by F. Hopkinson Smith
Broadway on dry nights, or rather that part known as the Great
White Way, is a crowded thoroughfare, dominated by lofty buildings,
the sky-line studded with constellations of colored signs pencilled in
fire. Broadway on wet, rain-drenched nights is the fairy concourse of
the Wonder City of the World, its asphalt splashed with liquid jewels
afloat in molten gold.
Across this flood of frenzied brilliance surge hurrying mobs,
dodging the ceaseless traffic, trampling underfoot the wealth of the
Indies, striding through pools of quicksilver, leaping gutters filled
to the brim with melted rubies—horse, car, and man so many black
silhouettes against a tremulous sea of light.
Along this blinding whirl blaze the playhouses, their wide portals
aflame with crackling globes, toward which swarm bevies of
pleasure-seeking moths, their eyes dazzled by the glare. Some with
heads and throats bare dart from costly broughams, the mountings of
their sleek, rain-varnished horses glittering in the flash of the
electric lamps. Others spring from out street cabs. Many come by twos
and threes, their skirts held high. Still others form a line, its head
lost in a small side door. These are in drab and brown, with worsted
shawls tightly drawn across thin shoulders. Here, too, wedged in
between shabby men, the collars of their coats muffling their chins,
their backs to the grim policeman, stand keen-eyed newsboys and ragged
street urchins, the price of a gallery seat in their tightly closed
Soon the swash and flow of light flooding the street and sidewalks
shines the clearer. Fewer dots and lumps of man, cab, and cart now
cross its surface. The crowd has begun to thin out. The doors of the
theatres are deserted; some flaunt signs of "Standing Room Only." The
cars still follow their routes, lunging and pausing like huge beetles;
but much of the wheel traffic has melted, with only here and there a
cab or truck between which gold-splashed umbrellas pick a hazardous
With the breaking of the silent dawn, shadowed in a lonely archway
or on an abandoned doorstep the wet, bedraggled body of a hapless moth
is sometimes found, her iridescent wings flattened in the mud. Then
for a brief moment a cry of protest, or scorn, or pity goes up. The
passers-by raise their hands in anger, draw their skirts aside in
horror, or kneel in tenderness. It is the same the world over, and New
York is no better and, for that matter, no worse.
On one of these rain-drenched nights, some ten years or more ago,
when the streets were flooded with jewels, and the sky-line aflame, a
man in a slouch hat, a wet mackintosh clinging to his broad shoulders,
stood close to the entrance of one of the principal playhouses along
this Great White Way. He had kept his place since the doors were
opened, his hat-brim, pulled over his brow, his keen eye searching
every face that passed. To all appearances he was but an idle
looker-on, attracted by the beauty of the women, and yet during all
that time he had not moved, nor had he been in the way, nor had he
been observed even by the door man, the flap of the awning casting
its shadow about him. Only once had he strained forward, gazing
intently, then again relaxed, settling into his old position.
Not until the last couple had hurried by, breathless at being
late, did he refasten the top button of his mackintosh, move clear of
the nook which had sheltered him, and step out into the open.
For an instant he glanced about him, seemed to hesitate, as does a
bit of driftwood blocked in the current; then, with a sudden
straightening of his shoulders, he wheeled and threaded his way
At Herald Square, he mounted with an aimless air a flight of low
steps, peered though the windows, and listened to the crunch of the
presses chewing the cud of the day's news. When others crowded close
he stepped back to the sidewalk, raising his hat once in apology to
an elderly dame who, with head down, had brushed him with her
By the time he reached 30th Street his steps had become slower.
Again he hesitated, and again with an aimless air turned to the left,
the rain still pelting his broad shoulders, his hat pulled closer to
protect his face. No lights or color pursued him here. The fronts of
the houses were shrouded in gloom; only a hall lantern now and then
and the flare of the lamps at the crossings, he alone and buffeting
the storm—all others behind closed doors. When Fourth Avenue was
reached he lifted his head for the first time. A lighted window had
attracted his attention—a wide, corner window filled with battered
furniture, ill- assorted china, and dented brass—one of those popular
morgues that house the remains of decayed respectability.
Pausing automatically, he glanced carelessly at the contents, and
was about to resume his way when he caught sight of a small card
propped against a broken pitcher. "Choice Articles Bought and
Suddenly he stopped. Something seemed to interest him. To make
sure that he had read the card aright, he bent closer. Evidently
satisfied by his scrutiny, he drew himself erect and moved toward the
shop door as if to enter. Through the glass he saw a man in
shirt-sleeves, packing. The sight of the man brought another change
of mind, for he stepped back and raised his head to a big sign over
the front. His face now came into view, with its well-modelled nose
and square chin— the features of a gentleman of both refinement and
intelligence. A man of forty—perhaps of forty-five— clean-shaven, a
touch of gray about his temples, his eyes shadowed by heavy brows from
beneath which now and then came a flash as brief and brilliant as an
electric spark. He might have been a civil engineer, or some
scientist, or yet an officer on half pay.
"Otto Kling, 445 Fourth Avenue," he repeated to himself, to make
sure of the name and location. Then, with the quick movement of a man
suddenly imbued with new purpose, he wheeled, leaped the overflowed
gutter, and walked rapidly until he reached 13th Street. Half-way
down the block he entered the shabby doorway of an old-fashioned
house, mounted to the third floor, stepped into a small, poorly
furnished bedroom lighted by a single gas-jet, and closed the door
behind him. Lifting his wet hat from his well-rounded head, with its
smoothly brushed, closely trimmed hair—a head that would have looked
well in bronze—he raised the edge of the bedclothes and from
underneath the narrow cot dragged out a flat, sole-leather trunk of
English make. This he unlocked with a key fastened to a steel chain,
took out the tray, felt about among the contents, and drew out a
morocco-covered dressing- case, of good size and of evident value,
bearing on its top a silver plate inscribed with a monogram and crest.
The trunk was then relocked and shoved under the bed.
At this moment a knock startled him.
"Come in," he called, covering the case with a corner of the
A bareheaded, coarse-featured woman with a black shawl about her
shoulders stood in the doorway. "I've come for my money," she burst
out, too angry for preliminaries. "I'm gittin' tired of bein' put off.
You're two weeks behind."
"Only two weeks? I was afraid it was worse, my dear madame," he
answered calmly, a faint smile curling his thin lips. "You have a
better head for figures than I. But do not concern yourself. I will
pay you in the morning."
"I've heard that before, and I'm gittin' sick of it. You'd 'a'
been out of here last week if my husband hadn't been laid up with a
"I am sorry to hear about the foot. That must be even worse than
my being behind with your rent."
"Well, it's bad enough with all I got to put up with. Of course I
don't want to be ugly," she went on, her fierceness dying out as she
noticed his unruffled calm, "but these rooms is about all we've got,
and we can't afford to take no chances."
"Did you suppose I would let you?"
"Let me what?"
"Let you take chances. When I become convinced that I cannot pay
you what I owe you, I will give you notice in advance. I should be
much more unhappy over owing you such a debt than you could possibly
be in not getting your money."
The answer, so unlike those to which she had been accustomed from
other delinquents, suddenly rekindled her anger. "Will some of them
friends of yours that never show up bring you the money?" she snapped
"Have you met any of them on the stairs?" he inquired blandly.
"No, nor nowhere else. You been here now goin' on three months,
and there ain't come a letter, nor nothin' by express, and no man,
woman, or child has asked for you. Kinder queer, don't you think?"
"Yes, I do think so; and I can hardly blame you. It IS
suspicious—VERY suspicious—alarmingly so," he rejoined with an
indulgent smile. Then growing grave again: "That will do, madame. I
will send for you when I am ready. Do not lose any sleep and do not
let your husband lose any. I will shut the door myself."
When the clatter of her rough shoes had ceased to echo on the
stairs he drew the dressing-case from its hiding-place, tucked it
inside his mackintosh, turned down the gas-jet, locked the door of the
room, retracing his steps until he stood once more in front of Kling's
sign. This time he went in.
"I am glad you are still open," he began, shaking the wet from his
coat. "I hoped you would be. You are Mr. Kling, are you not?"
"Yes, dot is my name. Vot can I do for you?"
"I passed by your window a short time ago, and saw your card,
stating that advances were made on choice articles. Would this be of
any use to you?" He took the dressing-case from under his coat and
handed it to Kling. "I am not ready to sell it—not to sell it
outright; you might, perhaps, make me a small loan which would answer
my purpose. Its value is about sixty pounds—some three hundred
dollars of your money. At least, it cost that. It is one of Vickery's,
of London, and it is almost new."
Kling glanced sharply at the intruder. "I don't keep open often so
late like dis. You must come in de morning."
"Cannot you look at it now?"
Something in the stranger's manner appealed to the dealer. He
lowered his chin, adjusted his spectacles, and peered over their round
silver rims—a way with him when he was making up his mind.
"Vell, I don't mind. Let me see," and opening the case he took out
the silver-topped bottles, placing them in a row on the counter behind
which he stood. "Yes, dot's a good vun," he continued with a grunt of
approval. "Yes—dot's London, sure enough. Yes, I see Vickery's
name—whose initials is on dese bottles? And de arms—de lion and de
vings on him—dot come from somebody high up, ain't it? Vhere did you
"That is of no moment. What I want to know is, will you either pay
me a fair price for it or loan me a fair sum on it?"
"Is it yours to sell?"
"It is." There was no trace of resentment in his voice, nor did he
show the slightest irritation at being asked so pointed a question.
"Vell, I don't keep a pawn-shop. I got no license, and if I had I
vouldn't do it—too much trouble all de time. Poor vomans, dead-beats,
suckers, sneak-thieves —all kind of peoples you don't vant, to come
in the door vhen you have a pawn-shop."
"Your sign said advances made."
"The one in the window, or I would not have troubled you."
"Vell, dot means anyting you please. Sometimes I get olt
granfadder vatches dot vay, and olt Sheffield plate and tings vich olt
families sell vhen everybody is gone dead. Vy do you vant to give dis
away? I vouldn't, if I vas you. You don't look like a man vot is
broke. I vill put back de bottles. You take it home agin."
"I would if I had any home to take it to. I am a stranger here and
am two weeks behind in the rent of my room."
"Is dot so? Vell, dot is too bad. Two weeks behint and no home but
a room! I vouldn't think dot to look at you."
"I would not either if I had the courage to look at myself in the
glass. Then you cannot help me?"
"I don't say dot I can't. Somebody may come in. I have lots of
tings belong to peoples, and ven other peoples come in, sometimes dey
buy, and sometimes dey don't. Sometimes only one day goes by, and
sometimes a whole year. You leave it vid me. I take care of it. Den I
get my little Masie—dat little girl of mine vot I call Beesvings—to
polish up all de bottles and make everyting look like new."
"Then I will come in the morning?"
"Yes, but give me your name—someting might happen yet, and your
address. Here, write it on dis card."
"No, that is unnecessary. I will take your word for it."
"But vere can I find you?"
"I will find myself, thank you," and he strode out into the rain.
In the days when Otto Kling's shop-windows attracted collectors in
search of curios and battered furniture, "The Avenue," as its denizens
always called Fourth Avenue between Madison Square Garden and the
tunnel, was a little city in itself.
Almost all the needs of a greater one could be supplied by the
stores fronting its sidewalks. If tea, coffee, sugar, and similar
stimulating and soothing groceries were wanted, old Bundleton, on the
corner above Kling's, in a white apron and paper cuffs, weighed them
out. If it were butter or eggs, milk, cream, or curds, the Long
Island Dairy—which was really old man Heffern, his daughter Mary, and
his boy Tom—had them in a paper bag, or on your plate, or into your
pitcher before you could count your change. If it were a sirloin, or
lamb-chops, or Philadelphia chickens, or a Cincinnati ham, fat
Porterfield, watched over from her desk by fat Mrs. Porterfield,
dumped them on a pair of glittering brass scales and sent them home to
your kitchen invitingly laid out in a flat wicker basket. If it were
fish—fresh, salt, smoked, or otherwise—to say nothing of crabs,
oysters, clams, and the exclusive and expensive lobster—it was
Codman, a few doors above Porterfield's, who had them on ice, or in
barrels, the varnished claws of the lobsters thrust out like the hands
of a drowning man.
Were it a question of drugs, there was Pestler, the apothecary,
with his four big green globes illuminated by four big gas-jets, the
joy of the children. A small fellow this Pestler, with a round head
and up-brushed hair set on a long, thin stem of a neck, the whole
growing out of a pair of narrow shoulders, quite like a tulip from a
And then there were Jarvis, the spectacle man, and that canny
Scotchman Sanderson, the florist, who knew the difference between
roses a week old and roses a day old, and who had the rare gift of so
mixing the two vintages that hardly enough dead stock was left over
for funerals including those presided over by his fellow conspirator
Digwell, the undertaker, who lived over his mausoleum of a back room.
And, of course, there were the bakeshop emitting enticing smells,
mostly of currants and burnt sugar, and the hardware store, full of
nails and pocket-knives, and old Mr. Jacobs, the tailor, who sat
cross-legged on a wide table in a room down four stone steps from the
sidewalk, and the grog-shops—more's the pity— one on every corner
Hardly a trace is now left of any one of them, so sudden and
overwhelming has been the march of modern progress. Even the little
Peter Cooper House, picked up bodily by that worthy philanthropist and
set down here nearly a hundred years ago, is gone, and so are the row
of musty, red-bricked houses at the lower end of this Little City in
Itself. And so are the tenants of this musty old row, shady locksmiths
with a tendency toward skeleton keys; ingenious upholsterers who
indulged in paper-hanging on the sly; shoemakers who did half-soling
and heeling, their day's work set to dry on the window-sill, not to
mention those addicted to the use of the piano, banjo, or harp, as
well as the wig and dress makers who lightened the general gloom.
And with the disappearance of these old landmarks— and it all
took place within less than ten years—there disappeared, also, the
old family life of "The Avenue," in which each home shared in the
good-fellowship of the whole, all of them contributing to that sane
and sustaining stratum, if we did but know it, of our civic
structure—facts that but few New Yorkers either recognize or value.
On the block below Kling's in those other days was the quaint Book
Shop owned by Tim Kelsey, the hunchback, a walking encyclopaedia of
knowledge, much of it as musty and out of date as most of his books;
while overtopping all else in importance, so far as this story is
concerned, was the shabby, old-fashioned two-story house known the
town over as the Express Office of John and Kitty Cleary, sporting
above its narrow street-door a swinging sign informing inquirers that
trunks were carried for twenty-five cents.
And not only trunks, but all of the movable furniture up and down
the avenue, and most of that from the adjacent regions, found their
way in and out of the Cleary wagons. Indeed Otto Kling's confidence in
Kitty—and Kitty was really the head of the concern —was so great
that he always refused to allow any of her rivals to carry his
purchases and sales, even at a reduced price, a temptation seldom
resisted by the economical Dutchman.
Nor did the friendly relations end here. Not only did Kitty's man
Mike hammer up at night the rusty iron shutters protecting Kling's
side window, clean away the snow before his store, and lend a hand in
the moving of extra-heavy pieces, but he was even known to wash the
windows and kindle a fire.
That Mike had delayed or entirely forgotten to hammer up these
same iron shutters when the stranger brought in the dressing-case
accounted for the fact of Otto Kling's shop having been kept open
until so late. It also accounted for the fact that when the same
stranger appeared early the next morning (Mike was tending the store)
and made his way to where the Irishman sat he found him conning the
head-lines of the morning paper. That worthy man-of-all-work, never
having laid eyes on him before, at once made a mental note of the
intruder's well-cut English clothes, heavy walking-shoes, and short
brier-wood pipe, and, concluding therefrom that he was a person of
importance, stretched out his hand toward the bell-rope in connection
with the breakfast-room above, at the same time saying with great
urbanity: "Take a chair, or, if yer cold, come up near the stove. Mr.
Kling will be down in a minute. He's up-stairs eatin' his breakfast
with his little girl. I'm not his man or I'd wait on ye meself. A
little fresh, ain't it, after the wet night we had?"
"I left a dressing-case here last night," ventured the intruder.
Mike's chin went out with a quick movement, his face expressive of
supreme disgust at his mistake. "Oh, is it that? Somethin' ye had to
sell? Well, then, maybe you'd better call durin' the day."
"No, I will wait—you need not ring. I have nothing else to do,
and Mr. Kling may have a great deal. I take it you are from the north
of Ireland, either Londonderry or near there. Am I right?"
"I'm from Lifford, within reach of it. How the divil did ye know?"
"I can tell from your brogue. How long have you been in this
"About five years—going on six now. How long have you been here?"
"How long? Well—" Here he bent over the table against which he
had been leaning, selected a cup from a group of china, turned it
upside down in search of the mark, and then, as if he had momentarily
forgotten himself, answered slowly: "Oh, not long—a few months or
so. You do not object to my looking these over?" he asked, this time
reversing a plate and subjecting it to the same scrutiny.
"No, so ye don't let go of 'em. Fellow come in here last week and
broke a teapot foolin' wid it."
The visitor, without replying, continued his cool examination of
the collection, consisting of articles of different makes and colors.
Presently, gathering up a pair of cups and saucers, he said: "These
should be in a glass case or in the safe. They are old Spode and very
rare. Ah, here is Mr. Kling! I have amused myself, sir, in looking
over part of your stock. You seem to have undervalued these cups and
saucers. They are very rare, and if you had a full set of them they
would be almost priceless. This is old Spode," he continued, pointing
to the cipher on the bottom of each cup.
"Vell, I didn't tink dot ven I bought it."
There was no greeting, no reference to their having met before.
One might have supposed that their last talk had been uninterrupted.
"It vas all in a lump, and der vas a soup tureen in de lot—I
don't know vot I did vid it. I tink dat's up-stairs. Mike, you go up
and ask my little girl Masie if she can find dot big tureen vich I
bought from old Mrs. Blobbs who keeps dot old-clothes place on Second
Avenue. And you vas sure about dis china?"
"How do you know?"
"From the mark."
"Vot's it vorth?"
"The cups and saucers would bring about two pounds apiece in
London. If there were a full dozen they would bring a matter of
fifteen or twenty pounds— some hundred dollars of your money."
Kling stepped nearer and peered intently at the stranger. "You
give dot for dem?"
The man's eyebrows narrowed. "I am not buying cups at present," he
answered, with quiet dignity, "but they are worth what I tell you.
"And now tell me vot dis tureen is vorth?" he asked as Mike
reappeared and set it on the table, backing away with the remark that
he'd go now, Mrs. Cleary would be wantin' him. Kling moved the relic
toward the expert for closer examination.
"Don't trouble yourself, Mr. Kling; I can see it. All I can say is
that the old lady must have known better days and must have been
terribly poor to have parted with it. What, if I may ask, did you pay
her for this?"
"Two dollars. Vas it too much?" The stranger had suddenly become
an important personage.
"No—too little. It is old Lowestoft, and"—here he took the lid
from the dealer's hand—"yes, without a crack or blemish—yes, old
Lowestoft—worth, I should say, ten or more pounds. They are giving
large sums for these things in London. Perhaps you have not made a
specialty of china."
Otto had now forgotten the tureen and was scrutinizing the
speaker, wondering what kind of a man he really was—this fellow who
looked and spoke like a person of position, knew the value of curios
at sight, and yet who had confessed the night before to being behind
with his rent and anxious to sell his belongings to keep off the
street. Then the doubt, universal in the minds of second-hand dealers,
arose. "Come along vid me and tell me some more. Vot is dot chair?"
and he drew out a freshly varnished relic of better days.
The man seized the chair by the back, canted it to see all sides
of it, and was about to give his decision when the laughter of a child
and the sharp, quick bark of a dog caused him to pause and raise his
head. A white fox-terrier with a clothes-pin tail, two scissored
ears, and two restless, shoe-button eyes, peering through button-hole
lids, followed by a little girl ten or twelve years of age, was
regarding him suspiciously.
"He won't hurt you," cried the child. "Come back, you naughty
"I do not intend he shall," said the man, reaching down and
picking the dog up bodily by the scruff of his neck. "What is the
matter, old fellow?" he continued, twisting the dog's head so that he
could look into his eyes. "Wanted to make a meal of me?— too bad.
Your little daughter, of course, Mr. Kling? A very good breed of dog,
my dear young lady—just a little nervous, and that is in his favor.
Now, sir, make your excuses to your mistress," and he placed the
terrier in her arms.
The child lifted her face toward his in delight. Most of the men
whom Fudge attacked either shrunk out of his way or replied to his
attentions with a kick.
"You love dogs, don't you, sir?" she asked. Fudge was now routing
his sharp nose under her chin as if in apology for his antics.
"I am afraid I do, and I am glad you do—they are sometimes the
best friends one has."
"Yes," broke in Kling, "and so am I glad. Dot dog is more as a
brudder to my Masie, ain't he, Beesvings? And now you run avay, dear,
and play, and take Fudge vid you and say 'Good morning' to Mrs.
Cleary, and maybe dot fool dog of Bobby's be home." He stooped and
kissed her, caressing her cheek with his thumb and forefinger, as he
pushed her toward the door, and again turned to the stranger. "And
now, vot about dot chair you got in your hand?"
"Oh, the chair! I had forgotten that you had asked. Your little
daughter drove everything else out of my head. Let me have a closer
look." He swung it round to get a nearer view.
"The legs—that is, three of them—are Chippendale. The back is a
nondescript of something—I cannot tell. Perhaps from some colonial
"Vot's it vorth?"
"Nothing, except to sit upon."
Otto laughed—a gurgling, chuckling laugh, his pudgy nose
wrinkling like a rabbit's.
"Ain't dot funny!" and he rubbed his fat hands. "Dot's true. Yes,
I make it myselluf—and five oders, vich vas sold out of a lot of olt
furniture. I got two German men down-stairs puttin' in new legs and
new backs; dey can do anyting. Nobody but you find dot out. I guess
you know 'bout dot china—I must look into dot. Maybe some mens on
Fifth Avenue buy dot china—dey never come in here because dey tink
dey find only olt furniture. And now about dot dressing-case. Don't
you sell it. I find somebody pay more as I can give, and you pay me
for my trouble. I lend you tventy—yes, I lend tventy-five dollars on
it. Vill dot be enough?"
"That will be enough for a week, after I pay what I owe."
"Vell, den, ven dot is gone ve tink out someting else, don't ve? I
look it all over last night. It is all right— no breaks anyvere. And
dot tventy-five only last you a veek! Vy is dot? Vot board do you
pay?" His interest in the visitor was increasing.
"Eight dollars with my meals, whenever my landlady is on time."
"Eight dollars! Dot voman's robbin' you. Eight dollars! She is a
"It was the best I could do," he replied simply.
"Vot does she give you?"
"A small bedroom, my coffee in the morning, and my dinner—both
served in my room on a tray."
"Yes, I see; dot's it. She charge about tree dollars for de tray.
I find you someting better as dot. Kitty Cleary has a room—you don't
know Kitty? Vell, you ought to begin right avay. Dot's vun voman you
don't ever see again. She vas in here last night, after you left,
looking for her man Mike. She take you for five dollars a veek, maybe,
and you get good tings to eat and you get Kitty besides, and dot is
vorth more as ten dollars. She lives across de street—you can see one
of her vagons—dot big vite horse is hers, and she love dot horse as
much as she love her husband John and her boy Bobby, all but dot fool
dog of Bobby's, she don't love him. You go over dere and tell her I
The stranger had relighted his pipe, and was watching the dealer
clutching nervously at his spectacles, pushing them far up on his
forehead, only to readjust them again on his nose. He had begun to
detect behind the fat, round face of the thrifty shopkeeper a certain
kindly quality. "And who may this remarkable lady be, this Mrs.
Cleary?" he inquired.
"She ain't no lady. She is better as a hundert ladies —she is
joost a plain vomans who keeps a express office over dere—Cleary's
Express. You don't know it? Vell, dot's your fault. Dot's her boy
Bobby outside de door. He has been up vid his fadder to de Grand
Central for some sideboards and sofas I been buyin'. You vant to look
at 'em ven dey git unloaded. They joost ready to fall to pieces, and
if I patch 'em up nobody don't buy 'em. Vot I do is to leave 'em out
on de sidewalk for a veek or two and let de dirt and rain get on 'em,
den somebody come along and say: 'Dot is genuine. You can see right
avay how olt dot is. Dot is because de bottom is out of de sofas, and
de back of de behind of de sideboard is busted. So den I get fifty
dollars more for repairin' my own furniture. Ain't dot funny? And ven
I send it home dey say: 'Oh, ain't dot beautiful! You ought to have
seen dot ven I bought it of old Kling! You vouldn't give two dollars
for it. All he did vas to scrape it down and revarnish it—and now it
is joost as good as new.' Ain't dot funny? Vy, sometimes I have to
holt on to my sides for fear dey vill split vid my laughter, and my
two German mens dey stuff dere fingers in dere mouths so de customers
can't hear. And all de backs new, and de legs made outer udder legs,
and de handles I get across at de hardvare store! Oh, I tell you,
it's funny! But you know all about it. Maybe you vunce keep a place
"No, I have never been in your line of trade."
"Vell, how do you know so much?"
"I know very little, but I have always enjoyed such things."
"Vell, dot's more funny yet. You vould make a lot of money if you
did. Ven you get someting for nudding you know it—I don't. You see
dem—vot you call 'em—Spodes—and dot tureen, dot—"
"Lowestoft?" suggested the stranger, adjusting the mouthpiece of
"Yes, dot Lowestoft. If you come in yesterday and say, 'Have you
any olt cups and saucers and olt soup tureens?' I say: 'Yes—help
yourselluf. Take your pick for tventy-five cents each for de cups and
saucers.' You see, I pay nudding and I get nudding. Dot give me an
idea! How vould you like to go round de store vid me and pick out de
good vuns? Dot von't take you long—vait a minute—I give you dat
"I should not be of the slightest value, and if you are loaning me
the twenty-five dollars on any other basis than the worth of the
dressing-case, I would rather not take it."
"Oh, I have finished vid de loan. Vot I say I say." He thrust his
hand into a side pocket, from which he drew a flat wallet. "And dere
is de money. I give you a receipt for de case."
"No, I do not want any receipt. I am quite willing you should keep
it until I can either pay this back or you can loan me some more on
"Vell, den, I don't vant no receipt for de money. Here comes a
customer. Don't you go yet. I know her. She comes most every day. She
only vants to look around. Such a lot of peoples only vants to look
around. Dey don't know vat dey vant and you never have it. No, it
ain't no customer—it's Bobby."
The door was burst open, and a boy in a blue jumper, his cap
thrust so far back on his head that it was a wonder it didn't fall
off, cried out:
"Say! One of the sideboards is stuck on the iron railing and we
can't get it furrards or back. Them two weiss-beers ye got down-stairs
can't lift nothin' but full mugs. Send somebody to help." And the door
went to with a bang.
Kling was about to call for assistance when Hans —one of the
maligned—shuffled in from the rear of the store, carrying a wooden
image very much in want of repair.
"Oh, dots awful good you brought dot! Set it here on dis
chair—now you go avay and help vid dem sideboards. See here vunce,
mister. You see, dey vas makin' de altar over new, and one of de mens
come to me last week and he says: 'Mister Kling, come vid me and buy
vot ve don't vant. De school is too small, and some of de children
got no place to sit down in. Ve got to sell sometings, and maybe now
ve don't vant dem images.' And so I buy dem two and some olt vestments
dat my Masie make so good as new, vid patches. Now, vot can I do vid
Again the door was burst open, shutting off all possibility for
conversation. Bobby's voice had now reached the volume of a fog-horn.
"What do ye take us fur out here—lobsters? Dad and I can't wait all
day. He's got to go down to Lafayette Place for a trunk."
Kling looked at his companion, as if to see what effect the talk
had had upon him, and broke out into a suffocating chuckle. "Dot's vot
it is all day long— don't you yonder I go crazy? First it is
sideboards and den it is vooden saints. Here you, Bobby! Come inside
vunce! I vant to ask you sometings."
"Say the rest, Skeesicks," returned the boy, eying the stranger.
"Has your mudder got empty dot room yet?"
"Yep—the shyster got to swearin', and the mother wouldn't stand
for it and she fired him. We ain't keepin' no house o' refuge nor no
station parlor fer bums. Holy Moses! look at the guy that's been
robbin' a church! And see the nose on him all busted! Have ye started
Kling cleared the air with his fat hands as the boy made for the
door, and turned to his visitor once more. "Dot boy make me deaf vid
his noise like a fire-engine! Now, vunce more. Vat shall I do vid dis
"I give it up," observed the stranger, passing his hand over the
head and down its side. "I am not very much on saints—wooden ones, I
mean. He seems a good deal out of place here. Why buy such things at
all, and why sell them? But that, of course, is not your point of
view. I would send it back to the good father, if I were you, and have
him put it behind the altar if he is ashamed to put it in front. Holy
things belong to holy places. But I am already taking up too much of
your time. Thank you very much for the money. It comes at an opportune
moment. I shall come in once in a while to see you and, if you are
willing, to talk to you."
"But you don't say nudding about Kitty's room. Vait till—oh, dere
you are, you darlin' girl! You mind de store, Masie. Now you come vid
me and I show you de finest vomans you never see in your whole life!"
Kitty Cleary's wide sidewalk, littered with trunks, and her
narrow, choked-up office, its window hung with theatre bills and
chowder-party posters, all of which were in full view of Kling's
doorway, was the half-way house of any one who had five minutes to
spare; it was inside its walls that closer greetings awaited those
who, even with the thinnest of excuses, made bold to avail themselves
of her hospitality. Drivers from the livery-stable next door, where
Kitty kept her own two horses; the policeman on the beat; the
night-watchman from the big store on 28th Street, just off duty, or
just going on; the newsman in the early morning, who would use her
benches on which to rearrange his deliveries—all were welcome as
long as they behaved themselves. When they did not—and once or twice
such a thing had occurred— she would throw wide the door and, with a
quick movement of her right thumb, order them out, a look in her eye
convincing the culprits at once that they might better obey.
Never a day passed but there was a pot of coffee simmering away at
the back of the kitchen stove. Indeed, hot coffee was Kitty's standby.
Many a night when she was up late poring over her delivery book,
getting ready for the next day's work, a carriage or cab would drive
into the livery-stable next door, and she would send her husband out
to bring in the coachman.
"Half froze, he is, waitin' outside Sherry's or Delmonico's, and
nobody thinkin' of what he suffers. Go, git him, John, dear, and I'll
stir up the fire. They ought to be ashamed of themselves, dancin' till
God knows when—and here it is two o'clock and a string of cabs out
in the cold. Thank ye, John. In with ye, my lad, and get something to
warm ye up," and then the rosy-cheeked, deep-breasted, cheery little
woman— she was under forty—her eyes the brighter for her thought,
would begin pulling down cups and saucers from her dresser, making
ready not only for the "lad," but for John and herself—and anybody
else who happened to be within call.
The hospitalities of her family sitting-room, opening out of the
kitchen, were reserved for her intimates. These she welcomed at any
hour of the day or night, from sunrise to sunset, and even as late as
two in the morning, if either business or pleasure necessitated such
Tim Kelsey, the hunchback, often dropped in. Otto Kling, after
Masie was abed; Digwell, the undertaker, quite a jolly fellow during
off hours; Codman and Porterfield, with their respective wives; and,
most welcome of all, Father Cruse, of St. Barnabas's Church around
the corner, the trusted shepherd of "The Avenue"—a clear-skinned,
well-built man, barely forty, whose muscular body just filled his
black cassock so that it neither fell in folds nor wrinkled crosswise,
and whose fresh, ruddy face was an index of the humane, kindly,
helpful life that he led. For him Kitty could never do enough.
The office, sitting-room, and kitchen, however, were not all that
the expressman and his wife possessed in the way of accommodations.
Up-stairs were two front bedrooms, one occupied by John and Kitty, and
the other by their boy Bobby, while in the extreme rear, over the
kitchen, was a single room which was let to any respectable man who
could pay for it. These rooms were all reached by a staircase
ascending from a narrow hall entered by a separate street-door
adjoining that of the office. The door and staircase were convenient
for the lodger wishing to stumble up to bed without disturbing his
hosts—an event, however, that seldom happened, as Kitty was generally
the last person awake in her house.
The horses, as has been said, were kept in the livery- stable next
door—the brown mare, a recent purchase, and the old white horse, Jim,
the pride of Kitty's heart, in a special stall. The wagons were either
backed in the shed in the rear or left overnight close to the curb,
with chains on the hind wheels. This was contrary to regulations, and
would have been so considered but for the fact that the captain of the
precinct often got his coffee in Kitty's back kitchen, as did Tom
McGinniss, the big policeman, whose beat reached nearly to the tunnel,
both men soothing their consciences with the argument that Kitty's job
lasted so late and began so early, sometimes a couple of hours or so
before daylight, that it was not worth while to bother about her
wagons, when everybody else was in bed, or ought to be.
She was smoothing old Jim's neck, crooning over him, talking to
him in her motherly way, telling him what a ruffian he was and how
ashamed she was of him for getting the hair worn off under his collar,
and he a horse old enough to know better, Bobby's "Toodles," an
animated doormat of a dog, sniffing at her skirt, when Otto and his
friend hove in sight.
"The top of the mornin' to ye, Otto Kling, and ye never see a
better and a finer. And what can I do for ye?—for ye wouldn't be
lavin' them gimcracks of yours this time O'day unless there was
"No, I don't got nudding you can do for me, Kitty. It's dis
gentlemans wants someting—and so I bring him over."
"That's mighty kind of ye, Otto—wait till I get me book. Careful,
Mike." The Irishman had just dumped a trunk on the sidewalk, ready to
be loaded on Jim's wagon. "And now," continued his mistress, "go to
the office and bring me my order-book—where'll I go for your
"That is a matter I will talk about later." He had taken her all
in with a rapid glance—her rosy, laughing face, her head covered by a
close-fitting hood, the warm shawl crossed over her full bosom and
knotted in the back, short skirt, stout shoes, and gray yarn
"I don't care where it is—Hoboken, Brooklyn—I'll get it. Why, we
got a trunk last week clear from Yonkers!"
"I haven't a doubt of it, my good woman"—he was still absorbed in
the contemplation of her perfect health and the air of breezy
competency flowing out from her, making even the morning air seem more
exhilarating—"but you may not want to go for my two trunks."
"Why not?" She was serious now, her brows knitting, trying to
solve his meaning.
Kling shuffled up alongside. "It's de room he vants, Kitty. I been
tellin' him about it. Bobby says dot odder man skipped an' you don't
got nobody now.
"Skipped! I threw him out, me and John, for swearin' every time he
stubbed his toe on the stairs," and up went her strong arms in
illustration. "And it isn't yer trunks, but me room. Who might ye be
wantin' it for?" She had begun to weigh him carefully in return. Up
to this moment he had been to her merely the mouthpiece of an order,
to be exchanged later for a card, or slip of paper, or a brass check.
Now he became a personality. She swept him from head to foot with one
of her "sizing-up" examinations, noticing the refinement and
thoughtfulness of his clean-shaven face, the white teeth, and the
careful trimming of his hair, and the way it grew down on his temples,
forming a small quarter whisker.
She noted, too, how the muscles of his face had been tightened as
if some effort at self-control had set them into a mask, the real man
lying behind his kindly eyes, despite the quick flash that escaped
from them now and then. The inspection over—and it had occupied some
seconds of time—she renewed the inquiry in a more searching tone, as
if she had not heard him aright at first. "And who did ye say wanted
"I wanted it."
"Yes, but who for?"
"What! To live in?"
"I hope so—I certainly do not want it to die in." A quiet smile
trembled for an instant on his lips, momentarily lightening an
expression of extreme reserve.
"You won't do no dyin' if I can help it—but ye don't know what
kind a room it is. It's not mor'n twice as big as that wagon. And ye
want it for yourself? Well, ye don't look it!"
"I am sorry."
"And it's only five dollars a week, and all ye want to eat—all we
can give ye."
"I am glad it is not more. I may not be able to pay that for very
long, but I will pay the first week in advance, and I will pay the
next one in the same way and leave when my money is gone. Can I see
Again she studied him. This time it was the gray waistcoat, the
well-ironed shirt and collar, English scarf, and the blackthorn stick
which he carried balanced in the hollow of his arm. If he had been in
overalls she would not have hesitated an instant, but she saw that
this man was not of her class, nor of any other class about her. "I
don't know whether ye can or not," came the frank reply. "I'm thinkin'
about it. You don't look as if ye were flat broke. If you're goin' to
take me room, I don't want to be watchin' ye, and I won't! Once we
know ye're clean and decent, ye can have the run of the place and
welcome to it. We had one dead-beat here last month, and that's
enough. Out with it now! How is it that a"—she hesitated an
instant—"yes, a gentleman like you wants to live over an express
office and eat what we can give ye?"
He made a slight movement with his right hand in acknowledgment of
the class distinction and answered in a calm, straightforward way:
"You have put it quite correctly. I am, as you are pleased to state
it, flat broke—quite flat."
"Well, then, how will ye pay me?" Her question, a certain
curiosity tinged by a growing interest in for all its directness,
implied no suspicion—but rather the man.
"I have just borrowed twenty-five dollars from Mr. Kling on
something which, for the present, I can do without."
"No, not exactly. Mr. Kling will explain."
"It vas dot dressin'-case, Kitty, vat I showed you last night—de
vun vid dem bottles vid de silver tops— and dey are real—I found dot
out after you vent avay."
Kitty's glance softened, and her voice fell to a sympathetic tone.
"Oh, that was yours, was it? I might have known I was right about ye
when I first see ye. Ye are a gentleman, unless ye are a thief, and I
don't belave that—nor nobody can make me belave it."
Once more his hand was raised, and a smile flashed from his eyes
and as quickly died out.
"That is very good of you, Mrs. Cleary. No, I am not a thief. And
now about the room. Can I see it? But, before you answer, let me tell
you that I have only these twenty-five dollars on which I can lay my
hands. Some of this I owe to my landlady. The balance I am quite
willing to turn over to you, and when it is all gone I will move
somewhere else." He drew a silver watch from his pocket. "You must
decide at once; it is getting late and I must be moving on."
Kitty squared herself, her hands on her hips—a favorite gesture
when her mind was fully made up— looked straight at the speaker as if
to reply, then suddenly catching sight of a strapping-looking fellow
in blue overalls, a trunk on one shoulder, a carpetbag in his hand,
called out: "John, dear, come here! I want ye. Here, Mike! You and
Bobby get that steamer baggage out on the sidewalk, and don't be slack
about it, for it goes to Hoboken, and there may be a block in the
river and the ferry-boats behind time. Wait, I'll lend ye a hand."
"You'll lend nothing, Kitty Cleary! Get out of my way," came her
husband's hearty answer. "Ye hurt yer back last week. There's men
enough round here to —stop it, I tell ye!" and he loosened her
fingers from the lifting-strap.
"I can hist the two of ye, John! Go along wid ye!"
"No, Kitty, darlin'—let go of it," and with a twist of his hand
and lurch of his shoulder John shot the trunk over the edge of the
wagon, tossed the bag after it, and joined the group, the stranger
absorbed in watching the husband and wife.
"And now the trunk's in, what's it you want, Kitty?" asked John
squeezing her plump arm, as if in compensation for having had his way.
"John, dear, here's a gentleman who—what's your name?—ye haven't
told me, or if ye did I've forgot it."
"Then you're Irish?"
"I am afraid I am—at least, my ancestors were."
"Afraid! Ye ought to be glad. I'm Irish, and so is my John here,
and Bobby, and Father Cruse, and Tom McGinniss, the policeman, and the
captain up at the station-house—we're all Irish, except Otto, who is
as Dutch as sauerkraut! But where was I? Oh, yes! Now, John, dear,
this gentleman is on his uppers, he says, and wants to hire our room
and eat what we can give him."
The expressman, who stood six feet in his stockings, looked first
at his wife, then at Kling, and then at the applicant, and broke out
into a loud guffaw. "It's a joke, Kitty. Don't let 'em fool ye. Go on,
Otto; try it somewhere else! It's my busy day. Here, Mike!"
"You drop Mike and listen, John! It's no joke— not for Mr. O'Day.
You take him up-stairs and show him what we got, and down into the
kitchen and the sitting-room and out into the yard. Come, now; hurry!
Go 'long with him, Mr. O'Day, and come back to me when ye are through
and tell me what you think of it all. And, John, take Toodles with you
and lock him up. First thing I know I'll be tramplin' on him. Get
out, you varmint!"
John grabbed the wad of matted hair midway between his floppy tail
and perpetually moist nose, controlled his own features into a
semblance of seriousness, and turned to O'Day. "This way, sir—I
thought it was one of Otto's jokes. The room is only about as big as
half a box car, but it's got runnin' water in the hall, and Kitty
keeps it mighty clean. As to the grub, it ain't what you are
accustomed to, maybe, but it's what we have ourselves, and neither of
us is starvin', as ye can see," and he thumped his chest. "No, not
the big door, sir; the little one. And there's a key, too, for ye,
when ye're out late—and ye will be out late, or I miss my guess," and
out rolled another laugh.
Kitty looked after the two until they disappeared through the
smaller door, then turned and faced Kling. "I know just what's
happened, Otto—a baby a month old could see it all. That man is up
against it for the first time. He'd rather die than beg, and he'll
keep on sellin' his traps until there's nothin' left but the clothes
he stands in. He may be a duke, for all ye know, or maybe only a plain
Irish gentleman come to grief. Them bottles ye showed me last night
had arms engraved on 'em, and his initials. I noticed partic'lar, for
I've seen them things before. My father, when he was young, was second
groom for a lord and used to tell me about the silver in the house and
the arms on the sides of the carriages. What he's left home for the
dear God only knows; but it will come out, and when it does it won't
be what anybody thinks. And he's got a fine way wid him, and a clear
look out of his eye, and I'll bet ye he's tellin' the truth and all of
it. Here they come now, and I'm glad they've got rid of that rag baby
of Bobby's." She turned to her husband. "And, John, dear, don't
forget that sewing-machine—oh, yes, I see, you've got it in the
wagon—go on wid ye, then!— Well, Mr. O'Day, how is it? Purty small
and cramped, ain't it? And there's a chair missin' that I took
downstairs, which I'll put back. And there's a cotton cover belongs
to the table. Won't suit, will it?" and a shade of disappointment
crossed her face.
"The room will answer very well, Mrs. Cleary. I can see the work
of your deft hands in every corner. I have been living in one much
larger, but this is more like a home. And do I get my breakfast and
dinner and the room for the pound—I mean for the five dollars?"
"You do, and welcome, and somethin' in the middle of the day if ye
happen to be around and hungry."
"And can I move in to-day?"
"Then I will go down and pay what I owe and see about getting my
boxes. And now, here is your money," and he held out two five-dollar
Kitty stretched her two hands far behind her back, her brown
holland over-apron curving inward with the movement. "I won't touch
it; ye can have the room and ye can keep your money. When I want it
I'll ask fer it. Now tell me where I can get your trunks. Mike will
go fer 'em and bring 'em back."
A new, strange look shone out from the keen, searching eyes of
O'Day. His interest in the woman had deepened. "And you have no
misgivings and are sure you will get your rent?"
"Just as sure as I am that me name is Kitty Cleary, and that is
not altogether because you're an Irishman but because ye are a
This time O'Day made her a little bow, the lines of his face
softening, his eyes sparkling with sudden humor at her speech. He
stepped forward, called to the man who was still handling the luggage,
and, in the tone of one ordering his groom, said: "Here, Mike!—Did
you say his name was Mike?—Go, if you please, to this address, just
below Union Square-I will write it on a card—any time to-day after
six o'clock. I will meet you there and show you the trunks —there
are two of them." Then he turned to Otto, still standing by, a silent
and absorbed spectator.
"I have also to thank you, Mr. Kling. It was very kind of you, and
I am sure I shall be very happy here. After I am settled I shall come
over and see whether I can be of some service to you in going through
your stock. There may be some other things that are valuable which
you have mislaid. And then, again, I should like to see something more
of your little daughter—she is very lovable, and so is her dog."
"Vell, vy don't you come now? Masie don't go to school to-day, and
I keep her in de shop. I been tinkin' since you and Kitty been
talkin'—Kitty don't make no mistakes: vot Kitty says goes. Look here,
Kitty, vun minute—come close vunce—I vant to speak to you."
O'Day, who had been about to give a reason why he could not "come
now," and who had halted in his reply in order to hunt his pockets for
a card on which to write his address, hearing Kling's last words,
withdrew to the office in search of both paper and pencil.
"Now, see here, Kitty! Dot mans is a vunderful man—de most
VUNDERFUL man I have seen since I been in 445. You know dem cups and
saucers vat I bought off dot olt vomans who came up from Baltimore? Do
you know dot two of 'em is vorth more as ten dollars? He find dot out
joost as soon as he pick 'em up, and he find out about my chairs, and
vich vas fakes and vich vas goot. Vot you tink of my givin' him a job
takin' my old cups and my soup tureens and stuff and go sell 'em
someveres? I don't got nobody since dot tam fool of a Svede go avay.
Vat you tink?"
"He can have my room—that's what I think! You heard what I said
to him! That's all the answer you'll get out of me, Otto Kling."
"An' you don't tink dot he'd git avay vid de stuff und ve haf to
hunt up or down Second Avenue in the pawn-shops to git 'em back?"
"No, I don't!"
"Den, by golly, I take him on, und I gif him every veek vat he pay
you in board."
Kitty broke into one of her derisive laughs. "YOU WILL! Ain't that
good of ye? Ye'll give him enough to starve on, that's what it is. Ye
ought to be ashamed of yourself, Otto Kling!"
"Vell, but I don't know vat he is vurth yet."
"Well, then, tell him so, but don't cheat him out of everything
but his bare board; and that's what ye'd be doin'. Ye know he's
pawnin' his stuff; ye know ye got five times the worth of your money
in the dressing-case he give up to ye! See here, Otto! Before ye offer
him that five dollars a week ye better get on the other side of big
John there, where ye'll be safe, and holler it at him over them
trunks, or ye'll find yourself flat on your back."
"All right, Kitty, all right! Don't git oxcited. I didn't mean
nudding. I do just vat you say. I gif him more. Oh! Here you are! Mr.
O'Day, vud you let me speak to you vun minute? Suppose dot I ask you
to come into my shop as a clerk, like, and pay you vat I can—of
course, you are new und it vill take some time, but I can pay
sometings—vud you come?"
O'Day gave an involuntary start and from under his heavy brows
there shot a keen, questioning glance. "What would you want me to do?"
he asked evenly.
"Vell—vait on de customers, and look over de stock, and buy tings
ven dey come in."
"You certainly cannot be serious, Mr. Kling. You know nothing
about me. I am an entire stranger and must continue to be. With the
exception of my landlady, who, if she knows my name, forgets it every
time she comes up for her rent, there is not a human being in New
York to whom I could apply for a reference. Are you accustomed to pick
up strangers out of the street and take them into your shops—and your
homes?" he added, smiling at Kitty, who had been following the
"But you is a different kind of a mans."
No answer came. The man was lost in thought.
"Ye'd better think it over, sir," said Kitty, laying a strong,
persuasive hand on his wrist. "It's near by, and ye can have your
meals early or late as ye plaze, and the work ain't hard. My Mike does
the liftin' and two big fat Dutchies helps."
"But I know nothing about the business, Mrs. Cleary—nothing about
any business, for that matter. I should only be a disappointment to
Mr. Kling. I would rather keep his friendship and look elsewhere."
Kitty relaxed her hold of his wrist. "Then ye have been lookin'
for work?" she asked. The inquiry sprang hot from her heart.
"I have not, so far, but I shall have to very soon."
She threw back her head and faced the two men. "Ye'll look no
further, Mr. O'Day. You go over to Otto's and go to work; and it will
be to-night after you gets your things stowed away. And ye'll pay him
ten dollars a week, Otto, for the first month, and more the second if
he earns it, which he will. Now are ye all satisfied, or shall I say
"One moment, please, Mrs. Cleary. If I may interrupt," he laughed,
his reserve broken through at last by the friendly interest shown by
the strangers about him, "and what will be the hours of my service?"
Then, turning to Otto: "Perhaps you, Mr. Kling, can best tell me."
"Vot you mean?"
"How early must I come in the morning, and until how late must I
stay at night?"
The dealer hesitated, then answered slowly, "In de morning at
eight o'clock, and"—but, seeing a cloud cross O'Day's face, added:
"Or maybe haf past eight vill do."
"And at night?"
"Vell—you can't tell. Sometimes it is more late as udder
times—about nine o'clock ven I have packing to do."
O'Day shook his head.
"Vell, den, say eight o'clock."
Again O'Day shook his head slowly and thoughtfully as if some
insurmountable obstacle had suddenly arisen before him. Then he said
firmly: "I am afraid I must decline your kind offer, Mr. Kling. The
latest I could stay on any evening is seven o'clock—some days I
might have to leave at six—certainly no later than half past. I
suppose you have dinner at seven, Mrs. Cleary?"
Kitty nodded. She was too interested in this new phase of the
situation to speak.
"Yes, seven would have to be the hour, Mr. Kling" said O'Day.
"Vell, make it seven o'clock, den."
"And if," he continued in a still more serious voice, "I should on
certain days—absent myself entirely, would that matter?"
Otto was being slowly driven into a corner, but he determined not
to flinch with Kitty standing by. "No, I tink I git along vid my
O'Day studied the pavement for an instant, then looked into space
as if seeking to clear his mind of every conflicting thought, and said
at last, slowly and deliberately: "Very well. Then I will be with you
in the morning at nine o'clock. Now, good day, Mrs. Cleary. I know we
will get on very well together, and you, too, Mr. Kling. Thank you for
your confidence." Then, turning to the Irishman: "Don't forget, Mike,
that the street-door is open and that I'm up two flights. You will
find the number on this card."
The customary scene took place when Felix, late that afternoon,
handed his landlady the overdue rent. Now that the two crisp bills
which O'Day owed her lay in her hand, she was ready to pass them back
to him if the full payment at all embarrassed him. Indeed, she had
never had a more quiet and decent lodger, and she hoped it didn't mean
he was "goin' away," and, if she was rather sharp with him the night
before, it was because she had been "that nervous of late."
But Felix, ignoring her overtures, only shook his head in a
good-natured way. He would begin packing at once, and the express
wagon would be here at six. She would know it by the white horse which
the man was driving. When his trunks were finished he would put them
outside his bedroom door, and please not to forget his mackintosh and
leather hat-case which he would leave inside the room.
So the packing began. First the sole-leather trunk, from which he
had taken the hapless dressing-case the night before, was pulled out
and the heavy black tin box hauled into position and unlocked. With
the raising of the scarred and dented top a mass of letters and
papers came into view, filling the box to the brim— some tied with
red tape, others in big envelopes. In a corner lay some
photographs—one in a gilt frame, the edge showing clear of the
tissue-paper in which it was wrapped. This he took out and studied
long and earnestly, his lips tightly pressed together. Retying the
paper, he tucked them all back into place, turned the key, shook the
box to see that the lock held tight, picked it up with one hand by its
side handle, and, throwing open the door, deposited it on the landing
outside. Its leather companion was then placed beside it, the
hat-case crowning the whole.
Mike's voice was now heard in the narrow front hall. "How fur is
it up, mum? Oh, another flight! Begorra, it's as dark as a coal-hole
and about as dirty!" This was followed by: "Oh, is that you, sor? How
many pieces have you?"
"Only two, Mike; and the mackintosh and hat- case," answered
Felix, who had watched him stumbling up the stairs until his red face
was level with the landing. "By the way, mind you don't lose the
rubber coat, for, although I never wear an overcoat, this comes in
well when it rains."
"I'll never take me eyes off it. I bet ye niver bought that down
on the Bowery from a Johnny-hand-me-down!"
"Will you please say to Mrs. Cleary that I may not be in to-night
before eleven o'clock?"
"Eleven! Why that's the shank o' the evenin' for her, sor. If it
was twelve, or after, she'd be up." Then he bent forward and
whispered: "I should think ye would be glad, sor, to get out of this
Felix nodded in assent, waited until the leather trunk had been
dumped into the wagon, watched Mike remount the stairs until he had
reached his landing, helped him to load up the balance of his
luggage—the tin box on one shoulder, the coat over the other, the
hat-case in the free hand—and then walked back to his empty room.
Here he made a thoughtful survey of the dismal place in which he had
spent so many months, picked up his blackthorn stick, and, leaving
the door ajar, walked slowly down-stairs, his hand on the rail as a
guide in the dark.
"And you aren't comin' back, sir?" remarked the landlady, who had
listened for his steps.
"That, madame, one never can tell."
"Well, you are always welcome."
"Good-by, sir; my husband's out or he would like to shake your
O'Day bowed slightly and stepped into the street, his stick under
his arm, his hands hooked behind his back. That he had no immediate
purpose in view was evident from the way he loitered along, stopping
to look at the store windows or to scrutinize the passing crowd, each
person intent on his or her special business. By the time he had
reached Broadway the upper floors of the business buildings were dark,
but the windows of the restaurants, cigar shops, and saloons had begun
to blaze out and a throng of pleasure seekers to replace that of the
shoppers and workers. This aspect of New York appealed to him most.
There were fewer people moving about the streets and in less of a
hurry, and he could study them the closer.
