Tom Grogan by F. Hopkinson Smith
Part 2 out of 3
war, Schwartz had closed the brewery for several months rather
than submit to its dictation. The news, therefore, that the Union
had called a meeting and appointed a committee to wait on Mr.
Schwartz, to protest against his giving work to a non-union woman
filled them with alarm. The women remembered the privations and
suffering of that winter, and the three dollars a week doled out
to them by the Central Branch, while their husbands, who had been
earning two and three dollars a day, were drinking at O'Leary's
bar, playing cards, or listening to the encouraging talk of the
delegates who came from New York to keep up their spirits. The
brewery employed a larger number of men than any other concern in
Rockville, so trouble with its employees meant serious trouble for
half the village if Schwartz defied the Union and selected a
non-union woman to do the work.
They knew, too, something of the indomitable pluck and endurance
of Tom Grogan. If she were lowest on the bids, she would fight
for the contract, they felt sure, if it took her last dollar.
McGaw was a fool, they said, to bid so high; he might have known
she would cut his throat, and bring them no end of trouble.
Having nursed their resentment, and needing a common object for
their wrath, the women broke out against Tom. Many of them had
disliked her ever since the day, years ago, when she had been seen
carrying her injured husband away at night to the hospital, after
months of nursing at home. And the most envious had always
maintained that she meant at the time to put him away forever
where no one could find him, so that she might play the man
"Why should she be a-comin' in an' a-robbin' us of our pay?"
muttered a coarse, red-faced virago, her hair in a frowse about
her head, her slatternly dress open at the throat. "Oi'll be one
to go an' pull her off the dock and jump on her. What's she
a-doin', any-how, puttin' down prices! Ef her ole man had a leg
to walk on, instid of his lyin' to-day a cripple in the hospital,
he'd be back and be a-runnin' things."
"She's doin' what she's a right to do," broke out Mrs. Todd
indignantly. Mrs. Todd was the wife of the foreman at the
brewery, and an old friend of Tom's. Tom had sat up with her
child only the week before. Indeed, there were few women in the
tenements, for all their outcry, who did not know how quick had
been her hand to help when illness came, or the landlord
threatened the sidewalk, or the undertaker insisted on his money
"It's not Tom Grogan that's crooked," Mrs. Todd continued, "an' ye
all know it. It's that loafer, Dennis Quigg, and that old sneak,
Crimmins. They never lifted their hands on a decent job in their
lives, an' don't want to. When my man Jack was out of work for
four months last winter, and there wasn't a pail of coal in the
house, wasn't Quigg gittin' his four dollars a day for shootin'
off his mouth every night at O'Leary's, an' fillin' the men's
heads full of capital and rights? An' Dan McGaw's no better. If
ye're out for jumpin' on people, Mrs. Moriarty, begin with Quigg
an' some of the bummers as is runnin' the Union, an' as gits paid
whether the men works or not."
"Bedad, ye're roight," said half a dozen women, the tide turning
suddenly, while the excitement grew and spread, and other women
came in from the several smaller tenements.
"Is the trouble at the brewery?" asked a shrunken-looking woman,
opening a door on the corridor, a faded shawl over her head. She
was a new-comer, and had been in the tenement only a week or
so--not long enough to have the run of the house or to know her
"Yes; at Schwartz's," said Mrs. Todd, stopping opposite her door
on the way to her own rooms. "Your man's got a job there, ain't
"He has, mum; he's gateman--the fust job in six months. Ye don't
think they'll make him throw it up, do ye, mum?"
"Yes; an' break his head if he don't. Thet's what they did to my
man three years gone, till he had to come in with the gang and pay
'em two dollars a month," replied Mrs. Todd.
"But my man's jined, mum, a month ago; they wouldn't let him work
till he did. Won't ye come in an' set down? It's a poor place we
have--we've been so long without work, an' my girl's laid off with
a cough. She's been a-workin' at the box-factory. If the Union
give notice again, I don't know what'll become of us. Can't we do
somethin'? Maybe Mrs. Grogan might give up the work if she knew
how it was wid us. She seems like a dacent woman; she was in to
look at me girl last week, hearin' as how we were strangers an'
she very bad."
"Oh, ye don't know her. Ye can save yer wind and shoe-leather.
She's on ter McGaw red hot; that's the worst of it. He better
look out; she'll down him yet," said Mrs. Todd.
As the two entered the stuffy, close room for further discussion,
a young girl left her seat by the window, and moved into the
adjoining apartment. She had that yellow, waxy skin, hollow,
burning eyes, and hectic flush which tell the fatal story so
While the women of the tenements were cursing or wringing their
hands, the men were devoting themselves to more vigorous measures.
A meeting was called for nine o'clock at Lion Hall.
It was held behind closed doors. Two walking delegates from
Brooklyn were present, having been summoned by telegram the night
before, and who were expected to coax or bully the weak-kneed,
were the ultimatum sent to Schwartz refused and an order for a
sympathetic strike issued.
At the brewery all was quiet. Schwartz had read the notice left
on his desk by the committee the night before, and had already
begun his arrangements to supply the places of the men if a strike
were ordered. When pressed by Quigg for a reply, he said
"The price for hauling will be Grogan's bid. If she wants it, it
Tom talked the matter over with Pop, and had determined to buy
another horse and hire two extra carts. At her price there was a
margin of at least ten cents a ton profit, and as the work lasted
through the year, she could adjust the hauling of her other
business without much extra expense. She discussed the situation
with no one outside her house. If Schwartz wanted her to carry on
the work, she would do it, Union or no Union. Mr. Crane was on
her bond. That in itself was a bracing factor. Strong and
self-reliant as she was, the helping hand which this man held out
to her was like an anchor in a storm.
That Sunday night they were all gathered round the kerosene
lamp,--Pop reading, Cully and Patsy on the floor, Jennie listening
absent-mindedly, her thoughts far away,--when there came a knock
at the kitchen door. Jennie flew to open it.
Outside stood two women. One was Mrs. Todd, the other the
haggard, pinched, careworn woman who had spoken to her that
morning at her room-door in the tenement.
"They want to see you, mother," said Jennie, all the light gone
out of her eyes. What could be the matter with Carl, she thought.
It had been this way for a week.
"Well, bring 'em in. Hold on, I'll go meself."
"She would come, Tom," said Mrs. Todd, unwinding her shawl from
her head and shoulders; "an' ye mustn't blame me, fer it's none of
my doin's. Walk in, mum; ye can speak to her yerself. Why, where
is she?"--looking out of the door into the darkness. "Oh, here ye
are; I thought ye'd skipped."
"Do ye remember me?" said the woman, stepping into the room, her
gaunt face looking more wretched under the flickering light of the
candle than it had done in the morning. "I'm the new-comer in the
tenements. Ye were in to see my girl th'other night. We're in
"She's not dead?" said Tom, sinking into a chair.
"No, thank God; we've got her still wid us; but me man's come home
to-night nigh crazy. He's a-walkin' the floor this minute, an' so
I goes to Mrs. Todd, an' she come wid me. If he loses the job
now, we're in the street. Only two weeks' work since las' fall,
an' the girl gettin' worse every day, and every cint in the bank
gone, an' hardly a chair lef' in the place. An' I says to him,
'I'll go meself. She come in to see Katie th' other night; she'll
listen to me.' We lived in Newark, mum, an' had four rooms and a
mahogany sofa and two carpets, till the strike come in the
clock-factory, an' me man had to quit; an' then all winter--oh,
we're not used to the likes of this!"--covering her face with her
shawl and bursting into tears.
Tom had risen to her feet, her face expressing the deepest
sympathy for the woman, though she was at a loss to understand the
cause of her visitor's distress.
"Is yer man fired?" she asked.
"No, an' wouldn't be if they'd let him alone. He's sober an'
steady, an' never tastes a drop, and brings his money home to me
every Saturday night, and always done; an' now they"--
"Well, what's the matter, then?" Tom could not stand much beating
about the bush.
"Why, don't ye know they've give notice?" she said in
astonishment; then, as a misgiving entered her mind, "Maybe I'm
wrong; but me man an' all of 'em tells me ye're a-buckin' ag'in'
Mr. McGaw, an' that ye has the haulin' job at the brewery."
"No," said Tom, with emphasis, "ye're not wrong; ye're dead right.
But who's give notice?"
"The committee's give notice, an' the boss at the brewery says
he'll give ye the job if he has to shut up the brewery; an' the
committee's decided to-day that if he does they'll call out the
men. My man is a member, and so I come over"--And she rested her
head wearily against the door, the tears streaming down her face.
Tom looked at her wonderingly, and then, putting her strong arms
about her, half carried her across the kitchen to a chair by the
stove. Mrs. Todd leaned against the table, watching the sobbing
For a moment no one spoke. It was a new experience for Tom.
Heretofore the fight had been her own and for her own. She had
never supposed before that she filled so important a place in the
neighborhood, and for a moment there flashed across her mind a
certain justifiable pride in the situation. But this feeling was
momentary. Here was a suffering woman. For the first time she
realized that one weaker than herself might suffer in the
struggle. What could she do to help her? This thought was
uppermost in her mind.
"Don't ye worry," she said tenderly. "Schwartz won't fire yer
"No; but the sluggers will. There was five men 'p'inted to-day to
do up the scabs an' the kickers who won't go out. They near
killed him once in Newark for kickin'. It was that time, you
know, when Katie was first took bad."
"Do ye know their names?" said Tom, her eyes flashing.
"No, an' me man don't. He's new, an' they dar'sn't trust him. It
was in the back room, he says, they picked 'em out."
Tom stood for some moments in deep thought, gazing at the fire,
her arms akimbo. Then, wheeling suddenly, she opened the door of
the sitting-room, and said in a firm, resolute voice:--
"Gran'pop, come here; I want ye."
The old man laid down his book, and stood in the kitchen doorway.
He was in his shirt-sleeves, his spectacles on his forehead.
"Come inside the kitchen, an' shut that door behind ye. Here's me
friend Jane Todd an' a friend of hers from the tenement. That
thief of a McGaw has stirred up the Union over the haulin' bid,
and they've sent notice to Schwartz that I don't belong to the
Union, an' if he don't throw me over an' give the job to McGaw
they'll call out the men. If they do, there's a hundred women and
three times that many children that'll go hungry. This woman
here's got a girl herself that hasn't drawed a well breath for six
months, an' her man's been idle all winter, an' only just now got
a job at Schwartz's, tending gate. Now, what'll I do? Shall I
chuck up the job or stick?"
