"Will there be more ciphers, to-morrow?"
"Yes." To himself Peter said, "I must write Green and the rest to telegraph me every day."
"Now we'll have a cup of tea," said Leonore. "I like politics."
"Then you would like Albany," said Peter, putting a chair for her by the little tea-table.
"I wouldn't live in Albany for the whole world," said Leonore, resuming her old self with horrible rapidity. But just then she burnt her finger with the match with which she was lighting the lamp, and her cruelty vanished in a wail. "Oh!" she cried. "How it hurts."
"Let me see," said Peter sympathetically.
The little hand was held up. "It does hurt," said Leonore, who saw that there was a painful absence of all signs of injury, and feared Peter would laugh at such a burn after those he had suffered.
But Peter treated it very seriously. "I'm sure it does," he said, taking possession of the hand. "And I know how it hurts." He leaned over and kissed the little thumb. Then he didn't care a scrap whether Leonore liked Albany or not.
"I won't snub you this time," said Leonore to herself, "because you didn't laugh at me for it."
Peter's evening was not so happy. Leonore told him as they rose from dinner that she was going to a dance. "We have permission to take you. Do you care to go?"
"Yes. If you'll give me some dances."
"I've told you once that I'll only give you the ones not taken by better dancers. If you choose to stay round I'll take you for those."
"Do you ever have a dance over?" asked Peter, marvelling at such a possibility.
"I've only been to one dance. I didn't have at that."
"Well," said Peter, growling a little, "I'll go."
"Oh," said Leonore, calmly, "don't put yourself out on my account."
"I'm not," growled Peter. "I'm doing it to please myself." Then he laughed, so Leonore laughed too.
After a game of billiards they all went to the dance. As they entered the hall, Peter heard his name called in a peculiar voice behind. He turned and saw Dorothy.
Dorothy merely said, "Peter!" again. But Peter understood that explanations were in order. He made no attempt to dodge.
"Dorothy," he said softly, giving a glance at Leonore, to see that she was out of hearing, "when you spent that summer with Miss De Voe, did Ray come down every week?"
"Would he have come if you had been travelling out west?"
"Oh, Peter," cried Dorothy, below her breath, "I'm so glad it's come at last!"
We hope our readers can grasp the continuity of Dorothy's mental processes, for her verbal ones were rather inconsequent.
"She's lovely," continued the verbal process. "And I'm sure I can help you."
"I need it," groaned Peter. "She doesn't care in the least for me, and I can't get her to. And she says she isn't going to marry for—"
"Nonsense!" interrupted Dorothy, contemptuously, and sailed into the ladies' dressing-room.
Peter gazed after her. "I wonder what's nonsense?" he thought.
Dorothy set about her self-imposed task with all the ardor for matchmaking, possessed by a perfectly happy married woman. But Dorothy evidently intended that Leonore should not marry Peter, if one can judge from the tenor of her remarks to Leonore in the dressing-room. Peter liked Dorothy, and would probably not have believed her capable of treachery, but it is left to masculine mind to draw any other inference from the dialogue which took place between the two, as they prinked before a cheval glass.
"I'm so glad to have Peter here for this particular evening," said Dorothy.
"Why?" asked Leonore, calmly, in the most uninterested of tones.
"Because Miss Biddle is to be here. For two years I've been trying to bring those two together, so that they might make a match of it. They are made for each other."
Leonore tucked a rebellious curl in behind the drawn-back lock. Then she said, "What a pretty pin you have."
"Isn't it? Ray gave it to me," said Dorothy, giving Leonore all the line she wanted.
"I've never met Miss Biddle," said Leonore.
"She's a great beauty, and rich. And then she has that nice Philadelphia manner. Peter can't abide the young-girl manner. He hates giggling and talking girls. It's funny too, because, though he doesn't dance or talk, they like him. But Miss Biddle is an older girl, and can talk on subjects which please him. She is very much interested in politics and philanthropy."
"I thought," said Leonore, fluffing the lace on her gown, "that Peter never talked politics."
"He doesn't," said Dorothy. "But she has studied political economy. He's willing to talk abstract subjects. She's just the girl for a statesman's wife. Beauty, tact, very clever, and yet very discreet. I'm doubly glad they'll meet here, for she has given up dancing, so she can entertain Peter, who would otherwise have a dull time of it."
"If she wants to," said Leonore.
"Oh," said Dorothy, "I'm not a bit afraid about that. Peter's the kind of man with whom every woman's ready to fall in love. Why, my dear, he's had chance after chance, if he had only cared to try. But, of course, he doesn't care for such women as you and me, who can't enter into his thoughts or sympathize with his ambitions. To him we are nothing but dancing, dressing, prattling flutter-birds." Then Dorothy put her head on one side, and seemed far more interested in the effect of her own frock than in Peter's fate.
"He talks politics to me," Leonore could not help saying. Leonore did not like Dorothy's last speech.
"Oh, Peter's such a gentleman that he always talks seriously even to us; but it's only his politeness. I've seen him talk to girls like you, and he is delightfully courteous, and one would think he liked it. But, from little things Ray has told me, I know he looks down on society girls."
"Are you ready, Leonore?" inquired Mrs. D'Alloi.
Leonore was very ready. Watts and Peter were ready also; had been ready during the whole of this dialogue. Watts was cross; Peter wasn't. Peter would willingly have waited an hour longer, impatient only for the moment of meeting, not to get downstairs. That is the difference between a husband and a lover.
