Part 3 out of 5
"Some unknown person," said Barbara, "has formed the habit of sending
me flowers." She smiled. "I shall ask my friend, Mr. Harry West," she
said, "to find out who it is."
And then, suddenly, she turned away, so that her father should not see
that she was blushing. The thought, not in the least disagreeable, had
occurred to her for the first time, that perhaps Mr. Harry West himself
was anonymously going down into his pocket for her sweet sake.
The legless man was not in the habit of waiting for things that he
wanted, when the chance to take them had come. And he did not propose to
endure the torture of sitting perfectly still hour after hour, morning
after morning, while any young woman made a bust of him. Yet he allowed
a number of mornings to pass without taking any definite steps toward
the vengeance which he felt to be so dear to him.
That Barbara was a high-born lady was the chief obstacle in his plans.
If she were to disappear suddenly out of the world which knew and loved
her, there would be raised a hue and outcry greater, perhaps, than his
utmost powers and resources could check. He would be run to earth
without much doubt and put where even the sweet memory of vengeance
would taste bitter in his mouth. It is perhaps pleasant to pluck the
fruits of vengeance, but a man requires time in which to eat and digest
them. If they are snatched from his hand the moment they are picked, his
vengeance fails of all sweetness and justification.
On the other hand, Blizzard, in order to revenge himself on the man who
had maimed him, was willing to give, if not his liberty, his life.
If he could not abduct Barbara and go free, he would kill himself when
they came to take him. But he did not wish to kill himself. He wished to
live a long time after, gloating on his memories. He had also on foot a
scheme which, starting almost as a pleasantry, had developed in his
mind, and was still developing, until its latent possibilities staggered
his own imagination.
A certain Jew, proprietor of a pawnshop, was in reality a receiver of
stolen goods. It was common knowledge among certain crooks in the city,
that the recently stolen Bland diamonds had come into this man's hands.
Blizzard thought that it would be funny to take these diamonds away from
the Jew, hold them for a while, and then, since the fellow was after all
a friend, return them. To break into Reichman's store at night would be
dangerous. Reichman himself was no coward, and he employed a savage
night-watchman, just out of Sing Sing. So Blizzard planned a robbery in
a spirit of farce, and in the broad and crowded light of day.
Six stalwart young fellows entered Reichman's pawnshop at eleven-thirty
in the morning. Each one had a watch or an overcoat to pawn. They
crowded about Reichman, all talking at once. They were strangers to him.
At exactly the same time the attention of the six policemen on the six
nearest beats was attracted by the drunken and disorderly behavior of
six more stalwart young fellows--one to each policeman. In the end six
arrests were made, the six young drunkards were marched off to the
station house, and the beats of the six policemen were for the time
Sharp at eleven-thirty-seven, five of the six young men in Reichman's
shop flung an overcoat over his head and rushed him into a dark corner,
choking him so that he could not scream. A person in the street,
however, saw the struggle, and rushed off to find the nearest policeman,
who of course could not be found. Meanwhile the sixth young man ran
lightly upstairs, looked under the mattress of the palatial Reichman
bed, where he had been told to look, and secured the stolen diamonds.
The farce came to a proper conclusion. Reichman could not complain to
the police that he had been robbed of stolen goods. And he went about
for many days with a sour face.
Blizzard came every day to condole with him, and finally to return the
diamonds. Then he told Reichman, a man he could trust, how the robbery
had been worked, and the two put their heads together.
If six policemen could be so easily put out of commission at a given
moment, why not many? If a pawnshop could be so easily looted, why not
Tiffany's, or one of the great wholesale jewellers in Maiden Lane? Why
not the Sub-Treasury?
In Blizzard's mind the idea became an obsession; and he worked out
schemes, in all their details; only to think of something bigger and
more engaging. One or two details were present in all his plans: a
hiding-place for the treasure when he should get it, and a large number
of lieutenants whom he could trust. He could, he believed, at the least
throw the whole city into a state of chaos for a few hours--for half a
day--for a whole day. And during that period of lawless confusion
anything might happen to anybody--to Barbara for instance. But his plans
were not ripe, nor his trusted lieutenants as yet sufficient in number.
He must therefore either put off his vengeance indefinitely, or run the
risk of having his own career as a criminal come to a very sudden end.
For once in his life he vacillated. But it was something more than the
desire for vengeance which decided him to risk everything on
His plan was very simple. Sometimes a messenger-boy brought a note to
her studio. And Blizzard had observed that Barbara's invariable habit
with notes was first to read them, and then to burn them. She never tore
them into pieces and threw them into the fireplace. She struck a match,
lighted them at one corner, and saw to it that they were entirely
consumed. When Barbara had finished with a note, or a circular, or a
letter, Sherlock Holmes himself could not have recovered the contents or
the name of the sender. Banking on this habit, Blizzard wrote Barbara a
note and sent it to her father's house by a man he could trust. She
received the note at six o'clock, while she was resting prior to
dressing and dining out. It read as follows:
81 Marrow Lane.
DEAR MISS FERRIS:
My affairs don't seem to be prospering here, so I am going
away. I am sorry the Bust isn't finished. You will be
disappointed. I am leaving at 8 o'clock for the West. I have
enjoyed sitting for you. I wish you all the success and
happiness you deserve.
Very truly yours,
Her mind working very rapidly, Barbara rose at once, and quite
unconsciously, so strong was habit in her, struck a match, set the
beggar's note on fire, threw it into the fireplace, and watched it burn
to ashes. On the way to the fireplace she pressed a button to summon her
maid. When this one came, Barbara, already out of her dressing-gown,
"I am going out. I want a taxi called at once. Then come back and help
But when the maid returned there was little for her to do. Barbara was
in a hurry.
She found a taxi waiting at the door. She glanced at the driver--he was
not one of those who usually drove her.
"Do you know where Marrow Lane is?"
"Is it near the Brooklyn Bridge, miss?"
"I think so. Marrow Lane, No. 81. You can make inquiries. Hurry."
The strange driver drove skilfully and swiftly down the avenue. Two
thoughts occupied him: the beauty of his fare, and the docility with
which she came to the master's hand when he called.
In Barbara's mind there was but one thought: not that she was going to
visit a disreputable man in a disreputable part of the city, but that
she was going to keep that man in the city and finish her bust of him,
or know the reason why. Fame was in her grasp. She felt astonishingly
sure of that. She was not going to let it escape for a mere matter of
convention. It had been her first idea to send Blizzard a note by
messenger. But she had more confidence in her personal powers of
persuasion. If her model needed money or was in some scrape that could
be righted by money and influence, she believed that she could keep him
in New York.
It was not yet dark, but all the city lamps were lighted, and the East
Side had that atmosphere of care-free gaiety habitual to it after
business hours when the weather is rainless and warm. The taxicab moved
slowly, because the children had overflowed the sidewalks and played
games which kept them in blissful danger of their lives. Twice the taxi
stopped. Instantly a crowd gathered about it, and Barbara became an
embarrassed but amused centre of criticism and admiration.
It became dark. The streets were less crowded. There were fewer lights.
There was an unpleasant smell of old fish and garbage. The people
Barbara now observed seemed each and all intent upon something or other.
They were not merely loafing in the pure evening air, but hurrying.
There were no more children. The taxi passed slowly (because of the
uneven pavement) through a short, narrow street. The few lights in this
street were nearly all red.
Save for the light in Blizzard's manufactory, Marrow Lane was dark and
deserted. For some reason or other the city lights had gone out, or had
been passed over by the lamplighter.
Through the glazed door Barbara saw the vast black shadow of Blizzard's
profile on the white wall of his office. There was no bell. She turned
the knob and pushed open the door. A bell clanged almost in her ear with
fierce suddenness. It was like an alarm. Her heart beat the quicker for
it; the number of her respirations increased. She was sorry that she had
come. She was frightened; still she stepped through the door-way, and
called in her clear? resolute voice:
"Mr. Blizzard! It's Miss Ferris."
His vast shadow remained motionless like a stain on the wall. And for a
moment he did not answer. Could she have seen his face itself, instead
of only its shadow, she must have turned with a cry of fear and found
that the door which had closed behind her, clanging its bell, was
locked, and that there was no escape that way.
If she had turned her head she must have seen that her taxi had gone
[Illustration: In the dim light she looked wonderfully young and
In the dim light she looked wonderfully young and beautiful. The parted
opera-cloak disclosed her round straight throat and the broad smooth
modelling of the neck from which it rose. She seemed taller and more
stately than in street-dress, and at once younger, more defenceless,
more virginal. There was not enough light in the place to bring out the
contrasting colors of her hair. She looked like a black-haired beauty
with ivory-white skin, instead of an amber, red, and brown beauty, with
rosy, brown skin. Her head, small, round, and carried very high, lent
her an air of extraordinary breeding and distinction. She had no thought
for the short rose-brocade train of her dinner-dress, and let it trail
over the dirty floor.
This time he answered. It sounded less like a voice than the hoarse bass
croak of a very enormous bull-frog.
"Please step this way."
