Love, The Fiddler
by Lloyd Osbourne
THE AWAKENING OF
THE MASCOT OF
THE CHIEF ENGINEER
Frank Rignold had never been the favoured suitor, not at least so
far as anything definite was concerned; but he had always been
welcome at the little house on Commonwealth Street, and amongst the
neighbours his name and that of Florence Fenacre were coupled as a
matter of course and every old lady within a radius of three miles
regarded the match as good as settled. It was not Frank's fault that
it was not, for he was deeply in love with the widow's daughter and
looked forward to such an end to their acquaintance as the very
dearest thing fate could give him. But in these affairs it is
necessary to carry the lady with you—and the lady, though she had
never said "no," had not yet been prevailed upon to say "yes." In fact
she preferred to leave the matter as it was, and boldly forestalling a
set proposal, had managed to convey to Frank Rignold that it was her
wish he should not make one.
"Let us be good friends," she would say, "and as for anything
else, Frank, there's plenty of time to consider that by and by. Isn't
it enough already that we like each other?"
Frank did not think it was enough, but he was not without
intuition and willing to accept the little offered him and be
grateful—rather than risk all, and almost certainly lose all, by too
exigent a suit. For Florence Fenacre was the acknowledged beauty of
the town, with a dozen eligible men at her feet, and was more courted
and sought after than any girl in the place. The place, to give it its
name, was Bridgeport, one of those dead- alive little ports on the
Atlantic seaboard, with a dozen factories and some decaying wharves
and that tranquil air of having had a past.
The widow and her pretty daughter lived in a low-roofed, red-brick
house that faced the street and sheltered a long deep shady garden in
the rear. Land and house had been bought with whale oil. Their little
income, derived from the rent of three barren and stony farms and
amounting to not more than sixty dollars a month, represented a
capitalisation of whale oil. Even the old grey church whither they
went twice of a Sunday, was whale oil too, and had been built in
bygone days by the sturdy captains who now lay all around it under
slabs of stone. There amongst them was Florence's father and her
grandfather and her great-grandfather, together with the Macys and the
Coffins and the Cabotts with whom they had sailed and quarrelled and
loved and intermarried in the years now gone. The wide world had not
been too wide for them to sail it round and reap the harvests of
far-off seas; but in death they lay side by side, their voyages done,
their bones mingling in the New England earth.
Frank Rignold too was a son of Bridgeport, and the sea which ran
in that blood for generations bade him in manhood to rise and follow
it. He had gone into the engine-room, and at thirty was the chief
engineer of a cargo boat running to South American ports. He was a
fine-looking man with earnest grey eyes; a reader, a student, an
observer; self-taught in Spanish, Latin, and French; a grave, quiet
gentlemanly man, whose rare smile seemed to light his whole face, and
who in his voyages South had caught something of Spanish grace and
courtliness. He returned as regularly to Bridgeport as his ship did to
New York; and when he stepped off the train his eager steps took him
first to the Fenacres' house, his hands never empty of some little
present for his sweetheart.
On the occasion of our story his step was more buoyant than ever
and his heart beat high with hope, for she had cried the last time he
went away, and though no word of love had yet been spoken between
them, he was conscious of her increasing inclination for him and her
increasing dependence. Having already won so much it seemed as though
his passionate devotion could not fail to turn the scale and bring her
to that admission he felt it was on her lips to make. So he strode
through the narrow streets, telling himself a fairy story of how it
all might be, with a little house of their own and she waiting for him
on the wharf when his ship made fast; a story that never grew stale in
the repetition, but which, please God, would come true in the end,
with Florence his wife, and all his doubtings and heart-aches over.
Florence opened the door for him herself and gave a little cry of
surprise and welcome as they shook hands, for in all their
acquaintance there had never been a kiss between them. It was all he
could do not to catch her in his arms, for as she smiled up at him, so
radiant and beautiful and happy, it seemed as if it were his right and
that he had been a fool to have ever questioned her love for him. He
followed her into the sitting-room, laughing like a child with
pleasure and thrilled through and through with the sound of her voice
and the touch of her hand and the vague, subtle perfume of her whole
being. His laughter died away, however, as he saw what the room
contained. Over the chairs, over the sofa, over the table, in the
stacked and open pasteboard boxes on the floor, were dresses and
evening gowns outspread with the profusion of a splendid shop, and
even to his unpractised eyes, costly and magnificent beyond anything
he had ever seen before. Florence swept an opera cloak from a chair
and made him sit down, watching him the while with a charming gaiety
and excitement. At such a moment it seemed to him positively
"Florence," he said, almost with a gasp, "does this mean that you
are going to be—" He stopped short. He could not say that word.
"I'm never going to marry anybody," she returned.
"But—" he began again.
"Then you haven't heard!" she cried, clasping her hands. "Oh,
Frank, you haven't heard!"
"I have only just got back," he said.
"I've been left heaps of money," she exclaimed, "from my uncle,
you know, the one that treated father so badly and tricked him out of
the old manor farm. I hardly knew he existed till he died. And it's
not only a lot, Frank, but it's millions!"
He repeated the word with a kind of groan.
"They are probating the will for six," she went on, not noticing
his agitation, "but I'm sure the lawyers are making it as low as they
can for the taxes. And it's the most splendid kind of property—rows
of houses in the heart of New York and big Broadway shops and
skyscrapers! Frank, do you realise I own two office buildings twenty
Frank tried to congratulate her on her wonderful good fortune, but
it was like a voice from the grave and he could not affect to be glad
at the death-knell of all his hopes.
"That lets me out," he said.
"My poor Frank, you never were in," she said, regarding him with
great kindness and compassion. "I know you are disappointed, but you
are too much a man to be unjust to me."
"Oh, I haven't the right to say a word!" he exclaimed quickly. "On
your side it was friends and nothing more. I always understood that,
He was shocked at her almost imperceptible sigh of relief.
"Of course, this changes everything," she said.
"Yet it would have come if it hadn't been for this," he said. "You
were getting to like me better and better. You cried when I last went
away. Yes, it would have come, Florence," he repeated, looking at her
"I suppose it would, Frank," she said.
"Oh, Florence!" he exclaimed, and could not go on lest his voice
should betray him.
"And we should have lived in a poky little house," she said, "and
you would have been to sea three-quarters of the time, leaving me to
eat my heart out as mother did for father—and it would have been a
horrible, dreadful, irrevocable mistake."
"I didn't have to go to sea," he said, snatching at this crumb of
hope. "There are other jobs than ships. Why, only last trip I was
offered a refrigerating plant in Chicago!"
He did not tell her it bore a salary of four hundred dollars a
month and that he had meant to lay it at her feet that morning. In
the light of her millions that sum, so considerable an hour before,
had suddenly shrunk to nothing. How puny and pitiful it seemed in the
contrast. He had a sense that everything had shrunk to nothing—his
life, his hopes, his future.
"I know you think I am cruel," she said, in the same calm,
considerate tone she had used throughout. "But I never gave you any
encouragement, Frank—not in the way you wanted or expected. You were
the only person I knew who was the least bit cultivated and nice and
travelled and out of the commonplace. I can't tell you how much you
brightened my life here, or how glad I was when you came or how sorry
I was when you went away—but it wasn't love, Frank—not the love you
wished for or the love I feel I have the power to give."
"Why did you let me go on then?" he broke out, "I getting deeper
and deeper into it and you knowing all the time it never could come
to anything? Just because no words were said, did that make you blind?
If you were such a friend of mine as you said you were, wouldn't it
have been kinder to have shown me the door and tell me straight out it
was hopeless and impossible? Oh, Florence, you took my love when you
wanted it, like a person getting warm at a fire, and now when you
don't need it any longer you tell me quite unconcernedly that it is
all over between us!"
"It would sound so heartless to tell you the real truth, Frank,"
"Oh, let me hear it!" he said. "I'm desperate enough for anything
—even for that, I suppose."
"I knew it would end the way you wanted it, Frank," she said. "You
were getting to mean more and more to me. I did not love you exactly
and I did not worry a particle when you were away, but I sort of
acquiesced in what seemed to be the inevitable. I know I am horribly
to blame, but I took it for granted we'd drift on and on—and this
time, if you had asked me, I had made up my mind to say 'yes.'"
She said this last word in almost a whisper, frightened at the
sight of Frank's pale face. She ran over to him, and throwing her
arms around his neck kissed him again and again.
"We'll always be friends, Frank," she said. "Always, always!"
He made no movement to return her caresses. Her kisses humiliated
him to the quick. He pushed her away from him, and when he spoke it
was with dignity and gentleness.
"I was wrong to reproach you," he said. "I can appreciate what a
difference all this money makes to you. It has lifted you into
another world—a world where I cannot hope to follow you, but I can
be man enough to say that I understand—that I acquiesce— without
"I never liked you so well as I do now, Frank," she said.
"We will say nothing more about it," he said. "I couldn't blame
you because you don't love me, could I? I ought rather instead to
thank you—thank you for so much you have given me these two years
past, your friendship, your intimacy, your trust. That it all came to
nothing was neither your fault nor mine. It was your uncle's for dying
and leaving you sky-scrapers!"
They both laughed at this, and Frank, now apparently quite himself
again, brought forth his presents: a large box of candy, a
beautifully bound little volume of Pierre Loti, and a lace collar he
had picked up at Buenos Ayres. This last seemed a trifling piece of
finery in the midst of all those dresses, though he had paid sixteen
dollars for it and had counted it cheap at the price. Florence
received it with exaggerated gratitude, genuine enough in one way, for
she was touched; but, in spite of herself, her altered fortunes and
the memory of those great New York shops, where she had ordered right
and left, made the bit of lace seem common and scarce worth
possessing. Even as she thanked him she was mentally presenting it to
one of the poor Miss Browns who sang in the church choir.
They spent an hour in talking together, eluding on either side any
further reference to the subject most in their thoughts and finding
safety in books and the little gossip of the place and the news of the
day. It might have been an ordinary call, though Frank, as a special
favour, was allowed to smoke a cigar, and there was a strained look in
Florence's face that gave the lie to her previous professions of
indifference. She knew she was violating her own heart, but her
character was already corrupting under the breath of wealth, and her
head was turned with dreams of social conquests and of a great and
splendid match in the roseate future. She kept telling herself how
lucky it was that the money had not come too late, and wondering at
the same time whether she would ever again meet a man who had such a
compelling charm for her as Frank Rignold, and whose mellow voice
could move her to the depths. At last, after a decent interval, Frank
said he would have to leave, and she accompanied him to the door,
where he begged her to remember him to her mother and added something
congratulatory about the great good fortune that had befallen her.
"And now good-bye," he said.
"But you will come back, Frank?" she exclaimed anxiously.
"Oh, no!" he said. "I couldn't, Florence, I couldn't."
"I cannot let you go like this," she protested. "Really I can't,
Frank. I won't!"
"I don't see very well how you can help it," he said.
"Surely my wish has still some weight with you," she said.
"Florence," he returned, holding her hand very tight, "you must
not think it pique on my part or anything so petty and unworthy; but
I'd rather stop right here than endure the pain of seeing you get more
and more indifferent to me. It is bound to come, of course, and it
would be less cruel this way than the other."
"You never can have loved me!" she exclaimed. "Didn't I say I
wanted to be friends? Didn't I kiss you?"
"Yes," he said slowly, "as you might a child, to comfort him for a
broken toy. Florence," he went on, "I have wanted you for the last
two years and now I have lost you. I must face up to that. I must
meet it with what fortitude I can. But I cannot bear to feel that
every time I come you will like me less; that others will crowd me
out and take my place; that the gulf will widen and widen until at
last it is impassable. I am going while you still love me a little
and will miss me. Good-bye!"
She leaned her head on his shoulder and sobbed. She had but to say
one word to keep him, and yet she would not say it. Her heart seemed
broken in her breast, and yet she let him go, sustained in her resolve
by the thought of her great fortune and of the wonderful days to come.
"Good-bye," she said, and stood looking after him as he walked
"Oh, that money, I hate it!" she exclaimed to herself as she went
in. "I wish he had never left it to me. I didn't want it or expect it
or anything, and I should have been happy, oh, so happy!" Then, with a
pang, she recalled the refrigerating plant, and the life so quiet and
poor and simple and sweet that she and Frank would have led had not
her millions come between them.
It was inspiriting to repeat those two words to herself. It
strengthened her resolve and made her feel how wise she had been to
break with Frank. Perhaps, after all, it were better for him not to
come back. He was right about the gulf between them, and even since
his departure it was widening appreciably.
Then she realised what all rich people realise sooner or later.
"I don't own all that money," she said to herself. "IT OWNS ME!"
And with that she went indoors and cried part of the forenoon and
spent the rest of it in trying on her new clothes.
Wealth, if it did not bring happiness, at least brought some
It was fully a year before Frank saw her again; a long year to
him, soberly passed in his shipboard duties, with recurring weeks
ashore at New York and Buenos Ayres. He had grown more reserved and
silent than before; fonder of his books; keener in his taste for
abstract science. He avoided his old friends and made no new ones. The
world seemed to be passing him while he stood still. He wondered how
others could laugh when his own heart was so heavy, and he preferred
to go his own way, solitary and unnoticed, taking an increasing
pleasure in his isolation. He continued to write to Bridgeport, for
there were a few old friends whom he could not disregard altogether,
though he made his letters as infrequent as he could and as short. In
return he was kept informed of Florence's movements; of the sensation
she made everywhere; of the great people who had taken her under their
wing; of her rumoured engagements; of her triumphs in Paris and
London; of her yachts and horses and splendour and beauty. His
correspondents showed an artless pride in the recital. It was becoming
their only claim to consideration that they knew Florence Fenacre. Her
dazzling life reflected a sort of glory upon themselves, and their
letters ran endlessly on the same theme. It was all a modern fairy
tale, and they fairly bubbled with satisfaction to think that they
knew the fairy princess!
Frank read it all with exasperation. It tormented him to even hear
her name; to be reminded of her in any way; to realise that she was
as much alive as he himself, and not the phantom he would have
preferred to keep her in his memory. Yet he was inconsistent enough
to rage when a letter came that brought no news of her. He would tear
it into pieces and throw it out of his cabin window. The fools, why
couldn't they tell him what he wanted to know! He would carry his
ill-humour into the engine-room and revenge himself on fate and the
loss of the woman he loved by a harsh criticism of his subordinates. A
defective pump or a troublesome valve would set his temper flaming;
and then, overcome at his own injustice, he would go to the other
extreme; and, roundly blaming himself, would slap some sullen
artificer on the back and tell him that it was all a joke. His men,
amongst themselves, called him a wild cracked devil, and it was the
tattle of the ship that he drank hard in secret. They knew something
was wrong with him, and fastened on the likeliest cause. Others said
out boldly that the chief engineer was going crazy.
One morning as they were running up the Sound, homeward-bound,
they passed a large steam yacht at anchor. Frank happened to be on
deck at the time, and he joined with the rest in the little chorus of
admiration that went up at the sight of her.
"That's the Minnehaha," said the second mate. "She belongs to the
beautiful heiress, Miss Fenacre!"
"Ready for a Mediterranean cruise," said the purser, who had been
reading one of the newspapers the pilot had brought aboard.
Frank heard these two remarks in silence. The sun, to him, seemed
to stop shining. The morning that had been so bright and pleasant all
at once overcame him with disgust. The might-have-been took him by the
throat. He descended into the engine-room to hide his dejected face in
the heated oily atmosphere below; and seating himself on a tool-chest
he watched, with hardly seeing eyes, the ponderous movement of his
It was the anodyne for his troubles, to feel the vibration of the
engines and hear the rumble and hiss of the jacketed cylinders. It
always comforted him; he found companionship in the mighty thing he
controlled; he looked at the trembling needle in the gauge, and
instinctively noted the pressure as he thought of the trim smart
vessel at anchor and of his dear one on the eve of parting. He
wondered whether they would ever pass again, he and she, in all the
years to come.
The thought of the yacht haunted him all that day. He took a
sudden revulsion against the grinding routine of his own life. It
came over him like a new discovery, that he was tired of South
America, tired of his ship, tired of everything. He contrasted his
own voyages in and out, from the same place to the same place, up and
down, up and down, as regular as the swing of a pendulum with that gay
wanderer of the raking masts who was free to roam the world. It came
over him with an insistence that he, too, would like to roam the
world, and see strange places and old marble palaces with steps
descending into the blue sea water, and islands with precipices and
beaches and palm trees.
Almost awed at his own presumption he sat down and wrote to Miss
It was a short note, formally addressed, begging her for a
position in the engine-room staff. He knew, he said, that the quota
was probably made up, and that he could not hope for an important
place. But if she would take him as a first-class artificer he would
be more than grateful, and ventured on the little pleasantry that even
if he had to be squeezed in as a supernumerary he was confident he
could save her his pay and keep a good many times over.
He got an answer a couple of days later, addressed from a
fashionable New York hotel and granting him an interview. She called
him "dear Frank," and signed herself "ever yours," and said that of
course she would give him anything he wanted, only that she would
prefer to talk it over first.
He put on his best clothes and went to see her, being shown into a
large suite on the second floor, where he had to wait an hour in a
lofty anteroom with no other company but a statue of Pocahontas. He
was oppressed by the gorgeousness of the surroundings—by the frowning
pictures, the gilt furniture, the onyx-topped tables, the vases, the
mirrors, the ornate clocks. He was in a fever of expectation, and
could not fight down his growing timidity. He had not seen Florence
for a year, and his heart would have been as much in his mouth had the
meeting been set in the old brick house at Bridgeport. At least he
said so to himself, not caring to confess that he was daunted by the
magnificence of the apartment.
At length the door opened and she came in. She stood for a moment
with her hand on the knob and looked at him; then she came over to
him with a little rush and took his outstretched hand. He had
forgotten how beautiful she was, or probably he had never really
known, as he had never beheld her before in one of those wonderful
French creations that cost each one a fortune. He stumbled over his
words of greeting, and his hand trembled as he held hers.
"Oh, Frank," she said, noticing his agitation. "Are you still
silly enough to care?"
"I am afraid I do, Florence," he said, blushing like a boy at her
unexpected question. "What's the good of asking me that?"
"You are looking handsome, Frank," she ran on. "I am proud of you.
You have the nicest hair of any man I know!"
"I daren't say how stunning you look, Florence," he returned.
"Frank," she said, slowly, fixing her lustrous eyes on his face,
"you usen't to be so grave. ... I don't think you have smiled much
lately ... you are changed."
He bore her scrutiny with silence.
"Poor boy!" she exclaimed, impulsively taking his hand. "I'm the
most heartless creature in the whole world. Do you know, Frank,
though I look so nice and girlish, I am really a brute; and when I
die I am sure to go to hell."
"I hope not," he said, smiling.
"Oh, but I know!" she cried. "All I ever do is to make people
"Perhaps it's the people's fault, for—for loving you, Florence,"
"It's awfully exciting to see you again," she went on. "You came
within an ace of being my husband. I might have belonged to you and
counted your washing. It's queer, isn't it? Thrilling!"
"Why do you bring all that up, Florence?" he said. "It's done.
It's over. I—I would rather not speak of it."
"But it was such an awfully near thing, Frank," she persisted. "I
had made up my mind to take you, you know. I had even looked over my
poor little clothes and had drawn a hundred dollars out of the savings
"You don't take much account of a hundred dollars now," he
returned, trying to smile.
"I know you don't want to talk about it," she said, "but I do. I
love to play with emotions. I suppose it's a habit, like any other,"
she continued, "and it grows on one like opium or morphine. That's why
I'll go to hell, Frank. It wasn't that way at all when you used to
know me. I think I must have been nice then, and really worth loving!"
"Oh, yes!" he returned miserably. "Oh, yes!"
"I have a whole series of the most complicated emotions about
you," she said, "only a lot of them are unexploded, like fire
crackers before they are touched off. If I lost all my money I'd be
in a panic till you came and took me; but as long as I have it I don't
think of you more than once a week. Yet, do you know, Frank, if you
got a sweetheart, I believe I'd scratch her eyes out. It's rather fine
of me to tell you all that," she went on, with a smile, "for I'm
giving you the key of the combination, and you might take advantage of
"Florence," he said, "I thought at first you were just laughing at
me, but I see that you are right. You are heartless. You oughtn't to
talk like that."
She looked a shade put out.
"Well, Frank, it's the truth, anyway," she said, "and in the old
days we were always such sticklers for the truth—for sincerity, you
"I have no business to correct you," he said humbly. "I resigned
all my pretensions that morning in the old house."
"Well, so long as you love me still!" she exclaimed, with a little
mocking laugh. "That's the great thing, isn't it? I mean for me, of
course. I am greedy for love. It makes me feel so safe and comfortable
to think there are whole rows of men that love me. When you have a
great fortune you begin to appreciate the things that money cannot
"Oh, your money!" he said. That word in her mouth always stung
"Well, you ought to hate my money," she remarked cheerfully. "It
queered you, didn't it? And then all rich people are detestable,
anyway—selfish to the core, and horrid. Do you know that sometimes
when I have flirted awfully with a man at a dinner or somewhere, and
the next day he telephones—and the telephone is in the next
room—I've just said: 'Oh, bother! tell him I'm out,' rather than take
the trouble to get up from my chair. And a nice man, too!"
"I thought I might be treated the same way," he said.
"Then you thought wrong, Frank," she returned, with a sudden
change from her tone of flippancy and lightness. "I haven't sunk
quite as low as that, you know. I meant other people—I didn't mean
you, Frank, dear."
This was said with such a little ring of kindness that Frank was
"Then the old days still count for something?" he said.
"Oh, yes!" she said.
"But not enough to hurt?" he ventured.
"Sometimes they do and sometimes they don't," she returned. "It
depends on how good a time I'm having. But I hate to think I'm weak
and selfish and vain, and that the only person I really care for is
myself. I value my self-esteem, and it often gets an awful jar.
Sometimes I feel like a girl that has run away from home— diamonds
and dyed hair, you know—and then wakes up at night and cries to think
of what a price she has paid for all her fine things!" Florence waved
her hand towards the alabaster statue of Pocahontas, with a little
ripple of self-disdain. She was in a strange humour, and beneath the
surface of her apparent gaiety there ran an undercurrent of bitterness
and contempt for herself. Her eyes were unusually brilliant, and her
cheeks were pink enough to have been rouged. The sight of her old
lover had stirred many memories in her bosom.
"And what about my job, Florence?" he said, changing the
conversation. "I've caught the yachting idea, too. Can it be
"Oh, I want to talk to you about that," she said.
"Well, go on," he said, as she hesitated.
"I am so afraid of hurting your feelings, Frank," she said with a
"My feelings are probably tougher than you think," he returned.
"You will think so badly of me," she said. "You will be
"It sounds as though you wanted to engage me for your butler," he
said. Then, as she still withheld the words on her lips, he went on:
"Don't be uneasy about saying it, Florence. If it's impossible—why,
that's the end of it, of course, and no harm done."
"I want you to come," she said simply.
"Then, what's the trouble?" he demanded, getting more and more
mystified. "I don't mind being an artificer the least bit. I like to
work with my hands. I'm a good mechanic, and I like it."
"I want you for my chief engineer," she said.
This was news, indeed. Frank's face betrayed his keen pleasure. He
had never soared to the heights of asking or expecting THAT.
"I had to dismiss the last one," she went on. "That's the reason
why I'm still here, and not two days out, as I had expected. He
locked himself in his cabin and shot at people through the door, and
told awful lies to the newspapers."
"If it's anything about my qualifications," he said, thinking he
had found the reason of her backwardness, "I don't fancy I'll have
any trouble to satisfy you. I don't want to toot my own horn,
Florence, but really, you know, I am rated a first-class man. I'll
prove that by my certificates and all that, or give me two weeks'
trial, and see for yourself."
"Oh, it isn't that," she said.
"Then, what is it?" he broke out. "Only the other day they offered
me a Western Ocean liner, and, if you like, I'll send you the letter.
If I am good enough for a big passenger ship, I guess I can run the
Minnehaha to please you!"