"Peter," said Leonore, the moment they were on the stairs, "do you ever tell other girls political secrets?"
Dorothy was coming just behind, and she poked Peter in the back with her fan. Then, when Peter turned, she said with her lips as plainly as one can without speaking: "Say yes."
Peter looked surprised. Then he turned to Leonore and said, "No. You are the only person, man or woman, with whom I like to talk politics."
"Oh!" shrieked Dorothy to herself. "You great, big, foolish old stupid! Just as I had fixed it so nicely!" What Dorothy meant is quite inscrutable. Peter had told the truth.
But, after the greetings were over, Dorothy helped Peter greatly. She said to him, "Give me your arm, Peter. There is a girl here whom I want you to meet."
"Peter's going to dance this valse with me," said Leonore. And Peter had two minutes of bliss, amateur though he was. Then Leonore said cruelly, "That's enough; you do it very badly!"
When Peter had seated her by her mother, he said: "Excuse me for a moment. I want to speak to Dorothy."
"I knew you would be philandering after the young married women. Men of your age always do," said Leonore, with an absolutely incomprehensible cruelty.
So Peter did not speak to Dorothy. He sat down by Leonore and talked, till a scoundrelly, wretched, villainous, dastardly, low-born, but very good-looking fellow carried off his treasure. Then he wended his way to Dorothy.
"Why did you tell me to say 'yes'?" he asked.
Dorothy sighed. "I thought you couldn't have understood me," she said; "but you are even worse than I supposed. Never mind, it's done now. Peter, will you do me a great favor?"
"I should like to," said Peter.
"Miss Biddle, of Philadelphia, is here. She doesn't know many of the men, and she doesn't dance. Now, if I introduce you, won't you try to make her have a good time?"
"Certainly," said Peter, gloomily.
"And don't go and desert her, just because another man comes up. It makes a girl think you are in a hurry to get away, and Miss Biddle is very sensitive. I know you don't want to hurt her feelings." All this had been said as they crossed the room. Then: "Miss Biddle, let me introduce Mr. Stirling."
Peter sat down to his duty. "I mustn't look at Leonore," he thought, "or I shan't be attentive." So he turned his face away from the room heroically. As for Dorothy, she walked away with a smile of contentment. "There, miss," she remarked, "we'll see if you can trample on dear old Peter!"
"Who's that girl to whom Mr. Stirling is talking?" asked Leonore of her partner.
"Ah, that's the rich Miss Biddle, of Philadelphia," replied the scoundrel, in very gentleman-like accents for one of his class. "They say she's never been able to find a man good enough for her, and so she's keeping herself on ice till she dies, in hopes that she'll find one in heaven. She's a great catch."
"She's decidedly good-looking," said Leonore.
"Think so? Some people do. I don't. I don't like blondes."
When Leonore had progressed as far as her fourth partner, she asked: "What sort of a girl is that Miss Biddle?"
"She's really stunning," she was told. "Fellows are all wild about her. But she has an awfully snubbing way."
"Is she clever?"
"Is she? That's the trouble. She won't have anything to do with a man unless he's clever. Look at her to-night! She got her big fish right off, and she's driven away every man who's come near her ever since. She's the kind of a girl that, if she decides on anything, she does it."
"Who's her big fish?" said Leonore, as if she had not noticed.
"That big fellow, who is so awfully exclusive—Stirling. He doesn't think any people good enough for him but the Pells, and Miss De Voe, and the Ogdens. What they can see in him I can't imagine. I sat opposite him once at dinner, this spring, at the William Pells, and he only said three things in the whole meal. And he was sitting next that clever Miss Winthrop."
After the fifth dance, Dorothy came up to Leonore. "It's going beautifully," she said; "do you see how Peter has turned his back to the room? And I heard a man say that Miss Biddle was freezing to every man who tried to interrupt them. I must arrange some affairs this week so that they shall have chances to see each other. You will help me?"
"I'm very much engaged for this week," said Leonore.
"What a pity! Never mind; I'll get Peter. Let me see. She rides beautifully. Did Peter bring his horses?"
"One," said Leonore, with a suggestion of reluctance in stating the fact.
"I'll go and arrange it at once," said Dorothy, thinking that Peter might be getting desperate.
"Mamma," said Leonore, "how old Mrs. Rivington has grown!"
"I haven't noticed it, dear," said her mother.
Dorothy went up to the pair and said: "Peter, won't you show Miss Biddle the conservatories! You know," she explained, "they are very beautiful."
Peter rose dutifully, but with a very passive look on his face.
"And, Peter," said Dorothy, dolefully, "will you take me in to supper? I haven't found a man who's had the grace to ask me."
"We'll sit at the same table," said Dorothy to Miss Biddle.
When Peter got into the carriage that evening he was very blue. "I had only one waltz," he told himself, "and did not really see anything else of her the whole evening."
"Is that Miss Biddle as clever as people say she is?" asked Mrs. D'Alloi.
"She is a very unusual woman," said Peter, "I rarely have known a better informed one." Peter's tone of voice carried the inference that he hated unusual and informed women, and as this is the case with most men, his voice presumably reflected his true thoughts.
"I should say so," said Watts. "At our little table she said the brightest things, and told the best stories. That's a girl as is a girl. I tried to see her afterwards, but found that Peter was taking an Italian lesson of her."
