Van Bibber and Others
Richard Harding Davis
Part 2 out of 3
hard and keep him from speaking at all; and this was very difficult,
for she cared for him very dearly. She strengthened her determination
by thinking of his going away, and of how glad she would be when he
had gone that she had committed herself to nothing. This absence would
be a test for both of them; it could not have been better had it been
arranged on purpose. She had ideas of what she could best do for those
around her, and she must not be controlled and curbed, no matter how
strongly she might think she wished it. She must not give way to the
temptation of the moment, or to a passing mood. And then there were
other men. She had their photographs on her dressing-table, and liked
each for some qualities the others did not possess in such a degree;
but she liked them all because no one of them had the right to say
"must" or even "you might" to her, and she fancied that the moment she
gave one of them this right she would hate him cordially, and would
fly to the others for sympathy; and she was not a young woman who
thought that matrimony meant freedom to fly to any one but her husband
for that. But this one of the men was a little the worst; he made it
harder for her to be quite herself. She noticed that when she was with
him she talked more about her feelings than with the other men, with
whom she was satisfied to discuss the play, or what girl they wanted
to take into dinner. She had touches of remorse after these
confidences to Wainwright, and wrote him brisk, friendly notes the
next morning, in which the words "your friend" were always sure to
appear, either markedly at the beginning or at the end, or tucked
away in the middle. She thought by this to unravel the web she might
have woven the day before. But she had apparently failed. She stood up
suddenly from pure nervousness, and crossed the room as though she
meant to go to the piano, which was a very unfortunate move, as she
seldom played, and never for him. She sat down before it,
nevertheless, rather hopelessly, and crossed her hands in front of
her. He had turned, and followed her with his eyes; they were very
bright and eager, and her own faltered as she looked at them.
"You do not show much interest in the one thing that will bring me
back," he said. He spoke reproachfully and yet a little haughtily, as
though he had already half suspected she had guessed what he meant to
"Ah, you cannot tell how long you will be there," she said, lightly.
"You will like it much more than you think. I--" she stopped
hopelessly, and glanced, without meaning to do so, at the clock-face
on the mantel beside him.
"Oh," he said, with quick misunderstanding, "I beg your pardon, I am
keeping you, I forgot how late it was, and you are going out." He came
towards her as though he meant to go. She stood up and made a quick,
impatient gesture with her hands. He was making it very hard for her.
"Fancy!" she said. "You know I want to talk to you; what does the
dance matter? Why are you so unlike yourself?" she went on, gently.
"And it is our last night, too."
The tone of her words seemed to reassure him, for he came nearer and
rested his elbow beside her on the piano and said, "Then you are sorry
that I am going?"
It was very hard to be unyielding to him when he spoke and looked as
he did then; but she repeated to herself, "He will be gone to-morrow,
and then I shall be so thankful that I did not bind myself--that I am
still free. He will be gone, and I shall be so glad. It will only be a
minute now before he goes, and if I am strong I will rejoice at
leisure." So she looked up at him without a sign of the effort it cost
her, frankly and openly, and said, "Sorry? Of course I am sorry. One
does not have so many friends that one can spare them for long, even
to have them grow famous. I think it is very selfish of you to go, for
you are famous enough already."
As he looked at her and heard her words running on smoothly and
meaninglessly, he knew that it was quite useless to speak, and he grew
suddenly colder, and sick, and furious at once with a confused anger
and bitterness. And then, for he was quite young, so young that he
thought it was the manly thing to do to carry his grief off lightly
instead of rather being proud of his love, however she might hold
it,--he drew himself up and began pulling carefully at his glove.
"Yes," he said, slowly, "I fancy the change will be very pleasant."
He was not thinking of his words or of how thoughtless they must
sound. He was only anxious to get away without showing how deeply he
was hurt. If he had not done this; if he had let her see how miserable
he was, and that plays and books and such things were nothing to him
now, and that she was just all there was in the whole world to him, it
might have ended differently. But he was untried, and young. So he
buttoned the left glove with careful scrutiny and said, "They always
start those boats at such absurd hours; the tides never seem to suit
one; you have to go on board without breakfast, or else stay on board
the night before, and that's so unpleasant. Well, I hope you will
enjoy the dance, and tell them I was very much hurt that I wasn't
He held out his hand quite steadily. "I will write you if you will let
me," he went on, "and send you word where I am as soon as I know." She
took his hand and said, "Good-by, and I hope it will be a grand
success: I know it will. And come back soon; and, yes, do write to me.
I hope you will have a very pleasant voyage."
He had reached the door and stopped uncertainly at the curtains.
"Thank you," he said; and "Oh," he added, politely, "will you say
good-by to your mother for me, please?"
She nodded her head and smiled and said, "Yes; I will not forget.
She did not move until she heard the door close upon him, and then
she turned towards the window as though she could still follow him
through the closed blinds, and then she walked over to the divan and
picked up her fan and gloves and remained looking down at them in her
hand. The room seemed very empty. She glanced at the place where he
had stood and at the darkened windows again, and sank down very slowly
against the cushions of the divan, and pressed her hands against her
She did not hear the rustle of her mother's dress as she came down the
stairs and parted the curtains.
"Are you ready, Eleanore?" she said, briskly. "Tell me, how does this
lace look? I think there is entirely too much of it."
* * * * *
It was a month after this, simultaneously with the announcements by
cable of the instant success in London of "A Western Idyl," that Miss
Cuyler retired from the world she knew, and disappeared into darkest
New York by the way of Rivington Street. She had discovered one
morning that she was not ill nor run down nor overtaxed, but just
mentally tired of all things, and that what she needed was change of
air and environment, and unselfish work for the good of others, and
less thought of herself. Her mother's physician suggested to her,
after a secret and hasty interview with Mrs. Cuyler, that change of
air was good, but that the air of Rivington Street was not of the
best; and her friends, both men and women, assured her that they
appreciated her much more than the people of the east side possibly
could do, and that they were much more worthy of her consideration,
and in a fair way of improvement yet if she would only continue to
shine upon and before them. But she was determined in her purpose, and
regarded the College Settlement as the one opening and refuge for the
energies which had too long been given to the arrangement of paper
chases across country, and the routine of society, and dilettante
interest in kindergartens. Life had become for her real and earnest,
and she rejected Bruce-Brice of the British Legation with the sad and
hopeless kindness of one who almost contemplates taking the veil, and
to whom the things of this world outside of tenements are hollow and
unprofitable. She found a cruel disappointment at first, for the women
of the College Settlement had rules and ideas of their own, and had
seen enthusiasts like herself come into Rivington Street before, and
depart again. She had thought she would nurse the sick and visit the
prisoners on the Island, and bring cleanliness and hope into miserable
lives, but she found that this was the work of women tried in the
service, who understood it, and who made her first serve her
apprenticeship by reading the German Bible to old women whose eyes
were dim, but who were as hopelessly clean and quite as
self-respecting in their way as herself. The heroism and the
self-sacrifice of a Father Damien or a Florence Nightingale were not
for her; older and wiser young women saw to that work with a quiet
matter-of-fact cheerfulness and a common-sense that bewildered her.
And they treated her kindly, but indulgently, as an outsider. It took
her some time to understand this, and she did not confess to herself
without a struggle that she was disappointed in her own usefulness;
but she brought herself to confess it to her friends "uptown," when
she visited that delightful country from which she was self-exiled.
She went there occasionally for an afternoon's rest or to a luncheon
or a particularly attractive dinner, but she always returned to the
Settlement at night, and this threw an additional interest about her
to her friends--an interest of which she was ashamed, for she knew how
little she was really doing, and that her sacrifice was one of
discomfort merely. The good she did now, it was humiliating to
acknowledge, was in no way proportionate to that which her influence
had wrought among people of her own class.
And what made it very hard was that wherever she went they seemed to
talk of him. Now it would be a girl just from the other side who had
met him on the terrace of the Lower House, "where he seemed to know
every one," and another had driven with him to Ascot, where he had
held the reins, and had shown them what a man who had guided a
mail-coach one whole winter over the mountains for a living could do
with a coach for pleasure. And many of the men had met him at the
clubs and at house parties in the country, and they declared with
enthusiastic envy that he was no end of a success. Her English friends
all wrote of him, and wanted to know all manner of little things
concerning him, and hinted that they understood they were very great
friends. The papers seemed to be always having him doing something,
and there was apparently no one else in London who could so properly
respond to the toasts of America at all the public dinners. She had
had letters from him herself--of course bright, clever ones--that
suggested what a wonderfully full and happy life his was, but with no
reference to his return. He was living with his young friend Lord
Lowes, and went everywhere with him and his people; and then as a
final touch, which she had already anticipated, people began to speak
of him and the Honorable Evelyn. What could be more natural? they
said. He had saved her brother's life while out West half a dozen
times at least, from all accounts; and he was rich, and well-looking,
and well-born, and rapidly becoming famous.
A young married woman announced it at a girls' luncheon. She had it
from her friend the Marchioness of Pelby, who was Evelyn's
first-cousin. So far, only the family had been told; but all London
knew it, and it was said that Lord Lowes was very much pleased. One
of the girls at the table said you never could tell about those
things; she had no doubt the Marchioness of Pelby was an authority,
but she would wait until she got their wedding-cards before she
believed it. For some reason this girl did not look at Miss Cuyler,
and Miss Cuyler felt grateful to her, and thought she was a nice,
bright little thing; and then another girl said it was only turn
about. The Englishmen had taken all the attractive American girls,
and it was only fair that the English girls should get some of the
nice American men. This girl was an old friend of Eleanore's; but she
was surprised at her making such a speech, and wondered why she had
not noticed in her before similar exhibitions of bad taste. She walked
back to Rivington Street from the luncheon; composing the letter she
would write to him, congratulating him on his engagement. She composed
several. Some of them were very short and cheery, and others rather
longer and full of reminiscences. She wondered with sudden fierce
bitterness how he could so soon forget certain walks and afternoons
they had spent together; and the last note, which she composed in bed,
was a very sad and scornful one, and so pathetic as a work of
composition that she cried a little over it, and went to sleep full of
indignation that she had cried.
She told herself the next morning that she had cried because she was
frankly sorry to lose the companionship of so old and good a friend,
and because now that she had been given much more important work to
do, she was naturally saddened by the life she saw around her, and
weakened by the foul air of the courts and streets, and the dreary
environments of the tenements. As for him, she was happy in his
happiness; and she pictured how some day, when he proudly brought his
young bride to this country to show her to his friends, he would ask
after her. And they would say: "Who! Eleanore Cuyler? Why, don't you
know? While you were on your honeymoon she was in the slums, where she
took typhoid fever nursing a child, and died!" Or else some day, when
she had grown into a beautiful sweet-faced old lady, with white hair,
his wife would die, and he would return to her, never having been very
happy with his first wife, but having nobly hidden from her and from
the world his true feelings. He would find her working among the poor,
and would ask her forgiveness, and she could not quite determine
whether she would forgive him or not. These pictures comforted her
even while they saddened her, and she went about her work, feeling
that it was now her life's work, and that she was in reality an old,
old woman. The rest, she was sure, was but a weary waiting for the
* * * * *
It was about six months after this, in the early spring, while Miss
Cuyler was still in Rivington Street, that young Van Bibber invited
his friend Travers to dine with him, and go on later to the People's
Theatre, on the Bowery, where Irving Willis, the Boy Actor, was
playing "Nick of the Woods." Travers despatched a hasty and joyous
note in reply to this to the effect that he would be on hand. He then
went off with a man to try a horse at a riding academy, and easily and
promptly forgot all about it. He did remember, as he was dressing for
dinner, that he had an appointment somewhere, and took some
consolation out of this fact, for he considered it a decided step in
advance when he could remember that he had an engagement, even if he
could not recall what it was. The stern mental discipline necessary to
do this latter would, he hoped, come in time. So he dined unwarily at
home, and was, in consequence, seized upon by his father, who sent him
to the opera, as a substitute for himself, with his mother and
sisters, while he went off delightedly to his club to play whist.
