There were teams before and behind us when we came home, late at night, so sleepy that the stars went reeling as we looked at them.
'This night is the end of many things,' I remarked.
'And the beginning of better ones, I hope,' was her answer.
'Yes, but they are so far away,' I said, 'you leave home to study and I am to be four years in college-possibly I can finish in three.'
'Perfectly terrible!' she said, and then she added the favourite phrase and tone of her mother: 'We must be patient.'
'I am very sorry of one thing,' I said. 'What's that?'
'I promised not to ask you for one more kiss.'
'Well then,' said she, 'you—you—needn't ask me.' And in a moment I helped her out at the door.
David Brower had prospered, as I have said before, and now he was chiefly concerned in the welfare of his children. So, that he might give us the advantages of the town, he decided either to lease or sell his farm—by far the handsomest property in the township. I was there when a buyer came, in the last days of that summer. We took him over the smooth acres from Lone Pine to Woody Ledge, from the top of Bowman's Hill to Tinkie Brook in the far valley. He went with us through every tidy room of the house. He looked over the stock and the stables.
'Wall! what's it wuth?' he said, at last, as we stood looking down the fair green acres sloping to the sugar bush.
David picked up a stick, opened his knife, and began to whittle thoughtfully, a familiar squint of reflection in his face. I suppose he thought of all it had cost him—the toil of many years, the strength of his young manhood, the youth and beauty of his wife, a hundred things that were far better than money.
'Fifteen thousan' dollars,' he said slowly—'not a cent less.' The man parleyed a little over the price.
'Don' care t' take any less t'day,' said David calmly. 'No harm done.'
'How much down?'
David named the sum.
'Everything as it stan's?'
'Everything as it stan's 'cept the beds an' bedding.'
'Here's some money on account,' he said. 'We'll close t'morrer?'
'Close t'morrer,' said David, a little sadness in his tone, as he took the money.
It was growing dusk as the man went away. The crickets sang with a loud, accusing, clamour. Slowly we turned and went into the dark house, David whistling under his breath. Elizabeth was resting in her chair. She was humming an old hymn as she rocked.
'Sold the farm, mother,' said David.
She stopped singing but made no answer. In the dusk, as we sat down, I saw her face leaning upon her hand. Over the hills and out of the fields around us came many voices—the low chant in the stubble, the baying of a hound in the far timber, the cry of the tree toad—a tiny drift of odd things (like that one sees at sea) on the deep eternal silence of the heavens. There was no sound in the room save the low creaking of the rocker in which Elizabeth sat. After all the going, and corning, and doing, and saying of many years here was a little spell of silence and beyond lay the untried things of the future. For me it was a time of reckoning.
'Been hard at work here all these years, mother,' said David. 'Oughter be glad t' git away.'
'Yes,' said she sadly, 'it's been hard work. Years ago I thought I never could stan' it. But now I've got kind o' used t' it.'
'Time ye got used t' pleasure 'n comfort,' he said. 'Come kind o' hard, at fast, but ye mus' try t' stan' it. If we're goin' t' hev sech flin in Heaven as Deacon Hospur tells on we oughter begin t' practice er we'll be 'shamed uv ourselves.'
The worst was over. Elizabeth began to laugh.
At length a strain of song came out of the distance.
'Maxwelton's braes are bonnie where early falls the dew.'
'It's Hope and Uncle Eb,' said David while I went for the lantern. 'Wonder what's kep' 'em s' late.'
When the lamps were lit the old house seemed suddenly to have got a sense of what had been done. The familiar creak of the stairway as I went to bed had an appeal and a protest. The rude chromo of the voluptuous lady, with red lips and the name of Spring, that had always hung in my chamber had a mournful, accusing look. The stain upon her cheek that had come one day from a little leak in the roof looked now like the path of a tear drop. And when the wind came up in the night and I heard the creaking of Lone Pine it spoke of the doom of that house and its own that was not far distant.
We rented a new home in town, that week, and were soon settled in it. Hope went away to resume her studies the same day I began work in college.
Not much in my life at college is essential to this history—save the training. The students came mostly from other and remote parts of the north country—some even from other states. Coming largely from towns and cities they were shorn of those simple and rugged traits, that distinguished the men o' Faraway, and made them worthy of what poor fame this book may afford. In the main they were like other students the world over, I take it' and mostly, as they have shown, capable of wiling their own fame. It all seemed very high and mighty and grand to me especially the names of the courses. I had my baptism of Sophomoric scorn and many a heated argument over my title to life, liberty and the pursuit of learning. It became necessary to establish it by force of arms, which I did decisively and with as little delay as possible. I took much interest in athletic sports and was soon a good ball player, a boxer of some skill, and the best wrestler in college. Things were going on comfortably when an upper classman met me and suggested that on a corning holiday, the Freshmen ought to wear stove-pipe hats. Those hats were the seed of great trouble.
'Stove-pipe hats!' I said thoughtfully.
'They're a good protection,' he assured me.
It seemed a very reasonable, not to say a necessary precaution. A man has to be young and innocent sometime or what would become of the Devil. I did not see that the stove-pipe hat was the red rag of insurrection and, when I did see it' I was up to my neck in the matter.
You see the Sophs are apt to be very nasty that day,' he continued.
I acknowledged they were quite capable of it.
'And they don't care where they hit,' he went on.
I felt of my head that was still sore, from a forceful argument of the preceding day, and admitted there was good ground for the assertion.
When I met my classmen, that afternoon, I was an advocate of the 'stove-pipe' as a means of protection. There were a number of husky fellows, in my class, who saw its resisting power and seconded my suggestion. We decided to leave it to the ladies of the class and they greeted our plan with applause. So, that morning, we arrayed ourselves in high hats, heavy canes and fine linen, marching together up College Hill. We had hardly entered the gate before we saw the Sophs forming in a thick rank outside the door prepared, as we took it, to resist our entrance. They out-numbered us and were, in the main, heavier but we had a foot or more of good stiff material between each head and harm. Of just what befell us, when we got to the enemy, I have never felt sure. Of the total inefficiency of the stove-pipe hat as an article of armour, I have never had the slightest doubt since then. There was a great flash and rattle of canes. Then the air was full of us. In the heat of it all prudence went to the winds. We hit out right and left, on both sides, smashing hats and bruising heads and hands. The canes went down in a jiffy and then we closed with each other hip and thigh. Collars were ripped off, coats were torn, shirts were gory from the blood of noses, and in this condition the most of us were rolling and tumbling on the ground. I had flung a man, heavily, and broke away and was tackling another when I heard a hush in the tumult and then the voice of the president. He stood on the high steps, his grey head bare, his right hand lifted. It must have looked like carnage from where he stood.
'Young gentlemen!' he called. 'Cease, I command you. If we cannot get along without this thing we will shut up shop.'
Well, that was the end of it and came near being the end of our careers in college. We looked at each other, torn and panting and bloody, and at the girls, who stood by, pale with alarm. Then we picked up the shapeless hats and went away for repairs. I had heard that the path of learning was long and beset with peril but I hoped, not without reason, the worst was over. As I went off the campus the top of my hat was hanging over my left ear, my collar and cravat were turned awry, my trousers gaped over one knee. I was talking with a fellow sufferer and patching the skin on my knuckles, when suddenly I met Uncle Eb.
'By the Lord Harry!' he said, looking me over from top to toe, 'teacher up there mus' be purty ha'sh.'
'It wa'n't the teacher,' I said.
'Must have fit then.'
'Fit hard,' I answered, laughing.
'Try t' walk on ye?'
'Tried t' walk on me. Took several steps too,' I said stooping to brush my trousers.
'Hm! guess he found it ruther bad walkin' didn't he?' my old friend enquired. 'Leetle bit rough in spots?'
'Little bit rough, Uncle Eb—that's certain.'
'Better not go hum,' he said, a great relief in his face. 'Look 's if ye'd been chopped down an' sawed—an' split—an' throwed in a pile. I'll go an' bring over some things fer ye.'
I went with my friend, who had suffered less damage, and Uncle Eb brought me what I needed to look more respectable than I felt.
The president, great and good man that he was, forgave us, finally, after many interviews and such wholesome reproof as made us all ashamed of our folly.
In my second year, at college, Hope went away to continue her studies in New York She was to live in the family of John Fuller, a friend of David, who had left Faraway years before and made his fortune there in the big city. Her going filled my days with a lingering and pervasive sadness. I saw in it sometimes the shadow of a heavier loss than I dared to contemplate. She had come home once a week from Ogdensburg and I had always had a letter between times. She was ambitious and, I fancy, they let her go, so that there should be no danger of any turning aside from the plan of my life, or of hers; for they knew our hearts as well as we knew them and possibly better.
We had the parlour to ourselves the evening before she went away, and I read her a little love tale I had written especially for that occasion. It gave us some chance to discuss the absorbing and forbidden topic of our lives.
'He's too much afraid of her,' she said, 'he ought to put his arm about her waist in that love scene.'
'Like that,' I said, suiting the action to the word.
'About like that,' she answered, laughing, 'and then he ought to say something very, very, nice to her before he proposes—something about his having loved her for so long—you know.'
