The Minister's Charge
William D. Howells
Part 5 out of 7
with her kindly, and he went to see her the night before he started
home, though it was not Sunday, but he had found her door locked,
and this made him angry with her, he could not have said just why.
If he told his mother about Statira now, what should he tell her? He
compromised by telling her about the two girls that had painted his
His mother seemed not to care a great deal about the pictures. She
said, "I don't want you should let any girl make a fool of you,
"Oh no," he answered, and went and looked out of the window.
"I don't say but what they're nice girls enough, but in your place
you no need to throw yourself away."
Lemuel thought of the awe of Miss Carver in which he lived, and the
difference between them; and he could have laughed at his mother's
ignorant pride. What would she say if she knew that he was engaged
to a girl that worked in a box-factory? But probably she would not
think that studying art and teaching it was any better. She
evidently believed that his position in the St. Albans was superior
to that of Miss Carver.
His sister and her husband came home before they had finished
dinner. His sister had her face all tied up to keep from taking cold
after having her tooth drawn, and Lemuel had to go out and help his
rheumatic brother-in-law put up the horse. When they came in, his
brother-in-law did not wash his hands before going to the table, and
Lemuel could not keep his eyes off his black and broken fingernails;
his mother's and sister's nails were black too. It must have been so
when he lived at home.
His sister could not eat; she took some tea, and went to bed. His
brother-in-law pulled off his boots after dinner, and put up his
stocking-feet on the stove-hearth to warm them.
There was no longer any chance to talk with his mother indoors, and
he asked her if she would not like to come out; it was very mild.
She put on her bonnet, and they strolled down the road. All the time
Lemuel had to keep from looking at her bloomers. When they met any
one driving, he had to keep himself from trying to look as if he
were not with her, but was just out walking alone.
The day wore heavily away. His brother-in-law's rheumatism came on
toward evening, and his sister's face had swollen, so that it would
not do for her to go out. Lemuel put on some old clothes he found in
his room, and milked the cows himself.
"Like old times, Lem," said his mother, when he came in.
"Yes," he assented quietly.
He and his mother had tea together, but pretty soon afterwards she
seemed to get sleepy; and Lemuel said he had been up early and he
guessed he would go to bed. His mother said she guessed she would go
After he had blown out his light, she came in to see if he were
comfortable. "I presume it seems a pretty poor place to you, Lem,"
she said, holding her lamp up and looking round.
"I guess if it's good enough for you it is for me," he answered
"No, it ain't," she said. "I always b'en used to it, and I can see
from your talk that you've got used to something different already.
Well, it's right, Lem. You're a good boy, and I want you should get
the good of Boston, all you can. We don't any of us begrutch it to
ye; and what I came up to say now was, don't you scrimp yourself
down there to send home to us. We got a roof over our heads, and we
can keep soul and body together somehow; we always have, and we
don't need a great deal. But I want you should keep yourself nicely
dressed down to Boston, so 't you can go with the best; I don't want
you should feel anyways meechin' on account of your clothes. You got
a good figure, Lem; you take after your father. Sometimes I wish you
was a little bigger; but _he_ wa'n't; and he had a big spirit.
He wa'n't afraid of anything; and they said if he'd come out o' that
battle where he was killed, he'd 'a' b'en a captain. He was a good
She had hardly ever spoken so much of his father before; he knew now
by the sound of her voice in the dim room that the tears must be in
her eyes; but she governed herself and went on.
"What I wanted to say was, don't you keep sendin' so much o' your
money home, child. It's yours, and I want you should have it; most
of it goes for patent medicines, anyway, when it gets here; we can't
keep Reuben from buying 'em, and he's always changin' doctors. And I
want you should hold yourself high, Lem. You're as good as anybody.
And don't you go with any girls, especially, that ain't of the best.
You're gettin' to that time o' life when you'll begin to think about
'em; but don't you go and fall in love with the first little poppet
you see, because she's got pretty eyes and curly hair."
It seemed to Lemuel as if she must know about Statira, but of course
she did not. He lay still, and she went on.
"Don't you go and get engaged, or any such foolishness in a hurry,
Lem. Them art-student girls you was tellin' about, I presume they're
all right enough; but you wait a while. Young men think it's a kind
of miracle if a girl likes 'em, and they're ready to go crazy over
it; but it's the most natural thing she can do. You just wait a
while. When you get along a little further, you can pick and choose
for yourself. I don't know as I should want you should marry for
money; but don't you go and take up with the first thing comes
along, because you're afraid to look higher. What's become o' that
nasty thing that talked so to you at that Miss Vane's?"
Lemuel said that he had never seen Sibyl or Miss Vane since; but he
did not make any direct response to the anxieties his mother had
hinted at. Her pride in him, so ignorant of all the reality of his
life in the city, crushed him more than the sight and renewed sense
of the mean conditions from which he had sprung. What if he should
tell her that Miss Carver, whom she did not want him to marry in a
hurry, regarded him as a servant, and treated him as she would treat
a black man? What if she knew that he was as good as engaged to
marry a girl that could no more meet Miss Carver on the same level
than she could fly? He could only tell his mother not to feel
troubled about him; that he was not going to get married in any
great hurry; and pretend to be sleepy and turn his head away.
She pulled the covering up round his neck and tucked it in with her
strong, rough old hand, whose very tenderness hurt.
He had expected to stay the greater part of the next day, but he
took an earlier train. His sister was still laid up; she thought she
must have taken cold in her jaw; her husband, rumpled, unshaven,
with a shawl over his shoulders, cowered about the cook-stove for
the heat. He began to hate this poverty and suffering, to long for
escape from it to the life which at that distance seemed so rich and
easy and pleasant; he trembled lest something might have happened in
his absence to have thrown him out of his place.
All the way to Boston he was under the misery of the home that he
was leaving; his mother's pride added to the burden of it. But when
the train drew in sight of the city, and he saw the steeples and
chimneys, and the thin masts of the ships printed together against
the horizon, his heart rose. He felt equal to it, to anything in it.
He arrived in the middle of the afternoon, and he saw no one at the
hotel except the Harmons till toward dinner-time. Then the ladies
coming in from shopping had a word of welcome for him; some of them
stopped and shook hands at the office, and when they began to come
down to dinner they spoke to him, and there again some of them
offered their hands; they said it seemed an age since he had gone.
The art-students came down with Berry, who shook hands so cordially
with him that perhaps they could not help it. Miss Carver seemed to
hesitate, but she gave him her hand too, and she asked, as the
others had done, whether he had found his family well.
He did not know what to think. Sometimes he felt as if people were
trying to make a fool of him almost. He remained blushing and
smiling to himself after the last of them had gone in to dinner. He
did not know what Miss Carver meant, but her eyes seemed to have
lost that cold distance, and to have come nearer to him.
Late at night Berry came to him where he sat at his desk. "Well,
Barker, I'm glad you're back again, old man. Feels as if you'd been
gone a month of Sundays. Didn't know whether we should have you with
us this _first_ evening."
Lemuel grew hot with consciousness, and did not make it better for
himself by saying, "I don't know what you mean."
"Well, I don't suppose I should in your _place_," returned
Berry. "It's human nature. It's all right. What did the ladies think
of the 'Roman Youth' the other night? The distinguished artists
weren't sure exactly, and I thought I could make capital with one of
'em if I could find out. Yes, that's my little game, Barker; that's
what I dropped in for; Bismarck style of diplomacy. I'll tell you
why they want to know, if you won't give me away: Miss Swan wanted
to give her 'bit of colour'--that's what she calls it--to one of the
young ladies; but she's afraid she didn't like it."
"I guess they liked it well enough," said Lemuel, thinking with
shame that Statira had not had the grace to say a word of either of
the pictures; he attributed this to 'Manda Grier's influence.
"Well that's good, so far as it goes," said Berry. "But now, to come
down to particulars, what did they _say_? That's what Miss Swan
will ask _me_."
"I don't remember just what they said," faltered Lemuel.
"Well, they must have said something," insisted Berry jocosely.
"Give a fellow some little clue, and I can piece it out for myself.
What did _she_ say? I don't ask which she _was_? but I have my suspicions.
All I want to know is what she _said_. Anything like beautiful middle
distance, or splendid chiaroscuro, or fine perspective, or exquisite
modelling? Come now! Try to think, Barker." He gave Lemuel time, but
to no purpose. "Well," he resumed, with affected dejection, "I'll have
to try to imagine it; I guess I can; I haven't worked my imagination
much since I took up the law. But look here, Barker," he continued
more briskly, "now you open up a little. Here I've been giving you
my confidence ever since I saw you--forcing it on you; and you know
just how far I'm gone on Miss Swan, to a hundredth part of an inch;
but I don't know enough of your affections to swear that you've got
any. Now, which one is it? Don't be mean about it. I won't give you
away. Honest Injun!"
Lemuel was goaded to desperation. His face burned, and the
perspiration began to break out on his forehead. He did not know how
to escape from this pursuit.
"Which is it, Barker?" repeated his tormentor. "I know it's human
nature to deny it; though I never could understand why; if I was
engaged, the Sunday papers should have it about as quick!"
"I'm _not_ engaged!" cried Lemuel.
"You ain't?" yelled Berry.
"Give me your hand! Neither am I!"
He shook Lemuel's helpless hand with mock heroic fervour. "We are
brothers from this time forth, Barker! You can't imagine how closely
this tie binds you to me, Barker. Barker, we are one; with no
particular prospect, as far as I am concerned, of ever being more."
He offered to dramatise a burst of tears on Lemuel's shoulder; but
Lemuel escaped from him.
"Stop! Quit your fooling! What if somebody should come in?"
"They won't," said Berry, desisting, and stretching himself at ease
in the only chair besides Lemuel's with which the office was
equipped. "It's too late for 'em. Now o'er the one-half world nature
seems dead-ah, and wicked dreams abuse the curtained sleep-ah. We
are safe here from all intrusion, and I can lay bare my inmost
thoughts to you, Barker, if I happen to have any. Barker, I'm
awfully glad you're not engaged to either of those girls,--or both.
And it's not altogether because I enjoy the boon companionship of
another unengaged man, but it's partly because I don't think--shall
I say it?"