Travers did not care for the opera, and sat in the back of the box and
dozed, and wondered moodily what so many nice men saw in his sisters
to make them want to talk to them. It was midnight, and just as he had
tumbled into bed, when the nature of his original engagement came back
to him, and his anger and disappointment were so intense that he
kicked the clothes over the foot of his bedstead.
As for Van Bibber, he knew his friend too well to wait for him, and
occupied a box at the People's Theatre in solitary state, and from its
depths gurgled with delight whenever the Boy Actor escaped being run
over by a real locomotive, or in turn rescued the stout heroine from
six red shirted cowboys. There were quite as many sudden deaths and
lofty sentiments as he had expected, and he left the theatre with the
pleased satisfaction of an evening well spent and with a pitying
sympathy for Travers who had missed it. The night was pleasant and
filled with the softness of early spring, and Van Bibber turned down
the Bowery with a cigar between his teeth and no determined purpose
except the one that he did not intend to go to bed. The streets were
still crowded, and the lights showed the many types of this "Thieves'
Highway" with which Van Bibber, in his many excursions in search of
mild adventure, had become familiar. They were so familiar that the
unfamiliarity of the hurrying figure of a girl of his own class who
passed in front of him down Grand Street brought him, abruptly
wondering, to a halt. She had passed directly under an electric light,
and her dress, and walk, and bearing he seemed to recognize, but as
belonging to another place. What a girl, well-born and well-dressed,
could be doing at such an hour in such a neighborhood aroused his
curiosity; but it was rather with a feeling of _noblesse oblige_, and
a hope of being of use to one of his own people, that he crossed to
the opposite side of the street and followed her. She was evidently
going somewhere; that was written in every movement of her regular
quick walk and her steadfast look ahead. Her veil hid the upper part
of her face, and the passing crowd shut her sometimes entirely from
view; but Van Bibber, himself unnoticed, succeeded in keeping her in
sight, while he speculated as to the nature of her errand and her
personality. At Eldridge Street she turned sharply to the north, and,
without a change in her hurrying gait, passed on quickly, and turned
again at Rivington. "Oh," said Van Bibber, with relieved curiosity,
"one of the College Settlement," and stopped satisfied. But the street
had now become deserted, and though he disliked the idea of following
a woman, even though she might not be aware of his doing so, he
disliked even more the idea of leaving her to make her way in such a
place alone. And so he started on again, and as there was now more
likelihood of her seeing him in the empty street, he dropped farther
to the rear and kept in the shadow; and as he did so, he saw a man,
whom he had before noticed on the opposite side of the street, quicken
his pace and draw nearer to the girl. It seemed impossible to Van
Bibber that any man could mistake the standing of this woman and the
evident purpose of her haste; but the man was apparently settling his
pace to match hers, as if only waiting an opportunity to approach her.
Van Bibber tucked his stick under his arm and moved forward more
quickly. It was midnight, and the street was utterly strange to him.
From the light of the lamps he could see signs in Hebrew and the
double eagle of Russia painted on the windows of the saloons. Long
rows of trucks and drays stood ranged along the pavements for the
night, and on some of the stoops and fire-escapes of the tenements a
few dwarfish specimens of the Polish Jew sat squabbling in their
But it was not until they had reached Orchard Street, and when
Rivington Street was quite empty, that the man drew up uncertainly
beside the girl, and, bending over, stared up in her face, and then,
walking on at her side, surveyed her deliberately from head to foot.
For a few steps the girl moved on as apparently unmindful of his near
presence as though he were a stray dog running at her side; but when
he stepped directly in front of her, she stopped and backed away from
him fearfully. The man hesitated for an instant, and then came on
after her, laughing.
Van Bibber had been some distance in the rear. He reached the curb
beside them just as the girl turned back, with the man still following
her, and stepped in between them. He had come so suddenly from out of
the darkness that they both started. Van Bibber did not look at the
man. He turned to the girl, and raised his hat slightly, and
recognized Eleanore Cuyler instantly as he did so; but as she did not
seem to remember him he did not call her by name, but simply said,
with a jerk of his head, "Is this man annoying you?"
Miss Cuyler seemed to wish before everything else to avoid a scene.
"He--he just spoke to me, that is all," she said. "I live only a
block below here; if you will please let me go on alone, I would be
very much obliged."
"Certainly, do go on," said Van Bibber, "but I shall have to follow
you until you get in-doors. You needn't be alarmed, no one will speak
to you." Then he turned to the man, and said, in a lower tone, "You
wait here till I get back, will you? I want to talk to you."
The man paid no attention to him whatsoever. He was so far misled by
Van Bibber's appearance as to misunderstand the situation entirely.
"Oh, come now," he said, smiling knowingly at the girl, "you can't
shake me for no dude."
He put out his hand as he spoke as though he meant to touch her. Van
Bibber pulled his stick from under his arm and tossed it out of his
way, and struck the man twice heavily in the face. He was very cool
and determined about it, and punished him, in consequence, much more
effectively than if his indignation had made him excited. The man gave
a howl of pain, and stumbled backwards over one of the stoops, where
he dropped moaning and swearing, with his fingers pressed against his
"_Please_, now," begged Van Bibber, quickly turning to Miss Cuyler, "I
am very sorry, but if you had _only_ gone when I asked you to." He
motioned impatiently with his hand. "Will you please go?"
But the girl, to his surprise, stood still and looked past him over
his shoulder. Van Bibber motioned again for her to pass on, and then,
as she still hesitated, turned and glanced behind him. The street had
the blue-black look of a New York street at night. There was not a
lighted window in the block. It seemed to have grown suddenly more
silent and dirty and desolate-looking. He could see the glow of the
elevated station at Allen Street, and it seemed fully a half-mile
away. Save for the girl and the groaning fool on the stoop, and the
three figures closing in on him, he was quite alone. The foremost of
the three men stopped running, and came up briskly with his finger
held interrogatively in front of him. He stopped when it was within a
foot of Van Bibber's face.
"Are you looking for a fight?" he asked.
There was enough of the element of the sport in Van Bibber to enable
him to recognize the same element in the young man before him. He knew
that this was no whimpering blackguard who followed women into side
streets to insult them; this was one of the purest specimens of the
tough of the East-Side water-front, and he and his companions would
fight as readily as Van Bibber would smoke--and they would not fight
fair. The adventure had taken on a grim and serious turn, and Van
Bibber gave an imperceptible shrug and a barely audible exclamation of
disgust as he accepted it.
"Because," continued his new opponent with business-like briskness,
"if you're looking for a fight, you can set right to me. You needn't
think you can come down here and run things--you--" He followed this
with an easy roll of oaths, intended to goad his victim into action.
A reformed prize-fighter had once told Van Bibber that there were six
rules to observe in a street fight. He said he had forgotten the first
five, but the sixth one was to strike first. Van Bibber turned his
head towards Miss Cuyler. "You had better run," he said, over his
shoulder; and then, turning quickly, he brought his left fist, with
all the strength and weight of his arm and body back of it, against
the end of the new-comer's chin.
This is a most effective blow. This is so because the lower jaw is
anatomically loose; and when it is struck heavily, it turns and jars
the brain, and the man who is struck feels as though the man who
struck him had opened the top of his skull and taken his brains in his
hand and wrenched them as a brakeman wrenches a brake. If you shut
your teeth hard, and rap the tip of your chin sharply with your
knuckles, you can get an idea of how effective this is when multiplied
by an arm and all the muscles of a shoulder.
The man threw up his arms and went over backwards, groping blindly
with his hands.
Van Bibber heard a sharp rapping behind him frequently repeated; he
could not turn to see what it was, for one of the remaining men was
engaging him in front, and the other was kicking at his knee-cap, and
striking at his head from behind. He was no longer cool; he was
grandly and viciously excited; and, rushing past his opponent, he
caught him over his hip with his left arm across his breast, and so
tossed him, using his hip for a lever.
A man in this position can be thrown so that he will either fall as
lightly as a baby falls from his pillow to the bed, or with sufficient
force to break his ribs. Van Bibber, being excited, threw him the
latter way. Seeing this, the second man, who had so far failed to find
Van Bibber's knee-cap, backed rapidly away, with his hands in front of
"Here," he cried, "lem'me alone; I'm not in this."
"Oh yes, you are," cried Van Bibber, gasping, but with fierce
politeness. "Excuse me, but you are. Put up your hands; I'm going to
He had a throbbing feeling in the back of his head, and his breathing
was difficult. He could still hear the heavy, irregular rapping behind
him, but it had become confused with the throbbing in his head. "Put
up your hands," he panted.
The third man, still backing away, placed his arms in a position of
defence, and Van Bibber beat them down savagely, and caught him by the
throat and pounded him until his arm was tired, and he had to drop him
at his feet.
As he turned dizzily, he heard a sharp answering rap down the street,
and saw coming towards him the burly figure of a policeman running
heavily and throwing his night-stick in front of him by its leather
thong, so that it struck reverberating echoes out of the pavement.
And then he saw to his amazement that Miss Cuyler was still with him,
standing by the curb and beating it with his heavy walking-stick as
calmly as though she were playing golf, and looking keenly up and down
the street for possible aid. Van Bibber gazed at her with breathless
"Good heavens!" he panted, "didn't I ask you _please_ to go home?"
The policeman passed them and dived uncertainly down a dark area-way
as one departing figure disappeared into the open doorway of a
tenement, on his way to the roof, and the legs of another dodged
between the line of drays.
"Where'd them fellows go?" gasped the officer, instantly reappearing
up the steps of the basement.
"How should I know?" answered Van Bibber, and added, with ill-timed
lightness, "they didn't leave any address." The officer stared at him
with severe suspicion, and then disappeared again under one of the
"I am very, very much obliged to you, Miss Cuyler," Van Bibber said.
He tried to raise his hat, but the efforts of the gentleman who had
struck him from behind had been successful and the hat came off only
after a wrench that made him wince.
"You were very brave," he went on. "And it was very good of you to
stand by me. You won't mind my saying so, now, will you? But you gave
the wrong rap. I hadn't time to tell you to change it." He mopped the
back of his head tenderly with his handkerchief, and tried to smile
cheerfully. "You see, you were giving the rap," he explained politely,
"for a fire-engine; but it's of no consequence." Miss Cuyler came
closer to him, and he saw that her face showed sudden anxiety.