"Frank," she returned, "it is not a question of your competency at
all. You know very well I'd trust my life to you, blindfold. It's
—it's the social side, the old affair between us, the first names
and all that kind of thing."
"Oh, I see!" he said blankly.
"As an officer on my ship," she said, "you could easily put
yourself and me in a difficult position. In a way, we'll really be
further apart than if you were in South America and I in Monte Carlo,
for, though we'd always be good friends, and all that, the formalities
would have to be observed. Now, I have offended you?" she added,
putting out her hand appealingly.
"I think you might have known me better, Florence," he returned.
"I am not offended—what right have I to be offended—only a little
hurt, perhaps, to think that you could doubt me for a single moment in
such a matter. I understand very well, and appreciate the need for it.
Did you expect me to call you Florence on the quarterdeck of your own
vessel, and presume on our old friendship to embarrass you and set
people talking? Good Heavens, what do you take me for?"
"Don't be angry with me, Frank," she pleaded. "It had to be said,
you know. I wanted you so much to come; I wanted to share my
beautiful vessel with you; and yet I dreaded any kind of a false
"I shall treat you precisely as I would any owner of any ship I
sailed on," he said. "That is, with respect and always preserving my
distance. I will never address you first except to say good- morning
and good-evening, and will show no concern if you do not speak to me
for days on end."
"Oh, Frank, you are an angel!" she cried.
"No," he returned, "only—as far as I can—a gentleman, Miss
"We needn't begin now, Frank," she exclaimed, almost with
"Am I in your service?" he asked.
"From to-day," she answered, "and I will give you a note to
"Then you will be Miss Fenacre to me from now on," he said.
"You must say good-bye to Florence first," she said, smiling. "You
may kiss my hand," she said, as she gave it to him. "You used to do
it so gallantly in the old days—such a Spaniard that you are,
Frank—and I liked it so much!"
He did so, and for the first time in his life with a kind of
"I hope we are not both of us making a terrible mistake,
Florence," he said.
"Oh, I couldn't want a better chief!" she said, "and, as for you,
it's the wisest thing you ever did. It's me, after all, who is making
the sacrifice, for, in a month or two, all the gilt will wear off, and
you will see me as I really am. You will find it very disillusioning
to go to sea with your divinity," she added. "You will discover she is
a very flesh-and-blood affair, after all, Frank, and not worth the tip
of your little finger."
"I had a good many opportunities of judging before," he replied,
"and the more I knew her the more I loved her."
"Well, I am changed now," she said. "I suppose all the bad has
come to the surface since—like the slag when they melt iron and skim
it off with dippers—only with me there's nobody to dip. If I
am astounded at the difference, what do you suppose you'll be?"
"There never could be any difference to me," he said.
"That's the only kind of love worth talking about," she said,
going to the window and looking out.
For a while neither of them spoke. Frank rose and stood with his
hat in his hand, waiting to take his departure. Florence turned, and
going to an escritoire sat down and wrote a few lines on a card.
"Present this to Captain Landry," she said, "and, now, my dear
chief engineer, I will give you your conge."
He thanked her, and put the card carefully in his pocketbook.
"What a farce it all is, Frank!" she broke out. "There's something
wrong in a system that gives a girl millions of dollars to do just as
she likes with. I don't care what they say to the contrary; I believe
women were meant to belong to men, to live in semi-slavery and do what
they are told, to bring up children and travel with the pots and pans,
and find their only reward in pleasing their husbands."
"I wouldn't care to pass an opinion," said Frank. "Some of them
are happy that way, no doubt."
"What does anybody want except to be happy?" she continued, in the
same strain of resentment. "Isn't that what all are trying for as
hard as they can? I'd like to go out in the street and stop people as
they came along and ask them, the one after the other: 'Would you tell
me if you are happy?' And the one that said 'yes' I'd give a hundred
"As like as not it would be some shabby fellow with no overcoat,"
"Now you can go away!" she exclaimed suddenly. "I don't know
what's the matter with me, Frank. I think I'm going to cry! Go, go!"
she cried imperiously, as he still stood there.
Frank bowed and obeyed, and his last glimpse, as he closed the
door, was of her at the window, looking down disconsolately into the
Spring was well begun when the Minnehaha sailed for Europe to take
her place in the mimic fleets that were already assembling. As like
seeks like, so the long, swift white steamer headed like a bird for
her faraway companions, and arrived amongst them with colours flying,
and her guns roaring out salutes. By herself she was greedy for every
pound of steam and raced her engines as though speed were a matter of
life and death; but, once in company, she was content to lag with the
slowest, and suit her own pace to the stately progress of the
schooners and cutters that moved by the wind alone. She found friends
amongst all nations, and, in that cosmopolitan society of ships,
dipped her flag to those of England, France, Holland, Belgium, and
It was a wonderful life of freedom and gaiety. A great yacht
carries her own letter of introduction, and is accorded everywhere
the courtesies of a man-of-war, to whom, in a sense, she is a sister.
Official visits are paid and returned; naval punctilio reigns;
invitations are lavished from every side. There is, besides, a
freemasonry amongst those splendid wanderers of the sea, a
transcendent Bohemianism, that puts them nearly all upon a common
footing. A holiday spirit is in the air, and kings and princes who at
home are hidden within walls of triple brass, here unbend like
children out of school, and make friends and gossip about their
neighbours and show off their engine-rooms and their ice plant and
some new idea in patent boat davits after the manner of very ordinary
mortals. Not of course that kings and princes predominate, but the
same spirit prevailed with those who on shore held their heads very
high and practised a jealous exclusiveness. Amongst them all Florence
Fenacre was a favourite of favourites. Young, beautiful, and the
mistress of a noble fortune, there was everything to cast a glamour
about this charming American who had come out of the unknown to take
all hearts by storm.
Her haziness about distinctions of rank filled these Europeans
with an amused amazement. There was to them something quite royal in
her naivety and lack of awe; in her high spirit, her vivacity, and her
absolute disregard of those who failed to please her. She convulsed
one personage by describing another as "that tiresome old man who's
really too disreputable to have tagging around me any longer"; and had
a quarrel and a making up with a reigning duke about a lighter of coal
that their respective crews had come to blows over. Everybody adored
her, and she seldom put to sea without a love-sick yacht in her wake.
Of course, here as elsewhere, every phase of human character was
displayed, and most conspicuous of all amongst the evil was the
determination of many to win Florence's millions for themselves. Amid
that noble concourse of vessels, every one of which stood for a
princely income, there were adventurers as needy and as hungry as any
sharper in the streets of New York. There is an aristocratic poverty,
none the less real because three noughts must be added to all the
figures, that first surprised and then disgusted the pretty American.
Her first awakening to the fact was when, as a special favour, she
sold her best steam launch to a French marquise at the price it had
cost her. Though that lady was very profuse with little pink notes and
could purr over Florence by the hour, her signature on a cheque was
never forthcoming, and our heroine had a fit of fury to think of
having been so deceived.
"It was a downright confidence trick," she burst out to the comte
de Souvary, firing up afresh with the memory of her wrongs. "I loved
my launch. It was a beauty. It never went dotty at the time you needed
it most and it was a vertical inverted triple-expansion direct-acting
propeller!' (Florence could always rattle off technical details and
showed her Americanism in her catalogue-like fluency in this respect.)
"And I miss it and I want it back, and the horrid old woman never
means to pay me a penny!"
"Oh, my child!" said the count, "she never pays anybody ze penny.
She is a stone from which one looks in vain for blood. Your launch
is—what do you call it in ze Far Vest—a goner!"
"But she's descended from Charlemagne," cried Florence. "She has
the entree to all the courts. She ought to be exposed for stealing my
"What does anybody do when he is robbed?" said the count
philosophically. He could afford to be philosophical: it wasn't HIS
vertical inverted triple-expansion direct-acting propeller. "Smile and
be more careful ze next time," he went on. "The marquise's reputation
is international for what is charitably called her eccentricity."
"In America they put people in jail for that kind of
eccentricity!" exclaimed Florence.
"Oh, the best way in Europe is money-with-order," said the count,
"what I remember once a friend seeing in that great country of which
you are ze ornament—in God we trust: all others cash!"
"Well, it's a shame," said Florence, "and if I ever get the chance
of a dark night I'll ram her with the Minnehaha!"
Florence's mother, a dear little old lady who did tatting and read
the Christian Herald, was always the particular target of the
fortune-hunters who pursued her daughter. It seemed such a brilliant
idea to capture the mother first as the preparatory step of getting
into the good graces of the heiress; and the old lady, who was one of
the most guileless of her sex, never failed to fall into the trap and
take the attentions all in earnest. Comte de Souvary used to say that
if you wished to find the wickedest men in Europe you had only to cast
your eyes in the direction of Florence's mother; and she would be
trotted off to church and driven in automobiles and lunched in casinos
by the most notorious and unprincipled scapegraces of the Old World.
Florence, who, like all heiresses, had developed a positive
instinct for the men who meant her mischief, was always delighted at
the repeated captures of the old lady; and it was an endless
entertainment to her when her mother was induced to champion the
cause of some aristocratic ne'er-do-well.
"But, Mamma," she would say, "I hate to call your friends names,
but really he's a perfect scamp, and underneath all his fine manners
he is no better than a wolf ravening for rich young lambs!"
"Oh, Florence, how can you be so uncharitable!" her mother would
retort. "If you could only hear the way he speaks of his mother and
his ruined life, and how he is trying to be a better man for your
"Always the same old story," said Florence. "It's wonderful the
good I do just sailing around and radiating moral influence. The
count says I ought to get a medal from the government with my profile
on one side and a composite picture of my admirers on the other! And
if I do, Mamsey, I'll give it to you to keep!"
Frank Rignold was sometimes tempted to curse the day that had ever
brought him aboard the Minnehaha. To be a silent spectator of
gaieties and festivities he could not share; to be condemned to stand
aloof while he saw the woman he loved petted and sought after by men
of exalted position—what could be imagined more detestable to a lover
without hope, without the shadow of a claim, with nothing to look
forward to except the inevitable day when a luckier fellow would carry
her off before his eyes. He moped in secret and often spent hours
locked in his cabin, sitting with his face in his hands, a prey to the
bitterest melancholy and dejection. In public, however, he always bore
himself unflinchingly, and was too proud a man and too innately a
gentleman to allow his face to be read even by her. It was incumbent
on him, so long as he drew her pay and wore her uniform, to act in all
respects the part he was cast to play; and no one could have guessed,
except perhaps the girl herself, that he had any other thought save to
do his duty cheerfully and well.
Captain Landry sat in the saloon at the bottom of the table,
Florence herself taking the head; but the other officers of the ship
had a cosey messroom of their own, presided over by Frank Rignold as
the officer second in rank on board. Thus whole days might pass with
no further exchange between himself and Florence than the customary
good-morning when they happened to meet on deck. Except on the
business of the ship it was tacitly understood that no officer should
speak to her without being first addressed. The discipline of a
man-of-war prevailed; everything went forward with stereotyped
precision and formality; the officers were supposed to comport
themselves with impassivity and self- effacement. Florence had no more
need of being conscious of their presence than if they had been so
Her life and theirs offered a strange contrast. She in her little
court of idlers and merry-makers; they, the grave men who were
answerable for her safety, the exponents of a rigid routine, to whom
the clang of the bells brought recurring duties and the exercise of
their professional knowledge. To her, yachting was a play: to them, a
"I often remark your chief engineer," said the comte de Souvary to
Florence. "A handsome man, with an air at once sad and noble—one of
zoze extraordinary Americans who keep for their machines the ardour we
Europeans lavish on the women we love—and whose spirits when zey die
turn without doubt into petrole or electricity."
"I have known Mr. Rignold ever since I was a child," said
Florence, pleased to hear Frank praised. "I regard him as one of my
best and dearest friends."
"The more to his credit," said the count, astonished. "Many in
such a galere would prove themselves presumptuous and troublesome."
"He is almost too much the other way," said Florence, with a sigh.
"Ah, that appeals to me!" said the count. "I should be such
anozzer in his place. Proud, silent, unobtrusive, who gives dignity
to what otherwise would be a false position."
"I came very near being his wife once," said Florence, impelled,
she hardly knew why, to make the confession.
The count was thunderstruck.
"His wife!" he exclaimed.
"Before I was rich, you know," explained Florence. "A million
years ago it seems now, when I lived in a little town and was a
"Anozzer romance of the Far Vest!" cried the count, to whom this
term embraced the entire continent from Maine to San Francisco.
Florence was curiously capricious in her treatment of Frank
Rignold. Often she would neglect him for weeks together, and then, in
a sort of revulsion, would go almost to the other extreme. Sometimes
at night, when he would be pacing the deck, she would come and take
his arm and call him Frank under her breath and ask him if he still
loved her; and in a manner half tender, half mocking, would play on
his feelings with a deliberate enjoyment of the pain she inflicted.
Her greatest power of torment was her frankness. She would talk over
her proposals; weigh one against the other; revel in her self-analysis
and solemnly ask Frank his opinion on this or that part of her
character. She talked with equal freedom of her regard for himself,
and was almost brutal in confessing how hard it was to hold herself
"I think I must be awfully wicked, Frank," she said to him once.
"I love you so dearly, and yet I wouldn't marry you for anything!"
And then she ran on as to whether she ought to take Souvary and live
in Paris or Lord Comyngs and choose London. "It's so hard to decide,"
she said, "and it's so important, because one couldn't change one's
"Not very well," said Frank.
"You mustn't grind your teeth so loud," she said. "It's
"I wish you would talk about something else or go away," he said,
goaded out of his usual politeness.
"Oh, I love my little stolen tete-a-tetes with you!" she
exclaimed. "All those other men are used up, emotionally speaking.
The count would turn a neat phrase even if he were to blow his brains
out the next minute. They think they are splendidly cool, but it only
means that they have exhausted all their powers of sensation. You are
delightfully primitive and unspoiled, and then I suppose it is natural
to like a fellow-countryman best, isn't it? Now, honest—have you
found any girls over here you like as well as me?"
"I haven't tried to find any," said Frank.
"You aren't a bit disillusioned, are you?" she said. "You simply
shut your eyes and go it blind. A woman likes that in a man. It's
what love ought to be. It's silly of me to throw it away."
"Perhaps it is, Florence," he said. "Who knows but what some day
you may regret it?"
"I often think of that," she returned. "I am afraid all the good
part of me loves you, and all the bad loves the counts and dukes and
earls, you know. And the good is almost drowned in all the rest, like
vegetables in vegetable soup."
She excelled in giving such little dampers to sentiment, and
laughed heartily at Frank's discomfiture.
"You can be awfully cruel," he said. "I wonder you can be so
beautiful when you can think such things and say them. You treat
hearts like toys and laugh when you break them."
"Well, there's one thing, Frank," she said seriously. "I have
never pretended to you or tried to appear better than I am; and you
are the only man I can say that to and not lie!"
The comte de Souvary, towards whom Florence betrayed an
inclination that seemed at times to deserve a warmer word, was a
French gentleman nearing forty. He was a man of distinguished
appearance, with all the gaiety, grace, and charm that, in spite our
popular impression to the contrary, are not seldom found amongst the
nobles of his country. His undoubted wealth and position redeemed his
suit from any appearance of being inspired by a mercenary motive.
Indeed, he was accustomed himself to be pursued, and Florence and he
recognised in each other a fellowship of persecution.
"We are ze Pale Faces," he would say, "and ze ozzers zey are
Indians closing in from every corner of ze Far Vest for our scalps!"
He was, in many ways, the most accomplished man that Florence had
ever known. He was a violinist, a singer, a poet, and yet these were
but a part of his various gifts; for in everything out of doors he was
no less a master and took the first place as though by right. He was
the embodiment of everything daring and manly; it seemed natural for
him to excel; he simply did not know what fear was. He was always
ready to smile and turn a little joke, whether speeding in his
automobile at a breakneck pace or ballooning above the clouds in
search of what was to him the breath of life: "ze sensation." He could
never see a new form of "ze sensation" without running for it like a
child for a new toy. His whole attitude towards the world was that of
a furious curiosity. He could not bear to leave it, he said, until all
he had learned how all the wheels went round. He had stood on the
Matterhorn. He had driven the Sud express. He had exhausted lions and
tigers. In moods of depression he would threaten to follow Andree to
the pole and figure out his plans on the back of an envelope.
"Magnificent!" he would cry, growing instantly cheerful at the
prospect. "Think of ze sensation!"
He spoke English fluently, though shaky on the TH and the W, and
it was first hand and not mentally translated. His pronunciation of
Far West, two words that were constantly on his lips, was an endless
entertainment to Florence, and out of a sense of humour she forebore
to correct him. It was typical, indeed, of his ignorance of everything
American. Europe was at his fingers' ends; there was not a country in
it he was not familiar with; intimately familiar, knowing much of what
went on behind the scenes, and the lives and characters of the men,
and not less the women, who shaped national policies and held the
steering-wheels of state.
"Muravief would never do that," he would say. "He is
constitutionally inert, and his imagination has carried him through
too many unfought wars for him to throw down the gage now. He smokes
cigarettes and dreams of endless peace. I had many talks with him last
year and found him impatient of any subject but the redemption of the
But his mind had never crossed the Atlantic Ocean. He still
thought that the Civil War had been between North and South America.
To him the United States was a vague region peopled with miners,
pork-packers, and Indians; a jumble of factories, forests, and
red-shirted men digging for gold, all of it fantastically seen through
the medium of Buffalo Bill's show. It was a constant wonder to him
that such conditions had been able to produce a woman like Florence
"You are the flower of ze prairie," he would say, "an atavism of
type, harking back a dozen generations to aristocratic progenitors,
having nothing in common with the Pathfinder your Papa!"
"He wasn't a pathfinder," said Florence, "he was a whaler
But this to the count seemed only the more remarkable. He raised
the fabric of a fresh romance on the instant, especially (on Florence
telling him more about her forebears) when he began to mix up the
Pilgrim Fathers, the Revolutionary War, and the Alabama in one brisk
panorama of his ever dear "Far Vest"!
Florence's acquaintance with the comte de Souvary went back to
Majorca, where, in the course of one of those sudden blows, so common
on the Mediterranean, their respective yachts had fled for shelter.
His own was a large auxiliary schooner called the Paquita, a lofty,
showy vessel which he sailed himself with his usual courage and
audacity. He had the reputation of scaring his unhappy guests—when
any were bold enough to accept his invitations—to within the
proverbial inch of their lives; and they usually changed "ze
sensation" for the nearest mail-boat home. Florence and he had struck
up a warm friendship from the start, and for the whole summer their
vessels were inseparable, sailing everywhere in company and anchoring
side by side.
The count had a way of courtship peculiarly his own. He made it
apparent from the first how deeply he had been stirred by Florence's
beauty and how ready he was to offer her his hand; but as a matter of
fact he never did so in set terms, and treated her more as a comrade
than a divinity. He talked of his own devotion to her as something
detached and impersonal, willing as much as she to laugh over it and
treat it lightly. He was never jealous, never exacting, and seemed to
be as happy to share her with others as when he had her all alone in
one of their tete-a-tetes. What he coveted most of all was her
intimacy, her confidence, the frank expression of her own true self;
and in this exchange he was willing to give as much as he received and
often more. Sometimes she was piqued at his apparent indifference—at
his lack of any stronger feeling for her—seeming to detect in him
something of her own insouciance and coldness.
"You really don't care for me a bit," she said once. "I am only
another form of 'ze sensation'—like going up in a balloon or riding
on the cow-catcher."
"I keep myself well in hand," he returned. "I am not approaching
the terrible age of forty without knowing a little at least about
women and their ways."
"A little!" she exclaimed ironically. "You know enough to write a
"Zat book has taught me to go very slow," he said. "Were I in my
young manhood I'd come zoop, like that, and carry you off in ze Far
Vest style. But I can never hope to be that again with any woman; my
decreasing hair forbids, if nozing else—but my way is to make myself
indispensable—ze old dog, ze old standby, as you Americans say—the
good old harbour to which you will come at last when tired of ze
"Your humility is a new trait," said Florence.
"It's none ze less real because it is often hid," said the count.
"I watch you very closely, more closely than perhaps you even think.
You have all the heartlessness of youth and health and beauty. I would
be wrong to put my one little piece of money on the table and lose
all; and so I save and save, and play ze only game that offers me the
least chance—ze waiting game!"
"I believe that's true," said Florence.
"Were I to act ze distracted lover, you would laugh in my face,"
he went on earnestly. "Were I to propose and be refused, my pride
would not let me—my instinct as gentleman would not let me—go
trailing after you with my long face. The idyll would be over. I
"There are times when I think a heap of you," said Florence
"Oh, I know so well how it would be," he continued. "A week of
doubt—of fever; a rain of little notes; and then with your good
clear honest Far Vest sense you would say: No, mon cher, it is
"Yes, I suppose I would," said Florence.
"I would rather be your friend all my life," said the count, "than
to be merely one of the rejected. I have no ambition to place my name
on that already great list. I have never yet asked a woman to marry
me, and when I do I care not for the expectation of being refused!"
"You are like all Europeans," said Florence, "you believe in a
"My heart is not on my sleeve," he returned, "and I value it too
highly to lose it without compensation."
"It is interesting to hear all your views," said Florence. "I am
sure I appreciate the compliment highly. It's a new idea, this of the
wolf making a confidant of the lamb."
"Oh, my dear!" he broke out, "I am only a poor devil holding back
from committing a great stupidity."
"Is that how you describe marrying me?" she said lightly.
"Ze day will come," he said, disregarding her question, "I think
it will—I hope it will—when you will say to me: My dear fellow, I
am tired of all this fictitious gaiety; of all this rush and bustle
and flirtation; of this life of fever and emptiness. I long for peace
and do not know where to find it. I am like a piece of music to whom
one waits in vain for the return to the keynote. Tell me where to find
it or else I die!"
"Rather forward of me to say all that, Count," observed the girl.
"But suppose I did—what then?"
The count opened wide his arms.
"I would answer: here!" he said.
Thus the bright days passed, amid animating scenes, with memories
of sky and cloud and noble headlands and stately, beautiful ships.
Like two ocean sweethearts the Minnehaha and the Paquita took their
restless way together, side by side in port, inseparable at sea. At
night the one lit the other's road with a string of ruby lanterns and
kept the pair in company across the dark and silent water. Their
respective crews, not behindhand in this splendid camaraderie of
ships, fraternised in wine-shops and strolled through the crooked
foreign streets arm in arm. Breton and American, red cap and blue,
sixty of the one and eighty of the other—they were brothers all and
cemented their friendship in blood and gunpowder, in tattooed names,
flags and mottoes, after the time-honoured and artless manner of the
In the drama of life it is often the least important actors who
are happiest, and the stars themselves are not always to be the most
envied. Florence, torn between her ambition and her love, knew what it
was to toss all night on her sleepless bed and wet the pillow with her
tears. De Souvary, who found himself every day deeper in the toils of
his ravishing American, chafed and struggled with unavailing pangs;
and as for Frank Rignold, he endured long periods of black depression
as he watched from afar the steady progress of his rival's suit; and
his moody face grew moodier and exasperation rose within him to the
By September the two yachts were lying in Cowes, and already there
was some talk of winter plans and a possible voyage to India. The
count was enthusiastic about the project, as he was about anything
that could keep him and Florence together, and he had ordered a stack
of books and spent hours at a time with the mistress of the Minnehaha
reading over Indian Ocean directories and plotting imaginary courses
on the chart.
With the prospect of so extended a trip before him, Frank found
much to be done in the engine-room, for their suggested cruise would
be likely to carry them far out of the beaten track, and he had to be
prepared for all contingencies. A marine engine requires to be
perpetually tinkered, and an engineer's duty is not only to run it,
but to make good the little defects and breakdowns that are constantly
occurring. Frank was a daily visitor at the local machine-shop, and
his business engagements with Mr. Derwent, the proprietor, led
insensibly to others of the social kind.