Her head, if anything, a little higher than ever, she walked swiftly
forward right into the legless man's office.
His face was very white, swollen, it looked, and blotched with purple.
The veins in his forehead looked like mountain ranges on a
"I've only a minute," said Barbara.
He lowered his head now over his ledger, but said nothing. Then he
looked up and into her face steadily, and one by one the purple blotches
in his own face paled, and vanished, like the extinguishing of as many
hellish lights. And then to Barbara's horror a low groan, more like a
dog's than a man's, passed his tightly pressed lips, came out, and was
cut short off, as if with a keen knife.
"Are you sick?" she asked, not kindly, but imperatively and with a tone,
perhaps, of disgust.
"Yes," said the legless man briefly, but without going into any
explanation of his ailment. "You came to tell me that I mustn't go away
till the bust is finished. Is that it?"
Barbara felt more at her ease. "Yes," she said, "I am selfish about it.
It means so much to me."
"Well, you needn't have come," said Blizzard, and it was almost as if he
was angry with her for having done so. "I've changed my plans. I've had
to change them. I stay."
Barbara was immensely pleased. "I wish I could tell you how glad I am,"
"The thing now," said Blizzard, "is to get you back to your house. You
shouldn't have come to this part of the city at all; and especially not
dressed like that. But you didn't stop to think. You had an idea in your
head. And you came. Did anybody know where you were going when you
She shook her head.
"Something dreadful might have happened to you," he said, and a curious
smile played about his mouth for a moment, "and no one the wiser.
Suppose you hadn't found me here to look after you? Suppose you'd found
some drunken crook just out of Sing Sing, or something worse?"
"But I _did_ find you," said Barbara, "and all is well."
"Yes--yes," he said, "all _is_ well. And you may thank your stars for
that. Why didn't you tell your taxi to wait?"
"But I did."
Again the curious smile flickered about the legless man's mouth. "Well,
Barbara followed the lead of Blizzard's eyes, and saw that the street in
front of his manufactory was empty. He reached for his crutches, and
swung himself down from his chair.
"Perhaps he's dropped down to Jake's saloon. Wait here. I'll see."
The bell of the outer door clanged with horrid suddenness. And then she
heard a piercing loud whistle twice repeated. And a few moments later
the sound of a motor.
"All right, Miss Ferris, I've got him."
She drew her cloak together, and joined the legless man on the sidewalk.
"Thank you very much," she said, "and good-by till to-morrow."
The taxicab driver's face had no expression whatever. He who understood
driving so well could not make out what the master was driving at.
Blizzard held open the door of the taxi, and Barbara got in. But he did
not at once close the door. Instead he turned his head and looked up the
street. Then he called out sharply:
"Hurry up! Can't you see the lady's waiting."
One came, running; a tall well-built youth, with an expression on his
face of cool, cynical courage and good humor.
"Miss Ferris," said Blizzard, "this young fellow will ride in with you
if you don't mind. You can drop him when you get out of the East Side,
and reach your own part of the city. He will see that no harm comes to
you. If you ask him questions he will answer them. Otherwise he will not
speak unless you wish."
The youth grinned a little sheepishly, and Barbara made room for him on
the seat beside her.
"He will answer for your safety," continued the legless man, "with his
ears. Where to?"
She gave the number of the house at which she was to dine, and the
legless man repeated it to the driver.
"Good-night, Mr. Blizzard, and thank you."
"Good-night, Miss Ferris, and welcome."
The legless man watched the taxicab until it had rounded the corner of
Marrow Lane. Then he looked upward at the stars for a while. Then he
swung slowly and wearily back into his rookery, and having extinguished
the light, sat for a long time in the dark.
What was it that had come over the man to let his victim escape when she
was so mercilessly in his power? Ask the stars to which he turned. Ask
the darkness in which he sits, alone, thinking. Better, perhaps, ask the
man's warped and tormented soul.
[Illustration: He turned with one foot on the sidewalk, and one in the
cab.... "Here I wishes you salutations ..."]
It seems that while he sat in his office waiting for her, a champion
rose up to defend her, a champion in his own heart. A champion who
made such headway against the brute's lawless and beastly intention as
to overthrow it.
Blizzard was in the power of that which all his mature life he had
feared more than hanging or the electric chair, more even than prisons.
He had fallen quietly, even gently, in love.
"I'm not going to ask you any questions," said Barbara, "because I don't
think of any. But if you like to talk, please do."
Without comment or preamble the youth who was to answer for her safety
with his ears, began to talk.
"Might have knocked me over with a feather," he said, "to find a lady
like you sitting in a cab in front o' Blizzard's place. At first look I
says to myself: 'One o' these high-fliers I've heard talk about that
likes to fly low.' Then I flings your eyes one penetrating peep, and
says to myself: ''Spect she ain't one o' that kind.' And I make out just
this about you that you're O.K. from A to Xylophone, and I takes this
opportunity to remark aloud to myself that I don't know what your game
is, and it's none o' my haterogeneous business, but if I was you I'd cut
Marrow Lane out o' my itenerary, and stay home nights playin' a quiet
rubber o' tiddle winks-the-barber."
Barbara laughed gayly. "Everybody," she said, "thinks that my friend,
Mr. Blizzard, is a very bad man. But he does nothing to prove it. He
has been very considerate of me in every way."
"Did I say anything against Blizzard? You'll tell him I did? Not you.
And I did not. If it _wasn't_ for him, I says, Marrow Lane _would_ be
hell's kitchen, and on the chanct that he ain't always going to be on
the spot, nor me, cut it out, I says. But," continued the talkative
youth, "in case you don't cut it out, in case you're ever in trouble
down our way you take this," bluntly he handed her a small, dark metal
whistle, "and blow her good. I knows the note, and if my ears is on the
job, you gets help. You gets it sudden. You gets it good. And here,
without fear or comment, I leaves you."
He signalled to the driver to stop. They had reached the southern
boundary of Washington Square. Barbara held out her hand. She was
greatly taken with her escort.
"And whom," she said, "am I thanking for the whistle?"
"Don't tell me," said Barbara, "that _you're_ the man who put Hook
Hammersley out in the third!"
"A right to the solar plexus," said Kid Shannon simply, "to bring him in
range and a left to the jaw. Even his friends admits that he begun to
take his gloves off while he was still in the air. But I'm in the saloon
business now, if it's all the same to you, having been light-weight
champion, and spoke a monologue over three circuits--nice-behaved ladies
and gentlemen o' both sexes always welcome, pay as you consume; but
for you or any friends o' yours the drinks will be on the house."
[Illustration: Wilmot Allen took her into dinner, and looked much love
at her, and talked much nonsense.]
He turned with one foot on the sidewalk, and one in the cab.
"Lady," he said, "what I've poured in jest, drink in earnest. All that's
yellow isn't butter. But if anybody was to ask you--say, a man who shall
be as nameless as he is legless--what I says to you during our
discursive promenaid, you answer back and say, 'Kid Shannon, whenever I
speaks to him, merely says, "Ha! Hum!"--_or words to that effect_.' Here
I wishes you salutations, and may your life contain nothing but times
when you looks and feels your best."
Barbara shook hands with him again. "Come to 17 McBurney Place," she
said, "some morning. Ask for Miss Ferris, and see what you think of the
bust she's making of Mr. Blizzard." She smiled mischievously. "He's
supposed to represent the devil just after falling into hell."
Shannon nodded with complete understanding. "Then," said he, "I bet he
looks a ringer for Hook Hammersley that time he hit the resin."
"Thank you for protecting me," said Barbara, "and for the whistle. Will
you tell the man to hurry, please? Thank you! Good-by."
She was very late to her dinner, but much too amused with recent events
to care. And nobody could have made her believe that her going to
Blizzard's place had been fraught with terrible peril. She prized the
whistle that Kid Shannon had given her, and resolved that some time she
would adventure again into his part of the city, and see if she could
bring him running to her side.
"I am sorry I am late," said Barbara, "but I couldn't help it." She
vouchsafed no further explanation, and because she was so young and
beautiful all those who had been kept waiting forgave her.
Wilmot Allen took her in to dinner, and looked much love at her, and
talked much nonsense. He was, indeed, so gay and foolish that she
imagined that he must have got himself into trouble again.
Blizzard was an acute student of human nature. And a certain softening
in Barbara's manner toward him was proof that she had learned his story
from her father, and no longer regarded him as a stranger off the
streets, but as a human being definitely connected with her outlook upon
life. Still, the suggestion that their relations had changed did not
come from him, for he knew that pity or sympathy given by request lacks
the potency of that which is spontaneously offered. So he held his peace
in order that Barbara might be the first to speak, and during those days
his heart became filled with mad hopes for the future.
Upon one thing he was determined, that when in the course of events
Barbara should touch upon her father's criminal mistake, he would
conceal, as something precious from a thief, the hatred and vengefulness
that were in him, and unroll for her benefit a character noble and
forgiving. He was content, or appeared content, day after day, for a
number of hours, to be with her, and to play the hypocrite so ably as to
And Barbara, knowing how the man had been abused, guessing how he must
have suffered, and still suffered, came to look upon him, not indeed as
upon a person wholly noble, but as upon one who, with an impulse in the
right direction, had in him possibilities of great nobility.