"What do you mean?" asked Mrs. D'Alloi.
"I have a chap who breakfasts with me three times a week, to talk Italian, which I am trying to learn," said Peter, "and Dorothy told Mrs. Biddle, so she offered to talk in it. She has a beautiful accent and it was very good of her to offer, for I knew very little as yet, and don't think she could have enjoyed it."
"What do you want with Italian?" asked Mrs. D'Alloi.
"To catch the Italian vote," said Peter.
"Oh, you sly-boots," said Watts. Then he turned. "What makes my Dot so silent?" he asked.
"Oh," said Leonore in weary tones, "I've danced too much and I'm very, very tired."
"Well," said Watts, "see that you sleep late."
"I shall be all right to-morrow," said Leonore, "and I'm going to have an early horseback ride."
"Peter and I will go too," said Watts.
"I'm sorry," said Peter. "I'm to ride with Dorothy and Miss Biddle."
"Ha, ha," said Watts. "More Italian lessons, eh?"
Two people looked very cross that evening when they got to their rooms.
Leonore sighed to her maid: "Oh, Marie, I am so tired! Don't let me be disturbed till it's nearly lunch."
And Peter groaned to nobody in particular, "An evening and a ride gone! I tried to make Dorothy understand. It's too bad of her to be so dense."
So clearly Dorothy was to blame. Yet the cause of all this trouble fell asleep peacefully, remarking to herself, just before she drifted into dreamland, "Every man in love ought to have a guardian, and I'll be Peter's."
When Peter returned from his ride the next day, he found Leonore reading the papers in the big hall. She gave him a very frigid "good-morning," yet instantly relaxed a little in telling him there was another long telegram for him on the mantel. She said nothing of his reading the despatch to her, but opened a new sheet of paper, and began to read its columns with much apparent interest. That particular page was devoted to the current prices of "Cotton;" "Coffee;" "Flour;" "Molasses;" "Beans;" "Butter;" "Hogs;" "Naval Stores;" "Ocean Freights," and a large number of equally kindred and interesting subjects.
Peter took the telegram, but did not read it. Instead he looked down at all of his pretty "friend" not sedulously hidden by the paper; He recognized that his friend had a distinctly "not-at-home" look, but after a moment's hesitation he remarked, "You don't expect me to read this alone?"
"Because," continued Peter, "it's an answer to those we wrote and sent yesterday, and I shan't dare reply it without your advice."
Peter coolly put his hand on the paper and pushed it down till he could see Leonore's face. When he had done that he found her fairly beaming. She tried to put on a serious look quickly, and looked up at him with it on.
But Peter said, "I caught you," and laughed. Then Leonore laughed. Then they filled in the space before lunch by translating and answering the telegram.
As soon as that meal was over, Peter said, "Now will you teach me waltzing again?"
"I'm not going to spend time teaching a man to dance, who doesn't dance."
"I was nearly wild to dance last night," said Peter.
"Then why didn't you?"
"Dorothy asked me to do something."
"I don't think much of men who let women control them."
"I wanted to please Dorothy" said Peter, "I was as well off talking to one girl as to another. Since you don't like my dancing, I supposed you would hardly choose to dance again with me, or ropes wouldn't have held me."
"I can talk Italian too," said Leonore, with no apparent connection.
"Will you talk it with me?" said Peter eagerly. "You see, there are a good many Italians in the district, now, who by their ignorance and their not speaking English, are getting into trouble all the time. I want to learn, so as to help them, without calling in an interpreter." Peter was learning to put his requests on grounds other than his own wishes.
"Yes," said Leonore very sweetly, "and I'll give you another lesson in dancing. How did you enjoy your ride?"
"I like Dorothy," said Peter, "and I like Miss Biddle. But I didn't get the ride I wanted."
He got a very nice look from those slate-colored eyes.
They set a music-box going, and Peter's instruction began. When it was over, Leonore said:
"You've improved wonderfully."
"Well enough to dance with you?"
"Yes," said Leonore. "I'll take pity on you unless you'd rather talk to some other girl."
Peter only smiled quietly.
"Peter," said Leonore, later, as he was sipping his tea, "do you think I'm nothing but a foolish society flutterbird?"
"Do you want to know what I think of you?" asked Peter, eagerly.
"No," said Leonore hastily. "But do you think of me as nothing but a society girl?"
"Yes," said Peter, truth speaking in voice and face.
The corners of Leonore's mouth descended to a woeful degree.
"I think you are a society girl," continued Peter, "because you are the nicest kind of society."
Leonore fairly filled the room with her smile. Then she said, "Peter, will you do me a favor?"
"Will you tell Dorothy that I have helped you translate cipher telegrams and write the replies?"
Peter was rather astonished, but said, "Yes."
But he did it very badly, Leonore thought, for meeting Dorothy the next day at a lawn party, after the mere greetings, he said:
"Dorothy, Miss D'Alloi has been helping me translate and write cipher telegrams."
Dorothy looked startled at the announcement for a moment. Then she gave a glance at Leonore, who was standing by Peter, visibly holding herself in a very triumphant attitude. Then she burst out into the merriest of laughs, and kept laughing.
"What is it?" asked Peter.
"Such a joke," gasped Dorothy, "but I can't tell you."
As for Leonore, her triumphant manner had fled, and her cheeks were very red. And when some one spoke to Dorothy, and took her attention, Leonore said to Peter very crossly:
"You are so clumsy! Of course I didn't mean that way."
