The Mystery of Murray Davenport
Robert Neilson Stephens
Part 1 out of 4
Produced by Stan Goodman, Mary Meehan and Distributed Proofreaders
THE MYSTERY OF MURRAY DAVENPORT
_A Story of New York at the Present Day_
Robert Neilson Stephens
Works of Robert Neilson Stephens
An Enemy to the King
The Continental Dragoon
The Road to Paris
A Gentleman Player
The Mystery of Murray Davenport
[Illustration: "'DO YOU KNOW WHAT A "JONAH" IS?'"]
I. MR. LARCHER GOES OUT IN THE RAIN
II. ONE OUT OF SUITS WITH FORTUNE
III. A READY-MONEY MAN
IV. AN UNPROFITABLE CHILD
V. A LODGING BY THE RIVER
VI. THE NAME OF ONE TURL COMES UP
VII. MYSTERY BEGINS
VIII. MR. LARCHER INQUIRES
IX. MR. BUD'S DARK HALLWAY
X. A NEW ACQUAINTANCE
XI. FLORENCE DECLARES HER ALLEGIANCE
XII. LARCHER PUTS THIS AND THAT TOGETHER
XIII. MR. TURL WITH HIS BACK TO THE WALL
XIV. A STRANGE DESIGN
XV. TURL'S NARRATIVE CONTINUED
XVI. AFTER THE DISCLOSURE
XVII. BAGLEY SHINES OUT
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
"'DO YOU KNOW WHAT A "JONAH" IS?'"
"THE PLAY BECAME THE PROPERTY OF BAGLEY"
"'I'M AFRAID IT'S A CASE OF MYSTERIOUS DISAPPEARANCE'"
"'YOU'RE QUITE WELCOME TO THE USE OF MY AUTOMOBILE'"
"TURL, HAVING TAKEN A MOMENT'S PRELIMINARY THOUGHT, BEGAN HIS ACCOUNT"
"'GOOD EVENING, MR. MURRAY DAVENPORT! HOW ABOUT MY BUNCH OF MONEY?'"
THE MYSTERY OF MURRAY DAVENPORT
MR. LARCHER GOES OUT IN THE RAIN
The night set in with heavy and unceasing rain, and, though the month was
August, winter itself could not have made the streets less inviting than
they looked to Thomas Larcher. Having dined at the caterer's in the
basement, and got the damp of the afternoon removed from his clothes and
dried out of his skin, he stood at his window and gazed down at the
reflections of the lights on the watery asphalt. The few people he saw
were hastening laboriously under umbrellas which guided torrents down
their backs and left their legs and feet open to the pour. Clean and dry
in his dressing-gown and slippers, Mr. Larcher turned toward his easy
chair and oaken bookcase, and thanked his stars that no engagement called
him forth. On such a night there was indeed no place like home, limited
though home was to a second-story "bed sitting-room" in a house of
"furnished rooms to let" on a crosstown street traversing the part of New
York dominated by the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.
Mr. Larcher, who was a blue-eyed young man of medium size and medium
appearance every way, with a smooth shaven, clear-skinned face whereon
sat good nature overlaid with self-esteem, spread himself in his chair,
and made ready for content. Just then there was a knock at his door, and
a negro boy servant shambled in with a telegram.
"Who the deuce--?" began Mr. Larcher, with irritation; but when he opened
the message he appeared to have his breath taken away by joyous surprise.
"Can I call?" he said, aloud. "Well, rather!" He let his book drop
forgotten, and bestirred himself in swift preparation to go out. The
telegram read merely:
"In town over night. Can you call Savoy at once? EDNA."
The state of Mr. Larcher's feelings toward the person named Edna has
already been deduced by the reader. It was a state which made the young
man plunge into the weather with gladness, dash to Sixth Avenue with no
sense of the rain's discomfort, mentally check off the streets with
impatience as he sat in a north-bound car, and finally cover with flying
feet the long block to the Savoy Hotel. Wet but radiant, he was, after
due announcement, shown into the drawing-room of a suite, where he was
kept waiting, alone with his thumping heart, for ten minutes. At the end
of that time a young lady came in with a swish from the next room.
She was a small creature, excellently shaped, and gowned--though for
indoors--like a girl in a fashion plate. Her head was thrown back in
a poise that showed to the best effect her clear-cut features; and
she marched forward in a dauntless manner. She had dark brown hair
arranged in loose waves, and, though her eyes were blue, her flawless
skin was of a brunette tone. A hint has been given as to Mr. Larcher's
conceit--which, by the way, had suffered a marvellous change to humility
in the presence of his admired--but it was a small and superficial thing
compared with the self-satisfaction of Miss Edna, and yet hers sat upon
her with a serenity which, taking her sex also into consideration, made
it much less noticeable.
"Well, this is a pleasure!" he cried, rapturously, jumping up to meet
"Hello, Tom!" she said, placidly, giving him her hands for a moment. "You
needn't look apprehensively at that door. Aunt Clara's with me, of
course, but she's gone to see a sick friend in Fifty-eighth Street. We
have at least an hour to ourselves."
"An hour. Well, it's a lot, considering I had no hope of seeing you at
this time of year. When I got your telegram--"
"I suppose you _were_ surprised. To think of being in New York in
August!--and to find such horrid weather, too! But it's better than a hot
wave. I haven't any shopping to do--any real shopping, that is, though I
invented some for an excuse to come. I can do it in five minutes, with a
cab. But I came just to see you."
"How kind of you, dearest. But honestly? It seems too good to be true."
The young man spoke sincerely.
"It's true, all the same. I'll tell you why in a few minutes. Sit down
and be comfortable,--at this table. I know you must feel damp. Here's
some wine I saved from dinner on purpose; and these cakes. I mustn't
order anything from the hotel--Auntie would see it in the bill. But if
you'd prefer a cup of tea--and I could manage some toast."
"No, thanks; the wine and cakes are just the thing--with you to share
them. How thoughtful of you!"
She poured a glass of Hockheimer, and sat opposite him at the small
table. He took a sip, and, with a cake in his hand, looked delightedly
across at his hostess.
"There's something I want you to do for me," she answered, sitting
composedly back in her chair, in an attitude as graceful as comfortable.
"Nothing would make me happier."
"Do you know a man in New York named Murray Davenport?" she asked.
"No," replied Larcher, wonderingly.
"I'm sorry, because if you knew him already it would be easier. But I
should have thought you'd know him; he's in your profession, more or
less--that is, he writes a little for magazines and newspapers. But,
besides that, he's an artist, and then sometimes he has something to do
"I never heard of him. But," said Larcher, in a somewhat melancholy tone,
"there are so many who write for magazines and newspapers."
"I suppose so; but if you make it an object, you can find out about him,
of course. That's a part of your profession, anyhow, isn't it?--going
about hunting up facts for the articles you write. So it ought to be
easy, making inquiries about this Murray Davenport, and getting to know
"Oh, am I to do that?" Mr. Larcher's wonder grew deeper.
"Yes; and when you know him, you must learn exactly how he is getting
along; how he lives; whether he is well, and comfortable, and happy, or
the reverse, and all that. In fact, I want a complete report of how he
"Upon my soul, you must be deeply interested in the man," said Larcher,
"Oh, you make a great mistake if you think I'd lose sleep over any man,"
she said, with lofty coolness. "But there are reasons why I must find out
about this one. Naturally I came first to you. Of course, if you
hesitate, and hem and haw--" She stopped, with the faintest shrug of the
"You might tell me the reasons, dear," he said, humbly.
"I can't. It isn't my secret. But I've undertaken to have this
information got, and, if you're willing to do me a service, you'll get
it, and not ask any questions. I never imagined you'd hesitate a moment."
"Oh, I don't hesitate exactly. Only, just think what it amounts to--
prying into the affairs of a stranger. It seems to me a rather intrusive,
private detective sort of business."
"Oh, but you don't know the reason--the object in view. Somebody's
happiness depends on it,--perhaps more than one person's; I may tell you
"It doesn't matter. Nobody's that you know. It isn't _my_ happiness, you
may be sure of that, except as far as I sympathize. The point is, in
doing this, you'll be serving _me_, and really I don't see why you should
be inquisitive beyond that."
"You oughtn't to count inquisitiveness a crime, when the very thing you
ask me to do is nothing if not inquisitive. Really, if you'd just stop to
think how a self-respecting man can possibly bring himself to pry and
"Well, you may rest assured there's nothing dishonorable in this
particular case. Do you imagine I would ask you to do it if it were? Upon
my word, you don't flatter me!"
"Don't be angry, dear. If you're really _sure_ it's all right--"
"_If_ I'm sure! Tommy Larcher, you're simply insulting! I wish I had
asked somebody else! It isn't too late--"
Larcher turned pale at the idea. He seized her hand.
"Don't talk that way, Edna dearest. You know there's nobody will serve
you more devotedly than I. And there isn't a man of your acquaintance can
handle this matter as quickly and thoroughly. Murray Davenport, you say;
writes for magazines and newspapers; is an artist, also, and has
something to do with theatres. Is there any other information to start
"No; except that he's about twenty-eight years old, and fairly
good-looking. He usually lives in rooms--you know what I mean--and takes
his meals at restaurants."
"Can you give me any other points about his appearance? There _might_
possibly be two men of the same name in the same occupation. I shouldn't
like to be looking up the wrong man."
"Neither should I like that. We must have the right man, by all means.
But I don't think I can tell you any more about him. Of course _I_ never
"There wouldn't probably be more than one man of the same name who was a
writer and an artist and connected with theatres," said Larcher. "And it
isn't a common name, Murray Davenport. There isn't one chance in a
thousand of a mistake in identity; but the most astonishing coincidences
"He's something of a musician, too, now that I remember," added the young
"He must be a versatile fellow, whoever he is. And when do you want this
"As soon as possible. Whenever you find out anything about his
circumstances, and state of mind, and so forth, write to me at once; and
when you find out anything more, write again. We're going back to
Easthampton to-morrow, you know."