"Say what?" asked Lemuel, not without some prescience.
"Well, you can forgive the brotherly frankness, if you don't like
it. I don't think they're quite up to you."
Lemuel gave a sort of start, which Berry interpreted in his own way.
"Now, hold on! I know just how you feel. Been there myself. I have
seen the time too when I thought any sort of girl was too good for
Alonzo W., Jr. But I don't now. I think A. W., Jr., is good enough
for the best. I may be mistaken; I was the other time. But we all
begin that way; and the great object is not to keep on that way.
See? Now, I suppose you're in love--puppy love--with that little
thing. Probably the first girl you got acquainted with after you
came to Boston, or may be a sweet survival of the Willoughby
Pastures period. All right. Perfectly natural, in either case. But
don't you let it go any further, my dear boy; old man, don't you let
it go any further. Pause! Reflect! Consider! Love wisely, but not
too well! Take the unsolicited advice of a sufferer."
Pride, joy, shame, remorse, mixed in Lemuel's heart, which eased
itself in an involuntary laugh at Berry's nonsense.
"Now, what I want you to do--dear boy, or old man, as the case may
be--is to regard yourself in a new light. Regard yourself, for the
sake of the experiment, as too good for any girl in Boston. No?
Can't fetch it? Try again!"
Lemuel could only laugh foolishly.
"Well, now, that's singular," pursued Berry. "I supposed you could
have done it without the least trouble. Well, let's try something a
little less difficult. Look me in the eye, and regard yourself as
too good, for example, for Miss Carver. Ha!"
An angry flush spread over Lemuel's embarrassed face. "I wish you'd
behave yourself," he stammered.
"In any other cause I would," said Berry solemnly. "But I must be
cruel to be kind. Seriously, old man, if you can't think yourself
too good for Miss Carver, I wish you'd think yourself good enough.
Now, I'm not saying anything against the Willoughby episode, mind.
That has its place in the wise economy of nature, just like anything
else. But there ain't any outcome in it for you. You've got a future
before you, Barker, and you don't want to go and load up with a love
affair that you'll keep trying to unload as long as you live. No,
sir! Look at me! I know I'm not an example in some things, but in
this little business of correctly placed affections I could give
points to Solomon. Why am I in love with M. Swan? Because I can't
help it for one thing, and because for another thing she can do more
to develop the hidden worth and unsuspected powers of A. W., Jr.,
than any other woman in the world. She may never feel that it's her
mission, but she can't shake my conviction that way; and I shall
stay undeveloped to prove that I was right. Well, now, what you
want, my friend, is development, and you can't get it where you've
been going. She hain't got it on hand. And what you want to do is
not to take something else in its place--tender heart, steadfast
affections, loyalty; they've got 'em at every shop in town; they're
a drug in the market. You've got to say 'No development, heigh?
Well, I'll just look round a while, and if I can't find it at some
of the other stores I'll come back and take some of that steadfast
affection. You say it won't come off? Or run in washing?' See?"
"You ought to be ashamed of yourself," said Lemuel, trying to summon
an indignant feeling, and laughing with a strange pleasure at heart.
"You've got no right to talk to me that way. I want you should leave
"Well, since you're so pressing, I will go," said Berry easily. "But
if I find you at our next interview sitting under the shade of the
mustard-tree whose little seed I have just dropped, I shall feel
that I have not laboured in vain. 'She's a darling, she's a daisy,
she's a dumpling, she's a lamb!' I refer to Miss Swan, of course;
but on other lips the terms are equally applicable to Miss Carver;
and don't you forget it!"
He swung out of the office with a mazurka step. His silk hat, gaily
tilted on the side of his head, struck against the door-jamb, and
fell rolling across the entry floor. Lemuel laughed wildly. At
twenty these things are droll.
A week passed, and Lemuel had not tried to see Statira again. He
said to himself that even when he had tried to do what was right,
and to show those young ladies how much he thought of her by
bringing her to see their pictures, she had acted very ungratefully,
and had as good as tried to quarrel with him. Then, when he went to
see her before his visit home, she was out; she had never been out
before when he called.
Now, he had told Berry that they were not engaged. At first, this
shocked him as if it were a lie. Then he said to himself that he had
a right to make that answer because Berry had no right to ask the
questions that led to it. Then he asked himself if he really were
engaged to Statira. He had told her that he liked her better than
any one else in the world, and she had said as much to him. But he
pretended that he did not know whether it could be called an
There was no one who could solve the question for him, and it kept
asking itself that whole week, and especially when he was with Miss
Carver, as happened two or three times through Berry's connivance.
Once he had spent the greater part of an evening in the studio,
where he talked nearly all the time with Miss Carver, and he found
out that she was the daughter of an old ship's captain at Corbitant;
her mother was dead, and her aunt had kept house for her father. It
was an old square house that her grandfather built, in the days when
Corbitant had direct trade with France. She described it minutely,
and told how a French gentleman had died there in exile at the time
of the French revolution and who was said to haunt the house; but
Miss Carver had never seen any ghosts in it. They all began to talk
of ghosts and weird experiences; even Berry had had some strange
things happen to him in the West. Then the talk broke in two again,
and Lemuel sat apart with Miss Carver, who told at length the plot
of a story she had been reading; it was a story called _Romola_;
and she said she would lend it to Lemuel; she said she did not see
how any one could bear to be the least selfish or untrue after
reading it. That made Lemuel feel cold; but he could not break
away from her charm. She sat where the shaded lamp threw its soft
light on one side of her face; it looked almost like the face of
a spirit, and her eyes were full of a heavenly gentleness.
Lemuel asked himself how he could ever have thought them proud eyes.
He asked himself at the same time and perpetually, whether he was
really engaged to Statira or not. He thought how different this
evening was from those he spent with her. She could not talk about
anything but him and her dress; and 'Manda Grier could not do
anything but say saucy things which she thought were smart. Miss
Swan was really witty; it was as good as the theatre to hear her and
Berry going on together. Berry was pretty bright; there was no
denying it. He sang to his banjo that night; one of the songs was
Spanish; he had learned it in New Mexico.
Lemuel began to understand better how such nice young ladies could
go with Berry. At first, after Berry talked so to him that night in
the office against Statira, he determined that he would keep away
from him. But Berry was so sociable and good-natured that he could
not. The first thing he knew, Lemuel was laughing at something Berry
said, and then he could not help himself.
Berry was coming now, every chance he had, to talk about the art-
students. He seemed to take it for granted that Lemuel was as much
interested in Miss Carver as he was himself in Miss Swan; and Lemuel
did begin to speak of her in a shy way. Berry asked him if he had
noticed that she looked like that Spanish picture of the Virgin that
Miss Swan had pinned up next to the door; and Lemuel admitted that
there was some resemblance.
"Notice those eyes of hers, so deep, and sorry for everybody in
general? If it was anybody in particular, _that_ fellow would
be in luck. Oh. she's a dumpling, there's no mistake about it!
'Nymph, in thy orisons be all my sins remembered!' That's Miss
Carver's style. She looks as if she just _wanted_ to forgive
somebody something. I'm afraid you ain't wicked enough, Barker. Look
here! What's the reason we can't make up a little party for the
Easter service at the Catholic cathedral Sunday night? The girls
would like to go, I know."
"No, no, I can't! I mustn't!" said Lemuel, and he remained steadfast
in his refusal. It would be the second Sunday night that he had not
seen Statira, and he felt that he must not let it pass so. Berry
went off to the cathedral with the art-students; and he kept out of
the way till they were gone.
He said to himself that he would go a little later than usual to see
Statira, to let her know that he was not so very anxious; but when
he found her alone, and she cried on his neck, and owned that she
had not behaved as she should that night when she went to see the
pictures, and that she had been afraid he hated her, and was not
coming any more, he had stayed away so long, his heart was melted,
and he did everything to soothe and comfort her, and they were more
loving together than they had been since the first time. 'Manda
Grier came in, and said through her nose, like an old country-woman,
"'The falling out of faithful friends, renewing is of love!'" and
Statira exclaimed in the old way, "'_Manda_!" that he had once
thought so cunning, and rested there in his arms with her cheek
tight pressed against his.
She did not talk; except when she was greatly excited about
something, she rarely had anything to say. She had certain little
tricks, poutings, bridlings, starts, outcries, which had seemed the
most bewitching things in the world to Lemuel. She tried all these
now, unaffectedly enough, in listening to his account of his visit
home, and so far as she could she vividly sympathised with him.
He came away heavy and unhappy. Somehow, these things no longer
sufficed for him. He compared this evening with the last he had
spent with the art-students, which had left his brain in a glow, and
kept him awake for hours with luminous thoughts. But he had got over
that unkindness to Statira, and he was glad of that. He pitied her
now, and he said to himself that if he could get her away from
'Manda Grier, and under the influence of such girls as Miss Swan and
Miss Carver, it would be much better for her. He did not relent
toward 'Manda Grier; he disliked her more than ever, and in the
friendship which he dramatised between Statira and Miss Carver, he
saw her cast adrift without remorse.
Sewell had told him that he was always at leisure Monday night, and
the next evening Lemuel went to pay his first visit to the minister
since his first day in Boston. It was early, and Evans, who usually
came that evening, had not arrived yet, but Sewell had him in his
thought when he hurried forward to meet his visitor.
"Oh, is it you, Mr. Barker?" he asked in a note of surprise. "I am
glad to see you. I had been intending to come and look you up again.
Will you sit down? Mr. Evans was here the other night, and we were
talking of you. I hope you are all well?"
"Very well, thank you," said Lemuel, taking the hand the minister
offered, and then taking the chair he indicated. Sewell did not know
exactly whether to like the greater ease which Lemuel showed in his
presence; but there was nothing presumptuous in it, and he could not
help seeing the increased refinement of the young man's beauty. The
knot between his eyes gave him interest, while it inflicted a vague
pang upon the minister. "I have been at home since I saw you."