Peter sighed internally. "I am stupid, I suppose," he said to himself. "I tried to do just what she asked, but she's displeased, and I suppose she won't be nice for the rest of the day. If it was only law or politics! But women!"
But Leonore didn't abuse him. She was very kind to him, despite her displeasure. "If Dorothy would only let me alone," thought Peter, "I should have a glorious time. Why can't she let me stay with her when she's in such a nice mood. And why does she insist on my being attentive to her. I don't care for her. It seems as if she was determined to break up my enjoyment, just as I get her to myself." Peter mixed his "hers" and "shes" too thoroughly in this sentence to make its import clear. His thoughts are merely reported verbatim, as the easiest way. It certainly indicates that, as with most troubles, there was a woman in it.
Peter said much this same thing to himself quite often during the following week, and always with a groan. Dorothy was continually putting her finger in. Yet it was in the main a happy time to Peter. His friend treated him very nicely for the most part, if very variably. Peter never knew in what mood he should find her. Sometimes he felt that Leonore considered him as the dirt under her little feet. Then again, she could not be too sweet to him. There was an evening—a dinner—at which he sat between Miss Biddle and Leonore when, it seemed to Peter, Leonore said and looked such nice things, that the millennium had come. Yet the next morning, she told him that: "It was a very dull dinner. I talked to nobody but you."
Fortunately for Peter, the D'Allois were almost as new an advent in Newport, so Leonore was not yet in the running. But by the time Peter's first week had sped, he found that men were putting their fingers in, as well as Dorothy. Morning, noon, and night they gathered. Then lunches, teas, drives, yachts and innumerable other affairs also plunged their fingers in. Peter did not yield to the superior numbers, he went wherever Leonore went. But the other men went also, and understood the ropes far better. He fought on, but a sickening feeling began to creep over him of impending failure. It was soon not merely how Leonore treated him; it was the impossibility of getting her to treat him at all. Even though he was in the same house, it seemed as if there was always some one else calling or mealing, or taking tea, or playing tennis or playing billiards, or merely dropping in. And then Leonore took fewer and fewer meals at home, and spent fewer and fewer hours there. One day Peter had to translate those despatches all by himself! When he had a cup of tea now, even with three or four men about, he considered himself lucky. He understood at last what Miss De Voe had meant when she had spoken of the difficulty of seeing enough of a popular girl either to love her or to tell her of it. They prayed for rain in church on Sunday, on account of the drought, and Peter said "Amen" with fervor. Anything to end such fluttering.
At the end of two weeks, Peter said sadly that he must be going.
"Rubbish," said Watts. "You are to stay for a month."
"I hope you'll stay," said Mrs. D'Alloi.
Peter waited a moment for some one else to speak. Some one else didn't.
"I think I must," he said. "It isn't a matter of my own wishes, but I'm needed in Syracuse." Peter spoke as if Syracuse was the ultimate of human misery.
"Is it necessary for you to be there?" asked Leonore.
"Not absolutely, but I had better go."
Later in the day Leonore said, "I've decided you are not to go to Syracuse. I shall want you here to explain what they do to me."
And that cool, insulting speech filled Peter with happiness.
"I've decided to stay another week," he told Mrs. D'Alloi.
Nor could all the appeals over the telegraph move him, though that day and the next the wires to Newport from New York and Syracuse were kept hot, the despatches came so continuously.
Two days after this decision, Peter and Leonore went to a cotillion. Leonore informed him that: "Mamma makes me leave after supper, because she doesn't like me to stay late, so I miss the nice part."
"How many waltzes are you going to give me?" asked Peter, with an eye to his one ball-room accomplishment.
"I'll give you the first," said Leonore, "and then if you'll sit near me, I'll give you a look every time I see a man coming whom I don't like, and if you are quick and ask me first, I'll give it to you."
Peter became absolutely happy. "How glad I am," he thought, "that I didn't go to Syracuse! What a shame it is there are other dances than waltzes."
But after Peter had had two waltzes, he overheard his aged friend of fifteen years say something to a girl that raised him many degrees in his mind. "That's a very brainy fellow," said Peter admiringly. "That never occurred to me!"
So he waited till he saw Leonore seated, and then joined her. "Won't you sit out this dance with me?" he asked.
Leonore looked surprised. "He's getting very clever," she thought, never dreaming that Peter's cleverness, like so many other people's nowadays, consisted in a pertinent use of quotations. Parrot cleverness, we might term it. Leonore listened to the air which the musicians were beginning, and finding it the Lancers, or dreariest of dances, she made Peter happy by assenting.
"Suppose we go out on the veranda," said Peter, still quoting.
"Now of what are you going to talk?" said Leonore, when they were ensconced on a big wicker divan, in the soft half light of the Chinese lanterns.
"I want to tell you of something that seems to me about a hundred years ago," said Peter. "But it concerns myself, and I don't want to bore you."
"Try, and if I don't like it I'll stop you," said Leonore, opening up a line of retreat worthy of a German army.
"I don't know what you'll think about it," said Peter, faltering a little. "I suppose I can hardly make you understand it, as it is to me. But I want you to know, because—well—it's only fair."
Leonore looked at Peter with a very tender look in her eyes. He could not see it, because Leonore sat so that her face was in shadow. But she could see his expression, and when he hesitated, with that drawn look on his face, Leonore said softly:
Peter started. "Yes! You know?"
