Peter: A Novel of Which He is Not the Hero
F. Hopkinson Smith
Part 5 out of 8
When the pain in Jack's heart over Ruth became unbearable, there
was always one refuge left--one balm which never failed to soothe,
and that was Peter.
For though he held himself in readiness for her call, being seldom
absent lest she might need his services, their constrained
intercourse brought with it more pain than pleasure. It was then
that he longed for the comfort which only his dear mentor could
On these occasions Mrs. McGuffey would take the lace cover off
Miss Felicia's bureau, as a matter of precaution, provided that
lady was away and the room available, and roll in a big tub for
the young gentleman--"who do be washin' hisself all the time and
he that sloppy that I'm afeared everything will be spi'lt for the
mistress," and Jack would slip out of his working clothes (he
would often come away in his flannel shirt and loose tie,
especially when he was late in paying off) and shed his heavy
boots with the red clay of Jersey still clinging to their soles,
and get into his white linen and black clothes and dress shoes,
and then the two chums would lock arms and saunter up Fifth Avenue
to dine either at one of Peter's clubs or at some house where he
and that "handsome young ward of yours, Mr. Grayson--do bring him
again," were so welcome.
If Miss Felicia was in town and her room in use, there was never
any change in the programme, Mrs. McGuffey rising to the emergency
and discovering another and somewhat larger apartment in the next
house but two--"for one of the finest gintlemen ye ever saw and
that quiet," etc.--into which Jack would move and which the good
woman would insist on taking full charge of herself.
It was on one of these blessed and always welcome nights, after
the two had been dining at "a little crack in the wall," as Peter
called a near-by Italian restaurant, that he and Jack stopped to
speak to Isaac Cohen whom they found closing his shop for the
night. Cohen invited them in and Jack, after following the little
tailor through the deserted shop--all the work people had left--
found himself, to his great surprise, in a small room at the rear,
which Isaac opened with a key taken from his vest pocket, and
which even in the dim light of a single gas jet had more the
appearance of the den of a scholar, or the workshop of a
scientist, than the private office of a fashioner of clothes.
Peter only stayed a moment--long enough to borrow the second
volume of one of Isaac's books, but the quaint interior and what
it contained made a great impression on Jack,--so much so that
when the two had said good-night and mounted the stairs to Peter's
rooms, it was with increased interest that the boy listened to the
old fellow who stopped on every landing to tell him some incident
connected with the little tailor and his life: How after his
wife's death some years before, and his only daughter's marriage--
"and a great affair it was, my boy, I was there and know,"--Cohen
had moved down to his shop and fitted up the back room for a
little shelter of his own, where he had lived with his books and
his personal belongings and where he had met the queerest looking
people--with big heads and bushy beards--foreigners, some of them
--speaking all kinds of languages, as well as many highly educated
men in town.
Once inside his own cosey rooms Peter bustled about, poking the
fire into life, drawing the red curtains closer, moving a vase of
roses so he could catch their fragrance from where he sat,
wheeling two big, easy, all-embracing arm-chairs to the blaze,
rolling a small table laden with various burnables and pourables
within reach of their elbows, and otherwise disporting himself
after the manner of the most cheery and lovable of hosts. This
done, he again took up the thread of his discourse.
"Yes! He's a wonderful old fellow, this Isaac Cohen," he rattled
on when the two were seated. "You had only a glimpse of that den
of his, but you should see his books on costumes,--he's an
authority, you know,--and his miniatures,--Oh, a Cosway, which he
keeps in his safe, that is a wonder!--and his old manuscripts.
Those are locked up too. And he's a gentleman, too, Jack; not once
in all the years I have known him have I ever heard him mention
the word money in an objectionable way, and he has plenty of it
even if he does press off my coat with his own hands. Can you
recall anybody you know, my boy--even in the houses where you and
I have been lately, who doesn't let the word slip out in a dozen
different ways before the evening is over? And best of all, he's
sane,--one of the few men whom it is safe to let walk around
"And you like him?"
"And you never remember he is a Jew?" This was one of the things
Jack had never understood.
"Never;--that's not his fault,--rather to his credit."
"Because the world is against both him and his race, and yet in
all the years I have known him, nothing has ever soured his
Jack struck a match, relit his cigar and settling himself more
comfortably in his chair, said in a positive tone:
"Sour or sweet,--I don't like Jews,--never did."
"You don't like him because you don't know him. That's your fault,
not his. But you would like him, let me tell you, if you could
hear him talk. And now I think of it, I am determined you shall
know him, and right away. Not that he cares--Cohen's friends are
among the best men in London, especially the better grade of
theatrical people, whose clothes he has made and whose purses he
has kept full--yes--and whom he sometimes had to bury to keep them
out of Potter's field; and those he knows here--his kind of
people, I mean, not yours."
"All in his line of business, Uncle Peter," Jack laughed. "How
much interest did they pay,--cent per cent?"
"I am ashamed of you, Jack. Not a penny. Don't let your mind get
clogged up, my boy, with such prejudices,--keep the slate of your
judgment sponged clean."
"But you believe everybody is clean, Uncle Peter."
"And so must you, until you prove them dirty. Now, will you do me
a very great kindness and yourself one as well? Please go
downstairs, rap three times at Mr. Cohen's shutters--hard, so that
he can hear you--that's my signal--present my compliments and ask
him to be kind enough to come up and have a cigar with us."
Jack leaned forward in his seat, his face showing his
"You don't mean it?"
The boy was out of his chair and clattering down-stairs before
Peter could add another word to his message. If he had asked him
to crawl out on the roof and drop himself into the third-story
window of the next house, he would have obeyed him with the same
Peter wheeled up another chair; added some small and large glasses
to the collection on the tray and awaited Jack's return. The
experience was not new. The stupid, illogical prejudice was not
confined to inexperienced lads.
He had had the same thing to contend with dozens of times before.
Even Holker had once said: "Peter, what the devil do you find in
that little shrimp of a Hebrew to interest you? Is he cold that
you warm him, or hungry that you feed him,--or lonely that--"
"Stop right there, Holker! You've said it,--lonely--that's it--
LONELY! That's what made me bring him up the first time he was
ever here. It seemed such a wicked thing to me to have him at one
end of the house--the bottom end, too--crooning over a fire, and I
at the top end crooning over another, when one blaze could warm us
both. So up he came, Holker, and now it is I who am lonely when a
week passes and Isaac does not tap at my door, or I tap at his."
The distinguished architect understood it all a week later when
the new uptown synagogue was being talked of and he was invited to
meet the board, and found to his astonishment that the wise little
man with the big gold spectacles, occupying the chair was none
other than Peter's tailor.
"Our mutual friend Mr. Grayson, of the Exeter Bank, spoke to me
about you, Mr. Morris," said the little man without a trace of
foreign accent and with all the composure of a great banker making
a government loan; rising at the same time, with great dignity
introducing Morris to his brother trustees and then placing him in
the empty seat next his own. After that, and on more than one
occasion, there were three chairs around Peter's blaze, with
Morris in one of them.
All these thoughts coursed through Peter's head as Jack and Cohen
were mounting the three flights of stairs.
"Ah, Isaac," he cried at first sight of his friend, "I just wanted
you to know my boy, Jack Breen, better, and as his legs are
younger than mine, I sent him down instead of going myself--you
don't mind, do you?"
"Mind!--of course I do not mind,--but I do know Mr. Breen. I first
met him many months ago--when your sister was here--and then I
see him going in and out all the time--and--"
"Stop your nonsense, Isaac;--that's not the way to know a man;
that's the way not to know him, but what's more to the point is, I
want Jack to know you. These young fellows have very peculiar
ideas about a good many things,--and this boy is like all the
rest--some of which ought to be knocked out of his head,--your
race, for one thing. He thinks that because you are a Jew that
Jack uttered a smothered, "Oh, Uncle Peter!" but the old fellow
who now had the tailor in one of his big chairs and was filling a
thin wineglass with a brown liquid (ten years in the wood)--Holker
sent it--kept straight on. "Jack's all right inside, or I wouldn't
love him, but there are a good many things he has got to learn,
and you happen to be one of them."
Cohen lay back in his chair and laughed heartily.
"Do not mind him, Mr. Breen,--do not mind a word he says. He
mortifies me that same way. And now--" here he turned his head to
Peter--"what does he think of my race?"
"Oh! He thinks you are a lot of money-getters and pawnbrokers,
gouging the poor and squeezing the rich."
Jack broke out into a cold perspiration: "Really, Uncle Peter!
Now, Mr. Cohen, won't you please believe that I never said one
word of it," exclaimed Jack in pleading tones, his face expressing
"I never said you did, Jack," rejoined Peter with mock solemnity
in his voice. "I said you THOUGHT so. And now here he is,--look at
him. Does he look like Scrooge or Shylock or some old skinflint
who--" here he faced Cohen, his eyes brimming with merriment--
"What are we going to do with this blasphemer, Isaac? Shall we
boil him in oil as they did that old sixteenth-century saint you
were telling me about the other night, or shall we--?"
The little tailor threw out his hands--each finger an exclamation
point--and laughed heartily, cutting short Peter's tirade.
"No--no--we do none of these dreadful things to Mr. Breen; he is
too good to be a saint," and he patted Jack's knees--"and then
again it is only the truth. Mr. Breen is quite right; we are a
race of money-getters, and we are also the world's pawnbrokers and
will always be. Sometimes we make a loan on a watch or a wedding
ring to keep some poor soul from starving; sometimes it is a
railroad to give a millionaire a yacht, or help buy his wife a
string of pearls. It is quite the same, only over one shop we hang
three gilt balls: on the other we nail a sign which reads:
'Financial Agents.' And it is the same Jew, remember, who stands
behind both counters. The first Jew is overhauled almost every day
by the police; the second Jew is regarded as our public-spirited
citizen. So you see, my young friend, that it is only a question
of the amount of money you have got whether you loan on rings or
"And whether the Christian lifts his hat or his boot," laughed
Cohen leaned his elbows on his plump knees and went on, the
slender glass still in his hand, from which now and then he took a
sip. Peter sat buried in his chair, his cigar between his fingers.
