Tom Grogan by F. Hopkinson Smith
Part 3 out of 3
Four members seconded it.
"Is Mr. McGaw's bondsman present?" asked the president, rising.
Justice Rowan rose, and bowed with the air of a foreign banker
accepting a government loan.
"I have that honor, Mr. Prisident. I am willing to back Mr. McGaw
to the extent of me humble possissions, which are ample, I trust,
for the purposes of this contract"--looking around with an air of
"Gentlemen, are you ready for the question?" asked the president.
At this instant there was a slight commotion at the end of the
hall. Half a dozen men nearest the door left their seats and
crowded to the top of the staircase. Then came a voice outside:
"Fall back; don't block up the door! Get back there!" The
excitement was so great that the proceedings of the board were
The throng parted, The men near the table stood still. An ominous
silence suddenly prevailed. Daniel McGaw twisted his head, turned
ghastly white, and would have fallen from his chair but for
Advancing through the door with slow, measured tread, her long
cloak reaching to her feet; erect, calm, fearless; her face like
chalk; her lips compressed, stifling the agony of every step; her
eyes deep sunken, black-rimmed, burning like coals; her brow bound
with a blood-stained handkerchief that barely hid the bandages
beneath, came Tom.
The deathly hush was unbroken. The men fell back with white,
scared faces to let her pass. McGaw cowered in his chair.
Dempsey's eyes glistened, a half-sigh of relief escaping him.
Crimmins had not moved; the apparition stunned him.
On she came, her eyes fixed on the president, till she reached the
table. Then she steadied herself for a moment, took a roll of
papers from her dress, and sank into a chair.
No one spoke. The crowd pressed closer. Those outside the rail
noiselessly mounted the benches and chairs, craning their necks.
Every eye was fixed upon her.
Slowly and carefully she unrolled the contract, spreading it out
before her, picked up a pen from the table, and without a word
wrote her name. Then she rose firmly, and walked steadily to the
Just then a man entered within the rail and took her seat. It was
her bondsman, Mr. Crane.
A FRIEND IN NEED
Two days after Tom had signed the highway contract, Babcock sat in
his private office in New York, opening his mail. In the outside
room were half a dozen employees--engineers and others--awaiting
The fine spring weather had come and work had been started in
every direction, including the second section of the sea-wall at
the depot, where the divers were preparing the bottom for the
layers of concrete. Tom's carts had hauled the stone.
Tucked into the pile of letters heaped before him, Babcock's quick
eye caught the corner of a telegram. It read as follows:--
Mother hurt. Wants you immediately. Please come.
For an instant he sat motionless, gazing at the yellow slip. Then
he sprang to his feet. Thrusting his unopened correspondence into
his pocket, he gave a few hurried instructions to his men and
started for the ferry. Once on the boat, he began pacing the
deck. "Tom hurt!" he repeated to himself. "Tom hurt?
How--when--what could have hurt her?" He had seen her at the
sea-wall, only three days before, rosy-cheeked, magnificent in
health and strength. What had happened? At the St. George
landing he jumped into a hack, hurrying the cabman.
Jennie was watching for him at the garden gate. She said her
mother was in the sitting-room, and Gran'pop was with her. As
they walked up the path she recounted rapidly the events of the
past two days.
Tom was on the lounge by the window, under the flowering plants,
when Babcock entered. She was apparently asleep. Across her
forehead, covering the temples, two narrow bandages bound up her
wound. At Babcock's step she opened her eyes, her bruised,
discolored face breaking into a smile. Then, noting his evident
anxiety, she threw the shawl from her shoulders and sat up.
"No, don't look so. It's nothin'; I'll be all right in a day or
two. I've been hurted before, but not so bad as this. I wouldn't
have troubled ye, but Mr. Crane has gone West. It was kind and
friendly o' ye to come; I knew ye would."
Babcock nodded to Pop, and sank into a chair. The shock of her
appearance had completely unnerved him.
