Roads of Destiny
Part 1 out of 6
Etext prepared by John Bickers, firstname.lastname@example.org
and Dagny, email@example.com
ROADS OF DESTINY
by O. Henry
I. Roads of Destiny
II. The Guardian of the Accolade
III. The Discounters of Money
IV. The Enchanted Profile
V. "Next to Reading Matter"
VI. Art and the Bronco
VIII. A Double-dyed Deceiver
IX. The Passing of Black Eagle
X. A Retrieved Reformation
XI. Cherchez la Femme
XII. Friends in San Rosario
XIII. The Fourth in Salvador
XIV. The Emancipation of Billy
XV. The Enchanted Kiss
XVI. A Departmental Case
XVII. The Renaissance at Charleroi
XVIII. On Behalf of the Management
XIX. Whistling Dick's Christmas Stocking
XX. The Halberdier of the Little Rheinschloss
XXI. Two Renegades
XXII. The Lonesome Road
ROADS OF DESTINY
ROADS OF DESTINY
I go to seek on many roads
What is to be.
True heart and strong, with love to light--
Will they not bear me in the fight
To order, shun or wield or mould
/Unpublished Poems of David Mignot/.
The song was over. The words were David's; the air, one of the
countryside. The company about the inn table applauded heartily, for
the young poet paid for the wine. Only the notary, M. Papineau, shook
his head a little at the lines, for he was a man of books, and he had
not drunk with the rest.
David went out into the village street, where the night air drove the
wine vapour from his head. And then he remembered that he and Yvonne
had quarrelled that day, and that he had resolved to leave his home
that night to seek fame and honour in the great world outside.
"When my poems are on every man's tongue," he told himself, in a fine
exhilaration, "she will, perhaps, think of the hard words she spoke
Except the roisterers in the tavern, the village folk were abed. David
crept softly into his room in the shed of his father's cottage and
made a bundle of his small store of clothing. With this upon a staff,
he set his face outward upon the road that ran from Vernoy.
He passed his father's herd of sheep, huddled in their nightly pen--
the sheep he herded daily, leaving them to scatter while he wrote
verses on scraps of paper. He saw a light yet shining in Yvonne's
window, and a weakness shook his purpose of a sudden. Perhaps that
light meant that she rued, sleepless, her anger, and that morning
might--But, no! His decision was made. Vernoy was no place for him.
Not one soul there could share his thoughts. Out along that road lay
his fate and his future.
Three leagues across the dim, moonlit champaign ran the road, straight
as a ploughman's furrow. It was believed in the village that the road
ran to Paris, at least; and this name the poet whispered often to
himself as he walked. Never so far from Vernoy had David travelled
THE LEFT BRANCH
/Three leagues, then, the road ran, and turned into a puzzle. It
joined with another and a larger road at right angles. David
stood, uncertain, for a while, and then took the road to the
Upon this more important highway were, imprinted in the dust, wheel
tracks left by the recent passage of some vehicle. Some half an hour
later these traces were verified by the sight of a ponderous carriage
mired in a little brook at the bottom of a steep hill. The driver and
postilions were shouting and tugging at the horses' bridles. On the
road at one side stood a huge, black-clothed man and a slender lady
wrapped in a long, light cloak.
David saw the lack of skill in the efforts of the servants. He quietly
assumed control of the work. He directed the outriders to cease their
clamour at the horses and to exercise their strength upon the wheels.
The driver alone urged the animals with his familiar voice; David
himself heaved a powerful shoulder at the rear of the carriage, and
with one harmonious tug the great vehicle rolled up on solid ground.
The outriders climbed to their places.
David stood for a moment upon one foot. The huge gentleman waved a
hand. "You will enter the carriage," he said, in a voice large, like
himself, but smoothed by art and habit. Obedience belonged in the path
of such a voice. Brief as was the young poet's hesitation, it was cut
shorter still by a renewal of the command. David's foot went to the
step. In the darkness he perceived dimly the form of the lady upon the
rear seat. He was about to seat himself opposite, when the voice again
swayed him to its will. "You will sit at the lady's side."
The gentleman swung his great weight to the forward seat. The carriage
proceeded up the hill. The lady was shrunk, silent, into her corner.
David could not estimate whether she was old or young, but a delicate,
mild perfume from her clothes stirred his poet's fancy to the belief
that there was loveliness beneath the mystery. Here was an adventure
such as he had often imagined. But as yet he held no key to it, for no
word was spoken while he sat with his impenetrable companions.
In an hour's time David perceived through the window that the vehicle
traversed the street of some town. Then it stopped in front of a
closed and darkened house, and a postilion alighted to hammer
impatiently upon the door. A latticed window above flew wide and a
nightcapped head popped out.
"Who are ye that disturb honest folk at this time of night? My house
is closed. 'Tis too late for profitable travellers to be abroad. Cease
knocking at my door, and be off."
"Open!" spluttered the postilion, loudly; "open for Monsiegneur the
Marquis de Beaupertuys."
"Ah!" cried the voice above. "Ten thousand pardons, my lord. I did not
know--the hour is so late--at once shall the door be opened, and the
house placed at my lord's disposal."
Inside was heard the clink of chain and bar, and the door was flung
open. Shivering with chill and apprehension, the landlord of the
Silver Flagon stood, half clad, candle in hand, upon the threshold.
David followed the Marquis out of the carriage. "Assist the lady," he
was ordered. The poet obeyed. He felt her small hand tremble as he
guided her descent. "Into the house," was the next command.
The room was the long dining-hall of the tavern. A great oak table ran
down its length. The huge gentleman seated himself in a chair at the
nearer end. The lady sank into another against the wall, with an air
of great weariness. David stood, considering how best he might now
take his leave and continue upon his way.
"My lord," said the landlord, bowing to the floor, "h-had I ex-
expected this honour, entertainment would have been ready. T-t-there
is wine and cold fowl and m-m-maybe--"
"Candles," said the marquis, spreading the fingers of one plump white
hand in a gesture he had.
"Y-yes, my lord." He fetched half a dozen candles, lighted them, and
set them upon the table.
"If monsieur would, perhaps, deign to taste a certain Burgundy--there
is a cask--"
"Candles," said monsieur, spreading his fingers.
"Assuredly--quickly--I fly, my lord."
A dozen more lighted candles shone in the hall. The great bulk of the
marquis overflowed his chair. He was dressed in fine black from head
to foot save for the snowy ruffles at his wrist and throat. Even the
hilt and scabbard of his sword were black. His expression was one of
sneering pride. The ends of an upturned moustache reached nearly to
his mocking eyes.
The lady sat motionless, and now David perceived that she was young,
and possessed of pathetic and appealing beauty. He was startled from
the contemplation of her forlorn loveliness by the booming voice of
"What is your name and pursuit?"
"David Mignot. I am a poet."
The moustache of the marquis curled nearer to his eyes.
"How do you live?"
"I am also a shepherd; I guarded my father's flock," David answered,
with his head high, but a flush upon his cheek.
"Then listen, master shepherd and poet, to the fortune you have
blundered upon to-night. This lady is my niece, Mademoiselle Lucie de
Varennes. She is of noble descent and is possessed of ten thousand
francs a year in her own right. As to her charms, you have but to
observe for yourself. If the inventory pleases your shepherd's heart,
she becomes your wife at a word. Do not interrupt me. To-night I
conveyed her to the /chateau/ of the Comte de Villemaur, to whom her
hand had been promised. Guests were present; the priest was waiting;
her marriage to one eligible in rank and fortune was ready to be
accomplished. At the alter this demoiselle, so meek and dutiful,
turned upon me like a leopardess, charged me with cruelty and crimes,
and broke, before the gaping priest, the troth I had plighted for her.
I swore there and then, by ten thousand devils, that she should marry
the first man we met after leaving the /chateau/, be he prince,
charcoal-burner, or thief. You, shepherd, are the first. Mademoiselle
must be wed this night. If not you, then another. You have ten minutes
in which to make your decision. Do not vex me with words or questions.
Ten minutes, shepherd; and they are speeding."
The marquis drummed loudly with his white fingers upon the table. He
sank into a veiled attitude of waiting. It was as if some great house
had shut its doors and windows against approach. David would have
spoken, but the huge man's bearing stopped his tongue. Instead, he
stood by the lady's chair and bowed.
"Mademoiselle," he said, and he marvelled to find his words flowing
easily before so much elegance and beauty. "You have heard me say I
was a shepherd. I have also had the fancy, at times, that I am a poet.
If it be the test of a poet to adore and cherish the beautiful, that
fancy is now strengthened. Can I serve you in any way, mademoiselle?"
The young woman looked up at him with eyes dry and mournful. His
frank, glowing face, made serious by the gravity of the adventure, his
strong, straight figure and the liquid sympathy in his blue eyes,
perhaps, also, her imminent need of long-denied help and kindness,
thawed her to sudden tears.
"Monsieur," she said, in low tones, "you look to be true and kind. He
is my uncle, the brother of my father, and my only relative. He loved
my mother, and he hates me because I am like her. He has made my life
one long terror. I am afraid of his very looks, and never before dared
to disobey him. But to-night he would have married me to a man three
times my age. You will forgive me for bringing this vexation upon you,
monsieur. You will, of course, decline this mad act he tries to force
upon you. But let me thank you for your generous words, at least. I
have had none spoken to me in so long."
There was now something more than generosity in the poet's eyes. Poet
he must have been, for Yvonne was forgotten; this fine, new loveliness
held him with its freshness and grace. The subtle perfume from her
filled him with strange emotions. His tender look fell warmly upon
her. She leaned to it, thirstily.
"Ten minutes," said David, "is given me in which to do what I would
devote years to achieve. I will not say I pity you, mademoiselle; it
would not be true--I love you. I cannot ask love from you yet, but let
me rescue you from this cruel man, and, in time, love may come. I
think I have a future; I will not always be a shepherd. For the
present I will cherish you with all my heart and make your life less
sad. Will you trust your fate to me, mademoiselle?"
"Ah, you would sacrifice yourself from pity!"
"From love. The time is almost up, mademoiselle."
"You will regret it, and despise me."
"I will live only to make you happy, and myself worthy of you."
Her fine small hand crept into his from beneath her cloak.
"I will trust you," she breathed, "with my life. And--and love--may
not be so far off as you think. Tell him. Once away from the power of
his eyes I may forget."
David went and stood before the marquis. The black figure stirred, and
the mocking eyes glanced at the great hall clock.
"Two minutes to spare. A shepherd requires eight minutes to decide
whether he will accept a bride of beauty and income! Speak up,
shepherd, do you consent to become mademoiselle's husband?"