Jack held his peace; it was not for him to air his opinions in the
presence of the two older men, and then again the tailor had
suddenly become a savant.
"Of course, there are many things I wish were different," the
tailor continued in a more thoughtful tone. "Many of my people
forget their birthright and force themselves on the Christian,
trying to break down the fence which has always divided us, and
which is really our best protection. As long as we keep to
ourselves we are a power. Persecution,--and sometimes it amounts
to that--is better than amalgamation; it brings out our better
fighting qualities and makes us rely on ourselves. This is the
view of our best thinkers, and they are right. Just hear me run
on! Why talk about these things? They are for graybeards, not
young fellows with the world before them." Cohen straightened up--
laid his glass on the small table, waved his hand in denial to
Peter who started to refill it, and continued, turning to Jack:
"And now let me hear something about your own work, Mr. Breen," he
said in his kindest and most interested voice. "Mr. Grayson tells
me you are cutting a great tunnel. Under a mountain, is it not?
Ah!--that is something worth doing. And here is this old uncle of
yours with his fine clothes and his old wine, who does nothing but
pore over his musty bank-books, and here am I in the cellar below,
who can only sew on buttons, and yet we have the impudence to
criticise you. Really, I never heard of such conceit!"
"Oh!--but it isn't my tunnel," Jack eagerly protested, greatly
amused at the Jew's talk; "I am just an assistant, Mr. Cohen."
Somehow he had grown suddenly smaller since the little man had
"Yes,--of course, we are all assistants; Mr. Grayson assists at
the bank, and I assist my man, Jacob, who makes such funny
mistakes in the cut of his trousers. Oh, yes, that is quite the
way life is made up. But about this tunnel? It is part of this new
branch, is it not? Some of my friends have told me about it. And
it is going straight through the mountain."
And then before Jack or Peter could reply the speaker branched out
into an account of the financing of the great Mt. Cenis tunnel,
and why the founder of the house of Rothschild, who had "assisted"
in its construction, got so many decorations from foreign
governments; the talk finally switching off to the enamelled and
jewelled snuff boxes of Baron James Rothschild, whose collection
had been the largest in Europe; and what had become of it; and
then by one of those illogical jumps--often indulged in by well-
informed men discussing any subject that absorbs them--brought up
at Voltaire and Taine and the earlier days of the Revolution in
which one of the little tailor's ancestors had suffered spoliation
Jack sat silent--he had long since found himself out of his depth
--drinking in every word of the talk, his wonderment increasing
every moment, not only over Cohen, but over Peter as well, whom he
had never before heard so eloquent or so learned, or so
entertaining. When at last the little man rose to go, the boy,
with one of those spontaneous impulses which was part of his
nature, sprang from his seat, found the tailor's hat himself, and
conducting him to the door, wished him good-night with all the
grace and well-meant courtesy he would show a prince of the blood,
should he ever be fortunate enough to meet one.
Peter was standing on the mat, his back to the fire, when the boy
"Jack, you delight me!" the old fellow cried. "Your father
couldn't have played host better. Really, I am beginning to
believe I won't have to lock you up in an asylum. You're getting
wonderfully sane, my boy,--real human. Jack, do you know that if
you keep on this way I shall really begin to love you!"
"But what an extraordinary man," exclaimed Jack, ignoring Peter's
compliment and badinage. "Is there anything he does not know?"
"Yes,--many things. Oh! a great many things. He doesn't know how
to be rude, or ill bred, or purse-proud. He doesn't know how to
snub people who are poorer than he is, or to push himself in where
he isn't wanted; or to talk behind people's backs after he has
accepted their hospitality. Just plain gentleman journeyman
tailor, Jack. And now, my boy, be honest. Isn't he a relief after
some of the people you and I meet every day?"
Jack settled again in his chair. His mind was not at all easy.
"Yes, he is, and that makes me afraid I was rude. I didn't mean to
"No,--you acted just right. I wanted to draw him out so you could
hear, and you must say that he was charming. And the best of it is
that he could have talked equally well on a dozen other subjects."
For some time Jack did not answer. Despite Peter's good opinion of
him, he still felt that he had either said or done something he
should be ashamed of. He knew it was his snap judgment about Cohen
that had been the cause of the object lesson he had just received.
Peter had not said so in so many words--it was always with a jest
or a laugh that he corrected his faults, but he felt their truth
all the same.
For some minutes he leaned back in his chair, his eyes on the
ceiling; then he said in a tone of conviction:
"I WAS wrong about Mr. Cohen, Uncle Peter. I am always putting my
foot in it. He is an extraordinary man. He certainly is, to listen
to, whatever he is in his business."
"No, Jack, my boy--you were only honest," Peter rejoined, passing
over the covert allusion to the financial side of the tailor. "You
didn't like his race and you said so. Act first. Then you found
out you were wrong and you said so. Act second. Then you
discovered you owed him an ample apology and you bowed him out as
if he had been a duke. Act third. And now comes the epilogue--
Better be kind and human than be king! Eh, Jack?" and the old
gentleman threw back his head and laughed heartily.
Jack made no reply. He was through with Cohen;--something else
was on his mind of far more importance than the likes and dislikes
of all the Jews in Christendom. Something he had intended to lay
before Peter at the very moment the old fellow had sent him for
Isaac--something he had come all the way to New York to discuss
with him; something that had worried him for days. There was but
half an hour left; then he must get his bag and say good-night and
good-by for another week or more.
Peter noticed the boy's mood and laid his hand on his wrist.
Somehow this was not the same Jack.
"I haven't hurt you, my son, have I?" he asked with a note of
tenderness in his voice.
"Hurt me! You couldn't hurt me, Uncle Peter!" There was no
question of his sincerity as he spoke. It sprang straight from his
"Well, then, what's the matter?--out with it. No secrets from
blundering old Peter," he rejoined in a satisfied tone.
Jack laughed gently: "Well, sir, it's about the work." It wasn't;
but it might lead to it later on,
"Work!--what's the matter with the work! Anything wrong?" There
was a note of alarm now that made Jack reply hastily:
"No, it will be finished next month: we are lining up the arches
this week and the railroad people have already begun to dump their
cross ties along the road bed. It's about another job. Mr.
MacFarlane, I am afraid, hasn't made much money on the fill and
tunnel, but he has some other work offered him up in Western
Maryland, which he may take, and which, if he does, may pay
handsomely. He wants me to go with him. It means a shanty and a
negro cook, as near as I can figure it, but I shall get used to
that, I suppose. What do you think about it?"
"Well," chuckled Peter--it was not news; MacFarlane had told him
all about it the week before at the Century--"if you can keep the
shanty tight and the cook sober you may weather it. It must be
great fun living in a shanty. I never tried it, but I would like
"Yes, perhaps it is,--but it has its drawbacks. I can't come to
see you for one thing, and then the home will be broken up. Miss
Ruth will go back to her grandmother's for a while, she says, and
later on she will visit the Fosters at Newport and perhaps spend a
month with Aunt Felicia." He called her so now.
Jack paused for some further expression of opinion from his always
ready adviser, but Peter's eyes were still fixed on the slow,
"It will be rather a rough job from what I saw of it," Jack went
on. "We are to run a horizontal shaft into some ore deposits. Mr.
MacFarlane and I have been studying the plans for some time; we
went over the ground together last month. That's why I didn't come
to you last week."
Peter twisted his head: "What's the name of the nearest town?"
MacFarlane had told him but he had forgotten.
"Morfordsburg. I was there once with my father when I was a boy.
He had some ore lands near where these are;--those he left me. The
Cumberland property we always called it. I told you about it once.
It will never amount to anything,--except by expensive boring.
That is also what hurts the value of this new property the
Maryland Mining Company owns. That's what they want Mr. MacFarlane
for. Now, what would you do if you were me?"
"What sort of a town is Morfordsburg?" inquired Peter, ignoring
Jack's question, his head still buried between his shoulders.
"Oh, like all other country villages, away from railroad
"Any good houses,--any to rent?"
"Yes,--I saw two."
"And you want my advice, do you, Jack?" he burst out, rising erect
in his seat.
"Well, I'd stick to MacFarlane and take Ruth with me."
Jack broke out into a forced laugh. Peter had arrived by a short
cut! Now he knew, he was a mind reader.
"She won't go," he answered in a voice that showed he was open to
conviction. Peter, perhaps, had something up his sleeve.
"Have you asked her?" The old fellow's eyes were upon him now.
"No,--not in so many words."
"Well, try it. She has always gone with her father; she loves the
outdoor life and it loves her. I never saw her look as pretty as
she is now, and she has her horse too. Try asking her yourself,
beg her to come along and keep house and make a home for the three
Jack leaned back in his seat, his face a tangle of hopes and
fears. What was Uncle Peter driving at, anyhow?
"I have tried other things, and she would not listen," he said in
a more positive tone. Again the two interviews he had had with
Ruth came into his mind; the last one as if it had been yesterday.
"Try until she DOES listen," continued Peter. "Tell her you will
be very lonely if she doesn't go, and that she is the one and only
thing in Corklesville that interests you outside of your work--and
be sure you mention the dear girl first and the work last--and
that you won't have another happy hour if she leaves you in the--"
"And why not? It's a fact, isn't it? You were honest about Isaac;
why not be honest with Ruth?"
"No, you're not,--you only tell her half what's in your heart.
Tell her all of it! The poor child has been very much depressed of
late, so Felicia tells me, over something that troubles her, and I
wouldn't be at all surprised if you were at the bottom of it. Give
yourself an overhauling and find out what you have said or done to
hurt her. She will never forget you for pulling her father out of
that hole, nor will he."
Jack bristled up: "I don't want her to think of me in that way!"