A few minutes after the end of another half-hour, Mr. Larcher put up his
umbrella to the rain again, and made his way back to Sixth Avenue and a
car. Pleasurable reflections upon the half-hour, and the additional
minutes, occupied his mind for awhile, but gave way at last to
consideration of the Murray Davenport business, and the strangeness
thereof, which lay chiefly in Edna Hill's desire for such intimate news
about a man she had never seen. Whose happiness could depend on getting
that news? What, in fine, was the secret of the affair? Larcher could
only give it up, and think upon means for the early accomplishment of his
part in the matter. He had decided to begin immediately, for his first
inquiries would be made of men who kept late hours, and with whose
midnight haunts he was acquainted.
He stayed in the car till he had entered the region below Fourteenth
Street. Getting out, he walked a short distance and into a basement,
where he exchanged rain and darkness for bright gaslight, an atmosphere
of tobacco smoke mixed with the smell of food and cheap wine, and the
noisy talk of a numerous company sitting--for the most part--at long
tables whereon were the traces of a _table d'hote_ dinner. Coffee and
claret were still present, not only in cups, bottles, and glasses, but
also on the table-cloths. The men were of all ages, but youth
preponderated and had the most to say and the loudest manner of saying
it. The ladies were, as to the majority, unattractive in appearance,
nasal in voice, and unabashed in manner. The assemblage was, in short,
a specimen of self-styled, self-conscious Bohemia; a far-off,
much-adulterated imitation of the sort of thing that some of the young
men with halos of hair, flowing ties, and critical faces had seen in
Paris in their days of art study. Larcher made his way through the crowd
in the front room to that in the back, acknowledging many salutations.
The last of these came from a middle-sized man in the thirties, whose
round, humorous face was made additionally benevolent by spectacles, and
whose forward bend of the shoulders might be the consequence of studious
pursuits, or of much leaning over cafe-tables, or of both.
"Hello, Barry Tompkins!" said Larcher. "I've been looking for you."
Mr. Tompkins received him with a grin and a chuckle, as if their meeting
were a great piece of fun, and replied in a brisk and clean-cut manner:
"You were sure to find me in the haunts of genius." Whereat he looked
around and chuckled afresh.
Larcher crowded a chair to Mr. Tompkins's elbow, and spoke low:
"You know everybody in newspaper circles. Do you know a man named Murray
"I believe there is such a man--an illustrator. Is that the one you
"I suppose so. Where can I find him?"
"I give it up. I don't know anything about him. I've only seen some of
his work--in one of the ten-cent magazines, I think."
"I've got to find him, and make his acquaintance. This is in confidence,
by the way."
"All right. Have you looked in the directory?"
"Not yet. The trouble isn't so much to find where he lives; there are
some things I want to find out about him, that'll require my getting
acquainted with him, without his knowing I have any such purpose. So the
trouble is to get introduced to him on terms that can naturally lead up
to a pretty close acquaintance."
"No trouble in that," said Tompkins, decidedly. "Look here. He's an
illustrator, I know that much. As soon as you find out where he lives,
call with one of your manuscripts and ask him if he'll illustrate it.
That will begin an acquaintance."
"And terminate it, too, don't you think? Would any self-respecting
illustrator take a commission from an obscure writer, with no certainty
of his work ever appearing?"
"Well, then, the next time you have anything accepted for publication,
get to the editor as fast as you can, and recommend this Davenport to do
"Wouldn't the editor consider that rather presumptuous?"
"Perhaps he would; but there's an editor or two who wouldn't consider it
presumptuous if _I_ did it. Suppose it happened to be one of those
editors, you could call on some pretext about a possible error in the
manuscript. I could call with you, and suggest this Davenport as
illustrator in a way both natural and convincing. Then I'd get the editor
to make you the bearer of his offer and the manuscript; and even if
Davenport refused the job,--which he wouldn't,--you'd have an opportunity
to pave the way for intimacy by your conspicuous charms of mind and
"Be easy, Barry. That looks like a practical scheme; but suppose he
turned out to be a bad illustrator?"
"I don't think he would. He must be fairly good, or I shouldn't have
remembered his name. I'll look through the files of back numbers in my
room to-night, till I find some of his work, so I can recommend him
intelligently. Meanwhile, is there any editor who has something of yours
in hand just now?"
"Why, yes," said Larcher, brightening, "I got a notice of acceptance
to-day from the _Avenue Magazine_, of a thing about the rivers of New
York City in the old days. It simply cries aloud for illustration."
"That's all right, then. Rogers mayn't have given it out yet for
illustration. We'll call on him to-morrow. He'll be glad to see me; he'll
think I've come to pay him ten dollars I owe him. Suppose we go now and
tackle the old magazines in my room, to see what my praises of Mr.
Davenport shall rest on. As we go, we'll look the gentleman up in the
directory at the drug-store--unless you'd prefer to tarry here at the
banquet of wit and beauty." Mr. Tompkins chuckled again as he waved a
hand over the scene, which, despite his ridicule of the pose and conceit
it largely represented, he had come by force of circumstances regularly
Mr. Larcher, though he found the place congenial enough, was rather for
the pursuit of his own affair. Before leaving the house, Tompkins led the
way up a flight of stairs to a little office wherein sat the foreign old
woman who conducted this tavern of the muses. He thought that she, who
was on chaffing and money-lending terms with so much talent in the shape
of her customers, might know of Murray Davenport; or, indeed, as he had
whispered to Larcher, that the illustrator might be one of the crowd in
the restaurant at that very moment. But the proprietress knew no such
person, a fact which seemed to rate him very low in her estimation and
somewhat high in Mr. Tompkins's. The two young men thereupon hastened to
board a car going up Sixth Avenue. Being set down near Greeley Square,
they went into a drug-store and opened the directory.
"Here's a Murray Davenport, all right enough," said Tompkins, "but he's
"Probably the same," replied Larcher, remembering that his man had
something to do with theatres. "He's a gentleman of many professions,
let's see the address."
It was a number and street in the same part of the town with Larcher's
abode, but east of Madison Avenue, while his own was west of Fifth. But
now his way was to the residence of Barry Tompkins, which proved to be a
shabby room on the fifth floor of an old building on Broadway; a room
serving as Mr. Tompkins's sleeping-chamber by night, and his law office
by day. For Mr. Tompkins, though he sought pleasure and forage under the
banners of literature and journalism, owned to no regular service but
that of the law. How it paid him might be inferred from the oldness of
his clothes and the ricketiness of his office. There was a card saying
"Back in ten minutes" on the door which he opened to admit Larcher and
himself. And his friends were wont to assert that he kept the card
"working overtime," himself, preferring to lay down the law to
companionable persons in neighboring cafes rather than to possible
clients in his office. When Tompkins had lighted the gas, Larcher saw a
cracked low ceiling, a threadbare carpet of no discoverable hue, an old
desk crowded with documents and volumes, some shelves of books at one
side, and the other three sides simply walled with books and magazines
in irregular piles, except where stood a bed-couch beneath a lot of
prints which served to conceal much of the faded wall-paper.
Tompkins bravely went for the magazines, saying, "You begin with that
pile, and I'll take this. The names of the illustrators are always in the
table of contents; it's simply a matter of glancing down that."
After half an hour's silent work, Tompkins exclaimed, "Here we are!" and
took a magazine to the desk, at which both young men sat down. "'A Heart
in Peril,'" he quoted; "'A Story by James Willis Archway. Illustrated by
Murray Davenport. Page 38.'" He turned over the leaves, and disclosed
some rather striking pictures in half-tone, signed "M.D." Two men and two
women figured in the different illustrations.
"This isn't bad work," said Tompkins. "I can recommend 'M.D.' with a
clear conscience. His women are beautiful in a really high way,--but
they've got a heartless look. There's an odd sort of distinction in his
men's faces, too."
"A kind of scornful discontent," ventured Larcher. "Perhaps the story
"Perhaps; but the thing I mean seems to be under the expressions
intended. I should say it was unconscious, a part of the artist's
conception of the masculine face in general before it's individualized.
I'll bet the chap that drew these illustrations isn't precisely the man
in the street, even among artists. He must have a queer outlook on life.
I congratulate you on your coming friend!" At which Mr. Tompkins,
chuckling, lighted a pipe for himself.
Mr. Larcher sat looking dubious. If Murray Davenport was an unusual sort
of man, the more wonder that a girl like Edna Hill should so strangely
busy herself about him.
ONE OUT OF SUITS WITH FORTUNE
Two days later, toward the close of a sunny afternoon, Mr. Thomas Larcher
was admitted by a lazy negro to an old brown-stone-front house half-way
between Madison and Fourth Avenues, and directed to the third story back,
whither he was left to find his way unaccompanied. Running up the dark
stairs swiftly, with his thoughts in advance of his body, he suddenly
checked himself, uncertain as to which floor he had attained. At a
hazard, he knocked on the door at the back of the dim, narrow passage he
was in. He heard slow steps upon the carpet, the door opened, and a man
slightly taller, thinner, and older than himself peered out.
"Pardon me, I may have mistaken the floor," said Larcher. "I'm looking
for Mr. Murray Davenport."
"'Myself and misery know the man,'" replied the other, with quiet
indifference, in a gloomy but not unpleasing voice, and stepped back to
allow his visitor's entrance.
A little disconcerted at being received with a quotation, and one of such
import,--the more so as it came from the speaker's lips so naturally
and with perfect carelessness of what effect it might produce on a
stranger,--Larcher stepped into the room. The carpet, the wall-paper, the
upholstery of the arm-chair, the cover of the small iron bed in one
corner, that of the small upright piano in another, and that of the table
which stood between the two windows and evidently served as a desk, were
all of advanced age, but cleanliness and neatness prevailed. The same was
to be said of the man's attire, his coat being an old gray-black garment
of the square-cut "sack" or "lounge" shape. Books filled the mantel, the
flat top of a trunk, that of the piano, and much of the table, which held
also a drawing-board, pads of drawing and manuscript paper, and the
paraphernalia for executing upon both. Tacked on the walls, and standing
about on top of books and elsewhere, were water-colors, drawings in
half-tone, and pen-and-ink sketches, many unfinished, besides a few
photographs of celebrated paintings and statues. But long before he had
sought more than the most general impression of these contents of the
room, Larcher had bent all his observation upon their possessor.
