Barnes straightened up. It was all right for him to make a slight confession, but Sanderson had wounded his professional vanity. "A dead one!" he exclaimed. "Certainly not. Harry Barnes a dead one! After a thirty years' career in the companies of the best——"
The agent shoved a card in his hand and cut him off short. "Go around there and tell 'em to put you down for a monologue." And Harry went, with dignity and misgivings.
His misgivings were all the more increased when he saw the list of promised performers: La Belle Marie, the famous little toe dancer in her attractive transformations; the Brothers Zincatello, Risley experts at the Hippodrome; Julian Jokes, "in his inimitable Hebrew monologue"; the Seven Sebastians, the world's most marvelous Herculean acrobatic performers; Mlle. Joujou, the popular singing comedienne, Prima Donna and Star, direct from her unusual and most distinguished triumph at the Palace Theater, London; and a dozen more of the younger and more popular people of the stage, all adorned, with adjectives and hyperbole. Down at the bottom of the list with a trembling pencil he wrote: "Harry Barnes, Singing and Talking." Then he shook hands with the secretary of the organization and walked back to his boarding-house in a mild fever of excitement.
In his room he went eagerly about his work. He rehearsed again and again his meager little bag of tricks, his funny Irishman, his Chinaman—no, the Chinaman came first, because he used the queue afterward to wrap around his chin and simulate Irish "galloways"—his Dutch comedian monologue about married life, his old-time songs and dances. He furbished up some old "patter" and injected new anecdotes. And this he kept up morning and evening until the notable Sunday came.
He was so nervous, this old actor of a thousand parts, that he could eat no supper that night. He almost trotted to the gymnasium in his excitement, and, though his pockets bulged with grease paint, mustaches, wigs, and other paraphernalia, he forgot almost half of his material. At the door he had to push his way through a wriggling, impish mass of small boys who blocked the steps and the sidewalk. Inside the hall, young faces packed the place to the window-sills. To the old man the newsboys seemed as so many antagonistic bits of the younger generation, the generation which evidently would have none of him, which relegated him carelessly to the warehouse for old scenery and old settings.
He stood in dismay behind an extemporized "wing" and peered out at the restless little bodies. He fancied already that he could see grins on their sophisticated faces, ridicule in their eyes; he remembered once hearing a gallery god shout "Twenty-three!" in the middle of an actor's monologue, and what had then seemed humorous precocity now seemed hard, bitter cruelty. He fumbled at his make-up in his pockets, shuffled uneasily, and waited.
It was almost time to begin. Where were the other actors who had promised to come? The boys out front were whistling, kicking their feet upon the floor, clapping their hands, and shouting to one another. A distracted official raced here and there among other officials, asking some sort of exasperated question. Barnes could not hear what it was; but telepathically he felt that there was a hitch in the program.
At last, after waiting a quarter of an hour, the manager stepped forward and said:
"Boys, we had arranged a fine program for you to-night——"
"Good fer you!" yelled a voice.
The speaker held up his hand. "But it seems that actors are better promisers than they are actors." He smiled at his own joke, but the audience gave one long "Aw-w-w!"
"However," he continued, "we are all here now and we intend to do the best we can. If we make up our mind to, we can have a bully good time just the same. We have with us at least one kind gentleman who appreciates what a celebration like this means to the boys." ... Barnes heard and saw things as if through a fog. The arms of the speaker were gyrating and a voice shouted in the ear of the old actor: "What's your name?"
"Harry Barnes," he said, moistening his lips. Nobody had shown up except him, he kept thinking over and over to himself: nobody except him. He had the thankless job of "opening the show."
"... Harry Barnes," echoed the speaker at the end of some sort of practical talk concerning the newsboys' organization and its management. "Mister Harry Barnes"—he squinted at the program—"in singing and talking."
He turned and smiled at the old man, and to Barnes the smile seemed diabolical. Somebody clapped him on the back. There was a hurricane of whistles and shouts, and before he knew it he was in the middle of the rostrum.
Mechanically he had made his old comic entrance, tripping his right toe over his left heel, and turning to shake his fist at an imaginary enemy. The boys, determined to be pleased, giggled appreciatively.
"How—how are you, boys?" Barnes asked, seriously.
The audience snickered with delight. He was such a funny-looking old man!
"I hope you'll like my work," he went on, desperately, "or else we might as well go home. I guess I'm the whole show, for a little while, at least, as the feller said when he fell out o' the balloon." The house roared with approval.
"Go wan, Barnesy," shouted a young pair of lungs in the front row.
He straightened up, turned his back for a moment, stuck a queer set of mustaches on his upper lip, faced the crowd again, and began: "I was walkin' down the street the other day when my friend J. Pierpoint Morgan stepped up to me an' says, 'Barney, my boy'"....
The show had begun. Harry Barnes, singing and talking, had opened his carefully rehearsed bag of tricks.
There is some peculiar psychology about humor. If people make up their minds that they are going to laugh and that a performance is bound to be funny, nothing on earth can keep them from enjoying themselves. The most serious remark will be greeted with howls of approval; the most ancient joke takes on a novel and present sprightliness. In the slang of the stage, Barnes' line of patter took.
Four hundred boys simpered, smirked, grinned, giggled, tittered, chuckled, and guffawed. A wine of merriment flushed the crowd and mounted to the old mummer's brain and heart. He skipped and danced and sang; he went through all the drollery and tomfoolery, all the old comic business he could recall.
The children nudged each other, dug their fists into each other, and cheered: "Oh, you Barnesy!" "Kill it, Kid!" "Whatcha know about dat!" "Sand it down, Barnesy!" The old-timer was doing the famous lock-step jig he had done with Pat Rooney in "Patrice" fifteen or twenty years before. It was so old that it was new. Encore followed encore. The perspiration cascaded through his pores; he grinned and winked and frisked and capered. They would not let him stop. At the end of twenty-five minutes he bowed himself off the stage, and still they called him back. When he gave them, for the "call," the Little Johnny Dugan pantomime from "The Rainmakers," the East Side children, born since the day of such things, were suffocated with delight.
What did Dugan do to him? —They say he was untrue to him. Did Dugan owe him money? —No; he stole McCarthy's wife! Who? Little Johnny Dugan?
sang Barnes with a quizzical flirt of his head; and lungs that were wont to fill the city streets with news could not even gasp for laughter.
The secretary of the organization followed with a speech about future entertainments; another official read a letter from a prominent financier promising the boys a swimming-pool and a half dozen summer excursions.
"Somebody bang de box!" suggested a voice, after a pause.
Nobody could—except Barnes; and he volunteered. The whole affair was now like one big family circle, each one secure in the amity of the other, and when the old man sat down at the cracked piano, he sang as if he were singing to himself, easily and without restraint. A quiet held the house, and even the children were touched; for Harry Barnes was quavering through the simple lines of "Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot." After that he gave them the Lullaby Song from "Erminie," and somehow it did not at all appear incongruous that a careworn mimic of fifty should be singing to careworn workingmen of ten, down on the Bowery, in a gymnasium, a verse about pretty little eyelids and sleeping darlings. The world, fortunately, is not always with us; and the song ended in a silent applause.
For two hours the entertainment went on, speeches and official plans interspersed with the antics of Barnes.
Was there anything he could not do? He mimicked birds and animals; he imitated a wheezy phonograph playing "When We Were a Couple of Kids"; he recited "The Raven" and "Paul Revere's Ride"; he gave a cutting from Dickens and one from Sheridan Knowles; he showed how Joe Jefferson played Rip Van Winkle, how Sol Smith Russell did "A Poor Relation."
And all through his soul and body, as he watched his haphazard audience follow him in his moods and changes, ran the quiet magic of Art Satisfied. It is a noble braggart madness, this glorification of a cheap art by an old actor.
