The Air Trust
George Allan England
Part 2 out of 6
"Yes. In pure oxygen, a glowing bit of wire will burst into flame. Your
cigar, there, would catch fire, from the merest spark in its inmost
folds. Too much oxygen in a room not only intoxicates the
occupants--we've already seen _that_ effect--but also develops a great
fire risk. So we shall have to make some provision for that, Wally. It
will be absolutely essential."
"All right. Allowing it's been made, what then?" asked "Tiger," with
"Can't you see? We'll have every household under our absolute thumb?"
And Flint pressed his thumb on the table to illustrate. "My God, man,
think of it! Every city honeycombed by our pipes--yes, and every village
and hamlet too, and even every farm house that can afford it! At first,
the cost will be very low, till people have become accustomed to ozone
as they are to water. The whole ventilation problem will be solved, at
once and for all time. Where we can't pipe in the ozone, we can use
portable vaporizers, to be supplied once a month, and of sufficient
capacity to keep the air of an average-sized house perfectly pure for
"Pure? More than pure! Exhilarating, life-giving, delicious! Under this
system, Wally, the middle and upper classes will thrive as never
before. They'll grow in size and weight, in health and intelligence,
under the steady influence of ozone, day and night. Every vital process
will be stimulated. Our invention will mark a new era in the welfare of
"Bunk!" sneered Wally. "That's all very well for your prospectuses and
newspaper articles, old man, but the fact is we don't give a damn
whether it helps the world or wrecks it. We're out for money and power.
My motto is, Get 'em and do good, if you can--but _get_ 'em anyhow! So
you had better can the philanthropic part of it. Just show me the cash,
and you can have all the credit!"
Flint shot a grim look at his partner, then continued:
"Don't be flippant, Wally. This is a serious business and must be
treated as such. In addition to the respiratory service, we can put in
water-cooling and refrigerating services, at low cost, also cold-pipes
for cooling houses in summer. In fine, we can immeasurably add to the
health and comfort of the better classes; and can at last have everybody
using our gas, which, registering through our own sealed meters, will
flood us with wealth so vast as to make that of these Standard Oil
pifflers look like the proverbial thirty cents!"
"Fine!" exclaimed Waldron, nodding approval. "Also, any time any
rebellion develops we can merely shut off the supply in that quarter,
and quickly reduce it. Or, again, we can increase the potency of the
gas, and fairly intoxicate the people, till they stand for anything.
Just fancy, now, our pipes connected with the sacred Halls of Congress
and with the White House! Even if any difficulty could possibly be
expected from these sources, just imagine how quickly we could nip it in
"Quickly isn't the word, Wally," answered the Billionaire. "I tell you,
old man, the world lies in our hands, today. And we have only to close
our fingers, in order to possess it!"
He glanced at his own fingers, as though he visibly perceived the great
world lying there for him to squeeze. Waldron's eyes, following the
Billionaire's, saw that Flint's hand was trembling, and understood the
reason. More than three hours had passed--nay, almost four--since Flint
had had any opportunity to take his necessary dose of morphia. Waldron
arose, paced to the window and stood there looking out over the vast
panorama of city, river and harbor, apparently absorbed in
contemplation, but really keen to hear what Flint might do.
His expectations were not disappointed. Hardly had he turned his back,
when he heard the desk-drawer open, furtively, and knew the Billionaire
was taking out the little vial of white tablets, dearer to him than ever
the caress of woman to a Don Juan. A moment later, the drawer closed
"He'll do now, for a while," thought Waldron, with satisfaction. "Let
him go the limit, if he likes--the fool! The more he takes, the quicker
I win. It'll kill him yet, the dope will. And _that_ means, my mastery
of the world will be complete. Let him go it! The harder, the better!"
He turned back toward Flint, again, veiling in that impenetrable face of
his the slightest hint or expression which might have told Flint that he
understood the Billionaire's vice. If Flint were Vulture, Waldron was
Tiger, indeed. And so, for a brief moment, these two soulless men of
gold and power stood eyeing each other, in silence.
Suddenly Waldron spoke.
"There's one thing you've forgotten to speak of, Flint," he said.
"And that is?" demanded the other, already calmed by the quick action of
the subtle, enslaving drug.
"The effect on the world's poor--on the toiling millions! The results of
this innovation, in slum, and slave-quarter, and in the haunts of
poverty. Your talk has all been of the middle and upper classes, and of
the benefits accruing to them, from increased oxygen-consumption. But
how about the others? Every ounce of oxygen you take out of the air,
leaves it just so much poorer. Store thousands of tons of the
life-giving gas, in monster tanks, and you vitiate the entire
atmosphere. How about that? How can even the well-to-do breathe, then,
out-doors, to say nothing of the poverty-stricken millions?"
Flint grimaced, showing a glint of his gold tooth--his substitute for a
"That's all reckoned for," he answered. "I thought I made it quite
clear, in our previous talk. To begin with, we will withdraw the oxygen
from the atmosphere so slowly that at first there won't be any
noticeable effect on the out-door air. For a while, the only thing that
will be noticed by the world will be that our gas service, to private
residences and institutions, will result in greatly increased comfort
and health to the better classes. And the cost will be so low--at first,
mind you, only at first--that every family of any means at all can take
it. In fact, Wally, we can afford practically to give away the service,
for the first year, until we get our grip firmly fixed on the throat of
the world. Do you get the idea?"
Waldron nodded, as he drew leisurely on his cigar.
"Practical to a degree," he answered. "That is, until the poor begin to
gasp for breath. But what then?"
"By the time the outer atmosphere really begins to show the effect of
withdrawing a considerable percentage of the oxygen," Flint answered,
"we will have our pocket respirators on the market. Well-to-do people
will as soon think of going out without their shoes, as they will with
their respirators. No, there won't be any visible tubes or attachments,
Wally. Nothing of that kind. Only, each person will carry a properly
insulated cake of solidified oxygen that will evaporate through the
special apparatus and surround him with a normally rich atmosphere.
"Yes, but the poor? The workers? What of them?"
"Devil take _them_, if it comes to that!" retorted Flint, with some
heat. "Who ever gives them any serious attention, as it is? Who bothers
about their health? They eat and drink and breathe the leavings,
anyhow--eat the cheapest and most adulterated food, drink the vilest
slop and breathe the most vitiated slum air. Nobody cares, except
perhaps those crazy Socialists that once in a while get up on the
street-corner and howl about the rights of man and all that rubbish!
Working-class? What do _I_ care about the cattle? Let them die, if they
want to! D'you suppose, for one minute, I'm going to limit or delay this
big innovation, because there's a working-class that may suffer?"
"They'll do more than suffer, Flint, if you seriously depreciate the
atmosphere. They'll die!"
"Well, let them, and be damned to them!" retorted Flint, already
showing symptoms of drug-stimulation. Waldron, smoking meanwhile, eyed
him with a dangerous smile lurking in his cold eyes. "Let them, I say!
They die off, now, twice or thrice as fast as the better classes, but
what difference does it make? Great breeders, those people are. The more
they die, the faster they multiply. Let them go their way and do as they
like, so long as they don't interfere with _us_! The only really
important factor to reckon on is this, that with an impoverished air to
breathe, their rebellious spirit will die out--the dogs!--and we'll have
no more talk of social revolution. We'll draw their teeth, all right
enough; or rather, twist the bowstring round their damned necks so tight
that all their energy, outside of work, will be consumed in just keeping
alive. Revolution, then? Forget it, Waldron! We'll kill _that_ viper
once and for all!"
"Good idea, Flint," the other replied, with approbation. "Only a
master-mind like yours could have conceived it. I'm with you, all right
enough. Only, tell me--do you really believe we can put this whole
program through, without a hitch? Without a leak, anywhere? Without
barricades in the streets, wild-eyed agitators howling, machine-guns
chattering, and Hell to pay?"
Flint smiled grimly.
"Wait and see!" he growled.
"Maybe you're right," his partner answered. "But slow and easy is the
"Slow and easy," Flint assented. "Of course we can't go too fast. In
1850, for example, do you suppose the public would have tolerated the
sudden imposition of monopolies? Hardly! But now they lie down under
them, and even vote and fight to keep them! So, too, with this Air
Trust. Time will show you I'm right."
Waldron glanced at his watch.
"Long past lunch-time, Flint," said he. "Enough of this, for now. And
this afternoon, I've got that D. K. & E. directors' meeting on
hand. When shall we go on with our plans, and get down to specific
"This evening, say?"
"Very well. At my house?"
"No. Too noisy. Run out to Englewood, to mine. We'll be quiet there. And
come early, Waldron. We've no end of things to discuss. The quicker we
get the actual work under way, now, the better. You can see Catherine,
too. Isn't that an inducement?"
Thus ended the conference. It resumed, that night, in Flint's luxurious
study at "Idle Hour," his superb estate on the Palisades. Waldron paid
only a perfunctory court to Catherine, who manifested her pleasure by
studied indifference. Both magnates felt relieved when she withdrew.
They had other and larger matters under way than any dealing with the
amenities of life.
Until past midnight the session in the study lasted, under the soft glow
of the Billionaire's reading-light. And many choice cigars were smoked,
many sheets of paper covered with diagrams and calculations, many vast
schemes of conquest expanded, ere the two masters said good-night and
At the very hour of Waldron's leave-taking, another man was pondering
deeply, studying the problem from quite another angle, and--no less
earnestly, than the two magnates--laying careful plans.
This man, sturdy, well-built and keen, smoked an old briar as he
worked. A flannel shirt, open at the throat, showed a well-sinewed neck
and powerful chest. Under the inverted cone of a shaded incandescent in
his room, at the electricians' quarters of the Oakwood Heights
enclosure, one could see the deep lines of thought and careful study
crease his high and prominent brow.
From time to time he gazed out through the open window, off toward the
whispering lines of surf on the eastern shores of Staten Island--the
surf forever talking, forever striving to give its mystic message to the
unheeding ear of man. And as he gazed, his blue eyes narrowed with the
intensity of his thought. Once, as though some sudden understanding had
come to him, he smote the pine table with a corded fist, and swore below
It was past two in the morning when he finally rose, stretched, yawned
and made ready for sleep on his hard iron bunk.