Lemuel looked down at his neat shoes to see if they were in fit
state for the minister's study-carpet, and Sewell's eye
sympathetically following, wandered to the various details of
Lemuel's simple and becoming dress,--the light spring suit which he
had indulged himself in at the Misfit Parlours since his mother had
bidden him keep his money for himself and not send so much of it
"Ah, have you?" cried the minister. "I hope you found your people
all well? How is the place looking? I suppose the season isn't quite
so advanced as it is with us."
"There's some snow in the woods yet," said Lemuel, laying the stick
he carried across the hat-brim on his knees. "Mother was well; but
my sister and her husband have had a good deal of sickness."
"Oh, I'm sorry for that," said Sewell, with the general sympathy
which Evans accused him of keeping on tap professionally. "Well, how
did you like the looks of Willoughby Pastures compared with Boston?
Rather quieter, I suppose."
"Yes, it was quieter," answered Lemuel.
"But the first touch of spring must be very lovely there! I find
myself very impatient with these sweet, early days in town. I envy
you your escape to such a place."
Lemuel opposed a cold silence to the lurking didacticism of these
sentences, and Sewell hastened to add, "And I wish I could have had
your experience in contrasting the country and the town, after your
long sojourn here, on your first return home. Such a chance can come
but once in a lifetime, and to very few."
"There are some pleasant things about the country," Lemuel began.
"Oh, I am sure of it!" cried Sewell, with cheerful aimlessness.
"The stillness was a kind of rest, after the noise here; I think any
one might be glad to get back to such a place----"
"I was sure you would," interrupted Sewell.
"If he was discouraged or broken down any way," Lemuel calmly added.
"Oh!" said Sewell. "You mean that you found more sympathy among your
old friends and neighbours than you do here?"
"No," said Lemuel bluntly. "That's what city people think. But it's
all a mistake. There isn't half the sympathy in the country that
there is in the city. Folks pry into each other's business more, but
they don't really care so much. What I mean is that you could live
cheaper, and the fight isn't so hard. You might have to use your
hands more, but you wouldn't have to use your head hardly at all.
There isn't so much opposition--competition."
"Oh," said Sewell a second time. "But this competition--this
struggle--in which one or the other must go to the wall, isn't that
"I don't know as it is," answered Lemuel, "as long as you're young
and strong. And it don't always follow that one must go to the wall.
I've seen some things where both got on better."
Sewell succumbed to this worldly wisdom. He was frequently at the
disadvantage men of cloistered lives must be, in having his theories
in advance of his facts. He now left this point, and covertly
touched another that had come up in his last talk with Evans about
Barker. "But you find in the country, don't you, a greater equality
of social condition? People are more on a level, and have fewer
"Yes, there's that," admitted Lemuel. "I've worried a good deal
about that, for I've had to take a servant's place in a good many
things, and I've thought folks looked down on me for it, even when
they didn't seem to intend to do it. But I guess it isn't so bad as
I thought when I first began to notice it. Do you suppose it is?"
His voice was suddenly tense with personal interest in the question
which had ceased to be abstract.
"Oh, certainly not," said the minister, with an ease which he did
"I presume I had what you may call a servant's place at Miss
Vane's," pursued Lemuel unflinchingly, "and I've been what you may
call head waiter at the St. Albans, since I've been there. If a
person heard afterwards, when I had made out something, if I ever
did, that I had been a servant, would they--they--despise me for
"Not unless they were very silly people," said Sewell cordially, "I
can assure you."
"But if they had ever seen me doing a servant's work, wouldn't they
always remember it, no matter what I was afterwards?" Sewell
hesitated, and Lemuel hurried to add, "I ask because I've made up my
mind not to be anything but clerk after this."
Sewell pitied the simple shame, the simple pride. "That isn't the
question for you to ask, my dear boy," he answered gently, and with
an affection which he had never felt for his charge before. "There's
another question, more important, and one which you must ask
yourself: '_Should I care if they did?_' After all, the matter's in
your own hands. Your soul's always your own till you do something
"Yes, I understand that." Lemuel sat silently thoughtful, fingering
his hat-band. It seemed to Sewell that he wished to ask something
else, and was mustering his courage; but if this was so, it exhaled
in a sigh, and he remained silent.
"I should be sorry," pursued the minister, "to have you dwell upon
such things. There are certain ignoble facts in life which we can
best combat by ignoring them. A slight of almost any sort ceases to
be when you cease to consider it." This did not strike Sewell as
wholly true when he had said it, and he was formulating some
modification of it in his mind, when Lemuel said--
"I presume a person can help himself some by being ashamed of caring
for such things, and that's what I've tried to do."
"Yes, that's what I meant----"
"I guess I've exaggerated the whole thing some. But if a thing is
so, thinking it ain't won't unmake it."
"No," admitted Sewell reluctantly. "But I should be sorry, all the
same, if you let it annoy--grieve you. What has pleased me in what
I've been able to observe in you, has been your willingness to take
hold of any kind of honest work. I liked finding you with your coat
off washing dishes, that morning, at the Wayfarer's Lodge, and I
liked your going at once to Miss Vane's in a--as you did----"
"Of course," Lemuel interrupted, "I could do it before I knew how it
was looked at here."
"And couldn't you do it now?"
"Not if there was anything else."
"Ah, that's the great curse of it; that's what I deplore," Sewell
broke out, "in our young people coming from the country to the city.
They must all have some genteel occupation! I don't blame them; but
I would gladly have saved you this experience--this knowledge--if I
could. I felt that I had done you a kind of wrong in being the
means, however indirectly and innocently, of your coming to Boston,
and I would willingly have done anything to have you go back to the
country. But you seemed to distrust me--to find something hostile in
me--and I did not know how to influence you."
"Yes, I understand that," said Lemuel. "I couldn't help it, at
first. But I've got to see it all in a different light since then. I
know that you meant the best by me. I know now that what I wrote
wasn't worth anything, and just how you must have looked at it. I
didn't know some things then that I do now; and since I have got to
know a little more I have understood better what you meant by all
"I am very glad," said Sewell, with sincere humility, "that you have
kept no hard feeling against me."
"Oh, not at all. It's all right now. I couldn't explain very well
that I hadn't come to the city just to be in the city, but because I
had to do something to help along at home. You didn't seem to
understand that there wa'n't anything there for me to take hold of."
"No, I'm afraid I didn't, or wouldn't quite understand that; I was
talking and acting, I'm afraid, from a preconceived notion." Lemuel
made no reply, not having learned yet to utter the pleasant
generalities with which city people left a subject; and after a
while Sewell added, "I am glad to have seen your face so often at
church. You have been a great deal in my mind, and I have wished to
do something to make your life happy, and useful to you in the best
way, here, but I haven't quite known how." At this point Sewell
realised that it was nearly eight months since Lemuel had come to
Boston, and he said contritely, "I have not made the proper effort,
I'm afraid; but I did not know exactly how to approach you. You were
rather a difficult subject," he continued, with a smile in which
Lemuel consented to join, "but now that we've come to a clearer
understanding--" He broke off and asked, "Have you many
acquaintances in Boston?"
Lemuel hesitated, and cleared his throat, "Not many."
Something in his manner prompted the minister to say, "That is such
a very important thing for young men in a strange place. I wish you
would come oftener to see us, hereafter. Young men, in the want of
companionship, often form disadvantageous acquaintances, which they
can't shake off afterwards, when they might wish to do so. I don't
mean evil acquaintance; I certainly couldn't mean that in your case;
but frivolous ones, from which nothing high or noble can come--
nothing of improvement or development."
Lemuel started at the word and blushed. It was Berry's word. Sewell
put his own construction on the start and the blush.
"Especially," he went on, "I should wish any young man whom I was
interested in to know refined and noble woman." He felt that this
was perhaps in Lemuel's case too much like prescribing port wine and
carriage exercise to an indigent patient, and he added, "If you
cannot know such women, it is better to know none at all. It is not
what women say or do, so much as the art they have of inspiring a
man to make the best of himself. The accidental acquaintances that
young people are so apt to form are in most cases very detrimental.
There is no harm in them of themselves, perhaps, but all
irregularity in the life of the young is to be deplored."
"Do you mean," asked Lemuel, with that concreteness which had
alarmed Sewell before, "that they ought to be regularly introduced?"
"I mean that a young girl who allowed a young man to make her
acquaintance outside of the--the--social sanctions--would be apt to
be a silly or romantic person, at the best. Of course, there are
exceptions. But I should be very sorry if any young man I knew--no;
why shouldn't I say _you_, at once?--should involve himself in
any such way. One thing leads to another, especially with the young;
and the very fact of irregularity, of romance, of strangeness in an
acquaintance, throws a false glamour over the relation, and appeals
to the sentiments in an unwarranted degree."
"Yes, that is so," said Lemuel.
The admission stimulated Sewell in the belief that he had a clue in
his hand which it was his duty to follow up. "The whole affair loses
proportion and balance. The fancy becomes excited, and some of
the most important interests--the very most important interests of
life--are committed to impulse." Lemuel remained silent, and it seemed
the silence of conviction. "A young man is better for knowing women
older than himself, more cultivated, devoted to higher things. Of
course, young people must see each other, must fall in love and get
married; but there need be no haste about such things. If there is
haste--if there is rashness, thoughtlessness--there is sure to be
unhappiness. Men are apt to outgrow their wives intellectually, if
their wives' minds are set on home and children, as they should be,
and allowance for this ought to be made, if possible. I would rather
that in the beginning the wife should be the mental superior. I hope
it will be several years yet before you think seriously of such
things, but when the time comes, I hope you will have seen some
young girl--there are such for every one of us--whom it is
civilisation and enlightenment, refinement, and elevation, simply to
know. On the other hand, a silly girl's influence is degrading and
ruinous. She either drags those attached to her down to her own
level; or she remains a weight and a clog upon the life of a man who
"Yes," said Lemuel, with a sigh which Sewell interpreted as that of
relief from danger recognised in time.
He pursued eagerly. "I could not warn any one too earnestly against
such an entanglement."