"Barnes, my boy," he said to himself, with a glow of rapid blood, "you have not lost them yet! See them laugh with you! Feel them cry! What does it matter if you eat watery oatmeal and live in a skylight room; are you not an artist, a resonant instrument of poetry and music and mirth, a true actor of the best parts? You are; and these are matters of the undying soul. A boarding-house is a vulgar, temporal thing. You were right to come here to-night, and do this thing without pay, for Art's sake. You uphold the honor of a calling which is founded upon Art. And, oh, most of all, you have not lost your power, you have not outlived your time! Sanderson intimated that you were a dead one—very well, to-morrow you shall triumphantly cut the acquaintance of Sanderson! To have lived until this evening before the youth of this land; to have caught the right intonation, the proper gesture; to have swept through the hearts of your hearers like a vibration of music—this is to have transcended, this is to have justified yourself! And justified yourself to whom? To Sanderson? To the world? No! You have justified Harry Barnes to Harry Barnes! You carry this human throng over the footlights and into your soul with a Chinaman's queue and a putty nose. Your Art is still that fine, secure Art which you have carried in your memory as you traversed dingy stairways on Fourteenth Street. Barnes, you live, you act, you accomplish! Bravo!"
He shook hands abstractedly all around when the affair came to a close. He remembered bundling his make-up and trinkets into a piece of newspaper and tucking it under his arm. A pleased face presented itself at one time before his eyes and a voice said, confidentially, "Mr. Barnes, I congratulate you; and the dramatic critic of the Star was here to-night."
He found himself at last out in the cool darkness of the street, and he had to stop a moment to think which way his boarding-house lay. Then he walked home, to save carfare. All the way up the silent streets his brain sang with triumph. His blood jumped in gladness; he could hardly keep from running. He declaimed aloud bits of Shakespeare, tag ends of poems; he snapped his fingers and flung out his arms in sheer excess of enthusiasm. He smiled, threw back his head, even made faces at the passersby. He boomed into a solo from an opera, and kicked his foot at a cigar stub on the sidewalk. And had anybody wished to observe when he reached his house, the spectacle would have presented itself of a caricature, funny-paper barn-stormer tramping merrily up the rattling stairs and humming, "The flowers that bloom in the spring, tra-la, have nothing to do with the case."
All the next day he did not leave his room, save at meal times; for he wished to be alone and hug his exultation. To the four flat walls he repeated snatches of the things he had done the night before; up and down the rag carpet he smirked and grimaced and laughed and jigged. He sang the songs that had "taken" so well. He went through certain gestures and then deliberately exaggerated them, in a high good-humor. He was as young again as on the day when he had signed his first contract. He puffed out his chest, looked at himself in the glass with mock seriousness, and then, when the pent-up good feeling burst out in his merry eye, he winked it gleefully and said: "Oh, you divvil, you! You old blatherskiting divvil!"
At half-past four he went down to the corner and bought a copy of the Star, the late edition which had the dramatic news in it.
There it was! He felt like jumping up in the air and whooping the length of the street. On the editorial page it was. His name was in the headlines! Beneath, in the article itself, almost every other word seemed to be Barnes. It praised him here, it admired him there, it thanked him, it congratulated him, it asserted that he had saved the night for four hundred newsboys. He was so anxious to read it through and to read it fast that he skipped from paragraph to paragraph. There was over a column of it! He hurried back up to the room; and then regretted that he had not stopped to buy more copies of the paper. He locked the door and spread the paper out on the little center-table. His heart and breath almost stopped as he read the good words slowly through. When he had finished, he threw the paper aside and bounded into the middle of the room.
"Press agent, hey?" he laughed. "Press agent! I guess yes! A small matter of a column and a quarter; that's all. Only a column and a quarter about Harry Barnes! Wonder what Sanderson will think about that? Wonder if he won't get me something to do? Oh, no; I guess not. A column and a quarter!"
He sat down again and smoothed out the paper before him. This time he began noticing little niceties of the critic's phrasing ... "entertaining, not to say pathetic rendition," etc., etc.... "Not to say?" Funny; look at it a moment, and it seems to mean it wasn't pathetic. But here it said: "Infectious and heart-tickling old-time Irish humor" ... "excellent characterization of Uriah Heep" ... and so on.
After a few minutes he ceased reading and sat, picking at the edge of the paper, staring into the blankness of the little room. He stayed thus immovable for a long, long time, and then slowly the tears slipped across his cheeks, down on the forgotten "notice," his throat ached with a tender sobbing, and he bowed his head into the newspaper.
He was thinking of the children; he had made them laugh and cry. And this was the thrill, once more, of the singer's heart.
ILLUSTRATED WITH PHOTOGRAPHS
In consequence of the threatening situation which the President's reactionary policy had precipitated, the belief grew stronger and stronger in the Northern country that the predominance of the Republican party was—and would be for a few years, at least—necessary for the safety and the honor of the Republic; and steps taken to insure that predominance, even such as would have in less critical times evoked strong criticism, were now looked upon with seductive leniency of judgment. Mr. Stockton of New Jersey was unseated in the Senate upon grounds which would hardly pass muster in ordinary times, to make room for a Republican successor, and even Mr. Fessenden approved the transaction. Advantage was taken in the same body of the sickness or casual absence of some Democratic senator to rush through a vote when a two-thirds majority was required to kill a veto; and other proceedings were resorted to at a pinch which were hardly compatible with the famous "courtesy of the Senate." But there was more thorough and lasting work to be done to prepare for the full restoration of the States lately in rebellion. The Republican majority was by no means of one mind as to the constitutional status of the communities that had been in insurrection against the National Government. I have already spoken of the theory of State-suicide advanced by Mr. Stevens and a comparatively small school of extremists. The theory most popular with most of the Republicans, which was finally formulated by the Joint Committee on Reconstruction, was that the rebel States had not been out of the Union, but had lost their working status inside of the Union, and had to be restored to their regular constitutional relations to the Union by action of Congress, upon such conditions as Congress might deem proper.
To meet the dangers which so far had become visible on the horizon, the Joint Committee on Reconstruction devised the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which was long and laboriously debated in both Houses. In the form in which it was finally adopted it declared (1) that all persons born or naturalized in the United States are citizens of the United States and of the States in which they reside, and that no State shall make or enforce any law abridging the privileges or immunities of citizens, nor deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, nor deny to any person the equal protection of the laws; (2) that if in any State the right to vote at any election for the choice of national or State officers is denied or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation in Congress or the electoral college shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such State; (3) that no person who had taken part in the rebellion, having previously, as a national or State officer, military or civil, sworn to support the Constitution of the United States, shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or any State, unless relieved of that disability by a two-thirds vote of each house of Congress; (4) that the validity of the public debt of the United States shall not be questioned, nor shall any debt or obligation contracted in aid of rebellion, or any claim for emancipated slaves be paid.
The Fourteenth Amendment
Thus the Fourteenth Amendment stopped short of the extension of the suffrage to negroes—a subject which many Republicans were still afraid to touch directly. But by implication it punished the States denying that extension by reducing the basis of representation; it excluded from office, unless relieved of the disability by a two-thirds vote of Congress, the most influential class of those who had taken an active part in the rebellion; and it safeguarded the public debt. With only one of its provisions serious fault could be found;—not with that which guaranteed to the freedmen the essential civil rights of free men, nor with that which excluded the freedmen from the basis of representation—so long as they were not permitted to vote. Only the advocates of negro suffrage might logically have objected to this clause; inasmuch as it by implication recognized the right of a State to exclude the colored people from the suffrage if the State paid a certain penalty for such exclusion. Neither could the clause safeguarding the public debt and prohibiting the payment of debts incurred in aid of the rebellion be objected to. The really exceptionable provision was that which excluded so large a class of Southern men from public office, and just that class with which a friendly understanding was most desirable. The provision that their disqualification could be removed by a two-thirds vote in each House of Congress mended the mischief thus done a little, but not enough for the public good.