The old man looked into the desolate, weary face of the woman and
then at Tom. Then he said slowly:--
"Well, child, ye kin do widout it, an' maybe t' others can't."
"Ye've got it straight," said Tom; "that's just what I think
meself." Then, turning to the stranger:--
"Go home and tell yer man to go to bed. I'll touch nothin'
that'll break the heart of any woman. The job's McGaw's. I'll
throw up me bid."
WHAT A SPARROW SAW
Ever since the eventful morning when Carl had neglected the Big
Gray for a stolen hour with Jennie, Cully had busied himself in
devising ways of making the Swede's life miserable. With a boy's
keen insight, he had discovered enough to convince him that Carl
was "dead mashed on Jennie," as he put it, but whether "for keeps"
or not he had not yet determined. He had already enriched his
songs with certain tender allusions to their present frame of mind
and their future state of happiness. "Where was Moses when the
light went out!" and "Little Annie Rooney" had undergone so subtle
a change when sung at the top of Mr. James Finnegan's voice that
while the original warp and woof of those very popular melodies
were entirely unrecognizable to any but the persons interested, to
them they were as gall and wormwood. This was Cully's invariable
way of expressing his opinions on current affairs. He would sit
on the front-board of his cart,--the Big Gray stumbling over the
stones as he walked, the reins lying loose,--and fill the air with
details of events passing in the village, with all the gusto of a
variety actor. The impending strike at the brewery had been made
the basis of a paraphrase of "Johnnie, get your gun;" and even
McGaw's red head had come in for its share of abuse to the air of
"Fire, boys, fire!" So for a time this new development of
tenderness on the part of Carl for Jennie served to ring the
changes on "Moses" and "Annie Rooney."
Carl's budding hopes had been slightly nipped by the cold look in
Tom's eye when she asked him if it took an hour to give Jennie a
tattered apron. With some disappointment he noticed that except
at rare intervals, and only when Tom was at home, he was no longer
invited to the house. He had always been a timid, shrinking
fellow where a woman was concerned, having followed the sea and
lived among men since he was sixteen years old. During these
earlier years he had made two voyages in the Pacific, and another
to the whaling-ground in the Arctic seas. On this last voyage, in
a gale of wind, he had saved all the lives aboard a brig, the crew
helpless from scurvy. When the lifeboat reached the lee of her
stern, Carl at the risk of his life climbed aboard, caught a line,
and lowered the men, one by one, into the rescuing yawl. He could
with perfect equanimity have faced another storm and rescued a
second crew any hour of the day or night, but he could not face a
woman's displeasure. Moreover, what Tom wanted done was law to
Carl. She had taken him out of the streets and given him a home.
He would serve her in whatever way she wished as long as he lived.
He and Gran'pop were fast friends. On rainy days, or when work
was dull in the winter months, the old man would often come into
Carl's little chamber, next the harness-room in the stable, and
sit on his bed by the hour. And Carl would tell him about his
people at home, and show him the pictures tacked over his bed,
those of his old mother with her white cap, and of the young
sister who was soon to be married.
On Sundays Carl followed Tom and her family to church, waiting
until they had left the house. He always sat far back near the
door, so that he could see them come out. Then he would overtake
Pop with Patsy, whenever the little fellow could go. This was not
often, for now there were many days when the boy had to lie all
day on the lounge in the sitting-room, poring over his books or
playing with Stumpy, brought into the kitchen to amuse him.
Since the day of Tom's warning look, Carl rarely joined her
daughter. Jennie would loiter by the way, speaking to the girls,
but he would hang back. He felt that Tom did not want them
One spring morning, however, a new complication arose. It was a
morning when the sky was a delicate violet-blue, when the sunlight
came tempered through a tender land haze and a filmy mist from the
still sea, when all the air was redolent with sweet smells of
coming spring, and all the girls were gay in new attire. Dennis
Quigg had been lounging outside the church door, his silk hat and
green satin necktie glistening in the sun. When Jennie tripped
out Quigg started forward. The look on his face, as with swinging
shoulders he slouched beside her, sent a thrill of indignation
through Carl. He could give her up, perhaps, if Tom insisted, but
never to a man like Quigg. Before the walking delegate had
"passed the time of day," the young sailor was close beside
Jennie, within touch of her hand.
There was no love lost between the two men. Carl had not
forgotten the proposition Quigg had made to him to leave Tom's
employ, nor had Quigg forgotten the uplifted shovel with which his
proposal had been greeted. Yet there was no well-defined jealousy
between them. Mr. Walking Delegate Dennis Quigg, confidential
agent of Branch No. 3, Knights of Labor, had too good an opinion
of himself ever to look upon that "tow-headed duffer of a
stable-boy" in the light of a rival. Nor could Carl for a moment
think of that narrow-chested, red-faced, flashily dressed Knight
as being able to make the slightest impression on "Mees Jan."
Quigg, however, was more than welcome to Jennie to-day. A little
sense of wounded pride sent the hot color to her cheeks when she
thought of Carl's apparent neglect. He had hardly spoken to her
in weeks. What had she done that he should treat her so? She
would show him that there were just as good fellows about as Mr.
But all this faded out when Carl joined her--Carl, so straight,
clear-skinned, brown, and ruddy; his teeth so white; his eyes so
blue! She could see out of the corner of her eye how the hair
curled in tiny rings on his temples.
Still it was to Quigg she talked. And more than that, she gave
him her prayer-book to carry until she fixed her glove--the glove
that needed no fixing at all. And she chattered on about the
dance at the boat club, and the picnic which was to come off when
the weather grew warmer.
And Carl walked silent beside her, with his head up and his heart
down, and the tears very near his eyes.
When they reached the outer gate of the stable-yard, and Quigg had
slouched off without even raising his hat,--the absence of all
courtesy stands in a certain class for a mark of higher
respect,--Carl swung back the gate, and held it open for her to
pass in. Jennie loitered for a moment. There was a look in
Carl's face she had not seen before. She had not meant to hurt
him, she said to herself.
"What mak' you no lak me anna more, Mees Jan? I big annough to
carry da buke," said Carl.
"Why, how you talk, Carl! I never said such a word," said Jennie,
leaning over the fence, her heart fluttering.
The air was soft as a caress. Opal-tinted clouds with violet
shadows sailed above the low hills. In the shade of the fence
dandelions had burst into bloom. From a bush near by a
song-sparrow flung a note of spring across the meadow.
"Well, you nev' cam' to stable anna more, Mees Jan," Carl said
slowly, in a tender, pleading tone, his gaze on her face.
The girl reached through the fence for the golden flower. She
dared not trust herself to look. She knew what was in her lover's
"I get ta flower," said Carl, vaulting the fence with one hand.
"No; please don't trouble. Oh, Carl!" she exclaimed suddenly.
"The horrid brier! My hand's all scratched! "
"Ah, Mees Jan, I so sorry! Let Carl see it," he said, his voice
melting. "I tak' ta brier out," pushing back the tangled vines of
last year to bring himself nearer.
The clouds sailed on. The sparrow stood, on its tallest toes and
twisted its little neck.
"Oh, please do, Carl, it hurts so!" she said, laying her little
round hand in the big, strong, horny palm that had held the
life-line the night of the wreck.
The song-sparrow clung to the swaying top of a mullein-stalk near
by, and poured out a strong, swelling, joyous song that well-nigh
split its throat.
When Tom called Jennie, half an hour later, she and Carl were
still talking across the fence.
CULLY WINS BY A NECK
About this time the labor element in the village and vicinity was
startled by an advertisement in the Rockville "Daily News," signed
by the clerk of the Board of Village Trustees, notifying
contractors that thirty days thereafter, closing at nine P.M.
precisely, separate sealed proposals would be received at the
meeting-room of the board, over the post-office, for the hauling
of twenty thousand cubic yards of fine crushed stone for use on
the public highways; bidders would be obliged to give suitable
bonds, etc.; certified check for five hundred dollars to accompany
each bid as guaranty, etc.
The news was a grateful surprise to the workingmen. The hauling
and placing of so large an amount of material as soon as spring
opened meant plenty of work for many shovelers and pickers. The
local politicians, of course, had known all about it for weeks;
especially those who owned property fronting on the streets to be
improved: they had helped the appropriation through the finance
committee. McGaw, too, had known about it from the first day of
its discussion before the board. Those who were inside the ring
had decided then that he would be the best man to haul the stone.
The "steal," they knew, could best be arranged in the tally of the
carts--the final check on the scow measurement. They knew that
McGaw's accounts could be controlled, and the total result easily
"fixed." The stone itself had been purchased of the manufacturers
the year before, but there were not funds enough to put it on the
roads at that time.
Here, then, was McGaw's chance. His triumph at obtaining the
brewery contract was but short-lived. Schwartz had given him the
work, but at Tom's price, not at his own. McGaw had accepted it,
hoping for profits that would help him with his chattel mortgage.
After he had been at work for a month, however, he found that he
ran behind. He began to see that, in spite of its boastings, the
Union had really done nothing for him, except indirectly with its
threatened strike. The Union, on the other hand, insisted that it
had been McGaw's business to arrange his own terms with Schwartz.
What it had done was to kill Grogan as a competitor, and knock her
non-union men out of the job. This ended its duty.
While they said this much to McGaw; so far as outsiders could
know, the Union claimed that they had scored a brilliant victory.
The Brooklyn and New York branches duly paraded it as another
triumph over capital, and their bank accounts were accordingly
increased with new dues and collections.
With this new contract in his possession, McGaw felt certain he
could cancel his debt with Crane and get even with the world. He
began his arrangements at once. Police-Justice Rowan, the
prospective candidate for the Assembly, who had acquired some
landed property by the purchase of expired tax titles, agreed to
furnish the certified check for five hundred dollars and to sign
McGaw's bond for a consideration to be subsequently agreed upon.
A brother of Rowan's, a contractor, who was finishing some grading
at Quarantine Landing, had also consented, for a consideration, to
loan McGaw what extra teams he required.