'And how about her?' I asked, my arm still about her waist.
'If she really loves him,' Hope answered, 'she would put her arms about his neck and lay her head upon his shoulder, so; and then he might say what is in the story.' She was smiling now as she looked up at me.
'And kiss her?'
'And kiss her,' she whispered; and, let me add, that part of the scene was in nowise neglected.
'And when he says: "will you wait for me and keep me always in your heart?" what should be her answer,' I continued.
'Always!' she said.
'Hope, this is our own story,' I whispered. 'Does it need any further correction?'
'It's too short—that's all,' she answered, as our lips met again.
Just then Uncle Eb opened the door, suddenly.
'Tut tut!' he said tuning quickly about
'Come in, Uncle Eb,' said Hope, 'come right in, we want to see you.
In a moment she had caught him by the arm.
'Don' want 'o break up the meetin',' said he laughing.
'We don't care if you do know,' said Hope, 'we're not ashamed of it.'
'Hain't got no cause t' be,' he said. 'Go it while ye're young 'n full 'o vinegar! That's what I say every time. It's the best fun there is. I thought I'd like t' hev ye both come up t' my room, fer a minute, 'fore yer mother 'n father come back,' he said in a low tone that was almost a whisper.
Then he shut one eye, suggestively, and beckoned with his head, as we followed him up the stairway to the little room in which he slept. He knelt by the bed and pulled out the old skin-covered trunk that David Brower had given him soon after we came. He felt a moment for the keyhole, his hand trembling, and then I helped him open the trunk. From under that sacred suit of broadcloth, worn only on the grandest occasions, he fetched a bundle about the size of a man's head. It was tied in a big red handkerchief. We were both sitting on the floor beside him.
'Heft it,' he whispered.
I did so and found it heavier than I expected.
'What is it?' I asked.
'Spondoolix,' he whispered.
Then he untied the bundle—a close packed hoard of bankbills with some pieces of gold and silver at the bottom.
'Hain't never hed no use fer it,' he said as he drew out a layer of greenbacks and spread them with trembling fingers. Then he began counting them slowly and carefully.
'There!' he whispered, when at length he had counted a hundred dollars. 'There Hope! take thet an' put it away in yer wallet. Might come handy when ye're 'way fr'm hum.'
She kissed him tenderly.
'Put it 'n yer wallet an' say nothin'—not a word t' nobody,' he said.
Then he counted over a like amount for me.
'Say nothin',' he said, looking up at me over his spectacles. 'Ye'll hev t' spile a suit o' clothes purty often if them fellers keep a fightin' uv ye all the time.'
Father and mother were coming in below stairs and, hearing them, we helped Uncle Eb tie up his bundle and stow it away. Then we went down to meet them.
Next morning we bade Hope goodbye at the cars and returned to our home with a sense of loss that, for long, lay heavy upon us all.
Uncle Eb and David were away buying cattle, half the week, but Elizabeth Brower was always at home to look after my comfort. She was up betimes in the morning and singing at her work long before I was out of bed. When the breakfast was near ready she came to my door with a call so fall of cheerfulness and good-nature it was the best thing in the day. And often, at night, I have known her to come into my room when I was lying awake with some hard problem, to see that I was properly covered or that my window was not open too far. As we sat alone together, of an evening, I have seen her listen for hours while I was committing the Odes of Horace with a curiosity that finally gave way to resignation. Sometimes she would look over my shoulder at the printed page and try to discern some meaning in it when Uncle Eb was with us he would often sit a long time his head turned attentively as the lines came rattling off my tongue.
'Cur'us talk!' he said, one evening, as I paused a moment, while he crossed the room for a drink of water. 'Don' seem t' make no kind O' sense. I can make out a word here 'n there but fer good, sound, common sense I call it a purty thin crop.'
Hope wrote me every week for a time. A church choir had offered her a place soon after she went to the big city. She came home intending to surprise us all, the first summer but unfortunately, I had gone away in the woods with a party of surveyors and missed her. We were a month in the wilderness and came out a little west of Albany where I took a boat for New York to see Hope. I came down the North River between the great smoky cities, on either side of it, one damp and chilly morning. The noise, the crowds, the immensity of the town appalled me. At John Fuller's I found that Hope had gone home and while they tried to detain me longer I came back on the night boat of the same day. Hope and I passed each other in that journey and I did not see her until the summer preceding my third and last year in college—the faculty having allowed me to take two years in one. Her letters had come less frequently and when she came I saw a grand young lady of fine manners, her beauty shaping to an ampler mould, her form straightening to the dignity of womanhood.
At the depot our hands were cold and trembling with excitement—neither of us, I fancy, knowing quite how far to go in our greeting. Our correspondence had been true to the promise made her mother—there had not been a word of love in it—only now and then a suggestion of our tender feeling. We hesitated only for the briefest moment. Then I put my arm about her neck and kissed her.
'I am so glad to see you,' she said.
Well, she was charming and beautiful, but different, and probably not more different than was I. She was no longer the laughing, simple-mannered child of Faraway, whose heart was as one's hand before him in the daylight. She had now a bit of the woman's reserve—her prudence, her skill in hiding the things of the heart. I loved her more than ever, but somehow I felt it hopeless—that she had grown out of my life. She was much in request among the people of Hillsborough, and we went about a good deal and had many callers. But we had little time to ourselves. She seemed to avoid that, and had much to say of the grand young men who came to call on her in the great city. Anyhow it all hurt me to the soul and even robbed me of my sleep. A better lover than I would have made an end of dallying and got at the truth, come what might. But I was of the Puritans, and not of the Cavaliers, and my way was that which God had marked for me, albeit I must own no man had ever a keener eye for a lovely woman or more heart to please her. A mighty pride had come to me and I had rather have thrown my heart to vultures than see it an unwelcome offering. And I was quite out of courage with Hope; she, I dare say, was as much out of patience with me.
She returned in the late summer and I went back to my work at college in a hopeless fashion that gave way under the whip of a strong will.
I made myself as contented as possible. I knew all the pretty girls and went about with some of them to the entertainments of the college season. At last came the long looked for day of my graduation—the end of my student life.
The streets of the town were thronged, every student having the college colours in his coat lapel. The little company of graduates trembled with fright as the people crowded in to the church, whispering and faring themselves, in eager anticipation. As the former looked from the two side pews where they sat, many familiar faces greeted them—the faces of fathers and mothers aglow with the inner light of pride and pleasure; the faces of many they loved come to claim a share in the glory of that day. I found my own, I remember, but none of them gave me such help as that of Uncle Eb. However I might fare, none would feel the pride or disgrace of it more keenly than he. I shall never forget how he turned his head to catch every word when I ascended the platform. As I warmed to my argument I could see him nudging the arm of David, who sat beside him, as if to say, 'There's the boy that came over the hills with me in a pack basket.' when I stopped a moment, groping for the next word, he leaned forward, embracing his knee, firmly, as if intending to draw off a boot. It was all the assistance he could give me. When the exercises were over I found Uncle Eb by the front door of the church, waiting for me.
'Willie, ye done noble!' said he.
'Did my very best, Uncle Eb,' I replied.
'Liked it grand—I did, sartin.' 'Glad you liked it, Uncle Eb.'
'Showed great larnin'. Eho was the man 'at give out the pictur's?'
He meant the president who had conferred the degrees. I spoke the name.
'Deceivin' lookin' man, ain't he? Seen him often, but never took no pertick'lar notice of him before.'
'How deceiving?' I enquired.
'Talked so kind of plain,' he replied. 'I could understan' him as easy as though he'd been swappin' hosses. But when you got up, Bill'. why, you jes' riz right up in the air an' there couldn't no dum fool tell what you was talkin' 'bout.'
Whereat I concluded that Uncle Eb's humour was as deep as it was kindly, but I have never been quite sure whether the remark was a compliment or a bit of satire.
The folks of Faraway have been carefully if rudely pictured, but the look of my own person, since I grew to the stature of manhood, I have left wholly to the imagination of the reader. I will wager he knew long since what manner of man I was and has measured me to the fraction of an inch, and knows even the colour of my hair and eyes from having been so long in my company. If not—well, I shall have to write him a letter.
When Uncle Eb and I took the train for New York that summer day in 1860, some fifteen years after we came down Paradise Road with the dog and wagon and pack basket, my head, which, in that far day, came only to the latitude of his trouser pocket, had now mounted six inches above his own. That is all I can say here on that branch of my subject. I was leaving to seek my fortune in the big city; Uncle Eb was off for a holiday and to see Hope and bring her home for a short visit. I remember with what sadness I looked back that morning at mother and father as they stood by the gate slowly waving their handkerchiefs. Our home at last was emptied of its young, and even as they looked the shadow of old age must have fallen suddenly before them. I knew how they would go back into that lonely room and how, while the clock went on with its ticking, Elizabeth would sit down and cover her face a moment, while David would make haste to take up his chores.