It was not expressly enacted, but it was generally understood, that those of the States lately in rebellion, which ratified the Fourteenth Amendment, would thereby qualify themselves for full restoration in the Union. Tennessee, where a faction of the Union party hostile to President Johnson had gained the ascendency, did so, and was accordingly fully restored by the admission to their seats in Congress of its Senators and Representatives. The full restoration of the other late rebel States would probably have been expedited in the same way, had they followed the example of Tennessee. But President Johnson, as became publicly known in one or two instances, obstinately dissuaded them from doing so, and the fight went on. He also vetoed a second Freedmen's Bureau bill in which some of the provisions he had objected to in his veto of the first were remedied. But things had now come to such a pass between Congress and the President that his veto messages were hardly considered worth listening to, but were promptly overruled almost without debate by two-thirds votes in each House.
A Campaign to Destroy a President
Under such circumstances the Congressional election of 1866 came on. The people were to pronounce judgment between the President and Congress. The great quarrel had created excitement so intense as to affect men's balance of mind. About the time of the assembling of Congress Mr. Preston King of New York (the same rotund gentleman with whom, in the National Convention of 1860, I conducted Mr. Ashmun to the chair), who had been a Senator of the United States and had been appointed Collector of Customs by President Johnson, committed suicide by jumping into the North River from a ferry-boat. He had been a Republican of the radical type, and when he took the office he supposed the President to be of the same mind; but Mr. Johnson's course distressed him so much that he became melancholy; his brain gave way, and he sought relief in death. Another suicide which greatly startled the country a few months later, that of Senator Lane of Kansas, was attributed to a similar cause. "Jim" Lane had been one of the most famous free-State fighters in Kansas Territory. Since then he was ranked among the extreme anti-slavery men and as a Senator he was counted upon as a firm opponent of President Johnson's policy. To the astonishment of everybody he voted against the Civil Rights bill. This somewhat mysterious change of front, which nobody seemed able satisfactorily to explain, cost him his confidential intercourse with his former associates in the Senate, and brought upon him stinging manifestations of disapproval from his constituents. He was reported to have expressed profound repentance of what he had done and finally made away with himself as one lost to hope. He was still in the full vigor of manhood—only fifty-one years old—when he sought the grave.
The campaign of 1866 was remarkable for its heat and bitterness. In canvasses carried on for the purpose of electing a President, I had seen more enthusiasm, but in none so much animosity and bad blood as in this, an incidental object of which was politically to destroy a president. Andrew Johnson had not only manifested a disposition to lean upon the Democratic party in the pursuit of his policy, but he had also begun to dismiss public officers who refused to cooperate with him politically and to put in their places men who adhered to him. This touched partisan spirit in an exceedingly sensitive spot. The so-called "bread-and-butter brigade" was looked down upon with a contempt that could hardly be expressed in words.
Killing of Negroes at Memphis and New Orleans
But there were more serious things to inflame the temper of the North. The Southern whites again proved themselves their own worst enemies. Early in May news came from Memphis of riots in which twenty-four negroes were killed and one white man was wounded. The conclusion lay near and was generally accepted that the whites had been the aggressors and the negroes the victims. In the last days of July more portentous tidings arrived from New Orleans. An attempt was made by Union men to revive the constitutional convention of 1864 for the purpose of remodeling the constitution of the State. The attempt was of questionable legality, but, if wrong, it could easily have been foiled by legal and peaceable means. The municipal government of New Orleans was in possession of the ex-Confederates. It resolved that the meeting of the remnant of the convention should not be held. When it did meet, the police, consisting in an overwhelming majority of ex-Confederate soldiers, aided by a white mob, broke into the hall and fired upon those assembled there. The result was thirty-seven negroes killed and one hundred and nineteen wounded, and three of the white Union men killed and seventeen wounded, against one of the assailants killed and ten wounded. General Sheridan, the commander of the Department, telegraphed to General Grant: "It was no riot; it was an absolute massacre by the police which was not excelled in murderous cruelty by that of Fort Pillow. It was a murder which the Mayor and the police of this city perpetrated without the shadow of necessity." A tremor of horror and rage ran over the North. People asked one another: "Does this mean that the rebellion is to begin again?" I heard the question often.
The Administration felt the blow, and to neutralize its effects a national convention of its adherents, North and South, planned by Thurlow Weed and Secretary Seward, was to serve as the principal means. This "National Union Convention" met in Philadelphia on August 14th. It was respectably attended in point of character as well as of numbers. It opened its proceedings with a spectacular performance which under different conditions might have struck the popular imagination favorably. The delegates marched into the Convention Hall in pairs, one from the South arm in arm with one from the North, Massachusetts and South Carolina leading. But with the Memphis riot and the New Orleans "massacre" and Andrew Johnson's sinister figure in the background, the theatrical exhibition of restored fraternal feeling, although calling forth much cheering on the spot, fell flat, and even became the subject of ridicule, since it earned for the meeting the derisive nickname of the "arm-in-arm convention." The proceedings were rather dull, and much was made by the Republicans of the fact that the Chairman, Senator Doolittle from Wisconsin, was careful not to let Southern members say much lest they say too much. It was also noticed and made much of that among the members of the convention the number of men supposed to curry favor with the Administration for the purpose of getting office—men belonging to the "bread-and-butter-brigade"—was conspicuously large. Among the resolutions passed by the convention was one declaring slavery abolished and the emancipated negro entitled to equal protection in every right of person and property, and another heartily endorsing President Johnson's reconstruction policy.
No doubt many of the respectable and patriotic men who attended that convention thought they had done very valuable work for the general pacification by getting their Southern friends publicly to affirm that slavery was dead never to be revived, and that the civil rights of the freedmen were entitled to equal protection and would have it. But the effect of such declarations upon the popular mind at the North was not as great as had been expected. Such affirmations by respectable Southern gentlemen, who were perfectly sincere, had been heard before. In fact, almost everybody in the South was ready to declare himself likewise, and with equal sincerity, as to the abolition of the old form of chattel slavery. But the question of far superior importance was, what he would put in the place of the old form of chattel slavery. There was the rub, and this had come to be well understood at the North in the light of the reports from the South, which the advocates of President Johnson's policy could not deny nor obscure. The moral effect of the National Union Convention was therefore very feeble.
Johnson "Swings Around the Circle"
If the members of the National Union Convention thought that their conciliatory utterances would pour oil on the angry waves of the campaign, they reckoned without their host. When a committee appointed for that purpose presented to President Johnson a copy of its proceedings, there was rather a note of defiance to his opponents, than of conciliation, in his response. "We have witnessed in one department of the government every endeavor to prevent the restoration of peace, harmony, and union," he said. "We have seen hanging upon the verge of the government, as it were, a body called, or which assumes to be, the Congress of the United States, while, in fact, it is a Congress of only a part of the United States. We have seen a Congress in a minority assume to exercise power which, allowed to be consummated, would result in despotism or monarchy itself." Here was again the thinly veiled threat that, because certain States were not represented in it, the validity of the acts of Congress might be attacked. But worse was to follow. It is a well-known fact that presidents, under the influence of the Washington atmosphere, are apt to become victims of the delusion that they are idolized by the American people. Even John Tyler is said to have thought so. It may have been under a similar impression that President Johnson, who had great confidence in the power of his influence over the masses when he personally confronted them, accepted an invitation requesting his presence at the unveiling of a Douglas statue in Chicago, and he made this an occasion for a "presidential progress" through some of the States. He started late in August. Several members of his cabinet, Seward among others, accompanied him, and so did General Grant and Admiral Farragut, by command, to give additional luster to the appearance of the chief.
His journey, the famous "swinging around the circle,"—a favorite phrase of his to describe his fight against the Southern enemies of the Union, the Secessionists, at one time, and against the Northern disunionists, the radical Republicans, at another—was a series of the most disastrous exhibitions. At Philadelphia he was received with studied coldness. At New York he had an official reception, and he used the occasion to rehearse his often-told story of his wonderful advancement from the position of alderman in his native town to the presidency of the United States, with some insignificant remarks about his policy attached. At Cleveland he appeared before a large audience, according to abundant testimony, in a drunken condition. Indeed, the character of his speech cannot be explained in any other way. He descended to the lowest tone of partizan stump speaking. He bandied epithets with some of his hearers who interrupted him. The whole speech was a mixture of inane drivel and reckless aspersion. His visit at Chicago passed without any particular scandal. But the speech he made at St. Louis fairly capped the climax. He accused the Republicans in Congress of substantially having planned the New Orleans massacre. He indulged himself in a muddled tirade about Judas, Christ, and Moses. He declared that all his opponents were after was to hold on to the offices; but that he would kick them out; that they wanted to get rid of him, but that he defied them. And so on. At Indianapolis a disorderly crowd hooted him down and would not let him speak at all.