The man's face was thoughtful and melancholy, and handsome only by these
and kindred qualities. Long and fairly regular, with a nose distinguished
by a slight hump of the bridge, its single claim to beauty of form was in
the distinctness of its lines. The complexion was colorless but clear,
the face being all smooth shaven. The slightly haggard eyes were gray,
rather of a plain and honest than a brilliant character, save for a tiny
light that burned far in their depths. The forehead was ample and smooth,
as far as could be seen, for rather longish brown hair hung over it, with
a negligent, sullen effect. The general expression was of an odd
painwearied dismalness, curiously warmed by the remnant of an
"This letter from Mr. Rogers will explain itself," said Larcher, handing
"Mr. Rogers?" inquired Murray Davenport.
"Editor of the _Avenue Magazine_."
Looking surprised, Davenport opened and read the letter; then, without
diminution of his surprise, he asked Larcher to sit down, and himself
took a chair before the table.
"I'm glad to meet you, Mr. Larcher," he said, conventionally; then, with
a change to informality, "I'm rather mystified to know why Mr. Rogers,
or any editor, for that matter, should offer work to me. I never had any
offered me before."
"Oh, but I've seen some of your work," contradicted Larcher. "The
illustrations to a story called 'A Heart in Peril.'"
"That wasn't offered me; I begged for it," said Davenport, quietly.
"Well, in any case, it was seen and admired, and consequently you were
recommended to Mr. Rogers, who thought you might like to illustrate this
stuff of mine," and Larcher brought forth the typewritten manuscript from
under his coat.
"It's so unprecedented," resumed Davenport, in his leisurely, reflective
way of speaking. "I can scarcely help thinking there must be some
"But you are the Murray Davenport that illustrated the 'Heart in Peril'
"Yes; I'm the only Murray Davenport I know of; but an offer of work to
"Oh, there's nothing extraordinary about that. Editors often seek out new
illustrators they hear of."
"Oh, I know all about that. You don't quite understand. I say, an offer
to _me_--an offer unsolicited, unsought, coming like money found, like a
gift from the gods. Such a thing belongs to what is commonly called good
luck. Now, good luck is a thing that never by any chance has fallen to me
before; never from the beginning of things to the present. So, in spite
of my senses, I'm naturally a bit incredulous in this case." This was
said with perfect seriousness, but without any feeling.
Larcher smiled. "Well, I hope your incredulity won't make you refuse to
do the pictures."
"Oh, no," returned Davenport, indolently. "I won't refuse. I'll accept
the commission with pleasure--a certain amount of pleasure, that is.
There was a time when I should have danced a break-down for joy,
probably, at this opportunity. But a piece of good luck, strange as it
is to me, doesn't matter now. Still, as it has visited me at last, I'll
receive it politely. In as much as I have plenty of time for this work,
and as Mr. Rogers seems to wish me to do it, I should be churlish if I
declined. The money too, is an object--I won't conceal that fact. To
think of a chance to earn a little money, coming my way without the
slightest effort on my part! You look substantial, Mr. Larcher, but I'm
still tempted to think this is all a dream."
Larcher laughed. "Well, as to effort," said he, "I don't think I should
be here now with that accepted manuscript for you to illustrate, if I
hadn't taken a good deal of pains to press my work on the attention of
"Oh, I don't mean to say that your prosperity, and other men's, is due
to having good things thrust upon you in this way. But if you do owe all
to your own work, at least your work does bring a fair amount of reward,
your efforts are in a fair measure successful. But not so with me. The
greatest fortune I could ever have asked would have been that my pains
should bring their reasonable price, as other men's have done. Therefore,
this extreme case of good luck, small as it is, is the more to be
wondered at. The best a man has a right to ask is freedom from what
people call habitual bad luck. That's an immunity I've never had. My
labors have been always banned--except when the work has masqueraded
as some other man's. In that case they have been blessed. It will seem
strange to you, Mr. Larcher, but whatever I've done in my own name has
met with wretched pay and no recognition, while work of mine, no better,
when passed off as another man's, has won golden rewards--for him--in
money and reputation."
"It does seem strange," admitted Larcher.
"What can account for it?"
"Do you know what a 'Jonah' is, in the speech of the vulgar?"
"Well, people have got me tagged with that name. I bring ill luck to
enterprises I'm concerned in, they say. That's a fatal reputation, Mr.
Larcher. It wasn't deserved in the beginning, but now that I have it, see
how the reputation itself is the cause of the apparent ill luck. Take
this thing, for instance." He held up a sheet of music paper, whereon he
had evidently been writing before Larcher's arrival. "A song, supposed to
be sentimental. As the idea is somewhat novel, the words happy, and the
tune rather quaint, I shall probably get a publisher for it, who will
offer me the lowest royalty. What then? Its fame and sale--or whether it
shall have any--will depend entirely on what advertising it gets from
being sung by professional singers. I have taken the precaution to submit
the idea and the air to a favorite of the music halls, and he has
promised to sing it. Now, if he sang it on the most auspicious occasion,
making it the second or third song of his turn, having it announced with
a flourish on the programme, and putting his best voice and style into
it, it would have a chance of popularity. Other singers would want it, it
would be whistled around, and thousands of copies sold. But will he do
"I don't see why he shouldn't," said Larcher.
"Oh, but he knows why. He remembers I am a Jonah. What comes from me
carries ill luck. He'll sing the song, yes, but he won't hazard any
auspicious occasion on it. He'll use it as a means of stopping encores
when he's tired of them; he'll sing it hurriedly and mechanically; he'll
make nothing of it on the programme; he'll hide the name of the author,
for fear by the association of the names some of my Jonahship might
extend to him. So, you see, bad luck _will_ attend my song; so, you see,
the name of bad luck brings bad luck. Not that there is really such a
thing as luck. Everything that occurs has a cause, an infinite line of
causes. But a man's success or failure is due partly to causes outside
of his control, often outside of his ken. As, for instance, a sudden
change of weather may defeat a clever general, and thrust victory upon
his incompetent adversary. Now when these outside causes are adverse,
and prevail, we say a man has bad luck. When they favor, and prevail, he
has good luck. It was a rapid succession of failures, due partly to folly
and carelessness of my own, I admit, but partly to a run of adverse
conjunctures far outside my sphere of influence, that got me my unlucky
name in the circles where I hunt a living. And now you are warned, Mr.
Larcher. Do you think you are safe in having my work associated with
yours, as Mr. Rogers proposes? It isn't too late to draw back."
Whether the man still spoke seriously, Larcher could not exactly tell.
Certainly the man's eyes were fixed on Larcher's face in a manner that
made Larcher color as one detected. But his weakness had been for an
instant only, and he rallied laughingly.
"Many thanks, but I'm not superstitious, Mr. Davenport. Anyhow, my
article has been accepted, and nothing can increase or diminish the
amount I'm to receive for it."
"But consider the risk to your future career," pursued Davenport, with a
"Oh, I'll take the chances," said Larcher, glad to treat the subject as
a joke. "I don't suppose the author of 'A Heart in Peril,' for instance,
has experienced hard luck as a result of your illustrating his story."
"As a matter of fact," replied Davenport, with a look of melancholy
humor, "the last I heard of him, he had drunk himself into the hospital.
But I believe he had begun to do that before I crossed his path. Well, I
thank you for your hardihood, Mr. Larcher. As for the _Avenue Magazine_,
it can afford a little bad luck."
"Let us hope that the good luck of the magazine will spread to you, as
a result of your contact with it."
"Thank you; but it doesn't matter much, as things are. No; they are
right; Murray Davenport is a marked name; marked for failure. You must
know, Mr. Larcher, I'm not only a Jonah; I'm that other ludicrous figure
in the world,--a man with a grievance; a man with a complaint of
injustice. Not that I ever air it; it's long since I learned better than
that. I never speak of it, except in this casual way when it comes up
apropos; but people still associate me with it, and tell newcomers about
it, and find a moment's fun in it. And the man who is most hugely amused
at it, and benevolently humors it, is the man who did me the wrong. For
it's been a part of my fate that, in spite of the old injury, I should
often work for his pay. When other resources fail, there's always he to
fall back on; he always has some little matter I can be useful in. He
poses then as my constant benefactor, my sure reliance in hard times. And
so he is, in fact; though the fortune that enables him to be is built on
the profits of the game he played at my expense. I mention it to you, Mr.
Larcher, to forestall any other account, if you should happen to speak of
me where my name is known. Please let nobody assure you, either that the
wrong is an imaginary one, or that I still speak of it in a way to
deserve the name of a man with a grievance."
His composed, indifferent manner was true to his words. He spoke, indeed,
as one to whom things mattered little, yet who, being originally of a
social and communicative nature, talks on fluently to the first
intelligent listener after a season of solitude. Larcher was keen to make
the most of a mood so favorable to his own purpose in seeking the man's
"You may trust me to believe nobody but yourself, if the subject ever
comes up in my presence," said Larcher. "I can certainly testify to the
cool, unimpassioned manner in which you speak of it."
"I find little in life that's worth getting warm or impassioned about,"
said Davenport, something half wearily, half contemptuously.
"Have you lost interest in the world to that extent?"
"In my present environment."
"Oh, you can easily change that. Get into livelier surroundings."
Davenport shook his head. "My immediate environment would still be the
same; my memories, my body; 'this machine,' as Hamlet says; my old,
tiresome, unsuccessful self."
"But if you got about more among mankind,--not that I know what your
habits are at present, but I should imagine--" Larcher hesitated.
"You perceive I have the musty look of a solitary," said Davenport.
"That's true, of late. But as to getting about, 'man delights not me'--to
fall back on Hamlet again--at least not from my present point of view."
"'Nor woman neither'?" quoted Larcher, interrogatively.
"'No, nor woman neither,'" said Davenport slowly, a coldness coming upon
his face. "I don't know what your experience may have been. We have only
our own lights to go by; and mine have taught me to expect nothing from
women. Fair-weather friends; creatures that must be amused, and are
unscrupulous at whose cost or how great. One of their amusements is to
be worshipped by a man; and to bring that about they will pretend love,
with a pretence that would deceive the devil himself. The moment they
are bored with the pastime, they will drop the pretence, and feel injured
if the man complains. We take the beauty of their faces, the softness of
their eyes, for the outward signs of tenderness and fidelity; and for
those supposed qualities, and others which their looks seem to express,
we love them. But they have not those qualities; they don't even know
what it is that we love them for; they think it is for the outward
beauty, and that that is enough. They don't even know what it is that we,
misled by that outward softness, imagine is beyond; and when we are
disappointed to find it isn't there, they wonder at us and blame us for
inconstancy. The beautiful woman who could be what she looks--who could
really contain what her beauty seems the token of--whose soul, in short,
could come up to the promise of her face,--there would be a creature!