"Can it be?" he muttered, as he undressed. "Can it be possible, or am I
dreaming? No--this is no dream! This is reality; and thank God, I
Then, before he extinguished his light, he took from the table the
material he had been studying over, and put it beneath his pillow, where
he could guard it safe till morning.
The thing he thus protected was none other than a small note-book,
filled with diagrams, jottings and calculations, and bound in red
That night, at Englewood--in the Billionaire's home and in the
workman's simple room at Oakwood Heights--history was being made.
The outcome, tragic and terrible, who could have foreseen?
Almost all the following morning, working at his bench in the
electro-chemical laboratories of the great Oakwood Heights plant,
Gabriel Armstrong pondered deeply on the problems and responsibilities
now opening out before him.
The finding of that little red-leather note-book, he fully understood,
had at one stroke put him in possession of facts more vital to the
labor-movement and the world at large than any which had ever developed
since the very beginning of Capitalism. A Socialist to the backbone,
thoroughly class-conscious and dowered with an incisive intellect,
Gabriel thrilled at thought that he, by chance, had been chosen as the
instrument through which he felt the final revolution now must work. And
though he remained outwardly calm, as he bent above his toil, inwardly
he was aflame. His heart throbbed with an excitement he could scarce
control. His brain seemed on fire; his soul pulsed with savage joy and
magnificent inspiration. For he was only four-and-twenty, and the bitter
grind of years and toil had not yet worn his spirit down nor quelled the
ardor of his splendid strength and optimism.
Working at his routine labor, his mind was not upon it. No, rather it
dwelt upon the vast discovery he had made--or seemed to have made--the
night before. Clearly limned before his vision, he still saw the notes,
the plans, the calculations he had been able to decipher in the
Billionaire's lost note-book--the note-book which now, deep in the
pocket of his jumper that hung behind him on a hook against the wall,
drew his every thought, as steel draws the compass-needle.
"Incredible, yet true!" he pondered, as he filed a brass casting for a
new-type dynamo. "These men are plotting to strangle the world to
death--to strangle, if they cannot own and rule it! And, what's more, I
see nothing to prevent their doing it. The plan is sound. They have the
means. At this very moment, the whole human race is standing in the
shadow of a peril so great, a slavery so imminent, that the most savage
war of conquest ever waged would be a mere skirmish, by comparison!"
Mechanically he labored on and on, turning the tremendous problem in his
brain, striving in vain for some solution, some grasp at effective
opposition. And, as he thought, a kind of dumb hopelessness settled down
about him, tangible almost as a curtain black and heavy.
"What shall I do?" he muttered to himself. "What can I do, to strike
these devils from their villainous plan of mastery?"
As yet, he saw nothing clearly. No way seemed open to him. Alone, he
knew he could do nothing; yet whither should he turn for help? To rival
capitalist groups? They would not even listen to him; or, if they
listened and believed, they would only combine with the plotters, or
else, on their own hook, try to emulate them. To the labor movement? It
would mock him as a chimerical dreamer, despite all his proofs. At best,
he might start a few ineffectual strikes, petty and futile, indeed,
against this vast, on-moving power. To the Socialists? They, through
their press and speakers--in case they should believe him and co-operate
with him--could, indeed, give the matter vast publicity and excite
popular opposition; but, after all, could they abort the plan? He feared
they could not. The time, he knew, was not yet ripe when Labor, on the
political field, could meet and overthrow forces such as these.
And so, for all his fevered thinking, he got no radical, no practical
solution of the terrible problem. More and more definitely, as he
weighed the pros and cons, the belief was borne in upon him that in this
case he must appeal to nobody but himself, count on nobody, trust in
nobody save Gabriel Armstrong.
"I must play a lone hand game, for a while at least," he concluded, as
he finished his casting and took another. "Later, perhaps, I can enlist
my comrades. But for now, I must watch, wait, work, all alone. Perhaps,
armed with this knowledge--invaluable knowledge shared by no one--I can
meet their moves, checkmate their plans and defeat their ends. Perhaps!
It will be a battle between one man, obscure and without means, and two
men who hold billions of dollars and unlimited resources in their grasp.
A battle unequal in every sense; a battle to the death. But I may win,
after all. Every probability is that I shall lose, lose everything, even
my life. Yet still, there is a chance. By God, I'll take it!"
The last words, uttered aloud, seemed to spring from his lips as though
uttered by the very power of invincible determination. A sneer, behind
him, brought him round with a start. His gaze widened, at sight of
Herzog standing there, cold and dangerous looking, with a venomous
expression in those ill-mated eyes of his.
"Take it, will you?" jibed the scientist. "You thief!"
Gabriel sprang up so suddenly that his stool clattered over backward on
the red-tiled floor. His big fist clenched and lifted. But Herzog never
"Thief!" he repeated, with an ugly thrust of the jaw. Servile and
crawling to his masters, the man was ever arrogant and harsh with those
beneath his authority. "I repeat the word. Drop that fist, Armstrong, if
you know what's good for you. I warn you. Any disturbance, here,
and--well, you know what we can do!"
The electrician paled, slightly. But it was not through cowardice. Rage,
passion unspeakable, a sudden and animal hate of this lick-spittle and
supine toady shook him to the heart's core. Yet he managed to control
himself, not through any personal apprehension, but because of the great
work he knew still lay before him. At all hazards, come what might, he
must stay on, there, at the Oakwood Heights plant. Nothing, now, must
come between him and that one supreme labor.
Thus he controlled himself, with an effort so tremendous that it
wrenched his very soul. This trouble, whatever it might be, must not be
noised about. Already, up and down the shop, workers were peering
curiously at him. He must be calm; must pass the insult, smooth the
situation and remain employed there.
"I--I beg pardon," he managed to articulate, with pale lips that
trembled. He wiped the beaded sweat from his broad forehead. "Excuse me,
Mr. Herzog. I--you startled me. What's the trouble? Any complaint to
make? If so, I'm here to listen."
Herzog's teeth showed in a rat-like grin of malice.
"Yes, you'll listen, all right enough," he sneered. "I've named you, and
that goes! You're a thief, Armstrong, and this proves it! Look!"
From behind his back, where he had been holding it, he produced the
little morocco-covered book. Right in Armstrong's face he shook it, with
"Steal, will you?" he jibed. "For it's the same thing--no difference
whether you picked it out of Mr. Flint's pocket or found it on the floor
here, and tried to keep it! Steal, eh? Hold it for some possible reward?
You skunk! Lucky you haven't brains enough to make out what's in it!
Thought you'd keep it, did you? But you weren't smart enough,
Armstrong--no, not quite smart enough for me! After looking the whole
place over, I thought I'd have a go at a few pockets--and, you see? Oh,
you'll have to get up early to beat _me_ at the game you--you thief!"
With the last word, he raised the book and struck the young man a
blistering welt across the face with it.
Armstrong fell back, against the bench, perfectly livid, with the wale
of the blow standing out red and distinct across his cheek. Then he went
pale as death, and staggered as though about to faint.
"God--God in heaven!" he gasped. "Give me--strength--not to kill this
A startled look came into Herzog's face. He recognized, at last, the
nature of the rage he had awakened. In those twitching fists and that
white, writhen face he recognized the signs of passion that might, on a
second's notice, leap to murder. And, shot through with panic, he now
retreated, like the coward he was, though with the sneer still on his
thin and cruel lips.
"Get your time!" he commanded, with crude brutality. "Go, get it at
once. You're lucky to get off so easily. If Flint knew this, you'd land
behind bars. But we want no scenes here. Get your money from Sanderson,
and clear out. Your job ended the minute my hand touched that book in
Still Armstrong made no reply. Still he remained there, dazed and
stricken, pallid as milk, a wild and terrible light in his blue eyes.
An ugly murmur rose. Two or three of his fellow-workmen had come
drifting down the shop, toward the scene of altercation. Another joined
them, and another. Not one of them but hated Herzog with a bitter
animosity. And now perhaps, the time was come to pay a score or two.
But Armstrong, suddenly lifting his head, faced them all, his comrades.
His mind, quick-acting, had realized that, now his possession of the
book had been discovered, his chances of discovering anything more, at
the works, had utterly vanished. Even though he should remain, he could
do nothing there. If he were to act, it must be from the outside, now,
following the trend of events, dogging each development, striving in
hidden, devious ways--violent ways, perhaps--to pull down this horrible
edifice of enslavement ere it should whelm and crush the world.
So, acting as quickly as he had thought, and now ignoring the man Herzog
as though he had never existed, Armstrong faced his fellows.
"It's all right, boys," said he, quite slowly, his voice seeming to
come from a distance, his tones forced and unnatural. "It's all right,
every way. I'm caught with the goods. Don't any of you butt in. Don't
mix with my trouble. For once I'm glad this is a scab shop, otherwise
there might be a strike, here, and worse Hell to pay than there will be
otherwise. I'm done. I'll get my time, and quit. But--remember one
thing, you'll understand some day what this is all about.
"I'm glad to have worked with you fellows, the past few months. You're
all right, every one of you. Good-bye, and remember--"
"Here, you men, get back to work!" cried Herzog, suddenly. "No
hand-shaking here, and no speech-making. This man's a sneak-thief and
he's fired, that's all there is to it. Now, get onto your job! The first
man that puts up a complaint about it, can get through, too!"
For a moment they glowered at him, there in the white-lighted glare of
the big shop. A fight, even then, was perilously near, but Armstrong
averted it by turning away.
"I'm done." he repeated. He gathered up a few tools that belonged to
him, personally, gave one look at his comrades, waved a hand at them,
and then, followed by Herzog, strode off down the long aisle, toward the
"Herzog," said he, calmly and with cold emphasis, "listen to this."
"Get out! Get your time, I tell you, and go!" repeated the bully. "To
Hell with you! Clear out of here!"
"I'm going," the young man answered. "But before I do, remember this;
you grazed death, just now. Well for you, Herzog, almighty well for you,
my temper didn't best me. For remember, you struck me and called me
'thief'--and that sort of thing can't be forgotten, ever, even though
we live a thousand years.
"Remember, Herzog--not now, but sometime. Remember that one
word--sometime! That's all!"