We sat in silence a long time after the train was off, a mighty sadness holding our tongues. Uncle Eb, who had never ridden a long journey on the cars before, had put on his grand suit of broadcloth. The day was hot and dusty, and before we had gone far he was sadly soiled. But a suit never gave him any worry, once it was on. He sat calmly, holding his knee in his hands and looking out of the open window, a squint in his eyes that stood for some high degree of interest in the scenery.
'What do you think of this country?' I enquired.
'Looks purty fair,' said he, as he brushed his face with his handkerchief and coughed to clear his throat of the dust, 'but 'tain't quite so pleasant to the taste as some other parts o' the country. I ruther liked the flavour of Saint Lawrence all through, but Jefferson is a leetle gritty.'
He put down the window as he spoke.
'A leetle tobaccer'll improve it some,' he added, as his hand went down for the old silver box. 'The way these cars dew rip along! Consamed if it ain't like flyin'! Kind o' makes me feel like a bird.'
The railroad was then not the familiar thing it is now in the north country. The bull in the fields had not yet come to an understanding of its rights, and was frequently tempted into argument with a locomotive. Bill Fountain, who came out of a back township, one day had even tied his faithful hound to the rear platform.
Our train came to a long stop for wood and water near midday, and then we opened the lunch basket that mother had given us.
'Neighbour,' said a solemn-faced man, who sat in front of us, 'do you think the cars are ag'in the Bible? D'you think a Christian orter ride on 'em?'
'Sartin,' said Uncle Eb. 'Less the constable's after him—then I think he orter be on a balky hoss.'
'Wife'n I hes talked it over a good deal,' said the man. 'Some says it's ag'in the Bible. The minister 'at preaches over 'n our neighbourhood says if God hed wanted men t' fly he'd g'in 'em wings.'
'S'pose if he'd ever wanted 'm t' skate he'd hed 'em born with skates on?' said Uncle Eb.
'Danno,' said the man. 'It behooves us all to be careful. The Bible says "Go not after new things."'
'My friend,' said Uncle Eb, between bites of a doughnut, 'I don' care what I ride in so long as 'tain't a hearse. I want sumthin' at's comfortable an' purty middlin' spry. It'll do us good up here t' git jerked a few hunderd miles an' back ev'ry leetle while. Keep our j'ints limber. We'll live longer fer it, an' thet'll please God sure—cuz I don't think he's hankerin' fer our society—not a bit. Don' make no difference t' him whuther we ride 'n a spring wagon er on the cars so long's we're right side up 'n movin'. We need more steam; we're too dum slow. Kind o' think a leetle more steam in our religion wouldn't hurt us a bit. It's purty fur behind.'
We got to Albany in the evening, just in time for the night boat. Uncle Eb was a sight in his dusty broadcloth, when we got off the cars, and I know my appearance could not have been prepossessing. Once we were aboard the boat and had dusted our clothes and bathed our hands and faces we were in better spirits.
'Consarn it!' said Uncle Eb, as we left the washroom, 'le's have a durn good supper. I'll stan' treat.'
'Comes a leetle bit high,' he said, as he paid the bill, 'but I don' care if it does. 'Fore we left I says t' myself, "Uncle Eb," says I, "you go right in fer a good time an' don' ye count the pennies. Everybody's a right t' be reckless once in seventy-five year."'
We went to our stateroom a little after nine. I remember the berths had not been made up, and removing our boots and coats we lay down upon the bare mattresses. Even then I had a lurking fear that we might be violating some rule of steamboat etiquette. When I went to New York before I had dozed all night in the big cabin.
A dim light came through the shuttered door that opened upon the dinning-saloon where the rattle of dishes for a time put away the possibility of sleep.
'I'll be awful glad t' see Hope,' said Uncle Eb, as he lay gaping.
'Guess I'll be happier to see her than she will to see me,' I said.
'What put that in yer head?' Uncle Eb enquired.
''Fraid we've got pretty far apart,' said I.
'Shame on ye, Bill,' said the old gentleman. 'If thet's so ye ain't done right Hedn't orter let a girl like thet git away from ye—th' ain't another like her in this world.'
'I know it' I said' 'but I can't help it Somebody's cut me out Uncle Eb.'
''Tain't so,' said he emphatically. 'Ye want t' prance right up t' her.'
'I'm not afraid of any woman,' I said, with a great air of bravery, 'but if she don't care for me I ought not to throw myself at her.'
'Jerusalem!' said Uncle Eb, rising up suddenly, 'what hev I gone an' done?'
He jumped out of his berth quickly and in the dim light I could see him reaching for several big sheets of paper adhering to the back of his shirt and trousers. I went quickly to his assistance and began stripping off the broadsheets which, covered with some strongly adhesive substance, had laid a firm hold upon him. I rang the bell and ordered a light.
'Consam it all! what be they—plasters?' said Uncle Eb, quite out of patience.
'Pieces of brown paper, covered with—West India molasses, I should think,' said I.
'West Injy molasses!' he exclaimed. 'By mighty! That makes me hotter'n a pancake. What's it on the bed fer?'
'To catch flies,' I answered.
'An' ketched me,' said Uncle Eb, as he flung the sheet he was examining into a corner. 'My extry good suit' too!'
He took off his trousers, then, holding them up to the light.
'They're sp'ilt,' said he mournfully. 'Hed 'em fer more'n ten year, too.'
'That's long enough,' I suggested.
'Got kind o' 'tached to 'em,' he said, looking down at them and rubbing his chin thoughtfully. Then we had a good laugh.
'You can put on the other suit,' I suggested, 'and when we get to the city we'll have these fixed.'
'Leetle sorry, though,' said he, 'cuz that other suit don' look reel grand. This here one has been purty—purty scrumptious in its day—if I do say it.'
'You look good enough in anything that's respectable,' I said.
'Kind o' wanted to look a leetle extry good, as ye might say,' said Uncle Eb, groping in his big carpet-bag. 'Hope, she's terrible proud, an' if they should hev a leetle fiddlin' an' dancin' some night we'd want t' be as stylish as any on em. B'lieve I'll go'n git me a spang, bran' new suit, anyway, 'fore we go up t' Fuller's.'
As we neared the city we both began feeling a bit doubtful as to whether we were quite ready for the ordeal.
'I ought to,' I said. 'Those I'm wearing aren't quite stylish enough, I'm afraid.'
'They're han'some,' said Uncle Eb, looking up over his spectacles, 'but mebbe they ain't just as splendid as they'd orter be. How much money did David give ye?'
'One hundred and fifty dollars,' I said, thinking it a very grand sum indeed.
''Tain't enough,' said Uncle Eb, bolting up at me again. 'Leastways not if ye're goin' t' hev a new suit. I want ye t' be spick an' span.'
He picked up his trousers then, and took out his fat leather wallet.
'Lock the door,' he whispered.
'Pop goes the weasel!' he exclaimed, good-naturedly, and then he began counting the bills.
'I'm not going to take any more of your money, Uncle Eb,' I said.
'Tut, tut!' said he, 'don't ye try t' interfere. What d' ye think they'll charge in the city fer a reel, splendid suit?'
He stopped and looked up at me.
'Probably as much as fifty dollars,' I answered.
'Whew-w-w!' he whistled. 'Patty steep! It is sartin.'
'Let me go as I am,' said I. 'Time enough to have a new suit when I've earned it.'
'Wall,' he said, as he continued counting, 'I guess you've earnt it already. Ye've studied hard an' tuk first honours an' yer goin' where folks are purty middlin' proud'n haughty. I want ye t' be a reg'lar high stepper, with a nice, slick coat. There,' he whispered, as he handed me the money, 'take thet! An' don't ye never tell 'at I g'in it t' ye.'
I could not speak for a little while, as I took the money, for thinking of the many, many things this grand old man had done for me.
'Do ye think these boots'll do?' he asked, as he held up to the light the pair he had taken off in the evening.
'They look all right,' I said.
'Ain't got no decent squeak to 'em now, an' they seem t' look kind o' clumsy. How're your'n?' he asked.
I got them out from under the berth and we inspected them carefully deciding in the end they would pass muster.
The steward had made up our berths, when he came, and lit our room for us. Our feverish discussion of attire had carried us far past midnight, when we decided to go to bed.
'S'pose we musn't talk t' no strangers there 'n New York,' said Uncle Eb, as he lay down. 'I've read 'n the Tribune how they'll purtend t' be friends an' then grab yer money an' run like Sam Hill. If I meet any o' them fellers they're goin' t' find me purty middlin' poor comp'ny.'
We were up and on deck at daylight, viewing the Palisades. The lonely feeling of an alien hushed us into silence as we came to the noisy and thickening river craft at the upper end of the city. Countless window panes were shining in the morning sunlight. This thought was in my mind that somewhere in the innumerable host on either side was the one dearer to me than any other. We enquired our way at the dock and walked to French's Hotel, on Printing House Square. After breakfast we went and ordered all the grand new things we had planned to get. They would not be ready for two days, and after talking it over we decided to go and make a short call. Hope, who had been up and looking for us a long time, gave us a greeting so hearty we began to get the first feeling of comfort since landing. She was put out about our having had breakfast, I remember, and said we must have our things brought there at once.