"Yes," said Leonore gently. "And that was why I trusted you, without ever having met you, and why I wanted to be friends."
Peter sighed a sigh of relief. "I've been so afraid of it," he said. "She told you?"
"Yes. That is, Miss De Voe told me first of your having been disappointed, so I asked mamma if she knew the girl, and then mamma told me. I'm glad you spoke of it, for I've wanted to ask you something."
"If that was why you wouldn't call at first on us?"
"Then why did mamma say you wouldn't call?" When Peter made no reply, Leonore continued, "I knew—that is I felt, there was something wrong. What was it?"
"I can't tell you."
"Yes," said Leonore, very positively.
Peter hesitated. "She thought badly of me about something, till I apologized to her."
"Now she invites me to Grey-Court."
"Then it wasn't anything?"
"She had misjudged me."
"Now, tell me what it was."
"Miss D'Alloi, I know you do not mean it," said Peter, "but you are paining me greatly. There is nothing in my whole life so bitter to me as what you ask me to tell."
"Oh, Peter," said Leonore, "I beg your pardon. I was very thoughtless!"
"And you don't think the worse of me, because I loved your mother, and because I can't tell you?" said Peter, in a dangerous tone.
"No," said Leonore, but she rose. "Now we'll go back to the dancing."
"One moment," begged Peter.
But Leonore was already in the full light blazing from the room. "Are you coming?" she said.
"May I have this waltz?" said Peter, trying to get half a loaf.
"No," said Leonore, "it's promised to Mr. Rutgers."
Just then mine host came up and said. "I congratulate you, Mr. Stirling."
Peter wanted to kick him, but he didn't.
"I congratulate you," said another man.
"On what?" Peter saw no cause for congratulation, only for sorrow.
"Oh, Peter," said Dorothy, sailing up at this junction, "how nice! And such a surprise!"
"Why, haven't you heard?" said mine host.
"Oh," cried Leonore, "is it about the Convention?"
"Yes," said a man. "Manners is in from the club and tells us that a despatch says your name was sprung on the Convention at nine, and that you were chosen by acclamation without a single ballot being taken. Every one's thunderstruck."
"Oh, no," said a small voice, fairly bristling with importance, "I knew all about it."
Every one laughed at this, except Dorothy. Dorothy had a suspicion that it was true. But she didn't say so. She sniffed visibly, and said, "Nonsense. As if Peter would tell you secrets. Come, Peter, I want to take you over and let Miss Biddle congratulate you."
"Peter has just asked me for this waltz," said Leonore. "Oh, Mr. Rutgers, I'm so sorry, I'm going to dance this with Mr. Stirling."
And then Peter felt he was to be congratulated.
"I shan't marry him myself," thought Leonore, "but I won't have my friends married off right under my nose, and you can try all you want, Mrs. Rivington."
So Peter's guardianship was apparently bearing fruit. Yet man to this day holds woman to be the weaker vessel!
The next morning Peter found that his prayer for a rainy day had been answered, and came down to breakfast in the pleasantest of humors.
"See how joyful his future Excellency looks already," said Watts, promptly recalling Peter to the serious part of life. And fortunately too, for from that moment, the time which he had hoped to have alone (if two ever can be alone), began to be pilfered from him. Hardly were they seated at breakfast when Pell dropped in to congratulate him, and from that moment, despite the rain, every friend in Newport seemed to feel it a bounden duty to do the same, and to stay the longer because of the rain. Peter wished he had set the time for the Convention two days earlier or two days later.
"I hope you won't ask any of these people to luncheon," Peter said in an aside to Mrs. D'Alloi.
"Why?" he was asked.
Peter looked puzzled, and finally said weakly, "I—I have a good deal to do."
And then as proper punishment for his misdemeanor, the footman announced Dorothy and Miss Biddle, Ray and Ogden. Dorothy sailed into the room with the announcement:
"We've all come to luncheon if we are asked."
"Oh, Peter," said Ray, when they were seated at the table. "Have you seen this morning's 'Voice of Labor?' No? Good gracious, they've raked up that old verse in Watts's class-song and print it as proof that you were a drunkard in your college days. Here it is. Set to music and headed 'Saloon Pete.'"
"Look here, Ray, we must write to the 'Voice' and tell them the truth," said Watts.
"Never write to the paper that tells the lie," said Peter, laughing. "Always write to the one that doesn't. Then it will go for the other paper. But I wouldn't take the trouble in this case. The opposition would merely say that: 'Of course Mr. Stirling's intimate friends are bound to give such a construction to the song, and the attempt does them credit.'"
"But why don't you deny it, Peter?" asked Leonore anxiously. "It's awful to think of people saying you are a drunkard!"
"If I denied the untruths told of me I should have my hands full. Nobody believes such things, except the people who are ready to believe them. They wouldn't believe otherwise, no matter what I said. If you think a man is a scoundrel, you are not going to believe his word."
"But, Peter," said Mrs. D'Alloi, "you ought to deny them for the future. After you and your friends are dead, people will go back to the newspapers, and see what they said about you, and then will misjudge you."
"I am not afraid of that. I shall hardly be of enough account to figure in history, or if I become so, such attacks will not hurt me. Why, Washington was charged by the papers of his day, with being a murderer, a traitor, and a tyrant. And Lincoln was vilified to an extent which seems impossible now. The greater the man, the greater the abuse."
