaps, the rebound may
have been due to the fact that Peter had whispered something in
Jack's ear, or that Ruth had overheard Miss Felicia praising
Jack's heroism to her father--it was common talk everywhere--or it
may have been that the coming of spring which always brings hope
and cheer--making old into new, may have led to the general
lighting up of the gloom that had settled over the house of
MacFarlane and its dependents; but certain it is that such was the
MacFarlane began by taking a sudden change for the better--so
decided a change that he was out of his room and dressed on the
fifth day (although half his coat hid his broken arm, tightly
bandaged to his side). He had even talked as far as the geraniums
in the window, through which he could not only see Jack's hotel,
but the big "earth fill" and mouth of The Beast beyond.
Then Bolton surprised everybody by appearing outdoors, his hand
alone in a sling. What was left of the poor shanty men, too, had
been buried, the dreadful newspaper articles had ceased, and work
was again in full blast.
Jack, to be sure, was still in his room, having swallowed more gas
and smoke than the others, badly scorching his insides, as he had
panted under the weight of MacFarlane's body. The crisis, however,
brought on by his imprudence in meeting Ruth at the station, had
passed, and even he was expected to be out in a few days.
As for Miss Felicia, although she had blown hot and blown cold on
Ruth's heart, until that delicate instrument stood at zero one day
and at fever heat the next, she had, on the whole, kept up an
equable temperature, and meant to do so until she shook the dust
of Corklesville from her dainty feet and went back to the clean,
moist bricks of her garden.
And as for Peter! Had he not been a continuous joy; cheering
everybody; telling MacFarlane funny stories until that harassed
invalid laughed himself, unconscious of the pain to his arm;
bringing roses for the prim, wizened-up Miss Bolton, that she
might have a glimpse of something fresh and alive while she sat by
her brother's bed. And last, and by no means least, had he not the
morning he had left for New York, his holiday being over, taken
Ruth in his arms and putting his lips close to her ear, whispered
something into its pink shell that had started northern lights
dancing all over her cheeks and away up to the roots of her hair;
and had she not given him a good hug and kissed him in return, a
thing she had never done in her whole life before? And had he not
stopped on his way to the station for a last hand-shake with Jack
and to congratulate him for the hundredth time for his plucky
rescue of MacFarlane--a subject he never ceased to talk about--
and had he not at the very last moment, told Jack every word of
what he and Ruth talked about, with all the details elaborated,
even to the hug, which was no sooner told than another set of
northern lights got into action at once, and another hug followed;
only this time it took the form of a hearty hand-shake and a pat
on Peter's back, followed by a big tear which the boy tried his
best to conceal? Peter had no theories detrimental to penniless
young gentlemen, pursued by intermeddling old ladies.
And yet with all this there was one corner deep down in Ruth's
heart so overgrown with "wonderings" and "whys," so thick with
tangled doubts and misgivings, that no cheering ray of certainty
had yet been able to pierce it. Nor had any one tried. Miss
Felicia, good as she was and loving as she had been, had done
nothing in the pruning way--that is, nothing which would let in
any sunshine radiating from Jack. She had talked about him, it is
true; not to her, we may be sure, but to her father, saying how
handsome he had grown and what a fine man he was making of
himself. She had, too, more than once commented--and this before
everybody--on his good manners and his breeding, especially on the
way he had received her the first morning she called, and to his
never apologizing for his miserable surroundings, meagre as they
were--just a theodolite, his father's portrait and half a dozen
books alone being visible, the white walls covered with working
plans. But when the poor girl had tried to draw from her some word
that was personal to himself, or one that might become personal--
and she did try even to the verge of betraying herself, which
would never have done--Miss Felicia had always turned the subject
at once or had pleaded forgetfulness. Not a word could she drag
out of this very perverse and determined old lady concerning the
state of the patient, nothing except that he was "better," or
"doing nicely," or that the bandage was being shortened, or some
other commonplace. Uncle Peter had been kinder. He understood--she
saw that in his eyes. Still even Uncle Peter had not told her all
that she wanted to know, and of course she could not ask him.