Just as a fine motor-car, perfect in mechanism, punctures a tire and is
stalled by the side of the road, so works of genius like Barbara's head
of Blizzard do not progress in one swift rush from start to finish.
There were whole mornings during which it seemed that things went
backward instead of forward, and when she was so discouraged that, had
it not been for the legless man's almost fiery confidence in her ability
to overcome all obstacles, she must have taken a hammer and pounded her
fine sketch back into the lump of clay from which it had been evolved.
Blizzard's eyes had undergone a most thorough schooling. They had
learned, to the flicker of an eyelid, when Barbara was going to look
their way, and at such times were careful not to meet her eyes. When,
however, they knew her to be intent for a period upon the work and not
the model, they studied her always with zest, and always with more and
Suddenly, one day, after he had been sitting motionless for half an
hour, the beggar broke his pose.
"Please don't," she said. "I'm not through."
In his eyes, soft and full of understanding, there was a gentle, if
masterful, smiling. "Yes, you are," he said, "for now. I haven't watched
you at work all these mornings without learning something about the way
you go at it. Do you know what a blind alley is?"
"Yes," she said petulantly, "and I'm in one."
"Quite so," said Blizzard. "And you're not taking the right way out.
First you tried to climb up the house on the right, then the house on
the left, and when I interrupted you, you were making a sixth effort to
shin up the lightning-rod of the house that blocks the alley."
Barbara laughed. "But," she objected, "I've got to get out somehow--or
fake--or call the thing a fiasco, and give it up."
"Of course you've got to get out," said Blizzard, "and it's very
"Simple!" she exclaimed; "a lot you know about it."
"Quite simple," he repeated; "you merely face about and walk out. In,
other words, remove that lump of mud which one day is going to be more
like my ear than my ear itself, and begin over."
And it came home to Barbara that the man was right. "Thank you," she
said simply. "You're a great help. That is precisely what I shall do."
"But don't do it now."
"Because you've wasted the freshness of your early-morning zeal with
vain efforts. Destroy what you've done--there's always satisfaction in
that; but either leave the re-doing alone for to-day, or try
"When," said Barbara, beginning to feel soothed and confident again,
"did I put myself in your hands for guidance?"
"The moment you lost your presence of mind," said the beggar; "that's
when a woman always puts herself in a man's hands. Put a cloth over his
satanic majesty's portrait, and sit down and relax your muscles, and
talk to the devil himself."
Barbara did as he commanded with the expression of a biddable child. She
flung herself into a deep chair, and drew a long, care-free breath.
"There," she said, "I knew I wasn't fit."
"You can't spend the night at a Country Club, dance till 4 A.M., catch
the 7 A.M. for town, and do good work--not always."
"How did you know all that?"
Blizzard laughed. "From a man," said he, "who had planned to rob the
Meadowbrook Club last night. There is a fine haul of scarf-pins, and
sleeve-links, and watches and money in the bachelors' quarters. He came
to me in great dejection and explained what very hard luck he had had.
He said the whole place was lit up and full of people and music, and no
chance for an honest man to earn a cent. I happened to ask if you were
there, and he said you were. The train was a guess, and so of course was
the 4 A.M. Will you take a piece of well-meant advice? Either be a
society girl or a sculptor. But don't burn the candle at both ends. You
even look tired, and that's nonsense at your age."
He laughed like a boy.
"They tell me," he said, "that I could do the new dances. They tell me
they are just like clinches in a prize-fight, and that only the novices
move their feet."
Barbara's brows contracted. "I'm going to ask you a favor," she said.
"If you want to talk about your misfortune, God knows I'm ready to
listen. I feel some of the responsibility. But please don't joke about
it. We're friends, I think. And I like to forget that you're not exactly
like other people. And sometimes I do."
"Truly?" His eyes were full of suppressed eagerness and elation.
"Yes," she said, "when you talk high-mindedly and generously, as you
can, when you want to, I enjoy being with you, in touch with a mind so
much more knowing and able than my own. But, now we've made a beginning,
I'd really like to talk about--all this dreadful mess that's been made
of your life, and how things can be made easier for you, and for
Figuratively, Blizzard's tongue went into his cheek at the mention of
Dr. Ferris, but the expression of his face underwent no change. "Of
course," he said simply, as if it was the most natural thing in the
world, "I have forgiven your father. He was very young--very
"_Actually"_ she said, "in your heart, you've forgiven him? And you're
not saying things just to make me comfortable?"
"I am afraid," he confessed, "that I am too selfish to say or do things
just to make other people comfortable. Did you ever hate anybody?"
"I think so."
"Did you like it?"
"For a while it was rather fun to think up things to do to the person,
and then it got to be disagreeable, and feverish, like a cut that's
festered, and then I made a strong effort, and found that hating was
very poor company and led nowhere."
"Exactly," said the beggar. "Do you mind if I talk frankly? My hatred
for your father persisted a great many years, until I found that going
to bed with it every night and getting up with it every morning was a
slow poison that was affecting all the rest of me--my power to think out
a line of action, my power to stick to it, even my power to like people
that were good to me and faithful to my interests. I found that I was
beginning to hate everybody and everything in the world and the world
itself. Meanwhile, Miss Barbara, I did things that can never be undone."
He was silent, and appeared to be turning over the leaves in the books
of his memory. Suddenly he spoke again.
"And it was all so silly," he said, "so futile. The cure was in my head
all the time--just longing to be used. And fool that I was, I
didn't know it."
"What was the cure?"
"It was the sovereign cure for all our troubles, Miss Barbara--reason,
and crowds. Stand morning or evening at the entrance to the Brooklyn
Bridge--stand there with your trouble, and consider that among the
passers, better carried than yours, are troubles, far, far greater than
yours, more poignant, lives lived in dungeons deeper and more dark. Your
father has lived a life of most admirable utility: should he be hated
for one mistake? Suppose that it had been some other small boy's legs
that he wasted, instead of mine? Would I hate him for it? Why, no. I'd
say it's too bad. But since it was I that lost the legs I lost all sense
of proportion and justice and was a long time--a long time coming
back to it."
"May I know what brought you round?"
The beggar felt that he might dare a little. He smiled. "Of course. What
brought me around was the discovery that he had created something far,
far more important than what he had destroyed. At first I thought you
were like so many other girls of your class--well dressed, and good to
look at. Then that you had a very genuine talent, and were going to
count in the world. Then, and this is best, it came over me that you
were one girl in a million--that you would do whatever seemed right to
you, not without fear of criticism, and pain and sacrifice, but
regardless of them. And so, you see, the reparation is made. The father
hurt, and the daughter cured."
Barbara's face had become very grave. "However wrong you are about my
character," she said, "the reparation is not yet made. And you may be
sure of this--that, whatever the criticism, I owe you friendship and
you shall have it,"
The beggar trembled inwardly, but he shook his head. "You could hardly
pull me up to a level," he said, "upon which friendship between us would
be possible. Imagine that I have sunk to the chin in mud, and that at
the last time of calling I have been pulled out. Still the mud clings
"Nonsense," said Barbara, "you can be washed."
They both laughed, and at once became grave again.
"You don't know," he said, "what I've been or what I've done. You can't
"That is not the point," said Barbara, "and this is: Are you sorry? If
you really have been rotten, do you want to be sound and fine? If you do
I'm your friend, and whatever help I can give you, you shall have."
"If you knew," he said humbly, "how I dread the bust being finished!
I'll be like a child stealing a ride by the strength of his arms, I'll
have to drop off then--won't I?--back into the mud."
"I'm not offering you friendship," she said, "merely while you are
useful to me. Do well, Mr. Blizzard, and do good, and I will always be
"Do you believe that I want to do well, that I want to do good? That I
want to wipe the past from the slate?"
"You have only to tell me," she said loyally, "and I shall believe."
"Then I tell you," he said, and Barbara jumped impulsively to her feet
and shook hands with him.
"And I may come to you," he pleaded, "for advice, and help? Old habits
are hard to shake. My friends are thieves, crooks, and grafters. My
sources of income are not clean. Even now I have dishonest irons in the
fire. Shall I pull them out?"
"But people who have trusted me will be hurt."
"You must work those problems out in your own conscience."
To Blizzard, believing that he was actually making progress into the
fastnesses of her heart, and that he might in time gain his ends by
propinquity and his own undeniable force and personality, a sudden,
cheeky knocking upon the door proved intensely irritating. It was a very
small messenger-boy with a box of jonquils. Blizzard watched very
closely the expression of Barbara's face while she opened the box. She
held up the flowers for him to see.
"Aren't they pretty?" she said.
"They are very pretty," said Blizzard, and he found it difficult to
control his voice. "And it was very sweet of him to send them. Isn't
that the rest of the speech?"
"Of course," said Barbara gayly.
She lifted the flowers until the lower half of her face was hidden.
"Mr. Allen, I suppose," said the beggar.