"Oh, you don't! don't you? Oh, of course not! You want her to
think of you as a great and glorious young knight who goes
prancing about the world doing good from habit, and yet you are so
high and mighty that--Jack, you rascal, do you know you are the
stupidest thing that breathes? You're like a turkey, my boy,
trying to get over the top rail of a pen with its head in the air,
when all it has to do is to stoop a little and march out on its
Jack rose from his seat and walked toward the fire, where he stood
with one hand on the mantel. He knew Peter had a purpose in all
his raillery and yet he dared not voice the words that trembled on
his lips; he could tell the old fellow everything in his life
except his love for Ruth and her refusal to listen to him. This
was the bitterest of all his failures, and this he would not and
could not pour into Peter's ears. Neither did he want Ruth to have
Peter's help, nor Miss Felicia's; nor MacFarlane's; not anybody's
help where her heart was concerned. If Ruth loved him that was
enough, but he wouldn't have anybody persuade her to love him, or
advise with her about loving him. How much Peter knew he could not
say. Perhaps!--perhaps Ruth told him something!--something he was
keeping to himself!
As this last thought forced itself into his brain a great surge of
joy swept over him. For a brief moment he stood irresolute. One of
Peter's phrases now rang clear: "Stoop a little!" Stoop?--hadn't
he done everything a man could do to win a woman, and had he not
found the bars always facing him?
With this his heart sank again. No, there was no use of thinking
anything more about it, nor would he tell him. There were some
things that even Peter couldn't understand,--and no wonder, when
you think how many years had gone by since he loved any woman.
The chime of the little clock rang out.
Jack turned quickly: "Eleven o'clock, Uncle Peter, and I must go;
time's up. I hate to leave you."
"And what about the shanty and the cook?" said Peter, his eyes
"I'll go,--I intended to go all the time if you approved."
"And what about Ruth?"
"Don't ask me, Uncle Peter, not now." And he hurried off to pack
If Jack, after leaving Peter and racing for the ferry, had, under
Peter's advice, formulated in his mind any plan by which he could
break down Ruth's resolve to leave both her father and himself in
the lurch and go out in the gay world alone, there was one factor
which he must have left out of his calculations--and that was the
One expression of Peter's, however, haunted him all the way home:
--that Ruth was suffering and that he had been the cause of it. Had
he hurt her?--and if so, how and when? With this, the dear girl's
face, with the look of pain on it which Miss Felicia had noticed,
rose before him. Perhaps Peter was right. He had never thought of
Ruth's side of the matter--had never realized that she, too, might
have suffered. To-morrow he would go to her. If he could not win
her for himself he could, at least, find out the cause and help
relieve her pain.
This idea so possessed him that it was nearly dawn before he
dropped to sleep.
With the morning everything changed.
Such a rain had never been known to fall--not in the memory of the
oldest moss-back in the village--if any such ancient inhabitant
existed. Twelve hours of it had made rivers of the streets,
quagmires of the roads, and covered the crossings ankle-deep with
mud. It had begun in the night while Isaac was expounding his
views on snuff boxes, tunnels, and Voltaire to Peter and Jack, had
followed Jack across the river and had continued to soak into his
clothes until he opened Mrs. Hicks's front door with his private
key. It was still pelting away the next morning, when Jack,
alarmed at its fury, bolted his breakfast, and, donning his
oilskins and rubber boots, hurried to the brick office from whose
front windows he could get a view of the fill, the culvert, and
the angry stream, and from whose rear windows could be seen half a
mile up the raging torrent, the curve of the unfinished embankment
flanking one side of the new boulevard which McGowan was building
under a contract with the village.
Hardly had he slipped off his boots and tarpaulins when
MacFarlane, in mackintosh and long rubber boots, splashed in:
"Breen," said his Chief, loosening the top button of his storm
coat and threshing the water from his cap:
Jack was on his feet in an instant:
"I wish you would take a look at the boulevard spillway. I know
McGowan's work and how he skins it sometimes, and I'm getting
worried. Coggins says the water is backing up, and that the slopes
are giving way. You can see yourself what a lot of water is coming
down--" here they both gazed through the open window. "I never saw
that stream look like that since I've been here; there must be a
frightful pressure now on McGowan's retaining walls. We should
have a close shave if anything gave way above us. Our own
culvert's working all right, but it's taxed now to its utmost."
Jack unhooked his water-proof from a nail behind the door--he had
began putting on his rubber boots again before MacFarlane finished
"He will have to pay the bills, sir, if anything gives way--" Jack
replied in a determined voice. "Garry told me only last week that
McGowan had to take care of his own water; that was part of his
contract. It comes under Garry's supervision, you know."
"Yes, I know, and that may all be so, Breen," he replied with a
flickering smile, "but it won't do us any good,--or the road
either. They want to run cars next month."
The door again swung wide, and a man drenched to the skin, the
water glistening on his bushy gray beard stepped in.
"I heard you were here, sir, and had to see you. There's only four
feet lee-way in our culvert, sir, and the scour's eating into the
underpinning; I am just up from there. We are trying bags of
cement, but it doesn't do much good."
MacFarlane caught up his hat and the two hurried down stream to
the "fill," while Jack, buttoning his oilskin jacket over his
chest, and crowding his slouch hat close to his eyebrows and ears
strode out into the downpour, his steps bent in the opposite
The sight that met his eyes was even more alarming. The once quiet
little stream, with its stretch of meadowland reaching to the foot
of the steep hills, was now a swirl of angry reddish water
careering toward the big culvert under the "fill." There it struck
the two flanking walls of solid masonry, doubled in volume and
thus baffled, shot straight into and under the culvert and so on
over the broad fields below.
Up the stream toward the boulevard on the other side of its sky
line, groups of men were already engaged carrying shovels, or
lugging pieces of timber as they hurried along its edge, only to
disappear for an instant and reappear again empty-handed. Shouts
could be heard, as if some one were giving orders. Against the
storm-swept sky, McGowan's short, squat figure was visible, his
hands waving wildly to other gangs of men who were running at full
speed toward where he stood.
Soon a knife-edge of water glistened along the crest of the earth
embankment supporting the roadway of the boulevard, scattered into
a dozen sluiceways, gashing the sides of the slopes, and then,
before Jack could realize his own danger, the whole mass collapsed
only to be swallowed up in a mighty torrent which leaped straight
Jack wheeled suddenly, shouted to a man behind him to run for his
life, and raced on down stream toward the "fill" a mile below
where MacFarlane and his men, unconscious of their danger, were
strengthening the culvert and its approaches.
On swept the flood, tearing up trees, cabins, shanties, fences;
swirling along the tortuous bed only to leap and swirl again, its
solid front bristling with the debris it had wrenched loose in its
mad onslaught, Jack in his line of flight keeping abreast of its
mighty thrust, shouting as he ran, pressing into service every man
who could help in the rescue.
But MacFarlane had already been forewarned. The engineer of the
morning express, who had crossed close to the boulevard at the
moment the break occurred, had leaned far out of his cab as the
train thundered by at right angles to the "fill," and with cupped
hands to his mouth, had hurled this yell into the ravine:
"Water! Look out! Everything busted up above! Water! Water! Run,
for God's sake!"
The men stood irresolute, but MacFarlane sprang to instant action.
Grabbing the man next him,--an Italian who understood no English--
he dragged him along, shouting to the others, the crowd swarming
up, throwing away their shovels in their flight until the whole
posse reached a point of safety near the mouth of the tunnel.
There he turned and braced himself for the shock. He realized
fully what had happened: McGowan's ill-constructed culvert had
sagged and choked; a huge basin of water had formed behind it; the
retaining walls had been undermined and the whole mass was
sweeping down upon him. Would there be enough of it to overflow
the crest line of his own "fill" or not? If it could stand the
first on-thrust there was one chance in a hundred of its safety,
provided the wing-walls and the foundations of the culvert held up
its arch, thus affording gradual relief until the flood should
have spent its force.
It was but a question of minutes. He could already see the trees
sway as the mad flood struck them, the smaller ones rebounding,
the large ones toppling over. Then came a dull roar like that of a
tram through a covered bridge, and then a great wall of yellow
suds, boiling, curling, its surface covered with sticks, planks,
shingles, floating barrels, parts of buildings, dashed itself
against the smoothed earth slopes of his own "fill," surged a
third of its height, recoiled on itself, swirled furiously again,
and then inch by inch rose toward the top. Should it plunge over
the crest, the "fill" would melt away as a rising tide melts a
sand fort, the work of months be destroyed, and his financial ruin
be a certainty.
But the man who had crawled out on the shore end of the great
cantilever bridge over the Ohio, and who had with his own hands
practically set the last rebellious steel girder one hundred feet
above the water level, had still some resources left. Grabbing a
shovel from a railroad employe, he called to his men and began
digging a trench on the tunnel end of the "fill" to form a
temporary spillway should the top of the flood reach the crest of
the road bed.
Fifty or more men sprang to his assistance with pick and shovel
wherever one could stand and dig. The water had now reached within
five feet of the top: the rise was slower, showing that the volume
had lessened; the soakage, too, was helping, but the water still
gained. The bottom of the trench, cut transversely across the road
bed of the "fill," out of which the dirt was still flying from
scores of willing shovels, had reached the height of the flood
line. It was wide enough and deep enough to take care of the
slowly rising overflow and would relieve the pressure on the whole
structure; but the danger was not there. What was to be feared was
the scour on the down-stream--far side--slope of the "fill." This
also, was of loose earth: too great a gulch might mean total
To lessen this scour MacFarlane had looted a carload of plank
switched on to a siding, and a gang of men in charge of Jack,--who
had now reached his Chief's side,--were dragging them along the
downstream slope to form sluices with which to break the force of
The top of the flood now poured into the mouth of the newly dug
trench, biting huge mouthfuls of earth from its sides in its rush;
spreading the reddish water fan-like over the down-stream slope:
first into gullies; then a broad sluiceway that sunk out of sight
in the soft earth; then crumblings, slidings of tons of sand and
gravel, with here and there a bowlder washed clean; the men
working like beavers,--here to free a rock, there to drive home a
plank, the trench all the while deepening, widening--now a gulch
ten feet across and as deep, now a canon through which surged a
solid mass of frenzied water.