In a cheap restaurant off Union Square he ate a spare and
inexpensive meal, whiled away an hour over the free afternoon papers,
went out to watch an audience thronging into one of the smaller
theatres, and then boarded a down-town car. When he reached Trinity
Church the clock was striking, and, as he often did when here at this
hour, he entered the open gate and, making his way among the shadows
sat down, on a flat tomb. The gradual transition from the glare and
rush of the up-town streets to the sombre stillness of this ancient
graveyard always seemed to him like the shifting of films upon a
screen, a replacement of the city of the living by the city of the
dead. High up in the gloom soared the spire of the old church, its
cross lost in shadows. Still higher, their roofs melting into the
dusky blue vault, rose the great office- buildings, crowding close as
if ready to pounce upon the small space protected only by the sacred
ashes of the dead.
For some time he sat motionless, listening to the muffled peals of
the organ. Then the humiliating events of the last twenty-four hours
began crowding in upon his memory: the insolent demands of his
landlady; the guarded questions of Kling when he inspected the
dressing-case; the look of doubt on both their faces and the changes
wrought in their manner and speech when they found he was able to pay
his way. Suddenly something which up to that moment he had held at
bay gripped him.
"It was money, then, which counted," he said to himself,
forgetting for the moment Kitty's refusal to take it. And if money
were so necessary, how long could he earn it? Kling would soon
discover how useless he was, and then the tin box, emptied of its
contents and the last keepsake pawned or sold, the end would come.
None of these anxieties had ever assailed him before. He had been
like a man walking in a dream, his gaze fixed on but one exit,
regardless of the dangers besetting his steps. Now the truth
confronted him. He had reached the limit of his resources. To hope for
much from Kling was idle. Such a situation could not last, nor could
he count for long either on the friendship or the sympathy of the
big-hearted expressman's wife. She had been absolutely sincere, and so
had her husband, but that made it all the more incumbent upon him to
preserve his own independence while still pursuing the one object of
his life with undiminished effort.
A flood of light from the suddenly opened church-door, followed by
a burst of pent-up melody, recalled him to himself. He waited until
all was dark again, rose to his feet, passed through the gate and,
with a brace of his shoulders and quickened step, walked on into Wall
As he made his way along the deserted thoroughfare, where but a
few hours since the very air had been charged with a nervous energy
whose slightest vibration was felt the world over, the sombre
stillness of the ancient graveyard seemed to have followed him. Save
for a private watchman slowly tramping his round and an isolated
foot-passenger hurrying to the ferry, no soul but himself was stirring
or awake except, perhaps, behind some electric light in a lofty
building where a janitor was retiring or, lower down, some belated
bookkeeper in search of an error.
Leaving the grim row of tall columns guarding the front of the old
custom-house, he turned his steps in the direction of the docks,
wheeled sharply to the left, and continued up South Street until he
stopped in front of a ship-chandler's store.
Some one was at work inside, for the rays of a lantern shed their
light over piles of old cordage and heaps of rusty chains flanking the
Picking his way around some barrels of oil, he edged along a line
of boxes filled with ship's stuff until he reached an inside office,
where, beside a kerosene lamp placed on a small desk littered with
papers, sat a man in shirt-sleeves. At the sound of O'Day's step the
occupant lifted his head and peered out. The visitor passed through
"Good evening, Carlin; I hoped you would still be up. I stopped on
the way down or I should have been here earlier."
A man of sixty, with a ruddy, weather-beaten face set in a
half-moon of gray whiskers, the ends tied under his chin, sprang to
his feet. "Ah! Is that you, Mr. Felix? I been a-wonderin' where you
been a-keepin' yourself. Take this chair; it's more comfortable. I
was thinkin' somehow you might come in to-night, and so I took a shy
at my bills to have somethin' to do. I suppose"—he stopped, and in a
whisper added: "I suppose you haven't heard anything, have you?"
"No; have you?"
"Not a word," answered the ship-chandler gravely.
"I thought perhaps you might have had a letter," urged Felix.
"Not a line of any kind," came the answer, followed by a sidewise
movement of the gray head, as if its owner had long since abandoned
hope from that quarter.
"Do you think anything is the matter?"
"Nothin', or I should 'a' 'eard. My notion is that Martha kep' on
to Toronto with that sick man she nursed on the steamer. Maybe she's
got work stiddy and isn't a-goin' to come back."
"But she would have let you KNOW?" There was a ring of anxiety
now, tinged with a certain impatience.
"Perhaps she would, Mr. Felix, and perhaps she wouldn't. Since our
mother died Martha gets rather cocky sometimes. Likes to be her own
boss and earn her own living. I've often 'eard her say it before I
left 'ome, and she HAS earned it, I must say—and she's got to, same
as all of us. I suppose you been keepin' it up same as usual—trampin'
"Yes." This came as the mere stating of a fact.
"And I suppose there ain't nothin' new—no clew— nothin' you can
work on?" The speaker felt assured there was not, but it might be an
encouragement to suggest its possibility.
"No, not the slightest clew."
"Better give it up, Mr. Felix, you're only wastin' your time. Be
worse maybe when you do come up agin it." The ship-chandler was in
earnest; every intonation proved it.
O'Day arose from his seat and looked down at his companion. "That
is not my way, Carlin, nor is it yours; and I have known you since I
was a boy."
"And you are goin' to keep it up, Mr. Felix?"
"Yes, until I know the end or reach my own."
"Well, then, God's help go with ye!"
Into the shadows again—past long rows of silent warehouses, with
here and there a flickering gas-lamp— until he reached Dover Street.
He had still some work to do up-town, and Dover Street would furnish a
short cut along the abutment of the great bridge, and so on to the
Elevated at Franklin Square.
He was evidently familiar with its narrow, uneven sidewalk, for he
swung without hesitation into the gloom and, with hands hooked behind
his back, his stick held, as was his custom, close to his armpit, made
his way past its shambling hovels and warehouses. Now and then he
would pause, following with his eyes the curve of the great steel
highway, carried on the stone shoulders of successive arches, the
sweep of its lines marked by a procession of lights, its outstretched,
interlocked palms gripped close. The memory of certain streets in
London came to him—those near its own great bridges, especially the
city dump at Black- friars and the begrimed buildings hugging the
stone knees of London Bridge, choking up the snakelike alleys and
byways leading to the Embankment.
Crossing under the Elevated, he continued along the side of the
giant piers and wheeled into a dirt-choked, ill-smelling street, its
distant outlet a blaze of electric lights. It was now the dead hour of
the twenty-four— the hour before the despatch of the millions of
journals, damp from the presses. He was the only human being in
Suddenly, when within a hundred feet of the end of the street, a
figure detached itself from a deserted doorway. Felix caught his stick
from under his armpit as the man held out a hand.
"Say, I want you to give me the price of a meal."
Felix tightened his hold on the stick. The words had conveyed a
"This is no place for you to beg. Step out where people can see
"I'm hungry, mister." He had now taken in the width of O'Day's
shoulders and the length of his forearm. He had also seen the stick.
Felix stepped back one pace and slipped his hand down the
blackthorn. "Move on, I tell you, where I can look you over—quick!—I
"I ain't much to look at." The threat was out of his voice now. "I
ain't eaten nothin' since yisterday, mister, and I got that out of a
ash-barrel. I'm up agin it hard. Can't you see I ain't lyin'? You
ain't never starved or you'd know. You ain't—" He wavered, his eyes
glittering, edged a step nearer, and with a quick lunge made a grab
for O'Day's watch.
Felix sidestepped with the agility of a cat, struck straight out
from the shoulder, and, with a twist of his fingers in the tramp's
neck-cloth, slammed him flat against the wall, where he crouched,
gasping for breath. "Oh, that's it, is it?" he said calmly, loosening
The man raised both hands in supplication. "Don't kill me! Listen
to me—I ain't no thief—I'm desperate. When you didn't give me
nothin' and I got on to the watch—I got crazy. I'm glad I didn't git
it. I been a-walkin' the streets for two weeks lookin' for work. Last
night I slep' in a coal-bunker down by the docks, under the bridge,
and I was goin' there agin when you come along. I never tried to rob
nobody before. Don't run me in—let me go this time. Look into my
face; you can see for yourself I'm hungry! I'll never do it agin. Try
me, won't you?" His tears were choking him, the elbow of his ragged
sleeve pressed to his eyes.
Felix had listened without moving, trying to make up his mind,
noting the drawn, haggard face, the staring eyes and dry, fevered
lips—all evidences of either hunger or vice, he was uncertain which.
Then gradually, as the man's sobs continued, there stole over him
that strange sense of kinship in pain which comes to us at times when
confronted with another's agony. The differences between them—the
rags of the one and the well-brushed garments of the other, the fact
that one skulked with his misery in dark alleys while the other bore
his on the open highways— counted as nothing. He and this outcast
were bound together by the common need of those who find the struggle
overwhelming. Until that moment his own sufferings had absorbed him.
Now the throb of the world's pain came to him and sympathies long
dormant began to stir.
"Straighten up and let me see your face," he said at last, intent
on the tramp's abject misery. "Out here where the full light can fall
on it—that's right! Now tell me about yourself. How long have you
been like this?"
The man dragged himself to his feet.
"Ever since I lost my job." The question had calmed him. There was
a note of hope in it.
"What work did you do?"
"I'm a plumber's helper."
"No, a strike—I wouldn't quit, and they fired me."
"What happened then?"
"She went away."
"Who went away?"
"About a month back."
"Did you beat her?"
"No, there was another man."
"Younger than you?"
"How old was she?"
"A girl, then."
"Yes, if you put it that way. She was all I had."
"Have you seen her since?"
"No, and I don't want to."
These questions and answers had followed in rapid succession,
Felix searching for the truth and the man trying to give it as best he
With the last answer the man drew a step nearer and, in a voice
which was fast getting beyond his control, said: "You know now, don't
you? You can see it plain as day how long it takes to make a bum of a
man when he's up agin things like that. You—" He paused, listened
intently, and sprang back, hugging the wall. "What's that? Somebody
comin'! My God! It's a cop! Don't tell him—say you won't tell him—
say it! SAY IT!"
Felix gripped his wrist. "Pull yourself together and keep still."
The officer, who was idly swinging a club as if for companionship
along his lonely beat, stopped short. "Any trouble, sir?" he said as
soon as he had Felix's outline and bearing clear.
"No, thank you, officer. Only a friend of mine who needs a little
looking after. I'll take care of him."
"All right, sir," and he passed on down the narrow street.
The man gave a long breath and staggered against the wall. Felix
caught him by his trembling shoulders. "Now, brace up. The first thing
you need is something to eat. There is a restaurant at the corner.
Come with me."
"They won't let me in."
"I'll take care of that."
Felix entered first. "What is there hot this time of night,
"Frankfurters and beans, boss."
"Send a double portion of each to this table," and he pulled out a
chair. "Here's a man who has missed his dinner. Is that enough?" and
he laid down a dollar bill—one Kling had given him.
"Forty cents change, boss."
"Keep it, and see he gets all he wants. And now here," he said to
the tramp, "is another dollar to keep you going," and with a shift of
his stick to his left arm Felix turned on his heel, swung back the
door, and was lost in the throng.
Kitty was up and waiting for him when he lifted the hinged wooden
flap which provided an entrance for the privileged and, guided by the
glow of the kerosene lamp, turned the knob of her kitchen door. She
was close to the light, reading, the coffee-pot singing away on the
stove, the aroma of its contents filling the room.
"I hope I have not kept you up, Mrs. Cleary. You had my message by
Mike, did you not?" he asked in an apologetic tone.
"Yes, I got the message, and I got the trunks; they're up-stairs,
and if you had given Mike the keys I'd have 'em unpacked by this time
and all ready for you. As to my bein' up—I'm always up, and I got to
be. John and Mike is over to Weehawken, and Bobby's been to the
circus and just gone to bed, and I've been readin' the mornin'
paper—about the only time I get to read it. Will ye sit down and wait
till John comes in? Hold on 'til I get ye a cup of hot coffee and—"
"No, Mrs. Cleary. I will go to bed, if you do not mind."
"Oh, but the coffee will put new life into ye, and—"
"Thanks, but it would be more likely to put it OUT of me if it
kept me awake. Can I reach my room this way or must I go outside?"
"Ye can go through this door—wait, I'll go wid ye and show ye
about the light and where ye'll find the water. It's dark on the
stairs and ye may stumble. I'll go on ahead and turn up the gas in the
hall," she called back, as she mounted the steps and threw wide his
room door. "Not much of a place, is it? But ye can get plenty of fresh
air, and the bed's not bad. Ye can see for yourself," and her stout
fist sunk into its middle. "And there's your trunks and tin chest, and
the hat-box is beside the wash-stand, and the waterproof coat's in
the closet. We have breakfast at seven o'clock, and ye'll eat
down-stairs wid me and John. And now good night to ye."
Felix thanked her for her attention in his simple, straightforward
way, and, closing the door upon her, dropped into a chair.
The night's experience had been like a sudden awakening. His
anxiety over his dwindling finances and his disappointment over
Carlin's news had been put to flight by the suffering of the man who
had tried to rob him. There were depths, then, to which human
suffering might drive a man, depths he himself had never imagined or
reached—horrible, deadly depths, without light or hope, benumbing the
best in a man, destroying his purposes by slow, insidious stages.
He arose from his chair and began walking up and down the small
room, stopping now and then to inspect a bureau drawer or to readjust
one of the curtains shading the panes of glass. In the same
absent-minded way he drew out one of the trunks, unlocked it, paused
now and then with some garment in his hand only to awake again to
consciousness and resume his task, pushing the trunk back at last
under the bed and continuing his walk about the narrow room, always
haunted by the tramp's haggard, hopeless look.
Again he felt the mysterious sense of kinship in pain that wipes
away all distinctions. With it, too, there came suddenly another
sense—that of an overwhelming compassion out of which new purposes
are born to human souls.
The encounter, then, had been both a blessing and a warning. He
would now stand guard against the onslaught of his own sorrows while
keeping up the fight, and this with renewed vigor. He would earn
money, too, since this was so necessary, laboring with his hands, if
need be; and he would do it all with a wide-open heart.
If O'Day's presence was a welcome addition to Kitty's household,
it was nothing compared to the effect produced at Kling's. Long before
the month was out he had not only earned his entire wages five times
over by the changes he had wrought in the arrangement and
classification of the stock, but he had won the entire confidence of
his employer. Otto had surrendered when an old customer who had been
in the habit of picking up rare bits of china, Japanese curios, and
carvings at his own value had been confronted with the necessity of
either paying Felix's price or going away without it, O'Day having
promptly quadrupled the price on a piece of old Dresden, not only
because the purchaser was compelled to have it to complete his set but
because the interview had shown that the buyer was well aware he had
obtained the former specimens at one-fourth of their value.
And the same discernment was shown when he was purchasing old
furniture, brass, and so-called Sheffield plate to increase Otto's
stock. If the articles offered could still boast of either handle,
leg, or back of their original state and the price was fair, they were
almost always bought, but the line was drawn at the fraudulent and
"plugged-up" sideboards and chairs with their legs shot full of
genuine worm-holes; ancient Oriental stuffs of the time of the early
Persians (one year out of a German loom), rare old English plate, or
undoubted George III silver, decorated with coats of arms or initials
and showing those precious little dents only produced by long
service—the whole fresh from a Connecticut factory. These never got
past his scrutiny. While it was true, as he had told Kling, that he
knew very little in the way of trade and commerce —nothing which
would be of use to any one— he was a never-failing expert when it
came to what is generally known as "antiques" and "bric-a-brac."
Masie—Kling's only child—a slender, graceful little creature
with a wealth of gold-yellow hair flying about her pretty shoulders
and a pair of blue eyes in which were mirrored the skies of ten joyous
springs, had given her heart to him at once. She had never forgotten
his gentle treatment of her dog Fudge, whose attack that first
morning Felix had understood so well, lifting and putting the
refractory animal back in her arms instead of driving him off with a
kick. Fudge, whose manners were improving, had not forgotten either
and was always under O'Day's feet except when being fondled by the
Until Felix came she had had no other companions, some innate
reserve keeping her from romping with the children on the street, her
sole diversion, except when playing at home among her father's
possessions or making a visit to Kitty, being found in the books of
fairy-tales which the old hunchback, Tim Kelsey, had lent her. At
first this natural shyness had held her aloof even from O'Day, content
only to watch his face as he answered her childish appeals. But before
the first week had passed she had slipped her hand into his, and
before the month was over her arms were around his neck, her fresh,
soft cheek against his own, cuddling close as she poured out her heart
in a continuous flow of prattle and laughter, her father looking on
in blank amazement.
For, while Kling loved her as most fathers love their motherless
daughters, Felix had seen at a glance that he was either too engrossed
in his business or too dense and unimaginative to understand so
winning a child. She was Masie, "dot little girl of mine dot don't got
no mudder," or "Beesvings, who don't never be still," but that was
about as far as his notice of her went, except sending her to school,
seeing that she was fed and clothed, and on such state occasions as
Christmas, New Year's, or birthdays, giving her meaningless little
presents, which, in most instances, were shut up in her bureau
drawers, never to be looked at again.
Kitty, who remembered the child's mother as a girl with a far-away
look in her eyes and a voice of surprising sweetness, always
maintained that it was a shame for Kling, who was many years her
senior, to have married the girl at all.
"Not, John, dear, that Otto isn't a decent man, as far as he
goes," she had once said to him, when the day's work was over and they
were discussing their neighbors, "and that honest, too, that he
wouldn't get away with a sample trunk weighing a ton if it was nailed
fast to the sidewalk, and a good friend of ours who wouldn't go back
on us, and never did. But that wife of his, John! If she wasn't as
fine as the best of em, then I miss my guess. She got it from that
father of hers—the clock-maker that never went out in the daytime,
and hid himself in his back shop. There was something I never
understood about the two of 'em and his killing himself when he did.
Why, look at that little Masie! Can't ye see she is no more Kling's
daughter than she is mine? Ye can't hatch out hummin'-birds by
sittin' on ducks' eggs, and that's what's the matter over at Otto's."
"Well, whose eggs were they?" John had inquired, half asleep by
the stove, his tired legs outstretched, the evening paper dropping
from his hand.
"Oh, I don't say that they are not Kling's right enough, John.
Masie is his child, I know. But what I say is that the mother is
stamped all over the darling, and that Otto can't put a finger on any
part and call it his own."
Whether Kitty were right or wrong regarding the mystery is no part
of our story, but certain it was that the soul of the unhappy young
mother looked through the daughter's eyes, that the sweetness of the
child's voice was hers, and the grace of every movement a direct
inheritance from one whose frail spirit had taken so early a flight.
To Felix this companionship, with the glimpses it gave him of a
child's heart, refreshed his own as a summer rain does a thirsty
plant. Had she been his daughter, or his little sister, or his niece,
or grandchild, a certain sense of responsibility on his part and of
filial duty on hers would have clouded their perfect union. He would
have had matters of education to insist upon— perhaps of clothing and
hygiene. She would have had her secrets—hidden paths on which she
wandered alone—things she could never tell to one in authority. As
it was, bound together as they were by only a mutual recognition,
their joy in each other knew no bounds. To Masie he was a refuge, some
one who understood every thought before she had uttered it; to O'Day
she was a never-ending and warming delight.
And so this man of forty-five folded his arms about this child of
ten, and held her close, the opening chalice of her budding girlhood
widening hourly at his touch— a sight to be reverenced by every man
and never to be forgotten by one privileged to behold it.
And with the intimacy which almost against his will held him to
the little shop, there stole into his life a certain content. Springs
long dried in his own nature bubbled again. He felt the sudden,
refreshing sense of those who, after pent-up suffering, find the
quickening of new life within.
Mike noticed the change in the cheery greetings and in the
passages of Irish wit with which the new clerk welcomed him whenever
be appeared in the store, and so did Kling, and even the two Dutchies
when Felix would drop into the cellar searching for what was still
good enough to be made over new. And so did Kitty and John and all at
Masie alone noticed nothing. To her, "Uncle Felix," as she now
called him, was always the same adorable and comprehending companion,
forever opening up to her new vistas of interest, never too busy to
answer her questions, never too preoccupied to explain the different
objects he was handling. If she were ever in the way, she was never
made to feel it. Instead, so gentle and considerate was he, that she
grew to believe herself his most valuable assistant, daily helping him
to arrange the various new acquisitions.
One morning in June when they were busy over a lot of small
curios, arranging bits of jade, odd silver watches, seals, and
pinchbeck rings, in a glass case that had been cleaned and
revarnished, the door opened and an old fellow strolled in—an
odd-looking old fellow, with snow-white hair and beard, wearing a
black sombrero and a shirt cut very low in the neck. But for a pair
of kindly eyes, which looked out at you from beneath the brim of the
hat, he might have been mistaken for one of the dwarfs in "Rip Van
Winkle." Fudge, having now been disciplined by Felix, only sniffed at
"I see an old gold frame in your window," began the new customer.
"Might I measure it?"
"Which one, sir?" replied Felix. "There are half a dozen of them,
"Well; will you please come outside? And I will point it out. It
is the Florentine, there in the corner— perhaps a reproduction, but
it looks to me like the real thing."
"It is a Florentine," answered Felix. "There are two or three
pictures in the Uffizi with similar frames, if I recall them aright.
Would you like a look at it?"
"I don't want to trouble you to take it out," said the old man
apologetically. "It might not do, and I can't afford to pay much for
it anyway. But I would like to measure it; I've got an Academy picture
which I think will just fit it, but you can't always tell. No, I
guess I'll let it go. It's all covered up, and you would have to move
everything to reach it."
"No, I won't have to move a thing. Here, you bunch of sunshine!
Squeeze in there, Masie, dear, and let me know how wide and high that
frame is— the one next the glass. Take this rule."
The child caught up the rule and, followed by Fudge, who liked
nothing so well as rummaging, crept among the jars, mirrors, and
candelabra crowding the window, her steps as true as those of a
kitten. "Twenty inches by thirty-one—no, thirty," she laughed back,
tucking her little skirts closer to her shapely limbs so as to clear
a tiny table set out with cups and saucers.
"You're sure it's thirty?" repeated the painter.
"Yes, sir, thirty," and she crept back and laid the rule in
"Thank you, my dear young lady," bowed the old gnome. "It is a
pleasure to be served by one so obliging and bright. And I am glad to
tell you," he added, turning to O'Day, "that it's a fit—an exact fit.
I thought I was about right. I carry things in my eye. I bought a
head once in Venice, about a foot square, and in Spain three months
afterward, on my way down the hill leading from the Alhambra to the
town, there on a wall outside a bric-a-brac shop hung a frame which I
bought for ten francs, and when I got to Paris and put them together,
I'll be hanged if they didn't fit as if they had been made for each
"And I know the shop!" broke out Felix, to Masie's astonishment.
"It's just before you get to the small chapel on the left."
"By cracky, you're right! How long since you were there?"
"Oh, some five years now."
"Picking up things to sell here, I suppose. Spain used to be a
great place for furniture and stuffs; I've got a lot of them
still—bought a whole chest of embroideries once in Seville, or
rather, at that hospital where the big Murillo hangs. You must know
that picture—Moses striking water from the rock—best thing Murillo
Felix remembered it, and he also remembered many of the important
pictures in the Prado, especially the great Velasquez and the two
Goyas, and that head of Ribera which hung on the line in the second
gallery on the right as you entered. And before the two enthusiasts
were aware of what was going on around them, Masie and Fudge had
slipped off to dine upstairs with her father, Felix and the garrulous
old painter still talking—renewing their memories with a gusto and
delight unknown to the old artist for years.
"And now about that frame!" the gnome at last found time to say.
"I've got so little money that I'd rather swap something for it, if
you don't mind. Come down and see my stuff! It's only in 10th
Street—not twenty minutes' walk. Maybe you can sell some of my
things for me. And bring that blessed little girl—she's the dearest,
sweetest thing I've seen for an age. Your daughter?"
Felix laughed gently. "No, I wish she were. She is Mr. Kling's
"And your name?"
"Irish, of course—well, all the same, come down any morning this
week. My name is Ganger; I'm on the fourth floor—been there
twenty-two years. You'll have to walk up—we all do. Yes, I'll expect
Kling, whom Felix consulted, began at once to demur. He knew all
about the building on 10th Street. More than one of his old
frames—part of the clearing- out sale of some Southern homestead, the
portraits being reserved because unsalable—had resumed their careers
on the walls of the Academy as guardians and protectors of
masterpieces painted by the denizens of this same old rattletrap, the
Studio Building. Some of its tenants, too, had had accounts with
him—which had been running for more than a year. Bridley, the marine
painter; Manners, who took pupils; Springlake, the landscapist; and
half a dozen others had been in the habit of dropping into his shop on
the lookout for something good in Dutch cabinets at half-price, or no
price at all, until Felix, without knowing where they had come from,
had put an end to the practice.
"Got a fellow up to Kling's who looks as if he had been a college
athlete, and knows it all. Can't fool him for a cent," was the talk
now, instead of "Keep at the old Dutchman and you may get it. He don't
know the difference between a Chippendale sideboard and a shelf rack
from Harlem. Wait for a rainy day and go in. He'll be feeling blue,
and you'll be sure to get it."
Kling, therefore, when he heard some days later, of Felix's
proposed visit, began turning over his books, looking up several
past-due accounts. But Felix would have none of it.
"I'm going on a collecting tour, Mr. Kling, this lovely June
morning," he laughed, "but not for money. We will look after that
later on. And I will take Masie. Come, child, get your hat. Mr. Ganger
wanted you to come, and so do I. Call Hans, Mr. Kling, if the shop
gets full. We will be back in an hour."
"Vell, you know best," answered Kling in final surrender. "Ven it
comes to money, I know. You go 'long, little Beesvings. I mind de
"And I'll take Fudge," the child cried, "and we'll stop at
Fudge was out first, scampering down the street and back again
before they had well closed the door, and Masie was as restless. "Oh,
I'm just as happy as I can be, Uncle Felix. You are always so good. I
never had any one to walk with until you came, except old Aunty
Gossberger, and she never let me look at anything."
Days in June—joyous days with all nature brimful with
laughter—days when the air is a caress, the sky a film of pearl and
silver, and the eager mob of bud, blossom, and leaf, having burst
their bonds, are flaunting their glories, days like these are always
to be remembered the world over. But June days about Gramercy Park
are to be marked in big Red Letters upon the calendar of the year. For
in Gramercy Park the almanac goes to pieces.
Everything is ahead of time. When little counter- panes of snow
are still covering the baby crocuses away off in Central Park, down in
Gramercy their pink and yellow heads are popping up all over the
enclosure. When the big trees in Union Square are stretching their
bare arms, making ready to throw off the winter's sleep, every tiny
branch in Gramercy is wide awake and tingling with new life. When
countless dry roots in Madison Square are still slumbering under their
blankets of straw, dreading the hour when they must get up and go to
work, hundreds of tender green fingers in Gramercy are thrust out to
the kindly sun, pleading for a chance to be up and doing.
And the race keeps up, Gramercy still ahead, until the goal of
summer is won, and every blessed thing that could have burst into
bloom has settled down to enjoy the siesta of the hot season.
Masie was never tired of watching these changes, her wonder and
delight increasing as the season progressed.
In the earlier weeks there had been nothing but flower-beds
covered with unsightly clods, muffled shrubs, and bandaged vines. Then
had come a blaze of tulips, exhausting the palette. And then, but a
short time before—it seemed only yesterday—every stretch of brown
grass had lost its dull tints in a coat of fresh paint, on which the
benches, newly scrubbed, were set, and each foot of gravelled walks
had been raked and made ready for the little tots in new straw hats
who were then trundling their hoops and would soon be chasing their
And now, on this lovely June morning, summer had come—REAL
SUMMER—for a mob of merry roses were swarming up a trellis in a mad
climb to reach its top, the highest blossom waving its petals in
Felix waited until she had taken it all in, her face pressed
between the bars (only the privileged possessing a key are admitted to
the gardens within), Fudge scampering up and down, wild to get at the
two gray squirrels, which some vandal has since stolen, and then,
remembering his promise to Ganger, he called her to him and continued
But her morning outing was not over. He must take her to the
marble-cutter's yard, filled with all sorts of statues, urns, benches,
and columns, and show her again the ruts and grooves cut in the big
stone well-head, and tell her once more the story of how it had stood
in an old palace in Venice, where the streets were all water and
everybody went visiting in boats. And then she must stop at the
florist's to see whether he had any new ferns in his window, and have
Felix again explain the difference between the big and little ferns
and why the palms had such long leaves.
She was ready now for her visit to the two old painters, but this
time Felix lingered. He had caught sight of a garden wall in the rear
of an old house, and with his hand in hers had crossed the street to
study it the closer. The wall was surmounted by a solid, wrought-
iron railing into which some fifty years or more ago a gardener had
twisted the tendrils of a wistaria. The iron had cut deep, and so
inseparable was the embrace that human skill could not pull them apart
without destroying them both.
As he reached the sidewalk and got a clearer view of the vine,
tracing the weave of its interlaced branches and tendrils, Masie
noticed that he stopped suddenly and for a moment looked away, lost in
deep thought. She caught, too, the shadow that sometimes settled on
his face, one she had seen before and wondered over. But although her
hand was still in his, she kept silent until he spoke.
"Look, dear Masie," he said at last, drawing her to him, "see what
happens to those who are forced into traps! It was the big knot that
held it back! And yet it grew on!"
Masie looked up into his thoughtful face. "Do you think the iron
hurts it, Uncle Felix?" she asked with a sigh.
"I shouldn't wonder; it would me," he faltered.
"But it wasn't the vine's fault, was it?"
"Perhaps not. Maybe when it was planted nobody looked after it,
nor cared what might happen when it grew up. Poor wistaria! Come
At last they turned into 10th Street, Fudge scurrying ahead to the
very door of the grim building, where a final dash brought him to
Ganger's, his nose having sniffed at every threshold they passed and
into every crack and corner of the three flights of stairs.
Felix's own nostrils were now dilating with pleasure. The odor of
varnish and turpentine had brought back some old memories—as perfumes
do for us all. A crumpled glove, a bunch of withered roses, the salt
breath of an outlying marsh, are often but so many fairy wands
reviving comedies and tragedies on which the curtains of forgetfulness
have been rung down these many years.
Something in the aroma of the place was recalling kindred spirits
across the sea, when the door was swung wide and Ganger in a big,
hearty voice, cried:
"Mr. O'Day, is it? Oh, I am glad! And that dear child, and—
Hello! who invited you, you restless little devil of a dog? Come in,
all of you! I've a model, but she doesn't care and neither do I. And
this, Mr. O'Day, is my old friend, Sam Dogger—and he's no relation of
yours, you imp!"—with a bob of his grizzled head at Fudge—"He's a
landscape-painter and a good one— one of those Hudson River
fellows—and would be a fine one if he would stick to it. Give me that
hat and coat, my chick-a-biddy, and I'll hang them up. And now here's
a chair for you, Mr. O'Day, and please get into it—and there's a jar
full of tobacco, and if you haven't got a pipe of your own you'll find
a whole lot of corncobs on the mantelpiece and you can help
O'Day had stood smiling at the painter, Masie's hand fast in his,
Fudge tiptoeing softly about, divided between a sense of the
strangeness of the place and a certainty of mice behind the canvases.
Felix knew the old fellow's kind, and recognized the note of attempted
gayety in the voice—the bravado of the poor putting their best,
sometimes their only, foot foremost.
"No, I won't sit down—not yet," he answered pleasantly; "I will
look around, if you will let me, and I will try one of your pipes
before I begin. What a jolly place you have here! Don't move"—this to
the model, a slip of a girl, her eyes muffled in a lace veil, one of
Ganger's Oriental costumes about her shoulders—"I am quite at home,
my dear, and if you have been a model any length of time you will know
exactly what that means."
"Oh, she's my Fatima," exclaimed Ganger. "Her real name is Jane
Hoggson, and her mother does my washing, but I call her Fatima for
short. She can stop work for the day. Get down off the platform, Jane
Hoggson, and talk to this dear little girl. You see, Mr. O'Day, now
that the art of the country has gone to the devil and nobody wants my
masterpieces, I have become an Eastern painter, fresh from Cairo,
where I have lived for half a century—principally on Turkish paste
and pressed figs. My specialty at present —they are all over my
walls, as you can see—is dancing-girls in silk tights or without
them, just as the tobacco shops prefer. I also do sheiks, muffled to
their eyebrows in bath towels, and with scimitars— like that one
above the mantel. And very profitable, too; MOST profitable, my dear
sir. I get twenty doldars for a real odalisk and fifteen for a
bashi-bazouk. I can do one about every other day, and I sell one about
every other month. As for Sam Dogger here—Sam, what is your
specialty? I said landscapes, Sam, when Mr. O'Day came in, but you may
have changed since we have been talking."
The wizened old gentleman thus addressed sidled nearer. He was ten
years younger than Ganger, but his thin, bloodless hands, watery eyes,
their lids edged with red, and bald head covered by a black velvet
skull-cap made him look that much older.
"Nat talks too much, Mr. O'Day," he piped in a high-keyed voice.
"I often tell Nat that he's got a loose hinge in his mouth, and he
ought to screw it tight or it will choke him some day when he isn't
watching. He! He!" And a wheezy laugh filled the room.
"Shut up, you old sardine! You don't talk enough. If you did you'd
get along better. I'll tell you, Mr. O'Day, what Sam does. Sam's a
patcher-up—a 'puttier.' That's what he is. Sam can get more quality
out of a piece of sandpaper, a pot of varnish, and a little glue than
any man in the business. If you don't believe it, just bring in a fake
Romney, or a Gainsborough, or some old Spanish or Italian daub with
the corners knocked off where the signature once was, or a scrape
down half a cheek, or some smear of a head, with half the canvas bare,
and put Sam to work on it, and in a week or less out it comes just as
it left the master's easel—'Found by his widow after his death' or
'The property of an English nobleman on whose walls it has hung for
two centuries.' By thunder! isn't it beautiful?" He chuckled.
"Wonderful how these bullfrogs of connoisseurs swallow the dealers'
flies! And here am I, who can paint any blamed thing from a hen-coop
to a battle scene, doing signs for tobacco shops; and there is Sam,
who can do Corots and Rousseaus and Daubignys by the yard, obliged to
stick to a varnish pot and a scraper! Damnable, isn't it? But we don't
growl, do we, Sammy? When Sammy has anything left over, he brings
half of it down to me—he lives on the floor above—and when I get a
little ahead and Sammy is behind, I send it up to him. We are the
Siamese twins, Sammy and I, aren't we, Sam? Where are you, anyway?
Oh, he's after the dog, I see, moving the canvases so the little
beggar won't run a thumb-tack in his paw. Sam can no more resist a
dog, my dear Mr. O'Day, than a drunkard can a rum-mill, can you,
"At it again, are you, Nat?" wheezed the wizened old gentleman,
dusting his fingers as he reappeared from behind the canvases, his
watery eyes edged with a deeper red, due to his exertions. "Don't pay
any attention to him, Mr. O'Day. What he says isn't half true, and
the half that is true isn't worth listening to. Now tell me about that
frame he's ordered. He don't want it, and I've told him so. If you are
willing to lend it to him, he'll pay you for it when the picture is
sold, which will never be, and by that time he'll—"
"Dry up, you old varnish pot!" shouted Ganger. "how do you know I
won't pay for it?"
"Because your picture will never be hung—that's why!"
"Mr. Ganger did not want to buy it," broke in Felix, between puffs
from one of his host's corn-cob pipes. "He wanted to exchange
something for it—'swap' he called it."
"Oh, well," wheezed Sam, "that's another thing. What were you
going to give him in return, Nat? Careful, now—there's not much
"Oh, maybe some old stuff, Sammy. Move along, you blessed little
child—and you, too, Jane Hoggson! You're sitting on my Venetian
wedding-chest—real, too! I bought it forty years ago in Padua. There
are some old embroideries down in the bottom, or were, unless Sam has
been in here while I— Oh, no, here they are! Beg pardon, Sammy, for
suspecting you. There—what do you think of these?"
Felix bent over the pile of stuffs, which, under Ganger's
continued dumpings, was growing larger every minute—the last to see
the light being part of a priest's Cope and two chasubles.
"There—that is enough!" said Felix. "This chasuble alone is worth
more than the frame. We will put the Florentine frame at ten dollars
and the vestment at fifteen. What others have you, Mr. Ganger?
There's a great demand for these things when they are good, and these
are good. Where did you get them?"
"Worth more than the frame? Holy Moses!" whistled Ganger. "Why, I
thought you'd want all there was in the chest! And you say there are
people out of a lunatic asylum looking for rags like this?" And he
held up one end of the cope.
"Yes, many of them. To me, I must say, they are worth nothing, as
I don't like the idea of mixing up church and state. But Mr. Kling's
customers do, and if they choose to say their prayers before a
chasuble on a priest's back on Sunday and make a sofa cushion of it
the next day, that is their affair, not mine. And now, what else? You
spoke of some costumes this morning."
"Yes, I did speak of my costumes, but I'm afraid they are too
modern for you—I make 'em up myself. Get up, Jane, and let Mr. O'Day
see what you've got on!"
Jane jumped to her feet, looking less Oriental than ever, her
spangled veil having dropped about her shoulders, her red hair and
freckled face now in full view.
"I think her dress is beautiful, Uncle Felix," whispered Masie.
"Do you, sweetheart? Well, then, maybe I might better look again.
What else have you in the way of Costumes, Mr. Ganger?"
Dogger stepped up. "He hasn't got a single thing worth a cent; he
buys these pieces down in Elizabeth Street, out of push-carts, and
Jane Hoggson's mother sews them together. But, my deary"—here he laid
his hand on Masie's head—"would you like to see some REAL ONES,
all-gold-and-silver lace—and satin shoes —and big, high bonnets with
Masie clapped her hands in answer and began whirling about the
room, her way of telling everybody that she was too happy to keep
"Well, wait here; I won't be a minute."
"Sam's fallen in love with her, too," muttered Ganger, "and I
don't blame him. Come here, you darling, and let me talk to you. Do
you know you are the first little girl that's ever been inside this
place for ever— and ever and EVER—so long? Think of that, will you?
Not one single little girl since— Oh, well, I just can't
remember—it's such an awful long time. Dreadful, isn't it? Hear that
old Sam stumbling down-stairs! Now let's see what he brings you."
Dogger's arms were full. "I've a silk dress," he puffed, "and a
ruffled petticoat, and a great leghorn hat—and just look at these
feathers, and you never saw such a pair of slippers and silk
stockings! And now let's try 'em on!"
The child uttered a little scream of delight. "Oh, Uncle Felix!
Isn't it lovely? Can't I have them? Please, Uncle Felix!" she cried,
both hands around his shirt collar in supplication.
"Take 'em all, missy," shouted Sam. Then, turning to Felix: "They
belonged to an actor who hired half of my studio and left them to pay
for his rent, which they didn't do, not by a long chalk, and— Oh,
here's another hat—and, oh, such a lovely old cloak! Yes, take 'em
all, missy—I'm glad to get rid of 'em—before Nat claps them on Jane
and goes in for Puritan maidens and Lady Gay Spankers. Oh, I know you,
Nat! I wouldn't trust you out of my sight! Take 'em along, I say." He
stopped and turned toward Felix again.
"Couldn't you bring her down here once in a while, Mr. O'Day?" he
continued, a strange, pathetic note in his wheezing voice. "Just for
ten minutes, you know, when she's out with the dog, or walking with
you. Nobody ever comes up these stairs but tramps and book
agents—even the models steer clear. It would help a lot if you'd
bring her. Wouldn't you like to come, missy? What did you say her name
was? Oh, yes—Masie—well, my child, that's not what I'd call you;
I'd call you—well, I guess I wouldn't call you anything but just a
dear, darling little girl! Yes, that's just what I'd call you. And you
are going to let me give them to her, aren't you, Mr. O'Day?"
Felix grasped the old fellow's thin, dry hand in his own strong
fingers. For an instant a strange lump in his throat clogged his
speech. "Of course, I'll take the costumes, and many thanks for your
wish to make the child happy," he answered at last. "I am rather
foolish about Masie myself; and may I tell you, Mr. Dogger, that you
are a very fine old gentleman, and that I am delighted to have made
your acquaintance, and that, if you will permit me I shall certainly
Dogger was about to reply when Masie, Looking up into the wizened
face, cried: "And may I put them on when I like, if I'm very,
very—oh, so VERY careful?"
"Yes, you buttercup, and you can wear them full of holes and do
anything else you please to them, and I won't care a mite."
And then, with Jane Hoggson's help, he put on Masie's own hat and
coat, which Ganger had hung on an easel, and Masie called Fudge from
his mouse-hole, and Felix shook hands first with Nat and then with
Sam, and last of all with Jane, who looked at him askance out of one
eye as she bobbed him half a courtesy. And then everybody went out
into the hall and said good-by once more over the banisters, Felix
with the bundle under his arm, Masie throwing kisses to the two old
gnomes craning their necks over the banisters, Fudge barking every
step of the way down the stairs.
The glimpse which Felix had caught of these two poor,
unappreciated old men, living contentedly from hand to mouth, gayly
propping each other up when one or the other weakened, had strangely
affected him. If, as he reasoned, such battered hulks, stranded these
many years on the dry sands of incompetency, with no outlook for
themselves across the wide sea over which their contemporaries were
scudding with all sails set before the wind of success—if these
castaways, their past always with them and their hoped-for future
forever out of their reach, could laugh and be merry, why should not
he carry some of their spirit into his relations with the people among
whom his lot was now thrown?
That these people had all been more than good to him, and that he
owed them in return something more than common politeness now took
possession of his mind. Few such helping hands had ever been held out
to him. When they bad been, the proffered palm had generally concealed
a hidden motive. Hereafter he would try to add what he could of his
own to the general fund of good-fellowship and good deeds.
He would continue his nightly search—and he had not missed a
single evening—but he would return earlier, so as to be able to spend
an hour reading to Masie before she went to bed, or with his other
friends and acquaintances of "The Avenue"—especially with Kitty and
John. He had been too unmindful of them, getting back to his lodgings
at any hour of the night, either to let himself in by his
pass-key—all the lights out and everybody asleep—or to find only
Kitty or John, or both, at work over their accounts or waiting up for
Mike or Bobby or for one of their wagons detained on some dock. And
since Kling had raised his salary, enabling him not only to recover
his dressing- case, which then rested on his mantel, but to take his
meals wherever he happened to be at the moment—he had seldom dined
at home—a great relief in many ways to a man of his tastes.
Kitty, though he did not know it, had demurred and had talked the
matter over with John, wondering whether she had neglected his
comfort. When she had questioned him, he had settled it with a pat on
her shoulders. "Just let me have my way this time, my dear Mrs.
Cleary," he had said gently but firmly. "I am a bad boarder and cause
you no end of trouble, for I am never on time. And please keep the
price as it is, for I don't pay you half enough for all your goodness
Now under the impulse of his new resolution, and rather ashamed of
his former attitude in view of all her unremitting attentions, he
resumed his place at her table. Nor did he stop here. He taught her to
broil a chop over her coal fire by removing the stove lid—until then
they had been fried—and a new way with a rasher of bacon, using the
carving-fork instead of a pan. The clearing of the famous coffee-pot
with an egg—making the steaming mixture anew whenever wanted instead
of letting the dented old pot simmer away all day on the back of the
stove— was another innovation, making the evening meal just that
much more enjoyable, greatly to the delight of the hostess, who was
prouder of her boarder than of any other human being who had come into
her life, except John and Bobby.
These renewed intimacies opened his eyes to another phase of the
life about him, and he soon found himself growing daily more
interested in the sweet family relations of the small household.
"What do I care for what we haven't got," Kitty said to him one
night when some economies in the small household were being discussed.
"I'm better off than half the women who stop at my door in their
carriages. I got two arms, and I can sleep eight hours when I get the
chance, and John loves me and so does Bobby and so does my big white
horse Jim. There ain't one of them women as knows what it is to work
for her man and him to work for her." All the other married couples
he had seen had pulled apart, or lived apart—mentally, at least.
These two seemed bound together heart and soul.
More than once he contrived to stop at the Studio Building, where
both of the old fellows were almost always to be found sitting side by
side, and, picking them up bodily, he had set them down on hard chairs
in a rathskeller on Sixth Avenue, where they had all dined together,
the old fellows warmed up with two beers apiece. This done, he had
escorted them back, seen them safely up-stairs, and returned to his
It was after one of these mild diversions that, before going to
his room, he pushed open the door of the Clearys' sitting-room with a
cheery "May I come in, Mistress Kitty?"
"Oh, but I'm glad to see ye!" was the joyous answer. "I was sayin'
to myself: 'Maybe ye'd come in before he went.' Here's Father Cruse I
been tellin' ye about— and, Father, here's Mr. O'Day that's livin'
A full-chested man of forty, in a long black cassock, standing six
feet in his stockings, his face alight with the glow of a freshly
kindled pleasure, rose from his chair and held out his hand. "The
introduction should be quite unnecessary, Mr. O'Day," he exclaimed in
the full, sonorous voice of a man accustomed to public speaking. "You
seem to have greatly attached these dear people to you, which in
itself is enough, for there are none better in my parish."
Felix, who had been looking the speaker over, taking in his
thoughtful face, deep black eyes, and more especially the heavy black
eyebrows that lay straight above them, felt himself warmed by the
hearty greeting and touched by its sincerity. "I agree with you,
Father, in your praise of them," he said as he grasped the priest's
hand. "They have been everything to me since my sojourn among them.
And, if I am not mistaken, you and I have something else in common. My
people are from Limerick."
"And mine from Cork," laughed the priest as he waved his hand
toward his empty chair, adding: "Let me move it nearer the table."
"No, I will take my old seat, if you do not mind. Please do not
move, Mr. Cleary; I am near enough."
"And are you an importation, Father, like myself?" continued
Felix, shifting the rocker for a better view of the priest.
"No. I am only an Irishman by inheritance. I was brought up on the
soil, born down in Greenwich village —and a very queer old part of
the town it is. Strange to say, there are very few changes along its
streets since my boyhood. I found the other day the very slanting
cellar door I used to slide on when I was so high! Do you know
He was sitting upright as he spoke, his hands hidden in the folds
of his black cassock, wondering meanwhile what was causing the deep
lines on the brow of this high-bred, courteous man, and the anxious
look in the deep-set eyes. As priest he had looked into many others,
framed in the side window of the confessional— the most wonderful of
all schools for studying human nature—but few like those of the man
before him; eyes so clear and sincere, yet shadowed by what the
priest vaguely felt was some overwhelming sorrow.
"Oh, yes, I know it as I know most of New York," Felix was saying;
"it is close to Jefferson Market and full of small houses, where I
should think people could live very cheaply"; adding, with a sigh, "I
have walked a great deal about your city," and as suddenly checked
himself, as if the mere statement might lead to discussion.
Kitty, who had been darning one of John's gray yarn stockings—the
needle was still between her thumb and forefinger—leaned forward.
"That's the matter with him, Father, and he'll never be happy until he
stops it," she cried. "He don't do nothin' but tramp the streets
until I think he'd get that tired he'd go to sleep standin' up."
Felix turned toward her. "And why not, Mrs. Cleary?" he asked with
a smile. "How can I learn anything about this great metropolis unless
I see it for myself?"
"But it's all Sunday and every night! I get that worried about ye
sometimes, I'm ready to cry. And ye won't listen to a thing I say! I
been waitin' for Father Cruse to get hold of ye, and I'm goin' to say
what's in my mind." Here she looked appealingly to the priest. "Now,
ye just talk to him, Father, won't ye, please?"
The priest, laughing heartily, raised his protesting hands toward
her. "If he fails to heed you, Mrs. Cleary, he certainly won't listen
to me. What do you say for yourself, Mr. O'Day?"
Felix twisted his head until he could address his words more
directly to his hostess. "Please keep on scolding me, my dear Mrs.
Cleary. I love to hear you. But there is Father Cruse, why not
sympathize with him? He tramps to some purpose. I am only the
Wandering Jew, who does it for exercise."
Kitty held the point of the darning-needle straight out toward
Felix. "But why must you do it Sundays, Mr. O'Day? That's what I want
"But Sunday is my holiday."
"Yes, and there's early mass. Ye'd think he'd come, wouldn't ye,
One of O'Day's low, murmuring laughs, that always sounded as if he
had grown unaccustomed to letting the whole of it pass his lips,
filtered through the room.
"You see what a heathen I am, Father," he exclaimed. "But I am
going to turn over a new leaf. I shall honor myself by visiting St.
Barnabas's some day very soon, and shall sit in the front pew—or,
perhaps, in yours, Mrs. Cleary, if you will let me—now that I know
who officiates," and he inclined his head graciously toward the
priest. "I hope the service is not always in the morning!"
"Oh, no, we have a service very often at night, sometimes at eight
"And how long does that last?"
"Perhaps an hour."
"And so if I should come at eight and wait until you are free, you
could give me, perhaps, another hour of yourself?"
"Yes, and with the greatest pleasure. But why at those hours?"
asked the priest with some curiosity.
"Because I am very busy at other times. But I want to be quite
frank. If I come, it will not be because I need your service, but
because I shall want to see YOU. Your church is not my church, and
never has been, but your people—especially your priests—have always
had my admiration and respect. I have known many of your brethren in
my time. One in particular, who is now very old—a dear abbe, living
in Paris. Heaven is made up of just such saints."
The priest clasped his hands together. "We have many such, sir,"
he replied solemnly. The acknowledgment came reverently, with a gleam
that shone from under the heavy brows.
Felix caught its brilliance, and the sense of a certain bigness in
the man passed through him. He had been prepared for his quiet,
well-bred dignity. All the priests he had known were thoroughbreds in
their manner and bearing; their self-imposed restraint,
self-effacement, absence of all unnecessary gesture, and modulated
voices had made them so; but the warmth of this one's underlying
nature was as unexpected as it was pleasurable.
"Yes, you have many such," O'Day repeated simply after a slight
pause during which his thoughts seemed to have wandered afar. "And now
tell me," he asked, rousing himself to renewed interest, "where your
work lies—your real work, I mean. The mass is your rest."
The priest turned quickly. He wondered if there were a purpose
behind the question. "Oh, among my people," he answered, the slow,
even, non-committal tones belying the eagerness of his gesture.
"Yes, I know; but go on. This is a great city— greater than I had
ever supposed—greater, in many ways, than London. The luxury and
waste are appalling; the misery is more appalling still. What sort of
men and women do you put your hands on?"
"Here are some of them," answered the priest, his forefinger
pointing to Kitty and John.
"We could all of us do without churches and priests," ventured
Felix, his eyes kindling, "if your parishioners were as good as these
"Well, there's Bobby," laughed the priest, his face turned toward
the boy, who was sound asleep in his chair, Toodles, the door-mat of a
dog, sprawled at his feet.
"And are there no others, Father Cruse?"
The priest, now convinced of a hidden meaning in the insistent
tones, grew suddenly grave, and laid his hand on O'Day's knee. "Come
and see me some time, and I will tell you. My district runs from Fifth
Avenue to the East River, from the homes of the rich to the haunts of
the poor, and there is no form of vice and no depth of suffering the
world over that does not knock daily at my study door. Do not let us
talk about it here. Perhaps some day we may work together, if you are
Kitty, who had been listening, her heart throbbing with pride over
Felix, who had held his own with her beloved priest, and still fearing
that the talk would lead away from what was uppermost in her
mind—O'Day's welfare—now sprang from her chair before Felix could
reply. "Of course he'll come, Father, once he's seen ye."
"Yes, I will," answered Felix cordially. "And it will not be very
long either, Father. And now I must say good night. It has been a real
pleasure to meet you. You have been a most kindly grindstone to a
very dull and useless knife, and I am greatly sharpened up. After
all, I think we both agree that it is rather difficult to keep
anything bright very long unless you rub it against something still
brighter and keener. Thank you again, Father," and with a pat of his
fingers on Kitty's shoulder as he passed, and a good night to John,
he left the room on his way to his chamber above.
Kitty waited until the sound of O'Day's footsteps told her that he
had reached the top of the stairs and then turned to the priest.
"Well, what do ye think of him? Have I told ye too much? Did ye ever
know the beat of a man like that, livin' in a place like this and
eatin' at my table, and never a word of complaint out o' him, and
everybody lovin' him the moment they clap their two eyes on him?"
The priest made no immediate answer. For some seconds he gazed
into the fire, then looked at John as if about to seek some further
enlightenment, but changing his mind faced Kitty. "Is his mail sent
"What? His letters?"
"He don't have any—not one since he's been wid us."
"Anybody come to see him?"
"Niver a soul."
The priest ruminated for a moment more, and then said slowly, as
if his mind were made up: "It does not matter; somebody or something
has hurt him, and he has gone off to die by himself. In the old days
such men sought the monasteries; to-day they try to lose themselves
in the crowd."
Again he ruminated, the delicate antennae of his hands meeting
each other at the tips.
"A most extraordinary case," he said at last. "No malice, no
bitterness—yet eating his heart out. Pitiful, really; and the worst
thing about it is that you can't help him, for his secret will die
with him. Bring him to me sometime, and let me know before you come so
I may be at home."