Lemuel rose and looked about with a troubled glance. Sewell
continued: "Any such marriage--a marriage upon any such conditions--
is sure to be calamitous; and if the conditions are recognised
beforehand, it is sure to be iniquitous. So far from urging the
fulfilment of even a promise, in such a case, I would have every
such engagement broken, in the interest of humanity--of morality----"
Mrs. Sewell came into the room, and gave a little start of surprise,
apparently not mixed with pleasure, at seeing Lemuel. She had never
been able to share her husband's interest in him, while insisting
upon his responsibility; she disliked him not logically, but
naturally, for the wrong and folly which he had been the means of
her husband's involving himself in; Miss Vane's kindliness toward
Lemuel, which still survived, and which expressed itself in
questions about him whenever she met the minister, was something
that Mrs. Sewell could not understand. She now said, "Oh! Mr.
Barker!" and coldly gave him her hand. "Have you been well? Must you
"Yes, thank you. I have got to be getting back. Well, good evening."
He bowed to the Sewells.
"You must come again to see me," said the minister, and looked at
"Yes, it has been a very long time since you were here," Mrs. Sewell
"I haven't had a great deal of time to myself," said Lemuel, and he
contrived to get himself out of the room.
Sewell followed him down to the door, in the endeavour to say
something more on the subject his wife had interrupted, but he only
contrived to utter some feeble repetitions. He came back in
vexation, which he visited upon Lemuel. "Silly fellow!" he
"What has he been doing now?" asked Mrs. Sewell, with reproachful
"Oh, _I_ don't know! I suspect that he's been involving himself
in some ridiculous love affair!" Mrs. Sewell looked a silent
inculpation. "It's largely conjecture on my part, of course,--he's
about as confiding as an oyster!--but I fancy I have said some
things in a conditional way that will give him pause. I suspect from
his manner that he has entangled himself with some other young
simpleton, and that he's ashamed of it, or tired of it, already. If
that's the case, I have hit the nail on the head. I told him that a
foolish, rash engagement was better broken than kept. The foolish
marriages that people rush into are the greatest bane of life!"
"And would you really have advised him, David," asked his wife, "to
break off an engagement if he had made one?"
"Of course I should! I----"
"Then I am glad I came in in time to prevent your doing anything so
"Wicked?" Sewell turned from his desk, where he was about to sit
down, in astonishment.
"Yes! Do you think that nobody else is to be considered in such a
thing? What about the poor, silly girl if he breaks off with her?
Oh, you men are all alike! Even the best! You think it is a dreadful
thing for a young man to be burdened with a foolish love affair at
the beginning of his career; but you never think of the girl whose
whole career is spoiled, perhaps, if the affair is broken off!
Hasn't she any right to be considered?"
"I should think," said Sewell, distinctly daunted, "that they were
equally fortunate, if it were broken off."
"O my dear, you know you don't think anything of the kind! If he has
more mind than she has, and is capable of doing something in the
world, he goes on and forgets her; but she remembers him. Perhaps
it's her one chance in life to get married--to have a home. You know
very well that in a case of that kind--a rash engagement, as you
call it--both are to blame; and shall one do all the suffering? Very
probably his fancy was taken first, and he followed her up, and
flattered her into liking him; and now shall he leave her because
he's tired of her?"
"Yes," said Sewell, recovering from the first confusion which his
wife's unexpected difference of opinion had thrown him into, "I
should think that was the very best reason in the world why he
should leave her. Would his marrying make matters worse or better if
he were tired of her? As for wickedness, I should feel myself guilty
if I did not do my utmost to prevent marriages between people when
one or other wished to break their engagement, and had not the moral
courage to do so. There is no more pernicious delusion than that
one's word ought to be kept in such an affair, after the heart has
gone out of it, simply because it's been given."
But Sewell was not to be restrained. "I am right about this, Lucy,
and you know it. Half the miserable marriages in the world could be
prevented, if there were only some frank and fearless adviser at
hand to say to the foolish things that if they no longer fully and
freely love each other they can commit no treason so deadly as being
true to their word. I wish," he now added, "that I could be the
means of breaking off every marriage that the slightest element of
doubt enters into beforehand. I should leave much less work for the
divorce courts. The trouble comes from that crazy and mischievous
principle of false self-sacrifice that I'm always crying out
against. If a man has ceased to love the woman he has promised to
marry--or _vice versa_--the best possible thing they can do,
the only righteous thing, is not to marry."
Mrs. Sewell could not deny this. She directed an oblique attack from
another quarter, as women do, while affecting not to have changed
her ground at all. "Very well, then, David, I wish you would have
nothing to do with that crazy and mischievous principle yourself. I
wish you would let this ridiculous Barker of yours alone from this
time forth. He has found a good place, where he is of use, and where
he is doing very well. Now I think your responsibility is fairly
ended. I hope you won't meddle with his love affairs, if he has any;
for if you do, you will probably have your hands full. He is very
good looking, and all sorts of silly little geese will be falling in
love with him."
"Well, so far his love troubles are purely conjectural," said Sewell
with a laugh. "I'm bound to say that Barker himself didn't say a
word to justify the conjecture that he was either in love or wished
to be out of it. However, I've given him some wholesome advice which
he'll be all the better for taking, merely as a prophylactic, if
"I am tired of him," sighed Mrs. Sewell. "Is he going to keep
perpetually turning up, in this way? I hope you were not very
pressing with him in your invitations to him to call again?"
Sewell smiled. "You were not, my dear."
"You let him take too much of your time. I was so provoked, when I
heard you going on with him, that I came down to put an end to it."
"Well, you succeeded," said Sewell easily. "Don't you think he's
greatly improved in the short time he's been in the city?"
"He's very well dressed. I hope he isn't extravagant."
"He's not only well dressed, but he's beginning to be well spoken. I
believe he's beginning to observe that there is such a thing as not
talking through the nose. He still says, 'I don't know as,' but most
of the men they turn out of Harvard say that; I've heard some of the
professors say it."
Mrs. Sewell was not apparently interested in this.
That night Lemuel told Mrs. Harmon that she must not expect him to
do anything thenceforward but look after the accounts and the
general management; she must get a head-waiter, and a boy to run the
elevator. She consented to this, as she would have consented to
almost anything else that he proposed.
He had become necessary to the management of the St. Albans in every
department; and if the lady boarders felt that they could not now
get on without him, Mrs. Harmon was even more dependent.
With her still nominally at the head of affairs, and controlling the
expenses as a whole, no radical reform could be effected. But there
were details of the outlay in which Lemuel was of use, and he had
brought greater comfort into the house for less money. He rejected
her old and simple device of postponing the payment of debt as an
economical measure, and substituted cash dealings with new
purveyors. He gradually but inevitably took charge of the store-
room, and stopped the waste there; early in his administration he
had observed the gross and foolish prodigality with which the
portions were sent from the carving-room, and after replacing Mrs.
Harmon's nephew there, he established a standard portion that gave
all the needed variety, and still kept the quantity within bounds.
It came to his taking charge of this department entirely, and as
steward he carved the meats, and saw that nothing was in a way to
become cold before he opened the dining-room doors as head-waiter.
His activities promoted the leisure which Mrs. Harmon had always
enjoyed, and which her increasing bulk fitted her to adorn. Her
nephew willingly relinquished the dignity of steward. He said that
his furnaces were as much as he wanted to take care of; especially
as in former years, when it had begun to come spring, he had
experienced a stress of mind in keeping the heat just right, when
the ladies were all calling down the tubes for more of it or less of
it, which he should now be very glad not to have complicated with
other cares. He said that now he could look forward to the month of
May with some pleasure.
The guests, sensibly or insensibly, according to their several
temperaments, shared the increased ease that came from Lemuel's
management. The service was better in every way; their beds were
promptly made, their rooms were periodically swept; every night when
they came up from dinner they found their pitchers of ice-water at
their doors. This change was not accomplished without much of that
rebellion and renunciation which was known at the St. Albans as
kicking. Chambermaids and table-girls kicked, but they were replaced
by Lemuel, who went himself to the intelligence office, and pledged
the new ones to his rule beforehand. There was even some kicking
among the guests, who objected to the new portions, and to having a
second bill sent them if the first remained unpaid for a week; but
the general sense of the hotel was in Lemuel's favour.
He had no great pleasure in the reform he had effected. His heart
was not in it, except as waste and disorder and carelessness were
painful to him. He suffered to promote a better state of things, as
many a woman whose love is for books or pictures or society suffers
for the perfection of her housekeeping, and sacrifices her taste to
achieve it. He would have liked better to read, to go to lectures,
to hear sermons; with the knowledge of Mr. Evans's life as an editor
and the incentive of a writer near him, he would have liked to try
again if he could not write something, though the shame of his
failure in Mr. Sewell's eyes had burned so deep. Above all, since he
had begun to see how city people regarded the kind of work he had
been doing, he would have liked to get out of the hotel business
altogether, if he could have been sure of any other.
As the spring advanced his cares grew lighter. Most of the regular
boarders went away to country hotels and became regular boarders
there. Their places were only partially filled by transients from
the South and West, who came and went, and left Lemuel large spaces
of leisure, in which he read, or deputed Mrs. Harmon's nephew to the
care of the office and pursued his studies of Boston, sometimes with
Mr. Evans,--whose newspaper kept him in town, and who liked to prowl
about with him, and to frequent the odd summer entertainments,--but
mostly alone. They became friends after a fashion, and were in each
other's confidence as regarded their opinions and ideas, rather than
their history; now and then Evans dropped a word about the boy he
had lost, or his wife's health, but Lemuel kept his past locked fast
in his breast.
The art-students had gone early in the summer, and Berry had left
Boston for Wyoming at the end of the spring term of the law-school.
He had not been able to make up his mind to pop before Miss Swan
departed, but he thought he should fetch it by another winter; and
he had got leave to write to her, on condition, he said, that he
should conduct the whole correspondence himself.
Miss Carver had left Lemuel dreaming of her as an ideal, yet true,
with a slow, rustic constancy, to Statira. For all that had been
said and done, he had not swerved explicitly from her. There was no
talk of marriage between them, and could not be; but they were
lovers still, and when Miss Carver was gone, and the finer charm of
her society was unfelt, he went back to much of the old pleasure he
had felt in Statira's love. The resentment of her narrow-mindedness,
the shame for her ignorance passed; the sense of her devotion
'Manda Grier wanted her to go home with her for part of the summer,
but she would not have consented if Lemuel had not insisted. She
wrote him back ill-spelt, scrawly little letters, in one of which
she told him that her cough was all gone, and she was as well as
ever. She took a little more cold when she returned to town in the
first harsh September weather, and her cough returned, but she said
she did not call it anything now.