With the completion of the first row of planking MacFarlane took
up a position where he could overlook all parts of the work. Every
now and then his eyes would rest on a water-gauge which he had
improvised from the handle of a pick; the rise and fall of the wet
mark showing him both the danger and the safety lines. He seemed
the least interested man in the group. Once in a while he would
consult his watch, counting the seconds, only to return to the
That thousands of dollars' damage had so far been done did not
seem to affect him in the least. Only when Jack would call out
that everything so far was solid on the main "fill" did his calm
face light up.
Tightening his wide slouch hat farther down on his head, he drew
up the tops of his high-water boots and strode through the slush
to the pick-handle. His wooden record showed that half an hour
before the water had been rising at the rate of an inch every
three minutes; that it had then taken six, and now required eight!
He glanced at the sky; it had stopped raining and a light was
breaking in the West.
Pocketing his watch he beckoned to Jack:
"The worst is over, Breen," he said in a voice of perfect
calmness--the tone of a doctor after feeling a patient's pulse.
"Our culvert is doing its work and relieving the pressure. This
water will be out of here by morning. Tell the foreman to keep
those planks moving wherever they do any good, but they won't
count much longer. You can see the difference already in the
overflow. And now go up to the house and tell Ruth. She may not
know we are all right and will be worrying."
Jack's heart gave a bound. No more delightful duty could devolve
"What shall I tell her about the damage if she asks me, sir?" he
demanded, hiding his pleasure in a perfunctory, businesslike tone,
"and she will."
"Tell her it means all summer here for me and no new bonnets for
her until next winter," replied MacFarlane with a grim smile.
"Yes, I suppose, but I referred to the money loss," Jack laughed
in reply. "There is no use worrying her if we are not to blame for
this." He didn't intend to worry her. He was only feeling about
for some topic which would prolong his visit and encourage
"If we are, it means some thousands of dollars on the wrong side
of the ledger," answered MacFarlane after a pause, a graver tone
in his voice. "But don't tell Ruth that. Just give her my message
about the bonnet--she will understand."
"But not if McGowan is liable," argued Jack. If Ruth was to hear
bad news it could at least be qualified.
"That depends somewhat on the wording of his contract, Breen, and
a good deal on whether this village wants to hold him to it. I'm
not crossing any bridges of that kind, and don't you. What I'm
worrying about is the number of days and nights it's going to take
to patch this work so they can get trains through our tunnel--
"Yes, sir," answered Jack, as he stopped and looked over his
shoulder. There were wings on his feet now.
"Get into some dry clothes before you come back."
While all this had been going on Ruth had stood at the window in
the upper hall opposite the one banked with geraniums, too
horrified to move. She had watched with the aid of her opera-glass
the wild torrent rushing through the meadow, and she had heard the
shouts of the people in the streets and the prolonged roar when
the boulevard embankment gave way.
The hurried entrance and startled cry of the grocer's boy in the
kitchen below, and the loud talk that followed, made her move to
the head of the stairs. There she stood listening, her heart in
her mouth, her knees trembling. Such expressions as "drownded,"--
"more'n a hundred of 'em--" reached her ears. Then came the words
--"de boss's work busted; ain't nobody seen him alive, so dey say."
For an instant she clutched the hand rail to keep her from
falling, then with a cry of terror she caught up an old cloth
cape, bound a hat to her head with a loose veil, and was
downstairs and into the street before the boy had reached the
"Yes, mum," he stammered, breathlessly, his eyes bulging from his
head,--"Oh! it's awful, mum! Don't know how many's drownded!
Everybody's shovelin' on de railroad dump, but dere ain't nothin'
kin save it, dey say!"
She raced on--across the long street, avoiding the puddles as best
she could; past the Hicks Hotel--no sign of Jack anywhere--past
the factory fence, until she reached the railroad, where she
stopped, gathered her bedraggled skirts in her hand and then sped
on over the cross-ties like a swallow, her little feet scarce
touching the cinders.
Jack had caught sight of the flying girl as she gained the
railroad and awaited her approach; he supposed she was the half-
crazed wife or daughter of some workman, bringing news of fresh
disaster, until she approached near enough for him to note the
shape and size of her boots and the way the hat and veil framed
her face. But it was not until she uttered a cry of agony and ran
straight toward him, that he sprang forward to meet her and caught
her in his aims to keep her from falling.
"Oh, Jack!--where is daddy--where--" she gasped.
"Why, he is all right, Miss Ruth,--everybody's all right! Why did
you come here? Oh! I am so sorry you have had this fright! Don't
answer,--just lean on me until you get your breath."
"Yes--but are you sure he is safe? The grocer's boy said nobody
had seen him alive."
"Of course I am sure! Just look across--there he is; nobody could
ever mistake that old slouch hat of his. And look at the big
'fill.' It hasn't given an inch, Miss Ruth--think of it! What a
shame you have had such a fright," he continued as he led her to a
pile of lumber beside the track and moved out a dry plank where he
seated her as tenderly as if she had been a frightened child,
standing over her until she breathed easier.
"But then, if he is safe, why did you leave daddy? You are not
hurt yourself, are you?" she exclaimed suddenly, reaching up her
hand and catching the sleeve of his tarpaulin, a great lump in her
"Me, hurt!--not a bit of it,--not a scratch of any kind,--see!" As
an object-lesson he stretched out his arm and with one clenched
hand smote his chest gorilla fashion.
"But you are all wet--" she persisted, in a more reassured tone.
"You must not stand here in this wind; you will get chilled to the
bone. You must go home and get into dry clothes;--please say you
Something warm and scintillating started from Jack's toes as the
words left her lips, surged along his spinal column, set his
finger tips tingling and his heart thumping like a trip hammer.
She had called him "Jack!" She had run a mile to rescue him and
her father, and she was anxious lest he should endanger his
precious life by catching cold. Cold!--had he been dragged through
the whirlpool of Niagara in the dead of winter with the
thermometer at zero and then cast on a stranded iceberg he would
now be sizzling hot.
Again she repeated her command,--this time in a more peremptory
tone, the same anxious note in her voice.
"Please come, if daddy doesn't want you any more you must go home
at once. I wouldn't have you take cold for--" she did not finish
the sentence; something in his face told her that her solicitude
might already have betrayed her.
"Of course, I will go just as soon as you are rested a little, but
you mustn't worry about me, Miss Ruth, I am as wet as a rat, I
know, but I am that way half the time when it rains. These
tarpaulins let in a lot of water--" here he lifted his arms so she
could see the openings herself--"and then I got in over my boots
trying to plug the holes in the sluiceway with some plank." He was
looking down into her eyes now. Never had he seen her so pretty.
The exercise had made roses of her cheeks, and the up-turned face
framed by the thatch of a bonnet bound with the veil, reminded him
of a Madonna.
"And is everything all right with daddy? And was there nobody in
the shanties?" she went on. "Perhaps I might better try to get
over where he is;--do you think I can? I would just like to tell
him how glad I am it is no worse."
"Yes, if you change boots with me," laughed Jack, determined to
divert her mind; "I was nearly swamped getting back here. That is
where most of this mud came from--" and Jack turned his long,
clay-encrusted boot so that Ruth could see how large a section of
the "fill" he had brought with him.
Ruth began to laugh. There was no ostensible reason why she should
laugh; there was nothing about Jack's make-up to cause it. Indeed,
she thought he had never looked so handsome, even if his hair were
plastered to his temples under his water-soaked hat and his
clothes daubed with mud.
And yet she did laugh:--At the way her veil got knotted under her
chin,--so tightly knotted that Jack had to take both hands to
loosen it, begging pardon for touching her throat, and hoping all
the while that his clumsy fingers had not hurt her;--at the way
her hat was crumpled, the flowers "never,--never, being of the
slightest use to anybody again"; at her bedraggled skirts--"such a
sight, and sopping wet."
And Jack laughed, too,--agreeing to everything she said, until she
reached that stage in the conversation, never omitted on occasions
of this kind, when she declared, arching her head, that she must
look like a perfect fright, which Jack at once refuted exclaiming
that he had never seen her look so--he was going to say "pretty,"
but checked himself and substituted "well," instead, adding, as he
wiped off her ridiculously small boots, despite her protests, with
his wet handkerchief,--that cloud-bursts were not such bad
things, after all, now that he was to have the pleasure of
escorting her home.
And so the two walked back to the village, the afternoon sun,
which had now shattered the lowering clouds, gilding and
glorifying their two faces, Jack stopping at Mrs. Hicks's to
change his clothes and Ruth keeping on to the house, where he was
to join her an hour later, when the two would have a cup of tea
and such other comforts as that young lady might prepare for her
If ten minutes make half an hour, then it took Jack that long to
rush upstairs, two steps at a time, burst into his room, strip off
his boots, tear off his wet clothes, struggle into others jerked
from his wardrobe, tie a loose, red-silk scarf under the rolling
collar of his light-blue flannel shirt, slip into a grey pea-
jacket and unmentionables, give his hair a brush and a promise,
tilt a dry hat on one side of his head and skip down-stairs
Old Mrs. Hicks had seen him coming and had tried to catch him as
he flew out the door, hoping to get some more definite news of the
calamity which had stirred the village, but he was gone before she
could reach the front hall.
He had not thought of his better clothes; there might still be
work to do, and his Chief might again need his services. Ruth
would understand, he said to himself--all of which was true.
Indeed, she liked him better in his high-water rubber boots, wide
slouch hat and tarpaulins than in the more conventional suit of
immaculate black with which he clothed his shapely body whenever
he took her to one of the big dinners at one of the great houses
on Washington Square.
And she liked this suit best of all. She had been peeping through
the curtains and her critical admiring eyes had missed no detail.
She saw that the cavalier boots were gone, but she recognized the
short pea-jacket and the loose rolling collar of the soft flannel
shirt circling the strong, bronzed throat, and the dash of red in
the silken scarf.
And so it is not surprising that when he got within sight of her
windows, his cheeks aflame with the crisp air, his eyes snapping
with the joy of once more hearing her voice, her heart should have
throbbed with an undefinable happiness and pride as she realized
that for a time, at least, he was to be all her own. And yet when
he had again taken her hand--the warmth of his last pressure still
lingered in her palm--and had looked into her eyes and had said
how he hoped he had not kept her waiting, all she could answer in
reply was the non-committal remark:
"Well, now you look something like"--at which Jack's heart gave a
great bound, any compliment, however slight, being so much manna
to his hungry soul; Ruth adding, as she led the way into the
sitting-room, "I lighted the wood fire because I was afraid you
might still be cold."