With no further speech, and while Herzog still stood there by the shop
door, sneering at him, Armstrong turned and passed out. A few minutes
later he had been paid off, had packed his knapsack with his few
belongings, and was outside the big palisade, striding along the hard
and glaring road toward the station.
"I did it," his one overmastering thought was. "Thank heaven, I did it!
I held my temper and my tongue, didn't kill that spawn of Hell, and
saved the whole situation. I'm out of a job, true enough, and out of the
plant; but after all, I'm free--and I know what's in the wind!
"There's yet hope. There'll be a way, a way to do this work! What a man
_must_ do, he _can_ do!"
Up came Armstrong's chin, as he walked. His shoulders squared, with
strength and purpose, and his stride swung into the easy machine gait
that had already carried him so many thousand miles along the hard and
bitter highways of the world.
As he strode away, on the long road toward he knew not what, words
seemed to form and shape in his strengthened and refortified mind--words
for long years forgotten--words that he once had heard at his mother's
"_He that ruleth his spirit is better than he that taketh a city!_"
A GLIMPSE AT THE PARASITES.
The Longmeadow Country Club, on the Saturday afternoon following
Armstrong's abrupt dismissal, was a scene of gaiety and beauty without
compare. Set in broad acres of wood and lawn, the club-house proudly
dominated far-flung golf-links and nearer tennis-courts. Shining motors
stood parked on the plaza before the club garage, each valued at several
years' wages of a workingman. Men and women--exploiters all, or
parasites--elegantly and coolly clad in white, smote the swift sphere
upon the tennis-court, with jest and laughter. Others, attended by
caddies--mere proletarian scum, bent beneath the weight of cleeks and
brassies--moved across the smooth-cropped links, kept in condition by
grazing sheep and by steam-rollers. On putting-green and around bunkers
these idlers struggled with artificial difficulties, while in shops and
mines and factories, on railways and in the blazing Hells of
stoke-holes, men of another class, a slave-class, labored and agonized,
toiled and died that _these_ might wear fine linen and spend the long
June afternoon in play.
From the huge, cobble-stone chimney of the Country Club, upwafting smoke
told of the viands now preparing for the idlers' dinner, after
sport--rich meats and dainties of the rarest. In the rathskeller some of
the elder and more indolent men were absorbing alcohol while music
played and painted nymphs of abundant charms looked down from the
wall-frescoes. Out on the broad piazzas, well sheltered by awnings from
the rather ardent sun, men and women sat at spotless tables, dallying
with drinks of rare hues and exalted prices. Cigarette-smoke wafted away
on the pure breeze from over the Catskills, far to northwest, defiling
the sweet breath of Nature, herself, with fumes of nicotine and dope. A
Hungarian orchestra was playing the latest Manhattan ragtime, at the far
end of the piazza. It was, all in all, a scene of rare refinement,
characteristic to a degree of the efflorescence of American capitalism.
At one of the tables, obviously bored, sat Catherine Flint, only
daughter of the Billionaire. A rare girl, she, to look
upon--deep-bosomed and erect, dressed simply in a middy-blouse with a
blue tie, a khaki skirt and low, rubber-soled shoes revealing a
silk-stockinged ankle that would have attracted the enthusiastic
attention of gentlemen in any city of the world. No hat disfigured the
coiled and braided masses of coppery hair that circled her shapely head.
A healthy tan on face and arms and open throat bespoke her keen devotion
to all outdoor life. Her fingers, lithe and strong, were graced by but
two rings--a monogram, of gold, and the betrothal ring that Maxim
Waldron had put there, only three weeks before.
Impatience dominated her. One could see that, in the nervous tapping of
her fingers on the cloth; the slight swing of her right foot as she sat
there, one knee crossed over the other; the glance of her keen, gray
eyes down the broad drive-way that led from the huge stone gates up to
Beside her sat a nonentity in impeccable dress, dangling a monocle and
trying to make small-talk, the while he dallied with a Bronx cocktail,
costing more than a day's wage for a childish flower-making slave of the
tenements, and inhaled a Rotten Row cigarette, the "last word" from
London in the tobacco line. To the sallies of this elegant, the girl
replied by only monosyllables. Her glass was empty, nor would she have
it filled, despite the exquisite's entreaties. From time to time she
glanced impatiently at the long bag of golf-sticks leaning against the
porch rail; and, now and then, her eyes sought the little Cervine watch
set in a leather wristlet on her arm.
"Inconsiderate of him, I'm sure--ah--to keep so magnificent a Diana
waiting," drawled her companion, blowing a lungful of thin blue smoke
athwart the breeze. "Especially when you're so deuced keen on doing the
course before dinner. Now if _I_ were the favored swain, wild horses
wouldn't keep me away."
She made no answer, but turned a look of indifference on the shrimp
beside her. Had he possessed the soul of a real man, he would have
shriveled; but, being oblivious to all things save the pride of wealth
and monstrous self-conceit, he merely snickered and reached for his
cocktail--which, by the way, he was absorbing through a straw.
"I say, Miss Flint?" he presently began again, stirring the ice in the
"Well?" she answered, curtly.
"If you--er--are really very, _very_ impatient to have a go at the
links, why wait for Wally? I--I should be only too glad to volunteer my
services as your knight-errant, and all that sort of thing."
"Thanks, awfully," she answered, "but Mr. Waldron promised to go round
the course with me, this afternoon, and I'll wait."
The impeccable one grinned fatuously, invited her again to have a
drink--which she declined--and ordered another for himself, with profuse
apologies for drinking alone; apologies which she hardly seemed to
"Deuced bad form of Wally, I must say," the gilded youth resumed, trying
to make capital for himself, "to leave you in the lurch, this way!"
Silence from Catherine. The would-be interloper, feeling that he was on
the wrong track, took counsel with himself and remained for a moment
immersed in what he imagined to be thought. At last, however, with an
oblique glance at his indifferent companion, he remarked.
"Devilish hard time women have in this world, you know! Don't you
sometimes wish you were a man?"
Her answer flashed back like a rapier:
"No! Do you wish _you_ were?"
Stunned by this "facer," Reginald Van Slyke gasped and stared. That he,
a scion of the Philadelphia Van Slykes, in his own right worth two
hundred million dollars--dollars ground out of the Kensington
carpet-mill slaves by his grandfather--should be thus flouted and put
upon by the daughter of Flint, that parvenu, absolutely floored him. For
a moment he sat there speechless, unable even to reach for his drink;
but presently some coherence returned. He was about to utter what he
conceived to be a strong rejoinder, when the girl suddenly standing up,
turned her back upon him and ignored him as completely as she might have
ignored any of the menials of the club.
His irritated glance followed hers. There, far down the drive, just
rounding the long turn by the artificial lake, a big blue motor car was
speeding up the grade at a good clip. Van Slyke recognized it, and swore
below his breath.
"Wally, at last, damn him!" he muttered. "Just when I was beginning to
make headway with Kate!"
Vexed beyond endurance, he drummed on the cloth with angry fingers; but
Catherine was oblivious. Unmindful of the merry-makers at the other
tables, the girl waved her handkerchief at the swiftly-approaching
motor. Waldron, from the back seat, raised an answering hand--though
without enthusiasm. Above all things he hated demonstration, and the
girl's frank manner, free, unconventional and not yet broken to the
harness of Mrs. Grundy, never failed to irritate him.
"Very incorrect for people in our set," he often thought. "But for the
present I can do nothing. Once she is my wife, ah, then I shall find
means to curb her. For the present, however, I must let her have her
Such was now his frame of mind as the long car slid under the
porte-cochere and came to a stand. He would have infinitely preferred
that the girl should wait his coming to her, on the piazza; but already
she had slung her bag of sticks over her strong shoulder, and was down
the steps to meet him. Her leave-taking of the incensed Van Slyke had
been the merest nod.
"You're late, Wally," said she, smiling with her usual good humor, which
had already quite dissipated her impatience. "Late, but I'll forgive
you, this time. I'm afraid we won't have time to do all eighteen holes
round. What kept you?"
"Business, business!" he answered, frowning. "Always the same old
grind, Kate. You women don't understand. I tell you, this slaving in
Wall Street isn't what it's cracked up to be. I couldn't get away till
11:30. Then, just had a quick bite of lunch, and broke every speed law
in New York getting here. Do you forgive me?"
He had descended from the car, in speaking. They shook hands, while the
chauffeur stood at attention and all the gossips on the piazza, scenting
the possibility of a disagreement, craned discreetly eager necks and
"Forgive you? Of course--this time, but never again," the girl laughed.
"Now, run along and get into your flannels. I'll meet you on the driving
green, in ten minutes. Not another second, mind, or--"
"I'll be on the dot," he answered. "Here, boy," beckoning a caddy, "take
Miss Flint's sticks. And have mine carried to the green. Look sharp,
Then, with a nod at the girl, he ran up the steps and vanished in the
club-house, bound for the locker-room.
Fifteen minutes the girl waited on the green, watching others drive off
from the little tees and inwardly chafing to be in action. Fifteen, and
then twenty, before Waldron finally appeared, immaculate in white,
bare-armed and with a loose, checked cap shading his close-set eyes. The
fact was, in addition to having changed his clothes, he had felt obliged
to linger in the bar for a little Scotch; and one drink had meant
another; and thus precious moments had sped.
But his smile was confident as he approached the green. Women, after
all, he reflected, were meant to be kept waiting. They never appreciated
a man who kept appointments exactly. Not less fatuous at heart, in
truth, was he, than the unfortunate Van Slyke. But his manner was
perfection as he saluted her and bade the caddy build their tees.
The girl, however, was now plainly vexed. Her mouth had drawn a trifle
tight and the tilt of her chin was determined. Her eyes were far from
soft, as she surveyed this delinquent fiance.
"I don't like you a bit, today, Wally," said she, as he deliberated
over the club-bag, choosing a driver. "This makes twice you've kept me
waiting. I warn you don't let it happen again!"
Under the seeming banter of her tone lurked real resentment. But he,
with a smile--partly due to a finger too much Scotch--only answered, in
a low tone:
"You're adorable, today, Kate! The combination of fresh air and
annoyance has painted the most wonderful roses on your cheeks!"
She shrugged her shoulders with a little motion she had inherited from
French ancestry, stooped, set her golf ball on the little mound of sand,
exactly to suit her, and raised her driver on high.