"Mademoiselle," said David, standing proudly, "has done me the honour
to yield to my request that she become my wife."
"Well said!" said the marquis. "You have yet the making of a courtier
in you, master shepherd. Mademoiselle could have drawn a worse prize,
after all. And now to be done with the affair as quick as the Church
and the devil will allow!"
He struck the table soundly with his sword hilt. The landlord came,
knee-shaking, bringing more candles in the hope of anticipating the
great lord's whims. "Fetch a priest," said the marquis, "a priest; do
you understand? In ten minutes have a priest here, or--"
The landlord dropped his candles and flew.
The priest came, heavy-eyed and ruffled. He made David Mignot and
Lucie de Verennes man and wife, pocketed a gold piece that the marquis
tossed him, and shuffled out again into the night.
"Wine," ordered the marquis, spreading his ominous fingers at the
"Fill glasses," he said, when it was brought. He stood up at the head
of the table in the candlelight, a black mountain of venom and
conceit, with something like the memory of an old love turned to
poison in his eyes, as it fell upon his niece.
"Monsieur Mignot," he said, raising his wineglass, "drink after I say
this to you: You have taken to be your wife one who will make your
life a foul and wretched thing. The blood in her is an inheritance
running black lies and red ruin. She will bring you shame and anxiety.
The devil that descended to her is there in her eyes and skin and
mouth that stoop even to beguile a peasant. There is your promise,
monsieur poet, for a happy life. Drink your wine. At last,
mademoiselle, I am rid of you."
The marquis drank. A little grievous cry, as if from a sudden wound,
came from the girl's lips. David, with his glass in his hand, stepped
forward three paces and faced the marquis. There was little of a
shepherd in his bearing.
"Just now," he said, calmly, "you did me the honor to call me
'monsieur.' May I hope, therefore that my marriage to mademoiselle has
placed me somewhat nearer to you in--let us say, reflected rank--has
given me the right to stand more as an equal to monseigneur in a
certain little piece of business I have in my mind?"
"You may hope, shepherd," sneered the marquis.
"Then," said David, dashing his glass of wine into the contemptuous
eyes that mocked him, "perhaps you will condescend to fight me."
The fury of the great lord outbroke in one sudden curse like a blast
from a horn. He tore his sword from its black sheath; he called to the
hovering landlord: "A sword there, for this lout!" He turned to the
lady, with a laugh that chilled her heart, and said: "You put much
labour upon me, madame. It seems I must find you a husband and make
you a widow in the same night."
"I know not sword-play," said David. He flushed to make the confession
before his lady.
"'I know not sword-play,'" mimicked the marquis. "Shall we fight like
peasants with oaken cudgels? /Hola/! Francois, my pistols!"
A postilion brought two shining great pistols ornamented with carven
silver, from the carriage holsters. The marquis tossed one upon the
table near David's hand. "To the other end of the table," he cried;
"even a shepherd may pull a trigger. Few of them attain the honour to
die by the weapon of a De Beaupertuys."
The shepherd and the marquis faced each other from the ends of the
long table. The landlord, in an ague of terror, clutched the air and
stammered: "M-M-Monseigneur, for the love of Christ! not in my house!
--do not spill blood--it will ruin my custom--" The look of the
marquis, threatening him, paralyzed his tongue.
"Coward," cried the lord of Beaupertuys, "cease chattering your teeth
long enough to give the word for us, if you can."
Mine host's knees smote the floor. He was without a vocabulary. Even
sounds were beyond him. Still, by gestures he seemed to beseech peace
in the name of his house and custom.
"I will give the word," said the lady, in a clear voice. She went up
to David and kissed him sweetly. Her eyes were sparkling bright, and
colour had come to her cheek. She stood against the wall, and the two
men levelled their pistols for her count.
The two reports came so nearly together that the candles flickered but
once. The marquis stood, smiling, the fingers of his left hand
resting, outspread, upon the end of the table. David remained erect,
and turned his head very slowly, searching for his wife with his eyes.
Then, as a garment falls from where it is hung, he sank, crumpled,
upon the floor.
With a little cry of terror and despair, the widowed maid ran and
stooped above him. She found his wound, and then looked up with her
old look of pale melancholy. "Through his heart," she whispered. "Oh,
"Come," boomed the great voice of the marquis, "out with you to the
carriage! Daybreak shall not find you on my hands. Wed you shall be
again, and to a living husband, this night. The next we come upon, my
lady, highwayman or peasant. If the road yields no other, then the
churl that opens my gates. Out with you into the carriage!"
The marquis, implacable and huge, the lady wrapped again in the
mystery of her cloak, the postilion bearing the weapons--all moved out
to the waiting carriage. The sound of its ponderous wheels rolling
away echoed through the slumbering village. In the hall of the Silver
Flagon the distracted landlord wrung his hands above the slain poet's
body, while the flames of the four and twenty candles danced and
flickered on the table.
THE RIGHT BRANCH
/Three leagues, then, the road ran, and turned into a puzzle. It
joined with another and a larger road at right angles. David
stood, uncertain, for a while, and then took the road to the
Whither it led he knew not, but he was resolved to leave Vernoy far
behind that night. He travelled a league and then passed a large
/chateau/ which showed testimony of recent entertainment. Lights shone
from every window; from the great stone gateway ran a tracery of wheel
tracks drawn in the dust by the vehicles of the guests.
Three leagues farther and David was weary. He rested and slept for a
while on a bed of pine boughs at the roadside. Then up and on again
along the unknown way.
Thus for five days he travelled the great road, sleeping upon Nature's
balsamic beds or in peasants' ricks, eating of their black, hospitable
bread, drinking from streams or the willing cup of the goatherd.
At length he crossed a great bridge and set his foot within the
smiling city that has crushed or crowned more poets than all the rest
of the world. His breath came quickly as Paris sang to him in a little
undertone her vital chant of greeting--the hum of voice and foot and
High up under the eaves of an old house in the Rue Conti, David paid
for lodging, and set himself, in a wooden chair, to his poems. The
street, once sheltering citizens of import and consequence, was now
given over to those who ever follow in the wake of decline.
The houses were tall and still possessed of a ruined dignity, but many
of them were empty save for dust and the spider. By night there was
the clash of steel and the cries of brawlers straying restlessly from
inn to inn. Where once gentility abode was now but a rancid and rude
incontinence. But here David found housing commensurate to his scant
purse. Daylight and candlelight found him at pen and paper.
One afternoon he was returning from a foraging trip to the lower
world, with bread and curds and a bottle of thin wine. Halfway up his
dark stairway he met--or rather came upon, for she rested on the stair
--a young woman of a beauty that should balk even the justice of a
poet's imagination. A loose, dark cloak, flung open, showed a rich
gown beneath. Her eyes changed swiftly with every little shade of
thought. Within one moment they would be round and artless like a
child's, and long and cozening like a gypsy's. One hand raised her
gown, undraping a little shoe, high-heeled, with its ribbons dangling,
untied. So heavenly she was, so unfitted to stoop, so qualified to
charm and command! Perhaps she had seen David coming, and had waited
for his help there.
Ah, would monsieur pardon that she occupied the stairway, but the
shoe!--the naughty shoe! Alas! it would not remain tied. Ah! if
monsieur /would/ be so gracious!
The poet's fingers trembled as he tied the contrary ribbons. Then he
would have fled from the danger of her presence, but the eyes grew
long and cozening, like a gypsy's, and held him. He leaned against the
balustrade, clutching his bottle of sour wine.
"You have been so good," she said, smiling. "Does monsieur, perhaps,
live in the house?"
"Yes, madame. I--I think so, madame."
"Perhaps in the third story, then?"
"No, madame; higher up."
The lady fluttered her fingers with the least possible gesture of
"Pardon. Certainly I am not discreet in asking. Monsieur will forgive
me? It is surely not becoming that I should inquire where he lodges."
"Madame, do not say so. I live in the--"
"No, no, no; do not tell me. Now I see that I erred. But I cannot lose
the interest I feel in this house and all that is in it. Once it was
my home. Often I come here but to dream of those happy days again.
Will you let that be my excuse?"
"Let me tell you, then, for you need no excuse," stammered the poet.
"I live in the top floor--the small room where the stairs turn."
"In the front room?" asked the lady, turning her head sidewise.
"The rear, madame."
The lady sighed, as if with relief.
"I will detain you no longer then, monsieur," she said, employing the
round and artless eye. "Take good care of my house. Alas! only the
memories of it are mine now. Adieu, and accept my thanks for your
She was gone, leaving but a smile and a trace of sweet perfume. David
climbed the stairs as one in slumber. But he awoke from it, and the
smile and the perfume lingered with him and never afterward did either
seem quite to leave him. This lady of whom he knew nothing drove him
to lyrics of eyes, chansons of swiftly conceived love, odes to curling
hair, and sonnets to slippers on slender feet.
Poet he must have been, for Yvonne was forgotten; this fine, new
loveliness held him with its freshness and grace. The subtle perfume
about her filled him with strange emotions.
* * * * *
On a certain night three persons were gathered about a table in a room
on the third floor of the same house. Three chairs and the table and a
lighted candle upon it was all the furniture. One of the persons was a
huge man, dressed in black. His expression was one of sneering pride.
The ends of his upturned moustache reached nearly to his mocking eyes.
Another was a lady, young and beautiful, with eyes that could be round
and artless, as a child's, or long and cozening, like a gypsy's, but
were now keen and ambitious, like any other conspirator's. The third
was a man of action, a combatant, a bold and impatient executive,
breathing fire and steel. he was addressed by the others as Captain
This man struck the table with his fist, and said, with controlled
"To-night. To-night as he goes to midnight mass. I am tired of the
plotting that gets nowhere. I am sick of signals and ciphers and
secret meetings and such /baragouin/. Let us be honest traitors. If
France is to be rid of him, let us kill in the open, and not hunt with
snares and traps. To-night, I say. I back my words. My hand will do
the deed. To-night, as he goes to mass."
The lady turned upon him a cordial look. Woman, however wedded to
plots, must ever thus bow to rash courage. The big man stroked his
"Dear captain," he said, in a great voice, softened by habit, "this
time I agree with you. Nothing is to be gained by waiting. Enough of
the palace guards belong to us to make the endeavour a safe one."
"To-night," repeated Captain Desrolles, again striking the table. "You
have heard me, marquis; my hand will do the deed."