Derwent's house was close by his works, and Frank's trips ashore
soon began to take in both. Derwent had a daughter, a black- haired,
black-eyed, pink-cheeked girl, named Cassie, one of those vigorous
young English beauties that men would call stunning and women bold.
She did not wait for any preliminaries, but straightway fell in love
with the handsome American engineer that her father brought home. She
made her regard so plain that Frank was embarrassed, and was not a bit
put off at his reluctance to play the part she assigned to him.
"That's always my luck," she remarked with disarming candour, "a
poor silly fool who always likes them that don't like me and spurns
them that do!" And then she added, with a laugh, that he ought to be
tied up, "for you are a cruel handsome man, Frank, and my heart goes
pitapat at the very sight of you!"
She called him Frank at the second visit; and at the third seated
herself on the arm of his chair and took his hand and held it.
"Can't you ever forget that girl in Yankee-land?" she said. "She
ain't here, is she, and why shouldn't you steal a little harmless
fun? There's men who'd give their little finger to win a kiss from
me—and you sit there so glum and solemn, who could have a bushel for
For all Frank's devotion to Florence he could not but be flattered
at being wooed in this headlong fashion. He was only a man after all,
and she was the prettiest girl in port. He did not resist when she
suddenly put her arms around him and pressed his head against her
bosom, calling him her boy and her darling; but remained passive in
her embrace, pleased and yet ashamed, and touched to the quick with
"You mustn't," he said, freeing himself. "Cassie, it's wrong—it's
dreadful. You mustn't think I love you, because I don't."
"Yes, but I am going to make you," she said with splendid
effrontery, looking at herself in the glass and patting her rumpled
hair. "See what you have done to me, you bad boy!"
Had she been older or more sophisticated, Frank would have been
shocked at this reversal of the sexes. But in her self-avowed and
unashamed love for him she was more like a child than a woman; and
her good-humour and laughter besides seemed somehow to belittle her
words and redeem the affair from any seriousness. Frank tried to stay
away, for his conscience pricked him and he did not care to drift into
such an unusual and ambiguous relation with Derwent's handsome
daughter. But Cassie was always on the watch for him and he could not
escape from the machine-works without falling into one of her
ambushes. She would carry him off to tea, and he never left without
finding himself pledged to return in the evening. In his loneliness,
hopelessness, and desolation he found it dangerously sweet to be thus
petted and sought after. Cassie made no demands of him and acquiesced
with apparent cheerfulness in the implication that he loved another
woman. She humbly accepted the little that was left over, and, though
she wept many hot tears in secret, outwardly at least she never
rebelled or reproached him. She knew that to do either would be to
lose him. In fact she made it very easy for him to come, and gave up
her girlish treasure of affection without any hope of reward. Frank,
by degrees, discovered a wonderful comfort in being with her. It was
balm to his wounds and bruises; and, like someone who had long been
out in the cold, he warmed himself, so to speak, before that bright
fire, and found himself growing drowsy and contented.
It must not be supposed that all this went on unremarked, or that
in the gossip of the yacht Frank and Cassie Derwent did not come in
for a considerable share of attention. It passed from the officers'
mess to the saloon, and Florence bit her lip with anger and jealousy
when the joke went round of the chief engineer's "infatuation." In
revenge she treated Frank more coldly than ever, and went out of her
way to be agreeable to de Souvary, especially when the former was at
hand and could be made a spectator of her lover-like glances and a
warmth that seemed to transcend the limits of ordinary friendship. She
made herself utterly unhappy and Frank as well. The only one of the
trio to be pleased was the count.
She made no objection when Frank asked her permission to show the
ship to Derwent and his daughter.
"You must be sure and introduce me," she said, with a sparkle of
her eyes that Frank was too unpresumptuous to understand. "They say
that she is a raving little beauty and that you are the happy man!"
Frank hurriedly disclaimed the honour.
"Oh, no!" he said. "But she is really very sweet and nice, and I
think we owe a little attention to her father."
"Oh, her FATHER!" said Florence, sarcastically emphasising the
"I hope you don't think there is anything in it," he exclaimed
very anxiously. "I suppose there has been some tittle-tattle—I can
read it in your face—but there's not a word of truth in it, not a
word, I assure you."
"I don't care the one way or other, Frank," she said. "You needn't
explain so hard. What does it matter to me, anyway?" and with that
she turned away to cordially greet the count as he came aboard.
The two women met in the saloon. Florence at once assumed the
great lady, the heiress, the condescending patrician; Cassie flushed
and trembled; and in a buzz of commonplaces the stewards served tea
while the two women covertly took each other's measure. Florence grew
ashamed of her own behavior, and, unbending a little, tried to put her
guests at ease and led Cassie on to talk. Then it came out about the
dance that Derwent and his daughter were to give the following night.
"Frank and me have been arranging the cotillon," said Cassie, and
then she turned pink to her ears at having called him by his first
name before all those people. "I mean Mr. Rignold," she added, amid
everyone's laughter and her own desperate confusion. Florence's
laughter rang out as gaily as anyone's, and apparently as
unaffectedly, and she rallied Cassie with much good humour on her
"So it's Frank already!" she exclaimed. "Oh, Miss Derwent! don't
you trust this wicked chief of mine. He is a regular heart- breaker!"
Cassie cried when Frank and she returned home and sat together on
"She's a proud, haughty minx," she burst out, "and you love her—
and as for me I might as well drown myself."
Frank attempted to comfort her.
"Oh, you needn't try to blind me," she said bitterly. "I—I
thought it was a girl in America, Frank, a girl like me—just common
and poor and perhaps not as nice as I am. And you know she wouldn't
wipe her feet on you," she went on viciously—"she so grand with her
yachts and her counts and 'Oh, I think I'll run over to Injya for the
winter, or maybe it's Cairo or the Nile,' says she! What kind of a
chance have you got there, Frank, you in your greasy over-alls and
working for her wages? Won't you break your heart just like I am
breaking mine, I that would sell the clothes off my back for you and
follow you all over the world!"
Frank protested that she was mistaken; that it wasn't Miss Fenacre
at all; that it was absurd to even think of such a thing.
"Oh, Frank, it's bad enough as it is without your lying to me,"
she said, quite unconvinced. "You've set your eyes too high, and
unhappiness is all that you'll ever get from the likes of her. You're
a fool in your way and I'm a fool in mine, and maybe when she's
married to the count and done for, you'll mind the little girl that's
waiting for you in Cowes!" She took his hand and kissed it, telling
him with a sob that she would ever remain single for his sake.
"But I don't want you to, Cassie," he said. "You're talking like a
baby. What's the good of waiting when I am never coming back?"
"You say that now," she exclaimed, "but my words will come back to
you in Injya when you grow tired of her ladyship's coldness and
disdain; and I'm silly enough to think you'll find them a comfort to
you out there, with nothing to do but to think and think, and be
The next day he found Cassie in a more cheerful humour and excited
about the dance. The house was all upset and she was busy with a
dozen of her girl friends in decorating the hall and drawing-room,
taking up the carpets, arranging for the supper and the cloakrooms,
and immersed generally in the thousand and one tasks that fall on a
hostess-to-be. Frank put himself at her orders and spent the better
part of the afternoon in running errands and tacking up flags and
branches; and after an hilarious tea, in the midst of all the litter
and confusion, he went back to the ship somewhat after five o'clock.
As he was pulled out in a shore boat he was surprised to pass a couple
of coal lighters coming from the Minnehaha, and to see her winches
busily hoisting in stores from a large launch alongside. He ran up the
ladder, and seeing the captain asked him what was up.
"Sailing orders, Chief," said Captain Landry, enjoying his
amazement. "We'll be off the ground in half an hour, eastward bound!"
"But I wasn't told anything," cried Frank. "I never got any orders."
"The little lady said you wasn't to be disturbed," said the
captain, "and she took it on herself to order your staff to go ahead.
I guess you'll find a pretty good head of steam already!"
Frank ran to the side and called back his boat, giving the man
five shillings to take a note at once to Cassie. He had no time for
more than a few lines, but he could not go to sea without at least one
word of farewell. They were cutting the anchor and were already under
steerage way when Cassie came off herself in a launch and passed up a
letter directed to the chief engineer. It reached him in the
engine-room, where he, not knowing that she was but a few feet
distant, was spared the sight of her pale and despairing face.
The letter itself was almost incoherent. She knew, she said, whom
she had to thank for his departure. That vixen, that hussy, that
stuck-up minx, who treated him like a dog and yet grudged him to
another, who, God help her, loved him too well for her own good— it
was her ladyship she had to thank for spoiling everything and carrying
him away. Was he not man enough to assert himself and leave a ship
where he was put upon so awful? Let him ask her mightiness in two
words, yes or no; and then when he had come down from the clouds and
had learned the truth, poor silly fool—then let him come back to his
Cassie, who loved him so dear, and who (if she did say it herself) had
a heart worth fifty of his mistress and didn't need no powder to set
off her complexion. It ended with a piteous appeal to his compassion
and besought him to write to her from the nearest port.
Frank sighed as he read it. Everything in the world seemed wrong
and at cross-purposes. Those who had one thing invariably longed for
something else, and there was no content or happiness or satisfaction
anywhere. The better off were the acquiescent, who took the good and
the bad with the same composure and found their only pleasure in their
work. Best off of all were the dead whose sufferings were over. But
after all it was sweet to be loved, even if one did not love back, and
Frank was very tender with the little letter and put it carefully in
his pocket-book. Yes, it was sweet to be loved. He said this over and
over to himself, and wondered whether Florence felt the same to him as
he did to Cassie. It seemed to explain so much. It seemed the key to
her strange regard for him. He asked himself whether it could be true
that she had wilfully ordered the ship to sea in order to prevent him
going to the dance. The thought stirred him inexpressibly. What other
explanation was there if this was not the one? And she had deserted
the count, who was away in London on a day's business; deserted the
Paquita at anchor in the roads! He was frightened at his own
exultation. Suppose he were wrong in this surmise! Suppose it were
just another of her unaccountable caprices!
They ran down Channel at full speed and at night were abreast of
the Scilly lights, driving towards the Bay of Biscay in the teeth of
an Equinoctial gale. At the behest of one girl eighty men had to
endure the discomfort of a storm at sea, and a great steel ship,
straining and quivering, was flung into the perilous night. It seemed
a misuse of power that, at a woman's whim, so many lives and so noble
and costly a fabric could be risked—and risked for nothing. From the
captain on the bridge, dripping in his oil- skins, to the coal-passers
and firemen below who fed the mighty furnaces, to the cooks in the
galley, the engineers, the electrician on duty, the lookout man in the
bow clinging to the life-line when the Minnehaha buried her nose out
of sight—all these perforce had to endure and suffer at Florence's
bidding without question or revolt.
Frank's elation passed and left him in a bitter humour towards
her. It was not right, he said to himself, not right at all. She
ought to show a little consideration for the men who had served her
so well and faithfully. Besides, it was unworthy of her to betray such
pettiness and spoil Cassie's dance. He felt for the girl's
humiliation, and, though not in love with her, he was conscious of a
sentiment that hated to see her hurt. He would not accept Florence's
invitation to dine in the saloon, sending word that he had a headache
and begged to be excused; and after dinner, when she sought him out on
deck and tried to make herself very sweet to him, he was purposely
reserved and distant, and look the first opportunity to move away. He
was angry, disheartened, and resentful, all in one.
Towards eleven o'clock at night as Frank was in the engine-room,
moodily turning over these reflections in his mind and listening to
the race of the screws as again and again they were lifted out of the
water and strained the shafts and engines to the utmost, he was
surprised to see Florence herself descending the steel ladder into
that close atmosphere of oil and steam. He ran to help her down, and
taking her arm led her to one side, where they might be out of the
way. Here, in the glare of the lanterns, he looked down into her face
and thought again how beautiful she was. Her cheek was wet with spray,
and her hair was tangled and glistening beneath her little yachting
cap. She seemed to exhale a breath of the storm above and bring down
with her something of the gale itself. She held fast to Frank as the
ship laboured and plunged, smiling as their eyes met.
"You are the last person I expected down here," said Frank.
"I was beginning to get afraid," she returned. "It's blowing
terribly, Frank—and I thought, if anything happened, I'd like to be
"Oh, we are all right!" said Frank, his professional spirit
aroused. "With twin screws, twin engines, and plenty of sea-room—
why, let it blow."
His confidence reassured her. He never appeared to her so strong,
so self-reliant and calm as at that moment of her incipient fear.
Amongst his engines Frank always wore a masterful air, for he had
that instinct for machinery peculiarly American, and was competent
almost to the point of genius.
"Besides, I wanted to ask you a question," said Florence. "I had
to ask it. I couldn't sleep without asking it, Frank."
"I would have come, if you had sent for me," he said.
"I couldn't wait for that," she returned. "I knew it might be hard
for you to leave—or impossible."
"What is it, Florence?" he asked. The name slipped out in spite of
She looked at him strangely, her lustrous eyes wide open and
bright with her unsaid thoughts.
"Are you very fond of her, Frank?" she asked.
"Her? Who?" he exclaimed. "You don't mean Cassie Derwent?"
"Yes," she said.
"Of course I'm fond of her," he said.
"More than you are of me, Frank?" she persisted.
"Oh, it isn't the same sort of thing, Florence," he said. "I never
even thought of comparing you and her together. Surely you know that?
Surely you understand that?"
"You used to—to love me once, Frank," she said, with a stifled
sob. "Has she made it any less? Has she robbed me, Frank? Have I lost
you without knowing it?"
"No," he said, "no, a thousand times, no!"
"Tell me that you love me, Frank," she burst out. "Tell me, tell
me!" Then, as he did not answer, she went on passionately: "That's
why I went to sea, Frank. I was mad with jealousy. I couldn't give
you up to her. I couldn't let her have you!"
She pressed closer against him, and tiptoeing so as to raise her
mouth to his ear, she whispered: "I always liked you better than
anybody else in the world, Frank. I love you! I love you!"
For the moment he could not realise his own good fortune. He could
do nothing but look into her eyes. It was her reproach for years
afterwards that she had to kiss him first.
"I suppose it had to come, Frank," she said. "I fought all I
could, but it didn't seem any use!"
"It was inevitable," he returned solemnly. "God made you for me,
and me for you!"
"Amen," she said, and in an ecstasy of abandonment whispered
again: "I love you, Frank. I love you!"
I suppose if I had been a hero of romance, instead of an ordinary
kind of chap, I would have steamed in with the Tallahassee, fired a
gun, and landed in state, instead of putting on my old clothes and
sneaking into the county on an automobile. However, I did my little
best, so far as making a date with Babcock was concerned, and as it
turned out in the end I dare say the hero of romance wouldn't have
managed it much better himself. It was late when I got into Forty
Fyles (as the village was called), and put up at one of those quaint,
low-raftered, bulging old inns which still remain, thank Heaven, here
and there, in the less travelled parts of England. If I were dusty and
dirty when I arrived, you ought to have seen me the next day after a
two-hours' job with the differential gears. By the time I had got the
trouble to rights, and had puffed up and down the main street to make
assurance sure and astonish the natives (who came out two hundred
strong and cheered), I was as frowsy, unkempt, and dilapidated an
American as ever drove a twelve H.P. Panhard through the rural lanes
of Britain. Indeed, I was so shocked at my own appearance when I
looked at myself in the glass (such a wiggly old glass that showed
one in streaks like bacon) that I went down to the draper's and tried
to buy a new set out. But as they had nothing except cheap tripper
suits for pigmies (I stood six feet in my stockings and had played
full back at college) and fishermen's clothes of an ancient Dutch
design, I forebore to waste my good dollars in making a guy of myself,
and decided to remain as I was.
Then, as I was sitting in the bar and asking the potman the best
way to get to Castle Fyles, it suddenly came over me that it was the
Fourth of July, and that, recreant as I was, I had come near
forgetting the event altogether. I started off again down the main
street to discover some means of raising a noise, and after a good
deal of searching I managed to procure several handfuls of strange
whitey fire-crackers the size of cigars and a peculiar red package
that the shopkeeper called a "Haetna Volcano." He said that for four
and eightpence one couldn't find its match in Lunnon itself, and
obligingly took off twopence when I pointed out Vesuvius hadn't a
fuse. With the crackers in my pocket and the volcano under my arm I
set forth in the pleasant summer morning to walk to Castle Fyles,
having an idea to rest by the way and celebrate the Fourth in the very
heart of the hereditary enemy.
The road, as is so often the case in England, ran between high
stone walls and restrained the wayfarer from straying into the
gentlemen's parks on either hand. The sun shone overhead with the
fierce heat of a British July; and to make matters worse in my case,
I seemed to be the loadstone of what traffic was in progress on the
highway. A load of hay stuck to me with obstinate determination; if I
walked slowly, the hay lagged beside me; if I quickened my pace, the
hay whipped up his horses; when I rested and mopped my brow, the hay
rested and mopped ITS brow. Then there were tramps of various kinds: a
Punch and Judy show on the march; swift silent bicyclists who sped
past in a flurry of dust; local gentry riding cock-horses (no doubt to
Banbury Crosses); local gentry in dogcarts; local gentry in closed
carriages going to a funeral, and apparently (as seen through the
windows) very hot and mournful and perspiring; an antique clergyman in
an antique gig who gave me a tract and warned me against drink; a
char-a-bancs filled to bursting with the True Blue Constitutional Club
of East Pigley—such at least was the inscription on a streaming
banner— who swung past waving their hats and singing "Our Boarder's
such a Nice Young Man"; then some pale aristocratic children in a sort
of perambulating clothes-basket drawn by a hairy mite of a pony, who
looked at me disapprovingly, as though I hadn't honestly come by the
volcano; then—but why go on with the never-ending procession of
British pilgrims who straggled out at just sufficient intervals to
keep between them a perpetual eye on my movements and prevent me from
celebrating the birth of freedom in any kind of privacy. At last,
getting desperate at this espionage and thinking besides I could make
a shorter cut towards Castle Fyles, I clambered over an easy place in
the left-hand wall and dropped into the shade of a magnificent park.
Here, at least, whatever the risk of an outraged law (which I had been
patronisingly told was even stricter than that of the Medes and
Persians), I seemed free to wander unseen and undetected, and
accordingly struck a course under the oaks that promised in time to
bring me out somewhere near the sea.
Dipping into a little dell, where in the perfection of its English
woodland one might have thought to meet Robin Hood himself, or
startle Little John beside a fallen deer, I looked carefully about,
got out my pale crackers, and wondered whether I dared begin. It is
always an eerie sensation to be alone in the forest, what with the
whispering leaves overhead, the stir and hum of insects, the rustle of
ghostly foot-falls, and (in my case) the uneasy sense of
green-liveried keepers sneaking up at one through the clumps of gorse.
However, I was not the man to belie the blood of Revolutionary heroes
and meanly carry my unexploded crackers beyond the scene of danger, so
I remembered the brave days of old and touched a whitey off. It burst
with the roar of a cannon and reverberated through the glades like the
broadside of a man-of- war. It took me a good five minutes before I
had the courage to detonate another, which, for better security, I did
this time under my hat. I am not saying it did the hat any good, but
it seemed safer and less deafening, and I accordingly went on in this
manner until there were only about three whiteys left between me and
Vesuvius, which I kept back, in accordance with tradition, for one big
triumphant bang at the end.
I was in the act of touching my cigar to whitey number three,—on
my knees, I remember; and trying to arrange my hat so as to get the
most muffling for the least outlay of burned felt, when the branches
in front of me parted and I looked up to see—well, simply the most
beautiful woman in the world, regarding me with astonishment and
anger. She was about twenty, somewhat above the medium height, and her
eyes were of a lovely flashing blue that seemed in the intensity of
her indignation to positively emit sparks—altogether the most
exquisitely radiant and glorious creature that man was ever privileged
to gaze upon.
"How dare you let off fireworks in this park?" she said, in a
voice like clotted cream.
I rose in some confusion.
"Go directly," she said, "or I'll report you and have you
"I have only two more crackers and this volcano," I said
protestingly. "Surely you would not mind——"
"Don't be insolent," she said, "or I shall have no compunction in
setting my dog on you."
I looked down, and there, sure enough, rolling a yellow eye and
showing his fangs at me, was a sort of Uncle Tom's Cabin bloodhound
only waiting to begin.
"The fact is," I said, speaking slowly, so as to emphasise the
fact that I was a gentleman, "I am an American; to-day is our
national holiday; and we make it everywhere our practice to celebrate
it with fireworks. I would have done so in the road, but the island
seemed so crowded this morning I couldn't find an undisturbed place
outside the park."
Beauty was obviously mollified by my tone and respectful address.
"Please leave the park directly," she said.
I put the crackers in my pocket, took up my hat, placed the Haetna
Volcano under my arm, and stood there, ready to go.
"Accept my apologies," I said. "Whatever my fault, at least no
discourtesy was intended."
We looked at each other, and Beauty's face relaxed into something
like a smile.
"Just give me one more minute for my volcano," I pleaded.
"You seem very polite," she returned. "Yes, you can set it off, if
that will be any satisfaction to you."
"It'll be a whole lot," I said, "and since you're so kind perhaps
you'll let me include the crackers as well?"
Then she began to laugh, and the sweetest thing about it was that
she didn't want to laugh a bit and blushed the most lovely pink, as
she broke out again and again until the woods fairly rang. And as I
laughed too—for really it was most absurd—it was as good as a scene
in a play. And so, while she held Legree's dog, whom the sound
inflamed to frenzy, I popped off the crackers and dropped my cigar
into Vesuvius. I tell you he was worth four and eightpence, and the
man was right when he said there wasn't his match in London. I doubt
if there was his match anywhere for being plumb- full of red balls and
green balls and blue balls and crimson stars and fizzlegigs and whole
torrents of tiny crackers and chase-me- quicks, and when you about
thought he was never going to stop he shot up a silver spray and a
gold spray and wound up with a very considerable decent-sized bust.
"I must thank you for your good nature," I said to the young lady.
"Are you a typical American?" she asked. "Oh, so-so," I returned.
"There are heaps like me in New York."
"And do they all do this on the Fourth of July?" she asked.
"Every last one!" I said.
"Fancy!" she said.
"In America," I said, "when a man has received one favour he is
certain to make it the stepping-stone for another. Won't you permit
me to walk across the park to Castle Fyles?"
"Castle Fyles?" she repeated, with a little note of curiosity in
her girlish voice. "Then don't you know that this is Fyles Park?"
"Can't say I did," I returned. "But I am delighted to hear it."
"Why are you delighted to hear it?" she asked, making me feel more
than ever like an escaped lunatic.
"This is the home of my ancestors," I said, "and it makes me glad
to think they amount to something—own real estate—and keep their
venerable heads above water."
"So this is the home of your ancestors," she said.
"It's holy ground to me," I said.
"Fancy!" she exclaimed.
"At least I think it is," I went on, "though we haven't any proofs
beyond the fact that Fyles has always been a family name with us back
to the Colonial days. I'm named Fyles myself—Fyles ffrench— and we,
like the Castle people—have managed to retain our little f throughout
She looked at me so incredulously that I handed her my card.
Mr. Fyles ffrench,
She turned it over in her fingers, regarding me at the same time
with flattering curiosity.
"How do you do, kinsman?" she said, holding out her hand. "Welcome
to old England!"
I took her little hand and pressed it.
"I am the daughter of the house," she explained, "and I'm named
Fyles too, though they usually call me Verna."
"And the little f, of course," I said.
"Just like yours," she returned. "There may be some capital F's in
the family, but we wouldn't acknowledge them!"
"What a fellow-feeling that gives one!" I said. "At school, at
college, in business, in the war with Spain when I served on the
Dixie, my life has been one long struggle to preserve that little f
against a capital F world. I remember saying that to a chum the day we
sank Cervera, 'If I am killed, Bill,' I said, 'see that they don't
capital F me on the scroll of fame!'"
"A true ffrench!" exclaimed Beauty with approval.
"As true as yourself," I said.
"Do you know that I'm the last of them?" she said.