"Nine holes," said she, "and I'm going to beat you, today!"
He frowned a little at the spirit of the threat, for any self-assertion
in a woman crossed his grain; but soon forgot his pique in admiration of
Swishing, her club flashed down in a quick circle. _Crack_! It struck
the gutta-percha squarely. The little white sphere zipped away like a
rocket, rose in a far trajectory, up, up, toward the water-hazard at the
foot of the grassy slope, then down in a long curve.
Even while the girl's cry of "Fore!" was echoing across the green, the
ball struck earth, ricochetted and sped on, away, across the turf, till
it came to rest not twenty yards from the putting green of the first
"Wheeoo!" whistled Waldron. "Some drive. I guess you're going to make
good your threat, today, Kate of my heart!"
The smile she flashed at him showed that her resentment had, for the
moment, been forgotten.
"Come on, Wally, now let's see what _you_ can do," said she, starting
off down the slope, while her meek caddy tagged at a respectful
Waldron, thus adjured, teed up and swung at the ball. But the Scotch had
by no means steadied his aim. He foozled badly and broke his pet driver,
into the bargain. The steel head of it flew farther even than the ball,
which moved hardly ten yards.
"Damn!" he muttered, under his breath, choosing another stick and
glancing with real irritation at Catherine's lithe, splendidly poised
figure already some distance down the slope.
His second stroke was more successful, nearly equalling hers. But her
advantage, thus early won, was not destined to be lost again. And as the
game proceeded, Waldron's temper grew steadily worse and worse.
Thus began, for these two people, an hour destined to be fraught with
such pregnant developments--an hour which, in its own way, vitally bore
on the great loom now weaving warp and woof of world events.
THE END OF TWO GAMES.
Trivial events sometimes precipitate catastrophies. It has been said
that had James MacDonald not left the farm gate open, at Hugomont,
Waterloo might have ended otherwise. So now, the rupture between
Catherine Flint and Maxim Waldron was precipitated by a single unguarded
It was at the ninth hole, down back of the Terrace Woods bunker.
Waldron, heated by exercise and the whiskey he had drunk, had already
dismissed the caddies and had undertaken to carry the clubs, himself,
hoping--man-fashion--to steal a kiss or two from Catherine, along the
edge of the close-growing oaks and maples. But all his plans went agley,
for Catherine really made good and beat him, there, by half a dozen
strokes; and as her little sphere, deftly driven by the putting-iron
gripped in her brown, firm hands, rolled precisely over the cropped turf
and fell into the tinned hole, the man ejaculated a perfectly audible
She stood erect and faced him, with a singular expression in those level
gray eyes--eyes the look of which could allure or wither, could entice
"Wally," said she, "did you swear?"
"I--er--why, yes," he stammered, taken aback and realizing, despite his
chagrin, how very poor and unsportsmanlike a figure he was cutting.
"I don't like it," she returned. "Not a little bit, Wally. It isn't
game, and it isn't manly. You must respect me, now and always. I can't
have profanity, and I won't."
He essayed lame apologies, but a sudden, hot anger seemed to have
possessed him, in presence of this free, independent, exacting
woman--this woman who, worst of all, had just beaten him at the game of
all games he prided himself on playing well. And despite his every
effort, she saw through the veil of sheer, perfunctory courtesy; and
seeing, flushed with indignation.
"Wally," she said in a low, quiet tone, fixing a singular gaze upon him,
"Wally, I don't know what to make of you lately. The other night at Idle
Hour, you hardly looked at me. You and father spent the whole evening
discussing some business or other--"
"Most important business, my dear girl, I do assure you," protested
Waldron, trying to steady his voice. "Most vitally--"
"No matter about that," she interposed. "It could have been abridged, a
trifle. I barely got six words out of you, that evening; and let me tell
you, Wally, a woman never forgets neglect. She may forgive it; but
forget it, never!"
"Oh, well, if you put it that way--" he began, but checked himself in
time to suppress the cutting rejoinder he had at his tongue's end.
"I do, and it's vital, Wally," she answered. "It's all part and parcel
of some singular kind of change that's been coming over you, lately,
like a blight. You haven't been yourself, at all, these few days past.
Something or other, I don't know what, has been coming between us.
You've got something else on your mind, beside me--something bigger and
more important to you than I am--and--and--"
He pulled out his gold cigar-case, chose and lighted a cigar to steady
his nerve, and faced her with a smile--the worst tactic he could
possibly have chosen in dealing with this woman. Supremely successful in
handling men, he lacked finesse and insight with the other sex; and now
that lack, in his moment of need, was bringing him moment by moment
nearer the edge of catastrophe.
"I don't like it at all, Waldron," she resumed, again. "You were late,
the other night, in taking me to the Flower Show. You were late, today,
for our appointment here; and the ten minutes I gave you to get ready
in, stretched out to twenty before you--"
He interrupted her with a gesture of uncontrollable vexation.
"Really, my dear Kate," he exclaimed, "if you--er--insist on holding me
to account for every moment--"
"You've been drinking, too, a little," she kept on. "And you know I
detest it! And just now, when I beat you in a square game, you so far
forgot yourself as to swear. Now, Waldron--"
"Oh, puritanical, eh?" he sneered, ignoring the danger signals in her
eyes. Even yet there might have been some chance of avoiding shipwreck,
had he heeded those twin beacons, humbled himself, made amends by due
apology and promised reformation. For though Catherine never had truly
loved this man, some years older than herself and of radically different
character, still she liked and respected him, and found him--by his very
force and dominance--far more to her taste than the insipid hangers-on,
sons of fortune or fortune-hunters, who, like the sap-brained Van
Slyke, made up so great a part of her "set."
So, all might yet have been amended; but this was not to be. Never yet
had "Tiger" Waldron bowed the neck to living man or woman. Dominance was
his whole scheme of life. Though he might purr, politely enough, so long
as his fur was smoothed the right way, a single backward stroke set his
fangs gleaming and unsheathed every sabre-like claw. And now this woman,
his fiancee though she was, her beauty dear to him and her charm most
fascinating, her fortune much desired and most of all, an alliance with
her father--now this woman, despite all these considerations, had with a
few incisive words ruffled his temper beyond endurance.
So great was his agitation that, despite his strongest instinct of
saving, he flung away the scarcely-tasted cigar.
"Kate," he exclaimed, his very tongue thick with the rage he could not
quell, "Kate, I can't stand this! You're going too far. What do you know
of men's work and men's affairs? Who are you, to judge of their times of
coming and going, their obligations, their habits and man of life? What
do _you_ understand--?"
"It's obvious," she replied with glacial coldness, "that I don't
understand _you_, and never have. I have been living in a dream, Wally;
seeing you through the glass of illusion; not reality. After all, you're
like all men--just the same, no different. Idealism, self-sacrifice, con
true nobility of character, where are these, in you? What is there but
the same old selfishness, the same innate masculine conceit and--"
"No more of this, Kate!" cried the financier, paling a little. "No more!
I can't have it! I won't--it's impossible! You--you don't understand, I
tell you. In your narrow, untrained, woman's way, you try to set up
standards for me; try to judge me, and dictate to me. Some old
puritanical streak in you is cropping out, some blue-law atavism, some I
know not what, that rebels against my taking a drink--like every other
man. That cries out against my letting slip a harmless oath--again, like
every other man that lives and breathes. Every man, that is, who _is_ a
man, a real man, not a dummy! If you've been mistaken in me, how much
more have I, in you! And so--"
"And so," she took the very words from his pale lips, "we've both been
mistaken, that's all. No, no," she forbade him with raised hand, as he
would have interrupted with protests. "No, you needn't try to convince
me otherwise, now. A thousand volumes of speeches, after this, couldn't
do it. An hour's insight into the true depths of a man's character--yes,
even a moment's--perfectly suffices to show the truth. You've just drawn
the veil aside, Wally, for me, and let me look at the true picture. All
that I've known and thought of you, so far, has been sham and illusion.
Now, I _know_ you!"
"You--you don't, Catherine!" he exclaimed, half in anger, half
contrition, terrified at last by the imminent break between them, by the
thought of losing this rich flower from the garden of womanhood, this
splendid financial and social prize. "I--I've done wrong, Kate. I admit
it. But, truly--"
"No more," said she, and in her voice sounded a command he knew, at
last, was quite inexorable. "I'm not like other women of our set,
perhaps. I can't be bought and sold, Wally, with money and position. I
can't marry a man, and have to live with him, if he shows himself
petty, or small, or narrow in any way. I must be free, free as air, as
long as I live. Even in marriage, I must be free. Freedom can only come
with the union of two souls that understand and help and inspire each
other. Anything else is slavery--and worse!"
She shuddered, and for a moment turned half away from him, as, now
contrite enough for the minute, he stood there looking at her with dazed
eyes. For a second the idea came to him that he must take her in his
arms, there in the edge of the woods, burn kisses on her ripe mouth, win
her back to him by force, as he had won all life's battles. He would
not, could not, let this prize escape him now. A wave of desire surged
through his being. He took a step toward her, his trembling arms open to
seize her lithe, seductive body. But she, retreating, held him away with
"No, no, no!" she cried. "Not now--never that, any more! I must be free,
Wally--free as air!"
She raised her face toward the vast reaches of the sky, breathed deep
and for a moment closed her eyes, as though bathing her very soul in the
sweet freedom of the out-of-doors.
"Free as air!" she whispered. "Let me go!"
He started violently. Her simile had struck him like a lash.
"Free--as what?" he exclaimed hoarsely. "As _air_? But--but there's no
such freedom, I tell you! Air isn't free any more--or won't be, soon! It
will be everything, anything but free, before another year is gone! Free
as air? You--you don't understand! Your father and I--we shall soon own
the air. Free as air? Yes, if you like! For that--that means you, too,
must belong to me!"
Again he sought to take her, to hold her and overmaster her. But she,
now wide-eyed with a kind of sudden terror at this latest outbreak, this
seeming madness on his part, which she could nowise fathom or
comprehend, retreated ever more and more, away from him.
Then suddenly with a quick effort, she stripped off the splendid,
blazing diamond from her finger, and held it out to him.