The hotel began to fill up again for the winter. Berry preceded the
art-students by some nervous weeks, in which he speculated upon what
he should do if they did not come at all. Then they came, and the
winter passed, with repetitions of the last winter's events, and a
store of common memories that enriched the present, and insensibly
deepened the intimacy in which Lemuel found himself. He could not
tell whither the present was carrying him; he only knew that he had
drifted so far from the squalor of his past, that it seemed like the
shadow of a shameful dream.
He did not go to see Statira so often as he used; and she was
patient with his absences, and defended him against 'Manda Grier,
who did not scruple to tell her that she believed the fellow was
fooling with her, and who could not always keep down a mounting
dislike of Lemuel in his presence. One night towards spring, when he
returned early from Statira's, he found Berry in the office at the
St. Albans. "That you, old man?" he asked. "Well, I'm glad you've
come. Just going to leave a little Billy Ducks for you here, but now
I needn't. The young ladies sent me down to ask if you had a copy of
Whittier's poems; they want to find something in it. I told 'em
Longfellow would do just as well, but I couldn't seem to convince
'em. They say he didn't write the particular poem they want."
"Yes, I've got Whittier's poems here," said Lemuel, unlocking his
desk. "It belongs to Mr. Evans; I guess he won't care if I lend it."
"Well, now, I tell you what," said Berry; "don't you let a borrowed
book like that go out of your hands. Heigh? You just bring it up
yourself. See?" He winked the eye next Lemuel with exaggerated
insinuation. "They'll respect you all the more for being so
scrupulous, and I guess they won't be very much disappointed on
general principles if you come along. There's lots of human nature
in girls--the best of 'em. I'll tell 'em I left you lookin' for it.
I don't mind a lie or two in a good cause. But you hurry along up,
He was gone before Lemuel could stop him; he could not do anything
It appeared that it was Miss Swan who wished to see the poem; she
could not remember the name of it, but she was sure she should know
it if she saw it in the index. She mingled these statements with her
greetings to Lemuel, and Miss Carver seemed as glad to see him. She
had a little more colour than usual, and they were all smiling, so
that he knew Berry had been getting off some of his jokes. But he
did not care.
Miss Swan found the poem as she had predicted, and, "Now all keep
still," she said, "and I'll read it." But she suddenly added, "Or
no; you read it, Mr. Barker, won't you?"
"If Barker ain't just in voice to-night, I'll read it," suggested
But she would not let him make this diversion. She ignored his
offer, and insisted upon Lemuel's reading. "Jessie says you read
beautifully. That passage in _Romola_," she reminded him; but
Lemuel said it was only a few lines, and tried to excuse himself. At
heart he was proud of his reading, and he ended by taking the book.
When he had finished the two girls sighed.
"Isn't it beautiful, Jessie?" said Miss Swan.
"Beautiful!" answered her friend.
"Well, I don't see much difference between that and a poem of
Longfellow's. Why wouldn't Longfellow have done just as well?
Honestly, now! Why isn't one poem just as good as another, for all
"It is, for some people," said Miss Swan.
Berry figured an extreme anguish by writhing in his chair. Miss Swan
laughed in spite of herself, and they began to talk in their usual
banter, which Miss Carver never took part in, and which Lemuel was
quite incapable of sharing. If it had come to savage sarcasm or a
logical encounter, he could have held his own, but he had a natural
weight and slowness that disabled him from keeping up with Berry's
light talk; he envied it, because it seemed to make everybody like
him, and Lemuel would willingly have been liked.
Miss Carver began to talk to him about the book, and then about Mr.
Evans. She asked him if he went much to his rooms, and Lemuel said
no, not at all, since the first time Mr. Evans had asked him up. He
said, after a pause, that he did not know whether he wanted him to
"I should think he would," said Miss Carver. "It must be very gloomy
for him, with his wife such an invalid. He seems naturally such a
"Yes, that's what I think," said Lemuel.
"I wonder," said the girl, "if it seems to you harder for a
naturally cheerful person to bear things, than for one who has
always been rather melancholy?"
"Yes, it does!" he answered with the pleasure and surprise young
people have in discovering any community of feeling; they have
thought themselves so utterly unlike each other. "I wonder why it
"I don't know; perhaps it isn't so. But I always pity the cheerful
person the most."
They recognised an amusing unreason in this, and laughed. Miss Swan
across the room had caught the name.
"Are you talking of Mrs. Evans?"
Berry got his banjo down from the wall, where Miss Swan allowed him
to keep it as bric-a-brac, and began to tune it.
"I don't believe it agrees with this banjoseph being an object of
virtue," he said. "What shall it be, ladies? Something light and
gay, adapted to disperse gloomy reflections?" He played a fandango.
"How do you like that? It has a tinge of melancholy in it, and yet
it's lively too, as a friend of mine used to say about the Dead
"Was his name Berry?" asked Miss Swan.
"Not Alonzo W., Jr.," returned Berry tranquilly, and he and Miss
Swan began to joke together.
"I know a friend of Mr. Evans's," said Lemuel to Miss Carver. "Mr.
Sewell. Have you ever heard him preach?"
"Oh yes, indeed. We go nearly every Sunday morning."
"I nearly always go in the evening now," said Lemuel. "Don't you
"Yes," said the girl. "There's something about him--I don't know
what--that doesn't leave you feeling how bad you are, but makes you
want to be better. He helps you so; and he's so clear. And he shows
that he's had all the mean and silly thoughts that you have. I don't
know--it's as if he were talking for each person alone."
"Yes, that is exactly the way I feel!" Lemuel was proud of the
coincidence. He said, to commend himself further to Miss Carver, "I
have just been round to see him."
"I should think you would value his acquaintance beyond anything,"
said the girl. "Is he just as earnest and simple as he is in the
"He's just the same, every way." Lemuel went a little further; "I
knew him before I came to Boston. He boarded one summer where we
lived." As he spoke he thought of the grey, old, unpainted house,
and of his brother-in-law with his stocking-feet on the stove-
hearth, and his mother's bloomers; he thought of his arrest, and his
night in the police-station, his trial, and the Wayfarer's Lodge;
and he wondered that he could think of such things and still look
such a girl in the face. But he was not without that strange joy in
their being unknown to her which reserved and latent natures feel in
mere reticence, and which we all experience in some degree when we
talk with people and think of our undiscovered lives.
They went on a long time, matching their opinions and feelings about
many things, as young people do, and fancying that much of what they
said was new with them. When he came away after ten o'clock, he
thought of one of the things that Sewell had said about the society
of refined and noble women: it was not so much what they said or did
that helped; it was something in them that made men say and do their
best, and help themselves to be refined and noble men, to make the
most of themselves in their presence. He believed that this was what
Miss Carver had done, and he thought how different it was with him
when he came away from an evening with Statira. Again he experienced
that compassion for her, in the midst of his pride and exultation;
he asked himself what he could do to help her; he did not see how
she could be changed.
Berry followed him downstairs, and wanted to talk the evening over.
"I don't see how I'm going to stand it much longer, Barker," he
said. "I shall have to pop pretty soon or die, one of the two; and
I'm afraid either one 'll kill me. Wasn't she lovely to-night? Honey
in the comb, sugar in the gourd, _I_ say! I wonder what it is
about popping, anyway, that makes it so hard, Barker? It's simply a
matter of business, if you come to boil it down. You offer a fellow
so many cattle, and let him take 'em or leave 'em. But if the fellow
happens to have on a long, slim, olive-green dress of some colour,
and holds her head like a whole floral tribute on a stem, and
_you_ happen to be the cattle you're offering, you can't feel
so independent about it, somehow. Well, what's the use? She's a
daisy, if ever there was one. Ever notice what a peculiar blue her
"Blue?" said Lemuel. "They're brown."
"Look here, old man," said Berry compassionately, "do you think I've
come down here to fool away my time talking about Miss Carver? We'll
take some Saturday afternoon for that, when we haven't got anything
else to do; but it's Miss Swan that has the floor at present. What
were you two talking about over there, so long? I can't get along
with Miss Carver worth a cent."
"I hardly know what we did talk about," said Lemuel dreamily.
"Well, I've got the same complaint, I couldn't tell you ten words
that Madeline said--in thine absence let me call thee Madeline,
sweet!--but I knew it was making an immortal spirit of me, right
straight along, every time. The worst thing about an evening like
this is, it don't seem to last any time at all. Why, when those
girls began to put up their hands to hide their yawns, I felt like I
was just starting in for a short call. I wish I could have had a
good phonograph around. I'd put it on my sleepless pillow, and
unwind its precious record all through the watches of the night." He
imitated the thin phantasmal squeak of the instrument in repeating a
number of Miss Swan's characteristic phrases. "Yes, sir, a pocket
phonograph is the thing I'm after."
"I don't see how you can talk the way you do," said Lemuel,
shuddering inwardly at Berry's audacious freedom, and yet finding a
certain comfort in it.
"That's just the way I felt myself at first. But you'll get over it
as you go along. The nicest thing about their style of angel is that
they're perfectly human, after all. You don't believe it now, of
course, but you will."
It only heightened Lemuel's conception of Miss Carver's character to
have Berry talk so lightly and daringly of her, in her relation to
him. He lay long awake after he went to bed, and in the turmoil of
his thoughts one thing was clear: so pure and high a being must
never know anything of his shameful past, which seemed to dishonour
her through his mere vicinity. He must go far from her, and she must
not know why; but long afterwards Mr. Sewell would tell her, and
then she would understand. He owed her this all the more because he
could see now that she was not one of the silly persons, as Mr.
Sewell called them, who would think meanly of him for having in his
ignorance and inexperience, done a servant's work. His mind had
changed about that, and he wondered that he could ever have
suspected her of such a thing.