"Why should you suppose that?" said Barbara, a little coldly. "There is
Blizzard felt his mistake. And Barbara felt that he felt it. She went
into the next room for a vase of water, and returned presently with
heightened color. She had heard Harry West's slow grave voice explaining
something to Bubbles. Her heart told her that West had sent the flowers,
and she meant to get rid of Blizzard and find out. So, the vase of
flowers in one hand, she held out the other to him, and said:
Blizzard was loath to go, but he felt that there was a certain finality
in her voice, and he swung out of the studio, his heart gnawed
Through Bubbles, Harry West received the happy news that Miss Ferris
wished to speak with him. But when he saw her with the vase of jonquils
in her hand, and the empty box in which they had come at her feet, his
stout heart failed him a little.
"Mr. West," said Barbara, "some person is annoying me."
"I am continually receiving flowers without card or comment."
"Is it the flowers which annoy you or the lack of comment?"
"I love the flowers, but anything in the shape of anonymity is unfair,
and I resent it."
"I can think of cases," said West, "in which a man might properly send
flowers without disclosing his identity--just as I may pass a fine
statue and praise it, without telling the statue who I am." He smiled.
"Flowers don't resemble statues in the least, and your comparison is
unnaturally far-fetched. Another thing, and this annoys me even more: my
secretive friend sends flowers from the cheapest florist he can find. I
argue from this that he is poor, and cannot afford to send me flowers
"Perhaps his home and business in the city are too far from the Fifth
"You are not saying gallant things, Mr. West. I--an unprotected young
woman--tell you that I am being annoyed by a strange man. Instead of
flying into a chivalrous rage and threatening to wring his neck when you
catch him, you stand up for him. Very well. I shall set Bubbles to find
out who the man is, and take my own steps in the matter."
Her expression was grave and unruffled, though a certain look of
amusement might have been detected in her eyes, by a youth less
embarrassed than Mr. West was.
"Don't do that," he said; "Bubbles could never find out. You wish to
know who is sending you flowers?"
"Very much. Can _you_ find out?"
"I think so. I mean, I'm sure I can."
"And when you have found him will you point out to him that in the
future he must be open and above-board, or something disagreeable will
be done to him?"
Mr. West bowed humbly.
"How long," she asked, "will it take you to run the creature down?"
"Well," said Mr. West, "I could go to the florist whose name is on the
box, show my badge, and exact a description of the man who bought the
flowers. Then I could give you the description, and if you knew any
"The florist," said Barbara, her expression Sphinx-like, "is just
'round the corner."
"I hear," said Mr. West, "and I obey."
"I will read a book till you come back," said Barbara.
But she didn't read a book; she leaned instead from a window and watched
for Mr. West to come out of the studio-building. He came presently, but
did not turn east in search of the florist. Neither did he descend the
steps. Instead, he took out his watch and sat down, and waited. Barbara
in great glee watched him for ten minutes. She was possessed of a
devilish longing to fashion out of paper a small water-bomb and drop it
on his head. Memories of water-bombs brought up memories of Wilmot Allen
and old days. She drew back from the window and was no longer gleeful.
Why should men trouble her heart, since she wished and had elected to
live, not a woman's life but a man's? She paced the studio, her soul at
odds with the rest of her.
Had she ever encouraged Wilmot? Yes. West? Yes. And about a dozen
others. And here she struck her left palm with her right fist. She had
even encouraged a man who had committed all the crimes in the calendar
and was only half a man at that! Half a man? She was not sure. There was
a certain compelling force about him which at times made him seem more
of a man to her than all the rest of them put together. "I can't imagine
him in love," she thought. "It's really too revolting. But if he was, I
can imagine nothing that he would let stand in his way, I wonder if he
is married. And if he is I pity her. And yet she could say to other
women, 'My husband is a man,' and most of the women I know can't
And she remembered her father's perfectly ridiculous suggestion that
perhaps the man so wronged by him had lifted his eyes to herself. The
idea no longer seemed ridiculous; but quite possible and equally
dreadful. She made up her mind that she would sacrifice her immediate
chances of recognition and fame and tell the beggar to discontinue his
visits. Then she withdrew the cloth from her work, and it seemed to her
that what she had made was alive and had about it a certain sublimity,
and that to surrender now was beyond her strength. She had a moment of
exultation, and she thought: "In a hundred years my body will be dust.
It doesn't matter what becomes of it now or hereafter; but people will
gather in front of this head, and artists will come from all over the
world to see it. And there will be plaster casts of it in city museums
and village libraries. And I suppose I'm the most conceited idiot in the
world, but--but it's good. I _know_ it's good!"
She had forgotten West, and Allen, and Blizzard, so that when the
first-named knocked, she had some ado to come out of the clouds and
recall what they had been talking about. Then, not wishing to drive West
into a lie, she said only:
"Have you the man's description?"
"He is not," said West gravely, "a man in your station in life. He is,
I imagine, some young fellow to whom, in passing, you have been
"Is he handsome?" Mischief had returned to her mind.
"He is only bigger and stronger than usual."
"Dark or light?"
"And how long did it take you to find out all these interesting items?"
"Twelve minutes," said West gravely.
"By the clock?"
"By a dollar watch.... Miss Ferris, I haven't done right. I'm not doing
This came very suddenly. He had lowered his fine head and was frowning,
"I'm the man who's been sending you flowers. I didn't know it was wrong.
I'm not a gentleman. But once I'd seen you, I could never see flowers
without thinking of you, so I kept sending them, hoping that they would
give you pleasure for their own sake. I had no business even to look at
you. To win the kind of race I'm up against, a man ought to keep his
eyes in the boat, and not look right or left till his race is won or
lost. And even then it ought to be right or left that he looks, and not
up, and certainly not down. I didn't keep my eyes in the boat. I looked
up, 'way up, and saw you, and caught a crab that threw the whole boat
out of trim. I've no excuse, only this--that I haven't ever before even
looked right or left or down. But it's all right now. Nobody's hurt. I
won't come any more to watch over you. The lines are closing round
Blizzard, and he knows it. His claws are pulled. He's got to toe a
chalk-line, and you're as safe with him as with the Bishop of London."
Barbara said nothing. She felt very unhappy.
"One thing more. As long as I did forget the work in hand, as long as I
did look up, why, I'd like to thank God, in your presence, that it was
you I saw. Because in all the whole world there is nobody so beautiful
or so blind."
He thrust out his hand almost roughly, caught hers, said good-by, and
turned to go.
"Please wait," said Barbara. And she said it quite contrary to reason,
which told her that it would be kinder to let the young man go
"You've done nothing wrong," she went on, "and I can't help being
pleased by the flowers and knowing that you think I am all sorts of
things that I'm not. If you really like me a good deal, don't go away
looking as if the world had come to an end. I think you are a fine
person, and I shall always be glad to be your friend."
There was agony in West's eyes. "My friendship," he said, "can never be
any special pleasure to you. And seeing you--even once a year--would
keep alive things that hurt me, and that never ought to have been born,
and that were better dead."
"'Faint heart--'" Barbara began, and could have bitten out her tongue,
since she had so often promised herself that she would never again
The agony died in Harry West's eyes, and there came instead a look of
great gentleness, compassion, and understanding.
"May I say things to you that are none of my business?" he asked. She
nodded briefly, and he went on: "You mustn't say things like that. You
have a race to row, too, but your beautiful eyes are all over
"I knew I was a rotter," said Barbara, "but I didn't know it was obvious
"To eyes," said West gently, "in a certain condition lots of things are
obvious that other people wouldn't see. May I still say things?"
"Don't spare me."
"You love to attract men. And if you happen to hurt them, you think you
are a rotter. That isn't true. You're being pulled two ways. Art pulls
you one--the way you _think_ you want to go--and nature pulls you the
way you really want to go. Men attract you to a certain extent. I can
almost feel that--and you tire of them, and think it's because you
haven't got the capacity for really caring. That isn't true either. You
have infinite capacities for caring, but as yet you haven't been
attracted to the man you are really going to care for."
Barbara looked him straight in the eyes. "How do you know I haven't?"
He returned the look, as if doubting what he should say or do. Then he
drew a deep breath to steady himself.
"Perhaps you have. But I know very well that it is not the man you
think, at this moment. You are in the hunting stage, and you didn't know
it. Now that you do know--unless I am greatly mistaken--I think you will
try very hard not to hurt people, not to let them have wild dreams of
something doing in the future."
"But if I really think--"
"Then be secret until you _know_."
"And if everything that is me seems to be going out to a certain man--"
"Then be secret until it has really gone out to him."
"I don't know why I let you talk to me like this."
"There you go again," he said, and she bit her lips. "It is very awful
for me," he said, "to think that I have raised my voice in any criticism
or disparagement of you."
"Oh, it's all true, and it's all deserved."
"But you are like that. And all at the same time it's your greatest
strength and your greatest weakness, and for the right man, when he
comes along, it will be his greatest treasure.... I don't like to say
good-by. It comes hard."
"If I said, 'Don't say good-by,' would I be breaking the rules?"
"Yes," he said, "for I could never be the right man."
