Stories of a Western Town
Part 3 out of 3
and mother went to nurse them. My! but how dismal it was at home!
We always got more whippings when mother was away. Your grandfather
was a good man, too honest for this world, and he loved every one
of his seven children; but he brought us up to fear him and the Lord.
We feared him the most, because the Lord couldn't whip us!
He never whipped us when we did anything, but waited until next day,
that he might not punish in anger; so we had all the night to
anticipate it. Did I ever tell you of the time he caught me in a lie?
I was lame for a week after it. He never caught me in another lie."
"I think he was cruel; I can't help it, papa," cried Esther,
with whom this was an old argument, "still it did good, that time!"
"Oh, no, he wasn't cruel, my dear," said Armorer, with a queer
smile that seemed to take only one-half of his face, not answering
the last words; "he was too sure of his interpretation of the Scripture,
that was all. Why, that man just slaved to educate us children;
he'd have gone to the stake rejoicing to have made sure that we
should be saved. And of the whole seven only one is a church member.
Is that the road?"
They could see a car swinging past, on a parallel street,
its bent pole hitching along the trolley-wire.
"Pretty scrubby-looking cars," commented Armorer; "but get
our new ordinance through the council, we can save enough
to afford some fine new cars. Has Lossing said anything to you
about the ordinance and our petition to be allowed to leave
off the conductors?"
"He hasn't said anything, but I read about it in the papers.
Is it so very important that it should be passed?"
"Saving money is always important, my dear," said Armorer, seriously.
The horses turned again. They were now opposite a fair lawn
and a house of wood and stone built after the old colonial pattern,
as modern architects see it. Esther pointed, saying:
"Aunt Meg's, papa; isn't it pretty?"
"Very handsome, very fine," said the financier, who knew nothing
about architecture, except its exceeding expense. "Esther, I've a notion;
if that young man of yours has brains and is fond of you he ought to be
able to get my ordinance through his little eight by ten city council.
There is our chance to see what stuff he is made of!"
"Oh, he has a great deal of influence," said Esther;
"he can do it, unless--unless he thinks the ordinance would
be bad for the city, you know."
"Confound the modern way of educating girls!" thought Armorer.
"Now, it would have been enough for Esther's mother to know
that anything was for my interests; it wouldn't have to help
all out-doors, too!"
But instead of enlarging on this point, he went into a sketch of the
improvements the road could make with the money saved by the change,
and was waxing eloquent when a lady of a pleasant and comely face,
and a trig though not slender figure, advanced to greet them.
It was after breakfast (and the scene was the neat pig's pen,
where Armorer was displaying his ignorance of swine)
that he found his first chance to talk with his sister alone.
"Oh, first, Sis," said he, "about your birthday, to-day;
I telegraphed to Tiffany's for that silver service, you know,
that you liked, so you needn't think there's a mistake
when it comes."
"Oh, 'Raish, that gorgeous thing! I must kiss you, if Daniel
does see me!"
"Oh, that's all right," said Armorer, hastily, and began
to talk of the pig. Suddenly, without looking up, he dropped
into the pig-pen the remark: "I'm very much obliged to you
for writing me, Meg."
"I don't know whether to feel more like a virtuous sister or a
villanous aunt," sighed Mrs. Ellis; "things seemed to be getting
on so rapidly that it didn't seem right, Esther visiting me and all,
not to give you a hint; still, I am sure that nothing has been said,
and it is horrid for Esther, perfectly HORRID, discussing her proposals
that haven't been proposed!"
"I don't want them ever to be proposed," said Armorer, gloomily.
"I know you always said you didn't want Esther to marry; but I
thought if she fell in love with the right man--we know that marriage
is a very happy estate, sometimes, Horatio!" She sighed again.
In her case it was only the memory of happiness, for Colonel Ellis
had been dead these twelve years; but his widow mourned him still.
"If you marry the right one, maybe," answered Armorer, grudgingly;
"but see here, Meg, Esther is different from the other girls;
they got married when Jenny was alive to look after them,
and I knew the men, and they were both big matches, you know.
Then, too, I was so busy making money while the other girls grew
up that I hadn't time to get real well acquainted with them.