New Congress Overwhelmingly Anti-Johnson
He returned to Washington an utterly discomfited and disgraced man, having gone out to win popular support, and having earned only popular disgust. The humorists, pictorial as well as literary, pounced upon the "swinging around the circle" as a fruitful subject for caricature or satire, turning serious wrath into a bitter laugh. Andrew Johnson became the victim not only of detestation but of ridicule.
The campaign was then—about the middle of September—virtually decided. There was no longer any doubt that the election would not only preserve, but materially increase, the anti-Johnson majority in Congress. But before President Johnson started on his ill-starred journey, arrangements had been made for the other national conventions. One of them was designed to bring Southern loyalists, that is, Southern men who had stood loyally by the National Government, together with Northern Republicans. It met at Philadelphia on the 3rd of September. Senator Zachariah Chandler and myself attended it as delegates sent there by the Republicans of Michigan. It was a large gathering, the roll of which bore many distinguished names from all parts of the country. Southern members having been permitted to say but very little in the Johnson convention a fortnight before, it was a clever stroke of policy on the part of our managers to give the floor to the Southern loyalists altogether. They availed themselves of the opportunity to lay before the people of the country an account of their experiences and sufferings, since the promulgation of the Johnson policy, which could not fail to stir the popular heart. Their recitals of the atrocities committed in the South were indeed horrible. Over a thousand Union citizens had been murdered there since the surrender of Lee and in no case had the assassins been brought to judgment. But after Mr. Johnson's "swing around the circle" no further exertions could have saved his cause, and no further exertion could have very much augmented the majority against him. I am convinced he would have been beaten without his disgraceful escapade. But his self-exhibitions made his defeat overwhelming. The Republicans won in one hundred and forty-three Congressional districts, the Democrats in only forty-nine. President Johnson was more at the mercy of Congress than ever.
During the canvass I was somewhat in demand as a speaker and addressed large meetings at various places. One of my speeches, delivered at Philadelphia on the 8th of September, was printed in pamphlet form and widely circulated as a campaign document. I have read it again—thirty-nine years after its delivery—and I may say that after the additional light and the experience which this lapse of time has given us, I would now draw the diagnosis of the situation then existing substantially as I did in that speech—barring some, not many—extravagances of oratorical coloring, and the treatment of the disqualification clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution.
The Movement Toward Negro Suffrage
It was in this campaign that the matter of negro suffrage was first discussed on the hustings with a certain frankness. Efforts have since been made, and are now being made, to make the Southern people believe—and, I deeply regret to say, many of them actually do believe—that the introduction of negro suffrage was a device of some particularly malignant and vindictive radicals, to subject the South to the extreme of distress and humiliation. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Admitting that there were people in the North who, before the passions of the War had subsided, wished to see the rebels and their sympathizers and abettors in some way punished for what they had done, negro suffrage never was thought of as a punitive measure. I may say that in all my intercourse with various classes of people—and my opportunities were large—I have never heard it mentioned or suggested, still less advocated, as a punitive measure. It never was in itself popular with the masses—reason enough for the ordinary politicians to be afraid of openly favoring it. There were only two classes of men who at all thought of introducing it generally; those whom, without meaning any disparagement, I would for the sake of convenience call the doctrinaires,—men who, like Mr. Sumner, would insist as a general principle that the negro, being a man, was as a matter of right as much entitled to the suffrage as the white man; and those who, after a faithful and somewhat perplexed wrestle with the complicated problem of reconstruction, finally landed—or, it might almost be said, were stranded—at the conclusion that to enable the negro to protect his own rights as a free man by the exercise of the ballot was after all the simplest way out of the tangle, and at the same time the most in accordance with our democratic principles of government.
This view of the matter grew rapidly in popular appreciation as the results of reconstruction on the Johnson plan became more and more unsatisfactory. It gained very much in strength when it appeared that the tremendous rebuke administered to the President's policy by the Congressional elections of 1866 had not produced any effect upon Mr. Johnson's mind, but that, as his annual message delivered on December 3rd showed, he was doggedly bent upon following his course. It was still more strengthened when all the Southern legislatures set up under the President's plan, save that of Tennessee, rejected the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution,—some unanimously, or nearly so,—and even with demonstrations of contemptuous defiance. Then the question was asked at the North with great pertinency: Are we to understand that the white people of the States lately in rebellion will not agree that all persons born or naturalized in the United States shall be constitutionally recognized as citizens entitled in their civil rights to the equal protection of the laws? That those States insist, not only that the colored people shall not have the right of suffrage, but that those people so excluded from the franchise shall even serve to increase the basis of representation in favor of the whites—or in other words, that the white people of the South shall come out of the rebellion politically stronger than they were when they went into it? That all those who engaged in the rebellion and fought to destroy the Union shall be entitled to participate on even more favorable terms than ourselves in the government of the same Union which but yesterday they sought to destroy? That they refuse to safeguard the public debt incurred for saving the Union and wish to keep open the possibility of an assumption of the debts incurred by the rebel States for destroying the Union?
The fact was not overlooked that the great mass of the Southern negroes were grossly ignorant and in other respects ill-fitted for the exercise of political privileges. Many who then favored negro suffrage would have greatly preferred its gradual introduction, first limiting it, as Mr. Lincoln suggested to Governor Hahn of Louisiana, to those who had served as soldiers in the Union army and those who were best fitted for it by intelligence and education. But this would have reduced the negro vote to so small a figure as to render it insufficient to counteract or neutralize the power of the reactionary element. To that end the whole vote was required; and for that reason it was demanded, in spite of the imperfections it was known to possess and of the troubles it threatened—which, however, at that period were much underestimated, as is apt to be the case under similar circumstances.
Reconstruction Under Military Control
When the session of Congress opened on the 3rd of December, it was virtually certain that unrestricted negro suffrage would come and that President Johnson's reconstruction policy would be swept out of the way. The Republican majority without delay passed a bill extending the suffrage to the negroes in the District of Columbia, which then had a municipal government of its own. The President put his veto on the bill, but the veto was promptly overruled by two-thirds majorities in both Houses. Then followed a series of legislative measures designed substantially to substitute for the reconstruction work done by the President a method of reconstruction based upon universal suffrage including the negro vote, and to strip the President as much as possible of all power to interfere. The first, upon the ground that life and property were not safe under the existing provisional governments, divided the late rebel States into five military divisions, each to be under the command of a general officer who was to have the power to declare martial law and to have offenders tried by military commission, as the condition of public safety and order might seem to them to require. Under their protection conventions were to be elected by universal suffrage including the negro vote and excluding the disqualified "rebel" vote, to frame new State constitutions containing provision for the same sort of universal suffrage, such constitutions to be subject to the approval of the people of the respective States and of Congress. The State officers to be elected under these new constitutions were, of course, to be elected by the same electorate, and the States were to be regarded as entitled to representation in Congress, after having ratified the Fourteenth Amendment to the National Constitution, and after that Amendment had been ratified by a sufficient number of the States generally to make it a valid part of the Constitution. A supplementary reconstruction act gave the military commanders very extensive control over the elections to be held, as to the registration of voters, the mode of holding the elections, the appointment of election officers, the canvassing of results, and the reporting of such results to the President and through him to Congress. In order to strip President Johnson of all power to interfere with the execution of this measure beyond the appointment of the commanders of the various military divisions, a provision was introduced in the Army Appropriation bill which substantially ordained that all military orders and instructions should be issued through the General of the Army (General Grant), who was to have his headquarters at Washington; and that all orders and instructions issued otherwise should be null and void. And when the generals commanding the several divisions had expressed some doubt as to the interpretation of some provisions of the Reconstruction Act, and the President had issued instructions concerning those points which displeased Congress, another act was passed, which, by way of explanation of the meaning of its predecessors, still further enlarged the powers of the military commanders and made them virtually rulers over everything and everybody in those States. In the mean time, to tie the President's hands still farther, the Tenure of Office Act had been passed, which was to curtail or hamper President Johnson's power to dismiss office-holders from their places so as to reduce as much as possible his facilities for punishing the opponents and for rewarding the friends of his policy, and thus, as it would now be called, for building up an office-holders' machine for his use.