"You don't think there's anything crooked about him, Father, do
you?" said John, who had sat tilted back against the wall and now
brought the front legs of his chair to the floor with a bang.
"What do you mean by crooked. John?" asked the priest.
"Well, he blew in here from nowheres, bringin' a couple of trunks
and a hat-box, and not much in 'em, from what Kitty says. And he might
blow out again some fine night, leavin' his own full of bricks,
carting off instead some I keep on storage for my customers, full of
God knows what!—but somethin' that's worth money, or they wouldn't
have me take care of 'em. There ain't nothin' to prevent him, for he's
got the run of the place day and night. And Kitty's that dead stuck
on him she'll believe anything he says."
Kitty wheeled around in her seat, her big strong fist tightly
clinched. "Hold your tongue, John Cleary!" she cried indignantly. "I'd
knock any man down— I don't care how big he was—that would be
a-sayin' that of ye without somethin' to back it up, and that's
what'll happen to ye if ye don't mend your manners. Can't ye see,
Father, that Mr. Felix O'Day is the real thing, and no sham about him?
I do, and Kling does, and so does that darlin' Masie, and every man,
woman, and child around here that can get their hands on him or a
word wid him. Shame on ye, John! Tell him so, Father Cruse!"
The priest kept silent, waiting until the slight family
squall—never very long nor serious between John and Kitty—had spent
"Well, I'm not sayin' anything against Mr. O'Day, Kitty," broke in
John. "I'm only askin' for information. What do you think of him,
Father? What's he up to, anyhow? There ain't any of 'em can fool ye.
I don't want to watch him—I ain't got no time—and I won't if he's
The priest rose from his chair and stood looking down at Kitty,
his hands clasped behind his back. "You believe in him, do you not?"
"I do—up to the handle-and I don't care who knows it!"
"Then I would not worry, John Cleary, if I were you."
"Well, what does she know about it, Father?"
"What every good woman always knows about every good man. And now
I must go."
As was to be expected, Kitty's first words to O'Day on the
following morning related to his meeting with Father Cruse. "Ye'll not
find a better man anywhere," she had said to him, "and there ain't a
trouble he can't cure."
Felix had smiled at her enthusiasm for her idol and comforted her
by saying that it had given him distinct pleasure to meet him, adding:
"A big man with a big soul, that priest of yours, Mistress Kitty. I
begin to see now why you and your husband lead such human lives.
Yes—a fine man."
But no closer intimacy ensued, nor did he pursue the
acquaintance—not even on the following Sunday, when Kitty urged him,
almost to importunity, to go and hear the Father say mass. He was not
ready as yet, he said to himself, for friendships among men of his
own intellectual caliber. In the future he might decide otherwise. For
the present, at least, he meant to find whatever peace and comfort he
could among the simple people immediately around him—meagrely
educated, often strangely narrow-minded, but possessing qualities
which every day aroused in him a profounder admiration.
With the quick discernment of the man of the world —one to whom
many climes and many people were familiar—he had begun to discover
for himself that this great middle class was really the backbone of
the whole civil structure about him, its self-restraint, sanity, and
cleanliness marking the normal in the tide-gauge of the city's
activities; the hysteria of the rich and the despair of the poor being
the two extremes.
Here, as he repeatedly observed, were men absorbed in their
several humble occupations, proud of their successes, helpful of those
who fell by the wayside, good citizens and good friends, honest in
their business relations, each one going about his appointed task and
leaving the other fellow unmolested in his. Here, too, were women,
good mothers to their children and good wives to their husbands,
untiring helpmates, regarding their responsibilities as mutual, and
untroubled as yet by thoughts of their own individual identities or
what their respective husbands owed to them.
This was why, instead of renewing his acquaintance with Father
Cruse, he preferred to halt for a few minutes' talk with some one of
Kitty's neighbors —it might be the liveryman next door who had been
forty years on the Avenue, or one of the shopkeepers near by, most of
whom were welcome to Kitty's sitting-room and kitchen, and all of whom
had shared her coffee. Or it might be that he would call at Digwell's,
whose undertaker's shop was across the way and whose door was always
open, the gas burning as befitted one liable to be called upon at any
hour of the day or night; or perhaps he would pass the time of day
with Pestler, the druggist; or give ten minutes to Porterfield,
listening to his talk about the growing prices of meat.
Had you asked his former associates why a man of O'Day's
intelligence should have cultivated the acquaintance of an undertaker
like Digwell, for instance, whose face was a tombstone, his movements
when on duty those of a crow stepping across wet places in a
cornfield, they would have shaken their heads in disparaging wonder.
Had you asked Felix he would have answered with a smile: "Why to hear
Digwell laugh!" And then, warming to his subject, he would have told
you what a very jolly person Digwell really was, if you were
fortunate enough to find him unoccupied in his private den, way back
in the rear of his shop. How he had entertained him by the hour with
anecdotes of his early life when he was captain of a baseball team,
and what fun he had gotten out of it, and did still, when he could
sneak away to help pack the benches.
Had you inquired about Pestler, the druggist, there would have
followed some such reply as: "Pestler? Did you say? Because Pestler is
one of the most surprising men I know. He has kept that same shop, he
tells me, for twenty-two years. Of course, he knows only a very
little about drugs—just enough to keep him out of the hands of the
police—but then none of you are aware, perhaps, that Pestler is also
a student? You might think, when you saw only the top of his fuzzy,
half-bald head sticking up above the wooden partition, that he was
putting up a prescription, but you would be wrong. What he is really
doing, with the aid of his microscope, is dissecting bugs, and pasting
them on glass slides for use in the public schools. And he plays the
violin—and very well, too! He often entertains me with his music."
Sanderson, the florist, was another denizen who interested him. To
look at Sanderson tying ribbons on funeral wreaths, no one would ever
have supposed that there was rarely a first night at the opera at
which he was not present, paying for his ticket, too, and rather
despising Pestler, who got his theatre tickets free because he
allowed the managers the use of his windows for advertisements. Felix
forgave even his frozen roses whenever the Scotchman, having found a
sympathetic listener, launched out upon his earlier experiences among
opera stars, especially his acquaintance with Patti, whom he had known
before she became great and whom he always spoke of as devotees do of
the Madonna—with bated breath and a sigh of despair that he would
never hear her again.
Then, too, there was Codman. O'Day was always enthusiastic over
Codman. "I have taken a great fancy to that fishmonger, and a fine
fellow he is," he said one night to Kitty and John. "His shop was shut
when I first called on him, but he was good enough to open it at my
knock, and I have just spent half an hour, and a very delightful
half-hour, watching him handle the sea food, as he calls it, in his
big refrigerator. I got a look, too, at his chest and his arms, and
at his pretty wife and children. She is really the best type of the
two. American, you say, both of them, and a fine pair they are, and he
tells me he pulled a surf-boat in your coast-guard when he was a lad
of twenty, then took up fishing, and then went into Fulton Market,
helping at a stall, and now he is up here with two delivery wagons and
four assistants and is a member of a fish union, whatever that is.
It's astonishing! And yet I have met him many a time pushing his
baby-carriage around the block."
"Yes," Kitty answered, putting on a shovel of coal, "and I'll lay
ye a wager, Mr. O'Day, that Polly Codman will be drivin' through
Central Park in her carriage before five years is out; and she
deserves it, for there ain't a finer woman from here to the Battery."
"I am quite sure of it, Mistress Kitty. That is where the American
comes in—or, perhaps it is the New Yorker. I have not been here long
enough to find out."
Of all these neighbors, however, it was Timothy Kelsey, the
hunchback, largely because of his misfortunes and especially because
of his vivid contrast to all the others, who appealed to him most.
Tim, as has been said, kept the second-hand book-shop, half-way down
the block on the opposite side of the street. He was but a year or
two older than O'Day, but you would never have supposed it had Tim not
told you—and not then unless you had looked close and followed the
lines of care deep cut in his face and the wrinkles that crowded
close to his deep, hollowed-out eyes. When he was a boy of two, his
sister, a girl of six, had let him drop to the sidewalk, and he had
never since straightened his back. The customary outlets by which
fully equipped men earn their living having been denied Tim, he had
passed his boyhood days in one of the small, down-town libraries
cataloguing the books. With this came the opportunity to attend the
auction sales when some rare volume was to be bid for, he representing
the library. A small shop of his own followed in the lower part of
the town, and then the one a little below Kling's, where he lived
alone with only a caretaker to look after his wants.
Kelsey had arrived one morning shortly after Felix had entered
Kling's service, carrying a heavily bound book which he laid on a
glass case under Otto's nose. "Take a look at it, Otto," he said,
after pausing a moment to get his breath, the volume being heavy.
"There is more brass than leather on the outside, and more paint than
text on the inside. I have two others from the same collection. It is
in your line rather than in mine, I take it. What do you think of it?
Could you sell it?"
Kling dropped his glasses from his forehead to the bridge of his
flat nose. "Vell! Dot is a funny-looking book, Tim. Dot is awful old,
"Yes, seventeenth century, I think," replied Tim.
"Vot you tink, Mr. O'Day? Ain't dot a k'veer book? Oh, you don't
have met my new clerk, have you, Tim? Vell dot's funny, for he lives
over at Kitty's. Vell, dis is him—Mr. Felix O'Day. Tim Kelsey is an
olt friend of mine, Mr. O'Day. You must have seen dot k'veer shop
vich falls down into de cellar from de sidevalk— vell, dat's Tim's."
Felix smiled good-naturedly, bowed to Kelsey, and taking the huge,
brass-bound volume in his hands, passed his fingers gently across the
leather and then over the heavy clamps, turning the book to the light
of the window so as to examine the chasing the closer. Tim, who had
been watching him, remarked the ease with which he handled the volume
and the care with which he ran his eye along the edges of the inside
of the back before. paying the slightest attention to the quality of
the vellum or to the title-page.
"Did you say you thought it was seventeenth century, Mr. Kelsey?"
Felix asked thoughtfully.
"Yes, I should say so."
"I would put it somewhat earlier. The binding is wholly tool-work,
much older than the brasses, which, I think, have been renewed—at
least the clamps— certainly one of them is of a later period. The
vellum and the illuminated text"—again he scrutinized the
title-page, this time turning a few of the inside leaves— "is before
Gutenberg's time. Handwork, of course, by some old monk. Very curious
and very interesting. And you say there are two others like this one?"
The hunchback, whose big, shaggy head reached but a very little
above the case over which the colloquy was taking place, stretched
himself upon his toes as if to see Felix the better. "You seem to know
something of books, sir," he remarked in a surprised tone. "May I ask
where you picked it up?"
Again Felix smiled, a curious expression lurking around his thin
lips—a way with him when he intended to be non-committal. He was now
more interested in the speaker than in the object before him,
especially in the big dome head and sunken eyes, shaded by bushy
eyebrows, the only feature of the man which seemed to have had a
chance to grow to its normal size. He had caught, too, a certain
high-pitched note, one of suffering running through the hunchback's
speech—often discernible in those who have been robbed of their full
physical strength and completeness.
"Oh, I don't know, Mr. Kelsey. There are, as you know, but few old
clamp books like this in existence. There are some in the Bibliotheque
in Paris, and a good many in Spain. I remember handling one some years
ago in Cordova. When you have seen a fine example you are not apt to
forget it. Why do you sell it?"
Kelsey settled down upon his heels—the upper half of his
misshapen body telescoping the lower—and shoved both hands into his
pockets. "I did not come here to sell it"—there was a touch of irony
in his voice— "I came to find out whether Kling could sell it. Do
you think YOU could?"
"I might, or I might not. Only a few people about here, so I
understand, can appreciate this sort of thing."
"What is it worth?" He was still eying him closely. People who
praised his things were those who never wanted to buy.
"Not very much," replied Felix.
"Oh, but I thought you said it was very rare?"
"So it is—almost too rare—and almost too old. If it had been
done fifty or more years later, on one of Gutenberg's presses,
Quaritch might give you two thousand pounds for it. Hand-work—which
ought really to be more valuable than machine-work—is worth pence,
where the other sells for pounds. One of Gutenberg's Bibles sold here
a year ago for three thousand guineas, so I am told. What are the
other two like?"
"No difference—a clasp is gone from one. The other is—" He
stopped, his mien suddenly changing to one of marked respect, even to
one of awe. "Will you do me a favor, sir?"
"With pleasure"—again the same quiet smile. He had read the
financial workings of the bookseller's mind with infinite amusement
and decided to see more of him. "What can I do for you?"
"I want you to come over with me to my shop. You won't object,
will you, Otto? I won't keep him a minute."
"Let me come a little later, sir, say about nine o'clock. I have
work here until six and an engagement, which is important, until nine.
You are open as late as that?"
"Oh, I am always open, or can be," Kelsey answered. "What would I
shut up shop for except to keep out the rats—human and otherwise? I
live in my place, and, as I live alone, nobody ever disturbs
me—nobody I want to see—and I do want you, and want you very much.
Well, then, come at nine, and if the blinds are up, ring the bell."
And so the acquaintance began.
And yet, interesting as he found these diversions with his
neighbors, there were moments when, despite his determination to be
cheerful and to add his quota to the general fund of good-fellowship,
he had to summon all his courage to prevent his spirit sinking to its
lowest ebb. It was then he would turn to the thing that lay nearest
to hand, his work—work often so irksome to him that, but for his
sense both of obligation and of justice to his employer and his love
for Masie, he would have abandoned it altogether.
A possible relief came when through the protests of a customer he
had begun to realize the clearer Kling's deficiencies and had, in
consequence, cast about for some plan of helping him to do a larger
and more remunerative business.
Several ways by which this could be accomplished were outlined in
his mind. The disorder everywhere apparent in the shop should first
come to an end. The present chaos of tables, chairs, bureaus, and
sideboards, heaped higgledy-piggledy one upon the other—the
customers edging their way between lanes of dusty furniture—must
next be abolished. So must the jumble of glass, china, curios, and
lamps. This completed, color and form would be considered, each
taking its proper place in the general scheme.
To accomplish these results, all the unsalable, useless, and ugly
furniture taking up valuable space must be carted away to some auction
room and sold for what it would bring. Light, air, and much-needed
room would then follow, and prices advanced to make up for the loss
on the "rattletrap" and the "rickety." Stuffs which had been poked
away in worthless bureau drawers for years, as being too ragged even
to show, were next to be hauled out, patched, and darned, and then
hung on the bare white walls, concealing the dirt and the cracks.
And these improvements, strange to say—Kling being as obstinate
as the usual Dutch cabinetmaker, and as set in his ways—were finally
carried out; slowly at first, and with a rush later when every
customer who entered the door began by complimenting Otto on the
improvement. Soon the sales increased to such an extent and the stock
became so depleted that Kling was obliged to look around for articles
of a better and higher grade to take its place.
At this juncture a happy and unforeseen accident came to his aid.
A bric-a-brac dealer with a shop in Jersey City filled with some very
good English and Italian patterns and a fine assortment of European
gatherings—most of them rare, and all of them good— fell ill and
was ordered to Colorado for his health. His wife had insisted on going
with him, and thus the whole concern, including its
good-will—worthless to Kling— was offered to him at half its value.
O'Day spent the entire morning crawling in and out of the
interstices of the choked-up Jersey City shop; Masie, as his valuable
assistant, propped up with Fudge on a big table until he had finished.
The next day the bargain was made. Mike, Bobby, the two Dutchies, and
both Kitty's teams were then called in and the transfer began.
It was when this collection of things really worth having were
being moved into their new home under Felix's personal direction that
Masie announced to him an important event. They were on the second
floor at the time, overlooking Hans and Mike, who had just brought
up-stairs the first of the purchase, a huge, high-backed gilt chair,
stately in its proportions— Spanish, Felix thought—with a few
renovations about the arms and back, but a good specimen withal. The
chair had evidently excited her imagination, reminding her, perhaps,
of some of the pictures in Tim Kelsey's fairy books, for after looking
at it for a moment she began clapping her hands and whirling about the
"I've thought of such a lovely thing, Uncle Felix! Let's play
kings and queens! I will sit in this chair and will dress Fudge up
like a page and everybody will come up and courtesy, or I will be the
fairy princess and you will be my beauty prince, and—"
Felix, who was holding up the heavy end of a piece of tapestry
while the two men were clearing a place for it behind the chair,
called out, "When's all this to happen, Tootcoms?"—one of his pet
names; he had a dozen of them.
"Why next Saturday?"
"Because then I'm eleven years old, and you know that a great many
fairy princesses are never any older."
Down went the tapestry. "Your birthday! You blessed little angel!
Eleven years old! My goodness, how time flies! Pretty soon you will be
in long dresses, with your hair in a knot on the top of your head. You
never told me a word about it!"
"No, but I do now. And I am just going to have a party—a real
party. And I am going to invite everybody, all the girls I know and
all the boys and all the old people."
Felix had her beside him now, her fresh young cheek against his.
"You don't tell me! Well! I never heard anything like it! And what
will your father say?"
Her face fell. "Don't let's tell him! Let's have a surprise."
Felix shook his head. "I am afraid we could never do that, unless
we locked him up in the cellar and did not give him a thing to eat
until everything was ready. Oh, just think how he would beg for
Masie rubbed her cheek up and down that of Felix in disapproval.
"No, you wouldn't be so mean to poor Popsy."
"Well, then, suppose—suppose—" and he held her teasingly from
him to note the effect of his words— "suppose we make him go
away—way off somewhere, to buy something—so far away that he could
not come back until the next day. How would that do?"
"No, that won't do—not a little bit! I've got a better plan. You
go right down-stairs this minute and tell him it's all fixed, and that
I'm going out this very afternoon to invite everybody myself."
Felix made a wry fate. "Suppose he sends me about my business?"
"He won't. He thinks you are the most WONDERFUL man in the
world—he told Mr. Kelsey so; I heard him— and he won't refuse you
anything—oh, Uncle Felix"— both arms were around his neck now,
always her last argument—"I do so want a birthday party and I want
it right here in this room."
Felix smoothed back the hair from her pleading eyes and kissed her
tenderly on the forehead. For a moment there was silence between them,
he continuing to smooth back her hair, she cuddling the tighter, her
usual way. She always let him think a while and it always came out
right. But he had made up his mind. It had been years since a birthday
of his own had been celebrated; nor had he ever helped, so far as he
could recollect, to celebrate the birthday of any child. Yes, Masie
should have her birthday, if he could bring it about, and it should be
the happiest of all her life.
Suddenly he rose, releasing his neck from her grasp, and ran his
eyes around the almost bare interior—the big chair being the only
article, so far, in place. "It will make a grand banquet hall, Masie,"
he said, as if speaking more to himself than to her. "Let me see!" He
walked half the length of the floor and began studying the walls and
the bare rafters of the ceiling. These last had once been
yellow-washed, age and dust having turned the kalsomine to an old-gold
tint, reminding him of a ceiling belonging to a Venetian palace.
"Yes," he continued, with the same abstracted air, his head
upturned, "there's a good place for hanging a big lamp, if there is
one in the new lot, and there are spots where I can hang twenty or
more smaller ones. I will cover the side walls with stuffs and
embroideries and put those long Italian settees against—yes, Tweety-
kins, it will come out all right. It will make a splendid banquet
hall! And after the party we will leave it just so. Fine, my child!
And I have an idea, too—a brilliant idea. Hans, ask Mr. Kling to be
good enough to come up here!"
With the surrender of her Uncle Felix, Masie resumed her spinning
around the room and kept it up until the father's bald head showed
clear above the top of the stairs.
"Masie has had one brilliant idea, Mr. Kling, and I have another.
I will tell you mine first." It was wonderful how thoroughly he
understood the Dutchman.
"Vell, vot is it?" Otto had sniffed something unusual in the
atmosphere and was on the defensive. When there was only one to deal
with he sometimes had his way; never when they were leagued together.
"I propose," continued O'Day, "to turn this whole floor into the
sort of a room one could live in—like many of the great halls I have
seen abroad—and I think we have enough material to make a success of
it, plenty of space in which to put everything where it belongs.
Leave that big chair where I have placed it, throw some rugs on the
floor, nail the stuffs and tapestries to the walls, fasten the
brackets and sconces and appliques on top of them, filled with
candles, and hang the lanterns and church lamps to the rafters. When I
finish with it, you will have a room to which your customers will
Kling, bewildered, followed the play of O'Day's fingers in the air
as if he were already placing the ornaments and hangings with which
his mind was filled.
"Vell, vot ve do vid de stuff dot's comin'—all dem sideboards and
chairs and de pig tables? Ve ain't got de space."
"Half of them will go here, and the balance we will pile away on
the top floor. When these are sold then we'll bring down the
others—always keeping up the character of the room. That is my idea.
What do you think of it?"
The shopkeeper hesitated, his fat features twisted in calculation.
Every move of his new salesman had brought him in double his money.
The placing of his goods so that a customer would be compelled to
crawl over a table in order to see whether a chair had three whole
legs or two, dust and darkness helping, had always seemed to him one
of the tricks of the trade and not to be abandoned lightly.
"You mean dot ve valk 'round loose in de middle, and everyting is
shoved back de Vall behind, so you can see it all over?"
Felix smothered a smile. "Certainly, why not?"
"Vell, Mr. O'Day, I don't know." Then, noticing the quickly drawn
brows of his clerk's face and the shadow of disappointment: "Of
course, ve can try it, and if it don't vork ve do it over, don't ve?"
Masie slipped her arm through O'Day's and began a joyous tattoo
with her foot. She knew now that Felix had carried the day.
"And now for Masie's idea, Mr. Kling."
"Oh, dere is someting else, eh? I tought dere vould be ven you
puts your two noddles togedder— Vell, vot is dot all about, eh?"
"She is to have a birthday. She will be eleven years old next
"By Jeminy, yes, dot's so! I forgot dot, Masie. Yes, it comes on
de tventy-fust. Vy you don't tell me before, little Beesvings?"
"Yes, next Saturday; only four days off," continued Felix, forging
ahead to avoid any side-tracking of his main theme. "And what are you
going to do for her? Not many more of them before she will be out of
the window like a bird, and off with somebody else."
Otto ruminated. He loved his daughter, even if he did sometimes
forget her very existence. "Oh, I don't know. I guess ve buy her
sometings putty—vot you like to have, Beesvings? Or maybe you like to
go to de teater vid Auntie Gossburger. I get de tickets."
The child disengaged her hand from O'Day's arm, pushed back her
hair and tiptoed to her father. "I want a party, Popsy—a real party,"
she whispered, tipping his chin back with her fingers, so he could
look at her through his spectacles—not over them, like an ogre.
"Vere you have it?" This came in a bewildered way, as if the pair
had the big ballroom at Delmonico's in the back of their heads.
"Here, in this very place," broke in Felix, "after I get it in
Kling, gently freeing himself from Masie's hold, stared at his
clerk. "Dot vill cost a lot of money, don't it?"
"No, I do not think so."
"Vell, who is coming? De childer all around?"
"Everybody is coming—big, little, and middle-sized," answered
Felix. The cat was all out of the bag now.
"Vell, dot's vot I said. You don't can get someting for nodding.
You must have blenty to eat and drink."
"No. Some simple refreshment will do—sandwiches, cake, and some
ice-cream. I'll take care of that myself, if you'll permit me."
"Vell, now stop a minute vunce—here is anudder idea. Suppose ve
make it a Dutch treat—everybody bring sometings. Ve had vun last
vinter at Budvick's, de upholsterer, ven he vas married tventy-five
years. I give de apples—more as half a peck."
Felix broke into a hearty, ringing laugh—one of the few either
Masie or his employer had ever heard escape his lips.
"We will let you off without even the apples this time," he said,
when he recovered himself. "They are not coming to get something to
eat this time. I will give them something better."
"And you say everybody is comin'. Who is dot everybody?"
"Just leave it all to me, Mr. Kling. And give yourself no concern.
I am going to use everything we have: all our cups and saucers, no
matter whether they are Spode, Lowestoft, or Worcester; all the
platters, German beer mugs, candlesticks—even that rare old
tablecloth trimmed with church lace. This is an entertainment to be
given by a distinguished antiquary in honor of his lovely
daughter"—and he bowed to each in turn—"the whole conducted under
the management of his junior clerk, Mr. F. O'Day, who is very much at
your service, sir."
Bright and early the following morning Felix began work, and for
the next two days took entire charge of the room, walking up and down
its length, an absolute dictator, brooking no interference from any
one. When Mike's frowsy head or Hans's grimy hands appeared above the
level of the landing from the floor below, steadying with their chins
some new possession, it was either, "here, in the middle of the room,
men!" or, if it were big and cumbersome, "up-stairs, out of the way!"
This had gone on until the banquet hall was one conglomerate mass of
mixed chattels from the Jersey shop, Kling's old stock being stowed in
some other part of the building. Then began the picking out. First
the doubtful, but rich in color, tapestries, then the rugs—some
fairly good ones—stuffs, old and new, and every available rag which
would hold together were spread over the four walls and the front
windows. The heavier and more decorative pieces of furniture came
next—among them a huge wooden altar which had never been put together
and which was now backed close against the tapestries and hanging rugs
in the centre of the long wall. Two Venetian wedding-chests, low
enough to sit upon, were next placed in position, and between them
three Spanish armchairs in faded velvet and one in crinkly leather,
held together by big Moorish nails of brass. Above these chests and
chairs were hung gilt brackets holding church candles, Spanish
mirrors so placed that the shortest woman in the party could see her
face, and big Italian disks of dull metal. The walls were wonderful in
their rich simplicity, and so was the disposition of the furniture,
Felix's skilful eye having preserved the architectural proportions in
both the selection and placing of the several articles.
More wonderful than all else, however, was the great gold throne
at the end of the room, on which Masie was to sit and receive her
guests and which was none other than the big cardinal's chair,
incrusted with mouldy gilt, that had first inspired her with the idea
of the party. This was hoisted up bodily and placed on an
auctioneer's platform which Mike had found tilted back against the
wall in the cellar. To hide its dirt and cracks, rugs were laid,
pieced out by a green drugget which extended half across the floor,
now swept of everything except two refreshment tables.
Next came the ceiling. What Felix did to that ceiling, or rather
what that ceiling did for Felix, and how it looked when he was through
with it is to this very day a topic of discussion among the now
scattered inhabitants of "The Avenue." Masie knew, and so did deaf
Auntie Gossburger, who often spent the day with the child. She, with
Masie, had been put in charge of the china and glass department, and
when the old woman had pulled up from the depths of a barrel first
one red cup without a handle and then a dozen or more, and had asked
what they were for, Felix had seized them with a cry of joy: "Oil
cups! They fit on the tops of these church lamps. I never expected to
find these! Mike! Go over to Mr. Pestler's and tell him to send me a
small box of floating night-tapers—the smallest he has. Now,
Tootcums, you wait and see!"
And then the step-ladder was moved up, and Mike and one of the
Dutchies passed up the lamps to Felix, who drove the hooks into the
rafters—twenty-two of them—and then slid down to the floor, taking
in the general effect, only to clamber up again to lengthen this
chain, or shorten that, so that the whole ceiling, when the cups were
filled and the tapers lighted, would be a blaze of red stars hung in a
firmament of dull, yellow-washed gold.
The final touch came last. This was both a surprise and a
discovery. Hans had found it flattened out on the top of a big,
circular table, and was about to tear it loose when Felix, who let
nothing escape his vigilant eye, seized its metal handle, whereupon
the mass sagged, tilted, straightened, and then rounded out into a
superb Chinese lantern of yellow silk, decorated with black dragons,
with only one tear in its entire circumference, and that one Auntie
Gossburger darned so skilfully that nobody noticed the hole. This,
Felix, after much consideration, swung to the rafter immediately over
the throne, so that its mellow light should fall directly on the
Kling, while these preparations were in progress, was in a state
of mind bordering on the pathetic. Felix had made him promise not to
come up until the room was finished, but every few hours his head
would be thrust up over the edge of the stairs, his eyes screwed up
in his fat face, an expression of wonder, not unmixed with anxiety,
flitting across his countenance. Then he would back down-stairs,
muttering to himself all the time; his chief cause of complaint being
the hiding of so many things his customers might want to buy and the
displaying of so many others at which they might only want to look!
There was, however, even after the decorations seemed complete, a
bare corner to be filled with something neither too big, nor too
small, nor too insistent in color or form. Felix went twice over the
stock, old and new, twisted and turned, and was about to give up when
he suddenly called to Masie, his face lighting under the glow of a
"I have it now! Come, Tootcums, with me! Mr. Sanderson will help
us out." All of which came true; for Mr. Sanderson, ten minutes later,
had bent his head close to the child's lips to hear the better, and
had said: "Only two? Why, Masie, you can have the lot." And that was
how the bare corner was filled with three great palms—the biggest he
had in his shop—and the grand salon of the Grande Duchesse Masie
Beeswings de Kling at last made ready for her guests.
This done, Felix made a final inspection of the room, adding a
touch here and there—shifting a piece of pottery or redraping the
frayed end of a square of tapestry —and finding that everything kept
its place in the general effect, without a single discordant note,
drew Masie to a seat beside him on one of the old Venetian chests.
Here, with his arms about the enthusiastic child, he laid bare the
next and to him the most important number on the programme.
And in this he wrought another upheaval, one almost as great as
had taken place in the room. The time-honored custom of all birthday
parties entailing upon the invited the giving of presents as proof of
affection, was not, he hinted gently, to be observed upon this
occasion. "It is Masie who is to give the presents," he whispered,
holding her closer, "and not her guests."
The child at first had protested. The long procession of guests
coming up to hand her their gifts, and her fun next day when looking
them over—knowing how queer some of them would be—had been part of
her joyful anticipation, but Felix would not yield.
"You see, Masie, darling," he coaxed, "now that you are going to
be a real princess," he was smoothing back her curls as he spoke, "you
are going to be so high up in the world that nobody will dare to give
you any presents. That is the way with all princesses. Kings and
queens are never given presents on their birthdays unless their
permission is asked, but, just because they ARE kings and queens, they
give presents to everybody else. And then again, Masie, dear, if you
stop to think about it, people really get a great deal more fun out of
giving things than they do of having things given to them."
She succumbed, as she always did, when her "Uncle Felix," with his
voice lowered to a whisper, his lips held close to her ear, either
counselled or chided her, and a new joy thrilled through her as he
explained how his plan was to be carried out.
Kling lifted up his hands in protest when he heard of O'Day's
innovation, but was overruled and bowled over before he had framed his
first sentence. It was the sentiment, Felix insisted, which was to be
considered, the good feeling behind the gift, not the cost of it. He
and Masie had worked it all out together, and please not to interfere.
But Kling did interfere, and right royally, too, when he found
time to think it over. Some one of the old German legends must have
worked its way through the dull crust of his brain, bringing back
memories of his childhood. Perhaps his conscience was pricked by his
clerk's attitude. Whatever the cause, certain it is that he crept
up-stairs a few hours before his house was to be thrown open to
Masie's guests, and, finding the banquet hall completely finished and
nobody about, Felix and Masie having gone out together to perfect
some little detail connected with the gifts, walked around in an
aimless way, overwhelmed by the beauty and charm of the interior as it
lay before him in the afternoon light.
On his way down he met the deaf Gossburger coming up.
"Dot is awful nice!" he shouted. "I couldn't believe dot was
possible! Dot is a vunderful—VUNderful man! I don't see how dem rags
and dot stuff look like dot ven you get 'em togedder anodder vay. And
now dere is vun thing I don't got in my head yet: Vot is it about
The old woman recounted the details as best she could.
"And dot is all, is it, Auntie Gossburger? Only of pasteboard
boxes vid candies in 'em, and little pieces paper vid writings on 'em
dot Mr. O'Day makes? Is dot vot you mean?"
The old woman nodded.
Kling turned suddenly, went down-stairs with his head up and
shoulders back, called Hans to keep shop, and put on his hat.
When he returned an hour later, he was followed by a man carrying
a big box. This was placed behind Masie's throne and so concealed by a
rug that even Felix missed seeing it.
That everybody had accepted—everybody who had been invited—"big,
little, and middle-sized"—goes without saying. Masie had called at
each house herself, with Felix as cavalier—just as he had promised
her. And they had each and every one, immediately abandoned all other
plans for that particular night, promising to be there as early as
could be arranged, it being a Saturday and the shops on "The Avenue"
open an hour later than usual—an indulgence counterbalanced by the
fact that next day was Sunday and they could all sleep as long as they
And not only the neighbors, but Nat Ganger and Sam Dogger
accepted. Felix had gone down himself with Masie's message, and they
both had said they would come—Sam to be on hand half an hour before
the appointed hour of nine so as to serve as High Lord of the Robes,
Masie having determined that nobody but "dear old Mr. Dogger" should
show her how to put on the costume he had given her.
As for these two castaways, when they did enter the gorgeous room
on the eventful night they fairly bubbled over.
"Don't let old Kling touch it," Ganger roared out as soon as he
stepped inside, before he had even said "How do you do?" to anybody.
"Keep it as an exhibit. Better still, send circulars up and down Fifth
Avenue, and open it up as a school—not one of 'em knows how to
furnish their houses. How the devil did you— Oh, I see! Just plain
yellow-wash and the reflected red light. Looks like a stained-glass
window in a measly old church. Where's Sam. Oh, behind that screen.
Well come out here and look at that ceiling!"
Sam didn't come out, and didn't intend to. He was busy with the
child's curls, which were bunched up in the fingers of one hand, while
the other was pressing the wide leghorn hat into the precise angle
which would become her most, the Gossburger standing by with the rest
of the costume, Masie's face a sunburst of happiness.
"And now the long skirt, Mrs. Bombagger, or whatever your name is.
That's it, over her head first and then down along the floor so she
will look as if she was grown up. And now the big ostrich-plume fan—a
little seedy, my dear, and yellow as a kite's foot, but nobody'll see
it under that big, yellow lantern. Now let me look at you! Nat, NAT!
where are you, you beggar, stop rummaging around that dead stuff and
come behind here and look at this live child! yes, right in here. Now
look! Did you ever in all your born days see anything half so pretty?"
the outburst ending with, "Scat, you little devil of a dog!" when
Fudge gave a howl at being stepped upon.
Masie, as she listened, plumed her head as a pigeon would preen
its feathers, stood up to see her train sweep the floor, sat down
again to watch the stained satin folds crumple themselves about her
feet, and was at last so overcome by it all that she threw her arms
around Sam, to his intense delight, and kissed him twice, and would
have given Nat an equal number had not Felix called to him that the
guests were beginning to arrive.
As to these guests, you could not have gotten their names on one
side of Kitty's order-book, nor on both sides, for that matter. There
was brisk, bustling Bundleton the grocer in a green necktie, white
waistcoat, and checked trousers, arm and arm with his thin wife in
black silk and mitts; there was Heffern the dairyman in funeral black,
relieved by a brown tie, and his daughter, in variegated muslin,
accompanied by two young men whom neither Kling nor Felix nor the
Gossburger had ever heard of or seen before, but who were heartily
welcomed; there were fat Porterfield the butcher in his every-day
clothes, minus his apron, with his two girls, aged ten and fourteen,
their hair in pigtails tied with blue ribbons; there were Mr. and Mrs.
Codman, all in their best "Sunday-go-to-meetings," with their little
daughter Polly, named after the mother, pretty as a picture and a
great friend of Masie—most distinguished people were the Codmans, he
looking like an alderman and his wife the personification of good
humor, her rosy cheeks matching the tint of her husband's necktie.
There was Digwell the undertaker in his professional clothes,
enlivened by a white waistcoat and red scarf, quite beside himself
with joy because nobody had died or was likely to die so far as he had
heard, thus permitting him to "send dull care to the winds!"—his own
way of putting it. There was Pestler the druggist in an up-to-date
dress suit as good as anybody's—almost as good as the one Felix
wore, and from which, for the first time since he landed, he had
shaken the creases. There was Tim Kelsey, in the suit of clothes he
wore every day, the only difference being the high collar instead of
the turned-down one, the change giving him the appearance of a man
with a bandaged neck, so narrow were his poor shoulders and so big was
the fine head overtopping it. There were Mike and Bobby and the two
Dutchies and Sanderson, who came with his hands full of roses for
Masie, and a score of others whose names the scribe forgets, besides
lots and lots of children of all sizes and ages.
And there were Kitty and John—and they were both magnificent—at
least Kitty was—she being altogether resplendent in black alpaca
finished off by a fichu of white lace, her big, full-bosomed, robust
body filling it without a crease; and he in a new suit bought for the
occasion, and which fitted him everywhere except around the waist—a
defect which Kitty had made good by means of a well-concealed
safety-pin in the back.
It was for Kitty that Felix had been on the lookout ever since the
guests began to arrive, and no sooner did her rosy, beaming face
appear behind that of her husband, than he pushed his way through the
throng to reach her side. "No, not out here, Mistress Kitty," he
cried. Had she been of royal blood he could not have treated her with
more distinction. "You are to stand alongside of Masie when she comes
in; the child has no mother, and you must look after her."
"No mother! Mr. O'Day! God rest your soul, she won't need to do
without one long, she's that lovely. There'll be plenty will want to
mother, and brother her, too, for that matter. My goodness, what a
place ye made of it! Look at them lamps, all fireworks up there, and
that big chair! I wonder who robbed a church to get it!
Well—well—-WELL! John! did ye ever see the like? Otto, ye ought to
rent this place out for a chowder-party ball. Well, well, I NEVER!"
The comments of some of the others, while they voiced their
complete surprise, were less enthusiastic. Bundleton, after shaking
hands with Felix and Kitty, and then with Kling, dropped his wife and
made a tour of the room without uttering a sound of any kind until he
reached Felix again, when he remarked gravely: "I should think it
would worry you some to keep the moths out of this stuff," and then
passed on to tell Kling he must look out "them lamps didn't spill and
set things on fire."
Porterfield, as was to be expected, was distinctly practical.
"Awful lot of truck when you get it all together, ain't it, Mr. O'Day?
I was just tellin' my wife that them two chairs up t'other side of the
room wouldn't last long in my parlor, they're that wabbly. But maybe
these Fifth Avenue folks don't do no sittin'—just keep 'em in a glass
case to look at."
Pestler was more discerning. He had come across an iridescent
glass jar, and was edging around for an opportunity to ask Kling the
price without letting Felix overhear him—it being an occasion, he
knew, in which Mr. O'Day would feel offended if business were
mentioned. "Might do to put in my window, if it didn't cost too
much," he had begun, and as suddenly stopped as he caught Felix's eyes
fastened upon him.
There were others, however, whose delight could not be repressed.
Tim Kelsey, after the proper greetings were over, had wandered off
down the room, stopping to examine each article in its place on the
walls. Finally some pieces of old Delft caught his eye. He made a
memorandum of two in a little book he took from his inside pocket, and
later on, when a break in the surrounding conversation made it
possible, remarked to Felix: "They seem to get everything in the new
Delft but the old delicious glaze. On a wall it doesn't matter, but
you don't feel like putting real old Delft on a wall. I like to stroke
it, as I would a friend's hand."
These inspections and comments over, and that peculiar timidity
which comes over certain classes lifted out of their customary
environment and doing their best to become accustomed to new
surroundings having begun to wear away under the tactful welcome of
Felix, and the hour having arrived for the grand ceremony of
gift-giving, the throne was pushed back, Masie called from behind her
screen, and O'Day's wicker basket filled with the presents was laid by
the side of the big chair.
Kling and Kitty were now beckoned to and placed on the left of the
throne, Felix taking up his position on the right.
The stir on the platform caused by these arrangements soon
attracted everybody's attention and a sudden hush fell upon the room.
What was about to happen nobody knew, but something important, or Mr.
O'Day would not have stepped to its edge, nor would Otto have been so
red in the face, nor Kitty so radiant.
Felix raised his hand to command supreme silence.
"Masie wishes me," he began in his low, even voice, "to tell you
that she has done her best to remember every one, and that she hopes
nobody has been forgotten. These little trifles she is about to give
you are not gifts, but just little mementos to express her thanks for
your kindness in coming to her first party. She bids me tell you, too,
that her love goes out to every one of you on this the happiest night
of her life and that she welcomes you all with her whole heart."
He turned, stepped back a pace, made the radiant child a low bow,
held out his hand, and led her into full view of the audience, the
rays of the big lantern softening the tones of the quaint, picturesque
costume which concealed her slight figure, transforming the child of
eleven into the woman of eighteen.
For at least ten seconds, and that is a long period of time when
your heart is in your mouth and you are ready to explode with
uncontrollable delight, not a sound of any kind broke the silence, no
handclap of welcome, no murmur of applause; just plain, simple
astonishment, the kind that takes your breath away. That Kling's
little girl stood before them, nobody believed. O'Day had fooled them
with this new vision, just as he had bewitched them by the glamour of
the decorated room. Only when a few simple words of welcome fell from
her lips were the flood-gates opened. Then a shout went up which set
the candles winking— a shout only surpassed in volume and good cheer
when Felix began handing up the little packages from Masie's basket.
And dainty little packages they were, filled with all sorts of
inexpensive souvenirs that she and Felix (not much money between the
two of them) had picked up at Baxter's Toy Shop on Third Avenue, all
suggested by some peculiarity of the recipient, all kindly and
good-natured, and each one enlivened by a quotation or some original
line in Felix's own handwriting.
During the whole delightful ceremony Otto had stood on the left of
his daughter, his heart thumping away, his face growing redder every
minute, his eyes intent on each guest elbowing a way through the crowd
as Masie handed them their gifts, noting the general happiness and
the laughter that followed the reading of the lines, wondering all the
time why no one was offended at the size and, to him, worthlessness
of the several offerings.
When it was all over and the basket empty, he jumped down from the
platform, his fat back bent in excitement, tossed aside the rug,
lifted the big box, placed it beside the gilt throne, and raised his
puffy hands to command attention: "Now listen, everybody! I got
someting to say. Beesvings don't have all dis to herselluf. Now it is
my turn. Come up closer so I get hold of you. Vait, and I git back on
de platform. Here, you olt frent of mine, Dan Porterfield, here is a
new butcher-knife sharpener for you, to sharpen your knives on ven
you cuts dem bifsteaks. And, Heffern, come close; here is a
silver-plated skimmer for dot cream you make, and a pig fan for your
daughter. And Polly Codman—git out of de way dere, and let Polly
Codman come up!—here, Polly, is a pair of gloves for you and a
muffler for Codman, and here is more gloves and neckties and—I got a
lot more; I didn't got much time and I bought dem all in a hurry—and
dey are all from me and Masie and don't you forgit dot. I ain't never
been so happy as I am to-night, and you vas awful good to come and see
my little girl dot don't got no mudder. And you must all tank Mr.
O'Day for de great help he vas. Now dot's all I got to say."
He drew his hand across his eyes, made an awkward bow, and sat
down. Everybody gasped in amazement. Many of them had known him for
years, ever since he moved into "The Avenue"—twenty years, at least—
but nobody had ever seen him as he was to-night. That he had in his
intended generosity overlooked half of his friends made no difference.
Those who received something showed it for weeks afterward to
everybody who came. Those who had nothing forgave him in their
delight over the good-will he had shown to the others. Even Felix, who
had been watching him soften and thaw out under the warmth of the
child's happiness, and who thought he knew the man and his nature, was
astounded, and showed it by grasping for the first time his
employer's hand, looking him in the eyes as he said, "I owe you an
apology, sir," a proceeding Otto often pondered over, its meaning
wholly escaping him.
But the great surprise of the evening, in which even Felix had had
no share, was yet to come. He had carried out his promise to provide
the simple refreshments, and a table had been set apart for their
serving. The sandwiches made at the bakeshop a block below had
already arrived and been put in place, and he was about to announce
supper, when he became aware that a mysterious conference was being
held near the top of the stairs, in which Kitty, Polly Codman, and
Heffern's daughter Mary, were taking part. He had already noticed,
with some discomfiture, the absence of a number of male guests, half
of them having left the room without presenting themselves before
Masie to bid her good night, and was about to ask Kitty for an
explanation, when a series of thumping sounds reached his ear;
something heavy was being rolled along the floor beneath his feet. As
the noise increased, Kitty and her beaming coconspirators craned their
necks over the banisters and a welcoming roar went up. Bundleton's
head now came into view, a wreath of smilax wound loosely around his
neck, followed by one of his men carrying a keg of beer; another
shouldering a sawhorse, a wooden mallet, and a wooden spigot; and
still a third with a basket of stone mugs.
"Come, folks and neighbors, everybody have a glass of beer with
me!" shouted Bundleton.
Up went the sawhorse before you would wink your eye! Down went the
keg across its arms, the smilax around it! Bang went the bung! In went
the wooden spigot! And out flew the white froth!
Another roar now went up, accompanied by great clapping of hands.
It was Codman's head this time, a cook's cap resting on his ears, his
hands bearing a great dish athwart which lay a cold salmon that the
baker had cooked for him that morning. Close behind came Pestler with
a tray filled with boxes of candy, and next Sanderson with a flattish
basket piled high with carnations, each one tied as a boutonniere;
and Porterfield with a bunch of bananas; and so on and so on—each
arrival being received with fresh roars and shouts of welcoming
approval. Last of all came Kitty, her face one great, pervading,
all-embracing laugh, her own big coffee-pot filled to the brim and
smoking hot on a waiter, her boy Bobby following, loaded down with
cups and saucers.
Supper over—and it was a mighty feast, with everybody waiting on
everybody else, Kitty busiest of all, filling each cup
herself—Digwell the undertaker, who had really been the life of the
party, remarked in a voice loud enough to be heard half-way across the
room that it was a pity there was no piano, as a party could not be a
real party without a dance. At this Kling, who was having a mug with
Codman, rose from his seat, stepped to the top of the stairs and,
looking over the crowd, called for four strong men, "right avay,
k'vick!" Codman, Pestler, Mike, and Digwell responded, and before
anybody knew where they had gone, or what it was all about, up came an
old-fashioned spinet, which Kling remembered had been hidden behind a
Martha Washington bedstead on the floor below.
"All together, men!" shouted Codman, and it was picked up bodily,
whirled into position, dusted off in a jiffy, and ready for use.
At this Pestler sprang to his feet, shouted he was coming back in
a minute, rushed to the stairway, went down three steps at a time,
bolted through the front door, across the street, up into his bedroom,
and back again, all in one breath, waving his violin triumphantly
over his head as he entered.
And then it was that the real fun began. And then it was that
virtue had its own reward, for not a living soul in the room could
play a note on the spinet except the tallest and spookiest and, to all
appearances, the stupidest of the two young men, whom the Heffern
girl had brought and who turned out to have once been the star
pianist in some dance-hall on the Bowery. And the scribe remarks,
parenthetically and in all seriousness, that the way that lank,
pin-headed young man revived the soul of that old, worn-out
harpischord, digging into its ribs, kicking at its knees with both
feet, hand-massaging every one of the keys up, down, and crossways,
until the ancient fossil fairly rattled itself loose with the joy of
being alive once more, was altogether the most astounding miracle he
has ever had to record. And Pestler with his violin was not far
Everything had now broken loose.
At the first note, up jumped Kitty, caught John around the neck,
and went whirling around the room. At the second note, up jumped
Codman, made a dive for Polly, missed her in the mix-up and, grabbing
Mrs. Digwell instead, went sailing down the room as if he had done
nothing else all his life. At the third note, away went Sanderson and
Bundleton, Heffern, everybody but the two castaways and Tim Kelsey,
who beat juba on their knees, old Sam Dogger playing a tattoo all by
himself with two knife-handles and a plate. Some danced with their own
wives; some with anybody's wife or daughter or child—a grand
hullabaloo, down the middle, across, back, and up again, until
everybody was exhausted and fell in a heap into Felix's Spanish
chairs, or on his Venetian wedding-chests, or wherever else they
could find resting-places in which to catch their breaths.
And now comes the crowning touch of all—the last of the evening's
surprises, and one remembered the longest because of its simplicity
and its beauty!
When everybody was resting, out stepped Felix, the light of the
overhead candles falling on his pale, thoughtful face, white
shirt-front, and faultless suit of black which fitted his well-knit,
handsome frame like a glove, and with him the Grande Duchesse Masie de
Kling, the child bowing and smiling as she passed, the wide leghorn
hat shading her face from the light of the lanterns above, her long
train caught, woman-fashion, over her arm. Then, with a low word to
the pin-headed young man, followed by a downward wave of his palm to
denote the time, and the child's fingers firm in his own, Felix led
her through an old-fashioned, stately minuet, telling her in an
undertone just what steps to take.
It was Sunday morning before the merry party broke up and streamed
out through Kling's lower shop, and so on into the street. Everybody
had had the time of their lives. Such remarks as "Would ye have
believed it of Otto?" or, "Wasn't Masie the sweetest thing ye ever
saw?" or, "Just think of Mr. O'Day fixing up that old junk room the
way he did—ye can't beat him nowheres!" or, "Oh, I tell ye, Otto
struck it rich when he took him on!", were heard on all sides.
So loud were the laughter and chatter, the good nights and
good-bys, that big Tom McGinniss moved over from the opposite curb.
"Halloo, John!" cried the policeman. "I thought I couldn't be
mistaken. And Kitty, that you with your coffee-pot? I just come up
from Lexington Avenue and heard the row, wondering what was up. Is it
up-stairs ye were? WHAT! Dutchy givin' a ball? Oh, ye can't mean it!
No, thank ye, Kitty, it will be too late for ye all—I'll drop in
to-morrow night. Well, take care of yourselves," and he disappeared in
Felix watched the throng disperse, bade Kitty and John good night,
and, turning sharply, directed his steps toward Madison Square. Here
he sank upon a bench, away from the glare of an overhead lamp. For
some minutes he sat without moving, his mind wholly absorbed with the
events of the preceding hours. The roar and crush of the room came
back to him. He caught again the light in Masie's eyes as she followed
his lead in the dance and the mob of happy faces crowding to her
side, and then with a shudder he confronted the gaunt sorrow that had
hourly dogged his steps. An overpowering sense of depression now took
possession of him. Pushing back his hat as if to give himself more
air, he was about to resume his walk when he became conscious that
something had stirred at the far end of the seat.
Straightening his broad shoulders, his quick, alert manner
returning, he moved nearer, his eyes searching the gloom. A newsboy, a
little chap of seven or eight, his papers under him, lay fast asleep.
For an instant he watched the rise and fall of the boy's breath,
adjusted the short, patched coat about the little fellow's knees, and
then slid back to his end of the bench.
"Same old grind," he said to himself, "no home— no
money—cold—maybe hungry. Never too young to suffer—never too old to
eat your heart out. What a damnable world it is!"
Rising to his feet, he felt in his pocket for a coin, widened the
pocket of the waif's jacket, and slipped it in. The boy stirred,
tightened his grasp on his papers, and lay still.
Felix looked down at him for a moment, turned, and with lightened
steps continued his walk.
"Well, thank God," he said as he neared "The Avenue," "Masie was
happy one night in her life."
That the memories of Masie's birthday party should have been
revived again and again, and that the several incidents should have
been discussed for days thereafter —every eye growing the brighter in
the telling— was to have been expected. Kitty could talk of nothing
else. The beauty of the room; the charm of Masie's costume; Kling's
generosity; and last, O'Day's bearing and appearance as he led the
child through the stately dance, looking, as Kitty expressed it, "that
fine and handsome you would have thought he was a lord mayor," were
now her daily topics of conversation.
Masie was equally enthusiastic, rushing down-stairs the next
morning to throw her arms around his neck with an "Oh, Uncle Felix, I
never, NEVER, NEVER was so happy in all my life!"
Kling was still more jubilant. The success of Masie's banquet room
had established him at once among bric-a-brac dealers as a competitor
quite out of the ordinary. His old customers came in flocks, walking
about with gasps of astonishment. Before the week was out, a masonic
lodge had bought the throne, a seaside resort the big Chinese lantern,
and two of the four Spanish chairs had found a home in a millionaire's
Moreover—and this was all the more remarkable in view of his
early training—a certain deference became apparent in the Dutchman's
manner not only toward Felix but toward his customers. He no longer
received them in his shirt-sleeves. He bought some new clothes and
sported a collar, necktie, and hat, duplicating those worn by Felix as
near as his memory served.
Still more remarkable were the changes wrought among the neighbors
in their attitude toward O'Day. Until then they had, in their
independent fashion, treated him like any of the other men who came in
and out their several stores, pleased with his interest in the
business, but quickly forgetting him as they became reabsorbed in the
affairs of the day. Now, as they told him what a good time they had
had on the birthday, they raised their hats. Porterfield went so far
as to tell the radiant Kitty that her boarder was a "Jim Dandy," and
that if she should lay her hands on another to "trot him out."
Kitty of course had expected these triumphs, but that it was she
who had made them possible, and that but for her own individual
efforts Felix might still be wandering around the streets in search of
bed and board, apparently never crossed her mind. He would have been
just as splendid, she said to herself, and just as much of a man no
matter who had helped and no matter where his feet had landed.
If O'Day were aware of the changes of public opinion going on
around him, there was nothing in either his manner or in his speech to
show it. When they complimented him on the way in which he had
utilized Otto's old stock, producing so wonderful an interior, he
would remark quietly that it was nothing to his credit. He had always
loved such things; that it came natural to some people to put things
to rights, and that any one could have done as much. It was only when
some one alluded to Masie that his face would light up. "Yes,
charming, was she not? Such a wonderful little lady, and so good!"