And ten minutes had been enough for Ruth.
It had been one of those lightning changes which a pretty girl can
always make when her lover is expected any instant and she does
not want to lose a moment of his time, but it had sufficed.
Something soft and clinging it was now; her lovely, rounded figure
moving in its folds as a mermaid moves in the surf; her hair
shaken cut and caught up again in all its delicious abandon; her
cheeks, lips, throat, rose-color in the joy of her expectancy.
He sat drinking it all in. Had a mass of outdoor roses been laid
by his side, their fragrance filling the air, the beauty of their
coloring entrancing his soul, he could not have been more
intoxicated by their beauty.
And yet, strange to say, only commonplaces rose to his lips. All
the volcano beneath, and only little spats of smoke and dying bits
of ashes in evidence! Even the message of his Chief about her not
getting a new bonnet all summer seemed a godsend under the
circumstances. Had there been any basis for her self-denial he
would not have told her, knowing how much anxiety she had suffered
an hour before. But there was no real good reason why she should
economize either in bonnets or in anything else she wanted.
McGowan, of course, would be held responsible; for whatever damage
had been done he would have to pay. He had been present when the
young architect's watchful and trained eye had discovered some
defects in the masonry of the wing walls of the McGowan culvert
bridging the stream, and had heard him tell the contractor, in so
many words that if the water got away and smashed anything below
him he would charge the loss to his account. McGowan had groveled
in dissent, but it had made no impression on Garry, whose duty it
was to see that the work was properly carried out and whose
signature loosened the village purse strings.
None of these details would interest Ruth; nor was it necessary
that they should. The bonnet, however, was another matter. Bonnets
were worn over pretty heads and framed lovely hair and faces and
eyes--one especially! And then again any pleasantry of her
father's would tend to relieve her mind after the anxiety of the
morning. Yes, the bonnet by all means!
"Oh, I never gave you your father's message," he began, laying
aside his cup, quite as if he had just remembered it. "I ought to
have done so before you hung up the hat you wore a while ago."
Ruth looked up, smiling: "Why?" There was a roguish expression
about her mouth as she spoke. She was very happy this afternoon.
"He says you won't get a new bonnet all summer," continued Jack,
toying with the end of the ribbon that floated from her waist.
Ruth put down her cup and half rose from her chair All the color
had faded from her cheeks.
"Did he tell you that?" she cried, her eyes staring into his, her
voice trembling as if from some sudden fright.
Jack gazed at her in wonderment:
"Yes--of course he did and--Why, Miss Ruth!--Why, what's the
matter! Have I said anything that--"
"Then something serious has happened," she interrupted in a
decided tone. "That is always his message to me when he is in
trouble. That is what he telegraphed me when he lost the coffer-
dam in the Susquehanna. Oh!--he did not really tell you that, did
he, Mr. Breen?" The old anxious note had returned--the one he had
heard at the "fill."
"Yes--but nothing serious HAS happened, Miss Ruth," Jack
persisted, his voice rising in the intensity of his conviction,
his earnest, truthful eyes fixed on hers--"nothing that will not
come out all right in the end. Please, don't be worried, I know
what I am talking about."
"Oh, yes, it is serious," she rejoined with equal positiveness.
"You do not know daddy. Nothing ever discourages him, and he meets
everything with a smile--but he cannot stand any more losses. The
explosion was bad enough, but if this 'fill' is to be rebuilt, I
don't know what will be the end of it. Tell me over again, please
--how did he look when he said it?--and give me just the very
words. Oh, dear, dear daddy! What will he do?" The anxious note
had now fallen to one of the deepest suffering.
Jack repeated the message word for word, all his tenderness in his
tones--patting her shoulder in his effort to comfort her--ending
with a minute explanation of what Garry had told him: but Ruth
would not be convinced.
"But you don't know daddy," she kept repeating "You don't know
him. Nobody does but me. He would not have sent that message had
he not meant it. Listen! There he is now!" she cried, springing to
She had her arms around her father's neck, her head nestling on
his shoulder before he had fairly entered the door. "Daddy, dear,
is it very bad?" she murmured.
"Pretty bad, little girl," he answered, smoothing her cheek
tenderly with his chilled fingers as he moved with her toward the
fire, "but it might have been worse but for the way Breen handled
"And will it all have to be rebuilt?"
She was glad for Jack, but it was her father who now filled her
"That I can't tell, Puss"--one of his pet names for her,
particularly when she needed comforting--"but it's safe for the
"And you have worked so hard--so hard!" Her beautiful arms, bare
from the elbow, were still around his neck, her cheek pressed
close--her lovely, clinging body in strong contrast to the
straight, gray, forceful man in the wet storm-coat, who stood with
arms about her while he caressed her head with his brown fingers.
"Well, Puss, we have one consolation--it wasn't our fault--the
'fill' is holding splendidly although it has had a lively shaking
up. The worst was over in ten minutes, but it was pretty rough
while it lasted. I don't think I ever saw water come so fast. I
saw you with Breen, but I couldn't reach you then. Look out for
your dress, daughter. I'm pretty wet."
He released her arms from his neck and walked toward the fire,
stripping off his gray mackintosh as he moved. There he stretched
his hands to the blaze sod went on: "As I say, the 'fill' is safe
and will stay so, for the water is going down rapidly; dropped ten
feet, Breen, since you left. My!--but this fire feels good! Got
into something dry--did you, Breen? That's right. But I am not
satisfied about the way the down-stream end of the culvert acts"--
this also was addressed to Jack--"I am afraid some part of the
arch has caved in. It will be bad if it has--we shall know in the
morning. You weren't frightened, Puss, were you?"
She did not answer. She had heard that cheery, optimistic note in
her father's voice before; she knew how much of it was meant for
her ears. None of his disasters were ever serious, to hear daddy
talk--"only the common lot of the contracting engineer, little
girl," he would say, kissing her good-night, while he again pored
over his plans, sometimes until daylight.
She crept up to him the closer and nestled her fingers inside his
collar--an old caress of hers when she was a child, then looking
up into his eyes she asked with almost a throb of suffering in her
voice, "Is it as bad as the coffer-dam, daddy?"
Jack looked on in silence. He dared not add a word of comfort of
his own while his Chief held first place in soothing her fears.
MacFarlane passed his hand over her forehead--"Don't ask me,
child! Why do you want to bother your dear head over such things,
Puss?" he asked, as he stroked her hair.
"Because I must and will know. Tell me the truth," she demanded,
lifting her head, a note of resolve in her voice. "I can help you
the better if I know it all." Some of the blood of one of her
great-great-grandmothers, who had helped defend a log-house in
Indian times, was asserting itself. She could weep, but she could
fight, too, if necessary.
"Well, then, I'm afraid it is worse than the coffer-dam," he
answered in all seriousness. "It may be a matter of twelve or
fifteen thousand dollars--maybe more, if we have to rebuild the
'fill.' I can't tell yet."
Ruth released her grasp, moved to the sofa and sank down, her chin
resting on her hand. Twelve or fifteen thousand dollars! This
meant ruin to everybody--to her father, to--a new terror now
flashed into her mind--to Jack--yes, Jack! Jack would have to go
away and find other work--and just at the time, too, when he was
getting to be the old Jack once more. With this came another
thought, followed by an instantaneous decision--what could she do
to help? Already she had determined on her course. She would work
--support herself--relieve her father just that much.
An uncomfortable silence followed. For some moments no one spoke.
Her father, stifling a sigh, turned slowly, pushed a chair to the
fire and settled into it, his rubber-encased knees wide apart, so
that the warmth of the blaze could reach most of his body. Jack
found a seat beside him, his mind on Ruth and her evident
suffering, his ears alert for any fresh word from his Chief.
"I forgot to tell you, Breen," MacFarlane said at last, "that I
came up the track just now as far as the round-house with the
General Manager of the Road. He has sent one of his engineers to
look after that Irishman's job before he can pull it to pieces to
hide his rotten work--that is, what is left of it. Of course it
means a lawsuit or a fight in the Village Council. That takes time
and money, and generally costs more than you get. I've been there
before, Breen, and know."
"Does he understand about McGowan's contract?" inquired Jack
mechanically, his eyes on Ruth. Her voice still rang in his ears--
its pathos and suffering stirred him to his very depths.
"Yes--I told him all about it," MacFarlane replied. "The Road will
stand behind us--so the General Manager says--but every day's
delay is ruinous to them. It will be night-and-day work for us
now, and no let-up. I have notified the men." He rose from his
seat and crossed to his daughter's side, and leaning over, drew
her toward him: "Brace up, little girl," there was infinite
tenderness in his cadences--"it's all in a lifetime. There are
only two of us, you know--just you and me, daughter--just you and
me--just two of us. Kiss me, Puss."
Regaining his full height he picked up his storm-coat from the
chair where he had flung it, and with the remark to Jack, that he
would change his clothes, moved toward the door. There he beckoned
to him, waited until he had reached his side, and whispering in
his ear: "Talk to her and cheer her up, Breen. Poor little girl--
she worries so when anything like this happens"--mounted the
stairs to his room.
"Don't worry, Miss Ruth," said Jack in comforting tones as he
returned to where she sat. "We will all pull out yet."
"It is good of you to say so," she replied, lifting her head and
leaning back so that she could look into his eyes the better, "but
I know you don't think so. Daddy was just getting over his losses
on the Susquehanna bridge. This work would have set him on his
feet. Those were his very words--and he was getting so easy in his
mind, too--and we had planned so many things!"
"But you can still go to Newport," Jack pleaded. "We will be here
some months yet, and--"
"Oh--but I won't go a step anywhere. I could not leave him now--
that is, not as long as I can help him."
"But aren't you going to the Fosters' and Aunt Felicia's?" She
might not be, but it was good all the same to hear her deny it.