"Wally," said she, calm now and quite herself again, "Wally, let's be
friends. Just that and nothing more. Dear, good, companionable friends,
as we used to be, long years ago, before this madness seized us--this
chimera of--of love!"
As a bull charging, is struck to the heart by the sword of the matador,
and stops in his tracks, motionless and dazed before he falls, so
"Tiger" Waldron stopped, wholly stunned by this abrupt and crushing
For a moment, man and woman faced each other. Not a word was spoken.
Catherine had no word to say; and Waldron, though his lips worked, could
bring none to utterance. Then their eyes met; and his lowered.
"Good-bye," said she quietly. "Good-bye forever, as my betrothed. When
we meet again, Wally, it will be as friends, and nothing more. And now,
let me go. Don't come with me. I prefer to be alone. I'd rather walk, a
bit, and think--and then go back quietly to the club-house, and so home,
in my car. Don't follow me. Here--take this, and--good-bye."
Mechanically he accepted the gleaming jewel. Mechanically, like a man
without sense or reason, he watched her walk away from him, upright and
strong and lithe, voluptuous and desirable in every motion of that
splendid body, now lost to him forever. Then all at once, entering a
woodland path that led by a short cut back to the club-house, she
vanished from his sight.
Vanished, without having even so much as turned to look at him again, or
wave that firm brown hand.
Then, seeming to waken from his daze, "Tiger" laughed, a terrible and
cruel laugh; and then he flung a frightful blasphemy upon the still June
air; and then he dashed the wondrous diamond to earth, and stamped and
dug it with a perfect frenzy of rage into the soft mold.
And, last of all, with lowered head and lips that moved in fearful
curses, he crashed away into the woods, away from the path where the
girl was, away from the club-house, away, away, thirsting for solitude
and time to quell his passion, salve his wounded pride and ponder
measures of terrible revenge.
The diamond ring, crushed into the earth, and the golf clubs, lying
where they had fallen from the disputants' hands, now remained there as
melancholy reminders of the double game--love and golf--which had so
suddenly ended in disaster.
ON THE GREAT HIGHWAY.
As violently rent from his job as Maxim Waldron had been torn from his
alliance with Catherine, Gabriel Armstrong met the sudden change in his
affairs with far more equanimity than the financier could muster. Once
the young electrician's first anger had subsided--and he had pretty well
mastered it before he had reached the Oakwood Heights station--he began
philosophically to turn the situation in his mind, and to rough out his
plans for the future.
"Things might be worse, all round," he reflected, as he strode along at
a smart pace. "During the seven months I've been working for these
pirates, I've managed to pay off the debt I got into at the time of the
big E. W. strike, and I've got eighteen dollars or a little more in
my pocket. My clothes will do a while longer. Even though Flint
blacklists me all over the country, as he probably will, I can duck into
some job or other, somewhere. And most important of all, I know what's
due to happen in America--I've seen that note-book! Let them do what
they will, they can't take _that_ knowledge away from me!"
The outlook, on the whole, was cheering. Gabriel broke into a whistle,
as he swung along the highway, and slashed cheerfully with his heavy
stick at the dusty bushes by the roadside. A vigorous, pleasing figure
of a man he made, striding onward in his blue flannel shirt and
corduroys, stout boots making light of distance, somewhat rebellious
black hair clustering under his cap, blue eyes clear and steady as the
sunlight itself. There must have been a drop of Irish blood somewhere or
other in his veins, to have given him that ruddy cheek, those eyes, that
hair, that quick enthusiasm and that swiftness to anger--then, by
reaction, that quick buoyancy which so soon banished everything but
courageous optimism from his hot heart.
Thus the man walked, all his few worldly belongings--most precious among
them his union card and his red Socialist card--packed in the knapsack
strapped to his broad shoulders. And as he walked, he formulated his
"Niagara for mine," he decided. "It's there these hellions mean to start
their devilish work of enslaving the whole world. It's there I want to
be, and must be, to follow the infernal job from the beginning and to
nail it, when the right time comes. I'll put in a day or two with my old
friend, Sam Underwood, up in the Bronx, and maybe tell him what's doing
and frame out the line of action with him. But after that, I strike for
Niagara--yes, and on foot!"
This decision came to him as strongly desirable. Not for some time, he
knew, could the actual work of building the Air Trust plant be started
at Niagara. Meanwhile, he wanted to keep out of sight, as much as
possible. He wanted, also to save every cent. Again, his usual mode of
travel had always been either to ride the rods or "hike" it on shanks'
mare. Bitterly opposed to swelling the railways' revenues by even a
penny, Armstrong in the past few years of his life had done some
thousands of miles, afoot, all over the country. His best means of
Socialist propaganda, he had found, was in just such meanderings along
the highways and hedges of existence--a casual job, here or there, for a
day, a week, a month--then, quick friendships; a little talk; a few
leaflets handed to the intelligent, if he could find any. He had laced
the continent with such peregrinations, always sowing the seed of
revolution wherever he had passed; getting in touch with the Movement
all over the republic; keeping his finger on the pulse of ever-growing,
Such had his habits long been. And now, once more adrift and jobless,
but with the most tremendous secret of the ages in his possession, he
naturally turned to the comfort and the calming influence of the broad
highway, in his long journey towards the place where he was to meet, in
desperate opposition, the machinations of the Air Trust magnates.
"It's the only way for me," he decided, as he turned into the road
leading toward Saint George and the Manhattan Ferry. "Flint and Herzog
will be sure to put Slade and the Cosmos people after me. Blacklisting
will be the least of what they'll try to do. They'll use slugging
tactics, sure, if they get a chance, or railroad me to some Pen or
other, if possible. My one best bet is to keep out of their way; and I
figure I'm ten times safer on the open road, with a few dollars to stave
off a vagrancy charge, and with two good fists and this stick to keep
'em at a distance, than I would be on the railroads or in cheap dumps
along the way.
"The last place they'll ever think of looking for me will be the big
outdoors. _Their_ idea of hunting for a workman is to dragnet the back
rooms of saloons--especially if they're after a Socialist. That's the
limit of their intelligence, to connect Socialism and beer. I'll beat
'em; I'll hike--and it's a hundred to one I land in Niagara with more
cash than when I started, with better health, more knowledge, and the
freedom that, alone, can save the world now from the most damnable
slavery that ever threatened its existence!"
Thus reasoning, with perfect clarity and a long-headedness that proved
him a strategist at four-and-twenty, Gabriel Armstrong whistled a louder
note as he tramped away to northward, away from the hateful presence of
Herzog, away from the wage-slavery of the Oakwood Heights plant,
away--with that precious secret in his brain--toward the far scene of
destined warfare, where stranger things were to ensue than even he could
Saturday morning found him, his visit with Underwood at an end, already
twenty miles or more from the Bronx River, marching along through
Haverstraw, up the magnificent road that fringes the Hudson--now hidden
from the mighty river behind a forest-screen, now curving on bold
abutments right above the sun-kissed expanses of Haverstraw Bay, here
more than two miles from wooded shore to shore.
At eleven, he halted at a farm house, some miles north of the town, got
a job on the woodpile, and astonished the farmer by the amount of birch
he could saw in an hour. He took his pay in the shape of a bountiful
dinner, and--after half an hour's smoke and talk with the farmer, to
whom he gave a few pamphlets from the store in his knapsack--said
good-bye to all hands and once more set his face northward for the long
hike through much wilder country, to West Point, where he hoped to pass
Thus we must leave him, for a while. For now the thread of our
narration, like the silken cord in the Labyrinth of Crete, leads us back
to the Country Club at Longmeadow, the scene, that very afternoon, of
the sudden and violent rupture between the financier and Catherine
Catherine, her first indignation somewhat abated, and now vastly
relieved at the realization that she indeed was free from her loveless
and long-since irksome alliance with Waldron, calmly enough returned to
the club-house. Head well up, and eyes defiant, she walked up the broad
steps and into the office. Little cared she whether the piazza
gossips--The Hammer and Anvil Club, in local slang--divined the quarrel
or not. The girl felt herself immeasurably indifferent to such
pettinesses as prying small talk and innuendo. Let people know, or not,
as might be, she cared not a whit. Her business was her own. No wagging
of tongues could one hair's breadth disturb that splendid calm of hers.
The clerk, behind the desk, smiled and nodded at her approach.
"Please have my car brought round to the porte-cochere, at once?" she
asked. "And tell Herrick to be sure there's plenty of gas for a long
run. I'm going through to New York."
"So soon?" queried the clerk. "I'm sure your father will be
disappointed, Miss Flint. He's just wired that he's coming out tomorrow,
to spend Sunday here. He particularly asks to have you remain. See
He handed her a telegram. She glanced it over, then crumpled it and
tossed it into the office fire-place.
"I'm sorry," she answered. "But I can't stay. I must get back, to-night.
I'll telegraph father not to come. A blank, please?"
The clerk handed her one. She pondered a second, then wrote:
Dear Father: A change of plans makes me return home at once.
Please wait and see me there. I've something important to talk over
Ordinarily people try to squeeze their message to ten words, and count
and prune and count again; but not so, Catherine. For her, a telegram
had never contained any space limit. It meant less to her than a
post-card to you or me. Not that the girl was consciously extravagant.
No, had you asked her, she would have claimed rigid economy--she rarely,
for instance, paid more than a hundred dollars for a morning gown, or
more than a thousand for a ball-dress. It was simply that the idea of
counting words had never yet occurred to her. And so now, she
complacently handed this verbose message to the clerk, who--thoroughly
well-trained--understood it was to be charged on her father's perfectly
staggering monthly bill.
"Very well, Miss Flint," said he. "I'll send this at once. And your car
will be ready for you in ten minutes--or five, if you like?"
"Ten will do, thank you," she answered. Then she crossed to the
elevator and went up to her own suite of rooms on the second floor, for
her motor-coat and veils.
"Free, thank heaven!" she breathed, with infinite relief, as she stood
before the tall mirror, adjusting these for the long trip. "Free from
that man forever. What a narrow escape! If things hadn't happened just
as they did, and if I hadn't had that precious insight into Wally's
character--good Lord!--catastrophe! Oh, I haven't been so happy since
I--since--why, I've _never_ been so happy in all my life!