I don't think they ever kissed me, except when I gave them a check.
But Esther and I ----" he drummed with his fingers on the boards,
his thin, keen face wearing a look that would have amazed his business
acquaintances--"you remember when her mother died, Meg? Only fifteen,
and how she took hold of things! And we have been together ever since,
and she makes me think of her grandmother and her mother both.
She's never had a wish I knew that I haven't granted--why, d---- it!
I've bought my clothes to please her ----"
"That's why you are become so well-dressed, Horatio; I wondered
how you came to spruce up so!" interrupted Mrs. Ellis.
"It has been so blamed lonesome whenever she went to visit you,
but yet I wouldn't say a word because I knew what a good time she had;
but if I had known that there was a confounded, long-legged, sniffy young
idiot all that while trying to steal my daughter away from me!"
In an access of wrath at the idea Armorer wrenched off the picket that
he clutched, at which he laughed and stuck his hands in his pockets.
"Why, Meg, the papers and magazines are always howling
that women won't marry," cried he, with a fresh sense
of grievance; "now, two of my girls have married, that's enough;
there was no reason for me to expect any more of them would!
There isn't one d---- bit of need for Esther to marry!"
"But if she loves the young fellow and he loves her, won't you
let them be happy?"
"He won't make her happy."
"He is a very good fellow, truly and really, 'Raish. And he comes
of a good family ----"
"I don't care for his family; and as to his being moral
and all that, I know several young fellows that could skin him
alive in a bargain that are moral as you please. I have been
a moral man, myself. But the trouble with this Lossing (I told
Esther I didn't know anything about him, but I do), the trouble
with him is that he is chock full of all kinds of principles!
Just as father was. Don't you remember how he lost parish after
parish because he couldn't smooth over the big men in them?
Lossing is every bit as pig-headed. I am not going
to have my daughter lead the kind of life my mother did.
I want a son-in-law who ain't going to think himself so much
better than I am, and be rowing me for my way of doing business.
If Esther MUST marry I'd like her to marry a man with a head
on him that I can take into business, and who will be willing
to live with the old man. This Lossing has got his notions
of making a sort of Highland chief affair of the labor question,
and we should get along about as well as the Kilkenny cats!"
Mrs. Ellis knew more than Esther about Armorer's business methods,
having the advantage of her husband's point of view; and Colonel Ellis
had kept the army standard of honor as well as the army ignorance
of business. To counterbalance, she knew more than anyone
alive what a good son and brother Horatio had always been.
But she could not restrain a smile at the picture of the partnership.
"Precisely, you see yourself," said Armorer. "Meg"--hesitating--
"you don't suppose it would be any use to offer Esther a cool
hundred thousand to promise to bounce this young fellow?"
"Horatio, NO!" cried Mrs. Ellis, tossing her pretty gray head indignantly;
"you'd insult her!"
"Take it the same way, eh? Well, perhaps; Essie has high-toned notions.
That's all right, it is the thing for women. Mother had them too.
Look here, Meg, I'll tell you, I want to see if this young fellow
has ANY sense! We have an ordinance that we want passed.
If he will get his council to pass it, that will show he can put
his grand theories into his pockets sometimes; and I will give
him a show with Esther. If he doesn't care enough for my girl
to oblige her father, even if he doesn't please a lot of carping
roosters that want the earth for their town and would like a
street railway to be run to accommodate them and lose money
for the stockholders, well, then, you can't blame me if I don't
want him! Now, will you do one thing for me, Meg, to help me out?
I don't want Lossing to persuade Esther to commit herself;
you know how, when she was a little mite, if Esther gave her word
she kept it. I want you to promise me you won't let Esther
be alone one second with young Lossing. She is going to-morrow,
but there's your whist-party to-night; I suppose he's coming?
And I want you to promise you won't let him have our address.
If he treats me square, he won't need to ask you for it. Well?"
He buttoned up his coat and folded his arms, waiting.
Mrs. Ellis's sympathy had gone out to the young people
as naturally as water runs down hill; for she is of a
romantic temperament, though she doesn't dare to be weighed.