The Public Fear of Johnson
President Johnson in every case promptly vetoed the bills objectionable to him or fulminated his protests against what he considered unwarrantable encroachments upon his constitutional prerogatives. Some of his messages, reported to have been written either by Mr. Seward or by Mr. Jeremiah Black, a man of brilliant abilities, were strong in argument as well as eloquent in expression. But they were not listened to—much less considered. Mr. Johnson had personally discredited himself to such a degree that the connection of his personality with anything he advocated fatally discredited his cause. The air, not only in Washington, but throughout the country, was buzzing with rumors of iniquities which Andrew Johnson was meditating and would surely attempt if he were not disarmed. He was surely plotting a coup d'etat; he had already slyly tried to get General Grant out of the way by sending him on a trumped-up diplomatic errand to Mexico. When, therefore, the news came from Washington that Andrew Johnson was to be impeached, to deprive him of his office, it was not only welcomed by reckless partizanship, but as everybody who has lived through those times will remember, it struck a popular chord. There was a widespread feeling among well-meaning and sober people that the country was really in some sort of peril, and that it would be a good thing to get rid of that dangerous man in the presidential chair.
But for this vague feeling of uneasiness approaching genuine alarm, I doubt whether Congress would ever have ventured upon the tragi-comedy of the impeachment.
It explains also the fact that so many lawyers in Congress, as well as in the country, although they must have seen the legal weakness of the case against Andrew Johnson, still labored so hard to find some point upon which he might be convicted. It was for political, not for legal reasons that they did so—not reasons of political partizanship, but the higher political reason that they thought the public interest made the removal of Andrew Johnson from his place of power eminently desirable. I have to confess that I leaned somewhat to that opinion myself—not that I believed in the sinister revolutionary designs of Mr. Johnson, but because I thought that the presence of Mr. Johnson in the presidential office encouraged among the white people of the South hopes and endeavors which, the longer they were indulged in, the more grievous the harm they would do to both races. It can indeed not be said that President Johnson failed to execute the reconstruction laws enacted by Congress by refusing to perform the duties imposed upon him, such as the appointment of the commanders of military divisions. He even effectively opposed, through his able and accomplished Attorney-General, Mr. Stanbery, the attempts of two Southern governors to stop the enforcement of the Reconstruction Act by the legal process of injunction. But the mere fact that he was believed to favor the reactionary element in the South and would do all in his power to let it have its way was in itself an influence constantly inflaming the passions kindled by mischievous hopes.
The Fatal Bungling of Reconstruction
The condition of things in the South had become deplorable in the extreme. Had the reconstruction measures enacted by Congress, harsh as they were, been imposed upon the Southern people immediately after the War, when the people were stunned by their overwhelming defeat, and when there was still some apprehension of bloody vengeance to be visited upon the leaders of the rebellion—as was the case, for instance, in Hungary in 1849 after the collapse of the great insurrection—those measures would have been accepted as an escape from something worse. Even negro suffrage in a qualified form, as General Lee's testimony before the Reconstruction Committee showed, might then have been accepted as a peace-offering.
But the propitious moment was lost. Instead of gently persuading the Southerners, as Lincoln would have done, that the full restoration of the States lately in rebellion would necessarily depend upon the readiness and good faith with which they accommodated themselves to the legitimate results of the War, and that there were certain things which the victorious Union government was bound to insist upon, not in a spirit of vindictiveness, but as a simple matter of honor and duty—instead of this President Johnson told them that their instant restoration to their old status in the Union, that is, to complete self-government and to participation in the National Government, on equal terms with the other States, had become their indefeasible constitutional right as soon as the insurgents laid down their arms and went through the form of taking an oath of allegiance, and that those who refused to recognize the immediate validity of that right were no better than traitors and public enemies. Nothing could have been more natural, under such circumstances, than that the master class in the South should have seen a chance to establish something like semi-slavery, and that, pressed by their economic perplexities, they should have eagerly grasped at that chance. No wonder that what should have been as gentle as possible a transition from one social state into another degenerated into an angry political brawl, which grew more and more furious as it went on. No wonder, finally, that when at last the Congressional reconstruction policy, which at first might have been quietly submitted to as something that might have been worse, and that could not be averted, came at last in the midst of that brawl, it was resented in the South as an act of diabolical malice and tyrannical oppression not to be endured. And the worst outcome of all was, that many white people of the South who had at first cherished a kindly feeling for the negroes on account of their "fidelity" during the War, now fell to hating the negroes as the cause of all their woes; that, on the other hand, the negroes, after all their troubles, raised to a position of power, now were tempted to a reckless use of that power; and that a selfish partizan spirit growing up among the Republican majority, instead of endeavoring to curb that tendency, encouraged, or, at least, tolerated it for party advantage.
I have to confess that I took a more hopeful view of the matter at the time, for I did not foresee the mischievous part which selfish partizan spirit would play in that precarious situation. I trusted that the statesmen of the Republican party would prove clear-sighted enough to perceive in time the danger of excesses which their reconstruction policy would bring to the South, and that they would be strong enough in influence to combat that danger. Nothing could have been farther from my mind than the expectation that before long it would be my lot to take an active part in that combat on the most conspicuous political stage in the country.
THE THIRTEENTH MOVE
BY ALBERTA BANCROFT
ILLUSTRATIONS BY M. J. SPERO
Ikey stood on the street corner and fingered her veil to keep passersby from seeing her lips tremble. She was sure that she was going to cry right there in the open, and she was furious about it, because she did not approve of weepy females.
"If you dare," she whispered fiercely, "if you dare, I'll—I'll—you shan't have that nickel's worth of peanut candy, or those currant buns, either."
This threat proving effective, she turned, head held high, and entered the bakery.
There was the usual Saturday afternoon crowd, jostling on the shoddy thoroughfare. To-day the jostling was intensified; for the car strike was on in full blast, feeling ran high, and demonstrations were being made against the company. Now and again a car passed slowly up or down the street, drays and express wagons blocking its progress wherever possible, scab conductor and motorman hooted at by San Francisco men and beplumed ladies for their pains.
Ikey looked at the mob in disgust. Then she hurried around the corner and away from the scene of commotion.
"And to think that it has come to this, that I can't ride up and down in those cars all day long—just to show 'em."
The beach was what she really wanted—one of those little sand hummocks with juicy plants sprawling over it, that protect one from the wind and yet reveal beyond ravishing glimpses of cliff and breaker and sapphire shining sea.
But the beach was not to be found in the heart of town. And she was too tired to walk there—not having had any lunch and being very angry besides. And she would lose her "job"—her miserable, wretched, disgusting, good-for-nothing job (Ikey loved adjectives), if she rode. For any and all women connected with any and all union men had been forbidden to use the company's cars. And business houses—who had anything to gain from it—had promised their employees instant dismissal for even one ride. And the firm that employed Ikey would lose three-fourths of its trade if the union boycotted it.
So the sand-dunes would have to wait. But there were some vacant lots, backed by a scraggle of rough, red rock, only half a dozen blocks away. If luck were with her, the loafers might be in temporary abeyance and the refugee tents not unduly prominent.
Luck was with her. And Ikey sat down on the lea of the little cliff, quite alone, spread out her buns,—you got three for ten cents these catastrophe days,—and faced the situation.
The landlady had raised the rent.
Ikey could have screamed with laughter over the situation—if only the matter were not so vital.
"This'll make the thirteenth move for you, Ikey, my love, since the eighteenth of April—and the thirteenth move is bound to be unlucky. But you'll have to go, sure as Fate; for you can't stand another raise. The Wandering Jew gentleman takes the road again."