Soon a certain vague antagonism began to assert itself toward the
old lady who knew so much and yet who said so little! who was too
old really to understand--no old person, in fact, could
understand--that is, no old woman. This proved, too, that this
particular person could never have loved any other particular
person in her life. Not that she, Ruth, loved Jack--by no manner
of means--not in that way, at least. But she would have liked to
know what he said, and how he said it, and whether his eyes had
lost that terrible look which they wore when he turned away at the
station to go back to his sick bed in the dingy hotel. All these
things her Aunt Felicia knew about and yet she could not drag a
word out of her.
What she ought to have done was to go herself that first night,
bravely, honestly, fearlessly as any friend had a right to do; go
to him in his miserable little hotel and try to cheer him up as
Miss Felicia, and perhaps Miss Bolton, had done. Then she might
have found out all about it. Exactly what it was that she wanted
to find out all about--and this increased her perplexity--she
could not formulate, although she was convinced it would help her
to bear the anxiety she was suffering. Now it was too late; more
than a week had passed, and no excuse for going was possible.
It was not until the morning after Peter's departure,--she,
sitting alone, sad and silent in her chair at the head of her
father's breakfast table (Miss Felicia, as was her custom, had her
coffee in her room), that the first ray of light had crept into
her troubled brain. It had only shone a brief moment,--and had
then gone out in darkness, but it held a certain promise for
better days, and on this she had built her hopes.
"I am going to send for Breen to-morrow, Ruth," her father had
said as he kissed her good-night. "There are some things I want to
talk over with him, and then I want to thank him for what he did
for me. He's a man, every inch of him; I haven't told him so yet,
--not to his face,--but I will to-morrow. Fine fellow is Breen;
blood will always tell in the end, my daughter, and he's got the
best in the country in his veins. Looks more like his father every
day he lives."
She had hardly slept all night, thinking of the pleasure in store
for her. She had dressed herself, too, in her most becoming
breakfast gown--one she had worn when Jack first arrived at
Corklesville, and which he said reminded him of a picture he had
seen as a boy. There were pink rosebuds woven in its soft texture,
and the wide peach-blossom ribbon that bound her dainty waist
contrasted so delightfully, as he had timidly hinted, with the
tones of her hair and cheeks.
It was the puffy, bespectacled little doctor who shut out the
"No, your father has still one degree of fever," he grumbled, with
a wise shake of his bushy head. "No--nobody, Miss MacFarlane,--do
you understand? He can see NOBODY--or I won't be responsible," and
with this the crabbed old fellow climbed into his gig and drove
She looked after him for a moment and two hot tears dropped from
her eyes and dashed themselves to pieces on the peach-blossom
But the sky was clearing again--she didn't realize it,--but it
was. April skies always make alternate lights and darks. The old
curmudgeon had gone, but the garden gate was again a-swing.
Ruth heard the tread on the porch and drawing back the curtains
looked out. The most brilliant sunbeams were but dull rays
compared with what now flashed from her eyes. Nor did she wait for
any other hand than her own to turn the knob of the door.
"Why, Mr. Breen!"
"Yes, Miss Ruth," Jack answered, lifting his hat, an unrestrained
gladness at the sight of her beauty and freshness illumining his
face. "I have come to report for duty to your father."
"But you cannot see him. You must report to me," she laughed
gayly, her heart brimming over now that he was before her again.
"Father was going to send for you to-day, but the doctor would not
let him. Hush! he musn't hear us."
"He would not let me go out either, but as I am tired to death of
being cooped up in my room, I broke jail. Can't I see him?" he
continued in a lower key. He had his coat off and had hung it on
the rack, she following him into the sitting-room, absorbing every
inch of his strong, well-knit body from his short-cropped hair
where the bandages had been wound, down to the sprained wrist
which was still in splints. She noted, too, with a little choke in
her throat, the shadows under the cheek bones and the thinness of
the nose. She could see plainly how he had suffered.
"I am sorry you cannot see father." She was too moved to say
more." He still has one degree of fever."
"I have two degrees myself," Jack laughed softly,--"one records
how anxious I was to get out of my cell and the other how eager I
was to get here. And now I suppose I can't stay."
"Oh, yes, you can stay if you will keep as still as a mouse so
father can't hear you," she whispered, a note of joy woven in her
She was leading him to the sofa as she spoke. He placed a cushion
for her, and took his place beside her, resting his injured hand,
which was in a sling, on the arm. He was still weak and shaking.