The size of the contract was so great, and the deposit check and
bond were so large, that McGaw concluded at once that the
competition would be narrowed down between himself and Rowan's
brother, with Justice Rowan as backer, and perhaps one other firm
from across the island, near New Brighton. His own advantage over
other bidders was in his living on the spot, with his stables and
teams near at hand.
Tom, he felt assured, was out of the way. Not only was the
contract very much too large for her, requiring twice as many
carts as she possessed, but now that the spring work was about to
begin, and Babcock's sea-wall work to be resumed, she had all the
stevedoring she could do for her own customers, without going
outside for additional business.
Moreover, she had apparently given up the fight, for she had bid
on no work of any kind since the morning she had called upon
Schwartz and told him, in her blunt, frank way, "Give the work to
McGaw at me price. It's enough and fair."
Tom, meanwhile, made frequent visits to New York, returning late
at night. One day she brought home a circular with cuts of
several improved kinds of hoisting-engines with automatic
dumping-buckets. She showed them to Pop under the kerosene lamp
at night, explaining to him their advantages in handling small
material like coal or broken stone. Once she so far relaxed her
rules in regard to Jennie's lover as to send for Carl to come to
the house after supper, questioning him closely about the upper
rigging of a new derrick she had seen. Carl's experience as a
sailor was especially valuable in matters of this kind. He could
not only splice a broken "fall," and repair the sheaves and
friction-rollers in a hoisting-block, but whenever the rigging got
tangled aloft he could spring up the derrick like a cat and
unreeve the rope in an instant. She also wrote to Babcock, asking
him to stop at her house some morning on his way to the Quarantine
Landing, where he was building a retaining-wall; and when he
arrived, she took him out to the shed where she kept her heavy
derricks. That more experienced contractor at once became deeply
interested, and made a series of sketches for her, on the back of
an envelope, of an improved pintle and revolving-cap which he
claimed would greatly improve the working of her derricks. These
sketches she took to the village blacksmith next day, and by that
night had an estimate of their cost. She was also seen one
morning, when the new trolley company got rid of its old stock, at
a sale of car-horses, watching the prices closely, and examining
the condition of the animals sold. She asked the superintendent
to drop her a postal when the next sale occurred. To her
neighbors, however, and even to her own men, she said nothing.
The only man in the village to whom she had spoken regarding the
new work was the clerk of the board, and then only casually as to
the exact time when the bids would be received.
The day before the eventful night when the proposals were to be
opened, Mr. Crane, in his buggy, stopped at her house on his way
back from the fort, and they drove together to the ferry. When
she returned she called Pop into the kitchen, shut the door, and
showed him the bid duly signed and a slip of pink paper. This was
a check of Crane & Co.'s to be deposited with the bid. Then she
went down to the stable and had a long conference with Cully.
The village Board of Trustees consisted of nine men, representing
a fair average of the intelligence and honesty of the people. The
president was a reputable hardware merchant, a very good citizen,
who kept a store largely patronized by local contractors. The
other members were two lawyers,--young men working up in practice
with the assistance of a political pull,--a veterinary surgeon,
and five gentlemen of leisure, whose only visible means of support
were derived from pool-rooms and ward meetings. Every man on the
board, except the surgeon and the president, had some particular
axe to grind. One wished to be sheriff; another, county clerk.
The five gentlemen of leisure wished to stay where they were.
When a pie was cut, these five held the knife. It was their
fault, they said, when they went hungry.
In the side of this body politic the surgeon was a thorn as sharp
as any one of his scalpels. He was a hard-headed, sober-minded
Scotchman, who had been elected to represent a group of his
countrymen living in the eastern part of the village, and whose
profession, the five supposed, indicated without doubt his entire
willingness to see through a cart-wheel, especially when the hub
was silver-plated. At the first meeting of the board they learned
their mistake, but it did not worry them much. They had seven
votes to two.
The council-chamber of the board was a hall--large for
Rockville--situated over the post-office, and only two doors from
O'Leary's barroom It was the ordinary village hall, used for
everything from a Christmas festival to a prize-fight. In summer
it answered for a skating-rink.
Once a month the board occupied it. On these occasions a sort of
rostrum was brought in for the president, besides a square table
and a dozen chairs. These were placed at one end, and were
partitioned off by a wooden rail to form an inclosure, outside of
which always stood the citizens. On the wall hung a big eight-day
clock. Over the table, about which were placed chairs, a kerosene
lamp swung on a brass chain. Opposite each seat lay a square of
blotting-paper and some cheap pens and paper. Down the middle of
the table were three inkstands, standing in china plates.
The board always met in the evening, as the business hours of the
members prevented their giving the day to their deliberations.
Upon the night of the letting of the contract the first man to
arrive was McGaw. He ran up the stairs hurriedly, found no one he
was looking for, and returned to O'Leary's, where he was joined by
Justice Rowan and his brother John, the contractor, Quigg,
Crimmins, and two friends of the Union. During the last week the
Union was outspoken in its aid of McGaw, and its men had quietly
passed the word of "Hands off this job!" about in the
neighborhood. If McGaw got the work--and there was now not the
slightest doubt of it--he would, of course, employ all Union men.
If anybody else got it--well, they would attend to him later.
"One thing was certain: no 'scab' from New Brighton should come
over and take it." They'd do up anybody who tried that game.
When McGaw, surrounded by his friends entered the board-room
again, the place was full. Outside the rail stood a solid mass of
people. Inside every seat was occupied. It was too important a
meeting for any trustee to miss.
McGaw stood on his toes and looked over the heads. To his
delight, Tom was not in the room, and no one representing her. If
he had had any lingering suspicion of her bidding, her
non-appearance allayed it. He knew now that she was out of the
race. Moreover, no New Brighton people had come. He whispered
this information to Justice Rowan's brother behind his big,
speckled hand covered with its red, spidery hair. Then the two
forced their way out again, reentered the post-office, and
borrowed a pen. Once there, McGaw took from his side pocket two
large envelopes, the contents of which he spread out under the
"I'm dead roight," said McGaw. "I'll put up the price of this
other bid. There ain't a man round here that dares show his head.
The Union's fixed 'em."
"Will the woman bid?" asked his companion.
"The woman! What'd she be a-doin' wid a bid loike that? She
c'u'dn't handle the half of it. I'll wait till a few minutes to
nine o'clock. Ye kin fix up both these bids an' hold 'em in yer
pocket. Thin we kin see what bids is laid on the table. Ours'll
go in last. If there's nothin' else we'll give'em the high one.
I'll git inside the rail, so's to be near the table."
When the two squeezed back through the throng again into the
board-room, even the staircase was packed. McGaw pulled off his
fur cap and struggled past the rail, bowing to the president. The
justice's brother stood outside, within reach of McGaw's hand.
McGaw glanced at the clock and winked complacently at his
prospective partner--not a single bid had been handed in. Then he
thrust out his long arm, took from Rowan's brother the big
envelope containing the higher bid, and dropped it on the table.
Just then there was a commotion at the door. Somebody was trying
to force a passage in. The president rose from his chair, and
looked over the crowd. McGaw started from his chair, looked
anxiously at the clock, then at his partner. The body of a boy
struggling like an eel worked its way through the mass, dodged
under the wooden bar, and threw an envelope on the table.
"Dat's Tom Grogan's bid," he said, looking at the president.
"Hully gee! but dat was a close shave! She telled me not ter
dump it till one minute o' nine, an' de bloke at de door come near
sp'ilin' de game till I give him one in de mug."
At this instant the clock struck nine, and the president's gavel
"Time's up," said the Scotchman.
A TWO-DOLLAR BILL
The excitement over the outcome of the bidding was intense. The
barroom at O'Leary's was filled with a motley crowd of men, most
of whom belonged to the Union, and all of whom had hoped to profit
in some way had the contract fallen into the hands of the
political ring who were dominating the affairs of the village.
The more hot-headed and outspoken swore vengeance; not only
against the horse-doctor, who had refused to permit McGaw to
smuggle in the second bid, but against Crane & Co. and everybody
else who had helped to defeat their schemes. They meant to
boycott Crane before tomorrow night. He should not unload or
freight another cargo of coal until they allowed it. The village
powers, they admitted, could not be boycotted, but they would do
everything they could to make it uncomfortable for the board if it
awarded the contract to Grogan. Neither would they forget the
trustees at the next election. As to that "smart Alec" of a
horse-doctor, they knew how to fix him. Suppose it had struck
nine and the polls had closed, what right had he to keep McGaw
from handing in his other bid? (Both were higher than Tom's.
This fact, however, McGaw had never mentioned.)
Around the tenements the interest was no less marked. Mr.
Moriarty had sent the news of Tom's success ringing through
O'Leary's, and Mrs. Moriarty, waiting outside the barroom door for
the pitcher her husband had filled for her inside, had spread its
details through every hallway in the tenement.
"Ah, but Tom's a keener," said that gossip. "Think of that little
divil Cully jammed behind the door with her bid in his hand,
a-waitin' for the clock to get round to two minutes o' nine, an'
that big stuff Dan McGaw sittin' inside wid two bids up his
sleeve! Oh, but she's cunnin', she is! Dan's clean beat. He'll
niver haul a shovel o' that stone."
"How'll she be a-doin' a job like that?" came from a woman
listening over the banisters.
"Be doin'?" rejoined a red-headed virago. "Wouldn't ye be doin'
it yerself if ye had that big coal-dealer behind ye?"
"Oh, we hear enough. Who says they're in it?" rejoined a third
"Pete Lathers says so--the yard boss. He was a-tellin' me man
On consulting Justice Rowan the next morning, McGaw and his
friends found but little comfort. The law was explicit, the
justice said. The contract must be given to the lowest
responsible bidder. Tom had deposited her certified check of five
hundred dollars with the bid, and there was no informality in her
proposal. He was sorry for McGaw, but if Mrs. Grogan signed the
contract there was no hope for him. The horse-doctor's action was
right. If McGaw's second bid had been received, it would simply
have invalidated both of his, the law forbidding two from the same
Rowan's opinion sustaining Tom's right was a blow he did not
expect. Furthermore, the justice offered no hope for the future.
The law gave Tom the award, and nothing could prevent her hauling
the stone if she signed the contract. These words rang in McGaw's
ears--if she signed the contract. On this if hung his only hope.
