Part 1 out of 5
Illustrated by Howard Chandler Christy
[Illustration: "Are you in love with me now?" he
TO MARY BALDWIN
If I should lose from my life that part of it of which you are a part,
there would be but a skeleton left. Yet if you had played a larger part
in my life I should have been so spoiled that there would be no living
with me. And I'm spoiled enough, God knows!
In the Iliad you wrote for me, and I "drawed" for us both, 'twas Hector
fixed Achilles. When I sat at your right hand and your sharp, swift
knife went into the turkey, 'twas I that got the tit-bits and the
oyster. And all was right with the world _then_, I can tell you!
We have ridden together over old battlefields, and I have worn the
epaulettes and the swords in the attic, and listened to tales of the
great brother who died of the war, and whose bull-terrier Jerry chased
the cannon-balls at Gettysburg. Oh, the cutlass captured from the
Confederate ram, and the wooden canteen, and the Confederate money (in a
frame)! I was the hunter that used to handle the Colt (with the ships
engraved on the cylinder) that shot the buffalo from the rear platform
of the train, and was stolen by a genuine thief. Is Jeff Davis's bible
that he gave to the brother who with Major R. caused game chickens to
fight for the edification of his captivity still in your upper
Are the photographs that General Gilmore had taken of Charleston siege
still in the bookcase with the glass doors? Or have they vanished like
the child's footprint that I made for you when we were planting the--the
"plant," and I was going away?
Time has passed. _Grand_ nephews are as young and hopeful as nephews used
to be. _I_ have written innumerable miserable grovelling tales. I
dedicate this one to you; despairing at last of writing that masterpiece
which should have been worthy of you.
But tell me this: Is there still a little corner of your heart that I
may call mine? a corner into which no one else is allowed to
put--yes--to put _foot_? Oh, but I should be glad to know that!
BEDFORD, February, 1913.
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
"Are you in love with me now?" he asked wistfully (Frontispiece).
She wished that she might die, or, infinitely better, that she had 4
never been born.
She had on her work-apron, but she was not working.
He praised, blamed, patronized, puffed his pipe, and dwelt with
superiority on topics which are best left alone.
She took some coins from her purse and dropped them into the tin cup.
The young man knelt at the door by which he had entered and began to
remove its ancient lock.
Harry, the workman, ... rose to his feet, and turned to Barbara with a
certain quiet eagerness.
But Barbara and Wilmot Allen, well used to even larger and more stately
rooms, chatted ... as two children.
She faced him, still scornful, but white now, and biting her lips.
In a few minutes Bubbles returned. "He's just sitting there with a hell
of a face on him," he said, "and she's working like a dynamo".
Dr. Ferris frowned. "I'm not trying to interfere," he said. "You're old
enough to know what's best for you".
"Some unknown person," said Barbara, "has formed the habit of sending me
In the dim light she looked wonderfully young and beautiful.
He turned with one foot on the sidewalk, and one in the cab.... "Here I
wishes you salutations".
Wilmot Allen took her in to dinner, and looked much love at her, and
talked much nonsense.
He saw her with the vase of jonquils in her hand ... and his stout heart
failed him a little.
When Bubbles had trotted off, she dropped into her chair and cried.
The door opened, and Rose staggered into the room.
And in his soul the legless man was playing only for Barbara.
"'D afternoon, Mr. Lichtenstein," said Bubbles.
"I want me thumb bandaged".
She said in a small; surprised voice, "Why, it's finished".
In that instant the legless man overreached himself and fell heavily.
Barbara ... dashed into her dressing-room and locked the door behind
They passed out of the house and by marble steps into the first and most
formal of their many gardens.
"What is Wilmot doing with himself these days?" "He went away," said
Barbara, her eyes troubled.
He caught her by the wrist, drew her to her feet, and into the room.
"I twisted the truth out of him, and then flung him over a cliff".
"Climb out of that chair, and let me out of this house".
"I've seen that man. I was writing notes in the summer house when he
"Read that, father".
The engineer made generous terms across the dinner-table.
"You will," said Barbara, "when the things dry".
They were much amused with Bubbles, who came out to them for Christmas
"And when you think," said she, "that some women spend the best years of
their lives making _statues_!"
The number of love affairs which intervened between Barbara Ferris's
first one, when she was eleven, and her twenty-second birthday could not
have been counted on the fingers of her two hands. Many boys, many men,
had seemed wonderfully attractive to her. She did not know why. She knew
only that the attraction seemed strong and eternal while it lasted, and
that it never lasted long. She was sixteen before she began to consider
herself a heartless, flirtatious, unstable, jilting sort of a girl. When
she made this discovery, she was terribly ashamed, and for one long
depressing year fell in love with nobody, became very shy, and hated
herself. It was during this year that she had her first, last, and only
touch of mania. It lasted only a little while and was not acute. She got
the idea that she was being watched, spied on, and followed. But she was
too strong in body and mind to give in for long to so silly an
hallucination. And when she had dismissed the second man and her maid,
who had particularly excited her suspicions, the mania left her, as a
dream leaves at waking.
In her seventeenth year she was presented to society, and became an
immense favorite. There were excellent reasons for this: she was lovely
to look at, she would inherit a great deal of money, she had charming
natural manners, and she was sweet-tempered.
During her second season she had an unpleasant experience. She had
almost reached an understanding with a certain young man with whom she
fancied herself in love. They were spending a Saturday to Monday at a
great place on Long Island. On Sunday night, her host, a man old enough
to be her father, invited her to see his rose garden by moonlight. She
accepted this invitation as a matter of course. Pacing down a path
between tall privet hedges, her host, who for some minutes seemed to
have lost the use of his tongue, made her a sudden impassioned
declaration of love, seized her in his arms, and kissed her wherever he
could with a kind of dreadful fury. For half a minute she stood still as
a statue. Then, crimson with shame and anger, she wrenched free, and
struck him heavy blows on the face and head with her strong young fists.
She beat him, not indeed to insensibility, but to his senses. They
returned to the house after a time, and entered the drawing-room talking
in lazy, natural voices and praising the beauty of the night and of the
garden. Not even Barbara's lover suspected that anything out of the
common had happened.
Barbara, having played half a dozen rubbers of bridge with the great
skill and sweet temper which were natural to her, excused herself, went
to her room, and cried half the night. It was not the shame of having
been forcibly kissed that sickened her of herself, but the
unforgettable, unforgivable fact that toward the last of that furious
kissing she had found a certain low feline pleasure in the kisses. She
wished that she might die, or, infinitely better, that she had never
It seemed terrible to her that she could at once be in love with one man
and enjoy the kisses of another. She had heard of girls who were thus,
and had for them the contempt which they deserved. And yet it seemed
that she was one of them; neither better nor worse. What Barbara did not
realize was, that in the first place she was not really in love with
anybody and never had been, and that it was not she herself who enjoyed
being kissed by a man to whom she was indifferent, neither liking nor
loathing, but nature, which for reasons, or perhaps only whims, of its
own, tempts the cell to divide and the flower to go to seed.
Through the tangle of her love affairs Wilmot Allen threaded a path of
hope, despair, and cynicism. There were times when she seemed to have a
return of her childhood infatuation for him; there were times when he
feared that in one of her moments of impressionable enthusiasm she would
marry some other man in haste, and repent at leisure. And there were the
cynical intervals, when it seemed to him that he could do without her,
and that nothing was worth while but enjoyment, both base and innocent,
During Wilmot's junior year at New Haven, his father's sensational,
dissipated, and stock-gambling career came to a sudden end. There was
even a shadow on the name. He had done something _really_ discreditable,
something of course to do with money; since a man who is _merely_ a
gambler, a drunkard, and a Don Juan may with ease keep upon good terms
Wilmot Allen failed, at least without honor, filled himself full of
brandy, cocked a forty-five-calibre revolver, put the muzzle in his
mouth, pulled the trigger, blew off the back of his head, and was
"accidentally shot while cleaning the weapon."
The real tragedy was that so good a career as the son's should have come
to so untimely an end in so good a collegiate world as Yale. He stood
well in his class, he had played right tackle for two seasons and was
heir apparent to the captaincy; he was well beloved and would have
received an election to a senior society in the spring. But the solid
ground being withdrawn from under his feet--in other words, his
allowance from his father--he left amid universal regret, and found
himself a very small person in a very great city; worse, a youth who had
always had everything, loved pleasure, lights, games, and color, and who
now had no visible means of support.
[Illustration: She wished that she might die, or, infinitely better,
that she had never been born.]
Friends found him a position in Wall Street. Being young, attractive,
a good "mixer," not in the least shy, he was given a handsome
"entertaining" allowance and told to bring in business. So he
foregathered with out-of-town magnates, made the city a pleasant,
familiar place to them, and brought much of their money into the firm's
office. When Barbara was kind he despised his anomalous position and
strove to free himself from it; but even the best man has to live.
And during those intervals when he thought he could do without her,
Wilmot sank deeper and deeper into methods of self-advancement which, if
not actually base and culpable, at least smirched the finer qualities of
his nature, and hardened his heart.
If the father's heritage, drink and women, were spared him, or at least
that part of him which was really noble, a love of cleanness,
clear-mindedness, and purity, died hard. But gambling was second nature
to him. He could not enjoy a game unless he had something on it; and all
book-makers and proprietors of gambling-houses were friends of his and
called him by his first name. Sometimes through a series of lucky turns
he rose to heights of picturesque affluence; more often he was
stone-broke; but so much money passed through his hands in the course of
a year that it was always possible for him to borrow and live well
enough on credit. Money became his passion, not for its own sake, not
for the sake of what it could buy, but because it was a game upon which
the best wits of the world have been engaged for ages and ages--and
because you have to have it, or be able to owe so much that it amounts
to the same thing.
At first when he got in a hole, owed money which he saw no way of
raising, Wilmot suffered all the anguish and remorse of the trustee who
has speculated with orphans' funds (for the first time) and lost them.