"But now," said the huge man, softly, "comes a question. Word must be
sent to our partisans in the palace, and a signal agreed upon. Our
stanchest men must accompany the royal carriage. At this hour what
messenger can penetrate so far as the south doorway? Ribouet is
stationed there; once a message is placed in his hands, all will go
"I will send the message," said the lady.
"You, countess?" said the marquis, raising his eyebrows. "Your
devotion is great, we know, but--"
"Listen!" exclaimed the lady, rising and resting her hands upon the
table; "in a garret of this house lives a youth from the provinces as
guileless and tender as the lambs he tended there. I have met him
twice or thrice upon the stairs. I questioned him, fearing that he
might dwell too near the room in which we are accustomed to meet. He
is mine, if I will. He writes poems in his garret, and I think he
dreams of me. He will do what I say. He shall take the message to the
The marquis rose from his chair and bowed. "You did not permit me to
finish my sentence, countess," he said. "I would have said: 'Your
devotion is great, but your wit and charm are infinitely greater.'"
While the conspirators were thus engaged, David was polishing some
lines addressed to his /amorette d'escalier/. He heard a timorous
knock at his door, and opened it, with a great throb, to behold her
there, panting as one in straits, with eyes wide open and artless,
like a child's.
"Monsieur," she breathed, "I come to you in distress. I believe you to
be good and true, and I know of no other help. How I flew through the
streets among the swaggering men! Monsieur, my mother is dying. My
uncle is a captain of guards in the palace of the king. Some one must
fly to bring him. May I hope--"
"Mademoiselle," interrupted Davis, his eyes shining with the desire to
do her service, "your hopes shall be my wings. Tell me how I may reach
The lady thrust a sealed paper into his hand.
"Go to the south gate--the south gate, mind--and say to the guards
there, 'The falcon has left his nest.' They will pass you, and you
will go to the south entrance to the palace. Repeat the words, and
give this letter to the man who will reply 'Let him strike when he
will.' This is the password, monsieur, entrusted to me by my uncle,
for now when the country is disturbed and men plot against the king's
life, no one without it can gain entrance to the palace grounds after
nightfall. If you will, monsieur, take him this letter so that my
mother may see him before she closes her eyes."
"Give it me," said David, eagerly. "But shall I let you return home
through the streets alone so late? I--"
"No, no--fly. Each moment is like a precious jewel. Some time," said
the lady, with eyes long and cozening, like a gypsy's, "I will try to
thank you for your goodness."
The poet thrust the letter into his breast, and bounded down the
stairway. The lady, when he was gone, returned to the room below.
The eloquent eyebrows of the marquis interrogated her.
"He is gone," she said, "as fleet and stupid as one of his own sheep,
to deliver it."
The table shook again from the batter of Captain Desrolles's fist.
"Sacred name!" he cried; "I have left my pistols behind! I can trust
"Take this," said the marquis, drawing from beneath his cloak a
shining, great weapon, ornamented with carven silver. "There are none
truer. But guard it closely, for it bears my arms and crest, and
already I am suspected. Me, I must put many leagues between myself and
Paris this night. To-morrow must find me in my /chateau/. After you,
The marquis puffed out the candle. The lady, well cloaked, and the two
gentlemen softly descended the stairway and flowed into the crowd that
roamed along the narrow pavements of the Rue Conti.
David sped. At the south gate of the king's residence a halberd was
laid to his breast, but he turned its point with the words; "The
falcon has left his nest."
"Pass, brother," said the guard, "and go quickly."
On the south steps of the palace they moved to seize him, but again
the /mot de passe/ charmed the watchers. One among them stepped
forward and began: "Let him strike--" but a flurry among the guards
told of a surprise. A man of keen look and soldierly stride suddenly
pressed through them and seized the letter which David held in his
hand. "Come with me," he said, and led him inside the great hall. Then
he tore open the letter and read it. He beckoned to a man uniformed as
an officer of musketeers, who was passing. "Captain Tetreau, you will
have the guards at the south entrance and the south gate arrested and
confined. Place men known to be loyal in their places." To David he
said: "Come with me."
He conducted him through a corridor and an anteroom into a spacious
chamber, where a melancholy man, sombrely dressed, sat brooding in a
great, leather-covered chair. To that man he said:
"Sire, I have told you that the palace is as full of traitors and
spies as a sewer is of rats. You have thought, sire, that it was my
fancy. This man penetrated to your very door by their connivance. He
bore a letter which I have intercepted. I have brought him here that
your majesty may no longer think my zeal excessive."
"I will question him," said the king, stirring in his chair. He looked
at David with heavy eyes dulled by an opaque film. The poet bent his
"From where do you come?" asked the king.
"From the village of Vernoy, in the province of Eure-et-Loir, sire."
"What do you follow in Paris?"
"I--I would be a poet, sire."
"What did you in Vernoy?"
"I minded my father's flock of sheep."
The king stirred again, and the film lifted from his eyes.
"Ah! in the fields!"
"You lived in the fields; you went out in the cool of the morning and
lay among the hedges in the grass. The flock distributed itself upon
the hillside; you drank of the living stream; you ate your sweet,
brown bread in the shade, and you listened, doubtless, to blackbirds
piping in the grove. Is not that so, shepherd?"
"It is, sire," answered David, with a sigh; "and to the bees at the
flowers, and, maybe, to the grape gatherers singing on the hill."
"Yes, yes," said the king, impatiently; "maybe to them; but surely to
the blackbirds. They whistled often, in the grove, did they not?"
"Nowhere, sire, so sweetly as in Eure-et-Loir. I have endeavored to
express their song in some verses that I have written."
"Can you repeat those verses?" asked the king, eagerly. "A long time
ago I listened to the blackbirds. It would be something better than a
kingdom if one could rightly construe their song. And at night you
drove the sheep to the fold and then sat, in peace and tranquillity,
to your pleasant bread. Can you repeat those verses, shepherd?"
"They run this way, sire," said David, with respectful ardour:
"'Lazy shepherd, see your lambkins
Skip, ecstatic, on the mead;
See the firs dance in the breezes,
Hear Pan blowing at his reed.
"Hear us calling from the tree-tops,
See us swoop upon your flock;
Yield us wool to make our nests warm
In the branches of the--'"
"If it please your majesty," interrupted a harsh voice, "I will ask a
question or two of this rhymester. There is little time to spare. I
crave pardon, sire, if my anxiety for your safety offends."
"The loyalty," said the king, "of the Duke d'Aumale is too well proven
to give offence." He sank into his chair, and the film came again over
"First," said the duke, "I will read you the letter he brought:
"'To-night is the anniversary of the dauphin's death. If he goes,
as is his custom, to midnight mass to pray for the soul of his
son, the falcon will strike, at the corner of the Rue Esplanade.
If this be his intention, set a red light in the upper room at the
southwest corner of the palace, that the falcon may take heed.'
"Peasant," said the duke, sternly, "you have heard these words. Who
gave you this message to bring?"
"My lord duke," said David, sincerely, "I will tell you. A lady gave
it me. She said her mother was ill, and that this writing would fetch
her uncle to her bedside. I do not know the meaning of the letter, but
I will swear that she is beautiful and good."
"Describe the woman," commanded the duke, "and how you came to be her
"Describe her!" said David with a tender smile. "You would command
words to perform miracles. Well, she is made of sunshine and deep
shade. She is slender, like the alders, and moves with their grace.
Her eyes change while you gaze into them; now round, and then half
shut as the sun peeps between two clouds. When she comes, heaven is
all about her; when she leaves, there is chaos and a scent of hawthorn
blossoms. She came to see me in the Rue Conti, number twenty-nine."
"It is the house," said the duke, turning to the king, "that we have
been watching. Thanks to the poet's tongue, we have a picture of the
infamous Countess Quebedaux."
"Sire and my lord duke," said David, earnestly, "I hope my poor words
have done no injustice. I have looked into that lady's eyes. I will
stake my life that she is an angel, letter or no letter."
The duke looked at him steadily. "I will put you to the proof," he
said, slowly. "Dressed as the king, you shall, yourself, attend mass
in his carriage at midnight. Do you accept the test?"
David smiled. "I have looked into her eyes," he said. "I had my proof
there. Take yours how you will."
Half an hour before twelve the Duke d'Aumale, with his own hands, set
a red lamp in a southwest window of the palace. At ten minutes to the
hour, David, leaning on his arm, dressed as the king, from top to toe,
with his head bowed in his cloak, walked slowly from the royal
apartments to the waiting carriage. The duke assisted him inside and
closed the door. The carriage whirled away along its route to the
On the /qui vive/ in a house at the corner of the Rue Esplanade was
Captain Tetreau with twenty men, ready to pounce upon the conspirators
when they should appear.
But it seemed that, for some reason, the plotters had slightly altered
their plans. When the royal carriage had reached the Rue Christopher,
one square nearer than the Rue Esplanade, forth from it burst Captain
Desrolles, with his band of would-be regicides, and assailed the
equipage. The guards upon the carriage, though surprised at the
premature attack, descended and fought valiantly. The noise of
conflict attracted the force of Captain Tetreau, and they came pelting
down the street to the rescue. But, in the meantime, the desperate
Desrolles had torn open the door of the king's carriage, thrust his
weapon against the body of the dark figure inside, and fired.
Now, with loyal reinforcements at hand, the street rang with cries and
the rasp of steel, but the frightened horses had dashed away. Upon the
cushions lay the dead body of the poor mock king and poet, slain by a
ball from the pistol of Monseigneur, the Marquis de Beaupertuys.
THE MAIN ROAD
/Three leagues, then, the road ran, and turned into a puzzle. It
joined with another and a larger road at right angles. David
stood, uncertain, for a while, and then sat himself to rest upon
Whither these roads led he knew not. Either way there seemed to lie a
great world full of chance and peril. And then, sitting there, his eye
fell upon a bright star, one that he and Yvonne had named for theirs.
That set him thinking of Yvonne, and he wondered if he had not been
too hasty. Why should he leave her and his home because a few hot
words had come between them? Was love so brittle a thing that
jealousy, the very proof of it, could break it? Mornings always
brought a cure for the little heartaches of evening. There was yet
time for him to return home without any one in the sweetly sleeping
village of Vernoy being the wiser. His heart was Yvonne's; there where
he had lived always he could write his poems and find his happiness.