About noon the next day the street door was opened hesitatingly, as
if by some one not used to the place; and when Lemuel looked up from
the menus he was writing, he saw the figure of one of those tramps
who from time to time presented themselves and pretended to want
work. He scanned the vagabond sharply, as he stood moulding a soft
hat on his hands, and trying to superinduce an air of piteous appeal
upon the natural gaiety of his swarthy face. "Well! what's wanted?"
A dawning conjecture that had flickered up in the tramp's eyes
flashed into full recognition.
Lemuel's heart stood still. "What--what do you want here?"
"Why, don't you know me, mate?"
All his calamity confronted Lemuel.
"No," he said, but nothing in him supported the lie he had uttered.
"Wayfarer's Lodge?" suggested the other cheerfully. "Don't you
"I guess you do," said the mate easily. "Anyway, I remember you."
Lemuel's feeble defence gave way. "Come in here," he said, and he
shut the door upon the intruder and himself, and submitted to his
fate. "What is it?" he asked huskily.
"Why, mate! what's the matter? Nobody's goin' to hurt you," said the
other encouragingly. "What's your lay here?"
"Yes. Got a job here?"
"I'm the clerk," said Lemuel, with the ghost of his former pride of
"Clerk?" said the tramp with good-humoured incredulity. "Where's
your diamond pin? Where's your rings?" He seemed willing to prolong
the playful inquiry. "Where's your patent leather boots?"
"It's not a common hotel. It's a sort of a family hotel, and I'm the
clerk. What do you want?"
The young fellow lounged back easily in his chair. "Why, I did drop
in to beat the house out of a quarter if I could, or may be ten
cents. Thank you, sir. God bless you, sir." He interrupted himself
to burlesque a professional gratitude. "That style of thing, you
know. But I don't know about it now. Look here, mate! what's the
reason you couldn't get me a job here too? I been off on a six
months' cruise since I saw you, and I'd like a job on shore first
rate. Couldn't you kind of ring me in for something? I ain't afraid
of work, although I never did pretend to love it. But I should like
to reform now, and get into something steady. Heigh?"
"There isn't anything to do--there's no place for you," Lemuel
"Oh, pshaw, now, mate, you think!" pleaded the other. "I'll take any
sort of a job; I don't care what it is. I ain't got any o' that
false modesty about me. Been round too much. And I don't want to go
back to the Wayfarer's Lodge. It's a good place, and I know my
welcome's warm and waitin' for me, between two hot plates; but the
thing of it is, it's demoralisin'. That's what the chaplain said
just afore I left the--ship, 'n' I promised him I'd give work a try,
anyway. Now you just think up something! I ain't in any hurry." In
proof he threw his soft hat on the desk, and took up one of the
_menus_. "This your bill of fare? Well, it ain't bad! Vurmiselly soup,
boiled holibut, roast beef, roast turkey with cranberry sauce, roast
pork with apple sauce, chicken corquettes, ditto patties, three kinds
of pie; bread puddin', both kinds of sauce; ice cream, nuts, and
coffee. Why, mate!"
Lemuel sat dumb and motionless. He could see no way out of the net
that had entangled him. He began feebly to repeat. "There isn't
anything," when some one tried the door.
"Mr. Barker!" called Mrs. Harmon. "You in there?"
He made it worse by waiting a moment before he rose and opened the
door. "I didn't know I'd locked it." The lie came unbidden; he
groaned inwardly to think how he was telling nothing but lies. Mrs.
Harmon did not come in. She glanced with a little question at the
young fellow, who had gathered his hat from the table, and risen
with gay politeness.
It was a crisis of the old sort; the elevator boy had kicked, and
Mrs. Harmon said, "I just stopped to say that I was going out and I
could stop at the intelligence office myself to get an elevator boy--"
The mate took the word with a joyous laugh at the coincidence. "It's
just what me and Mr. Barker was talking about! I'm from up his way,
and I've just come down to Boston to see if I couldn't look up a job;
and he was tellin' me, in here, about your wantin' a telegraph--I
mean a elevator-boy, but he didn't think it would suit me. But I
should like to give it a try, anyway. It's pretty dull up our way, and
I got to do something. Mr. Barker 'll tell you who I am."
He winked at Lemuel with the eye not exposed to Mrs. Harmon, and
gave her a broad, frank, prepossessing smile.
"Well, of course," said Mrs. Harmon smoothly, "any friend of Mr.
"We just been talkin' over old times in here," interrupted the mate.
"I guess it was me shoved that bolt in. I didn't want to have
anybody see me talkin' with him till I'd got some clothes that would
be a little more of a credit to him."
"Well, that's right," said Mrs. Harmon appreciatively. "I always
like to have everybody around my house looking neat and respectable.
I keep a first-class house, and I don't have any but first-class
help, and I expect them to dress accordingly, from the highest to
"Yes, ma'am," said the mate, "that's the way I felt about it myself,
me and Mr. Barker both; and he was just tellin' me that if I was a
mind to give the elevator a try, he'd lend me a suit of his
"Very well, then," said Mrs. Harmon; "if Mr. Barker and you are a
mind to fix it up between you----"
"Oh, we are!" said the mate. "There won't be any trouble about
"I don't suppose I need to stop at the intelligence office. I
presume Mr. Barker will show you how to work the elevator. He helped
us out with it himself at first."
"Yes, that's what he said," the other chimed in. "But I guess I'd
better go and change my clothes first. Well, mate," he added to
Lemuel, "I'm ready when you're ready."
Lemuel rose trembling from the chair where he had been chained, as
it seemed to him, while the mate and Mrs. Harmon arranged their
affair with his tacit connivance. He had not spoken a word; he
feared so much to open his lips lest another lie should come out of
them, that his sense of that danger was hardly less than his terror
at the captivity in which he found himself.
"Yes," said Mrs. Harmon, "I'll look after the office till you get
back. Mr. Barker 'll show you where you can sleep."
"Thank you, ma'am," said the mate, with gratitude that won upon her.
"And I'm glad," she added, "that it's a friend of Mr. Barker's
that's going to have the place. We think everything of Mr. Barker
"Well, you can't think more of him than what we do up home,"
rejoined the other with generous enthusiasm.
In Lemuel's room he was not less appreciative. "Why, mate, it does
me good to see how you've got along. I got to write a letter home at
once, and tell the folks what friends you've got in Boston. I don't
believe they half understand it." He smiled joyously upon Lemuel,
who stood stock still, with such despair in his face that probably
the wretch pitied him.
"Look here, mate, don't you be afraid now! I'm on the reform lay
with all my might, and I mean business. I ain't a-goin' to do you
any harm, you bet your life. These your things?" he asked, taking
Lemuel's winter suit from the hooks where they hung, and beginning
to pull off his coat. He talked on while he changed his dress. "I
was led away, and I got my come-uppings, or the other fellow's come-
uppings, for _I_ wa'n't to blame any, and I always said so, and
I guess the judge would say so too, if it was to do over again."
A frightful thought stung Lemuel to life. "The judge? Was it a
The other stopped buttoning Lemuel's trousers round him to slap
himself on the thigh. "Why, mate! don't you know enough to know what
a _sea voyage_ is? Why, I've been down to the _Island_ for
the last six months! Hain't you never heard it called a sea voyage?
Why, we _always_ come off from a cruise when we git back! You
don't mean to say you never _been_ one?"
"Oh, my goodness!" groaned Lemuel. "Have--have you been in prison?"
"Why, of course."
"Oh, what am I going to do?" whispered the miserable creature to
The other heard him. "Why, you hain't got to do anything! I'm on the
reform, and you might leave everything layin' around loose, and I
shouldn't touch it. Fact! You ask the ship's chaplain."
He laughed in the midst of his assertions of good resolutions, but
sobered to the full extent, probably, of his face and nature, and
tying Lemuel's cravat on at the glass, he said solemnly, "Mate, it's
all right. I'm on the reform."
Lemuel's friend entered upon his duties with what may also be called
artistic zeal. He showed a masterly touch in managing the elevator
from the first trip. He was ready, cheerful, and obliging; he lacked
nothing but a little more reluctance and a Seaside Library novel to
be a perfect elevator-boy.
The ladies liked him at once; he was so pleasant and talkative, and
so full of pride in Lemuel that they could not help liking him; and
several of them promptly reached that stage of confidence where they
told him, as an old friend of Lemuel's, they thought Lemuel read too
much, and was going to kill himself if he kept on a great deal
longer. The mate said he thought so too, and had noticed how bad
Lemuel looked the minute he set eyes on him. But he asked what was
the use? He had said everything he could to him about it. He was
always just so, up at home. As he found opportunity he did what he
could to console Lemuel with furtive winks and nods.
Lemuel dragged absently and haggardly through the day. In the
evening he told Mrs. Harmon that he had to go round and see Mr.
Sewell a moment.
It was then nine o'clock, and she readily assented; she guessed Mr.
Williams--he had told her his name was Williams--could look after
the office while he was gone. Mr. Williams was generously glad to do
so. Behind Mrs. Harmon's smooth large form, he playfully threatened
her with his hand levelled at his shoulder; but even this failed to
It was half-past nine when he reached the minister's house, and the
maid had a visible reluctance at the door in owning that Mr. Sewell
was at home. Mrs. Sewell had instructed her not to be too eagerly
candid with people who came so late; but he was admitted, and Sewell
came down from his study to see him in the reception-room.
"What is the matter?" he asked at once, when he caught sight of
Lemuel's face; "has anything gone wrong with you, Mr. Barker?" He
could not help being moved by the boy's looks; he had a fleeting
wish that Mrs. Sewell were there to see him, and be moved too; and
he prepared himself as he might to treat the trouble which he now
expected to be poured out.
"Yes," said Lemuel, "I want to tell you; I want you to tell me what
When he had put the case fully before the minister, his listener was
aware of wishing that it had been a love-trouble, such as he
foreboded at first.
He drew a long and deep breath, and before he began to speak he
searched himself for some comfort or encouragement, while Lemuel
anxiously scanned his face.
"Yes--yes! I see your--difficulty," he began, making the futile
attempt to disown any share in it. "But perhaps--perhaps it isn't so
bad as it seems. Perhaps no harm will come. Perhaps he really means
to do well; and if you are vigilant in--in keeping him out of
temptation----" Sewell stopped, sensible that he was not coming to
anything, and rubbed his forehead.