Gradually he became hardened. And those who knew him best could never
tell whether he was worth fifty thousand or had just lost that much. He
drew upon a stock of courage and cheerfulness worthy of even the noblest
cause, until the term "self-respect" dropped automatically from his
inner vocabulary and his moral sense became a rotten, rusty buckler
through which the spear of temptation or necessity passed like a pin
through a sheet of tissue-paper.
He put himself under obligation--in moments of supreme need--to
dangerous persons, and suffered from the familiarity and perhaps the
contempt of some who were his inferiors in breeding, in heart, and
One day, being at his wit's end, he walked rapidly, seeking light,
through a quarter of the city which was not familiar to him. He was in
that mood when a man does not wish to be at the trouble of nodding or
exchanging a word even with his best friend. A voice hailed him,
He stopped and saw that the voice came from a legless man who sat in the
sun by a hand-organ on which were displayed for sale a few pairs of
shoe-laces and, to excite charity, a battered (and empty) tin cup.
"Have you forgotten me?"
The light of recognition had twinkled instantly in Wilmot's eyes, for he
was wonderful at remembering faces. And he smiled and said:
"Of course not. How are you?"
"Pretty well," said the beggar. "And you?"
Wilmot's giving hand had slipped automatically into his trousers pocket.
Then, for once in his charitable life, he hesitated, since the pocket
contained nothing but a ten-dollar bill, and that was all the money he
had in the world with which to meet a pressing note of ten thousand. His
hesitation lasted only a moment. He laughed and stuffed the ten-dollar
bill into the cup, and said:
"For old acquaintance' sake."
The beggar studied the young man's face. Then he said: "Mr. Allen, I
once had the honor to warn you against three things."
"Your face is innocent of wine and women. How about the gambling?"
"My friend," said Wilmot, "you read me like a book. The gambling is all
to the bad. I have just given you all the money I had in the world."
"A few dollars are of no use to me," said the beggar.
"Nor to me. Don't worry."
"I am not worrying. I'm thinking that you and I have something in
common. And for that reason I am tempted to ask if a few thousand would
be of any use to you?"
Wilmot smiled with engaging candor. "Fifteen thousand would."
"You shall have them," said the beggar shortly. He pointed to a glazed
door across which was printed in gilt letters:
"That," said the beggar, "is my name, and that is my place of business.
Wilmot followed the beggar through the glass door, which at opening and
closing caused a bell to clang. The front of the establishment was
occupied by a dust-ridden salesroom, and an office with yellow-pine
partitions. As he followed the beggar into this, Wilmot caught a glimpse
in the distance of fifteen or twenty young girls who sat at a long table
industriously plaiting straw hats. He lifted his own hat a little
mechanically, and thought that he had never seen so many pretty girls at
one time under one roof.
Wilmot buttoned his coat over fifteen one-thousand-dollar bills. Only
supreme necessity could have persuaded him to take them, since, although
he had not put his name to a paper of any kind, he felt a little as if
he had sold himself to the devil. But Blizzard had shown him no
deviltry; only kindness and a certain whimsicality of speech and a point
of view that was engaging.
The transaction finished, Wilmot was for leaving, but being under
obligation to the legless man was at pains not to be abrupt. He lingered
then a little, and they talked.
"The first time we met," said the beggar, "you were roller-skating with
a pretty child. She was so pretty that I asked you her name. And I have
never forgotten it."
He did not add that he had watched that pretty child's goings and
comings for many years; that he had lain in wait to see her pass; that
he had bribed servants in her father's house to give him news of her:
and that the day approached when, fearing neither man nor God, he
proposed that she should disappear from the world that knew her, and go
down into the infamous depths of that vengeance which had been the
key-note of his life. Nor did he add that there were but two
contingencies which he felt might thwart his plans: her marriage to
Wilmot Allen, or his own untimely death. And he feared the latter but
little. The former, however, had at times seemed imminent to those who
spied upon the daily life of the heiress for him, and in lending money
to Wilmot he was taking a first step toward making it impossible. For
Barbara herself Blizzard had at this time no more feeling than for a
pawn upon a chess-board. It pleased his sense of fitness to know she was
beautiful; and to be told that she was like sunshine in her
"What has become of her?" he said.
"Of Miss Ferris?" Wilmot did not care to discuss her with a stranger.
But unfortunately there were fifteen thousand dollars of the stranger's
money in his inside pocket. "She became a great favorite in society," he
said, "and then dropped out to study art."
"Painting?" The legless man knew perfectly well, but it suited him to
make inquiries. "Music?"
"Sculpture," said Wilmot shortly.
"Is she succeeding?"
"She works very hard, and she has talent."
"That is not enthusiastic."
"You mustn't ask me; I'm not an art critic."
"What a pity."
"A pity that I'm not an art critic?"
"No. A pity for a beautiful girl to do anything but exist."
Wilmot's eyebrows went up a little. The beggar's speech surprised him,
and pleased him, since it expressed a favorite thought of his own.
"Is any of her work on exhibition? Having seen her once, one takes an
interest, you know."
"I think there is nothing that can be seen," said Wilmot coolly, "except
upon special invitation. And I think she is very shy of showing anything
that she has done."
"True artists," said Blizzard, who criminally was an artist himself and
knew what he was talking about, "live in the future."
Again Wilmot's eyebrows went up a little. Why should a legless beggar be
able to make loans of fifteen thousand dollars, and why should he be
able to talk like a gentleman?
"I am interested in art," continued Blizzard; "sometimes I have earned a
few dollars by sitting for my portrait."
He did not add that he continually put himself in the way of artists in
the hope that his fame as a model would reach Barbara, and touch her
imagination. He did not add that he haunted Washington Square and
McBurney Place, where her studio was, in the hope that his face, which
he knew to be different and more terrible than other faces, might kindle
a fire of inspiration in her. He believed rightly that if a woman once
looked him in the eyes she would never forget him. But hitherto Barbara
had not so much as glanced at him, since she carried her lovely head
very high, and looked straight before her as she went. While, as for
him, he stood upon the stumps of his legs, a gigantic sort of dwarf,
beneath the notice of the proud-eyed and the tall.
Wilmot passed out of the place in deep thought; not even the pretty
girls plaiting straw won a glance from him. Coupled with the relief of
being out of present difficulties was a disagreeable sense of
foreboding. Suppose the legless man were to ask favors of him before the
money could be repaid? Suppose they were favors which a gentleman could
not grant? And he determined to find out, from the police if necessary,
just what sort of a man it was with whom he had had dealings.
It seemed to Wilmot that he had not seen Barbara for an age. And indeed
a week had passed without their meeting. Therefore, although he had
often been forbidden to call during working hours, he had himself driven
to 17 McBurney Place and climbed the two flights of stairs to
It was a disconsolate Barbara who received him. She had on her
work-apron, but she was not working. She sat in a deep chair, and
presented the soles of her small shoes to an open fire. Wilmot,
expecting to be scolded for disobeying orders, was relieved at being
received with visible signs of pleasure.
"You're just the person I wanted to see," she said, "just the one and
only Wilmot in the world."
"Are you dying?" he asked.
She laughed. "I'm discouraged. I've come to one of those times when you
just want to chuck everything. And there's a man at the bottom of it."
"Tell me," said Wilmot, "in words of two syllables."
"Well," said Barbara, "I woke up in the middle of the night out of a
dream. I dreamed I'd made a statue of Satan after the fall from heaven,
and that everybody said: 'Well done, Barbs, bully for you,' 'Got Rodin
skinned a mile'--it was you said that--and so forth and so on. I rose,
swollen with conceit, and made a sketch of the head I'd dreamed about,
so's not to forget the pose, and then I went to sleep again. Next day,
early, a man stopped me in Washington Square and begged for a dime. I
looked at him, and he had just the expression of the fallen Satan I'd
dreamed about--a beast of a face, but all filled with a sort of hopeless
longing to 'get back,' and remorse. I invited him to pose for me--not
for a dime--but for real money. Well, he fell for it. And for all that
morning he looked just the way I wanted him to look. But the next
morning, having had the spending of certain moneys, he looked too tidy
and well fed for Satan. And this morning he was hopeless. He looked smug
and fatuous and disgustingly self-satisfied. So I gave him quite a lot
of money, not wishing to hurt the creature's feelings, and told him to
go away." She looked up, laughing at herself. "Do you know, I really
believed I'd dreamed out a golden inspiration, and then to strike just
the face I wanted--and then to have everything foozle out!"
Wilmot walked over to the modelling-table on which, strongly modelled in
wet clay but quite meaningless, was the bust of a man.
"I think." said Barbara, "it would look better if you snubbed his nose
Wilmot snubbed the long nose heavenward, and the effect was such as to
make them laugh. Barbara recovered all her usual good humor.
[Illustration: She had on her work-apron, but she was not working.]
"Get some forms out of the kitchen," she said, "and we'll turn him
into mud pies."
For half an hour they diverted themselves, displaying a tremendous
rivalry and enthusiasm. And then Barbara announced that there had been
enough foolishness, and that if Wilmot would put fuel on the fire, he
might talk with her till lunch-time and then take her out to lunch.
"Always provided," she said, "that you are not broke at the moment. In
which case Barbara will pay and tip."
"I've had a funny adventure," said Wilmot. "I _was_ dreadfully broke. A
man I hadn't seen for years and years--and only the once at
that--stopped me in the street, told me I was broke, and offered to lend
me money. Wilmot accepted, and is now plenty flush enough to blow to
lunch, thank you!"
Barbara, reseated herself in the deep chair, and once more presented the
soles of her shoes to the flames. "Look here," she said, "aren't you,
just among old friends, rather flitting your life away? I don't think
it's very pretty to borrow money from strangers, and to be always just
getting into difficulties or just getting out of them. Do you?"