David rose, and shook off his unrest and the wild mood that had
tempted him. He set his face steadfastly back along the road he had
come. By the time he had retravelled the road to Vernoy, his desire to
rove was gone. He passed the sheepfold, and the sheep scurried, with a
drumming flutter, at his late footsteps, warming his heart by the
homely sound. He crept without noise into his little room and lay
there, thankful that his feet had escaped the distress of new roads
How well he knew woman's heart! The next evening Yvonne was at the
well in the road where the young congregated in order that the /cure/
might have business. The corner of her eye was engaged in a search for
David, albeit her set mouth seemed unrelenting. He saw the look;
braved the mouth, drew from it a recantation and, later, a kiss as
they walked homeward together.
Three months afterwards they were married. David's father was shrewd
and prosperous. He gave them a wedding that was heard of three leagues
away. Both the young people were favourites in the village. There was
a procession in the streets, a dance on the green; they had the
marionettes and a tumbler out from Dreux to delight the guests.
Then a year, and David's father died. The sheep and the cottage
descended to him. He already had the seemliest wife in the village.
Yvonne's milk pails and her brass kettles were bright--/ouf/! they
blinded you in the sun when you passed that way. But you must keep
your eyes upon her yard, for her flower beds were so neat and gay they
restored to you your sight. And you might hear her sing, aye, as far
as the double chestnut tree above Pere Gruneau's blacksmith forge.
But a day came when David drew out paper from a long-shut drawer, and
began to bite the end of a pencil. Spring had come again and touched
his heart. Poet he must have been, for now Yvonne was well-nigh
forgotten. This fine new loveliness of earth held him with its
witchery and grace. The perfume from her woods and meadows stirred him
strangely. Daily had he gone forth with his flock, and brought it safe
at night. But now he stretched himself under the hedge and pieced
words together on his bits of paper. The sheep strayed, and the
wolves, perceiving that difficult poems make easy mutton, ventured
from the woods and stole his lambs.
David's stock of poems grew longer and his flock smaller. Yvonne's
nose and temper waxed sharp and her talk blunt. Her pans and kettles
grew dull, but her eyes had caught their flash. She pointed out to the
poet that his neglect was reducing the flock and bringing woe upon the
household. David hired a boy to guard the sheep, locked himself in the
little room at the top of the cottage, and wrote more poems. The boy,
being a poet by nature, but not furnished with an outlet in the way of
writing, spent his time in slumber. The wolves lost no time in
discovering that poetry and sleep are practically the same; so the
flock steadily grew smaller. Yvonne's ill temper increased at an equal
rate. Sometimes she would stand in the yard and rail at David through
his high window. Then you could hear her as far as the double chestnut
tree above Pere Gruneau's blacksmith forge.
M. Papineau, the kind, wise, meddling old notary, saw this, as he saw
everything at which his nose pointed. He went to David, fortified
himself with a great pinch of snuff, and said:
"Friend Mignot, I affixed the seal upon the marriage certificate of
your father. It would distress me to be obliged to attest a paper
signifying the bankruptcy of his son. But that is what you are coming
to. I speak as an old friend. Now, listen to what I have to say. You
have your heart set, I perceive, upon poetry. At Dreux, I have a
friend, one Monsieur Bril--Georges Bril. He lives in a little cleared
space in a houseful of books. He is a learned man; he visits Paris
each year; he himself has written books. He will tell you when the
catacombs were made, how they found out the names of the stars, and
why the plover has a long bill. The meaning and the form of poetry is
to him as intelligent as the baa of a sheep is to you. I will give you
a letter to him, and you shall take him your poems and let him read
them. Then you will know if you shall write more, or give your
attention to your wife and business."
"Write the letter," said David, "I am sorry you did not speak of this
At sunrise the next morning he was on the road to Dreux with the
precious roll of poems under his arm. At noon he wiped the dust from
his feet at the door of Monsieur Bril. That learned man broke the seal
of M. Papineau's letter, and sucked up its contents through his
gleaming spectacles as the sun draws water. He took David inside to
his study and sat him down upon a little island beat upon by a sea of
Monsieur Bril had a conscience. He flinched not even at a mass of
manuscript the thickness of a finger-length and rolled to an
incorrigible curve. He broke the back of the roll against his knee and
began to read. He slighted nothing; he bored into the lump as a worm
into a nut, seeking for a kernel.
Meanwhile, David sat, marooned, trembling in the spray of so much
literature. It roared in his ears. He held no chart or compass for
voyaging in that sea. Half the world, he thought, must be writing
Monsieur Bril bored to the last page of the poems. Then he took off
his spectacles, and wiped them with his handkerchief.
"My old friend, Papineau, is well?" he asked.
"In the best of health," said David.
"How many sheep have you, Monsieur Mignot?"
"Three hundred and nine, when I counted them yesterday. The flock has
had ill fortune. To that number it has decreased from eight hundred
"You have a wife and home, and lived in comfort. The sheep brought you
plenty. You went into the fields with them and lived in the keen air
and ate the sweet bread of contentment. You had but to be vigilant and
recline there upon nature's breast, listening to the whistle of the
blackbirds in the grove. Am I right thus far?"
"It was so," said David.
"I have read all your verses," continued Monsieur Bril, his eyes
wandering about his sea of books as if he conned the horizon for a
sail. "Look yonder, through that window, Monsieur Mignot; tell me what
you see in that tree."
"I see a crow," said David, looking.
"There is a bird," said Monsieur Bril, "that shall assist me where I
am disposed to shirk a duty. You know that bird, Monsieur Mignot; he
is the philosopher of the air. He is happy through submission to his
lot. None so merry or full-crawed as he with his whimsical eye and
rollicking step. The fields yield him what he desires. He never
grieves that his plumage is not gay, like the oriole's. And you have
heard, Monsieur Mignot, the notes that nature has given him? Is the
nightingale any happier, do you think?"
David rose to his feet. The crow cawed harshly from his tree.
"I thank you, Monsieur Bril," he said, slowly. "There was not, then,
one nightingale among all those croaks?"
"I could not have missed it," said Monsieur Bril, with a sigh. "I read
every word. Live your poetry, man; do not try to write it any more."
"I thank you," said David, again. "And now I will be going back to my
"If you would dine with me," said the man of books, "and overlook the
smart of it, I will give you reasons at length."
"No," said the poet, "I must be back in the fields cawing at my
Back along the road to Vernoy he trudged with his poems under his arm.
When he reached his village he turned into the shop of one Zeigler, a
Jew out of Armenia, who sold anything that came to his hand.
"Friend," said David, "wolves from the forest harass my sheep on the
hills. I must purchase firearms to protect them. What have you?"
"A bad day, this, for me, friend Mignot," said Zeigler, spreading his
hands, "for I perceive that I must sell you a weapon that will not
fetch a tenth of its value. Only last I week I bought from a peddlar a
wagon full of goods that he procured at a sale by a /commissionaire/
of the crown. The sale was of the /chateau/ and belongings of a great
lord--I know not his title--who has been banished for conspiracy
against the king. There are some choice firearms in the lot. This
pistol--oh, a weapon fit for a prince!--it shall be only forty francs
to you, friend Mignot--if I lose ten by the sale. But perhaps an
"This will do," said David, throwing the money on the counter. "Is it
"I will charge it," said Zeigler. "And, for ten francs more, add a
store of powder and ball."
David laid his pistol under his coat and walked to his cottage. Yvonne
was not there. Of late she had taken to gadding much among the
neighbours. But a fire was glowing in the kitchen stove. David opened
the door of it and thrust his poems in upon the coals. As they blazed
up they made a singing, harsh sound in the flue.
"The song of the crow!" said the poet.
He went up to his attic room and closed the door. So quiet was the
village that a score of people heard the roar of the great pistol.
They flocked thither, and up the stairs where the smoke, issuing, drew
The men laid the body of the poet upon his bed, awkwardly arranging it
to conceal the torn plumage of the poor black crow. The women
chattered in a luxury of zealous pity. Some of them ran to tell
M. Papineau, whose nose had brought him there among the first, picked
up the weapon and ran his eye over its silver mountings with a mingled
air of connoisseurship and grief.
"The arms," he explained, aside, to the /cure/, "and crest of
Monseigneur, the Marquis de Beaupertuys."
THE GUARDIAN OF THE ACCOLADE
Not the least important of the force of the Weymouth Bank was Uncle
Bushrod. Sixty years had Uncle Bushrod given of faithful service to
the house of Weymouth as chattel, servitor, and friend. Of the colour
of the mahogany bank furniture was Uncle Bushrod--thus dark was he
externally; white as the uninked pages of the bank ledgers was his
soul. Eminently pleasing to Uncle Bushrod would the comparison have
been; for to him the only institution in existence worth considering
was the Weymouth Bank, of which he was something between porter and
Weymouth lay, dreamy and umbrageous, among the low foothills along the
brow of a Southern valley. Three banks there were in Weymouthville.
Two were hopeless, misguided enterprises, lacking the presence and
prestige of a Weymouth to give them glory. The third was The Bank,
managed by the Weymouths--and Uncle Bushrod. In the old Weymouth
homestead--the red brick, white porticoed mansion, the first to your
right as you crossed Elder Creek, coming into town--lived Mr. Robert
Weymouth (the president of the bank), his widowed daughter, Mrs. Vesey
--called "Miss Letty" by every one--and her two children, Nan and Guy.
There, also in a cottage on the grounds, resided Uncle Bushrod and
Aunt Malindy, his wife. Mr. William Weymouth (the cashier of the bank)
lived in a modern, fine house on the principal avenue.
Mr. Robert was a large, stout man, sixty-two years of age, with a
smooth, plump face, long iron-gray hair and fiery blue eyes. He was
high-tempered, kind, and generous, with a youthful smile and a
formidable, stern voice that did not always mean what it sounded like.
Mr. William was a milder man, correct in deportment and absorbed in
business. The Weymouths formed The Family of Weymouthville, and were
looked up to, as was their right of heritage.
Uncle Bushrod was the bank's trusted porter, messenger, vassal, and
guardian. He carried a key to the vault, just as Mr. Robert and Mr.
Williams did. Sometimes there was ten, fifteen, or twenty thousand
dollars in sacked silver stacked on the vault floor. It was safe with
Uncle Bushrod. He was a Weymouth in heart, honesty, and pride.
Of late Uncle Bushrod had not been without worry. It was on account of
Marse Robert. For nearly a year Mr. Robert had been known to indulge
in too much drink. Not enough, understand, to become tipsy, but the
habit was getting a hold upon him, and every one was beginning to
notice it. Half a dozen times a day he would leave the bank and step
around to the Merchants and Planters' Hotel to take a drink. Mr.