"Jennie has told me about it," he said in a tender, sympathetic
tone. "Who was mean enough to serve you in this way, Tom?" He
called her Tom now, as the others did.
"Well, I won't say now. It may have been the horse, but I hardly
think it, for I saw a face. All I remember clear is a-layin' me
hand on the mare's back. When I come to I was flat on the lounge.
They had fixed me up, and Dr. Mason had gone off. Only the thick
hood saved me. Carl and Cully searched the place, but nothin'
could be found. Cully says he heard somebody a-runnin' on the
other side of the fence, but ye can't tell. Nobody keeps their
heads in times like that."
"Have you been in bed ever since?" Babcock asked.
"In bed! God rest ye! I was down to the board meetin' two hours
after, wid Mr. Crane, and signed the contract. Jennie and all of
'em wouldn't have it, and cried and went on, but I braved 'em all.
I knew I had to go if I died for it. Mr. Crane had his buggy, so
I didn't have to walk. The stairs was the worst. Once inside, I
was all right. I only had to sign, an' come out again; it didn't
take a minute. Mr. Crane stayed and fixed the bonds wid the
trustees, an' I come home wid Carl and Jennie." Then, turning to
her father, she said, "Gran'pop, will ye and Jennie go into the
kitchen for a while? I've some private business wid Mr. Babcock."
When they were gone her whole manner changed. She buried her face
for a moment in the pillow, covering her cheek with her hands;
then, turning to Babcock, she said:--
"Now, me friend, will ye lock the door?"
For some minutes she looked out of the window, through the
curtains and nasturtiums, then, in a low, broken voice, she said:
"I'm in great trouble. Will ye help me?"
"Help you, Tom? You know I will, and with anything I've got.
What is it!" he said earnestly, regaining his chair and drawing it
"Has no one iver told ye about me Tom?" she asked, looking at him
from under her eyebrows.
"No; except that he was hurt or--or--out of his mind, maybe, and
you couldn't bring him home."
"An' ye have heared nothin' more?"
"No," said Babcock, wondering at her anxious manner.
"Ye know that since he went away I've done the work meself,
standin' out as he would have done in the cold an' wet an' workin'
for the children wid nobody to help me but these two hands."
Babcock nodded. He knew how true it was.
"Ye've wondered many a time, maybe, that I niver brought him home
an' had him round wid me other poor cripple, Patsy--them two
togither." Her voice fell almost to a whisper.
"Or ye thought, maybe, it was mean and cruel in me that I kep' him
a burden on the State, when I was able to care for him meself.
Well, ye'll think so no more."
Babcock began to see now why he had been sent for. His heart went
out to her all the more.
"Tom, is your husband dead?" he asked, with a quiver in his voice.
She never took her eyes from his face. Few people were ever
tender with her; they never seemed to think she needed it. She
read this man's sincerity and sympathy in his eyes; then she
"He is, Mr. Babcock."
"When did he die! Was it last night, Tom?"
"Listen to me fust, an' then I'll tell ye. Ye must know that when
me Tom was hurted, seven years ago, we had a small place, an' only
three horses, and them warn't paid for; an' we had the haulin' at
the brewery, an' that was about all we did have. When Tom had
been sick a month--it was the time the bucket fell an' broke his
rib--the new contract at the brewery was let for the year, an'
Schwartz give it to us, a-thinkin' that Tom'd be round ag'in, an'
niver carin', so's his work was done, an' I doin' it, me bein' big
an' strong, as I always was. Me Tom got worse an' worse, an' I
saw him a-failin', an' one day Dr. Mason stopped an' said if I
brought him to Bellevue Hospital, where he had just been
appointed, he'd fix up his rib so he could breathe easier, and
maybe he'd get well. Well, I hung on an' on, thinkin' he'd get
better,--poor fellow, he didn't want to go,--but one night, about
dark, I took the Big Gray an' put him to the cart, an' bedded it
down wid straw; an' I wrapped me Tom up in two blankits an'
carried him downstairs in me own arms, an' driv slow to the
She hesitated for a moment, leaned her bruised head on her hand,
and then went on:--
"When I got to Bellevue, over by the river, it was near ten
o'clock at night. Nobody stopped me or iver looked into me bundle
of straw where me poor boy lay; an' I rung the bell, an' they came
out, an' got him up into the ward, an' laid him on the bed. Dr.