You'll think I've had bad luck in love, too, Mr. Larcher."
Larcher was thinking, for the instant, about Edna Hill, and wondering
how near she might come to justifying Davenport's opinion of women. For
himself, though he found her bewitching, her prettiness had never seemed
the outward sign of excessive tenderness. He answered conventionally:
"Well, one _would_ suppose so from your remarks. Of course, women like
to be amused, I know. Perhaps we expect too much from them.
'Oh, woman in our hours of ease,
Uncertain, coy, and hard to please,
And variable as the shade
By the light quivering aspen made.'
I've sometimes had reason to recall those lines." Mr. Larcher sighed at
certain memories of Miss Hill's variableness. "But then, you know,--
'When pain and anguish wring the brow,
A ministering angel them.'"
"I can't speak in regard to pain and anguish," said Davenport. "I've
experienced both, of course, but not so as to learn their effect on
women. But suppose, if you can, a woman who should look kindly on an
undeserving, but not ill-meaning, individual like myself. Suppose that,
after a time, she happened to hear of the reputation of bad luck that
clung to him. What would she do then?"
"Undertake to be his mascot, I suppose, and neutralize the evil
influence," replied Larcher, laughingly.
"Well, if I were to predict on my own experience, I should say she would
take flight as fast as she could, to avoid falling under the evil
influence herself. The man would never hear of her again, and she would
doubtless live happy ever after."
For the first time in the conversation, Davenport sighed, and the
faintest cloud of bitterness showed for a moment on his face.
"And the man, perhaps, would 'bury himself in his books,'" said Larcher,
looking around the room; he made show to treat the subject gaily, lest
he might betray his inquisitive purpose.
"Yes, to some extent, though the business of making a bare living takes
up a good deal of time. You observe the signs of various occupations
here. I have amused myself a little in science, too,--you see the cabinet
over there. I studied medicine once, and know a little about surgery,
but I wasn't fitted--or didn't care--to follow that profession in a
"You are exceedingly versatile."
"Little my versatility has profited me. Which reminds me of business.
When are these illustrations to be ready, Mr. Larcher? And how many are
wanted? I'm afraid I've been wasting your time."
In their brief talk about the task, Larcher, with the private design of
better acquaintance, arranged that he should accompany the artist to
certain riverside localities described in the text. Business details
settled, Larcher observed that it was about dinnertime, and asked:
"Have you any engagement for dining?"
"No," said Davenport, with a faint smile at the notion.
"Then you must dine with me. I hate to eat alone."
"Thank you, I should be pleased. That is to say--it depends on where you
"Wherever you like. I dine at restaurants, and I'm not faithful to any
"I prefer to dine as Addison preferred,--on one or two good things well
cooked, and no more. Toiling through a ten-course _table d'hote_ menu is
really too wearisome--even to a man who is used to weariness."
"Well, I know a place--Giffen's chop-house--that will just suit you. As
a friend of mine, Barry Tompkins, says, it's a place where you get an
unsurpassable English mutton-chop, a perfect baked potato, a mug of
delicious ale, and afterward a cup of unexceptionable coffee. He says
that, when you've finished, you've dined as simply as a philosopher and
better than most kings; and the whole thing comes to forty-five cents."
"I know the place, and your friend is quite right."
Davenport took up a soft felt hat and a plain stick with a curved handle.
When the young men emerged from the gloomy hallway to the street, which
in that part was beginning to be shabby, the street lights were already
heralding the dusk. The two hastened from the region of deteriorating
respectability to the grandiose quarter westward, and thence to Broadway
and the clang of car gongs. The human crowd was hurrying to dinner.
"What a poem a man might write about Broadway at evening!" remarked
Davenport replied by quoting, without much interest:
'The shadows lay along Broadway,
'Twas near the twilight tide--
And slowly there a lady fair
Was walking in her pride.'
"Poe praised those lines," he added. "But it was a different Broadway
that Willis wrote them about."
"Yes," said Larcher, "but in spite of the skyscrapers and the
incongruities, I love the old street. Don't you?"
"I used to," said Davenport, with a listlessness that silenced Larcher,
who fell into conjecture of its cause. Was it the effect of many
failures? Or had it some particular source? What part in its origin had
been played by the woman to whose fickleness the man had briefly alluded?
And, finally, had the story behind it anything to do with Edna Hill's
reasons for seeking information?
Pondering these questions, Larcher found himself at the entrance to the
chosen dining-place. It was a low, old-fashioned doorway, on a level
with the sidewalk, a little distance off Broadway. They were just about
to enter, when they heard Davenport's name called out in a nasal,
overbearing voice. A look of displeasure crossed Davenport's brow, as
both young men turned around. A tall, broad man, with a coarse, red face;
a man with hard, glaring eyes and a heavy black mustache; a man who had
intruded into a frock coat and high silk hat, and who wore a large
diamond in his tie; a man who swung his arms and used plenty of the
surrounding space in walking, as if greedy of it,--this man came across
the street, and, with an air of proprietorship, claimed Murray
A READY-MONEY MAN
"I want you," bawled the gentleman with the diamond, like a rustic
washerwoman summoning her offspring to a task. "I've got a little matter
for you to look after. S'pose you come around to dinner, and we can talk
"I'm engaged to dine with this gentleman," said Davenport, coolly.
"Well, that's all right," said the newcomer. "This gentleman can come,
"We prefer to dine here," said Davenport, with firmness. "We have our own
reasons. I can meet you later."
"No, you can't, because I've got other business later. But if you're
determined to dine here, I can dine here just as well. So come on and
Davenport looked at the man wearily, and at Larcher apologetically; then
introduced the former to the latter by the name of Bagley. Vouchsafing a
brief condescending glance and a rough "How are you," Mr. Bagley led the
way into the eating-house, Davenport chagrinned on Larcher's account, and
Larcher stricken dumb by the stranger's outrage upon his self-esteem.
Nothing that Mr. Bagley did or said later was calculated to improve the
state of Larcher's feelings toward him. When the three had passed from
the narrow entrance and through a small barroom to a long, low apartment
adorned with old prints and playbills, Mr. Bagley took by conquest from
another intending party a table close to a street window. He spread out
his arms over as much of the table as they would cover, and evinced in
various ways the impulse to grab and possess, which his very manner of
walking had already shown. He even talked loud, as if to monopolize the
company's hearing capacity.
As soon as dinner had been ordered,--a matter much complicated by Mr.
Bagley's calling for things which the house didn't serve, and then
wanting to know why it didn't,--he plunged at once into the details of
some business with Davenport, to which the ignored Larcher, sulking
behind an evening paper, studiously refrained from attending. By the
time the chops and potatoes had been brought, the business had been
communicated, and Bagley's mind was free to regard other things. He
suddenly took notice of Larcher.
"So you're a friend of Dav's, are you?" quoth he, looking with benign
patronage from one young man to the other.
"I've known Mr. Davenport a--short while," said Larcher, with all the
iciness of injured conceit.
"Same business?" queried Bagley.
"I beg your pardon," said Larcher, as if the other had spoken a foreign
"Are you in the same business he's in?" said Bagley, in a louder voice.
"I--write," said Larcher, coldly.
Bagley looked him over, and, with evident approval of his clothes,
remarked: "You seem to've made a better thing of it than Dav has."
"I make a living," said Larcher, curtly, with a glance at Davenport, who
showed no feeling whatever.
"Well, I guess that's about all Dav does," said Bagley, in a jocular
manner. "How is it, Dav, old man? But you never had any business sense."
"I can't return the compliment," said Davenport, quietly.
Bagley uttered a mirthful "Yah!" and looked very well contented with
himself. "I've always managed to get along," he admitted. "And a good
thing for you I have, Dav. Where'ud you be to-day if you hadn't had me
for your good angel whenever you struck hard luck?"
"I haven't the remotest idea," said Davenport, as if vastly bored.
"Neither have I," quoth Bagley, and filled his mouth with mutton and
potato. When he had got these sufficiently disposed of to permit further
speech, he added: "No, sir, you literary fellows think yourselves very
fine people, but I don't see many of you getting to be millionaires by
"There are other ambitions in life," said Larcher.
Mr. Bagley emitted a grunt of laughter. "Sour grapes! Sour grapes, young
fellow! I know what I'm talking about. I've been a literary man myself."
Larcher arrested his fork half-way between his plate and his mouth, in
order to look his amazement. A curious twitch of the lips was the only
manifestation of Davenport, except that he took a long sip of ale.
"Nobody would ever think it," said Larcher.
"Yes, sir; I've been a literary man; a playwright, that is. Dramatic
author, my friend Dav here would call it, I s'pose. But I made it pay."
"I must confess I don't recognize the name of Bagley as being attached to
any play I ever heard of," said Larcher. "And yet I've paid a good deal
of attention to the theatre."
"That's because I never wrote but one play, and the money I made out of
that--twenty thousand dollars it was--I put into the business of managing
other people's plays. It didn't take me long to double it, did it, Dav?
Mr. Davenport here knows all about it."
"I ought to," replied Davenport, coldly.
"Yes, that's right, you ought to. We were chums in those days, Mr.--I
forget what your name is. We were both in hard luck then, me and Dav. But
I knew what to do if I ever got hold of a bit of capital. So I wrote that
play, and made a good arrangement with the actor that produced it, and
got hold of twenty thousand. And that was the foundation of _my_ fortune.
Oh, yes, Dav remembers. We had hall rooms in the same house in East
Fourteenth Street. We used to lend each other cuffs and collars. A man
never forgets those days."
With Davenport's talk of the afternoon fresh in mind, Larcher had
promptly identified this big-talking vulgarian. Hot from several
affronts, which were equally galling, whether ignorant or intended, he
could conceive of nothing more sweet than to take the fellow down.
"I shouldn't wonder," said he, "if Mr. Davenport had more particular
reasons to remember that play."
Davenport looked up from his plate, but merely with slight surprise, not
with disapproval. Bagley himself stared hard at Larcher, then glanced at
Davenport, and finally blurted out a laugh, and said:
"So Dav has been giving you his fairy tale? I thought he'd dropped it as
a played-out chestnut. God knows how the delusion ever started in his
head. That's a question for the psychologists--or the doctors, maybe. But
he used to imagine--I give him credit for really imagining it--he used to
imagine he had written that play. I s'pose that's what he's been telling
you. But I thought he'd got over the hallucination; or got tired telling
about it, anyhow."