But she remembered the silver service, the coffee-pot, the tea-pot,
the tray for spoons, the creamer, the hot-water kettle,
the sugar-bowl, all on a rich salver, splendid, dazzling;
what rank ingratitude it would be to oppose her generous brother!
Rather sadly she answered, but she did answer: "I'll do that much
for you, 'Raish, but I feel we're risking Esther's happiness,
and I can only keep the letter of my promise."
"That's all I ask, my dear," said Armorer, taking out a little
shabby note-book from his breast-pocket, and scratching out a line.
The line effaced read:
"_See E & M tea-set_."
"The silver service was a good muzzle," he thought.
He went away for an interview with the corporation lawyer
and the superintendent of the road, leaving Mrs. Ellis
in a distraction of conscience that made her the wonder
of her servants that morning, during all the preparations
for the whist-party. She might have felt more remorseful had she
guessed her brother's real plan. He knew enough of Lossing
to be assured that he would not yield about the ordinance,
which he firmly believed to be a dangerous one for the city.
He expected, he counted on the mayor's refusing his proffers.
He hoped that Esther would feel the sympathy which women give,
without question generally, to the business plans of those near
and dear to them, taking it for granted that the plans are
right because they will advantage those so near and dear.
That was the beautiful and proper way that Jenny had
always reasoned; why should Jenny's daughter do otherwise?
When Harry Lossing should oppose her father and refuse to please
him and to win her, mustn't any high-spirited woman feel hurt?
Certainly she must; and he would take care to whisk her off
to Europe before the young man had a chance to make his peace!
"Yes, sir," says Armorer, to his only confidant, "you never were a
domestic conspirator before, Horatio, but you have got it down fine!
You would do for Gaboriau"--Gaboriau's novels being the only
fiction that ever Armorer read. Nevertheless, his conscience
pricked him almost as sharply as his sister's pricked her.
Consciences are queer things; like certain crustaceans,
they grow shells in spots; and, proof against moral artillery
in one part, they may be soft as a baby's cheek in another.
Armorer's conscience had two sides, business and domestic;
people abused him for a business buccaneer, at the same time
his private life was pure, and he was a most tender husband
and father. He had never deceived Esther before in her life.
Once he had ridden all night in a freight-car to keep a promise
that he had made the child. It hurt him to be hoodwinking her now.
But he was too angry and too frightened to cry back.
The interview with the lawyer did not take any long time,
but he spent two hours with the superintendent of the road,
who pronounced him "a little nice fellow with no airs about him.
Asked a power of questions about Harry Lossing; guess there is
something in that story about Lossing going to marry his daughter!"
Marston drove him to Lossing's office and left him there.
He was on the ground, and Marston lifting the whip to touch the horse,
when he asked: "Say, before you go--is there any danger in leaving
off the conductors?"
Marston was raised on mules, and he could not overcome a vehement distrust
of electricity. "Well," said he, "I guess you want the cold facts.
The children are almighty thick down on Third Street, and children
are always trying to see how near they can come to being killed,
you know, sir; and then, the old women like to come and stand on
the track and ask questions of the motorneer on the other track,
so that the car coming down has a chance to catch 'em. The two together
keep the conductors on the jump!"
"Is that so?" said Armorer, musingly; "well, I guess you'd better
close with that insurance man and get the papers made out before we
run the new way."
"If we ever do run!" muttered the superintendent to himself
as he drove away.
Armorer ran his sharp eye over the buildings of the
Lossing Art Furniture Manufacturing Company, from the ugly
square brick box that was the nucleus--the egg, so to speak--
from which the great concern had been hatched, to the handsome
new structures with their great arched windows and red mortar.
"Pretty property, very pretty property," thought Armorer;
"wonder if that story Marston tells is true!" The story
was to the effect that a few weeks before his last sickness
the older Lossing had taken his son to look at the buildings,
and said, "Harry, this will all be yours before long.
It is a comfort to me to think that every workman I have is
the better, not the worse, off for my owning it; there's no
blood or dirt on my money; and I leave it to you to keep it
clean and to take care of the men as well as the business."