"You!" I exclaimed. "The last!"
"Yes," she said, "when my father dies the estates will pass to my
second cousin, Lord George Willoughby, and our branch of the family
will become extinct."
"You fill me with despair," I said.
"My father never can forgive me for being a girl," she said.
"I can," I remarked, "even at the risk of appearing disloyal to
"Fyles," she said, addressing me straight out by my first name,
and with a little air that told me plainly I had made good my footing
in the fold, "Fyles, what a pity you aren't the rightful heir, come
from overseas with parchments and parish registers, to make good your
claim before the House of Lords."
"Wouldn't that be rather hard on you?" I asked.
"I'd rather give up everything than see the old place pass to
strangers," she said.
"But I'm a stranger," I said.
"You're Fyles ffrench," she exclaimed, "and a man, and you'd hand
the old name down and keep the estate together."
"And guard the little f with the last drop of my blood," I said.
"Ah, well!" she said, with a little sigh, "the world's a
disappointing place at best, and I suppose it serves us right for
centuries of conceit about ourselves."
"That at least will never die," I observed. "The American branch
will see to that part of it."
"It's a pity, though, isn't it?" she said.
"Well," I said, "when a family has been carrying so much dog for a
thousand years, I suppose in common fairness it's time to give way
"What is carrying dog?" she said.
"It's American," I returned, "for thinking yourself better than
"Fancy!" she said, and then with a beautiful smile she took my
hand and rubbed it against the hound's muzzle.
"You mustn't growl at him, Olaf," she said. "He's a ffrench; he's
one of us; and he has come from over the sea to make friends."
"You can't turn me out of the park after that," I said, in spite
of a very dubious lick from the noble animal, who, possibly because
he couldn't read and hadn't seen my card, was still a prey to
"I am going to take you back to the castle myself," she said, "and
we'll spend the day going all over it, and I shall introduce you to
my father—Sir Fyles—when he returns at five from Ascot."
"I could ask for nothing better," I said, "though I don't want to
make myself a burden to you. And then," I went on, a little uncertain
how best to express myself, "you are so queer in England
"Proprieties," she said, giving the word which I hesitated to use.
"Oh, yes! I suppose I oughtn't to; indeed, it's awful, and there'll
be lunch too, Fyles, which makes it twice as bad. But to- day I'm
going to be American and do just what I like."
"I thought I ought to mention it," I said.
"Objection overruled," she returned. "That's what they used to say
in court when my father had his famous right-of-way case with Lord
Piffle of Doom; and from what I remember there didn't seem any
repartee to it."
"There certainly isn't one from me," I said.
"Let's go," she said.
There didn't seem any end to that park, and we walked and walked
and rested once or twice under the deep shade, and took in a mouldy
pavilion in white marble with broken windows, and a Temple of Love
that dated back to the sixteenth century, and rowed on an ornamental
water in a real gondola that leaked like sixty, and landed on a rushy
island where there was a sun-dial and a stone seat that the Druids or
somebody had considerately placed there in the year one, and talked of
course, and grew confidential, until finally I was calling her Verna
(which was her pet name) and telling her how the other fellow had
married my best girl, while she spoke most beautifully and sensibly
about love, and the way the old families were dying out because they
had set greater store on their lands than on their hearts, and
altogether with what she said and what I said, and what was
understood, we passed from acquaintance to friendship, and from
friendship to the verge of something even nearer. Even the Uncle Tom
hound fell under the spell of our new-found intimacy and condescended
to lick my hand of his own volition, which Verna said he had never
done before except to the butcher, and winked a bloodshot eye when I
remarked he was too big for the island and ought to go back with me to
a country nearer his size.
By the time we had reached the cliffs and began to perceive the
high grey walls of the castle in the distance, Verna and I were
faster friends than ever, and anyone seeing us together would have
thought we had known each other all our lives. I felt more and more
happy to think I had met her first in this unconventional way, for as
the castle loomed up closer and we passed gardeners and keepers and
jockeys with a string of race-horses out for exercise, I felt that my
pretty companion was constrained by the sight of these obsequious
faces and changing by gradations into what she really was, the
daughter of the castle and by right of blood one of the great ladies
of the countryside.
The castle itself was a tremendous old pile, built on a rocky
peninsula and surrounded on three sides by the waters of Appledore
Harbour, It lay so as to face the entrance, which Verna told me was
commanded—or rather had been in years past—by the guns of a
half-moon battery that stood planted on a sort of third-story
terrace. It was all towers and donjons and ramparts, and might, in
its mediaeval perfection, have been taken bodily out of one of Sir
Walter Scott's novels. Verna and I had lunch together in a perfectly
gorgeous old hall, with beams and carved panelling and antlers, and a
fireplace you could have roasted an ox in, and rows of glistening
suits of armour which the original ffrenches had worn when they had
first started the family in life—and all this, if you please,
tete-a-tete with a woman who seemed to get more beautiful every minute
I gazed at her, and who smiled back at me and called me Fyles, to the
stupefaction of three noiseless six- footers in silk stockings.
Disapproving six-footers, too, whose gimlet eyes seemed to pierce my
back as they sized up my clothes, which, as I said before, had
suffered not a little by my trip, and my collar, which I'll admit
straight out wasn't up to a castle standard, and the undeniable stain
of machine-oil on my cuffs which I had got that morning in putting the
machine to rights. You ought to have seen the man that took my hat,
which he did with the air of a person receiving pearls and diamonds on
a golden platter, and smudged his lordly fingers with the grime of my
Fourth of July. And that darling of a girl, who never noticed my
discomfiture, but whose eyes sparkled at times with a hidden
merriment—shall I ever forget her as she sat there and helped me to
mutton-chops from simply priceless old Charles the First plate!
We had black coffee together in a window-seat overlooking the
harbour and the ships, and she asked me a lot of questions about the
war with Spain and my service in the Dixie. She never moved a muscle
when it came out I had been a quartermaster, though I could feel she
was astounded at my being but a shade above a common seaman, and not,
as she had taken it for granted, a commissioned officer. I was too
proud to explain over-much, or to tell her I had gone in, as so many
of my friends had done, from a strong sense of duty and patriotism at
the time of my country's need, and consequently allowed her to get a
very wrong idea, I suppose, about my state in life and position in the
world. Indeed, I was just childish enough to get a trifle wounded, and
let her add misconception to misconception out of a silly obstinacy.
"But what do you do," she asked, "now that the war is over and
you've taken away everything from the poor Spaniards and left the
"Work," I said.
"What kind of work?" she asked.
"Oh, in an office!" I said. (I didn't tell her I was the Third
Vice President of the Amalgamated Copper Company, with a twenty-
story building on lower Broadway. Wild horses couldn't have wrung it
out of me then.)
"You're too nice for an office," she said, looking at me so
sweetly and sadly. "You ought to be a gentleman!"
"Oh, dear!" I exclaimed, "I hope I am that, even if I do grub
along in an office." I wish my partners could have heard me say that.
Why, I have a private elevator of my own and a squash-court on the
"Of course, I don't mean that," she went on quickly, "but like us,
I mean, with a castle and a place in society——"
"I have a sort of little picayune place in New York," I
interrupted. "I don't SLEEP in the office, you know. At night I go
out and see my friends and sometimes they invite me to dinner."
She looked at me more sadly than ever. I don't believe humour was
Verna's strong suit anyway,—not American humour, at least,—for she
not only believed what I said, but more too.
"I must speak to Papa about you," she said.
"What will he do?" I asked.
"Oh, help you along, you know," she said; "ffrenches always stand
together; it's a family trait, though it's dying out now for lack of
ffrenches. You know our family motto?" she went on.
"I'm afraid I don't," I said.
"'Ffrenches first!'" she returned.
I had to laugh.
"We've lived up to it in America," I said.
"Papa is quite a power in the City," she said.
"I thought he was a gentleman," I replied.
"Everybody dabbles in business nowadays," she returned, not
perceiving the innuendo. "I am sure Papa ought to know all about it
from the amount of money he has lost."
"Perhaps his was a case of ffrenches last!" I said.
"Still, he knows all the influential people," she continued, "and
it would be so easy for him to get you a position over here."
"That would be charming," I said.
"And then I might see you occasionally," she said, with such a
little ring of kindness in her voice that for a minute I felt a
perfect brute for deceiving her. "You could run down here from
Saturday to Monday, you know, and on Bank Holidays, and in the season
you would have the entree to our London house and the chance of
meeting nice people!"
"How jolly!" I said.
"I can't bear you to go back to America," she said. "Now that I've
found you, I'm going to keep you."
"I hate the thought of going back myself," I said, and so I did—
at the thought of leaving that angel!
"Then, you know," she went on, somewhat shyly and hesitatingly,
"you have such good manners and such a good air, and you're so—— "
"Don't mind saying handsome," I remarked.
"You really are very nice-looking," she said, with a seriousness
that made me acutely uncomfortable, "and what with our friendship and
our house open to you and the people you could invite down here,
because I know Papa is going to go out of his mind about you—he and I
are always crazy about the same people, you know— not to speak of the
little f, there is no reason, Fyles, why in the end you shouldn't
marry an awfully rich girl and set up for yourself!"
"Thank you," I said, "but if it's all the same to you I don't
think I'd care to."
"I know awfully rich girls who are pretty too," she said, as
though forestalling an objection.
"I do too," I said, looking at her so earnestly that she coloured
up to the eyes.
"Oh, I am poor!" she said. "It's all we can do to keep the place
up. Besides—besides——" And then she stopped and looked out of the
window. I saw I had been a fool to be so personal, and I was soon
punished for my presumption, for she rose to her feet and said in an
altered voice that she would now show me the castle.
As I said before, it was a tremendous old place. It was a two-
hours' job to go through it even as we did, and then Verna said we
had skipped a whole raft of things she would let me see some other
time. There was a private theatre, a chapel with effigies of
cross-legged Crusaders, an armoury with a thousand stand of flint-
locks, a library, magnificent state apartments with wonderful
tapestries, a suite of rooms where they had confined a mad ffrench in
the fifteenth century, with the actual bloodstains on the floor where
he had dashed out his poor silly brains against the wall; a magazine
with a lot of empty powder-casks Cromwell had left there; a vaulted
chamber for the men of the half-moon battery; a well which was said to
have no bottom and which had remained unused for a hundred years,
because a wicked uncle had thrown the rightful heir into it; and
slimy, creepy-crawly dungeons with chains for your hands and feet; and
cachettes where they spilled you through a hole in the floor, and let
it go at that; and—but what wasn't there, indeed, in that
extraordinary old feudal citadel, which had been in continuous human
possession since the era of Hardicanute. There seemed to be only one
thing missing in the whole castle, and that was a bath—though I dare
say there was one in the private apartments not shown to me. It was a
regular dive into the last five hundred years, and the fact that it
wasn't a museum nor exploited by a sing-song cicerone, helped to make
it for me a memorable and really thrilling experience. I conjured up
my forebears and could see them playing as children, growing to
manhood, passing into old age, and finally dying in the shadow of
those same massive walls. Verna said I was quite pale when we emerged
at last into the open air on the summit of the high square tower; and
no wonder that I was, for in a kind of way I had been deeply
impressed, and it seemed a solemn thing that I, like her, should be a
child of this castle, with roots deep cast in far-off ages.
"Wouldn't it be horrible," I said, "if I found out I wasn't a
ffrench at all—but had really sprung from a low-down, capital F
family in the next county or somewhere!"
"Oh, but you are a real ffrench," said Verna.
"How do you know?" I asked.
"I can FEEL it," she said. "I never felt that kind of sensation
before towards anybody except my father!"
I hardly knew whether to be pleased or not. And besides, it didn't
seem to me conclusive.
Then she touched a button (for the castle was thoroughly wired and
there was even a miniature telephone system) and servants brought us
up afternoon tea, and a couple of chairs to sit on, and a folding
table set out with flowers, and the best toast and the best tea and
the best strawberry jam and the best chocolate cake and the best
butter that I had as yet tasted in the whole island. The view itself
was good enough to eat, for we were high above everything and saw the
harbour and the country stretched out on all sides like a map.
"This is where I come for my day-dreams," said Verna. "I usually
have it all to myself, for people hate the stairs so much and the
ladies twitter about the dust and the cobwebs and the shakiness of
the last ladder, and the silly things get dizzy and have to be held."
"You don't seem to be afraid," I said.
"This has been my favourite spot all my life," she returned. "I
can remember Papa holding me up when I wasn't five years old and
telling me about the Lady Grizzle that threw herself off the parapet
rather than marry somebody she had to and wouldn't!"
"Tell me about your day-dreams, Verna," I said.
"Just a girl's fancies," she returned, smiling. "I dare say men
have them too. Fairy princes, you know, and what he'd say and what
I'd say, and how much I'd love him, and how much he'd love me!"
"I can understand the last part of it," I observed.
"You are really very nice," she returned, "and when Papa has got
you that place in the City, I am going to allow you to come up here
and dream too. And you'll tell me about the Sleeping Beauty and I'll
unbosom myself about the Beast, and we'll exchange heart- aches and
be, oh, so happy together."
"I am that now," I said.
"You're awfully easily pleased, Fyles," she said. "Most of the men
I know I have to rack my head to entertain; talk exploring, you know,
to explorers, and horses to Derby winners, and what it feels like to
be shot—to soldiers—but you entertain ME, and that is so much
"I wish I dared ask you some questions," I said.
"Oh, but you mustn't!" she broke out, with a quick intuition of
what I meant.
"Why mustn't?" Tasked.
"Oh, because—because——" she returned. "I wouldn't like to fib
to you, and I wouldn't like to tell you the truth—and it would make
me feel hot and uncomfortable——"
"What would?" I asked.
"You see, if I really cared for him, it would be different," she
said. "But I don't—and that's all."
"Lady Grizzle over again?" I ventured.
"Not altogether," she said, "you see she was perfectly mad about
somebody else—which really was hard lines for her, poor thing—
"Oh, please go on!" I said, as she hesitated.
"Fyles," she said, with the ghost of a sigh, "this isn't day-
dreaming at all, and I'm going to give you another cup of tea and
change the subject."
"What would you prefer, then?" I asked. "No! No more chocolate
cake, thank you."
"Let's have a fairy story all of our own," she said.
"Well, you begin," I said.
"Once upon a time," she began, "there was a poor young man in New
York—an American, though of course he couldn't help that—and he
came over to England and discovered the home of his ancestors, and he
liked them, and they liked him—ever so much, you know—and he found
that the old place was destined to pass to strangers, and so he worked
and worked in a dark old office, and stayed up at night working some
more, and never accepted any invitations or took a holiday except at
week-ends to the family castle—until finally he amassed an immense
fortune. Then he got into a fairy chariot, together with a bag of gold
and the family lawyer, and ordered the coachman to drive him to Lord
George Willoughby's in Curzon Street. Then they sent out in hot haste
for Sir George's son, an awfully fast young man in the Guards, and the
family lawyer haggled and haggled, and Lord George hemmed and hawed,
and the Guardsman's eyes sparkled with greed at the sight of the bag
of gold, and finally for two hundred thousand pounds (Papa says he
often thinks he could pull it off for a hundred and ten thousand) the
entail is broken and everybody signs his name to the papers and the
poor young man buys the succession of Fyles and comes down here,
regardless of expense, in a splendid gilt special train, and is
received with open arms by his kinsmen at the castle."
"The open arms appeal to me," I said.
"He was nearly hugged to death," said Verna, "for they were so
pleased the old name was not to die out and be forgotten. And then
the poor young man married a ravishing beauty and had troops of
sunny-haired children, and the daughter of the castle (who by this
time was an old maid and quite plain, though everybody said she had a
heart like hidden treasure) devoted herself to the little darlings and
taught them music-lessons and manners and how to spell their names
with a little f, and as a great treat would sometimes bring them up
here and tell them how she had first met the poor young man in the
'diamond mornings of long ago'!"
"That's a good fairy story," I said, "but you are all out about
"You said you liked it," she protested.
"Yes, where they hugged the poor young man," I returned, "but
after that, Verna, it went off the track altogether."
"Perhaps you'll put it back again," she said.
"I want to correct all that about the daughter of the castle," I
said. "She never became an old maid at all, for, of course, the poor
young man loved her to distraction and married her right off, and they
lived happily together ever afterwards!"
"I believe that is nicer," she said thoughtfully, as though
considering the matter.
"Truer, too," I said, "because really the poor young man adored
her from the first minute of their meeting!"
"I wonder how long it will take him to make his fortune," she
said, which, under the circumstances, struck me as a cruel thing to
"Possibly he has made it already," I said. "How do you know he
"By his looks for one thing," she said, regarding the machine oil
on my cuff out of the corner of her eye. "Besides, he hasn't any of
the arrogance of a parvenu, and is much too——"
"Too what?" I asked.
"Well bred," she replied simply.
"No doubt that's the ffrench in him," I said, which I think was
rather a neat return.
She didn't answer, but looked absently across to the harbour
"I believe there is a steamer coming in," she said. "Yes, a
"A yacht, I think," I said, for, sure enough, it was Babcock true
to the minute, heading the Tallahassee straight in. I could have
given him a hundred dollars on the spot I was so delighted, for he
couldn't have timed it better, nor at a moment when it could have
pleased me more. She ran in under easy steam, making a splendid
appearance with her raking masts and razor bow, under which the water
spurted on either side like dividing silver. Except a beautiful woman,
I don't know that there's a sweeter sight than a powerful, sea-going
steam yacht, with the sun glinting on her bright brass-work, and a
uniformed crew jumping to the sound of the boatswain's whistle.
"The poor young man's ship's come home," I said.
"It must be Lady Gaunt's Sapphire," said Verna.
"With the American colours astern?" I said.
"Why, how strange," she said, "it really is American. And then I
believe it's larger than the Sapphire!"
"Fifteen hundred and four tons register," I said.
"How do you know that?" she demanded, with a shade of surprise in
"Because, my dear, it's mine!" I said.
"Yours!" she cried out in astonishment.
"If you doubt me," I said, "I shall tell you what she is going to
do next. She is about to steam in here and lower a boat to take me
"She's heading for Dartmouth," said Verna incredulously, and the
words were hardly out of her pretty mouth when Babcock swung round
and pointed the Tallahassee's nose straight at us.
For a moment Verna was too overcome to speak.
"Fyles," she said at last, "you told me you worked in an office!"
"So I do," I said.
"And own a vessel like that!" she exclaimed. "A yacht the size of
"It was you that said I was a poor young man," I observed. "I was
so pleased at being called young that I let the poor pass."
"Fancy!" she exclaimed, looking at me with eyes like stars. And
then, recovering herself, she added in another tone: "Now don't you
think it was very forward to rendezvous at a private castle?"
"Oh, I thought I could make myself solid before she arrived," I
"Fyles," she said, "I am beginning to have a different opinion of
you. You are not as straightforward as a ffrench ought to be—and,
though I'm ashamed to say it of you—but you are positively
"Unsay, take back, those angry words," I said; and even as I did
so the anchor went splash and I could hear the telegraph jingle in
"And so you're rich," said Verna, "awfully, immensely,
disgustingly rich, and you've been masquerading all this afternoon as
a charming pauper!"
"I don't think I said charming," I remarked.
"But I say it," said Verna, "because, really you know, you're
awfully nice, and I like you, and I'm glad from the bottom of my
heart that you are rich!"
"Thank you," I said, "I'm glad, too."
"Now we must go down and meet your boat," said Verna. "See, there
it is, coming in—though I still think it was cheeky of you to tell
them to land uninvited."
"Oh, let them wait!" I said.
"No, no, we must go and meet them," said Verna, "and I'm going to
ask that glorious old fox with the yellow beard whether it's all true
"You can't believe it yet?" I said.
"You've only yourself to thank for it," she said. "I got used to
you as one thing—and here you are, under my eyes, turning out
I could not resist saying "Fancy!" though she did not seem to
perceive any humour in my exclamation of it, and took it as a matter
of course. Besides, she had risen now, and bade me follow her down the
It was really fine to see the men salute me as we walked down to
the boat, and the darkies' teeth shining at the sight of me (for I'm
a believer in the coloured sailor) and old Neilsen grinning
respectfully in the stern-sheets.
"Neilsen," I said, "tell this young lady my name!"
"Mr. ffrench, sir," he answered, considerably astonished at the
"Little f or big F, Neilsen?"
"Little f, sir," said Neilsen.
"There, doubter!" I said to Verna.
She had her hand on my arm and was smiling down at the men from
the little stone pier on which we stood.
"Fyles," she said, "you must land and dine with us to-night, not
only because I want you to, but because you ought to meet my father."
"About when?" I asked.
"Seven-thirty," she answered; and then, in a lower voice, so that
the men below might not hear: "Our fairy tale is coming true, isn't
"Right to the end," I said.
"There were two ends," she said. "Mine and yours."
"Oh, mine," I said; "that is, if you'll live up to your part of
"What do you want me to do?" she asked.
"Throw over the Beast and be my Princess," I said, trying to talk
lightly, though my voice betrayed me.
"Perhaps I will," she answered.
"Perhaps!" I repeated. "That isn't any answer at all."
"Yes, then!" she said quickly, and, disengaging her hand from my
arm, ran back a few steps.
"I hear Papa's wheels," she cried over her shoulder, "and, don't
forget, Fyles, dinner at seven-thirty!"
THE GOLDEN CASTAWAYS
All I did was to pull him out by the seat of the trousers. The fat
old thing had gone out in the dark to the end of the yacht's boat-
boom, and was trying to worry in the dinghy with his toe, when plump
he dropped into a six-knot ebb tide. Of course, if I hadn't happened
along in a launch, he might have drowned, but, as for anything heroic
on my part—why, the very notion is preposterous. The whole affair
only lasted half a minute, and in five he was aboard his yacht and
drinking hot Scotch in a plush dressing-gown. It was natural that his
wife and daughter should be frightened, and natural, too, I suppose,
that when they had finished crying over him they should cry over me.
He had taken a chance with the East River, and it had been the turn of
a hair whether he floated down the current a dead grocer full of
brine, or stood in that cabin, a live one full of grog. Oh, no! I am
not saying a word against THEM. But as for Grossensteck himself, he
ought really to have known better, and it makes me flush even now to
recall his monstrous perversion of the truth. He called me a hero to
my face. He invented details to which my dry clothes gave the lie
direct. He threw fits of gratitude. His family were theatrically
commanded to regard me well, so that my countenance might be forever
imprinted on their hearts; and they, poor devils, in a seventh heaven
to have him back safe and sound in their midst, regarded and regarded,
and imprinted and imprinted, till I felt like a perfect ass
masquerading as a Hobson.
It was all I could do to tear myself away. Grossensteck clung to
me. Mrs. Grossensteck clung to me. Teresa—that was the daughter—
Teresa, too, clung to me. I had to give my address. I had to take
theirs. Medals were spoken of; gold watches with inscriptions; a
common purse, on which I was requested to confer the favour of
drawing for the term of my natural life. I departed in a blaze of
glory, and though I could not but see the ridiculous side of the
affair (I mean as far as I was concerned), I was moved by so
affecting a family scene, and glad, indeed, to think that the old
fellow had been spared to his wife and daughter. I had even a pang of
envy, for I could not but contrast myself with Grossensteck, and
wondered if there were two human beings in the world who would have
cared a snap whether I lived or died. Of course, that was just a
passing mood, for, as a matter of fact, I am a man with many friends,
and I knew some would feel rather miserable were I to make a hole in
saltwater. But, you see, I had just had a story refused by
Schoonmaker's Magazine, a good story, too, and that always gives me a
sinking feeling—to think that after all these years I am still on the
borderland of failure, and can never be sure of acceptance, even by
the second-class periodicals for which I write. However, in a day or
two, I managed to unload "The Case against Phillpots" on somebody
else, and off I started for the New Jersey coast with a hundred and
fifty dollars in my pocket, and no end of plans for a long autumn
I never gave another thought to Grossensteck until one morning, as
I was sitting on the veranda of my boarding-house, the postman
appeared and requested me to sign for a registered package. I opened
it with some trepidation, for I had caught that fateful name written
crosswise in the corner and began at once to apprehend the worst. I
think I have as much assurance as any man, but it took all I had and
more, too, when I unwrapped a gold medal the thickness and shape of an
enormous checker, and deciphered the following inscription:
Presented to Hugo Dundonald Esquire for having
With signal heroism, gallantry and presence of mind
rescued On the night of June third, 1900
the life of Hermann Grossensteck from
The dark and treacherous waters of the East River.