Mason was on night duty, an' come an' looked at him, an' said I
must come over the next day; an' I kissed me poor Tom an' left him
tucked in, promisin' to be back early in the mornin'. I had got
only as far as the gate on the street whin one of the men came
a-runnin' after me. I thought he had fainted, and ran back as
fast as I could, but when I got me arms under him again--he was
"And all this seven years ago, Tom?" said Babcock in astonishment,
sinking back in his chair.
Tom bowed her head. The tears were trickling through her fingers
and falling on the coarse shawl.
"Yis; seven years ago this June." She paused for a moment, as if
the scene was passing before her in every detail, and then went
on: "Whin I come home I niver said a word to anybody but Jennie.
I've niver told Pop yit. Nobody else would have cared; we was
strangers here. The next mornin' I took Jennie,--she was a child
then,--an' we wint over to the city, an' I got what money I had,
an' the doctors helped, an' we buried him; nobody but just us two,
Jennie an' me, walkin' behint the wagon, his poor body in the box.
Whin I come home I wanted to die, but I said nothin'. I was
afraid Schwartz would take the work away if he knew it was only a
woman who was a-doin' it wid no man round, an so I kep' on; an'
whin the neighbors asked about him bein' in a 'sylum an' out of
his head, an' a cripple an' all that, God forgive me, I was afraid
to tell, and I kept still and let it go at that; an' whin they
asked me how he was I'd say he was better, or more comfortable, or
easier; an' so he was, thank God! bein' in heaven."
She roused herself wearily, and wiped her eyes with the back of
her hand. Babcock sat motionless.
"Since that I've kep' the promise to me Tom that I made on me
knees beside his bed the night I lifted him in me arms to take him
downstairs--that I 'd keep his name clean, and do by it as he
would hev done himself, an' bring up the children, an' hold the
roof over their heads. An' now they say I dar'n't be called by
Tom's name, nor sign it neither, an' they're a-goin' to take me
contract away for puttin' his name at the bottom of it, just as
I've put it on ivery other bit o' paper I've touched ink to these
seven years since he left me."
"Why, Tom, this is nonsense. Who says so?" said Babcock
earnestly, glad of any change of feeling to break the current of
"Dan McGaw an' Rowan says so."
"What's McGaw got to do with it? He's out of the fight."
"Oh, ye don't know some men, Mr. Babcock. McGaw'll never stop
fightin' while I live. Maybe I oughtn't tell ye,--I've niver told
anybody,--but whin my Tom lay sick upstairs, McGaw come in one
night, an' his own wife half dead with a blow he had given her,
an' sat down in this very room,--it was our kitchen then,--an' he
says,' If your man don't git well, ye'll be broke.' An' I says to
him, 'Dan McGaw, if I live twelve months, Tom Grogan'll be a
richer man than he is now.' I was a-sittin' right here when I
said it, wid a rag carpet on this floor, an' hardly any furniture
in the room. He said more things, an' tried to make love to me,
and I let drive and threw him out of me kitchen. Then all me
trouble wid him began; he's done everything to beat me since, and
now maybe, after all, he'll down me. It all come up yisterday
through McGaw meetin' Dr. Mason an' askin' him about me Tom; an'
whin the doctor told him Tom was dead seven years, McGaw runs to
Justice Rowan wid the story, an' now they say I can't sign a dead
man's name. Judge Bowker has the papers, an' it's all to be
"But they can't take your contract away," said Babcock
indignantly, "no matter what Rowan says."