"Daddy is still in his room," she rattled on nervously, "but he
may be out and prowling about the upstairs hall any minute. He has
a heap of things to talk over with you--he told me so last night--
and if he knew you were here nothing would stop him. Wait till I
shut the door. And now tell me about yourself," she continued in a
louder voice, regaining her seat. "You have had a dreadful time, I
hear--it was the wrist, wasn't it?" She felt she was beginning
badly; although conscious of her nervous joy and her desire to
conceal it, somehow it seemed hard for her to say the right thing.
"Oh, I reckon it was everything, Miss Ruth, but it's all over
now." He was not nervous. He was in an ecstasy. His eyes were
drinking in the round of her throat and the waves of glorious hair
that crowned her lovely head. He noticed, too, some tiny threads
that lay close to her ears: he had been so hungry for a glimpse of
"Oh, I hope so, but you shouldn't have come to the station that
day," she struggled on. "We had Uncle Peter with us, and only a
hand-bag, each of us,--we came away so suddenly."
"I didn't want you to be frightened about your father. I didn't
know that Uncle Peter was with you; in fact, I didn't know much of
anything until it was all over. Bolton sent the telegram as soon
as he got his breath."
"That's what frightened us. Why didn't YOU send it?" she was
gaining control of herself now and something of her old poise had
"I hadn't got MY breath,--not all of it. I remember his coming
into my room where they were tying me up and bawling out something
about how to reach you by wire, and he says now that I gave him
Mr. Grayson's address. I cannot remember that part of it, except
that I--Well, never mind about that--" he hesitated turning away
his gaze--the memory seemed to bring with it a certain pain.
"Yes,--tell me," she pleaded. She was too happy. This was what she
had been waiting for. There was no detail he must omit.
"It was nothing, only I kept thinking it was you who were hurt,"
"Me!" she cried, her eyes dancing. The ray of light was breaking--
one with a promise in it for the future!
"Yes,--you, Miss Ruth! Funny, isn't it, how when you are half dead
you get things mixed up." Oh, the stupidity of these lovers! Not a
thing had he seen of the flash of expectation in her eyes or of
the hot color rising to her cheeks. "I thought somebody was trying
to tell your father that you were hurt, and I was fighting to keep
him from hearing it. But you must thank Bolton for letting you
Ruth's face clouded and the sparkle died out in her eyes. What was
Mr. Bolton to her, and at a time like this?
"It was most kind of Mr. Bolton," she answered in a constrained
voice. "I only wish he had said something more; we had a terrible
day. Uncle Peter was nearly crazy about you; he telegraphed and
telegraphed, but we could get no answer. That's why it was such a
relief to find you at the station."
But the bat had not finished banging his head against the wall.
"Then I did do some good by going?" he asked earnestly.
"Oh, indeed you did." If he did not care whether she had been hurt
or not, even in his delirium, she was not going to betray herself.
"It was the first time anybody had seen Uncle Peter smile; he was
wretched all day. He loves you very dearly, Mr. Breen."
Jack's hand dropped so suddenly to his side that the pain made him
tighten his lips. For a moment he did not answer.
"Then it was only Uncle Peter who was anxious, was it? I am glad
he loves me. I love him, too," he said at last in a perfunctory
tone--"he's been everything to me."
"And you have been everything to him." She determined to change
the subject now. He told me only--well,--two days ago--that you
had made him ten years younger."
"Me?--Miss Ruth!" Still the same monotonous cadence.
"Well,--maybe because he is old and you are young." As she spoke
her eyes measured the width of his shoulders and his broad chest--
she saw now to what her father owed his life--" and another thing;
he said that he would always thank you for getting out alive. And
I owe you a debt of gratitude, too, Mr. Breen;--you gave me back
my dear daddy," she added in a more assured tone. Here at last was
something she could talk unreservedly about. Something that she
had wanted to say ever since he came.
Jack straightened and threw back his shoulders: that word again!
Was that all that Ruth had to say?
"No, Miss Ruth, you don't." There was a slight ring of defiance
now. "You do not owe me anything, and please don't think so, and
please--please--do not say so!"
"I don't owe you anything! Not for saving my father's life?" This
came with genuine surprise.
"No! What would you have thought of me, what would I have thought
of myself had I left him to suffocate when I could just as well
have brought him out? Do you think I could ever have looked you in
the face again? You might not have ever known I could have saved
him--but I should have hated myself every hour of my life. Men are
not to be thanked for these things; they are to be despised if
they don't do them. Can't you see the difference?"