That which did please him—please him immensely— was the outcome
of a visit made some days after the party by old Nat Ganger.
"Regular Aladdin lamp," Nat shouted, slamming Kling's door behind
him. "One rub, bang goes the rubbish, and up comes an Oriental palace.
Another rub and little devils swarm over the walls and ceilings and
begin hanging up stuffs and lamps. Another rub, and before you can
wink your eye, out steps a little princess, a million times prettier
than any Cinderella that ever lived. Wonderful! WONDERFUL!
"Where is the darling child anyway. Can't I see her? I got away
from Sam, telling him I was going to look up another frame for one of
my pictures. Here it is. All a lie, every bit of it. It's Sam's
picture. Not mine. I wrapped it up so he wouldn't know, but I came to
see that darling child all the same, for I've got a surprise for her.
But first I want you to see this picture. Here, wait until I untie
this string. It's one of Sam's Hudson Rivery things. Palisades and a
steamboat in the foreground, and an afternoon sky. Easy dodge, don't
you see? Yellow sky and purple hill, and short streak for the
steamboat and its wake, and a smear of white steam straggling behind.
Sam does 'em as well as anybody. Sometimes he puts in a pile or two
in the foreground for a broken dock and a rowboat with a lone
fisherman squatting on the hind seat. Then he asks five dollars more.
Always get more you know for figures in a landscape."
He had unwrapped the canvas by this time, and was holding it to
the light of the window that Felix might see it better.
Felix studied it carefully, even to the cramped signature in the
corner, "Samuel Dogger, A. N. A."; and with an appreciative smile
said: "Very good, I should say. Yes, very good."
"Good! It's really very bad, and you know it. So do I. But you're
too much of a gentleman to say so. Can't be worse, really, but
'puttying up' is down by the heels, and there hasn't been an old
master from Flushing, Long Island, or Weehawken, New Jersey, lugged
up our stairs for a month;—two months, really. We had one last week
from a dealer down-town which turned out to be genuine after Sam had
looked it over. And, of course, Sam wouldn't touch it and sent for the
auctioneer and told him so. And the beggar made Sam hunt for the
signature and Sam found it at the top of the canvas instead of at the
bottom. One of the early Dutchmen Sam said it was. Some kind of a
Beck or a Koven. And would you believe it, the very next day the
fellow got a whacking price for it from a collector up in one of the
side streets near the Park. So Sam has gone back to the early American
school. This means that he's getting down to his last five-dollar
bill, and I want to tell you that I'm not far from it myself. I'd
have been dead broke if I hadn't sold two Fatimas. One in pink pants
and the other a flying angel in summer clothes to fit an alcove in an
up-town barroom over the cigar-stand.
"But my money isn't Sam's money," he went on without pausing, "and
Sam won't touch a penny of it. Never does unless I fool him on the
sly. And I've come up here to fool him now, and fool him bad. I want
you to hold on to this bust—wait until I get it out of my pocket."
Here he pulled out a small bronze, a head of Augustus, beautifully
"If you buy the picture, I'll throw in the ancient Roman," and he
laid it on the counter.
"And I want you to write Sam a note, asking him if he can't look
around for one of his masterpieces, something say ten by fourteen;
wanted for a customer who only buys good things. That any little
landscape with water in it will do. Remember, don't leave out the
water. Then Sam will come thumping down-stairs with the note, and I'll
be awfully astonished and we'll talk it over, and I'll pull this out
from under a pile of stuff where I'll hide it as soon as I get home.
Then I'll say: 'Well, I'm going up-town and have Mr. O'Day look at
it, and maybe it will suit him, and that if it does, I'll make him pay
fifty dollars for it.' How do you think that will work?"
Felix, who had been looking into the old fellow's eyes, reading
his mind in their depths, seeing clear down into the heart beneath,
now picked up the bronze and began passing his hand over it.
"Very lovely," he said at last, "and a marvellous paten. Where did
you get it?"
"Spoken like a gentleman and a man of honor, and this time you
tell the truth. It's just what you say —marvellous. I swapped a
twenty by thirty for it. Will you take it?"
Felix shook his head, a smile playing about his lips.
"I would if I wanted to be unfair. Here, take your bronze and
leave the picture. I will find a frame for it, and have one of the men
give it a coat of varnish."
"And you'll write the note?"
"Is that necessary?"
"Of COURSE, it's necessary. You don't know Sam. He's as cunning as
a weasel and can get away before you know it. Got to fool him. I
always do. Told him more lies in one minute this morning than a horse
can trot. Will you write the note?"
Felix laughed. "Yes, just as soon as you go."
"And you won't hold on to the bronze?"
"No, I won't hold on to the bronze."
"And you can get fifty dollars for this unexampled work of art?
That, of course, is the ASKING price. Ten would do a whole lot of
"I cannot say positively, but I will try."
"All right. And now where's that darling child?"
A laugh rang out from the top of the stairs, the laugh of a child
overjoyed at meeting some one she loves, followed by "do you mean me?"
"Of course, I mean you, Toddlekins. Come down here and let me give
you a big hug. And I've got a message for you from that dried-up old
fellow with the shaggy head. He sent you his love—every bit of it,
he said. And he's found some more gewgaws he's going to bring up some
day. Told me that, too."
Masie had reached the floor and was running toward him with her
hands extended, Fudge springing in front.
The old painter caught her up in his arms, lifting her off her
little feet, and as quickly setting her down, his eyes snapping, his
whole face aglow. The joy bottled up in the child seemed to have swept
through him like an electric current.
"And wasn't it a beautiful party?" she burst out when she found
her breath. "And wasn't Uncle Felix good to make it all for me?" She
had moved to O'Day's side and had slipped her hand in his.
"Yes, of course, it was," roared Ganger. "Why, old Sam Dogger was
so excited when he went to bed, he didn't sleep a wink all night. He's
thought of nothing else but parties ever since. He's getting up one
for you. Told me so this morning."
The child's eyes dilated.
"What sort of a party?"
"Oh, a dandy party, but it's not going to be at night. It's going
to be in the daytime. All out in the blessed sunshine and under the
trees. And everybody is going to be invited—everybody who belongs."
The child's brow clouded. "Everybody who belongs? Why, can't Uncle
"Certainly, he can come. He 'belongs.'"
"What, that little devil of a dog? Yes, he can come, if he
promises to behave himself," and he shook his head at the culprit.
"And all the chippies can come. Lots of 'em, and perhaps a couple of
robins, if they haven't gone away south. And there's a big
Newfoundland dog, or was before he was stolen, that could have
swallowed this gentleman down at one gulp, but he won't now. HE
'belonged' and always has. And, of course, you 'belong' and so does
Sam and so do I. We go out every other week and sit under these very
same trees. Sam paints the branches wiggling down in the water, and I
do leaky boats. When I get the picture home, I put Jane Hoggson
fishin' in the stern.
Masie rolled her eyes.
"And you don't take her with you?"
"'Cause she don't 'belong.' Great difference whether you belong or
not. Jane Hoggson couldn't 'belong' if she was to be born all over
O'Day now joined in. He had been watching Masie, noting the lights
and shadows which swept over her face as the old painter chattered
away. He always welcomed any plan for giving her pleasure, and was
blessing Ganger in his heart for providing the diversion.
"And where is all this to take place, Mr. Ganger?" Felix asked at
"Up on the Bronx. A place you know nothing of and wouldn't believe
a word about if I should tell you—not 'til you see it yourself. It's
as full of birds and butterflies as England along the Thames, or one
of those ducky little streams out of Paris. And it only costs five
cents to get there and five cents to get back. And you won't be more
than a few hours away from your shop. Fine, I tell you, you'll never
Again Felix broke in.
"I have not a doubt of it, but when is all this to take place?"
Ganger gave a little start and grew suddenly grave.
"Well, as to that, you see the day is not yet fixed, not
precisely. In a week maybe, or it may be two weeks. This is Sam's
party, you know, and he hasn't completed all his arrangements—that
is, he hadn't completed them when I left him this morning. And, of
course, a lot has to be done to make everything ready"—here he nodded
at Masie—"for little princesses and great ladies in plumes and
satins. But it is certainly coming off. Old Sam told me so, and he
means every word of it. And he was to let you know when. That's it,
he was to LET YOU KNOW. That's another thing he told me to tell you."
The child's name was now called from the top of the stairs, and
the Gossburger's head craned itself over the hand-rail. Fudge opened
with a sharp bark, and Masie, with an air kiss to Ganger, raced up the
steps, the dog at her heels, shouting as she ran: "Tell Mr. Dogger I
send him a kiss, and I thank him ever so much, and won't he please
come and see me very soon."
When she had disappeared, the old fellow leaned forward, gazed
knowingly at Felix, and in soft-pedal tones said:
"You see, Sam couldn't say EXACTLY when the party was to take
place because—well, because he hasn't heard a word about it, and
won't until I get back. It is my party, not Sam's, and I've got to
break it to him gently. And I've got to fool him about the party,
make him think it's his party, or he'll think I'm holding it over him
because I've got a little more money than he has, just as I intend to
fool him about the picture. I couldn't say, when you asked me, when
the day was to be fixed, because I've told lies enough to that dear
child. But I know just what Sam will do when I tell him about his
party; he'll stand on his head he'll be so happy. You see if, when I
unwrapped the picture, you had talked ten dollars right out, why then
I was going to make it next Saturday; that is, to-morrow. But you
hemmed and hawed so, I had to make it 'some day soon.' Of course, I
never expected the fifty; ten will be enough for car-fare all around
and some beer and sandwiches, that's all we ever have. That's why I
chucked in Augustus to make sure. Well, see what you can do, and don't
forget to write the note and I'll do the rest of the lying." And
chuckling to himself he hurried away.
As the door swung wide, a slim man bustled past him, and, spying
Felix, moved briskly to where he stood. He had just ten minutes to
spare, he announced, and was looking for a present for his wife;
"something in the way of fans, old ones, and not over five dollars."
Felix, who had raised the lid of the case and was stowing Dogger's
masterpiece inside to keep it out of harm's way, his mind wholly
occupied with the two old painters and their tenderness toward each
other, roused himself to answer:
"Yes, half a dozen. Not at your price, though, not old ones. Here
are two fairly good specimens," and he handed them out and laid them
on the glass before him.
The man leaned forward and peered into the case.
"That's a picture of the Palisades, isn't it?" He had ignored the
"Yes, so I understand."
"Oh, I knew it first time I put my eyes on it. I'm in the
real-estate business. I've got a lot of cottage sites along that top
edge. Is it for sale?"
"It will be when it's cleaned and varnished and I have it framed."
"Belong to you?"
"No; it belongs to a man who has left it for sale. He went out as
you came in."
"What does he want for it?"
"He would be satisfied with ten dollars, even less, because he
needs the money. I want fifty."
"You want to make the rest?"
"No, it all goes to him."
"Well, what do you stick it on for?"
"Because if it isn't worth that, it isn't worth anything."
"Take it out and let me have a look at it. Yes, just the spot.
That whitish streak and that little puff of steam is where they're
breaking stone. Make a good advertisement, wouldn't it, hanging up in
your office? You can show the owners just where the land lies, and
you can show a customer just what he's going to own."
A brisk bargaining then followed, he determined to buy, and Felix
to maintain his price. Before the ten minutes were out, the bustling
man had forgotten all about the fan he was in search of for his wife
and, having assured himself that it was all oil-paint, every square
inch of it, had propped it up against an ancient clock, standing back
to see the effect, had haggled on five, then ten, then twenty-five,
and had finally surrendered by laying five ten-dollar bills on the
glass case. After which he tucked the picture under his arm, and
without a word of any kind disappeared through the street-door.
And that is why the note which Felix had promised to write Dogger
was sent by messenger instead of by mail within five minutes after the
picture and the buyer had disappeared. And that is why, too, all the
preliminary subterfuges were omitted, and the substitute contained
the announcement which follows:
"Dear Mr. Dogger:
"I have just sold your Palisade picture for fifty dollars. The
amount is at your service whenever you call. "Yours truly,
That, too, is why Dogger was so overjoyed that he beat the
messenger back to Kling's, skipping over the flag-stones most of the
way till he reached the Dutchman's door, where, as befitted a painter
whose genius had at last been recognized, he slowed down, entering
the store with a steady gait, a little restrained in his manner,
saying, as he tried to cram down his joy, that it was a mere sketch,
you know, something that he had knocked off out-of-doors; that Nat had
liked it and had, so he said, taken it up to have it framed. That, of
course, he could not afford ever to repeat the sale price—not for a
ten by fourteen of that quality, but that most of his rich patrons
were still out of town, and so it came in very well.
And, oh, yes, he had almost forgotten! He and Nat were going up to
Laguerre's, on the Bronx, to an old French cafe, where they often
lunched and painted; that Nat had suggested just as he left the studio
that it would be a good thing if Felix and that dear child Masie
would go with them, and that they would go Saturday, which was
to-morrow, if that would suit O'Day and Masie. And if that wouldn't
suit, why then they'd go the very first day that did, say Sunday or
Monday, the sooner the better.
To all of which Felix, reading every thought that lurked behind
the moist eyes of the tender-hearted old fraud, had replied that, if
he had the choosing, to-morrow, of all the days in the year, would be
the very day he would select, and that he and Masie would be ready
any hour that he and Mr. Ganger would be good enough to call for them.
At which the old painter took himself off in high glee.
And an altogether delightful and a very happy party it was. Sam,
as host-in-chief, sparing no expense, his first act being to pre-empt
a summer-house covered with vines, already tinged by the touches of
autumn's fingers; and his second to insist in a loud voice on chairs
and table-cloths, instead of a sandwich spread out on a bench, as had
been their custom, followed by a demand for olives and a small bottle
of red wine, to say nothing of a double brace of chops, and all with
the air of a multimillionaire ordering a cold bottle and a hot bird
at Delmonico's. And Nat, grown ten years younger —a mere boy in
fact—showed Masie how to throw little leaden weights down the throat
of a small cast-iron frog, and Felix mixed the salad and served it,
Masie changing the dishes and running back to the house for fresh
ones, while Fudge, in frenzied glee, scurried over the soft earth as
if he had suddenly been seized with St. Vitus's dance. And then, when
there was not a crumb of anything left even for the chippies, they
all stretched themselves flat on the grass in the warm Indian summer
weather, the two old fellows entertaining the child with all the
stories they could think of, Felix looking on, replenishing his pipe
from time to time, his own spirit soothed and comforted by the
happiness around him.
Even Kitty noticed the new light in his eyes when they all came
back, for Felix brought the two old painters into her sitting-room so
that they might renew an acquaintance they had made on the night of
the ball and "become better known to a woman of distinction," as he
laughingly put it, which so delighted the dear soul that that night
she said to her husband:
"He'll stop trampin' pretty soon, I think, John. Somethin's soaked
into him in the last day or two. It's them old painters, I think,
that's helpin' him. He come in a while ago with that child clingin' to
him and them two mossbacks followin' behin', and his face was all
ironed out, and I could see a song trembling on his lips all ready to
burst out. Pray God it'll last!"
While it was true that Felix, since Masie's party, had gained the
complete good-will of his neighbors, there were, strange as it may
seem, certain individuals who, while they acknowledged the charm of
his personality, resented his quiet reserve. What nettled them most
was his not having told them at once who he was and why he had come to
Kling's, and why he had stayed on wrapped in mystery. They considered
themselves, so to speak, as defrauded of something which was their
right and said so in plain terms.
"Well, I hope it won't be a pair of handcuffs they'll surprise him
with some day"; or, "When that pal of his turns up, then you'll see
fun," being some of the suggestions frequently made over counters, to
be answered by his loyal adherents with a "Well, I don't care what ye
say. I ain't never come across no man any better than Felix O'Day
since I lived here, and that's no lie."
There were others, too, who refused to believe any good of the
self-contained, reticent stranger. The nephew of somebody's
brother-in-law, who lived in Lexington Avenue, was one. He had been
promised, by the cousin of somebody else, the position of clerk with
Otto Kling, and although Otto had never heard of it, he WOULD have
heard of it and the nephew been duly installed but for "a galoot who
SAID his name was O'Day."
And another thing. What was a fellow, who would work under a
Dutchman like Kling, for only enough to pay his board, doing with a
dress suit, anyhow? The fact was that O'Day was either here "on the
quiet" to escape his creditors, while his friends were trying to
patch things up for his return, or he was an English valet who had
stolen his master's clothes.
A new rumor now filled the air. O'Day, was a spy sent by some
foreign government to look after important interests, like that
Russian who had been employed in a publishing house, where he wrote
articles for an encyclopaedia, only to be recognized later, whereupon
he had disappeared and was never seen again. Tim Kelsey had known
him. In fact, he had visited often Tim's bookstore at night, just as
O'Day was visiting it, and where a lot of other queer-looking people
could be found if anybody would "take the trouble to knock at
Kelsey's door and peer in through the tobacco smoke some night."
All this gossip rolled off Kitty's mind as rain from a tin roof.
Only once did she rise up in anger with a "Get out of my place! I'll
not have ye soiling the air with yer dirty talk. Get out, I say! Ye
don't know a gentleman when ye see him, and ye never will."
It was when these rumors as to her lodger's identity were thickest
and when Kitty's heart had begun to fear that his despondency was
returning, his nightly prowls having been resumed, that a hansom cab
stopped in front of her door.
It was one of her busy days, the sidewalk being blocked up with
twenty or more trunks, parcels, cribs, and baby-carriages on their
way, by the aid of Mike, the big white horse, and John, to the Ferry
for shipment to Lakewood. Kitty was in charge of the quarter-deck,
her head bare, her sleeves rolled above her elbows, showing her
plump, ruddy arms, her cheeks and eyes aglow with the crisp air of the
morning. October had set in, and one of those lung-filling, bracing
days—the sky swept by dancing clouds, dragging their skirts in their
flight—was making glad the great city.
Kitty loved its snap and tang. She loved, too, the excitement
aroused by her duties, and was never so happy as when there were but
so many minutes to catch a train—a fact she never ceased to impress
upon everybody about her, she knowing all the time that she would so
manage the loading as to have five minutes to spare.
"In with those hand-bags, Mike—in the front, where that Saratoga
trunk won't smash 'em. Now that crib —no—not loose! Get that strap
around it; do ye want to have to pick it up before ye get half-way to
the tunnel? Hurry up, John, dear! Hold on—give me the other handle
of that—look at it now, big as a chicken-coop! Them Fifth Avenue
ladies will be livin' in these things if they keep on."
These orders and remarks, fired in rapid succession, were
interrupted to her great annoyance by the driver of the hansom cab,
who, impatient at the delay, had touched his horse lightly with the
whip, bringing the big wheels to a stop in front of the huge trunk
which Kitty was anathematizing.
"Go on wid ye! Drive on, I tell ye !" she cried, opening fire on
"Gentleman wants to—"
"Well, I don't care what the gentleman wants. This stuff's got to
go aboard that wagon."
Here the passenger's head was thrust forward.
"Yes, of course I can, and glad to, no matter what it is—but not
this minute. Don't ye see what I'm up against?"
The hansom was backed its full length, the passenger watching
Kitty's movements with evident amusement.
Two strong hands, one Kitty's and the other John's —mostly
John's—lifted the chicken-coop of a trunk bodily, rested it for an
instant on the forward wheel, and with another "all together" jerk
sent it rolling into the wagon. This completed the loading.
The passenger craned his head again.
"I am staying in Gramercy Park, and want—"
Kitty, who had been stretching her neck to its full length to
catch his words, straightened up. "Ye'll have to get out. I'm no
long-distance telephone, and the racket of them horse-cars is enough
to set a body crazy."
The passenger laughed, stretched out a leg, gathered the other
beside it, and stepped to the sidewalk. "You seem to understand your
business, my good woman," he began, unbuttoning his overcoat to get at
the inside pocket of his cutaway.
"Why shouldn't I? I been at it these twenty years."
She had taken him in now, from his polished silk hat, gray hair,
and red cheeks down to his check trousers, white spats, and
well-brushed shoes. Her own face was by this time wreathed in smiles;
she saw the man was a gentleman who had intended only to be courteous.
"Is that what ye came to tell me?" she cried.
"No, but I would have done so if I had ever watched you work. Oh,
here it is," he continued, drawing out his pocketbook. "I want you
to—" he stopped and looked at her from over the rims of his gold
spectacles— "but I may not have hold of the right person. May I ask
if you belong here?"
Her head went up with a toss, her eyes dancing. "Of course ye can
ask anything ye please, but I'll tell ye right off I don't belong
here. Every blessed thing here belongs to me and my man John."
The passenger broke into a laugh. He had evidently found a rara
avis, and was enjoying the discovery to the full. American types
always interested him; this sample of Irish-New York was a revelation.
"Go on," smiled Kitty, "I'm waitin'."
"Well, take this order to No. 3 Gramercy Park, and they will give
you my two boxes, a shirt case, a roll of steamer-rugs, and some
golf-sticks in a leather pouch, five pieces in all. Get them down to
the Cunard dock by eleven, and my servant will be there to take charge
of them. The steamer sails at twelve. Is that clear?"
She reached for the paper and began checking off the number of the
apartment, number of pieces, dock, and hour. This was all that
"It is—clear as mud—and they'll be on time. And now, who's to
"I am, and—" He stopped suddenly, staring in blank amazement at
Felix, who had just emerged from the side door and was stopping for a
word with one of John's drivers. "My God!" he muttered in a low
voice, as if talking to himself. "I can't be mistaken."
Felix nodded a good morning to Kitty and, with an alert, quick
stride crossed the sidewalk diagonally, and bent his steps toward
The Englishman followed him with his gaze, his open pocketbook
still in his hands. "Is that gentleman a customer of yours?" Had he
seen a dead man suddenly come to life he could not have been more
"He is, and pays his rent like one."
"Rent? For what?" The customer seemed completely at sea.
"For my up-stairs room. He's my lodger and I never had a better."
The Englishman caught his breath. "Do you know who he is?" he
"Of course I do! Do you happen to know him?" John had moved up now
and stood listening.
"Not personally, but, unless I am very much mistaken, that is Sir
"Ye ain't mistaken, you're dead right—all but the 'Sir.' That's
somethin' new to me. It's MR. Felix O'Day around here, and there ain't
a finer nor a better. What do ye know about him?" Her voice had
softened and a slight shade of anxiety had crept into it. John craned
his head to hear the better.
"Nothing to his discredit. He has had a lot of trouble—terrible
trouble—more than anybody I know. I heard he had gone to Australia. I
see now that he came to New York. Well, upon my soul, Sir Felix
living over an express office!"
He handed her a bill, waited until John had fished up the change
from the trousers pocket, repeated, in an absent-minded way: "Sir
Felix living here! Good God! What next?" and, beckoning to the driver,
stepped inside the hansom and drove off.
Kitty looked at her husband, her color coming and going. "What did
I tell ye, John, dear? And ye wouldn't believe a word of it."
John returned Kitty's look. He, too, was trying to grasp the full
meaning of the announcement. "Are ye going to tell him ye know,
Kitty?" Neither of them had the slightest doubt of its truth.
"No, I ain't," she flashed back. "Not a word—nor nobody else.
When Mr. Felix O'Day gits ready to tell us, he will."
"Will ye tell Father Cruse?" he persisted.
"I don't know that I will. I'll have to think it over. And now,
John, remember!—not a word of this to any livin' soul. Do ye
"I do." He hesitated, another question struggling to his lips, and
then added: "What's up wid him, do ye think, Kitty?"
"I don't know, John, dear. I wish I did, but whatever it is, its
breakin' his heart."
The discovery of her lodger's title made but little difference to
Kitty, nor did it raise him a whit in her estimation. At best, it only
confirmed her first impression of his being a gentleman—every inch of
him. She may have studied the more closely her lodger's habits,
noting his constant care of his person, the way in which he used his
knife and fork, the softness and cleanliness of his hands—all
object-lessons to her, for she broke out on her husband the day after
her talk with the Englishman in the hansom cab with:
"I want to tell ye that ye'll have to stop spatterin' yer soup
around after this, John, dear. I'm going to have a clean table-cloth
on every day, and a clean napkin for him, and as I'm doin' the washing
myself ye've got to help an' not muss things. First thing ye know
he'll sour on what we are giving him and be goin' off worse than ever,
trampin' the streets till all hours of the night." At which John had
stretched his big frame and with a prolonged yawn, his arms over his
head, had remarked: "All right, Kitty, you're boss. Sir or no sir,
he's got no frills about him—just plain man like the rest of us."
Neither would his title, had they known it, have made the
slightest difference to any one of the habitues who gathered in Tim
Who Felix was, or what he had done, or what he was about to do,
were questions never considered, either by Kelsey or by his friends.
That he was part of the driftwood left stranded and unrecognized on
the intellectual shore was enough. All that any of them asked for was
brains, and Felix, even before the first evening had ended, had
uncovered a stock so varied, and of such unusual proportions, and of
so brilliant a character that he was always accorded the right of way
whenever he took charge of the talk.
And a queer lot they were who listened, and a queer lot they had
to be, to enjoy Kelsey's confidence. "Men are like books," he would
often say to Felix. "It is their insides I care for, no matter how
badly they are bound. The half-calf or all-morocco sort never appeal
to me. Shelf fellows seldom handled, I call them, and a man who is
not handled and rubbed up against, with a corner worn off here and
there, is like a book kept under glass. Nobody cares anything about
it except as an ornament, and I have no room for ornaments."
That is why the door was kept shut at night, when some half-calf
rapped and Tim would get a look at his binding through the shutter and
tiptoe back, closing the door of the inner room behind him.
Among Kelsey's collection was old Silas Murford, the custom-house
clerk—a fat, stupid-looking old fellow whose chin rested on his
shirt-front and whose middle rested on his knees, the whole of him,
when seated, filling Tim's biggest chair. Tim prized this volume
most, for when Silas began to talk, the sheepish look would fade out
of his placid face, his little pig eyes would vanish, and the listener
would discover to his astonishment that not only was this lethargic
lump of flesh a delightful conversationalist but that he had spent
every hour he could spare from his custom-house in a study of the
American system of immigration— and had at his tongue's end a mass of
statistics about which few men knew anything.
Crackburn, an authority on the earlier printers, then in charge of
the prints in the Astor Library, and who, for diversion, ground lenses
on the sly, was another prize document. And so was Lockwood, the
lapidary, famous as a designer of medals and seals; and many more
such oddities. "Fine old copies," Kelsey would say of them,
"hand-printed, all of them; one or two, like old Silas, extremely
That he considered Felix entitled to a place in his private
collection had been decided at their first meeting. "Met a mask with a
man behind it," he had announced to his intimates that same night.
"Got a fine nose for what's worth having. Located that chant book as
soon as he laid his hands on it. I didn't get any farther than the
skin of his face and you won't, either. He has promised to come over,
and when you have rubbed up against him for half an hour, as I did
this morning, you will think as I do."
Since that time, Felix had spent many comforting hours in Kelsey's
little back room. Sometimes he would drop in about nine and remain
until half past ten; at other times, it would be nearer midnight
before he would turn the knob.
As for the shop itself, nothing up and down "The Avenue" was quite
as odd, quite as ramshackly, or quite as picturesque. What the public
saw, on either side of the down-two-steps entrance, was a bench with
slanting shelves, holding a double row of books and two patched glass
windows, protecting disordered heaps of prints, stained engravings,
and old etchings, the whole embedded in dust.
What the owner's intimates saw, once they got inside and continued
to the end of the building, was a low-ceiled room warmed by an
old-fashioned Franklin stove and lighted by a drop covered by a green
shade. All about were easy chairs, a table or two, a sideboard, some
long shelves loaded down with books, and an iron safe which held some
precious manuscripts and one or two early editions.
When the room was shut the shop was open, and when the shop was
shut, the shutters fastened, and the two benches with their books
lifted bodily and brought inside, the little back room, smoke-dried as
an old ham, and as savory and inviting, once you got its flavor, was
ready for his guests.
On one of these rare nights when the room was full, it happened
that the same fifteenth-century chant book, which had brought Tim and
Felix together, was lying on the table. The discussion which followed
easily drifted into the influence of the Roman Catholic church on the
art of the period; Felix maintaining that but for the impetus it gave,
neither the art of illumination nor any of the other arts would at the
time have reached the heights they attained.
"This missal is but an example of it," he continued, drawing the
battered, yellow-stained book toward him. "Whatever these old monks,
with their religious fervor, touched they enriched and glorified,
whether it were an initial letter, as you see here, or an altar-piece;
and more than that, many of them painted wonderfully well."
"And a narrow-minded, bigoted lot they were," broke in Crackburn.
"If they'd had their way there would not have been a printing-press in
existence. If you are going to canonize anybody, begin with Aldus
"Only a difference in patrons," chimed in Lockwood, "the
difference between a pope and a doge."
"And it's the same to-day," echoed Kelsey, taking the book from
O'Day's hand, to keep the leaves from buckling. "Only it's neither
pope nor doge, but the money king who's the patron. We should all
starve to death but for him. I've been waiting for Mr. O'Day to hunt
one down and make him buy this," he added, closing the book carefully.
"Nobody else around here appreciates its rarity or would give a
five-dollar bill for it."
"Go slow," puffed old Silas, hunched up in his chair. "Money kings
are good in their way, and so perhaps were popes and doges, but give
me a plain priest every time. You wonder, Mr. O'Day, what those great
masters in art could have done without the protection of the church.
I wonder what the poor of to-day would do without their priests. Go up
to 28th Street and look in at St. Barnabas's. Its doors are open from
before sunrise until near midnight. When you are in trouble, either
hungry or hunted, and most of the poor are both, walk in and see what
will happen. You'll find that a priest in New York is everything from
a policeman to a hospital nurse, and he is always on his job. When
nobody else listens, he listens; when nobody else helps, he holds out
a hand. I haven't lived here sixty years for nothing."
"When you say 'listen,'" asked Felix, whose attention to the
conversation had never wavered, "do you refer to the confessional?"
"I do not. That's the least part of it. So are the mass and the
candles and choir-boys and the rest of the outfit, all very well in
their way, for Sundays and fast-days, but just so much stage scenery
to me, though its heaven to the poor devils who get color and music
and restful quiet in contrast to their barren homes. But praying
before the altar is only one-quarter of what these priests are doing
every hour of the day and night. It's part of my business to follow
them around, and I know. Hand me a light, Tim, my pipe's out."
Felix, being nearest the box, struck a match and held it close to
Silas's bowl, a cloud of smoke rising between them. When it had
cleared, O'Day remarked quietly: "Don't stop, Mr. Murford; go on, I am
listening. You have, as you said, only told us one- quarter of what
these priests are doing. Where do the other three-quarters come in?"
Silas rapped the bowl against the arm of his chair to clear it the
better, and, twisting his great bulk toward O'Day, said slowly: "If I
tell you, will you listen and keep on listening until I get through?"
Felix bowed his head in acquiescence. The others, knowing what a
story from Silas meant, craned their necks in his direction.
"Well! One night last winter—over on Avenue A, snow on the
ground, mind you, and cold as Greenland— a row broke out on the third
floor of a tenement house. In the snow on the sidewalk shivered a
half-naked girl. She was sobbing. Her father had come in from his
night shift at the gas house, crazy drunk, a piece of lead pipe in
"Two or three people had stopped, gazed at the girl, and passed
her by. Tenement-house rows are too common in some districts to be
bothered over. A policeman crossed the street, peered up the stairway,
listened to the screams inside, looked the sobbing girl over, and
kept on his way, swinging his club. A priest came along—one I know, a
well-set-up man, who can take care of himself, no matter where. He
touched the girl's arm and drew her inside the doorway, his head bent
to hear her story. Then he went up—in jumps—two steps at a
time—stumbling in the dark, picking himself up again, catching at the
rail to help him mount the quicker, the screams overhead increasing
at every step. When he reached the door, it was bolted on the inside.
He let drive with his shoulder and in it went. The girl's mother was
crouching in the far corner of the room, behind a heavy sofa. The
drunken husband stood over her, trying to get at her skull with the
piece of lead pipe.
"At the bursting in of the door the brute wheeled and, with an
oath, made straight for the priest, the weapon in his fist.
"The priest stepped clear of the door-jamb, moved under the single
gas-jet, drew out his crucifix, and held it up.
"The drunkard stood staring.
"The priest advanced step by step. The brute cowered, staggered
back, and fell in a heap on the floor."
"Magnificent," broke out Lockwood. "Superb! And well told. You
would make a great actor, Murford."
"Perhaps," answered Silas with a reproving look, "but don't forget
that it HAPPENED."
"I haven't a doubt of it," exclaimed Felix quietly, "but please go
on, Mr. Murford. To me your story has only begun. What happened next?"
Silas's eyes glistened. Lockwood's criticism had gone over his
head; he was accustomed to that sort of thing. What pleased him was
the interest O'Day had shown in his pet subject—the sufferings of the
poor being one of his lifelong topics of thought and conversation.
"The confessional happened next," replied Silas. "Then a sober
husband, a sober wife, and a girl at work—and they are still at
it—for I got the man a job as night-watchman in the custom-house, at
Father Cruse's request."
Felix started forward. "You surely don't mean Father Cruse of St.
Barnabas's?" he exclaimed eagerly.
"Was it he who burst in that door?"
"It was, and there isn't a tramp or a stranded girl within half a
mile of where we sit that he doesn't know and take care of. So I say
you can have your money kings and your popes and your doges; as for
me, I'll take Father Cruse every time, and there's dozens just like
Felix pushed back his chair, reached for his hat, said good night
in his usual civil tone, and left the shop, Murford merely nodding at
him over the bowl of his pipe, the others taking no notice of his
departure. It was the way they did things at Kelsey's. There were no
great welcomings when they arrived and no good-bys when they parted.
They would meet again the next night, perhaps the next morning—and
more extended courtesies were considered unnecessary.
All the way back to Kitty's the erect figure of Father Cruse,
holding the emblem of his faith in that dimly lighted room stood out
clear. He wondered why he had not seen more of the man whose courage
and faith he himself had dimly recognized at their first meeting, and
determined to cultivate his acquaintance at once. Long ago he had
promised Kitty to do so. He would keep that promise by timing his
visit so as to reach St. Barnabas's when the service was over. The
balance of the evening could then be spent with the father.
He glanced at his watch and a glow of satisfaction spread over his
face as he noted the hour. Kitty would be up, and he would have the
opportunity of delighting her with the details of the tribute Murford
had paid her beloved priest. The more he pictured the effect upon
her, the lighter grew his heart.
He began before the knob of the sitting-room had left his hand and
had gone as far as: "Oh I heard something about a friend of yours
who—" when she checked him by rising to her feet and exclaiming:
"Hold on a minute and listen to me first. I have something that
belongs to ye. I found it after ye'd gone out, and ran after ye. I
thought ye'd miss it and come back. I wonder ye didn't. Ye see I was
tidyin' up yer room, and yer brush dropped down behind the bureau;
and when I pushed it out from the wall I found this under the edge of
the carpet. Ye better keep these little things in the drawer." Her
hand was in the capacious pocket of her apron as she spoke, her plump
fingers feeling about its depths. "Oh, here it is," she cried. "I was
gettin' nigh scared ter death fer fear I'd lost it. Here, give me your
cuff and I'll put it in fer ye."
"What is it? A cuff button?" he asked, controlling his
disappointment but biding his time.
"Yes, and a good one."
"I'm sorry, Mistress Kitty, but it cannot be mine," he returned
with a smile. "I have but one pair, and both buttons are in place, as
you can see," and he held out his cuffs.
"Well, then, who can this one belong to? Take a look at it. It's
got arms on one button and two letters mixed up together on the
other," and she dropped it into his hand.
Felix held the sleeve-links to the light, smothered a cry and,
with a quick movement of his hands, steadied himself by the table.
"Where did you get this?" he breathed rather than spoke.
"I just told ye. Down behind the bureau where ye dropped it, along
with your hair-brush."
Felix tightened his fingers, straining the muscles of his arms,
striving with all his might to keep his body from shaking. He had his
back to her, his face toward the lamp, and had thus escaped her
scrutiny. "I haven't lost it," he faltered, prolonging the examination
to gain time and speaking with great deliberation.
"Ye haven't! Oh, I am that disappointed! And ye didn't drop it?
Well, then, who did drop it?" she cried, looking over his shoulder.
She had been thinking all the evening how pleased he would be when she
returned it, and in her chagrin had not noticed the mental storm he
was trying to master.
"And ye're sure ye didn't drop it?" she reiterated.
"Quite sure," he answered slowly, his face still in the shadow,
the link still in his hand.
"Well, that's the strangest thing I ever heard! We don't have
nobody—we ain't never had nobody up in that room with things on 'em
like that. The fellow that John and I fired didn't have no
"Perhaps somebody else may have dropped it," he answered, sinking
into a chair. He was devouring her face, trying to read behind her
eyes, praying she would go on, yet fearing to prolong the inquiry lest
she should discover his agitation.
"No, there ain't nobody," she said at last, "and if there was
there wouldn't— Stop! Hold on a minute, I got it! You've bin here six
months or more, ain't ye?"
Felix nodded, his eyes still fastened on her own. A nod was better
than the spoken word until his voice obeyed him the better.
"An' ye ain't had a soul in that room but yerself since ye've been
here? Is that true?"
Again Felix nodded.
"Of course it's true, whether ye say it or not. What a fool I was
to ask ye! I got it now. That sleeve- link belongs to a poor creature
who slept in that room three or four days before ye come and skipped
the next morning."
Felix's fingers tightened on the arm of the chair. For the moment
it seemed to him as if he were swaying with the room. "Some one you
were kind to, I suppose," he said, lifting a hand to shade his face,
the words coming one at a time, every muscle in his body taut.
"What else could we do? Leave the poor thing out in the cold and
"It was, then, some one you picked up, was it not?" The room had
stopped swaying and he was beginning to breathe evenly again. He saw
that he had not betrayed himself. Her calm proved it; and so did the
infinite pity that crept into her tones as she related the incident.
"No, some one Tom McGinniss picked up on his beat, or would have
picked up hadn't John and I come along. And that wet she was, and
everything streamin' puddles, an' she, poor dear, draggled like a dog
in the gutter."
Felix's sheltering hand sagged suddenly, exposing for a moment his
strained face and wide-open eyes.
"I didn't understand it was a woman," he stammered, turning his
head still farther from the light of the lamp.
"Yes, of course, it was a woman, and a lady, too. That's what I've
been a-tellin' ye. Here, take my seat if that light gets into your
eyes. I see it's botherin' ye. It's that red shade that does it. It
sets John half crazy sometimes. I'll turn it down. Well, that's
better. Yes, a lady. An' she wet as a rat an' all the heart out of
her. An' that link ye got in yer hand is hers and nobody else's. John
and I had been to evening service at St. Barnabas's, an' we hung on
behind till everybody had gone so as to have a word with Father
Cruse, after he had taken off his vestments. We bid him good night,
come out of the 29th Street door, and kept on toward Lexington Avenue.
We hadn't gone but a little way from the church, when John, who was
walking ahead, come up agin Tom McGinniss. He was stooping over a
woman huddled up on them big front steps before you get to the corner.
"'What are you doin', Tom?' says John.
"'It's a drunk,' he says, 'an I'll run her in an' she'll sleep it
off and be all the better in the mornin'.'
"'Let me take a look at her, Tom,' says I; an' I got close to her
breath and there was no more liquor inside her than there is in me
"'You'll do nothin' of the kind, Tom McGinniss,' says I. 'This
poor thing is beat out with cold and hunger. Give her to me. I'll take
her home. Get hold of her, John, an' lift her up.'
"If ye'd 'a' seen her, Mr. O'Day, it would have torn ye all to
pieces. The life and spirit was all out of her. She was like a child
half asleep, that would go anywhere you took her. If I'd said, 'Come
along, I'm goin' to drown ye,' she'd 'a' come just the same. Not one
word fell out of her mouth. Just went along between us, John an' I
helpin' her over the curbs and gutters until she got to this kitchen,
an' I sat her down in that chair, close by the stove, and began to dry
her out, for her dress was all soaked in the mud and streamin' with
water. I got some hot coffee into her, an' found a pair of John's old
shoes, an' put 'em on her feet till I had dried her own, an' when she
got so she could speak —not drunk, mind ye, nor doped; just dazed
like as if she had been hunted and had given up all hope. She said
like a sick child speakin': 'You've been very kind, and I'm very
grateful. I'll go now.'
"'No, ye won't,' I says; 'ye'll stay where ye are. Ye don't leave
this place to-night. Ye'll go up-stairs and git into my bed.' She
looked at me kind o' scared- like; then she looked at John an' our big
man Mike who had come in while I was dryin' her out, but I stopped
that right away. 'No, ye needn't worry,' I said, 'an' ye won't. Ye're
just as safe here as ye would be in your mother's arms. Ye ain't the
first one my man John an' I have taken care of, an' ye won't be the
last. Take another sip o' that hot coffee, an' come with me.'
"Well, we got her up-stairs, an' I helped her undress, an' when I
unhooked her skirt an' it fell to the floor, I saw what I was up
aginst. She had the finest pair of silk stockings on her feet ye ever
seen in your life, and her petticoat was frills up to her knees. She
said nothin' an' I said nothin'. 'Git in,' I said, an' I turned down
the cover and come out. The next mornin' the boys had to get over to
Hoboken, an' I was up before daylight and then back to bed again. At
seven o'clock I went to her room and pushed in the door. She was gone,
an' I've never seen her since. That cuff-link's hers. Take it
up-stairs with ye an' put it in the wash-stand drawer. I'll lose it if
I keep it down here, an' she's bound to come back for it some day.
What time is it? Twelve o'clock, if I'm alive! Well, then, I'm goin'
to bed, and you're goin', too. John's got his key, and there's his
coffee, but he won't be long now."
Felix sat still. Only when she had finished busying herself about
the room making ready to close the place for the night did he rouse
himself. So still was he, and so absorbed that she thought he had
fallen asleep, until she became aware of a flash from under the
overhanging brows and heard him say, as if speaking to himself: "It
was very good of you. Yes, very good—of you—to do it, and—I suppose
she never came back?"
"She never did," returned Kitty, drawing a chair away from the
heat of the stove, "and I'm that sorry she didn't. I'll fix the lights
when ye've gone up. Good night to ye."
"Good night, Mrs. Cleary," and he left the room.
In the same absorbed way he mounted the stairs, opened his own
door and, without turning up the gas, sank heavily into a chair, the
link still held fast in his hand. A moment later he sprang from his
seat, stepped quickly to the gas-jet, turned up the light, and held
one of the small buttons to the flame, as if to reassure himself of
the initials; then with a smothered cry fell across the narrow bed,
his face hidden in the quilt.
For an hour he lay motionless, his mind a seething caldron, above
which writhed distorted shapes who hid their faces as they mounted
upward. When these vanished and a certain calm fell upon him, two
figures detached themselves and stood clear: a woman cowering on a
door-step, her skirts befouled with the slime of the streets, and a
priest with hand upraised, his only weapon the symbol of his God.
The morning brought him little relief. He drank his coffee in
comparative silence and crossed the street to his work with only a
slight bend of his head toward Kitty, who was helping Mike tag some
baggage. She noticed then how pale he was and the wan smile that
swept over his face as she waved her hand at him in answer, but she
was too busy over the trunks to give the subject further thought.
Masie was waiting for him in the back part of the shop, which, by
the same old process of moving things around, had been fitted up into
a sort of private office for Kling, two high-back settles serving for
one wall, three bureaus for another, while some Spanish chairs, a
hair-cloth sofa studded with brass nails, an inlaid table, and a
Daghestan rug helped to make it secluded and attractive. Kling liked
the new arrangement because he could keep one eye on his books and the
other on the front door, thus killing two birds with one stone. Masie
loved it because when Felix had so many customers that he could
neither talk nor play with her, it served her as a temporary
refuge—as would a shelter until the rain was over—and Felix
delighted in it because it kept Kling out of the way, the good-natured
Dutchman having often spoiled a sale by what Felix called
"inopportune remarks at opportune moments."
Although Masie's business on this particular morning was nothing
more important than merely saying good-by to her "Uncle Felix" before
she went to school, her wee stub of a nose had, until she saw him
cross the street, been flattened against the glass of her father's
front door, her two eager, anxious eyes fixed on Kitty's sidewalk.
Felix was over an hour late, something which had never happened before
and something which could not have happened now unless he had either
overslept himself—an unbelievable fact, or was ill—a calamity which
could not be thought of for a moment.
While a nod and a faint smile had done for Kitty, and a "No, I was
not very well last night," had sufficed for Kling, whose eyebrows made
the inquiry—he never finding fault with O'Day for lapses of any
kind—the case was far different when it came to Masie. The little
lady had to be coaxed into one of the easy chairs in the improvised
office and comforted with an arm around her shoulder, to say nothing
of having her hair smoothed back from her face, followed by a kiss on
her white forehead, before her overwrought anxieties were allayed.
That he was not himself was apparent to every one. Masie was still
sure of it when she bade him good-by, and Kling became convinced of it
long before the day was over. As the afternoon wore on, however, he
grew calmer. His indomitable will began to reassert itself. His
manner became more alert, and his glance clearer.
When he found himself able to think, he determined that his first
move must be to find Carlin, and that very night. It had been some
weeks since he had visited the ship-chandler. He had tried the latch
several times, and would have repeated his visits had not a bystander
told him that Carlin was in the country fitting out a yacht for one of
his customers and would not be back for a month. The time was now up.
And yet, when he thought it all over, could he, in view of this
new phase of the case, seek Carlin's help and advice? What might be
better—and his heart gave a bound—would be to see Father Cruse. The
woman whom Kitty had picked up might be one of his waifs, who,
overcome by fatigue or illness after leaving the church, had fallen on
the door-step where the policeman had found her.
At six o'clock he left the shop with a formal good night to Kling,
a hasty, almost abrupt good-by to Masie, and, without a word of any
kind to Kitty, whose quiet scrutiny he dreaded, bent his steps to a
small eating-room in the basement of one of the old-time private
houses in Lexington Avenue, where he sometimes took his meals. At
seven o'clock he was threading his way through the crowds in Third
Avenue, searching the face of every one he met. At eight o'clock, his
impatience growing, he turned into 28th Street and mounted the short
flight of steps in front of St. Barnabas's. The tones of the organ, as
well as the illumined stained-glass windows and the groups of people
around the swinging doors of the vestibule, showed that a service was
being held. These, however, were the only evidences that a body of
people had met to pray inside, both pavements outside being filled
with hurrying throngs, as were the barrooms opposite, crowded with
loud-talking men lining the bars, with here and there a woman at a
Passing through the vestibule doors, he entered the church and
found a seat near the entrance. Father Cruse, in full vestments, was
officiating. He was before the altar at the moment, his back to the
congregation. Most of them were working people who had only their
evenings free, and for whom these services were held: girls from the
department stores, servants with an evening out, trainmen from the
Elevated, off duty for an hour or two, small storekeepers whose
places closed early, with their wives and children beside them, all
under the spell of the hushed interior. Some prayed without moving,
their heads bowed; others kept their eyes fixed on the priest. One or
two had their faces turned toward the choir-loft, completely absorbed
in the full, deep tones that rolled now and then through the
Nothing of all this impressed Felix at first. He had always
regarded the Roman Catholic church as embodying a religion adapted
only to the ignorant and the superstitious. But, as he looked about on
the rapt body of worshippers, he suddenly wondered if there were not
something in its beliefs, forms, and ceremonies that he had hitherto
The wonder grew upon him as he watched the worshippers, his eyes
resting now on a figure of a woman on her knees before the small altar
at his left, her half- naked baby flat on its back beside her; and
again that of an unkempt gray-haired man, his clothes old and ragged,
his body bent, his lips trembling in supplication. All at once, and
for the first time in his life, he began to realize the existence of a
something all-powerful, to which these people appealed, a something
beneficent which swept their faces free of care, as a light drives
out darkness, and sent them home with new hope and courage. Religion
had played no part in his life. From his boyhood he had made his fight
without it. Had they tried and failed and, disheartened in their
failure, sought at last for higher help, realizing that no one man
was strong enough to make the fight of life alone?
As he asked himself these questions, the personality of the priest
began to exert its influence over him. He followed his movements, the
dignity and solemnity with which he exercised his functions, the
reverential tones of his voice, the adoration shown in his every act
and gesture. And as he watched there arose another question —one he
had often debated within himself: Were these people about him calmed
and rested by the magnetic personality of the big-chested,
strong-armed man; were they aided by the seductions of music, incense,
and color, including the very vestments that hung from his broad
shoulders; or did the calm and rest and aid proceed from a source
infinitely higher, more powerful, more compelling, as had been shown
in the case of the would-be murderer cowed by the sight of a sacred
emblem? And if there were two personalities, two influences, two
dominant powers, one of man and the other of God, which one had he,
Felix O'Day, come here to invoke?
At this mental question, the more practical side of his nature
came to the fore.
"Neither of them," he said firmly to himself, "neither God nor
priest." What he had come for had nothing to do with religion or with
its forms. A woman had been found lying on a door-step near this
church, who might have attended the same evening service. If so,
Father Cruse might have seen her—no doubt knew her, in fact, must
have both seen and recognized her. She was the kind of woman whom
Murford said Father Cruse helped. What he was here for was to ask the
priest a simple, straightforward question. This over, he would
continue on his way.
Then a sudden check arose. How was he to describe this woman? He
had not dared probe Kitty for any further details than those she had
given him. To waste therefore, the valuable time of Father Cruse with
no more information than he at present possessed would be as
inconsiderate as it was foolish.
With this new view of the difficulty confronting him, he reached
for his hat, so as to be ready at the first break in the service to
tiptoe noiselessly out. He would then go back to Kitty and, without
exciting her suspicions, learn something more of the outward
appearance of the object of her tender sympathy.
As he was about to leave the pew, the tones of a tiny bell were
heard through the aisles. Instantly a deep, almost breathless, silence
fell upon the church. The penitents, who were on their knees beneath
the clusters of candles lighting the side chapels, remained
motionless; those in the seats bowed their heads, their foreheads
resting on the backs of the pews.
As he listened with lowered head, a dull, scuffling sound was
heard near the swinging doors of the vestibule, as if some one were
being roughly handled. Then an angry voice, "she shan't go in!"
followed by high- pitched, defiant tones: "Get out of my way. I shan't
go in, shan't I? I'd like to see you or anybody else keep me out!
This place is free, and so am I. Jim hasn't showed up, and I'm going
to wait for him here. I've got a date."
She was abreast of Felix now, a girl of twenty, maudlin drunk, her
hat awry, her hair in a frowse, her dress open at the neck.
She steadied herself for a moment, and became conscious of Felix,
who had risen, horror-stricken, from his seat.
"Jim ain't showed up. He is all right, and don't you forget it.
Them guys wanted to give me the grand bounce, but I got a date, see?"
She reeled on up the aisle until she reached the steps of the
altar. There she stood, swaying before the lights, repeating her cry:
"They dassen't touch me. I got a date, I tell you!"
Father Cruse, without turning, continued his ministrations with
the same composure he would have maintained at a baptism had its
solemnity been disturbed by the cry of a child. By this time, several
women, appalled by the sacrilege, left their seats and moved toward
her, begging, then commanding, her to stop talking, all fearing to add
to the noise yet not daring to let it continue, until they gently but
firmly pushed her through the door at the end of the church and so on
into the street.
Felix had followed every movement of the girl with an intensity
that almost paralyzed his senses. He had looked into her bloodshot
eyes, noted the hard lines drawn around the corners of her mouth, the
coarse, painted lips, dry hair, and sunken cheeks. He had heard her
harsh laugh and caught the glint of her drunken leer. A cold shiver
swept through him. It was as if he had stepped on a flat stone
covering a grave which had tilted beneath his feet, revealing a corpse
but a few months buried. Had he been anywhere else he would have sunk
to the floor—not to pray, but to rest his knees, which seemed giving
out under him.
When service was over, he made his way down the aisle, waited
until the last of the worshippers had had their final word with their
priest, and, with a respectful bend of the head in recognition,
followed Father Cruse into the sacristy.
"You remember me?" he said in a hoarse, constrained voice when the
priest turned and faced him.
"Yes, you are Mr. O'Day—Kitty Cleary's friend, and I need not
tell you how glad I am to see you," and he held out a cordial hand.
"I have come as I promised you I would. Can you give me half an
"With the greatest pleasure. My duties are over just as soon as I
put these vestments away. But I am sorry you came to-night, for you
have witnessed a most distressing sight."
Felix looked at him steadily. "Do such things happen often?" he
asked, his voice breaking.
"Everything happens here, Mr. O'Day," replied the priest gravely;
"incredible things. We once found a baby a month old in the gallery.
We baptized him and he is now one of our choir-boys. But, forgive me,"
he added with a smile, "such sights are best forgotten and may not
interest you." He was studying his visitor as a doctor does a patient,
trying to discover the seat of the disease. That Felix was not the
same man he had met the night at Kitty's was apparent; then he had
been merely a man with a sorrow, now he seemed laboring under a weight
too heavy to bear.
Felix drew back his shoulders as if to brace himself the better
and said: "Can we talk here?"
"Yes, and with absolute privacy and freedom. Take this chair; I
will sit beside you." It was the voice of the father confessor now,
encouraging the unburdening of a soul.