"Now, wasn't he a d---- fool!" said Armorer, cheerfully, taking out
his note-book to mark,
"_See abt road M--D-- _"
And he went in. Harry greeted him with exceeding cordiality
and a fine blush. Armorer explained that he had come
to speak to him about the proposed street-car ordinances;
he (Armorer) always liked to deal with principals and
without formality; now, couldn't they come, representing the
city and the company, to some satisfactory compromise?
Thereupon he plunged into the statistics of the earnings
and expenses of the road (with the aid of his note-book),
and made the absolute necessity of retrenchment plain.
Meanwhile, as he talked he studied the attentive listener before him;
and Harry, on his part, made quite as good use of his eyes.
Armorer saw a tall, athletic, fair young man, very carefully,
almost foppishly dressed, with bright, steady blue eyes and
a firm chin, but a smile under his mustache like a child's;
it was so sunny and so quick. Harry saw a neat little figure
in a perfectly fitting gray check travelling suit, with a rose
in the buttonhole of the coat lapel. Armorer wore no jewellery
except a gold ring on the little finger of his right hand,
from which he had taken the glove the better to write.
Harry knew that it was his dead wife's wedding-ring;
and noticed it with a little moving of the heart.
The face that he saw was pale but not sickly, delicate and keen.
A silky brown mustache shot with gray and a Van-dyke beard
hid either the strength or the weakness of mouth and chin.
He looked at Harry with almond-shaped, pensive dark eyes,
so like the eyes that had shone on Harry's waking and sleeping
dreams for months that the young fellow felt his heart rise again.
Armorer ended by asking Harry (in his most winning manner)
to help him pull the ordinance out of the fire. "It would be,"
he said, impressively, "a favor he should not forget!"
"And you must know, Mr. Armorer," said Harry, in a dismal tone
at which the president chuckled within, "that there is no man
whose favor I would do so much to win!"
"Well, here's your chance!" said Armorer.
Harry swung round in his chair, his clinched fists on his knee.
He was frowning with eagerness, and his eyes were like blue steel.
"See here, Mr. Armorer," said he, "I am frank with you.
I want to please you, because I want to ask you to let me marry
your daughter. But I CAN'T please you, because I am mayor of
this town, and I don't dare to let you dismiss the conductors.
I don't DARE, that's the point. We have had four children
killed on this road since electricity was put in."
"We have had forty killed on one street railway I know; what of it?
Do you want to give up electricity because it kills children?"
"No, but look here! the conductors lessen the risk. A lady I know,
only yesterday, had a little boy going from the kindergarten home,
nice little fellow only five years old ----"
"She ought to have sent a nurse with a child five years old, a baby!"
cried Armorer, warmly.
"That lady," answered Harry, quietly, "goes without any servant
at all in order to keep her two children at the kindergarten;
and the boy's elder sister was ill at home. The boy got on
the car, and when he got off at the crossing above his house,
he started to run across; the other train-car was coming,
the little fellow didn't notice, and ran to cross; he stumbled
and fell right in the path of the coming car!"
"Where was the conductor? He didn't seem much good!"
"They had left off the conductor on that line."
"Well, did they run over the boy? Why haven't I been informed
of the accident?"
"There was no accident. A man on the front platform saw the boy fall,
made a flying leap off the moving car, fell, but scrambled up and pulled
the boy off the track. It was sickening; I thought we were both gone!"
"Oh, you were the man?"
"I was the man; and don't you see, Mr. Armorer, why I feel
strongly on the subject? If the conductor had been on,
there wouldn't have been any occasion for any accident."
"Well, sir, you may be assured that we will take precautions
against any such accidents. It is more for our interest than
anyone's to guard against them. And I have explained to you
the necessity of cutting down our expense list."
"That is just it, you think you have to risk our lives to cut
down expenses; but we get all the risk and none of the benefits.
I can't see my way clear to helping you, sir; I wish I could."
"Then there is nothing more to say, Mr. Lossing," said Armorer, coldly.
"I'm sorry a mere sentiment that has no real foundation should stand
in the way of our arranging a deal that would be for the advantage
of both the city and our road." He rose.
Harry rose also, but lifted his hand to arrest the financier.