Rowan was too shrewd a politician, now that McGaw's chances were
gone, to advise any departure, even by a hair-line, from the
strict letter of the law. He was, moreover, too upright as a
justice to advise any member of the defeated party to an overt act
which might look like unfairness to any bidder concerned. He had
had a talk, besides, with his brother over night, and they had
accordingly determined to watch events. Should a way be found of
rejecting on legal grounds Tom's bid, making a new advertisement
necessary, Rowan meant to ignore McGaw altogether, and have his
brother bid in his own name. This determination was strengthened
when McGaw, in a burst of confidence, told Rowan of his present
From Rowan's the complaining trio adjourned to O'Leary's barroom.
Crimmins and McGaw entered first. Quigg arrived later. He closed
one eye meaningly as he entered, and O'Leary handed a brass key to
him over the bar with the remark, "Stamp on the floor three
toimes, Dinny, an' I'll send yez up what ye want to drink." Then
Crimmins opened a door concealed by a wooden screen, and the three
disappeared upstairs. Crimmins reappeared within an hour, and
hurried out the front door. In a few moments he returned with
Justice Rowan, who had adjourned court. Immediately after the
justice's arrival there came three raps from the floor above, and
O'Leary swung back the door, and disappeared with an assortment of
drinkables on a tray.
The conference lasted until noon. Then the men separated outside
the barroom. From the expression on the face of each one as he
emerged from the door it was evident that the meeting had not
produced any very cheering or conclusive results. McGaw had that
vindictive, ugly, bulldog look about the eyes and mouth which
always made his wife tremble when he came home. The result of the
present struggle over the contract was a matter of life or death
to him. His notes, secured by the chattel mortgage on his live
stock, would be due in a few days. Crane had already notified him
that they must be paid, and he knew enough of his moneylender, and
of the anger which he had roused, to know that no extension would
be granted him. Losing this contract, he had lost his only hope
of paying them. Had it been awarded him, he could have found a
dozen men who would have loaned him the money to take up these
notes and so to pay Crane. He had comforted himself the night
before with the thought that Justice Rowan could find some way to
help him out of his dilemma; that the board would vote as the
justice advised, and then, of course, Tom's bid would be
invalidated. Now even this hope had failed him. "Whoever heard
of a woman's doing a job for a city?" he kept repeating
mechanically to himself.
Tom knew of none of these conspiracies. Had she done so they
would not have caused her a moment's anxiety. Here was a fight in
which no one would suffer except the head that got in her way, and
she determined to hit that with all her might the moment it rose
into view. This was no brewery contract, she argued with Pop,
where five hundred men might be thrown out of employment, with all
the attendant suffering to women and children. The village was a
power nobody could boycott. Moreover, the law protected her in
her rights under the award. She would therefore quietly wait
until the day for signing the papers arrived, furnish her bond,
and begin a work she could superintend herself. In the meantime
she would continue her preparations. One thing she was resolved
upon--she would have nothing to do with the Union. Carl could lay
his hand on a dozen of his countrymen who would be glad to get
employment with her. If they were all like him she need have no
fear in any emergency.
She bought two horses--great strong ones,--at the trolley sale,
and ordered two new carts from a manufacturer in Newark, to be
sent to her on the first of the coming month.
Her friends took her good fortune less calmly. Their genuine
satisfaction expressed itself in a variety of ways. Crane sent
her this characteristic telegram:--
"Bully for you!"
Babcock came all the way down to her home to offer her his
congratulations, and to tender her what assistance she needed in
tools or money.
The Union, in their deliberations, insisted that it was the
"raised bid" which had ruined the business with McGaw and for
them. It was therefore McGaw's duty to spare no effort to prevent
her signing the contract. They had stuck by him in times gone by;
he must now stick by them. One point was positively insisted
upon: Union men must be employed on the work, whoever got it.
McGaw, however, was desperate. He denounced Tom in a vocabulary
peculiar to himself and full of innuendoes and oaths, but without
offering any suggestion as to how his threats against her might be
With his usual slyness, Quigg said very little openly. He had not
yet despaired of winning Jennie's favor, and until that hope was
abandoned he could hardly make up his mind which side of the fence
he was on. Crimmins was even more indifferent in regard to the
outcome--his pay as walking delegate went on, whichever side won;
he could wait.
In this emergency McGaw again sought Crimmins's assistance. He
urged the importance of his getting the contract, and he promised
to make Crimmins foreman on the street, and to give him a share in
the profits, if he would help him in some way to get the work now.
The first step, he argued, was the necessity of crushing Tom.
Everything else would be easy after that. Such a task, he felt,
would not be altogether uncongenial to Crimmins, still smarting
under Tom's contemptuous treatment of him the day he called upon
her in his capacity of walking delegate.
McGaw's tempting promise made a deep impression upon Crimmins. He
determined then and there to inflict some blow on Tom Grogan from
which she could never recover. He was equally determined on one
other thing--not to be caught.
Early the next morning Crimmins stationed himself outside
O'Leary's where he could get an uninterrupted view of two streets.
He stood hunched up against the jamb of O'Leary's door in the
attitude of a corner loafer, with three parts of his body touching
the wood--hip, shoulder, and cheek. For some time no one appeared
in sight either useful or inimical to his plans, until Mr. James
Finnegan, who was filling the morning air with one of his
characteristic songs, brightened the horizon up the street to his
Cully's unexpected appearance at that moment produced so
uncomfortable an effect upon Mr. Crimmins that that gentleman fell
instantly back through the barroom door.
The boy's quick eye caught the movement, and it also caught a
moment later, Mr. Crimmins's nose and watery eye peering out again
when their owner had assured himself that his escape had been
unseen. Cully slackened his pace to see what new move Crimmins
would make--but without the slightest sign of recognition on his
face--and again broke into song. He was on his way to get the
mail, and had passed McGaw's house but a few moments before, in
the hope that that worthy Knight might be either leaning over the
fence or seated on the broken-down porch. He was anxious McGaw
should hear a few improvised stanzas of a new ballad he had
composed to that delightful old negro melody, "Massa's in de cold,
cold ground," in which the much-beloved Southern planter and the
thoroughly hated McGaw changed places in the cemetery.
That valiant Knight was still in bed, exhausted by the labors of
the previous evening. Young Billy, however, was about the
stables, and so Mr. James Finnegan took occasion to tarry long
enough in the road for the eldest son of his enemy to get the
stanza by heart, in the hope that he might retail it to his father
when he appeared.
Billy dropped his manure-fork as soon as Cully had moved on again,
and dodging behind the fence, followed him toward the post-office,
hoping to hit the singer with a stone.
When the slinking body of McGaw's eldest son became visible to Mr.
Crimmins, his face broke into creases so nearly imitative of a
smile that his best friend would not have known him. He slapped
the patched knees of his overalls gayly, bent over in a subdued
chuckle, and disported himself in a merry and much satisfied way.
His rum-and-watery eyes gleamed with delight, and even his
chin-whisker took on a new vibration. Next he laid one finger
along his nose, looked about him cautiously, and said to himself,
in an undertone:--
"The very boy! It'll fix McGaw dead to rights, an' ther' won't be
no squealin' after it's done."
Here he peered around the edge of one of O'Leary's drawn
window-shades, and waited until Cully had passed the barroom,
secured his mail, and started for home, his uninterrupted song
filling the air. Then he opened the blind very cautiously, and
beckoned to Billy.
Cully's eye caught the new movement as he turned the corner. His
song ceased. When Mr. Finnegan had anything very serious on his
mind he never sang.
When, some time after, Billy emerged from O'Leary's door, he had a
two-dollar bill tightly squeezed in his right hand. Part of this
he spent on his way home for a box of cigarettes; the balance he
invested in a mysterious-looking tin can. The can was narrow and
long and had a screw nozzle at one end. This can Cully saw him
hide in a corner of his father's stable.
CULLY'S NIGHT OUT
Ever since the night Cully, with the news of the hair-breadth
escape of the bid, had dashed back to Tom, waiting around the
corner, he had been the hero of the hour. As she listened to his
description of McGaw when her bid dropped on the table--"Lookin'
like he'd eat sumpin' he couldn't swaller--see?" her face was
radiant, and her sides shook with laughter. She had counted upon
McGaw falling into her trap, and she was delighted over the
success of her experiment. Tom had once before caught him raising
a bid when he discovered that but one had been offered.
In recognition of these valuable services Tom had given Cully two
tickets for a circus which was then charming the inhabitants of
New Brighton, a mile or more away, and he and Carl were going the
following night. Mr. Finnegan was to wear a black sack-coat, a
derby hat, and a white shirt which Jennie, in the goodness of her
heart, had ironed for him herself. She had also ironed a scarf of
Carl's, and had laid it on the window-sill of the outer kitchen,
where Cully might find it as he passed by.
The walks home from church were now about the only chance the
lovers had of being together. Almost every day Carl was off with
the teams. When he did come home in working hours he would take
his dinner with the men and boys in the outer kitchen. Jennie
sometimes waited on them, but he rarely spoke to her as she passed
in and out, except with his eyes.
When Cully handed him the scarf, Carl had already dressed himself
in his best clothes, producing so marked a change in the outward
appearance of the young Swede that Cully in his admiration
pronounced him "out o' sight."
Cully's metamorphosis was even more complete than Carl's. Now
that the warm spring days were approaching, Mr. Finnegan had
decided that his superabundant locks were unseasonable, and had
therefore had his hair cropped close to his scalp, showing here
and there a white scar, the record of some former scrimmage.
Reaching to the edge of each ear was a collar as stiff as
pasteboard. His derby was tilted over his left eyebrow, shading a
face brimming over with fun and expectancy. Below this was a
vermilion-colored necktie and a black coat and trousers. His
shoes sported three coats of blacking, which only partly concealed
the dust-marks of his profession.
"Hully gee, Carl! but de circus's a-goin' ter be a dandy," he
called out in delight, as he patted a double shuffle with his
feet. "I see de picters on de fence when I come from de ferry.
Dere's a chariot-race out o' sight, an' a' elephant what stands on
'is head. Hold on till I see ef de Big Gray 's got enough beddin'
under him. He wuz awful stiff dis mornin' when I helped him up."
Cully never went to bed without seeing the Gray first made
comfortable for the night.