Felix glanced first around the simple room, with its quiet and
seclusion, then stepped back and closed the sacristy door, saying, as
he took his seat: "There is no need, I suppose, of locking it?"
"Not the slightest."
For a moment he sat with head bowed, one hand pressed to his
forehead. The priest waited, saying nothing.
"I have come to you, Father Cruse, because I need a man's
help—not a priest's—a MAN'S. If I have made no mistake, you are
The fine white fingers of the priest were rising and falling ever
so slightly on the velvet arm of the chair on which his hand rested, a
compound gesture showing that both his brain and his hand were at his
"Go on," he said gently and firmly. "As priest or man, Mr. O'Day,
I am ready."
Felix paused; the priest bent his head in closer attention. He was
accustomed to halting confessions, and ready with a prompting word if
the sinner faltered.
"It is about my wife."
The words seemed to choke him, as if the grip of a long-held
silence had not yet quite relaxed its hold.
"Not ill, I hope?"
"No, she is not ill."
The priest leaned forward, a startled look on his face. "You
surely don't mean she is dead?"
O'Day did not answer.
Father Cruse settled back into the depths of his chair. "She has
left you, then," he said in a conclusive tone.
"Yes—a year ago."
He stopped, started to speak, and, with a baffled gesture, said:
"No, you might better have it all. It is the only way you will
understand; I will begin at the beginning."
The priest laid his hand soothingly on O'Day's wrist. "Take your
time. I have nothing else to do except to listen and—help you if I
The touch of the priest had steadied him. "Thank you, Father," he
said simply, and went on.
"A year ago, as I have said, my wife left me and went off with a
man named Dalton. Later I learned she was here, and I came over to see
what I could do to help her."
Father Cruse raised his eyebrows inquiringly.
"Yes, just that—to help her when she needed help, for I knew she
would need it sooner or later. She was not a bad woman when she left
me, and she is not now, unless he has made her so. She is only an
easily persuaded, pleasure-loving woman, and when my father was
forced into bankruptcy and we all suffered together, she blamed me for
giving up what money I had in trying to straighten out his affairs;
and then our infant daughter died, and that so upset her mind that
when Dalton came along she let everything go. That is one solution of
it—the one which her friends give out. I will tell you the truth. It
is that I was twenty years older than she, that she loved me as a
young girl loves an older man who had been brought up almost in her
own family, for our properties adjoined, and that when she woke up, it
was to find out that I was not the man she would have married had she
been given a few more years' time in which to make up her mind.
"When she ran away I lost my bearings. I used to sit in my room in
the club for hours at a time, staring at the morning paper, never
seeing the print; thinking only of my wife and our life together—all
of it, from the day we were married. I recalled her childish nature,
her fits of sudden temper always ending in tears, and her wilfulness.
Then my own responsibility loomed up. To let this child go to the
devil would be a crime. When this idea became firmly set in my mind,
I determined to follow her no matter what she had done or where she
"I had meant to go to Australia and look after sheep—I knew
something about them—but I changed my plans when I overheard a
conversation at my club and concluded that Dalton had brought her
here— although the conversation itself was only the repetition of a
rumor. Since then I have found out that they are both here, or were
some six months ago.
"You can understand, now, why I am living at Mrs. Cleary's and
working in Mr. Kling's store. I had but a few pounds left after paying
my passage and there was no one from whom I could borrow, even if I
had been so disposed; so work of some kind was necessary. It may be
just as well for me to tell you, too, that nobody at home knows where
I am, and that but two persons in New York know me at all. One is a
man named Carlin, who served on one of my father- in-law's vessels,
and the other is his sister Martha, who was a nurse in my wife's
"Dalton, so I understood, had considerable money when he left,
enough to last him some months, and until yesterday I have hunted for
them where I thought he would be sure to spend it, in the richer cafes
and restaurants, outside the opera-houses and the fashionable
theatres—places where two strangers in the city would naturally
spend their evenings, and a woman loving light and color as she did
would want to go.
"All these theories were upset last night when Mrs. Cleary gave me
some details of a woman she had picked up near your church. She found
her, it seems, some months ago—last April, in fact—on the steps of a
private house near your church—here on 29th Street —took her home
and made her spend the night there. In the morning she disappeared
without any one seeing her. Yesterday, while moving the bureau in my
room, Mrs. Cleary found a sleeve-link on the carpet; she thought it
was one I had dropped. I have it in my trunk. It is one of a pair my
wife gave me on my birthday, the year we were married. I missed it
from my jewel case after she left, and thought somebody had stolen
it. Now I know that my wife must have taken it, and then dropped it at
Mrs. Cleary's. So I came here tonight hoping against hope—it was so
many months ago—to get some further information regarding her. Then
I remembered that I had not asked Mrs. Cleary what the woman looked
like, and I was about to return home, when that poor girl staggered
in, and I got a look at her face. I lost my hold on myself then and—"
He sprang to his feet and began striding across the room, his eyes
blazing, one clinched fist upraised: "By God! Father Cruse, I know
something of Dalton's earlier life and of what he is capable. And I
tell you right here, that if he has brought my wife to that, I shall
kill him the moment I set my eyes on him. To take a child of a woman,
foolish and vain as she was—stupid if you will—and—" he halted,
covered his face in his hands, and broke into sobs.
During the long recital Father Cruse had neither spoken nor moved.
He was accustomed to such outbursts, but it had been many years since
he had seen so strong a man weep as bitterly. Better let the storm
pass—he would master himself the sooner.
A full minute elapsed, and then, with a groan that seemed to come
from the depths of his being, O'Day lifted his head, brushed the hot
tears from his eyes, and continued:
"You must forgive me, for I am utterly broken up. But I can't go
on any longer this way! I have got to let go—I have got to talk to
somebody. That dear woman with whom I live is kindness itself and
would do anything she could for me, but somehow I cannot tell her
about these things. I may be wrong about it— but I was born that way.
You know black from white —you live here right in the midst of
it—you see it every day. Mr. Silas Murford told me the other night at
Kelsey's that you knew everybody in this neighborhood, and so I came
to you. Help me find my wife!"
Father Cruse drew his chair closer and laid his hand soothingly on
"It is unnecessary for me to tell you I will help you," he
answered in his low, smooth voice: "And now let us get to work
systematically and see what can be done. I will begin by asking you a
few questions. What sort of a looking woman is your wife?"
Felix straightened himself in his chair, felt in his inside
pocket, and took from it a colored photograph. "As you see, she is
rather small, with fair hair, blue eyes, and a slight figure—the
usual English type. She has very beautiful teeth—very white—teeth
you would never forget once you saw them; and she has quite small
ears and, although the picture does not show this, small hands and
"And how would she dress now? This evidently was taken some years
ago. I mean, what was her habit of dress? Would it be such as an
Englishwoman would wear?"
Felix pondered. "Well, when Lady Barbara left she had—"
An expression of surprise on the priest's face cut short the
sentence. O'Day looked at him in a startled way; then he recalled his
"Pardon me, but it is only fair that you should know that Lady
Barbara is the daughter of Lord Carnavon, and that since my father's
death they call me Sir Felix. I have never used the title here and may
never use it anywhere. I would have assumed some other name when I
arrived here, except that I could not bring myself to give up my own
and my father's —he never did anything to disgrace it. He was caught
in a trap, that is all, and I signed away everything I could to help
him out. He stood by me when I was in India, and when he had a
shilling he gave me half. I would rather have died, much as my wife
blamed me, than not to have done what I did.
"And I would do it all over again, although I did not realize how
big the load was until settling-day came. Dalton was at the bottom of
it all. He floated the company. There was a story going around the
clubs that he had got me into squaring it all up, knowing that I
would be done for, and he could get away with her easier, but I never
believed it. He has come into his own, if this wretched, suffering
woman that Mrs. Cleary picked up is my wife; and I will come into
mine"—here his eyes flashed—"if he has dragged her down and—"
Father Cruse again laid his quieting fingers this time on Felix's
"He has not dragged her down, Mr. O'Day. Of that you may be sure.
A woman of her class doesn't go to pieces in a year. When she reaches
the end of her means she will either seek work or she will go to one
of the institutions to wait until she can hear from her people at
home. I have known—"
Felix shook his head with an impatient movement. "You don't know
her," he exclaimed excitedly, "nor do you know her family. Her father
has shut his door against her, and would step across her body if he
found it on the sidewalk rather than recognize her. Nor would she ask
him for a penny, nor let him or me or any one else know of her
Again the priest sat silent. He did not attempt to defend his
theory—some better way of calming his visitor must be found. He
merely said, as if entirely convinced by O'Day's denial: "Oh, well, we
will let that go, perhaps you know best"; and then added, his voice
softening, "and now one word more, before we go into the details of
our search, so that no complications may arise in the future. You, of
course, are hunting for Lady Barbara to reinstate her as your wife
O'Day sprang from his chair and stood over the priest. The
suggestion had come as a blow.
"I will take her back!"
The priest looked up in astonishment. "Yes, is it not so?"
The answer came between closed teeth. "I did not expect that of
you, Father Cruse, I thought you were bigger—MUCH bigger. Can't you
understand how a man may want to stand by a woman for herself alone
without dragging in his own selfishness and— No, I forgot—you
cannot understand—you never held a woman in your arms—you do not
realize her many weaknesses, her childishness, her whims, her
helplessness. But take her back? NEVER! That chapter in my life is
dosed. My hunt for her all these months has been to save her from
herself and from the scoundrel who has ruined her. When that is done I
shall pick up my life as best I can, but not with her."
For some seconds the priest did not speak. Then he said gently,
again avoiding any disagreement. "Let us hope that so happy an ending
to all your sufferings is not far off, my dear Mr. O'Day. And now
another question before we part for the night, one I perhaps ought to
have asked you before. Are you quite positive that Kitty's visitor was
He had reserved this hopeful suggestion—one he himself believed
in—for the last. It would help lift the dead weight of bitter anxiety
which was sure to overwhelm his visitor in the wakeful hours of the
Felix moved impatiently, like one combating a physician's cheering
words. "It must have been she, who else could have dropped the
"Several people. Excuse me if I talk along different lines, but I
have had a good deal of experience in tracing out just such things as
this, and I have always found it safest to be sure of my facts before
deducing theories. It is not all clear to me that Kitty's woman
dropped the links. And even if she did, the fact is no proof that the
woman is your wife."
"But the links are mine. There is no question of it— my initials
and arms are cut into them." The impatience was gone and a certain
curiosity was manifesting itself.
"Quite true, and yet you once thought the links were stolen. So
let us presume for the present that they were stolen and that this
woman either bought them, or was given them, or found them."
Felix began pacing the floor, a gleam of hope illumining the dark
corners of his heart. The interview, too, had calmed him—as do all
The priest settled back in his seat. He saw that the crisis had
passed. There might be another outburst in the future, but it would
not have the intensity of the one he had just witnessed. He waited
until Felix was opposite his chair and then asked, in a low voice:
"Well, may I not be right, Mr. O'Day?"
Felix paused in his walk and gazed down at the priest. "I don't
know," he answered slowly. "My head is not clear enough to think it
out. Mrs. Cleary might help unravel it. She saw her and will remember.
Shall I sound her when I go home—not to excite her suspicions, of
course, but so as to find out whether her visitor were large or
small—details like that?"
"No, I will ask her, and in a way not to make her suspect. She
will think I am hunting for one of my own people. It is wiser that she
should not know yet what you have told me. I would rather wait for the
time when this poor creature, whoever she is, needs a sister's
tenderness. She will get it there, for no finer woman lives than Kitty
A sigh of intense relief escaped Felix. "And now tell me where you
will begin your hunt?" he asked, one of his old search-light glances
flashing from beneath his brows.
"Nowhere in particular. On the East Side, perhaps, where I have
means of knowing what strangers come and go. Then among my own people
here. I shall know within twenty-four hours whether she has been in
the habit of attending evening service—that is, within the last six
months. A woman of the poorer class would be difficult to locate, but
there should not be the slightest trouble in picking out one who, less
than a year ago, occupied your wife's social position— no matter how
badly she were dressed."
Felix stood musing. He had reached the limit of the help he had
"And what can I do to assist?"
"Nothing. Go home, and when I need you I will send word. Good
Had Felix continued his visits to Stephen Carlin's shop, he might
have escaped many sleepless hours and saved himself many weary steps.
Fate had doubtless dealt him one of those unlucky cards which we
so often find in our hands when the game of life is being played. If,
for instance, the book to the right, holding the lost will, had been
opened instead of the book to the left; or if we had caught the
wrecked train by a minute or less; or had our penny come up heads
instead of coming up tails: how many of the ills of life would have
been avoided? And so I say that had Felix continued his visits to
Stephen as he should have done, he would, one December afternoon,
have found the ship-chandler standing in the door, spectacles on his
nose, checking off a wagon-load of manila rope which had just been
discharged on his pavement, stopping only to nod to the postman who
had brought him a letter. The delay in breaking the seal was due
entirely to the fact that a coil of light cordage, used aboard the
yachts he was accustomed to fit out, had just been reported as
missing, and so the unopened letter was tossed on top a barrel of
sperm-oil to await his convenience. But it was when Stephen caught
sight of the small cramped writing scrawled over the cheap yellow
envelope, the stamp askew, his own name and address crowded in the
lower left-hand corner, that the supreme moment really arrived, for at
that instant—had Felix been there —he would have seen Carlin slit
the covering with his thumb-nail, lay aside his invoice, and drop on
the first seat within reach, to steady himself.
Indeed, had Felix on this same December afternoon surprised him
even an hour later, say at six o'clock, which he could very well have
done, for Carlin did not close his shop until seven, he would have
come upon him with the same letter in his hand, his whole mind
absorbed in its contents, especially the last paragraph: "Be here at
seven o'clock, sharp; don't ring the bell below, just rap twice and I
shall know it is you. I have to be very careful who I let in."
It had been several weeks since Carlin had heard from his sister.
She had called at the store on her return from Canada, where she had
spent the summer, and he had helped her find a small suite of rooms on
a side street off St. Mark's Place, which she subsequently occupied,
but since then she had never crossed his threshold. At first she had
kept him advised of her nursing engagements—the days when her work
carried her out of town, or the addresses of those who needed her in
the city. These brief communications having entirely ceased, he had
decided in his anxiety to look her up and, strange to say, on that
very night. That his hand trembled and his rough, weather-browned
face became tinged with color as he read her letter to the end,
turning the page and reading the whole a second time, would have
surprised anybody who knew the stern, silent old sailor. His clerk, a
thin, long-necked young man wearing a paper collar and green necktie,
noticed his agitation and guessed wrong—Carlin being a confirmed old
bachelor. And so did the driver of the wagon, who had to wait for his
receipt and who, wondering at Stephen's emotion, would have asked
what the letter was all about had not the ship-chandler, after
consulting his watch, crammed the envelope into his side pocket,
jumped to his feet, and shouted to the Paper Collar to "roll the stuff
off that sidewalk and get everything stowed away, as he was going up
to St. Mark's Place."
Here and there in the whir of the great city a restful
breathing-spot is found, its stretch of grass dotted with
moss-covered tombs grouped around a low-pitched church. At certain
hours the sound of bells is heard and the low rhythm of the organ
throbbing through the aisles. Then lines of quietly dressed
worshippers stroll along the bordered walks, the children's hands fast
in their mothers' the arched vestibule-door closing upon them.
Most of these oases, like Trinity, St. Paul's, and St. Mark's,
differ but little—the same low-pitched church, the same slender
spire, the same stretch of green with its scattered gravestones. And,
outside, the same old demon of hurry, defied and hurled back by a
lifted hand armed with the cross.
Of these three breathing-spaces, St. Mark's is, perhaps, a little
greener in the early spring, less dusty in the summer heat, less bare
and uninviting in the winter snow. It is more restful, too, than the
others, a place in which to sit and muse—even to read. Out from its
shade and sunshine run queer side streets, with still queerer houses,
rising two stories and an attic, each with a dormer and huge chimney.
Dried-up old aristocrats, these, living on the smallest of pensions,
taking toll of notaries public, shyster lawyers, peddlers of steel
pens, die-cutters, and dismal real-estate agents in dismal offices
boasting a desk, two chairs, and a map.
Stephen's course lay in the direction of one of these relics of
better days—a wide-eyed house with a pieced-out roof, flattened like
an old woman's wig over a sloping forehead, the eyebrows of eaves
shading two blinking windows. A most respectable old dowager of a
building, no doubt, in its time, with the best of Madeira and the
choicest of cuts going down two steps into its welcoming basement.
That was before the iron railings were covered with rust and before
the three brownstone steps leading to the front door were worn into
scoops by heavy shoes; before the polished mahogany doors were
replaced by pine and painted a dull, dirty green; before the banisters
with their mahogany rail were as full of cavities as a garden fence
with half its palings gone; and before—long before— some vulgar
Paul Pry had cut a skylight in the hipped roof, through which he could
peer, taking note of whatever went on inside the gloomy interior: each
of these several calamities but so much additional testimony to its
once grand estate, and every one of them but so many steps in its
For it had become anything but a happy house— this old dowager
dwelling of the long ago. Indeed, it was a very mournful and most
depressing house, and so were its tenants. In the basement was a
barber who spent half his time lounging about inside the small door,
without his white jacket, waiting for customers. On the
first-floor-back there was a music-teacher whose pupils were so few
and far between that only the shortest of lessons at the longest of
intervals were recited on her piano; on the second-floor-front was a
wood-engraver who took to photography to pay his rent. On the
second-floor-back was a dressmaker who could not collect her bills;
while in the rear was a laundress who washed for the tenants. Lastly,
there was Mrs. Martha Munger, Stephen Carlin's sister, who occupied
the third floor both front and back, over the laundress's quarters,
the one chimney serving them both.
While the evil eye of the skylight, despite its dishonorable
calling, might have been put to some good use during the day, it can
be safely said that it was of no earthly, and for that matter of no
heavenly, use during the night. Nor did anything else in the way of
illumination take its place. My Lady Dowager's patrons were too poor
or too stingy to furnish even a single burner up and down the three
flights. The excuse was that the rays of the arc-light, blazing away
on the opposite side of the street, were not only powerful enough to
shine through the weather-beaten hall door covering the entrance but,
still further, to illuminate the rickety staircase—the very staircase
up which Stephen Carlin was now groping in answer to Martha's letter.
She had heard his heavy tread on the creaky steps, and was
watching for him with the door ajar—an inch at first, and then wide
open, her kerosene lamp held over the railing to give him light.
"Oh, but I'm glad you've come, Stephen. I was getting worried. I
was afraid maybe you didn't get the letter. It's black dark outside,
isn't it?" and she glanced at the cheap clock on the mantel behind
her. "Come in, the kettle was boiling over when I heard you. I'll
talk to you in a minute."
He followed with only a pressure of her hand, and, without a word
of greeting, seated himself near a table. In the same quiet, silent
way he watched her as she busied herself about the apartment, lifting
the kettle from the stove, adjusting the wick of the lamp which had
begun to smoke from the draft of the open door, taking from a shelf
two cups and saucers and from a tin bread box a loaf and some
When, in one of her journeys to and fro, she passed where the
light of the lamp fell full upon her round face, framed in its white
cap and long strings, he gave a slight start. There were dark circles
below her eyes and heavy lines near the corners of her mouth—signs
he had not seen since the month she had spent in the Marine Hospital
when the plague was stamped out. He noticed, too, that her robust
figure, with its broad shoulders and capacious bosom, restful pillow
to many a new-born baby, seemed shrunken—not in weight, but in its
spring, as if all her alertness (she was under fifty) had oozed out.
It was only when she had completed her labors and taken a chair beside
him, her soft, nursing hand covering his own, that his mind reverted
to the tragedy which had brought him to her side. Even then, although
she sat with her face turned toward his, her eyes reading his own,
some moments passed before either of them spoke. At last, in a
wondering, dazed way, she exclaimed: "Have you, in all your life,
Stephen, ever heard anything like it?"
Carlin shook his head. The letter had given him the facts, and no
additional details could alter the situation. It was as if a dead body
were lying in the next room awaiting interment; when the time came he
would step in and look at it, ask the hour of burial, and step out
"I came as soon as I'd read your letter," he said slowly examining
one by one his rough fingers bunched together in his lap. "We got
chuck-a-block on Second Avenue or I'd have been here before. Why
didn't you let me know sooner?" As he spoke he shifted his gaze to
the wrinkles in her throat—a new anxiety rising as he noticed how
many more had gathered since he saw her last.
"She wouldn't have it, and I want to tell you that you've got to
be careful, as it is. And mind you don't speak too sudden to her."
In answer he craned his head as if to see around the jamb of the
door leading into the smaller room and, lowering his voice, whispered:
"Is she here now?"
"No, but she will be in a few minutes; she's often late, she waits
until it's dark."
"How long has she been here with you?"
"About two weeks."
"Two weeks! You didn't tell me that."
"She wouldn't let me. She is having trouble enough and I have to
do pretty much as she wants."
He ruminated for a moment, this time scrutinizing the palms of his
hands, seemingly interested in some callous spots near the
thumb-joint, and then asked: "How did she find you?"
"By God's mercy and nothing else. I was sitting in a Third Avenue
car and there she was opposite. I couldn't believe my eyes, she was
that changed! She would have been off the dock, I believe, if she
hadn't found me. She has run away from Dalton now, and is so scared
of him she trembles every time some one comes up the stairs. That's
why I wrote you not to ring. He has nothing left. He kept a-hounding
her to write to her father and nigh drove her crazy; so she left
"Does she know Mr. Felix is here?" He had finished with the
callous spots and was cracking every horny knuckle in his fingers as
he spoke, as if their loosening might help solve the problem that
"No, I haven't dared tell her. She would be off the dock for sure
then. She is more afraid of him than she is of Dalton."
"Mr. Felix won't hurt her," he rejoined sharply.
"Yes, but she knows she'd hurt HIM if he finds out how bad she's
off. She'd rather he'd think she's living like she used to do. Oh,
Stephen—Stephen, but it's a bad, bad business! I'm beat out wondering
what ought to be done."
She pushed back her chair, and began walking up and down the room
like one whose suffering can find no other relief, pausing now and
then to speak to him as she passed. "I tried to get her to listen. I
told her Mr. Felix might be coming over from London. I had to put it
to her that way, but she nearly went out of her mind, stiffened up,
and began to put on such a wild look that I had to stop. Have you
heard from him lately?"
"No, I wrote and wrote and could get no answer. Then I went up to
where he boarded, and the woman told me he'd been gone some
months—she didn't know where. He left no word, and she forgot to get
the name of the express that came for his trunk. He is down with
sickness somewheres, or he'd have showed up. He was not himself at all
when I last saw him—that's long before you got back from Canada.
He's done nothing but walk the streets since he come ashore."
Stephen stopped, as if it were too painful for him to continue,
looked around the room, noting its bareness, and asked, with a break
in his voice: "Where do you put her?"
"In the little room. She wouldn't take mine and she won't let me
help her. She got work at first on 14th Street, in that big store near
the Square, and worked there for a while, that was when she was with
Dalton. But Dalton drove her out. And when she was near dead, with
nothing to eat, some people picked her up and she stayed with them all
night—she never told me where. That was last spring. She stood it for
some months living from hand to mouth, she working her fingers to the
bone for him, until she was afraid of her life and left him again. She
was going she didn't know where when I looked at her 'cross the car
and she saw me.
"'Martha!' she cried, and was on the seat next me, my two arms
about her. She was sobbing like a lost child who has found its mother
again. There were two other women in the car, and they wanted to help,
but I told them it was only my baby back again. We were near 10th
Street at the time and I got her out and brought her here and put her
to bed— Listen! Keep still a moment! That's her step! Yes, thank God,
she's alone! I'm always scared lest he should come with her. Get in
there behind the curtain!"
Martha had lifted the lamp again as she spoke, and was holding it
over the banister, one hand down-stretched toward a woman whose small
white fingers were clutching the mahogany rail, pulling herself up
one step at a time.
"Don't hurry, my child. It's a hard climb, I know. Give me the
box. I began to get worried. Are you tired?"
"A little. It has been a long day." She sighed as she passed into
the room, the nurse following with a large pasteboard box.
"It's good to get back to you," she continued, sinking into a
chair near the mantel and unfastening her cloak. "The stairs seem to
grow steeper every time I come up. Thank you. Just hang it behind the
door. And now my hat, please." She lifted the cheap black straw from
her head, freeing a fluff of light-golden hair, and with her fingers
combed it back from her forehead.
"And please bring me my slippers. I have walked all the way home,
and my poor feet ache."
The nurse stooped for the hat, patted the thin shoulders, and went
into the adjacent room for the slippers, whispering to Carlin on her
way back to keep hidden until she called. He was still standing
concealed by the folds of the calico curtain dividing the apartment,
a choke in his throat as he watched the frail woman, her sharpened
knees outlined under the folds of the black dress and, below it, the
edge of a white petticoat bespattered with mud, the whole figure
drooping as if there were not strength enough along its length to hold
the body upright. What shocked him even more were the deep-sunken eyes
and the hollows in the cheeks and about the brows. All the laugh and
sparkle of the once joyous, beautiful girl he had known were gone.
Only the gentle voice was left.
Martha was now back, kneeling on the floor, untying the shabby
shoes, rubbing the small, delicately shaped feet in her plump hands to
rest and warm them. "There, my lamb, that's better," he heard her say,
as she drew on the heelless slippers. "I'll have tea in a minute. The
kettle's been boiling this hour." Then, as though it were an
afterthought: "Stephen wants to see you, so I told him maybe you would
let him. Shall I tell him to come?"
"Your brother, you mean? The one who lives here in New York?" she
"Yes, he's never forgotten you. And—"
"Some day I will see him, Martha. I shall be better soon, and
She stopped and stared at Carlin, who misunderstanding Martha's
words, had drawn aside the calico curtain and was advancing toward
her, bowing as he walked, the choke still in his throat. "I hope your
ladyship is not offended," he ventured. "It was all one family once,
if I may say so, and there is only Martha and me."
She had straightened as she saw him coming and then, remembering
that she was in Martha's room, and he Martha's brother, she held out
her hand. "No, Stephen, I am very glad. I was only a little startled.
It is a long time since I saw you, but I remember you quite well, and
you have not changed. A little grayer perhaps. When was it?"
"When I came back from Calcutta, your ladyship, and the Rover was
wrecked. Your father ordered the crew home. I was first mate, your
ladyship remembers, and had to look after them. Some six years agone,
I take it."
"Yes, it all comes back to me now," she answered dreamily "six
years—is it not more than that?"
"No, your ladyship. Just about six."
She paused, rested her head on her hand, and looked at him
intently from beneath the wave of hair that had dropped again about
her brow, and asked: "Why do you still call me 'your ladyship'
"Well, I don't know, your ladyship. Mebbe it's because I've always
been used to it. But I won't if your ladyship doesn't want me to."
"Never mind, it does not matter. It has been so long since I have
heard it that it sounded odd, that was all." She roused herself with
an effort and added, in a brighter tone, changing the topic: "It was
very good of you to come to see Martha. She has me to look after now,
and I am afraid she gets unhappy at times. You cannot think how good
she is to me—so good—so good! I often wake in the night dreaming I
am a child again and stretch out my hand to her, just as I used to do
years ago when she slept beside me. She often speaks of you. I am
glad you came to-day."
Carlin had been standing over her all the time, his rough
pea-jacket buttoned across his broad chest, his ruddy sailor's face
with its fringe of gray whiskers, bushy eyebrows, and clear, steady
gaze in vivid contrast to her own shrinking weakness.
"It ain't altogether Martha," he exclaimed in tones suddenly grown
deliberate. "It's you, your ladyship, that I particular came to see.
You ain't fit to take care of yourself, and there ain't nobody but me
and Martha that I can lay hands on now to help—nobody but just us
two. I'm not here to judge nobody. I know what's happened and what
you're going through, and you've got to let me lend a hand. If I lived
to be a hundred I could never forget his lordship's kindness to me,
and things can't go on as they are with you. There is a way out of it
if you only knew it."
She threw back her head quickly. "Not my Father?"
"No, not your father. Although his lordship would haul down his
colors mighty quick if once he saw you as I do now. But there are
others who would be glad to take a hand at the wheel and help you
steer out of all this misery. You ain't accustomed to it and you don't
deserve it, and I'm going to put a stop to it if I can." This last
came with still greater emphasis—the first mate was speaking now.
"Thank you, Stephen. You and Martha are very much alike. She has
the loyalty of an old servant, and you have the loyalty of an old
friend. But we must all pay for our mistakes—" she halted, drew in
her breath, and added, picking at her dress, "—and our sins.
Everybody condemns us but God. He is the only one who forgets, when
we are sorry."
"Not so many remember as you may think, your ladyship. Some of 'em
have forgotten—forgotten everything —and are standing by ready to
catch a line or man a boat."
"Yes, there are always kind people in the world."
"Well, there mayn't be such an awful lot of 'em as you think, but
I know one. There's Mr. Felix, for instance, who—"
She sprang to her feet, her hands held out as a barrier, and stood
trembling, staring wildly at him, all the blood gone from her cheeks.
"Stop, Stephen! Not another word. You must not mention that name to
me. I cannot and will not permit it. I have listened too long already.
I am very grateful for your kindness and for your offers to me, but
you must not touch on my private affairs. I am earning my own living,
and I shall continue to do so. And now I would like to be alone."
"But, your ladyship, I've got something to tell you which—"
Martha stepped between them. "I think, Stephen, you'd better not
talk to her ladyship any more. You might come some other night when
she's more rested. You see she's had a very bad day and—"
Stephen's voice rang out clear. "Not say anything more, when—"
Martha dug her fingers into his arm. "Hush!" she whispered
hoarsely, her lips close against his hairy cheek. "She'll be on the
floor in a dead faint in a minute. Didn't I tell you not to mention
She stepped quickly to the side of her charge, who had walked
falteringly toward the window and now stood peering into the darkness
through the panes of the dormer.
"It's only Stephen's way, child, and you mustn't mind him. He
doesn't mean anything. He hasn't seen much of women, living aboard
ship half his life. It's only his way of trying to be kind. And you
see he's known you from a baby, same as me—and that's why he lets
She had folded the pitiful figure in her arms, her hand patting
the bent shoulders. "But we'll get on together, my lamb—you and me.
And we'll have supper right away— And I must ask you, Stephen, to
go, now, because her ladyship is worn out and I'm going to put her to
Carlin picked up his hat and stood fingering the rim, trying to
make up his mind whether he should force the truth upon her then or
obey orders and wait. The training of long years told.
"Well, just as you say, your ladyship, I won't stay if you don't
want me, but don't forget I'm within call, not more than a half-hour
away. All Martha's got to do is to send a postal card and I'm here.
I'm sorry I hurt your feelings. God knows I didn't mean to! Martha
knows what I wanted to tell you. You'll have to come to it sooner or
later. Good night. I hope your ladyship will be rested in the morning.
Good night, Martha. You know you can write when you want me. Good
night again, your ladyship."
He opened the door softly, closed it behind him without a sound,
placed his hat on his head, and, reaching out for the hand-rail, felt
his way in the dark down the rickety stairs and out onto the sidewalk.
Once there, he looked up and down the street as if undecided,
turned sharply, and bent his steps toward Second Avenue, muttering to
himself over and over again as he walked: "I got to find Mr. Felix. I
got to find Mr. Felix."
Felix O'Day's runaway wife, despite the many quiet hours spent in
Martha's room, near St. Mark's Place, had not told her old nurse all
her story. She had wept her heart out on the dear woman's shoulder
and had cuddled close in her arms, giving her scraps and bits of her
unfortunate history, with side-lights here and there on a misery so
abject and so terrifying that the dear nurse had hugged the frail
figure all the tighter, seeing only the wound and knowing nothing of
the steps that had led up to the final blow or the anger that hastened
Martha had known, of course, that there had been bankruptcy and
ruin; that Oakdale, the ancestral estate of the O'Days—theirs for two
centuries, with all its priceless old furniture, tapestries, pictures,
and porcelains—had, after the owner's death, been sold at public
auction; that Fernlodge, Mr. Felix's own home, had gone in the same
way; that Lady Barbara, for some reason, had returned to her father,
Lord Carnavon; that the girl baby had died; and that "Mr. Felix," as
she always called him, had gone to London where he had taken up his
abode at his club. Lady Barbara herself had given these details in a
letter written a couple of weeks after the death of the child, Martha
being in Toronto at the time.
Martha had also learned, through a letter from the head gardener's
wife, that after a few months' stay, Lady Barbara had left her
father's house because of a fierce scene with Lord Carnavon, who had
sent for his carriage, conducted her into it, and given directions to
his coachman either to set his daughter down on the main road, outside
his gates, or to take her to the nearest public house.
She had learned, too, that her former charge, after having eloped
with Dalton, had dropped entirely out of sight and, so far as her own
knowledge was concerned, had never come to light again until, with a
cry of joy, Lady Barbara sank sobbing on her shoulder in that Third
Much of this information had been gathered from newspaper
clippings that her old uncle, living in London, had mailed to her.
More particulars had come in a letter from James Muldoon, one of the
grooms at Oakdale, who gave a most pitiful and graphic account of the
way the London dealers crowded about the old porcelains in the ebony
cabinets, and of the prices paid by the Earl of Brinsmore, who bought
most of the pictures, half of the old Spanish furniture, as well as
the largest but one of the great tapestries, to enrich the new mansion
he was then building in London and in which James Muldoon was happy to
say he had been promised a place.
In still other letters, open references had also been made to a
much discussed speculation, entangling many of those whom Martha had
formerly known, followed by a grand financial explosion in which some
of the same people had been badly injured. In connection with these
disasters mention was likewise made of a certain Mr. Dalton, who had
disappeared shortly after, leaving rather a bad name behind him,
altogether undeserved, according to many of the papers, he always
having been a "financier of the highest standing." This last ball of
gossip was rolled Martha's way by her nephew, who was a clerk in a
solicitor's office off the Strand and who had mailed an editorial on
the matter to his uncle, who promptly forwarded it to Martha. She had
read it carefully to the end and had put it in her drawer without at
first grasping the full meaning of the fact that, but for the
activities of this same Mr. Dalton, her dear mistress and her dear
mistress's husband, Felix O'Day, and her dear mistress's
father-in-law, the late Sir Carroll O'Day, would still be in
possession of their ancestral estates and in undisturbed enjoyment of
whatever happiness they, individually and collectively, could get out
What the dear woman never knew, and it was just as well that she
did not, were the special happenings which ended in the overwhelming
It really began with a tea basket, holding enough for two, which
was opened one lovely afternoon under the big willows skirting that
little strip of land bordering the backwater at Cookham-on-Thames. My
lady at the time was wearing a wide leghorn hat with blue ribbons
that matched her eyes and set off the roses in her fair English
cheeks. Her companion was in white flannels—a muscular, well-set-up
young man of thirty, fifteen years younger than her husband and with
twice his charm—one of those delightful companions who possess the
rare quality of making an hour seem but five minutes. A gay party had
dropped down the river in her father's launch, which had been tied up
at Ferry Inn, and Dalton had insisted on taking my lady for just a
half-hour's poling in a punt, Felix and the others preferring to take
their tea at the Inn—plans readily agreed to and carried out, except
that the half-hour prolonged itself into two whole ones.
Then there had come a week-end at Glenmore Castle and a garden
party outside London, and then five-o'clock teas at half a dozen
private houses, including one or two meetings a trifle more secluded.
And all quite as it should be, for a most desirable and valuable
guest was this same Mr. Guy Dalton, a man received everywhere with
open arms, as "one of the rising men of the time, my dear sir," a
financier of distinction, indeed, and a promoter of such skill that he
had only to issue a prospectus, or wink knowingly on the street, or
take you aside at the club and whisper confidentially to you, when
everything he had issued, winked at, or whispered about would go up
with a rush, and countless men and women—a goodly number were
women—would be hundreds, nay, thousands of pounds the richer before
the week was out.
That his own buoyant imagination, as well as that of those who
followed his lead, should have been stretched to the utmost was quite
within the possibilities when one recollects that the basis of all
this wealth was crude rubber, a substance of pronounced elasticity.
This, too, accounts for the vim and suddenness of the final recoil
attending the final collapse—a recoil which smashed everything and
everybody within its reach.
There were "words," of course, between Dalton and some of his
victims. There always are "words" when the ball bounces back and you
catch it full in the eye. And for salves and soothing plasters there
were the customary explanations regarding the state of the market,
the tightness of money, the non-arrival of important details, the
delaying of despatches owing to a break in the cable, together with
offers of heavy discounts, and increased allotments of stock for
renewed subscriptions. But the end came, just as it always does.
And so did the aftermath, as was shown by the advertisements in
the auction columns of the daily papers and the motley mob of hungry,
perspiring dealers, pawing over the household gods; and, more
disastrous still, because of its rarity, Felix's brave fight to save
his father's name, the whole struggle ending in his own ruin.
As for the very pretty young woman who had been wearing the hat
with blue ribbons, it may be as well to remark that when the milk in
the heart of a woman has become slightly curdled, it is to be expected
that, under certain exciting influences, the whole will turn sour.
When to this curdling process is added the loss of her child and her
fortune, calamities made all the more insupportable by reason of an
interview lasting an hour in which her two hot hands were held in
those of a sympathetic man of thirty, her cheeks within an inch of his
lips, the quickest—in fact, the only way—yes, really the only way,
to prevent any further calamity is to put your best gown in your best
dressing-case, catch up your jewels, and exchange your husband's roof
for that of your father's. And this is precisely what my lady did do,
and there in her father's house she stayed, despite the entreaties of
her own and her father's friends.
"And why not?" she had argued, with flashing eyes: "I am without a
shilling of my own, owing to the Quixotic ideas of my husband, who,
without thinking of me, has beggared himself to pay his father's
debts. And that, too, just when I need to be comforted most. He does
not care how I suffer; and now that my father has offered me a home, I
will lead my own life, surrounded by the few friends who have loved me
for myself alone."
That the eminent financier—it might be better perhaps to say the
LATE eminent financier—was one of those same unselfish beings who had
"loved her for herself alone," and that he had, at once and without
the delay of an hour, flown to her side followed as a matter of
course, as did the gossip, men and women in and about the clubs and
drawing-rooms nodding meaningly or hinting behind their hands.
"Rather rough on O'Day," the men had agreed. "That comes of
marrying a woman young enough to be your daughter." "She ought to have
known better," was the verdict of the women. "So many other ways of
getting what you want without making a scandal," this from a duchess
from behind her fan to a divorcee. But few words of sympathy for the
deserted husband escaped any of them and, except from his old
servants, Felix allowed himself to receive none.
He had made no move to win her back. To him she was, at the worst,
only the same wilful and spoiled child she had always been, while he
was over twenty years her senior. What he hoped for was that her
common sense, her breeding, and her pride would come to the rescue,
and that after her pique had spent itself, she would become once more
the loving wife.
And it is quite possible that this hope might have been realized
had it not been for one of those unfortunate and greatly to be
regretted concurrences which so often precede if they do not
precipitate many of life's catastrophes.
One of Lord Carnavon's grooms was the unfortunate match that
caused this explosion. He had been sent down to Dorsetshire for a
horse and, in an out-of- the-way inn in one corner of the county, had
stumbled —early the next morning—into a cosey little sitting-room.
When he came to his senses—he never recovered the whole of them
until he was safe once more inside his lordship's stables—he told,
with bulging eyes and bated breath, what he had seen. Whereupon the
head coachman forthwith informed his wife, who at once poured it into
the ears of the housekeeper, who, being jealous of my lady, fearing
her dominance, lost no time in amplifying the details to Lord
Carnavon. That gentleman had walked his library the rest of the night
and, on my lady's return from Scotland, two mornings later (she had
"spent the night with her aunt"), had denounced her in tones so shrill
that every word was heard at the end of the long gallery; the tirade,
to his lordship's amazement, being cut short by his daughter's defiant
answer: "And why not, if I love him?"
All of which accounts for the infamous order roared five minutes
later by the distinguished nobleman to his coachman, who, having known
her ladyship from a child and loved her accordingly, had not set her
down on the main road, but had taken her to a cottage on an adjoining
estate—her second change of roofs—from whence Dalton carried her off
next day to Ostend, a refuge she had herself selected, the season
there being then at its height.
Had either of them kept a diary, it is safe to say that the
delirious hours which filled that first week at Ostend would have been
checked off in gold letters. Neither of them had ever been so
blissfully happy, nor so passionately enamoured of the other, nor so
overjoyed that the dreary past, with all its misunderstandings,
calumnies, and injustice, had been wiped out forever.
There had, of course, been a few colorless moments. On a certain
Saturday, for instance, the eminent ex-financier, having lost his head
after the manner of some born gamblers, had, at the Casino, played the
wrong number—a series of wrong numbers, in fact— an error which
resulted in his pushing a crisp bundle of Bank of England
notes—almost all he had with him—toward the spidery hands of a suave
gentleman with rat eyes and bloodless face, who gathered them up with
a furtive, deadly smile.
The gold Letters might have been omitted here, and, in their
stead, my lady could have made a common pinhole to remind her, if she
ever cared to remember, that it was on that very night that her
passionately enamoured lover had helped her unfasten from her throat
a string of pearls which O'Day had given her, and which, strange to
say, for a woman so injured, so maligned, and so misunderstood, she,
with Dalton's advice, had carried off when she deserted both her
husband and her husband's bed and board. And she might have inserted
just below the pinhole the illuminating note that, after unfastening
the string, Dalton had forgotten to return it.
And then there had come an August morning—the following Monday,
to be exact—when, his coffee untasted, he had sat staring at a
paragraph in the financial column of a London paper, not daring to lay
it down for fear she would pick it up. It gave a full and detailed
account of the discovery of a series of certificates bearing
duplicate numbers, said duplicates claiming to be the genuine shares
of the Bawhadder Rubber Co., Ltd. It also hinted at a searching
investigation about to be made by a financial committee of the highest
standing at its next regular meeting, but a few days off. More
important still was a crisp editorial, charging the directors of the
aforesaid company, and particularly its promoter—name withheld—with
irregularities of the gravest import.
And it was on this same Monday morning—another pinhole, made with
a big black pin would serve best here—before the stone-cold coffee
and the dry, uneaten toast had been sent away, that there had arrived
a most important telegram (that is, Dalton had SAID it had arrived)
ordering him back to London on business of the UTMOST IMPORTANCE. So
urgent were the summons that he was forced to leave at once—so he
explained to the manager of the hotel—and as madame wished to avoid
the night journey by way of Ostend —the channel being almost always
rough, even in summer, and she easily disturbed—he had decided to
take the shorter and more comfortable route, and would the urbane and
obliging gentleman please secure two tickets to London by way of
Calais and Dover? This would give them a day in Paris at the house of
a friend, and the next morning would see them safely landed in London,
in ample time for the business in question.
The pins can be dispensed with now; so can the pencil and so can
any special entries. Henceforth life for these two exiles was to be
one long toboggan slide, with every post they passed marking a lower
level. The sled with its occupants made no stop at Paris nor did it
go by way of Calais nor did it reach Dover. It swooped on down to
Havre, the steamer sailing an hour after the train arrived, crossed
the ocean at full speed, and dumped its two passengers one hot August
night in front of a cheap and inconspicuous hotel on the East Side,
New York, where Mr. and Mrs. Stanton, from Toronto, Canada, would he
at home, should anybody call—which, it is quite safe to say, nobody
No, nothing of all this did the heart-broken woman tell the tender
old nurse, who had carried her in her arms many a night, and who was
now willing to sacrifice everything she possessed to give her mistress
one hour of peace.
Nor did she tell of the shock which she, a woman of quality, had
received when she entered the two cheaply furnished rooms, her only
shelter for months, and which, to a woman accustomed from babyhood to
a luxurious home and the care of attentive and loyal servants, had
affected her more keenly than anything that had yet happened.
Neither did she confide into the willing ears of the sympathetic
woman the details of her gradual awakening from Dalton's spell as his
irritability, cowardice, and selfishness became more and more
apparent. Nor yet of her growing anxiety as their resources declined;
an anxiety which had so weighed upon her mind that she could neither
sleep nor rest, despite his continued promises of daily remittances
that never came and his rose-colored schemes for raising money which
Neither did she uncover the secret places of her own heart, and
tell the old nurse of the fight she had made in those earlier days
when she had faced the situation without flinching; nor of her
stubborn determination to still fight on to the end. She had even at
one time sought to defend him against herself. All men had their
weaknesses, she had reasoned; Guy had his. Moreover, the crash had
been none of his doing. He had been deceived by false reports
instigated by his enemies, including her own father-in-law and— yes,
her husband as well, who could have avoided the catastrophe had he
followed Guy's advice, and persuaded Sir Carroll O'Day to hold on to
his shares. How, then, could she desert him, poor as he was and with
the world against him? She had been untrue to everything else. Could
she not redeem herself by being at least true to her sin?
What she did tell Martha, and there was the old ring in her voice
as she spoke, was of her refusal to yield to Dalton's presistent
entreaties to write to her father for sufficient money to start him in
a new enterprise which, with "even his limited means"— thus ran the
letter she was to copy and sign—"was already exceeding his most
sanguine expectations, and which, with a few thousand pounds of
additional capital, would yield enormous returns." And she might have
added that so emphatic had been her refusal that, for the first time
in all their intercourse, Dalton's eyes had been opened to something
he had never realized in her before, the quality of the blood that
runs in some Englishwomen's veins—this time the blood of the
Carnavons, who for two centuries had been noted for their indomitable
Her defiance had seemed all the more remarkable to him because as
he well knew their combined resources were dwindling. She had, in
fact, only a few finger-rings left, together with some cheap trinkets;
among them a pair of sleeve-buttons then in her cuff's, a pair which
she had given Felix and which she found in her jewel-box the day after
she left him, and which she had determined to return until she
realized how small was their value.
The rest of her sad story came by fits and starts.
With her head on Martha's shoulder she told of the horror of that
rainy April night when, with agonized hands against her hot cheeks,
she had heard him stumbling up the narrow stairs staggering drunk,
lunging through the door, and falling headlong at her feet. Of the
deadly fear born in her, for the first time in her life, she, helpless
and alone, without a human being to whom she could appeal, not daring
to disclose her own identity lest graver results might follow; he,
prostrate before her, naked to his inmost bone, with all his perfidy
exposed. Of his cursing her conscientious scruples and family pride,
her milk-and-water principles, demanding again that she should write
her father and that very night, ending his entreaties with a blow of
his fiat hand on her cheek which sent her reeling toward her narrow
She had watched her chance, caught up her hat and cloak, and had
slipped down-stairs, avoiding the crowd about the side-door, and had
then fled as if for her life, to be found an hour later by an
expressman's wife, who had put her to bed with a kindness and
tenderness she had not known since she left her husband's roof.
Then there had followed a long, weary day's search for work,
ending at last in defeat when, disheartened and footsore, she had
dragged herself once more up the hotel stairs, with another tightening
of her resolution to fight it out to the end.
Greatly to her surprise, Dalton had received her with marked
politeness. He had begged her forgiveness, pleading that his nerves
had been upset by his financial troubles. With his arm around her, he
had told her how young and pretty she still was, and how sad it made
him when he thought he had ruined her life and brought her all these
weary miles from home, his contrition being apparently so genuine,
that she had determined to trust him once more, and would have told
him so had she not gone into her room to change her dress, only to
find that he had pawned the few remaining trinkets and articles of
wearing-apparel she possessed, in order to try his luck in a
She had realized, then, where she stood. There was but one thing
for her to do and that was to hunt again for work. She had been an
expert needlewoman in her better days and this knowledge might earn
her their board.
With this in her mind, she had consulted a woman, living on the
floor above, who had often spoken to her when they passed each other
on the stairs, and who was employed in a department store on 14th
Street near Broadway, the result being that Stiger Company had given
"Mrs. Stanton" a place in the repair shop, her wages being equal to
her own and Dalton's board. This had continued all through the summer,
her earnings keeping the roof over their heads, Dalton leaving her
for days at a time, his invariable excuse for his absence being that
he was "trying to get employment."
Finally—and again her eyes burned, and the color mounted to her
hot cheeks as she reached this part of her story—there had come that
last awful, unforgettable December night.
She had come home from work and had put on a thin silk wrapper,
too well worn for pawning, when the door of their little sitting-room
was opened and Dalton entered, bringing two men with him. One of them
kept his hat on as he talked, the other slouched his from his head
after he had taken a seat and had had a chance to look her over. The
three had come upon her suddenly, and she, realizing her dishabille,
had risen hastily, excusing herself, when Dalton, who was half tipsy,
stepped between her and her bedroom door.
"No, you'll stay here," he had cried; "you're prettier as you are.
I never saw you so fetching. Don't mind them, they're friends of mine.
We've ordered up something to drink."
She had stood trembling, looking from one to the other, her heart
hammering wildly. No man had ever addressed her with such insolence
and before such company. What she feared was that something would
snap in her and she fall fainting to the floor.
"I will change my dress," she had answered firmly, speaking slowly
to hide her terror. She was Lord Carnavon's daughter now.
"No, I tell you, Barbara—I—"
There was something in her eyes that told him he had reached the
limit of her forbearance. Beyond that there was danger.
She had glided past him, shut and locked her bedroom door,
struggled with bungling fingers into her walking-dress, pinned on her
hat, thrown an old silk waterproof around her shoulders, had slid back
the bolt of her chamber opening into the hall, crept down the steps,
Ten minutes later Martha's arms were about her, and she sobbing on
her old nurse's shoulder.
The day following Stephen's visit was one of many spent by Lady
Barbara in working at "home," as she called the simple apartment in
which Martha had given her shelter.
With the aid of a shop-girl whose mother Martha had known, she had
found employment at Rosenthal's, on upper Third Avenue. There had been
need of an expert needlewoman in a department recently opened, and
Mangan, in charge of the work, had taken her name and address. The
repairing of rare laces had been one of her triumphs when a girl, she
having placed an inset in the middle of an old piece of Valenciennes
which had deceived even the experts at Kensington Museum. And so,
when one of Rosenthal's agents had looked up her lodgings, had seen
Martha, and noted "Mrs. Stanton's" quiet refinement, he had at once
given her the place. She had retained, with Martha's advice, the name
that Dalton had assumed for her on her arrival in New York, and
Rosenthal's pay-roll and messengers knew her by no other.
These days at home bad been gradually extended, her employer
finding that she could work there more satisfactorily, and of late the
greater part of each week had been spent in the small suite of rooms
in St. Mark's Place—much to Martha's delight, who had arranged her
own duties so as to be with her mistress. The good woman had long
since given up night-nursing, and the few patrons dependent upon her
during the day had had to be content with an "exchange," which she
generally managed to obtain, there being one or two of the fraternity
on whom she could call.
And these days, in spite of the sorrow hovering over her charge,
Martha never found wholly unhappy. They constantly reminded her of the
good times at Oakdale when she used to bring in her young mistress's
breakfast. She could recall the dainty, white egg-shell china, the
squat silver service bearing the Carnavon arms, and the film of lace
which she used to throw around her ladyship's shoulders, lifting her
hair to give it room. The butler would bring the tray to the door,
and Martha would carry it herself to the bedside, where she would be
met with the cry, "Must I get up?" or the more soothing greeting of,
"Oh, you good Martha —well, give me my wrapper!"
The delicate porcelain and heirloom silver were missing now, and
so was the filmy lace, but the tired mistress, could sleep as long as
she pleased, thank Heaven! and the same loving care be given her. And
the meal could be as nicely served, even though the thick cup cost
but a penny and the tea was poured from an earthen pot kept hot on the
Martha's deft hands relieved her mistress, too, of many other
little necessary duties, such as the repair of her clothes; having
them carefully laid out for the morning so that the nap might be
prolonged and time be given for the care of the beautiful hair and
frail hands; helping her dress; serving her breakfast, and getting
her ready for the day's work. These services over, Martha would move
the small pine table close to the sill of the window, where the light
was better, spread a clean white towel over its top, and sit beside
her while she sewed.
This restful, almost happy, life had been rudely shaken, if not
entirely wrecked, by Stephen's visit. Up to that time, Lady
Barbara—who had been nearly three weeks with Martha—had not only
delighted in her work, but had shown an enviable pride in keeping
pace with her employer's engagements, often working rather late into
the night to finish her allotment on time.
The particular work uppermost in her mind on the night Stephen had
called was the repairing of a costly Spanish mantilla which had been
picked up in Spain by one of Rosenthal's customers. Through the
carelessness of a packer, it had been badly slashed near the
centre—an ugly, ragged tear which only the most skilful of needles
could restore. Mangan, some days before, had given it to her to repair
with special instructions to return it at a given time, when he had
agreed to deliver it to its owner. It was with a sudden gripping of
her heart, therefore, that Martha on her return from an errand at noon
had found the mantilla, promised for that very afternoon at three
o'clock, lying neglected on the table, Lady Barbara sitting by the
window with listless hands and drooping head. She grew still more
anxious when at the appointed hour Rosenthal's messenger rapped at the
door and stood silently waiting, his presence voicing the purpose of
his mission, and she heard her mistress say, without an attempt at
explanation: "I am sorry, tell Mr. Mangan, but the Spanish mantilla is
not finished. Some of the other pieces are ready, but you need not
wait. I cannot stop now, even to do them up properly, but I will
bring the mantilla myself to-morrow. Please say so to Mr. Mangan."