"Well, you know," said Wilmot earnestly, "I don't. When I don't hate
myself, I don't like myself any too well. But there's something wrong
with me. Maybe I'm just lazy. Maybe I lack an impulse. Maybe I'd do
better if any single solitary person in this world really gave a damn
His cheerful boyish face assumed a proper solemnity of expression, and
a certain nobility. At the moment he really thought that nobody in the
world cared what became of him.
"Nobody," said Barbara, "likes to back a flighty pony. You yourself, for
instance, are always putting money, your own or some one else's, on
horses that always run somewhere near form. Of course you have excuses
"Oh, yes, you have. You were brought up to be rich, and you were left
poor, and a man has to live and even secure for himself the luxuries to
which he has been accustomed. Haven't you ever excused yourself to
yourself something like that?"
Wilmot admitted that he had, and went further. "You can't knock livings
out of a tree with a stick like ripe apples," he said. "You've either
got to use your wits or begin at the bottom and work up. And it seems to
me that I'd rather be a little bit tarnished than toil away the best
years of my life the way some men I know are doing."
"Yes," said Barbara, "but why not go somewhere where the world is
younger, and there are real chances to be a man, and real opportunities
to make money in real ways? I don't blame you for living on your wits. I
blame you for gambling and never getting anywhere and not caring."
"Not caring? And this from you?"
She changed color under his steady eyes.
"You just give me a certain promise, Barbs, and I give you my word of
honor I'll settle to something above-board and make it hum. Look here
now! How about it? Who's been so faithful to the one girl for so long?
Who understands her so well? Who'd enjoy dying for her so much?"
"Good old Wilmot," she said gently and gave him her hand. He kissed it
and would have liked to go on holding it forever, but she took it away
from him, and after a silence said, with some bitterness: "I mustn't
ever marry anybody. I've learned to know myself too well. And I've no
constancy, and I don't trust myself."
"That," said Wilmot with the faith of a fanatic in his god, "is because
you've never really cared."
"And besides," she said, "I have what I am pleased to call my career.
And 'Down to Gehenna and up to the throne he travels fastest who
"True," said Wilmot, "he arrives soonest, but all tired out, and the
house is empty, and there are no children in it, and only paid servants.
And it may be very showy to live for fame, but it isn't good enough.
When we turned that bust you began into mud pies, we did a wise thing.
We amused ourselves, and we said the last word on art as opposed to
life. The best thing in this world is to _be_ children and to _have_
children--and the next best thing is nowhere."
"Would you," said Barbara, and her eyes twinkled a little, "really
rather be a parent than a Praxiteles?"
"It looks to me," said Wilmot sadly, "sometimes--in moments of
despondency--as if the honorable gentleman was never going to be either.
But then again," and he spoke in a strong voice, "I believe in my heart
that after you've done handling the book of life and admiring the
binding, you'll open it at chapter one, and read, '_Young
"Lunch-time," said Barbara, and she rose from the comfortable chair with
sharp decision. "I vote for a thick steak, being famished. Is my hair
"No," said Wilmot dejectedly. "I wish it was. And I wish it was my
"I've done enough for you more than once," said the legless man; "you're
big enough and strong enough to work, but you're a born loafer."
"I had a job." The speaker, a shabby, unshaven man with a beastly face,
whined dolefully. "And I done right; but I got the sack."
"What was the job and why were you sacked?"
"I got a job as a artist's model. I sits in a chair while the lady makes
a statue out of my face, and then she gives me money, and I goes and
spends it. The third day she gives me more money, and tells me I looks
too well fed and happy to suit her, and sends me away."
The legless man was astonished to learn that his heart was beating with
unaccustomed force and rapidity. "Who was the artist?"
"She's a lady name o' Ferris."
The legless man steeled his face to express nothing. "Ferris," he
"Say," said the unshaven man, "what's all that about the devil falling
out of heaven and fetching up in hell?"
"That's how she says I looks. And she wants to make a statue of him,
just when he comes to and sits up, and looks up and sees how far he's
fell. She says my face has all the sorrers and horrors of the world
"And then, you fool," said the legless man, "you spoiled her game by
high living. You ate and you drank till you looked like a paranoiac
bulldog asleep in the sun. Where was the lady's studio?"
"Seventeen McBurney Place."
"And she wants to do a Satan, does she?"
The unshaven man drew back from the expression of the legless man, in
whose face it was as if all the fires of hell had suddenly burst into
flame. The unshaven man covered the breast of his threadbare coat with
outstretched hands as if to shield himself from some suddenly bared
weapon. His eyes blinked, but did not falter.
"Say," he said presently, after drawing a deep breath, "if she could see
"If I don't know," said the legless man, "how Satan felt after the fall,
nobody does. The things I've been--the things I've seen--back
there--down here--the things I've lost--the things I've found! Hell's
Bell's, Johnson! what is it you want--food?--drink?--a woman?"
The unshaven man's eyes shone with an unholy light.
"What would you do for twenty-five dollars?"
The unshaven man said nothing. He looked everything.
"Do you know the McIver woman?"
The legless man granted. "Yes. Fanny. She'll look at you if you've got
"She'd crawl through a sewer to find a dime."
"Quite so," the legless man commented dryly. "Well, it wouldn't matter
to me if she went on a tear and was found dead in her bed."
"It's worth fifty." Something in the unshaven man's voice suggested that
he had once been remotely connected with some sort of a business.
The legless man shook his head. "Judas Iscariot," he said, "betrayed the
Lord God for thirty. Fanny McIver's scalp isn't worth a cent over
twenty-five. You're just a broken-down drunk. It takes a bigger bluffer
than you to make me put an insult on Christendom. Fifteen down. Ten when
Fanny's had her last hang-over."
"Why don't you do some of your dirty work yourself?"
"I do all I can," said the legless man simply; "I can't find time for
The unshaven man shifted uneasily on his shabby feet. In his stomach the
flames which only alcohol can quench were burning with a steady gnawing
fury. "How about a little drink?" he said.
"Fifteen down," said the legless man; "ten when the job's done, and a
ticket to Chicago."
"With a reservation? I'll feel like the devil; I couldn't sit up all
"I'll throw in an upper," said the legless man.
Still the unshaven man resisted. "What's Fanny done to you?"
"None of your business."
As if that settled the matter, and removed all obstacles and moral
scruples, the unshaven man sighed, and held out his hand for the money
which was to bind the contract.
Twelve hours later, Fanny McIver's death was being attributed by the
authorities to the insane, jealous rage of a lover. But as she had
lately changed her name and address, she lay for a while in the morgue
awaiting identification. It was the legless beggar who performed that
last solemn rite. He was quite unmoved. Her death mattered no more in
his scheme of life than the death of a fly.
But as he held up his hand and swore that the identity of the corpse was
such and such, he remembered how graceful she had been at sixteen, how
affectionate, how ready to forgive. He remembered with a certain
admiration that during the heyday of her earning powers she had always
trusted to his generosity, and had never tried to hold any of her
earnings back. Prison and drink had destroyed all that was honest in
her, all that was womanly. So a drop of acid will eat out the heart of
the freshest and loveliest rose. She became a very evil thing--full of
evil knowledge. There was even a certain danger in her--not
much--nothing definite--but enough. She was better dead.
He turned and swung out of the morgue into the sunlight. And he wondered
whatever had become of the child that she had borne him.
It would have been easier for Wilmot Allen if he could have come into
Barbara's life for the first time. She was too used to him to appreciate
such of his qualities as were fine and noble at their true value. And
contrarily it was the same familiarity which limned his faults so
clearly and perhaps exaggerated them. She often thought that if she
could see him for the first time she would fall head over ears in love
with him, and be married to him out of hand. Was it not better
therefore, since the man's character had its disillusionments, that
their life-long friendship precluded the idea of marrying in haste and
repenting at leisure? "It's almost," she said to herself, "as if I had
married him long ago and found out that I had made a mistake."
But she hated to hurt him in any way. And it caused her a genuine sorrow
sometimes to say no to him. He had proposed to her many times a year for
many, many years, and always with a passion and sincerity that made it
appear as if he was proposing for the first time in his life. Twice, the
strength and devotion of his physical presence had seemed to remove
every doubt of him from her mind, and she had said that she would marry
him, and had been ecstatically happy while he kissed her and held her in
his arms. And each time better knowledge of herself, a sleepless night,
and the unsparing light of morning had filled her with shame and
remorse, and made it quite clear that she had made one more mistake, and
must tell him so, and eat humble pie. And exact a promise that he would
never make love to her again. But she could never get him to promise
that. And she could never keep him from kissing things that belonged to
her when she was looking, and when she wasn't. And if, as he sometimes
threatened in moments of disappointed and injured feelings, he had gone
far away, so that he could never cross her path again, she would have
missed him so much that it would almost have killed her. And so it is
with all human beings--they care little enough about their dearest
possessions until the fire by night consumes them, or the thief walks
off with them. Then the silver and the jewels, and this thing and that,
assume a sort of humanity--and are as if they had been dear friends and
unutterably necessary companions in joy and sorrow.
To Wilmot a little encouragement was a great thing, a foundation upon
which to undertake pyramids. Having intruded upon Barbara's working
hours without being scolded, Wilmot began to picture for himself a
delightful life of intruding upon them every day. He hoped that if she
was really working, she would not actually send him away, but let him
sit in the deep chair by the fire and wait till she was through, and
ready for talk and play. As much almost as he loved her, he hated her
ambitions, if only because they interfered with him, and because he
found it impossible to take them seriously. Her work seemed surprisingly
good to him--not surprisingly good for a genuine sculptor who exhibited
in salons, but for a girl of his own class whom he had always known. In
this estimate he did not do Barbara justice. She had a fine natural
talent and she had been well trained. People who knew what they were
talking about, shock-headed young fellows with neighboring studios,
prophesied great things for her, partly because she was beautiful, and
partly because her work, as far as she had gone in it, was really good.
What she lacked, they said, was inspiration, experience, and knowledge
of life. When these things came to her in due time, her technique would
be quite equal to expressing them.