The two young fellows saw all the sights, and after filling their
pockets with peanuts and themselves with pink lemonade, took their
seats at last under the canvas roof, where they waited impatiently
for the performance to begin.
The only departure from the ordinary routine was Cully's instant
acceptance of the clown's challenge to ride the trick mule, and
his winning the wager amid the plaudits of the audience, after a
rough-and-tumble scramble in the sawdust, sticking so tight to his
back that a bystander remarked that the only way to get the boy
off would be to "peel the mule."
When they returned it was nearly midnight. Cully had taken off
his "choker," as he called it, and had curled it outside his hat,
They had walked over from the show, and the tight clutch of the
collar greatly interfered with Cully's discussion of the wonderful
things he had seen. Besides, the mule had ruined it completely
for a second use.
It was a warm night for early spring, and Carl had his coat over
his arm. When they reached the outer stable fence--the one
nearest the village--Cully's keen nose scented a peculiar odor.
"Who's been a breakin' de lamp round here, Carl?" he asked,
sniffing close to the ground. "Holy smoke! Look at de light in
de stable--sumpin' mus' be de matter wid de Big Gray, or de ole
woman wouldn't be out dis time o' night wid a lamp. What would
she be a-doin' out here, anyway?" he exclaimed in a sudden
anxious tone. "Dis ain't de road from de house. Hully gee! Look
out for yer coat! De rails is a-soakin' wid ker'sene!"
At this moment a little flame shot out of the window over the Big
Gray's head and licked its way up the siding, followed by a column
of smoke which burst through the door in the hay-loft above the
stalls of the three horses next the bedroom of Carl and Cully. A
window was hastily opened in Tom's house and a frightened shriek
broke the stillness of the night. It was Jennie's voice, and it
had a tone of something besides alarm.
What the sight of the fire had paralyzed in Carl, the voice awoke.
"No, no! I here--I safe, Jan!" he cried, clearing the fence with
Cully did not hear Jennie. He saw only the curling flames over
the Big Gray's head. As he dashed down the slope he kept
muttering the old horse's pet names, catching his breath, and
calling to Carl, "Save de Gray--save Ole Blowhard!"
Cully reached the stable first, smashed the padlock with a shovel,
and rushed into the Gray's stall. Carl seized a horse-bucket, and
began sousing the window-sills of the harness-room, where the fire
By this time the whole house was aroused. Tom, dazed by the
sudden awakening, with her ulster thrown about her shoulders,
stood barefooted on the porch. Jennie was still at the window,
sobbing as if her heart would break, now that Carl was safe.
Patsy had crawled out of his low crib by his mother's bed, and was
stumbling downstairs, one foot at a time. Twice had Cully tried
to drag the old horse clear of his stall, and twice had he fallen
back for fresh air. Then came a smothered cry from inside the
blinding smoke, a burst of flame lighting up the stable, and the
Big Gray was pushed out, his head wrapped in Carl's coat, the
Swede pressing behind, Cully coaxing him on, his arms around the
Hardly had the Big Gray cleared the stable when the roof of the
small extension fell, and a great burst of flame shot up into the
night air. All hope of rescuing the other two horses was now
Tom did not stand long dazed and bewildered. In a twinkling she
had drawn on a pair of men's boots over her bare feet, buckled her
ulster over her night-dress, and rushed back upstairs to drag the
blankets from the beds. Laden with these she sprang down the
steps, called to Jennie to follow, soaked the bedding in the
water-trough, and, picking up the dripping mass, carried it to
Carl and Cully, who, now that the Gray was safely tied to the
kitchen porch, were on the roof of the tool-house, fighting the
sparks that fell on the shingles.
By this time the neighbors began to arrive from the tenements.
Tom took charge of every man as soon as he got his breath,
stationed two at the pump-handle, and formed a line of
bucket-passers from the water-trough to Carl and Cully, who were
spreading the blankets on the roof. The heat now was terrific;
Carl had to shield his face with his sleeve as he threw the water.
Cully lay flat on the shingles, holding to the steaming blankets,
and directing Carl's buckets with his outstretched finger when
some greater spark lodged and gained headway. If they could keep
these burning brands under until the heat had spent itself, they
could perhaps save the tool-house and the larger stable.
All this time Patsy had stood on the porch where Tom had left him
hanging over the railing wrapped in Jennie's shawl. He was not to
move until she came for him: she wanted him out of the way of
trampling feet. Now and then she would turn anxiously, catch
sight of his wizened face dazed with fright, wave her hand to him
encouragingly, and work on.
Suddenly the little fellow gave a cry of terror and slid from the
porch, trailing the shawl after him, his crutch jerking over the
ground, his sobs almost choking him.
"Mammy! Cully! Stumpy's tied in the loft! Oh, somebody help me!
He's in the loft! Oh, please, please!"
In the roar of the flames nobody heard him. The noise of axes
beating down the burning fences drowned all other sounds. At this
moment Tom was standing on a cart, passing up the buckets to Carl.
Cully had crawled to the ridge-pole of the tool-house to watch
both sides of the threatened roof.
The little cripple made his way slowly into the crowd nearest the
sheltered side of the tool-house, pulling at the men's coats,
pleading with them to save his goat, his Stumpy.
On this side was a door opening into a room where the chains were
kept. From it rose a short flight of six or seven steps leading
to the loft. This loft had two big doors--one closed, nearest the
fire, and the other wide open, fronting the house. When the roof
of the burning stable fell, the wisps of straw in the cracks of
the closed door burst into flame.
Within three feet of this blazing mass, shivering with fear,
tugging at his rope, his eyes bursting from his head, stood
Stumpy, his piteous bleatings unheard in the surrounding roar. A
child's head appeared above the floor, followed by a cry of joy as
the boy flung himself upon the straining rope. The next instant a
half-frenzied goat sprang through the open door and landed in the
yard below in the midst of the startled men and women.
Tom was on the cart when she saw this streak of light flash out of
the darkness of the loft door and disappear. Her eyes
instinctively turned to look at Patsy in his place on the porch.
Then a cry of horror burst from the crowd, silenced instantly as a
piercing shriek filled the air.
"My God! It's me Patsy!"
Bareheaded in the open doorway of the now blazing loft, a
silhouette against the flame, his little white gown reaching to
his knees, his crutch gone, the stifling smoke rolling out in
great whirls above his head, stood the cripple!
Tom hurled herself into the crowd, knocking the men out of her
way, and ran towards the chain room door. At this instant a man
in his shirt-sleeves dropped from the smoking roof, sprang in
front of her, and caught her in his arms.
"No, not you go; Carl go!" he said in a firm voice, holding her
Before she could speak he snatched a handkerchief from a woman's
neck, plunged it into the water of the horse-trough, bound it
about his head, dashed up the short flight of steps, and crawled
toward the terror-stricken child. There was a quick clutch, a
bound back, and the smoke rolled over them, shutting man and child
The crowd held their breath as it waited. A man with his hair
singed and his shirt on fire staggered from the side door. In his
arms he carried the almost lifeless boy, his face covered by the
A woman rushed up, caught the boy in her arms, and sank on her
knees. The man reeled and fell.
. . . . . . .
When Carl regained consciousness, Jennie was bending over him,
chafing his hands and bathing his face. Patsy was on the sofa,
wrapped in Jennie's shawl. Pop was fanning him. Carl's wet
handkerchief, the old man said, had kept the boy from suffocating.
The crowd had begun to disperse. The neighbors and strangers had
gone their several ways. The tenement-house mob were on the road
to their beds. Many friends had stopped to sympathize, and even
the bitterest of Tom's enemies said they were glad it was no
When the last of them had left the yard, Tom, tired out with
anxiety and hard work, threw herself down on the porch. The
morning was already breaking, the gray streaks of dawn brightening
the east. From her seat she could hear through the open door the
soothing tones of Jennie's voice as she talked to her lover, and
the hoarse whispers of Carl in reply. He had recovered his breath
again, and was but little worse for his scorching, except in his
speech. Jennie was in the kitchen making some coffee for the
exhausted workers, and he was helping her.
Tom realized fully all that had happened. She knew who had saved
Patsy's life. She remembered how he laid her boy in her arms, and
she still saw the deathly pallor in his face as he staggered and
fell. What had he not done for her and her household since he
entered her service? If he loved Jennie, and she him, was it his
fault? Why did she rebel, and refuse this man a place in her
home? Then she thought of her own Tom no longer with her, and of
her fight alone and without him. What would he have thought of
it? How would he have advised her to act? He had always hoped
such great things for Jennie. Would he now be willing to give her
to this stranger? If she could only talk to her Tom about it all!
As she sat, her head in her hand, the smoking stable, the eager
wild-eyed crowd, the dead horses, faded away and became to her as
a dream. She heard nothing but the voice of Jennie and her lover,
saw only the white face of her boy. A sickening sense of utter
loneliness swept over her. She rose and moved away.
During all this time Cully was watching the dying embers, and when
all danger was over,--only the small stable with its two horses
had been destroyed,--he led the Big Gray back to the pump, washed
his head, sponging his eyes and mouth, and housed him in the big
stable. Then he vanished.
Immediately on leaving the Big Gray, Cully had dodged behind the
stable, run rapidly up the hill, keeping close to the fence, and
had come out behind a group of scattering spectators. There he
began a series of complicated manoeuvres, mostly on his toes,
lifting his head over those of the crowd, and ending in a sudden
dart forward and as sudden a halt, within a few inches of young
Billy McGaw's coat-collar.
Billy turned pale, but held his ground. He felt sure Cully would
not dare attack him with so many others about. Then, again, the
glow of the smouldering cinders had a fascination for him that
held him to the spot.
Cully also seemed spellbound. The only view of the smoking ruins
that satisfied him seemed to be the one he caught over young
McGaw's shoulder. He moved closer and closer, sniffing about
cautiously, as a dog would on a trail. Indeed, the closer he got
to Billy's coat the more absorbed he seemed to be in the view
Here an extraordinary thing happened. There was a dipping of
Cully's head between Billy's legs, a raising of both arms,
grabbing Billy around the waist, and in a flash the hope of the
house of McGaw was swept off his feet, Cully beneath him, and in
full run toward Tom's house. The bystanders laughed; they thought
it only a boyish trick. Billy kicked and struggled, but Cully
held on. When they were clear of the crowd, Cully shook him to
the ground and grabbed him by the coat-collar.