The extreme lassitude of her manner only added to Martha's anxiety
and, as the afternoon wore on, she watched Lady Barbara's every move
with ever-increasing alarm. Now and then her poor mistress would drop
her needle, turn her face to the window, and look out into vacancy,
her mouth quivering as if with some inward thought which she had
neither the will nor the desire to voice aloud.
As the hours lengthened, this mental absorption and growing
physical weariness were followed by a certain nervous tension, so
pronounced that the nurse, accustomed to various forms of feminine
breakdowns, had already determined what remedies to use should the
That Stephen's visit was responsible for this condition, she now
no longer doubted. What she had intended as a relief had only
complicated the situation. And yet in going over all that had happened
and all that was likely to happen, she became more than ever
convinced that either his visit must be repeated, or that she alone
must make the announcement that had trembled on Stephen's lips. She
had recognized, almost from the first, that despite the relief her
mistress had enjoyed in the little apartment some strong, masculine
hand and mind were needed to stem the tide of further disaster. Her
own practical common sense also told her that their present way of
living was far too precarious to be counted upon. Lady Barbara's
position with Rosenthal was but temporary. At any moment it might be
lost, and then would follow another dreary hunt for work, with all its
rebuffs, and sooner or later the delicately nurtured woman would
succumb and go under in a mental or physical collapse, the hospital
her only alternative.
None of these forebodings, it must be said, had filled Lady
Barbara's mind. As long as she continued under Martha's care she could
rest in peace, free from the dread of the drunken step on the stair or
the rude bursting in of her chamber door. Free, too, from other
deadly terrors which had pursued her, and of which she could not even
think without a shudder, for try as she could she never forgot
Dalton's willingness to turn their home into a gamblers' resort.
That he would force her to return to him for any other purpose she
did not believe. He had no legal hold upon her—such as an Englishman
has upon his wife—and, as he had pawned everything of value she
possessed and most of her clothes, she could be of no further use to
him, except by applying to her father or to her friends for pecuniary
relief. This, as she had told him, she would rather die than do, and
from the oaths he had muttered at the time she was convinced he
All she wanted now was to earn her bread, help Martha with her
rent, and, when the day's work was over, creep into her arms and rest.
And yet, while it was true that Stephen's visit had been
responsible for her nervous breakdown, it was not for the reason that
Martha supposed. His reference to her private affairs had of course
offended her, and justly so, but there was something else which hurt
her far more—a something in the old ship-chandler's manner when he
spoke to her which forced to the front a question ever present in her
mind, whatever her task and however tender the ministrations of the
old nurse; one that during all her sojourn under this kindly roof had
haunted her, like a nightmare.
And it was this. What did the look mean that she sometimes
surprised in Martha's eyes—the same look she had detected in
Stephen's? Were they looks of pity or were they—and she
shuddered—looks of scorn? This was the nightmare which had haunted
her, the problem she could not fathom.
And because she could not fathom it, she had passed a wakeful
night, and this long, unhappy day. This mystery must end, and that
When the shadows fell and the evening meal was ready, she put away
her work, smoothed her hair and took her seat beside the nurse, eating
little and answering Martha's anxious, but carefully worded questions
in monosyllables. With the end of the meal, she pushed back her chair
and sought her bedroom, saying that, if Martha did not mind, she would
throw herself on her bed and rest awhile.
She lay there listening until the last clink of the plates and
cups and the moving of the table told her that the evening's work was
done and the things put away; then she called:
"Martha, won't you come and sit beside me, so that you can brush
out my hair? I want to talk to you. You need not bring the lamp, I
have light enough."
Martha hurried in and settled herself beside the narrow bed. Lady
Barbara lifted her head so that the tresses were free for Martha's
hands, and sinking back on the pillow said almost in a whisper: "I
have been thinking of your brother, and want your help. What did he
mean when he said that things could not go on as they were with me?
And that he was going to put a stop to them if he could?"
Martha caught herself just in time. She was not ready yet to
divulge her plans for her mistress's relief, and the question had
taken her unawares. "He never forgets, my lady, what he owes your
people," she answered at last. "And when he saw you, he was so sorry
for you he was all shrivelled up."
She had the mass of blonde hair in her fingers now, the comb in
hand prepared to straighten out the tangle.
For a moment Lady Barbara lay still, then turning her cheek, her
eyes fixed on Martha's, she said in firmer tones: "You are to tell me
the truth, you know; that is why I sent for you."
"I have told it, my lady."
"And you are keeping nothing back?"
The thin hand crept out and grasped the nurse's wrist.
"Then you are sure your brother does not despise me, Martha?"
"MY LADY! How can you say such a thing!" exclaimed Martha,
dropping the comb.
"Well, everybody else does—everybody I know— and a great many I
never saw and who never saw me. And now about yourself—and you must
tell me frankly—do you hate me, Martha?"
"Hate you, you poor Lamb"—tears were now choking her—"you, whom
I held in my arms?— Oh, don't talk that way to me—I can't stand it,
my lady! Ever since you were a child, I—"
"Yes, Martha, that is one reason for my asking you. You did love
me as a child—but do you love me as a woman? A child is forgiven
because it knows no better; a woman DOES know. Tell me, straight from
your heart; I want to know; it will not make any difference in the
way I love you. You have been everything to me, father,
mother—everything, Martha. Tell me, do you forgive me?"
"I have nothing to forgive, my lady," she answered, her voice
clearing, her will asserting itself. "You have always been my lady and
you always will be. Maybe you'd better not talk any more—you are all
tired out, and—"
"Oh, yes, I will talk and you must Listen. Don't pick up my comb.
Never mind about my hair now. I know very well that there is not a
single human being at home who would not shut the door in my face.
Some of them do not understand, and never will, and I should never
try to explain my life to them. I have suffered for my mistakes and
made myself an outcast, and nobody has any compassion for an outcast.
That is why I sit and wonder about Stephen, and why I have sat all
day and wondered about you, and whether I ought to run away, for I
could not stay here if you felt about me as I know those people feel
at home. I want you to love me, Martha. Oh! yes, you prove it. You do
everything for me, but way down deep in your heart, how do you feel?
Do you love me as you always did?—LOVE, Martha, not just pity, or
feeling sorry like Stephen, or blaming me like the others? Yes, yes,
yes, I know it, but I have wanted you to tell me. I am so in the
dark. There, there, don't cry! Just one thing more. What did your
brother mean when be said there were others who would lift me out of
Again the old servant, brushing away her tears, hesitated to
reply. She had sent for Stephen to answer this very question, and her
mistress had practically driven him from the room. How, then, was she
to meet it?
"He meant Mr. Felix, and if you had only listened, my lady, be
"Yes, I knew he did—although he did not dare say it," she cried
with sudden intensity, sinking deeper back in her pillow as if to
protect herself even from Martha. "I did not listen, for I never want
to hear his name again. He drove me to what I did. He let me leave
his house without so much as a word of regret, and not one line did
he write me the whole time I was at my father's. Two months, Martha!
TWO—WHOLE—MONTHS!" The words seemed to clog in her throat. "All
that time he hid himself in his club, abusing me to every man he met.
Somebody told me so. What was I to do? He had turned over to his
father every shilling he possessed and left me without a penny—or,
worse still, dependent on my father, and you know what that means!
And then, when I could stand it no longer and went home, he sailed for
South Africa on a shooting expedition."
Martha listened patiently. The outburst was not what she had
expected, but she knew the unburdening would help in the end. She slid
one plump hand under the tired head, and with the other stroked back
the mass of hair from the damp forehead—very gently, as she might
have calmed some fevered patient.
"May I finish what Stephen tried to tell you, my lady?" she
crooned, still stroking back the hair. "And may I first tell you that
Mr. Felix never went to Africa?"
"Oh, but he did!" she cried out again. "I know the men he went
with. He was disgusted with the whole business—so he told one of his
friends—and never wanted to see me or England again."
"You are sure?"
"Yes, I heard about it in Ostend when—" She did not finish the
The nurse's free hand now closed on Lady Barbara's thin fingers,
with a quiet, compelling softness, as if preparing her for a shock.
"Mr. Felix—came here—to New York—my lady— and is here now—or
was some weeks ago—doing nothing but walk the streets." The words had
come one by one, Martha's clasp tightening as she spoke.
The wasted figure lifted itself from the pillow and sat bolt
"MARTHA! What do you mean!"
"Yes, right here in New York, my lady."
"It isn't so! Her hands were now clutching Martha's shoulders.
"Tell me it isn't so! It can't be so!"
"It's the blessed God's truth, every word of it! He and Stephen
have been looking for you day and night."
"Looking for me? Me! Oh, the shame of it, the shame!" Then with
sudden fright: "But he must not find me! He shall not find me! You
won't let him find me, will you, Martha?" Her arms were now tight
about the old woman's neck, her agonized face turning wildly toward
the door, as if she thought that Felix were already there. "You don't
think he wants to kill me, do you?" she whispered at last, her face
hidden in the nurse's neck.
Martha folded her own strong arms about the shaking woman, warming
and comforting her, as she had warmed and comforted the child. She
would go through with it now to the end.
"No, it's not you he wants to kill," she said firmly, when the
trembling figure was still.
Lady Barbara loosened her grasp and stared at her companion. "Then
what does he want to see me for?" she asked, in a dazed, distracted
"He wants to help you. He never forgets that you were his wife.
He'll have his arms around you the moment he gets his eyes on you, and
all your troubles will be over."
"But I do not want his help and I won't accept his help," she
exclaimed, drawing herself up. "And I won't see him if he comes! You
must not let me see him! Promise me you won't! And he must not
find"—she hesitated as if unwilling to pronounce the name—"he must
not find Mr. Dalton. There has been scandal enough. You do not think
he wants to find Mr. Dalton, too, do you, Martha?" she added slowly,
as if some new terror were growing on her.
"That's what Stephen thinks—find him and kill him. That's why he
wanted you to listen last night. That's why he wants to get you and
Mr. Felix together. Mr. Dalton won't stay here if he knows Mr. Felix
is looking for him. He's too big a coward."
Lady Barbara shivered, drew her gown closer, and sank to the bed
again, gazing straight before her. "Yes, that is what will happen,
Martha—he would kill him. I see it all now. That is what would have
happened to our gardener who ruined the gatekeeper's daughter, if the
man had not left England. She was only a girl—hardly grown; yes, it
all comes back to me. I remember what my husband did." She was still
speaking under her breath, reciting the story more to herself than to
Martha, her voice rising and falling, at times hardly audible.
"Nothing—happened then— because my husband—did not find the man."
She faced the nurse again. "You won't let him come here, will you,
"He'll come, my lady, if Stephen can get hold of him," came the
positive reply. "He had a room in a lodging-house not far from here,
but he left it, and Stephen doesn't know where he's gone. But he'll
turn up again down at the shop, and then—"
"But you must not let him come," she burst out.
Again she sat upright. "I won't have it—please— PLEASE! I will
go away if you do, where nobody will ever find me. I could not have
him see me—see me like this." She looked at her thin hands and over
her shabby gown. "Not like THIS!"
"No, you won't go away, my lady." There was a ring of authority
now in the nurse's voice. "You'll stay here. It's the only way out of
this misery for you. As for Mr. Felix and that scoundrel who has
ruined you, Mr. Felix will take care of him. But I'm going to let Mr.
Felix in, if the dear Lord will let him come. Mr. Felix loves you
Her body stiffened. "He never loved me. He only loved his father,"
she cried angrily, and again she sank back on her pillow. "All my
misery came from that."
Martha bent closer. "You never got that right, my lady," she
returned firmly. "You mustn't get angry with me, for I got to let it
all out." She was the nurse no longer; no matter what happened, she
would unburden her heart. "Mr. Felix isn't like other men. He stood
by his father and helped him when he was in trouble, just as he'll
stand by and help you, just as he helps everybody—Tom Moulton's
daughter for one, that he picked up on the streets of London and sent
home to her mother. If he'd killed Sam Lawson, who ruined her, he'd
have given him what he deserved; and if he kills this man Dalton, he
won't give him half what he deserves or what's coming to him sooner or
later. Dalton isn't fit to live. He got Sir Carroll O'Day all tangled
up so that his character and all his money was hanging by a thread,
and then, when Mr. Felix gave up what he had to save Sir Carroll,
Dalton coaxed you away. You didn't know that, did you? But it's true.
That man Dalton ruined Mr. Felix's father. Oh, I know it all—and I
have known it for a long time. Stephen told me all about it. No, don't
stop me, my lady! I'm your old Martha, who's nursed you and sat by
you many a night, and I'll never stop loving you as long as I live. I
don't care what you do to me or what you have done to yourself. Your
leaving Mr. Felix was like a good many other things you used to do
when you were crossed. You would have your way, just as your father
will have his way, no matter who is hurt. What Lord Carnavon wants, he
wants, and there is no stopping him. Anybody else but his lordship
would have hushed the matter up, instead of ruining everybody. But
that's all past now; I don't love you any less for it; I'm only
sorrier and sorrier for you every time I think of it. Now we've got
to make another start. Stephen'll help and I'll work my fingers to the
bone for you—and Mr. Felix'll help most of all."
Except for the gesture of surprise when Dalton's part in the ruin
of her husband's father was mentioned, Lady Barbara had listened to
the breathless outburst without moving her head. Even when the words
cut deepest she had made no protest. She knew the nurse's heart, and
that every word was meant for her good. Her utter helplessness, too,
confronted her, surrounded as she was by conditions she could neither
withstand nor evade.
"And if he comes, Martha," she asked in a low, resigned voice,
"what will happen then?"
"He'll get you out of this—take you where you needn't work the
soul out of you."
"Pay for my support, you mean?" she asked, with a certain dignity.
"Of course; why not?"
"Never—NEVER! I will never touch a penny of his money—I would
rather starve than do it!"
"Oh, it wouldn't be much—he's as poor as any of us. When Stephen
saw him last, all he had was a rubber coat to keep him warm. But
little as he has you'll get half or all of it."
"Poor as—any of us! Oh, my God, Martha!" she groaned, covering
her face with her hands. "I never thought it would come to that—I
never thought he could be poor! I never thought be would suffer in
that way. And it is my fault, Martha— all of it! You must not think I
do not see it! Every word you say is true—and every one else knows
that it is true. It was all vanity and selfishness and stubbornness,
never caring whom I hurt, so that I had the things I wanted. I put
the blame on my husband a while ago because I did not want you to hate
me too much. All the women who do wrong talk that way, hoping for
some comforting word in their misery. But it is I who am to blame, not
he. I talk that way to myself in the night when I lie awake until I
nearly lose my mind. Sometimes, too, I try to cheat myself by
thinking that all these terrible things might not have happened had
God not taken my baby. But I don't know. They might have happened
just the same, my head was so full of all that was wicked. When I
think of that, I am glad the baby died. It could never have called me
mother. Oh, Martha, Martha, take me in your arms again—yes, like
that— close against your breast! Kiss me, Martha, as you used to do
when I was little! You do love me, don't you? And you will promise not
to let my husband see me? And now go away, please, and leave me alone.
I cannot stand any more."
The talk with Father Cruse, while it had calmed and, to a certain
extent, reassured Felix, had not in any way swerved him from his
determination to find his wife at any cost.
The only change he made in his plans was one of locality.
Heretofore, with the exception of his visits to Stephen—long since
discontinued now that he feared she was an outcast—he had mingled
with the throngs crowding the Great White Way ablaze with light or
had haunted the doors of the popular theatres and expensive
restaurants, and the waiting-rooms of the more fashionable hotels.
After this it must be the byways, places where the poor or worse
would congregate: cheap eating-houses; barrooms, with so-called
"family rooms" attached; and always the streets at a distance from
those trodden by the rich and prosperous classes. Father Cruse might
have been right in his diagnosis, and the sleeve-button might form
but a minor link in the chain of events circling the problem to the
solution of which he had again consecrated his life, but certain it
was that the clew Kitty had discovered had only strengthened his own
convictions. If the woman whom Kitty had picked up some months before,
and put to bed, were not his wife, she must certainly have been near
her person; which still meant not only poverty but the possibility of
Dalton's having abandoned her. Possibly, too, this woman, whose
outside garments had contrasted so strangely with her more sumptuous
underwear, might have been an inmate of the same house in which his
wife was living—some one, perhaps, in whom his wife had had
confidence. Perhaps —no! That was impossible. Whatever the depths of
suffering into which his wife had fallen, she had not yet reached the
pit—of that he was convinced. If he were mistaken—at the thought his
fingers tightened, and his heavy eyebrows and thin, drawn lips became
two parallel straight lines—then he would know exactly what to do.
These convictions filled his mind when, having bid good-by to
Kitty—who knew nothing of his interview with the priest—he buttoned
his mackintosh close up to his throat, tucked his blackthorn stick
under his arm, and, pressing his hat well on his head, bent his steps
toward the East Side. A light rain was falling and most of the
passers-by were carrying umbrellas. Overhead thundered the trains of
the Elevated—a continuous line of lights flashing through the clouds
of mist. Underneath stretched Third Avenue, its perspective dimmed in
a slowly gathering fog.
As he tramped on, the brim of his soft hat shadowing his brow, he
scanned without ceasing the faces of those he passed: the men with
collars turned up, the women under the umbrellas—especially those
with small feet. At 28th Street he entered a cheap restaurant, its
bill of fare, written on a pasteboard card and tacked on the outside,
indicating the modest prices of the several viands.
He had had no particular reason for selecting this eating-house
from among the others. He had passed several just like it, and was
only accustoming himself to his new line of search; for that purpose,
one eating-house was as good as another.
Drawing out a chair from a table, he sat down and ran his eye over
What he saw was a collection of small tables, flanked by wooden
chairs, their tops covered with white cloths and surmounted by cheap
casters, a long bar with the usual glistening accessories, and a
flight of steps which led to the floor above. His entrance, quiet as
it had been, had evidently attracted some attention, for a waiter in
a once-white apron detached himself from a group of men in the far
corner of the room and, picking up, as he passed, a printed card from
a table, asked him what he would have to eat.
"Nothing—not now. I will sit here and smoke." He loosened his
mackintosh and drew his pipe from his pocket, adding: "Hand me a
The waiter looked at him dubiously. "Ain't you goin' to order
"Not yet—perhaps not at all. Do you object to my smoking here?"
"Don't object to nothin', but this ain't no place to warm up in,
Felix looked at him, and a faint smile played about his lips—the
first that had lightened them all day. "I shan't ask you to start a
fresh fire," he said in a decided tone; "and now, do as I bid you, and
pass me that box of matches."
The man caught the tone and expression, placed the box beside him,
and joined the group in the rear. There was a whispered conference,
and a stout man wearing a dingy jacket disengaged himself from the
others and lounged toward Felix.
"Nasty night," he began. "Had a lot of this weather this month.
Never see a December like it."
"Yes, a bad night. Your servant seemed to think I was in the way.
Are you the proprietor?"
"Well, I am one of them. Why?"
"Nothing—only I hoped to find you more hospitable."
"Oh, smoke away—guess we can stand it, if you can. Dinner's
over"—he looked at the big clock decorating the white wall—"but
they'll be piling in here after the theatres is out. You live around
"No, not immediately."
"Looking for any one?"
Felix gave a slight start and, from under his narrowed lids, shot
one of his bull's-eye flashes.
The man caught the flash and, misinterpreting it, bent down and
said in a hoarse whisper: "Come from the central office, don't you?"
Felix took a long puff at his pipe. "No, I am only a very tired
man who has come in out of the wet to rest and smoke," he answered,
with a dry smile, "but if it will add to your comfort and improve your
hospitality in any way, you can send your waiter back here and I will
order something to eat."
The stout man laid his hand confidently on Felix's shoulder.
"That's all right, pard—I ain't worryin', and don't you. There's
nothin' doin', and I'm a-givin' it to you straight."
Felix nodded in dismissal, rested his elbows on the table, and
again puffed away at his brierwood. Being mistaken for a central
office detective might or might not be of assistance. At present, he
would let matters stand.
As he smoked on, the room, which had been almost entirely empty of
customers, began filling up. A reporter bustled in, ordered a cup of
coffee, and, clearing away the plates and casters, squared his elbows
and attacked a roll of paper. Two belated shop-girls entered
laughing, hung their wet waterproofs on a hook behind their chairs,
and were soon lost in the intricacies of the printed menu. Groups of
three and four passed him, beating the rain from their hats and
cloaks, the women stamping their wet feet.
The sudden influx from the outside, bringing in the wet and mud of
the streets, had started innumerable puddles over the clean, sanded
floor. The man wearing the dingy white jacket craned his head, noticed
the widening pools, opened a door behind the bar leading to the
cellar below, and shouted down, in a coarse voice, "Here, Stuffy, git
busy—everything slopped up," and resumed his place beside the group
of men, their talk still centred on the stranger in the mackintosh,
who could be seen scrutinizing each new arrival.
Something in the poise and dignity of the object of their
attention as he sat quietly, paper in hand, a curl of blue smoke
mounting ceilingward from his pipe, must also have impressed the
newcomers, for no one of them drew out any of the empty chairs
immediately beside him, although the room was now comparatively
crowded. Finally, the man who answered to the name of "Stuffy"
appeared from the direction of the group near the bar, and made his
way toward Felix. He carried a broom and a bucket, from which trailed
a mop used for swabbing wet floors. When he reached O'Day's table, he
dropped to his knees and attacked a sluiceway leading to a miniature
lake, fed by the umbrellas and waterproofs belonging to the two girls
"Got to ask ye to move a little, sir," he said in apology.
"Hold on," replied Felix, in considerate tones, "I will stand up
and you can get at it better. Bad night for everybody." He was on his
feet now, his long mackintosh hanging straight, his hat still on his
head, and in his hand the blackthorn stick, which he had picked up
from beside the table as he rose.
The man stared at the mackintosh, the hat, and the cane, and
sprang to his feet. "I know ye!" he cried excitedly. "Do you know me?"
Felix studied him closely. "I do not think I do," he answered,
"Well, ye ought to. I ain't never forgot ye, and I never will. You
give me a meal once and a dollar to keep me going."
O'Day's brow relaxed. "Yes, now I do. You are the man whose wife
left him, and who tried to steal my watch."
"That's it—you got it. You didn't give me away. Say, I been
straight ever since. It's been tough, but I kep' on—I work here three
nights in the week and I got another job in a joint on Second Avenue.
Say—" he added, glancing furtively over his shoulder. Then finding
his suspicions confirmed, and the attention of the group fastened on
him, he began to push the broom vigorously, muttering in jerks to
Felix: "This ain't no place for ye—git into trouble sure—what yer
doin' here?—They're onto ye, or the bunch wouldn't have their heads
together—don't make no difference who's here, everybody gits
pinched—I can't talk—they'll git wise and fire me."
Felix's lip curled and an amused expression drifted over his face.
His jaws set, the muscles forming little ridges about his ears.
"I will attend to that later," he said, in a firm voice. "Keep on
with your work."
He shook the ashes from his pipe, resumed his seat, and leaned
carelessly forward with his elbows on his thighs, his former protege,
now deep in his work, squeezing the wet rag into the bucket, and using
the broom where the mud was thickest. When the swabbing-up process
brought the man within speaking distance again Felix leaned still
further forward and asked:
"What sort of a place is this—a restaurant?"
The man turned his head. He was again on his knees, and had drawn
nearer. He was now wiping the same spot so as to be within reach of
"Downstairs—yes," he returned in a low voice. "Upstairs —in the
rear—across a roof—" He glanced again at the group and stopped.
"A gambling house?"
"No—a pool-room. That's why I give ye the tip."
Felix ruminated, the man polishing vigorously. "What kind of
people come here?"
"The kind ye see—and crooks."
"Do you know them all?"
"Why not? I been workin' here two months. Had two raids—that's
why I posted ye. It's the chop-house game now, with a new deal all
around, but they're onto it—so a pal of mine tells me."
Again Felix ruminated. "Women ever come here?"
"Oh, yes, up to ten o'clock or so—telephone operators,
shop-girls—that kind. Two of 'em are over there now; they work in
Cryder's store Christmas and New Year's, and they get taken on extra."
"You mean fancies?"
"No—straight, decent women, who may live around here and who come
regularly in for their meals."
"Oh, yes—but they don't stay long. And then"— he nodded toward
the group—"they don't want 'em to stay—no money in grub. Just a
bluff they've put up."
"Have you come across your wife since I saw you?"
"No, and don't want to. I've got all over that. A man's a damn
fool to get crazy over a woman, and a bigger damn fool to keep
worryin' when she goes back on him. They ain't wuth it, none on 'em."
"What became of the man she went off with?"
"Got tired and chucked her, after he made a tank of her. That's
what they all do."
"Have you ever tried to find her?"
"You might do her some good."
"Cut it out! Nuthin' doin'! She was rotten when she left me, and
she's rotten now. Bums round a Raines joint over here on Twenty-eighth
Street. Pick up anybody. Came staggerin' into the church full of
booze, so a pal o' mine told me, and got half-way down the aisle
before they could fire her. Drop in there sometime when you go by and
ask the sexton if I'm a-lyin'. No more of that for me, I'm through.
There ain't but one place for that kind, and that's Blackwell's
Island, and that's where they fetch up. I went through hell afore I
saw you because of her, and I'm just pullin' out and I want to stay
He raised his head, glanced furtively again at the group by the
bar, and in a low whisper muttered:
"I've got to go now. They'll get onto me next."
"Never mind those men. They cannot harm you," Felix answered, and
was about to add some word of sympathy, when he checked himself. It
would only hurt him the more, he thought. He said instead, his voice
conveying what his lips would have uttered:
"Do you like it here?"
Felix pushed back his chair, stood erect, and with a gesture as if
his mind had been made up said: "Would you care to do something else?"
The man dropped his broom and straggled to his feet. "Can ye give
me somethin'? I been a-tryin' everywhere, but this kind o' work
hoodoos a man, and they won't give me no ref'rence 'cause I don't git
more'n my board and they don't want to lose me. And then" —here he
winked meaningly—"I know a thing or two. But, say, do ye mean it?
I'll go anywhere you want."
Felix felt in his pocket, drew out a card, and pencilled his
address. "Come some night—say about eight o'clock. It's not far from
here. I am glad you pulled yourself together and went to work. That is
a good deal better than the business you tried to follow when we
first met,"—and one of his dry smiles flickered about his mouth. "And
now, good night," and he held out his hand.
The man drew back. It was a new experience. "You mean it?" he
"Yes, give me your hand. Now that you are decent I want to shake
it. That is the only way we can help each other."
Kitty was poring over her accounts when Felix arrived at the
express-office and made his way to her sitting-room. She had had a
busy day, the holiday season always bringing a rush of extra work, and
her wagons had been kept going since daylight. The trend of travel
was to Long Island and Jersey towns, the goods being mainly for the
Christmas and New Year's festivities. John was away—somewhere between
the Battery and Central Park—and so were Mike and Bobby, the boy
having been pressed into service now that his vacation had begun.
"Are you too busy to talk to me, Mistress Kitty?" he said,
stripping off his mackintosh and hanging it where its drip would do no
"Too busy! God rest ye. Mr. O'Day! I'm never too busy to eat,
sleep, look after John and Bobby, and listen to what ye've got to say.
Hold on till I put these bills away. There ain't one of 'em'll be paid
till after New Year—not then, if the customer can help it. They'll
all spend their own money or somebody else's. There!"—and she laid
the pile on a shelf behind her. "Now, go on—what's it ye want? Come,
out with it; and mind, I've said 'Yes, and welcome' before ye've
O'Day, from his seat near the stove, studied her face for a
moment, his own brightening as he felt the warmth of her loyalty.
"Don't promise too much till you hear me out. I am looking for a job."
Kitty turned quickly, her eyes two round O's, all the ruddiness
gone from her cheeks. "Mr. O'Day! Why! Why!—and what's Otto done to
ye? I'll go to him this minute and—"
Felix laughed gently. "You will do nothing of the kind. Mr. Kling
is all right and so am I. I want the job for a tramp who tried to hold
me up one night, and who is now scrubbing the floor in a rather
disreputable public house on Third Avenue."
Kitty let out all her breath and brought her plump hands down on
her plump knees, her body rocking as she did so. "Oh, is that it? What
a start ye give me! I thought ye and Kling had quarrelled. Sure, I'll
take your tramp if ye say so. We want a man to wash the wagons, and
help Mike clean up. John fired the macaroni we had last month and I
didn't blame him. What can yer man do?"
"What do ye know about him?"
"Nothing, except that he tried to rob me."
"And what do ye want me to take him on for? To have him get away
some night with a Saratoga trunk and—"
"No, to KEEP him from getting away with it. He's been on the
ragged edge of life for some months, if I read him aright, and has all
he can do to keep his footing. I found him a while ago by the merest
accident, and he is still holding on. A week with you and your
husband will do him more good than a legacy. He will get a new
"What's he been doin' that he's up against it like this?" she
asked, ignoring the compliment.
"Trying to forget a wife who went back on him— so he tells me."
"Has he done it?"
"Yes. If you can believe him. She has become a drunkard."
"Well—that's about the worst thing can happen to a man—if he's
telling ye the truth. What's become of her?"
"He did not say. All I know is that he has not seen her since she
"Maybe he didn't want to," she flashed back. "Did ye get out of
him whose fault it was?"
Felix, whose remarks had been addressed to the red-hot coals in
the stove, glanced quickly toward Kitty, but made no answer.
"Ye don't know, that's it, and so ye don't say I'll tell ye that
it's the man's fault more'n half the time."
"And what makes you think so, Mistress Kitty?" he asked, trying to
speak casually, not daring to look at her for fear she would detect
the tremor on his lips, wondering all the time at her interest in the
"It ain't for thinkin', Mr. O'Day, it's just seein' what goes on
every day, and it sets me crazy. If a man's got gumption enough to
make a girl love him well enough to marry him, he ought to know enough
to keep it goin' night and day—if he don't want her to forget him.
Half of 'em—poor souls!—are as ignorant as unborn babes, and don't
know any more what's comin' to them than a chicken before its head's
cut off. She wakes up some mornin' after they've been married a year
or two and finds her man's gone to work without kissin' her
good-by—when he was nigh crazy before they were married if he didn't
get one every ten minutes. The next thing he does is to stay out half
the night, and when she is nigh frightened to death, and tells him so
with her eyes streamin', instead of comfortin' her, he tells her she
ought to have better sense, and why didn't she go to sleep and not
worry, that he was of age and could take care of himself—when all the
time she is only lovin' him and pretty near out of her mind lest he
gets hurted. And last he gets to lyin' as to where he HAS been—maybe
it's the lodge, or a game in a back room, or somethin' ye can't talk
about—anyhow, he lies about it, and then she finds it out, and
everything comes tumblin' down together, and the pieces are all over
the floor. That runs on for a while, and pretty soon in comes a
dandy-lookin' chap and tells her she's an abused woman—and she HAS
been—and he begins pickin' up the scraps and piecin' them together,
tellin' her all the time the pretty things the first man told her and
which, fool-like, she believes over agin, and then one fine day she
skips off and the husband goes round, tearin' his hair with shame or
shakin' his fist with rage, and says she broke up his home, and if she
ever sets foot on his doorstep again he'll set the dogs on her, or
let her starve before he'd give her a crumb. Don't it make you laugh?
It does me. And you should see 'em swell round and air their troubles
when most everybody knows just what's happened from the beginnin'! If
it was any of my business, I'd let out and tell 'em so.
"What my John knows, I know; and what I know, he knows. There's
never been a time, and there ain't one now, when I'm beat out and my
bones are hangin' stiff in me—and I get that way sometimes even
now—that I don't go to John and say, 'John, dear, get yer arms around
me and hold me tight, I'm that tired,' and down goes everything, and
he's got my head on his shoulder and pattin' my cheeks, and up I get
all made over new, and him too. That's the way we get on, and that's
the way they all ought to get on if—"
She paused, stretching her neck as if for more air.
"God save me! Will ye hear me run on? And ye sittin' there
drinkin' it all in, not known' a word about the women and carin' less.
Ye've got to forgive me, for I'm like John's alarm-clock in this wife
business, and when I'm wound up I keep strikin' until I run down.
Whew! What a heat I got myself into! Now go on, Mr. O'Day. What'll I
pay him, and when's he comin?"
Felix waved his hand deprecatingly. "And so you never think,
Mistress Kitty, that it may be the woman's fault?"
"Yes, sometimes it is. Faults on both sides, maybe. If it's the
woman's fault, it always begins when she lets her man do all the work.
Look up and down 'The Avenue' here! Every wife is helpin' her husband
in his business, and every wife knows as much about it as the man
does. That ain't the way up around Central Park. Half of 'em ain't out
of bed till purty nigh lunch-time. I've heard 'em all talk; and worse
yet, they glory in it. What can ye expect when there ain't five of
'em to a block who knows whether her husband has made a million in the
past year or whether he's flat broke, except what he tells her? No
wonder, when trouble comes, they shift husbands as they do their
petticoats, and try it over again with a new one!"
"And if she takes this last plunge, when will she wake up to her
mistake?" asked Felix, in a low voice.
"Oh, ye can't always tell. It'll generally run on for a while
until she starts up and stares about her like she's been in a trance
or a nightmare, and then the dear God help her after that, for nobody
else can— nor will! That's the worst of it—NOR WILL! John was
readin' out to me the other night about the Red Cross Society for
pickin' up wounded off the battle-field, and carryin' them in where
they can be patched up again and join their companies when they get
well. Why don't they have a Red Cross for some of the poor girls and
wives who are hurted—hundreds of 'em lyin' all over the lot—and
patch 'em up and bring 'em back to their homes? Now I'm done."
"No! Not yet. One more question. After the last nightmare, what?"
"The gutter—or worse—that's what! And when it's all over, most
people say: 'Served her right—she had a happy home once, why didn't
she stay in it?' And somebody else says: 'She was always wild and
foolish—I knew her as a girl.' And some don't say a blessed word
because they couldn't dirty their clean lips with her name-the
hypocrites!—and so they cart off her poor body and dump it in a lot
back of Calvary cemetery. Oh, I know 'em, and that's what makes me
get hot under the collar every time I get talkin' as I've been
to-night!—And now let's quit it. If yer dead-beat wants a job, and we
can keep him from stealin' the tires off the wagon and the shoes off
my big Jim, he can come to work in the mornin', and John will pay him
a dollar a day and he can sleep over the stables. And if he's decent,
he can come in here once in a while and I'll warm him up with a cup of
coffee. I'm glad to take him on just because ye want it—and ye knew
that before I said it, for there's nothin' I wouldn't do for ye, and
ye know that, too. Listen! That's John drivin' in, and I'm going out
to meet him."
To the fears already possessing Lady Barbara a new one had now
been added, freezing her blood and leaving her prostrate and helpless,
like a plant stricken by an icy blast.
There had been no sleep for her after Martha's revelations
regarding the presence of Felix in town, and turn as she would on her
pillow, she could not escape the dread of one hideous possibility—her
meeting him face to face, uncovering to his penetrating gaze her
That he had had any other purpose in pursuing her across the sea
than to humiliate and punish her, she did not believe. No man,
certainly no man as proud as her husband, would forgive a woman who
had trailed his ancestral name in the mud, and made his family life a
byword in clubs and drawing-rooms. That Martha believed he could still
love her was natural. Such good souls, women of the people, who had
always led restrained and wholesome lives, would believe nothing
else, but not a woman of her own class. She had only to recall a dozen
instances where the bonds of marriage had been broken, with all the
attendant scandal and misery, to be convinced of what would befall
her were she and Felix to meet.
Her one hope was that her husband, baffled in his search, had left
the city, and that neither Martha nor Stephen would ever see him
again. Their inability to find him of late might mean that he had
given up the search, having found no trace of her during all the
months in which he had been trying to find her. Or it might mean that
he, too, had succumbed to the same poverty which she had endured and,
being no longer able to maintain himself in the great city, had
sought work elsewhere.
As the thought of this last possibility suddenly took possession
of her, her heart gave a great bound of relief, and in the quiet that
ensued, a certain tenderness for the man whom she had wronged began to
well up within her. She recalled their early life and his unfailing
generosity. Never in all the years she had known him had he refused
her the slightest thing which could, in any way, add to her happiness.
Indeed, he had often denied himself many of the luxuries to which a
man of his tastes and training was entitled, in order to add to her
store. Nor had he ever restrained her in her whims or her
extravagance, and never, in any way, had he curtailed her freedom. She
had been free to come and free to go, and with whom she pleased. Her
intimacy with Dalton had been proof of all this, as well as her
friendships with various men to whose companionship many another
husband might have objected. "All right, Barbara," was his invariable
reply; "you will get over your youth one of these days, and then you
and I will settle down."
Even when the financial crash had come, he had begged her to go
with him to Australia, where he had important family connections, and
where he could build up his fortunes anew. It was by no means
certain, he had told her, that he was entirely ruined. His father's
estate, when all the debts were paid, might still leave a surplus.
There was some land just outside of London, too, on the line of
suburban improvement, and this, with the title which had come to him
with his father's death, would doubtless, after a few years, enable
them to return to England and resume their former position. She
remembered very well the night he had pleaded with her, and she
remembered, too, with a gripping at her heart, her own contemptuous
answer, and her departure the next morning for her father's roof. And
then the lie she had told!—that Felix had bluntly announced to her
his plan for raising sheep in Australia, ordering her to get ready to
go with him at once.
She recalled, too, this time with burning cheeks, a certain
unsigned letter, in an unknown hand, which had reached her after her
flight with Dalton, describing her husband as stunned and dazed by the
blow, the writer denouncing her for her desertion, and warning her of
the retribution in store for her if she remained with a man like the
one on whom she had staked her future happiness. She had laughed at
its contents and tossed it across the table to Dalton, who had read it
with a smile, caught it between a pair of tongs and, lighting a
match, held it over the flame until it was consumed.
Then—as, tortured by these recollections, she lay staring at the
dark—Martha's prediction, based on Stephen's, belief, that Felix
would kill Dalton at sight, rose up in her mind, and with it came
another great fear—one that, for a moment, stopped her heart from
beating and left her numb. In the quick succession of blows that
Martha had dealt, she had not fully grasped this part of the story.
Now she did. That her husband was capable of it she fully believed.
Quiet, reticent men like Felix—men who had served their country both
in India and Egypt—men who never boasted, who never discussed their
intentions or plans until they were carried out, were the men to take
the law into their own hands when their honor was involved, no matter
who was hurt. Such a catastrophe would not only bring to light her own
misery, but the unavoidable publicity would tarnish still further the
good name of her people at home. Even were only an attempt on
Dalton's life made, and an official investigation held— as she was
convinced would be the case—the scandal would be almost as bad.
Rather than have this occur she would make any sacrifice, even that of
humiliating herself on her knees before Felix—begging his
forgiveness, not for the sake of the man she now feared and detested,
but for the sake of her father at home, and to shield her own
identity. She feared, too, for Felix. He, of all men, should be saved
from committing such an act.
With this a sudden resolve born of her fears and shattered nerves
took possession of her. She would not only see her husband whenever he
came, but she would send word in the morning to Stephen to redouble
his search, leaving no stone unturned until he was found.
Nothing of all this did she say to Martha, who helped her dress,
watching the dark circles beneath the eyes. Breakfast over, she
silently took her seat by the window, drew from the big paper box at
her feet her several pieces of lace, including the mantilla, and began
As she held up to the light the ragged tear in the Spanish lace,
and noted the width and length of the gash in its delicate texture,
her heart sank. She saw at a glance that she could not finish it
before closing time, even if she devoted the whole day to its repair.
Better complete, thought she, the other and smaller pieces—one a
fichu of Brussels lace, and the others some embroidered handkerchiefs
on which she was to place monograms. These she would finish and take
to Mangan. When he saw how tired she was, he would accept her excuses
and give her another day for the large and more important piece. She
did not have to leave the house until four o'clock, and as Martha was
to be out most of the day, she could work on without distraction of
When, at noon, Martha left her, with a caressing pat of the hand,
promising to be back in time for supper, the anxious, weary woman
picked up her needle again, her fingers darting in and out like
shuttles, her shoulders aching with the strain, her mind still intent
on the problems which had tortured her all night, and only rousing
herself when the clock in a neighboring tower struck four. Then she
gathered up her work, wrapped the whole in the same sheet of
tissue-paper in which the several pieces had been packed, and,
adjusting her hat and cloak, started for Rosenthal's.
Mangan, who was in charge of the department, had been waiting for
her in a small room off the repair shop, and as he caught sight of her
frail figure making her way toward him, rose to greet her. "Well, I'm
glad you've come," he began, as she reached his desk. "Brought that
Spanish piece, didn't you? Ought to have had it last night."
She tried to smile, but his face was too forbidding. "No, I am
sorry to say that—"
"You didn't! What have you done with it?"
"I could not finish it. I have brought everything else. I will
have it for you in the morning."
Mangan looked at her curiously, a smirk of suspicion crossing his
narrow fox face. "Oh! You'll bring it to-morrow, will you?" he
sneered. "Well, do you know that to-morrow's New Year's Eve and that
this mantilla's got to be delivered to-night? They have been
telephoning all day for it. To-morrow, eh? Well, don't that make you
tired! It does me."
An indignant protest quivered through her, but she dared not show
resentment. Only within the last few months had she been subjected to
these insults, and only her helplessness had compelled her to bear
"I am very sorry," she answered simply, and with a certain
dignity. "I have not been very well. I have done all I could. The
damage was greater than I expected. Some of the threads must be
"What time to-morrow?" Every kind of excuse known to the
shop-worker had been poured into his ears. Very few of them contained
a particle of truth.
"Before noon, if I can; certainly by four o'clock."
"Four o'clock?" he roared. He had already made up his mind that
she was lying, but there was no use in his telling her so, nor would
any time be gained by taking the work from her and handing it over to
"Four means eight, I guess. What's the matter with ten o'clock? I
got to have that sure, and no monkeying. Can't you brace up and jam it
"I will try." Her cheeks were burning under the sting of his
"Try! You bet you'll try! Better get home right away. Give me that
bundle—I'll have it checked up, so you won't lose no time."
She bit her lip, her whole nature in revolt, but she made no
reply. Too much was at stake for her to show anger at such coarseness.
She had no rights that he was bound to respect. She was only one of
his work-girls, and her short experience had shown her that but few
of her associates received better treatment from him.
"Thank you," was all she said as, with downcast eyes, she picked
her way through the crowded workroom, down the long, steep staircase
reserved for employees and so on to the street. There she caught a
Third Avenue car and sank into a seat near the door, encroaching upon
her small reserve of pennies to reach home the sooner. She saw but too
clearly that not only did her present position depend on her returning
the mantilla at the earliest possible moment, but that, exhausted as
she was, she must utilize the few remaining minutes of daylight as
well as the earlier hours of the morning to keep her promise. To work
long at night she knew was impossible. She had not the eyes to follow
the intricacies of the meshes with no other light than that afforded
by Martha's kerosene lamp. She had tried it before, and had been
forced to stop.
When she reached the cross street leading to Martha's door, she
hurried from the car, caught her skirts in her hand, a habit of hers
when nervously hurried, and, summoning up all her strength, sped on,
mounting the narrow, rickety steps with but a pause for breath on the
last landing. Once there, she took her latch-key from her pocket and
unlocked the door, leaving it on the jar, as she knew Martha might
come in at any moment.
As she entered the humble apartment, its restful seclusion, after
her experience with Mangan, sent a thrill of thankfulness through her.
One after another the several objects passed in review—the kettle
singing on the stove, its ample bed of coals warming the room; her
own tiny chamber, leading out of the one large room, with its small
iron bedstead and white cotton quilt; the table with its lamp; the
pine shelves with the few pieces of china, and even the big paper box
in which her work was delivered and later returned to the shop, either
by wagon or special messenger, and which Martha, before she had gone
out, had placed on a chair near the door to keep it out of the dust.
All told her of peace and warmth and comfort.
She lighted the lamp, picked up the box containing the mantilla,
and half raised the lid, intending to place the contents on her
sewing-table, but, catching sight of the kettle again, she let the box
lid drop from her hands. She was chilled from the ride in the car, the
water was boiling, and it would take but a minute to make herself a
cup of tea. This would give her renewed strength for her task. Hardly
had she drained her cup when she became conscious of a step on the
stairs—a steady, firm step. Not Martha's nor that of the boy. Nor
that of the expressman who often sought Martha's apartment.
As it approached the landing, a sickening faintness assailed her.
She had heard that step before.
It was Felix!
Her hour of trial had come!
He would find the door ajar, stride into the room with that quiet,
self-contained manner of his; and she must face him and stand ashamed!
For a brief instant she wavered, her resolution of the morning, to
throw herself at his feet, put to flight by a sense of some impending
terror. Should she spring forward and shut the door before he reached
it, refusing to admit him until Martha came, or should she creep
noiselessly into her room and lock herself in, remaining silent until
he should leave the premises, believing no one at home? While she
stood, half paralyzed with fear, the door moved gently, almost
stealthily, swinging back half its width, and a man in cape-coat, and
slouch hat drawn dose over his eyes, stepped into the room.
Lady Barbara gave a piercing shriek, sprang from her seat, and
staggered back, grasping a chair to keep her from falling. "How dare
you, Guy Dalton, to—"
The intruder loosened the top button of his cape, watching,
meanwhile, the terrified woman, and, with a sneer, said: "Oh, stop
that, will you? I've had enough of it. You thought you could get away,
did you? Well, you can't, and the sooner you find that out the better
for you." He glanced coolly around the room. "So this is where you
are, is it?—a rotten hole, anyhow. You might better have stayed where
you were. Does Rosenthal pay you enough to keep this up, or is
somebody else footing the bills? Now, you get your things on and be
quick about it."
She had been edging toward her bedroom door all this time, her
eyes glaring into his with the fierceness of a cornered animal,
muttering as she stepped—one word at a time:
"I haven't, haven't I? I'd like to know who has a better right?"
he returned angrily.
"No, you have not." She was moving an inch at a time, keeping a
chair between herself and Dalton, her eyes watching his every
expression, her right hand stretched along the wall.
"Still at it, are you? Well, get through, and hurry up. I'll go
where I please, and you'll come when I want you. Everybody is
inquiring for you down at the house, and I promised them you would be
back to-night, and you will. You were a fool to leave. It's a lot
better than this. From what I heard last night, from one of
Rosenthal's girls, I thought you had moved into something palatial."
She had reached the bedroom door now, and her hand was on the
"Yes—that's right," he said, mistaking her purpose, "get into
your wraps, and—"
The door closed with a sudden bang, and the inside bolt was pushed
Dalton stood with his hands in his pockets. "Oh, that's the game,
is it?" he called, in a loud voice. He saw he had been outwitted, and
an oath escaped him. He saw, too, that the door was a heavy one, and
the effort to force it might bring in the neighbors. "Well, there's
no hurry. I can wait," he added savagely, "but if you know what's good
for you, you'll come out now."
She had sunk down on her bed, hardly daring to breathe. Her only
hope now lay in Martha, and she might not come back for an hour.
Dalton sauntered away from the door and began an inspection of the
room. The box on the chair came first. He lifted the lid and drew out
the mantilla. "Rather good, this—wonder how she got hold of it— Oh,
yes, I see, she must be repairing it. There are her work-basket and
the spools of black silk."
He turned to the box again and read the name of "Rosenthal"
stencilled on the bottom. "So that is what she is doing—they did not
tell me what she worked at." He spread out the mantilla again and
looked it over carefully. Then a smile of cunning crossed his face.
"Just what I want," he said, folding it up and tucking it inside his
He now made a tour of the room, his tread like that of a cat,
lifted the plates on the dresser as if in search of something behind
them, rummaged through the work-basket, opening and turning the leaves
of a book lying on the table. So occupied was he that he did not hear
Martha's noiseless step nor know that she had entered the room.
For a moment she stood watching his every movement. The man she
saw was well-knit and rather handsome, not much over thirty, with
clean-shaven face, drooping eyelids, and a hard-set lower jaw. She
had a suspicion that it might be Dalton, but was not sure, never
having seen him but once, when he was much younger.
"Who do you want to see?" she asked at last, in a firm voice.
Dalton wheeled sharply, and took her in with one comprehensive
glance. He had always prided himself on never having been outwitted or
taken unawares, and that Lady Barbara could lock herself in her room,
and that this woman could creep up behind him unobserved, rather
"I don't know that it is any of your business, my good woman," he
answered, his insolence increasing as he noticed how mild and
inoffensive she appeared to be; "but if it makes any difference to
you, I will tell you that I am waiting for my wife."
"Where is she?" Martha's voice was clear and incisive, with a ring
of determination through it that, for the moment, disconcerted him.
Dalton pointed to the bedroom door.
Martha stepped across the room and tried the knob. "Open the door,
Lady Barbara. It's Martha. Who is this man?"
The bolt shot back and Barbara's frightened face peered out. "Oh,
thank God you have come!" she moaned, her teeth chattering. "It is Mr.
Dalton. I ordered him from the room, and he would not go, and—"
"Oh, it's Mr. Guy Dalton, is it?" Martha cried, facing him. "The
man who's been a curse to you ever since you met him. I know every
crook and turn of you—you ought to be ashamed of yourself to treat a
woman as you have treated Lady Barbara O'Day. Now, sir, this is my
room and you can't stay in it a minute longer. There's the door!"
Dalton laughed a dry, crackling laugh. "You are a regular virago,
are you not, my dear woman?" he said. "Quite refreshing to hear your
defense of a woman on whom I have spent every shilling I had. Now, do
not get excited—cool down a bit, and we will talk it over—and while
we are at it, please make me a cup of tea. It is about my hour. When
my wife comes to her senses, as she will in a minute, she will get
over her tantrums and think better of it."
Martha strode straight toward him until her capacious body was
within a few inches of his shirt-front, her hands tightly clinched.
"Don't make any mistake, Mr. Dalton. Your airs won't go here. My
brother Stephen looks after me and after Lady O'Day, and he and
another man you wouldn't care to meet are looking after you."
She called to her mistress: "Lock and bolt that door on you, and
don't open it until I tell you."
Again she confronted Dalton, her contempt for him increasing as
she caught the wave of anxiety that swept his face at her reference to
the men who would help her. "Now, you can have just one minute to
leave this room, Mr. Dalton," she cried, throwing back the door. "If
you're over that time, the policeman on the block will help you
Dalton hesitated. The allusion to Stephen, whoever he might be,
and to the other man, disturbed him. That the woman knew more of his
history than she was willing at that time to tell was evident. That
she was entirely in earnest, and meant what she said, and that it
would be more than dangerous for him to defy her, should she appeal to
the police for help, were equally evident.
"Of course, my dear woman," he said, with assumed humility, his
eyes glistening with anger, "if you do not want me to stay, I suppose
I shall have to go. I did not come to make any fuss; I only came to
take my wife home where I can take care of her. She seems to think
she can get along without me. All right—I am willing she should try
it for a while. She has my address, which is more than I had when she
left me without a word of any kind."
He slid his hand under his cape to assure himself that the
mantilla was safe and out of sight, picked up his hat, and stepped
jauntily out, saying as he went down the staircase: "Next time, she
will come to me. Do you hear? Tell her so, will you?"
Sometimes on life's highway we meet a man who reminds us of one of
those high-priced pears seen in fruiterers' windows: wholesome, good
to look at, without a speck or stain on their smooth, round, rosy
skins—until we bite into them. Then, close to their hearts, we
uncover a greedy, conscienceless worm, gnawing away in the dark—and
consign the whole to the waste-barrel.
Dalton, despite his alluring exterior, had been rotten at heart
from the time he was sixteen years of age, when he had lied to his
father about his school remittances, which the old man had duplicated
That none of his associates had discovered this was owing to the
fact that no one had probed deeper than the skin of his
attractiveness—and with good reason: it was clean, good to look at,
bright in color, a most welcome addition to any dinner-table. But when
the drop came—and very few fruits can stand being bumped on the
sidewalk—the revelation followed all the quicker, simply because
bruised fruit rots in a day, as even the least qualified among us can
And the bruises showed clearer as time went on. The lines in his
once well-rounded, almost boyish face grew deeper and more strongly
marked, the eyes shrank far back beneath the brows, the lips became
thinner and less mobile, the hair was streaked with gray, and the
feet lacked their old-time spring.
With these there had come other changes. The smile which had won
many a woman was replaced by a self-conscious smirk; the debonair
manner which had charmed all who met him was now a mere bravado. His
dress, too, showed the strain. While his collar and neckwear were
properly looked after, and his face was clean-shaven, other parts of
his make-up, especially his shoes and hat, were much the worse for
This, then, was the man who, with thoughts intent on his last and
most degrading makeshift, was forging his way up Second Avenue, the
mantilla—the veriest film of old Salamanca lace—pressed into a small
wad and stuffed in his inside pocket.
And now, while we follow him on his way up-town, it may be just as
well for us to note that up to this precise moment our devil-may-care,
still rather handsome Mr. Dalton, with the drooping eyelids and cold,
hard lips, had entirely failed to grasp the idea that, in so far as
public and private morals were concerned, he had in the last thirty
minutes fallen to the level of a common sneak-thief.