"Pardon me, there is something else; I wouldn't mention it, but I hear
you are going to leave to-morrow and go abroad with--Miss Armorer.
I am conscious I haven't introduced myself very favorably,
by refusing you a favor when I want to ask the greatest one possible;
but I hope, sir, you will not think the less of a man because he is
not willing to sacrifice the interests of the people who trust him,
to please ANYONE. I--I hope you will not object to my asking
Miss Armorer to marry me," concluded Harry, very hot and shaky,
and forgetting the beginning of his sentences before he came
to the end.
"Does my daughter love you, do I understand, Mr. Lossing?"
"I don't know, sir. I wish I did."
"Well, Mr. Lossing," said Armorer, wishing that something in the young
man's confusion would not remind him of the awful moment when he asked
old Forrester for his Jenny, "I am afraid I can do nothing for you.
If you have too nice a conscience to oblige me, I am afraid it will be
too nice to let you get on in the world. Good-morning."
"Stop a minute," said Harry; "if it is only my ability to get
on in the world that is the trouble, I think ------"
"It is your love for my daughter," said Armorer; "if you don't love
her enough to give up a sentimental notion for her, to win her,
I don't see but you must lose her, I bid you good-morning, sir."
"Not quite yet, sir"--Harry jumped before the door;
"you give me the alternative of being what I call dishonorable
or losing the woman I love!" He pronounced the last word
with a little effort and his lips closed sharply as his
teeth shut under them. "Well, I decline the alternative.
I shall try to do my duty and get the wife I want, BOTH."
"Well, you give me fair warning, don't you?" said Armorer.
Harry held out his hand, saying, "I am sorry that I detained you.
I didn't mean to be rude." There was something boyish and
simple about the action and the tone, and Armorer laughed.
As Harry attended him through the outer office to the door,
he complimented the shops.
"Miss Armorer and Mrs. Ellis have promised to give me the
pleasure of showing them to them this afternoon," said Harry;
"can't I show them and part of our city to you, also?
It has changed a good deal since you left it."
The remark threw Armorer off his balance; for a rejected suitor this
young man certainly kept an even mind. But he had all the helplessness
of the average American with regard to his daughter's amusements.
The humor in the situation took him; and it cannot be denied that
he began to have a vivid curiosity about Harry. In less time than it
takes to read it, his mind had swung round the circle of these various
points of view, and he had blandly accepted Harry's invitation.
But he mopped a warm and furrowed brow, outside, and drew a prodigious
sigh as he opened the note-book in his hand and crossed out, "_See L._"
"That young fellow ain't all conscience," said he, "not by a long shot."
He found Mrs. Ellis very apologetic about the Lossing engagement.
It was made through the telephone; Esther had been anxious
to have her father meet Lossing; Lossing was to drive them there,
and later show Mr. Armorer the town.
"Mr. Lossing is a very clever young man, very," said Armorer,
gravely, as he went out to smoke his cigar after luncheon.
He wished he had stayed, however, when he returned to find
that a visitor had called, and that this visitor was the mother
of the little boy that Harry Lossing had saved from the car.
The two women gave him the accident in full, and were lavish
of harrowing detail, including the mother's feelings.
"So you see, 'Raish," urged Mrs. Ellis, timidly, "there is
some reason for opposition to the ordinance."
Esther's cheeks were red and her eyes shone, but she had not spoken.
Her father put his arm around her waist and kissed her hair.
"And what did you say, Essie," he asked, gently, "to all the criticisms?"
"I told her I thought you would find some way to protect the children
even if the conductors were taken off; you didn't enjoy the slaughter
of children any more than anyone else."
"I guess we can fix it. Here is your young man."
Harry drove a pair of spirited horses. He drove well,
and looked both handsome and happy.
"Did you know that lady--the mother of the boy that wasn't run over--
was coming to see my sister?" said Armorer, on the way.
"I did," said Harry, "I sent her; I thought she could explain
the reason why I shall have to oppose the bill, better than I."
Armorer made no reply.
At the shops he kept his eye on the young man. Harry seemed to know
most of his workmen, and had a nod or a word for all the older men.
He stopped several moments to talk with one old German who complained
of everything, but looked after Harry with a smile, nodding his head.