"Say, young feller, where wuz ye when de fire started?"
At this Billy broke into a howl, and one of the crowd, some
distance off, looked up. Cully clapped his hand over his mouth.
"None o' that, or I'll mash yer mug--see?" standing over him with
"I warn't nowheres," stammered Billy. "Say, take yer hands off'n
"T'ell I ain't! Ye answer me straight--see?--or I'll punch yer
face in," tightening his grasp. "What wuz ye a-doin' when de
circus come out--an', anoder t'ing, what's dis cologne yer got on
yer coat? Maybe next time ye climb a fence ye'll keep from
spillin' it, see? Oh, I'm onter ye. Ye set de stable afire.
Dat's what's de matter."
"I hope I may die--I wuz a-carryin' de can er ker'sene home, an'
when de roof fell in I wuz up on de fence so I c'u'd see de fire,
an' de can slipped"--
"What fence?" said Cully, shaking him as a terrier would a rat.
"Why dat fence on de hill."
That was enough for Cully. He had his man. The lie had betrayed
him. Without a word he jerked the cowardly boy from the ground,
and marched him straight into the kitchen:--
"Say, Carl, I got de fire-bug. Ye kin smell der ker'sene on his
MR. QUIGG DRAWS A PLAN
McGaw had watched the fire from his upper window with mingled joy
and fear--joy that Tom's property was on fire, and fear that it
would be put out before she would be ruined. He had been waiting
all the evening for Crimmins, who had failed to arrive. Billy had
not been at home since supper, so he could get no details as to
the amount of the damage from that source. In this emergency he
sent next morning for Quigg to make a reconnaissance in the
vicinity of the enemy's camp, ascertain how badly Tom had been
crippled, and learn whether her loss would prevent her signing the
contract the following night. Mr. Quigg accepted the mission, the
more willingly because he wanted to settle certain affairs of his
own. Jennie had avoided him lately,--why he could not tell,--and
he determined, before communicating to his employer the results of
his inquiries about Tom, to know exactly what his own chances were
with the girl. He could slip over to the house while Tom was in
the city, and leave before she returned.
On his way, the next day, he robbed a garden fence of a mass of
lilacs, breaking off the leaves as he walked. When he reached the
door of the big stable he stopped for a moment, glanced cautiously
in to see if he could find any preparations for the new work, and
then, making a mental note of the surroundings, followed the path
to the porch.
Pop opened the door. He knew Quigg only by sight--an unpleasant
sight, he thought, as he looked into his hesitating, wavering
"It's a bad fire ye had, Mr. Mullins," said Quigg, seating himself
in the rocker, the blossoms half strangled in his grasp.
"Yis, purty bad, but small loss, thank God," said Pop quietly.
"That lets her out of the contract, don't it?" said Quigg.
"She'll be short of horses now."
Pop made no answer. He did not intend to give Mr. Quigg any
information that might comfort him.
"Were ye insured?" asked Quigg, in a cautious tone, his eyes on
"Oh, yis, ivery pinny on what was burned, so Mary tells me."
Quigg caught his breath; the rumor in the village was the other
way. Why didn't Crimmins make a clean sweep of it and burn 'em
all at once, he said to himself.
"I brought some flowers over for Miss Jennie," said Quigg,
regaining his composure. "Is she in?"
"Yis; I'll call her." Gentle and apparently harmless as Gran'pop
was, men like Quigg somehow never looked him steadily in the eye.
"I was tellin' Mr. Mullins I brought ye over some flowers," said
Quigg, turning to Jennie as she entered, and handing her the bunch
without leaving his seat, as if it had been a pair of shoes.
"You're very kind, Mr. Quigg," said the girl, laying them on the
table, and still standing.
"I hear'd your brother Patsy was near smothered till Dutchy got
him out. Was ye there?"
Jennie bit her lip and her heart quickened. Carl's sobriquet in
the village, coming from such lips, sent the hot blood to her
"Yes, Mr. Nilsson saved his life," she answered slowly, with
girlish dignity, a backward rush filling her heart as she
remembered Carl staggering out of the burning stable, Patsy held
close to his breast.
"The fellers in Rockville say ye think it was set afire. I see
Justice Rowan turned Billy McGaw loose. Do ye suspect anybody
else? Some says a tramp crawled in and upset his pipe."
This lie was coined on the spot and issued immediately to see if
it would pass.
"Mother says she knows who did it, and it'll all come out in time.
Cully found the can this morning," said Jennie, leaning against
Quigg's jaw fell and his brow knit as Jennie spoke. That was just
like the fool, he said to himself. Why didn't he get the stuff in
a bottle and then break it?
But the subject was too dangerous to linger over, so he began
talking of the dance down at the Town Hall, and the meeting last
Sunday after church. He asked her if she would go with him to the
"sociable" they were going to have at No. 4 Truck-house; and when
she said she couldn't,--that her mother didn't want her to go out,
etc.,--Quigg moved his chair closer, with the remark that the old
woman was always putting her oar in and spoiling things; the way
she was going on with the Union would ruin her; she'd better join
in with the boys, and be friendly; they'd "down her yet if she
"I hope nothing will happen to mother, Mr. Quigg," said Jennie, in
an anxious tone, as she sank into a chair.
Quigg misunderstood the movement, and moved his own closer.
"There won't nothin' happen any more, Jennie, if you'll do as I
It was the first time he had ever called her by her name. She
could not understand how he dared. She wished Carl would come in.
"Will you do it?" asked Quigg eagerly, his cunning face and mean
eyes turned toward her.
Jennie never raised her head. Her cheeks were burning. Quigg
"I've been keepin' company with ye, Jennie, all winter, and the
fellers is guyin' me about it. You know I'm solid with the Union
and can help yer mother, and if ye'll let me speak to Father
McCluskey next Sunday"--
The girl sprang from her chair.
"I won't have you talk that way to me, Dennis Quigg! I never said
a word to you, and you know it." Her mother's spirit was now
flashing in her eyes. "You ought to be ashamed of yourself to
Then she broke down.
Another woman would have managed it differently, perhaps,--by a
laugh, a smile of contempt, or a frigid refusal. This mere child,
stung to the quick by Quigg's insult, had only her tears in
defense. The Walking Delegate turned his head and looked out of
the window. Then he caught up his hat and without a word to the
sobbing girl hastily left the room.
Tom was just entering the lower gate. Quigg saw her and tried to
dodge behind the tool-house, but it was too late, so he faced her.
Tom's keen eye caught the sly movement and the quickly altered
expression. Some new trickery was in the air, she knew; she
detected it in every line of Quigg's face. What was McGaw up to
now? she asked herself. Was he after Carl and the men, or getting
ready to burn the other stable?
"Good-morning, Mr. Quigg. Ain't ye lost?" she asked coldly.
"Oh no," said Quigg, with a forced laugh. "I come over to see if
I could help about the fire."
It was the first thing that came into his head; he had hoped to
pass with only a nod of greeting.
"Did ye?" replied Tom thoughtfully. She saw he had lied, but she
led him on. "What kind of help did ye think of givin'? The
insurance company will pay the money, the two horses is buried,
an' we begin diggin' post-holes for a new stable in the mornin'.
Perhaps ye were thinkin' of lendin' a hand yerself. If ye did, I
can put ye alongside of Carl; one shovel might do for both of ye."
Quigg colored and laughed uneasily. Somebody had told her, then,
how Carl had threatened him with uplifted shovel when he tried to
coax the Swede away.
"No, I'm not diggin' these days; but I've got a pull wid the
insurance adjuster, and might git an extra allowance for yer."
This was cut from whole cloth. He had never known an adjuster in
"What's that?" asked Tom, still looking square at him, Quigg
squirming under her glance like a worm on a pin.
"Well, the company can't tell how much feed was in the bins, and
tools, and sech like," he said, with another laugh.
A laugh is always a safe parry when a pair of clear gray
search-light eyes are cutting into one like a rapier.
"An' yer idea is for me to git paid for stuff that wasn't burned
up, is it?"
"Well, that's as how the adjuster says. Sometimes he sees it an'
sometimes he don't--that's where the pull comes in."
Tom put her arms akimbo, her favorite attitude when her anger
began to rise.
"Oh I see! The pull is in bribin' the adjuster, as ye call him,
so he can cheat the company."
Quigg shrugged his shoulders; that part of the transaction was a
mere trifle. What were companies made for but to be cheated?
Tom stood for a minute looking him all over.
"Dennis Quigg," she said slowly, weighing each word, her eyes
riveted on his face, "ye're a very sharp young man; ye're so very
sharp that I wonder ye've gone so long without cuttin' yerself,
But one thing I tell ye, an' that is, if ye keep on the way ye're
a-goin' ye'll land where you belong, and that's up the river in a
potato-bug suit of clothes. Turn yer head this way, Quigg. Did
ye niver in yer whole life think there was somethin' worth the
havin' in bein' honest an' clean an' square, an' holdin' yer head
up like a man, instead of skulkin' round like a thief? What ye're
up to this mornin' I don't know yet, but I want to tell ye it 's
the wrong time o' day for ye to make calls, and the night's not
much better, unless ye're particularly invited."
Quigg smothered a curse and turned on his heel toward the village.
When he reached O'Leary's, Dempsey of the Executive Committee met
him at the door. He and McGaw had spent the whole morning in
devising plans to keep Tom out of the board-room.
Quigg's report was not reassuring. She would be paid her
insurance money, he said, and would certainly be at the meeting
The three adjourned to the room over the bar. McGaw began pacing
the floor, his long arms hooked behind his back. He had passed a
sleepless night, and every hour now added to his anxiety. His
face was a dull gray yellow, and his eyes were sunken. Now and
then he would tug at his collar nervously. As he walked he
clutched his fingers, burying the nails in the palms, the red hair
on his wrists bristling like spiders' legs. Dempsey sat at the
table watching him calmly out of the corner of his eye.
After a pause Quigg leaned over, his lips close to Dempsey's ear.
Then he drew a plan on the back of an old wine-list. It marked
the position of the door in Tom's stable, and that of a path which
ran across lots and was concealed from her house by a low fence.