[Illustration: When Bubbles had trotted off, she dropped into her chair
"Not even if--"
"Not even if--and you will have forgotten any kindness that you felt for
me, while I am still wondering why the city is so empty, that once
seemed so full."
The tears sprang into Barbara's eyes. "Is there anything about me that
you don't know?" she asked bitterly.
"Oh, yes," he said.
"Do you know that if you asked me to marry you, I should say yes?"
"And I know that I am not going to ask you. There are two reasons. You
don't love me. And I do love you."
Her arms dropped limply to her sides.
"And it shall never be said of me," he said proudly, "that I dragged any
one down.... Will you promise me something?"
"If you care to trust me to keep promises or to do anything that's right
"Only promise to keep your eyes in the boat. Don't help a poor dog of a
man into love with you. And don't help yourself into love with him. When
the right man comes along, he will _make_ you love him, and then you
will be sure."
"I will promise," said Barbara simply, "and I never knew how rotten I
was. And I'm glad you've told me. If it's any comfort to you--you've
helped. And nobody ever helped before. I shall always be proud to
remember that you loved me. And I'll keep my eyes in the boat."
"And that," said Mr. West, "is where I'll keep mine, only, if it's
nothing to you, I'll remember sometimes how the moon looked that time I
She stood uncertain.
"It's kind of awkward," he said, "sometimes to make a clean break. Good
luck to you. And don't feel sorry about me. And be true to yourself. And
if you ever really need me for anything tell Bubbles. He knows where to
find me, when anybody does."
A few minutes later Barbara was asking Bubbles if he happened to know
Mr. Harry West's address.
"He won't be coming back here," she said, "and I want to send him a
"I'll deliver it," said Bubbles. "He don't keep no regular address. You
have to catch him on the run."
"Very well," she said, "take him this, with my very best thanks and my
very best wishes."
And she gave Bubbles a charmingly bound copy of Rostand's "Far-Away
Princess," and when Bubbles had trotted off, she dropped into her chair
and cried because she thought she had broken poor West's heart. But
there was stern stuff in his heart, and exultation, for he knew that in
the supreme test of his life, he had thought only of--her.
"There, everything is understood," said Blizzard; "we are agreed upon
the 15th of next January. And you can bring enough men on from the West
to do the work?"
O'Hagan, thick-set, black, bristling, nodded across the table. "You have
guaranteed the money and the hats," he said; "I will guarantee the men.
What's behind that door?"
"Nothing but a junk-closet," said Blizzard. "Drink something."
O'Hagan poured three fingers of dark whiskey into a short glass and
drank it at one gulp. "After that one," he said, "the wagon until
"Yes," said Blizzard with some grimness. "There must be no frolicking.
And mind this, Jimmie: the more good American citizens who don't speak
English that you can corral the better. We don't want intelligence. We
want blind obedience with a hope of gain. And they mustn't know what
they are to do till it's time to do it. They should begin to come into
the city by the middle of December, a few at a time. Let 'em come to me
half a dozen at once for money, weapons, and orders."
Again O'Hagan nodded. This time he rose, and the two shook hands across
the table. O'Hagan seemed to labor under a certain emotion; but
Blizzard was calm,
"Keep me posted," he said, "and for God's sake, Jimmie, cut out the
little things. You're in big now. Forget your troubles and your wrongs.
Leave liquor alone and dynamite. Remember that on the 15th of next
January you and I'll be square at last with law and order and
oppression. Good luck to you!"
When O'Hagan had gone Blizzard moved his chair so that it faced the door
of the junk-closet. And he smiled occasionally as if he were one of an
audience at some diverting play. From time to time he took a drink of
whiskey and licked his lips. An hour passed, two hours, and always the
legless man kept his agate eyes upon the closet door.
When two hours and fifteen minutes had gone, he drew an automatic pistol
from his pocket, and held it ready for instant use. A few minutes later,
finding his original plan of humor a little tedious in the working out,
he spoke in a clear, incisive voice:
"Better come out of that now or I shall begin to shoot."
The door opened, and Rose staggered into the room. After a short pause,
during which she swayed and gasped for breath, an automatic pistol fell
with a clatter from her nerveless fingers. She sank to the floor all in
a heap and began to cry hysterically.
[Illustration: The door opened, and Rose staggered into the room]
Blizzard slid from his chair and secured her pistol. His face wore an
expression of amused tolerance. "Tell me all about it," he said. "Crying
_can't_ do any good, and talking may. You hid in the closet to
listen. It's not the first time. I found one of your combs, and saw
where you'd brushed away the dirt so's not to spoil your dress. Now I'd
like to know how much you know, and whom you've told it to?"
"What's the use?" said Rose with sudden desperation. "You've got
me--nobody'll ever know from me what I've heard to-night. You're going
to kill me."
"I doubt it," said Blizzard. "Now look up and tell me all about
"Well," she said, "I've been spying on you."
"I know that. I knew that the day you came. When you said you loved me I
knew you were lying."
"At first," she said, "I passed over everything I could find out about
you. It wasn't much."
"I took care of that."
"Then I made up things--just to keep the others from knowing I wasn't
playing fair. I wanted to put that off as long as I could. Anything I
really found out--like your first talk with O'Hagan--I just kept to
myself. I know I lied to you the first day. But I'm not lying now."
The legless man smiled tolerantly. "Why did you keep on trying to find
out things--if you didn't mean to use them?"
"Because I wanted to know all about you, what you were doing, what your
interests were. I thought I could be more useful to you that way."
"It's a good thing for you, Rose," said Blizzard, "that I guessed all
this. If I hadn't you wouldn't be alive now. And so, now that you've
gotten to know me pretty well, there's something about me, is there,
that's knocked your ambitions galley-west?"
"I had friends that trusted me," she said, "and I've played double with
them. And now I've got only you."
"Tell me one thing," and Blizzard asked the question with some
eagerness, "what particular quality of mine got you to feeling this way
"I guess it's every quality now," said Rose, "but it started with me the
first time I heard you play, and knew that, whatever you'd been and
done, and were planning to do, you had a soul above it all. And I knew
that if your soul had ever had a fair chance you'd have been more like a
god than a man."
"Well, well," said Blizzard after a long silence, "perhaps. Who knows!
And so it was the music that changed your heart? Well, why not? Nobody
makes better music--unless it's Hofman."
The idea of appealing to the heart of quite another girl through his
music filled the legless man with a wild hoping. Why not? If he could
play himself clean out of hell whenever he pleased, why not another? He
would not tell her the possibilities of nobility that yet remained in
him. He would play them to her.
"Rose," he said, "you're the best pedaller I ever had. You've got music
in you. We'll practise up and give a concert. I'll ask some nobs in.
We'll turn the piano so that seeing how the pedalling is done won't
distract their attention from the music. But they won't hear our music,
Rose. It will be better than that. They shall roll in it, bathe in it,
"That's what I saw."
Blizzard's agate eyes glinted with a strange light. It was as if the
beast in him was fighting with the God. But gradually all mercifulness,
all-pity, went out, and the fires which remained were not good to see.
He kissed her and she kissed him back.
Feeling that she had been working too hard, being in much distress about
Harry West, and in some for herself, and learning that Wilmot Allen was
to be of the party, Barbara told Blizzard, at the end of his sitting on
Friday, that he need not come Saturday, as she was going to spend the
week-end with the Bruces at Meadowbrook.
"I'm dog-tired," she said, "and that's the same as being discouraged. We
both need a rest. Things have been at a stand-still nearly all
"I think you are right about yourself," said Blizzard, "but won't your
gay friends keep you up till all hours?"
"They will _not_" said Barbara, "and it won't be gay. During a falling
market there are never more than two happy people at the largest Long
Island house-party. The men will sit by themselves and drink very
solemnly. The women will sit by themselves and yawn till ten o'clock. It
will be very boring and very restful."
"Speaking of falling markets, is my friend Mr. Allen to be among those
present? I understand that he has been very hard hit."
"I don't know about that," said Barbara. "He often is. Yes, he is to be
among those present, and I'm really going just to have a chance to
talk to him."
"_With_ him or _to_ him?" asked Blizzard with one of his sudden,
"_To_ him," said Barbara, also smiling, "I, too, have listened to tales
out of school, and since he is my oldest friend, and probably my best,
he must be straightened out."
"A little absence from New York, perhaps," suggested Blizzard, and
watched her face closely.
"Do you think so? It doesn't seem to me necessary to run away in order
to straighten out."
"Mr. Allen," said Blizzard, "should swear off stock-gambling, and marry
a rich girl."
"He's not that kind," said Barbara simply. And this swift, loyal
statement did not please the beggar, since it argued more to his mind of
the faith that goes with love than of that appertaining to friendship.
He felt a sharp stab of jealousy, and had some ado to keep the pain of
it from showing in his face.
"Well," he said, "if anybody can help him, you can. And if you can't,
send him to me. Oh, we've had dealings before now. I was even of real
service to him once."
"If that is true," Barbara thought, "it's rather rotten of Wilmot to
keep running this poor soul down."