His own reasoning, in disproof of this theory, was entirely
characteristic of the man. While the pawning of one's things was of
course unfortunate and might occasion many misunderstandings and much
obloquy, such an act was not necessarily dishonest, because many
gentlemen, some of high social position, had been compelled to do the
same thing. He himself, yielding to force of circumstances, had
already pawned a good many things—his wife's first, and then his
own—and would do it again under similar conditions. That the article
carefully hidden in his pocket belonged to neither one of them, did
not strike him as altering the situation in the slightest. The
mantilla was of no value to him, nor, for that matter, to Lady
Barbara. He would pawn it not alone for the sake of the money it would
bring him, to tide him over his troubles until he could recover his
losses—only a question of days, perhaps hours—but because, by means
of the transaction, he would be enabled to restore harmony to a home
which, through the obstinacy of a woman on whom he had squandered
every penny he possessed in the world, had been temporarily broken
Should she rebel and refuse to join him—and she unquestionably
had that right—he would carry out a plan which had come to him in a
flash when he first picked it up. He would pawn it for what it would
bring and, watching his chance some day when Lady Barbara was out at
work, force his way into the apartment, slip the pawn-ticket where it
could easily be found—behind the china or in among her sewing
materials—and with that as proof, charge her with having stolen the
lace, threatening her with exposure unless she yielded. If she
relented, he would destroy the ticket and let the matter drop; if she
continued obstinate, he would charge her companion with being an
accessory. The woman was evidently befriending Lady Barbara for what
she could get out of her. Neither of them was seeking trouble. Between
the two he could accomplish his purpose.
What would happen in the meanwhile, when she tried to account for
its loss to Rosenthal, never caused him the slightest concern. She, of
course, could concoct some story which they would finally believe. If
not, they could deduct the value of the lace from her earnings.
He had the best of motives for his action. Their board bill was
overdue. He was harassed by the want of even the small sums of money
needed for car-fare, and of late it had become very evident that if
they were to keep their present quarters—and he was afraid to try
for any others—he must yield at once to the proprietor's pressing
suggestion to "patch up his differences with his wife," and have her
come home and once more take charge of the suite of rooms; the owner
arguing that as Mr. and Mrs. Stanton were known to be "family people,"
a profitable little game free from police interruption might be
carried on, the surplus to be divided between the "house and Mrs.
That she should decline again to be party to any such plan seemed
to him altogether improbable, since all she had to do to insure them
both comfort was to return home like a sensible woman, put on the best
clothes she possessed—the more attractive the better, and she
certainly was fetching in that wrapper—and be reasonably polite to
such of his friends as chose to drop in evenings for a quiet game of
Moreover, she owed him something. He had made every sacrifice for
her, shared with her his every shilling, making himself an exile, if
not a fugitive, for her sake, and it was time she recognized it.
With the recall of these incidents in his checkered career a new
thought blazed up in his mind—rather a blinding thought. As its rays
brightened he halted in his course, and stood gazing across the street
as if uncertain as to his next move. Perhaps, after all, it would be
best NOT to pawn the mantilla. An outright sale would be much better.
If this were impossible, it would be just as well to destroy the
ticket and postpone his scheme for regaining possession of her
person. While something certainly was due him— and she of all women
in the world should supply it— forcing her to carry out the
landlord's plan, now that he thought it over, might result in a
certain kind of publicity, which, if his own antecedents were looked
into, would be particularly embarrassing. She might —and here a
slight shiver passed through him—she might, in her obstinacy,
threaten him with the forged certificates, a result hardly possible,
for no letters of any kind had reached her, none so far as he knew;
neither had he ever discussed the incident with her, for the simple
reason that women, as a rule, never understood such things. And yet
how could he, as a financier, have tided over an accounting which, if
allowed to go on, would have wiped out the savings of hundreds who
had trusted him and whom he could not desert in their hour of need,
except by some such desperate means? Of course, if he had to do it all
over again, he would never have locked up the stock-book in his own
safe. That was a mistake. He ought to have left it with the treasurer.
Then he could have shifted the responsibility.
Just here, oddly enough, he began to think of Felix—that
cold-blooded, unimaginative man, who knew absolutely nothing about how
to treat a woman, and, for that matter, knew nothing about anything
else in so far as the practical side of life was concerned. The
fool—here his brow knit—had not only broken up the final deal, in
which everything had been fixed with Mullhallsen, the German banker,
for an additional loan, but he had unearthed and compared certain
certificates, in his fight to protect an obstinate old father. Worse
still, he had taken himself off to Australia to starve, instead of
saving what he could out of the wreck. Had he only listened to advice,
the whole catastrophe might have been averted.
And this fool would have ruined his wife as well, had not
he—Dalton—stepped in and saved her from burying herself in the
As the memory of the scene with Felix when the stock-book was
unearthed passed through his mind, his hand instinctively sought the
bulge in his coat-pocket. He must get rid of it and at once. Just as
the certificates had proved to be dangerous, so might this lace.
With this idea of his own peril possessing his mind his whole
manner changed. The air of triumph shown in his step and bearing when
he left Marta's door, due to his discovery of the fugitive and the
terror his presence had inspired, was gone. The old spectre always
pursuing him stepped again to his side and linked arms. His slinking,
furtive air returned, and a certain well-defined fear, as if he
dreaded being followed, showed itself in every glance.
Suddenly he caught sight of a well-patronized retreat, owned and
operated by a Mrs. Blobbs, the Polish wife of an English cheap John,
and with a quick sliding movement, he paused in front of the narrow
door. He had already taken in, from under his hat, the single gas-jet
lighting up its collection of pinchbeck jewelry, watches, revolvers,
satin shoes, fans, and other belongings of the unfortunate, and after
peering up and down the street, he slipped in noiselessly, his
countenance wearing that peculiar, shame-faced expression common to
gentlemen on similar missions. That it was not his first experience
could be seen from the way he leaned far over the counter, dropped
the filmy wad, and then straightened back— the gesture meaning that
if any other customer should come in while his negotiations were in
progress, he was not to be connected in any way with the article.
"Something rather good," he said, pointing to the black roll.
The proprietress, a square-built woman, solid as a sack of salt,
her waist-line marked by a string tightened just above a black alpaca
apron, her dried-apple face surmounted by a dingy lace cap topped with
a soiled red ribbon, eyed him cautiously, and remarked, after
loosening out the mantilla: "Dem teater gurls only vant such tings,
and dey can pay nuddin'. No, I vouldn't even gif fife tollars. Petter
dake it somevares else."
Dalton hesitated, turning the matter over in his mind. The
transfer would bring him the desired pawn-ticket, but the five dollars
was not sufficient to help him tide over the most pressing of his
difficulties. He had borrowed double that sum two nights before, from
the barkeeper of a pool-room where he occasionally played, and he
dared not repeat his visit until he could carry him the money.
The male Blobbs, the taller and more rotund of the two
shopkeepers—especially about the middle— now strolled in, leaned
over the counter, and picking up the lace, held it to the overhead
light. Looked at from behind, Blobbs was all shirt-sleeves and
waist-coat, the back of his flat head resting like a lid on his
shoulders. Looked at from the front, Blobbs developed into a person
with shoe-brush whiskers bristling against two yellow cheeks, the
features being the five dots a child always insists upon when drawing
a face. Dalton saw at a glance that it was Mrs. Blobbs, and not Mr.
Blobbs, who was in charge of the shop, and that any discussions with
him as to the price would be useless.
"You're an Hinglishnan, I take it," came from the lowest dot of
the five, a blurred and uncertain mouth.
Dalton colored slightly and nodded.
"Well, what I should adwise ye to do is to take this 'ere lace to
some of them hold furnitoor shops. I know what this is. I 'ate to see
a chap like ye put to it like this, that's why I tell ye. 'Ard on your
woman, but—there's a shop hup on Fourth Avenue where they buy such
things. A Dutchman by the name of Kling, right on the corner—you
can't miss it. Take it hup to 'im and tell 'im I sent ye—we often
'elps one another."
Dalton crumpled up the black wad, slid the package under his coat,
and without a word of thanks left the shop.
This was not the first time Blobbs had sent Kling a customer.
Indeed, there had always been more or less of a trade between the two
establishments. For, while Mrs. Blobbs had a license and could advance
money at reasonable rates, her principal business was in old-clothes
and ready-to-wear finery. Being near "The Avenue" and well known to
its denizens, many of their outgrown and out-of-fashion garments had
passed across her counter. Here the young man who pounded away on
Masie's piano, the night of her birthday party, borrowed, for a
trifle, his evening suit. Here Codman had exchanged a three-year-old
overcoat, which refused to be buttoned across his constantly
increasing girth, for enough money to pay for the velvet cuffs and
collar of the new one purchased on Sixth Avenue. Here Mrs. Codman
bought remnants of finery with which to adorn her young daughter's
skirts when she went to the ball given by the Washington chowder
party. Here, too, was where the undertaker sold the clothes of the man
who stepped off a ten-story building in the morning and was laid out
that same night in Digwell's back room, his friends depositing a
fresh suit for him to be buried in, telling the undertaker to do with
the old one as he pleased. And to this old-clothes shop flocked many
another denizen of side streets, who at one time or another had
reached crises in their careers which nothing else could relieve.
Mrs. Blobbs's curt refusal to receive the lace only added fuel to
the blazing thought that had flared up in Dalton's mind when he
recalled the certificates. Holding on to them had caused one
explosion. The mantilla might prove another such bomb. He dared not
leave it at home and he could not carry it for an indefinite time on
his person. If the man Kling would pay any decent price for it, he
could have it and welcome.
With the grim spectre still linking arms with him he hurried on,
making short-cuts across the streets, until he arrived at Kling's
corner. At this point he paused. His terror must not betray him.
Shaking himself free of the spectre, he assumed his one-time
nonchalant air, entered the store and walked down the middle aisle,
between the lines of sideboards, bureaus and high desks drawn up in
dress parade. Over the barricade of the small office he caught the
shine of Otto's bald head, the only other live occupant, except
Fudge, who had crept out from behind a bureau, and bounded back with
a growl. Fudge had sniffed around the legs of a good many people, and
might have written their biographies, but Dalton was new to him. Few
thieves had ever entered Kling's doors.
"I have just left your old friends, Mr. and Mrs. Blobbs," he began
gayly, "who have advised me to bring to you rather a rare piece of
lace belonging to my wife. Fine, isn't it?" He loosened the bundle
and shook out the folds of the mantilla.
Otto put on his glasses, felt the texture of the piece between his
fingers, and spread out the pattern for closer examination. "Yes,
dot's a good piece of lace. Vot you vant to do vid it? Dere's a hole
in it, you see," and he thrust a pudgy finger into the gash.
"Yes, I know," returned Dalton, who, with his eye still on the
dog, had been crushing it together so that the tear might not show;
"but that is easily remedied. I want to sell it. Mr. Blobbs tells me
it is worth a hundred dollars."
"Is dot so? Vell—vell—a hundred tollars! Dot's a good deal of
money." He had begun to wrap it up, tucking in the ends. "No—dot
Fudge dog don't bite— go away, you. T'ank you for lettin' me see it,
tell Mr. Blobbs, but I don't vant it at dot price. And I doan know I
vant it at any price. Dey doan buy dem t'ings any more."
Dalton saw that the mantilla had favorably impressed the dealer.
He had caught the look of pleasure when the lace was first unrolled,
reading the man's brain as he had often read the brains of the men at
home who listened to some rose-colored prospectus. These experiences
had taught him that there was always a supreme moment when one must
stop praising an article for sale, whether it were a rubber concession
from an African chief or a pound of tea over a grocer's counter. This
moment had arrived with Kling.
"I agree with you," he said smilingly. "The valuation was Mr.
Blobbs's, not mine. I told him I should be glad to get half that
amount—or even less."
Otto took the bundle and loosened the roll again. "I got a little
girl, Beesving—dot was her dog make such foolishness—who likes dese
t'ings. But dot is not business, for I doan sell it again once I gif
it to her. I joost put it around her shoulders for a New Year's gift.
Maybe if you—" He re-examined it closely, especially the tear, which
had partly yielded to Lady Barbara's deft fingers and tired eyes.
"Vell, I tell you vot I do, I gif you tventy tollars."
"That, I am afraid, will not answer my purpose," said Dalton.
"Perhaps, however, you will loan me thirty dollars on it and hold the
lace for a week or so, and I will pay you back thirty-five when some
money that is due me comes in?"
Otto looked at him from under his bushy eyebrows. "Ve don't do dot
kind of business. If I buy—I buy. If I sell—I sell. Sometimes I pay
more as a t'ing is vorth. Sometimes I pay less. I have a expert vid
me who knows vat dis is vorth, but he is busy vid a customer on de
next floor, and I doan sent for him. If you vant de tventy tollars you
can have it. If you doan, den take avay de lace. I got a lot of t'ings
to do more as to talk about it. Ven you see Blobbs, you tell him vat
Dalton's mind worked rapidly. To take the money would clean off
his debt and leave him a margin which he might treble before midnight.
"Give me the money," he said. "It is not one-third of its value,
but I see that it is all I can do."
Otto smiled—the smile of a man who had hit the thing at which he
aimed—felt in his inside pocket, drew out a great flat pocketbook,
and counted out the bills.
Dalton swept them up as a winner at baccarat sweeps up his coin,
apparently without counting them, stuffed the crumpled bank-notes into
his pocket, and started for the door.
Half-way down the long shop he halted opposite a sideboard laden
with old silver and glass and, to show that he was not in a hurry,
paused for an instant, picking up a cut-glass decanter with a silver
top, remarking casually, as he laid it back, "Like one I have at
home," continuing his inspection by holding aloft a pipe-stem glass,
to see the color the better.
As he resumed his walk to the door, Felix, with Masie and a
customer ahead of him, was just descending the rear stairs from the
"banquet hall" above. He thus had a full view of the store below.
Something in the way with which the bubble-blown glass was handled
attracted O'Day's attention. He had seen a wrist with a movement like
that, the poised glass firmly held in an outstretched hand. Where, he
could not tell; at his own table, perhaps, or possibly at a club
dinner. He remembered the quick, upward toss, the slender receptacle
held high. He leaned far forward, and watched the nervous step and
halting gait. Had Masie and the customer not been ahead of him, he
would have hurried past them and called to the man to stop—not an
unusual thing with him when his suspicions were aroused. Instead, he
waited until he was well down the stairs, then strolled carelessly
toward the door, intending to make some excuse to accost the man on
the sidewalk. Not that he had any definite conviction regarding his
likeness to the man he wanted; more to satisfy his conscience that he
had permitted no clew to slip past him.
What made him hesitate was the way the slouch-hat shaded the
intruder's face, the gas-jets not revealing the features. Only the end
of the chin was visible, and the round of the lower cheek showing
above the heavy cape-collar of the overcoat.
Dalton by this time had reached the street-door, which he closed
gently behind him, holding it for an instant to prevent its making a
noise. Felix lunged forward, reopened it quickly, and gazed out into
the night. Dalton had vanished as completely as if the earth had
Another man, who had kept his eyes on O'Day as he peered into the
dark, an undersized, gaunt-looking man, sidled toward Felix and pulled
at his coat sleeve. "I ain't too early, am I? You said eight o'clock?"
Felix looked at him keenly. "Oh, yes, I remember— no, you are all
right. How long have you been here?"
"About half an hour."
"Did you notice which way that man went who has just shut the
The tramp looked about him in a helpless way. "I wasn't lookin'. I
was a-watchin' you—waitin' for you to come out—but I got on to him
when he went in awhile ago."
"Then you have seen him before?"
"Of course I've seen him before. He plays pool where I've been
Felix bent closer. "Do you know his name?"
"Sure! His name's Stanton. He's been puttin' sompin' to soak, I
guess. I heard last week he was up against it. Do you know him?"
Felix remained silent a moment, checking his own disappointment,
and then answered slowly: "I thought I did, but I see I am mistaken.
Come inside the store where it is warmer. I have secured you a job,
and will take you with me when I have finished here."
Had a spark of human feeling been left in Dalton's body, it would
have been kindled into a flame of sympathy, could he have seen Lady
Barbara when she opened the box early next morning, and stood
trembling over the loss of the mantilla.
Her first hope was that she had inadvertently taken it to
Rosenthal's with the other pieces of lace, and that Mangan had found
it when he checked up her work. Then a cold chill ran through her, her
anxiety increasing every moment. Had she dropped it in the street?
Had the woman who jostled her on the way up the long staircase to the
workroom, picked up her package when she stumbled? Perhaps some one
had crept in during the night and, finding the box near the door, had
caught up the mantilla and escaped without being detected? Could she
herself have dragged it into her bedroom, entangled in the folds of
her skirt? Was it not near the window, or in her basket, or behind the
Martha, with a shake of her head, put all these theories to
"No, it isn't in your room at all, and it isn't anywhere else
around here; and nobody's been in here from the outside; and they
couldn't get in if they tried, for I bolted the door when we went to
bed. The only person who has had the run of the place is Mr. Dalton,
"Well, I wasn't here when he first came, but when I opened the
door he was peeking behind the china."
"But I had not been inside my room a minute before I heard your
voice. How could he have taken it? You don't think—"
"I don't say what I think, because I don't know, but he's mean
enough to do anything he could to hurt you. How long had he been
talking to you when I came in?"
"Just long enough for me to run past him and lock myself in."
"And how long do you think it would take him to steal it, if he
thought nobody was looking?"
"But he could not have stolen it, Martha; he was on the other side
of the room. The box is by the door where I left it; you can see it
for yourself. Oh what shall I do? Where could I have dropped it? It
must be at the store in that bundle. Mr. Mangan said I need not wait,
and I did not see him open it. He has found it by this time and he is
waiting for me. I will go right away and see him. Anybody could make a
mistake like that. He must—he WILL understand when I explain it all.
Get my cloak and hat, please, Martha. I will take the car up and back,
and you can have my coffee ready for me upon my return. I won't be
half an hour. Oh! how awful it is, how awful! If I had only found it
out last night! I had meant to work, but I could not after what
happened. Mr. Mangan was very much put out yesterday, and I know he
will be furious to-day. No, you need not come with me," and she was
Martha closed the door, walked to the window, and stood looking
through the panes until the slight figure had reached the street,
where she caught up her skirt, to free her steps the better, and
started on a run for the car line. When the fragile form was lost in
the whirl of the traffic, Martha walked slowly to the table and sank
into a chair, her elbows resting on its top, her face in her hand.
The next instant she was on her feet examining Lady Barbara's
work-basket, wondering what Dalton had found in it, wondering, too,
why he had looked through it. Crossing to the dresser, she moved the
plates and cups, as he had done, searching for a possible note, or
perhaps for a duplicate key of their former apartment which he might
have left for Barbara, and then moved toward the door of the smaller
chamber, behind which her mistress had lain shivering. Her eye now
fell on the box, the lid awry. She remembered that this lid had been
in that same position when she had ordered the intruder from the room,
and that, at the time, she had thought it strange that Lady Barbara,
always so careful, had not fastened it to keep the dust from its
contents. Stooping closer, she examined the various articles. She
noted that one sleeve of the lace blouse had been lifted from its
place, while the other sleeve remained snug where her mistress had
tucked it. In pulling out one of the upper pieces, this sleeve must
have been caught in its meshes and dragged clear. This could only have
been done by the mantilla which, she distinctly remembered, had been
laid neatly on top the afternoon before, so as to be ready for work in
"He's got it," she exclaimed in an excited tone, replacing the
lid. "I'll stake my life he stole it, the dirty cur! He's done it to
get even with her. She'll be back in a little while, half distracted.
There is going to be trouble, plenty of it. I'll have Stephen here
right away, and we'll talk it over. I can take care of her when she's
inside these rooms, but what if that man waylays her on the street and
raises a row, and she goes back to him to smooth over things? This
has got to stop. She won't live the month out if he gets to hounding
her again, and now he's found out where she is, I shan't have a
moment's peace. What a hang-dog face he's got on him! And he's a
coward, too, or he wouldn't have slunk out when I ordered him. And he
had it on him all the time! I wonder what he'll do with it. Hold it
over her, I expect; maybe take it to Rosenthal's with some lie about
her, so they will discharge her and she come back to him.
"Maybe—" Here she stopped, and grew suddenly grave. "Maybe
he'll— No, I don't think he'd dare do that, but I've got to get
Stephen, and I'll go for him this minute. Going's quicker than a
letter, and I'll leave word down-stairs where I'm gone, so she'll
know when she comes in, and I'll fix her coffee so she can get it."
Hurrying into her own room, she began changing her dress, putting
on her shoes, taking her night cloak and big, flare bonnet from the
hook behind the door, talking to herself as she moved.
"It's getting worse all the time, instead of getting better. God
knows what's to become of her! She's most beat out now, and can't
stand much more; and she's the best of the lot, except Mr. Felix, for
she's clean inside of her, and only her heart is to blame— and that
father of hers, Lord Carnavon, with his dirty pride, and this
scoundrel she's wrecking her life on, and all the fine ladies at home
who turned up their noses at her when half of them are twice as
bad—oh, I know 'em—you can't fool Martha Munger! I've been too long
with 'em. And this poor child who— Oh! I tell you this is a bad
business, and it's getting worse—yes, it's getting worse. Rosenthal
isn't going to stand losing that piece of lace, without its costing
somebody some money. Stephen's got to come and be around evenings
while I'm out. And I'll go with her to Rosenthal's and fetch her back
home, so that man Dalton can't frighten the life out of her."
She put the coffee-pot where it would keep hot, and laid the cups
and saucers ready for her mistress. This done, she shut the door, and
made her way down-stairs. "Tell Mrs. Stanton when she comes in," she
said to the old woman who acted as janitor, "that I've gone to see my
brother, and that I'll be back just as soon as I can."
All hopes which had cheered Lady Barbara on her way to
Rosenthal's, even when she climbed the long stairs and was ushered
into Mangan's small office, died out of her heart when she saw the
manager's face. She had anticipated an outburst of anger, followed by
a brutal tirade over her carelessness in wrapping up the mantilla
with the other pieces and leaving it behind her the night before.
Instead, he came forward to meet her—his lean, nervous body twitching
"Well, this is something like! Didn't think you'd turn up for an
hour. Let's have it." This with a low chuckle—the nearest he ever got
to a laugh.
"Something dreadful has happened, Mr. Mangan," she began,
stumbling over her words, her knees shaking under her. "I thought I
had wrapped the mantilla up with the pieces I brought you last night,
but I see now that—"
"You thought! Say, what are you giving me? Ain't you got it?"
"I have not, and I don't know what has become of it. It was not in
the box this morning, and—"
"IT WASN'T IN THE BOX THIS MORNING!" he roared. "See here, what
kind of a damn fool do you take me for?" He wheeled suddenly, caught
her by the wrist, dragged her clear of the door, and shut it behind
"Now, Mrs. Stanton," he said, in cold, incisive tones, "let's you
and I have this out, and I want to tell you right here that I believe
you're lying, and I've been suspecting it for some time. Now, make a
clean breast of it. You've pawned it, haven't you?"
"I—pawn it? You think I— I won't allow you to speak to me in
that way. I—"
"Oh, cut that out, it won't wash here. Now, listen! I've got to
get that mantilla, see? And I'm going to get it if I go through every
pawn-shop in town with a fine-tooth comb. I orter to have had better
sense than to let you take it out of the shop. Now open up, and I'll
help you straighten out things. Where is it? Come, now—no
She had sunk down on the chair, her fingers tightly interlocked,
his words stunning her like blows. Their full meaning she missed in
her dazed condition. All she knew was that, in some way, she must
"Mr. Mangan, will you please listen to me? I have not pawned it,
and I would never dream of doing such a thing. I can only think that
some one has taken it from the box—I don't know who. I came to you
the moment I discovered the loss. I thought perhaps I had wrapped it
up with the other pieces I brought you last night, or that I had
dropped it in the street on my way here. And, yet, none of these
things seemed possible when I began to think about it. I will do all I
can to pay for it. You can take its value from my work until it is
Mangan, who had been pacing the floor, hearing nothing of her
explanation—his mind intent upon his next move—dragged a chair next
"Now, pull yourself together for a minute, Mrs. Stanton. I'm not
going to be ugly. I'm going to make this just as easy as I can for
you. You've got a lot of common sense, and you're some different from
the women who handle our stuff. I've seen that, and that's why I've
trusted you. Now, think of me a little. That mantilla don't belong to
Rosenthal's. It belongs to a big customer who lives up near the Park,
and who left it here on condition we had it mended on time. It's
worth $250 if it's worth a cent, and it's worth a lot more to me,
because I lose my job if I don't get hold of it to-day. It's a New
Year's present and has got to be sent home to-night. Now, don't that
make things look a little different to you? And now, one thing more,
and I'm going to put it up to you, just between ourselves, and nobody
will get onto it— nobody around here. If it's a matter of ten or
fifteen dollars, I've got the money right here in my clothes. And you
can slip out and I'll keep close behind, and you can go in and get it,
and I'll bring it back here, and that's all there will be to it. Now,
be decent to me. I've been decent to you ever since you come here.
Ain't that so?"
Lady Barbara had now begun to understand. This man was accusing
her of lying, if not of theft, while she sat powerless before him,
incapable of speech. Once, as the horror of his suspicion rose before
her, she felt a wild impulse to cry out, even to throw herself on his
mercy—telling him her story and Martha's suspicions. Then the
recollection of the cunning of the man, his vulgarity, his
insincerity, slowly steadied her. Her secret must be kept, and she
must not anger him further.
"Perhaps, Mr. Mangan, if you came with me to my rooms, and saw my
old—" she paused, then added softly, "the old woman I live with, and
I showed you where the box is always kept and the way the door opens,
perhaps you could help us to find out how it could have happened."
Mangan rose and pushed back his chair. "Well, you are the limit!"
he gritted between his teeth. "I guess I'm in for it. The old man will
be howling mad, and I don't blame him."
He walked to his desk, picked up his telephone, and, in a
restrained voice, said: "Send Pickert up here. I'm in my office. Tell
him there's something doing."
Lady Barbara rose from her chair and stood waiting. She did not
know who Pickert was nor whether her pleading had moved Mangan, who
had now resumed his seat at the desk, piled high with papers, one of
which he was studying closely.
"And you don't think it will do any good if you come to my room?"
Mangan shook his head.
"And shall I wait any longer?" she continued. The words were
barely audible. She knew her dismissal had come and that she must face
another dreary hunt for new work.
Mangan did not raise his head. "Sit down. I'll tell you when I'm
The door opened and a thick-set man, in a brown suit and derby
hat, stepped in.
Mangan wheeled his chair and fronted the two. "This woman,
Pickert, is carried on our pay-roll as Mrs. Stanton. She's got a room
off St. Mark's Place. Here's the number. About a week ago I gave her a
lace mantilla to fix, something good—worth over $200 —and every day
she's been coming here with a new lie. Now she says she's lost it.
She's either got it down where she lives or she's pawned it. I've done
what I could to save her, but she sticks to it. Better take some one
from the office, down-stairs, with you. Maybe when she thinks it over
she'll come to her senses. Take her along with you. I'm through."
As the man stepped forward, Lady Barbara sprang away from his
touch. "You do not mean you are going to let this man take me—Mr.
Mangan, you must not, you shall not! You would not commit that
outrage. Do you mean—?"
Pickert made a gesture of disgust, his fingers outspread. "Keep
all that for the captain. It won't cut any ice here, and you'd better
not talk. Now come along, and don't make any fuss. If it's a mistake,
you can clear it up at the station-house. I ain't going to touch you.
You keep ahead until you get to the street-door. I'll be right behind,
and meet you on the sidewalk."
Lady Barbara drew herself up proudly. "I won't allow it!" she
cried; "what I told you—"
Pickert swaggered closer. "Drop that, will you? I got my orders.
You heard 'em, didn't you? Will you go easy, or shall I have to—" and
he half dragged a pair of handcuffs from his side pocket. "Now, you
do just as I tell you; it'll all come right, and there won't nobody
know what's goin' on. You get to hollerin' and mussin' up things and
there'll be trouble, see? Open that door now, and walk out just as if
everything was reg'lar."
The routine of Felix's daily life had been broken this morning by
the receipt of a letter. The postman had handed it to him as he
crossed the street from Kitty's to Kling's, the tramp who was sweeping
the sidewalk having pointed him out.
"That's him," cried the tramp. "That's Mr. O'Day. Catch him before
he gets inside his place, or you'll lose him. Here, I'll take it."
"You'll take nothin'. Get out of my way."
"For me?" asked Felix, coloring slightly as the postman accosted
"Yes, if you're Mr. O'Day."
"I'm afraid I am. Thank you. If you have any others, bring them
here to Mr. Kling's, where I can always be found during the day."
He glanced at the seal and the address, but kept it in his hands
until he reached Kling's counter, where he settled into a chair, and
with the greatest care slit the envelope with his knife. A year had
passed since he had received a letter, nor had he expected any.
He read it through to the end, turning the pages again, rereading
certain passages, his face giving no hint of the contents, folded the
sheets, put them back in the envelope, and slid the whole into his
inside pocket. After a little he rose, stood for a moment watching
Fudge, who, now that Masie had gone to school, had taken up his
customary place in the window, his nose pressed against the pane.
Then, as if some sudden resolve had seized him, he walked quickly to
the rear of the store in search of his employer.
Otto was poring over his books, his bald head glistening under the
rays of the gas-jet, which he had lighted to assist him in his work,
the morning being dark.
"I have been wanting to talk to you for some time, Mr. Kling,
about Masie," he began abruptly. "I may be going home to England,
perhaps for a few weeks, perhaps longer, and I should like to take her
with me. I have a sister who would look after her, and the trip would
do her a world of good. I have been wanting to do this for a long
time, but I am a little freer now to carry out the plan I had for her.
And so I have come to propose it to you."
Otto listened gravely, his fat features frozen into calm. This
clerk of his had made him many startling propositions, and every
surrender had brought him profit. But turning over Beesving to him
meant something so different that the father in him stood aghast. Yet
his old habit of deference did not desert him when at last he spoke:
"Vell, vat vill I do? You knew I don't got notin' but Beesving.
Don't she get everytin' vere she is? I do all de schoolin' and de
clothes and Aunty Gossburger look after her. Vhen she gets older maybe
perhaps she vould like a trip. And den maybe ve both go and leave you
here to mind de shop in de summer-time. But now she's notin' but jus'
Beesving, vid her head full of skippin' aroun'. No, I don't tink I
can do dat for you. I do most anytin' for you, but my little girl, you
see, dat come pretty close. Dat make a awful hole in me if Beesving go
avay. No, you mustn't ask me dot."
"Not if it were for her good?"
"Yes, vell, of course, but how do I know dot? And vot you vant to
go avay for? Dot's more vorse as Beesving. Ain't I pay you enough?
Maybe you vants a little interest in de business? I vas tinkin' about
dat only yesterday. Ve vill talk about dot sometimes."
Felix laughed gently.
"No, I don't wish any interest in the business. You pay me quite
enough for the work I do, and I am quite willing to continue to serve
you as long as I can. But Masie should not be brought up in these
surroundings much longer. Perhaps you would be willing to send her to
a good school away from here, if I could arrange it. Either here or in
Otto threw up his hands; he was becoming indignant, his mind more
and more set against Felix's proposition.
"Vell, but vat's de matter vid de school she has now? She is more
dan on de top of all de classes. De superintendent told me so ven he
vas in here last veek buying Christmas presents. I sold him dat old
chair you got Hans to put a new leg on. You remember dot chair. Vell,
dat vas better as a new von vhen Hans got trough. Hadn't been for you,
dot old chair vould be kicking around now, and I vouldn't have de
fifteen dollars he paid me for it. I vish sometimes you look around
for more chairs like dot."
Felix nodded in assent, reading the Dutchman's obstinate mind in
the shopkeeper's sudden return to business questions. If Masie's
future was to be helped, another hand than his own must be stretched
out. He turned on his heel, and was about to regain his chair, when
Otto, craning his head, called out:
"Dot's Father Cruse comin' in. You ask him now vonce about dis
goin' avay bizness. He tell you same as me."
The priest was now abreast of Felix, who had stepped forward to
greet him, Otto watching their movements. The two stood talking in a
low voice, Felix's eyes downcast as if in deep thought, the priest
apparently urging some plan, which O'Day, by his manner, seemed to
favor. They were too far off, and spoke too low, for Otto to catch the
drift of the talk, and it was only when Felix, who had followed the
priest outside the door, had returned that he called, from his high
seat under the gas-jet: "Vell, vat did Father Cruse say?"
Felix drew his brows together. "Say about what?" he asked, as if
the question had surprised him.
"About Beesving. Didn't you ask him?"
"No, we talked of other things," replied Felix and, turning on his
heel, occupied himself about the shop.
Across the street meanwhile Kitty's own plans had also gone astray
this winter's morning—so many of them, in fact, that she was at her
wits' end which way to turn. A trunk had been left at the wrong
address, and John had been two hours looking for it. Bobby had come
home from school with a lump on his head as big as a hen's egg, where
some "gas-house kid," as Bobby expressed it, "had fetched him a
crack." Mike, on his way down from the Grand Central, knowing that
John was away with the other horse and Kitty worrying, had urged big
Jim to gallop, and, in his haste, had bowled over a ten-year-old boy
astride of a bicycle, and, worse yet, the entire outfit —big Jim,
wagon, Mike, boy, bicycle, and the boy's father—were at that precise
moment lined up in front of the captain's desk at the 35th Street
The arrest did not trouble Kitty. She knew the captain and the
captain knew her. If bail were needed, there were half a dozen men
within fifty yards of where she stood who would gladly furnish it.
Mike was careless, anyhow, and a little overhauling would do him
What did trouble her was the tying up of big Jim and her wagon at
a time when she needed them most. Nobody knew when John would be back,
and there was the stuff piling up, and not a soul to handle it. She
stood, leaning over her short counter, trying to decide what to do
first. She could not ask Felix to help her. He was tired out with the
holiday sales. Nor was there anybody else on whom she could put her
hands. It was Porterfield's busy time, and Codman had all he could
jump to. No, she could not ask them. Here she stepped out on the
sidewalk to get a broader view of the situation, her mind intent on
solving the problem.
At that same instant she saw Kling's door swing wide and Father
Cruse step out, Felix beside him. The two shook each other's hands in
parting, Felix going back into the shop, and Father Cruse taking the
short-cut across the street to where Kitty stood—an invariable
custom of his whenever he found himself in her neighborhood.
Instantly her anxiety vanished. "Look at it!" she cried
enthusiastically. "Can you beat it? There he comes. God must 'a' sent
him!" Then, as she ran to meet him: "Oh, Father, but it's better than
a pair o' sore eyes to see ye! I'm all balled up wi' trouble. John's
huntin' a lost trunk. Bobby's up-stairs with a slab o' raw beef on his
head. Mike's locked up for runnin' over a boy. And my big Jim and my
wagon is tied up outside the station, till it's all straightened out.
Will ye help me?"
"I am on my way now to the police station," said the priest in his
"Oh, then, ye heard o' Mike?"
"Not a word. But I often drop in there of a morning. Many of the
night arrests need counsel outside the law, and sometimes I can be of
service. Is the boy badly hurt?"
"No, he hollered too loud when the wheel struck him, so they tell
me. He's not half as bad as Bobby, I warrant, who hasn't let a squeak
out o' him. Will ye please put in a word for me, Father? I can't leave
here or I'd go meself. I don't care if the captain holds on to Mike
for a while, so he lets me have big Jim and the wagon. John will be up
to go bail as soon as he gets back, if the captain wants it, which he
won't, when he finds out who Mike is. Oh, that's a good soul! I knew
ye'd help me. An' how did ye find Mr. Felix?"— a new anxiety now
filling her mind.
The priest's face clouded. "Oh, very well; he spent last evening
"Oh, that was it, was it? An' were ye trampin' the streets with
him, too? It was pretty nigh daylight when he come in. I always know,
for he wakes me when he shuts his door."
The priest, evidently absorbed in some strain of thought, parried
her question with another: "And so the boy was not badly hurt? Well,
that is something to be thankful for. Perhaps I may know his people.
I will send Mike and the wagon back to you, if I can. Good-by." And he
touched his hat, passing up the street with his long, even stride, the
skirt of his black cassock clinging to his knees.
The arrest, so far as could be seen from Mike's general
deportment, had not troubled that gentleman in the least. He had
nodded pleasantly to the captain, who, in return, had frowned severely
at him while the father of the boy was making the complaint; had
winked good-naturedly at him the moment the accuser had left the
room; had asked after Kitty and John, motioned to him to stay around
until somebody put in an appearance to go bail, and had then busied
himself with more important matters. A thick-set man, in a brown suit
and derby hat, accompanied by an officer and another man, had brought
in a frail woman, looking as if life were slowly ebbing out of her;
and the four were in a row before his desk. The usual questions were
asked and answered by the detective and the clerk—the nature of the
charge, the name and address of the party robbed, the name and address
of the accused—and the entries properly made.
During the hearing, the frail woman had stood with bent head,
dazed and benumbed. When her name was asked, she had made no answer
nor did she give her residence. "I am an Englishwoman," was all she
Mike, now privileged to enjoy the freedom of the room, had been
watching the proceedings with increasing interest, so much so that he
had edged up to the group, as close as he dared, where he could get
the light full on the woman. When the words, "I am an Englishwoman,"
fell from her lips, he let out an oath, and slapped his thigh with the
fiat of his hand. "Of course it is! I thought I know'd her when she
come in. English, is she? What a lot o' lies they do be puttin' up.
She never saw England. She's a dago from 'cross town. Won't Mrs.
Cleary's eyes pop when I tell her!"
The group in front of the captain's desk disintegrated. The woman,
still silent, was led away to the cell. Rosenthal's clerk, who had
made the charge for the firm, had come round to the captain's side of
the desk to sign some papers. Pickert and the officer had already
disappeared through the street-door. At this juncture the priest
entered. His presence was noted by every man in the room, most of whom
rose to their feet, some removing their hats.
"Good-morning, captain," he said, including with his bow the other
people present. "I have just left Mrs. Cleary, who tells me that one
of her men is in trouble. Ah! I see him now. Is there anything that I
can do for him?"
"Nothing, your reverence; the boy's not much hurt. I don't think
it was Mike's fault, from the testimony, but it's a case of bail, all
"I am afraid, captain, she is not worrying so much about our poor
Mike here as she is about the horse and wagon. These she needs, for
Mr. Cleary is away, and there is no one to help her. Perhaps you would
be good enough to send an officer with Mike, and let them drive back
"I guess that won't be necessary, your reverence. See here, Mike,
get into your wagon and take it back to the stable, and bring somebody
with you to go bail. We didn't want the wagon, only there was no place
to leave it, and we knew they would send up for it sooner or later.
It's outside now."
"Thank you, captain. And now, Mike, be very sure you come back,"
exclaimed the priest, with an admonishing finger; "do you hear?" He
always liked the Irishman.
Mike grinned the width of his face, caught up his cap, and made
for the door. The priest watched him until he had cleared the room,
then, leaning over the desk, asked: "Anything for me this morning,
"No, your reverence, not that I can see. Two drunks come in with
the first batch, and a couple of crooks who had been working the
'elevated'; and a woman, a shoplifter. Got away with a piece of lace—
a mantilla, they called it, whatever that is. She's just gone down to
wait for the four o'clock delivery. It's a case of grand larceny. They
say the lace is worth $250. Wasn't that about it?"
Rosenthal's man bobbed his head. He had not lifted his hat to the
priest, and seemed to regard him with suspicion.
"What sort of a looking woman is she?" continued the priest.
"Oh, the same old kind; they're all alike. Nothing to say—too
smart for that. I guess she stole it, all right. All I could get out
of her was that she was an Englishwoman, but she didn't look it."
The priest lowered his head, an expression of suddenly awakened
interest on his face. "May I see her?" he asked, in an eager tone.
"Why, sure! Bunky, take Father Cruse down. He wants to talk to
To most unfortunates, whether innocent or guilty, the row of
polished steel bars which open and close upon those in the grip of the
law, are poised rifles awaiting the order to fire. To a woman like
Lady Barbara, these guarded a dark and loathsome tomb, in which her
last hope lay buried. That she had not deserved the punishment meted
out to her did not soothe her agony. She had deserved none of Dalton's
cruelty, and yet she had withered under its lash. This was the end;
beyond, lay only a slow, lingering death, with her torture increasing
as the hours crept on.
The sound of the turnkey's hand on the lock roused her to
"Bring her outside where I can talk to her," said Father Cruse,
pointing to a bench in the corridor.
She followed the guard mechanically, as a whipped spaniel follows
its master, her steps dragging, her body trembling, her head bowed as
if awaiting some new humiliation. She had no strength to resist.
Something in the priest's quiet, in the way he trod beside her,
seemed to have reassured her, for as she sank on the bench beside him,
she leaned over, laid one hand on his sleeve, and asked feebly: "Are
they going to let me go?"
"That I cannot say, my good woman; I can only hope so." He looked
toward the guard. "Better leave us for a while, Bunky." The turnkey
touched his cap and mounted the narrow iron steps to the room above.
Father Cruse waited until the footsteps had ceased to echo in the
corridor, and then turned to Lady Barbara. "And now tell me something
about yourself; have you no friends you can send for? I will see they
get your message. The captain told me you were English. Is this
She had withdrawn her hand and now sat with averted face, the
faint flicker of hope his presence had enkindled extinguished by his
evasive answer. Only when he repeated the question did she reply, and
then in a mere whisper, without lifting her head: "Yes, I am English."
"And your people, are they where you can reach them?"
She did not answer; there was nothing to be gained by yielding to
his curiosity. Nor did she intend to reply to any more of his
questions. He was only one of those kind priests who looked after the
poor and whose sympathy, however well meant, would be of little
value. If she told him how cruel had been the wrong done her, and how
unjust had been her arrest, it would make no difference; he could not
"There must be somebody," he urged. He had read her indecision in
the nervous play of her fingers, as he had read many another human
emotion in his time. "There must be somebody," he repeated.
"There is only Martha," she answered at last, yielding to his
influence. "She was my nurse when I was a child. She is as poor as I
am. She will come to me if you will send word to her. They would not
listen to me at Rosenthal's when I begged them to bring her to the
store." She lifted her head and stared wildly about her. "Oh, the
injustice of it all—and the awful horror of this place! How can men
do such things? I told them the truth, Father, I told them the truth.
I never stole it. How could I ever steal anything? How dared he speak
to me as he did?"
She turned, straining her whole body as if in mortal anguish;
then, with her shoulder against the hard, whitewashed wall, she broke
at last into sobs.
The priest sat still, waiting and watching, as a surgeon does a
patient slowly emerging from delirium.
"Men are seldom reasonable, my good woman, when they lose their
property, and they often do things which they regret afterward. Of
what were you accused?"
His tone reassured her, and, for the first time, she looked
directly at him. "Of stealing a mantilla which I had taken to my rooms
"Whose was it?"
"Rosenthal's, for whom I worked."
"The large store near by here, on Third Avenue?"
Father Cruse lapsed once more into silence, absorbed in a study of
certain salient points of her person— her way of sitting and of
folding her hands, her thin, delicately modelled frame, the pallor of
her oval face, with its mobile mouth, the singular whiteness of her
teeth, and the blue of her eyes, shaded by the cheap, black-straw hat
which hid her forehead. Then he glanced at her feet, one of which
protruded from her coarse skirt—no larger than a child's.
When he spoke again, it was in a positive way, as if his
inspection had caused him to adopt a definite course which he would
now follow. "This old nurse of yours, this woman you called Martha,
does she know of any one who could get bail for you? You can only
stay here for a few hours, and then they will take you to the Tombs,
unless some one can go bail. I know the Rosenthals, and they would, I
think, listen to any reasonable proposition."
"Would they let me go home, then?"
"Yes, until your trial came off."
She shuddered, hugging herself the closer. Her mind had not gone
that far. It was the present horror that had confronted her, not a
trial in court.
"Martha has a brother," she said at last, "who has a business of
some kind, and who might help. If you will bring her to me, she can
"You don't remember what his business is?" he continued.
"I think it is something to do with fitting out ships. He was once
a mate on one of my father's vessels and—"
She stopped abruptly, frightened now at her own indiscretion. She
had been wrong in wanting to send for Stephen, even in referring to
him. Whatever befell her, she was determined that her people at home
should not suffer further on her account.
Father Cruse had caught the look, and his heart gave a bound,
though no gesture betrayed him. "You have not told me your name," he
said simply—as if it were a matter of routine in cases like hers.
She glanced at him quickly. "Does it make any difference?"
"It might. I do not believe you are a criminal, but if I am to
help you as I want to do, I must know the truth."
She thought for a moment. Here was something she could not escape.
The assumed name had so far shielded her. She would brave it out as
she had done before.
"They call me Mrs. Stanton."
"Is that your true name?"
The Carnavons were imperious, unforgiving, and sometimes brutal.
Many of them had been roues, gamblers, and spendthrifts, but none of
them had ever been a liar.
"No!" she answered firmly.
Father Cruse settled back in his seat. The ring of sincerity in
the woman's "No" had removed his last doubt. "You do very wrong, my
good woman, not to tell me the whole truth," he remarked, with some
emphasis. "I am a priest, as you see, and attached to the Church of
St. Barnabas—not far from here. I visit this station-house almost
every morning, seeing what I can do to help people just like yourself.
I will go to Rosenthal, and then I will find your old nurse, and I
will try to have your case delayed until your nurse can get hold of
her brother. But that is really all I can do until I have your entire
confidence. I am convinced that you are a woman who has been well
brought up, and that this is your first experience in a place of this
kind. I hope it will be the last; I hope, too, that the charge made
against you will be proved false. But does not all this make you
realize that you should be frank with me?"
She drew herself up with a certain dignity infinitely pathetic,
yet in which, like the flavor of some old wine left in a drained
glass, there lingered the aroma of her family traditions. "I am very
grateful, sir, to you. I know you only want to be kind, but please do
not ask me to tell you anything more. It would only make other people
unhappy. There is no one but myself to blame for my poverty, and for
all I have gone through. What is to become of me I do not know, but I
cannot make my people suffer any more. Do not ask me."
"It might end their suffering," he replied quickly. "I have a case
in point now where a man has been searching New York for months,
hoping to get news of his wife, who left him nearly a year ago. He
comes in to see me every few nights and we often tramp the streets
together. My work takes me into places she would be apt to frequent,
so he comes with me. He and I were up last night until quite late. He
has nothing in his heart but pity for that poor woman, who he fears
has been left stranded by the man she trusted. So far he has heard
nothing of her. I left him hardly an hour ago. Now, there, you see, is
a case where just a word of frankness and truth might have ended all
their sufferings. I told Mr. O'Day this morning, when I left him,
She had grown paler and paler during the long recital, her
wide-open eyes staring into his, her bosom heaving with suppressed
excitement, until at the mention of Felix's name, she staggered to her
feet, and cried: "You know Felix O'Day?"
"Yes, thank God, I do, and you are his wife, Lady Barbara O'Day,
Lord Carnavon's daughter."
She cowered like a trapped animal, uncertain which way to spring.
In her agony she shrank against the wall, her arms outstretched. How
did this man know all the secrets of her life? Then there arose a
calming thought. He was a priest—a man who listened and did not
betray. Perhaps, after all, he could help her. He wanted the truth. He
should have it.
"Yes," she answered, her voice sinking. "I am Lord Carnavon's
"And Felix O'Day's wife?"
"And Felix O'Day's wife," came the echo, and, with the last word,
her last vestige of strength seemed to leave her.
The priest rose to his full height. "I was sure of it when I first
saw you," he said, a note of triumph in his voice. "And now, one last
question. Are you guilty of this theft?"
"GUILTY! I guilty! How could I be?" The denial came with a lift of
the head, her eyes kindling, her bosom heaving.
"I believe you. There is not a moment to be lost." The priest and
father confessor were gone now; it was the man of affairs who was
speaking. "I will see Rosenthal at once, and then send for your nurse.
Give me her address."
When he had written it, he stepped to the foot of the stairs, and
called to one of the guards. Then he slipped his hand under his
cassock, drew out his watch, noted the hour, and in a firm voice—one
intended to be obeyed—said:
"Go back into your cell and sit there until I come. Do not worry
if I am away longer than I expect, and do not be frightened when the
key is turned on you. It is best that you be locked up for a while.
You should give thanks to God, my dear woman, that I have found you."
The news of Mike's arrest had been received by kitty's neighbors
with varying degrees of indifference. Everybody realized that, as the
run-over boy had lost nothing but his breath—and but little of that,
judging from his vigorous howl when Mike picked him up— nothing
would come of the affair so long as the present captain ruled the
precinct. Kitty and John and all who belonged to them were too popular
around the station; too many of the boys had slipped in and slipped
out of a cold night, warmed up by the contents of her coffee-pot.
Indeed, between the captain and the denizens of "The Avenue," only
the most friendly, amicable, and delightful personal relations
prevailed. To the habitual criminal, the sneak-thief, and the hold-up,
he might be a mailed despot swinging a mailed fist, but to the
occasional "Monday drunk," or the man who had had the best or the
worst of it in a fight, or to one like Mike who was the victim of an
unavoidable accident, he was only a heathen idol of justice behind
which sat a big-waisted, tightly belted man whose wife and daughters
everybody knew as he himself knew everybody in return; who belonged to
the same lodge, played poker in the same up-stairs room when off duty,
and was as tender-hearted in time of trouble as any one of their
other acquaintances. Not to have allowed Mike, a man he knew, a man
who had been Kitty and John's driver for years, to hunt up his own
bond, would have been as unwise and impossible as his releasing a
burglar on straw bail, or a murderer because the dead man could not
make a complaint.
When, therefore, Mike burst into the kitchen with the additional
information that "the cap" had let him go to bring back the wagon and
somebody with "cash" enough to go bail, a general movement, headed by
Tim Kelsey, who happened to be passing at the time, was immediately
organized—Tim to proceed at once to the station-house, take the
captain on one side, and so end the matter. Locking up Mike, even
threatening him, was, as the captain knew, an invasion of the rights
of "The Avenue." Nobody within its confines had ever been entangled in
the meshes of the law—simply because nobody had wanted to break it.
It was the howling boy who should have been locked up for getting
under Mike's wheels, or his father who ought to have kept his son off
Mike listened impatiently to the discussion and, watching his
chance, beckoned to Kitty, shut the door upon the two, and poured into
her ear a full account of what he had seen and heard at the
"Well, what's that got to do with it?" Kitty demanded. "What did
she have to do with the boy?"
"Nothing, don't I tell ye—she's been swipin' a department store,
and they got her dead to rights."
"Who's been swipin'? What are ye talkin' about, Mike? Stop it
now—I've got a lot to do, and—"
"The woman ye put to bed that night. The one ye picked up near St.
Barnabas, and brought in here and dried her off. She skipped in the
mornin' without sayin' 'thank ye'—why, ye must remember her! She
Kitty clapped her two palms to her face, framing her bulging
eyes—a favorite gesture when she was taken completely by surprise.
"That woman!" she cried, staring at Mike. "Where is she now? Tell
"I don't know—but she—"
"Ye don't know, and ye come down here with this yarn? Don't ye try
and fool me, Mike, or I'll break every bone in yer skin. Go on, now!
How do ye know it's the same woman?"
"I'm tellin' ye no lies. Come back with me and see for yerself.
The cap will let ye go down and talk to her. I heard Father Cruse tell
ye to keep an eye out for her if she ever came around here agin. Ye
got to hurry or they'll have her in the Black Maria on the way to the
Tombs. Bunky told me so."
Kitty stood in deep meditation. She remembered that Mike had been
in the kitchen when the woman sat by the stove. She remembered, too,
that Father Cruse had cautioned her to send word to the rectory if
the poor creature came again and, if there were not time to reach him,
then to tell Mr. O'Day. That the priest had not run across the woman
at the station-house was evident, or he would have sent word by Mike.
She would herself find out and then act.
"But ye must have seen Father Cruse. Did he send any word?"
"Yes, he come in just as I was leavin'. It was him who told me to
be sure to hurry back. See the horse gits some water, will ye? I got
to go back."
"Hold on—what did the Father say about the woman?"
"Nothin', don't I tell ye?—he didn't see her. They'd locked her
up before he came."
"Why didn't ye tell him who it was?"
"How was I a-goin' to tell him when the cap told me to git?"
"Go on, then, wid ye! If the Father's still there, tell him I'm
a-comin' up, and will bring Mr. O'Day wid me, and to hold on till I
She took her wraps from a peg behind the door, threw it wide, and
joined her neighbors in the office, composing her face as best she
"I've got to go over to Otto Kling's," she announced bluntly,
without any attempt at apologies. "Some one of ye must go up and bail
Mike out—any one of ye will do. Mr. Kelsey spoke first, so maybe he'd
better go. I'd go myself and sign the bond only I'm no good, for I
don't own a blessed thing in the world, except the shoes I stand
in—and they're half-soled and not paid for; John's got the rest. I'll
be there later on, ye can tell the captain. Mr. Codman, please send
over one of your boys to mind my place. John ain't turned up and
won't for an hour. That trunk went to Astoria instead of the Astor
House, bad 'cess to it, and that's about as far apart as it could git.