Wilmot's dream of being much in Barbara's studio proved negotiable only
as a dream. Barbara began a fountain for her father's garden at
Clovelly, and during the modelling of the central figure the studio was
no place for a modest young man. He had one glimpse through the
half-open door of a girl with very red hair and very white skin, and he
turned and beat a decided retreat, blushing furiously. He did not repeat
his visit to her studio until Barbara assured him that the nymph had put
on her clothes and gone away. Then, much to his disgust, he found there
a young fellow named Scupper, who smoked a vile pipe and had dirty
finger-nails and was allowed to make himself at home because he had
recently exhibited a portrait bust that everybody was praising (even
Wilmot) and because he had volunteered during a delightful contemplation
of Barbara's face to do her portrait and tell her all that he had
learned from his great master, Rodin.
The little beast had the assurance of the devil. He praised, blamed,
patronized, puffed his pipe, and dwelt with superiority on topics which
are best left alone, until Wilmot wanted to kick him downstairs.
Scupper, aware of Wilmot's dislike for him, and thoroughly cognizant of
its causes, did his best to goad the "young prude" (as he chose to
consider him) into open hostility. He strutted, boasted, puffed, and
talked loosely without avail. Wilmot maintained a beautiful calm, and
the more he raged internally the more Chesterfieldian and gorgeously at
ease his manners became. Barbara enjoyed the contest between the terrier
and the Newfoundland hugely. Personally she disliked Scupper almost as
much as she liked Wilmot, but artistically she admired him tremendously
and felt that his judgments and criticisms were the most valuable things
to be had in the whole city.
Wilmot not only kept his temper, but outstayed his antagonist. The
latter gone, he turned upon Barbara, and she in mock terror held up her
hands for mercy; but Wilmot was not in a merciful mood.
"When you imagine that you are uplifting the cause of art, Barbs, are
you sure that you aren't debasing it? You won't marry a man who has
always loved you. _Art._ You put marble and bronze higher than little
children. _Art._ You allow disreputable, unwashed men to talk in your
presence as that man talked. _Art._ You hire people of bad character to
sit for you, and people of no character. All art. You treat them in a
spirit of friendliness and camaraderie. You affect to place art above
all considerations; above character, above morals; worse, you place it
"A man--yes, take him for all and all, a man--eats out his heart for
you; desires only to live for you, only to die for you, only to lie at
your feet afterward--that is nothing to you. You do not even care to
listen. You would rather hear through a braggart, indecent mouth that
ought to be sewed up what Rodin said about Phidias. It seems finer to
you to be an artist than a woman, and you so beautiful and so dear!"
Barbara made no answer. She looked a little hurt, possibly a little
sullen. She had a way of looking a little sullen (it did not happen
often) when she could not hit upon just the words she wanted to express
her thoughts. She felt that her attitude toward life was almost entirely
right, almost entirely justifiable, and she wanted to explain exactly
why this was thus, and couldn't. So after a silence she said:
"Oh, I'm just a little pig. Why bother about me? And besides, it's no
"Don't say that, Barbara. There _must_ be use in it. Don't you know in
your heart that some day you are going to marry me?"
"No," she said. "Sometimes I've thought so, but I don't know it." She
selected an arrow from her quiver, touched the point with venom, and
because she had not enjoyed being scolded shot it into him. "And at the
moment I don't think so."
Wilmot spoke on patiently. "Every true lover, Barbs," he said, "comes in
time to the end of his patience and the end of his endurance."
"And then he ceases from loving--and troubling."
"He does not. When he knows as I know what is best for her happiness and
for his, and when he finds that humbleness, and begging, and gentleness,
and persuasion are of no avail--why, then if he's a man he _makes_ her
love him, _makes_ her marry him."
"I hope, my dear Wilmot," she said, "that you are speaking from a very
"From the experience of ten million years. I have only one life to live.
Somehow I will make you love me, make you belong to me. Just because I
eat with a fork, do you think my heart is really any different from that
of the cave-man from whom it descended to me, or that your heart is any
different from that of the girl he wanted, who kept him guessing and
guessing until he couldn't stand it, and then turned and ran and ran
through the woods, and swam rivers and climbed trees and jumped down
precipices until he caught her?"
There was something in Wilmot's lowered brows, a certain jerking, broken
quality in his utterance, that was new to Barbara--that at once
frightened her a little, and caused her heart to beat with a sort of
wild triumph. But she did not guess that the old cave-man was at that
moment actually looking out through her old friend's eye-places, and
that ten thousand years of civilization are but a thin varnish over the
rough and splendid masterpiece that God made in his image.
There was a knock at the door. It was Scupper returning. He had left his
beloved pipe (on purpose). His shrewd, bloodshot little eyes took in the
situation at a glance. In two beats his little heart was wild
"I beg _everybody's_ pardon," he said. "I didn't know, I--er--wouldn't
have knocked--I--er--mean I _would_ have knocked just the same."
Wilmot took one slow step toward the famous sculptor, then smiled,
picked up the fellow's pipe, and returned it to him. "I saw you put it
down just before you left," he said. "I think there is nothing else you
have forgotten, _is_ there? If there is I think it will be best not to
come back for it until I have gone. Meanwhile you will have time to
shave and bathe and make yourself presentable."
Scupper, sure that he was not actually going to be hit, escaped with an
ease and jauntiness which he was far from feeling. And Barbara, the high
tension relieved, burst out laughing.
It was Wilmot's turn to look sullen. He had felt that the sheer animal
force of his love was holding and even moulding Barbara to his will, as
no tenderness and delicacy had ever done. But at the sculptor's
entrance, the honest if brutal cave-man had fled, like some noble savage
before a talking-machine, and left in a state of civilized helplessness
a young gentleman who could not find anything to say for himself.
As for Barbara, she had never seen Wilmot look as he had looked, or
heard those quivering, broken tones in his voice. The savage in her had
gone out to him with open arms and, behold, the primal force which,
standing like an island of refuge in a sea of doubt, she had been about
to clasp was but an empty shadow. That Wilmot had not done very nobly
with his talents, that there were weaknesses in his character and
record, things even that needed explaining, had not at the moment of his
mastery mattered to her a jot. But now such thoughts flocked to her like
birds to a tree; and she was glad that she had escaped from a situation
that had so nearly overwhelmed her reason and drowned her common sense
in the heavenly sweetness of surrender.
Wilmot could find nothing to say. It was no mere gust of passion that
had swept over him, but a storm. He was physically tired, as if he had
rowed a long race. He no longer wished to play the master. He would
rather a thousand times have rested his hot forehead on Barbara's cool
hand, and fallen quietly asleep like a little child come in at last to
his mother after too much play in the hot sun.
"Life," he said at last, "is a nuisance, Barbs. Isn't it? Would you,
honestly, be happier if I disappeared, and never bothered you again?
Sometimes I feel that I ought to."
She shook her head. "If you like people," she said, "you like them,
faults and all. I'm dependent on you in a hundred ways. You're the
oldest and best friend I've got. If you disappeared I'd curl up and die.
But now that we are talking personalities, you very nearly forgot
yourself a few minutes ago. Well, I forgive. But it mustn't
He bowed his head very humbly. "I will go back to patience and
gentleness," he said, "and give them another trial."
"I wish," she said, "that you would go back and begin your life over
again--stop drifting and sail for some definite harbor."
"I will," he said, "on condition--"
"No--no--no," she said hurriedly, "no condition. I am in no position to
make conditions, if that's what you mean. I don't understand myself. I
don't trust myself. I will not undertake to bind myself to you or any
one until I know that I can trust myself. It would be very jolly for you
if I married you and then we found that I really loved the other fellow.
I'm like that--selfish, unstable, susceptible--and very much ashamed of
myself. I wouldn't talk myself down so if you didn't know these things
as well as I do. Why you go on caring for me is a mystery. I'm no good.
And I'm not even sorry enough to cry about it--ever. I've actually
thought that I was in love--oh, ever so many times: sometimes with you.
What's the use? The only things I've ever been faithful to are the
dressmaker, dancing, and what in moments of supreme egoism I am pleased
to call my art."
"Barbs," he said, "you're an old silly billy, and I love you with all my
heart and soul. That's _that_. Don't forget it. Take pen and ink if
necessary and write it down. I'll try a little more patience, and then,
my blessing, if there's no good in that, I shall perpetrate marriage
They both laughed, the girl with much sweetness. And she said:
"If you and I ever do marry, it will be with great suddenness." Her eyes
danced, and she added: "There are moments!"
"Thank you," he said gravely, and then with a kind of wistful gallantry:
"Could I kiss the dear for luck?"
She turned her cheek to him bravely and frankly like a child. His lips
touched it lightly, making no sound.
Far off in the native jungle the cave-man moaned, and shut his eyes and
turned his face to the wall of his cave. The medicine-man came, examined
him, and said that he was about to die of a new disease. He looked very
wise and called it "predatory inanition."
As for the cave-girl, having run and run and run, she pulled up in a
flowery glade, looked behind, listened, saw nothing, heard no sound of
painfully pursuing feet, and called herself a fool and a silly for
having run. She wanted to explain that she hadn't meant to run away,
that girls never really meant what they said, and would the cave-man
please recover at once from his predatory inanition and take notice of
"Come," said Barbara, after quite a long silence, "let's go forth and
collar a taxi. Anywhere I can take you? I can't ask you to lunch,
because I am having seven maidens, and afterward Victor Polideon to
teach us to turkey-trot."
"I wouldn't be afraid of seven devils," Wilmot urged in his own behalf,
"if you were present."
"There are only two," she said practically, "and they are very little
devils. But I won't let you come, because you would have much too good a
time." Then she relented. "Come later, about three, and teach me to
turkey-trot. You do it better than Polideon. And I hate to have him
"That's something," he exclaimed triumphantly.
"That you don't hate for me to touch you."
She laughed and tapped his shoulder in rag-time. Also she whistled, and
did a quiet suspicion of a turkey-trot with her feet.