"Oh, it's not that--it's not that. That's not what hurts me. I
can git another contract. That's not what breaks me heart. But
if they take me Tom's NAME from me, an' say I can't be Tom Grogan
any more; it's like robbin' me of my life. When I work on the
docks I allus brace myself an' say' I'm doing just what Tom did
many a day for me.' When I sign his name to me checks an'
papers,--the name I've loved an' that I've worked for, the name
I've kep' clean for him--me Tom that loved me, an' never lied or
was mean--me Tom that I promised, an'--an'"--
All the woman in her overcame her now. Sinking to her knees, she
threw her arms and head on the lounge, and burst into tears.
Babcock rested his head on his hand, and looked on in silence.
Here was something, it seemed to him, too sacred for him to touch
even with his sympathy.
"Tom," he said, when she grew more quiet, his whole heart going
out to her, "what do you want me to do?"
"I don't know that ye can do anything," she said in a quivering
voice, lifting her head, her eyes still wet. "Perhaps nobody can.
But I thought maybe ye'd go wid me to Judge Bowker in the mornin'.
Rowan an' all of 'em 'll be there, an' I'm no match for these
lawyers. Perhaps ye'd speak to the judge for me."
Babcock held out his hand.
"I knew ye would, an' I thank ye," she said, drying her eyes.
"Now unlock the door, an' let 'em in. They worry so. Gran'pop
hasn't slep' a night since I was hurted, an' Jennie goes round
cryin' all the time, sayin' they 'll be a-killin' me next."
Then, rising to her feet, she called out in a cheery voice, as
Babcock opened the door, "Come in, Jennie; come in Gran'pop. It's
all over, child. Mr. Babcock's a-going wid me in the mornin'.
Niver fear; we'll down 'em all yit."
A DANIEL COME TO JUDGMENT
When Judge Bowker entered his office adjoining the village bank,
Justice Rowan had already arrived. So had McGaw, Dempsey,
Crimmins, Quigg, the president of the board, and one or two of the
trustees. The judge had sent for McGaw and the president, and
they had notified the others.
McGaw sat next to Dempsey. His extreme nervousness of a few days
ago--starting almost at the sound of his own footstep--had given
place to a certain air of bravado, now that everybody in the
village believed the horse had kicked Tom.
Babcock and Tom were by the window, she listless and weary, he
alert and watchful for the slightest point in her favor. She had
on her brown dress, washed clean of the blood-stains, and the silk
hood, which better concealed the bruises. All her old fire and
energy were gone. It was not from the shock of her wound,--her
splendid constitution was fast healing that,--but from this deeper
hurt, this last thrust of McGaw's which seemed to have broken her
Babcock, although he did not betray his misgivings, was greatly
worried over the outcome of McGaw's latest scheme. He wished in
his secret heart that Tom had signed her own name to the contract.
He was afraid so punctilious a man as the judge might decide
against her. He had never seen him; he only knew that no other
judge in his district had so great a reputation for technical
When the judge entered--a small, gray-haired, keen-eyed man in a
black suit, with gold spectacles, spotless linen, and clean-shaven
face--Babcock's fears were confirmed. This man, he felt, would be
legally exact, no matter who suffered by his decision.
Rowan opened the case, the judge listening attentively, looking
over his glasses. Rowan recounted the details of the
advertisement, the opening of the bids, the award of the contract,
the signing of "Thomas Grogan" in the presence of the full board,
and the discovery by his "honored client that no such man existed,
had not existed for years, and did not now exist."
"Dead, your Honor"--throwing out his chest impressively, his voice
swelling--"dead in his grave these siven years, this Mr. Thomas
Grogan; and yet this woman has the bald and impudent effrontery
"That will do, Mr. Rowan."
Police justices--justices like Rowan--did not count much with
Judge Bowker, and then he never permitted any one to abuse a woman
in his presence.
"The point you make is that Mrs. Grogan had no right to sign her
name to a contract made out in the name of her dead husband."