Blizzard left with obvious reluctance. Two whole days without a sight of
Miss Ferris seemed a very long time to him. "I shall miss these morning
"Is that what you call posing?"
"What else? You loaf now. Good luck to the tired eye and hand."
"Thank you," said Barbara. "Next week we'll see if we can't really get
"We shall try," said Blizzard. He turned at the door. "I want to play
for you some time," he said. "May I?"
"Why, yes--of course."
"At my place," he said. "I have a new piano in; it's very good. You see,
I pound four or five of them to pieces in the course of a year. I
thought perhaps you'd bring two or three or more of your friends who
like music, I know _you_ do. I'll give you supper. Your friends might
think it was a good slumming spree to come to a concert at my house. And
I particularly want to play for you. I go for weeks without playing, and
then the wish comes."
She longed to ask him how he worked the pedals, and had to bite the
He laughed, reading her mind. "If you come," he said, "I will try to
make you forget what I am--even what I look like. I should like you to
know what I might have been--what I still might be." He went out
abruptly and closed the door after him.
Barbara mused for a minute and then rang for Bubbles. "I'm going out of
town for over Sunday," she said. "What will you do?"
"Me and Harry," said he, "is going down to the sea swimming."
"Please give Harry my best wishes, Bubbles."
The great eyes held hers for a minute and were turned away. He was sharp
enough to know that through one of his idols the other had been hurt.
And he found the knowledge sorrowful and heavy.
"I'll do that," he said solemnly.
That afternoon Wilmot Allen drove Barbara down to Meadowbrook. He had
borrowed a sixty-horse-power runabout for the occasion, but displayed no
anxiety to put the machine through its higher paces. "I've had a rough
week," he said, "and my nerves are shaky. Do you mind if we take
"No," said Barbara, "my nerves are shaky, too. And I want to talk to you
without having the words blown out of my mouth and scattered all over
He bowed over the steering-wheel, and said: "It's good to know that you
_want_ to talk to me. Is it to be about you, about me--or us?"
Barbara leaned luxuriously against the scientifically placed cushion,
all her muscles relaxed. "You," she said, "are to play several
"And always one," he answered softly.
"Not now," she said, "please. First you are to play priest, and listen
to confession. Then you are to confess, or I am to do it for you, and
"While I'm priest," he said, "do I impose any penance on you?"
"I'll listen to suggestions," said she, "that point toward absolution."
"I am now clothed In my priestly outfit," said Wilmot; "you have
entered the confessional. I listen."
Very simply, without preamble, she plunged into her affair with Harry
West. And Wilmot listened, his head bent forward over the
steering-wheel. It was not pleasant for him to learn that she had
thought herself seriously in love with another man, and was not now in
the least sure of her feelings toward him.
"I cried almost all night," she said; "it didn't seem as if I could bear
"How about the next night, Barbs?"
"Oh, I slept," she said, "or thought about work."
"And he told you that you mustn't see each other anymore?"
"I think he was right, Barbs. I don't believe you really love him, dear.
If you did you would have cried for many nights and days--felt like it,
I mean, all the time. Men attract you--they drop out for some reason or
other--and so on. I know pretty well."
"That's just what he said," said Barbara, "and it's true, Wilmot. I'm
almost sure now that I don't really love him. And that's ugly enough.
But it's worse to think that he really loves me, and that it's
Wilmot Allen did not make the mistake of saying that it was not her
fault. "It just shows, Barbs dear," he said, "that it's time to pull up.
You've got more darned temperament than anybody I ever saw. It's a
great weapon, but you've got to learn to control it, and not swing it
wild and hurt people."
"That's what he said."
"Well, he seems to be a sensible fellow, and a fine fellow, and to have
thought of you rather than himself. You told him you'd marry him if he
asked you? Now, Barbs, listen to me. That was a fool thing to say."
"I know it"
"Do you realize how lucky you are to have said it to West instead of to
some other fellow who happened to be on the make? You've come through
your young life almost entirely by good luck, not by good management.
You've run up against honorable men, instead of rotters. That's
"I should think, feeling this way, you'd hate and despise me."
His hand left the steering-wheel and gave hers a swift pat.
"Well, it's over," she said, "and I wanted you to know. I'm going to
pull back in my shell and be very dignified and honorable. If anybody
wants to get hurt through me, they've got to hurt themselves."
"You'll not try to see West any more?"
"No," she said rather wearily, "that's over. And it's for the best. I've
had a good lesson. No man ought ever to take me seriously until I've
told him every day for a year that I love him. Maybe two years."
"Just tell me _once_--" he began
"Don't," she said, "please. Now you confess."
"Well, Barbs," he said, "this week-end is a sort of good-by. I'm in very
deep, and I'm going to a new place to live a new life."
"Well!" she exclaimed, "you're not running away?"
"Only from temptation," he said. "I have spoken to all my creditors but
one, and they have behaved decently and kindly. Wherever I go I take my
obligations with me, and, God willing, they shall all be paid."
"Oh," she said, "I think a man ought to make good in the midst of his
"Might just as well say that you ought to finish your bust of Blizzard
with one hand tied behind your back, since it's a constant temptation to
you to use both. You ought also to be blindfolded and to work in the
dark, since you are constantly tempted to look at your model and see
what you are doing."
"I shall miss you," she said simply, "like everything. Why--"
"It fills the future with blanks that can't be filled in."
"That may or may not be, Barbs. If they can't be filled in, you will
write to me, and I will come back."
"But I don't mean--"
"I don't believe you know what you mean. But you aren't Barbs now; you
are my confessor. I confess to you, then, that I am in pretty much the
same boat with Harry West. I am going away, partly, to get over you--if
I can. Love is a fire. Feed it, and it grows. Let it alone, and it dies.
Confessor, there is a certain girl--one Barbara Ferris, I love her with
all my heart and soul and have so done for many years. Since this leads
to happiness for neither of us, I am going to cut her out of my life."
"Wilmot! Are you speaking seriously? You're not going to write to me?
I'll have no news of you? Not know how you are getting on? Not know if
you are sick or well?"
"The first night," said Wilmot, "you cried. The second you slept and
thought about work."
"But you are my oldest friend and my best. Whatever we are to each
other, we are that--best friends. We have our roots so deep in the
happenings of years and years that we can't be moved--and get away
"We shall see," said Wilmot almost solemnly. "It isn't going to be easy
for me, either. But time will soon show. If after a year we find that we
cannot do without each other's friendship--why, then we must see each
other again. That's all there is to it."
"At least you'll write?"
He shook his head.
"But I will."
"No, Barbs. The sight of your writing would be too much fuel for the
She was silent for a quarter of a mile. She did not enjoy the idea of
being deliberately cut out of Wilmot Allen's life and heart "Suppose,"
she said, "that at the end of the year the fire is still
He slowed the car down so that he could turn and look at her. His face
looked very strong and stern. "In that case," he said, "I will come back
and marry you,"
"And supposing that meanwhile, in a fit of loneliness and mistaken zeal,
I shall have married some one else?"
"If I feel about you as I do now," said Allen, "I will take you away
Once more the car began to run swiftly, so swiftly that Wilmot could not
take his eyes from the road to look at Barbara's face. If he had, he
would have seen in her eyes an extraordinary look of trouble and
During the week-end Barbara and Allen were much together, to the
amusement of the other guests, who said: "_It's_ on again." But it was
If Wilmot was going away, Barbara wished him to have good memories of
last times together to carry with him. And Wilmot, like a foolish fellow
who is going to swear off Monday, and in the meanwhile drinks to excess,
saw no reason why he should dress his wounds in the present, since, in
time to save his life, he was going to give them every attention
possible. That he was going to "get over" Barbara in a year he did not
believe. But observation and common-sense told him that life without her
must become easier and saner as time passed, and that to be forever
caught up or thrown down by her varying moods toward him had ceased to
be a self-respecting way of life. This is what common-sense and
experience told him; but his heart told him that he would love her
always, and that if he could not have her he must simply die.
Sunday night, after she had gone to bed, Barbara lay in the darkness and
asked herself questions. Wilmot's life had not been fine, but his love
had been very fine, and for longer than she could remember. Would it not
be well to trust herself to such a love as that? Had she the right to
send it away begging? Would it not be better, since marriage is a
lottery, to grasp some things that in this case would be sure, instead
of leaving everything to chance? If he kept away from her long enough,
his love would probably die, or at least reduce itself to a state of
occasional melancholy agitation. But if she belonged to him it would
never die. Of this their whole past seemed a sure proof. If she married
him he would always love her and be faithful to her; for her part she
was wonderfully fond of him, and she believed that if she once actually
committed herself to his care, she would be a good wife to him, and a
loving. Then why not? She tried the effect of pretending that she had
promised to marry him and meant to keep her word, and she found that the
position, if only mentally, was strategically strong and secure. She
would make him happy; she herself would cease from troubling him and
other men. For her sake he would turn over new leaves and be everything
that was fine. She would be obedient and have no more difficult knots to
untangle for herself. Wilmot would simply cut them for her with a sure
word, one way or the other.