"That man, Lieders, is our best workman; you can't get any better work in
the country," said he. "I want you to see an armoire that he has carved,
it is up in our exhibition room."
Armorer said, "You seem to get on very well with your
working people, Mr. Lossing."
"I think we generally get on well with them, and they do
well themselves, in these Western towns. For one thing,
we haven't much organization to fight, and for another thing,
the individual workman has a better chance to rise.
That man Lieders, whom you saw, is worth a good many thousand dollars;
my father invested his savings for him."
"You are one of the philanthropists, aren't you, Mr. Lossing,
who are trying to elevate the laboring classes?"
"Not a bit of it, sir. I shall never try to elevate the laboring classes;
it is too big a contract. But I try as hard as I know how to have
every man who has worked for Harry Lossing the better for it.
I don't concern myself with any other laboring men."
Just then a murmur of exclamations came from Mrs. Ellis
and Esther, whom the superintendent was piloting through
the shops. "Oh, no, it is too heavy; oh, don't do it,
Mr. Cardigan!" "Oh, we can see it perfectly well from here!
PLEASE don't, you will break yourself somewhere!"
Mrs. Ellis shrieked this; but the shrieks turned to a murmur
of admiration as a huge carved sideboard came bobbing and wobbling,
like an intoxicated piece of furniture in a haunted house,
toward the two gentlewomen. Immediately, a short but powerfully
built man, whose red face beamed above his dusty shoulders
like a full moon with a mustache, emerged, and waved his hand
at the sideboard.
"I could tackle the two of them, begging your pardon, ladies."
"That's Cardigan," explained Harry, "Miss Armorer may have told
you about him. Oh, SHUEY!"
Cardigan approached and was presented. He brought both his heels
together and bowed solemnly, bending his head at the same time.
"Pleased to meet you, sir," said Shuey. Then he assumed an attitude
of military attention.
"Take us up in the elevator, will you, Shuey?" said Harry.
"Step in, Mr. Armorer, please, we will go and see the reproductions
of the antique; we have a room upstairs."
Mr. Armorer stepped in, Shuey following; and then, before Harry
could enter it, the elevator shot upward and--stuck!
"What's the matter?" cried Armorer.
Shuey was tugging at the wire rope. He called, in tones that seemed
to come from a panting chest: "Take a pull at it yourself, sir!
Can you move it?"
Armorer grasped the rope viciously; Shuey was on the seat pulling
from above. "We're stuck, sir, fast!"
"Can't you get down either?"
"Divil a bit, saving your presence, sir. Do ye think like the water-works
could be busted?"
"Can't you make somebody hear?" panted Armorer.
"Well, you see there's a deal of noise of the machinery,"
said Shuey, scratching his chin with a thoughtful air,
"and they expect we've gone up!"
"Best try, anyhow. This infernal machine may take a notion
to drop!" said Armorer.
"And that's true, too," acquiesced Shuey. Forthwith he did lift up
his voice in a loud wailing: "OH--H, Jimmy! OH--H, Jimmy Ryan!"
Jimmy might have been in Chicago for any response he made;
though Armorer shouted with Shuey; and at every pause the whir
of the machinery mocked the shouters. Indescribable moans
and gurgles, with a continuous malignant hiss, floated up to them
from the rebel steam below, as from a volcano considering eruption.
"They'll be bound to need the elevator some time, if they don't
need US, and that's one comfort!" said Shuey, philosophically.
"Don't you think if we pulled on her we could get her up
to the next floor, by degrees? Now then!"
Armorer gave a dash and Shuey let out his muscles in a giant tug.
The elevator responded by an astonishing leap that carried them past
three or four floors!
"Stop her! stop her!" bawled Shuey; but in spite of Armorer's
pulling himself purple in the face, the elevator did not stop
until it bumped with a crash against the joists of the roof.
"Well, do you suppose we're stuck HERE?" growled Armorer.
"Well, sir, I'll try. Say, don't be exerting yourself violent.
It strikes me she's for all the world like the wimmen,--
in exthremes, sir, in exthremes! And it wouldn't be noways
so pleasant to go riproaring that gait down cellar!