But, in the circumstances, no nice consideration of probabilities was
necessary to make Larcher the warm partisan of Davenport. He answered,
with as fine a derision as he could summon:
"Any unbiased judge, with you two gentlemen before him, if he had to
decide which had written that play, wouldn't take long to agree with Mr.
Davenport's hallucination, as you call it."
Mr. Bagley gazed at Larcher for a few moments in silence, as if not
knowing exactly what to make of him, or what manner to use toward him. He
seemed at last to decide against a wrathful attitude, and replied:
"I suppose you're a very unbiased judge, and a very superior person all
round. But nobody's asking for your opinion, and I guess it wouldn't
count for much if they did. The public has long ago made up its mind
about Mr. Davenport's little delusion."
"As one of 'the public,' perhaps I have a right to dispute that,"
retorted Larcher. "Men don't have such delusions."
"Oh, don't they? That's as much as you know about the eccentricities of
human nature,--and yet you presume to call yourself a writer. I guess you
don't know the full circumstances of this case. Davenport himself admits
that he was very ill at the time I disposed of the rights of that play.
We were in each other's confidence then, and I had read the play to him,
and talked it over with him, and he had taken a very keen interest in it,
as any chum would. And then this illness came on, just when the marketing
of the piece was on the cards. He was out of his head a good deal during
his illness, and I s'pose that's how he got the notion he was the author.
As it was, I gave him five hundred dollars as a present, to celebrate the
acceptance of the piece. And I gave him that at once, too--half the amount
of the money paid on acceptance, it was; for anything I knew then, it
might have been half of all I should ever get for the play, because
nobody could predict how it would pan out. Well, I've never borne him an
ounce of malice for his delusion. Maybe at this very moment he still
honestly thinks himself the author of that play; but I've always stood by
him, and always will. Many's the piece of work I've put in his hands; and
I will say he's never failed me on his side, either. Old Reliable Dav,
that's what I call him; Old Reliable Dav, and I'd trust him with every
dollar I've got in the world." He finished with a clap of good fellowship
on Davenport's shoulder, and then fell upon the remainder of his chop and
potato with a concentration of interest that put an end to the dispute.
As for Davenport, he had continued eating in silence, with an
expressionless face, as if the matter were one that concerned a stranger.
Larcher, observing him, saw that he had indeed put that matter behind
him, as one to which there was nothing but weariness to be gained in
returning. The rest of the meal passed without event. Mr. Bagley made
short work of his food, and left the two others with their coffee,
departing in as self-satisfied a mood as he had arrived in, and without
any trace of the little passage of words with Larcher.
A breath of relief escaped Davenport, and he said, with a faint smile:
"There was a time when I had my say about the play. We've had scenes, I
can tell you. But Bagley is a man who can brazen out any assertion; he's
a man impossible to outface. Even when he and I are alone together, he
plays the same part; won't admit that I wrote the piece; and pretends to
think I suffer under a delusion. I _was_ ill at the time he disposed of
my play; but I had written it long before the time of my illness."
"How did he manage to pass it off as his?"
"We were friends then, as he says, or at least comrades. We met through
being inmates of the same lodging-house. I rather took to him at first.
I thought he was a breezy, cordial fellow; mistook his loudness for
frankness, and found something droll and pleasing in his nasal drawl.
That brass-horn voice!--ye gods, how I grew to shudder at it afterward!
But I liked his company over a glass of beer; he was convivial, and told
amusing stories of the people in the country town he came from, and of
his struggles in trying to get a start in business. I was struggling as
hard in my different way--a very different way, for he was an utter
savage as far as art and letters were concerned. But we exchanged
accounts of our daily efforts and disappointments, and knew all about
each other's affairs,--at least he knew all about mine. And one of mine
was the play which I wrote during the first months of our acquaintance.
I read it to him, and he seemed impressed by it, or as much of it as he
could understand. I had some idea of sending it to an actor who was then
in need of a new piece, through the failure of one he had just produced.
My play seemed rather suitable to him, and I told Bagley I thought of
submitting it as soon as I could get it typewritten. But before I could
do that, I was on my back with pneumonia, utterly helpless, and not
thinking of anything in the world except how to draw my breath.
"The first thing I did begin to worry about, when I was on the way to
recovery, was my debts, and particularly my debt to the landlady. She
was a good woman, and wouldn't let me be moved to a hospital, but took
care of me herself through all my illness. She furnished my food during
that time, and paid for my medicines; and, furthermore, I owed her for
several weeks' previous rent. So I bemoaned my indebtedness, and the
hopelessness of ever getting out of it, a thousand times, day and night,
till it became an old song in the ears of Bagley. One day he came in
with his face full of news, and told me he had got some money from the
sale of a farm, in which he had inherited a ninth interest. He said he
intended to risk his portion in the theatrical business--he had had some
experience as an advance agent--and offered to buy my play outright for
five hundred dollars.
"Well, it was like an oar held out to a drowning man. I had never before
had as much money at the same time. It was enough to pay all my debts,
and keep me on my feet for awhile to come. Of course I knew that if my
play were a fair success, the author's percentage would be many times
five hundred dollars. But it might never be accepted,--no play of mine
had been, and I had hawked two or three around among the managers,--and
in that case I should get nothing at all. As for Bagley, his risk in
producing a play by an unknown man was great. His chances of loss seemed
to me about nine in ten. I took it that his offer was out of friendship.
I grasped at the immediate certainty, and the play became the property
"I consoled myself with the reflection that, if the play made a real
success, I should gain some prestige as an author, and find an easier
hearing for future work. I was reading a newspaper one morning when the
name of my play caught my eye. You can imagine how eagerly I started to
read the item about it, and what my feelings were when I saw that it was
immediately to be produced by the very actor to whom I had talked of
sending it, and that the author was George A. Bagley. I thought there
must be some mistake, and fell upon Bagley for an explanation as soon as
he came home. He laughed, as men of his kind do when they think they have
played some clever business trick; said he had decided to rent the play
to the actor instead of taking it on the road himself; and declared that
as it was his sole property, he could represent it as the work of anybody
he chose. I raised a great stew about the matter; wrote to the
newspapers, and rushed to see the actor. He may have thought I was a
lunatic from my excitement; however, he showed me the manuscript Bagley
had given him. It was typewritten, but the address of the typewriter
copyist was on the cover. I hastened to the lady, and inquired about the
manuscript from which she had made the copy. I showed her some of my
penmanship, but she assured me the manuscript was in another hand. I ran
home, and demanded the original manuscript from Bagley. 'Oh, certainly,'
he said, and fished out a manuscript in his own writing. He had copied
even my interlineations and erasures, to give his manuscript the look of
an original draft. This was the copy from which the typewriter had
worked. My own handwritten copy he had destroyed. I have sometimes
thought that when the idea first occurred to him of submitting my play to
the actor, he had meant to deal fairly with me, and to profit only by an
agent's commission. But he may have inquired about the earnings of plays,
and learned how much money a successful one brings; and the discovery may
have tempted him to the fraud. Or his design may have been complete from
the first. It is easy to understand his desire to become the sole owner
of the play. Why he wanted to figure as the author is not so clear. It
may have been mere vanity; it may have been--more probably was--a desire
to keep to himself even the author's prestige, to serve him in future
transactions of the same sort. In any case, he had created evidence of
his authorship, and destroyed all existing proof of mine. He had made
good terms,--a percentage on a sliding scale; one thousand dollars down
on account. It was out of that thousand that he paid me the five hundred.
The play was a great money-winner; Bagley's earnings from it were more
than twenty thousand dollars in two seasons. That is the sum I should
have had if I had submitted the play to the same actor, as I had intended
to do. I made a stir in the newspapers for awhile; told my tale to
managers and actors and reporters; started to take it to the courts, but
had to give up for lack of funds; in short, got myself the name, as I
told you today, of a man with a grievance. People smiled tolerantly at my
story; it got to be one of the jokes of the Rialto. Bagley soon hit on
the policy of claiming the authorship to my face, and pretending to treat
my assertion charitably, as the result of a delusion conceived in
illness. You heard him tonight. But it no longer disturbs me."
"Has he ever written any plays of his own? Or had any more produced over
his name?" asked Larcher.
"No. He put the greater part of his profits into theatrical management.
He multiplied his investment. Then he 'branched out;' tried Wall Street
and the race-tracks; went into real estate. He speculates now in many
things. I don't know how rich he is. He isn't openly in theatrical
management any more, but he still has large interests there; he is what
they call an 'angel.'"
"He spoke of being your good angel."
"He has been the reverse, perhaps. It's true, many a time when I've been
at the last pinch, he has come to my rescue, employing me in some affair
incidental to his manifold operations. Unless you have been hungry, and
without a market for your work; unless you have walked the streets
penniless, and been generally 'despised and rejected of men,' you,
perhaps, can't understand how I could accept anything at his hands. But
I could, and sometimes eagerly. As soon as possible after our break, he
assumed the benevolent attitude toward me. I resisted it with proper
scorn for a time. But hard lines came; 'my poverty but not my will'
consented. In course of time, there ceased to be anything strange in the
situation. I got used to his service, and his pay, yet without ever
compounding for the trick he played me. He trusts me thoroughly--he
knows men. This association with him, though it has saved me from
desperate straits, is loathsome to me, of course. It has contributed as
much as anything to my self-hate. If I had resolutely declined it, I
might have found other resources at the last extremity. My life might
have taken a different course. That is why I say he has been, perhaps,
the reverse of a good angel to me."
"But you must have written other plays," pursued Larcher.
"Yes; and have even had three of them produced. Two had moderate success;
but one of those I sold on low terms, in my eagerness to have it accepted
and establish a name. On the other, I couldn't collect my royalties. The
third was a failure. But none of these, or of any I have written, was up
to the level of the play that Bagley dealt with. I admit that. It was my
one work of first-class merit. I think my poor powers were affected by my
experience with that play; but certainly for some reason I
'... never could recapture
The first fine careless rapture.'
I should have been a different man if I had received the honor and the
profits of that first accepted play of mine."