"Not to anybody's!" she replied, with an emphasis that left no
doubt in his mind.
Jack's heart gave a bound.
"But you were going if we went to Morfordsburg," he persisted. He
was determined to get at the bottom of all his misgivings.
Perhaps, after all, Peter was right.
Ruth caught her breath. The name of the town had reopened a vista
which her anxiety over her father's affairs had for the moment
"Well, but that is over now. I am going to stay here and help
daddy." Again the new fear tugged at her heart. "You are going to
stay, too, aren't you, Mr. Breen?" she added in quick alarm. "You
won't leave him, will you?--not if--" again the terrible money
loss rose before her. What if there should not be money enough to
"Me! Why, Miss Ruth!"
"But suppose he was not able to--" she could not frame the rest of
"You can't suppose anything that would make me leave him, or the
work." This also came with an emphasis of positive certainty. "I
have never been so happy as I have been here. I never knew what it
was to be myself. I never knew," he added in softened tones, "what
it was to really live until I joined your father. Only last night
Uncle Peter and I were talking about it. 'Stick to Mac,' the dear
old fellow said." It was to Ruth, but he dared not express
himself, except in parables. "Then you HAD thought of going?" she
asked quickly, a shadow falling across her face.
"No--" he hesitated--"I had only thought of STAYING. It was you
who were going--I was all broken up about being left here alone,
and Uncle Peter wanted to know why I did not beg you to stay, and
Ruth turned her face toward him.
"Well, I am going to stay," she answered simply. She did not dare
to trust herself further.
"Yes!--and now I don't care what happens!" he exclaimed with a
thrill in his voice. "If you will only trust me, Miss Ruth, and
let me come in with you and your father. Let me help! Don't let
there be only two--let us be three! Don't you see what a
difference it would make? I will work and save every penny I can
for him and take every bit of the care from his shoulders; but
can't you understand how much easier it would be if you would only
let me help you too? I could hardly keep the tears back a moment
ago when I saw you sink down here. I can't see you unhappy like
this and not try to comfort you."
"You do help me," she murmured softly. Her eyes had now dropped to
the cushion at her side.
"Yes, but not--Oh, Ruth, don't you see how I love you! What
difference does this accident make--what difference does anything
make if we have each other?" He had his hand on hers now, and was
bending over, his eyes eager for some answer in her own. "I have
suffered so," he went on, "and I am so tired and so lonely without
you. When you wouldn't understand me that time when I came to you
after the tunnel blew up, I went about like one in a dream--and
then I determined to forget it all, and you, and everything--but
I couldn't, and I can't now. Maybe you won't listen--but please--"
Ruth withdrew her hand quickly and straightened her shoulders. The
mention of the tunnel and what followed had brought with it a rush
of memories that had caused her the bitterest tears of her life.
And then again what did he mean by "helping"?
"Jack," she said slowly, as if every word gave her pain, "listen
to me. When you saved my father's life and I wanted to tell you
how much I thanked you for it, you would not let me tell you. Is
not that true?"
"I did not want your gratitude, Ruth," he pleaded in excuse, his
lips quivering, "I wanted your love."
"And why, then, should I not say to you now that I do not want
your pity? Is it because you are--" her voice sank to a whisper,
every note told of her suffering--"you are--sorry for me, Jack,
that you tell me you love me?"
Jack sprang to his feet and stood looking down upon her. The
cruelty of her injustice smote his heart. Had a man's glove been
dashed in his face he could not have been more incensed. For a
brief moment there surged through him all he had suffered for her
sake; the sleepless nights, the days of doubts and
misunderstandings! And it had come to this! Again he was treated
with contempt--again his heart and all it held was trampled on. A
wild protest rose in his throat and trembled on his lips.
At that instant she raised her eyes and looked into his. A look so
pleading--so patient--so weary of the struggle--so ready to
receive the blow--that the hot words recoiled in his throat. He
bent his head to search her eyes the better. Down in their depths,
as one sees the bottom of a clear pool he read the truth, and with
it came a reaction that sent the hot blood rushing through his
"Sorry for you, my darling!" he burst out joyously--"I who love
you like my own soul! Oh, Ruth!--Ruth!--my beloved!"
He had her in his arms now, her cheek to his, her yielding body
Then their lips met.
The Scribe lays down his pen. This be holy ground on which we
tread. All she has she has given him: all the fantasies of her
childhood, all the dreams of her girlhood, all her trust, her
loyalty--her reverence--all to the very last pulsation of her
And this girl he holds in his arms! So pliant, so yielding, so
pure and undefiled! And the silken sheen and intoxicating perfume
of her hair, and the trembling lashes shading the eager, longing,
soul-hungry eyes; and the way the little pink ears nestle; and the
fair, white, dovelike throat, with its ripple of lace. And then
the dear arms about his neck and the soft clinging fingers that
are intertwined with his own! And more wonderful still, the
perfect unison, the oneness, the sameness; no jar, no discordant
note; mind, soul, desire--a harmony.
The wise men say there are no parallels in nature; that no one
thing in the wide universe exactly mates and matches any other one
thing; that each cloud has differed from every other cloud-form in
every hour of the day and night, to-day, yesterday and so on back
through the forgotten centuries; that no two leaves in form,
color, or texture, lift the same faces to the sun on any of the
million trees; that no wave on any beach curves and falls as any
wave has curved and fallen before--not since the planet cooled.
And so it is with the drift of wandering winds; with the whirl and
crystals of driving snow, with the slant and splash of rain. And
so, too, with the flight of birds; the dash and tumble of restless
brooks; the roar of lawless thunder and the songs of birds.
The one exception is when we hold in our arms the woman we love,
and for the first time drink in her willing soul through her lips.
Then, and only then, does the note of perfect harmony ring true
through the spheres.
For a long time they sat perfectly still. Not many words had
passed, and these were only repetitions of those they had used
before. "Such dear hands," Jack would say, and kiss them both up
and down the fingers, and then press the warm, pink shell palm to
his lips and kiss it again, shutting his eyes, with the reverence
of a devotee at the feet of the Madonna.
"And, Jack dear," Ruth would murmur, as if some new thought had
welled up in her heart--and then nothing would follow, until Jack
would loosen his clasp a little--just enough to free the dear
cheek and say:
"Go on, my darling," and then would come--
"Oh, nothing, Jack--I--" and once more their lips would meet.
It was only when MacFarlane's firm step was heard on the stairs
outside that the two awoke to another world. Jack reached his feet
"Shall we tell him?" he asked, looking down into her face.
"Of course, tell him," braved out Ruth, uptilting her head with
the movement of a fawn surprised in the forest.
"When?" asked Jack, his eager eyes on the opening door.
"Now, this very minute. I never keep anything from daddy."
MacFarlane came sauntering in, his strong, determined, finely cut
features illumined by a cheery smile. He had squared things with
himself while he had been dressing: "Hard lines, Henry, isn't it?"
he had asked of himself, a trick of his when he faced any disaster
like the present. "Better get Ruth off somewhere, Henry, don't you
think so? Yes, get her off to-morrow. The little girl can't stand
everything, plucky as she is." It was this last thought of his
daughter that had sent the cheery smile careering around his firm
lips. No glum face for Ruth!
They met him half-way down the room, the two standing together,
Jack's arm around her waist.
"Yes, dear." He had not yet noted the position of the two,
although he had caught the joyous tones in her voice.
"Jack and I want to tell you something. You won't be cross, will
"Cross, Puss!" He stopped and looked at her wonderingly. Had Jack
comforted her? Was she no longer worried over the disaster?
Jack released his arm and would have stepped forward, but she held
"No, Jack,--let me tell him. You said a while ago, daddy, that
there were only two of us--just you and I--and that it had always
been so and--"
"Well, isn't it true, little girl?" It's extraordinary how blind
and stupid a reasonably intelligent father can be on some
occasions, and this one was as blind as a cave-locked fish.
"Yes, it WAS true, daddy, when you went upstairs, but--but--it
isn't true any more! There are three of us now!" She was trembling
all over with uncontrollable joy, her voice quavering in her
Again Jack tried to speak, but she laid her hand on his lips with--
"No, please don't, Jack--not yet--you will spoil everything."
MacFarlane still looked on in wonderment. She was much happier, he
could see, and he was convinced that Jack was in some way
responsible for the change, but it was all a mystery yet.
"Three of us!" MacFarlane repeated mechanically--"well, who is
the other, Puss?"
"Why, Jack, of course! Who else could it be but Jack? Oh! Daddy!--
Please--please--we love each other so!"
That night a telegram went singing down the wires leaving a trail
of light behind. A sleepy, tired girl behind an iron screen
recorded it on a slip of yellow paper, enclosed it in an envelope,
handed it to a half-awake boy, who strolled leisurely up to Union
Square, turned into Fifteenth Street, mounted Peter's front stoop
and so on up three flights of stairs to Peter's door. There he
awoke the echoes into life with his knuckles.
In answer, a charming and most courtly old gentleman in an
embroidered dressing-gown and slippers, a pair of gold spectacles
pushed high up on his round, white head, his index finger marking
the place in his book, opened the door.
"Telegram for Mr. Grayson," yawned the boy.
Ah! but there were high jinks inside the cosey red room with its
low reading lamp and easy chairs, when Peter tore that envelope
"Jack--Ruth--engaged!" he cried, throwing down his book.
"MacFarlane delighted--What!--WHAT? Oh, Jack, you rascal!--you did
take my advice, did you? Well I--well! I'll write them both--No,
I'll telegraph Felicia--No, I won't!--I'll--Well!--well!--WELL!
Did you ever hear anything like that?" and again his eyes devoured
the yellow slip.
Not a word of the freshet; of the frightful loss; of the change of
plans for the summer; of the weeks of delay and the uncertain
financial outlook! And alas, dear reader--not a syllable, as you
have perhaps noticed, of poor daddy tottering on the brink of
bankruptcy; nor the slightest reference to brave young women going
out alone in the cold, cold world to earn their bread! What were
floods, earthquakes, cyclones, poverty, debt--what was anything
that might, could, would or should happen, compared to the joy of
their plighted troth!