She pursed her lips as she said it. She had invented the appelation for herself after nine moves in three months. "I don't know what his name really was," she confessed—there was no one else to talk to, no one she cared for, so she talked, sub voice, to herself—"but it must have been Ikey. I'm sure it was Ikey—and that I look just like him." And deriving much comfort from this witticism, she went on her way.
"Ikey, the Wandering Jew, on the move again," she repeated. "But where to move to, that is the question. It's funny what a difference money makes"—her eyebrows went up—"or rather, lack of it. I've never considered that until recently."
Then her eyes fell on her shoes.
They had been very swagger little shoes in the beginning—Ikey had made rather a specialty of footgear—but they were her "escape" shoes; and their looks told the tale of their wanderings. Also, she had had no others since.
She wriggled her toes.
"You'll be poking through before long, looking at the stars," she told them severely. "Imagine your excitement."
And her suit.
Ikey looked away so as not to see the perfect cut of it, the perfect fit of it, the utter shabbiness of it. It was her "escape" suit, too. She had slept on the hills in it to the tune of dynamiting and the flare of the burning city. She would never have another like it—never. For her job——
She leaned back suddenly and closed her eyes. Her job. The rage of this noon was coming back again; rage, and with it a strange, new sensation—fear. She had never known fear before, not even during the earthquake days. "Only at the dentist's," she told herself, giggling half hysterically behind closed lids.
And back of it all—back of the landlady's unconcealed dislike and latest slap, back of the disintegration of a wardrobe that could not be replaced, and the question as to whether her "job" had not become an impossibility since to-day—and that job simply could not become an impossibility: one had to live—back of all this was the dull hurt, smothered and always coming again, that Bixler McFay had not taken the trouble to look her up when his regiment came through on the way to Manila.
"You may as well face that, too, while you're about it," Ikey observed sarcastically. She opened her eyes with a snap and bit into the first bun.
"The regiment was only here three days," a little voice inside of her whispered fearfully.
"Three days!" Ikey's scorn was unbounded. "If he had cared, he could have found you in three hours—and he always said he cared. It's a thing you've got to live with. It's nothing so unusual. It happens every day. Why can't you treat it like a poor relation?"
And her thoughts went back to Fort Leavenworth, and the gowns on gowns she had worn, all burned up at the St. Francis last spring, with the rest of her things, a week after she had reached the city; and Cousin Mary, suave and elegant and impressive as her chaperon; and herself, petted and made much of on all sides, and incidentally pointed out as the richest girl on the field, and an orphan; and Bixler McFay, handsome, brilliant, devoted, always on hand, always protesting——
A whimsical, sarcastic little smile curved her lips for a moment. The earthquake had certainly made a difference. A vision of Cousin Mary arose—not the suave and elegant chaperon of a wealthy young relative, but a frightened, self-centered, middle-aged woman, who had taken the earthquake as a personal affront put upon her by her young charge and insisted on being the first consideration in no matter what environment she found herself.
Then came another vision. She recalled her parting with Bixler McFay in the late winter, when she had left Leavenworth for the Coast, saying it wasn't decent not to know anything about the place where all your income came from, and he had left Leavenworth to rejoin his regiment in Arizona. How his voice had trembled that morning as he bade her good-bye, declaring he should always consider himself engaged to her, even if she did not consider herself engaged to him; begging that she wear his class pin, or at least keep it for him if she would not wear it, because the thought of its being in her possession would comfort him in his loneliness.
It had comforted her in those first dreadful days after the fire to think that he was alive and on his way to her. It never entered her head but what he would come at once: when friends were looking for friends and enemies were succoring one another, how should he fail her?
And then—not one word. Not even an inquiry in the paper; when that was about all the papers were made up of for days after—column after column of addresses and inquiries, along with the death notices.
And afterwards—not one word——
"I won't pretend this is accidental, Miss Stanton."
Ikey looked up startled, began to curl her feet up under her skirt, decided that it was not worth while,—he was only one of the boarders,—and offered buns and candy with indifferent promptness.
"There's a gang of toughs coming down over the hill. Strikers, maybe. I thought they might startle you."
He seated himself unceremoniously on a rock near by.
Ikey settled back with a little comfortable movement against her own rock and raised her eyebrows.
"The proper thing for me to do at this stage is to inquire in a haughty voice how you happened to know I was here."
"I followed you."
There was no hint of apology, and she looked at him more closely. She had sat opposite him at the unesthetic boarding-house dining-table for the past six weeks now. He ate enormously,—but in cultured wise,—never said anything, was something over six feet tall, wore ready-made, dust-colored clothes, and was utterly inconspicuous. "Like a big gray wall." Just now it was the expression of his face, intangibly different—or had she never taken the trouble to notice him before?—that fixed her attention.
He was looking straight at her.
"I've been following you ever since you left your office," he said after a deliberate pause; and Ikey's eyes grew large and frightened as she took in his meaning.
"Then you saw——"
"I did." There was another pause. "It won't happen again." His tone was quite final. "Why do you lay yourself open to that sort of thing? Don't you know that the burnt district is no place for any woman at all these days—not even one block of it? Why don't you ride?"
His voice was quite cross, and Ikey could have laughed aloud. This, to her, who had the burnt district on her nerves to such an extent that she dreamed of the brick-and-twisted-iron chaos by night—the miles of desolation, punctuated by crumbling chimneys and tottering walls—dreamed of it by night and turned sick at the sight of it by day. Did this stupid hulk of a person think she liked the burnt district—and to walk there?
After all, his attitude was less funny than impertinent. She would be angry. It was better. She would respond icily and put him in his place.
At least, such was her intention. But she discovered to her amazement that she was trembling—her encounter of the noon was responsible for that—and her teeth seemed inclined to hit against each other rapidly with a little clicking noise. So it seemed on the whole more expedient to blurt out her remarks without any attempt at frills or amplification.
"Why don't you ride?"
Ikey gathered herself together.
"My dear Mr. Hammond, there is a street car strike on here in San Francisco. No union wagons run out this way—and I lose my position if I use the cars."
He was welcome to that. She looked off into the distance while he assimilated it.
"I had not thought of that," he said at last slowly. "In that case there is but one thing to do. You must stop that work at once."
"And stand in the bread line? Now? Along with—those others?" A little smile twisted her lips. "I should look handsome doing that."
His tone was beginning to be puzzled. So was his expression. Ikey ascertained this by allowing a glance to brush past him.
Suddenly he had changed his position. He was beside her on the ground, facing her, staring her out of countenance.
"We may as well get the clear of this right now——"
"It is needlessly clear to me, Mr. Hammond."
"But not to me. In the first place——"
"I will not trouble you——"
"It is no trouble. In the first place, has that fellow followed you, spoken to you before?"
"Never—never like that."
She wondered whether he had noticed her unsuccessful effort to rise and put an end to the interview.
"Do you know who he is?"
"He is the junior member of the firm I work for."
"What! Well, I am glad I smashed him." Then he added quickly, "This, of course, puts an end to your going there, at once. You've been at it too long anyway. It's stopped being a joke, and as a pose——"
The intonation was subtle. A moment's bewilderment, and he burst out, "You're not doing this because you—have to?"
"But—but—Good Lord, child! Where is your money?"
With pomp and ceremony—but languidly withal, for her head was beginning to ache, and she wanted desperately to cry—she laid her purse in his hand. But she did not look at him.
The big hand closed over the flat little thing impatiently.
"I am referring to your bank account."
"And by what right——"
"We'll settle that later. The banks have opened up again——"
"That's all I have."
"But what has become—You're not going to faint?"
"Then what has become——"
Quite against her will she was beginning to find herself faintly amused. Of all pigheaded, impertinent people, this individual with whom she had hardly had more than five minutes' conversation, except at meal times during the past six weeks, was certainly the worst.
"I really must know, Miss Stanton, what has become——"
"I gave it away."
"You—gave it—away!" Italics could never do justice to his intonation. He was staring at her as though he considered her demented. "To whom?" came his indignant question.