The thing was as thick as two silver dollars, laid the one on the
other, and gold—solid, ringing, massy gold—all the way through; and
it was associated with a blue satin ribbon, besides, which was to
serve for sporting it on my manly bosom. I set it on the rail and
laughed—laughed till the tears ran down my cheeks—while the other
boarders crowded about me; handed it from hand to hand; grew excited
to think that they had a hero in their midst; and put down my
explanation to the proverbial modesty of the brave. Blended with my
amusement were some qualms at the intrinsic value of the medal, for it
could scarcely have cost less than three or four hundred dollars, and
it worried me to think that Grossensteck must have drawn so lavishly
on his savings. It had not occurred to me, either before or then, that
he was rich; somehow, in the bare cabin of the schooner, I had
received no such impression of his means. I had not even realised that
the vessel was his own, taking it for granted that it had been hired,
all standing, for a week or two with the put-by economies of a year.
His home address ought to have set me right, but I had not taken the
trouble to read it, slipping it into my pocket-book more to oblige him
than with any idea of following up the acquaintance. It was one of the
boarders that enlightened me.
"Grossensteck!" he exclaimed; "why, that's the great cheap grocer
of New York, the Park Tilford of the lower orders! There are
greenbacks in his rotten tea, you know, and places to leave your baby
while you buy his sanded sugar, and if you save eighty tags of his
syrup you get a silver spoon you wouldn't be found dead with! Oh,
everybody knows Grossensteck!"
"Well, I pulled the great cheap grocer out of the East River," I
said. "There was certainly a greenback in that tea," and I took
another look at my medal, and began to laugh all over again.
"There's no reason why you should ever have another grocery bill,"
said the boarder. "That is, if flavour cuts no figure with you, and
you'd rather eat condemned army stores than not!"
I sat down and wrote a letter of thanks. It was rather a nice
letter, for I could not but feel pleased at the old fellow's
gratitude, even if it were a trifle overdone, and, when all's said,
it was undoubtedly a fault on the right side. I disclaimed the
heroism, and bantered him good-naturedly about the medal, which, of
course, I said I would value tremendously and wear on appropriate
occasions. I wondered at the time what occasion could be appropriate
to decorate one's self with a gold saucer covered with lies—but,
naturally, I didn't go into that to HIM. When you accept a solid chunk
of gold you might as well be handsome about it, and I piled it on
about his being long spared to his family and to a world that wouldn't
know how to get along without him. Yes, it was a stunning letter, and
I've often had the pleasure of reading it since in a splendid frame
below my photograph.
I had been a month or more in New York, and December was already
well advanced before I looked up my Grossenstecks, which I did one
late afternoon as I happened to be passing in their direction. It was
a house of forbidding splendour, on the Fifth Avenue side of Central
Park, and, as I trod its marble halls, I could not but repeat to
myself: "Behold, the grocer's dream!" But I could make no criticism of
my reception by Mrs. Grossensteck and Teresa, whom I found at home and
delighted to see me. Mrs. Grossensteck was a stout, jolly, motherly
woman, common, of course,—but, if you can understand what I
mean,—common in a nice way, and honest and unpretentious and likable.
Teresa, whom I had scarcely noticed on the night of the accident, was
a charmingly pretty girl of eighteen, very chic and gay, with pleasant
manners and a contagious laugh. She had arrived at obviously the turn
of the Grossensteck fortunes, and might, in refinement and everything
else, have belonged to another clay. How often one sees that in
America, the land above others of social contrast, where, in the same
family, there are often three separate degrees of caste.
Well, to get along with my visit. I liked them and they liked me,
and I returned later the same evening to dine and meet papa. I found
him as impassionedly grateful as before, and with a tale that
trespassed even further on the incredible, and after dinner we all sat
around a log fire and talked ourselves into a sort of intimacy. They
were wonderfully good people, and though we hadn't a word in common,
nor an idea, we somehow managed to hit it off, as one often can with
those who are unaffectedly frank and simple. I had to cry over the
death of little Hermann in the steerage (when they had first come to
America twenty years ago), and how Grossensteck had sneaked
gingersnaps from the slop-baskets of the saloon.
"The little teffil never knew where they come from," said
Grossensteck, "and so what matters it?"
"That's Papa's name in the slums," said Teresa. "Uncle
Gingersnaps, because at all his stores they give away so many for
"By Jove!" I said, "there are some nick-names that are patents of
What impressed me as much as anything with these people was their
loneliness. Parvenus are not always pushing and self-seeking, nor do
they invariably throw down the ladder by which they have climbed. The
Grossenstecks would have been so well content to keep their old
friends, but poverty hides its head from the glare of wealth and takes
fright at altered conditions.
"They come—yes," said Mrs. Grossensteck, "but they are scared of
the fine house, of the high-toned help, of everything being gold, you
know, and fashionable. And when Papa sends their son to college, or
gives the girl a little stocking against her marriage day, they slink
away ashamed. Oh, Mr. Dundonald, but it's hard to thank and be
thanked, especially when the favours are all of one side!"
"The rich have efferyting," said Grossensteck, "but friends—
New ones had apparently never come to take the places of the old;
and the old had melted away. Theirs was a life of solitary grandeur,
varied with dinner parties to their managers and salesmen. Socially
speaking, their house was a desert island, and they themselves three
castaways on a golden rock, scanning the empty seas for a sail. To
carry on a metaphor, I might say I was the sail and welcomed
accordingly. I was everything that they were not; I was poor; I mixed
with people whose names filled them with awe; my own was often given
at first nights and things of that sort. In New York, the least
snobbish of great cities, a man need have but a dress suit and
car-fare—if he be the right kind of a man, of course—to go anywhere
and hold up his head with the best. In a place so universally rich,
there is even a certain piquancy in being a pauper. The Grossenstecks
were overcome to think I shined my own shoes, and had to calculate my
shirts, and the fact that I was no longer young (that's the modern
formula for forty), and next-door to a failure in the art I had
followed for so many years, served to whet their pity and their
regard. My little trashy love-stories seemed to them the fruits of
genius, and they were convinced, the poor simpletons, that the big
magazines were banded in a conspiracy to block my way to fame.
"My dear poy," said Grossensteck, "you know as much of peeziness
as a child unporne, and I tell you it's the same efferywhere—in
groceries, in hardware, in the alkali trade, in effery branch of
industry, the pig operators stand shoulder to shoulder to spiflicate
the little fellers like you. You must combine with the other
producers; you must line up and break through the ring; you must scare
them out of their poots, and, by Gott, I'll help you do it!"
In their naive interest in my fortunes, the Grossenstecks rejoiced
at an acceptance, and were correspondingly depressed at my failures.
A fifteen-dollar poem would make them happy for a week; and when some
of my editors were slow to pay-on the literary frontiers there is a
great deal of this sort of procrastination— Uncle Gingersnaps was
always hot to put the matter into the hands of his collectors, and
commence legal proceedings in default.
Little by little I drifted into a curious intimacy with the
Grossenstecks. Their house by degrees became my refuge. I was given
my own suite of rooms, my own latch-key; I came and went unremarked;
and what I valued most of all was that my privacy was respected, and
no one thought to intrude upon me when I closed my door. In time I
managed to alter the whole house to my liking, and spent their money
like water in the process. Gorgeousness gave way to taste; I won't be
so fatuous as to say my taste; but mine was in conjunction with the
best decorators in New York. One was no longer blinded by
magnificence, but found rest and peace and beauty. Teresa and I bought
the pictures. She was a wonderfully clever girl, full of latent
appreciation and understanding which until then had lain dormant in
her breast. I quickened those unsuspected fires, and, though I do not
vaunt my own judgment as anything extraordinary, it represented at
least the conventional standard and was founded on years of
observation and training. We let the old masters go as something too
smudgy and recondite for any but experts, learning our lesson over one
Correggio which nearly carried us into the courts, and bought modern
American instead, amongst them some fine examples of our best men. We
had a glorious time doing it, too, and showered the studios with
golden rain—in some where it was evidently enough needed.
There was something childlike in the Grossenstecks' confidence in
me; I mean the old people; for it was otherwise with Teresa, with
whom I often quarrelled over my artistic reforms, and who took any
conflict in taste to heart. There were whole days when she would not
speak to me at all, while I, on my side, was equally obstinate, and
all this, if you please, about some miserable tapestry or a Louise
Seize chair or the right light for a picture of Will Low's. But she
was such a sweet girl and so pretty that one could not be angry with
her long, and what with our fights and our makings up I dare say we
made it more interesting to each other than if we had always agreed.
It was only once that our friendship was put in real jeopardy, and
that was when her parents decided they could not die happy unless we
made a match of it. This was embarrassing for both of us, and for a
while she treated me very coldly. But we had it out together one
evening in the library and decided to let the matter make no
difference to us, going on as before the best of friends. I was the
last person to expect a girl of eighteen to care for a man of forty,
particularly one like myself, ugly and grey-haired, who had long
before outworn the love of women. In fact I had to laugh, one of those
sad laughs that come to us with the years, at the thought of anything
so absurd; and I soon got her to give up her tragic pose and see the
humour of it all as I did. So we treated it as a joke, rallied the
old folks on their sentimental folly, and let it pass.
It set me thinking, however, a great deal about the girl and her
future, and I managed to make interest with several of my friends and
get her invited to some good houses. Of course it was impossible to
carry the old people into this galere. They were frankly impossible,
but fortunately so meek and humble that it never occurred to them to
assert themselves or resent their daughter going to places where they
would have been refused. Uncle Gingersnaps would have paid money to
stay at home, and Mrs. Grossensteck had too much homely pride to put
herself in a false position. They saw indeed only another reason to be
grateful to me, and another example of my surpassing kindness. Pretty,
by no means a fool, and gowned by the best coutourieres of Paris,
Teresa made quite a hit, and blossomed as girls do in the social
sunshine. The following year, in the whirl of a gay New York winter,
one would scarcely have recognised her as the same person. She had
"made good," as boys say, and had used my stepping-stones to carry her
far beyond my ken. In her widening interests, broader range, and
increased worldly knowledge we became naturally better friends than
ever and met on the common ground of those who led similar lives. What
man would not value the intimacy of a young, beautiful, and clever
woman? in some ways it is better than love itself, for love is a duel,
with wounds given and taken, and its pleasures dearly paid for.
Between Teresa and myself there was no such disturbing bond, and we
were at liberty to be altogether frank in our intercourse.
One evening when I happened to be dining at the house, the absence
of her father and the indisposition of her mother left us tete-a-
tete in the smoking-room, whither she came to keep me company with my
cigar. I saw that she was restless and with something on her mind to
tell me, but I was too old a stager to force a confidence, least of
all a woman's, and so I waited, said nothing, and blew smoke rings.
"Hugo," she said, "there is something I wish to speak to you
"I've known that for the last hour, Teresa," I said.
"This is something serious," she said, looking at me strangely.
"Blaze away," I said.
"Hugo," she broke out, "you have been borrowing money from my
"A great deal of money," she went on.
"For him—no," I said. "For me—well, yes."
"Eight or nine hundred dollars," she said.
"Those are about the figures," I returned. "Call it nine hundred."
"Oh, how could you! How could you!" she exclaimed.
I remained silent. In fact I did not know what to say.
"Don't you see the position you're putting yourself in?" she said.
"Position?" I repeated. "What position?"
"It's horrible, it's ignoble," she broke out. "I have always
admired you for the way you kept yourself clear of such an ambiguous
relation—you've known to the fraction of an inch what to take, what
to refuse—to preserve your self-respect—my respect—unimpaired. And
here I see you slipping into degradation. Oh, Hugo! I can't bear it."
"Is it such a crime to borrow a little money?" I asked.
"Not if you pay it back," she returned. "Not if you mean to pay it
back. But you know you can't. You know you won't!"
"You think it's the thin edge of the wedge?" I said. "The
beginning of the end and all that kind of thing?"
"You will go on," she cried. "You will become a dependent in this
house, a hanger-on, a sponger. I will hate you. You will hate
yourself. It went through me like a knife when I found it out."
I smoked my cigar in silence. I suppose she was quite right—
horribly right, though I didn't like her any better for being so
plain-spoken about it. I felt myself turning red under her gaze.
"What do you want me to do?" I said at length.
"Pay it back," she said.
"I wish to God I could," I said. "But you know how I live, Teresa,
hanging on by the skin of my teeth—hardly able to keep my head above
water, let alone having a dollar to spare."
"Then you can't pay," she said.
"I don't think I can," I returned.
"Then you ought to leave this house," she said.
"You have certainly made it impossible for me to stay, Teresa," I
"I want to make it impossible," she cried. "You—you don't
understand—you think I'm cruel—it's because I like you, Hugo— it's
because you're the one man I admire above anybody in the world. I'd
rather see you starving than dishonoured."
"Thank you for your kind interest," I said ironically. "Under the
circumstances I am almost tempted to wish you admired me less."
"Am I not right?" she demanded.
"Perfectly right," I returned. "Oh, yes! Perfectly right."
"And you'll go," she said.
"Yes, I'll go," I said.
"And earn the money and pay father?" she went on.
"And earn the money and pay father," I repeated.
"And then come back?" she added.
"Never, never, never!" I cried out.
I could see her pale under the lights.
"Oh, Hugo! don't be so ungenerous," she said. "Don't be so—so——"
She hesitated, apparently unable to continue.
"Ungenerous or not," I said, "damn the words, Teresa, this isn't a
time to weigh words. It isn't in flesh and blood to come back. I
can't come back. Put yourself in my place."
"Some day you'll thank me," she said.
"Very possibly," I returned. "Nobody knows what may not happen.
It's conceivable, of course, I might go down on my bended knees, but
really, from the way I feel at this moment, I do not think it's
"You want to punish me for liking you," she said.
"Teresa," I said, "I have told you already that you are right. You
insist on saving me from a humiliating position. I respect your
courage and your straightforwardness. You remind me of an ancient
Spartan having it out with a silly ass of a stranger who took
advantage of her parents' good-nature. I am as little vain, I think,
as any man, and as free from pettiness and idiotic pride— but you
mustn't ask the impossible. You mustn't expect the whipped dog to come
back. When I go it will be for ever."
"Then go," she said, and looked me straight in the eyes.
"I have only one thing to ask," I said. "Smooth it over to your
father and mother. I am very fond of your father and mother, Teresa;
I don't want them to think I've acted badly, or that I have ceased to
care for them. Tell them the necessary lies, you know."
"I will tell them," she said.
"Then good-bye," I said, rising. "I suppose I am acting like a
baby to feel so sore. But I am hurt."
"Good-bye, Hugo," she said.
I went to the door and down the stairs. She followed and stood
looking after me the length of the hall as I slowly put on my hat and
coat. That was the last I saw of her, in the shadow of a palm, her
girlish figure outlined against the black behind. I walked into the
street with a heart like lead, and for the first time in my life I
began to feel I was growing old.
I have been from my youth up an easy-going man, a drifter, a
dawdler, always willing to put off work for play. But for once I
pulled myself together, looked things in the face, and put my back to
the wheel. I was determined to repay that nine hundred dollars, if I
had to cut every dinner-party for the rest of the season. I was
determined to repay it, if I had to work as I had never worked before.
My first move was to change my address. I didn't want Uncle
Gingersnaps ferreting me out, and Mrs. Grossensteck weeping on my
shoulder. My next was to cancel my whole engagement book. My third, to
turn over my wares and to rack my head for new ideas.
I had had a long-standing order from Granger's Weekly for a
novelette. I had always hated novelettes, as one had to wait so long
for one's money and then get so little; but in the humour I then found
myself I plunged into the fray, if not with enthusiasm, at least with
a dogged perseverance that was almost as good. Granger's Weekly liked
triviality and dialogue, a lot of fuss about nothing and a happy
ending. I gave it to them in a heaping measure. Dixie's Monthly, from
which I had a short-story order, set dialect above rubies. I didn't
know any dialect, but I borrowed a year's file and learned it like a
lesson. They wrote and asked me for another on the strength of "The
Courting of Amandar Jane." The Permeator was keen on Kipling and
water, and I gave it to them—especially the water. Like all Southern
families the Dundonalds had once had their day. I had travelled
everywhere when I was a boy, and so I accordingly refreshed my dim
memories with some modern travellers and wrote a short series for The
Little Gentleman; "The Boy in the Carpathians," "The Boy in Old
Louisiana," "A Boy in the Tyrol," "A Boy in London," "A Boy in
Paris," "A Boy at the Louvre," "A Boy in Corsica," "A Boy in the
Reconstruction." I reeled off about twenty of them and sold them to
It was a terribly dreary task, and I had moments of revolt when I
stamped up and down my little flat and felt like throwing my
resolution to the winds. But I stuck tight to the ink-bottle and
fought the thing through. My novelette, strange to say, was good.
Written against time and against inclination, it has always been
regarded since as the best thing I ever did, and when published in
book form outran three editions.
I made a thundering lot of money—for me, I mean, and in
comparison to my usual income—seldom under five hundred dollars a
month and often more. In eleven weeks I had repaid Grossensteck and
had a credit in the bank. Nine hundred dollars has always remained to
me as a unit of value, a sum of agonising significance not lightly to
be spoken of, the fruits of hellish industry and self-denial. All this
while I had had never a word from the Grossenstecks. At least they
wrote to me often—telephoned— telegraphed—and my box at the club
was choked with their letters. But I did not open a single one of
them, though I found a pleasure in turning them over and over, and
wondering as to what was within them. There were several in Teresa's
fine hand, and these interested me most of all and tantalised me
unspeakably. There was one of hers, cunningly addressed to me in a
stranger's writing that I opened inadvertently; but I at once
perceived the trick and had the strength of mind to throw it in the
Perhaps you will wonder at my childishness. Sometimes I wondered
at it myself. But the wound still smarted, and something stronger
than I seemed to withhold me from again breaking the ice. Besides,
those long lonely days, and those nights, almost as long in the
retrospect, when I lay sleepless on my bed, had shown me I had been
drifting into another peril no less dangerous than dependence. I had
been thinking too much of the girl for my own good, and our separation
had brought me to a sudden realisation of how deeply I was beginning
to care for her. I hated her, too, the pitiless wretch, so there was a
double reason for me not to go back.
One night as I had dressed to dine out and stepped into the
street, looking up at the snow that hid the stars and silenced one's
footsteps on the pavement, a woman emerged from the gloom, and before
I knew what she was doing, had caught my arm. I shook her off,
thinking her a beggar or something worse, and would have passed on my
way had she not again struggled to detain me. I stopped, and was on
the point of roughly ordering her to let me go, when I looked down
into her veiled face and saw that it was Teresa Grossensteck.
"Hugo!" she said. "Hugo!"
I could only repeat her name and regard her helplessly.
"Hugo," she said, "I am cold. Take me upstairs. I am chilled
through and through."
"Oh, but Teresa," I expostulated, "it wouldn't be right. You know
it wouldn't be right. You might be seen."
She laid her hand, her ungloved, icy hand, against my cheek.
"I have been here an hour," she said. "Take me to your rooms. I am
I led her up the stairs and to my little apartment. I seated her
before the fire, turned up the lights, and stood and looked at her.
"What have you come here for?" I said. "I've paid your father—
paid him a month ago."
She made no answer, but spread her hands before the fire and
shivered in the glow. She kept her eyes fixed on the coals in front
of her and put out the tips of her little slippered feet. Then I
perceived that she was in a ball gown and that her arms were bare
under her opera cloak.
At last she broke the silence.
"How cheerless your room is," she said, looking about. "Oh, how
"Did you come here to tell me that?" I said.
"No," she said. "I don't know why I came. Because I was a fool, I
suppose—a fool to think you'd want to see me. Take me home, Hugo."
She rose as she said this and looked towards the door. I pressed her
to take a little whiskey, for she was still as cold as death and as
white as the snow queen in Hans Andersen's tale, but she refused to
let me give her any.
"Take me home, please," she repeated.
Her carriage was waiting a block away. Hendricks, the footman,
received my order with impassivity and shut us in together with the
unconcern of a good servant. It was dark in the carriage, and neither
of us spoke as we whirled through the snowy streets. Once the lights
of a passing hansom illumined my companion's face and I saw that she
was crying. It pleased me to see her suffer; she had cost me eleven
weeks of misery; why should she escape scot-free!
"Hugo," she said, "are you coming back to us, Hugo?"
"I don't know," I said.
"Why don't you know?" she asked.
"Oh, because!" I said.
"That's no answer," she said.
There was a pause.
"I was beginning to care too much about you," I said. "I think I
was beginning to fall in love with you. I've got out of one false
position. Why should I blunder into another?"
"Would it be a false position to love me?" she said.
"Of course that would a good deal depend on you," I said.
"Suppose I wanted you to," she said.
"Oh, but you couldn't!" I said.
"Why couldn't I?" she said.
"But forty," I objected; "nobody loves anybody who's forty, you
"I do," she said, "though, come to think of it, you were thirty-
nine—when—when it first happened, Hugo."
I put out my arms in the dark and caught her to me. I could not
believe my own good fortune as I felt her trembling and crying
against my breast. I was humbled and ashamed. It was like a dream. An
old fellow like me—forty, you know.
"It was a mighty near thing, Teresa," I said.
"I guess it was—for me!" she said.
"I meant myself, sweetheart," I said.
"For both of us then," she said, in a voice between laughter and
tears, and impulsively put her arms round my neck.
THE AWAKENING OF GEORGE RAYMOND
George Raymond's father had been a rich man, rich in those days
before the word millionaire had been invented, and when a modest
hundred thousand, lent out at an interest varying from ten to fifteen
per cent, brought in an income that placed its possessor on the lower
steps of affluence. He was the banker of a small New Jersey town, a
man of portentous respectability, who proffered two fingers to his
poorer clients and spoke about the weather as though it belonged to
him. When the school-children read of Croesus in their mythology, it
was Jacob Raymond they saw in their mind's eye; such expressions as
"rich beyond the dreams of avarice" suggested him as inevitably as
pumpkin did pie; they wondered doubtfully about him in church when
that unfortunate matter of the camel was brought up with its attendant
difficulties for the wealthy. Even Captain Kidd's treasure, in those
times so actively sought for along the whole stretch of the New
England coast, conjured up a small brick building with "Jacob Raymond,
Banker" in gilt letters above the lintel of the door.
But there came a day when that door stayed locked and a hundred
white faces gathered about it, blocking the village street and
talking in whispers though the noonday sun was shining. Raymond's
bank was insolvent, and the banker himself, a fugitive in tarry sea
clothes, was hauling ropes on a vessel outward bound for Callao. He
might have stayed in Middleborough and braved it out, for he had
robbed no man and his personal honour was untarnished, having
succumbed without dishonesty to primitive methods and lack of capital.
But he chose instead the meaner course of flight. Of all the
reproachful faces he left behind him his wife's was the one he felt
himself the least able to confront; and thus, abandoning everything,
with hardly a dozen dollars in his pocket, he slipped away to sea,
never to be seen or heard of again.
Mrs. Raymond was a woman of forty-five, a New Englander to her
finger-tips, proud, arrogant, and fiercely honest; a woman who never
forgot, never forgave, and who practised her narrow Christianity with
the unrelentingness of an Indian. She lived up to an austere standard
herself, and woe betide those who fell one whit behind her. She was
one of those just persons who would have cast the first stone at the
dictates of conscience and with a sort of holy joy in her own fitness
to do so. For years she had been the richest woman in Middleborough,
the head of everything charitable and religious, the mainstay of
ministers, the court of final appeal in the case of sinners and
backsliders. Now, in a moment, through no fault of her own, the whole
fabric of her life had crumbled. Again had the mighty fallen.