'I shall have to stay at the hotel awhile,' I said, thinking of the new clothes.
'Why,' said Mrs Fuller, 'this girl has been busy a week fixing your rooms and planning for you. We could not hear of your going elsewhere. It would be downright ingratitude to her.'
A glow of red came into the cheeks of Hope that made me ashamed of my remark. I thought she looked lovelier in her pretty blue morning gown, covering a broad expanse of crinoline, than ever before.
'And you've both got to come and hear me sing tonight at the church,' said she. 'I wouldn't have agreed to sing if I had not thought you were to be here.'
We made ourselves at home, as we were most happy to do, and that afternoon I went down town to present to Mr Greeley the letter that David Brower had given me.
I came down Broadway that afternoon aboard a big white omnibus, that drifted slowly in a tide of many vehicles. Those days there were a goodly show of trees on either side of that thoroughfare—elms, with here and there a willow, a sumach or a mountain ash. The walks were thronged with handsome people—dandies with high hats and flaunting necknes and swinging canes—beautiful women, each covering a broad circumference of the pavement, with a cone of crinoline that swayed over dainty feet. From Grace Church down it was much of the same thing we see now, with a more ragged sky line. Many of the great buildings, of white and red sandstone, had then appeared, but the street was largely in the possession of small shops—oyster houses, bookstores and the like. Not until I neared the sacred temple of the Tribune did I feel a proper sense of my own littleness. There was the fountain of all that wisdom which had been read aloud and heard with reverence in our household since a time I could but dimly remember. There sat the prophet who had given us so much—his genial views of life and government, his hopes, his fears, his mighty wrath at the prospering of cruelty and injustice.
'I would like to see Mr Horace Greeley,' I said, rather timidly, at the counter.
'Walk right up those stairs and turn to the left,' said a clerk, as he opened a gate for me.
Ascending, I met a big man coming down, hurriedly, and with heavy steps. We stood dodging each other a moment with that unfortunate co-ordination of purpose men sometimes encounter when passing each other. Suddenly the big man stopped in the middle of the stairway and held both of his hands above his head.
'In God's name! young man,' said he, 'take your choice.'
He spoke in a high, squeaky voice that cut me with the sharpness of its irritation. I went on past him and entered an open door near the top of the stairway.
'Is Mr Horace Greeley in?' I enquired of a young man who sat reading papers.
'Back soon,' said he, without looking up. 'Take a chair.'
In a little while I heard the same heavy feet ascending the stairway two steps at a time. Then the man I had met came hurriedly into the room.
'This is Mr Greeley,' said the young man who was reading.
The great editor turned and looked at me through gold-rimmed spectacles. I gave him my letter out of a trembling hand. He removed it from the envelope and held it close to his big, kindly, smooth-shaven face. There was a fringe of silky, silver hair, streaked with yellow, about the lower part of his head from temple to temple. It also encircled his throat from under his collar. His cheeks were fall and fair as a lady's, with rosy spots in them and a few freckles about his nose. He laughed as he finished reading the letter.
'Are you Dave Brower's boy?' he asked in a drawling falsetto, looking at me out of grey eyes and smiling with good humour.
'By adoption,' I answered.'
'He was an almighty good rassler,' he said, deliberately, as he looked again at the letter.'
'What do you want to do?' he asked abruptly.'
'Want to work on the Tribune,' I answered.'
'Good Lord! he said. 'I can't hire everybody.'
I tried to think of some argument, but what with looking at the great man before me, and answering his questions and maintaining a decent show of dignity, I had enough to do.
'Do you read the Tribune? he asked.'
'Read it ever since I can remember.'
'What do you think of the administration?
'Lot of dough faces! I answered, smiling, as I saw he recognised his own phrase. He sat a moment tapping the desk with his penholder.'
'There's so many liars here in New York,' he said, 'there ought to be room for an honest man. How are the crops?'
'Fair, I answered. 'Big crop of boys every year.'
'And now you're trying to find a market, he remarked.'
'Want to have you try them,' I answered.
'Well,' said he, very seriously, turning to his desk that came up to his chin as he sat beside it, 'go and write me an article about rats.'
'Would you advise-,' I started to say, when he interrupted me.
'The man that gives advice is a bigger fool than the man that takes it,' he fleered impatiently. 'Go and do your best!'
Before he had given me this injunction he had dipped his pen and begun to write hurriedly. If I had known him longer I should have known that, while he had been talking to me, that tireless mind of his had summoned him to its service. I went out, in high spirits, and sat down a moment on one of the benches in the little park near by, to think it all over. He was going to measure my judgement, my skill as a writer—my resources. 'Rats,' I said to myself thoughtfully. I had read much about them. They infested the ships, they overran the wharves, they traversed the sewers. An inspiration came to me. I started for the waterfront, asking my way every block or two. Near the East River I met a policeman—a big, husky, good-hearted Irishman.
'Can you tell me,' I said, 'who can give me information about rats?'
'Rats?' he repeated. 'What d' ye wan't' know about thim?'
'Everything,' I said. 'They ve just given me a job on the New York Tribune,' I added proudly.
He smiled good-naturedly. He had looked through me at a glance.
'Just say "Tribune",' he said. 'Ye don't have t' say "New York Tribune" here. Come along wi' me.'
He took me to a dozen or more of the dock masters.
'Give 'im a lift, my hearty,' he said to the first of them. 'He's a green.'
I have never forgotten the kindness of that Irishman, whom I came to know well in good time. Remembering that day and others I always greeted him with a hearty 'God bless the Irish!' every time I passed him, and he would answer, 'Amen, an' save yer riverince.'
He did not leave me until I was on my way home loaded with fact and fable and good dialect with a savour of the sea in it.
Hope and Uncle Eb were sitting together in his room when I returned.
'Guess I've got a job,' I said, trying to be very cool about it..
'A job! said Hope eagerly, as she rose. 'Where?
'With Mr Horace Greeley,' I answered, my voice betraying my excitement.
'Jerusalem! said Uncle Eb. 'Is it possible?'
'That's grand! said Hope. 'Tell us about it.'
Then I told them of my interview with the great editor and of what I had done since.
'Ye done wonderful!' said Uncle Eb and Hope showed quite as much pleasure in her own sweet way.
I was for going to my room and beginning to write at once, but Hope said it was time to be getting ready for dinner.
When we came down at half-past six we were presented to our host and the guests of the evening—handsome men and women in full dress—and young Mr Livingstone was among them. I felt rather cheap in my frock coat, although I had thought it grand enough for anybody on the day of my graduation. Dinner announced, the gentlemen rose and offered escort to the ladies, and Hope and Mrs Fuller relieved our embarrassment by conducting us to our seats—women are so deft in those little difficulties. The dinner was not more formal than that of every evening in the Fuller home—for its master was a rich man of some refinement of taste—and not at all comparable to the splendid hospitality one may see every day at the table of a modern millionaire. But it did seem very wonderful to us, then, with its fine-mannered servants, its flowers, its abundant silver. Hope had written much to her mother of the details of deportment at John Fuller's table, and Elizabeth had delicately imparted to us the things we ought to know. We behaved well, I have since been told, although we got credit for poorer appetites than we possessed. Uncle Eb took no chances and refused everything that had a look of mystery and a suggestion of peril, dropping a droll remark, betimes, that sent a ripple of amusement around the table.
John Trumbull sat opposite me, and even then I felt a curious interest in him—a big, full bearded man, quite six feet tall, his skin and eyes dark, his hair iron-grey, his voice deep like David s. I could not get over the impression that I had seen him before—a feeling I have had often, facing men I could never possibly have met. No word came out of his firm mouth unless he were addressed, and then all in hearing listened to the little he had to say: it was never more than some very simple remark. In his face and form and voice there was abundant heraldry of rugged power and ox-like vitality. I have seen a bronze head of Daniel Webster which, with a full blonde beard and an ample covering of grey hair would have given one a fairly perfect idea of the look of John Trumbull. Imagine it on a tall, and powerful body and let it speak with a voice that has in it the deep and musical vibration one may hear in the looing of an ox and you shall see, as perfectly as my feeble words can help you to do, this remarkable man who, must, hereafter, play before you his part—compared to which mine is as the prattle of a child—in this drama of God's truth.
'You have not heard,' said Mrs Fuller addressing me, 'how Mr Trumbull saved Hope's life.'
'Saved Hope's life!' I exclaimed.
'Saved her life,' she repeated, 'there isn't a doubt of it. We never sent word of it for fear it would give you all needless worry. It was a day of last winter—fell crossing Broadway, a dangerous place' he pulled her aside just in time—the horse's feet were raised above her—she would have been crushed in a moment He lifted her in his arms and carried her to the sidewalk not a bit the worse for it.
'Seems as if it were fate,' said Hope. 'I had seen him so often and wondered who he was. I recall a night when I had to come home alone from rehearsal. I was horribly afraid. I remember passing him under a street lamp. If he had spoken to me, then, I should have dropped with fear and he would have had to carry me home that time.