Roberts' usual keen judgment and business capacity became a little
impaired. Mr. William, a Weymouth, but not so rich in experience,
tried to dam the inevitable backflow of the tide, but with incomplete
success. The deposits in the Weymouth Bank dropped from six figures to
five. Past-due paper began to accumulate, owing to injudicious loans.
No one cared to address Mr. Robert on the subject of temperance. Many
of his friends said that the cause of it had been the death of his
wife some two years before. Others hesitated on account of Mr.
Robert's quick temper, which was extremely apt to resent personal
interference of such a nature. Miss Letty and the children noticed the
change and grieved about it. Uncle Bushrod also worried, but he was
one of those who would not have dared to remonstrate, although he and
Marse Robert had been raised almost as companions. But there was a
heavier shock coming to Uncle Bushrod than that caused by the bank
president's toddies and juleps.
Mr. Robert had a passion for fishing, which he usually indulged
whenever the season and business permitted. One day, when reports had
been coming in relating to the bass and perch, he announced his
intention of making a two or three days' visit to the lakes. He was
going down, he said, to Reedy Lake with Judge Archinard, an old
Now, Uncle Bushrod was treasurer of the Sons and Daughters of the
Burning Bush. Every association he belonged to made him treasurer
without hesitation. He stood AA1 in coloured circles. He was
understood among them to be Mr. Bushrod Weymouth, of the Weymouth
The night following the day on which Mr. Robert mentioned his intended
fishing-trip the old man woke up and rose from his bed at twelve
o'clock, declaring he must go down to the bank and fetch the pass-book
of the Sons and Daughters, which he had forgotten to bring home. The
bookkeeper had balanced it for him that day, put the cancelled checks
in it, and snapped two elastic bands around it. He put but one band
around other pass-books.
Aunt Malindy objected to the mission at so late an hour, denouncing it
as foolish and unnecessary, but Uncle Bushrod was not to be deflected
"I done told Sister Adaline Hoskins," he said, "to come by here for
dat book to-morrer mawnin' at sebin o'clock, for to kyar' it to de
meetin' of de bo'd of 'rangements, and dat book gwine to be here when
So, Uncle Bushrod put on his old brown suit, got his thick hickory
stick, and meandered through the almost deserted streets of
Weymouthville. He entered the bank, unlocking the side door, and found
the pass-book where he had left it, in the little back room used for
consultations, where he always hung his coat. Looking about casually,
he saw that everything was as he had left it, and was about to start
for home when he was brought to a standstill by the sudden rattle of a
key in the front door. Some one came quickly in, closed the door
softly, and entered the counting-room through the door in the iron
That division of the bank's space was connected with the back room by
a narrow passageway, now in deep darkness.
Uncle Bushrod, firmly gripping his hickory stick, tiptoed gently up
this passage until he could see the midnight intruder into the sacred
precincts of the Weymouth Bank. One dim gas-jet burned there, but even
in its nebulous light he perceived at once that the prowler was the
Wondering, fearful, undecided what to do, the old coloured man stood
motionless in the gloomy strip of hallway, and waited developments.
The vault, with its big iron door, was opposite him. Inside that was
the safe, holding the papers of value, the gold and currency of the
bank. On the floor of the vault was, perhaps, eighteen thousand
dollars in silver.
The president took his key from his pocket, opened the vault and went
inside, nearly closing the door behind him. Uncle Bushrod saw, through
the narrow aperture, the flicker of a candle. In a minute or two--it
seemed an hour to the watcher--Mr. Robert came out, bringing with him
a large hand-satchel, handling it in a careful but hurried manner, as
if fearful that he might be observed. With one hand he closed and
locked the vault door.
With a reluctant theory forming itself beneath his wool, Uncle Bushrod
waited and watched, shaking in his concealing shadow.
Mr. Robert set the satchel softly upon a desk, and turned his coat
collar up about his neck and ears. He was dressed in a rough suit of
gray, as if for travelling. He glanced with frowning intentness at the
big office clock above the burning gas-jet, and then looked
lingeringly about the bank--lingeringly and fondly, Uncle Bushrod
thought, as one who bids farewell to dear and familiar scenes.
Now he caught up his burden again and moved promptly and softly out of
the bank by the way he had come locking the front door behind him.
For a minute or longer Uncle Bushrod was as stone in his tracks. Had
that midnight rifler of safes and vaults been any other on earth than
the man he was, the old retainer would have rushed upon him and struck
to save the Weymouth property. But now the watcher's soul was tortured
by the poignant dread of something worse than mere robbery. He was
seized by an accusing terror that said the Weymouth name and the
Weymouth honour were about to be lost. Marse Robert robbing the bank!
What else could it mean? The hour of the night, the stealthy visit to
the vault, the satchel brought forth and with expedition and silence,
the prowler's rough dress, his solicitous reading of the clock, and
noiseless departure--what else could it mean?
And then to the turmoil of Uncle Bushrod's thoughts came the
corroborating recollection of preceding events--Mr. Robert's
increasing intemperance and consequent many moods of royal high
spirits and stern tempers; the casual talk he had heard in the bank of
the decrease in business and difficulty in collecting loans. What else
could it all mean but that Mr. Robert Weymouth was an absconder--was
about to fly with the bank's remaining funds, leaving Mr. William,
Miss Letty, little Nab, Guy, and Uncle Bushrod to bear the disgrace?
During one minute Uncle Bushrod considered these things, and then he
awoke to sudden determination and action.
"Lawd! Lawd!" he moaned aloud, as he hobbled hastily toward the side
door. "Sech a come-off after all dese here years of big doin's and
fine doin's. Scan'lous sights upon de yearth when de Weymouth fambly
done turn out robbers and 'bezzlers! Time for Uncle Bushrod to clean
out somebody's chicken-coop and eben matters up. Oh, Lawd! Marse
Robert, you ain't gwine do dat. 'N Miss Letty an' dem chillun so proud
and talkin' 'Weymouth, Weymouth,' all de time! I'm gwine to stop you
ef I can. 'Spec you shoot Mr. Nigger's head off ef he fool wid you,
but I'm gwine stop you ef I can."
Uncle Bushrod, aided by his hickory stick, impeded by his rheumatism,
hurried down the street toward the railroad station, where the two
lines touching Weymouthville met. As he had expected and feared, he
saw there Mr. Robert, standing in the shadow of the building, waiting
for the train. He held the satchel in his hand.
When Uncle Bushrod came within twenty yards of the bank president,
standing like a huge, gray ghost by the station wall, sudden
perturbation seized him. The rashness and audacity of the thing he had
come to do struck him fully. He would have been happy could he have
turned and fled from the possibilities of the famous Weymouth wrath.
But again he saw, in his fancy, the white reproachful face of Miss
Letty, and the distressed looks of Nan and Guy, should he fail in his
duty and they question him as to his stewardship.
Braced by the thought, he approached in a straight line, clearing his
throat and pounding with his stick so that he might be early
recognized. Thus he might avoid the likely danger of too suddenly
surprising the sometimes hasty Mr. Robert.
"Is that you, Bushrod?" called the clamant, clear voice of the gray
"Yes, suh, Marse Robert."
"What the devil are you doing out at this time of night?"
For the first time in his life, Uncle Bushrod told Marse Robert a
falsehood. He could not repress it. He would have to circumlocute a
little. His nerve was not equal to a direct attack.
"I done been down, suh, to see ol' Aunt M'ria Patterson. She taken
sick in de night, and I kyar'ed her a bottle of M'lindy's medercine.
"Humph!" said Robert. "You better get home out of the night air. It's
damp. You'll hardly be worth killing to-morrow on account of your
rheumatism. Think it'll be a clear day, Bushrod?"
"I 'low it will, suh. De sun sot red las' night."
Mr. Robert lit a cigar in the shadow, and the smoke looked like his
gray ghost expanding and escaping into the night air. Somehow, Uncle
Bushrod could barely force his reluctant tongue to the dreadful
subject. He stood, awkward, shambling, with his feet upon the gravel
and fumbling with his stick. But then, afar off--three miles away, at
the Jimtown switch--he heard the faint whistle of the coming train,
the one that was to transport the Weymouth name into the regions of
dishonour and shame. All fear left him. He took off his hat and faced
the chief of the clan he served, the great, royal, kind, lofty,
terrible Weymouth--he bearded him there at the brink of the awful
thing that was about to happen.
"Marse Robert," he began, his voice quivering a little with the stress
of his feelings, "you 'member de day dey-all rode de tunnament at Oak
Lawn? De day, suh, dat you win in de ridin', and you crown Miss Lucy
"Tournament?" said Mr. Robert, taking his cigar from his mouth. "Yes,
I remember very well the--but what the deuce are you talking about
tournaments here at midnight for? Go 'long home, Bushrod. I believe
"Miss Lucy tetch you on de shoulder," continued the old man, never
heeding, "wid a s'ord, and say: 'I mek you a knight, Suh Robert--rise
up, pure and fearless and widout reproach.' Dat what Miss Lucy say.
Dat's been a long time ago, but me nor you ain't forgot it. And den
dar's another time we ain't forgot--de time when Miss Lucy lay on her
las' bed. She sent for Uncle Bushrod, and she say: 'Uncle Bushrod,
when I die, I want you to take good care of Mr. Robert. Seem like'--so
Miss Lucy say--'he listen to you mo' dan to anybody else. He apt to be
mighty fractious sometimes, and maybe he cuss you when you try to
'suade him but he need somebody what understand him to be 'round wid
him. He am like a little child sometimes'--so Miss Lucy say, wid her
eyes shinin' in her po', thin face--'but he always been'--dem was her
words--'my knight, pure and fearless and widout reproach.'"
Mr. Robert began to mask, as was his habit, a tendency to soft-
heartedness with a spurious anger.
"You--you old windbag!" he growled through a cloud of swirling cigar
smoke. "I believe you are crazy. I told you to go home, Bushrod. Miss
Lucy said that, did she? Well, we haven't kept the scutcheon very
clear. Two years ago last week, wasn't it, Bushrod, when she died?
Confound it! Are you going to stand there all night gabbing like a
The train whistled again. Now it was at the water tank, a mile away.
"Marse Robert," said Uncle Bushrod, laying his hand on the satchel
that the banker held. "For Gawd's sake, don' take dis wid you. I knows
what's in it. I knows where you got it in de bank. Don' kyar' it wid
you. Dey's big trouble in dat valise for Miss Lucy and Miss Lucy's
child's chillun. Hit's bound to destroy de name of Weymouth and bow
down dem dat own it wid shame and triberlation. Marse Robert, you can
kill dis ole nigger ef you will, but don't take away dis 'er' valise.