And, Mike, don't stand there with yer tongue out! And don't let
Toodles go with ye. Get back as quick as ye can— and tell the
captain to make it easy for me, that if the boy's badly hurt I'll go
and nurse him if he ain't got anybody to take care of him. Git out, ye
varmint —thank ye, Tim Kelsey, I'll do as much for you next time ye
have to go to jail. Good-by"—and she kept on to Kling's.
Otto's store was full of customers when Kitty strode in. Even
little Masie had been pressed into service to help on with the sales,
as well as one of the "Dutchies" whom Kling had brought up from the
cellar. The few remaining hours of the old year were fast disappearing
and the crowd of buyers, intent on securing some small remembrance
for those they loved, or more important gifts with which to welcome
the New Year, thronged the store and upper floor.
Kitty made straight for Felix, who was leaning over the low
counter, absorbed in the sale of some old silver. His disappointment
over Kling's rebuff regarding Masie's future had been greatly
lightened, relieved by his talk with Father Cruse an hour before, and
he had again thrown himself into his work with a determination to make
the last days of the year a success for his employer,—all the more
necessary when he remembered his plans for the child. The customer,
an important one, was trying to make up her mind as to the choice
between two pieces, and Felix was evidently intent on not hurrying
He had seen Kitty when she opened the door and approached the
counter, had noticed her excitement when she stopped in front of him,
and knew that something out of the ordinary had sent her to him at
this, the busiest part of his own and her day. But his only sign of
recognition was the lift of an eyelid and a slight movement of his
hand, the palm turned toward her, a gesture which told as plainly as
could be that, while he was glad to see her—something she was never
in doubt of—the present moment was ill adapted to protracted
Kitty, however, was not built on diplomatic lines. What she wanted
she wanted at once. When she had something vital to accomplish she
went straight at it, and certainly nothing more vital than her present
mission had come her way for weeks.
That the news she carried had something to do with O'Day's
happiness, she was convinced, or Father Cruse would not have been so
insistent. That the woman herself was, in some way, connected with his
misfortunes, she also suspected—and had done so, in reality, ever
since the night on which she gave him the sleeve-links. She had not
said so to John; she had not hinted as much to Father Cruse; but she
had never dismissed the possibility from her mind.
"I'm sorry, ma'am," she said, ignoring Felix and going straight to
the cause of the embargo, "but couldn't ye let me have Mr. O'Day for a
few minutes? I've somethin' very partic'lar to say to him."
"Why, Mistress Kitty—" began Felix, smiling at her audacity, the
customer also regarding her with amused curiosity.
"Yes, Mr. O'Day, I wouldn't butt in if I could help it. Excuse me,
ma'am, but there's Otto just got loose, and—Otto, come over here and
take care of this lady who is goin' to let me have Mr. O'Day for half
an hour. Thank ye, ma'am, you don't know me, but I'm Kitty Cleary,
the expressman's wife, from across the street, and I'm always mixin'
in where I don't belong and I know ye'll forgive me. Otto'll charge ye
twice the price Mr. O'Day would, but he can't help it because he's
Dutch. Oh, Otto, I know ye!"
Felix laughed outright. "Thank you, Mr. Kling," he said, yielding
his place to his employer, "and if you will excuse me, madam," and he
bowed to his customer, "I will see what it is all about—and now,
Mistress Kitty, what can I do for you?"
Kitty backed away toward the door, so that a huge wardrobe
shielded her from Otto and his customer.
"Come near, Mr. O'Day," she whispered, all her forced humor gone.
"I've got the woman who dropped the sleeve-buttons."
Felix swayed unsteadily, and gripped a chair-back for support.
"You've got—the woman— What do you mean?" he said at last.
"Mike saw her at the police-station. They've put her in a cell."
"Yes, for stealin'."
Involuntarily his fingers brushed his throat as if he were
choking, but no words came. He had been all his life accustomed to
surprises, some of them appalling, but against this, for the instant,
he had no power to stand.
Kitty stood watching the quivering of his lips and the drawn,
strained muscles about his jaw and neck as his will power whipped them
back to their normal shape. She was convinced now of the truth of her
suspicions—the woman was not only interwoven with his past, but was
closely identified with his present anguish.
She drew closer, her voice rising. "Ye'll go with me, won't ye,
Mr. Felix?" she went on, hiding under an assumed indifference all
recognition of his struggle. "Father Cruse told me if I ever come
across her again, and there wasn't time to get hold of him, to let ye
"I will go anywhere, where Father Cruse thinks I should, Mrs.
Cleary—especially in cases of this kind, where I may be of use." The
words had come from between partly closed lips; his hands were still
tightly clinched. "And you say she was arrested—for stealing?"
"Yes, shopliftin', they call it. Poor creatures, they get that
miserable and trodden on they don't know right from wrong!"
Then, as if to give him time in which to recover himself fully,
she went on, speaking rapidly: "And, after all, it may only be a
put-up job or a mistake. Half the women they pinch in them big stores
ain't reg'lar thieves. They get tempted, or they can't find anybody
to tell 'em the price o' things, especially these holiday times, and
they carry 'em round from counter to counter, and along comes a store
detective and nabs 'em with the goods on 'em. They did that to me
once, over at Cryder's, and I told him I'd knock him down if he put
his hand on me, and somebody come along who knew me, and they was that
scared when they found out who I was that they bowed and scraped like
dancin' masters and wanted me to take the skirt along if I'd say
nothin' about it. That might have happened to this poor child—"
"Has Father Cruse seen her?" asked Felix. No word of the recital
had reached his ears.
"No—that's why I come to ye."
"And where did you say she was?" He had himself under perfect
control again, and might have been a man bent only on aiding Father
Cruse in some charitable work.
"Locked up in the station-house not far from here. It won't take
ye ten minutes to get there."
Felix glanced at the big-faced clock, facing the side window of
"Yes, of course I will go, since Father Cruse wishes it. Thank you
for bringing his message. You need not wait."
"Needn't wait! Ye're not goin' one step without me. They'd chuck
ye out if ye did, and that's what they won't do to me if the captain's
in his office. Besides, Mike run over a boy, and Tim Kelsey is up
there now standin' bail for him. There's no use goin' unless ye see
her. That's what the Father wanted ye to do, and that ain't easy
unless ye've got the run of the station. So, ye see, I got to go with
ye whether ye want me or not, or ye won't get nowheres. I'll wait till
ye get yer hat and coat."
All the way to the station-house, Kitty beside him, Felix was
putting into silent words the thoughts that raced through his mind.
"Barbara arrested as a vulgar thief!" he kept saying over and
over. "A woman brought up a lady—with the best blood of England in
her veins—her father a man of distinction! The woman I married!"
Then, as a jagged thread of light breaks away from a centre bolt,
illuminating a distant cloud, a faint ray cheered him. Perhaps the
woman was not Barbara. No one had any proof. Father Cruse had never
believed it, and he had only argued himself into thinking that the
woman who had dropped the sleeve-link must be his wife. Until he knew
definitely, saw her with his own eyes, neither would HE believe it,
and a certain shame of his own suspicion swept through him like a
The captain was out when the two reached the station. Nor was
there any one who knew Kitty except a departing patrolman, who nodded
to her pleasantly as she passed in, adding in a whisper the
information that Mike and Kelsey had gone up to Magistrate Cassidy,
who held court in the next block, and that she was "not to worry," as
it was "all right."
A new appointee—a lieutenant she had never seen before—was
temporarily in charge of the station.
"I'm Mrs. Cleary," she began, in her free, outspoken way, "and
this is Mr. Felix O'Day."
The new appointee stared and said nothing.
"Ye never saw me before, but that wouldn't make any difference if
the captain was around. But ye can find out about me from any one of
yer men who knows me. I'm here with Mr. O'Day lookin' up a woman who
was brought here this morning for stealin' some finery or whatever it
was from one of these big stores— and we want to see her, if ye
The lieutenant shook his head. "Can't see no prisoner without the
Kitty bridled, but she kept her temper. "When will he be back?"
"Six o'clock. He's gone to headquarters."
"He'd let me see her if he was here," she retorted, with some
"No doubt—but I can't." All this time he had not changed his
position—his arms on the desk, his fingers drumming idly.
Felix rested his hands on the rail fronting the desk. "May I ask
if you saw the woman?"
"No. I only came on half an hour ago."
"Is there any one here who did see her?"
Something in O'Day's manner and in the incisive tones of his
voice, those of command not supplication, made the lieutenant change
his position. The speaker might have a "pull" somewhere. He turned to
the sergeant. "You were on duty. What did she look like?"
The sergeant yawned from behind his hand. He had been up most of
the previous night and was some hours behind his sleep schedule.
Kitty's presence had not roused him but the self-possessed man could
not be ignored.
"You mean the girl who got Rosenthal's lace?" he answered.
"You're dead right," returned the lieutenant obligingly. He had,
of course, always been ready to do what he could for people in
trouble, and was so now.
"Oh, about as they all look." This time the sergeant directed his
remarks to Felix. "We get two or three of 'em every day, specially
about Christmas and New Year's. Rather run down at the heel, this one,
and —no, come to think of it, I'm wrong—she looked different. Been
a corker in her time—not bad now— about thirty, I guess—maybe
younger—you can't always tell. Rather slim—had on a black-straw hat
and some kind of a cloak."
Kitty was about to freshen his memory with some remembrance of her
own, and had got as far as, "Well, my man Mike was here and he told me
that—" when Felix lifted a restraining hand, supplementing her
outburst by the direct question: "Did she say nothing about herself?"
"She did not. All we could get out of her was that she was
Felix bent nearer. "Will you please describe her a little closer?
I have a reason for knowing."
The sergeant caught the look of determination, dallied with a tin
paper-cutter, bent his head on one side, and pursed a pair of thick
lips. It was a strain on his memory, this recalling the features of
one of a dozen prisoners, but somehow he dared not refuse.
"Well, she was one of the pocket kind of women, small and well put
up but light built, you know. She had blue eyes—big ones—I noticed
'em partic'lar— and about the smallest pair of feet I ever seen on a
girl. She stumbled down-stairs and caught her dress, and I remember
they was about as big as a kid's. That was another thing set me to
wondering how she got into a scrape like this. She could have done a
lot better if she had a-wanted to," this last came with a leer.
Felix clenched his teeth, and drove his nails into the palms of
his hands. He would have throttled the man had he dared.
"Did she make any defense?" he asked, when he had himself under
"No—there warn't no use—she owned up to having pinched it. Not
here at the desk, but to Rosenthal's man who made the charge—that is,
she didn't deny it. The stuff was worth $250. That's a felony, you
Kitty saw Felix sway for an instant, and was about to put out a
protecting hand when he turned again to the lieutenant.
"Officer, I do not ask you to break your rules, but I would
consider it an especial favor if you would let me see this woman for a
moment—even if you do not permit me to speak to her."
"Well, you can't see her." The reply came with some positiveness
and a slight touch of irony. He had made up his mind now that if the
speaker had a pull, he would meet it by keeping strictly to the
"Because she ain't here. She's in the Tombs by this time, unless
somebody went her bail up at court. They had her in the patrol-wagon
as I come on duty."
"The Tombs? That is the city prison, is it not?" Felix asked,
hardly conscious of his own question, absorbed only in one
thought—Lady Barbara's degradation.
"That's what it is," answered the lieutenant with a contemptuous
glance at Felix, followed by a curl of the lip. No man had a pull who
asked a question like that.
"If I went there, could I see her?"
"Nothin' doin'—too late. You might work it to-morrow. Step down
to headquarters, they'll tell you. If she's up for felony it means
five years and them kind ain't easy to see. Can I do anything more for
"No," said Felix firmly.
"Well, then, move on, both of you—you can't block up the desk."
Felix turned and left the station-house, Kitty following in
silence, her heart torn for the man beside her. Never had he seemed
finer to her than at this moment; never had her own heart stirred with
greater loyalty. But never since she had known him had she seen him
"There is nothing more we can do to-day," he said, speaking
evenly, almost coldly, when they reached the corner of the street. "I
will see Father Cruse to-night and tell him of your kindness, and he
can decide as to what is to be done. And if you do not mind, I will
She stood and watched him as he disappeared in the throng. She
understood her dismissal and was not offended. It was not her secret
and she had no right to interfere or even to advise. When he was ready
he would tell her. Until that time she would wait with her hands held
Felix crossed the street, halted for an instant as if uncertain as
to his course, and turned toward the river. He wanted to be alone, and
the crowd gave him a greater sense of isolation. It was the first time
in months that he had tramped the thoroughfares without some definite
object in view. All that was now a thing of the past, never to be
revived. His quest was finished. The interview with the sergeant had
ended it all. Every item in his detailed account of the woman now in
the Tombs tallied with Kitty's description of the woman with the
sleeve-buttons and so on, in turn, with the woman who was once his
With this knowledge there flamed up in his heart an uncontrollable
anger, fanned to white heat by hatred of the man who had caused it
all. His fingers tightened and his teeth ground together. That
reckoning, he said to himself, would come later, once he got his
hands on him. If she were a thief, Dalton had made her so. If she were
an outcast and a menace to society, Dalton had done it. By what
hellish process, he could not divine, knowing Lady Barbara as he did,
but the fact was undeniable.
What then was he to do? Go back to London and leave her, or stay
here and fight on in the effort to save her? SAVE HER! Who could save
her? She had stolen the goods; been arrested with them in her
possession; was in the Tombs; and, in a few weeks, would be lost to
the world for a term of years.
He could even now see the vulgar, leering crowd; watch the jury,
picked from the streets, file in and take their seats; hear the few,
curt, routine words, cold as bullets, drop from the lips of the
callous judge, the frail, desolate woman deserted by every soul,
paying the price without murmur or protest—glad that the end had
And then, with one of those tricks that memory sometimes plays, he
saw the altar-rail, where he had stood beside her—she in her bridal
robes, her soft blue eyes turned toward his; he heard again the
responses, "for better or for worse"—"until death do us part,"
caught the scent of flowers and the peal of the organ as they turned
and walked down the aisle, past the throng of richly dressed guests.
"Great God!" he choked, worming his way through the crowd,
unconscious of his course, unmindful of his steps, oblivious to
passers-by—alone with an agony that scorched his very soul.
When Martha, on her return from Stephen's, had climbed the dimly
lighted stairs leading to her apartment, she ran against a thick-set
man, in brown clothes and derby. hat, seated on the top step. He had
interviewed the faded old wreck who served as janitress and, learning
that Mrs. Munger would be back any minute, had taken this method of
being within touching distance when the good woman unlocked her door.
She might decide to leave him outside its panels while she got in her
fine work of hiding the thing he had climbed up three flights of
stairs to find. In that case, a twist of his foot between the door and
the jamb would block the game.
"Are you the man who has been waiting for me?" she exclaimed, as
the detective's big frame became discernible under the faint rays from
the "Paul Pry" skylight.
"Yes, if you are the woman who is living with Mrs. Stanton." He
had risen to his feet and had moved toward the door.
"I'm Mrs. Munger, if that's who you are looking for, and we live
together. She's not back yet, so the woman down-stairs has just told
me. Are you from Rosenthal's?"
"I am." He had edged nearer, his fingers within reach of the knob,
his lids narrowing as he studied her face and movements.
"Did they find the lace—the mantilla?"
"Not as I heard," he answered, noting her anxiety. "That's what
brought me down. I thought maybe you might know something about it."
"Didn't find it?" she sighed. "No, I knew they wouldn't. She was
sure she had taken it up night before last, but I knew she hadn't.
Where's my key?— Oh, yes—stand back and get out of my light so I can
find the keyhole. It's dark enough as it is. That's right. Now come
inside. You can wait for her better in here than out on these steps.
Look, will you! There's her coffee just as she left it. She hasn't had
a crumb to eat to-day. What do you want to see her about? The rest of
the work? It's in the box there."
Pickert, with a swift, comprehensive glance, summed up the
apartment and its contents: the little table by the window with Lady
Barbara's work-basket; the small stove, and pine table set out with
the breakfast things; the cheap chairs; the dresser with its array of
china, and the two bedrooms opening out of the modest interior. Its
cleanliness and order impressed him; so did Martha's unexpected
frankness. If she knew anything of the theft, she was an adept at
putting up a bluff.
"When do you expect Mrs. Stanton back?" he began, in an offhand
way, stretching his shoulders as if the long wait on the stairs had
stiffened his joints. "That's her name, ain't it?"
"I expected to find her here," she answered, ignoring his inquiry
as to Lady Barbara's identity. "They are keeping her, no doubt, on
some new work. She hasn't had any breakfast, and now it's long past
lunch-time. And they didn't find the piece of lace? That's bad! Poor
dear, she was near crazy when she found it was gone!"
Pickert had missed no one of the different expressions of anxiety
and tenderness that had crossed her placid face. "No—it hadn't turned
up when I left," he replied; adding, with another stretch, quite as a
matter of course, "she had it all right, didn't she?"
"Had it! Why, she's been nearly a week on it. I helped her all I
could, but her eyes gave out."
"Then you would know it again if you saw it?" The stretch was cut
short this time.
"Of course I'd know it—don't I tell you I helped her fix it?"
The detective turned suddenly and, with a thrust of his chin,
rasped out: "And if one, or both of you, pawned it somewhere round
here, you could remember that, too, couldn't you?"
Martha drew back, her gentle eyes flashing: "Pawned it! What do
The detective lunged toward her. "Just what I say. Now don't get
on your ear, Mrs. Munger." He was the thorough bully now. "It won't
cut any ice with me or with Mr. Mangan. It didn't this morning or he
wouldn't have sent me down here. We want that mantilla and we got to
have it. If we don't there'll be trouble. If you know anything about
it, now's the time to say so. The woman you call Mrs. Stanton got all
balled up this morning, and couldn't say what she did with it. They
all do that—we get half a dozen of 'em every week. She's pawned it
all right—what I want to know is WHERE. Rosenthal's in a hole if we
don't get it. If you've spent the money, I've got a roll right here."
And he tapped his pocket. "No questions asked, remember! All I want is
the mantilla, and if it don't come she'll be in the Tombs and you'll
go with her. We mean business, and don't you forget it!"
Martha turned squarely upon him—was about to speak—changed her
mind—and drawing up a chair, settled down upon it.
"You're a nice young man, you are!" she exclaimed, scornfully. "A
very nice young man! And you think that poor child is a thief, do you?
Do you know who she is and what she's suffered? If I could tell you,
you'd never get over it, you'd be that ashamed!"
She was not afraid of him; her army hospital experience had thrown
her with too many kinds of men. What filled her with alarm was his
reference to Lady Barbara. But for this uncertainty, and the possible
consequences of such a procedure, she would have thrown open her door
and ordered him out as she had done Dalton. Then, seeing that Pickert
still maintained his attitude—that of a setter-dog with the bird in
the line of his nose—she added testily:
"Don't stand there staring at me. Take a chair where I can talk to
you better. You get on my nerves. It's pawned, is it? Yes. I believe
you, and I know who pawned it. Dalton's got it—that's who. I thought
so last night—now I'm sure of it." She was on her feet now, tearing
at her bonnet-string as if to free her throat. "He sneaked it out of
that box on the floor beside you, when she was hiding from him in her
Pickert retreated slightly at this new development; then asked
sharply: "Dalton! Who's Dalton?"
"The meanest cur that ever walked the earth— that's who he is.
He's almost killed my poor lady, and now she must go to jail to please
him. Not if I'm alive, she won't. He stole that mantilla! I'm just as
sure of it as I am that my name is Martha Munger!"
Pickert's high tension relaxed. If this new clew had to be
followed it could best be followed with the aid of this woman, who
evidently hated the man she denounced. She would be of assistance,
too, in identifying both the lace and the thief—and he had seen
neither the one nor the other as yet. So it was the same old game,
was it?—with a man at the bottom of the deal!
"Do you know the pawn-shops around here?" he asked, becoming
"Not one of them, and don't want to," came the contemptuous reply.
"When I get as low down as that, I've got a brother to help me. He'll
be up here himself to-night and will tell you so."
Pickert had been standing over her throughout the interview,
despite her invitation to be seated. He now moved toward a seat, his
hat still tilted back from his forehead.
"What makes you think this man you call Dalton stole it?" he
asked, drawing a chair out from the table, as though he meant to let
her lead him on a new scent.
"Come over here before you sit down and I'll tell you," she
exclaimed, peremptorily. "Now take a look at that box. Now watch me
lift the lid, and see what you find," and she enacted the little
pantomime of the morning.
The detective stroked his chin with his forefinger. He was more
interested in Martha's talk about Dalton than he was in the contents
of the box. "And you want to get him, don't you?" he asked slyly.
"Me get him! I wouldn't touch him with a pair of tongs. What I
want is for him to keep out of here— I told him that last night."
"Well, then, tell me what he looks like, so I can get him."
"Like anybody else until you catch the hang-dog droop in his eyes,
as if he was afraid people would ask him some question he couldn't
"One of the slick kind?"
"Yes, for he's been a gentleman—before he got down to be a dog."
"About thirty—maybe thirty two or three. You can't tell to look
at him, he's that battered."
"Yes—no beard nor mustache on him. I couldn't see his clothes.
His big cape-coat, buttoned up to his chin, hid them and his face,
too. He had a slouch-hat on his head with the brim pulled down when he
"And you say he's been living off of Mrs. Stanton since—"
"No, I didn't say it. I said he was a cur and that she wouldn't go
to jail to please him—that's what I said. Now, young man, if you're
through, I am. I've got to get my work done."
Pickert tilted his hat to the other side of his bullet head, felt
in his side pocket for a cigar, bit off the end, and spat the crumbs
of tobacco from his lips.
"You could put me on to the mantilla, couldn't you?—spot it for
me once I come across it?"
"Of course I could, the minute I clapped my eyes on it."
"It's a kind of lace shawl, ain't it?"
"Yes. All black—a big one with a frill around it and a tear in
one side—that's what she was mending. A good piece, I should think,
because it was so fine and silky. You could squash it up in one hand,
it was that soft. That's why she took such care of it, putting it
back in that box every night to keep the dust out of it."
"Well, what's the matter with your coming along with me?"
"And where are you going to take me?"
"To one or two pawn-shops around here."
"Well, I'm not going with you. If I go anywhere it will be up to
Rosenthal's. I'm getting worried. It's after three o'clock now. She's
got no money to get anything to eat. She'll come home dead beat out if
she's been hungry all this time."
"Well, it's right on the way. We'll take in a few of the small
shops, and then we'll keep on up. There are two on Second Avenue, and
then there's Blobbs's, one of the biggest around here. The old woman
gets a lot of that kind of stuff and she'll open up when she finds
out who wants to know. I've done business with her—where does this
fellow, Dalton, live?"
"Up on the East Side."
"Well, then, we are all right. He will make for some fence where
he is not known. Come along."
Martha hesitated for an instant, abandoned her decision, and
retied her bonnet-strings; she might find her mistress the quicker if
she acceded to his request. She stepped to the stove, examined the
fire to see that it was all right, added a shovel of coal and, with
Pickert at her heels, groped her way down the dingy stairs, her
fingers following the handrail. In the front hall she stopped to say
to the janitress that she was going to Rosenthal's and to tell Mrs.
Stanton, when she came, that she was not to leave the apartment again,
as Mr. Carlin was coming to see her.
When they reached the corner of the next block, Pickert halted
outside a small loan-office, told her to wait, and disappeared inside,
only to emerge five minutes later and continue his walk with her
up-town. The performance was repeated twice, his last stop being in
front of a gold sign notifying the indigent and the guilty that one
Blobbs bought, sold, and exchanged various articles of wearing-apparel
for cash or its equivalent.
Martha eyed the cluster of balls suspended above the door, and
occupied herself with a cursory examination of the contents of the
front window, to none of which, she said to herself, would she have
given house-room had the choice of the whole collection been offered
her. She was about to march into the shop and end the protracted
interview when Pickert flung himself out.
"I'm on—got him down fine! Listen—see if I've got this right! He
wore a black cape-coat buttoned up close-that's what you told me,
wasn't it?—and a kind of a slouch-hat. Been an up-town swell before
he got down and out? That kind of a man, ain't he? Smooth-shaven,
with a droop in his eye—speaks like a foreigner—English. Somethin'
doin'!—Do you know a man named Kling who keeps an old-furniture
store up on Fourth Avenue?"
"No, I don't know Kling and I don't want to know him. It will be
dark, and Rosenthal's 'll be shut up if I keep up this foolishness,
and I'm going to find my mistress. If you can't find Dalton, I will,
when my brother Stephen comes. Now you go your way and I'll go mine."
He waited until she had boarded a car, then wheeled quickly and
dashed up Third Avenue, crossing 26th Street at an angle, forging
along toward Kling's. He was through with the old woman. She was
English, and so was Dalton, and so, for that matter, was a man who,
Blobbs had told him, had "blown in" at Kling's about a year ago from
nobody knew where. They'd all help one another—these English. No,
he'd go alone.
When he reached Otto's window he slowed down, pulled himself
together, and strolled into the store with the air of a man who wanted
some one to help him make up his mind what to buy. The holiday crowd
had thinned for a moment, and only a few men and women were wandering
about the store examining the several articles. Otto at the moment was
in tow of a stout lady in furs, who had changed her mind half a dozen
times in the hour and would change it again, Otto thought, when, as
she said, she would "return with her husband."
"Vich she von't do," he chuckled, addressing his remark to the
newcomer, "and I bet you she never come back. Dot's de funny ting
about some vimmins ven dey vant to talk it over vid her husbands, and
de men ven dey vant to see der vives. Den you might as vell lock up
de shop—ain't dot so? Vat is it you vant—one of dem tables? Dot is a
Chippendale— you can see de legs and de top."
"Yes, I see 'em," replied the detective, scanning the
circumference of Otto's fat body. "But I'm not buying any tables
to-day, I'm on another lead—that is, if I've got it right and your
name is Kling."
"Yes, you got it right," answered Otto; "dot's my name. Vat is it
"And you own this store?"
"And I own dis store. Didn't you see de sign ven you come in?" The
man's manner and cock-sure air were beginning to nettle him.
"I might, and then again, I mightn't," Pickert retorted, relaxing
into his usual swaggering tone. "I'm not looking for signs. I'm
looking for a piece of lace, a mantilla they call it, that disappeared
a few days ago from Rosenthal's up here on Third Avenue—a kind of
shawl with a frill around it—and I thought you might have run across
Otto looked at him over the tops of his glasses, his anger
increasing as he noticed the man's scowl of suspicion. "Oh, dot's it,
is it? Dot's vat you come for. You tink I am a fence, eh?"
The detective grinned derisively. "You bought a piece of lace,
"I buy a dozen pieces maybe—vot's dot your business?"
"My business will come later. What I want to know is whether
you've got a piece with a hole in it— black, soft, and squashy—with
a frill—a flounce, they call it—and I want to tell you right here
that it will be a good deal better if you keep a decent tongue in your
head and stop puttin' on lugs. It's business with me."
Masie had crept up and stood listening, wondering at the
stranger's rough way of talking. So had the tramp, whom Kitty had
loaned to Otto for a few hours to help move some of the heavier
furniture. He seemed to be especially interested in what was taking
place, for he kept edging up the closer, dusting the Colonial
sideboard close to which Kling and the man were standing, his ears
stretched to their utmost, in order to miss no word of the interview.
"Vell, if it's business, and you don't mean noddin, dot's anudder
ting," replied Kling, in a milder tone, "maybe den I tell you. Run
avay, Masie, I got someting private to say. Dot's right. You go talk
to Mrs. Gossburger— Yes," he added, as the child disappeared, "I did
buy a big lace shawl like dot."
Pickert's grin covered half his face. He could get along now
without a search-warrant. "And have you got it now?"
"Yes, I got it now."
The grin broadened—the triumphant grin of a boy when he hears the
click of a trap and knows the quarry is inside.
"Can I see it?"
"No, you can't see it." The man's cool persistency again irritated
him. "I buy dot for a present and I— Look here vunce! Vat you come in
here for an' ask dose questions? I never see you before. Dis is my
busy time. Now you put yourselluf outside my place."
The detective made a step forward, turned his back on the rest of
the shop, unbuttoned his outer coat, lifted the lapel of the inner
one, and uncovered his shield.
"Come across," he said, in low, cutting tones, "and don't get gay.
I'm not after you—but you gotter help, see! I've traced this mantilla
down to this shop. Now cough it up! If you've bought it on the level,
I've got a roll here will square it up with you."
Otto gave a muffled whistle. "Den dot fellow vas a tief, vas he?
He didn't look like it, for sure. Vell— vell—vell—dot's funny! Vy,
I vouldn't have tought dot. Look like a quiet man, and—"
"You remember the man, then?" interrupted the detective, following
up his advantage, and again scraping his chin with his forefinger.
"Oh, yes. I don't forgot him. Vore a buttoned-up coat—high like
up to his chin—"
"And a slouch-hat?" prompted Pickert.
"Yes, vun of dose soft hats, for I tink de light hurt his eyes ven
he come close up to my desk ven I gif him de money."
"And had a sort of a catch-look, a kind of a slant in his eye,
didn't he?" supplemented Pickert; "and was smooth-shaven and—on the
whole—rather decent-looking chap, just getting on his uppers and not
quite. Ain't that it?"
"Yes, maybe, I don't recklemember everyting about him.
Vell—vell—ain't dot funny? But he vasn't a dead beat—no, I don't
tink so. An' he stole it? You vud never tink dot to see him. I got it
in my little office, behind dot partition, in a drawer. You come
along. To-morrow is New Year's"—here he glanced up the stairs to be
sure that Masie was out of hearing—"and I bought dat lace for a
present for my little girl vat you saw joost now—she loves dem old
tings. She has got more as a vardrobe full of dem. Vait till I untie
it. Look! Ain't dot a good vun? And all I pay for it vas tventy
The detective loosened the folds, shook out the flounce, held it
up to the light, and ran his thumb through the tear in the mesh.
"Of course dere's a hole—I buy him cheaper for dot hole—my
little Beesving like it better for dot. If it vas new she vouldn't
Pickert was now caressing the soft lace, his satisfaction
complete. "A dead give-away," he said at last. "Much obliged. I'll
take it along," and he began rolling it up.
"You take it—VAT?" exclaimed Otto.
"Well, of course, it's stolen goods."
Kling leaned over and caught it from his hand. "If it's stolen
goods, somebody more as you must come in and tell me dot. By Jeminy,
you have got a awful cheek to come in here and tell me dot! Ven I buy,
I buy, and it is mine to keep. Ven I sell, I sell, and dot's nobody's
Pickert bit his lip. His bluff had failed. He must go about it in
another way, if Rosenthal's customer, who owned the lace, was to
regain possession before the New Year set in.
"Well, then, sell it to me," he snarled.
"No, I don't sell it to you. Not if you give me tventy times
tventy tollars. And now you get out of here so k'vick as you can—or
me and dot man over by dot sideboard and two more down-stairs vill
trow you out! I don't care a tam how big a brass ting you got on your
coat. So you dake it along vid you? Vell, you have got a cheek!"
Pickert's underlip curled in contempt. He had only to step to the
door and blow a whistle were a row to begin. But that would neither
help him to trail the thief nor to secure the mantilla.
"Now see here, Mr. Kling," he said, fingering the lapel of Otto's
coat, "I've treated you white, now you treat me white. You make me
tired with your hot air, and it don't go—see, not with me!—and now
I'll put it to you straight. Will you sell me that mantilla? Here's
the money"—and he pulled out a roll of bills.
Otto was now thoroughly angry. "NO!" he shouted, moving toward the
door of his office.
"Will you help put me on to the man who sold it to you?"
"No!" roared Kling again, his Dutch blood at boiling-point. "I put
you on noddin—dot's your bis'ness, dis puttin' on, not mine." He had
walked out of the office and was beckoning to the tramp. "Here, you!
You go down-stairs and tell Hans to come up k'vick—right avay."
The tramp slouched up—a sliding movement, led by his shoulder,
his feet following.
"Maybe, boss, I kin help if you don't mind my crowdin' in." He had
listened to the whole conversation and knew exactly what would happen
if he carried out Kling's order. He had seen too many mix-ups in his
time—most of them through resisting an officer in the discharge of
his duty. Kling, the first thing he knew, would be wearing a pair of
handcuffs, and he himself might lose his job.
He addressed the detective: "I saw the guy when he come in and I
saw him when he went out. Mr. O'Day saw him, too, but he'd skipped
afore he got on to his mug. He'll tell ye same as me."
The detective canted his head, looked the tramp over from his
shoes to his unkempt head, and turned suddenly to Kling. "Who's Mr.
O'Day?" he snapped.
"He's my clerk," growled Otto, his determination to get rid of the
man checked by this new turn in the situation.
"Can I see him?"
"No, you can't see him, because he's gone out vid Kitty Cleary.
He'll be back maybe in an hour— maybe he don't come back at all. He
don't know noddin about dis bis'ness and nobody don't let him know
noddin about it until to-morrow. Den my little Beesving know de first.
Half de fun is in de surprise."
The detective at once lost interest in Kling, and turned to the
tramp again—the two moving out of Otto's hearing. A new and fresh
scent had crossed the trail—one it might be wise to follow.
"You work here?" he asked. He had taken his measure in a glance
and was ready to use him.
"No, I work in John Cleary's express office," grunted the tramp.
"Mr. O'Day wanted me to come over and help for New Year's."
"What's he got to do with you?"
"He got me my job."
"He's an Englishman, ain't he?"
"Yes, and the best ever."
"Oh, yes, of course," sneered the detective. "Been working here a
year and knows the ropes. So you saw the man come in and O'Day, the
clerk, saw him go out, did he? And O'Day sent for you to stay around
in case any questions were asked? Is that it?"
The tramp's lip was lifted, showing his teeth. "No, that ain't it
by a damned sight! I know who pinched the goods—knowed him for
months. Know his name, just as well as I know yours. I got on to you
soon as you come in."
The detective shot a quick glance at the speaker. "Me?" he
"Yes—YOU. Your name is Pickert—ONE of your names—you've got
half a dozen. And the guy's name is Stanton. He hangs out at the
Bowdoin House, and when he ain't there he's playin' pool at Steve
Lipton's where I used to work. Are you on?"
The detective betrayed no surprise, neither over the mention of
his own name nor that of Stanton. If the tramp's story were true he
would have the bracelets on the thief before morning. He decided,
however, to try the old game first.
"It may be worth something to you if you can make good," he said,
with a confidential shrug of his near shoulder.
The tramp thrust out his chin with a gesture of disgust. "Nothin'
doin'! You can keep your plunks. I don't want 'em. I know you
fellers—I got onto your curves when I was on my uppers. When you
can't get your flippers on the right man you slip 'em on the first
galoot you catch, and I want to tell you right here that you can't mix
Mr. O'Day in this business, for he don't know nothin' about it, nor
anything else that's crooked. I'll get this man Stanton for you if
the boss will let me out for an hour. Shall I ask him?"
Pickert examined his finger-nails for a brief moment —one seemed
in need of immediate repairs—his mind all the while in deep thought.
The tramp might help or he might not. He evidently knew him, and it
was possible that he also knew Stanton, the name borne by the woman
charged with the theft; or the whole yarn might be a ruse to give the
real thief a tip, and thus block everything. Lipton's place he
frequented, and the Bowdoin House he could find.
"No, you stay here," he broke out. "I'll get him."
He walked back to the office, the tramp following. "I say, Mr.
Kling!" he called impudently.
Otto lifted his head. He had locked up the mantilla and had the
key in his pocket. For him the incident was closed.
"Vell?" replied Otto dryly.
"Does this man work over at Cleary's express?"
"He does. Vy?"
"Oh, nothing. I may want him later. And, say!"
"Vell," again replied Otto.
"Git wise and surprise that little girl of yours with something
else—she'll never wear that mantilla. So long," and he strode out of
The short winter's day had run its course and a soft, aimless snow
was falling—each flake a lazy feather, careless of its fate. The
store windows were ablaze, and many of the houses on both sides of
"The Avenue" were alive with newly kindled gas-jets, the street-
lamps shedding their light over a broad highway blocked with slipping
teams, their carts crammed to the utmost with holiday freight.
A spirit of good-fellowship and unrestrained joyousness was
everywhere. When a team was stalled, two or three men put their
shoulders to the wheels; when a horse slipped and fell, a dozen others
helped him to his feet. Snowballs, thrown in good humor and received
with a laugh, filled the air. New York was getting ready to celebrate
the night before New Year's, the maddest night of all the year in old
Manhattan, when groups of merrymakers, carrying tin horns and
jingling cow-bells, crowd the sidewalks, singing and shouting,
forming flying wedges, swooping down on other wedges—strangers
all—the whole ending in roars of laughter and "Happy New Year's,"
repeated again and again until the next collision.
None of this roused Felix as, with heavy heart, he turned into
Kitty's. Of what the morrow would bring forth he dared not think.
Father Cruse, he knew, would do what he could to save Barbara, and
the British consul—a man he had always avoided— might help. But
nothing of all this could lighten his load or relieve his pain. She
might be given her freedom for a time, or she might be turned over to
one of the reformatories for a term of years—either course meant
untold suffering to a woman reared as his wife had been. These mental
tortures of the day had burned their way into his brain, as
branding-irons burn into flesh, the agony seaming the lines of his
face and deep-hollowing the eyes, forming scars that might take years
As his fingers gripped the knob of Kitty's outside office, shouts
of "Happy New Year" rang out from a group of girls showering each
other with snowballs.
"Pray God," he said to himself, "that it be better than the one
which is passing," and stepped inside, to find Kitty in the kitchen.
"I have come to talk to you," he said, speaking as a man whose
strength is far spent. "And if you do not mind, I will ask you to go
into the sitting-room where we shall not be disturbed. I have
something to say to you. Will you be alone?"
Kitty gave a start. She knew at once that some new development had
brought him to her at this hour.
"Yes, not a soul but me. John and Bobby are up to the Grand
Central, Mike's bailed out, and yer tramp just come over from Otto's.
They're cleanin' out the stables. Is it some news ye have of her?"
"No—nothing more than you know. That must wait until to-morrow.
Nothing can be done to-night."
She followed him into the room, dragged out a chair from against
the wall, waited until he had slipped off his mackintosh, and then
seated herself beside him.
"No," he repeated, passing his hand across his eyes as if to shut
out some haunting vision. "There is no news. She is in a cell, I
suppose. My God, what does it all mean!"
He paused, his head averted, staring straight ahead.
"You have been very kind to me, Mrs. Cleary, since I have been
here—you and your husband. You may not have realized it, but I do not
think I could have gone through the year without you—you and little
Masie. I have come to the end now, where no one can help. I have tried
to carry it through alone. I did not want to burden you with my
troubles and— if I could prevent it, I would not now, but you will
know it sooner or later, and I would rather tell you myself than have
you hear it from strangers."
He hesitated for an instant, looked into her eyes, and said
slowly: "The woman you picked up in the street and who is now in
prison, is my wife, or was, until a year ago."
Kitty neither moved nor spoke. The announcement did not greatly
surprise her. What absorbed her was the new, hard lines in his face,
her wonder being that such suffering should have fallen upon the head
of a man who so little deserved it.
"And is that what has been breakin' yer heart all these months ye
lived with us?"
Felix moved uneasily. "Yes. There has been nothing else."
"And she's the same one ye've been a-trampin' the streets to
Felix bowed his head in assent.
"And ye kep' all this from me?" she asked, as a mother might
reproach her son.
"You could have done nothing."
"I could have comforted ye. That would have been somethin'. Did
she leave ye?"
Again Felix bowed his head in answer. The spoken words would only
add to his pain.
"For another man, was it?—Yes, I see—you twice her age, and she
a chit of a child. Ye can't do much for that kind once they get their
heads set—no matter how good ye are to them. And I suppose that when
I found her that night on the door-steps and brought her into the
kitchen, he'd turned her into the street. That's it, isn't it? And
then she got to stealin' to keep from starvin'?"
"Yes, I suppose so—I do not know. I only know she is a criminal.
That is shame enough."
"And is that all ye came to tell me?" She was going to the bottom
of it now. This man was gripped in the tortures of the damned and
could only be helped when he had emptied out his heart—all of it,
down to the very dregs.
"No, there is something else. I wanted to speak to you about
Masie. I may go back to England in a few days and I am not satisfied
to leave her unprotected. She has no mother and you have no
daughter—would you look after her for me? I have learned to love her
very dearly—and I am greatly disturbed over her future and who is to
look after her. Her father will not listen to any plans I might make
for her, nor will he take proper care of her. He thinks he does, but
he lets her do as she pleases. She will be a woman in a very short
time, and I shudder when I think of the dangers which beset her. A
shop like Kling's is no place for a child like Masie."
Kitty had turned pale when Felix announced his probable departure,
something to which she had not yet given a thought, but she heard him
to the end.
"I will do all I can for Masie, but that can wait. And now I'm
goin' to talk to ye as if ye were my John, and ye got to be patient
with me, Mr. O'Day. God knows I'd help ye in any way I could, but
ye've got to help me a little so I can help ye the better. May I go
"Help! How can I help?" he asked listlessly.
"By trustin' me—and I can be trusted, and so can John. I found
out some months ago that ye were Sir Felix O'Day, but ye never heard
me blab it to any livin' soul, nor did John either—not even to Father
Cruse. I've watched ye go in and out all these months, and many a
night, tired as I was, I didn't get to sleep, worryin' about ye until
I'd heard ye shut yer door. Ye said nothin' to me and I could say
nothin' to ye. I knew ye'd tell me when the time come and it has,
with ye nigh crazy, and she on her way to Sing Sing. What she's been
through since that night I brought her here, I don't know—but she'd
'a' broke your heart if ye'd seen her staggerin' weak, followin' me
and John like a whipped dog. I thought then she had got the worst of
it, somehow, and that she hadn't deserved what had been handed out to
her, and John thought so, too. What it was I didn't know, but I've got
somebody now who does know and who will tell me the truth, and I'm
askin' ye to give it to me straight. If she was your wife she must be
a lady, for ye wouldn't 'a' married anybody else. And if she was a
lady, how has it happened that she is locked up in the Tombs, and
that a gentleman like ye is working at Otto's? And before ye answer,
remember that I'm not askin' for meself, but for you and the poor
woman ye tried to find to-day."
His tired eyes had not left her own during the long outburst. He
had never doubted her sincerity nor her kindliness, but now, as he
listened, there stole over him a yearning, strange in one so
habitually reticent, to share with her the secret he had hidden all
these months—except from Father Cruse.
"Yes, you shall know," he answered, with a sigh of relief. "It is
best that somebody should know, and best of all that it should be you.
But first tell me how you found out that I could use my father's
title—I have never told anybody here."
"An Englishman told me, who wanted his trunk taken to the steamer.
He saw you cross the street. 'That's Sir Felix O'Day,' he said, 'and
he has had more trouble than any man I ever knew.'"
"Did you check the trunk?"
"That explains how my solicitor in London, whom I have just heard
from, discovered my address. He mentioned a trunk-tag as his clew; he
and the Englishman evidently met. As to the title, it was of no use
to me here. I may use it now, at home, for he writes that there were
several hundreds of pounds sterling saved out of my own and my
father's wreck, together with a small cottage and a few acres of land
near London. Had I known it, however, before I came here, it would
have made no difference, nor would it have altered my plan. I had come
here to find my wife, for I knew that sooner or later she would be
utterly stranded, without a human being to whom she could appeal; but
I never expected to find her a criminal. Terrible! Terrible! I cannot
yet take it in. Poor child! What is to become of her, God only knows!"
He had risen, and in his agony walked to the window, his updrawn
shoulders tense, like those of a man standing by an open grave. He
stood there for a moment, Kitty silently watching him, until, with a
deep sigh, he came back to his chair.
"I have been a fool, no doubt, to pursue this thing as I have, but
there seemed no other way. I could not have lived with myself
afterward, if I had not made the effort. I knew that you and your
husband often wondered at the life I led, and I have often thanked
you in my heart for your loyalty. It is but another one of the things
that have made this home so dear to me. I told Father Cruse what
brought me to New York, so that he could help me find her, and he has
been more than kind. Many a night we have tramped the streets
together, or have searched haunts that either she, or the man who
ruined her, might frequent, or where we should meet persons who had
seen them, but so far, you are the only person who has brought us
near to each other.
"I tell you now because it is better that you and I should
understand each other before I sail, and because, too, you are a big,
brave, true-hearted woman who can and will understand. You may not
think it, but you have been a revelation to me, Mrs. Cleary—you and
this home—and the neighborhood, in fact, peopled with clean,
wholesome men and women. It has been a great lesson to me and a
marvellous contrast to what had surrounded me at home. You were right
in your surmise that my wife is a lady, and that I have been born a
gentleman. And now I will tell you why we are both here."
Then, in broken words, with long pauses between, he told her the
story of his own and Lady Barbara's home life, and of Dalton's perfidy
with all the horror that had followed, Kitty's body bent forward, her
ears drinking in every word, her plump, ruddy hands resting in her
lap, her heart throbbing with sympathy for the man who sat there so
calm and patient, stating his case without bitterness, his anger only
rising when he recounted the incidents leading up to his wife's
estrangement and denounced the man who had planned her ruin.
Only when the tale was ended did she burst out: "And I ain't
surprised yer heart's broke! Ye've had enough to kill ye. The wonder
to me is that ye're walkin' around with yer head up and your heart not
soured. I been thinkin' and thinkin' all these months, and John and I
have talked it over many a night; but we never thought it was as bad
as it is. And now I'm goin' to ask ye a question and ye must tell me
the truth. What are ye goin' to do next?"
"See Father Cruse to-night and tell him what I have found out. He
must do the rest. I have gone as far as I dared, and can go no
further. I must draw the line at crime. In spite of it all, I would
have gone down-stairs to see her, had she not been sent away, but I
am glad now that I did not. She comes of a proud race and that would
have been the last thing she could have borne. As it is, she thinks I
am in Australia, and it's better that she should. She would have
thought I had come to taunt her, and no one could have undeceived her.
I know her—and her wilfulness. Poor child! She has always been her
own worst enemy. And so, just as soon as I learn what is to happen to
her, I shall settle my account with the man who has caused her ruin,
and return to England—and I can go the easier, and pick up my old
life again the better, if I can be assured that you will look after
little Masie, and see that no harm comes to her."
Kitty raised her hands from her lap and folded them across her
bosom. "Let me talk a little, will ye, Mr. O'Day? Ye needn't worry
about Masie. I'll take care of her—all that Kling will let me. I knew
her mother, who died when the child was born, and a fine woman she
was—ten times as good as Kling whom her father made her marry. But
there's somebody else who needs me, and who needs ye more than Masie
needs us, and that's yer wife. How do ye know her heart is not
breakin' for somebody to say a kind word to her? Are ye goin' home and
leave her like this? That's not like ye, and I don't want to hear ye
say it. Do you mean that if she is put away up the river, ye won't
stay here and—"
"What for, to sit for five years waiting for her to come out? And
what then? Have you ever seen one reform?"
"And if she gets off, and wanders around the streets?"
"Father Cruse must answer that question."
"But ye came all these miles to New York to pull her out of the
mess she had got into with that man who's ruined yer home, and ye out
in the cold without a cent—and ye forgave her for that—and now that
she's locked up with only herself to suffer, ye turn yer back on her
and leave her to fight it out alone."
"I did not forgive HER, Mrs. Cleary," he said in deliberate tones.
"I forgave her childish nature, remembering the way she had been
educated; remembering, too, that I was twice her age. Nor did I forget
the poverty I had brought upon her."
"And why not forgive her this?" She could hardly restrain a sob as
His lips straightened and his brows narrowed. "This is not due to
her nature," he answered coldly, "nor to her bringing up. She has now
committed a crime and is beyond reclaim. Once a thief, always a thief.
I must stop somewhere."
"But why not hear her story from her own lips?" she pleaded, her
voice choking. "YOU hear it—not Father Cruse, nor me, nor anybody but
YOU, who have loved her!"
Felix shook his head. "It is kinder for me to stay away. The very
sight of me would kill her." His answer was final.
Kitty squared herself. "I don't believe it," she cried, the tears
now coursing down her cheeks. "Oh, for the blessed God's sake don't
say it—take it back! Listen to me, Mr. O'Day. If she ever wanted a
friend it's now. I'd go meself but I'd do no good— nor nothin' I'd
tell her would do her any good. It's a man she wants to lean on, not a
woman. I can almost lift my John off his feet with one hand, but when
I get into trouble I'm just so much putty, runnin' to him like a
baby, weak as a rag, and he pattin' my cheek same as if I was a
three-year-old. Go and get yer arms around her and tell her ye don't
believe a word of it, and that ye'll stand by her to the end, and
ye'll make a good woman of her. Turn yer back on her, and they'll
have her in potter's field if she gets out of this scrape, for she
can't fight long—she hasn't got the strength.
"She could hardly get up-stairs the night I put her to bed—she
was that tremblin', and she's no better to-day. Don't let yer pride
shut up yer heart, Mr. O'Day. You are a gentleman and ye've lived like
one, and ye've got your own and yer father's name to keep clean, and
that poor child has dragged it in the mud, and the papers will be full
of it, and the disgrace of it all dries ye up, and ye can go no
further, and so ye cut loose and let her sink. No, don't ye get angry
with me—if ye were my own John I'd tell ye the same. Listen—do ye
hear them horns blowin' and the children shoutin'? It's New Year's
Eve— to-morrow all the slates will be wiped clean—the past rubbed
out and everybody'll have a new start. Make a clean slate of yer own
heart—wipe out everything ye've got against that poor child. Take her
in yer arms once more—help her come back! If God didn't clean His
own slate once in a while and forgive us, none of us would ever get to
heaven. Hush! Quiet now! Somebody's just come into the office. I'll
not let any one in to disturb ye. Stay where ye are till I see. I
hear a voice. WHAT! Well, as I'm alive, it's Father Cruse—what's he
come for at this hour? Shall I let him in?"
Felix lifted himself slowly to his feet, as would a man in a
hospital ward who sees the doctor approaching.
"Yes, let him in; I was going to look him up." He was relieved at
the interruption. Kitty's appeal had deeply stirred him, but had not
swerved him from his purpose. He had done his duty—all of it, to the
very last. The day's developments had ended everything. He had no
right to bring a criminal into his family.
Kitty swung wide the door and Father Cruse stepped in. He wore his
heavy cassock, which was flecked with snow, and his wide hat.
"My messenger told me you were here, Mr. O'Day," he cried out, in
a cheery voice, "and I came at once. And, Mrs. Cleary, I am more than
glad to find you here as well."
Felix stepped forward. "It was very good of you, Father. I was
coming down to see you in a few minutes." They had shaken hands and
the three stood together.
The priest glanced in question at Kitty, then back again at Felix.
"Does Mrs. Cleary—"
"Yes, Mrs. Cleary knows," returned Felix calmly. "I have told her
everything. Lady Barbara—" he paused, the words were strangling him,
"has been arrested —for stealing—and is now in the Tombs prison."
Father Cruse laid his hand on O'Day's shoulder. "No, my friend,
she is not in the Tombs. I took her to St. Barnabas's Home and put her
in charge of the Sisters."
Felix straightened his back. "You have saved her from it."
"Yes, two hours ago. And she can stay there until the matter is
settled, or just as long as you wish it." His hand was still on
O'Day's shoulder, his mind intent on the drawn features, seamed with
the furrows the last few hours had ploughed. He saw how he had
Felix stretched out his hand as if to steady himself, motioned the
priest to a chair, and sank into his own.
"In the Sisters' Home," he repeated mechanically, after a moment's
silence. Then rousing himself: "And you will see her, Father, from
time to time?"
"Yes, every day. Why do you ask such a question— of me, in
"Because," replied Felix slowly, "I may be away— out of the
country. I have just asked Mrs. Cleary to look after Masie and she has
promised she will. And I am going to ask you to look after my poor
wife. They must be very gentle with her—and they should not judge
her too harshly." He seemed to be talking at random, thinking aloud
rather than addressing his companions. "Since I saw you I have
received a letter from my solicitor. There is some money coming to
me, he says, and I shall see that she is not a burden to you."
The priest turned abruptly, and laid a firm hand on O'Day's knee.
"But you will see her, of course?"
"No, it is better that you act for me. She will not want to see me
in her present condition."
Kitty was about to protest, when Father Cruse waved her into
silence. "You certainly cannot mean what you have just said, Mr.
The priest rose quickly, passed though the kitchen, and opened the
door leading to the outer office. Two women stood waiting, one in a
long cloak, the other clinging to her arm, her face white as chalk,
her lips quivering.
"Come in," said the priest.
Martha put her arm around Lady Barbara and led her into the room.
Felix staggered to his feet.
The two stood facing each other, Lady Barbara searching his eyes,
her fingers tight hold of Martha's arm.
"Don't turn away, Felix," she sobbed. "Please listen. Father Cruse
said you would. He brought me here."
No answer came, nor did he move, nor had he heard her plea. It was
the bent, wasted figure and sunken cheeks, the strands of her still
beautiful hair in a coil about her neck, that absorbed him.
Again her eyes crept up to his.
"I'm so tired, Felix—so tired. Won't you please take me home to
He made a step forward, halted as if to recover his balance,
wavered again, and stretched out his hands.
"Barbara! BARBARA!" he cried. "Your home is here." And he caught
her in his arms.