Dempsey studied it a moment, nodding at Quigg's whispered
explanations, and passed it to McGaw, repeating Quigg's words.
McGaw stopped and bent his head. A dull gleam flashed out of his
smouldering eyes. The lines of his face hardened and his jaw
tightened. For some minutes he stood irresolute, gazing vacantly
over the budding trees through the window. Then he turned
sharply, swallowed a brimming glass of raw whiskey, and left the
When the sound of his footsteps had died away, Dempsey looked at
Quigg meaningly and gave a low laugh.
It was "blossom-week," and every garden and hedge flaunted its
bloom in the soft air. All about was the perfume of flowers, the
odor of fresh grass, and that peculiar earthy smell of new-made
garden beds but lately sprinkled. Behind the hill overlooking the
harbor the sun was just sinking into the sea. Some sentinel
cedars guarding its crest stood out in clear relief against the
golden light. About their tops, in wide circles, swooped a flock
Gran'pop and Tom sat on the front porch, their chairs touching,
his hand on hers. She had been telling him of Quigg's visit that
morning. She had changed her dress for a new one. The dress was
of brown cloth, and had been made in the village--tight where it
should be loose, and loose where it should be tight. She had put
it on, she told Pop, to make a creditable appearance before the
board that night.
Jennie was flitting in and out between the sitting-room and the
garden, her hands full of blossoms, filling the china jars on the
mantel: none of them contained Quigg's contribution. Patsy was
flat on his back on the small patch of green surrounding the
porch, playing circus-elephant with Stumpy, who stood over him
with leveled head.
Up the hill, but a few rods away, Cully was grazing the Big
Gray--the old horse munching tufts of fresh, sweet grass sprinkled
with dandelions. Cully walked beside him. Now and then he lifted
one of his legs, examining the hoof critically for possible tender
There was nothing the matter with the Gray; the old horse was
still sound: but it satisfied Cully to be assured, and it
satisfied, too, a certain yearning tenderness in his heart toward
his old chum. Once in a while he would pat the Gray's neck,
smoothing his ragged, half worn mane, addressing him all the while
in words of endearment expressed in a slang positively profane and
utterly without meaning except to these two.
Suddenly Jennie's cheek flushed as she came out on the porch.
Carl was coming up the path. The young Swede was bareheaded, the
short blond curls glistening in the light; his throat was bare
too, so that one could see the big muscles in his neck. Jennie
always liked him with his throat bare; it reminded her of a hero
she had once seen in a play, who stormed a fort and rescued all
the starving women.
"Da brown horse seek; batta come to stabble an' see him," Carl
said, going direct to the porch, where he stood in front of Tom,
resting one hand on his hip, his eyes never wandering from her
face. He knew where Jennie was, but he never looked.
"What's the matter with him?" asked Tom, her thoughts far away at
"I don' know; he no eat da oats en da box."
"Will he drink?" said Tom, awakening to the importance of the
"Yas; 'mos' two buckets."
"It's fever he's got," she said, turning to Pop. "I thought that
yisterday noon when I sees him a-workin'. All right, Carl; I'll
be down before I go to the board meetin'. And see here, Carl;
ye'd better git ready to go wid me. I'll start in a couple o'
hours. Will it suit ye, Gran'pop, if Carl goes with me?"--patting
her father's shoulder. "If ye keep on a-worritin' I'll hev to
hire a cop to follow me round."
Carl lingered for a moment on the steps. Perhaps Tom had some
further orders; perhaps, too, Jennie would come out again.
Involuntarily his eye wandered toward the open door, and then he
turned to go. Jennie's heart sprang up in her throat. She had
seen from behind the curtains the shade of disappointment that
crossed her lover's face. She could suffer herself, but she could
not see Carl unhappy. In an instant she was beside her mother.
Anything to keep Carl--she did not care what.
"Oh, Carl, will you bring the ladder so I can reach the long
branches?" she said, her quick wit helping her with a subterfuge.
Carl turned and glanced at Tom. He felt the look in her face and
could read her thoughts.
If Tom had heard Jennie she never moved. This affair must end in
some way, she said to herself. Why had she not sent him away long
before? How could she do it now when he had risked his life to
Then she answered firmly, still without turning her head, "No,
Jennie; there won't be time. Carl must get ready to"--
Pop laid his hand on hers.
"There's plinty o' toime, Mary. Ye'll git the ladder behint the
kitchen door, Carl. I hed it ther' mesilf this mornin'."
Carl found the ladder, steadied it against the tree, and guided
Jennie's little feet till they reached the topmost round, holding
on to her skirts so that she should not fall. Above their heads
the branches twined and interlaced, shedding their sweetest
blossoms over their happy upturned faces. The old man's eyes
lightened as he watched them for some moments; then, turning to
Tom, his voice full of tenderness, he said:--
"Carl's a foine lad, Mary; ye'll do no better for Jinnie."
Tom did not answer; her eyes were on the cedars where the crows
were flying, black silhouettes against the yellow sky.
"Did I shtop ye an' break yer heart whin ye wint off wid yer own
Tom? What wuz he but an honest lad thet loved ye, an' he wid not
a pinny in his pocket but the fare that brought ye both to the new
Tom's eyes filled. She could not see the cedars now. All the
hill was swimming in light.
"Oi hev watched Carl sence he fust come, Mary. It's a good mither
some'er's as has lost a foine b'y. W'u'dn't ye be lonely yersilf
ef ye'd come here wid nobody to touch yer hand? "
Tom shivered and covered her face. Who was more lonely than
she--she who had hungered for the same companionship that she was
denying Jennie; she who had longed for somebody to stand between
her and the world, some hand to touch, some arm to lean on; she
who must play the man always--the man and the mother too!
Pop went on, stroking her strong, firm hand with his stiff,
shriveled fingers. He never looked at her; his face was now too
turned toward the dying sun.
"Do ye remimber the day ye left me in the ould counthry, Mary, wid
yer own Tom; an' how I walked wid ye to the turnin' of the road?
It wuz spring thin, an' the hedges all white wid blossoms. Look
at thim two over there, Mary, wid their arms full o' flowers.
Don't be breakin' their hearts, child."
Tom turned and slipped her arm around the old man's neck, her head
sinking on his shoulder. The tears were under her eyelids; her
heart was bursting; only her pride sustained her. Then in a
half-whispered voice, like a child telling its troubles, she
"Ye don't know--ye don't know, Gran'pop. The dear God knows it's
not on account of meself. It's Tom I'm thinkin' of night an'
day--me Tom, me Tom. She's his child as well as mine. If he
could only help me! He wanted such great things for Jennie. It
ud be easier if he hadn't saved Patsy. Don't speak to me ag'in
about it, father dear; it hurts me."
The old man rose from his chair and walked slowly into the house.
All his talks with his daughter ended in this way. It was always
what Tom would have thought. Why should a poor crazy cripple like
her husband, shut up in an asylum, make trouble for Jennie?
When the light faded and the trees grew indistinct in the gloom,
Tom still sat where Pop had left her. Soon the shadows fell in
the little valley, and the hill beyond the cedars lost itself in
the deepening haze that now crept in from the tranquil sea.
Carl's voice calling to Cully to take in the Gray roused her to
consciousness. She pushed back her chair, stood for an instant
watching Carl romping with Patsy, and then walked slowly toward
By the time she reached the water-trough her old manner had
returned. Her step became once more elastic and firm; her strong
will asserted itself. She had work to do, and at once. In two
hours the board would meet. She needed all her energies and
resources. The lovers must wait; she could not decide any
question for them now.
As she passed the stable window a man in a fur cap raised his head
cautiously above the low fence and shrank back into the shadow.
Tom threw open the door and felt along the sill for the lantern
and matches. They were not in their accustomed place. The man
crouched, ran noiselessly toward the rear entrance, and crept in
behind a stall. Tom laid her hand on the haunches of the horse
and began rolling back his blanket. The man drew himself up
slowly until his shoulders were on a level with the planking. Tom
moved a step and turned her face. The man raised his arm, whirled
a hammer high in the air, and brought it down upon her head.
When Cully led the Big Gray into his stall, a moment later, he
stepped into a pool of blood.
IN THE SHADOW OF DEATH
At the appointed hour the Board of Trustees met in the hall over
the post-office. The usual loungers filled the room--members of
the Union, and others who had counted on a piece of the highway
pie when it was cut. Dempsey, Crimmins, and Quigg sat outside the
rail, against the wall. They were waiting for McGaw, who had not
been seen since the afternoon.
The president was in his accustomed place. The five gentlemen of
leisure, the veterinary surgeon, and the other trustees occupied
their several chairs. The roll had been called, and every man had
answered to his name. The occasion being one of much importance,
a full board was required.
As the minute-hand neared the hour of nine Dempsey became uneasy.
He started every time a new-comer mounted the stairs. Where was
McGaw? No one had seen him since he swallowed the tumblerful of
whiskey and disappeared from O'Leary's, a few hours before.
The president rapped for order, and announced that the board was
ready to sign the contract with Thomas Grogan for the hauling and
delivery of the broken stone required for public highways.
There was no response.
"Is Mrs. Grogan here?" asked the president, looking over the room
and waiting for a reply.
"Is any one here who represents her?" he repeated, after a pause,
rising in his seat as he spoke.
No one answered. The only sound heard in the room was that of the
heavy step of a man mounting the stairs.
"Is there any one here who can speak for Mrs. Thomas Grogan?"
called the president again, in a louder voice.
"I can," said the man with the heavy tread, who proved to be the
foreman at the brewery. "She won't live till mornin'; one of her
horses kicked her and broke her skull, so McGaw told me."
"Broke her skull! My God! man, how do you know?" demanded the
president, his voice trembling with excitement.
Every man's face was now turned toward the new-comer; a momentary
thrill of horror ran through the assemblage.
"I heard it at the druggist's. One of her boys was over for
medicine. Dr. Mason sewed up her head. He was drivin' by, on his
way to Quarantine, when it happened."
"What Dr. Mason?" asked a trustee, eager for details.
"The man what used to be at Quarantine seven years ago. He's
Dempsey caught up his hat and hurriedly left the room, followed by
Quigg and Crimmins. McGaw, he said to himself, as he ran
downstairs, must be blind drunk, not to come to the meeting.
"----him! What if he gives everything away!" he added aloud.