'It's an odd thing a girl like you should ever have to walk home alone,' said Mr Fuller. 'Doesn't speak well for our friend Livingstone or Burnham there or Dobbs.
'Mrs Fuller doesn't give us half a chance,' said Livingstone, 'she guards her day and night. It's like the monks and the Holy Grail.
'Hope is independent of the young men,' said Mrs Fuller as we rose from the table. 'If I cannot go with her myself, in the carriage, I always send a maid or a manservant to walk home with her. But Mr Fuller and I were out of town that night and the young men missed their great opportunity.
'Had a differ'nt way o' sparkin' years ago,' said Uncle Eb. 'Didn't never hev if please anybody but the girl then. If ye liked a girl ye went an' sot up with her an' gin her a smack an' tol' her right out plain an' square what ye wanted. An' thet settled it one way er t' other. An' her mother she step' in the next room with the door half-open an' never paid no 'tention. Recollec' one col'night when I was sparkin' the mother hollered out o' bed, "Lucy, hev ye got anythin 'round ye?" an' she hollered back, "Yis, mother," an' she hed too but 'twan't nothin' but my arm.'
They laughed merrily, over the quaint reminiscence of my old friend and the quainter way he had of telling it. The rude dialect of the backwoodsman might have seemed oddly out of place, there, but for the quiet, unassuming manner and the fine old face of Uncle Eb in which the dullest eye might see the soul of a gentleman.
'What became of Lucy?' Mr Fuller enquired, laughingly. 'You never married her.'
'Lucy died,' he answered soberly; 'thet was long, long ago.'
Then he went away with John Trumbull to the smoking-room where I found them, talking earnestly in a corner, when it was time to go to the church with Hope.
Hope and Uncle Eb and I went away in a coach with Mrs Fuller. There was a great crowd in the church that covered, with sweeping arches, an interior more vast than any I had ever entered. Hope was gowned in white silk, a crescent of diamonds in her hair—a birthday gift from Mrs Fuller; her neck and a part of her full breast unadorned by anything save the gifts of God—their snowy whiteness, their lovely curves.
First Henry Cooper came on with his violin—a great master as I now remember him. Then Hope ascended to the platform, her dainty kid slippers showing under her gown, and the odious Livingstone escorting her. I was never so madly in love or so insanely jealous. I must confess it for I am trying to tell the whole truth of myself—I was a fool. And it is the greater folly that one says ever 'I was,' and never 'I am' in that plea. I could even see it myself then and there, but I was so great a fool I smiled and spoke fairly to the young man although I could have wrung his neck with rage. There was a little stir and a passing whisper in the crowd as she stood waiting for the prelude. Then she sang the ballad of Auld Robin Grey—not better than I had heard her sing it before, but so charmingly there were murmurs of delight going far and wide in the audience when she had finished. Then she sang the fine melody of 'Angels ever Bright and Fair', and again the old ballad she and I had heard first from the violin of poor Nick Goodall.
By yon bonnie bank an' by yon bonnie bonnie brae The sun shines bright on Loch Lomond Where me an' me true love were ever won't if gae On the bonnie, bonnie bank o' Loch Lomond.
Great baskets of roses were handed to her as she came down from the platform and my confusion was multiplied by their number for I had not thought to bring any myself.
I turned to Uncle Eb who, now and then, had furtively wiped his eyes. 'My stars!' he whispered, 'ain't it reemarkable grand! Never heard ner seen nothin' like thet in all my born days. An' t' think it's my little Hope.'
He could go no further. His handkerchief was in his hand while he took refuge in silence.
Going home the flowers were heaped upon our laps and I, with Hope beside me, felt some restoration of comfort.
'Did you see Trumbull?' Mrs Fuller asked. 'He sat back of us and did seem to enjoy it so much—your singing. He was almost cheerful.
'Tell me about Mr Trumbull,' I said. 'He is interesting.
'Speculator,' said Mrs Fuller. 'A strange man, successful, silent, unmarried and, I think, in love. Has beautiful rooms they say on Gramercy Park. Lives alone with an old servant. We got to know him through the accident. Mr Fuller and he have done business together—a great deal of it since then. Operates in the stock market.
A supper was waiting for us at home and we sat a long time at the table. I was burning for a talk with Hope but how was I to manage it? We rose with the others and went and sat down together in a corner of the great parlour. We talked of that night at the White Church in Faraway when we heard Nick Goodall play and she had felt the beginning of a new life.
'I've heard how well you did last year,' she said, 'and how nice you were to the girls. A friend wrote me all about it. How attentive you were to that little Miss Brown!
'But decently polite,' I answered. 'One has to have somebody or—or be a monk.
'One has to have somebody!' she said, quickly, as she picked at the flower on her bosom and looked down at it soberly. 'That is true one has to have somebody and, you know, I haven't had any lack of company myself. By the way, I have news to tell you.
She spoke slowly and in a low voice with a touch of sadness in it. I felt the colour mounting to my face.
'News!' I repeated. 'What news, I-lope?
'I am going away to England,' she said, 'with Mrs Fuller if—if mother will let me. I wish you would write and ask her to let me go.
I was unhorsed. What to say I knew not, what it meant I could vaguely imagine. There was a moment of awkward silence.
'Of course I will ask her if you wish to go,' I said. 'When do you sail?
'They haven't fixed the day yet.
She sat looking down at her fan, a beautiful, filmy thing between braces of ivory. Her knees were crossed, one dainty foot showing under ruffles of lace. I looked at her a moment dumb with admiration.
'What a big man you have grown to be Will,' she said presently. 'I am almost afraid of you now.
She was still looking down at the fan and that little foot was moving nervously. Now was my time. I began framing an avowal. I felt a wild impulse to throw my strong arms about her and draw her close to me and feel the pink velvet of her fair face upon mine. If I had only done it! But what with the strangeness and grandeur of that big room, the voices of the others who were sitting in the library, near by, the mystery of the spreading crinoline that was pressing upon my knees, I had not half the courage of a lover.
'My friend writes me that you are in love,' she said, opening her fan and moving it slowly, as she looked up at me.
'She is right I must confess it,' I said, 'I am madly, hopelessly in love. It is time you knew it Hope and I want your counsel.
She rose quickly and turned her face away.
'Do not tell me—do not speak of it again—I forbid you,' she answered coldly.
Then she stood silent. I rose to take her hand and ask her to tell me why, a pretty rankling in my heart, Soft footsteps and the swish of a gown were approaching. Before I could speak Mrs Fuller had come through the doorway.
'Come Hope,' she said, 'I cannot let you sit up late—you are worn out, my dear.
Then Hope bade us both good-night and went away to her room. If I had known as much about women then, as now, I should have had it out, with short delay, to some understanding between us. But in that subject one loves and learns. And one thing I have learned is this, that jealousy throws its illusions on every word and look and act. I went to my room and sat down for a bit of reckoning. Hope had ceased to love me, I felt sure, and how was I to win her back?
After all my castle building what was I come to?
I heard my door open presently, and then I lifted my head. Uncle Eb stood near me in his stocking feet and shirt-sleeves.
'In trouble,' he whispered.
'In trouble,' I said.
'It's about Hope.'
'Don't be hasty. Hope'll never go back on you,' he whispered. 'She doesn't love me,' I said impulsively. 'She doesn't care the snap of her finger for me.
'Don't believe it,' he answered calmly. 'Not a single word of it. Thet woman—she's tryin' t' keep her away from ye—but 'twon't make no differ'nce. Not a bit.
'I must try to win her back—someway—somehow,' I whispered.
'Gi n ye the mitten?' he asked.
'That's about it,' I answered, going possibly too far in the depth of my feeling.
'Whew w!' he softly whistled. 'Wall, it takes two mittens t'make a pair—ye'll hev t'ask her ag in.
'Yes I cannot give her up,' I said decisively, 'I must try to win her back. It isn't fair. I have no claim upon her. But I must do it.
'Consarn it! women like t'be chased,' he said. 'It's their natur'. What do they fix up so fer—di'mon's an' silks an' satins—if 'tain't t'set men a chasm 'uv 'em? You'd otter enjoy it. Stick to her—jes' like a puppy to a root. Thet's my advice.'
'Hope has got too far ahead of me,' I said. 'She can marry a rich man if she wishes to, and I don't see why she shouldn't. What am I, anyhow, but a poor devil just out of college and everything to win? It makes me miserable to think here in this great house how small I am.'
'There's things goin' if happen,' Uncle Eb whispered. 'I can't tell ye what er when but they're goin' if happen an' they're goin' if change everything.
We sat thinking a while then. I knew what he meant—that I was to conquer the world, somehow, and the idea seemed to me so absurd I could hardly help laughing as melancholy as I felt.
'Now you go if bed,' he said, rising and gently touching my head with his hand. 'There's things goin' t'happen, boy—take my word fer it.
I got in bed late at night but there was no sleep for me. In the still hours I lay quietly, planning my future, for now I must make myself worth having and as soon as possible.
Some will say my determination was worthy of a better lover but, bless you! I have my own way of doing things and it has not been always so unsuccessful.
Hope was not at breakfast with us.