Summer has come: along the banks of the repentant stream the
willows are in full leaf; stretches of grass, braving the coal
smoke and dust hide the ugly red earth. The roads are dry again;
the slopes of the "fill" once more are true; all the arches in the
mouth of the tunnel are finished; the tracks have been laid and
the first train has crawled out on the newly tracked road where it
haggled, snorted and stopped, only to crawl back and be swallowed
by The Beast.
And with the first warm day came Miss Felicia. "When your
wretched, abominable roads, my dear, dry up so that a body can
walk without sinking up to their neck in mud--" ran Miss Felicia's
letter in answer to Ruth's invitation,--"I'll come down for the
night," and she did, bringing Ruth half of her laces, now that she
was determined to throw herself away on "that good-for nothing--
Yes, Jack, I mean you and nobody else, and you needn't stand there
laughing at me, for every word of it's true; for what in the world
you two babes in the wood are going to live on no mortal man
knows;" Ruth answering with her arm tight around the dear lady's
neck,--a liberty nobody,--not even Peter, ever dared take--and a
whisper in her ear that Jack was the blessedest ever, and that she
loved him so sometimes she was well-nigh distracted--a statement
which the old lady remarked was literally true.
And we may be sure that Peter came too--and we may be equally
positive that no impassable roads could have held him back.
Indeed, on the very afternoon of the very day following the
receipt of the joyful telegram, he had closed his books with a
bang, performed the Moses act until he had put them into the big
safe, slipped on his coat, given an extra brush to his hat and
started for the ferry. All that day his face had been in a broad
smile; even the old book-keeper noticed it and so did Patrick, the
night-watchman and sometimes porter; and so did the line of
depositors who inched along to his window and were greeted with a
flash-light play of humor on his face instead of the more sedate,
though equally kindly expression which always rested on his
features when at work. But that was nothing to the way he hugged
Jack and Ruth--separately--together--then Ruth, then Jack--and
then both together again, only stopping at MacFarlane, whose hand
he grabbed with a "Great day! hey? Great day! By Cricky, Henry,
these are the things that put new wine into old leather bottles
like you and me."
And this was not all that the spring and summer had brought. Fresh
sap had risen in Jack's veins. This girl by his side was his own--
something to work for--something to fight for. MacFarlane felt
the expansion and put him in full charge of the work, relieving
him often in the night shifts, when the boy would catch a few
hours' sleep, and when, you may be sure, he stopped long enough at
the house to get his arms around Ruth before he turned in for the
night or the morning, or whenever he did turn in.
As to the injury which McGowan's slipshod work had caused to the
"fill," the question of damages and responsibility for the same
still hung in the air. The "fill" did not require rebuilding--nor
did any part of the main work--a great relief. The loss had not,
therefore, been as great as MacFarlane had feared. Moreover, the
scour and slash of the down-stream slope, thanks to Jack's quick
work, required but few weeks to repair; the culvert, contrary to
everybody's expectation, standing the test, and the up-stream
slope showing only here and there marks of the onslaught. The wing
walls were the worst; these had to be completely rebuilt,
involving an expense of several thousands of dollars, the exact
amount being one point in the discussion.
Garry, to his credit, had put his official foot down with so
strong a pressure that McGowan, fearing that he would have to
reconstruct everything from the bed of the stream up, if he held
out any longer, agreed to arbitrate the matter, he selecting one
expert and MacFarlane the other; and the Council--that is, Garry--
the third. MacFarlane had chosen the engineer of the railroad who
had examined McGowan's masonry an hour after the embankment had
given way. McGowan picked out a brother contractor and Garry wrote
a personal letter to Holker Morris, following it up by a personal
visit to the office of the distinguished architect, who, when he
learned that not only Garry, MacFarlane, and Jack were concerned
in the outcome of the investigation, but also Ruth--whose marriage
might depend on the outcome,--broke his invariable rule of never
getting mixed up in anybody's quarrels, and accepted the position
without a murmur.
This done everybody interested sat down to await the result of the
independent investigations of each expert, Garry receiving the
reports in sealed envelopes and locking them in the official safe,
to be opened in full committee at its next monthly meeting, when a
final report, with recommendations as to liability and costs,
would be drawn up; the same, when adopted by a majority of the
Council the following week, to be binding.
It was during this suspense--it happened really on the morning
succeeding the one on which Garry had opened the official
envelopes--that an envelope of quite a different character was
laid on Jack's table by the lady with the adjustable hair, who
invariably made herself acquainted with as much of that young
gentleman's mail as could be gathered from square envelopes sealed
in violet wax, or bearing family crests in low relief, or stamped
with monograms in light blue giving out delicate perfumes, each
one of which that lady sniffed with great satisfaction; to say
nothing of business addresses and postal-cards,--the latter being
readable, and, therefore, her delight.
This envelope, however, was different from any she had ever
fumbled, sniffed at, or pondered over. It was not only of unusual
size, but it bore in the upper left-hand corner in bold black
letters the words:
ARTHUR BREEN & COMPANY, BANKERS.
It was this last word which set the good woman to thinking.
Epistles from banks were not common,--never found at all, in
fact, among the letters of her boarders.
Jack was even more astonished.
"Call at the office," the letter ran, "the first time you are in
New York,--the sooner the better. I have some information
regarding the ore properties that may interest you."
As the young fellow had not heard from his uncle in many moons,
the surprise was all the greater. Nor, if the truth be known, had
he laid eyes on that gentleman since he left the shelter of his
home, except at Corinne's wedding,--and then only across the
church, and again in the street, when his uncle stopped and shook
his hand in a rather perfunctory way, complimenting him on his
bravery in rescuing MacFarlane, an account of which he had seen in
the newspapers, and ending by hoping that his new life would "drop
some shekels into his clothes." Mrs. Breen, on the contrary, while
she had had no opportunity of expressing her mental attitude
toward the exile, never having seen him since he walked out of her
front door, was by no means oblivious to Jack's social and
business successes. "I hear Jack was at Mrs. Portman's last
night," she said to her husband the morning after one of the ex-
Clearing House Magnate's great receptions. "They say he goes
everywhere, and that Mr. Grayson has adopted him and is going to
leave him all his money," to which Breen had grunted back that
Jack was welcome to the Portmans and the Portmans to Jack, and
that if old Grayson had any money, which he very much doubted,
he'd better hoist it overboard than give it to that rattlebrain.
Mrs. Breen heaved a deep sigh. Neither she nor Breen had been
invited to the Portmans', nor had Corinne (the Scribe has often
wondered whether the second scoop in Mukton was the cause)--and
yet Ruth MacFarlane, and Jack and Miss Felicia Grayson, and a lot
more out-of-town people--so that insufferable Mrs. Bennett had
told her--had come long distances to be present, the insufferable
adding significantly that "Miss MacFarlane looked too lovely and
was by all odds the prettiest girl in the room, and as for young
Breen, really she could have fallen in love with him herself!"
Jack tucked his uncle's letter in his pocket, skipped over to read
it to Ruth and MacFarlane, in explanation of his enforced absence
for the day, and kept on his way to the station. The missive
referred to the Morfordsburg contract, of course, and was
evidently an attempt to gain information regarding the proposed
work, Arthur Breen & Co. being the financial agents of many
"I will take care of him, sir," Jack had said as he left his
Chief. "My uncle, no doubt, means all right, and it is just as
well to hear what he says--besides he has been good enough to
write to me, and of course I must go, but I shall not commit
myself one way or the other--" and with a whispered word in Ruth's
ear, a kiss and a laugh, he left the house.
As he turned down the short street leading to the station, he
caught sight of Garry forging ahead on his way to the train. That
rising young architect, chairman of the Building Committee of the
Council, trustee of church funds, politician and all-round man of
the world--most of which he carried in a sling--seemed in a
particularly happy frame of mind this morning judging from the
buoyancy with which he stepped. This had communicated itself to
the gayety of his attire, for he was dressed in a light-gray check
suit, and wore a straw hat (the first to see the light of summer)
with a green ribbon about the crown,--together with a white
waistcoat and white spats, the whole enriched by a red rose bud
which Corinne had with her own hands pinned in his buttonhole.
"Why, hello! Jack, old man! just the very fellow I'm looking for,"
cried the joyous traveller. "You going to New York?--So am I,--go
every day now,--got something on ice,--the biggest thing I've ever
struck. I'll show that uncle of yours that two can play at his
game. He hasn't lifted his hand to help us, and I don't want him
to,--Cory and I can get along; but you'd think he'd come out and
see us once in a while, wouldn't you, or ask after the baby; Mrs.
Breen comes, but not Breen. We live in the country and have tar on
our heels, he thinks. Here,--sit by the window! Now let's talk of
something else. How's Miss Ruth and the governor? He's a daisy;--
best engineer anywhere round here. Yes, Cory's all right. Baby
keeps her awake half the night; I've moved out and camp upstairs;
can't stand it. Oh, by the way, I see you are about finishing up
on the railroad work. I'll have something to say to you next week
on the damage question. Got all the reports in last night. I tell
you, my old chief, Mr. Morris, is a corker! What he doesn't know
about masonry isn't worth picking up;--can't fool him! That's
what's the matter with half of our younger men; they sharpen lead-
pencils, mix ink, and think they are drawing; or they walk down a
stone wall and don't know any more what's behind it and what holds
it up than a child. Mr. Morris can not only design a wall, but he
can teach some first-class mechanics how to lay it."
Jack looked out the window and watched the fences fly past. For
the moment he made no reply to Garry's long harangue--especially
the part referring to the report. Anxious as he was to learn the
result of the award, he did not want the facts from the chairman
of the committee in advance of the confirmation by the Council.
"What is it you have on ice, Garry?" he asked at last with a
laugh, yielding to an overpowering conviction that he must change
the subject--"a new Corn Exchange? Nobody can beat you in corn
"Not by a long shot, Jack,--got something better; I am five
thousand ahead now, and it's all velvet."
"Gold-mine, Garry?" queried Jack, turning his head. "Another
Mukton Lode? Don't forget poor Charlie Gilbert; he's been clerking
it ever since, I hear."