"Mr. Van Bibber!" she exclaimed. "Oh, I didn't know it was you! I
didn't know it was any one who knew me. What will you think?"
"I beg your pardon," said Van Bibber, blankly.
"You must not believe," she went on, quickly, "that I am subject to
this sort of thing. Please do not imagine I am annoyed down here like
this. It has never happened before. I was nursing a woman, and her
son, who generally goes home with me, was kept at the works, and I
thought I could risk getting back alone. You see," she explained, as
Van Bibber's face showed he was still puzzled, "my people do not fancy
my living down here; and if they should hear of this they would never
consent to my remaining another day, and it means so much to me now."
"They need not hear of it," Van Bibber answered, sympathetically.
"They certainly won't from me, if that's what you mean."
The officer had returned, and interrupted them brusquely. It seemed
to him that he was not receiving proper attention.
"Say, what's wrong here?" he demanded. "Did that gang take anything
"They did not," said Van Bibber. "They held me up, but they didn't
take nothin' off'n of me."
The officer flushed uncomfortably, and was certain now that he was
being undervalued. He surveyed the blood running down over Van
Bibber's collar with a smile of malicious satisfaction.
"They done you up, any way," he suggested.
"Yes, they done me up," assented Van Bibber, cheerfully, "and if you'd
come a little sooner they'd done you up too."
He stepped to Miss Cuyler's side, and they walked on down the street
to the College Settlement in silence, the policeman following
uncertainly in the rear.
"I haven't thanked you, Mr. Van Bibber," said Miss Cuyler. "It was
really fine of you, and most exciting. You must be very strong. I
can't imagine how you happened to be there, but it was most fortunate
for me that you were. If you had not, I--"
"Oh, that's all right," said Van Bibber, hurriedly. "I haven't had so
much fun without paying for it for a long time. Fun," he added,
meditatively, "costs so much."
"And you will be so good, then, as not to speak of it," she said, as
she gave him her hand at the door.
"Of course not. Why should I?" said Van Bibber, and then his face
beamed and clouded again instantly. "But, oh," he begged, "I'm afraid
I'll have to tell Travers! Oh, please let me tell Travers! I'll make
him promise not to mention it, but it's too good a joke on him, when
you think what he missed. You see," he added, hastily, "we were to
have gone out together, and he forgot, as usual, and missed the whole
thing, and he wasn't _in it_, and it will just about break his heart.
He's always getting grinds on me," he went on, persuasively, "and now
I've got this on him. You will really have to let me tell Travers."
Miss Cuyler looked puzzled and said "Certainly," though she failed to
see why Mr. Travers should want his head broken, and then she thanked
Van Bibber again and nodded to the officer and went in-doors.
The policeman, who had listened to the closing speeches, looked at Van
Bibber with dawning admiration.
"Now then, officer," said Van Bibber, briskly, "which of the saloons
around here break the law by keeping open after one? You probably
know, and if you don't I'll have to take your number." And peace being
in this way restored, the two disappeared together into the darkness
to break the law.
Van Bibber told Travers about it the next morning, and Travers forgot
he was not to mention it, and told the next man he met. By one o'clock
the story had grown in his telling, and Van Bibber's reputation had
grown with it.
Travers found three men breakfasting together at the club, and drew up
a chair. "Have you heard the joke Van Bibber's got on me?" he asked,
sadly, by way of introduction.
Wainwright was sitting at the next table with his back to them. He had
just left the customs officers, and his wonder at the dirtiness of the
streets and height of the buildings had given way to the pleasure of
being home again, and before the knowledge that "old friends are
best." He had meant to return again immediately as soon as he had
arranged for the production of his play in New York; his second play
was to be brought out in London in a month. But the heartiness of his
friends' greetings, and the anxiety of men to be recognized who had
been mere acquaintances hitherto, had touched and amused him. He was
too young to be cynical over it, and he was glad, on the whole, that
he had come back.
His mind was wide awake, and shifting from one pleasant thought to
another, when he heard Travers's voice behind him raised impressively.
"And they both went at Van hammer and tongs," he heard Travers say,
"one in front and the other behind, kicking and striking all over the
shop. And," continued Travers, interrupting himself suddenly with a
shrill and anxious tone of interrogation, "where was I while this was
going on? That's the pathetic part of it--where was I?" His voice rose
to almost a shriek of disappointment. "_I_ was sitting in a red-silk
box listening to a red-silk opera with a lot of _girls_--that's what
_I_ was doing. I wasn't in it; I wasn't. I--"
"Well, never mind what you were doing," said one of the men,
soothingly; "you weren't in it, as you say. Return to the libretto."
"Well," continued Travers, meekly, "let me see; where was I?"
"You were in a red-silk box," suggested one of the men, reaching for
"Go on, Travers," said the first man. "The two men were kicking Van
"Oh, yes," cried Travers. "Well, Van just threw the first fellow over
his head, and threw him _hard_. He must have broken his ribs, for the
second fellow tried to get away, and begged off, but Van wouldn't have
it, and rushed him. He got the tough's head under his arm, and
pummelled it till his arm ached, and then he threw him into the
street, and asked if any other gentleman would like to try his luck.
That's what Van did, and he told me not to tell any one, so I hope you
will not mention it. But I had to tell you, because I want to know if
you have ever met a harder case of hard luck than that. Think of it,
will you? Think of me sitting there in a red-silk box listening to
"What did the girl do?" interrupted one of the men.
"Oh, yes," said Travers, hastily; "that's the best part of it; that's
the plot--the girl. Now, who do you think the girl was?" He looked
around the table proudly, with the air of a man who is sure of his
"How should I know?" one man said. "Some actress going home from the
"No," said Travers. "It's a girl you all know." He paused
impressively. "What would you say now," he went on, dropping his
voice, "if I was to tell you it was Eleanore Cuyler?"
The three men looked up suddenly and at each other with serious
concern. There was a moment's silence. "Well," said one of them,
softly, "that _is_ rather nasty."
"Now, what I want to know is," Travers ran on, elated at the sensation
his narrative had made--"what I want to know is, where is that girl's
mother, or sister, or brother? Have they anything to say? Has any one
anything to say? Why, one of Eleanore Cuyler's little fingers is worth
more than all the East and West Side put together; and she is to be
allowed to run risks like--"
Wainwright pushed his chair back, and walked out of the room.
"See that fellow, quick," said Travers; "that's Wainwright who writes
plays and things. He's a thoroughbred sport, too, and he just got back
from London. It's in the afternoon papers."
Miss Cuyler was reading to Mrs. Lockmuller, who was old and bedridden
and cross. Under the influence of Eleanore's low voice she frequently
went to sleep, only to wake and demand ungratefully why the reading
Miss Cuyler was very tired. It was close and hot, and her head ached a
little, and the prospect across the roofs of the other tenements was
not cheerful. Neither was the thought that she was to spend her summer
making working-girls happy on a farm on Long Island.
She had grown sceptical as to working-girls, and of the good she did
them--or any one else. It was all terribly dreary and forlorn, and she
wished she could end it by putting her head on some broad shoulder and
by being told that it didn't matter, and that she was not to blame if
the world would be wicked and its people unrepentant and ungrateful.
Corrigan, on the third floor, was drunk again and promised trouble.
His voice ascended to the room in which she sat, and made her nervous,
for she was feeling the reaction from the excitement of the night
before. There were heavy footsteps on the stairs, and a child's shrill
voice cried, "She's in there," and, suspecting it might be Corrigan,
she looked up fearfully, and then the door opened and she saw the most
magnificent and the handsomest being in the world. His magnificence
was due to a Bond Street tailor, who had shown how very small a waist
will go with very broad shoulders, and if he was handsome, that was
the tan of a week at sea. But it was not the tan, nor the unusual
length of his coat, that Eleanore saw, but the eager, confident look
in his face--and all she could say was, "Oh, Mr. Wainwright," feebly.
Wainwright waved away all such trifling barriers as "Mister" and
"Miss." He came towards her with his face stern and determined.
"Eleanore," he said, "I have a hansom at the door, and I want you to
come down and get into it."
Was this the young man she had been used to scold and advise and
criticise? She looked at him wondering and happy. It seemed to rest
her eyes just to see him, and she loved his ordering her so, until a
flash of miserable doubt came over her that if he was confident, it
was because he was not only sure of himself, but of some one else on
the other side of the sea.
And all her pride came to her, and thankfulness that she had not shown
him what his coming meant, and she said, "Did my mother send you? How
did you come? Is anything wrong?"
He took her hand in one of his and put his other on top of it firmly.
"Yes," he said. "Everything is wrong. But we'll fix all that."
He did not seem able to go on immediately, but just looked at her.
"Eleanore," he said, "I have been a fool, all sorts of a fool. I came
over here to go back again at once, and I am going back, but not
alone. I have been alone too long. I had begun to fancy there was only
one woman in the world until I came back, and then--something some
man said proved to me there was another one, and that she was the only
one, and that I--had come near losing her. I had tried to forget
about her. I had tried to harden myself to her by thinking she had
been hard to me. I said--she does not care for you as the woman you
love must care for you, but it doesn't matter now whether she cares or
not, for I love _her_ so. I want her to come to me and scold me again,
and tell me how unworthy I am, and make me good and true like herself,
and happy. The rest doesn't count without her, it means nothing to me
unless she takes it and keeps it in trust for me, and shares it with
me." He had both her hands now, and was pressing them against the
flowers in the breast of the long coat.
"Eleanore," he said, "I tried to tell you once of the one thing that
would bring me back and you stopped me. Will you stop me now?"
She tried to look up at him, but she would not let him see the
happiness in her face just then, and lowered it and gently said, "No,
It must have taken him a long time to tell it, for after he had driven
them twice around the Park the driver of the hansom decided that he
could ask eight dollars at the regular rates, and might even venture
on ten, and the result showed that as a judge of human nature he was a
They were married in May, and Lord Lowes acted as best man, and his
sister sent her warmest congratulations and a pair of silver
candlesticks for the dinner-table, which Wainwright thought were very
handsome indeed, but which Miss Cuyler considered a little showy. Van
Bibber and Travers were ushers, and, indeed, it was Van Bibber himself
who closed the door of the carriage upon them as they were starting
forth after the wedding. Mrs. Wainwright said something to her
husband, and he laughed and said, "Van, Mrs. Wainwright says she's
"Yes?" said Van Bibber, pleased and eager, putting his head through
the window of the carriage. "What for, Mrs. Wainwright--the
chafing-dish? Travers gave half, you know."
And then Mrs. Wainwright said, "No; not for the chafing-dish."
And they drove off, laughing.
"Look at 'em," said Travers, morosely. "_They_ don't think the wheels
are going around, do they? _They_ think it is just the earth revolving
with them on top of it, and nobody else. We don't have to say 'please'
to no one, not much! We can do just what we jolly well please, and
dine when we please and wherever we please. You say to me, Travers,
let's go to Pastor's to-night, and I say, I won't, and you say I won't
go to the Casino, because I don't want to, and there you are, and all
we have to do is to agree to go somewhere else."
"I wonder," said Van Bibber, dreamily, as he watched the carriage
disappear down the avenue, "what brings a man to the proposing point?"
"Some other man," said Travers, promptly. "Some man he thinks has
more to do for the girl than he likes."