"Why do the papers call you 'Pete'?" asked Leonore, anxiously. "I rather like Peter, but Pete is dreadful!"
"To prove that I am unfit to be governor."
"Are you serious?" asked Miss Biddle.
"Yes. From their point of view, the dropping of the 'r' ought to convince voters that I am nothing but a tough and heeler."
"But it won't!" declared Leonore, speaking from vast experience.
"I don't think it will. Though if they keep at it, and really convince the voters who can be convinced by such arguments, that I am what they call me, they'll elect me."
"How?" asked Mrs. D'Alloi.
"Because intelligent people are not led astray but outraged by such arguments, and ignorant people, who can be made to believe all that is said of me, by such means, will think I am just the man for whom they want to vote."
"How is it possible that the papers can treat you so?" said Watts. "The editors know you?"
"Oh, yes. I have met nearly every man connected with the New York press."
"They must know better?"
"Yes. But for partisan purposes they must say what they do."
"Then they are deliberately lying to deceive the people?" asked Miss Biddle.
"It's rather a puzzling matter in ethics," said Peter. "I don't think that the newspaper fraternity have any lower standard of morals, than men in other professions. In the main they stand for everything that is admirable, so long as it's non-partisan, and some of the men who to-day are now writing me down, have aided me in the past more than I can say, and are at this moment my personal friends."
"I cannot quite call it that. When the greatest and most honorable statesmen of Europe and America will lie and cheat each other to their utmost extent, under cover of the term 'diplomacy,' and get rewarded and praised by their respective countries for their knavery, provided it is successful, I think 'dishonest' is a strong word for a merely partisan press. Certain it is, that the partisan press would end to-morrow, but for the narrowness and meanness of readers."
"Which they cause," said Ogden.
"Just as much," said Peter, "as the saloon makes a drunkard, food causes hunger, and books make readers."
"But, at least, you must acknowledge they've got you, when they say you are the saloon-keepers' friend," laughed Watts.
"Yes. I am that—but only for votes, you understand."
"Mr. Stirling, why do you like saloons?" asked Miss Biddle.
"I don't like saloons. My wish is to see the day come, when such a gross form of physical enjoyment as tippling shall cease entirely. But till that day comes, till humanity has taught itself and raised itself, I want to see fair play."
"What do you mean?"
"The rich man can lay in a stock of wine, or go to a hotel or club, and get what he wants at any time and all times. It is not fair, because a man's pockets are filled with nickels instead of eagles, that he shall not have the same right. For that reason, I have always spoken for the saloon, and even for Sunday openings. You know what I think myself of that day. You know what I think of wine. But if I claim the right to spend Sunday in my way and not to drink, I must concede an equal right to others to do as they please. If a man wants to drink at any time, what right have I to say he shall not?"
"But the poor man goes and makes a beast of himself," said Watts.
"There is as much champagne drunkenness as whisky drunkenness, in proportion to the number of drinkers of each. But a man who drinks champagne, is sent home in a cab, and is put to bed, while the man who can't afford that kind of drink, and is made mad by poisoned and doctored whisky, doctored and poisoned because of our heavy tax on it, must take his chance of arrest. That is the shameful thing about all our so-called temperance legislation. It's based on an unfair interference with personal liberty, and always discriminates in favor of the man with money. If the rich man has his club, let the poor man have his saloon."
"How much better, though," said Mrs. D'Alloi, "to stop the sale of wine everywhere."
"That is neither possible nor right. You can't strengthen humanity by tying its hands. It must be left free to become strong. I have thought much about the problem, and I see only one fair and practical means of bettering our present condition. But boss as the papers say I am, I am not strong enough to force it."
"What is that, Peter?" asked Dorothy.
"So long as a man drinks in such a way as not to interfere with another person's liberty we have no right to check him. But the moment he does, the public has a right to protect itself and his family, by restraining him, as it does thieves, or murderers, or wife-beaters. My idea is, that a license, something perhaps like our dog-license, shall be given to every one who applies for it. That before a man can have a drink, this license must be shown. Then if a man is before the police court a second time, for drunkenness, or if his family petition for it, his license shall be cancelled, and a heavy fine incurred by any one who gives or sells that man a drink thereafter."
"Oh," laughed Watts, "you are heavenly! Just imagine a host saying to his dinner-party, 'Friends, before this wine is passed, will you please show me your drink licenses.'"
"You may laugh, Watts," said Peter, "but such a request would have saved many a young fellow from ruin, and society from an occasional terrible occurrence which even my little social experience has shown me. And it would soon be so much a matter of course, that it would be no more than showing your ticket, to prove yourself entitled to a ride. It solves the problem of drunkenness. And that is all we can hope to do, till humanity is—" Then Peter, who had been looking at Leonore, smiled.
"Is what?" asked Leonore.
"The rest is in cipher," said Peter, but if he had finished his sentence, it would have been, "half as perfect as you are."
After this last relay of callers had departed, it began to pour so nobly that Peter became hopeful once more. He wandered about, making a room-to-room canvass, in search of happiness, and to his surprise saw happiness descending the broad stair incased in an English shooting-cap, and a mackintosh.
"You are not going out in such weather?" demanded Peter.
"Yes. I've had no exercise to-day, and I'm going for a walk."
"It's pouring torrents," expostulated Peter.
"I know it."
"But you'll get wet through."
"I hope so. I like to walk in the rain."