"I should think that, as Bagley is so rich, he would quietly hand you
over twenty thousand dollars, at least, for the sake of his conscience."
"Men of Bagley's sort have no conscience where money is concerned. I used
to wonder just what share of his fortune was rightly mine, if one knew
how to estimate. It was my twenty thousand dollars he invested; what
percentage of the gains would belong to me, giving him his full due for
labor and skill? And then the credit of the authorship,--which he flatly
robbed me of,--what would be its value? But that is all matter for mere
speculation. As to the twenty thousand alone, there can be no doubt."
"And yet he said tonight he would trust you with every dollar he had in
"Yes, he would." Davenport smiled. "He knows that _I_ know the difference
between a moral right and a legal right. He knows the difficulties in
the way of any attempt at self-restitution on my part,--and the
unpleasant consequences. Oh, yes, he would trust me with large sums; has
done so, in fact. I have handled plenty of his cash. He is what they call
a 'ready-money man;' does a good deal of business with bank-notes of high
denomination,--it enables him to seize opportunities and make swift
transactions. He should interest you, if you have an eye for character."
Upon which remark, Davenport raised his cup, as if to finish the coffee
and the subject at the same time. Larcher sat silently wondering what
other dramas were comprised in the history of his singular companion,
besides that wherein Bagley was concerned, and that in which the fickle
woman had borne a part. He found himself interested, on his own account,
in this haggard-eyed, world-wearied, yet not unattractive man, as well
as for Miss Hill. When Davenport spoke again, it was in regard to the
artistic business which now formed a tie between himself and Larcher.
This business was in due time performed. It entailed as much association
with Davenport as Larcher could wish for his purpose. He learnt little
more of the man than he had learned on the first day of their
acquaintance, but that in itself was considerable. Of it he wrote a full
report to Miss Hill; and in the next few weeks he added some trifling
discoveries. In October that young woman and her aunt returned to town,
and to possession of a flat immediately south of Central Park. Often as
Larcher called there, he could not draw from Edna the cause of her
interest in Davenport. But his own interest sufficed to keep him the
regular associate of that gentleman; he planned further magazine work for
himself to write and Davenport to illustrate, and their collaboration
took them together to various parts of the city.
AN UNPROFITABLE CHILD
The lower part of Fifth Avenue, the part between Madison and Washington
Squares, the part which alone was "the Fifth Avenue" whereof Thackeray
wrote in the far-off days when it was the abode of fashion,--the far-off
days when fashion itself had not become old-fashioned and got improved
into Smart Society,--this haunted half-mile or more still retains many
fine old residences of brown stone and of red brick, which are spruce
and well-kept. One such, on the west side of the street, of red brick,
with a high stoop of brown stone, is a boarding-house, and in it is an
apartment to which, on a certain clear, cold afternoon in October, the
reader's presence in the spirit is respectfully invited.
The hallway of the house is prolonged far beyond the ordinary limits of
hallways, in order to lead to a secluded parlor at the rear, apparently
used by its occupants as a private sitting and dining room. At the left
side of this room, after one enters, are folding doors opening from what
is evidently somebody's bed-chamber. At the same side, further on, is a
large window, the only window in the room. As the ceiling is so high, and
the wall-paper so dark, the place is rather dim of light at all times,
even on this sunny autumn afternoon when the world outside is so full of
The view of the world outside afforded by the window--which looks
southward--is of part of a Gothic church in profile, and the backs of
houses, all framing an expanse of gardens. It is a peaceful view, and
this back parlor itself, being such a very back parlor, receives the
city's noises dulled and softened. One seems very far, here, from the
clatter and bang, the rush and strenuousness, really so near at hand.
The dimness is restful; it is relieved, near the window, by a splash of
sunlight; and, at the rear of the room, by a coal fire in the grate. The
furniture is old and heavy, consisting largely of chairs of black wood
in red velvet. Half lying back in one of these is a fretful-looking,
fine-featured man of late middle age, with flowing gray hair and flowing
gray mustache. His eyes are closed, but perhaps he is not asleep. There
is a piano near a corner, opposite the window, and out of the splash of
sunshine, but its rosewood surface reflects here and there the firelight.
And at the piano, playing a soft accompaniment, sits a tall, slender
young woman, with a beautiful but troubled face, who sings in a low voice
one of Tosti's love-songs.
Her figure is still girlish, but her face is womanly; a classic face, not
like the man's in expression, but faintly resembling it in form, though
her features, clearly outlined, have not the smallness of his. Her eyes
are large and deep blue. There is enough rich color of lip, and fainter
color of cheek, to relieve the whiteness of her complexion. The trouble
on her face is of some permanence; it is not petty like that of the
man's, but is at one with the nobility of her countenance. It seems to
find rest in the tender sadness of the song, which, having finished, she
softly begins again:
"'I think of what thou art to me,
I think of what thou canst not be'"--
As the man gives signs of animation, such as yawning, and moving in his
chair, the girl breaks off gently and looks to see if he is annoyed by
the song. He opens his eyes, and says, in a slow, complaining voice:
"Yes, you can sing, there's no doubt of that. And such
expression!--unconscious expression, too. What a pity--what a
shame--that your gift should be utterly wasted!"
"It isn't wasted if my singing pleases you, father," says the girl,
"I don't want to keep the pleasure all to myself," replies the man,
peevishly. "I'm not selfish enough for that. We have no right to hide
our light under a bushel. The world has a claim on our talents. And the
world pays for them, too. Think of the money--think of how we might live!
Ah, Florence, what a disappointment you've been to me!"
She listens as one who has many times heard the same plaint; and answers
as one who has as often made the same answer:
"I have tried, but my voice is not strong enough for the concert stage,
and the choirs are all full."
"You know well enough where your chance is. With your looks, in comic
The girl frowns, and speaks for the first time with some impatience: "And
you know well enough my determination about that. The one week's
experience I had--"
"Oh, nonsense!" interrupted the man. "All managers are not like that
fellow. There are plenty of good, gentle young women on the comic opera
"No doubt there are. But the atmosphere was not to my taste. If I
absolutely had to endure it, of course I could. But we are not put to
"Necessity! Good Heaven, don't we live poorly enough?"
"We live comfortably enough. As long as Dick insists on making us our
"Insists? I should think he would insist! As if my own son, whom I
brought up and started in life, shouldn't provide for his old father to
the full extent of his ability!"
"All the same, it's a far greater allowance than most sons or brothers
"Because other sons are ungrateful, and blind to their duty, it doesn't
follow that Dick ought to be. Thank Heaven, I brought him up better than
that. I'm only sorry that his sister can't see things in the same light
as he does. After all the trouble of raising my children, and the hopes
I've built on them--"
"But you know perfectly well," she protests, softly, "that Dick makes us
such a liberal allowance in order that I needn't go out and earn money.
He has often said that. Even when you praise him for his dutifulness to
you, he says it's not that, but his love for me. And because it is the
free gift of his love, I'm willing to accept it."
"I suppose so, I suppose so," says the man, in a tone of resignation to
injury. "It's very little that I'm considered, after all. You were always
a pair, always insensible of the pains I've taken over you. You always
seemed to regard it as a matter of course that I should feed you, and
clothe you, and educate you."
The girl sighs, and begins faintly to touch the keys of the piano again.
The man sighs, too, and continues, with a heightened note of personal
"If any man's hopes ever came to shipwreck, mine have. Just look back
over my life. Look at the professional career I gave up when I married
your mother, in order to be with her more than I otherwise could have
been. Look how poorly we lived, she and I, on the little income she
brought me. And then the burden of you children! And what some men would
have felt a burden, as you grew up, I made a source of hopes. I had
endowed you both with good looks and talent; Dick with business ability,
and you with a gift for music. In order to cultivate these advantages,
which you had inherited from me, I refrained from going into any business
when your mother died. I was satisfied to share the small allowance her
father made you two children. I never complained. I said to myself, 'I
will invest my time in bringing up my children.' I thought it would turn
out the most profitable investment in the world,--I gave you children
that much credit then. How I looked forward to the time when I should
begin to realize on the investment!"
"I'm sure you can't say Dick hasn't repaid you," says the girl. "He
began to earn money as soon as he was nineteen, and he has never--"
"Time enough, too," the man breaks in. "It was a very fortunate thing I
had fitted him for it by then. Where would he have been, and you, when
your grandfather died in debt, and the allowance stopped short, if I
hadn't prepared Dick to step in and make his living?"
"_Our_ living," says the girl.
"Our living, of course. It would be very strange if I weren't to reap a
bare living, at least, from my labor and care. Who should get a living
out of Dick's work if not his father, who equipped him with the qualities
for success?" The gentleman speaks as if, in passing on those valuable
qualities to his son by heredity, he had deprived himself. "Dick hasn't
done any more than he ought to; he never could. And yet what _he_ has
done, is so much more than nothing at all, that--" He stops as if it were
useless to finish, and looks at his daughter, who, despite the fact that
this conversation is an almost daily repetition, colors with displeasure.
After a moment, she gathers some spirit, and says: "Well, if I haven't
earned any money for you, I've at least made some sacrifices to please
"You mean about the young fellow that hung on to us so close on our trip
"The young man who did us so many kindnesses, and was of so much use to
you, on our trip to Europe," she corrects.
"He thought I was rich, my dear, and that you were an heiress. He was a
nobody, an adventurer, probably. If things had gone any further between
you and him, your future might have been ruined. It was only another
example of my solicitude for you; another instance that deserves your
thanks, but elicits your ingratitude. If you are fastidious about a
musical career, at least you have still a possibility of a good marriage.
It was my duty to prevent that possibility from being cut off."
She turns upon him a look of high reproach.
"And that was the only motive, then," she cries, "for your tears and your
illness, and the scenes that wrung from me the promise to break with
"It was motive enough, wasn't it?" he replies, defensively, a little
frightened at her sudden manner of revolt. "My thoughtfulness for your
future--my duty as a father--my love for my child--"
"You pretended it was your jealous love for me, your feeling of
desertion, your loneliness. I might have known better! You played on my
pity, on my love for you, on my sense of duty as a daughter left to fill
my mother's place. When you cried over being abandoned, when you looked
so forlorn, my heart melted. And that night when you said you were dying,
when you kept calling for me--'Flo, where is little Flo'--although I was
there leaning over you, I couldn't endure to grieve you, and I gave my
promise. And it was only that mercenary motive, after all!--to save me
for a profitable marriage!" She gazes at her father with an expression so
new to him on her face, that he moves about in his chair, and coughs
"You will appreciate my action some day. And besides, your promise to
drop the man wasn't so much to give. You admitted, yourself, he hadn't
written to you. He had afforded you good cause, by his neglect."