"Who," persisted Van Bibber, innocently, "do you think was the man in
"How should I know?" exclaimed Travers, impatiently, waving away such
unprofitable discussion with a sweep of his stick, and coming down to
the serious affairs of life. "What I want to know is to what theatre
we are going--that's what I want to know."
A RECRUIT AT CHRISTMAS
Young Lieutenant Claflin left the Brooklyn Navy-yard at an early hour,
and arrived at the recruiting-office at ten o'clock. It was the day
before Christmas, and even the Bowery, "the thieves' highway," had
taken on the emblems and spirit of the season, and the young officer
smiled grimly as he saw a hard-faced proprietor of a saloon directing
the hanging of wreaths and crosses over the door of his palace and
telling the assistant barkeeper to make the red holly berries "show
The cheap lodging-houses had trailed the green over their illuminated
transoms, and even on Mott Street the Chinamen had hung up strings of
evergreen over the doors of the joss-house and the gambling-house next
door. And the tramps and good-for-nothings, just back from the Island,
had an animated, expectant look, as though something certainly was
going to happen.
Lieutenant Claflin nodded to Corporal Goddard at the door of the
recruiting-office, and startled that veteran's rigidity, and kept his
cotton-gloved hand at his visor longer than the Regulations required,
by saying, "Wish you merry Christmas," as he jumped up the stairs.
The recruiting-office was a dull, blank-looking place, the view from
the windows was not inspiring, and the sight of the plump and
black-eyed Jewess in front of the pawn-shop across the street, who was
a vision of delight to Corporal Goddard, had no attractions to the
officer upstairs. He put on his blue jacket, with the black braid down
the front, lighted a cigar, and wrote letters on every other than
official matters, and forgot about recruits. He was to have leave of
absence on Christmas, and though the others had denounced him for
leaving the mess-table on that day, they had forgiven him when he
explained that he was going to spend it with his people at home. The
others had homes as far away as San Francisco and as far inland as
Milwaukee, and some called the big ship of war home; but Claflin's
people lived up in Connecticut, and he could reach them in a few
hours. He was a very lucky man, the others said, and he felt very
cheerful over it, and forgot the blank-looking office with its Rules
and Regulations, and colored prints of uniforms, and models of old
war-ships, and tin boxes of official documents which were to be filled
out and sent to "the Honorable, the Secretary of the Navy."
Corporal Goddard on the stoop below shifted from one foot to the
other, and chafed his gloved hands softly together to keep them warm.
He had no time to write letters on unofficial writing-paper, nor to
smoke cigars or read novels with his feet on a chair, with the choice
of looking out at the queer stream of human life moving by below the
window on the opposite side of the Bowery. He had to stand straight,
which came easily to him now, and to answer questions and urge
doubtful minds to join the ranks of the government's marines.
A drunken man gazed at Ogden's colored pictures of the American
infantry, cavalry, and marine uniforms that hung before the door, and
placed an unsteady finger on the cavalry-man's picture, and said he
chose to be one of those. Corporal Goddard told him severely to be off
and get sober and grow six inches before he thought of such a thing,
and frowned him off the stoop.
Then two boys from the country asked about the service, and went off
very quickly when they found they would have to remain in it for three
years at least. A great many more stopped in front of the gay pictures
and gazed admiringly at Corporal Goddard's bright brass buttons and
brilliant complexion, which they innocently attributed to exposure to
the sun on long, weary marches. But no one came to offer himself in
earnest. At one o'clock Lieutenant Claflin changed his coat and went
down-town to luncheon, and came back still more content and in feeling
with the season, and lighted another cigar.
But just as he had settled himself comfortably he heard Corporal
Goddard's step on the stairs and a less determined step behind him.
He took his feet down from the rung of the other chair, pulled his
undress jacket into place, and took up a pen.
Corporal Goddard saluted at the door and introduced with a wave of his
hand the latest applicant for Uncle Sam's service. The applicant was
as young as Lieutenant Claflin, and as good-looking; but he was dirty
and unshaven, and his eyes were set back in the sockets, and his
fingers twitched at his side. Lieutenant Claflin had seen many
applicants in this stage. He called it the remorseful stage, and was
used to it.
"Name?" said Lieutenant Claflin, as he pulled a printed sheet of paper
The applicant hesitated, then he said,
The Lieutenant noticed the hesitation, but he merely remarked to
himself, "It's none of my business," and added, aloud, "Nationality?"
and wrote United States before the applicant answered.
The applicant said he was unmarried, was twenty three years old, and
had been born in New York City. Even Corporal Goddard knew this last
was not so, but it was none of his business, either. He moved the
applicant up against the wall under the measuring-rod, and brought it
down on his head.
So he measured and weighed the applicant, and tested his eyesight with
printed letters and bits of colored yarn, and the lieutenant kept
tally on the sheet, and bit the end of his pen and watched the
applicant's face. There were a great many applicants, and few were
chosen, but none of them had quite the air about him which this one
had. Lieutenant Claflin thought Corporal Goddard was just a bit too
callous in the way he handled the applicant, and too peremptory in his
questions; but he could not tell why Corporal Goddard treated them all
in that way. Then the young officer noticed that the applicant's white
face was flushing, and that he bit his lips when Corporal Goddard
pushed him towards the weighing-machine as he would have moved a
barrel of flour.
"You'll answer," said Lieutenant Claflin, glancing at the sheet. "Your
average is very good. All you've got to do now is to sign this, and
then it will be over." But he did not let go of the sheet in his hand,
as he would have done had he wanted it over. Neither did the applicant
move forward to sign.
"After you have signed this," said the young officer, keeping his eyes
down on the paper before him, "you will have become a servant of the
United States; you will sit in that other room until the office is
closed for to-day, and then you will be led over to the Navy-yard and
put into a uniform, and from that time on for three years you will
have a number, the same number as the one on your musket. You and the
musket will both belong to the government. You will clean and load
the musket, and fight with it if God ever gives us the chance; and the
government will feed you and keep you clean, and fight with you if
The lieutenant looked up at the corporal and said, "You can go,
Goddard," and the corporal turned on his heel and walked downstairs,
"You may spend the three years," continued the officer, still without
looking at the applicant, "which are the best years of a young man's
life, on the sea, visiting foreign ports, or you may spend it marching
up and down the Brooklyn Navy-yard and cleaning brass-work. There are
some men who are meant to clean brass-work and to march up and down in
front of a stone arsenal, and who are fitted for nothing else. But to
every man is given something which should tell him that he is put here
to make the best of himself. Every man has that, even the men who are
only fit to clean brass rods; but some men kill it, or try to kill it,
in different ways, generally by rum. And they are as generally
successful, if they keep the process up long enough. The government,
of which I am a very humble representative, is always glad to get good
men to serve her, but it seems to me (and I may be wrong, and I'm
quite sure that I am speaking contrary to Regulations) that some of
her men can serve her better in other ways than swabbing down decks.
Now, you know yourself best. It may be that you are just the sort of
man to stand up and salute the ladies when they come on board to see
the ship, and to watch them from for'ard as they walk about with the
officers. You won't be allowed to speak to them; you will be number
329 or 328, and whatever benefits a good woman can give a man will be
shut off from you, more or less, for three years.
"And, on the other hand, it may be that there are some good women who
could keep you on shore, and help you to do something more with
yourself than to carry a musket. And, again, it may be that if you
stayed on shore you would drink yourself more or less comfortably to
death, and break somebody's heart. I can't tell. But if I were not a
commissioned officer of the United States, and a thing of Rules and
Regulations who can dance and wear a uniform, and a youth generally
unfit to pose as an example, I would advise you not to sign this, but
to go home and brace up and leave whiskey alone.
"Now, what shall we do?" said the young lieutenant, smiling; "shall we
tear this up, or will you sign it?"
The applicant's lips were twitching as well as his hands now, and he
rubbed his cuff over his face and smiled back.
"I'm much obliged to you," he said, nervously. "That sounds a rather
flat thing to say, I know, but if you knew all I meant by it, though,
it would mean enough. I've made a damned fool of myself in this city,
but nothing worse. And it was a choice of the navy, where they'd keep
me straight, or going to the devil my own way. But it won't be my own
way now, thanks to you. I don't know how you saw how it was so
quickly; but, you see, I have got a home back in Connecticut, and
women that can help me there, and I'll go back to them and ask them to
let me start in again where I was when I went away."
"That's good," said the young officer, cheerfully; "that's the way to
talk. Tell me where you live in Connecticut, and I'll lend you the
car-fare to get there. I'll expect it back with interest, you know,"
he said, laughing.
"Thank you," said the rejected applicant. "It's not so far but that I
can walk, and I don't think you'd believe in me if I took money."
"Oh, yes, I would," said the lieutenant. "How much do you want?"
"Thank you, but I'd rather walk," said the other. "I can get there
easily enough by to-morrow. I'll be a nice Christmas present, won't
I?" he added, grimly.
"You'll do," said the young officer. "I fancy you'll be about as
welcome a one as they'll get." He held out his hand and the other
shook it, and walked out with his shoulders as stiff as those of
Then he came back and looked into the room shyly. "I say," he said,
hesitatingly. The lieutenant ran his hand down into his pocket.
"You've changed your mind?" he asked, eagerly. "That's good. How much
will you want?"
The rejected applicant flushed. "No, not that," he said. "I just came
back to say--wish you a merry Christmas."
A PATRON OF ART
Young Carstairs and his wife had a studio at Fifty-seventh Street and
Sixth Avenue, where Carstairs painted pictures and Mrs. Carstairs
mended stockings and wrote letters home to her people in Vermont.
Young Carstairs had had a picture in the Salon, and was getting one
ready for the Academy, which he hoped to have accepted if he lived
long enough to finish it. They were very poor. Not so poor that there
was any thought of Carstairs starving to death, but there was at least
a possibility that he would not be able to finish his picture in the
studio, for which he could not pay the rent. He was very young and had
no business to marry; but she was willing, and her people had an idea
it would come out all right. They had only three hundred dollars left,
and it was mid-winter.
Carstairs went out to sketch Broadway at One Hundred and Fifty-ninth
Street, where it is more of a country road than anything else, and his
hands almost froze while he was getting down the black lines of the
bare trees, and the deep, irregular ruts in the road, where the mud
showed through the snow. He intended to put a yellow sky behind this,
and a house with smoke coming out of the chimney, and with red light
shining through the window, and call it _Winter_.
A horse and buggy stopped just back of him, and he was conscious from
the shadows on the snow that the driver was looking down from his
Carstairs paid no attention to his spectator. He was used to working
with Park policemen and nursery-maids looking over his shoulder and
making audible criticisms or giggling hysterically. So he sketched on
and became unconscious of the shadow falling on the snow in front of
him; and when he looked up about a quarter of an hour later and
noticed that the shadow was still there, he smiled at the tribute such
mute attention paid his work. When the sketch was finished he leaned
back and closed one eye, and moved his head from side to side and
surveyed it critically. Then he heard a voice over his shoulder say,
in sympathetic tones, "Purty good, isn't it?" He turned and smiled at
his critic, and found him to be a fat, red-faced old gentleman,
wrapped in a great fur coat with fur driving-gloves and fur cap.