"Wally, dear boy," she added, turning toward the window as though
apostrophizing him in reality, "now we can be good friends. Now all the
sham and pretense are at an end, forever. As a friend, you may be
splendid. As a husband--oh, impossible!"
Lighter of heart than she had been for years, was she, with the added
zest of the long spin through the beauty of the June country before
her--down among the hills and cliffs, among the forests and broad
valleys--down to New York again, back to the father and the home she
loved better than all else in the world.
In this happy frame of mind she presently entered the low-hung,
swift-motored car, settled herself on the luxurious cushions and said
"Home, at once!" to Herrick.
He nodded, but did not speak. He felt, in truth, somewhat incapable of
quite incoherent speech. Not having expected any service till next day,
he had foregathered with others of his ilk in the servants' bar,
below-stairs, and had with wassail and good cheer very effectively put
himself out of commission.
But, somewhat sobered by this quick summons, he had managed to pull
together. Now, drunk though he was, he sat there at the wheel, steady
enough--so long as he held on to it--and only by the redness of his face
and a certain glassy look in his eye, betrayed the fact of his
intoxication. The girl, busy with her farewells as the car drew up for
her, had not observed him. At the last moment Van Slyke waved a foppish
hand at her, and smirked adieux. She acknowledged his good-bye with a
smile, so happy was she at the outcome of her golf-game; then cast a
quick glance up at the club windows, fearing to see the harsh face of
Wally peeping down at her in anger.
But he was nowhere to be seen; and now, with a sudden acceleration of
the powerful six-cylinder engine, the big gray car moved smoothly
forward. Growling in its might, it swung in a wide circle round the
sweep of the drive, gathered speed and shot away down the grade toward
the stone gates of the entrance, a quarter mile distant.
Presently it swerved through these, to southward. Club-house, waving
handkerchiefs and all vanished from Kate's view.
"Faster, Herrick," she commanded, leaning forward, "I must be home by
half past five."
Again he nodded, and notched spark and throttle down. The car, leaping
like a wild creature, began to hum at a swift clip along the smooth,
white road toward Newburgh on the Hudson.
Thirty miles an hour the speedometer showed, then thirty-five and forty.
Again the drunken chauffeur, still master of his machine despite the
poison pulsing in his dazed brain, snicked the little levers further
down. Forty-five, fifty, fifty-five, the figures on the dial showed.
Now the exhaust ripped in a crackling staccato, like a machine gun, as
the chauffeur threw out the muffler. Behind, a long trail of dust rose,
whirling in the air. Catherine, a sportswoman born, leaned back and
smiled with keen pleasure, while her yellow veil, whipping sharply on
the wind, let stray locks of that wonderful red-gold hair stream about
her flushed face.
Thus she sped homeward, driven at a mad race by a man whose every sense
was numbed and stultified by alcohol--homeward, along a road up which,
far, far away, another man, keen, sober and alert, was trudging with a
knapsack on his broad back, swinging a stick and whistling cheerily as
Fate, that strange moulder of human destinies, what had it in store for
these two, this woman and this man? This daughter of a billionaire, and
this young proletarian?
Who could foresee, or, foreseeing, could believe what even now stood
written on the Book of Destiny?
For a time no danger seemed to threaten. Kate was not only fearless as a
passenger, but equally intrepid at the wheel. Many a time and oft she
had driven her father's highest-powered car at dizzying speeds along
worse roads than the one her machine was now following. Velocity was to
her a kind of stimulant, wonderfully pleasurable; and now, realizing
nothing of the truth that Herrick was badly the worse for liquor, she
leaned back in the tonneau, breathed the keen slashing air with delight,
and let her eyes wander over the swiftly-changing panorama of forest,
valley, lake and hill that, in ever new and more radiant beauty, sped
away, away, as the huge car leaped down the smooth and rushing road.
Dust and pebbles flew in the wake of the machine, as it gathered
velocity. Beneath it, the highway sped like an endless white ribbon,
whirling back and away with smooth rapidity. No common road, this, but
one which the State authorities had very obligingly built especially for
the use of millionaires' motor cars, all through the region of
country-clubs, parks, bungalows and summer-resorts dotting the west
shore region of the Hudson. Let the farmer truck his produce through mud
and ruts, if he would. Let the country folk drive their ramshackle
buggies over rocks and stumps, if they so chose. Nothing of that sort
for millionaires! No, _they_ must have macadam and smooth, long curves,
easy grades and--where the road swung high above the gleaming
river--retaining walls to guard them from plunging into the palisaded
At just such a place it was, where the road made a sharper turn than any
the drunken chauffeur had reckoned on, that catastrophe leaped out to
shatter the rushing car.
Only a minute before, Kate--a little uneasy now, at the truly reckless
speeding of the driver, and at the daredevil way in which he was taking
curves without either sounding his siren or reducing speed--had touched
him on the shoulder, with a command: "Not _quite_ so fast, Herrick! Be
His only answer had been a drunken laugh.
"Careful nothing!" he slobbered, to himself. "You wanted speed--an'
now--hc!--b'Jesus, you _get_--hc!--speed! _I_ ain't
She had not heard the words, but had divined their meaning.
"Herrick!" she commanded sharply, leaning forward. "What's the matter
with you? Obey me, do you hear? Not so fast!"
A whiff of alcoholic breath suddenly told her the truth. For a second
she sat there, as though petrified, with fear now for the first time
clutching at her heart.
"Stop at once!" she cried, gripping the man by the collar of his livery.
"You--you're drunk, Herrick! I--I'll have you discharged, at once, when
we get home. Stop, do you hear me? You're not fit to drive. I'll take
the wheel myself!"
But Herrick, hopelessly under the influence of the poison, which had
now produced its full effect, paid no heed.
"Y'--can't dri' _thish_ car!" he muttered, in maudlin accents. "Too
big--too heavy for--hc!--woman! I--_I_ dri' it all right, drunk or
sober! Good chauffeur--good car--I know thish car! You won't fire
me--hc!--for takin' drink or two, huh? I drive you all ri'--drive you to
New York or to--hc!--Hell! Same thing, no difference, ha! ha!--I--"
A sudden blaze of rage crimsoned the girl's face. In all her life she
never had been thus spoken to. For a second she clenched her fist, as
though to strike down this sodden brute there in the seat before her--a
feat she would have been quite capable of. But second thought convinced
her of the peril of such an act. Ahead of them a long down-grade
stretched away, away, to a turn half-hidden under the arching greenery.
As the car struck this slope, it leaped into ever greater speed; and
now, under the erratic guidance of the lolling wretch at the wheel, it
began to sway in long, unsteady curves, first toward one ditch, then the
Another woman would have screamed; might even have tried to jump out.
But Kate was not of the hysteric sort. More practical, she.
"I've got to climb over into the front seat," she realized in a flash,
"and shut off the current--cut the power off--stop the car!"
On the instant, she acted. But as she arose in the tonneau, Herrick,
sensing her purpose, turned toward her in the sudden rage of complete
"Naw--naw y' don't!" he shouted, his face perfectly purple with fury
and drink. "No woman--he!--runs this old boat while I'm aboard, see? Go
on, fire me! _I_ don't give--damn! But you don't run--car! Sit down! _I_
run car--New York or Hell--no matter which! _I_--"
Hurtling down the slope like a runaway comet, now wholly out of control,
the powerful gray car leaped madly at the turn.
Catherine, her heart sick at last with terror, caught a second's glimpse
of forest, on one hand; of a stone wall with tree-tops on some steep
abyss below, just grazing it, on the other. Through these trees she saw
a momentary flash of water, far beneath.
Then the leaping front wheels struck a cluster of loose pebbles, at the
Wrenched from the drunkard's grip, the steering wheel jerked sharply
A skidding--a crash--a cry!
Over the roadway, vacant now, floated a tenuous cloud of dust and
In the retaining-wall at the left, a jagged gap appeared. Suddenly, far
below, toward the river, a crashing detonation shattered harsh echoes
from shore to shore.
Came a quick flash of light; then thick, black, greasy smoke arose, and,
wafting through the treetops, drifted away on the warm wind of that late
A man, some quarter of a mile to southward, on the great highway, paused
suddenly at sound of this explosion.
For a moment he stood there listening acutely, a knotted stick in hand,
his flannel shirt, open at the throat, showing a brown and corded neck.
The heavy knapsack on his shoulders seemed no burden to that rugged
strength, as he stood, poised and eager, every sense centered in keen
"Trouble ahead, there, by the Eternal!" he suddenly exclaimed. His eye
had just caught sight of the first trailing wreaths of smoke, from up
the cliff. "An auto's gone to smash, down there, or I'm a plute!"
He needed no second thought to hurl him forward to the rescue. At a
smart pace he ran, halloo'ing loudly, to tell the victims--should they
still live--that help was at hand. At his right, extended the wall. At
his left, a grove of sugar-maples, sparsely set, climbed a long slope,
over the ridge of which the descending sun glowed warmly. Somewhat back
from the road, a rough shack which served as a sugar-house for the
spring sap-boiling, stood with gaping door, open to all the winds that
blew. These things he noted subconsciously, as he ran.
Then, all at once, as he rounded a sharp turn, he drew up with a cry.
"Down the cliff!" he exclaimed. "Knocked the wall clean out, and
plunged! Holy Mackinaw, what a smash!"
In a moment he had reached the scene of the catastrophe. His quick eye
took in, almost at a glance, the skidding mark of the wheels, the ragged
rent in the wall, the broken limbs of trees below.
"Some wreck!" he ejaculated, dropping his stick and throwing off his
knapsack. "_Hello, Hello, down there!_" he loudly hailed, scrambling
through the gap.
From below, no answer.
A silence, as of death, broken only by the echo of his own voice, was
all that greeted his wild cry.
[Illustration: He gathered her up as though she had been a child.]
Gabriel Armstrong leaped, rather than clambered, through the gap in the
wall, and, following the track of devastation through the trees,
scrambled down the steep slope that led toward the Hudson.
The forest looked as though a car of Juggernaut had passed that way.
Limbs and saplings lay in confusion, larger trees showed long wounds
upon their bark, and here and there pieces of metal--a gray mud-guard, a
car door, a wind-shield frame, with shattered plate glass still clinging
to it--lay scattered on the precipitous declivity. Beside these, hanging
to a branch, Gabriel saw a gaily-striped auto robe; and, further down, a
heavy, fringed shawl.