She had not a spark of pity for her husband. To owe what you could
not pay was to her the height of dishonour. It was theft, and she had
no compunction in giving it the name, however it might be disguised or
palliated. She could see no mitigating circumstances in Raymond's
disgrace, and the fact that she was innocently involved in his
downfall filled her with exasperation. The big old corner house was
her own. She had been born in it. It had been her marriage portion
from her father. She put it straightway under the hammer; her canal
stock with it; her furniture and linen; a row of five little cottages
on the outskirts of the town where five poor families had found not
only that their bodies, but the welfare of their souls, had been
confided to her grim keeping. She stripped herself of everything, and
when all had been made over to the creditors there still remained a
deficit of seventeen hundred dollars. This debt which was not a debt,
for she was under no legal compulsion to pay a penny of it, would
willingly have been condoned by men already grateful for her
generosity; but she would hear of no such compromise, not even that
her notes be free of interest, and she gave them at five per cent,
resolute that in time she would redeem them to the uttermost farthing.
Under these sudden changes of fortune it is seldom that the
sufferer remains amid the ruins of past prosperity. The human
instinct is to fly and hide. The wound heals more readily amongst
strangers. The material evils of life are never so intolerable as the
public loss of caste. It may be said that it is people, not things,
which cause most of the world's unhappiness. Mrs. Raymond came to New
York, where she had not a friend except the son she brought with her,
there to set herself with an undaunted heart to earn the seventeen
hundred dollars she had voluntarily taken on her shoulders to repay.
George Raymond, her son, was then a boy of fifteen. High-strung,
high-spirited, with all the seriousness of a youngster who had
prematurely learned to think for himself, he had arrived at the age
when ineffaceable impressions are made and the tendencies of a
lifetime decided. Passionately attached to his father, he had lost
him in a way that would have made death seem preferable. He saw his
mother, so shortly before the great lady of a little town, working out
like a servant in other people's houses. The tragedy of it all ate
into his soul and overcame him with a sense of hopelessness and
despair. It would not have been so hard could he have helped, even in
a small way, towards the recovery of their fortunes; but his mother,
faithful even in direst poverty to her New England blood, sent him to
school, determined that at any sacrifice he should finish his
education. But by degrees Mrs. Raymond drifted into another class of
work. She became a nurse, and, in a situation where her
conscientiousness was invaluable, slowly established a connection that
in time kept her constantly busy. She won the regard of an important
physician, and not only won it but kept it, and thus little by little
found her way into good houses, where she was highly paid and treated
Had it not been for the seventeen hundred dollars and the five per
cent interest upon it, she could have earned enough to keep herself
and her son very comfortable in the three rooms they occupied on
Seventh Street. But this debt, ever present in the minds of both
mother and son, hung over them like a cloud and took every penny there
was to spare. Those two years from fifteen to seventeen were the most
terrible in Raymond's life. At an age when he possessed neither
philosophy nor knowledge and yet the fullest capacity to suffer, he
had to bear, with what courage he could muster, the crudest buffets of
an adverse fate.
Raymond drudged at his books, passed from class to class and
returned at night to the empty rooms he called home, where he cooked
his own meals and sat solitary beside the candle until it was the hour
for bed. His mother was seldom there to greet him. As a nurse she was
kept prisoner, for weeks at a time, in the houses where she was
engaged. It meant much to the boy to find a note from her lying on the
table when he returned at night; more still to wait at street corners
in his shabby overcoat for those appointments she often made with him.
When she took infectious cases and dared neither write nor speak to
him, they had an hour planned beforehand when she would smile at him
from an open window and wave her hand.
But she was not invariably busy. There were intervals between her
engagements when she remained at home; when those rooms, ordinarily
so lonely and still, took on a wonderful brightness with her presence;
when Raymond, coming back from school late in the afternoon, ran along
the streets singing, as he thought of his mother awaiting him. This
stern woman, the harsh daughter of a harsh race, had but a single
streak of tenderness in her withered heart. To her son she gave
transcendent love, and the whole of her starved nature went out to him
in immeasurable devotion. Their poverty, the absence of all friends,
the burden of debt, the unacknowledged disgrace, and (harder still to
bear) the long and enforced separations from each other, all served to
draw the pair into the closest intimacy. Raymond grew towards manhood
without ever having met a girl of his own age; without ever having had
a chum; without knowing the least thing of youth save much of its
green-sickness and longing.
When the great debt had been paid off and the last of the notes
cancelled there came no corresponding alleviation of their straitened
circumstances. Raymond had graduated from the High School and was
taking the medical course at Columbia University. Every penny was put
by for the unavoidable expenses of his tuition. The mother, shrewd,
ambitious, and far-seeing, was staking everything against the future,
and was wise enough to sacrifice the present in order to launch her
son into a profession. In those days fresh air had not been
discovered. Athletics, then in their infancy, were regarded much as we
now do prize-fighting. The ideal student was a pale individual who
wore out the night with cold towels around his head, and who had a
bigger appetite for books than for meat. Docile, unquestioning,
knowing no law but his mother's wish; eager to earn her commendation
and to repay with usury the immense sacrifices she had made for him,
Raymond worked himself to a shadow with study, and at nineteen was a
tall, thin, narrow-shouldered young man with sunken cheeks and a
preternatural whiteness of complexion.
He was far from being a bad-looking fellow, however. He had
beautiful blue eyes, more like a girl's than a man's, and there was
something earnest and winning in his face that often got him a shy
glance on the street from passing women. His acquaintance in this
direction went no further. Many times when a college acquaintance
would have included him in some little party, his mother had
peremptorily refused to let him go. Her face would darken with
jealousy and anger, nor was she backward with a string of reasons for
her refusal. It would unsettle him; he had no money to waste on girls;
he would be shamed by his shabby clothes and ungloved hands; they
would laugh at him behind his back; was he tired, then, of his old
mother who had worked so hard to bring him up decently? And so on and
so on, until, without knowing exactly why, Raymond would feel himself
terribly in the wrong, and was glad enough at last to be forgiven on
the understanding that he would never propose such a reprehensible
In any other young man, brought up in the ordinary way, with the
ordinary advantages, such submission would have seemed mean-
spirited; but the bond between these two was riveted with memories of
penury and privation; any appeal to those black days brought Raymond
on his knees; it was intolerable to him that he should ever cause a
pang in his dear mother's breast. Thus, at the age when the heart is
hungriest for companionship; when for the first time a young man seems
to discover the existence of a hitherto unknown and unimportant sex;
when an inner voice urges him to take his place in the ranks and keep
step with the mighty army of his generation, Raymond was doomed to
walk alone, a wistful outcast, regarding his enviable companions from
He was in his second year at college when his studies were broken
off by his mother's illness. He was suddenly called home to find her
delirious in bed, struck down in the full tide of strength by the
disease she had taken from a patient. It was scarlet fever, and when
it had run its course the doctor took him to one side and told him
that his mother's nursing days were over. During her tedious
convalescence, as Raymond would sit beside her bed and read aloud to
her, their eyes were constantly meeting in unspoken apprehension. They
saw the ground, so solid a month before, now crumbling beneath their
feet; their struggles, their makeshifts, their starved and meagre life
had all been in vain. Their little savings were gone; the breadwinner,
tempting fate once too often, had received what was to her worse than
a mortal wound, for the means of livelihood had been taken from her.
"Could I have but died," she repeated to herself. "Oh, could I
have but died!"
Raymond laid his head against the coverlet and sobbed. He needed
no words to tell him what was in her mind; that her illness had used
up the little money there was to spare; that she, so long the support
of both, was now a helpless burden on his hands. Pity for her
outweighed every other consideration. His own loss seemed but little
in comparison to hers. It was the concluding tragedy of those five
tragic years. The battle, through no fault of theirs, had gone against
them. The dream of a professional career was over.
His mother grew better. The doctor ceased his visits. She was able
to get on her feet again. She took over their pinched housekeeping.
But her step was heavy; the gaunt, grim straight- backed woman, with
her thin grey hair and set mouth, was no more than a spectre of her
former self. The doctor was right. There was nothing before her but
Raymond found work; a place in the auditing department of a
railroad, with a salary to begin with of sixty dollars a month; in
ten years he might hope to get a hundred. But he was one of those
whose back bent easily to misfortune. Heaven knew, he had been
schooled long enough to take its blows with fortitude. His mother and
he could manage comfortably on sixty dollars a month; and when he laid
his first earnings in her hand he even smiled with satisfaction. She
took the money in silence, her heart too full to ask him whence it
came. She had hoped against hope until that moment; and the bills, as
she looked at them, seemed to sting her shrivelled hand.
One day, as she was cleaning her son's room, she opened a box that
stood in the corner, and was surprised to find it contain a package
done up in wrapping paper. She opened it with curiosity and the tears
sprang to her eyes as she saw the second-hand medical books George had
used at college. Here they were, in neat wrappers, laid by for ever.
Too precious to throw away, too articulate of unfulfilled ambitions to
stand exposed on shelves, they had been laid away in the grave of her
son's hopes. She did them up again with trembling fingers, and that
night when George returned to supper, he found his mother in the dark,
In the years from nineteen to forty-two most men have fulfilled
their destiny; those who have had within them the ability to rise
have risen; the weak, the wastrels, the mediocrities have shaken down
into their appointed places. Even the bummer has his own particular
bit of wall in front of the saloon and his own particular chair
within. Those who have something to do are busy doing it, whatever it
may be. In the human comedy everyone in time finds his role and must
play it to the end, happy indeed if he be cast in a part that at all
George Raymond at forty-two was still in the auditor's department
of the New York Central. Time had wrinkled his cheek, had turned his
brown hair to a crisp grey, had bowed his shoulders to the desk he had
used for twenty-two years. His eyes alone retained their boyish
brightness, and a sort of appealing look as of one who his whole life
long had been a dependent on other people. As an automaton, a mere cog
in a vast machine, he had won the praise of his superiors by his
complete self-effacement. He was never ill, never absent, never had
trouble with his subordinates, never talked back, never made
complaints, and, in the flattering language of the superintendent, "he
knew what he knew!"
In the office, as in every other aggregation of human beings,
there were coteries, cliques, friendships and hatreds, jealousies,
heart-burnings and vendettas. There was scarcely a man there without
friends or foes. Raymond alone had neither. To the others he was a
strange, silent, unknown creature whose very address was a matter of
conjecture; a man who did not drink, did not smoke, did not talk; who
ate four bananas for his lunch and invariably carried a book in the
pocket of his shabby coat. It was said of him that once, during a
terrible blizzard, he had been the only clerk to reach the office;
that he had worked there stark alone until one o'clock, when at the
stroke of the hour he had taken out his four bananas and his book!
There were other stories about him of the same kind, not all of them
true to fate, but essentially true of the man's nature and of his
rigid adherence to routine. He had risen, place by place, to a
position that gave him a hundred and fifty dollars a month, and one so
responsible that his death or absence would have dislocated the office
for half a day.
"A first-class man and an authority on pro ratas!"
Such might have been the inscription on George Raymond's tomb!
His mother was still alive. She had never entirely regained her
health or her strength, and it took all the little she had of either
to do the necessary housekeeping for herself and her son. Thin to
emaciation, sharp-tongued, a tyrant to her finger-tips, her
indomitable spirit remained as uncowed as ever and she ruled her son
with a rod of iron. To her, Georgie, as she always called him, was
still a child. As far as she was concerned he had never grown up. She
took his month's salary, told him when to buy new shirts, ordered his
clothes herself, doled out warningly the few dollars for his
necessaries, and saved, saved, continually saved. The old woman
dreaded poverty with a horror not to be expressed in words. It had
ruined her own life; it had crushed her son under its merciless
wheels; in the words of the proverb, she was the coward who died a
thousand deaths in the agonies of apprehension. She was one of those
not uncommon misers, who hoard, not for love of money, but through
fear. She had managed, with penurious thrift and a self-denial almost
sublime in its austerity, to set aside eight thousand dollars. Eight
thousand dollars from an income that began at sixty and rose to a
little under three times that amount! Eight thousand dollars, wrung
from their lives at the price of every joy, every alleviation,
everything that could make the world barely tolerable.
Every summer Raymond had a two-weeks' holiday, which he spent at
Middleborough with some relatives of his father's. He had the
pronounced love of the sea that is usual with those born and bred in
seaport towns. His earliest memories went back to great deep- water
ships, their jib-booms poking into the second-story windows of the
city front, their decks hoarsely melodious with the yo- heave-yo of
straining seamen. The smell of tar, the sight of enormous anchors
impending above the narrow street, the lofty masts piercing the sky in
a tangle of ropes and blocks, the exotic cargoes mountains high—all
moved him like a poem. He knew no pleasure like that of sailing his
cousin's sloop; he loved every plank of her dainty hull; it was to him
a privilege to lay his hand to any task appertaining to her, however
humble or hard. To calk, to paint, to polish brasswork; to pump out
bilge; to set up the rigging; to sit cross-legged and patch sails;
and, best of all, to put her lee rail under in a spanking breeze and
race her seaward against the mimic fleet—Ah, how swiftly those bright
days passed, how bitter was the parting and the return, all too soon,
to the dingy offices of the railroad.
It never occurred to him to think his own lot hard, or to contrast
himself with other men of his age, who at forty-two were mostly
substantial members of society, with interests, obligations,
responsibilities, to which he himself was an utter stranger. Under
the iron bondage of his mother he had remained a child. To displease
her seemed the worst thing that could befall him; to win her
commendation filled him with content. But there were times, guiltily
remembered and put by with shame, when he longed for something more
from life; when the sight of a beautiful woman on the street reminded
him of his own loneliness and isolation; when he was overcome with a
sudden surging sense that he was an outsider in the midst of these
teeming thousands, unloved and old, without friends or hope or future
to look forward to. He would reproach himself for such lawless
repining, for such disloyalty to his mother. Was not her case worse
than his? Did she not lecture him on the duty of cheerfulness, she the
invalid, racked with pains, with nerves, who practised so pitifully
what she preached? The tears would come to his eyes. No, he would not
ask the impossible; he would go his way, brave and uncomplaining, and
let the empty years roll over his head without a murmur against fate.
But the years, apparently so void, were screening a strange and
undreamed-of part for him to play. The Spaniards, a vague, almost
legendary people, as remote from Raymond's life as the Assamese or
the cliff-dwellers of New Mexico, began to take on a concrete
character, and were suddenly discovered to be the enemies of the
human race. Raymond grew accustomed to the sight of Cuban flags, at
first so unfamiliar, and then, later, so touching in their
significance. Newspaper pictures of Gomez and Garcia were tacked on
the homely walls of barber-shops, in railroad shops, in grubby offices
and cargo elevators, and with them savage caricatures of a person
called Weyler, and referring bitterly to other persons (who seemed in
a bad way) called the reconcentrados. Raymond wondered what it was all
about; bought books to elucidate the matter; took fire with
indignation and resentment. Then came the Maine affair; the suspense
of seventy million people eager to avenge their dead; the decision of
the court of inquiry; the emergency vote; the preparation for war.
Raymond watched it all with a curious detachment. He never realised
that it could have anything personally to do with him. The long days
in the auditor's department went on undisturbed for all that the
country was arming and the State governors were calling out their
quotas of men. Two of his associates quitted their desks and changed
their black coats for army blue. Raymond admired them; envied them;
but it never occurred to him to ask why they should go and he should
stay. It was natural for him to stay; it was inevitable; he was as
much a part of the office as the office floor.
One afternoon, going home on the Elevated, he overheard two men
"I don't know what we'll do," said one.
"Oh, there are lots of men," said the other.
"Men, yes—but no sailors," said the first.
"That's right," said the other.
"We are at our wits' end to man the new ships," said the first.
"What did you total up to-day?" said the other.
His companion shrugged his shoulders.
"Eighty applicants, and seven taken," he said.
"And those foreigners?"
"All but two!"
"There's danger in that kind of thing!"
"Yes, indeed, but what can you do?"
The words rang in Raymond's head. That night he hardly slept. He
was in the throes of making a tremendous resolution, he who, for
forty years, had been tied to his mother's apron string. Making it of
his own volition, unprompted, at the behest of no one save, perhaps,
the man in the car, asserting at last his manhood in defiance of the
subjection that had never come home to him until that moment. He rose
in the morning, pale and determined. He felt a hypocrite through and
through as his mother commented on his looks and grew anxious as he
pushed away his untasted breakfast. It came over him afresh how good
she was, how tender. He did not love her less because his great
purpose had been taken. He knew how she would suffer, and the thought
of it racked his heart; he was tempted to take her into his
confidence, but dared not, distrusting his own powers of resistance
were she to say no. So he kissed her instead, with greater warmth than
usual, and left the house with misty eyes.
He got an extension of the noon hour and hurried down to the naval
recruiting office. It was doing a brisk business in turning away
applicants, and from the bottom of the line Raymond was not kept
waiting long before he attained the top; and from thence in his turn
was led into an inner office. He was briefly examined as to his sea
experience. Could he box the compass? He could. Could he make a long
splice? He could. What was meant by the monkey-gaff of a full-rigged
ship? He told them. What was his reason in wanting to join the Navy?
Because he thought he'd like to do something for his country. Very
good; turn him over to the doctor; next! Then the doctor weighed him,
looked at his teeth, hit him in the chest, listened to his heart,
thumped and questioned him, and then passed him on to a third person
to be enrolled.
When George Raymond emerged into the open air it was as a full A B
in the service of the United States
This announcement at the office made an extraordinary sensation.
Men he hardly knew shook hands with him and clapped him on the back.
He was taken upstairs to be impressively informed that his position
would be held open for him. On every side he saw kindling faces,
smiling glances of approbation, the quick passing of the news in
whispers. He had suddenly risen from obscurity to become part of the
War; the heir of a wonderful and possibly tragic future; a patriot; a
hero! It was a bewildering experience and not without its charm. He
was surprised to find himself still the same man.
The scene at home was less enthusiastic. It was even mortifying,
and Georgie, as his mother invariably called him, had to endure a
storm of sarcasm and reproaches. The old woman's ardent patriotism
stopped short at giving up her son. It was the duty of others to
fight, Georgie's to stay at home with his mother. He let her talk
herself out, saying little, but regarding her with a grave, kind
obstinacy. Then she broke down, weeping and clinging to him. Somehow,
though he could hardly explain it to himself, the relation between the
two underwent a change. He left that house the unquestioned master of
himself, the acknowledged head of that tiny household; he had won, and
his victory instead of abating by a hair's-breadth his mother's love
for him had drawn the pair closer to each other than ever before.
Though she had no articulate conception of it Georgie had risen
enormously in his mother's respect. The woman had given way to the
man, and the eternal fitness of things had been vindicated.
Her tenderness and devotion were redoubled. Never had there been
such a son in the history of the world. She relaxed her economies in
order to buy him little delicacies, such as sardines and pickles; and
when soon after his enlistment his uniform came home she spread it on
her bed and cried, and then sank on her knees, passionately kissing
the coarse serge. In the limitation of her horizon she could see but a
single figure. It was Georgie's country, Georgie's President,
Georgie's fleet, Georgie's righteous quarrel in the cause of stifled
freedom. To her, it was Georgie's war with Spain.
He was drafted aboard the Dixie, where, within a week of his
joining, he was promoted to be one of the four quartermasters. So
much older than the majority of his comrades, quick, alert, obedient,
and responsible, he was naturally amongst the first chosen for what
are called leading seamen. Never was a man more in his element than
George Raymond. He shook down into naval life like one born to it. The
sea was in his blood, and his translation from the auditor's
department to the deck of a fighting ship seemed to him like one of
those happy dreams when one pinches himself to try and confirm the
impossible. Metaphorically speaking, he was always pinching himself
and contrasting the monotonous past with the glorious and animated
present. The change told in his manner, in the tilt of his head, in
his fearless eyes and straighter back. It comes natural to heroes to
protrude their chests and walk upon air; and it is pardonable, indeed,
in war time, when each feels himself responsible for a fraction of his
"Georgie, you are positively becoming handsome," said his mother.
Amongst Raymond's comrades on the Dixie was a youngster of twenty-
one, named Howard Quintan. Something attracted him in the boy, and he
went out of his way to make things smooth for him aboard. The liking
was no less cordially returned, and the two became fast friends. One
day, when they were both given liberty together, Howard insisted on
taking him to his own home.
"The folks want to know you," he said. "They naturally think a
heap of you because I do, and I've told them how good you've been and
"Oh, rubbish!" said Raymond, though he was inwardly pleased. At
the time they were walking up Fifth Avenue, both in uniform, with
their caps on one side, sailor fashion, and their wide trousers
flapping about their ankles. People looked at them kindly as they
passed, for the shadow of the war lay on everyone and all hearts went
out to the men who were to uphold the flag. Raymond was flattered and
yet somewhat overcome by the attention his companion and he excited.
"Let's get out of this, Quint," he said. "I can't walk straight
when people look at me like that. Don't you feel kind of givey- givey
at the knees with all those pretty girls loving us in advance?"
"Oh, that's what I like!" said Quintan. "I never got a glance when
I used to sport a silk hat. Besides, here we are at the old stand!"
Raymond regarded him with blank surprise as they turned aside and
up the steps of one of the houses.
"Land's sake!" he exclaimed; "you don't mean to say you live in a
place like this? Here?" he added, with an intonation that caused
Howard to burst out laughing.
The young fellow pushed by the footman that admitted them and ran
up the stairs three steps at a time. Raymond followed more slowly,
dazed by the splendour he saw about him, and feeling horribly
embarrassed and deserted. He halted on the stairs as he saw Quintan
throw his arms about a tall, stately, magnificently dressed woman and
kiss her boisterously; and he was in two minds whether or not to slink
down again and disappear, when his companion called out to him to
"Mother, this is Mr. Raymond," he said. "He's the best friend I
have on the Dixie, and you're to be awfully good to him!"
Mrs. Quintan graciously gave him her hand and said something about
his kindness to her boy. Raymond was too stricken to speak and was
thankful for the semi-darkness that hid his face. Mrs. Quintan
continued softly, in the same sweet and overpowering manner, to purr
her gratitude and try to put him at his ease. Raymond would have been
a happy man could he have sunk though the parquetry floor. He trembled
as he was led into the drawing-room, where another gracious and
overpowering creature rose to receive them.
"My aunt, Miss Christine Latimer," said Howard.
She was younger than Mrs. Quintan; a tall, fair woman of middle
age, with a fine figure, hair streaked with grey, and the remains of
what had once been extreme beauty. Her voice was the sweetest Raymond
had ever listened to, and his shyness and agitation wore off as she
began to speak to him. He was left a long while alone with her, for
Howard and his mother withdrew, excusing themselves on the score of
private matters. Christine Latimer was touched by the forlorn
quartermaster, who, in his nervousness, gripped his chair with
clenched hands and started when he was asked a question. She soon got
him past this stage of their acquaintance, and, leading him on by
gentle gradations to talk about himself, even learned his whole story,
and that in so unobtrusive a fashion that he was hardly aware of his
having told it to her.
"I am speaking to you as though I had known you all my life," he
said in an artless compliment. "I hope it is not very forward of me.
It is your fault for being so kind and good."
He was ecstatic when he left the house with Quintan.
"I didn't know there were such women in the world," he said. "So
noble, so winning and high-bred. It makes you understand history to
meet people like that. Mary Queen of Scots, Marie Antoinette and all
those, you know—they must have been like that. I—I could understand
a man dying for Miss Latimer!"
"Oh, she's all right, my aunt!" said Quintan. "She was a
tremendous beauty once, and even now she's what I'd call a devilish
handsome woman. And the grand manner, it isn't everybody that likes
it, but I do. It's a little old-fashioned nowadays, but, by Jove, it
"I wonder that such a splendid woman should have remained
unmarried," said Raymond. He stuck an instant on the word unmarried.
It seemed almost common to apply to such a princess.