She had not for a long time enjoyed so peaceful a night. Hours passed,
and she found that, without sleeping, she was becoming wonderfully
rested. For it is true that nothing so rests the thinker as
She had breakfast in her room, but was down in time to catch the
business men's train for town, or to be driven in Wilmot's borrowed
runabout, if he should ask her. He did, and amid shouts of farewell and
invitations to come again soon, they drove away together into the cool
"Wilmot," Barbara said, when they had passed the last outpost of the
Bruces' shrubbery and whirled into the turnpike, "I spent most of last
"You look fresh as a rosebud."
She shook her head as if to shake off the dew, and said: "I feel more
rested than if I had slept soundly. If you will marry me, Wilmot, I will
make you a good wife."
Wilmot's heart leaped into his throat with joy, and then dropped as if
into a deep abyss of doubt. For all her confessions to him, and for all
her promises of amendment, here was his darling Barbs unable to resist
the temptation of hurting him again. "One of her impulses," he thought,
and at once he was angry with her, and his heart yearned over her.
"Are you going to be able to say that, Barbs," he said gently, "a year
from now, after we've been out of sight and hearing of each other all
"Wilmot," she said, "I'm not up to my old bad tricks. I am ready to give
you my word this time, and to keep faith. Only I'd like everything to be
done as soon as possible. I've been a very foolish girl, and perplexed
and tired, and I want to lean on you, if you'll let me. We'll have a
good life together, and I will keep my eyes in the boat."
"A few days ago, Barbs," he said, "you thought that you were seriously
in love with another man."
"I know," she said, "but I wasn't."
"Are you in love with me now?" he asked wistfully.
"I know that you will always be good to me, and love me. And that is
what I _know_ that I want."
"Poor little Barbs," he said.
"It seems to me rather," she said, "that I am now rich with chances of
happiness for us both. I want to make my oldest and most deserving
friend happy, and I trust him to make me happy."
"It isn't love, dear?"
"It's so much affection and friendship that perhaps it's better." She
turned her face away a little. "The best that marriage can end in is
affectionate companionship; why not begin with that, and so be sure of
it for always?"
"If I had ever dreamed," said Wilmot unsteadily, "that you were going to
say things like this to me, I'd have dreamed that I went wild with
happiness, and drove you to the nearest clergyman. But now that you have
actually said what you have said, in real life, I find that I love you
more than ever, and that it is not compatible with so much love to take
you on a basis of friendship. You feel that you have hurt me more than
is possible for your conscience to bear, and you wish to make up for it.
Is that right?"
"That's not all there is to it, Wilmot, by any means. But for heaven's
sake believe that I'm being altogether unselfish: but you know me too
well to believe anything so ridiculous."
"I know you well enough," said Wilmot, "to worship the ground you walk
on. Not because my heart urges me, but my understanding. And I know you
would play the game, once you had given your word, and make me a
splendid wife. But what I have for you cannot be given to mere
friendship and submission, I should feel that I had sinned against my
love for you too greatly to be forgiven. You are closer to me than you
have ever been, my dear--and yet so far away that I can only look upward
as to a star, and despair of the distance. If there has been anything
fine in my life, it has been my love for you. And behold, you, with
every opposite intention, are tempting me to let that go rotten, too.
But, O my Barbs, if you could only love me!"
Barbara drew a long breath. "I thought I was doing right."
"You _have_ done right. It is for me to do right."
"Well," she said, "I'm bitterly disappointed, and that's all there is to
it. Ought I to thank you for letting me off?"
"Then I thank you."
Neither spoke for a long time. At last Barbara said:
"When do you go West?"
"In a very few days."
"Then you will be able to go to Mr. Blizzard's party and hear him play."
"Are you still determined on that?"
"Why, yes. It will be fun. And besides, I haven't any husband to forbid
Wilmot's temper rose a little. "I'll go," he said shortly. "When will
the bust be finished? And the whole Blizzard episode?"
"I'm sure I don't know," said Barbara patiently. "But I think the
Blizzard episode--as you call it--is rather a permanent friendship. I
find reasons to like him, and to admire him."
Wilmot made no comment. He longed to speak evil of Blizzard, but the
fact of his financial obligation to the man kept him silent. He
contented himself with saying: "I'm glad that I haven't your artistic
judgment of character. One of these days you will learn, to your cost,
that men's judgment of a man is usually correct."
"I wish he had legs," said Barbara. "I'd like to do Prometheus bound to
Wilmot's disgust was intense. "Do you mean to say--" he began, and then
checked himself. "Why not have your father graft a pair on him? He's
succeeded, by all accounts, in doing so for all sorts of beasts."
"Do you know," said Barbara sweetly, "that is just what my father would
try to do for Mr. Blizzard if some interested person would only step
forward and supply the legs."
"I dare say Blizzard would find a pair quickly enough, if he thought
they could be attached."
"But how could he?"
"Oh, I'm just joking, Miss Innocence. But, seriously, he could buy a
pair for a price. You can buy anything in this world--except love,"
Blizzard, sitting in the sun on the steps of 17 McBurney Place, watched
the pair approaching in the runabout, noted as they drew near the
affectionate seriousness of their attitude toward each other--for they
had stopped talking of him and returned to themselves--and his whole
being burned suddenly with a rage of jealousy. Controlling the
expression of his face, he rose upon his crutches and descended the
steps to greet Barbara at the curb.
"Glad to see you!" said she. "And how about Wednesday night for the
party? Mr. Allen is coming, and I have asked three or four
The legless man bowed and said: "Thank you. Wednesday at half-past
He nodded affably to Allen, who returned the salute with all his
charming ease and courtesy. You might have mistaken them for two men who
really valued each other.
"Miss Ferris," said Blizzard, "I shall be ready for work as soon as you.
I wish to ask Mr. Allen a question."
Wilmot winced, since he noted a tone of command in Blizzard's voice, and
it jarred on him, and he said good-by to Barbara and watched her
disappear into the studio-building with a feeling of strong resentment
against the man who had to all intents and purposes dismissed her from
"Well?" he said curtly.
But Blizzard, enjoying the childish satisfaction of having separated the
pair, was no longer in the mood to take offence. "I wish to make a
proposition to you," he said, "but at some length. Will you come to my
place at three o'clock this afternoon? It is easier for you to get about
than for me."
"I am very busy," said Wilmot; "I am getting ready to go West."
"So I have gathered. Have you anything definite in view?"
"Not very," said Wilmot. "Nor any money to put it through with. About
the loan you were so kind as to make me, I can only say that I am going
to turn over a new leaf, and to work very hard at something or other. If
I have any luck you shall be paid."
The legless man dismissed the matter of the loan with a backward toss of
his head. "If you've nothing definite in view," said he, "please come at
three o'clock, I have interests in the West--legitimate interests, and
influence. Perhaps I can put you in a way to clear up your debts."
"Well, by George," said Wilmot, his good nature returning, "if that's
the idea, I'll turn up at three sharp. Sure thing."
Blizzard had upon his desk a specimen of the straw hats which the young
ladies of his establishment were kept so busy plaiting. At exactly three
o'clock he thrust it to one side, and at exactly the same moment the
bell of his street door clanged, and Wilmot Allen came in out of
"On time," said Blizzard, "thank you. Are you a judge of hats? Try that
Obediently Wilmot removed his own heavy yellowish straw, and substituted
the soft and pliant article indicated. It fitted him to perfection, and
the legless man smiled.
"It's yours," he said; "fold it up, and put it in your pocket."
"It'll break it."
"Here. Let me show you." And Blizzard folded the hat as if it had been a
linen handkerchief. "Very handy thing," he said, "and only to be
obtained as a gift. Sit down," Wilmot thrust the hat into his inside
pocket and sat down on the beggar's left, facing the light. The faint
hum of girls talking at their work came from the back of the
establishment. A whirling fan buzzed and bumped. The weather had
turned very hot.
"Young man," the beggar began abruptly, "if I had your legs I'd engage
in something more active and adventurous than the manufacture of straw
hats. Have you ever had the wish to be a soldier of fortune? To go about
the world redressing wrong, fighting upon the side of the oppressed?"
"Of course," said Wilmot simply.
"You are heavily in debt?"
"Whatever I may say to you will go no further?"
The legless man stroked his chin strongly with his thick fingers. "I am
engineering a little revolution," he said. "My own morals are
negligible. Any revolution that offered a profit would look good to me.
But in this case the revolutionary party _is_ oppressed, down-trodden,
robbed, starved, and murdered by conditions created by the party in
power. I am not yet at liberty to name you the part of the world in
which this state of affairs exists, that will be for later. Meanwhile,
if my proposition interests you, will you take my word for the place and
for the abuse of power? Indeed, the latter smells to heaven."
"South America," said Wilmot, "is full of just such rottenness as you
describe. I suppose you're speaking of some South American republic?"
"Maybe I am," said Blizzard, "and maybe I'm not. That will be for
later--for January 15th. On that date my soldiers of fortune will be
gathered in New York and told their destiny. I am hoping that you will
be one of the leaders."
"I know nothing of soldiering."