"He was very busy at that time. I always thought there was something
strange about his sudden failure to write--something that could have
been explained, if my promise to you hadn't kept me from inquiring."
The father coughs again, at this, and turns his gaze upon the fire, which
he contemplates deeply, to the exclusion of all other objects. The girl,
after regarding him for a moment, sighs profoundly; placing her elbows on
the keyboard, she leans forward and buries her face in her hands.
This picture, not disturbed by further speech, abides for several ticks
of the French clock on the mantelpiece. Suddenly it is broken by a knock
at the door. Florence sits upright, and dries her eyes. A negro man
servant with a discreet manner enters and announces two visitors. "Show
them in at once," says Florence, quickly, as if to forestall any possible
objection from her father. The negro withdraws, and presently, with a
rapid swish of skirts, in marches a very spick and span young lady,
her diminutive but exceedingly trim figure dressed like an animated
fashion-plate. She is Miss Edna Hill, and she comes brisk and dashing,
with cheeks afire from the cold, bringing into the dull, dreamy room the
life and freshness of the wintry day without. Behind her appears a
stranger, whose name Florence scarcely heeded when it was announced, and
who enters with the solemn, hesitant air of one hitherto unknown to the
people of the house. He is a young man clothed to be the fit companion of
Miss Hill, and he waits self-effacingly while that young lady vivaciously
greets Florence as her dearest, and while she bestows a touch of her
gloved fingers and a "How d'ye do, Mr. Kenby," on the father. She then
introduces the young man as Mr. Larcher, on whose face, as he bows, there
appears a surprised admiration of Florence Kenby's beauty.
Miss Hill monopolizes Florence, however, and Larcher is left to wander to
the fire, and take a pose there, and discuss the weather with Mr. Kenby,
who does not seem to find the subject, or Larcher himself, at all
interesting, a fact which the young man is not slow in divining. Strained
relations immediately ensue between the two gentlemen.
As soon as the young ladies are over the preliminary burst of compliments
and news, Edna says:
"I'm lucky to find you at home, but really you oughtn't to be moping in
a dark place like this, such a fine afternoon."
"Father can't go out because of his rheumatism, and I stay to keep him
company," replies Florence.
"Oh, dear me, Mr. Kenby," says Edna, looking at the gentleman rather
skeptically, as if she knew him of old and suspected a habit of
exaggerating his ailments, "can't you pass the time reading or
something? Florence _must_ go out every day; she'll ruin her looks if
she doesn't,--her health, too. I should think you could manage to
entertain yourself alone an hour or two."
"It isn't that," explains Florence; "he often wants little things done,
and it's painful for him to move about. In a house like this, the
servants aren't always available, except for routine duties."
"Well, I'll tell you what," proposes Edna, blithely; "you get on your
things, dear, and we'll run around and have tea with Aunt Clara at
Purcell's. Mr. Larcher and I were to meet her there, but you come with
me, and Mr. Larcher will stay and look after your father. He'll be very
glad to, I know."
Mr. Larcher is too much taken by surprise to be able to say how very
glad he will be. Mr. Kenby, with Miss Hill's sharp glance upon him,
seems to feel that he would cut a poor figure by opposing. So Florence
is rushed by her friend's impetuosity into coat and hat, and carried
off, Miss Hill promising to return with her for Mr. Larcher "in an hour
or two." Before Mr. Larcher has had time to collect his scattered
faculties, he is alone with the pettish-looking old man to whom he has
felt himself an object of perfect indifference. He glares, with a defiant
sense of his own worth, at the old man, until the old man takes notice of
"Oh, it's kind of you to stay, Mr.--ahem. But they really needn't have
troubled you. I can get along well enough myself, when it's absolutely
necessary. Of course, my daughter will be easier in mind to have some
"I am very glad to be of service--to so charming a young woman," says
Larcher, very distinctly.
"A charming girl, yes. I'm very proud of my daughter. She's my constant
thought. Children are a great care, a great responsibility."
"Yes, they are," asserts Larcher, jumping at the chance to show this
uninterested old person that wise young men may sometimes be entertained
unawares. "It's a sign of progress that parents are learning on which
side the responsibility lies. It used to be universally accepted that
the obligation was on the part of the children. Now every writer on the
subject starts on the basis that the obligation is on the side of the
parent. It's hard to see how the world could have been so idiotic
formerly. As if the child, summoned here in ignorance by the parents for
their own happiness, owed them anything!"
Mr. Kenby stares at the young man for a time, and then says, icily:
"I don't quite follow you."
"Why, it's very clear," says Larcher, interested now for his argument.
"You spoke of your sense of responsibility toward your child."
("The deuce I did!" thinks Mr. Kenby.)
"Well, that sense is most natural in you, and shows an enlightened mind.
For how can parents feel other than deeply responsible toward the being
they have called into existence? How can they help seeing their
obligation to make existence for that being as good and happy as it's in
their power to make it? Who dare say that there is a limit to their
obligation toward that being?"
"And how about that being's obligations in return?" Mr. Kenby demands,
"That being's obligations go forward to the beings it in turn summons to
life. The child, becoming in time a parent, assumes a parent's debt. The
obligation passes on from generation to generation, moving always to the
future, never back to the past."
"Somewhat original theories!" sniffs the old man. "I suppose, then, a
parent in his old age has no right to look for support to his children?"
"It is the duty of people, before they presume to become parents, to
provide against the likelihood of ever being a burden to their children.
In accepting from their children, they rob their children's children.
But the world isn't sufficiently advanced yet to make people so
far-seeing and provident, and many parents do have to look to their
children for support. In such cases, the child ought to provide for the
parent, but out of love or humanity, not because of any purely logical
claim. You see the difference, of course."
Mr. Kenby gives a shrug, and grunts ironically.
"The old-fashioned idea still persists among the multitude," Larcher
goes on, "and many parents abuse it in practice. There are people who
look upon their children mainly as instruments sent from Heaven for them
to live by. From the time their children begin to show signs of
intelligence, they lay plans and build hopes of future gain upon them.
It makes my blood boil, sometimes, to see mothers trying to get their
pretty daughters on the stage, or at a typewriter, in order to live at
ease themselves. And fathers, too, by George! Well, I don't think there's
a more despicable type of humanity in this world than the able-bodied
father who brings his children up with the idea of making use of them!"
Mr. Larcher has worked himself into a genuine and very hearty
indignation. Before he can entirely calm down, he is put to some wonder
by seeing his auditor rise, in spite of rheumatism, and walk to the door
at the side of the room. "I think I'll lie down awhile," says Mr. Kenby,
curtly, and disappears, closing the door behind him. Mr. Larcher, after
standing like a statue for some time by the fire, ensconces himself in a
great armchair before it, and gazes into it until, gradually stolen upon
by a sense of restful comfort in the darkening room, he falls asleep.
He is awakened by the gay laugh of Edna Hill, as she and Florence enter
the room. He is on his feet in time to keep his slumbers a secret, and
explains that Mr. Kenby has gone for a nap. When the gas is lit, he sees
that Florence, too, is bright-faced from the outer air, that her eye has
a fresher sparkle, and that she is more beautiful than before. As it is
getting late, and Edna's Aunt Clara is to be picked up in a shop in
Twenty-third Street where the girls have left her, Larcher is borne off
before he can sufficiently contemplate Miss Kenby's beauty. Florence is
no sooner alone than Mr. Kenby comes out of the little chamber.
"I hope you feel better for your nap, father."
"I didn't sleep any, thank you," says Mr. Kenby. "What an odious young
man that was! He has the most horrible principles. I think he must be an
anarchist, or something of that sort. Did you enjoy your tea?"
The odious young man, walking briskly up the lighted avenue, past piano
shops and publishing houses, praises Miss Kenby's beauty to Edna Hill,
who echoes the praise without jealousy.
"She's perfectly lovely," Edna asserts, "and then, think of it, she has
had a romance, too; but I mustn't tell that."
"It's strange you never mentioned her to me before, being such good
friends with her."
"Oh, they've only just got settled back in town," answers Edna,
evasively. "What do you think of the old gentleman?"
"He seems a rather queer sort. Do you know him very well?"
"Well enough. He's one of those people whose dream in life is to make
money out of their children."
"What! Then I _did_ put my foot in it!" Larcher tells of the brief
conversation he had with Mr. Kenby. It makes Edna laugh heartily.
"Good for him!" she cries. "It's a shame, his treatment of Florence. Her
brother out West supports them, and is very glad to do so on her account.
Yet the covetous old man thinks she ought to be earning money, too. She's
quite too fond of him--she even gave up a nice young man she was in love
with, for her father's sake. But listen. I don't want you to mention
these people's names to anybody--not to _anybody_, mind! Promise."
"Very well. But why?"
"I won't tell you," she says, decidedly; and, when he looks at her in
mute protest, she laughs merrily at his helplessness. So they go on up
A LODGING BY THE RIVER
The day after his introduction to the Kenbys, Larcher went with Murray
Davenport on one of those expeditions incidental to their collaboration
as writer and illustrator. Larcher had observed an increase of the
strange indifference which had appeared through all the artist's
loquacity at their first interview. This loquacity was sometimes
repeated, but more often Davenport's way was of silence. His apathy, or
it might have been abstraction, usually wore the outer look of
"Your friend seems to go about in a trance," Barry Tompkins said of him
one day, after a chance meeting in which Larcher had made the two
This was a near enough description of the man as he accompanied Larcher
to a part of the riverfront not far from the Brooklyn Bridge, on the
afternoon at which we have arrived. The two were walking along a squalid
street lined on one side with old brick houses containing junk-shops,
shipping offices, liquor saloons, sailors' hotels, and all the various
establishments that sea-folk use. On the other side were the wharves,
with a throng of vessels moored, and glimpses of craft on the broad
"Here we are," said Larcher, who as he walked had been referring to a
pocket map of the city. The two men came to a stop, and Davenport took
from a portfolio an old print of the early nineteenth century,
representing part of the river front. Silently they compared this with
the scene around them, Larcher smiling at the difference. Davenport then
looked up at the house before which they stood. There was a saloon on
the ground floor, with a miniature ship and some shells among the bottles
in the window.