"But you might have been killed, too!" she exclaimed. Her own
voice was rising, irritation and disappointment swaying it.
"Everybody says it was a miracle you were not."
"Not a miracle at all. All I was afraid of was stumbling over
something in the dark--and it was nearly dark--only a few of the
rock lights burning--and not be able to get on my feet again. But
don't let us talk about it any more."
"Yes--but I will, I MUST. I must feel right about it all, and I
cannot unless you listen. I shall never forget you for it as long
as I live." There was a note of pathos in her voice. Why did he
make it so hard for her, she thought. Why would he not look in her
face and see? Why would he not let her thank him? "Nothing in the
world is so precious to me as daddy, and never will be," she went
on resolutely, driving back the feeling of injustice that surged
up in her heart at his attitude--"and it is you, Mr. Breen, who
have given him back to me. And daddy feels the same way about it;
and he is going to tell you so the minute he sees you," she
insisted. "He has sent you a lot of messages, he says, but they do
not count. Please, now. won't you let me thank you?"
Jack raised his head. He had been fingering a tassel on the end of
the sofa, missing all the play of feeling in her eyes, taking in
nothing but the changes that she rang on that one word
"gratitude." Gratitude!--when he loved the ground she stepped on.
But he must face the issue fairly now:
"No,--I don't want you to thank me," he answered simply.
"Well, what do you want, then?" She was at sea now,--compass and
rudder gone,--wind blowing from every quarter at once,--she trying
to reach the harbor of his heart while every tack was taking her
farther from port. If the Scribe had his way the whole coast of
love would be lighted and all rocks of doubt and misunderstanding
charted for just such hapless lovers as these two. How often a
twist of the tiller could send them into the haven of each other's
arms, and yet how often they go ashore and stay ashore and worse
still, stay ashore all their lives.
Jack looked into her eyes and a hopeless, tired expression crossed
"I don't know," he said in a barely audible voice:--"I just--
please, Miss Ruth, let us talk of something else; let me tell you
how lovely your gown is and how glad I am you wore it to-day. I
always liked it, and--"
"No,--never mind about my gown; I would rather you did not like
anything about me than misunderstand me!" The tears were just
under the lids;--one more thrust like the last and they would be
streaming down her cheeks.
"But I haven't misunderstood you." He saw the lips quiver, but it
was anger, he thought, that caused it.
"Yes, you have!"--a great lump had risen in her throat. "You have
done a brave, noble act,--everybody says so; you carried my dear
father out on your back when there was not but one chance in a
thousand you would ever get out alive; you lay in a faint for
hours and once they gave you up for dead; then you thought enough
of Uncle Peter and all of us to get that telegram sent so we
wouldn't be terrified to death and then at the risk of your life
you met us at the station and have been in bed ever since, and yet
I am to sit still and not say a word!" It was all she could do to
control herself. "I do feel grateful to you and I always shall
feel grateful to you as long as I live. And now will you take my
hand and tell me you are sorry, and let me say it all over again,
and with my whole heart? for that's the way I mean it."
She was facing him now, her hand held out, her head thrown back,
her dark eyes flashing, her bosom heaving. Slowly and reverently,
as a devotee would kiss the robe of a passing priest, Jack bent
his head and touched her fingers with his lips.
Then, raising his eyes to hers, he asked, "And is that all, Miss
Ruth? Isn't there something more?" Not once had she mentioned his
own safety--not once had she been glad over him--"Something more?"
he repeated, an ineffable tenderness in his tones--"something--it
isn't all, is it?"
"Why, how can I say anything more?" she murmured in a lowered
voice, withdrawing her hand as the sound of a step in the hall
reached her ear.
The door swung wide: "Well, what are you two young people
quarrelling about?" came a soft, purring voice.
"We weren't quarrelling, Aunty. Mr. Breen is so modest he doesn't
want anybody to thank him, and I just would."
Miss Felicia felt that she had entered just in time. Scarred and
penniless heroes fresh from battle-fields of glory and desirable
young women whose fathers have been carried bodily out of burning
death pits must never be left too long together.
As the weeks rolled by, two questions constantly rose in Ruth's
mind: Why had he not wanted her to thank him?--and what had he
meant by--"And is that all?"