'The child is worn out,' said Mrs Fuller. 'I shall keep her in bed a day or two.
'Couldn't I see her a moment?' I enquired.
'Dear! no!' said she. 'The poor thing is in bed with a headache.' If Hope had been ill at home I should have felt free to go and sit by her as I had done more than once. It seemed a little severe to be shut away from her now but Mrs Fuller's manner had fore-answered any appeal and I held my peace. Having no children of her own she had assumed a sort of proprietorship over Hope that was evident—that probably was why the girl had ceased to love me and to write to me as of old. A troop of mysteries came clear to me that morning. Through many gifts and favours she had got my sweetheart in a sort of bondage and would make a marriage of her own choosing if possible.
'Is there anything you would like particularly for your breakfast? Mrs Fuller enquired.
'Hain't no way pertic'lar,' said Uncle Eb. 'I gen rally eat buckwheat pancakes an' maple sugar with a good strong cup o'tea.
Mrs Fuller left the room a moment.
'Dunno but I'll go out if the barn a minnit 'n take a look at the hosses,' he said when she came back.
'The stable is a mile away,' she replied smiling.
'Gran' good team ye druv us out with las' night,' he said. 'Hed a chance t'look 'em over a leetle there at the door. The off hoss is puffed some for'ard but if yer husband'll put on a cold bandage ev'ry night it'll make them legs smoother n a hound's tooth.
She thanked him and invited us to look in at the conservatory.
'Where's yer husband?' Uncle Eb enquired.
'He's not up yet,' said she, 'I fear he did not sleep well.
'Now Mis Fuller,' said Uncle Eb, as we sat waiting, 'if there s anything I can do t'help jes'le'me know what 'tis.
She said there was nothing. Presently Uncle Eb sneezed so powerfully that it rattled the crystals on the chandelier and rang in the brass medallions.
The first and second butlers came running in with a frightened look. There was also a startled movement from somebody above stairs.
'I do sneeze powerful, sometimes,' said Uncle Eb from under his red bandanna. ''S enough if scare anybody.'
They brought in our breakfast then—a great array of tempting dishes. 'Jest hev four pancakes 'n a biled egg,' said Uncle Eb as he sipped his tea. 'Grand tea!' he added, 'strong enough if float a silver dollar too.
'Mrs Fuller,' I said rising, when we had finished, 'I thank you for your hospitality, but as I shall have to work nights, probably, I must find lodgings near the office.
'You must come and see us again,' she answered cordially. 'On Saturday I shall take Hope away for a bit of rest to Saratoga probably—and from there I shall take her to Hillsborough myself for a day or two.
'Thought she was goin' home with me,' said Uncle Eb.
'O dear no!' said Mrs Fuller, 'she cannot go now. The girl is ill and it's such a long journey.'
The postman came then with a letter for Uncle Eb.
It was from David Brower. He would have to be gone a week or so buying cattle and thought Uncle Eb had better come home as soon as convenient.
'They're lonesome,' he said, thoughtfully, after going over the letter again. ''Tain't no wonder—they're gittin' old.'
Uncle Eb was older than either of them but he had not thought of that.
'Le's see; 's about eight o clock,' said he, presently. 'I've got t'go an' ten' to some business o' my own. I'll be back here sometime if day Mis Fuller an' I'll hev if see thet girl. Ye musn't never try if keep me 'way from her. She's sot on my knee too many year fer that—altogether too many.
We arranged to meet there at four. Then a servant brought us our hats. I heard Hope calling as we passed the stairway:
'Won't you come up a minute, Uncle Eb? I want to see you very much.'
Then Uncle Eb hurried upstairs and I came away.
I read the advertisements of board and lodging—a perplexing task for one so ignorant of the town. After many calls I found a place to my liking on Monkey Hill, near Printing House Square. Monkey Hill was the east end of William Street, and not in the least fashionable. There were some neat and cleanly looking houses on it of wood, and brick, and brown stone inhabited by small tradesmen; a few shops, a big stable and the chalet sitting on a broad, flat roof that covered a portion of the stableyard. The yard itself was the summit of Monkey Hill. It lay between two brick buildings and up the hill, from the walk, one looked into the gloomy cavern of the stable and under the low roof, on one side there were dump carts and old coaches in varying stages of infirmity. There was an old iron shop, that stood flush with the sidewalk, flanking the stableyard. A lantern and a mammoth key were suspended above the door and hanging upon the side of the shop was a wooden stair ascending to the chalet The latter had a sheathing of weather-worn clapboards. It stood on the rear end of the brick building, communicating with the front rooms above the shop. A little stair of five steps ascended from the landing to its red door that overlooked an ample yard of roofing, adorned with potted plants. The main room of the chalet where we ate our meals and sat and talked, of an evening, had the look of a ship's cabin. There were stationary seats along the wall covered with leathern cushions. There were port and starboard lanterns and a big one of polished brass that overhung the table. A ship's clock that had a noisy and cheerful tick, was set in the wall. A narrow passage led to the room in front and the latter had slanting sides. A big window of little panes, in its further end, let in the light of William Street Here I found a home for myself, humble but quaint and cleanly. A thrifty German who, having long followed the sea, had married and thrown out his anchor for good and all, now dwelt in the chalet with his wife and two boarders—both newspaper men. The old shopkeeper in front, once a sailor himself, had put the place in shipshape and leased it to them.
Mine host bore the name of Opper and was widely known as 'All Right' Opper, from his habit of cheery approval. Everything and everybody were 'all right' to him so far as I could observe. If he were blessed or damned he said 'all right. To be sure he took exceptions, on occasions, but even then the affair ended with his inevitable verdict of 'all right'. Every suggestion I made as to terms of payment and arrangement of furniture was promptly stamped with this seal of approval.
I was comfortably settled and hard at work on my article by noon. At four I went to meet Uncle Eb. Hope was still sick in bed and we came away in a frame of mind that could hardly have been more miserable. I tried to induce him to stay a night with me in my new quarters.
'I mus'n't,' he said cheerfully.' 'Fore long I'm comin' down ag'in but I can't fool 'round no longer now. I'll jes'go n git my new clothes and put fer the steamboat. Want ye t'go 'n see Hope tomorrow. She's comm up with Mis Fuller next week. I'm goin' t' find out what's the matter uv her then. Somethin's wrong somewhere. Dunno what 'tis. She's all upsot.
Poor girl! it had been almost as heavy a trial to her as to me' cutting me off as she had done. Remembrances of my tender devotion to her, in all the years between then and childhood, must have made her sore with pity. I had already determined what I should do, and after Uncle Eb had gone that evening I wrote her a long letter and asked her if I might not still have some hope of her loving me. I begged her to let me know when I might come and talk with her alone. With what eloquence I could bring to bear I told her how my love had grown and laid hold of my life.
I finished my article that night and, in the morning, took it to Mr Greeley. He was at his desk writing and at the same time giving orders in a querulous tone to some workman who sat beside him. He did not look up as he spoke. He wrote rapidly, his nose down so close to the straggling, wet lines that I felt a fear of its touching them. I stood by, waiting my opportunity. A full-bearded man in his shirt-sleeves came hurriedly out of another room.
'Mr Greeley,' he said, halting at the elbow of the great editor.
'Yes, what is it?' the editor demanded nervously, his hand wobbling over the white page, as rapidly as before, his eyes upon his work.
'Another man garrotted this morning on South Street.
'Better write a paragraph,' he said, his voice snapping with impatience as he brushed the full page aside and began sowing his thoughts on another. 'Warn our readers. Tell 'em to wear brass collars with spikes in 'em till we get a new mayor.
The man went away laughing.
Mr Greeley threw down his pen, gathered his copy and handed it to the workman who sat beside him.
'Proof ready at five!' he shouted as the man was going out of the room.
'Hello! Brower,' he said bending to his work again. 'Thought you d blown out the gas somewhere.
'Waiting until you reject this article,' I said.
He sent a boy for Mr Ottarson, the city editor. Meanwhile he had begun to drive his pen across the broadsheets with tremendous energy.
Somehow it reminded me of a man ploughing black furrows behind a fast walking team in a snow flurry. His mind was 'straddle the furrow' when Mr Ottarson came in. There was a moment of silence in which the latter stood scanning a page of the Herald he had brought with him.
'Ottarson!' said Mr Greeley, never slacking the pace of his busy hand, as he held my manuscript in the other, 'read this. Tell me what you think of it. If good, give him a show.
'The staff is full, Mr Greeley,' said the man of the city desk. His words cut me with disappointment.
The editor of the Tribune halted his hand an instant, read the last lines, scratching a word and underscoring another.
'Don't care!' he shrilled, as he went on writing. 'Used to slide downhill with his father. If he's got brains we'll pay him eight dollars a-week.
The city editor beckoned to me and I followed him into another room.
'If you will leave your address,' he said, 'I will let you hear from me when we have read the article.
With the hasty confidence of youth I began to discount my future that very day, ordering a full dress suit, of the best tailor, hat and shoes to match and a complement of neck wear that would have done credit to Beau Brummel. It gave me a start when I saw the bill would empty my pocket of more than half its cash. But I had a stiff pace to follow, and every reason to look my best.