"Do you think," asked Lemuel, dry mouthed with misery, "that I ought
to have told Mrs. Harmon at once?"
"Why, it is always best to be truthful and above-board--as a
principle," said the minister, feeling himself somehow dragged from
"Then I had better do it yet!"
"Yes," said Sewell, and he paused. "Yes. That is to say--As the
mischief is done--Perhaps--perhaps there is no haste. If you
exercise vigilance--But if he has been in prison--Do you know what
he was in for?"
"No. I didn't know he had been in at all till we got to my room. And
then I couldn't ask him--I was afraid to."
"Yes," said Sewell, kindly if helplessly.
"I was afraid, if I sent him off--or tried to--that he would tell
about my being in the Wayfarer's Lodge that night, and they would
think I had been a tramp. I could have done it, but I thought he
might tell some lie about me; and they might get to know about the
"I see," said Sewell.
"I hated to lie," said Lemuel piteously, "but I seemed to have to."
There was another yes on the minister's tongue; he kept it back; but
he was aware of an instant's relief in the speculation--the question
presented itself abstractly--as to whether it was ever justifiable
or excusable to lie. Were the Jesuitical casuists possibly right in
some slight, shadowy sort? He came back to Lemuel groaning in
spirit. "No--no--no!" he sighed; "we mustn't admit that you _had_
to lie. We must never admit that." A truth flashed so vividly upon
him that it seemed almost escape. "What worse thing could have come
from telling the truth than has come from withholding it? And that
would have been some sort of end, and this--this is only the miserable
"Yes," said Lemuel, with all desirable humility. "But I couldn't see
it at once."
"Oh, I don't blame you; I don't blame _you_," said Sewell. "It
was a sore temptation. I blame _myself_!" he exclaimed, with
more comprehensiveness than Lemuel knew; but he limited his self-
accusal by adding, "I ought to have told Mrs. Harmon myself what I
knew of your history; but I refrained because I knew you had never
done any harm, and I thought it cruel that you should be dishonoured
by your misfortunes in a relation where you were usefully and
prosperously placed; and so--and so I didn't. But perhaps I was
wrong. Yes, I was wrong. I have only allowed the burden to fall more
heavily upon you at last."
It was respite for Lemuel to have some one else accusing himself,
and he did not refuse to enjoy it. He left the minister to wring all
the bitterness he could for himself out of his final responsibility.
The drowning man strangles his rescuer.
Sewell looked up, and loosened his collar as if really stifling.
"Well, well. We must find some way out of it. I will see--see what
can be done for you to-morrow."
Lemuel recognised his dismissal. "If you say so, Mr. Sewell, I will
go straight back and tell Mrs. Harmon all about it."
Sewell rose too. "No--no. There is no such haste. You had better
leave it to me now. I will see to it--in the morning."
"Thank you," said Lemuel. "I hate to give you so much trouble."
"Oh," said Sewell, letting him out at the street-door, and putting
probably less thought and meaning into the polite words than they
had ever contained before, "it's no trouble."
He went upstairs to his study, and found Mrs. Sewell waiting there.
"Well, _now_--what, David?"
"Now what?" he feebly echoed.
"Yes. What has that wretched creature come for now?"
"You may well call him a wretched creature," sighed Sewell.
"Is he really engaged? Has he come to get you to marry him?"
"I think he'd rather have me bury him at present." Sewell sat down,
and, bracing his elbow on his desk, rested his head heavily on his
"Well," said his wife, with a touch of compassion tempering her
He began to tell her what had happened, and he did not spare himself
in the statement of the case. "There you have the whole affair now.
And a very pretty affair it is. But, I declare," he concluded, "I
can't see that any one is to blame for it."
"No one, David?"
"Well, Adam, finally, of course. Or Eve. Or the Serpent," replied
the desperate man.
Seeing him at this reckless pass, his wife forebore reproach, and
asked, "What are you going to do?"
"I am going around there in the morning to tell Mrs. Harmon all
"She will send him away instantly."
"I dare say."
"And what will the poor thing do?"
"I'm afraid Badness knows. It will drive him to despair."
"Well, perhaps not--perhaps not," sighed the minister. "At any rate,
we must not _let_ him be driven to despair. You must help me,
Mrs. Sewell was a good woman, and she liked to make her husband feel
"I knew that it must come to that," she said.
"Of course, we must not let him be ruined. If Mrs. Harmon insists
upon his going at once--as I've no doubt she will--you must bring
him here, and we must keep him till he can find some other home."
She waited, and added, for a final stroke of merciless beneficence,
"He can have Alfred's room, and Alf can take the front attic."
Sewell only sighed again. He knew she did not mean this.
Barker went back to the St. Albans, and shrunk into as small space
in the office as he could. He pulled a book before him and pretended
to read, hiding the side of his face toward the door with the hand
that supported his head. His hand was cold as ice, and it seemed to
him as if his head were in a flame. Williams came and looked in at
him once, and then went back to the stool which he occupied just
outside the elevator-shaft when not running it. He whistled softly
between his teeth, with intervals of respectful silence, and then
went on whistling in absence of any whom it might offend.
Suddenly a muffled clamour made itself heard from the depths of the
dining-room, like that noise of voices which is heard behind the
scenes at the theatre when an armed mob is about to burst upon the
stage. Irish tones, high, windy, and angry, yells, and oaths defined
themselves, and Mrs. Harmon came obesely hurrying from the dining-
room toward the office, closely followed by Jerry, the porter. When
upon duty, or, as some of the boarders contended, when in the right
humour, he blacked the boots, and made the hard-coal fires, and
carried the trunks up and down stairs. When in the wrong humour, he
had sometimes been heard to swear at Mrs. Harmon, but she had
excused him in this eccentricity because, she said, he had been with
her so long. Those who excused it with her on these grounds
conjectured arrears of wages as another reason for her patience. His
outbreaks of bad temper had the Celtic uncertainty; the most
innocent touch excited them, as sometimes the broadest snub failed
to do so; and no one could foretell what direction his zigzag fury
would take. He had disliked Lemuel from the first, and had chafed at
the subordination into which he had necessarily fallen. He was now
yelling after Mrs. Harmon, to know if she was not satisfied with
_wan_ gutther-snoipe, that she must nades go and pick up
another, and whether the new wan was going to be too good to take
prisints of money for his worruk from the boarthers, and put all the
rest of the help under the caumpliment of refusin' ut, or else
demanin' themselves by takin' ut? If this was the case, he'd have
her to know that she couldn't kape anny other help; and the quicker
she found it out the betther. Mrs. Harmon was trying to appease him
by promising to see Lemuel at once, and ask him about it.
The porter raised his voice an octave. "D' ye think I'm a loyar,
domn ye? Don't ye think I'm tellin' the thruth?"
He followed her to the little office, whither she had retreated on a
purely mechanical fulfilment of her promise to speak to Lemuel, and
crowded in upon them there.
"Here he is now!" he roared in his frenzy. "He's too good to take
the money that's offered to 'um! He's too good to be waither! He
wannts to play the gintleman! He thinks 'umself too good to do what
the other servants do, that's been tin times as lahng in the house!"
At the noise some of the ladies came hurrying out of the public
parlour to see what the trouble was. The street-door opened, and
Berry entered with the two art-students. They involuntarily joined
the group of terrified ladies.
"What's the row?" demanded Berry. "Is Jerry on the kick?"
No one answered. Lemuel stood pale and silent, fronting the porter,
who was shaking his fist in his face. He had not heard anything
definite in the outrage that assailed him. He only conjectured that
it was exposure of Williams's character, and the story of his own
career in Boston.
"Why don't you fire him out of there, Barker?" called the law-
student. "Don't be afraid of him!"
Lemuel remained motionless; but his glance sought the pitying eyes
of the assembled women, and then dropped before the amaze that
looked at him from those of Miss Carver. The porter kept roaring out
Berry spoke again.
"Mrs. Harmon, do you want that fellow in there?"
"No, goodness knows I don't, Mr. Berry."
"All right." Berry swung the street-door open with his left hand,
and seemed with the same gesture to lay his clutch upon the porter's
collar. "Fire him out myself!" he exclaimed, and with a few swiftly
successive jerks and bumps the burly shape of the porter was shot
into the night. "I want you to get me an officer, Jerry," he said,
putting his head out after him. "There's been a blackguard makin' a
row here. Never mind your hat! Go!"
"Oh, my good gracious, Mr. Berry!" gasped Mrs. Harmon, "what have
you done?" "If it's back pay, Mrs. Harmon, we'll pass round the hat.
Don't you be troubled. That fellow wasn't fit to be in a decent
Berry stopped a moment and looked at Lemuel. The art-students did
not look at him at all; they passed on upstairs with Berry.
The other ladies remained to question and to comment. Mrs. Harmon's
nephew, to whom the uproar seemed to have penetrated in his
basement, came up and heard the story from them. He was quite
decided. He said that Mr. Berry had done right. He said that he was
tired of having folks damn his aunt up hill and down dale; and that
if Jerry had kept on a great deal longer, he would have said
something to him himself about it.
The ladies justified him in the stand he took; they returned to the
parlour to talk it all over, and he went back to his basement. Mrs.
Harmon, in tears, retired to her room, and Lemuel was left standing
alone in his office. The mate stole softly to him from the
background of the elevator, where he had kept himself in safety
during the outbreak.
"Look here, mate. This thing been about your ringin' me in here?"
"Oh, go away, go away!" Lemuel huskily entreated.
"Well, that's what I intend to do. I don't want to stay here and git
you into no more trouble, and I know that's what's been done. You
never done me no harm, and I don't want to do you none. I'm goin'
right up to your room to git my clo'es, and then I'll skip."
"It won't do any good now. It'll only make it worse. You'd better
stay now. You must."
"Well, if you say so, mate."