"If I could get permission to make a sketch from one of those windows up
there," said Davenport, glancing at the first story over the saloon.
"Suppose we go in and see what can be done," suggested Larcher.
They found the saloon a small, homely place, with only one attendant
behind the bar at that hour, two marine-looking old fellows playing some
sort of a game amidst a cloud of pipe-smoke at a table, and a third old
fellow, not marine-looking but resembling a prosperous farmer, seated
by himself in the enjoyment of an afternoon paper that was nearly all
Larcher ordered drinks, and asked the barkeeper if he knew who lived
overhead. The barkeeper, a round-headed young man of unflinching aspect,
gazed hard across the bar at the two young men for several seconds, and
finally vouchsafed the single word:
"I should like to see the person that has the front room up one flight,"
"All right; that won't cost you nothing. There he sets." And the
barkeeper pointed to the rural-looking old man with the newspaper, at
the same time calling out, sportively: "Hey, Mr. Bud, here's a couple o'
gents wants to look at you."
Mr. Bud, who was tall, spare, and bent, about sixty, and the possessor
of a pleasant knobby face half surrounded by a gray beard that stretched
from ear to ear beneath his lower jaw, dropped his paper and scrutinized
the young men benevolently. They went over to him, and Larcher explained
their intrusion with as good a grace as possible.
"Why, certainly, certainly," the old man chirped with alacrity. "Glad to
have yuh. I'll be proud to do anything in the cause of literature. Come
right up." And he rose and led the way to the street door.
"Take care, Mr. Bud," said the jocular barkeeper. "Don't let them sell
you no gold bricks or nothin'. I never see them before, so you can't
hold me if you lose your money."
"You keep your mouth shut, Mick," answered the old man, "and send me up
a bottle o' whisky and a siphon o' seltzer as soon as your side partner
comes in. This way, gentlemen."
He conducted them out to the sidewalk, and then in through another door,
and up a narrow stairway, to a room with two windows overlooking the
river. It was a room of moderate size, provided with old furniture, a
faded carpet, mended curtains, and lithographs of the sort given away
with Sunday newspapers. It had, in its shabbiness, that curious effect
of cosiness and comfort which these shabby old rooms somehow possess,
and luxurious rooms somehow lack. A narrow bed in a corner was covered
with an old-fashioned patchwork quilt. There was a cylindrical stove,
but not in use, as the weather had changed since the day before; and
beside the stove, visible and unashamed, was a large wooden box partly
full of coal. While Larcher was noticing these things, and Mr. Bud was
offering chairs, Davenport made directly for the window and looked out
with an interest limited to the task in hand, and perfunctory even so.
"This is my city residence," said the host, dropping into a chair. "It
ain't every hard-worked countryman, these times, that's able to keep up
a city residence." As this was evidently one of Mr. Bud's favorite jests,
Larcher politically smiled. Mr. Bud soon showed that he had other
favorite jests. "Yuh see, I make my livin' up the State, but every now
and then I feel like comin' to the city for rest and quiet, and so I keep
this place the year round."
"You come to New York for rest and quiet?" exclaimed Larcher, still
kindly feigning amusement.
"Sure! Why not? As fur as rest goes, I just loaf around and watch other
people work. That's what I call rest with a sauce to it. And as fur as
quiet goes, I get used to the noises. Any sound that don't concern me,
don't annoy me. I go about unknown, with nobody carin' what my business
is, or where I'm bound fur. Now in the country everybody wants to know
where from, and where to, and what fur. The only place to be reely alone
is where thur's so many people that one man don't count for anything. And
talk about noise!--What's all the clatter and bang amount to, if it's got
nothin' to do with your own movements? Now at my home where the noise
consists of half a dozen women's voices askin' me about this, and wantin'
that, and callin' me to account for t'other,--that's the kind o' noise
that jars a man. Yuh see, I got a wife and four daughters. They're very
good women--very good women, the whole bunch--but I do find it restful
and refreshin' to take the train to New York about once a month, and loaf
around a week or so without anybody takin' notice, and no questions ast."
"And what does your family say to that?"
"Nothin', now. They used to say considerable when I first fell into the
habit. I hev some poultry customers here in the city, and I make out I
got to come to look after business. That story don't go fur with the
fam'ly; but they hev their way about everything else, so they got to
gimme my way about this."
Davenport turned around from the window, and spoke for the first time
"Then you don't occupy this room more than half the time?"
"No, sir, I close it up, and thank the Lord there ain't nothin' in it
"Oh, in that case," Davenport went on, "if I began some sketches here,
and you left town before they were done, I should have to go somewhere
else to finish them."
It was a remark that made Larcher wonder a little, at the moment, knowing
the artist's usual methods of work. But Mr. Bud, ignorant of such
matters, replied without question:
"Well, I don't know. That might be fixed all right, I guess."
"I see you have a library," said Davenport, abruptly, walking over to a
row of well-worn books on a wooden shelf near the bed. His sudden
interest, slight as it was, produced another transient surprise in
"Yes, sir," said the old man, with pride and affection, "them books is my
chief amusement. Sir Walter Scott's works; I've read 'em over again and
again, every one of 'em, though I must confess there's two or three
that's pretty rough travellin'. But the others!--well, I've tried a good
many authors, but gimme Scott. Take his characters! There's stacks of
novels comes out nowadays that call themselves historical; but the people
in 'em seems like they was cut out o' pasteboard; a bit o' wind would
blow 'em away. But look at the _body_ to Scott's people! They're all the
way round, and clear through, his characters are.--Of course, I'm no
literary man, gentlemen. I only give my own small opinion." Mr. Bud's
manner, on his suddenly considering his audience, had fallen from its
"Your small opinion is quite right," said Davenport. "There's no doubt
about the thoroughness and consistency of Scott's characters." He took
one of the books, and turned over the leaves, while Mr. Bud looked on
with brightened eyes. "Andrew Fairservice--there's a character. 'Gude
e'en--gude e'en t' ye'--how patronizing his first salutation! 'She's a
wild slip, that'--there you have Diana Vernon sketched by the old servant
in a touch. And what a scene this is, where Diana rides with Frank to the
hilltop, shows him Scotland, and advises him to fly across the border as
fast as he can."
"Yes, and the scene in the Tolbooth where Rob Roy gives Bailie Nicol
Jarvie them three sufficient reasons fur not betrayin' him." The old man
grinned. He seemed to be at his happiest in praising, and finding another
to praise, his favorite author.
"Interesting old illustrations these are," said Davenport, taking up
another volume. "Dryburgh Abbey--that's how it looks on a gray day. I
was lucky enough to see it in the sunshine; it's loveliest then."
"What?" exclaimed Mr. Bud. "You been to Dryburgh Abbey?--to Scott's
"Oh, yes," said Davenport, smiling at the old man's joyous wonder, which
was about the same as he might have shown upon meeting somebody who had
been to fairy-land, or heaven, or some other place equally far from New
"You don't say! Well, to think of it! I _am_ happy to meet you. By
George, I never expected to get so close to Sir Walter Scott! And maybe
you've seen Abbotsford?"
"Oh, certainly. And Scott's Edinburgh house in Castle Street, and the
house in George Square where he lived as a boy and met Burns."
Mr. Bud's excitement was great. "Maybe you've seen Holyrood Palace, and
"Why, of course. And the Canongate, and the Parliament House, and the
Castle, and the Grass-market, and all the rest. It's very easy; thousands
of Americans go there every year. Why don't you run over next summer?"
The old man shook his head. "That's all too fur away from home fur me.
The women are afraid o' the water, and they'd never let me go alone. I
kind o' just drifted into this New York business, but if I undertook to
go across the ocean, that _would_ be the last straw. And I'm afraid I
couldn't get on to the manners and customs over there. They say
everything's different from here. To tell the truth, I'm timid where I
don't know the ways. If I was like you--I shouldn't wonder if you'd been
to some of the other places where things happen in his novels?"
With a smile, Davenport began to enumerate and describe. The old man sat
enraptured. The whisky and seltzer came up, and the host saw that the
glasses were filled and refilled, but he kept Davenport to the same
subject. Larcher felt himself quite out of the talk, but found
compensation in the whisky and in watching the old man's greedy enjoyment
of Davenport's every word. The afternoon waned, and all opportunity of
making the intended sketches passed for that day. Mr. Bud was for
lighting up, or inviting the young men to dinner, but they found pretexts
for tearing themselves away. They did not go, however, until Davenport
had arranged to come the next day and perform his neglected task. Mr. Bud
accompanied them out, and stood on the corner looking after them until
they were out of sight.
"You've made a hit with the agriculturist," said Larcher, as they took
their way through a narrow street of old warehouses toward the region of
skyscrapers and lower Broadway.
"Scott is evidently his hobby," replied Davenport, with a careless smile,
"and I liked to please him in it."
He lapsed into that reticence which, as it was his manner during most of
the time, made his strange seasons of communicativeness the more
remarkable. A few days passed before another such talkative mood came on
in Larcher's presence.
It was a drizzling, cheerless night. Larcher had been to a dinner in
Madison Avenue, and he thus found himself not far from Davenport's abode.
Going thither upon an impulse, he beheld the artist seated at the table,
leaning forward over a confusion of old books, some of them open. He
looked pallid in the light of the reading lamp at his elbow, and his
eyes seemed withdrawn deep into their hollows. He welcomed his visitor
with conventional politeness.
"How's this?" began Larcher. "Do I find you pondering,
'... weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore?'"
"No; merely rambling over familiar fields." Davenport held out the
"Oh, Shakespeare," laughed Larcher. "The Sonnets. Hello, you've marked
part of this."
"Little need to mark anything so famous. But it comes closer to me than
to most men, I fancy." And he recited slowly, without looking down at the
'When, in disgrace with Fortune and men's eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself, and curse my fate,'--
He stopped, whereupon Larcher, not to be behind, and also without having
recourse to the page, went on:
'Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possest,
Desiring this man's art and that man's scope,'--
"But I think that hits all men," said Larcher, interrupting himself.
"Everybody has wished himself in somebody else's shoes, now and again,
don't you believe?"
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