Her other admirers--and there had been many in her Maryland home--
had never behaved like this. Was it because they liked her better
than she liked them? The fact was--and she might as well admit it
once for all--that Jack did not like her at all, he really
DISliked her, and only his loyalty to her father and that inborn
courtesy which made him polite to every woman he met--young or
old--prevented his betraying himself. She tried to suggest
something like this to Miss Felicia, but that good woman had only
said: "Men are queer, my dear, and these Southerners are the
queerest of them all. They are so chivalrous that at times they
get tiresome. Breen is no better than the rest of them." This had
ended it with Miss Felicia. Nor would she ever mention his name to
her again. Jack was not tiresome; on the contrary, he was the soul
of honor and as brave as he could be--a conclusion quite as
illogical as that of her would-be adviser.
If she could only have seen Peter, the poor child thought,--Peter
understood--just as some women not as old as her aunt would have
understood. Dear Uncle Peter! He had told her once what Jack had
said about her--how beautiful he thought her and how he loved her
devotion to her father. Jack MUST have said it, for Uncle Peter
never spoke anything but the exact truth. Then why had Jack, and
everything else, changed so cruelly? she would say--talking to
herself, sometimes aloud. For the ring had gone from his voice and
the tenderness from his touch. Not that he ever was tender, not
that she wanted him to be, for that matter; and then she would
shut her door and throw herself on her bed in an agony of tears--
pleading a headache or fatigue that she might escape her father's
inquiry, and often his anxious glance.
The only ray of light that had pierced her troubled heart--and
this only flashed for a brief moment--was the glimpse she had had
of Jack's mind when he and her father first met. The boy had
called to inquire after his Chief's health and for any
instructions he might wish to give, when MacFarlane, hearing the
young hero's voice in the hall below, hurried down to greet him.
Ruth was leaning over the banister at the time and saw all that
passed. Once within reach MacFarlane strode up to Jack, and with
the look on his face of a man who had at last found the son he had
been hunting for all his life, laid his hand on the lad's
"I think we understand each other, Breen,--don't we?" he said
simply, his voice breaking.
"I think so, sir," answered Jack, his own eyes aglow, as their
Nothing else had followed. There was no outburst. Both were men;
in the broadest and strongest sense each had weighed the other.
The eyes and the quivering lips and the lingering hand-clasp told
the rest. A sudden light broke in on Ruth. Her father's quiet
words, and his rescuer's direct answer came as a revelation. Jack,
then, did want to be thanked! Yes, but not by her! Why was it? Why
had he not understood? And why had he made her suffer, and what
had she done to deserve it?
If Jack suspected any of these heartaches and misgivings, no one
would have surmised it. He came and went as usual, passing an hour
in the morning and an hour at night with his Chief, until he had
entirely recovered his strength--bringing with him the records of
the work; the number of feet drilled in a day; cost of
maintenance; cubic contents of dump; extent and slope and angles
of "fill"--all the matters which since his promotion (Jack now had
Bolton's place) came under his immediate supervision. Nor had any
word passed between himself and Ruth, other than the merest
commonplace. He was cheery, buoyant, always ready to help,--always
at her service if she took the train for New York or stayed after
dark at a neighbor's house, when he would insist on bringing her
home, no matter how late he had been up the night before.
If the truth were known, he neither suspected nor could he be made
to believe that Ruth had any troubles. The facts were that he had
given her all his heart and had been ready to lay himself at her
feet, that being the accepted term in his mental vocabulary--and
she would have none of him. She had let him understand so--
rebuffed him--not once, but every time he had tried to broach the
subject of his devotion;--once in the Geneseo arbor, and again on
that morning when he had really crawled to her side because he
could no longer live without seeing her. The manly thing to do now
was to accept the situation: to do his work; look after his
employer's interests, read, study, run over whenever he could to
see Peter--and these were never-to-be-forgotten oases in the
desert of his despair--and above all never to forget that he owed
a duty to Miss Ruth in which no personal wish of his own could
ever find a place. She was alone and without an escort except her
father, who was often so absorbed in his work, or so tired at
night, as to be of little help to her. Moreover, his Chief had, in
a way, added his daughter's care to his other duties. "Can't you
take Ruth to-night--" or "I wish you'd meet her at the ferry," or
"if you are going to that dinner in New York, at so-and-so's,
would you mind calling for her--" etc., etc. Don't start, dear
reader. These two came of a breed where the night key and the
daughter go together and where a chaperon would be as useless as a
policeman locked inside a bank vault.