He went back to his elevator, and Lemuel sat down at his desk, and
dropped his face upon his arms there. Toward eleven o'clock Evans
came in and looked at him, but without speaking; he must have
concluded that he was asleep; he went upstairs, but after a while he
came down again and stopped again at the office door, and looked in
on the haggard boy, hesitating as if for the best words. "Barker,
Mr. Berry has been telling me about your difficulty here. I know all
about you--from Mr. Sewell." Lemuel stared at him. "And I will stand
your friend, whatever people think. And I don't blame you for not
wanting to be beaten by that ruffian; you could have stood no chance
against him; and if you had thrashed him it wouldn't have been a
"I wish he had killed me," said Lemuel from his dust-dry throat.
"Oh no; that's foolish," said the elder, with patient, sad kindness.
"Who knows whether death is the end of trouble? We must live things
down, not die them down." He put his arm caressingly across the
"I can never live this down," said Lemuel. He added passionately, "I
wish I could die!"
"No," said Evans. "You must cheer up. Think of next Saturday. It
will soon be here, and then you'll be astonished that you felt so
bad on Tuesday."
He gave Lemuel a parting pressure with his arm, and turned to go
At the same moment the figure of Mrs. Harmon's nephew, distracted,
violent, burst up through the door leading to the basement.
"Good heavens!" exclaimed the editor, "is Mr. Harmon going to kick?"
"The house is on fire!" yelled the apparition.
A thick cloud of smoke gushed out of the elevator-shaft, and poured
into the hall, which it seemed to fill instantly. It grew denser,
and in another instant a wild hubbub began. The people appeared from
every quarter and ran into the street, where some of the ladies
began calling up at the windows to those who were still in their
rooms. A stout little old lady came to an open window, and paid out
hand over hand a small cable on which she meant to descend to the
pavement; she had carried this rope about with her many years
against the exigency to which she was now applying it. Within, the
halls and the stairway became the scene of frantic encounter between
wives and husbands rushing down to save themselves, and then rushing
back to save their forgotten friends. Many appeared in the simple
white in which they had left their beds, with the addition of such
shawls or rugs as chance suggested. A house was opened to the
fugitives on the other side of the street, and the crowd that had
collected could not repress its applause when one of them escaped
from the hotel-door and shot across. It applauded impartially men,
women, and children, and, absorbed in the spectacle, no one sounded
the fire-alarm; the department began to be severely condemned among
the bystanders before the engines appeared.
Most of the ladies, in their escape or their purpose of rescue,
tried each to possess herself of Lemuel, and keep him solely in her
interest. "Mr. Barker! Mr. Barker! Mr. Barker!" was called for in
various sopranos and contraltos, till an outsider took up the cry
and shouted, "Barker! Barker! Speech! Speech!" This made him very
popular with the crowd, who in their enjoyment of the fugitives were
unable to regard the fire seriously. A momentary diversion was
caused by an elderly gentleman who came to the hotel-door,
completely dressed except that he was in his stockings, and demanded
Jerry. The humourist who had called for a speech from Lemuel
volunteered the statement that Jerry had just gone round the corner
to see a man. "I want him," said the old gentleman savagely. "I want
my boots; I can't go about in my stockings."
Cries for Jerry followed; but in fact the porter had forgotten all
his grudges and enmities; he had reappeared, in perfect temper, and
had joined Lemuel and Berry in helping to get the women and children
out of the burning house.
The police had set a guard at the door, in whom Lemuel recognised
the friendly old officer who had arrested him. "All out?" asked the
The smoke, which had reddened and reddened, was now a thin veil
drawn over the volume of flame that burned strongly and steadily up
the well of the elevator, and darted its tongues out to lick the
framework without. The heat was intense. Mrs. Harmon came panting
and weeping from the dining-room with some unimportant pieces of
silver, driven forward by Jerry and her nephew.
They met the firemen, come at last, and pulling in their hose, who
began to play upon the flames; the steam filled the place with a
Lemuel heard Berry ask him through the fog, "Barker, where's old
"Oh, I don't know!" he lamented back.
"He must have gone up to get Mrs. Evans."
He made a dash towards the stairs. A fireman caught him and pulled
him back. "You can't go up; smoke's thick as hell up there." But
Lemuel pulled away, and shot up the stairs. He heard the firemen
"You can't go, I tell you! Who's runnin' this fire anyway, I'd like
He ran along the corridor which Evans's apartment opened upon. There
was not much smoke there; it had drawn up the elevator-well, as if
in a chimney.
He burst into the apartment and ran to the inner room, where he had
once caught a glimpse of Mrs. Evans sitting by the window.
Evans stood leaning against the wall, with his hand at his breast.
He panted, "Help her--help--"
"Where _is_ she? Where _is_ she?" demanded Lemuel.
She came from an alcove in the room, holding a handkerchief drenched
with cologne in her hand, which she passed to her husband's face.
"Are you better now? Can you come, dear? Rest on me!"
"I'm--I'm all right! Go--go! I can get along--"
"I'll go when _you_ go," said Mrs. Evans. She turned to Lemuel.
"Mr. Evans fainted; but he is better now." She took his hand with a
tender tranquillity that ignored all danger or even excitement, and
gently chafed it.
"But come--come!" cried Lemuel. "Don't you know the house is on
"Yes, I know it," she replied. "We must get Mr. Evans down. You must
help me." Lemuel had seldom seen her before; but he had so long
heard and talked of her hopeless invalidism that she was like one
risen from the dead, in her sudden strength and courage, and he
stared at the miracle of her restoration. It was she who claimed and
bore the greater share of the burden in getting her husband away. He
was helpless; but in the open air he caught his breath more fully,
and at last could tremulously find his way out of the sympathetic
crowd. "Get a carriage," she said to Lemuel; and then she added, as
it drove up and she gave an address, "I can manage him now."
Evans weakly pressed Lemuel's hand from the seat to which he had
helped him, and the hack drove away. Lemuel looked crazily after it
a moment, and then returned to the burning house.
Berry called to him from the top of the outside steps, "Barker, have
you seen that partner of yours?"
Lemuel ran up to him. "No!"
"Well, come in here. The elevator's dropped, and they're afraid he
went down with it."
"I know he didn't! He wouldn't be such a fool!"
"Well, we'll know when they get the fire under."
"I thought I saw something in the elevator, and as long as you don't
know where he is--" said a fireman.
"Well," said Berry, "if you've got the upper hands of this thing,
I'm going to my room a minute."
Lemuel followed him upstairs, to see if he could find Williams. The
steam had ascended and filled the upper halls; little cascades of
water poured down the stairs, falling from step to step; the long
strips of carpeting in the corridors swam in the deluge which the
hose had poured into the building, and a rain of heavy drops burst
through the ceilings.
Most of the room-doors stood open, as the people had flung them wide
in their rush for life. At the door of Berry's room a figure
appeared which he promptly seized by the throat.
"Don't be in a hurry!" he said, as he pushed it into the room. "I
want to see you."
It was Williams.
"I want to see what you've got in your pockets. Hold on to him,
Lemuel had no choice. He held Williams by the arms while Berry went
through him, as he called the search. He found upon him whatever
small articles of value there had been in his room.
The thief submitted without a struggle, without a murmur.
Berry turned scornfully to Lemuel. "This a friend of yours, Mr.
Still the thief did not speak, but he looked at Lemuel.
"Yes," he dryly gasped.
"Well!" said Berry, staring fiercely at him for a moment. "If it
wasn't for something old Evans said to me about you, a little while
ago, I'd hand you both over to the police."
Williams seemed to bear the threat with philosophic resignation, but
Lemuel shrank back in terror. Berry laughed.
"Why, you are his pal. Go along! I'll get Jerry to attend to you."
Lemuel slunk downstairs with Williams. "Look here, mate," said the
rogue; "I guess I ha'n't used you just right."
Lemuel expected himself to cast the thief off with bitter rejection.
But he heard himself saying hopelessly, "Go away, and try to behave
yourself," and then he saw the thief make the most of the favour of
heaven and vanish through the crowd.
He would have liked to steal away too; but he remained, and began
mechanically helping again wherever he saw help needed. By and by
Berry came out; Lemuel thought that he would tell some policeman to
arrest him; but he went away without speaking to any one.
In an hour the firemen had finished their share of the havoc, and
had saved the building. They had kept the fire to the elevator-shaft
and the adjoining wood-work, and but for the water they had poured
into the place the ladies might have returned to their rooms, which
were quite untouched by the flames. As it was, Lemuel joined with
Jerry in fetching such things to them as their needs or fancies
suggested; the refugees across the way were finally clothed by their
efforts, and were able to quit their covert indistinguishable in
dress from any of the other boarders.
The crowd began to go about its business. The engines had
disappeared from the little street with exultant shrieks; in the
morning the insurance companies would send their workmen to sweep
out the extinct volcano, and mop up the shrunken deluge, preparatory
to ascertaining the extent of the damage done; in the meantime the
police kept the boys and loafers out of the building, and the order
that begins to establish itself as soon as chaos is confessed took
possession of the ruin.
But it was all the same a ruin and a calamitous conclusion for the
time being. The place that had been in its grotesque and
insufficient fashion a home for so many homeless people was
uninhabitable; even the Harmons could not go back to it. The
boarders had all scattered, but Mrs. Harmon lingered, dwelling
volubly upon the scene of disaster. She did not do much else; she
was not without a just pride in it, but she was not puffed up by all
the sympathy and consolation that had been offered her. She thought
of others in the midst of her own troubles, and she said to Lemuel,
who had remained working with Jerry under her direction in putting
together such things as she felt she must take away with her--
"Well, I don't know as I feel much worse about myself than I do
about poor Mr. Evans. Why, I've got the ticket in my pocket now that
he gave me for the Wednesday matinee! I do wonder how he's gettin'
along! I guess they've got you to thank, if they're alive to tell
the tale. What _did_ you do to get that woman out alive?"
Lemuel looked blankly at her, and did not answer. "And Mr. Evans
too! You must have had your hands full, and that's what I told the
reporters; but I told 'em I guessed you'd be equal to it if any one
would. Why, I don't suppose Mrs. Evans has been out of her room for
a month, or hardly stepped her foot to the floor. Well, I don't want
to see many people look as he did when you first got him out of the
"Well, I don't know as I want to see many more fires where I live,"
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