One bright morning in May, divinely early, two persons of very different
appearance and nature came out of two houses of very different
appearance and nature at precisely the same moment, and started to move
toward each other by methods of locomotion no less different than were
the appearances of the respective persons or the respective houses from
which they emerged.
The house from which the one issued was of speckless white marble, and
looked from the advantageous corner of Sixty-something Street and Fifth
Avenue upon the purple and white lilacs and the engaging spring greens
of Central Park.
The other came out of a dark house at the angle of a narrow street in
the shadow of Brooklyn Bridge, whose door, crossed by dingy gilt
lettering, violently clanged a bell at opening and closing. The first
person stepped with the long clean strides of youth and liberty. The
second person cannot be said to have stepped at all. The first person,
meeting a policeman, smiled and said: "Good morning, Kelly." The second,
similarly meeting with an officer of the law, scowled upward, and said:
"Do it again, and I'll break you." The first person came out of the
uptown palace like a fairy from a grotto; the second emerged from the
downtown rookery like some prehistoric monster from a cave.
At a distance you might have mistaken him for an electrician or a
sewer-expert coming into view through one of those round holes in the
sidewalk by which access is provided to the subterranean apparatus of
cities. But, drawing nearer, you perceived that he was but half a man,
who stood upon the six-inch stubs of what had once been a pair of legs.
But what nature could do for what was left of him nature had done. He
had the neck, the arms, and the torso of a Hercules. His coat, black,
threadbare, shining, and unpleasantly spotted, seemed on the point of
giving way here and there to a system of restless and enormous muscles.
But that these should serve no better purpose than ceaselessly to turn
the handle of an unusually diminutive and tuneless street-organ might
have roused in the observer's mind doubts as to the wisdom and vigilance
of that divine providence which is so much better understood and trusted
by the healthy and fortunate than by the wretched, the maimed, and
For the most part the legless man went about the business of begging
among the business men of the city, since from the congested slum into
which he disappeared at night it was no great feat for a man of his
power to reach the more northern streets of that circle in whose midst
the finances of the nation by turns simmer, boil, and boil over. It was
not unusual, during the noon-time rush of self-centred individuals, for
the legless man to get himself stridden into and bowled clean over upon
his face or back, since nothing is more loosening to purse-strings than
the average man's horror at having injured some creature already maimed;
nor was it unusual for him at such times to scramble up smiling with a
kind of invincible cheerfulness that more potently stirred the
generosity of the man who had knocked him down than ever groans and
complaints could have done.
If the weather was fine and conducive to bodily comfort, the beggar
sometimes turned north and worked his way to Washington Square or the
lower blocks of Fifth Avenue. Sometimes, having agreed to pose for the
head and trunk to some young art student, he left his hand-organ behind,
and permitted himself the extravagance of riding in a surface car. His
boarding of a street-car was a feat of pure gymnastics, swift and
virile; so, too, was his ascending or descending of a flight of steps,
or the high platform on which he was to pose. Incessant practice, added
to natural skill and balance, enabled him to accomplish, without legs,
feats which might have balked a man with a capable and energetic pair of
them. He could travel upon his crutches for the length of a city block
almost as fast as the average man can run, and if it came to climbing a
rope or a rain-duct he was more ape than human. In his own dwelling he
had for his own use, instead of the laborious stairs needed by its other
inmates, a system of knotted ropes by which he could ascend from cellar
to attic, and polished poles by whose aid he could accomplish the most
lightning-like descending slides.
Marrow Lane, shaped like a dog's hind leg, is one of those crooked and
narrow thoroughfares which the approaches and anchorings of the Brooklyn
Bridge have cast into gloom and darkness. There are spots upon which the
sun will not shine again until the great bridge has perished; there are
corners in which drafts strong as a heaven-born wind whistle from one
year's end to the other. There are thousands of children in the region,
and in the more purely tenement settlements to the north, who have yet
to see a green field or to handle a flower.
At the very crook of the dog's leg, on the north side of Marrow Lane, a
narrow door, half glazed and sometimes burnished by the sun, has printed
across it in dingy gilt letters:
Once the door with the faded gilt letters had closed, with him inside,
the legless man, who was none other than Blizzard, the manufacturer of
hats, put off those airs of helplessness and humility by which so many
coins were attracted into the little tin cup upon the top of his
hand-organ, and assumed the attitude of one accustomed to command and to
be served, to reward and to punish. He was no longer a beggar, but a
magnate. He swelled with power, and twenty girls of almost as many
nationalities, plaiting straw hats by the gas-light, cringed in their
hearts, and redoubled the speed of their hands. About the twenty girls
who slaved for Blizzard there were two peculiarities which at once
distinguished them from any other collection of female factory-hands on
the East Side. They were all strong and healthy looking, and they were
all pretty. He had collected them much as rich men in a higher station
of life collect paintings or pearls. If some of them bore the marks of
blows and pinchings, it was not upon any part of them which showed. If
some of them suffered from the fear of torture or even sudden death, it
did not prevent them from showing the master rows of even white teeth
between ingratiatingly parted lips whenever he deigned to speak to them.
If any girl among them thought to escape him, to find work elsewhere, to
betray what she knew of him, even, and vanish into the slums of some far
city, she was deterred by the memory of certain anecdotes constantly
related by her companions. The most terrible of these anecdotes was that
related of a certain Florence Magrue. She had fled with her story to the
nearest policeman, who had quietly returned her to the shop,
reluctantly, it was admitted, but with the determination of a man whose
very existence depends upon the favor of another. The master had
welcomed her and smiled upon her as upon an erring child. He had sent
her upon an errand into the cellar under the shop, himself unlocking
the door. And that was the last that any one had ever seen of
In addition to fear, the master supplied certain creature comforts, not
lightly to be thrown away. If a girl could make up her mind to accept
shame, bodily injury if she displeased, and a life of toil, she fared
better under Blizzard's direction than her sister who worked for Ecbaum,
let us say, the lacemaker, or Laskar, or any of a thousand East Side
employers of labor. The man could be kind upon impulse, and generous. He
paid the highest wages. He supplied nourishing food at noon, and a
complete hour in which to discuss it. Furthermore, if a girl pleased
him, the work of her hands was subjected to less critical inspection,
and if she had any music in her, he invited her upstairs sometimes to
work the pedals of his grand piano, while his own powerful, hairy hands
rippled and thundered upon the keys. He was of a Godlike kindness when
his mind inclined to music, and the pedalling was skilful and sure. But
let the unfortunate crouched under the key-board, her trembling hands
taking the place of those feet which the master had lost, respond
stupidly to the signals conveyed to her shoulder by graduated pressures
from the stump of his right leg, and punishment of blows, pinchings, and
sarcasms was swift and sure.
The legless man was very much at home in his own house. He had inhabited
it for many years, and its arrangements were the expression of a
creature immensely able and ingenious, but maimed both in body
The whole building, four stories tall, had once been a manufactory, but
Blizzard had subdivided its original lofts into pens, dens, passageways,
and rooms according to an elaborate plan of his own. And it was evident
to the most casual glance that expediency alone, untrammelled by any
consideration of purse, had been followed. Those walls, floors, and
ceilings, for instance, through which no sound of human origin, unaided
by mechanical device, could penetrate, must have cost a mint of money.
Nor could any man who depended for a living upon occasional pennies
dropped into a tin cup have got together so extensive a collection of
books upon scientific subjects, many of them handsomely bound and
printed in foreign countries. Works upon explosives, tunnelling,
electricity, and music were especially abundant, not only in English,
but in German. And there were books upon the organization of armies, and
upon the chemistry of precious stones. A cursory examination of his
books would have found the master of the house to be interested also in
obstetrics, in poisons, and in anesthesia; but of romance, humanity, or
poetry his library had but a single example, the "Monte Cristo" of the
Had all the doors and windows of the house been thrown open, and all its
inhabitants expelled, so that you could have free ingress with a
companion or two, and time and the mood to explore the whole of its
ramifications and arrangements, you must have concluded that the
designer of so much that was hideously obvious and so much that was
mysteriously obscure was a most extraordinary example of viciousness,
ability, purpose, and musicianship. You must have been staggered at
passing from a room containing a grand piano and a bust of Beethoven to
find yourself in a little operating-theatre such as any eminent surgeon
might wish to be at work in, to find beyond this a small but excellently
appointed gymnasium; above this, to be reached only by climbing a
knotted rope, a long room, lighted from above, containing
drawing-tables, many cases of drawing-instruments, and a host of
workman-like designs and specifications. Thence you might pass, still
wondering, into an apartment of soft divans, thick rags, and open
fireplace, a smell of incense, double windows and double doors.
Or you might descend by stairs or polished poles to the cellar under the
hat factory, and find yourself, prying into the most obscure corner and
lighting matches for guidance, confronted by the door of a mightily
strong safety vault, the knobs of the combination lock bright and easily
turned. And you might say: "Well, it's either the house of a man whose
scheme of life is utterly beyond my comprehension, or of a madman."
Of the two persons who left their homes this morning, the legless
beggar, owing to having ridden part of the way in a street-car, was the
first to reach the northeast corner of Fifth Avenue and Washington
Square, whence the last rear-guard of fashion in old New York retreats
before the advance-pickets of the encroaching slums, like a stag before
a pack of hounds. Here he ensconced himself, placed his tin cup on the
top of his organ, together with the few pairs of shoe-laces which
proclaimed him a merchant within rather than a beggar without the law,
and proceeded to enliven the still quiet neighborhood with the
dreadfully strained measure of Verdi's "Miserere." He turned the handles
of the little organ fitfully, so that now the strains of sorrow arose at
such long intervals as hardly to be connected with one another, and now
all huddled and jumbled like notes in a barbaric quickstep, and as he
played he addressed his instrument in a quiet, cruel voice.