And so the boy struggled on, growing in bodily strength and mental
experience, still the hero among the men for his heroic rescue of
the "Boss"--a reputation which he never lost; making friends every
day both in the village and in New York and keeping them; absorbed
in his slender library, and living within his means, which small
as they were, now gave him two rooms at Mrs. Hicks's,--one of
which he had fitted up as a little sitting-room and in which Ruth
had poured the first cup of tea, her father and some of the
village people being guests.
His one secret--and it was his only one--he kept locked up in his
heart, even from Peter. Why worry the dear old fellow, he had said
to himself a dozen times, since nothing would ever come of it.
While all this had been going on in the house of MacFarlane, much
more astonishing things had been developing in the house of Breen.
The second Mukton Lode scoop,--the one so deftly handled the night
of Arthur Breen's dinner to the directors,--had somehow struck a
snag in the scooping with the result that most of the "scoopings"
had been spilled over the edge there to be gathered up by the
gamins of the Street, instead of being hived in the strong boxes
of the scoopers. Some of the habitues in the orchestra chairs in
Breen's office had cursed loud and deep when they saw their
margins melt away; and one or two of the directors had broken out
into open revolt, charging Breen with the fiasco, but most of the
others had held their peace. It was better to crawl away into the
tall grass there to nurse their wounds than to give the enemy a
list of the killed and wounded. Now and then an outsider--one who
had watched the battle from afar--saw more of the fight than the
contestants themselves. Among these was Garry Minott.
"You heard how Mason, the Chicago man, euchred the Mukton gang,
didn't you?" he had shouted to a friend one night at the Magnolia
--"Oh, listen! boys. They set up a job on him,--he's a countryman,
you know a poor little countryman--from a small village called
Chicago--he's got three millions, remember, all in hard cash.
Nice, quiet motherly old gentleman is Mr. Mason--butter wouldn't
melt in his mouth. Went into Mukton with every dollar he had--so
kind of Mr. Breen to let him in--yes, put him down for 2,000
shares more. Then Breen & Co. began to hoist her up--five points--
ten points--twenty points. At the end of the week they had,
without knowing it, bought every share of Mason's stock." Here
Garry roared, as did the others within hearing. "And they've got
it yet. Next day the bottom dropped out. Some of them heard Mason
laugh all the way to the bank. He's cleaned up half a million and
gone back home--'so afraid his mother would spank him for being
out late o' nights without his nurse,'" and again Garry's laugh
rang out with such force and earnestness that the glasses on
Biffy's table chinked in response.
This financial set-back, while it had injured, for the time,
Arthur Breen's reputation for being "up and dressed," had not, to
any appreciable extent, curtailed his expenditures or narrowed the
area of his social domain. Mrs. Breen's dinners and entertainments
had been as frequent and as exclusive, and Miss Corinne had
continued to run the gamut of the gayest and best patronized
functions without, the Scribe is pained to admit, bringing home
with her for good and all both her cotillion favors and the
gentleman who had bestowed them. Her little wren-like head had
moved from side to side, and she had sung her sweetest and
prettiest, but somehow, when the song was over and the crumbs all
eaten (and there were often two dinners a week and at least one
dance), off went the male birds to other and more captivating
Mrs. Breen, of course, raved when Corinne at last opened the door
of her cage for Garry,--went to bed, in fact, for the day, to
accentuate her despair and mark her near approach to death because
of it--a piece of inconsistency she could well have spared
herself, knowing Corinne as she had, from the day of her birth,
and remembering as she must have done, her own escapade with the
almost penniless young army officer who afterward became Corinne's
Breen did not rave; Breen rather liked it. Garry had no money, it
is true, except what he could earn,--neither had Corinne. Garry
seemed to do as he darned pleased,--so did Corinne;--Garry had no
mother,--neither had Corinne so far as yielding to any authority
was concerned. "Yes,--let 'em marry,--good thing--begin at the
bottom round and work up--" all of which meant that the honorable
banker was delighted over the prospect of considerable more
freedom for himself and considerable less expense in the
And so the wedding had taken place with all the necessary
trimmings: awning over the carpeted sidewalk; four policemen on
the curb; detectives in the hall and up the staircase and in the
front bedroom where the jewels were exposed (all the directors of
the Mukton Lode were represented); crowds lining the sidewalk; mob
outside the church door--mob inside the church door and clear up
to the altar; flowers, palms, special choir, with little bank-
notes to the boys and a big bank-note to the leader; checks for
the ranking clergyman and the two assistant clergymen, not
forgetting crisp bills for the sexton and the janitor and the
policemen and the detectives and everybody else who could hold out
a hand and not be locked up in jail for highway robbery. Yes, a
most fashionable and a most distinguished and a most exclusive
wedding--there was no mistake about that.