Again he shouted, holding to a tree-trunk at the very edge of a cliff of
limestone, and peering far down into the abyss where the car had taken
its final plunge. Still no answer. But, from below, the heavy smoke
still rose. And now, peering more keenly, Armstrong caught sight of the
"There it is, and burning like the pit of Hell!" he exclaimed.
"And--what's that, under it? A man?"
He could not distinctly make out, so thick the foliage was. But it
seemed to him that, from under the jumbled wreckage of the blazing
machine, something protruded, something that suggested a human form,
"Here's where I go down this cliff, whatever happens!" decided Gabriel.
And, acting on the instant, he began swinging himself down from tree to
bush, from shrub to tuft of grass, clinging wherever handhold or
foothold offered, digging his stout boots into every cleft and cranny of
The height could not have been less than a hundred and fifty feet. By
dint of wonderful strength and agility, and at the momentary risk of
falling, himself, to almost certain death, Gabriel descended in less
than ten minutes. The last quarter of the distance he practically fell,
sliding at a tremendous rate, with boulders and loose earth cascading
all about him in a shower.
He landed close by the flaming ruin.
"Lucky this isn't in the autumn, in the dry season!" thought he, as he
approached. "If it were, this whole cliff-side, and the woods beyond,
would be a roaring furnace. Some forest-fire, all right, if the woods
weren't wet and full of sap!"
Parting the brush, he made his way as close to the car as the intense
heat would let him. The gasoline-tank, he understood, had burst with the
shock, and, taking fire, had wrapped the car in an Inferno of
unquenchable flame. Now, the woodwork was entirely gone; and of the
wheels, as the long machine lay there on its back, only a few blazing
spokes were left. The steel chassis and the engine were red-hot, twisted
and broken as though a giant hammer had smitten them on some Vulcanic
"There's a few thousand dollars gone to the devil!" thought he. But his
mind did not dwell on this phase of the disaster. Still he was hoping,
against hope, that human life had not been dashed and roasted out, in
the wreck. And again he shouted, as he worked his way to the other side
of the machine--to the side which, seen from the cliff above, had seemed
to show him that inert and mangled body.
All at once he stopped short, shielding his face with his hands, against
"Good God!" he exclaimed; and involuntarily took off his cap, there in
the presence of death.
That the man _was_ dead, admitted of no question. Pinned under the
heavy, glowing mass of metal, his body must already have been roasted to
a char. The head could not be seen; but part of one shoulder and one arm
protruded, with the coat burned off and the flesh horribly crackled;
while, nearer Gabriel, a leg showed, with a regulation chauffeur's
legging, also burned to a crisp.
"Nothing for me to do, here," said Gabriel aloud. "He's past all human
help, poor chap. I don't imagine there can be anybody else in this
wreck. I haven't seen anybody, and nobody has answered my shouts. What's
to be done next?"
He pondered a moment, then, looking at the license plate of the
machine--its enamel now half cracked off, but the numbers still
legible--drew out his note-book and pencil and made a memo of the
"Four-six-two-two, N.Y.," he read, again verifying his numbers. "That
will identify things. And now--the quicker I get back on the road again,
and reach a telephone at West Point, the better."
Accordingly, after a brief search through the bushes near at hand, for
any other victim--a search which brought no results--he set to work once
more to climb the cliff above him.
The fire, though still raging, was obviously dying down. In half an
hour, he knew, it would be dead. There was no use in trying to
extinguish it, for gasoline defies water, and no sand was to be had
along that rocky river shore.
"Let her burn herself out," judged Gabriel. "She can't do any harm, now.
The road for mine!"
He found the upward path infinitely more difficult than the downward,
and was forced to make a long detour and do some hard climbing that left
him spent and sweating, before he again approached the gap in the wall.
Pausing here to breathe, a minute or two, he once more peered down at
the still-smoking ruin far below. And, as he stood there all at once he
thought he heard a sound not very far away to his right.
A sound--a groan, a half-inchoate murmur--a cry!
Instantly his every sense grew keen. Holding his breath he listened
intently. Was it a cry? Or had the breeze but swayed one tree limb
against another; or did some boatman's hail, from far across the river,
but drift upward to him on the cliff?
"Hello! _Hello_!" he shouted again. "Anybody there?"
Once more he listened; and now, once more, he heard the sound--this time
he knew it was a cry for help!
"Where are you?" shouted he, plunging forward along the steep side of
the cliff. "Where?"
No answer, save a groan.
"Coming! Coming!" he hailed loudly. Then, guided as it seemed by
instinct, almost as much as by the vague direction of the moaning call,
he ploughed his way through brush and briar, on rescue bent.
All at once he stopped short in his tracks, wild-eyed, a stammering
exclamation on his lips.
"A woman!" he cried.
True. There, lying as though violently flung, a woman was half-crouched,
half-prone behind the roots of a huge maple that leaned out far above a
He saw torn clothing, through the foliage; a white hand, out-stretched
and bleeding; a mass of golden-coppery hair that lay dishevelled on the
bed of moss and last autumn's leaves.
"A woman! Dying?" he thought, with a sudden stab of pity in his heart.
Then, forcing his way along, he reached her, and fell upon his knees at
"Not dead! Not dying! Thank God!" he exclaimed. One glance showed him
she would live. Though an ugly gash upon her forehead had bathed her
face in blood, and though he knew not but bones were broken, he
recognized the fact that she was now returning, fast, to consciousness.
Already she had opened her eyes--wild eyes, understanding nothing--and
was staring up at him in dazed, blank terror. Then one hand came up to
her face; and, even as he lifted her in both his powerful arms, she
began to sob hysterically.
He knew the value of that weeping, and made no attempt to stop it. The
overwrought nerves, he understood, must find some outlet. Asking no
question, speaking no word--for Gabriel was a man of action, not
speech--he gathered her up as though she had been a child. A tall woman,
she; almost as tall as he himself, and proportioned like a Venus. Yet to
him her weight was nothing.
Sure-footed, now, and bursting through the brambles with fine energy, he
carried her to the gap in the wall, up through it, and so to the roadway
"Where--where am I?" the woman cried incoherently. "O--what--where--?"
"You're all right!" he exclaimed. "Just a little accident, that's all.
Don't worry! I'll take care of you. Just keep quiet, now, and don't
think of anything. You'll be all right, in no time!"
But she still wept and cried out to know where she might be and what had
happened. Obviously, Gabriel saw, her reason had not yet fully returned.
His first aim must be to bathe her wound, find out what damage had been
done, and keeping her quiet, try to get help.
Swiftly he thought. Here he and the woman were, miles from any
settlement or house, nearly in the middle of a long stretch of road that
skirted the river through dense woods. At any time a motor might come
along; and then again, one might not arrive for hours. No dependence
could be put on this. There was no telephone for a long distance back;
and even had one been near he would not have ventured to leave the girl.
Could he carry her back to Fort Clinton, the last settlement he had
passed through? Impossible! No man's strength could stand such a
tremendous task. And even had it been within Gabriel's means, he would
have chosen otherwise. For most of all the girl needed rest and quiet
and immediate care. To bear her all that distance in his arms might
produce serious, even fatal results.
"No!" he decided. "I must do what I can for her, here and now, and trust
to luck to send help in an auto, down this road!"
His next thought was that bandages and wraps would be needed for her cut
and to make her a bed. Instantly he remembered the shawl and the big
auto-robe that he had seen caught among the trees.
"I must have those at once!" he realized. "When the machine went over
the edge, they were thrown out, just as the girl was. A miracle she
wasn't carried down, with the car, and crushed or burned to death down
there by the river, with that poor devil of a chauffeur!"
Laying her down in the soft grass along the wall, he ran back to where
the wraps were, and, detaching them from the branches, quickly regained
the road once more.
"Now for the old sugar-house in the maple-grove," said he. "Poor
shelter, but the best to be had. Thank heaven it's fair weather, and
The task was awkward, to carry both the girl and the bulky robes, but
Gabriel was equal to it She had by now regained some measure of
rationality; and though very pale and shaken, manifested her nerve and
courage by no longer weeping or asking questions.
Instead, she lay in his arms, eyes closed, with the blood stiffening on
her face; and let him bear her whither he would. She seemed to sense his
strength and mastery, his tender care and complete command of the
situation. And, like a hurt and tired child, outworn and suffering, she
yielded herself, unquestioningly, to his ministrations.
Thus Gabriel, the discharged, blacklisted, outcast rebel and
proletarian, bore in his arms of mercy and compassion the only daughter
of old Isaac Flint, his enemy, Flint the would-be master of the world.
Thus he bore the woman who had been betrothed to "Tiger" Waldron,
unscrupulous and cruel partner in that scheme of dominance and
Such was the meeting of this woman and this man. Thus, in his arms, he
carried her to the old sugar-house.
And far below, the mighty river gleamed, unheeding the tragedy that had
been enacted on its shores, unmindful of the threads of destiny even now
being spun by the swift shuttles of Fate.
In the branches, above Gabriel and Catherine, birdsong and golden
sunlight seemed to prophesy. But what this message might be, neither the
woman nor the man had any thought or dream.
AN HOUR AND A PARTING.
Arriving at the sugar-house, tired yet strong, Gabriel put the wounded
girl down, quickly raked together a few armfuls of dead leaves, in the
most sheltered corner of the ramshackle structure, and laid the heavy
auto-robe upon this improvised bed. Then he helped his patient to lie
down, there, and bade her wait till he got water to wash and dress her
"Don't worry about anything," he reassured her. "You're alive, and
that's the main thing, now. I'll see you through with this, whatever
happens. Just keep calm, and don't let anything distress you!"
She looked at him with big, anxious eyes--eyes where still the full
light of understanding had not yet returned.
"It--it all happened so suddenly!" she managed to articulate. "He was
drunk--the chauffeur. The car ran away. Where is it? Where is
"I don't know," Gabriel lied promptly and with force. Not for worlds
would he have excited her with the truth. "Never you mind about that.
Just lie still, now, till I come back!"
Already, among the rusty utensils that had served for the
"sugaring-off," the previous spring, he had routed out a tin pail. He
kicked a quantity of leaves in under the sheet-iron open stove, flung
some sticks atop of them, and started a little blaze. Warm water, he
reflected, would serve better than cold in removing that clotting blood
and dressing the hurt.