"You didn't mind my watching you, did you?" asked the old gentleman.
Carstairs said no, he did not mind. The other said that it must be
rather cold drawing in such weather, and Carstairs said yes, it was;
but that you couldn't get winter and snow in June.
"Exactly," said the driver; "you've got to take it as it comes. How
are you going back?"
Carstairs said he would walk to One Hundred and Fifty-fifth Street and
take the elevated.
"You'd better get in here," said the older man. "Do you know anything
about trotting?" Carstairs got in, and showed that he did know
something about trotting by his comments on the mare in front of him.
This seemed to please the old gentleman, and he beamed on Carstairs
approvingly. He asked him a great many questions about his work, and
told him that he owned several good pictures himself, but admitted
that it was at his wife's and daughter's suggestion that he had
purchased them. "They made me get 'em when we were in Paris," he said,
"and they cost a lot of money, and a heap more before I got 'em
through the Custom-house." He mentioned the names of the artists who
had painted them, and asked Carstairs if he had ever heard of them,
and Carstairs said yes, that he knew of them all, and had studied
under some of them.
"They're purty high up, I guess," suggested the driver, tentatively.
"Oh, yes," Carstairs answered, lending himself to the other's point of
view, "you needn't be afraid of ever losing on your investment. Those
pictures will be worth more every year."
This seemed to strike the older man as a very sensible way to take his
gallery, and he said, when they had reached the studio, that he would
like to see more of Mr. Carstairs and to look at his pictures. His
name, he said, was Cole. Carstairs smilingly asked him if he was any
relation to the railroad king, of whom the papers spoke as King Cole,
and was somewhat embarrassed when the old gentleman replied, gravely,
that he was that King Cole himself. Carstairs had a humorous desire to
imprison him in his studio and keep him for ransom. Some one held the
horse, and the two men went up to the sixth floor and into Carstairs's
studio, where they discovered pretty Mrs. Carstairs in the act of
sewing a new collar-band on one of her husband's old shirts. She went
on at this while the railroad king, who seemed a very simple, kindly
old gentleman, wandered around the studio and turned over the
pictures, but made no comment. It had been a very cold drive, and
Carstairs felt chilled, so he took the hot water his wife had for her
tea and some Scotch whiskey and a bit of lemon, and filled a glass
with it for his guest and for himself. Mrs. Carstairs rose and put
some sugar in King Cole's glass and stirred it for him, and tasted it
out of the spoon and coughed, which made the old gentleman laugh. Then
he lighted a cigar, and sat back in a big arm-chair and asked many
questions, until, before they knew it, the young people had told him a
great deal about themselves--almost everything except that they were
poor. He could never guess that, they thought, because the studio was
so handsomely furnished and in such a proper neighborhood. It was
late in the afternoon, and quite dark, when their guest departed,
without having made any comment on the paintings he had seen, and
certainly without expressing any desire to purchase one.
Mrs. Carstairs said, when her husband told her who their guest had
been, that they ought to have held a pistol to his head and made him
make out a few checks for them while they had him about. "Billionaires
don't drop in like that every day," said she. "I really don't think we
appreciated our opportunity."
They were very much surprised a few days later when the railroad king
rang at the door, and begged to be allowed to come in and get warm,
and to have another glass of hot Scotch. He did this very often, and
they got to like him very much. He said he did not care for his club,
and his room at home was too strongly suggestive of the shop, on
account of the big things he had thought over there, but that their
studio was so bright and warm; and they reminded him, he said, of the
days when he was first married, before he was rich. They tried to
imagine what he was like when he was first married, and failed
utterly. Mrs. Carstairs was quite sure he was not at all like her
* * * * *
There was a youth who came to call on the Misses Cole, who had a great
deal of money, and who was a dilettante in art. He had had a studio
in Paris, where he had spent the last two years, and he wanted one,
so he said at dinner one day, in New York.
Old Mr. Cole was seated but one place away from him, and was wondering
when the courses would stop and he could get upstairs. He did not care
for the dinners his wife gave, but she always made him come to them.
He never could remember whether the roast came before or after the
bird, and he was trying to guess how much longer it would be before he
would be allowed to go, when he overheard the young man at his
daughter's side speaking.
"The only studio in the building that I would care to have," said the
young man, "is occupied at present. A young fellow named Carstairs has
it, but he is going to give it up next week, when I will move in. He
has not been successful in getting rid of his pictures, and he and his
wife are going back to Vermont to live. I feel rather sorry for the
chap, for he is really very clever and only needs a start. It is
almost impossible for a young artist to get on here, I imagine, unless
he knows people, or unless some one who is known buys his work."
"Yes," said Miss Cole, politely. "Didn't you say you met the Whelen
girls before you left Paris? Were they really such a success at
Mr. Cole did not eat any more dinner, but sat thoughtfully until he
was allowed to go. Then he went out into the hall, and put on his
overcoat and hat.
The Carstairses were dismantling the studio. They had been at it all
day, and they were very tired. It seemed so much harder work to take
the things down and pack them away than it did to unpack them and put
them up in appropriate corners and where they would show to the best
The studio looked very bare indeed, for the rugs and altar cloths and
old curtains had been stripped from the walls, and the pictures and
arms and plaques lay scattered all over the floor. It was only a week
before Christmas, and it seemed a most inappropriate time to evict
one's self. "And it's hardest," said Carstairs, as he rolled up a
great Daghestan rug and sat on it, "to go back and own up that you're
"A what!" cried young Mrs. Carstairs, indignantly. "Aren't you ashamed
of yourself? You're not a failure. It's the New Yorkers who don't know
what's good when it's shown them. They'll buy all those nasty French
pictures because they're expensive and showy, and they can't
understand what's true and good. They're not educated up to it, and
they won't be for fifty years yet."
"Fifty years is a long time to wait," said her husband, resignedly,
"but if necessary we can give them that much time. And we were to have
gone abroad, and taken dinner at Bignon's, and had a studio in
"Well, you needn't talk about that just now," said Mrs. Carstairs, as
she shook out an old shawl. "It's not cheerful."
There came a knock at the door, and the railroad king walked in,
covered with snow. "Goodness me!" exclaimed King Cole, "what are you
They told him they were going back to Vermont to spend Christmas and
the rest of the winter.
"You might have let me know you were going," said the king. "I had
something most important to say to you, and you almost gave me the
He seated himself very comfortably and lighted a fat, black cigar,
which he chewed as he smoked. "You know," he said, "that I was brought
up in Connecticut. I own the old homestead there still, and a tenant
of mine lives in it. I've got a place in London, or, I mean, my wife
has, and one in Scotland, and one in Brittany, a chateau, and one
in--well, I've a good many here and there. I keep 'em closed till I
want 'em. I've never been to the shooting-place in Scotland--my sons
go there--nor to the London house, but I have to the French place, and
I like it next best to only one other place on earth. Because it's
among big trees and on a cliff, where you can see the ships all day,
and the girls in colored petticoats catching those little fish you eat
with brown bread. I go there in the summer and sit on the cliff, and
smoke and feel just as good as though I owned the whole coast and all
the sea in sight. I bought a number of pictures of Brittany, and the
girls had the place photographed by a fellow from Paris, with the
traps in the front yard, and themselves and their friends on the front
terrace in groups. But it never seemed to me to be just what I
remembered of the place. And so what I want to ask is, if you'll go up
to my old place in Connecticut and paint me a picture of it as I used
to know it when I was a boy, so that I can have it by me in my room. A
picture with the cow-path leading up from the pool at the foot of the
hill, and the stone walls, and the corn piled on the fields, and the
pumpkins lying around, and the sun setting behind the house. Paint it
on one of these cold, snappy afternoons, when your blood tingles and
you feel good that you're alive. And when you get through with that,
I'd like you to paint me a picture to match it of the chateau, and as
many little sketches of the fishermen, and the girls with the big
white hats and bare legs and red petticoats, as you choose. You can
live in the homestead till that picture's done, and then you can cross
over and live in the chateau.
"I don't see that there is anything wrong in painting a picture to
order, is there? You paint a portrait to order, why shouldn't you
paint an old house, or a beautiful castle on a cliff, with the sea
beyond it? If you wish, I'll close with you now and call it a
Mrs. Carstairs had been standing all this time with an unframed
picture in one hand, and a dust brush in the other, and her husband
had been sitting on the rolled-up Turkish rug and trying not to look
"I'd like to do it very well," he said, simply.
"Well, that's good," replied the railroad king, heartily. "You'll need
a retaining fee, I suppose, like lawyers do; and you put your best
work on the two pictures and remember what they mean to _me_, and put
the spirit of home into them. It's my home you're painting, do you
understand? I think you do. That's why I asked you instead of asking
any of the others. Now, you know how I feel about it, and you put the
feeling into the picture; and as to the price, you ask whatever you
please, and you live at my houses and at my expense until the work is
done. If I don't see you again," he said, as he laid a check down on
the table among the brushes and paint tubes and cigars, "I will wish
you a merry Christmas." Then he hurried out and banged the door behind
him and escaped their thanks, and left them alone together.
The pictures of Breton life and landscape were exhibited a year later
in Paris, and in the winter in New York, and, as they bore the
significant numerals of the Salon on the frame, they were immediately
appreciated, and many people asked the price. But the attendant said
they were already sold to Mr. Cole, the railroad king, who had
purchased also the great artistic success of the exhibition--an old
farm-house with a wintry landscape, and the word "Home" printed
ANDY M'GEE'S CHORUS GIRL
Andy M'Gee was a fireman, and was detailed every evening to theatre
duty at the Grand Opera House, where the Ada Howard Burlesque and
Comic Opera Company was playing "Pocahontas." He had nothing to do but
to stand in the first entrance and watch the border lights and see
that the stand lights in the wings did not set fire to the canvas. He
was a quiet, shy young man, very strong-looking and with a handsome
boyish face. Miss Agnes Carroll was the third girl from the right in
the first semi-circle of amazons, and very beautiful. By rights she
should have been on the end, but she was so proud and haughty that she
would smile but seldom, and never at the men in front. Brady, the
stage manager, who was also the second comedian, said that a girl on
the end should at least look as though she were enjoying herself, and
though he did not expect her to talk across the footlights, she might
at least look over them once in a while, just to show there was no ill
feeling. Miss Carroll did not agree with him in this, and so she was
relegated to the third place, and another girl who was more
interested in the audience and less in the play took her position.
When Miss Carroll was not on the stage she used to sit on the carpeted
steps of the throne, which were not in use after the opening scene,
and read novels by the Duchess, or knit on a pair of blue woollen
wristlets, which she kept wrapped up in a towel and gave to the
wardrobe woman to hold when she went on. One night there was a quicker
call than usual, owing to Ada Howard's failing to get her usual encore
for her waltz song, and Brady hurried them. The wardrobe woman was not
in sight, so Agnes handed her novel and her knitting to M'Gee and
said: "Will you hold these for me until I come off?" She looked at him
for the first time as she handed him the things, and he felt, as he
had felt several times before, that her beauty was of a distinctly
disturbing quality. There was something so shy about her face when she
was not on the stage, and something so kindly, that he stood holding
the pieces of blue wool, still warm from her hands, without moving
from the position he had held when she gave them to him. When she came
off he gave them back to her and touched the visor of his cap as she
thanked him. One of the other beautiful amazons laughed and whispered,
"Agnes has a mash on the fire laddie," which made the retiring Mr.