Slow and easy, sir, let me manage her. Hi! she's working."
In fact, by slow degrees and much puffing, Shuey got
the erratic box to the next floor, where, disregarding
Shuey's protestations that he could "make her mind,"
Mr. Armorer got out, and they left the elevator to its fate.
It was a long way, through many rooms, downstairs. Shuey would
have beguiled the way by describing the rooms, but Armorer
was in a raging hurry and urged his guide over the ground.
Once they were delayed by a bundle of stuff in front of a door;
and after Shuey had laboriously rolled the great roll away,
he made a misstep and tumbled over, rolling it back,
to a tittering accompaniment from the sewing-girls in the room.
But he picked himself up in perfect good temper and kicked the roll
ten yards. "Girls is silly things," said the philosopher Shuey,
"but being born that way it ain't to be expected otherwise!"
He had the friendly freedom of his class in the West.
He praised Mrs. Ellis's gymnastics, and urged Armorer to stay
over a morning train and see a "real pretty boxing match"
between Mr. Lossing and himself.
"Oh, he boxes too, does he?" said Armorer.
"And why on earth would he groan-like?" wondered Shuey to himself.
"He does that, sir," he continued aloud; "didn't Mrs. Ellis ever
tell you about the time at the circus? She was there herself,
with three children she borrowed and an unreasonable gyurl,
with a terrible big screech in her and no sense.
Yes, sir, Mr. Lossing he is mighty cliver with his hands!
There come a yell of 'Lion loose! lion loose!' at that circus,
just as the folks was all crowding out at the end of it, and them
that had gone into the menagerie tent came a-tumbling and howling back,
and them that was in the circus tent waiting for the concert
(which never ain't worth waiting for, between you and me!)
was a-scrambling off them seats, making a noise like thunder;
and all fighting and pushing and bellowing to get out!
I was there with my wife and making for the seats that the fools quit,
so's to get under and crawl out under the canvas, when I see
Mrs. Ellis holding two of the children, and that fool girl let
the other go and I grabbed it. 'Oh, save the baby! save one,
anyhow,' cries my wife--the woman is a tinder-hearted crechure!
And just then I seen an old lady tumble over on the benches,
with her gray hair stringing out of her black bonnet.
The crowd was WILD, hitting and screaming and not caring
for anything, and I see a big jack of a man come plunging
down right spang on that old lady! His foot was right in
the air over her face! Lord, it turned me sick. I yelled.
But that minnit I seen an arm shoot out and that fellow shot
off as slick! it was Mr. Lossing. He parted that crowd,
hitting right and left, and he got up to us and hauled a child
from Mrs. Ellis and put it on the seats, all the while shouting:
'Keep your seats! it's all right! it's all over! stand back!'
I turned and floored a feller that was too pressing, and hollered
it was all right too. And some more people hollered too.
You see, there is just a minnit at such times when it is
a toss up whether folks will quiet down and begin to laugh,
or get scared into wild beasts and crush and kill each other.
And Mr. Lossing he caught the minnit! The circus folks came up
and the police, and it was all over. WELL, just look here, sir;
there's our folks coming out of the elevator!"
They were just landing; and Mrs. Ellis wanted to know where he had gone.
"We run away from ye, shure," said Shuey, grinning; and he
related the adventure. Armorer fell back with Mrs. Ellis.
"Did you stay with Esther every minute?" said he.
Mrs. Ellis nodded. She opened her lips to speak, then closed
them and walked ahead to Harry Lossing. Armorer looked--
suspicion of a dozen kinds gnawing him and insinuating that the three
all seemed agitated--from Harry to Esther, and then to Shuey.
But he kept his thoughts to himself and was very agreeable
the remainder of the afternoon.
He heard Harry tell Mrs. Ellis that the city council would meet
that evening; before, however, Armorer could feel exultant he added,
"but may I come late?"
"He is certainly the coolest beggar," Armorer snarled,
"but he is sharp as a nigger's razor, confound him!"
Naturally this remark was a confidential one to himself.
He thought it more times than one during the evening,
and by consequence played trumps with equal disregard of the laws
of the noble game of whist and his partner's feelings.