No one had ever seen anything like it before; some hoped they
never would again, so great was the crush in the drawing-room. And
not only in the drawing-room, but over every square inch of the
house for that matter, from the front door where Parkins's
assistant (an extra man from Delmonico's) shouted out--"Third
floor back for the gentlemen and second floor front for the
ladies"--to the innermost recesses of the library made over into a
banquet hall, where that great functionary himself was pouring
champagne into batteries of tumblers as if it were so much water,
and distributing cuts of cold salmon and portions of terrapin with
the prodigality of a charity committee serving a picnic.
And then the heartaches over the cards that never came; and the
presents that were never sent, and the wrath of the relations who
got below the ribbon in the church and the airs of the strangers
who got above it; and the tears over the costly dresses that did
not arrive in time and the chagrin over those they had to wear or
stay at home--and the heat and the jam and tear and squeeze--and
the aftermath of wet glasses on inlaid tables and fine-spun table-
cloths burnt into holes with careless cigarettes; and the little
puddles of ice cream on the Turkish rugs and silk divans and the
broken glass and smashed china!--No--there never had been such a
This over, Corinne and Garry had gone to housekeeping in a dear
little flat, to which we may be sure Jack was rarely ever invited
(he had only received "cards" to the church, an invitation which
he had religiously accepted, standing at the door so he could bow
to them both as they passed)--the two, I say, had gone to a dear
little flat--so dear, in fact, that before the year was out
Garry's finances were in such a deplorable condition that the
lease could not be renewed, and another and a cheaper nest had to
be sought for.
It was at this time that the new church to be built at
Corklesville needed an architect--a fact which Jack communicated
to Garry. Then it happened that with the aid of MacFarlane and
Holker Morris the commission was finally awarded to that "rising
young genius who had so justly distinguished himself in the
atelier of America's greatest architect--Holker Morris--" all of
which Garry wrote himself and had inserted in the county paper, he
having called upon the editor for that very purpose. This service
--and it came at a most critical time in the young man's affairs--
the Scribe is glad to say, Garry, with his old-time generous
spirit suddenly revived, graciously acknowledged thanking Jack
heartily and with meaning in his voice, as well as MacFarlane--not
forgetting Ruth, to whom he sent a mass of roses as big as a
The gaining of this church building--the largest and most
important given the young architect since he had left Morris's
protection and guidance--decided Garry to give up at once his
expensive quarters in New York and move to Corklesville. So far as
any help from the house of Breen was concerned, all hope had ended
with the expensive and much-advertised wedding (a shrewd financial
move, really, for a firm selling shady securities). Corinne had
cooed, wept, and then succumbed into an illness, but Breen had
only replied: "No, let 'em paddle their own canoe."
This is why the sign "To Let," on one of the new houses built by
the Elm Crest Land and Improvement Company--old Tom Corkle who
owned the market garden farms that gave the village of
Corklesville its name, would have laughed himself sore had he been
alive--was ripped off and various teams loaded with all sorts of
furniture, some very expensive and showy and some quite the
contrary--especially that belonging to the servants' rooms--were
backed up to the newly finished porch with its second coat of
paint still wet, and their contents duly distributed upstairs and
downstairs and in my lady Corinne's chamber.
"Got to put on the brakes, old man," Garry had said one day to
Jack. The boy had heard of the expected change in the architect's
finances before the villa was rented, and so Garry's confidential
communication was not news to him.