"She had an early love affair that turned out badly," said
Quintan. "I don't know what went wrong, but anyway it didn't work.
Then, when my father died, she came to live with us and help bring us
up—you see there are two more of us in the family—and I am told she
refused some good matches just on account of us kids. It makes me feel
guilty sometimes to think of it."
"Why guilty?" asked Raymond.
"Because none of us were worth it, old chap," said Quintan.
"I'm sure she never thought so," observed Raymond.
"My aunt's rather an unusual woman," said Quintan. "She has
voluntarily played second fiddle all her life; and, between you and
me, you know, my mother's a bit of a tyrant, and not always easy to
get along with—so it wasn't so simple a game as it looks."
Raymond was shocked at this way of putting the matter.
"You mean she sacrificed the best years of her life for you," he
"Women are like that—good women," said Quintan. "Catch a man being
such a fool—looking at it generally, you know—me apart. She had a
tidy little fortune from her father, and might have had a yard of her
own to play in, but our little baby hands held her tight."
Raymond regarded his companion's hands. They were large and red,
and rough with the hard work on board the Dixie; regarded them
respectfully, almost with awe, for had they not restrained that
glorious being in the full tide of her youth and beauty!
"Now it's too late," said Quintan.
"What do you mean by too late?" asked the quartermaster.
"Well, she's passed forty," said Quintan. "The babies have grown
up, and the selfish beasts are striking out for themselves. Her
occupation's gone, and she's left plante la. Worse than that, my
mother, who never bothered two cents about us then, now loves us to
distraction. And, when all's said, you know, it's natural to like your
"Too bad!" ejaculated Raymond.
"I call it deuced hard luck," said Quintan. "My mother really
neglected us shamefully, and it was Aunt Christine who brought us up
and blew our noses and rubbed us with goose-grease when we had croup,
and all that kind of thing. Then, when we grew up, my mother suddenly
discovered her long-lost children and began to think a heap of
us—after having scamped the whole business for fifteen years—and my
aunt, who was the real nigger in the hedge, got kind of let out, you
Raymond did not see, and he was indignant, besides, at the
coarseness of his companion's expressions. So he walked along and
"And, as I said before, it's now too late," said Quintan.
"Too late for what?" demanded Raymond, who was deeply interested.
"For her to take up with anybody else," said Quintan. "To marry,
you know. She sacrificed all her opportunities for us; and now, in
the inevitable course of things, we are kind of abandoning her when
she is old and faded and lonely."
"I consider your aunt one of the most beautiful women in the
world," protested Raymond.
"But you can't put back the clock, old fellow," said Quintan.
"What has the world to offer to an old maid of forty-two? There she
is in the empty nest, and not her own nest at that, with all her
little nestlings flying over the hills and far away, and the genuine
mother-bird varying the monotony by occasionally pecking her eyes
Raymond did not know what to answer. He could not be so rude as to
make any reflection on Mrs. Quintan, though he was stirred with
resentment against her. This noble, angelic, saintly woman, who in
every gesture reminded him of dead queens and historic personages! It
went to his heart to think of her, bereft and lonely, in that splendid
house he had so lately quitted. He recognised, in the unmistakable
accord between him and her, the fellowship of a pair who, in different
ways and in different stations, had yet fought and suffered and
endured for what they judged their duty. Forty- two years old!
Singular coincidence, in itself almost a bond between them, that he,
too, was of an identical age. Forty-two! Why, it was called the prime
of life. He inhaled a deep breath of air; it was the prime of life;
until then no one had really begun to live!
"Why don't you say something?" said Quintan.
"I was just thinking how mistaken you were," returned Raymond.
"There must be hundreds of men who would be proud to win her
slightest regard; who, instead of considering her faded or old, would
choose her out of a thousand of younger women and would be happy for
ever if she would take—" He was going to say them, but that sounded
improper, and he changed it, at the cost of grammar, to "him."
Quintan laughed at his companion's vehemence, and the subject
passed and gave way to another about shrapnel. But he did not fail,
later on, to carry a humorous report of the conversation to his aunt.
"What have you been doing to my old quartermaster?" he said.
"Hasn't the poor fellow enough troubles as it is, without falling in
love with you! He can't talk of anything else, and blushes like a girl
when he mentions your name. He told me yesterday he was willing to die
for a woman like you."
"I think he's a dear, nice fellow," said Miss Latimer, "and if he
wants to love me he can. It will keep him out of mischief!"
Raymond saw a great deal of Miss Latimer in the month before they
sailed south. Quintan took him constantly to the house, where, in his
capacity of humble and devoted comrade, the tall quartermaster was
always welcome and made much of. Mrs. Quintan was alive to the value
of this attached follower, who might be trusted to guard her son in
the perils that lay before him. She treated him as a sort of
combination of valet, nurse, and poor relation, asking him all sorts
of intimate questions about Howard's socks and underclothing, and
holding him altogether responsible for the boy's welfare. Her tone was
one of anxious patronage, touching at times on a deeper emotion when
she often broke down and cried. The quartermaster was greatly moved by
her trust in him. The tears would come to his own eyes, and he would
try in his clumsy way to comfort her, promising that, so far as it lay
with him, Howard should return safe and sound. In his self-abnegation
it never occurred to him that his own life was as valuable as Howard
Quintan's. He acquiesced in the understanding that it was his
business to get Howard through the war unscratched, at whatever risk
or jeopardy to himself.
Those were wonderful days for him. To be an intimate of that
splendid household, to drive behind spanking bays with Miss Latimer
by his side, to take tea at the Waldorf with her and other semi-divine
beings—what a dazzling experience for the ex-clerk, whose lines so
recently had lain in such different places. Innately a gentleman, he
bore himself with dignity in this new position, with a fine simplicity
and self-effacement that was not lost on some of his friends. His
respect for them all was unbounded. For the mother, so majestic, so
awe-inspiring; for Howard, that handsome boy whose exuberant
Americanism was untouched by any feeling of caste; for Melton and
Hubert Henry, his brothers, those lordly striplings of a lordly race;
for Miss Latimer, who in his heart of hearts he dared not call
Christine, and who to him was the embodiment of everything adorable in
women. Yes, he loved her; confessed to himself that he loved her;
humbly and without hope, with no anticipation of anything more between
them, overcome indeed that his presumption should go thus far.
He did not attempt to hide his feelings for her, and though too
shy for any expression of it, and withheld besides by the utter
impossibility of such a suit, he betrayed himself to her in a
thousand artless ways. He asked for no higher happiness than to sit
by her side, looking into her face and listening to her mellow voice.
He was thrice happy were he privileged to touch her hand in passing a
teacup. Her gentleness and courtesy, her evident consideration, the
little peeps she gave him into a nature gracious and refined beyond
anything he had ever known, all transported him with unreasoning
delight. She, on her part, so accustomed to play a minor role herself
in her sister's household, was yet too much a woman not to like an
admirer of her own. She took more pains with her dress, looked at
herself more often in the glass than she had done in years. It was
laughable; it was absurd; and she joined as readily as anyone in the
mirth that Raymond's devotion excited in the family, but, deep down
within her, she was pleased. At the least it showed she had not grown
too old to make men love her; it was the vindication of the mounting
years; the time, then, had not yet come when she had ceased altogether
to count. She had lost her nephews, who were growing to be men; the
love she put by so readily when it was in her reach seemed now more
precious as she beheld her faded and diminished beauty, the
crow's-feet about her eyes, her hair turning from brown to grey. A
smothered voice within her said: "Why not?"
She analysed Raymond narrowly in the long tete-a-tetes they had
together. She drew him out, encouraging and pressing him to tell her
everything about himself. She was always apprehending a jarring note,
the inevitable sign of the man's coarser clay, of his commoner
upbringing, the clash of his caste on hers. But she was struck instead
by his inherent refinement, by his unformulated instincts of
well-doing and honour. He was hazy about the use of oyster-forks, had
never seen a finger-bowl, committed to her eyes a dozen little
solecisms which he hastened to correct by frankly asking her
assistance; but in the true essentials she never had to feel any shame
for him. Clumsy, grotesquely ignorant of the social amenities, he was
yet a gentleman.
The night before they were to sail, he came to say good-bye. The
war had at last begun in earnest; men were falling, and the Spaniards
were expected to make a desperate and bloody resistance. It was a
sobering moment for everyone, and, in all voices, however hard they
tried to make them brave and gay, there ran an undercurrent of
solemnity. Howard and Raymond were to be actors in that terrible drama
not yet played; stripped and powder-blackened at their guns, they were
perhaps doomed to go down with their ship and find their graves in the
Caribbean. Before them lay untold possibilities of wounds and
mutilation, of disease, suffering, and horror. What woman that knew
them could look on unmoved at the sight of these men, so grave and
earnest, so quietly resolute, so deprecatory of anything like
braggadocio or over-confidence? It filled Christine Latimer with a
fierce pride in herself and them; in a race that could breed men so
gentle and so brave; in a country that was founded so surely on the
devoted hearts of its citizens.
She was crying as Raymond came to her later on the same evening,
and found her sitting in the far end of the drawing-room with the
lights turned low. They were alone together, for the quartermaster
had left Howard with his mother and his brothers gathered in a
farewell group about the library fire. Miss Latimer took both of
Raymond's hands, and, with no attempt to disguise her sorrow, drew
him close beside her on the divan. She was overflowing with pity for
this poor fellow, whose life had been so hard, in which until now
there had neither been love nor friends, whose only human tie was to
his mother and to her. Had he known it, he might have put his arms
about her and kissed her tear-swollen eyes and drawn her head against
his breast. She was filled with a pent-up tenderness for him; a word,
and she would have discovered what was until then inarticulate in her
bosom. But the tall quartermaster was withheld from such incredible
presumption. Her beautiful gown against his common serge typified, as
it were, the gulf between them. Her distress, her agitation, were in
his mind due to her concern for Howard Quintan; and he told her again
and again, with manly sincerity, that he would take good care of her
She knew he loved her. It had been plain to her for weeks past.
She knew every thought in his head as he sat there beside her,
thrilled with the touch of her hands, and in the throes of a
respectful rapture. Again and again the avowal was on his lips; he
longed to tell her how dear she was to him; it would be hard to die
with that unsaid, were he to be amongst those who never returned. It
never occurred to him that she might return his love. A woman like
her! A queen!
She could easily have helped him out. More than once she was on
the point of doing so. But the woman in her rebelled at the thought
of taking what was the man's place. She had something of the
exaggerated delicacy of an old maid. It was for him to ask, for her to
answer; and the precious moments slipped away. At last, greatly
daring, he managed to blurt out the fact that he wanted to ask a
"A favour?" she said.
"Won't you give me something," he said timidly, "some little thing
to take with me to remember you by?"
She replied she would with pleasure. She wanted him to remember
her. What was it that he would like?
"There is nothing I could refuse you," she said, smiling.
Raymond was overcome with embarrassment. She saw him looking at
her hair; her hair which was her greatest beauty, and which when
undone was luxuriant enough to reach below her waist. He had often
expressed his admiration for it.
"What would you like?" she asked again.
"Oh, anything," he faltered. "A—a book!"
She could not restrain her laughter. A book! She laughed and
laughed. She seemed carried away by an extraordinary merriment.
Raymond thought he had never heard a woman laugh like that before. It
made him feel very badly. He wondered what it was that had made his
request so ridiculous. He thanked his stars that he had held his
tongue about the other thing. Ah, what a fool he had been! He could
not have borne it, had the other been received with the same derision.
"I shall give you my prayer-book," she said at last, wiping her
eyes and looking less amused than he had expected. "I've had it many
years and value it dearly. It is prettily bound in Russia, and if you
carry it on the proper place romance will see that it stops a
bullet—though a Bible, I believe, is the more correct."
Somehow her tone sounded less cordial. She had withdrawn her
hands, and her humour, at such a moment, jarred on him. In spite of
his good resolutions he had managed to put his foot into it after all.
Perhaps she had begun to suspect his secret and was displeased. He
departed feeling utterly wretched and out of heart, and got very scant
comfort from his book, for it only reminded him of how seriously he
had compromised himself. He was in two minds whether or not to send it
back, but decided not to do so in fear lest he might give fresh
offence. The next day at dawn the Dixie sailed for the scene of war.
Then followed the historic days of the blockade; the first landing
on Cuba; the suspense and triumph attending Cervera's capture; El
Caney; San Juan Hill; Santiago; and the end of the war. Howard
Quintan fell ill with fever and was early invalided home; but Raymond
stayed to the finish, an obscure spectator, often an obscure actor, in
that world-drama of fleets and armies. Tried in the fire, his
character underwent some noted changes. He developed unexpected
aptitudes, became a marksman of big guns, showed resource and skill in
boat-work, earned the repeated commendations of his superiors. He put
his resolutions to the test, and emerged, surprised, thankful, and
satisfied, to find that he was a brave man. He rose in his own esteem;
it was borne in on him that he had qualities that others often lacked;
it was inspiriting to win a reputation for daring, fearlessness, and
He wrote when he could to his mother and Miss Latimer, and at rare
intervals was sometimes fortunate enough to hear in turn from them.
His mother was ill; the strain of his absence and danger was telling
on her enfeebled constitution; she said she could not have got along
at all had it not been for Miss Latimer's great kindness. It seemed
that the old maid was her constant visitor, bringing her flowers,
taking her drives, comforting her in the dark hours when her courage
was nigh spent. "A good and noble woman," wrote the old lady, "and
very much in love with my boy."
That line rang in Raymond's head long afterwards. He read it again
and again, bewildered, tempted and yet afraid to believe it true,
moved to the depths of his nature, at once happy and unhappy in the
gamut of his doubts. It could not be possible. No, it could not be
possible. Standing at the breech of his gun, his eyes on a Spanish
gunboat they had driven under the shelter of a fort, he found himself
repeating: "And very much in love with my boy. And very much in love
with my boy." And then, suddenly becoming intent again on the matter
in hand, he slammed the breech-mechanism shut and gave the enemy a
Then there came the news of his mother's death. As much a victim
of the war as any stricken soldier or sailor at the front, she was
numbered on the roll of the fallen. The war had killed her as
certainly, as surely, as any Mauser bullet sped from a tropic
thicket. Raymond had only the consolation of knowing that Miss
Latimer had been with her at the last and that she had followed his
mother to the grave. Her letter, tender and pitiful, filled him with
an inexpressible emotion. His little world now held but her.
This was the last letter he was destined to receive from her. The
others, if there were others, all went astray in the chaotic
confusion attendant on active service. The poor quartermaster, when
the ship was so lucky as to take a mail aboard, grew accustomed to be
told that there was nothing for him. He lost heart and stopped writing
himself. What was the use, he asked himself? Had she not abandoned
him? The critical days of the war were over; peace was assured; the
victory won, the country was already growing forgetful of the victors.
Such were his moody reflections as he paced the deck, hungry for the
word that never came. Yes, he was forgotten. There could be no other
explanation of that long silence. He was forgotten!
He returned in due course to New York and was paid off and
mustered out of the service. It was dusk when he boarded an uptown
car and stood holding to a strap, jostled and pushed about by the
unheeding crowd. Already jealous of his uniform, he felt a little
bitterness to see it regarded with such scant respect. He looked out
of the windows at the lighted streets and wondered whether any of
those hurrying thousands cared a jot for the men that had fought and
died for them. The air, so sharp and chill after the tropics, served
still further to dispirit him and add the concluding note of
depression to his home-coming. He got off the car and walked down to
Fifth Avenue, holding his breath as he drew near the Quintans' house.
He rang the bell: waited and rang again. Then at last the door was
unlocked and opened by an old woman.
"Is Miss—Mrs. Quintan at home?" he asked.
"Gone to Europe," said the old woman.
"But Miss Latimer?" he persisted.
"Gone to Europe," said the old woman.
"Mr. Howard Quintan?"
"Gone to Europe!"
He walked slowly down the steps, not even waiting to ask for their
address abroad nor when they might be expected to return. They had
faded into the immeasurable distance. What more was there to be said
or hoped, and his dejected heart gave back the answer: nothing. He
slept that night in a cheap hotel. The next day he bought a suit of
civilian clothes and sought the office of the auditor's department.
Here he received something more like a welcome. Many of the clerks,
with whom he had scarcely been on nodding terms, now came up and shook
him warmly by the hand. The superintendent sent for him and told him
that his place had been held open, hinting, in the exuberance of the
moment, at a slight increase of salary. The assistant superintendent
made much of him and invited him out to lunch. The old darkey
door-keeper greeted him like a long-lost parent. Raymond went back to
his desk, and resumed with a sort of melancholy satisfaction the
interrupted routine of twenty years. In a week he could hardly believe
he had ever quitted his desk. He would shut his eyes and wonder
whether the war had not been all a dream. He looked at his hands and
asked himself whether they indeed had pulled the lanyards of cannon,
lifted loaded projectiles, had held the spokes of the leaping wheel.
His eyes, now intent on figures, had they in truth ever searched the
manned decks of the enemy or trained the sights that had blown Spanish
blockhouses to the four winds of heaven? Had it been he or his ghost
who had stood behind the Nordenfeldt shields with the bullets
pattering against the steel and stinging the air overhead? He or his
ghost, barefoot in the sand that sopped the blood of fallen comrades,
the ship shaking with the detonation of her guns, the hoarse cheering
of her crew re-echoing in his half- deafened ears? A dream, yes;
tragic and wonderful in the retrospect, filled with wild, bright
pictures; incredible, yet true!
He was restless and lonely. He dreaded his evenings, which he knew
not how to spend; dreaded the recurring Sunday, interminable in
duration, whose leaden hours seemed never to reach their end. His
only solace was in his work, which took him out of himself and
prevented him from thinking. He made a weekly pilgrimage past the
Quintans' house. The blinds were always drawn. It was as dead as one
of those Cuban mills, standing in the desolation of burned fields.
Once, greatly daring, and impelled by a sudden impulse, he went to the
door and requested the address of his vanished friends:
"Grand Hotel, Vevey, Switzerland." He repeated the words to
himself as he went back to his boarding-house, repeated them again
and again like a child going on an errand, "Grand Hotel, Vevey,
Switzerland," in a sort of panic lest he might forget them. He tossed
that night in his bed in a torment of indecision. Ought he to write?
Ought he to take the risk of a reply, courteous and cold, that he felt
himself without the courage to endure? Or was it not better to put an
end to it altogether and accept like a man the inevitable "no" of her
He rose at dawn, and, lighting the gas, went back to bed with what
paper he could lay his hands on. He had no pen, no ink, only the stub
of a pencil he carried in his pocket. How it flew over the ragged
sheets under the fierce spell of his determination! All the misery and
longing of months went out in that letter. Inarticulate no longer, he
found the expression of a passionate and despairing eloquence. He
could not live without her; he loved her; he had always loved her;
before he had been daunted by the inequality between them, but now he
must speak or die. At the end he asked her, in set old-fashioned
terms, whether or not she would marry him.
He mailed it as it was, in odd sheets and under the cover of an
official envelope of the railroad company. He dropped it into the box
and walked away, wondering whether he wasn't the biggest fool on earth
and the most audacious, and yet stirred and trembling with a strange
satisfaction. After all he was a man; he had lived as a man should,
honorably and straightforwardly; he had the right to ask such a
question of any woman and the right to an honest and considerate
answer. Be it yes or no, he could reproach himself no longer with
perhaps having let his happiness slip past him. The matter would be
put beyond a doubt for ever, and if it went against him, as in the
bottom of his heart he felt assured it would, he would try to bear it
with what fortitude he might. She would know that he loved her. There
was always that to comfort him. She would know that he loved her.
He got a postal guide and studied out the mails. He learned the
names of the various steamers, the date of their sailing and
arriving, the distance of Vevey from the sea. Were she to write on
the same day she received his letter, he might hear from her by the
Touraine. Were she to wait a day, her answer would be delayed for the
Normandie. All this, if the schedule was followed to the letter and
bad weather or accident did not intervene. The shipping page of the
New York Herald became the only part of it he read. He scanned it
daily with anxiety. Did it not tell him of his letter speeding over
seas? For him no news was good news, telling him that all was well. He
kept himself informed of the temperature of Paris, the temperature of
Nice, and worried over the floods in Belgium. From the gloomy offices
of the railroad he held all Europe under the closest scrutiny.
Then came the time when his letter was calculated to arrive. In
his mind's eye he saw the Grand Hotel at Vevey, a Waldorf-Astoria set
in snowy mountains with attendant Swiss yodelling on inaccessible
summits, or getting marvels of melody out of little hand-bells, or
making cuckoo clocks in top-swollen chalets. The letter would be
brought to her on a silver salver, exciting perhaps the stately
curiosity of Mrs. Quintan and questions embarrassing to answer. It was
a pity he used that railroad envelope! Or would it lie beside her
plate at breakfast, as clumsy and unrefined as himself, amid a heap of
scented notes from members of the nobility? Ah, if he could but see
her face and read his fate in her blue eyes!
When he returned home that night there was a singular-looking
telegram awaiting him on the hall table. His hands shook as he took
it up for it suddenly came over him that it was a cable. It had never
occurred to him that she might do that; that there was anything more
expeditious than the mail.
"Sailing by Touraine arriving sixth Christine Latimer."
He read and re-read it until the type grew blurred. What did it
mean? He asked himself that a thousand times. What did it mean? He
sought his room and locked the door, striding up and down with
agitation, the cablegram clenched in his hand. He was beside himself,
triumphant and yet in a fever of misgiving. Was it not perhaps a
coincidence—not an answer to his own letter, but one of those
extraordinary instances of what is called telepathy? Her words would
bear either interpretation. Possibly the whole family was returning
with her. Possibly she had never seen his letter at all. Possibly it
was following her back to America, unopened and undelivered.
"Sailing by Touraine arriving sixth." Was that an answer? Perhaps
indeed it was. Perhaps it was a woman's way of saying "yes"; it might
even be, in her surpassing kindness, that she was coming to break her
refusal as gently as she might, too considerate of his feelings to
write it baldly on paper. At least, amid all these doubts, it assured
him of one thing, her regard; that he was not forgotten; that he had
been mistaken in thinking himself ignored.
He spent the next eight days in a cruel and heart-breaking
suspense. He could hardly eat or sleep. He grew thin and started at a
sound. He paid a dollar to have the Touraine's arrival telegraphed to
the office; another dollar to have it telegraphed to the
boarding-house; he was fearful that one or the other might miscarry,
and repeatedly warned the landlady of a possible message for him in
the middle of the night.
"It means a great deal to me," he said. "It means everything to
me. I don't know what I'd do if I missed the Touraine!"
Of course he did not miss the Touraine. He was on the wharf hours
before her coming. He exasperated everyone with his questions. He was
turned out of all kinds of barriers; he earned the distrust of the
detectives; he became a marked man. He was certainly there for no
good, that tall guy in the slouch hat, his lean hands fidgeting for a
surreptitious pearl-necklace or an innocent-looking umbrella full of
diamonds—one who, in their language, was a guy that would bear
The steamer came alongside, and Raymond gazed up at the tier upon
tier of faces. At length, with a catch in his heart, he caught sight
of Miss Latimer, who smiled and waved her hand to him. He scanned her
narrowly for an answer to his doubts; and these increased the more he
gazed at her. It seemed a bad sign to see her so calm, so composed;
worse still to see her occasionally in animated conversation with some
of her fellow-passengers. He thought her smiles had even a perfunctory
friendliness, and he had to share them besides with others. It was
plain she had never received his letter. No woman could bear herself
like that who had received such a letter. Then too she appeared so
handsome, so high-bred, so charming and noticeable a figure in the
little company about her that Raymond felt a peremptory sense of his
own humbleness and of the impassable void between them. How had he
ever dared aspire to this beautiful woman, and the thought of his
effrontery took him by the throat.