M'Gee turn very red. He did not dare to look and see what effect it
had on Miss Carroll. But the next evening he took off his hat to her,
and she said "Good-evening," quite boldly. After that he watched her a
great deal. He thought he did it in such a way that she did not see
him, but that was only because he was a man; for the other women
noticed it at once, and made humorous comments on it when they were in
Old man Sanders, who had been in the chorus of different comic-opera
companies since he was twenty years old, and who was something of a
pessimist, used to take great pleasure in abusing the other members of
the company to Andy M'Gee, and in telling anecdotes concerning them
which were extremely detrimental to their characters. He could not
find anything good to say of any of them, and M'Gee began to believe
that the stage was a very terrible place indeed. He was more sorry for
this, and he could not at first understand why, until he discovered
that he was very much interested in Miss Agnes Carroll, and her
character was to him a thing of great and poignant importance. He
often wished to ask old Sanders about her, but he was afraid to do so,
partly because he thought he ought to take it for granted that she was
a good girl, and partly because he was afraid Sanders would tell him
she was not. But one night as she passed them, as proud and haughty
looking as ever, old Sanders grunted scornfully, and M'Gee felt that
he was growing very red.
"Now, there is a girl," said the old man, "who ought to be out of
this business. She's too good for it, and she'll never get on in it.
Not that she couldn't keep straight and get on, but because she is too
little interested in it, and shows no heart in the little she has to
do. She can sing a little bit, but she can't do the steps."
"Then why does she stay in it?" said Andy M'Gee.
"Well, they tell me she's got a brother to support. He's too young or
too lazy to work, or a cripple or something. She tried giving singing
lessons, but she couldn't get any pupils, and now she supports herself
and her brother with this."
Andy M'Gee felt a great load lifted off his mind. He became more and
more interested in Miss Agnes Carroll, and he began to think up little
speeches to make to her, which were intended to show how great his
respect for her was, and what an agreeable young person he might be if
you only grew to know him. But she never grew to know him. She always
answered him very quietly and very kindly, but never with any show of
friendliness or with any approach to it, and he felt that he would
never know her any better than he did on the first night she spoke to
him. But three or four times he found her watching him, and he took
heart at this and from something he believed he saw in her manner and
in the very reticence she showed. He counted up how much of his pay he
had saved, and concluded that with it and with what he received
monthly he could very well afford to marry. When he decided on this
he became more devoted to her, and even the girls stopped laughing
about it now. They saw it was growing very serious indeed.
One afternoon there was a great fire, and he and three others fell
from the roof and were burned a bit, and the boy ambulance surgeon
lost his head and said they were seriously injured, which fact got
into the afternoon papers, and when Andy turned up as usual at the
Opera House there was great surprise and much rejoicing. And the next
day one of the wounded firemen who had had to remain in the hospital
overnight told Andy that a most beautiful lady had come there and
asked to see him and had then said: "This is not the man; the papers
said Mr. M'Gee was hurt." She had refused to tell her name, but had
gone away greatly relieved.
Andy dared to think that this had been Agnes Carroll, and that night
he tried to see her to speak to her, but she avoided him and went at
once to her dressing-room whenever she was off the stage. But Andy was
determined to speak to her, and waited for her at the stage door,
instead of going back at once to the engine house to make out his
report, which was entirely wrong, and which cost him a day's pay. It
was Tuesday night, and salaries had just been given all around, and
the men and girls left the stage door with the envelopes in their
hands and discussing the different restaurants at which they would
fitly celebrate the weekly walk of the ghost. Agnes came out among the
last, veiled, and moving quickly through the crowd of half-grown boys,
and men about town, and poor relations who lay in wait and hovered
around the lamp over the stage door like moths about a candle. Andy
stepped forward quickly to follow her, but before he could reach her
side a man stepped up to her, and she stopped and spoke to him in a
low tone and retreated as she spoke. Andy heard him, with a sharp,
jealous doubt in his heart, and stood still. Then the man reached for
the envelope in the girl's hand and said, "Give it to me, do you
hear?" and she drew back and started to run, but he seized her arm.
Then Andy jumped at him and knocked him down, and picked him up again
by the collar and beat him over the head. "Stop!" the girl cried.
"Stop like--," said Andy.
"Stop! do you hear?" cried the woman again "He has a right to the
money. He is my husband."
Andy asked to be taken off theatre duty, and the captain did what he
asked. After that he grew very morose and unhappy, and was as cross
and disagreeable as he could be; so that the other men said they would
like to thrash him just once. But when there was a fire he acted like
another man, and was so reckless that the captain, mistaking
foolhardiness for bravery, handed in his name for promotion, and as
his political backing was very strong, he was given the white helmet
and became foreman of another engine-house. But he did not seem to
enjoy life any the more, and he was most unpopular. The winter passed
away and the summer came, and one day on Fifth Avenue Andy met old man
Sanders, whom he tried to avoid, because the recollections he brought
up were bitter ones; but Sanders buttonholed him and told him he had
been reading about his getting the Bennett medal, and insisted on his
taking a drink with him.
"And, by the way," said Sanders, just as Andy thought he had finally
succeeded in shaking him off, "do you remember Agnes Carroll? It seems
she was married to a drunken, good-for-nothing lout, who beat her.
Well, he took a glass too much one night, and walked off a ferry-boat
into the East River. Drink is a terrible thing, isn't it? They say the
paddle-wheels knocked the--"
"And his wife?" gasped Andy.
"She's with us yet," said Sanders. "We're at the Bijou this week. Come
in and see the piece."
Brady, the stage manager, waved a letter at the acting manager.
"Letter from Carroll," he said. "Sends in her notice. Going to leave
the stage, she says; going to get married again. She was a good girl,"
he added with a sigh, "and she sang well enough, but she couldn't do
the dance steps a little bit."
A LEANDER OF THE EAST RIVER
"Hefty" Burke was one of the best swimmers in the East River. There
was no regular way open for him to prove this, as the gentlemen of the
Harlem boat-clubs, under whose auspices the annual races were given,
called him a professional, and would not swim against him. "They won't
keep company with me on land," Hefty complained, bitterly, "and they
can't keep company with me in the water; so I lose both ways." Young
Burke held these gentlemen of the rowing clubs in great contempt, and
their outriggers and low-necked and picturesque rowing clothes as
well. They were fond of lying out of the current, with the oars pulled
across at their backs for support, smoking and commenting audibly upon
the other oarsmen who passed them by perspiring uncomfortably, and
conscious that they were being criticised. Hefty said that these
amateur oarsmen and swimmers were only pretty boys, and that he could
give them two hundred yards start in a mile of rough or smooth water
and pass them as easily as a tug passes a lighter.
He was quite right in this latter boast; but, as they would call him
a professional and would not swim against him, there was no way for
him to prove it. His idea of a race and their idea of a race differed.
They had a committee to select prizes and open a book for entries, and
when the day of the races came they had a judges' boat with gay
bunting all over it, and a badly frightened referee and a host of
reporters, and police boats to keep order. But when Hefty swam, his
two backers, who had challenged some other young man through a
sporting paper, rowed in a boat behind him and yelled and swore
directions, advice, warnings, and encouragement at him, and in their
excitement drank all of the whiskey that had been intended for him.
And the other young man's backers, who had put up ten dollars on him,
and a tugboat filled with other rough young men, kegs of beer, and
three Italians with two fiddles and one harp, followed close in the
wake of the swimmers. It was most exciting, and though Hefty never had
any prizes to show for it, he always came in first, and so won a great
deal of local reputation. He also gained renown as a life-saver; for
if it had not been for him many a venturesome lad would have ended his
young life in the waters of the East River.
For this he received ornate and very thin gold medals, with very
little gold spread over a large extent of medal, from grateful parents
and admiring friends. These were real medals, and given to him, and
not paid for by himself as were "Rags" Raegan's, who always bought
himself a medal whenever he assaulted a reputable citizen and the case
was up before the Court of General Sessions. It was the habit of Mr.
Raegan's friends to fall overboard for him whenever he was in
difficulty of this sort, and allow themselves to be saved, and to
present Raegan with the medal he had prepared; and this act of heroism
would get into the papers, and Raegan's lawyer would make the most of
it before the judges. Rags had been Hefty's foremost rival among the
swimmers of the East Side, but since the retirement of the former into
reputable and private life Hefty was the acknowledged champion of the
Hefty was not at all a bad young man--that is, he did not expect his
people to support him--and he worked occasionally, especially about
election time, and what he made in bets and in backing himself to swim
supplied him with small change. Then he fell in love with Miss Casey,
and the trouble and happiness of his life came to him hand and hand
together; and as this human feeling does away with class distinctions,
I need not feel I must apologize for him any longer, but just tell his
He met her at the Hon. P.C. McGovern's Fourth Ward Association's
excursion and picnic, at which he was one of the twenty-five
vice-presidents. On this occasion Hefty had jumped overboard after one
of the Rag Gang whom the members of the Half-Hose Social Club had, in
a spirit of merriment, dropped over the side of the boat. This action
and the subsequent rescue and ensuing intoxication of the half-drowned
member of the Rag Gang had filled Miss Casey's heart with admiration,
and she told Hefty he was a good one and ought to be proud of himself.
On the following Sunday he walked out Avenue A to Tompkins Square with
Mary, and he also spent a great deal of time every day on her stoop
when he was not working, for he was working now and making ten dollars
a week as an assistant to an ice-driver. They had promised to give him
fifteen dollars a week and a seat on the box if he proved steady. He
had even dreamed of wedding Mary in the spring. But Casey was a
particularly objectionable man for a father-in-law, and his objections
to Hefty were equally strong. He honestly thought the young man no fit
match for his daughter, and would only promise to allow him to "keep
company" with Mary on the condition of his living steadily.
So it became Hefty's duty to behave himself. He found this a little
hard to do at first, but he confessed that it grew easier as he saw
more of Miss Casey. He attributed his reform to her entirely. She had
made the semi-political, semi-social organizations to which he
belonged appear stupid, and especially so when he lost his money
playing poker in the club-room (for the club had only one room), when
he might have put it away for her. He liked to talk with her about the
neighbors in the tenement, and his chance of political advancement to
the position of a watchman at the Custom-house Wharf, and hear her
play "Mary and John" on the melodeon. He boasted that she could make
it sound as well as it did on the barrel-organ.
He was very polite to her father and very much afraid of him, for he
was a most particular old man from the North of Ireland, and objected
to Hefty because he was a good Catholic and fond of street fights. He
also asked pertinently how Hefty expected to support a wife by
swimming from one pier to another on the chance of winning ten
dollars, and pointed out that even this precarious means of livelihood
would be shut off when the winter came. He much preferred "Patsy"
Moffat as a prospective son-in-law, because Moffat was one of the
proprietors in a local express company with a capital stock of three
wagons and two horses. Miss Casey herself, so it seemed to Hefty, was
rather fond of Moffat; but he could not tell for whom she really
cared, for she was very shy, and would as soon have thought of
speaking a word of encouragement as of speaking with unkindness.