If I ever crosses over de Jordan, what I gwine to say to Miss Lucy
when she ax me: 'Uncle Bushrod, wharfo' didn' you take good care of
Mr. Robert Weymouth threw away his cigar and shook free one arm with
that peculiar gesture that always preceded his outbursts of
irascibility. Uncle Bushrod bowed his head to the expected storm, but
he did not flinch. If the house of Weymouth was to fall, he would fall
with it. The banker spoke, and Uncle Bushrod blinked with surprise.
The storm was there, but it was suppressed to the quietness of a
"Bushrod," said Mr. Robert, in a lower voice than he usually employed,
"you have overstepped all bounds. You have presumed upon the leniency
with which you have been treated to meddle unpardonably. So you know
what is in this satchel! Your long and faithful service is some
excuse, but--go home, Bushrod--not another word!"
But Bushrod grasped the satchel with a firmer hand. The headlight of
the train was now lightening the shadows about the station. The roar
was increasing, and folks were stirring about at the track side.
"Marse Robert, gimme dis 'er' valise. I got a right, suh, to talk to
you dis 'er' way. I slaved for you and 'tended to you from a child up.
I went th'ough de war as yo' body-servant tell we whipped de Yankees
and sent 'em back to de No'th. I was at yo' weddin', and I was n' fur
away when yo' Miss Letty was bawn. And Miss Letty's chillun, dey
watches to-day for Uncle Bushrod when he come home ever' evenin'. I
been a Weymouth, all 'cept in colour and entitlements. Both of us is
old, Marse Robert. 'Tain't goin' to be long till we gwine to see Miss
Lucy and has to give an account of our doin's. De ole nigger man won't
be 'spected to say much mo' dan he done all he could by de fambly dat
owned him. But de Weymouths, dey must say day been livin' pure and
fearless and widout reproach. Gimme dis valise, Marse Robert--I'm
gwine to hab it. I'm gwine to take it back to the bank and lock it up
in de vault. I'm gwine to do Miss Lucy's biddin'. Turn 'er loose,
The train was standing at the station. Some men were pushing trucks
along the side. Two or three sleepy passengers got off and wandered
away into the night. The conductor stepped to the gravel, swung his
lantern and called: "Hello, Frank!" at some one invisible. The bell
clanged, the brakes hissed, the conductor drawled: "All aboard!"
Mr. Robert released his hold on the satchel. Uncle Bushrod hugged it
to his breast with both arms, as a lover clasps his first beloved.
"Take it back with you, Bushrod," said Mr. Robert, thrusting his hands
into his pockets. "And let the subject drop--now mind! You've said
quite enough. I'm going to take the train. Tell Mr. William I will be
back on Saturday. Good night."
The banker climbed the steps of the moving train and disappeared in a
coach. Uncle Bushrod stood motionless, still embracing the precious
satchel. His eyes were closed and his lips were moving in thanks to
the Master above for the salvation of the Weymouth honour. He knew Mr.
Robert would return when he said he would. The Weymouths never lied.
Nor now, thank the Lord! could it be said that they embezzled the
money in banks.
Then awake to the necessity for further guardianship of Weymouth trust
funds, the old man started for the bank with the redeemed satchel.
* * * * *
Three hours from Weymouthville, in the gray dawn, Mr. Robert alighted
from the train at a lonely flag-station. Dimly he could see the figure
of a man waiting on the platform, and the shape of a spring-waggon,
team and driver. Half a dozen lengthy bamboo fishing-poles projected
from the waggon's rear.
"You're here, Bob," said Judge Archinard, Mr. Robert's old friend and
schoolmate. "It's going to be a royal day for fishing. I thought you
said--why, didn't you bring along the stuff?"
The president of the Weymouth Bank took off his hat and rumpled his
"Well, Ben, to tell you the truth, there's an infernally presumptuous
old nigger belonging in my family that broke up the arrangement. He
came down to the depot and vetoed the whole proceeding. He means all
right, and--well, I reckon he /is/ right. Somehow, he had found out
what I had along--though I hid it in the bank vault and sneaked it out
at midnight. I reckon he has noticed that I've been indulging a little
more than a gentleman should, and he laid for me with some reaching
"I'm going to quit drinking," Mr. Robert concluded. "I've come to the
conclusion that a man can't keep it up and be quite what he'd like to
be--'pure and fearless and without reproach'--that's the way old
Bushrod quoted it."
"Well, I'll have to admit," said the judge, thoughtfully, as they
climbed into the waggon, "that the old darkey's argument can't
conscientiously be overruled."
"Still," said Mr. Robert, with a ghost of a sigh, "there was two
quarts of the finest old silk-velvet Bourbon in that satchel you ever
wet your lips with."
THE DISCOUNTERS OF MONEY
The spectacle of the money-caliphs of the present day going about
Bagdad-on-the-Subway trying to relieve the wants of the people is
enough to make the great Al Raschid turn Haroun in his grave. If not
so, then the assertion should do so, the real caliph having been a wit
and a scholar and therefore a hater of puns.
How properly to alleviate the troubles of the poor is one of the
greatest troubles of the rich. But one thing agreed upon by all
professional philanthropists is that you must never hand over any cash
to your subject. The poor are notoriously temperamental; and when they
get money they exhibit a strong tendency to spend it for stuffed
olives and enlarged crayon portraits instead of giving it to the
And still, old Haroun had some advantages as an eleemosynarian. He
took around with him on his rambles his vizier, Giafar (a vizier is a
composite of a chauffeur, a secretary of state, and a night-and-day
bank), and old Uncle Mesrour, his executioner, who toted a
snickersnee. With this entourage a caliphing tour could hardly fail to
be successful. Have you noticed lately any newspaper articles headed,
"What Shall We Do With Our Ex-Presidents?" Well, now, suppose that Mr.
Carnegie could engage /him/ and Joe Gans to go about assisting in the
distribution of free libraries? Do you suppose any town would have had
the hardihood to refuse one? That caliphalous combination would cause
two libraries to grow where there had been only one set of E. P. Roe's
But, as I said, the money-caliphs are handicapped. They have the idea
that earth has no sorrow that dough cannot heal; and they rely upon it
solely. Al Raschid administered justice, rewarding the deserving, and
punished whomsoever he disliked on the spot. He was the originator of
the short-story contest. Whenever he succoured any chance pick-up in
the bazaars he always made the succouree tell the sad story of his
life. If the narrative lacked construction, style, and /esprit/ he
commanded his vizier to dole him out a couple of thousand ten-dollar
notes of the First National Bank of the Bosphorus, or else gave him a
soft job as Keeper of the Bird Seed for the Bulbuls in the Imperial
Gardens. If the story was a cracker-jack, he had Mesrour, the
executioner, whack of his head. The report that Haroun Al Raschid is
yet alive and is editing the magazine that your grandmother used to
subscribe for lacks confirmation.
And now follows the Story of the Millionaire, the Inefficacious
Increment, and the Babes Drawn from the Wood.
Young Howard Pilkins, the millionaire, got his money ornithologically.
He was a shrewd judge of storks, and got in on the ground floor at the
residence of his immediate ancestors, the Pilkins Brewing Company. For
his mother was a partner in the business. Finally old man Pilkins died
from a torpid liver, and then Mrs. Pilkins died from worry on account
of torpid delivery-waggons--and there you have young Howard Pilkins
with 4,000,000; and a good fellow at that. He was an agreeable,
modestly arrogant young man, who implicitly believed that money could
buy anything that the world had to offer. And Bagdad-on-the-Subway for
a long time did everything possible to encourage his belief.
But the Rat-trap caught him at last; he heard the spring snap, and
found his heart in a wire cage regarding a piece of cheese whose other
name was Alice von der Ruysling.
The Von der Ruyslings still live in that little square about which so
much has been said, and in which so little has been done. To-day you
hear of Mr. Tilden's underground passage, and you hear Mr. Gould's
elevated passage, and that about ends the noise in the world made by
Gramercy Square. But once it was different. The Von der Ruyslings live
there yet, and they received /the first key ever made to Gramercy
You shall have no description of Alice v. d. R. Just call up in your
mind the picture of your own Maggie or Vera or Beatrice, straighten
her nose, soften her voice, tone her down and then tone her up, make
her beautiful and unattainable--and you have a faint dry-point etching
of Alice. The family owned a crumbly brick house and a coachman named
Joseph in a coat of many colours, and a horse so old that he claimed
to belong to the order of the perissodactyla, and had toes instead of
hoofs. In the year 1898 the family had to buy a new set of harness for
their Perissodactyl. Before using it they made Joseph smear it over
with a mixture of ashes and soot. It was the Von der Ruysling family
that bought the territory between the Bowery and East River and
Rivington Street and the Statue of Liberty, in the year 1649, from an
Indian chief for a quart of passementerie and a pair of Turkey-red
portieres designed for a Harlem flat. I have always admired that
Indian's perspicacity and good taste. All this is merely to convince
you that the Von der Ruyslings were exactly the kind of poor
aristocrats that turn down their noses at people who have money. Oh,
well, I don't mean that; I mean people who have /just/ money.
One evening Pilkins went down to the red brick house in Gramercy
Square, and made what he thought was a proposal to Alice v. d. R.
Alice, with her nose turned down, and thinking of his money,
considered it a proposition, and refused it and him. Pilkins,
summoning all his resources as any good general would have done, made
an indiscreet references to the advantages that his money would
provide. That settled it. The lady turned so cold that Walter Wellman
himself would have waited until spring to make a dash for her in a
But Pilkins was something of a sport himself. You can't fool all the
millionaires every time the ball drops on the Western Union Building.
"If, at any time," he said to A. v. d. R., "you feel that you would
like to reconsider your answer, send me a rose like that."
Pilkins audaciously touched a Jacque rose that she wore loosely in her
"Very well," said she. "And when I do, you will understand by it that
either you or I have learned something new about the purchasing power
of money. You've been spoiled, my friend. No, I don't think I could
marry you. To-morrow I will send you back the presents you have given
"Presents!" said Pilkins in surprise. "I never gave you a present in
my life. I would like to see a full-length portrait of the man that
you would take a present from. Why, you never would let me send you
flowers or candy or even art calendars."
"You've forgotten," said Alice v. d. R., with a little smile. "It was
a long time ago when our families were neighbours. You were seven, and
I was trundling my doll on the sidewalk. You have me a little gray,
hairy kitten, with shoe-buttony eyes. Its head came off and it was
full of candy. You paid five cents for it--you told me so. I haven't
the candy to return to you--I hadn't developed a conscience at three,
so I ate it. But I have the kitten yet, and I will wrap it up neatly
to-night and send it to you to-morrow."