"Been up to look at one of those new houses. Regular bird cage,
but we can get along. Besides, this town is going to grow and I'm
going to help it along. They are all dead out here--embalmed, some
of them--but dead." Here he opened the pamphlet of the company--
"See this house--an hour from New York; high ground; view of the
harbor--(all a lie, Jack, but it goes all the same); sewers,
running water, gas (lot of the last,--most of it in the
prospectus) It's called Elm Crest--beautiful, isn't it,--and not a
stump within half a mile."
Jack always remembered the interview. That Garry should help along
anything that he took an interest in was quite in the line of his
ambition and ability. Minott was as "smart as a steel trap,"
Holker Morris had always said of him, "and a wonderful fellow
among the men. He can get anything out of them; he would really
make a good politician. His handling of the Corn Exchange showed
And so it was not surprising,--not to Jack,--that when a new
village councilman was to be elected, Garry should have secured
votes enough to be included among their number. Nor was it at all
wonderful that after taking his seat he should have been placed in
charge of the village funds so far as the expenditures for
contract work went. The prestige of Morris's office settled all
doubts as to his fitness in construction; and the splendor of the
wedding--there could still be seen posted in the houses of the
workmen the newspaper cuts showing the bride and groom leaving the
church--silenced all opposition to "our fellow townsman's"
financial responsibility, even when that opposition was led by so
prominent a ward heeler as Mr. Patrick McGowan, who had planned to
get the position himself--and who became Garry's arch enemy
In these financial and political advancements Corinne helped but
little. None of the village people interested her, nor did she put
herself out in the least to be polite to them. Ruth had called and
had brought her hands full of roses--and so had her father. Garry
had continued to thank them both for their good word to the church
wardens--and he himself now and then spent an evening at
MacFarlane's house without Corinne, who generally pleaded illness;
but the little flame of friendship which had flashed after their
arrival in Corklesville had died down again.
This had gone on until the acquaintance had practically ended,
except when they met on the trains or in crossing the ferry. Then
again, Ruth and her father lived at one end of the village known
as Corklesville, and Garry and Corinne lived at the other end,
known as Elm Crest, the connecting link being the railroad, a fact
which Jack told Garry with a suggestive laugh, made them always
turn their backs on each other when they parted to go to their
respective homes, to which Garry would reply that it was an
outrage and that he was coming up that very night--all of which he
failed to do when the proposed visit was talked over with Corinne.
None of this affected Jack. He would greet Corinne as
affectionately and cordially as he had ever done. He had taken her
measure years before, but that made no difference to him, he never
forgetting that she was his uncle's nominal daughter; that they
had been sheltered by the same roof and that she therefore in a
way belonged to his people. Moreover, he realized, that like
himself, she had been compelled to give up many of the luxuries
and surroundings to which she had been accustomed and which she
loved,--worthless now to Jack in his freedom, but still precious
to her. This in itself was enough to bespeak his sympathy. Not
that she valued it;--she rather sniffed at it.
"I wish Jack wouldn't stand with his hat off until I get aboard
the train," she had told Garry one day shortly after their
arrival--"he makes me so conspicuous. And he wears such queer
clothes. He was in his slouch hat and rough flannel shirt and high
boots the other day and looked like a tramp."
"Better not laugh at Jack, Cory," Garry had replied; "you'll be
taking your own hat off to him one of these days; we all shall.
Arthur Breen missed it when he let him go. Jack's queer about some
things, but he's a thoroughbred and he's got brains!"
"He insulted Mr. Breen in his own house, that's why he let him
go," snapped Corinne. The idea of her ever taking off her hat,
even figuratively, to John Breen, was not to be brooked,--not for
"Yes, that's one way of looking at it, Cory, but I tell you if
Arthur Breen had had Jack with him these last few months--ever
since he left him, in fact,--and had listened once in a while to
what Jack thought was fair and square, the firm of A. B. & Co.
would have a better hold on things than they've got now; and he
wouldn't have dropped that million either. The cards don't always
come up the right way, even when they're stacked."
"It just served my stepfather right for not giving us some of it,
and I'm glad he lost it," Corinne rejoined, her anger rising
again. "I have never forgiven him for not making me an allowance
after I married, and I never will. He could, at least, have
continued the one he always gave me."
Garry winked sententiously, and remarked in reply that he might be
making the distinguished money-bags an allowance himself one of
these fine days, and he could if some of the things he was
counting on came out top side up, but Corinne's opinions did not
change either toward Jack or her stepfather.
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