He found a few, a very few, elderly people who remembered his parent,
and they will never believe ill of Horatio Armorer, who talked
so simply and with so much feeling of old times, and who is going
to give a memorial window in the new Presbyterian church.
He was beginning to think with some interest of supper,
the usual dinner of the family having been sacrificed to
the demands of state; then he saw Harry Lossing. The young
mayor's blond head was bowing before his sister's black velvet.
He caught Armorer's eye and followed him out to the lawn
and the shadows and the gay lanterns. He looked animated.
Evening dress was becoming to him. "One of my daughters married
a prince, but I am hanged if he looked it like this fellow,"
thought Armorer; "but then he was only an Italian.
I suppose the council did not pass the ordinance? your committee
reported against it?" he said quite amicably to Harry.
"I wish you could understand how much pain it has given me to oppose you,
Mr. Armorer," said Harry, blushing.
"I don't doubt it, under the circumstances, Mr. Lossing."
Armorer spoke with suave politeness, but there was a cynical
gleam in his eye.
"But Esther understands," says Harry.
"Esther!" repeats Armorer, with an indescribable intonation.
"You spoke to her this afternoon? For a man with such high-toned
ideas as you carry, I think you took a pretty mean advantage
of your guests!"
"You will remember I gave you fair warning, Mr. Armorer."
"It was while I was in the elevator, of course.
I guessed it was a put-up job; how did you manage it?"
Harry smiled outright; he is one who cannot keep either his dog
or his joke tied up. "It was Shuey did it," said he; "he pulled
the opposite way from you, and he has tremendous strength;
but he says you were a handful for him."
"You seem to have taken the town into your confidence,"
said Armorer, bitterly, though he had a sneaking inclination
to laugh himself; "do you need all your workmen to help you
court your girl?"
"I'd take the whole United States into my confidence rather
than lose her, sir," answered Harry, steadily.
Armorer turned on his heel abruptly; it was to conceal a smile.
"How about my sister? did you propose before her?
But I don't suppose a little thing like that would stop you."
"I had to speak; Miss Armorer goes away tomorrow.
Mrs. Ellis was kind enough to put her fingers in her ears
and turn her back."
"And what did my daughter say?"
"I asked her only to give me the chance to show her how I loved her,
and she has. God bless her! I don't pretend I'm worthy of her,
Mr. Armorer, but I have lived a decent life, and I'll try hard
to live a better one for her trust in me."
"I'm glad there is one thing on which we are agreed,"
jeered Armorer, "but you are more modest than you were this noon.
I think it was considerably like bragging, sending that woman
to tell of your heroic feats!"
"Oh, I can brag when it is necessary," said Harry, serenely; "what would
the West be but for bragging?"
"And what do you intend to do if I take your girl to Europe?"
"Europe is not very far," said Harry.
Armorer was a quick thinker, but he had never thought more
quickly in his life. This young fellow had beaten him.
There was no doubt of it. He might have principles,
but he declined to let his principles hamper him.
There was something about Harry's waving aside defeat so lightly,
and so swiftly snatching at every chance to forward his will,
that accorded with Armorer's own temperament.
"Tell me, Mr. Armorer," said Harry, suddenly; "in my place wouldn't
you have done the same thing?"
Armorer no longer checked his sense of humor. "No, Mr. Lossing,"
he answered, sedately, "I should have respected the old gentleman's
wishes and voted any way he pleased." He held out his hand.
"I guess Esther thinks you are the coming young man of the century;
and to be honest, I like you a great deal better than I
expected to this morning. I'm not cut out for a cruel father,
Mr. Lossing; for one thing, I haven't the time for it;
for another thing, I can't bear to have my little girl cry.
I guess I shall have to go to Europe without Esther.
Shall we go in to the ladies now?"
Harry wrung the president's hand, crying that he should never
regret his kindness.
"See that Esther never regrets it, that will be better,"
said Armorer, with a touch of real and deep feeling. Then, as Harry
sprang up the steps like a boy, he took out the note-book,
and smiling a smile in which many emotions were blended,
he ran a black line through
"_See abt L._"
Back to Full Books