After all, why not tell him? It was none of his business; and he was desperately impertinent; but she was desperately forlorn; and, though it could not better the situation to talk about it, it might better her feelings.
She slipped farther down against her rock; and he bent forward, listening intently.
"I gave it to—a relative. She was living with me at the time of the fire. We had only just come up from Los Angeles—because I wanted to—I had some property here; all my income came from it; and I felt I ought to know more about it—in case anything happened. And after the earthquake she acted as though I had led her up to the—jaws of death—and pushed her in—and later she was so afraid of typhoid—and everything. And so—at last, when the banks opened up again—I gave her all the money I had in the bank—and she went East right away—and I stayed here."
"I had fifty dollars. I was doing relief work at the Presidio, waiting for the vaults to cool off—I had a lot of paper money in a box there—and for the insurance companies to pay—and for the man who looked after my affairs to get well: he'd been hurt in the earthquake. But he didn't get well: he had a stroke, instead, and died. And his partner—they were lawyers—went away; all their books and papers and everything had been burnt up, and he didn't seem to think he could ever straighten things out; and when the vaults were opened, the paper money I had in the box was all dust—and the insurance companies haven't paid."
She shrugged her shoulders delicately over the situation, already disgusted with herself at having descended to disclosing her private affairs to a stranger.
Meanwhile, "So that's it," the stranger was saying. "I've wondered a lot."
"You needn't have troubled."
"No trouble," he blandly assured her. "Houghton always was an ass"—(Houghton was the younger lawyer. How had he known? the girl wondered)—"lighting out for Goldfield when he ought to be here, straightening out his clients' business. And so you went to work on some beggarly salary, instead of seeing about having your property put in shape again. Why didn't you lease, or——"
"I couldn't find out where it was," she retorted, furious. "I'd only been here a week when the fire came; and not for years before that."
——"and not put yourself in a position where you get insulted by some little scrub who isn't fit for you to walk on.—Are you going to faint?"
"Then what's the matter?" inquired the clod at her side.
"Nothing," she fibbed promptly. How different this creature was from Bixler McFay! Bixler had never pried into her private affairs, or evinced an interest in her possessions, or insisted on answers she did not wish to give, or pursued topics she did not care for. Bixler had none of the bluntness, the pigheadedness, the brutality of this—but then, there was no comparing the two. Only, she had vowed not to think of Bixler any more. He was not worth it.
"Nothing's the matter with me," she said. "Only, when I got back to the boarding-house after—after downtown to-day, the landlady said I'd have to pay sixty a month or leave at once, and—and she hadn't saved any lunch for me, and——"
"And you've been eating——"
He looked at the candy-bag and the morsel of bun with horror.
"I thought they'd cheer me up," Ikey murmured meekly, "but they've made me feel—kind of queer."
"That settles it." The big hand came down forcefully upon his knee. "We'll get the thickest steak you ever laid your eyes on in about two minutes. But first—we'll get married."
What happened after that Ikey could never clearly remember. Bits of the ensuing conversation came back to her, memories of the sickening rage, the stupefying bewilderment that possessed her, and the exhaustion that followed. But order there was none. And she was sure she never got the whole of it.
At one stage in the proceedings she had observed in a haughty voice that she did not care to have his sympathy—or pity—take that form.
"Oh, it's not that," he assured her pleasantly; "but I'm tired of knocking around the world alone. I need an anchor. I think you"—he looked at her impersonally, but politely—"would make a good anchor."
"You mean you want me to reform you!"
He smiled a careful smile.
"No-o. I don't feel the need of reforming. There's nothing the matter with me——"
"How lovely to have such a high opinion of oneself."
"Yes. Isn't it? But as I was saying——"
At another stage she tried to take refuge behind the usual platitude: she did not love him.
He considered this—at ease before her, his hands in his pockets.
"Well, when it comes to that, I don't love you, either"—Ikey gasped—"but I don't consider that that makes any difference."
Then, "What'll you do, if you don't?" he had asked her in a businesslike manner. "You're just on the verge of a breakdown"—She knew it; and his tone of conviction did not add to her sense of security—"Another scene like to-day's would upset you completely. You say you have no friends or relatives here; and there's no one you want to go to away from here. And besides, I can look after you a great deal better than you can look after yourself."
There must have been much arguing after that. There must have; for she had not the slightest intention of being disposed of in this medieval fashion. But in the midst of some determined though shaky sentence of hers, he had said quite kindly and finally that they need not discuss the matter any further—besides, she had to have a good stiff lunch right off—and had piloted her carefully, but with no over-powering air of devotion, out of the empty lots, around the corner, and into an automobile.
"It was all the fault of that wretched beefsteak," mourned Ikey an hour or two later. "If I'd only had it before, it never would have happened—never. I shall always have a grudge against it. What am I to do now?"
The automobile had conveyed them smoothly, first, to a clergyman's, of all people; next, to a restaurant; then, to the boarding-house, where her few belongings had found their way into a telescope basket; and now it was conveying them through the bedraggled outskirts of the city into the country beyond.
A hatchet-faced chauffeur was manipulating things in front; while the unspeakable man in gray sat unemotionally beside her in the tonneau and looked the other way.
"What am I to do now?" The bewildered girl found no answer to the one question of her mind. "Why don't you faint?" she asked herself severely. "Why don't you faint? If you had an idea of helping me out of this pickle, you'd do it at once, and never come to at all, and then have brain fever. It's the only decent solution. Instead of that, here you are, feeling—actually comfortable."
She stared ahead of her with miserable eyes.
"It was all that miserable beefsteak. The thing must have been six inches thick. Beast; why couldn't he have taken me to the restaurant first? Then I'd never have gone to the clergyman's. And that license. Where did he get it? We never stopped for one—he just pulled it out of his pocket, as though it had been a handkerchief. Ikey, you're married, married—do you quite understand?—to a man who wears ready-made clothes and doesn't love you and lives in an attic boarding-house bed-room. And what is he doing with this automobile? And what is his business? Oh, he's probably a chauffeur; and he's borrowed his employer's bubble; and this other chauffeur in front's his best friend and ashamed of him on account of the beefsteak business. He'd better be. But what shall I say to him? What shall I say?—Oh—h"—heaven-sent inspiration—"I'll say nothing at all. I will be—so different."
On and on and on went the machine. The girl closed her eyes upon the dusty, dun-colored landscape.
"Serves me right for turning over my bank account to Cousin Mary and—and——"
She had fallen asleep, propped up in her corner of the machine—worn out by this climax to the weeks that had gone before.
The man at her side turned and looked at her. His face no longer wore its placidly and conventionally polite expression.
"The thirteenth move. Didn't I say it would be unlucky!"
Ikey had fled to the garden, letter in hand, to review the situation. The low clouds threatened rain. But what did that matter? The house stifled her with its large, low, mannish rooms and continued reminder of Arthur Hammond; and she had to think—think—think everything out from the very beginning.
That first evening—when she wakened in the dusk at his side in the automobile and stared bewildered at the dim outline of the low, rambling brown house tucked away among shrubbery under a load of vines—how quick he had been to reassure her, to explain that a friend of his, who had expected to come here with his bride, had had to go to Mexico instead and had asked him to occupy the bungalow until their return. A woman and a Chinaman went with the place; and she would have the run of a large garden. She could get rested there; and he could go to and from town every day.
And the days that followed—how careful he had been; how matter-of-fact and unemotional; never touching her; never making any sudden motion towards her; never referring to that short ten minutes at the clergyman's; never going near the two rooms the respectable English housekeeper had conducted her to that first evening.
"Almost as though he were trying to tame a bird," she had thought half whimsically, after the first days, when the feeling of weariness and fright had worn down and a great relief and great thankfulness had taken its place, that she should never see the boarding-house again with its sneering, insulting landlady, or the office where that man with the eager, shifty, cruel little eyes held rule.
And so she had set herself about it, resolutely, though bewildered, to be an anchor to this big, unemotional young man who had so suddenly come out of the background of her existence and was occupying all possible space immediately behind the footlights.