"I do, your Honor," said Rowan, resuming his seat.
"Why did you sign it?" asked Judge Bowker, turning to Tom.
She looked at Babcock. He nodded assent, and then she answered:--
"I allus signed it so since he left me."
There was a pleading, tender pathos in her words that startled
Babcock. He could hardly believe the voice to be Tom's.
The judge looked at her with a quick, penetrating glance, which
broadened into an expression of kindly interest when he read her
entire honesty in her face. Then he turned to the president of
"When you awarded this contract, whom did you expect to do the
work, Mrs. Grogan or her husband.' "
"Mrs. Grogan, of course. She has done her own work for years,"
answered the president.
The judge tapped the arm of his chair with his pencil. The taps
could be heard all over the room. Most men kept quiet in Bowker's
presence, even men like Rowan. For some moments his Honor bent
over the desk and carefully examined the signed contract spread
out before him; then he pushed it back, and glanced about the
"Is Mr. Crane, the bondsman, present?"
"Mr. Crane has gone West, sir," said Babcock, rising. "I
represent Mrs. Grogan in this matter."
"Did Mr. Crane sign this bond knowing that Mrs. Grogan would haul
"He did; and I can add that all her checks, receipts, and
correspondence are signed in the same way, and have been for
years. She is known everywhere as Tom Grogan. She has never had
any other name--in her business."
"Who else objects to this award?" said the judge calmly.
Rowan sprang to his feet. The judge looked at him.
"Please sit down, Justice Rowan. I said 'who else.' I have heard
you." He knew Rowan.
Dempsey jumped from his chair.
"I'm opposed to it, yer Honor, an' so is all me fri'nds here.
This woman has been invited into the Union, and treats us as if we
was dogs. She"--
"Are you a bidder for this work?" asked the judge.
"No, sir; but the Union has rights, and"--
"Please take your seat; only bidders can be heard now."
"But who's to stand up for the rights of the laborin' man if"--
"You can, if you choose; but not here. This is a question of
"Who's Bowker anyhow?" said Dempsey behind his hand to Quigg.
"Ridin' 'round in his carriage and chokin' off free speech?"
After some moments of thought the judge turned to the president of
the board, and said in a measured, deliberate voice:--
"This signature, in my opinion, is a proper one. No fraud is
charged, and under the testimony none was intended. The law gives
Mrs. Grogan the right to use any title she chooses in conducting
her business--her husband's name, or any other. The contract must
stand as it is."
Here the judge arose and entered his private office, shutting the
door behind him.
Tom had listened with eyes dilating, every nerve in her body at
highest tension. Her contempt for Rowan in his abuse of her; her
anger against Dempsey at his insults; her gratitude to Babcock as
he stood up to defend her; her fears for the outcome, as she
listened to the calm, judicial voice of the judge,--each producing
a different sensation of heat and cold,--were all forgotten in the
wild rush of joy that surged through her as the judge's words fell
upon her ear. She shed no tears, as other women might have done.
Every fibre of her being seemed to be turned to steel. She was
herself again--she, Tom Grogan!--firm on her own feet, with her
big arms ready to obey her, and her head as clear as a bell,
master of herself, master of her rights, master of everything
about her. And, above all, master of the dear name of her Tom
that nothing could take from her now--not even the law!
With this tightening of her will power there quivered through her
a sense of her own wrongs--the wrongs she had endured for years,
the wrongs that had so nearly wrecked her life.
Then, forgetting the office, the still solemnity of the
place--even Babcock--she walked straight up to McGaw, blocking his
exit to the street door.
"Dan McGaw, there's a word I've got for ye before ye l'ave this
place, an' I'm a-going to say it to ye now before ivery man in
McGaw shrank back in alarm.