"No, a big warehouse company; I'll get the buildings later on.
That Mukton Lode deal was a clear skin game, Jack, if it is your
uncle, and A. B. & Co. got paid up for it--downtown and uptown.
You ought to hear the boys at the Magnolia talk about it. My
scheme is not that kind; I'm on the ground floor; got some of the
promoter's stock. When you are through with your railroad contract
and get your money, let me know. I can show you a thing or two;--
open your eyes! No Wall Street racket, remember,--just a plain
"There won't be much money left over, Garry, from the 'fill' and
tunnel work, if we keep on. We ought to have a cyclone next to
finish up with; we've had about everything else."
"You're all through, Jack," replied Garry with emphasis.
"I'll believe that when I see it," said Jack with a smile.
"I tell you, Jack, YOU ARE ALL THROUGH. Do you understand? Don't
ask me any questions and I won't tell you any lies. The first
thing that strikes you will be a check, and don't you forget it!"
Jack's heart gave a bound. The information had come as a surprise
and without his aid, and yet it was none the less welcome. The
dreaded anxiety was over; he knew now what the verdict of the
Council would be. He had been right from the first in this matter,
and Garry had not failed despite the strong political pressure
which must have been brought against him. The new work now would
go on and he and Ruth could go to Morfordsburg together! He could
already see her trim, lovely figure in silhouette against the
morning light, her eyes dancing, her face aglow in the crisp air
of the hills.
Garry continued to talk on as they sped into the city, elaborating
the details of the warehouse venture in which he had invested his
present and some of his future commissions, but his words fell on
stony ground. The expected check was the only thing that filled
Jack's thoughts. There was no doubt in his mind now that the
decision would be in MacFarlane's favor, and that the sum, whether
large or small, would be paid without delay,--Garry being
treasurer and a large amount of money being still due McGowan on
the embankment and boulevard. It would be joyous news to Ruth, he
said to himself, with a thrill surging through his heart.
Jack left Garry on the Jersey side and crossed alone. The boy
loved the salt air in his face and the jewelled lights flashed
from the ever-restless sea. He loved, too, the dash and vim of it
all. Forcing his way through the crowds of passengers to the
forward part of the boat, he stood where he could get the full
sweep of the wonderful panorama:
The jagged purple line of the vast city stretching as far as the
eye could reach; with its flat-top, square-sided, boxlike
buildings, with here and there a structure taller than the others;
the flash of light from Trinity's spire, its cross aflame; the
awkward, crab-like movements of innumerable ferry-boats, their
gaping alligator mouths filled with human flies; the impudent,
nervous little tugs, spitting steam in every passing face; the
long strings of sausage-linked canalers kept together by grunting,
slow-moving tows; the great floating track-yards bearing ponderous
cars--eight days from the Pacific without break of bulk; the
skinny, far-reaching fingers of innumerable docks clutching prey
of barge, steamer, and ship; the stately ocean-liner moving to
sea, scattering water-bugs of boats, scows and barges as it glided
on its way:--all this stirred his imagination and filled him with
a strange resolve. He, too, would win a place among the masses--
Ruth's hand fast in his.
When Jack, in reply to Breen's note, stepped into his uncle's
office, no one would have recognized in the quick, alert, bronze-
faced young fellow the retiring, almost timid, boy who once peered
out of the port-hole of the cashier's desk. Nor did Jack's eyes
fall on any human being he had ever seen before. New occupants
filled the chairs about the ticker. A few lucky ones--very few--
had pulled out and stayed out, and could now be found at their
country seats in various parts of the State, or on the Riviera, or
in Egypt; but by far the larger part had crawled out of the fight
to nurse their wounds within the privacy of their own homes where
the outward show had to be kept up no matter how stringent the
inside economies, or how severe the privations. Others, less
fortunate, had disappeared altogether from their accustomed haunts
and were to be found filling minor positions in some far Western
frontier town or camp, or menial berths on a railroad, while at
least one victim, too cowardly to leave the field, had haunted the
lunch counters, hotel lobbies, and race-tracks for months, preying
on friends and acquaintances alike until dire poverty forced him
into crime, and a stone cell and a steel grille had ended the
Failing to find any face he recognized, Jack approached a group
around the ticker, and inquired for the head of the firm. The
answer came from a red-cheeked, clean-shaven, bullet-headed,
immaculately upholstered gentleman--(silk scarf, diamond horse-
shoe stick-pin, high collar, cut-away coat, speckled-trout
waistcoat--everything perfect)--who stood, paring his nails in
front of the plate-glass window overlooking the street, and who
conveyed news of the elder Breen's whereabouts by a bob of his
head and a jerk of his fat forefinger in the direction of the
familiar glass door.
Breen sat at his desk when Jack entered, but it was only when he
spoke that his uncle looked up;--so many men swung back that door
with favors to ask, that spontaneous affability was often bad
"I received your letter, Uncle Arthur," Jack began.
Breen raised his eyes, and a deep color suffused his face. In his
heart he had a sneaking admiration for the boy. He liked his
pluck. Strange, too, he liked him the better for having left him
and striking out for himself, and stranger still, he was a little
ashamed for having brought about the revolt.
"Why, Jack!" He was on his feet now, his hand extended, something
of his old-time cordiality in his manner. "You got my letter, did
you? Well, I wanted to talk to you about that ore property. You
own it still, don't you?" The habit of his life of going straight
at the business in hand, precluded every other topic. Then again
he wanted a chance to look the boy over under fire,--"size him
up," in his own vocabulary. He might need his help later on.
"Oh, we don't own a foot of it,--don't want to. If Mr. MacFarlane
"I'm not talking about MacFarlane's job; I'm talking about your
own property,--the Cumberland ore property,--the one your father
left you. You haven't sold it, have you?" This came in an anxious
"No," answered Jack simply, wondering what his father's legacy had
to do with his Chief's proposed work.
"Have you paid the taxes?" Arthur's eyes were now boring into his.
"Yes, every year; they were not much. Why do you ask?"
"I'll tell you that later on," answered his uncle with a more
satisfied air. "You were up there with MacFarlane, weren't you?--
when he went to look over the ground of the Maryland Mining
Company where he is to cut the horizontal shaft?" Jack nodded. "So
I heard. Well, it may interest you to learn that some of our
Mukton people own the property. It was I who sent MacFarlane up,
really, although he may not know it."
"That was very kind of you, sir," rejoined Jack, without a trace
of either gratitude or surprise.
"Well, I'm glad you think so. Some of our directors also own a
block of that new road MacFarlane is finishing. They wouldn't hire
anybody else after they had gone up to Corklesville and had seen
how he did his work, so I had the secretary of the company write
MacFarlane, and that's how it came about."
Jack nodded and waited; his uncle's drift was not yet apparent.
"Well, what I wanted to see you about, Jack, is this:" here he
settled his fat back into the chair. "All the ore in that section
of the county,--so our experts say, dips to the east. They've
located the vein and they think a horizontal shaft and gravity
will get the stuff to tide water much cheaper than a vertical
shaft and hoist. Now if the ore should peter out--and the devil
himself can't tell always about that--we've got to get some ore
somewhere round there to brace up and make good our prospectus,
even if it does cost a little more, and that's where your
Cumberland property might come in,--see? One of our lawyers looked
over a record of your deed in the town hall of Mulford--" here he
bent forward and consulted a paper on his desk--"No,--that's not
it,--Morfordsburg,--yes, that's it,--Morfordsburg,--looked up the
deed, I say, Jack, and from what he says I don't believe your
property is more than a quarter of a mile, as the crow flies, from
where they want MacFarlane to begin cutting. If the lawyer's right
there may be a few dollars in it for you--not much, but something;
and if there is,--of course, I don't want to commit myself, and I
don't want to encourage you too much--but if he's right I should
advise your bringing me what papers you've got and have our
attorney look them over, and if everything's O.K. in the title,
your property might be turned over to the new company and form
part of the deal. You can understand, of course, that we don't
want any other deposits in that section but our own."
Breen's meaning was clear now. So was the purpose of the letter.
Jack leaned back in his chair, an expression first of triumph and
then of disgust crossing his face. That his uncle should actually
want him back in his business in any capacity was as complimentary
as it was unexpected. That the basis of the copartnership--and it
was this that brought the curl to his lip--was such that neither a
quarter of a mile nor two miles would stand in the way of a
connecting vein of ore on paper, was to be expected by any one at
all familiar with his uncle's methods.
"Thank you, Uncle Arthur," he answered simply, "but there's
nothing decided yet about the Morfordsburg work. I heard a bit of
news coming down on the train this morning that may cause Mr.
MacFarlane to look upon the proposed work more favorably, but that
is for him to say. As to my own property, when I am there again,
if I do go,--I will look over the ground myself and have Mr.
MacFarlane go with me and then I can decide."
Breen knitted his brows. It was not the answer he had expected. In
fact, he was very much astonished both at the reply and the way in
which it was given. He began to be sorry he had raised the
question at all. He would gladly have helped Jack in getting a
good price for his property, provided it did not interfere with
his own plans, but to educate him up to the position of an
obstructionist, was quite another matter.
"Well, think it over," he replied in a tone that was meant to show
his entire indifference to the whole affair,--"and some time when
you are in town drop in again. And now tell me about Ruth, as we
must call her, I suppose. Your aunt just missed her at the
Cosgroves' the other day." Then came a short disquisition on Garry
and Corinne and their life at Elm Crest, followed by an
embarrassing pause, during which the head of the house of Breen
lowered the flow line on a black bottle which he took from a
closet behind his desk,--"his digestion being a little out that
morning," he explained. And so with renewed thanks for the
interest he had taken in his behalf, and with his whole mind now
concentrated on Peter and the unspeakable happiness in store for
him when he poured into the old gentleman's willing and astonished
ears the details of the interview, Mr. John Breen, Henry
MacFarlane's Chief Assistant in Charge of Outside Work, bowed
He had not long to wait.
Indeed, that delightful old gentleman had but a short time before
called to a second old gentleman, a more or less delightful fossil
in black wig and spectacles, to take his place at the teller's
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