"Your record proves that you are a great hand with a rifle. It stands to
reason that you can teach the trick to others."
"Possibly," said Wilmot, "to a certain extent."
"I have," said Blizzard, "a number of scattered mining interests in
Utah. I wish you to travel among them teaching the men in relays to
shoot accurately and fast. This can be done without greatly interfering
with the working of the mines. You would be nominally under the command
of a man named O'Hagan, to whom I have written a letter introducing you,
on the chance that you might care to use it."
"Where," said Wilmot smiling, "does the business end of the affair
begin? I'm rotten with debts."
"For teaching my men to shoot," said Blizzard, "I will pay you the money
that you owe me. That's one debt written off."
"And how shall I live in the meanwhile?"
"I have empowered O'Hagan to pay you five hundred dollars a month."
"And the rest of my debts? How about them?"
"You will fight for down-trodden people," said Blizzard gravely. "If you
win, you will find them grateful--possibly beyond the dreams of avarice.
In the republic of which we are speaking there is wealth enough for all.
It is one of the richest little corners of God's footstool--gold,
diamonds, silver. If you succeed you will be on Easy Street. If you
fail, you will very likely get a bullet through your head."
Wilmot's face brightened. "If I got killed trying to pay 'em," said he,
"my creditors couldn't feel very nasty toward me, could they?"
A look of strong admiration came into Blizzard's hard eyes. "I like the
way your mind works," said he. "If you get killed in my service, I'll
pay your debts myself."
"I owe nearly a hundred thousand," said Wilmot.
"I've been worse stung," said Blizzard.
"Where the devil do you get all your money, Blizzard?"
"I've lived for money and power. I've been lucky, clever--and
"I like your frankness. But you are not letting me in for anything
"Your Revolutionary ancestors fought against just such forces as you are
to fight against--unjust taxation, abuse of power, and corruption in
high places. Are you going to serve?"
"I'm going it pretty blind, but I think so. I like the idea of fighting.
I like the idea of paying my debts. And at times I think a bullet in the
head would be a matter for self-congratulation."
"That," said Blizzard, "is the feeling of two classes of young
men--those who are tangled up with women and those who aren't."
Wilmot laughed, though the legless man's words brought the ache into his
"You will return to New York," Blizzard went on, "during the first half
"I had rather promised myself to keep out of New York for a year."
"It will be for only a few days. If you don't wish your presence in the
city known, I'll put you up in my house. Parts of it are as secret as
"All right. But supposing the revolution falls through before it ever
"I'll make you a bet," said Blizzard, smiling. "Please reach me that
black check-book." He wrote a check, blotted it, and showed it to
Wilmot. "This," he said, "against a penny! It will pay your debts. It's
payable at the City Bank on January 16th. Put it in your pocket."
"When do I start for Utah?"
"I hoped to come to your concert that night."
Blizzard shook his head. "You will hear better music," he said, "in the
West--rifles on the ranges. And by the way, don't lose that hat I gave
you. It must be where you can get it on the 15th of January."
To Wilmot a straw hat suggested the palm-groves of a South American
republic rather than the streets of New York in midwinter, and he said
so; but the legless man only smiled.
During those last days Barbara and Wilmot were together a great deal
Tuesday morning, by invitation, he watched her at work upon her bust of
Blizzard; afterward he took her to lunch and for a long drive through
Westchester County. That night they dined with Mr. Ferris, who,
immediately after dinner, excused himself, and withdrew to his
laboratory. Wednesday morning Barbara did no work, but drove about in a
taxicab with Wilmot and helped him shop. They lunched together, and she
went to the Grand Central to see him off. Where Wilmot found the time to
pack the things which they had bought in the morning was always
something of a mystery to them both.
As train-time approached the hearts of both these young people began to
beat very fast. Each felt that the good-bys presently to be said might
be forever. In his resolution not even to write to Barbara, Wilmot was
weakening pitiably. He wished that he had taken her at her word and
married her Monday when she was in the mood. Better Barbara unloving, he
thought, than this terrible emptiness and aching. His heart was proving
stronger than his mind. Short, more or less conventional phrases were
torn from him. Barbara, her heart beating faster and faster, said
The attention of her wonderful eyes was divided between the crowds and
the station clock. She could see the minute-hand move. Once in a while
she snatched, as it were, a look at Wilmot. His eyes were never lifted
from her face.
The gate for Wilmot's train was suddenly slid wide open with a horrid,
rasping noise, and people began to press upon the man who examined the
tickets. It was then that Barbara's roving and troubled eyes came to
rest, you may say, in Wilmot's, with a look so sweet, so confiding, so
trusting, that it seemed to the young man that the pain of separation
was going to be greater than he could bear. He lifted his hands as if to
take her in his arms, and stood there like a study in arrested motion.
"Best friend in the world," she said, the great eyes still in his, "most
charming companion in the world--man I've hurt so much and so
often--only say the word."
"What word? That I love you--love you--love you?"
They spoke in whispers.
"Stay with me," she said, "and for me--or take me with you. I can't bear
this. I can't bear it."
"You'd come--now--just as you are?"
"Do you love me?"
Slowly, like two things in anguish, her eyes turned from their steady
gazing into his. And, "I dare not say it," she said, "but I will go with
They were aware of something pressing toward them, and turning with a
common resentment against interruption, they found themselves looking
down upon the legless man.
"Just dropped in to say good-by and wish you good luck," he said.
His face wore a good-natured smile, and, quite innocent of
self-consciousness, brought confusion upon their last moments together.
The tentacles of unreasoning passion that each had been putting forth
were beaten down by it and aside.
"Better get a move on--time's up."
"Good-by, Wilmot," said Barbara swiftly. "Everything's all right. Good
luck to you and God bless you."
She turned, her lovely head drooping, and walked swiftly away.
A young man took off his hat and held it in his hands until she had
passed. He had been watching her and Wilmot, and incidentally the
legless man, for the last ten minutes. He hoped that she would look up
and speak to him, but her mind was given singly to sorrow. And she went
through the station to the street without knowing if it was crowded or
deserted. Harry West's sad eyes followed her until she was out of sight.
Then with a sort of wrench he turned once more to observe the actions of
the legless man. This one, however, having said cheerful good-bys to the
sulky and heartsick Wilmot, and having at the same time noted the
obtrusive nearness of the secret-service agent, had made swift use of
his crutches and stumps and was at the moment climbing into a
Whatever West's opinion may have been, Blizzard was making a
sufficiently innocent disposition of time. He had prevented an
elopement, perhaps. And he was on his way to a prominent florist to fill
his cab with flowers for the evening's entertainment.
He was in a curiously shy and nervous state of mind. There was perhaps
no man living whose hands were more nearly at home upon the key-board of
a piano, or whose mind was more disdainful of other people's opinions.
But of the fact that he was suffering from incipient stage fright there
could be no doubt whatever. Would this inoculate his playing, keep the
soul out of it? Or worse, would it cause him to strike wrong notes, and
even to forget whole passages, so that his guests, and of course
Barbara, would go away in the impression that they had heard a boastful
person make an ass of himself? He was almost minded to begin his concert
with an imitation of a virtuoso suffering from stage fright. If there
was going to be laughter, let it be thought that he was not the
irresponsible cause of it, but the deliberate and responsible. What
should he play? Violent things to get his hands in and his courage up,
and then Chopin? Let Chopin speak up on his behalf to Barbara; tell her
how he had suffered; how you must not judge him until you understood the
suffering; how there was still in him a soul that looked up from the
depths, and aspired to beautiful things? Yes, let Chopin speak to her,
plead with her, reason with her, show her, lead her.
He descended from the cab, and entered the florist's.
Barbara paid Blizzard the compliment of inviting only people who were
really fond of music to hear him play. The Braces, Adrian Savage, Blythe
the architect, young Morton Haddon, and Barbara herself, composed the
party. They dined on a roof, and then, occupying two taxicabs, started
for Marrow Lane in the highest spirits. But the East Side had its way
with them, and they reached their destination in a serious mood,
ashamed, perhaps, of being rich and fortunate, unhappy at feeling
themselves envied and hated. Bruce, Adrian Savage, and Barbara were in
the leading cab, a brand-new one smelling of leather, and of the
gardenia which Barbara was wearing. The filth of the East Side came no
nearer to them than the tires of the cab. They were, you may say,
insulated, enfortressed against squalor, poverty, crime, and discontent.
They were almost free to do as they pleased, as indeed their expedition
proved, and yet, such is the natural charity of the human heart, they
could not look from the windows of the cab and remain untroubled, or
fail to understand a little of those motives which turn the minds of the
unfortunate to thoughts of anarchy. There was no whole tragedy unrolled
before their eyes, not even a completed episode in one. It so happened
that they saw no one in tears or in liquor; on the contrary, they saw
many who laughed, many children playing games with and tricks upon one
another. Yet in its mirth the region was mirthless; its energy was not
physical, but nervous. It had an air of living intensely in the present,
for fear of remembering, for fear of looking ahead. And it needed but a
misunderstanding or a catchword to turn in a moment from recreation to
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