Beneath the lightness of Alice v. d. R.'s talk the steadfastness of
her rejection showed firm and plain. So there was nothing left for him
but to leave the crumbly red brick house, and be off with his abhorred
On his way back, Pilkins walked through Madison Square. The hour hand
of the clock hung about eight; the air was stingingly cool, but not at
the freezing point. The dim little square seemed like a great, cold,
unroofed room, with its four walls of houses, spangled with thousands
of insufficient lights. Only a few loiterers were huddled here and
there on the benches.
But suddenly Pilkins came upon a youth sitting brave and, as if
conflicting with summer sultriness, coatless, his white shirt-sleeves
conspicuous in the light from the globe of an electric. Close to his
side was a girl, smiling, dreamy, happy. Around her shoulders was,
palpably, the missing coat of the cold-defying youth. It appeared to
be a modern panorama of the Babes in the Wood, revised and brought up
to date, with the exception that the robins hadn't turned up yet with
the protecting leaves.
With delight the money-caliphs view a situation that they think is
relievable while you wait.
Pilkins sat on the bench, one seat removed from the youth. He glanced
cautiously and saw (as men do see; and women--oh! never can) that they
were of the same order.
Pilkins leaned over after a short time and spoke to the youth, who
answered smilingly, and courteously. From general topics the
conversation concentrated to the bed-rock of grim personalities. But
Pilkins did it as delicately and heartily as any caliph could have
done. And when it came to the point, the youth turned to him, soft-
voiced and with his undiminished smile.
"I don't want to seem unappreciative, old man," he said, with a
youth's somewhat too-early spontaneity of address, "but, you see, I
can't accept anything from a stranger. I know you're all right, and
I'm tremendously obliged, but I couldn't think of borrowing from
anybody. You see, I'm Marcus Clayton--the Claytons of Roanoke County,
Virginia, you know. The young lady is Miss Eva Bedford--I reckon
you've heard of the Bedfords. She's seventeen and one of the Bedfords
of Bedford County. We've eloped from home to get married, and we
wanted to see New York. We got in this afternoon. Somebody got my
pocketbook on the ferry-boat, and I had only three cents in change
outside of it. I'll get some work somewhere to-morrow, and we'll get
"But, I say, old man," said Pilkins, in confidential low tones, "you
can't keep the lady out here in the cold all night. Now, as for
"I told you," said the youth, with a broader smile, "that I didn't
have but three cents. Besides, if I had a thousand, we'd have to wait
here until morning. You can understand that, of course. I'm much
obliged, but I can't take any of your money. Miss Bedford and I have
lived an outdoor life, and we don't mind a little cold. I'll get work
of some kind to-morrow. We've got a paper bag of cakes and chocolates,
and we'll get along all right."
"Listen," said the millionaire, impressively. "My name is Pilkins, and
I'm worth several million dollars. I happen to have in my pockets
about $800 or $900 in cash. Don't you think you are drawing it rather
fine when you decline to accept as much of it as will make you and the
young lady comfortable at least for the night?"
"I can't say, sir, that I do think so," said Clayton of Roanoke
County. "I've been raised to look at such things differently. But I'm
mightily obliged to you, just the same."
"Then you force me to say good night," said the millionaire.
Twice that day had his money been scorned by simple ones to whom his
dollars had appeared as but tin tobacco-tags. He was no worshipper of
the actual minted coin or stamped paper, but he had always believed in
its almost unlimited power to purchase.
Pilkins walked away rapidly, and then turned abruptly and returned to
the bench where the young couple sat. He took off his hat and began to
speak. The girl looked at him with the same sprightly, glowing
interest that she had been giving to the lights and statuary and sky-
reaching buildings that made the old square seem so far away from
"Mr.--er--Roanoke," said Pilkins, "I admire your--your indepen--your
idiocy so much that I'm going to appeal to your chivalry. I believe
that's what you Southerners call it when you keep a lady sitting
outdoors on a bench on a cold night just to keep your old, out-of-date
pride going. Now, I've a friend--a lady--whom I have known all my life
--who lives a few blocks from here--with her parents and sisters and
aunts, and all that kind of endorsement, of course. I am sure this
lady would be happy and pleased to put up--that is, to have Miss--er--
Bedford give her the pleasure of having her as a guest for the night.
Don't you think, Mr. Roanoke, of--er--Virginie, that you could unbend
your prejudices that far?"
Clayton of Roanoke rose and held out his hand.
"Old man," he said, "Miss Bedford will be much pleased to accept the
hospitality of the lady you refer to."
He formally introduced Mr. Pilkins to Miss Bedford. The girl looked at
him sweetly and comfortably. "It's a lovely evening, Mr. Pilkins--
don't you think so?" she said slowly.
Pilkins conducted them to the crumbly red brick house of the Von der
Ruyslings. His card brought Alice downstairs wondering. The runaways
were sent into the drawing-room, while Pilkins told Alice all about it
in the hall.
"Of course, I will take her in," said Alice. "Haven't those Southern
girls a thoroughbred air? Of course, she will stay here. You will look
after Mr. Clayton, of course."
"Will I?" said Pilkins, delightedly. "Oh yes, I'll look after him! As
a citizen of New York, and therefore a part-owner of its public parks,
I'm going to extend to him the hospitality of Madison Square to-night.
He's going to sit there on a bench till morning. There's no use
arguing with him. Isn't he wonderful? I'm glad you'll look after the
little lady, Alice. I tell you those Babes in the Wood made my--that
is, er--made Wall Street and the Bank of England look like penny
Miss Von der Ruysling whisked Miss Bedford of Bedford County up to
restful regions upstairs. When she came down, she put an oblong small
pasteboard box into Pilkins' hands.
"Your present," she said, "that I am returning to you."
"Oh, yes, I remember," said Pilkins, with a sigh, "the woolly kitten."
He left Clayton on a park bench, and shook hands with him heartily.
"After I get work," said the youth, "I'll look you up. Your address is
on your card, isn't it? Thanks. Well, good night. I'm awfully obliged
to you for your kindness. No, thanks, I don't smoke. Good night."
In his room, Pilkins opened the box and took out the staring, funny
kitten, long ago ravaged of his candy and minus one shoe-button eye.
Pilkins looked at it sorrowfully.
"After all," he said, "I don't believe that just money alone will--"
And then he gave a shout and dug into the bottom of the box for
something else that had been the kitten's resting-place--a crushed but
red, red, fragrant, glorious, promising Jacqueminot rose.
THE ENCHANTED PROFILE
There are few Caliphesses. Women are Scheherazades by birth,
predilection, instinct, and arrangement of the vocal cords. The
thousand and one stories are being told every day by hundreds of
thousands of viziers' daughters to their respective sultans. But the
bowstring will get some of 'em yet if they don't watch out.
I heard a story, though, of one lady Caliph. It isn't precisely an
Arabian Nights story, because it brings in Cinderella, who flourished
her dishrag in another epoch and country. So, if you don't mind the
mixed dates (which seem to give it an Eastern flavour, after all),
we'll get along.
In New York there is an old, old hotel. You have seen woodcuts of it
in the magazines. It was built--let's see--at a time when there was
nothing above Fourteenth Street except the old Indian trail to Boston
and Hammerstein's office. Soon the old hostelry will be torn down.
And, as the stout walls are riven apart and the bricks go roaring down
the chutes, crowds of citizens will gather at the nearest corners and
weep over the destruction of a dear old landmark. Civic pride is
strongest in New Bagdad; and the wettest weeper and the loudest howler
against the iconoclasts will be the man (originally from Terre Haute)
whose fond memories of the old hotel are limited to his having been
kicked out from its free-lunch counter in 1873.
At this hotel always stopped Mrs. Maggie Brown. Mrs. Brown was a bony
woman of sixty, dressed in the rustiest black, and carrying a handbag
made, apparently, from the hide of the original animal that Adam
decided to call an alligator. She always occupied a small parlour and
bedroom at the top of the hotel at a rental of two dollars per day.
And always, while she was there, each day came hurrying to see her
many men, sharp-faced, anxious-looking, with only seconds to spare.
For Maggie Brown was said to be the third richest woman in the world;
and these solicitous gentlemen were only the city's wealthiest brokers
and business men seeking trifling loans of half a dozen millions or so
from the dingy old lady with the prehistoric handbag.
The stenographer and typewriter of the Acropolis Hotel (there! I've
let the name of it out!) was Miss Ida Bates. She was a hold-over from
the Greek classics. There wasn't a flaw in her looks. Some old-timer
paying his regards to a lady said: "To have loved her was a liberal
education." Well, even to have looked over the black hair and neat
white shirtwaist of Miss Bates was equal to a full course in any
correspondence school in the country. She sometimes did a little
typewriting for me, and, as she refused to take the money in advance,
she came to look upon me as something of a friend and protege. She had
unfailing kindliness and a good nature; and not even a white-lead
drummer or a fur importer had ever dared to cross the dead line of
good behaviour in her presence. The entire force of the Acropolis,
from the owner, who lived in Vienna, down to the head porter, who had
been bedridden for sixteen years, would have sprung to her defence in
One day I walked past Miss Bates's little sanctum Remingtorium, and
saw in her place a black-haired unit--unmistakably a person--pounding
with each of her forefingers upon the keys. Musing on the mutability
of temporal affairs, I passed on. The next day I went on a two weeks'
vacation. Returning, I strolled through the lobby of the Acropolis,
and saw, with a little warm glow of auld lang syne, Miss Bates, as
Grecian and kind and flawless as ever, just putting the cover on her
machine. The hour for closing had come; but she asked me in to sit for
a few minutes on the dictation chair. Miss Bates explained her absence
from and return to the Acropolis Hotel in words identical with or
similar to these following:
"Well, Man, how are the stories coming?"
"Pretty regularly," said I. "About equal to their going."
"I'm sorry," said she. "Good typewriting is the main thing in a story.
You've missed me, haven't you?"
"No one," said I, "whom I have ever known knows as well as you do how
to space properly belt buckles, semi-colons, hotel guests, and
hairpins. But you've been away, too. I saw a package of peppermint-
pepsin in your place the other day."
"I was going to tell you all about it," said Miss Bates, "if you
hadn't interrupted me.
"Of course, you know about Maggie Brown, who stops here. Well, she's
worth $40,000,000. She lives in Jersey in a ten-dollar flat. She's
always got more cash on hand than half a dozen business candidates for
vice-president. I don't know whether she carries it in her stocking or
not, but I know she's mighty popular down in the part of town where
they worship the golden calf.