I took a walk in the long twilight of that evening. As it began to grow dark I passed the Fuller house and looked up at its windows. Standing under a tree on the opposite side of the avenue I saw a man come out of the door and walk away hurriedly with long strides. I met him at the next corner.
'Good-evening!' he said.
I recognised then the voice and figure of John Trumbull. 'Been to Fuller's,' said he.
'How is Hope?' I asked.
'Better,' said he. 'Walk with me?
'With pleasure,' said I, and then he quickened his pace.
We walked awhile in silence, going so fast! had hardly time to speak, and the darkness deepened into night. We hurried along through streets and alleys that were but dimly lighted, coming out at length on a wide avenue passing through open fields in the upper part of the city. Lights in cabin windows glowed on the hills around us. I made some remark about them but he did not hear me. He slackened pace in a moment and began whispering to himself' I could not hear what he said. I thought of bidding him good-night and returning but where were we and how could I find my way? We heard a horse coming presently at a gallop. At the first loud whack of the hoofs he turned suddenly and laying hold of my arm began to run. I followed him into the darkness of the open field. It gave me a spell of rare excitement for I thought at once of highwaymen—having read so much of them in the Tribune. He stopped suddenly and stooped low his hands touching the grass and neither spoke until the horse had gone well beyond us. Then he rose, stealthily, and looked about him in silence, even turning his face to the dark sky where only a few stars were visible.
'Well!' said he with a sort of grunt. 'Beats the devil! I thought it was A wonderful thing was happening in the sky. A great double moon seemed to be flying over the city hooded in purple haze. A little spray of silver light broke out of it, as we looked, and shot backward and then floated after the two shining disks that were falling eastward in a long curve. They seemed to be so near I thought they were coming down upon the city. It occurred to me they must have some connection with the odd experience I had gone through. In a moment they had passed out of sight. We were not aware that we had witnessed a spectacle the like of which had not been seen in centuries, if ever, since God made the heavens' the great meteor of 1860.
'Let's go back,' said Trumbull. 'We came too far. I forgot myself.'
'Dangerous here?' I enquired.
'Not at all,' said he, 'but a long way out of town—tired?
'Rather,' I said, grateful for his evident desire to quiet my alarm.
'Come!' said he as we came back to the pavement, his hand upon my shoulder. 'Talk to me. Tell me—what are you going to do?
We walked slowly down the deserted avenue, I, meanwhile, talking of my pians.
'You love. Hope,' he said presently. 'You will marry her?
'If she will have me,' said I.
'You must wait,' he said, 'time enough!
He quickened his pace again as we came in sight of the scattering shops and houses of the upper city and no other word was spoken. On the corners we saw men looking into the sky and talking of the fallen moon. It was late bedtime when we turned into Gramercy Park.
'Come in,' said he as he opened an iron gate.
I followed him up a marble stairway and a doddering old English butler opened the door for us. We entered a fine hall, its floor of beautiful parquetry muffled with silken rugs. High and spacious rooms were all aglow with light.
He conducted me to a large smoking-room, its floor and walls covered with trophies of the hunt—antlers and the skins of carnivora. Here he threw off his coat and bade me be at home as he lay down upon a wicker divan covered with the tawny skin of some wild animal. He stroked the fur fondly with his hand.
'Hello Jock!' he said, a greeting that mystified me.
'Tried to eat me,' he added, turning to me.
Then he bared his great hairy arm and showed me a lot of ugly scars, I besought him to tell the story.
'Killed him,' he answered. 'With a gun?
'No—with my hands,' and that was all he would say of it.
He lay facing a black curtain that covered a corner. Now and then I heard a singular sound in the room—like some faint, far, night cry such as I have heard often in the deep woods. It was so weird I felt some wonder of it. Presently I could tell it came from behind the curtain where, also, I heard an odd rustle like that of wings.
I sat in a reverie, looking at the silent man before me, and in the midst of it he pulled a cord that hung near him and a bell rang.
'Luncheon!' he said to the old butler who entered immediately.
Then he rose and showed me odd things, carved out of wood, by his own hand as he told me, and with a delicate art. He looked at one tiny thing and laid it aside quickly.
'Can't bear to look at it now,' he said.
'Gibbet?' I enquired.
'Gibbet,' he answered.
It was a little figure bound hand and foot and hanging from the gallows tree.
'Burn it!' he said, turning to the old servant and putting it in his hands. Luncheon had been set between us, the while, and as we were eating it the butler opened a big couch and threw snowy sheets of linen over it and silken covers that rustled as they fell.
'You will sleep there,' said my host as his servant laid the pillows, 'and well I hope.
I thought I had better go to my own lodgings.
'Too late—too late,' said he, and I, leg-weary and half-asleep, accepted his proffer of hospitality. Then, having eaten, he left me and I got into bed after turning the lights out Something woke me in the dark of the night. There was a rustling sound in the room. I raised my head a bit and listened. It was the black curtain that hung in the corner. I imagined somebody striking it violently. I saw a white figure standing near me in the darkness. It moved away as I looked at it. A cold wind was blowing upon my face. I lay a long time listening and by and by I could hear the deep voice of Trumbull as if he were groaning and muttering in his sleep. When it began to come light I saw the breeze from an open window was stirring the curtain of silk in the corner. I got out of bed and, peering behind the curtain, saw only a great white owl, caged and staring out of wide eyes that gleamed fiery in the dim light. I went to bed again, sleeping until my host woke me in the late morning.
After breakfasting I went to the chalet. The postman had been there but he had brought no letter from Hope. I waited about home, expecting to hear from her, all that day, only to see it end in bitter disappointment.
That very night, I looked in at the little shop beneath us and met Riggs. It was no small blessing, just as I was entering upon dark and unknown ways of life, to meet this hoary headed man with all his lanterns. He would sell you anchors and fathoms of chain and rope enough to hang you to the moon but his 'lights'were the great attraction of Riggs s. He had every kind of lantern that had ever swung on land or sea. After dark, when light was streaming out of its open door and broad window Riggs's looked like the side of an old lantern itself. It was a door, low and wide, for a time when men had big round bellies and nothing to do but fill them and heads not too far above their business. It was a window gone blind with dust and cobwebs so it resembled the dim eye of age. If the door were closed its big brass knocker and massive iron latch invited the passer. An old ship's anchor and a coil of chain lay beside it. Blocks and heavy bolts, steering wheels, old brass compasses, coils of rope and rusty chain lay on the floor and benches, inside the shop. There were rows of lanterns, hanging on the bare beams. And there was Riggs. He sat by a dusty desk and gave orders in a sleepy, drawling tone to the lad who served him. An old Dutch lantern, its light softened with green glass, sent a silver bean across the gloomy upper air of the shop that evening. Riggs held an old un lantern with little streams of light bursting through its perforated walls. He was blind, one would know it at a glance. Blindness is so easy to be seen. Riggs was showing it to a stranger.
'Turn down the lights,' he said and the boy got his step-ladder and obeyed him.
Then he held it aloft in the dusk and the little lantern was like a castle tower with many windows lighted, and, when he set it down, there was a golden sprinkle on the floor as if something had plashed into a magic pool of light there in the darkness.
Riggs lifted the lantern, presently, and stood swinging it in his hand. Then its rays were sown upon the darkness falling silently into every nook and corner of the gloomy shop and breaking into flowing dapples on the wall.
'See how quick it is!' said he as the rays flashed with the speed of lightning. 'That is the only traveller from Heaven that travels fast enough to ever get to earth.
Then came the words that had a mighty fitness for his tongue.
'Hail, holy light! Offspring of Heaven first born.
His voice rose and fell, riding the mighty rhythm of inspired song. As he stood swinging the lantern, then, he reminded me of a chanting priest behind the censer. In a moment he sat down, and, holding the lantern between his knees, opened its door and felt the candle. Then as the light streamed out upon his hands, he rubbed them a time, silently, as if washing them in the bright flood.
'One dollar for this little box of daylight,' he said.
'Blind?' said the stranger as he paid him the money.
'No,' said Riggs, 'only dreaming as you are.
I wondered what he meant by the words 'dreaming as you are.
'Went to bed on my way home to marry,' he continued, stroking his long white beard, 'and saw the lights go out an' went asleep and it hasn't come morning yet—that's what I believe. I went into a dream. Think I'm here in a shop talking but I'm really in my bunk on the good ship Arid coming home. Dreamed everything since then—everything a man could think of. Dreamed I came home and found Annie dead, dreamed of blindness, of old age, of poverty, of eating and drinking and sleeping and of many people who pass like dim shadows and speak to me—you are one of them. And sometimes I forget I am dreaming and am miserable, and then I remember and am happy. I know when the morning comes I shall wake and laugh at all these phantoms. And I shall pack my things and go up on deck, for we shall be in the harbour probably—ay! maybe Annie and mother will be waving their hands on the dock!
The old face had a merry smile as he spoke of the morning and all it had for him.
'Seems as if it had lasted a thousand years,' he continued, yawning and rubbing his eyes. 'But I've dreamed the like before, and, my God! how glad I felt when I woke in the morning.