There was to be a ball at the Palace Garden on Wednesday night, and
Hefty had promised to call for Mary at nine o'clock. She told him to
be on time, and threatened to go with her old love, Patsy Moffat, if
he were late.
On Monday night the foreman at the livery stable of the ice company
appointed Hefty a driver, and, as his wages would now be fifteen
dollars a week, he concluded to ask Mary to marry him on Wednesday
night at the dance.
He was very much elated and very happy.
His fellow-workmen heard of his promotion and insisted on his standing
treat, which he did several times, until the others became flippant in
their remarks and careless in their conduct. In this innocent but
somewhat noisy state they started home, and on the way were
injudicious enough to say, "Ah there!" to a policeman as he issued
from the side door of a saloon. The policeman naturally pounded the
nearest of them on the head with his club, and as Hefty happened to be
that one, and as he objected, he was arrested. He gave a false name,
and next morning pleaded not guilty to the charge of "assaulting an
officer and causing a crowd to collect."
His sentence was thirty days in default of three hundred dollars, and
by two o'clock he was on the boat to the Island, and by three he had
discarded the blue shirt and red suspenders of an iceman for the gray
stiff cloth of a prisoner. He took the whole trouble terribly to
heart. He knew that if Old Man Casey, as he called him, heard of it
there would be no winning his daughter with his consent, and he feared
that the girl herself would have grave doubts concerning him. He was
especially cast down when he thought of the dance on Wednesday night,
and of how she would go off with Patsy Moffat. And what made it worse
was the thought that if he did not return he would lose his position
at the ice company's stable, and then marriage with Mary would be
quite impossible. He grieved over this all day, and speculated as to
what his family would think of him. His circle of friends was so well
known to other mutual friends that he did not dare to ask any of them
to bail him out, for this would have certainly come to Casey's ears.
He could do nothing but wait. And yet thirty days was a significant
number to his friends, and an absence of that duration would be hard
to explain. On Wednesday morning, two days after his arrest, he was
put to work with a gang of twenty men breaking stone on the roadway
that leads from the insane quarters to the penitentiary. It was a
warm, sunny day, and the city, lying just across the narrow channel,
never looked more beautiful. It seemed near enough for him to reach
out his hand and touch it. And the private yachts and big
excursion-boats that passed, banging out popular airs and alive with
bunting, made Hefty feel very bitter. He determined that when he got
back he would go look up the policeman who had assaulted him and break
his head with a brick in a stocking. This plan cheered him somewhat,
until he thought again of Mary Casey at the dance that night with
Patsy Moffat, and this excited him so that he determined madly to
break away and escape. His first impulse was to drop his crowbar and
jump into the river on the instant, but his cooler judgment decided
him to wait.
At the northern end of the Island the grass runs high, and there are
no houses of any sort upon it. It reaches out into a rocky point,
where it touches the still terribly swift eddies of Hell Gate, and its
sharp front divides the water and directs it towards Astoria on the
east and the city on the west. Hefty determined to walk off from the
gang of workmen until he could drop into this grass and to lie there
until night. This would be easy, as there was only one man to watch
them, for they were all there for only ten days or one month, and the
idea that they should try to escape was hardly considered. So Hefty
edged off farther from the gang, and then, while the guard was busy
lighting his pipe, dropped into the long grass and lay there quietly,
after first ridding himself of his shoes and jacket. At six o'clock a
bell tolled and the guard marched away, with his gang shambling after
him. Hefty guessed they would not miss him until they came to count
heads at supper-time; but even now it was already dark, and lights
were showing on the opposite bank. He had selected the place he meant
to swim for--a green bank below a row of new tenements, a place where
a few bushes still stood, and where the boys of Harlem hid their
clothes when they went in swimming.
* * * * *
At half-past seven it was quite dark, so dark, in fact, that the
three lanterns which came tossing towards him told Hefty that his
absence had been discovered. He rose quickly and stepped cautiously,
instead of diving, into the river, for he was fearful of hidden rocks.
The current was much stronger than he had imagined, and he hesitated
for a moment, with the water pulling at his knees, but only for a
moment; for the men were hunting for him in the grass.
He drew the gray cotton shirt from his shoulders, and threw it back of
him with an exclamation of disgust, and of relief at being a free man
again, and struck his broad, bare chest and the biceps of his arms
with a little gasp of pleasure in their perfect strength, and then
bent forward and slid into the river.
The current from the opening at Hell Gate caught him up as though he
had been a plank. It tossed him and twisted him and sucked him down.
He beat his way for a second to the surface and gasped for breath and
was drawn down again, striking savagely at the eddies which seemed to
twist his limbs into useless, heavy masses of flesh and muscle. Then
he dived down and down, seeking a possibly less rapid current at the
muddy bottom of the river; but the current drew him up again until he
reached the top, just in time, so it seemed to him, to breathe the
pure air before his lungs split with the awful pressure. He was
gloriously and fiercely excited by the unexpected strength of his
opponent and the probably fatal outcome of his adventure. He stopped
struggling, that he might gain fresh strength, and let the current
bear him where it would, until he saw that it was carrying him swiftly
to the shore and to the rocks of the Island. And then he dived again
and beat his way along the bottom, clutching with his hands at the
soft, thick mud, and rising only to gasp for breath and sink again.
His eyes were smarting hotly, and his head and breast ached with
pressure that seemed to come from the inside and threatened to burst
its way out. His arms had grown like lead and had lost their strength,
and his legs were swept and twisted away from his control and were
numb and useless. He assured himself fiercely that he could not have
been in the water for more than five minutes at the longest, and
reminded himself that he had often before lived in it for hours, and
that this power, which was so much greater than his own, could not
outlast him. But there was no sign of abatement in the swift, cruel
uncertainty of its movement, and it bore him on and down or up as it
pleased. The lights on the shore became indistinct, and he finally
confused the two shores, and gave up hope of reaching the New York
side, except by accident, and hoped only to reach some solid land
alive. He did not go over all of his past life, but the vision of Mary
Casey did come to him, and how she would not know that he had been
innocent. It was a little thing to distress himself about at such a
time, but it hurt him keenly. And then the lights grew blurred, and
he felt that he was making heavy mechanical strokes that barely kept
his lips above the water-line. He felt the current slacken
perceptibly, but he was too much exhausted to take advantage of it,
and drifted forward with it, splashing feebly like a dog, and holding
his head back with a desperate effort. A huge, black shadow, only a
shade blacker than the water around him, loomed up suddenly on his
right, and he saw a man's face appear in the light of a hatchway and
"Help!" he cried, "help!" but his voice sounded far away and barely
audible. He struck out desperately against the current, and turned on
his back and tried to keep himself afloat where he was. "Help!" he
called again, feebly, grudging the strength it took to call even that.
"Help! Quick, for God's sake! help me!"
Something heavy, black, and wet struck him sharply in the face and
fell with a splash on the water beside him. He clutched for it
quickly, and clasped it with both hands and felt it grow taut; and
then gave up thinking, and they pulled him on board.
When he came to himself, the captain of the canal-boat stooped and
took a fold of the gray trousers between his thumb and finger. Then he
raised his head and glanced across at the big black Island, where
lights were still moving about on the shore, and whistled softly. But
Hefty looked at him so beseechingly that he arose and came back with
a pair of old boots and a suit of blue jeans.
"Will you send these back to me to-morrow?" he asked.
"Sure," said Hefty.
"And what'll I do with these?" said the captain, holding up the gray
"Anything you want, except to wear 'em," said Mr. Burke, feebly, with
* * * * *
One hour later Miss Casey was standing up with Mr. Patsy Moffat for
the grand march of the grand ball of the Jolly Fellows' Pleasure Club
of the Fourteenth Ward, held at the Palace Garden. The band was just
starting the "Boulanger March," and Mr. Moffat was saying wittily that
it was warm enough to eat ice, when Mr. Hefty Burke shouldered in
between him and Miss Casey. He was dressed in his best suit of
clothes, and his hair was conspicuously damp.
"Excuse me, Patsy," said Mr. Burke, as he took Miss Casey's arm, in
his, "but this march is promised to me. I'm sorry I was late, and I'm
sorry to disappoint you; but you're like the lad that drives the
hansom cab, see?--you're not in it."
"But indeed," said Miss Casey, later, "you shouldn't have kept me
a-waiting. It wasn't civil."
"I know," assented Hefty, gloomily, "but I came as soon as I could. I
even went widout me supper so's to get here; an' they wuz expectin' me
to stay to supper, too."
HOW HEFTY BURKE GOT EVEN
Hefty Burke was once clubbed by a policeman named McCluire, who
excused the clubbing to his Honor by swearing that Hefty had been
drunk and disorderly, which was not true. Hefty got away from the
Island by swimming the East River, and swore to get even with the
policeman. This story tells how he got even.
Mr. Carstairs was an artist who had made his first great success by
painting figures and landscapes in Brittany. He had a studio at
Fifty-eighth Street and Sixth Avenue, and was engaged on an historical
subject in which there were three figures. One was a knight in full
armor, and the other was a Moor, and the third was the figure of a
woman. The suit of armor had been purchased by Mr. Carstairs in Paris,
and was believed to have been worn by a brave nobleman, one of whose
extravagant descendants had sold everything belonging to his family in
order to get money with which to play baccarat. Carstairs was at the
sale and paid a large price for the suit of armor which the Marquis de
Neuville had worn, and set it up in a corner of his studio. It was in
eight or a dozen pieces, and quite heavy, but was wonderfully carved
and inlaid with silver, and there were dents on it that showed where a
Saracen's scimetar had been dulled and many a brave knight's spear had
struck. Mr. Carstairs had paid so much for it that he thought he ought
to make a better use of it, if possible, than simply to keep it dusted
and show it off to his friends. So he began this historical picture,
and engaged Hefty Burke to pose as the knight and wear the armor.
Hefty's features were not exactly the sort of features you would
imagine a Marquis de Neuville would have; but as his visor was down in
the picture, it did not make much material difference; and as his
figure was superb, he answered very well. Hefty drove an ice-wagon
during business hours, and, as a personal favor to Mr. Carstairs,
agreed to pose for him, for a consideration, two afternoons of each
week, and to sleep in the studio at night, for it was filled with
The armor was a never-ending source of amazement and bewilderment to
Hefty. He could not understand why a man would wear such a suit, and
especially when he went out to fight. It was the last thing in the
world he would individually have selected in which to make war.
"Ef I was goin' to scrap wid anybody," he said to Mr. Carstairs, "I'd
as lief tie meself up wid dumb-bells as take to carry all this stuff
on me. A man wid a baseball bat and swimmin' tights on could dance
all around youse and knock spots out of one of these things. The other
lad wouldn't be in it. Why, before he could lift his legs or get his
hands up you cud hit him on his helmet, and he wouldn't know what
killed him. They must hev sat down to fight in them days."
Mr. Carstairs painted on in silence and smiled grimly.
"I'd like to have seen a go with the parties fixed out in a pair of
these things," continued Hefty. "I'd bet on the lad that got in the
first whack. He wouldn't have to do nothing but shove the other one
over on his back and fall on him. Why, I guess this weighs half a ton
if it weighs an ounce!"