"This news is awful," said the president. "I am very sorry for
Mrs. Grogan and her children--she was a fine woman. It is a
serious matter, too, for the village. The highway work ought to
commence at once; the roads need it. We may now have to advertise
again. That would delay everything for a month."
"Well, there's other bids," said another trustee,--one of the
gentlemen of leisure,--ignoring the president's sympathy, and
hopeful now of a possible slice on his own account. "What's the
matter with McGaw's proposal? There's not much difference in the
price. Perhaps he would come down to the Grogan figure. Is Mr.
McGaw here, or anybody who can speak for him?"
Justice Rowan sat against the wall. The overzealous trustee had
exactly expressed his own wishes and anxieties. He wanted McGaw's
chances settled at once. If they failed, there was Rowan's own
brother who might come in for the work, the justice sharing of
course in the profits.
"In the absence of me client," said Rowan, looking about the room,
and drawing in his breath with an important air, "I suppose I can
ripresint him. I think, however, that if your honorable boord
will go on with the other business before you, Mr. McGaw will be
on hand in half an hour himself. In the meantime I will hunt him
"I move," said the Scotch surgeon, in a voice that showed how
deeply he had been affected, "that the whole matter be laid on the
table for a week, until we know for certain whether poor Mrs.
Grogan is killed or not. I can hardly credit it. It is very
seldom that a horse kicks a woman."
Nobody having seconded this motion, the chair did not put it. The
fact was that every man was afraid to move. The majority of the
trustees, who favored McGaw, were in the dark as to what effect
Tom's death would have upon the bids. The law might require
readvertising and hence a new competition, and perhaps somebody
much worse for them than Tom might turn up and take the
work--somebody living outside of the village. Then none of them
would get a finger in the pie. Worse than all, the cutting of it
might have to be referred to the corporation counsel, Judge
Bowker. What his opinion would be was past finding out. He was
beyond the reach of "pulls," and followed the law to the letter.
The minority--a minority of two, the president and the veterinary
surgeon--began to distrust the spirit of McGaw's adherents. It
looked to the president as if a "deal" were in the air.
The Scotchman, practical, sober-minded, sensible man as he was,
had old- fashioned ideas of honesty and fair play. He had liked
Tom from the first time he saw her,--he had looked after her
stables professionally,--and he did not intend to see her, dead or
alive, thrown out, without making a fight for her.
"I move," said he, "that the president appoint a committee of this
board to jump into the nearest wagon, drive to Mrs. Grogan's, and
find out whether she is still alive. If she's dead, that settles
it; but if she's alive, I will protest against anything being done
about this matter for ten days. It won't take twenty minutes to
find out; meantime we can take up the unfinished business of the
One of the gentlemen of leisure seconded this motion; it was
carried unanimously, and this gentleman of leisure was himself
appointed courier and left the room in a hurry. He had hardly
reached the street when he was back again, followed closely by
Dempsey, Quigg, Crimmins, Justice Rowan, and, last of all,
fumbling with his fur cap, deathly pale, and entirely sober--Dan
"There's no use of my going," said the courier trustee, taking his
seat. "Grogan won't live an hour, if she ain't dead now. She had
a sick horse that wanted looking after, and she went into the
stable without a light, and he let drive, and broke her skull.
She's got a gash the length of your hand--wasn't that it, Mr.
McGaw nodded his head.
"Yes; that's about it," he said. The voice seemed to come from
his stomach, it was so hollow.
"Did you see her, Mr. McGaw?" asked the Scotchman in a positive
"How c'u'd I be a-seein' her whin I been in New Yorruk 'mos' all
day? D' ye think I'm runnin' roun' to ivery stable in the place?
I wuz a-comin' 'cross lots whin I heared it. They says the horse
had blin' staggers."
"How do you know, then?" asked the Scotchman suspiciously. "Who
told you the horse kicked her?"
"Well, I dunno; I think it wuz some un"--
Dempsey looked at him and knit his brow. McGaw stopped.
"Don't you know enough of a horse to know he couldn't kick with
blind staggers?" insisted the Scotchman.
McGaw did not answer.
"Does anybody know any of the facts connected with this dreadful
accident to Mrs. Grogan?" asked the president. "Have you heard
anything, Mr. Quigg?"
Mr. Quigg had heard absolutely nothing, and had not seen Mrs.
Grogan for months. Mr. Crimmins was equally ignorant, and so were
several other gentlemen. Here a voice came from the back of the
"I met Dr. Mason, sir, an hour ago, after he had attended Tom
Grogan. He was on his way to Quarantine in his buggy. He said he
left her insensible after dressin' the wound. He thought she
might not live till mornin'."
"May I ask your name, sir?" asked the president in a courteous
"Peter Lathers. I am yardmaster at the U. S. Lighthouse Depot."
The title, and the calm way in which Lathers spoke, convinced the
president and the room. Everybody realized that Tom's life hung
by a thread. The Scotchman still had a lingering doubt. He also
wished to clear up the blind-staggers theory.
"Did he say how she was hurt?" asked the Scotchman.
"Yes. He said he was a-drivin' by when they picked her up, and he
was dead sure that somebody had hid in the stable and knocked her
on the head with a club."
McGaw steadied himself with his hand and grasped the seat of his
chair. The sweat was rolling from his face. He seemed afraid to
look up, lest some other eye might catch his own and read his
thoughts. If he had only seen Lathers come in!
Lathers's announcement, coupled with the Scotchman's well-known
knowledge of equine diseases discrediting the blind-staggers
theory, produced a profound sensation. Heads were put together,
and low whispers were heard. Dempsey, Quigg, and Crimmins did not
move a muscle.
The Scotchman again broke the silence.
"There seems to be no question, gentlemen, that the poor woman is
badly hurt; but she is still alive, and while she breathes we have
no right to take this work from her. It's not decent to serve a
woman so; and I think, too, it's illegal. I again move that the
whole matter be laid upon the table,"
This motion was not put, nobody seconding it.
Then Justice Rowan rose. The speech of the justice was seasoned
with a brogue as delicate in flavor as the garlic in a Spanish
"Mr. Prisident and Gintlemen of the Honorable Boord of Village
Trustees," said the justice, throwing back his coat. The
elaborate opening compelled attention at once. Such courtesies
were too seldom heard in their deliberations, thought the members,
as they lay back in their chairs to listen.
"No wan can be moore pained than meself that so estimable a woman
as Mrs. Grogan--a woman who fills so honorably her every station
in life--should at this moment be stricken down either by the hand
of an assassin or the hoof of a horse. Such acts in a law-abidin'
community like Rockville bring with them the deepest detistation
and the profoundest sympathy. No wan, I am sure, is more touched
by her misforchune than me worthy friend Mr. Daniel McGaw, who by
this direct interposition of Providence is foorced into the
position of being compelled to assert his rights befoore your
honorable body, with full assurance that there is no tribunal in
the land to which he could apply which would lend a more willing
It was this sort of thing that made Rowan popular.
"But, gintlemen,"--here the justice curry-combed his front hair
with his fingers--greasy, jet-black hair, worn long, as befitted
his position,--"this is not a question of sympathy, but a question
of law. Your honorable boord advertoised some time since for
certain supplies needed for the growth and development of this
most important of the villages of Staten Island. In this call it
was most positively and clearly stated that the contract was to be
awarded to the lowest risponsible bidder who gave the proper
bonds. Two risponses were made to this call, wan by Mrs. Grogan,
acting on behalf of her husband,--well known to be a hopeless
cripple in wan of the many charitable institootions of our noble
State,--and the other by our distinguished fellow-townsman, Mr.
Daniel McGaw, whom I have the honor to ripresint. With that
strict sinse of justice which has always characterized the
decisions of this honorable boord, the contract was promptly
awarded to Thomas Grogan, he being the lowest bidder; and my
client, Daniel McGaw,--honest Daniel McGaw I should call him if
his presence did not deter me,--stood wan side in obadience to the
will of the people and the laws of the State, and accepted his
defate with that calmness which always distinguishes the
hard-workin' sons of toil, who are not only the bone and sinoo of
our land, but its honor and proide. But, gintlemen,"--running his
hand lightly through his hair, and then laying it in the bulging
lapels of his now half-buttoned coat,--"there were other
conditions accompanying these proposals; to wit, that within tin
days from said openin' the successful bidder should appear befoore
this honorable body, and then and there duly affix his signatoor
to the aforesaid contracts, already prepared by the attorney of
this boord, my honored associate, Judge Bowker. Now, gintlemen, I
ask you to look at the clock, whose calm face, like a rising moon,
presides over the deliberations of this boord, and note the
passin' hour; and then I ask you to cast your eyes over this vast
assemblage and see if Thomas Grogan, or any wan ripresinting him
or her, or who in any way is connected with him or her, is within
the confines of this noble hall, to execute the mandates of this
distinguished boord. Can it be believed for an instant that if
Mrs. Grogan, acting for her partly dismimbered husband, Mr. Thomas
Grogan, had intinded to sign this contract, she would not have
dispatched on the wings of the wind some Mercury, fleet of foot,
to infarm this boord of her desire for postponement? I demand in
the interests of justice that the contract be awarded to the
lowest risponsible bidder who is ready to sign the contract with
proper bonds, whether that bidder is Grogan, McGaw, Jones,
Robinson, or Smith."
There was a burst of applause and great stamping of feet; the tide
of sympathy had changed. Rowan had perhaps won a few more votes.
This pleased him evidently more than his hope of cutting the
contract pie. McGaw began to regain some of his color and lose
some of his nervousness. Rowan's speech had quieted him.
The president gravely rapped for order. It was wonderful how much
backbone and dignity and self-respect the justice's very
flattering remarks had injected into the nine trustees--no, eight,
for the Scotchman fully understood and despised Rowan's oratorical
The Scotchman was on his feet in an instant.
"I have listened," he said, "to the talk that Justice Rowan has
given us. It's very fine and tonguey, but it smothers up the
facts. You can't rob this woman"--
"Question! question!" came from half a dozen throats.
"What's your pleasure, gentlemen?" asked the president, pounding
with his gavel.
"I move," said the courier member, "that the contract be awarded
to Mr. Daniel McGaw as the lowest bidder, provided he can sign the
contract to-night with proper bonds."
Back to Full Books