Then, saying no further word, but filled with admiration for the girl's
pluck, he seized the pail and started for water.
"Nerve?" he said to himself, as he ran down the road toward a little
brook he remembered having crossed, a few hundred yards to southward.
"Nerve, indeed! Not one complaint about her own injuries! Not a word of
lamentation! If this isn't a thoroughbred, whoever or whatever she is, I
never saw one!"
He returned, presently, with the pail nearly full of cold and sparkling
water. Ignoring rust, he made her drink as deeply as she would, and then
set a dipperful of water on the now hot sheet-iron.
Then, tearing a strip off the shawl, he made ready for his work as an
"Tell me," said he, kneeling there beside her in the hut which was
already beginning to grow dusk, "except for this cut on your forehead,
do you feel any injury? Think you've got any broken bones? See if you
can move your legs and arms, all right."
"Nothing broken, I guess," she answered. "What a miracle! Please leave
me, now. I can wash my own hurt. Go--go find Herrick! He needs you worse
than I do!"
"No he doesn't!" blurted Gabriel with such conviction that she
"You mean?" she queried, as he brought the dipper of now tepid water to
her side. "He--he's dead?"
He hesitated to answer.
"Dead! Yes, I understand!" she interpreted his silence. "You needn't
tell me. I know!"
"Yes," said he. "Your chauffeur has paid the penalty of trying to drive
a six-cylinder car with alcohol. Now, think no more of him! Here, let me
see how badly you're cut."
"Let me sit up, first," she begged. "I--I'm not hurt enough to be lying
here like--like an invalid!"
She tried to rise, but with a strong hand on her shoulder he forced her
back. She shuddered, with the horror of the chauffeur's death strong
"Please lie still," he begged. "You've had a terrific shock, and have
lived through it by a miracle, indeed. You're wounded and still
bleeding. You _must_ be quiet!"
The tone in his voice admitted no argument. Submissive now to his
greater strength, this daughter of wealth and power lay back, closed her
tired eyes and let the revolutionist, the proletarian, minister to her.
Dipping the piece of shawl into the warm water, he deftly moistened the
dried blood on her brow and cheek, and washed it all away. He cleansed
her sullied hair, as well, and laid it back from the wound.
"Tell me if I hurt you, now," he bade, gently as a woman. "I've got to
wash the cut itself."
She answered nothing, but lay quite still. And so, hardly wincing, she
let him lave the jagged wound that stretched from her right temple up
into the first tendrils of the glorious red-gold hair.
"H'm!" thought Gabriel, as he now observed the cut with close
attention. "I'm afraid there'll have to be some stitches taken here!"
But of this he said nothing. All he told her was: "Nothing to worry
over. You'll be as good as new in a few days. As a miracle, it's _some_
Having completed the cleansing of the cut, he fetched his knapsack and
produced a clean handkerchief, which he folded and laid over the wound.
This pad he secured in place by a long bandage cut from the edge of the
shawl and tied securely round her shapely head.
"There," said he, surveying his improvisation with considerable
satisfaction. "Now you'll do, till we can undertake the next thing.
Sorry I haven't any brandy to give you, or anything of that sort. The
fact is, I don't use it, and have none with me. How do you feel, now?"
She opened her eyes and looked up at him with the ghost of a smile on
her pale lips.
"Oh, much, much better, thank you!" she answered. "I don't need any
brandy. I'm--awfully strong, really. In a little while I'll be all
right. Just give me a little more water, and--and tell me--who are you?"
"Who am I?" he queried, holding up her head while she drank from the tin
cup he had now taken from his knapsack. "I? Oh, just an out-of-work.
Nobody of any interest to you!"
A certain tinge of bitterness crept into his voice. In health, he knew,
a woman of this class would not suffer him even to touch her hand.
"_Don't_ ask me who I am, please. And I--I won't ask _your_ name. We're
of different worlds, I guess. But for the moment, Fate has levelled the
barriers. Just let it go at that. And now, if you can stay here, all
right; perhaps I can hike back to the next house, below here, and
telephone, and summon help."
"How far is it?" she asked, looking at him with wonder in her lovely
eyes--wonder, and new thoughts, and a strange kind of longing to know
more of this extraordinary man, so strong, so gentle, so unwilling to
divulge himself or ask her name.
"How far?" he repeated. "Oh, four or five miles. I can make it in no
time. And with luck, I can have an auto and a doctor here before dark.
Well, does that suit you?"
"Don't go, please," she answered. "I--I may be still a little weak and
foolish, but--somehow, I don't want to be left alone. I want to be kept
from remembering, from thinking of those last, awful moments when the
car was running away; when it struck the wall, at the turn; when I was
thrown out, and--and knew no more. Don't go just yet," the girl
entreated, covering her eyes with both hands, as though to shut out the
horrible vision of the catastrophe.
"All right," Gabriel answered. "Just as you please. Only, if I stay, you
must promise to stop thinking about the accident, and try to pull
"I promise," she agreed, looking at him with strange eyes. "Oh dear,"
she added, with feminine inconsequentiality, "my hair's all down, and
Lord knows where the pins are!"
He smiled to himself as she managed, with the aid of such few hairpins
as remained, to coil the coppery meshes once more round her head and
even somewhat over the bandage, and secure them in place.
At sight of his face as he watched her, she too smiled wanly--the first
time he had seen a real smile on her mouth.
"I'm only a woman, after all," she apologized. "You don't understand.
You can't. But no matter. Tell me--why need you go, at all?"
"Why? For help, of course."
"There's sure to be a motor, or something, along this road, before very
long," she answered. "Put up some signal or other, to stop it. That will
save you a long, long walk, and save me from--remembering! I need you
here with me," she added earnestly. "Don't go--please!"
"All right, as you will," the man made reply. "I'll rig a danger-signal
on the road; and then all we can do will be to wait."
This plan he immediately put into effect, setting his knapsack in the
middle of the road and piling up brush and limbs of trees about it.
"There," he said to himself, as he surveyed the result, "no car will get
by _that_, without noticing it!"
Then he returned to the sugar-house, some hundred yards back from the
highway in the grove, now already beginning to grow dim with the shadows
of approaching nightfall. The glowing coals of the fire gleamed redly,
through the rough place. The girl, still lying on her bed of leaves and
auto-robes, with the mutilated shawl drawn over her, looked up at him
with an expression of trust and gratitude. For a second, only one,
something quick and vital gripped at the wanderer's heart--some vague,
intangible longing for a home and a woman, a longing old as our race,
deep-planted in the inmost citadel of every man's soul. But,
half-impatiently, he drove the thought away, dismissed it, and, smiling
down at her with cheerful eyes and white, even teeth, said reassuringly:
"Everything's all right now. The first machine that passes, will take
you to civilization."
"And you?" she asked. "What of you, then?"
"Me? Oh, I'll hike," he answered. "I'll plug along just as I was doing
when I found you."
"Work. Please don't question me. I'd rather you wouldn't."
She pondered a moment.
"Are you--what they call a--workingman?" she presently resumed.
"Yes," said he. "Why?"
"And are you happy?"
"Yes. In a way. Or shall be, when I've done what I mean to do."
"But--forgive me--you're very poor?"
"Not at all! I have, at this present moment, more than eighteen dollars
in my pocket, and I have _these_!"
He showed her his two hands, big and sinewed, capable and strong.
"Eighteen dollars," she mused, half to herself. "Why, I have spent that,
and more, for a single ounce of a new perfume--something very rare, you
know, from Japan."
"Indeed? Well, don't tell _me_," he replied. "I'm not interested in how
you spend money, but how you get it."
"Get it? Oh, father gives me my allowance, that's all."
"And he squeezes it out of the common people?"
She glanced at him quickly.
"You--you aren't a Socialist, into the bargain, are you?" she inquired.
"At your service," he bowed.
"This is strange, strange indeed," she said. "Tell me your name."
"No," he refused. "I'd still rather not. Nor shall I ask yours. Please
don't volunteer it."
Came a moment's silence, there in the darkening hut, with the fire-glow
red upon their faces.
"Happy," said the girl. "You say you're happy. While I--"
"Are not unhappy, surely?" asked Gabriel, leaning forward as he sat
there beside her, and gazing keenly into her face.
"How should I know?" she answered. "Unhappy? No, perhaps not. But
"Yes, I believe you," Gabriel judged. "You tell me no news. And as you
are, you will ever be. You will live so and die so. No, I won't preach.
I won't proselytize. I won't even explain. It would be useless. You are
one pole, I the other. And the world--the whole wide world--lies
Suddenly she spoke.
"You're a Socialist," said she. "What does it mean to be a Socialist?"
He shook his head.
"You couldn't understand, if I told you," he answered.
"Oh, because your ideas and environments and interests and everything
have been so different from mine--because you're what you are--because
you can never be anything else."
"You mean Socialism is something beyond my understanding?" she demanded,
piqued. "Of course, that's nonsense. I'm a human being. I've got brains,
haven't I? I can understand a scheme of dividing up, or levelling down,
or whatever it is, even if I can't believe in it!"
He smiled oddly.
"You've just proved, by what you've said," he answered slowly, "that
your whole concepts are mistaken. Socialism isn't anything like what you
think it is, and if I should try to explain it, you'd raise ten thousand
futile objections, and beg the question, and defeat my object of
explanation by your very inability to get the point of view. So you
"I see that I want to know more!" she exclaimed, with determination. "If
there's any branch of human knowledge that lies outside my reasoning
powers, it's time I found that fact out. I thought Socialists were wild,
crazy, erratic cranks; but if you're one, then I seem to have been
wrong. You look rational enough, and you talk in an eminently sane
"Thank you," he replied, ironically.
"Don't be sarcastic!" she retorted. "I only meant--"
"It's all right, anyhow," said he. "You've simply got the old, stupid,
wornout ideas of your class. You can't grasp this new ideal, rising
through the ruck and waste and sin and misery of the present system. I
don't blame you. You're a product of your environment. You can't help
it. With that environment, how can you sense the newer and more vital
ideas of the day?"
For a moment she fixed eager eyes on him, in silence. Then asked she:
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