He stood by the gangway as the passengers came off, an
interminable throng, slow moving, teetering on the slats, a gush of
funnelled humanity, hampered with bags, hat-boxes, rolls of rugs,
dressing-cases, golf-sticks, and children. At last Miss Latimer was
carried into the eddy, her maid behind her carrying her things, lost
to view save by the bright feather in her travelling bonnet. The
seconds were like hours as Raymond waited. He had a peep of her,
smiling and patient, talking over her shoulder to a big Englishman
behind her. Then, as the slow stream brought her down, she stepped
lightly on the wharf, turned to Raymond, and, before he could so much
as stammer out a word, flung her arms round his neck and kissed him.
"Did you really want me?" she said; and then, "You gave me but two
hours to catch the old Touraine!"
THE MASCOT OF BATTERY B
Battery A had a mascot goat, and Battery C a Filipino kid, and
Battery D a parrot that could swear in five languages, but I guess we
were the only battery in the brigade that carried an old lady!
Filipino, nothing! But white as yourself and from Oakland,
California, and I don't suppose I'd be here talking to you now, if it
hadn't been for her.
I had known Benny a long time—Benny was her son, you know, the
only one she had—and when I enlisted at the beginning of the war
Benny wished to do it, too, only he was scared to death, not of the
Spaniards, but his old Ma! So he hung off and on, while I drilled at
the Presidio and rode free on the street cars, and did the little hero
act, and ate pie the whole day long. My! How they used to bring us
pies in them times and boxes of see-gars—and flowers! Flowers to
burn! Well I remember a Wisconsin regiment marching along Market
Street, big splendid men from the up-North woods, every one of them
with a Calla lily stuck in his gun! Oh, it was fine, with the troops
pouring in, and the whole city afire to receive them, and the girls
almost cutting the clothes off your back for souvenirs—and it made
Benny sick to see it all, him clerking in a hardware store and eating
his heart out to go with the boys. He hung back as long as he could,
but at last he couldn't stand it no longer, and the day before we
sailed he went and enlisted in my battery.
He knew there was going to be a rumpus at home and I suppose that
was why he put it off to the very end, not wanting to be plagued to
death or cried over. But when he got into his uniform and had done a
spell of goose-step with the first sergeant, he was so blamed rattled
about going home that he had to take me along too. He lived away off
somewheres in a poorish sort of neighbourhood, all little frame houses
and little front yards about that big, where you could see commuters
watering Calla lilies in their city clothes. Benny's house seemed the
smallest and poorest of the lot, though it had Calla lilies too and
other sorts of flowers, and a mat with "welcome" on it, and some kind
of a dog that licked our hands as we walked up the front steps and
answered to the name of Dook.
Benny pushed open the door and went in, me at his heels, and both
of us nervous as cats. His mother was sitting in a rocker, reading
the evening paper with gold spectacles, and I never saw such a
straight-backed old lady in my life, nor any so tall and thin and
commanding. She looked up at us, kind of startled to see two soldiers
walking into her kitchen, and Benny smiled a silly smile and said:
"Mommer, I'm off to help Dooey in the Fillypines!"
I guess he thought she'd jump at him or something, for he had
always been a mother's boy and minded everything she said, though he
was twenty-eight years old and rising-nine—but all she did was to
draw in her breath sharp and sudden, so you could hear the whistle of
it, and then two big tears rolled out under her specs.
"Don't feel bad about it, Mommer," said Benny in a snuffly voice.
She never said a word, but got up from the chair and came over to
where Benny was, very white and trembly, and looking at his army coat
like it was a shroud.
"Oh, my son, my son!" she said, kind of choking over the words.
"I couldn't stay behind when all the boys was going," he said.
I saw he was holding back all he could to keep from crying, and I
didn't blame him either, as we was to sail the next day and the old
lady was his Ma. It's them good-byes that break a soldier all up. So I
lit out and played with the dog and made him jump through my hands and
fetch sticks and give his paw (he was quite a RE-markable dog, that
dog, though his breeding wasn't much), while I could hear them inside,
talking and talking, and the old lady's voice running on about the
danger of drink and how he mustn't sleep in wet clothes or give
back-talk to his officers—it was wonderful the horse-sense that old
lady had—and how he must respeck the uniform he wore and be cheerful
and willing and brave, like his sainted father who was dead—all that
mothers say and sometimes what soldiers do—and through it all there
was a pleasant rattle of dishes and the sound of the fire being poked
up, and Benny asking where's the table-cloth, and was there another
pie? By and by I was called in, and there, sure enough, the table was
spread, and we were both made to sit down while the old lady
skirmished around and wiped her eyes when we weren't looking.
We had beefsteak, warmed-over pigs' feet, coffee, potato cakes,
fresh lettuce, Graham gems, and two kinds of pie, and the next day we
sailed for Manila.
Them early days in the Fillypines was the toughest proposition I
was ever up against. Things hadn't settled down as they did
afterward, nobody knowing where he was at, and all of us shoved up to
the front higgeldy-piggeldy; and, being Regulars, they gave us the
heavy end of it, having to do all the fighting while the Volunteers
was being taught the difference between a Krag- Jorgensen and a Moro
Castle. It was all front in them days—for the Regulars! But we were
lucky in our commissary sergeant, a splendid young man named Orr, and
we lived well from the start and never came down to rations. The
battery got quite a name for having griddle-cakes for breakfast and
carrying a lot of dog generally in the eating line, and someone wrote
a song, to the toon of Chickamauga, called "The Fried Chicken of
Battery B." But I tell you, it wasn't all fried chicken either, for
the fighting was heavy and hot, and a good many of the boys pegged
out. If ever there was a battery that looked for trouble and got
it—it was Battery B! But we took good care of our commissary
sergeant—did I mention he was a splendid young man named Orr?—and
though we dropped a good many numbers, wounded, dead, sick, and
missing—we kep' up the good name of the battery and had canned butter
and pop-overs nearly every day.
Benny and I were chums, but nobody knows what that word means till
you've kept warm under the same blanket and kneeled side by side in
the firing-line. It brings men together like nothing else in the
world, and it's queer the unlikely sorts that take to one another. I
was so common and uneddicated that I wonder what Benny ever saw to
like in me, for, as I said, he was a regular Mommer's boy and
splendidly brought up and an electrician. Religious, too, and a church
member! But he was powerful fond of me, and never went into action but
what he'd let off a little prayer to himself that I might come out all
right and go to heaven if bolo-ed. Pity he hadn't taken as much
trouble for himself, for one day while we were lying in a trench, and
firing for all we were worth, I suddenly saw that look in his face
that a soldier gets to know so well.
"Benny, you're shot!" I yelled out, dropping my Krag and all
struck of a heap.
"Shot, nothing!" he answered, and then he keeled over in the dirt
and his legs began to kick.
He took a powerful long time to die, and there was even some talk
of sending him down to the base hospital, the field one being that
full and constantly needed at our heels. But he pleaded with the
doctors and was allowed as a favour to stay on and die where he was
minded—with the battery. I was with him all I could, and I'll never
forget how good that commissary sergeant was, a splendid young man
named Orr, who always had a little pot of chicken broth for Benny and
cornstarch, and what he fancied most of all—a sort of thick dough
cakes we called sinkers. As luck would have it I got into trouble
about this time—a little matter of two silver candle-sticks and a
Virgin's crown—and Benny sent for Captain Howard (it was him that
commanded the battery), and weak as he was, dying, he begged me off,
and the captain swore awful to hide how bad he felt, and struck my
name off the sheet to please him. There was little enough to do in
this line, for it was plain as day where Benny was bound for, and he
knew himself he would never see that little home in Oakland again.
Well, he got worse and worse, and sometimes when I went there he
didn't know me, being out of his head or kind of dopy with the
doctor's stuff, the shadow being over him, as Irish people say. One
night he was that low that I got scared, and I waylaid the contract
surgeon as he came out.
"Doctor," I said, "it's all up with Benny, ain't it?"
"He'll never hear reveille no more," he says.
I got my blanket and lay outside the door, it being against
regulations for any of us to be in the field-hospital after taps. But
the orderly said he'd call me if Benny was to wake up before the end,
and the doctor promised me I might go in. Sure enough, I was called
somewheres along of four o'clock and the orderly led me inside the
tent to Benny's cot. There was no light but a candle in a bottle, and
I held it in my hand and bent over and looked in Benny's face. He was
himself all right, and he put his cold, sweaty hand in mine and
"Do you know me, old man?" I said. "Do you know me?"
"Good-bye, Bill," he said, and then, as I leaned over him, his
voice being that low and faint—he whispered: "Billy, I guess you'll
have to rustle for another chum!"
Them was his last words and he said them with a kind of a smile,
like he was happy and didn't give a damn to live. Then the little
life he had left went out. The orderly looked at his watch, and then
wrote the time on a slate after Benny's regimental number and the
word: "died." This was about all the epitaph he got, though we buried
him properly in the morning and gave him the usual send- off. Then his
effects was auctioned off in front of the captain's tent, a nickel for
this, ten cents for that—a soldier hasn't much at any time, you know,
and on the march less than a little—and five-sixty about covered the
lot. There was quite a rush for the picture of his best girl, but I
bought it in, along with one of his Ma and a one-pound Hotchkiss shell
and the hilt of a Spanish officer's sword; and when I had laid them
away in my haversack and had borrowed a sheet of paper and an envelope
from the commissary sergeant to write to Benny's mother, it came over
me what a little place a man fills in the world and how things go on
much the same without him.
I was setting down to write that letter and was about midway
through, having got to "the pride of the battery and regretted by all
who noo him," when I looked up, and what in thunder do you suppose I
saw? The old lady herself, by God! walking into camp with an umberella
and a valise, and looking like she always did— powerful grim and
commanding. Someone must have told her the news and which was my tent,
for she walked straight up to where I was and said: "William,
William!" like that. She didn't cry or nothing, and anybody at a
distance might have thought she was just talking to a stranger; but
there was a whole funeral march in the sound of her voice, and you
could read Benny's death like print in her wrinkled old face. I took
her out to where we had buried him, and she plumped down on her knees
and prayed, with the umberella and the valise beside her, while I held
my hat in one hand and my pistol in the other, ready for any bolo
business that might come out of the high grass.
Then we went back to the field-hospital and had a look in, she
explaining on the way how she had mortgaged her home, so as to come
and look after Benny. I guess the hospital must have appeared kind of
cheerless, for lots of the wounded were lying on the bare ground, and
it was a caution the way some of them groaned and groaned. You see
Battery K had just come in, having had an engagement by the way at
Dagupan, and Wilson's cavalry, besides, had dumped a sight of their
men on us.
"And it was in a place like this that my boy died?" said the old
lady, her mouth quivering and then closing on the words like a steel
"There's the very cot, Ma'am," I said.
She said something like "Oh, oh, oh!" under her breath, and,
taking out her handkerchief, wiped the face and lips of the man in
the cot, who was lying there with his uniform still on him. I suppose
he had got it because he was a bad case,—the cot, I mean,—and
certainly he was far from spry.
"He's dead!" said the old lady, shuddering. "He's dead!"
"Orderly," I said, "number fifty-six is dead!"
The orderly bent over to make sure and then ran for his slate—the
same old slate—and began to write down the same old thing. I suppose
there was some sense to that slate racket, for with a little spit one
slate would do for a brigade, but it seemed a cheap way to die. Then,
as we stood there, another orderly came gallumphing in with something
steaming in a tin can. The old lady took it out of his hand and
smelled it, supercilious.
"What do you call this?" she said.
"It's chicken broth, Ma'am," he said. "That's what it is, Ma'am."
"Faugh!" said the old lady, "faugh!" and handed it back to him,
like she was going to throw it away, but didn't. Then we watched him
dip it out in tin cups and carry it around, while some other fellers
came in and carried out the body of the man in the cot, a trooper by
his legs. We went out with them, and, I tell you, it was good to stand
in the open air again and breathe. The old lady took a little spell of
rest on a packing-case; then she gave me her umberella and valise to
take back to quarters, and, rolling up her sleeves, made like she was
going into the hospital again.
I didn't know what to say, but I guess I looked it.
"William," she said, with a glitter of her gold specs.
"Ma'am," said I.
"Those boys aren't getting proper CON-sideration," she said. "If
it was dogs," she said, "they couldn't be treated worse. William, I'm
going to see what one old woman can do."
"You ought to ask Captain Howard first," I said. "You don't belong
to the Army Medical Corps."
"It's them that let Benny die," she said, with her eyes snapping,
"and, as for asking, they'd say 'No,' for they don't allow any women
except at the base hospitals."
I knew this for a fack, but I'd rather she'd find it out from the
captain than from me. I didn't want to seem to make trouble for her.
So, while I was wondering what to do about it, she headed right in,
leaving me with the valise and the umberella, and a kind of qualmy
feeling that the old lady might strike a snag.
I didn't have no chance to come back till along sundown, but, my
stars I even in that time there had been a change. Benny's mother had
been getting in her deadly work, and the orderlies were bursting mad,
not that any of them dared say anything outright or show it except in
their faces, which were that long; for, you see, the contract surgeon
had taken her side, and had backed her up. But they moved around like
mules with their ears down, powerful unwilling, and yet scared to say
a word. The hospital had been made a new place, with another tent up
that had been laid away and forgotten (you wouldn't think it possible,
but it was), and the sick and wounded had been sorted over and washed
and made comfortable; and, where before there was no room to turn
around, you could walk through wide lanes and wonder what had become
of the crowd. She had peeked into the cooking, too, and had found out
more things going wrong in five hours than the contract surgeon had
in five months. Blest if there wasn't a court-martial laying for every
one of the orderlies if they said "boo!" for the swine had been making
away scandalous with butter and chocolate and beef—tea and canned
table peaches and sparrow-grass and sardines, and all the like of
that, belly-robbing the boys right and left perfectly awful.
It was a mighty good account of the contract surgeon that he took
it all so well, and was willing to admit how badly he had been done.
But he was a splendid young fellow, named Marcus, and what the old
lady said, went! He was right sorry he couldn't put her on the
strength of the battery, but the regulations kept women nurses at the
base-hospitals, and anyway (for we broke everything them days, and
there wasn't enough red-tape left to play cat-and-my- cradle with)
Captain Howard hated the sight of a petticoat, and was dead set
against women anywheres. I don't know what they had ever done to him,
but I'm just saying it for a fack. But, however it was, Marcus said
the old lady had to be kept out of sight, or else the captain would
surely send her to the rear under arrest.
Now, this made it a pretty hard game for the old lady to play, and
you can reckon how much dodging she had to do to keep out of the
captain's sight. It was hard about her sleeping, too, for she had to
do that where she could, not to speak of the pay she might have drawn
and didn't, and which, sakes alive! she earned twenty times over. By
and by everybody got onto it except the captain, but there wasn't such
a skunk in the battery as to tell him, partly because of the joke,
but, most of all, on account of the convalescents, who naturally
thought a heap of her. Then it got whispered around that she was our
mascot, and carried the luck of the battery; and it was certainly
RE-markable how it began to change, getting fresh beef quite regular
and maple syrup to burn, and nine kegs of Navy pickles by mistake.
You would have thought she was too old to stand it, for we was
always on the move, and I have seen her sleeping on what was nothing
else but mud, with the rain coming down tremenjous. But she was a
tough old customer, and always came to time, outlasting men that could
have tossed her in the air, or run with her a block and never taken
breath. But, of course, it couldn't be kept up for ever—I mean about
the captain—and, sure enough, one day he caught her riding on a
gun-carriage, while he was passing along the line on a Filipino pony.
"Good God!" he said, like that, reining in his horse and looking
at her campaign hat and the old gingham dress she wore. I wonder she
didn't correct him for his profanity, but I allow for once she was
scared stiff, and hadn't no answer ready. My! But she kind of shrunk
in and looked a million years old.
"Madam," said he, "do you belong to this column?"
"Unofficially, I do," she said, perking up a little.
"Might I inquire where you came from?" said he, doing the ironical
"Oakland, California," said she.
"And is this your usual mode of locomotion?" said he. "Riding on a
gun?" said he. "Like the Goddess of War," said he. "Perching on the
belcherous cannon's back," said he.
The old lady, now as bold as brass, allowed that it was.
"Scandalous!" roared the captain. "Scandalous!"
The old lady always had a kind of nattified air, and even on a
gun-carriage she sported that look of dropping in on the neighbours
for a visit. She ran up her little parasol, settled her feet, give a
tilt to her specs, and looked the captain in the eye.
"Yes," she said, "I do belong to this column, and I guess it would
be a smaller column by a dozen, if it hadn't been for me in your
field-hospital. Or twenty," said she. "Or maybe more," said she.
This kind of staggered the captain. It was plain he didn't know
just what to do. We were hundreds of miles from anywheres, and there
were Aguinaldoes all around us. He was as good as married to that old
lady, for any means he had of getting rid of her. He began to look
quite old himself, as he stared and stared at the mascot of Battery B,
the cannon lumping along, and the old lady bouncing up and down, as
the wheels sank to the axles in the rutty road.
"When we strike the railroad, home you go," said he.
"We'll see about that," said the old lady.
"It's disgraceful," said he. "Pigging with a whole battery," said
he. "Oh, the shame of it!" said he.
"Shoulder-straps don't always make a gentleman," said she.
"Holy Smoke!" said he, galloping off very fierce and grand on his
little horse, to haul Dr. Marcus over the coals. They say the
contract surgeon got it in the neck, but we were short-handed in that
department already, Dr. Fenelly having been killed in action, so the
captain could do nothing worse nor reprimand him. It was bad enough as
it was—for Marcus—for HE wasn't no old lady, and the captain could
let himself rip. And, I tell you, it was a caution any time to be up
against Captain Howard, for, though he could be nice as pie and
perlite to beat the band, it only needed the occasion for him to
unloose on you like a thirteen-inch gun.
Well, it was perfectly lovely what happened next, for, with all
her sassiness, the old lady felt pretty blue, and talked about Benny
for hours, like she always did when she was down-hearted; and, by this
time, you know, she had got to love Battery B, and every boy in it;
and it naturally went against her to think of starting out all over
again with strangers, and them maybe Volunteers. So you can guess what
her feelings was that night when the captain went down with fever. It
was like getting money from home!
The captain had never been sick in his life, and he took it hard
to be laid by and keep off the flies, while another feller ran the
battery and jumped his place. I guess it came over him that he wasn't
the main guy after all, and that it wouldn't matter a hill of beans
whether he lived or quit. Them's one of the things you learn in
hospital, and the most are the better for it; but the captain, you
see, was getting his lesson a bit late. So he was layed off, with
amigos to carry him or bolo him (like what amigos are when they get a
chance), and the old lady give a whoop and took him in charge. My! If
she wasn't good to that man. and, as for coals of fire, she regularly
slung them at him! The doctor, too, got his little axe in, and was
everlastingly praising the old lady, and telling the captain he would
have been a goner, if it hadn't been for her! And, when the captain
grew better—which he did after a few days—he was that meek he'd eat
out of your hand. The old lady was not only a champion nurse, but she
was a buster to cook. Give her a ham-bone and a box of matches and she
could turn out a French dinner of five courses, with
oofs-sur-le-plate, and veal-cutlets in paper pants! It was then, I
reckon, she settled the captain for good; and, when he picked up and
was able to walk about camp, leaning pretty heavy on her arm, she
called him "George" and "My boy"—like that—and you might have taken
him for Benny and she his Ma.
There was nothing too good for the old lady after that, and the
captain wouldn't hear of her living anywheres but at the officers'
mess, where she sat at his right hand, and always spoke first. The
Queen of England couldn't have been treated with more respeck, and
the captain put her on the strength of the battery, and she drew
back-pay from the day she first blew into camp. My, but it was
changed times! and you ought to have seen the way the old lady cocked
her head in the air and made a splendid black silk dress of loot,
which she wore every evening with the officers and rattled all over
with jet. But it didn't turn her head the least bit, like for a time
the boys feared it might, and she was twice as good to us as she had
been before. We had a pull at headquarters now, and she had a heart
that big that it could hold the officers and us, too—and more in the
The tide had turned her way when she needed it most, for, tough as
she was, she could not have long gone on like she had been. She had
worn down very thin, and was like a shadow of the old lady I
remembered in Oakland, California, and kind of sunk in around the
eyes, and I don't believe Benny would have known her, had he risen
from the grave; and, when anybody joked with her about it, and said:
"Take it easy, Ma'am, you owe it to the battery to be keerful," she'd
answer she had enlisted for the term of the war, and looked to peg out
the day peace was proclaimed.
"Then I'll be off to join Benny," she'd say, "and the rest of the
battery, in heaven!"
There was getting to be a good deal of a crowd up there—that is,
if the other place hadn't yanked them in—and some of the boys found
a lot of comfort in her way of thinking.
"A boy as dies for his country isn't going to be bothered about
passing in," she would say, with a click of her teeth and that sure
way of hers like she KNEW. And I, reckon perhaps she DID.
One afternoon she was suddenly taken very bad; and, instead of
better, she grew worse and worse, being tied to the bed and raving;
and the captain, who wouldn't hear of her being sent to hospital, give
up his own quarters to her and almost went crazy, he was that
frightened she was dying.
"It's just grit that's kep' her alive," I heard the doctor saying
"You must save her, Marcus," said the captain, holding to him,
like he was pleading with the doctor for her life. "You must save
her, Marcus. You must do everything in the world you can, Marcus."
The contract surgeon looked mighty glum. "She's like a ship that's
been burning up her fittings for lack of coal," said he. "There ain't
nothing left," he said. "Not a damn thing," said he, and then he piled
in a lot of medical words that seemed to settle the matter.
As for the captain, he sat down and regularly cried. I'm sorry now
I said anything against the captain, for he was a splendid man, and
the pride of the battery. And, I tell you, he wasn't the only one that
cried neither, for the boys idolised the old lady, and there wasn't no
singing that night or cards or anything. I was on picket, and it was a
heavy heart I took with me into the dark; and, when they left me
laying in the grass, and nobody nearer nor a hundred yards and that
behind me, I felt mortal blue and lonesome and homesick, and like I
didn't care whether I was killed or not. It was midnight when I went
out,—mind, I say MIDNIGHT— and I don't know what ailed me that
night, for, after thinking of the old lady and Benny and my own mother
that was dead, and all the rest of the boys that had marched out so
fine and ended so miserable—I couldn't keep the sleep away; and I'd
go off and off, though I tried my damnedest not to; and my eyes would
shut in spite of me and just glue together; and I would kind of drown,
drown, drown in sleep. If ever a man knew what he was doing, and the
risk, and what I owed to the boys, and me a Regular, and all that—it
was ME; yet—yet—And you must remember it had been a hard day, and
the guns had stuck again and again in the mud, and it was pull, mule,
pull, soldier, till you thought you'd drop in your tracks. Oh, I am
not excusing myself! I've seen men shot for sleeping on guard, and I
know it's right; and, even in my dreams, I seemed to be reproaching
myself and calling myself a stinker.
Then, just as I was no better nor a log, laying there with my head
on my arm, a coward and a traitor, and a black disgrace to the
uniform I wore, I suddenly waked up with somebody shaking me hard,
real rough, like that—and I jumped perfectly terrible to think it
might be the captain on his rounds. Oh, the relief when I saw it was
nothing else than the old lady, she kneeling beside me all alone, and
her specs shining in the starlight.
"William, William!" she said, sorrowful and warning, her voice
kind of strange, like she didn't want to say out loud that I had been
asleep at my post; and, as she drew away her hand, it touched mine,
and it was ice-cold. And, just as I was going to tell her to lope back
and be keerful of herself, the grass rustled in front of me, and I
saw, rising like a wall, rows on rows of Filipino heads! My, but
didn't I shoot and didn't I run, and the bugles rang out and the whole
line was rushed, me pelting in and the column spitting fire along a
length of three miles! We stood them off all right, and my name was
mentioned in orders, and I was promoted sergeant, the brigadier
shaking my hand and telling the boys I was a pattern to go by and
everything a Regular ought to be. But it wasn't THAT I was going to
tell. It was about the old lady, though I didn't learn it till the
She had died at a quarter of midnight, and had lain all night on
the captain's bed with a towel over her poor old face.
Now, what do you make of that?