A house-maid opened a window in the servants' wing of No. 1 Fifth
Avenue. Blizzard turned his head slowly at the sound, and looked up at
her with agate eyes, coldly interrogative. There was no one else at the
moment within earshot.
Nevertheless before speaking the house-maid looked nervously into the
house behind her; then up the avenue, and down into Washington Square.
She was a girl of some beauty, but her face was most engaging from a
kind of waggish intelligence that it had.
"Tst!" she said.
The organ squeaked and rattled. It was manoeuvring for a position from
which to attack the "Danse Macabre." Blizzard indicated by a lift of
heavy eyebrows that he was all attention.
"You can trust Blake," she said.
Blizzard grunted. "Send him to me at six."
He nodded, and turned from her with an air of finality. The house-maid
hesitated, drew a long breath, pulled in her head, and closed
A loose-jointed man in clerical garb came hurrying down the avenue. He
made longer swings with his right arm and longer strides with his right
leg than with his left. He had a white, thin face, and a look of worry
and anxiety. He was perhaps distressed to think that the world contained
many souls to whose salvation he would never be able to attend.
Perceiving the legless beggar, he stopped hurrying, sought in his
pocket, and found a few pennies. These he dropped into the tin cup.
"God bless you, reverend sir," said the beggar in a voice of deep irony.
"Don't," said the clergyman. He managed to look the beggar in the eyes.
"How many hats have we?" he asked in a quick whisper.
"We're on our fourth thousand."
The clergyman was visibly upset, "Six thousand to go," he muttered. "I
shall be caught."
The beggar smiled. "Come to me at six-thirty," he said.
The man of God's eyes brightened. "You'll help me again?"
"Tst," said the beggar. "Move on. Here's a plain-clothes man."
The shepherd moved on as if he had been pricked by an awl; since it was
not among the police that he felt called upon to separate the black
sheep from the white.
The plain-clothes man approached loitering. He might have been a citizen
in good standing and with nothing better to do than hobnob with whatever
persons interested him upon his idle saunterings.
"How many pairs of laces have you sold this morning?" he asked.
"Nary a pair, charitable sir," returned the beggar.
"Speaking of shoe-laces," said the plain-clothes man, "what is your
opinion of head-gear?"
"Bullish," said the beggar. "Straw hats will be worn next winter."
The eyes of both men sparkled with a curious exhilaration. The
plain-clothes man drew a deep and sudden breath, and appeared to shiver.
So a soldier may breathe at the command to charge; so a thoroughbred
shivers when the barrier is about to fall.
"There will be nice pickings," said the beggar; "there will be enough
geese to feed ten thousand."
The plain-clothes man dropped a penny into the tin cup. "By the way,"
he asked professionally, "where can I lay hands on Red Monday?"
The beggar shook his strong head curtly. "Hands off," he said.
"When did _he_ join the church?"
"Last night, with tears and confession. A strong man Red, now that he
has seen the light."
The plain-clothes man laughed and passed on, still loitering.
The "Danse Macabre" had come to a timely end, if that which is without
tempo may be said to have any relation with time, and the trio of
Chopin's "Funeral March" was already in uneven progress. The legless man
sat on the bare pavement, his back against the handsome area railing of
No. 1 Fifth Avenue, and steadily revolved the mechanism of the organ
with his hairy, powerful hand.
Passers were now more frequent. Some looked at him and continued to look
after they had passed, others turned their eyes steadfastly away. Some
pitied him because he was a cripple; others, upon suddenly discovering
that he had no legs, were shocked with a sudden indecent hatred of him.
A lassie of the Salvation Army invited him to rise up and follow Christ;
he retorted by urging her to lie down and take a rest. Then, as if
premonition had laid strong hands upon him and twisted him about, he
turned, and looked upward into the fresh, rosy face of Barbara Ferris.
Their eyes met. Always the child of impulse, and careless of appearance
and opinion, she felt her thoughts, none too cheerful or optimistic that
morning during her long walk down the avenue, drawn by the expression
upon the legless man's face to a sudden focus of triumph and solution.
She struck the palm of one small workman-like hand with the back of the
other, and exclaimed: "By George!"
The face that was upturned to hers was no longer the insolent, heavy
face of success which we have attempted to describe, but one in which
the sudden leaping into evidence of a soul dismissed facts of color,
contour, and line as matters of no importance. If there was wickedness
in his glance, there were also awe and wonder. He had a tortured look,
the look of a man who has fallen from unknowable heights--from an
Elysium which he regrets and desires with all a strong man's strength,
but to which the way back is irrevocably barred by the degradation and
the sin of the descent--and who, all but overwhelmed by the knowledge
that he can never return whence he came, yet bears his eternal loss with
an iron courage that has about it a kind of splendor.
Barbara Ferris felt that she was looking upon Satan in that moment when
he first realized that his fall from heaven was for eternity and that,
against every torturing passion of conviction, he must turn his talents
and his fearful courage to the needs of hell.
In that first moment of their meeting, she realized nothing about the
man but the terribly moving expression of his face. Nothing else
mattered. If her plastic training was equal to catching and fixing that
expression in clay or marble, she would be made according to the mould
of her ambition. The flame of art burned white and clear in the inmost
shrine of her being. She saw before her, and beneath her, not a human
being, but an inspiration. And since inspiration is a thing swift,
electric, and trebly enticing from the fact that it presents itself
shorn of all those difficulties which afterward, during execution, so
terribly appear and multiply, her heart beat already with the exquisite
bliss of an immortal achievement. In her vocabulary at that instant it
would have been impossible to discover under B the aggressive But, or
under I the faltering If. She was inspired. It was enough.
Then she, in whose mind strong wings had suddenly sprouted, perceived
that the person directly responsible had not even a pair of legs, and
felt throughout her whole being a cold gushing of horror and revolt.
This was not lost upon Blizzard. It was an ordinary enough human
sensation, whose reflections had often enough given the iron that was in
his soul another twist and refreshed in him vengefulness and hatred. Yet
on the present occasion the knowledge that he was physically loathed
roused in the man a feeling rather of that despair which may be
experienced by the drowning at that precise moment when the straw so
eagerly clutched has proved itself a straw, and he winced as beneath a
shocking blow between the eyes.
On discovering that the creature was maimed it had been Barbara's first
impulse to pass swiftly on. But another glance at the face which had
arrested her held her. She took some coins from her purse and dropped
them into the tin cup which the beggar held out to her. And he looked
upward into her face.
"Did you ever pose for any one?" she asked.
"I should like to make a bust of you. I'll see that it pays you better
than--better than earning a living this way."
For the first time Blizzard smiled. "Do you want me to come now?" he
"Yes," she said. "My studio is in No. 17 McBurney Place." Here she
stopped upon a somewhat embarrassing thought. But the legless man read
what was in her mind.
"Two flights up?" he queried. "Three? I can climb. Don't trouble about
"You will come as soon as you can?"
"I have to meet a man here in half an hour. Then I'll come."
"Please," she said, "ask for Miss Ferris."
[Illustration: She took some coins from her purse and dropped them into
the tin cup]
At the name a tremor went through the legless man from head to stump. He
blanched, and for the thousandth part of a second all that was devil in
him rushed with smouldering lights to his eyes. But of this Barbara
perceived nothing; her repugnance mastered, she had already brightly
smiled, nodded, and was walking swiftly away, her head high, spring air
in her lungs and inspiration in her heart.
The beggar's eyes playing upon her, she passed through the peaceful warm
sunshine of the quiet old square, and vanished at last into the still
brighter sunshine and still older quiet of McBurney Place.
To work with her own hands, at least until she had made something
beautiful, seemed to her a better aim than any other which the world
offers. She had at first been the victim of private lessons, amusedly
approved by her father, and only intermittently attended by herself,
since it is not in a day that a fashionable idler is turned into a
steadily toiling aspirant for eternal honors. Just so long as she
remained an amateur and occasional potterer in her father's house she
was applauded by him and assumed by the world in general to be a very
talented young lady; but when, her artistic impulses--if not her
technique--having strengthened amazingly, she insisted upon the steadier
routine of an art school, she met with an opposition as narrow, it
seemed to her, as it was firm. Her own will in the matter, however,
proved the stronger. And having passed with excellent rapidity through
those grades of the school in which the student is taught to make cubes
and spheres, she modelled from the antique, and at last, upon a day
almost sacred in her memory, was promoted to the life class.
And here, one morning, Dr. Ferris, interested in spite of himself in
her swift progress, found her, with a number of other young ladies and
gentlemen, earnestly at work making, from different angles of vision,
greenish clay statuettes of a handsome young Italian laborer who had
upon his person no clothes whatever. That fastidious surgeon, to whom
naked bodies, and indeed naked hearts, could have been nothing new, was
shocked almost out of his wits. He had left only the good sense and the
good manners not to make a scene. He beat instead a quiet, if
substantial, retreat, and put off the hour of reckoning. His daughter
was soiled in his eyes, and when she explained to him that a naked man
was not a naked man to her, but a "stunning" assemblage of planes,
angles, curves, lights, and shadows, he could not understand. And they
quarrelled as furiously as it is possible for well-bred persons to
quarrel. He commanded. She denied his right to command. He threatened.
She denied his right first to create a life, and then to spoil it. He
advanced the duty of children to parents, and she the duty of parents to
children. Finally Barbara, thoroughly incensed at having her mind and
her ambition held so cheap, flung out with: "Have you _never_ made a
mistake of judgment?" And was astounded to see her father wither, you
may say, and all in an instant show the first tremors she had ever seen
in him of age and a life of immense strain and responsibility. From that
moment the activity of his opposition waned. She knew that her will had
conquered, and the knowledge distressed her so that she burst
"My dear," said her father, "I once made a very terrible mistake of
judgment. There isn't a day of my life altogether free from remorse and
regret. I have given you money and position. It isn't enough, it seems.