For all his contempt, Hefty had a secret admiration for the ancient
marquis who had worn this suit, and had been strong enough to carry
its weight and demolish his enemies besides. The marks on the armor
interested him greatly, and he was very much impressed one day when he
found what he declared to be blood-stains on the lining of the helmet.
"I guess the old feller that wore this was a sport, eh?" he said,
proudly, shaking the pieces on his arms until they rattled. "I guess
he done 'em up pretty well for all these handicaps. I'll bet when he
got to falling around on 'em and butting 'em with this fire helmet he
made 'em purty tired. Don't youse think so?"
Young Carstairs said he didn't doubt it for a moment.
The Small Hours Social Club was to give a prize masquerade ball at the
Palace Garden on New Year's Night, and Hefty had decided to go. Every
gentleman dancer was to get a white silk badge with a gold tassel, and
every committeeman received a blue badge with "Committee" written across
it in brass letters. It cost three dollars to be a committeeman, but only
one dollar "for self and lady." There were three prizes. One of a
silver water-pitcher for the "handsomest-costumed lady dancer," an
accordion for the "best-dressed gent," and a cake for the most
original idea in costume, whether worn by "gent or lady." Hefty, as
well as many others, made up his mind to get the accordion, if it cost
him as much as seven dollars, which was half of his week's wages. It
wasn't the prize he wanted so much, but he thought of the impression
it would make on Miss Casey, whose father was the well-known janitor
of that name. They had been engaged for some time, but the engagement
hung fire, and Hefty thought that a becoming and appropriate costume
might hasten matters a little. He was undecided as to whether he
should go as an Indian or as a courtier of the time of Charles II.
Auchmuty Stein, of the Bowery, who supplies costumes and wigs at
reasonable rates, was of the opinion that a neat sailor suit of light
blue silk and decorated with white anchors was about the "brettiest
thing in the shop, and sheap at fife dollars;" but Hefty said he
never saw a sailor in silk yet, and he didn't think they ever wore it.
He couldn't see how they could keep the tar and salt-water from
The Charles II. court suit was very handsome, and consisted of red
cotton tights, blue velveteen doublet, and a blue cloak lined with
pale pink silk. A yellow wig went with this, and a jewelled sword
which would not come out of the scabbard. It could be had for seven
dollars a night. Hefty was still in doubt about it and was much
perplexed. Auchmuty Stein told him Charlie Macklin, the Third Avenue
ticket-chopper, was after the same suit, and that he had better take
it while he could get it. But Hefty said he'd think about it. The next
day was his day for posing, and as he stood arrayed in the Marquis de
Neuville's suit of mail he chanced to see himself in one of the long
mirrors, and was for the first time so struck with the ferocity of his
appearance that he determined to see if old man Stein had not a suit
of imitation armor, which would not be so heavy and would look as
well. But the more Hefty thought of it, the more he believed that only
the real suit would do. Its associations, its blood-stains, and the
real silver tracings haunted him, and he half decided to ask Mr.
Carstairs to lend it to him.
But then he remembered overhearing Carstairs tell a brother-artist
that he had paid two thousand francs for it, and, though he did not
know how much a franc might be, two thousand of anything was too much
to wear around at a masquerade ball. But the thing haunted him. He was
sure if Miss Casey saw him in that suit she would never look at
Charlie Macklin again.
"They wouldn't be in the same town with me," said Hefty. "And I'd get
two of the prizes, sure."
He was in great perplexity, when good luck or bad luck settled it for
"Burke," said Mr. Carstairs, "Mrs. Carstairs and I are going out of
town for New Year's Day, and will be gone until Sunday. Take a turn
through the rooms each night, will you? as well as the studio, and see
that everything is all right." That clinched the matter for Hefty. He
determined to go as far as the Palace Garden as the Marquis de
Neuville, and say nothing whatever to Mr. Carstairs about it.
Stuff McGovern, who drove a night-hawk and who was a particular
admirer of Hefty's, even though as a cabman he was in a higher social
scale than the driver of an ice-cart, agreed to carry Hefty and his
half-ton of armor to the Garden, and call for him when the ball was
"Holee smoke!" gasped Mr. McGovern, as Hefty stumbled heavily across
the pavement with an overcoat over his armor and his helmet under his
arm. "Do you expect to do much dancing in that sheet-iron?"
"It's the looks of the thing I'm gambling on," said Hefty. "I look
like a locomoteeve when I get this stovepipe on me head."
Hefty put on his helmet in the cab and pulled down the visor, and when
he alighted the crowd around the door was too greatly awed to jeer,
but stood silent with breathless admiration. He had great difficulty
in mounting the somewhat steep flight of stairs which led to the
dancing-room, and considered gloomily that in the event of a fire he
would have a very small chance of getting out alive. He made so much
noise coming up that the committeemen thought some one was rolling
some one else down the stairs, and came out to see the fight. They
observed Hefty's approach with whispered awe and amazement.
"Wot are you?" asked the man at the door. "Youse needn't give your
real name," he explained, politely. "But you've got to give something
if youse are trying for a prize, see?"
"I'm the Black Knight," said Hefty in a hoarse voice, "the Marquis de
Newveal; and when it comes to scrappin' wid der perlice, I'm de best
in der business."
This last statement was entirely impromptu, and inspired by the
presence of Policeman McCluire, who, with several others, had been
detailed to keep order. McCluire took this challenge calmly, and
looked down and smiled at Hefty's feet.
"He looks like a stove on two legs," he said to the crowd. The crowd,
as a matter of policy, laughed.
"You'll look like a fool standing on his head in a snow-bank if you
talk impudent to me," said Hefty, epigrammatically, from behind the
barrier of his iron mask. What might have happened next did not
happen, because at that moment the music sounded for the grand march,
and Hefty and the policeman were swept apart by the crowd of Indians,
Mexicans, courtiers, negro minstrels, and clowns. Hefty stamped across
the waxed floor about as lightly as a safe could do it if a safe could
walk. He found Miss Casey after the march and disclosed his identity.
She promised not to tell, and was plainly delighted and flattered at
being seen with the distinct sensation of the ball. "Say, Hefty," she
said, "they just ain't in it with you. You'll take the two prizes
sure. How do I look?"
"Out o' sight," said Hefty. "Never saw you lookin' better."
"That's good," said Miss Casey, simply, and with a sigh of
Hefty was undoubtedly a great success. The men came around him and
pawed him, and felt the dents in the armor, and tried the weight of it
by holding up one of his arms, and handled him generally as though he
were a freak in a museum. "Let 'em alone," said Hefty to Miss Casey,
"I'm not sayin' a word. Let the judges get on to the sensation I'm
a-makin,' and I'll walk off with the prizes. The crowd is wid me
At midnight the judges pounded on a table for order, and announced
that after much debate they gave the first prize to Miss Lizzie
Cannon, of Hester Street, for "having the most handsomest costume on
the floor, that of Columbia." The fact that Mr. "Buck" Masters, who
was one of the judges, and who was engaged to Miss Cannon, had said
that he would pound things out of the other judges if they gave the
prize elsewhere was not known, but the decision met with as general
satisfaction as could well be expected.
"The second prize," said the judges, "goes to the gent calling himself
the Black Knight--him in the iron leggings--and the other prize for
the most original costume goes to him, too." Half the crowd cheered at
this, and only one man hissed. Hefty, filled with joy and with the
anticipation of the elegance the ice-pitcher would lend to his flat
when he married Miss Casey, and how conveniently he could fill it,
turned on this gentleman and told him that only geese hissed.
The gentleman, who had spent much time on his costume, and who had
been assured by each judge on each occasion that evening when he had
treated him to beer that he would get the prize, told Hefty to go lie
down. It has never been explained just what horrible insult lies back
of this advice, but it is a very dangerous thing to tell a gentleman
to do. Hefty lifted one foot heavily and bore down on the disappointed
masker like an ironclad in a heavy sea. But before he could reach him
Policeman McCluire, mindful of the insult put upon him by this
stranger, sprang between them and said: "Here, now, no scrapping here;
get out of this," and shoved Hefty back with his hand. Hefty uttered a
mighty howl of wrath and long-cherished anger, and lurched forward,
but before he could reach his old-time enemy three policemen had him
around the arms and by the leg, and he was as effectually stopped as
though he had been chained to the floor.
"Let go o' me," said Hefty, wildly. "You're smotherin' me. Give me a
fair chance at him."
But they would not give him any sort of a chance. They rushed him down
the steep stairs, and while McCluire ran ahead two more pushed back
the crowd that had surged uncertainly forward to the rescue. If Hefty
had declared his identity the police would have had a very sad time of
it; but that he must not get Mr. Carstairs's two-thousand-franc suit
into trouble was all that filled Hefty's mind, and all that he wanted
was to escape. Three policemen walked with him down the street. They
said they knew where he lived, and that they were only going to take
him home. They said this because they were afraid the crowd would
interfere if it imagined Hefty was being led to the precinct
But Hefty knew where he was going as soon as he turned the next corner
and was started off in the direction of the station-house. There was
still quite a small crowd at his heels, and Stuff McGovern was
driving along at the side anxious to help, but fearful to do anything,
as Hefty had told him not to let any one know who his fare had been
and that his incognito must be preserved.
The blood rushed to Hefty's head like hot liquor. To be arrested for
nothing, and by that thing McCluire, and to have the noble
coat-of-mail of the Marquis de Neuville locked up in a dirty cell and
probably ruined, and to lose his position with Carstairs, who had
always treated him so well, it was terrible! It could not be! He
looked through his visor; to the right and to the left a policeman
walked on each side of him with his hand on his iron sleeve, and
McCluire marched proudly before. The dim lamps of McGovern's
night-hawk shone at the side of the procession and showed the crowd
trailing on behind. Suddenly Hefty threw up his visor "Stuff," he
cried, "are youse with me?"
He did not wait for any answer, but swung back his two iron arms and
then brought them forward with a sweep on to the back of the necks of
the two policemen. They went down and forward as if a lamp-post had
fallen on them, but were up again in a second. But before they could
rise Hefty set his teeth, and with a gurgle of joy butted his iron
helmet into McCluire's back and sent him flying forward into a
snow-bank. Then he threw himself on him and buried him under three
hundred pounds of iron and flesh and blood, and beat him with his
mailed hand over the head and choked the snow and ice down into his
throat and nostrils.
"You'll club me again, will you?" he cried. "You'll send me to the
Island?" The two policemen were pounding him with their night-sticks
as effectually as though they were rapping on a door-step; and the
crowd, seeing this, fell on them from behind, led by Stuff McGovern
with his whip, and rolled them in the snow and tried to tear off their
coat-tails, which means money out of the policeman's own pocket for
repairs, and hurts more than broken ribs, as the Police Benefit
Society pays for them.
"Now then, boys, get me into a cab," cried Hefty. They lifted him in
and obligingly blew out the lights so that the police could not see
its number, and Stuff drove Hefty proudly home. "I guess I'm even with
that cop now," said Hefty as he stood at the door of the studio
building perspiring and happy; "but if them cops ever find out who the
Black Knight was, I'll go away for six months on the Island. I guess,"
he added, thoughtfully, "I'll have to give them two prizes up."
OUTSIDE THE PRISON
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