She did not at all know what an anchor did, or said, or how it acted. But the very perplexity for some reason or other sent her spirits sky-high. And she pottered about the garden with him, and whizzed about the country in the automobile,—it belonged to the same friend who wanted him to look after the place,—and poked about the queer, rambling house, content to see no one else and talk to no one else and amazed at herself that this should be so.
Only once had he made any reference to their situation, when he suggested that it might be as well under the circumstances for her to call him Arthur.
"I shall never call you Arthur. Never," she told him hotly. "I loathe the name. Always have. It sounds so deadly respectable."
"You don't care for respectability?" His tone was so affable.
Ikey considered. "It may have advantages, in some cases. But——"
"Then what am I to be called?"
She might have retorted that she should call him nothing at all: he never addressed her by any name. Instead, she answered, "Boobles."
"Boobles," she repeated firmly. And then came laughter. Ikey's rages had a way of breaking up in inconvenient bursts of hilarity these days.
But what difference did that make now? What difference did anything make?
"I don't see," Ikey said to herself desperately, "what makes me so stupid. I'm afflicted with chronic mental nearsightedness. Most distressing. This is really a tragedy I'm mixed up in—a tragedy. And tragedy's a thing I never cared for."
She collapsed miserably on a bench and stared at the letter.
"It's queer how tragedy and going to sea give you the same feeling."
It was not pity—oh, no—that had made him want to marry her. And it was not love. And it was not because he needed an anchor. Not he. He was not that kind. It was simply because she was his opportunity. Yes; that was the word. And she had never suspected.
Not that afternoon in the vacant lot, when he had inquired so exhaustingly as to her bank account.
Not the next week, when he appeared from town in the middle of the afternoon, all unheralded and paler than ordinary, with papers to sign, and the exhilarating news that the insurance companies had paid up, and a new bank-book with her name and comforting fat figures in it.
How desperately glad she had been over that. For hot shame possessed her at her appearance—shabby clothes and hardly any of them, when his ready-made dust-colored garments had immediately been replaced by the well-fitting blue serge that was her special weakness in masculine attire. She had invested heavily in frills and slowly regained her self-respect.
And not when he had appeared with a list of her property—how had he come by that list?—stating that he had made arrangements to lease certain pieces and rebuild at once on the others, and asking her approval of the final arrangements.
She had not suspected him then, either, idiot that she was. She had been too busy being rested, being thankful, being happy in the big garden, tucked away from the people who had failed her and the ghastly city and the memory of its great disaster.
She turned to the letter again. Bixler McFay had always written a good letter. This time he quite surpassed himself.
Heart-broken, unreconciled; his hopes shipwrecked; his faith destroyed. How could she have treated him so? She had been practically engaged to him; and she had left him a prey to every horrible emotion at a time when one word would have put his mind at rest. No clew as to her whereabouts by which he could trace her.
She passed that over with her little crooked, sarcastic smile. She had telegraphed and written both—and the second letter had been registered. He had probably forgotten that little fact. But it was of little consequence now. The sting lay in what followed.
And then what did he learn? the letter inquired. That a man he supposed to be his friend, a fellow he had met daily in Arizona for a couple of months at a time, had systematically pumped him about her; had taken means of ascertaining her financial status, and, recognizing her as his opportunity (that was where the word came from) had rushed off to San Francisco, married her hand over fist, and launched himself as a capitalist—on her capital. And she had allowed it.
The girl dropped the pages in her lap. Her little fist came down on top of them.
"It's a despicable letter," she told herself hotly. "And what he thinks to gain by it, I don't know. He just wants to make trouble.—And he has," she breathed with a downward sigh.
The question was, what to do now. And pride stood at her elbow and pointed out the only course.
This Arthur Hammond, this big, quiet, self-contained, efficient, indifferent young man—whose opportunity she was—must never know that she knew, or, knowing, cared.
That was the only solution. Pride forbade a scene—on his account; on hers; on Bixler McFay's; on everybody's, when it came to that. No one should know—anything.
"After a while I shall get quite old and pin-cushiony," she assured herself, "and pricks won't prick; and nothing will matter. I must be quite affable, and quite indifferent, and always polite—for women are only rude to men they care about." Her lips trembled. "It's all happened before, hundreds of times to hundreds of women—and money is very interesting to men—and there's no reason why this shouldn't happen to you, Ikey, dear—and a hundred of years from now it won't make any difference anyway.
"But I'll never tell him anything again——"
For latterly she had told him many things about herself—young lonesomenesses that nothing could dispel; family hunger for brothers and sisters and all the ramifications of a home; and, half unconsciously, her utter content with the present. She turned hot at the thought of it all.
"But one thing I won't stand." She jumped up and made for the house. "He shan't have my photograph on his dressing-table."
She had seen it there one day on passing his open door, and had wondered, wide-eyed, how he came by it—it was one she had had taken in the East—and had felt unaccountably shy at the thought of asking him about it.
She tore into the house, to get it, to destroy it, to tear it into tiny bits, and trample upon it—at once, without a moment to lose—when, rushing up the porch steps, she collided with the one person of all others she least expected to see.
Late afternoon. The house was very still. Outside, the rain was falling, falling, and the shrubs bent under their burden of shining drops. Inside, the fire crackled and whispered and the girl lay in the big armchair and looked around the room.
The fireplace; the big, rich rugs; the dark paneling; the fine, unemotional pictures—no wonder the whole place had reminded her of Arthur Hammond. She ought to have known. She ought to have known.
She heard his step in the hall. His door banged, once; twice; again. Then, his voice, asking Eliza some question, and the murmur of the housekeeper's reply.
Then he came in.
She did not speak or move, and his, "Good-evening" was presently followed by the easy question: "What's the matter?"
Then she turned on him.
"Is it true that this house belongs to you?"
A pause. Then he answered slowly,
"And the grounds?"
"And the automobile—is yours?"
He stood quietly watching her. She knew it, though she did not look at him. She took a deep breath.
"Those insurance companies have not paid," she said in a stifled voice. "You told me they had. You—you gave me—Where did all that money come from I've been spending?"
"Well, I suppose originally it was mine."
"Then it's true you are a millionaire?"
"Ye-es. Just about, I guess."
"And my property—all those buildings that burnt up were mortgaged and—and I couldn't have rebuilt—and everybody knew it—except me. The money that's putting them up again——"
"I arranged about that. But what difference does it make?"
"What did you do it for?"
"I thought you'd feel better to have an income again—and on account of other people, too. It made me hot to have you treated as though you were—just anybody at all—simply because your income happened to be short for a time. And—and I thought you'd rather have it that way than take it from me—at the first," he ended lamely.
She jumped up and confronted him, white with rage.
"How dared you do that? How dared you? How do you suppose I feel, being in this position—to you?"
"I hope you don't feel at all. And besides—But how did you find out about this?"
"Cousin Mary has been here," the girl burst out, losing all idea of keeping anything back. "She had all sorts of things to say: how badly she'd been treated—how she was shipped off East, and I never wrote to her, nothing about my affairs, or that I was married, or anything. She couldn't talk enough. She said everybody sympathized with her, because her prospects were ruined, because the companies I'd insured in wouldn't pay and my land was mortgaged so I couldn't rebuild. She knew that—and she'd never told me. And then she spoke a piece about my conduct in getting married and never telling her a word about it beforehand. She said she was mortified to death to have to learn about my marriage from strangers—strangers—just accidentally. But there wasn't anything she didn't know: that you were a millionaire, but very eccentric and not given to going around like a rational being—in society; and that you had places around in different States and always made it a point not to know your neighbors, so you wouldn't have them come dropping in interfering with you; and that you were amusing yourself now with putting my affairs on their legs again; and how lucky it was for me; and how strange it was, when I was making a brilliant marriage, not to make it, at least, in a dignified, even if not in a brilliant manner, with a church wedding and all. There wasn't anything she didn't know. I believe she used detectives to find out. And she ended up by saying that she had a lovely disposition and would forgive me—I could have killed her—I was her only first cousin's only child—and she was coming here to live."