My dear, take the benefit of the doubt into the bargain. If I am making
another terrible mistake, you must bear at least a portion of the
It is curious, or perhaps only natural, that Barbara was at the moment
more interested to know what her father's great mistake of judgment had
been than in the fact that her ambition had won his tolerance and
consent, if not his approval and support. If she had asked him then and
there, for he was still greatly moved, he might have told her, but
reticence caught the question by the wings, and the moment passed.
And they resumed together their life of punctilious thoughtfulness and
good manners. Dr. Ferris continued to cut up famous bodies for famous
fees, while Barbara continued to do what she could to reproduce the
bodies of more humble persons, for no reward greater than the voice of
her teacher with his variously intonated; "Go to eet, Mees Barbara!
go to eet."
It was a discouraged but resolute Barbara who stepped forth from her
father's house that bright morning in May and passed rather than walked
down the quiet upper stretches of Fifth Avenue. That she might fail in
art, and make a mess of her life generally, sometimes occurred to her.
And it was a thought which immeasurably distressed her. It would be too
dreadful a humiliation to crawl back into the place which she had so
confidently quitted for a better; to be pointed out as a distinguished
amateur who had not succeeded as a professional; and to take up once
more the rounds of dinners, dances, and sports which serve so well to
keep the purposeless young and ignorant.
To society the tragedy of Barbara's back-sliding into art was very real.
Dozens of men said very frankly that they missed her like the very
devil. "There is nobody else," they said, "quite so straightforward, or
quite so good-looking."
Hers was a face not less vivid than a light. It seemed that in her, the
greatest artist of all, abandoning the accepted conventions of beauty,
had created an original masterpiece. If she had been too thin, her eyes,
tranquil, sea-blue, and shining, must have been too large. Her nose was
Phidian Greek; her chin, but for an added youthful tenderness, was
almost a replica of Madame Duse's; a long round throat carried nobly a
gallant round head, upon which the hair was of three distinct colors.
The brown in the Master's workshop had not, it seemed, held out; she had
been finished with tones of amber and deep red. The brown was straight,
the red waved, the amber rioted in curls and tendrils. Below this
exquisite massing of line and color, against a low broad forehead, were
set, crookedly, short narrow eyebrows of an intense black; her eyelashes
were of the same divine inkiness, very warm and long; a mouth level to
the world, resolute, at the corners a little smiling, was scarlet
against a smooth field of golden-brown.
If she had a certain admiration of her own beauty it was the admiration
of an artist for the beauty of a stranger. Since she had had neither
hand nor say in her own making, the results were neither to her credit
nor against it. For success in her chosen line she would have exchanged
her beauty very willingly for a plain mask, her glorious youth for a
sedate middle age. She would have given perhaps an eye, an ear, or so at
least she thought in this ardent and generous period of early beginnings
and insatiable ambition. In her thoughts nothing seemed to matter to
her but art.
There was no sustaining pleasure in the fact that her father had given
in to her. Opposition--unspoken, it is true, but not to be
mistaken--remained in his attitude toward her. He found indirect means
for conveying his idea and that of her friends that she was wasting
herself upon a folly, and was destined, if she persisted in it, to only
the most mediocre success. An exhibition of her works, undertaken with
the avowed wish to know "just where she stood," had been discouraging in
its results. The art critics either refused to take her seriously or
expressed the opinion that there were already in the world too many
sculptors of distinguished technique and no imagination whatsoever. Her
friends told her that she was a "wonder." And there were little
incidents of the farce which caused her to bite her lips in humiliation.
That the critics should be at the pains of telling her that she was
without imagination angered her, since it was a fact already better
known to herself. And in one moment she would determine at all costs to
prove herself an imaginative artist, and in the next "to chuck the whole
business." But she could not make up her mind whether it is worse for a
captain to wait for actual defeat or, having perceived its
inevitability, to surrender. To go down with colors flying appeals
perhaps to noble sides of man; but it is a waste of ships, lives,
Passing swiftly down the avenue, she did not know whether, upon arriving
at her studio in McBurney Place, she should get into her working-apron
or make an end, once and for all, of artistic pursuits. But with the
lifting of the legless beggar's face to hers, all doubts vanished from
her mind like smoke from a room when the windows and doors are opened.
Whatever his face might have revealed to another, to her it was Satan's,
newly fallen, and she read into it a whole wonder of sin, tragedy,
desolation, and courage; and knew well that if she could reproduce what
she seemed to see, the world would be grateful to her. She would give it
a face which it would never make an end of discussing, which should be
in sculpture what the face of Mona Lisa is in painting. It would be the
face of a man whom one jury would hang upon the merest suspicion; for
whom another would return a verdict of "not guilty" no matter what the
nature of his proved crimes; and whether the face was beautiful or
hideous would be a matter of dispute for the ages.
Upon arriving at No. 17 McBurney Place, and having climbed two flights
of stairs, the door of her studio was opened before she could lay hand
to the knob, and a very small boy with very big eyes, and no more flesh
upon his bones than served to distinguish him from a living skeleton,
appeared on the threshold, smiling, you may say, from head to foot. He
was dressed in a blue suit with bobbed tails and a double row of bright
brass buttons down the front, and when she had gathered him from the
gutter in which he had reached to his present stunted stature, a child
half gone in pneumonia, he had told her that his name, his whole name,
was "Bubbles" and nothing but "Bubbles."
"Good morning, Miss Barbara," he said; "the plumber's bin and gone, and
the feller from the hardware store has swore hell be around before noon
to fix the new knobs in the doors."
"Good!" said Barbara. "Well done, Bubbles."
And she passed into the studio, wondering why a little face all knotting
with smiles, affection, and the pleasure of commands lovingly received
and well obeyed, should remind her of that other face, massive,
sardonic, lost, satanic, which had looked up into hers across the
battered tin cup on the top of a battered street-organ. She turned to a
little clay head that she had made recently and for which Bubbles had
sat; touched it here and there, stepped back from it, turned her own
head to the left, to the right, and even, such was the concentration of
her mood, showed between her red lips the tip of a still redder tongue.
But no matter what she did to test and undo her first impression there
persisted between the two faces a certain likeness, though in just what
this resemblance consisted she was unable to say.
"Bubbles," she said, "you were telling me about beggars the other day
and how much they make, and how rich some of them are. Did you ever run
across one that sells shoe-laces, plays a hand-organ, and hasn't got
"Sure," said he; "there's half a dozen in the city." And he named them.
"Burbage: he's the real thing, got his legs took off by a cannon-ball in
the wars. Prior: he ain't no 'count. Drunk and fell under a elevated
train. He ain't saved nothing neither. He drinks _his_. Echmeyer: he's
some Jew; worth every cent of fifty thousand dollars. They calls him
congen_eye_tul, 'cause he was born with his legs lef off him. Fun
Barnheim: he's German, went asleep in the shade of a steam-roller, and
never woke up till his legs was rolled out flat as a pair of pants
that's just bin ironed. Then o' course there's Blizzard."
Barbara was smiling. "What became of his _legs_, Bubbles?"
"God knows," returned the boy. "Blizzard don't boast about it like the
others. But he ain't no common beggar. He's a man."
"A good man?"
"Good? He ain't got a kinder thought in his block than settin' fire to
houses and killin' people. But when he says 'step,' _it_ steps."
"The East Side, Miss Barbara. He's the whole show."
"What does he look like?"
The boy at first thought in vain for a simile, and then, having found
one to his liking, emitted with great earnestness that the beggar,
Blizzard, looked exactly like "the wrath of God." Whatever the boy's
simile may convey to the reader, to Barbara, fresh from seeing the man
himself, it had a wonderful aptness.
"That's my man," she exclaimed. "Blizzard! He's got a wonderful face,
Bubbles, and you said just what it looks like. I'm going to make a
bust of him."
"He's coming here?"
"Yes. Why not?"
The boy was troubled. "Miss Barbara," he said earnestly, "I wouldn't go
for to touch that man with a ten-foot pole."
"I shan't touch him, except with compasses to take measurements. He's
"He's bad," said Bubbles, "bad. And when I say bad, I mean millions of
things that you never heard tell of, and never will. If he comes in
here--and, and raises hell, don't blame _me_."
Barbara laughed. "He will come here, and sit perfectly still," she said,
"until he wishes he was dead. And then he will receive money, and an
invitation to come to-morrow. And then he will go away."
Bubbles looked unnaturally solemn and dejected.
"Besides," said Barbara, "I have you to protect me."
Though Bubbles made no boast, a world of resolution swept into his great
eyes, and you knew by the simultaneous rising toward his chin of all the
buttons upon the front of his jacket that he had drawn the long breath
of courage, and stiffened the articulations of his spine.
Barbara's studio was a large, high-ceilinged room, whose north wall was
almost entirely composed of glass. It was singularly bare of those
hangings, lanterns, antique cabinets, carved chairs, scraps of brocade,
brass candle-sticks six or seven, feet high, samovars, pewter
porringers, spinning-wheels, etc., etc., upon which so many artists
appear to depend for comfort and inspiration. Nor were there any notable
collections of dust, or fragments of meals, or dirty plates. There was
neither a Winged Victory, a Venus de Milo, nor a Hermes after
Praxiteles. And except for the bust of Bubbles there was no example of
Barbara's own work by which to fish for stray compliments from the
casual visitor. Of the amenities the studio had but a thick carpet, an
open fireplace, and a pair of plain but easy chairs. Upon a strong
tremorless table placed near the one great window, a huge lump of clay,
swathed in damp cloths, alone served to denote the occupant's avocation.
Off the studio, however, Barbara had a pleasantly furnished room in
which she might loaf, make tea, or serve a meal, and this in turn was
separated from the tiny room in which Bubbles slept, by a small but
Barbara having withdrawn to roll up her sleeves and put on her
work-apron, the legless beggar arrived in silence at the outer door of
the studio, and having drawn a long breath, knocked, and Bubbles, not
without an uncomfortable fluttering of the heart, pulled it open. The
boy and the beggar, being about the same height, looked each other in
the face with level eyes.