"You an' I have known each other since the time I nursed yer wife
when yer boy Jack was born, an' helped her through when she was
near dyin' from a kick ye give her. Ye began yer dirty work on me
one night when me Tom lay sick, an' I threw ye out o' me kitchen;
an' since that time ye've"--
"Here! I ain't a-goin' ter stand here an' listen ter yer. Git
out o' me way, or I'll"--
Tom stepped closer, her eyes flashing, every word ringing clear.
"Stand still, an' hear what I've got to say to ye, or I'll go into
that room and make a statement to the judge that'll put ye where
ye won't move for years. There was enough light for me to see.
Look at this"--drawing back her hood, and showing the bandaged
McGaw seemed to shrivel up; the crowd stood still in amazement.
"I thought ye would. Now, I'll go on. Since that night in me
kitchen ye 've tried to ruin me in ivery other way ye could.
Ye've set these dead beats Crimmins and Quigg on to me to coax
away me men; ye've stirred up the Union; ye burned me stable"--
"Ye lie! It's a tramp did it," snarled McGaw.
"Ye better keep still till I get through, Dan McGaw. I've got the
can that helt the ker'sene, an' I know where yer boy Billy bought
it, an' who set him up to it," she added, looking straight at
Crimmins. "He might'a' been a dacent boy but for him." Crimmins
turned pale and bit his lip.
The situation became intense. Even the judge, who had come out of
his private room at the attack, listened eagerly.
"Ye've been a sneak an' a coward to serve a woman so who never
harmed ye. Now I give ye fair warnin', an' I want two or three
other men in this room to listen; if this don't stop, ye'll all be
behint bars where ye belong.--I mean you, too, Mr. Dempsey. As
for you, Dan McGaw, if it warn't for yer wife Kate, who's a dacent
woman, ye'd go to-day. Now, one thing more, an' I'll let ye go.
I've bought yer chattel mortgage of Mr. Crane that's past due, an'
I can do wid it as I pl'ase. You'll send to me in the mornin' two
of yer horses to take the places of those ye burned up, an' if
they're not in my stable by siven o'clock I'll be round yer way
'bout nine with the sheriff."
Once outside in the sunlight, she became herself again. The
outburst had cleared her soul like a thunder-clap. She felt as
free as air. The secret that had weighed her down for years was
off her mind. What she had whispered to her own heart she could
now proclaim from the housetops. Even the law protected her.
Babcock walked beside her, silent and grave. She seemed to him
like some Joan with flaming sword.
When they reached the road that led to her own house, her eyes
fell upon Jennie and Carl. They had walked down behind them, and
were waiting under the trees.
"There's one thing more ye can do for me, my friend," she said,
turning to Babcock. "All the old things Tom an' I did togither I
can do by meself; but it's new things like Carl an' Jennie that
trouble me--the new things I can't ask him about. Do ye see them
two yonder! Am I free to do for 'em as I would? No; ye needn't
answer. I see it in yer face. Come here, child; I want ye. Give
me yer hand."
For an instant she stood looking into their faces, her eyes
brimming. Then she took Jennie's hand, slipped it into Carl's,
and laying her big, strong palm over the two, said slowly:
"Now go home, both o' ye, to the house that'll shelter ye, pl'ase
God, as long as ye live."
Before the highway-work was finished, McGaw was dead and Billy and
Crimmins in Sing Sing. The label on the empty can, Quigg's
volunteered testimony, and Judge Bowker's charge, convinced the
jury. Quigg had quarreled with Crimmins and the committee, and
took that way of getting even.
When Tom heard the news, she left her teams standing in the road
and went straight to McGaw's house. His widow sat on a broken
chair in an almost empty room.
"Don't cry, Katy," said Tom, bending over her. "I'm sorry for
Billy. Seems to me, ye've had a lot o' trouble since Dan was
drowned. It was not all Billy's fault. It was Crimmins that put
him up to it. But ye've one thing left, and that's yer boy Jack.
Let me take him--I'll make a man of him."
. . . . . . . . .
Jack is still with her. Tom says he is the best man in her gang.
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