It gave me an odd feeling—this remarkable theory of the old man. I thought then it would be better for most of us if we could think all our misery a dream and have his faith in the morning—that it would bring back the things we have lost. I had come to buy a lock for my door, but I forgot my errand and sat down by Riggs while the stranger went away with his lantern.
'You see no reality in anything but happiness,' I said.
'It's all a means to that end,' he answered. 'It is good for me, this dream. I shall be all the happier when I do wake, and I shall love Annie all the better, I suppose.
'I wish I could take my ifi luck as a dream and have faith only in good things,' I said.
'All that is good shall abide,' said he, stroking his white beard, 'and all evil shall vanish as the substance of a dream. In the end the only realities are God and love and Heaven. To die is just like waking up in the morning.
'But I know I'm awake,' I said.
'You think you are—that's a part of your dream. Sometimes I think I'm awake—it all seems so real to me. But I have thought it out, and I am the only man I meet that knows he is dreaming. When you do wake, in the morning, you may remember how you thought you came to a certain shop and made some words with a man as to whether you were both dreaming, and you will laugh and tell your friends about it. Hold on! I can feel the ship lurching. I believe I am going to wake.
He sat a moment leaning back in his chair with closed eyes, and a silence fell upon us in the which I could hear only the faint ticking of a tall clock that lifted its face out of the gloom beyond me.
'You there?' he whispered presently.
'I am here,' I said.
'Odd!' he muttered. 'I know how it will be—I know how it has been before. Generally come to some high place and a great fear seizes me. I slip, I fall—fall—fall, and then I wake.
After a little silence I heard him snoring heavily. He was still leaning back in his chair. I walked on tiptoe to the door where the boy stood looking out.
'Crazy?' I whispered.
'Dunno,' said he, smiling.
I went to my room above and wrote my first tale, which was nothing more or less than some brief account of what I had heard and seen down at the little shop that evening. I mailed it next day to the Knickerbocker, with stamps for return if unavailable.
New York was a crowded city, even then, but I never felt so lonely anywhere outside a camp in the big woods, The last day of the first week came, but no letter from Hope. To make an end of suspense I went that Saturday morning to the home of the Fullers. The equation of my value had dwindled sadly that week. Now a small fraction would have stood for it—nay, even the square of it.
Hope and Mrs Fuller had gone to Saratoga, the butler told me. I came away with some sense of injury. I must try to be done with Hope. There was no help for it. I must go to work at something and cease to worry and lie awake of nights. But I had nothing to do but read and walk and wait. No word had come to me from the 'Tribune'—evidently it was not languishing for my aid. That day my tale was returned to me with thanks with nothing but thanks printed in black type on a slip of paper—cold, formal, prompt, ready-made thanks. And I, myself, was in about the same fix—rejected with thanks—politely, firmly, thankfully rejected. For a moment I felt like a man falling. I began to see there was no very clamourous demand for me in 'the great emporium', as Mr Greeley called it. I began to see, or thought I did, why Hope had shied at my offer and was now shunning me. I went to the Tribune office. Mr Greeley had gone to Washington; Mr Ottarson was too busy to see me. I concluded that I would be willing to take a place on one of the lesser journals. I spent the day going from one office to another, but was rejected everywhere with thanks. I came home and sat down to take account of stock. First, I counted my money, of which there were about fifty dollars left. As to my talents, there were none left. Like the pies at the Hillsborough tavern, if a man came late to dinner—they were all out. I had some fine clothes, but no more use for them than a goose for a peacock's feathers. I decided to take anything honourable as an occupation, even though it were not in one of the learned professions. I began to answer advertisements and apply at business offices for something to give me a living, but with no success. I began to feel the selfishness of men. God pity the warm and tender heart of youth when it begins to harden and grow chill, as mine did then; to put away its cheery confidence forever; to make a new estimate of itself and others. Look out for that time, O ye good people! that have sons and daughters.
I must say for myself that I had a mighty courage and no small capital of cheerfulness. I went to try my luck with the newspapers of Philadelphia, and there one of them kept me in suspense a week to no purpose. When I came back reduced in cash and courage Hope had sailed.
There was a letter from Uncle Eb telling me when and by what steamer they were to leave. 'She will reach there a Friday,' he wrote, 'and would like to see you that evening at Fuller's'.
I had waited in Philadelphia, hoping I might have some word, to give her a better thought of me, and, that night, after such a climax of ill luck, well—I had need of prayer for a wayward tongue. I sent home a good account of my prospects. I could not bring myself to report failure or send for more money. I would sooner have gone to work in a scullery.
Meanwhile my friends at the chalet were enough to keep me in good cheer. There were William McClingan, a Scotchman of a great gift of dignity and a nickname inseparably connected with his fame. He wrote leaders for a big weekly and was known as Waxy McClingan, to honour a pale ear of wax that took the place of a member lost nobody could tell how. He drank deeply at times, but never to the loss of his dignity or self possession. In his cups the natural dignity of the man grew and expanded. One could tell the extent of his indulgence by the degree of his dignity. Then his mood became at once didactic and devotional. Indeed, I learned in good time of the rumour that he had lost his ear in an argument about the Scriptures over at Edinburgh.
I remember he came an evening, soon after my arrival at the chalet, when dinner was late. His dignity was at the full. He sat awhile in grim silence, while a sense of injury grew in his bosom.
'Mrs Opper,' said he, in a grandiose manner and voice that nicely trilled the r's, 'in the fourth chapter and ninth verse of Lamentations you will find these words—here he raised his voice a bit and began to tap the palm of his left hand with the index finger of his right, continuing: "They that be slain with the sword are better than they that be slain with hunger. For these pine away stricken through want of the fruits of the field." Upon my honour as a gentleman, Mrs Opper, I was never so hungry in all my life.'
The other boarder was a rather frail man with an easy cough and a confidential manner, lie wrote the 'Obituaries of Distinguished Persons' for one of the daily papers. Somebody had told him once, his head resembled that of Washington. He had never forgotten it, as I have reason to remember. His mind lived ever among the dead. His tongue was pickled in maxims; his heart sunk in the brine of recollection; his humour not less unconscious and familiar than that of an epitaph; his name was Lemuel Framdin Force. To the public of his native city he had introduced Webster one fourth of July—a perennial topic of his lighter moments.
I fell an easy victim to the obituary editor that first evening in the chalet. We had risen from the table and he came and held me a moment by the coat lapel. He released my collar, when he felt sure of me, and began tapping my chest with his forefinger to drive home his point I stood for quite an hour out of sheer politeness. By that time he had me forced to the wall—a God's mercy, for there I got some sense of relief in the legs. His gestures, in imitation of the great Webster, put my head in some peril. Meanwhile he continued drumming upon my chest. I looked longingly at the empty chairs. I tried to cut him off with applause that should be condusive and satisfying, but with no success. It had only a stimulating effect. I felt somehow like a cheap hired man badly overworked. I had lost all connection. I looked, and smiled, and nodded, and exclaimed, and heard nothing. I began to plan a method of escape. McClingan—the great and good Waxy McClingan—came out of his room presently and saw my plight.
'What is this?' he asked, interrupting, 'a serial stawry?
Getting no answer he called my name, and when Force had paused he came near.
'In the sixth chapter and fifth verse of Proverbs,' said he, 'it is written:
"Deliver thyself as a roe from the hand of the hunter and as a bird from the hand of the fowler." Deliver thyself, Brower.
I did so, ducking under Force's arm and hastening to my chamber.
'Ye have a brawling, busy tongue, man,' I heard McClingan saying. 'By the Lord! ye should know a dull tongue is sharper than a serpent's tooth.
'You are a meddlesome fellow,' said Force.
'If I were you,' said McClingan, 'I would go and get for myself the long ear of an ass and empty my memory into it every day. Try it, man. Give it your confidence exclusively. Believe me, my dear Force, you would win golden opinions.
'It would be better than addressing an ear of wax,' said Force, hurriedly withdrawing to his own room.
This answer made McClingan angry.
'Better an ear of wax than a brain of putty,' he called after him. 'Blessed is he that hath no ears when a fool's tongue is busy,' and then strode up and down the floor, muttering ominously.
I came out of my room shortly, and then he motioned me aside.
'Pull your own trigger first, man,' he said to me in a low tone. 'When ye see he's going to shoot pull your own trigger first. Go right up if him and tap him on the chest quiddy and say, "My dear Force, I have a glawrious stawry to tell you," and keep tapping him—his own trick, you know, and he can't complain. Now he has a weak chest, and when he begins to cough—man, you are saved.
Our host, Opper, entered presently, and in removing the tablecloth inadvertently came between us. McClingan resented it promptly.
'Mr Opper,' said he, leering at the poor German, 'as a matter of personal obligement, will you cease to interrupt us?
'All right! all right! gentlemens,' he replied, and then, fearing that he had not quite squared himself, turned back, at the kitchen door, and added, 'Oxcuse me.
McClingan looked at him with that leering superior smile of his, and gave him just the slightest possible nod of his head.