"_So_," said Blizzard, "this is what has become of you. You were
"No, sir," said Bubbles, "I wasn't dead, only sick. She brought me
here, and had her own father and a nurse to take care of me. And now I'm
Buttons." And he went on glibly: "Come right in; Miss Ferris is
expecting you. I guess she wants you to sit on the platform over in
Blizzard, having unslung his hand-organ and slid it with a show of
petulance into a corner, crossed the room, swinging strongly and easily
between his crutches, like a fine piece of machinery, climbed upon the
model's platform, and seated himself in the plain deal chair which
already occupied it. From this point of vantage he turned and looked
down at the boy.
"So," he said, "her father _is_ Dr. Ferris."
"He's _the_ Dr. Ferris," Bubbles returned loyally.
"So--so--so," said the legless one slowly, and he closed his eyes for a
moment as if he was tired. Then, opening them, and in abrupt tones: "Pay
"Many people come here?"
Bubbles, who had gone to school--not in the schools, but in the city of
New York itself--could lie without the least tremor or change of
feature, and with remarkable suddenness. "Lots and lots of 'em," he
said. "_She's_ well known."
Blizzard merely grunted. "Tell her I've come."
But it was not necessary for Bubbles to give the message at the door of
the inner room, since at that moment Barbara entered, her round arms
bare to the elbow and her street dress completely hidden by a sort of
blue gingham overall. Bubbles, whose presence was not required during
working hours, at once withdrew to his bedroom.
Here he changed his tunic of brass buttons for a plain gray jacket,
snatched his cap from its hook, gained the street by a back stair, and
set off at the tireless street-boy trot that eats up the blocks. Half an
hour later he returned, his face no longer wearing a look of anxiety,
changed back into his many-buttoned jacket of dependence, and sitting
upon his bed, his back against the pillows, proceeded with astonishing
deftness and precision to figure with the stump of a pencil, upon the
leaves of a small dog-eared note-book. Then, appearing to have achieved
a satisfactory solution of whatever problem he had had occasion to
attack, he began to go through a series of restless fidgetings, which
ended with a sigh of relief and a guilty look, and producing from a
hiding-place a cigarette, he smoked it out of the window, so that his
room might not carry forward the faintest trace of its telltale odor.
When Barbara at length told the legless man that he might rest, he
appeared to think that she had invited him to converse. He leaned back
as far as he could in the deal chair. His expression was no longer that
which had struck Barbara so hard in the imagination, but one of easy and
alert affability. He looked at her when he spoke, or when she spoke, but
casually and without offence. Whatever feelings surged in him were for
the moment carefully controlled and put aside. In his manner was neither
obtrusiveness nor servility, only a kind of well-schooled ease and
directness. In short, he behaved and spoke like a gentleman.
"You're the first person I ever sat for," he said, "who hasn't asked me
how I lost my legs."
Barbara, regarding the rough blocking of his head which she had made,
smiled amiably. That first impression of him, still vivid and lucid in
her mind, appeared already, almost of its own accord, to have registered
itself in the lump of clay. And she could not but feel that she had laid
the groundwork of a masterpiece. If the beggar wished to converse, she
would converse--anything to keep him in the mood for returning to pose
as often as she should have need of him. And so, though entirely
absorbed by the face which she had found, and at the moment almost
uncharitably indifferent to the legs which he had lost, she raised her
eyes to him, still smiling, and said:
"It wasn't from want of interest, I assure you. I'm sorry you lost them,
and I should like to know how it happened."
"Bravely spoken," said the beggar.
"I have been told," said Barbara, "that you are a great power in the
East Side, a sort of overlord."
"Even a beggar has flatterers. They overrate me." The accompanying shrug
of his great shoulders had an affectation of humility. "Now, if I had a
pair of legs--but I haven't. And if I had I shouldn't be an East-Sider.
For the maimed, the crippled, the diseased, it is pleasantest to be in
residence on the East Side. You have company. You may forget your own
misfortunes in contemplating the greater misfortunes of others."
"Do you mind telling me," she asked, "where you learned your English?"
"My father," Blizzard explained, "was rather a distinguished
man--Massachusetts Institute of Technology man, University of Berlin,
degree from Harvard and Oxford. He had a prim way of putting things. I
suppose I caught it."
The usual whine about better days was missing from the beggar's voice.
If he seemed a little proud of his high beginnings, he did not seem in
the least perturbed by the contemplation of his fallen estate. Barbara
was by now frankly interested, and proceeded with characteristic
directness to ask questions.
"Is your father living?"
"No. But it would hardly matter. We became thoroughly incompatible after
my accident. He had very high ambitions for me, and a chronic disgust
for anything abnormal--such as little boys who had had their legs
snipped off. I didn't like it either. I suspect it made an unusually
vicious child of me, a wicked, vengeful child."
Blizzard's candid expression implied that he had, however, soon seen the
evil of his youthful ways, and turned over a whole volume of new leaves.
"What happened?" Barbara asked.
Blizzard laughed. "I cannot be said to have run away," he answered, "but
I got away as best I could, and stayed away. My father settled money
upon me. And that was the end of our relations."
"And then," said Barbara, "you, being young and foolish, lost your
"Oh, no!" he exclaimed. "I was a very bad little boy, but much too
ambitious to be foolish. And you know you can't get very far in this
world without money."
"Still," said Barbara, "a hand-organ and a tin cup?"
"A loiterer in the streets of New York," the beggar explained, "picks up
knowledge not to be had in any other way. Knowledge is power."
"Then you don't have to beg, don't have to pose, don't have to do
anything you don't want to do?"
"Oh, yes, I do. I have to crawl while others walk. I have to wait and
procrastinate, where another might rush in and dare."
Again that first expression of Satan fallen overpowered the casual ease
and even levity of his face. But he shifted his eyes lest Barbara see
into them and be frightened by that which smouldered in their
Without a word, Barbara stepped eagerly forward to the rough model that
she had made of his head, and once more attacked her inspiration with
eager hands. The beggar held himself motionless like a thing of stone,
only his eyes roved a little, drinking in, you may say, that white
loveliness which was Barbara at such moments as her own eyes were upon
her work, and turning swiftly away when she lifted them in scrutiny of
him. Now and then she made measurements of him with a pair of compasses.
At such times it seemed to him that her nearness was more than his
unschooled passions could bear with any appearance of apathy. Though a
child of the nineteenth century, he had been enabled for many years to
give way, almost whenever he pleased, to the instincts of primitive man,
which, except for the greater frequency of their occurrence, differ in
no essential way from the instincts of wild beasts.
Had she been a girl of the East Side he would not have hesitated upon
the present occasion or in the present surroundings. But she was a girl
of wealth and high position. It was not enough that his hands could
stifle an outcry, or that the policeman upon the nearest beat was more
in his own employ than in that of the city. Cold reason showed him that
in the present case impunity was for once doubtful.
Her hands dropped from their work to her sides.
"How goes it?" asked the beggar.
"If it goes as it's gone," she said--"if it only does!"
"It _will_," said the beggar, and there was a strong vibration of faith
and encouragement in his voice. "May I look?"
He came down from the platform, and she could not but admire the almost
superhuman facility with which he moved upon his crutches. Halting at
ease, before the beginning which she had made, he remained for a long
time silent. Then, turning to her, he freed his right hand from the
cross-piece of his crutch, and lifted it to his forehead in a sort
"Master!" he said.
The blood in Barbara's veins tingled with pleasure. He had thrown into
his strong, rich voice an added wealth of sincerity, and she knew, or
thought she knew, that at last the work of her hands had moved another,
who, whatever else he might have been, was by his own showing no fool,
but a man having in him much that was extraordinary. And she felt a
sudden friendliness for the legless beggar.
His eyes still upon the clay--knowing, considering, measuring,
appraising eyes--he said shortly and with decision: "We must go on
"To-morrow--could you come to-morrow at the same time?"
"I _will_," he said.
"Good. Are you hungry?"
But the legless man did not appear to have heard her. A sound in the
adjoining room had arrested his attention. He listened to it critically
and then smiled.
"A good workman," he said, "is turning a screw into wood."
"How clever of you," said Barbara. "There was a man coming from
Schlemmer's to put on some glass knobs for me. Bubbles has brought him
in by the back stairs."
The faint crunching sound of the screw going into the wood ceased. There
was a knock on the door.
"Come in," said Barbara.
Bubbles appeared in the opening. "We're all through in here."
It did not at once strike Barbara that to have finished his work in the
next room the man from Schlemmer's must have arrived upon the scene very
much earlier than he had promised. And she could not by any possibility
have guessed that Bubbles, in a state of nervous alarm, had slipped down
the back stairs and run all the way to the hardware store to fetch him.
"He may as well begin in here, then," she said; "I'm through for this
morning." And she turned to the beggar. "To-morrow--at the same time?"
He nodded briefly, but did not at once turn to go. He wished, it seemed,
to have a good look at the young workman who now followed Bubbles into
the studio. And so did Barbara, the moment she saw him.
To her critical eye he was quite the best-looking young man she had ever
seen "in the world or out of it." He was tall, broad, round-necked,
narrow in the hips, and of a fine brown coloring. He carried with easy
grace a strong, well-massed head, to which the close adherence of the
ears, and the shortness of the dark-brown shiny hair, gave an effect of
high civilization and finish. Brown, level eyes, neither hard nor soft,
but of a twinkling habit, a nose straight, thick, finely chiselled, an
emphatic chin, and a large mouth of extraordinary sweetness, were not
lost upon Barbara, but that which served most to arrest her attention
was that resemblance which she at once perceived to exist between the
young workman and the legless beggar. Yet between Bubbles, who also
resembled Blizzard in her eyes or in her imagination, and the youth from
the hardware store, she was unable, swiftly comparing them, to find
anything in common. To the one nature had denied even full growth and
development; upon the other she had lavished muscle, blood, and bone.
The small boy had a ragged, peaked, pathetic face, hair that sprouted
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