"Well, about two weeks ago, Mrs. Brown stops at the door and rubbers
at me for ten minutes. I'm sitting with my side to her, striking off
some manifold copies of a copper-mine proposition for a nice old man
from Tonopah. But I always see everything all around me. When I'm hard
at work I can see things through my side-combs; and I can leave one
button unbuttoned in the back of my shirtwaist and see who's behind
me. I didn't look around, because I make from eighteen to twenty
dollars a week, and I didn't have to.
"That evening at knocking-off time she sends for me to come up to her
apartment. I expected to have to typewrite about two thousand words of
notes-of-hand, liens, and contracts, with a ten-cent tip in sight; but
I went. Well, Man, I was certainly surprised. Old Maggie Brown had
"'Child,' says she, 'you're the most beautiful creature I ever saw in
my life. I want you to quit your work and come and live with me. I've
no kith or kin,' says she, 'except a husband and a son or two, and I
hold no communication with any of 'em. They're extravagant burdens on
a hard-working woman. I want you to be a daughter to me. They say I'm
stingy and mean, and the papers print lies about my doing my own
cooking and washing. It's a lie,' she goes on. 'I put my washing out,
except the handkerchiefs and stockings and petticoats and collars, and
light stuff like that. I've got forty million dollars in cash and
stocks and bonds that are as negotiable as Standard Oil, preferred, at
a church fair. I'm a lonely old woman and I need companionship. You're
the most beautiful human being I ever saw,' says she. 'Will you come
and live with me? I'll show 'em whether I can spend money or not,' she
"Well, Man, what would you have done? Of course, I fell to it. And, to
tell you the truth, I began to like old Maggie. It wasn't all on
account of the forty millions and what she could do for me. I was kind
of lonesome in the world too. Everybody's got to have somebody they
can explain to about the pain in their left shoulder and how fast
patent-leather shoes wear out when they begin to crack. And you can't
talk about such things to men you meet in hotels--they're looking for
just such openings.
"So I gave up my job in the hotel and went with Mrs. Brown. I
certainly seemed to have a mash on her. She'd look at me for half an
hour at a time when I was sitting, reading, or looking at the
"One time I says to her: 'Do I remind you of some deceased relative or
friend of your childhood, Mrs. Brown? I've noticed you give me a
pretty good optical inspection from time to time.'
"'You have a face,' she says, 'exactly like a dear friend of mine--the
best friend I ever had. But I like you for yourself, child, too,' she
"And say, Man, what do you suppose she did? Loosened up like a Marcel
wave in the surf at Coney. She took me to a swell dressmaker and gave
her /a la carte/ to fit me out--money no object. They were rush
orders, and madame locked the front door and put the whole force to
"Then we moved to--where do you think?--no; guess again--that's right
--the Hotel Bonton. We had a six-room apartment; and it cost $100 a
day. I saw the bill. I began to love that old lady.
"And then, Man, when my dresses began to come in--oh, I won't tell you
about 'em! you couldn't understand. And I began to call her Aunt
Maggie. You've read about Cinderella, of course. Well, what Cinderella
said when the prince fitted that 3 1/2 A on her foot was a hard-luck
story compared to the things I told myself.
"Then Aunt Maggie says she is going to give me a coming-out banquet in
the Bonton that'll make moving Vans of all the old Dutch families on
"'I've been out before, Aunt Maggie,' says I. 'But I'll come out
again. But you know,' says I, 'that this is one of the swellest hotels
in the city. And you know--pardon me--that it's hard to get a bunch of
notables together unless you've trained for it.'
"'Don't fret about that, child,' says Aunt Maggie. 'I don't send out
invitations--I issue orders. I'll have fifty guests here that couldn't
be brought together again at any reception unless it were given by
King Edward or William Travers Jerome. They are men, of course, and
all of 'em either owe me money or intend to. Some of their wives won't
come, but a good many will.'
"Well, I wish you could have been at that banquet. The dinner service
was all gold and cut glass. There were about forty men and eight
ladies present besides Aunt Maggie and I. You'd never have known the
third richest woman in the world. She had on a new black silk dress
with so much passementerie on it that it sounded exactly like a
hailstorm I heard once when I was staying all night with a girl that
lived in a top-floor studio.
"And my dress!--say, Man, I can't waste the words on you. It was all
hand-made lace--where there was any of it at all--and it cost $300. I
saw the bill. The men were all bald-headed or white-whiskered, and
they kept up a running fire of light repartee about 3-per cents. and
Bryan and the cotton crop.
"On the left of me was something that talked like a banker, and on my
right was a young fellow who said he was a newspaper artist. He was
the only--well, I was going to tell you.
"After the dinner was over Mrs. Brown and I went up to the apartment.
We had to squeeze our way through a mob of reporters all the way
through the halls. That's one of the things money does for you. Say,
do you happen to know a newspaper artist named Lathrop--a tall man
with nice eyes and an easy way of talking? No, I don't remember what
paper he works on. Well, all right.
"When we got upstairs Mrs. Brown telephones for the bill right away.
It came, and it was $600. I saw the bill. Aunt Maggie fainted. I got
her on a lounge and opened the bead-work.
"'Child,' says she, when she got back to the world, 'what was it? A
raise of rent or an income-tax?'
"'Just a little dinner,' says I. 'Nothing to worry about--hardly a
drop in the bucket-shop. Sit up and take notice--a dispossess notice,
if there's no other kind.'
"But say, Man, do you know what Aunt Maggie did? She got cold feet!
She hustled me out of that Hotel Bonton at nine the next morning. We
went to a rooming-house on the lower West Side. She rented one room
that had water on the floor below and light on the floor above. After
we got moved all you could see in the room was about $1,500 worth of
new swell dresses and a one-burner gas-stove.
"Aunt Maggie had had a sudden attack of the hedges. I guess everybody
has got to go on a spree once in their life. A man spends his on
highballs, and a woman gets woozy on clothes. But with forty million
dollars--say, I'd like to have a picture of--but, speaking of
pictures, did you ever run across a newspaper artist named Lathrop--a
tall--oh, I asked you that before, didn't I? He was mighty nice to me
at the dinner. His voice just suited me. I guess he must have thought
I was to inherit some of Aunt Maggie's money.
"Well, Mr. Man, three days of that light-housekeeping was plenty for
me. Aunt Maggie was affectionate as ever. She'd hardly let me get out
of her sight. But let me tell you. She was a hedger from Hedgersville,
Hedger County. Seventy-five cents a day was the limit she set. We
cooked our own meals in the room. There I was, with a thousand
dollars' worth of the latest things in clothes, doing stunts over a
"As I say, on the third day I flew the coop. I couldn't stand for
throwing together a fifteen-cent kidney stew while wearing at the same
time, a $150 house-dress, with Valenciennes lace insertion. So I goes
into the closet and puts on the cheapest dress Mrs. Brown had bought
for me--it's the one I've got on now--not so bad for $75, is it? I'd
left all my own clothes in my sister's flat in Brooklyn.
"'Mrs. Brown, formerly "Aunt Maggie,"' says I to her, 'I'm going to
extend my feet alternately, one after the other, in such a manner and
direction that this tenement will recede from me in the quickest
possible time. I am no worshipper of money,' says I, 'but there are
some things I can't stand. I can stand the fabulous monster that I've
read about that blows hot birds and cold bottles with the same breath.
But I can't stand a quitter,' says I. 'They say you've got forty
million dollars--well, you'll never have any less. And I was beginning
to like you, too,' says I.
"Well, the late Aunt Maggie kicks till the tears flow. She offers to
move into a swell room with a two-burner stove and running water.
"'I've spent an awful lot of money, child,' says she. 'We'll have to
economize for a while. You're the most beautiful creature I ever laid
eyes on,' she says, 'and I don't want you to leave me.'
"Well, you see me, don't you? I walked straight to the Acropolis and
asked for my job back, and I got it. How did you say your writings
were getting along? I know you've lost out some by not having me to
type 'em. Do you ever have 'em illustrated? And, by the way, did you
ever happen to know a newspaper artist--oh, shut up! I know I asked
you before. I wonder what paper he works on? It's funny, but I
couldn't help thinking that he wasn't thinking about the money he
might have been thinking I was thinking I'd get from old Maggie Brown.
If I only knew some of the newspaper editors I'd--"
The sound of an easy footstep came from the doorway. Ida Bates saw who
it was with her back-hair comb. I saw her turn pink, perfect statue
that she was--a miracle that I share with Pygmalion only.
"Am I excusable?" she said to me--adorable petitioner that she became.
"It's--it's Mr. Lathrop. I wonder if it really wasn't the money--I
wonder, if after all, he--"
Of course, I was invited to the wedding. After the ceremony I dragged
"You are an artist," said I, "and haven't figured out why Maggie Brown
conceived such a strong liking for Miss Bates--that was? Let me show
The bride wore a simple white dress as beautifully draped as the
costumes of the ancient Greeks. I took some leaves from one of the
decorative wreaths in the little parlour, and made a chaplet of them,
and placed them on nee Bates shining chestnut hair, and made her turn
her profile to her husband.
"By jingo!" said he. "Isn't Ida a dead ringer for the lady's head on
the silver dollar?"
"NEXT TO READING MATTER"
He compelled my interest as he stepped from the ferry at Desbrosses
Street. He had the air of being familiar with hemispheres and worlds,
and of entering New York as the lord of a demesne who revisited it in
after years of absence. But I thought that, with all his air, he had
never before set foot on the slippery cobblestones of the City of Too
He wore loose clothes of a strange bluish drab colour, and a
conservative, round Panama hat without the cock-a-loop indentations
and cants with which Northern fanciers disfigure the tropic head-gear.
Moreover, he was the homeliest man I have ever seen. His ugliness was
less repellent than startling--arising from a sort of Lincolnian
ruggedness and irregularity of feature that spellbound you with wonder
and dismay. So may have looked afrites or the shapes metamorphosed
from the vapour of the fisherman's vase. As he afterward told me, his
name was Judson Tate; and he may as well be called so at once. He wore
his green silk tie through a topaz ring; and he carried a cane made of
the vertebrae of a shark.
Judson Tate accosted me with some large and casual inquiries about the
city's streets and hotels, in the manner of one who had but for the
moment forgotten the trifling details. I could think of no reason for
disparaging my own quiet hotel in the downtown district; so the mid-
morning of the night found us already victualed and drinked (at my
expense), and ready to be chaired and tobaccoed in a quiet corner of
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