Peter put his hand on the front door-handle, to which this conversation had carried them, "You mustn't go out," he said.
"I'm going," said Leonore, made all the more eager now that it was forbidden.
"Please don't," said Peter weakening.
"Let me pass," said Leonore decisively.
"Does your father know?"
"Of course not."
"Then you should ask him. It's no weather for you to walk in."
"I shan't ask him."
"Then I shall," and Peter went hurriedly to the library.
"Watts," he said, "it's raining torrents and Leonore insists on going to walk. Please say she is not to go."
"All right," said Watts, not looking up from his book.
That was enough. Peter sped back to the hall. It was empty. He put his head into the two rooms. Empty. He looked out of the front door. There in the distance, was that prettiest of figures, distinguishable even when buried in a mackintosh. Peter caught up a cap from the hall rack, and set out in pursuit. Leonore was walking rapidly, but it did not take Peter many seconds to come up with her.
"Your father says you are not to go out."
"I can't help it, since I am out," said Leonore, sensibly.
"But you should come back at once."
"I don't care to," said Leonore.
"Aren't you going to obey him?"
"He never would have cared if you hadn't interfered. It's your orders, not his. So I intend to have my walk."
"You are to come back," said Peter.
Leonore stopped and faced him. "This is getting interesting," she thought. "We'll see who can be the most obstinate." Aloud she said, "Who says so?"
"And I say I shan't."
Peter felt his helplessness. "Please come back."
Leonore laughed internally. "I don't choose to."
"Then I shall have to make you."
"How?" asked Leonore.
That was a conundrum, indeed. If it had been a knotty law point, Peter would have been less nonplussed by it.
Leonore felt her advantage, and used it shamefully. She knew that Peter was helpless, and she said, "How?" again, laughing at him.
Peter groped blindly. "I shall make you," he said again, for lack of anything better.
"Perhaps," said Leonore, helping him out, though with a most insulting laugh in her voice and face, "you will get a string and lead me?"
Peter looked the picture of helplessness.
"Or you might run over to the Goelets', and borrow their baby's perambulator," continued that segment of the Spanish Inquisition. If ever an irritating, aggravating, crazing, exasperating, provoking fretting enraging, "I dare you," was uttered, it was in Leonore's manner as she said this.
Peter looked about hopelessly.
"Please hurry up and say how," Leonore continued, "for I want to get down to the cliff walk. It's very wet here on the grass. Perhaps you will carry me back? You evidently think me a baby in arms." "He's such fun to tease," was her thought, "and you can say just what you please without being afraid of his doing anything ungentlemanly." Many a woman dares to torture a man for just the same reason.
She was quite right as to Peter. He had recognized that he was powerless; that he could not use force. He looked the picture of utter indecision. But as Leonore spoke, a sudden change came over his face and figure. "Leonore had said it was wet on the grass! Leonore would wet her feet! Leonore would take cold! Leonore would have pneumonia! Leonore would die!" It was a shameful chain of argument for a light of the bar, logic unworthy of a school-boy. But it was fearfully real to Peter for the moment, and he said to himself: "I must do it, even if she never forgives me." Then the indecision left his face, and he took a step forward.
Leonore caught her breath with a gasp. The "dare-you" look, suddenly changed to a very frightened one, and turning, she sped across the lawn, at her utmost speed. She had read something in Peter's face, and felt that she must fly, however ignominious such retreat might be.
Peter followed, but though he could have caught her in ten seconds, he did not. As on a former occasion, he thought: "I'll let her get out of breath. Then she will not be so angry. At least she won't be able to talk. How gracefully she runs!"
Presently, as soon as Leonore became convinced that Peter did not intend to catch her, she slowed down to a walk. Peter at once joined her.
"Now," he said, "will you come back?"
Leonore was trying to conceal her panting. She was not going to acknowledge that she was out of breath since Peter wasn't. So she made no reply.
"You are walking in the wrong direction," said Peter, laying his hand on her arm. Then, since she made no reply, his hand encircled the arm, and he stopped. Leonore took two more steps. Then she too, curiously enough, halted.
"Stop holding me," she said, not entirely without betraying her breathlessness.
"You are to come back," said Peter.
He got an awful look from those eyes. They were perfectly blazing with indignation.
"Stop holding me," she repeated.
It was a fearful moment to Peter. But he said, with an appeal in his voice, "You know I suffer in offending you. I did not believe that I could touch you without your consent. But your health is dearer to me than your anger is terrible. You must come home."
So Leonore, realizing that helplessness in a man exists only by his own volition, turned, and began walking towards the now distant house. Peter at once released her arm, and walked beside her. Not a glimpse did he get of those dear eyes. Leonore was looking directly before her, and a grenadier could not have held himself straighter. If insulted dignity was to be acted in pantomime, the actor could have obtained some valuable points from that walk.
Peter walked along, feeling semi-criminal, yet semi-happy. He had saved Leonore from an early grave, and that was worth while doing. Then, too, he could look at her, and that was worth while doing. The run had made Leonore's cheeks blaze, as Peter's touch had made her eyes. The rain had condensed in little diamonds on her stray curls, and on those long lashes. It seemed to Peter that he had never seen her lovelier. The longing to take her in his arms was so strong, that he almost wished she had refused to return. But then Peter knew that she was deeply offended, and that unless he could make his peace, he was out of favor for a day at least. That meant a very terrible thing to him. A whole day of neglect; a whole day with no glimpse of these eyes; a whole day without a smile from those lips!
Peter had too much sense to say anything at once. He did not speak till they were back in the hall. Leonore had planned to go straight to her room, but Peter was rather clever, since she preceded him, in getting to the foot of the staircase so rapidly that he was there first.
This secured him his moment for speech. He said simply: "Miss D'Alloi, I ask your forgiveness for offending you."
Leonore had her choice of standing silent, of pushing passed Peter, or of speaking. If she had done the first, or the second, her position was absolutely impregnable. But a woman's instinct is to seek defence or attack in words rather than actions. So she said: "You had no right, and you were very rude." She did not look at Peter.
"It pained me far more than it could pain you."
Leonore liked Peter's tone of voice, but she saw that her position was weakening. She said, "Let me by, please."
Peter with reluctance gave her just room to pass. He felt that he had not said half of what he wished, but he did not dare to offend again.
As it turned out, it was the best thing he could do, for the moment Leonore had passed him, she exclaimed, "Why! Your coat's wringing wet."
"That's nothing," said Peter, turning to the voice.
He found those big dark eyes at last looking at him, and looking at him without anger. Leonore had stopped on the step above him.
"That shows how foolish you were to go out in the rain," said Leonore.
"Yes," said Peter, venturing on the smallest smiles.
Leonore promptly explained the charge in Peter's "yes." "It's very different," he was told. "I put on tips and a mackintosh. You didn't put on anything. And it was pouring torrents."
"But I'm tough," said Peter, "A wetting won't hurt me."
"So am I," said Leonore. "I've tramped for hours in the Orkneys, and Sweden and Norway, when it was raining. But then I was dressed for it. Go and put on dry clothes at once."
That was what Peter had intended to do, but he saw his advantage. "It isn't worth while," he said.
"I never heard of such obstinacy," said Leonore. "I pity your wife, if you ever get one. She'll have an awful time of it."
Peter did not like that view at all. But he did not forego at once his hope of getting some compensation out of Leonore's wish. So he said: "It's too much trouble to change my clothes, but a cup of your tea may keep me from taking cold." It was nearly five, o'clock, and Peter was longing for that customary half-hour at the tea-table.
Leonore said in the kindness of her heart, "When you've changed your clothes, I'll make you a cup." Then she went upstairs. When she had reached the second floor, she turned, and leaning over the balustrade of the gallery, said, "Peter."
"Yes," said Peter, surveying her from below, and thinking how lovely she was.
Leonore was smiling saucily. She said in triumph: "I had my way. I did get my walk." Then she went to her room, her head having a very victorious carriage.
Peter went to his room, smiling. "It's a good lawyer," he told his mirror, "who compromises just enough to make both sides think they've won." Peter changed his clothes with the utmost despatch, and hurried downstairs to the tea-table. She was not there! Peter waited nearly five minutes quietly, with a patience almost colossal. Then he began to get restless. He wandered about the room for another two minutes. Then he became woe-begone. "I thought she had forgiven me," he remarked.
"What?" said the loveliest of visions from the doorway. Most women would have told one that the beauty lay in the Parisian tea-gown. Peter knew better. Still, he was almost willing to forgive Leonore the delay caused by the donning of it, the result was so eminently satisfactory. "And it will take her as long to make tea as usual, anyway," he thought.
"Hadn't I better put some rum into it to-day?" he was asked, presently.
"You may put anything in it, except the sugar tongs," said Peter, taking possession of that article.
"But then I can't put any sugar in."
"Fingers were made before forks," suggested Peter. "You don't want to give me anything bitter, do you?"
"You deserve it," said Leonore, but she took the lumps in her fingers, and dropped them in the cup.
"I can't wait five years!" thought Peter, "I can't wait five months—weeks—days—hours—minutes—sec——"
Watts saved Peter from himself by coming in here. "Hello! Here you are. How cosy you look. I tried to find you both a few minutes ago, but thought you must have gone to walk after all. Here, Peter. Here's a special delivery letter, for which I receipted a while ago. Give me a cup, Dot."
Peter said, "Excuse me," and, after a glance at the envelope, opened the letter with a sinking sensation. He read it quickly, and then reached over and rang the bell. When the footman came, Peter rose and said something in a low voice to him. Then he came back to his tea.
"Nothing wrong, I hope," asked Watts.
"Yes. At least I am called back to New York," said Peter gloomily.
"Bother," said Watts. "When?"
"I shall leave by the night express."
"Nonsense. If it was so important as that, they'd have wired you."
"It isn't a matter which could be telegraphed."
"What is it, Peter?" said Leonore, putting her finger in.
So Leonore did not ask again. But when the tea was finished, and all had started upstairs, Leonore said, "Peter," on the landing. When Peter stopped, she whispered, "Why are you going to New York?"
"I can't tell you," said Peter.
"Yes, you can, now that papa isn't here."
"Yes. I know it's politics, and you are to tell me."
"It isn't politics."
"Then what is it?"
"You really want to know?"
"It's something really confidential."
Leonore gave Peter one look of insulted dignity, and went upstairs to her room. "He's different," she said. "He isn't a bit afraid of displeasing me any more. I don't know what to do with him."
Peter found Jenifer waiting. "Only pack the grip," he said. "I hope to come back in a few days." But he looked very glum, and the glumness stuck to him even after he had dressed and had descended to dinner.
"I am leaving my traps," he told Mrs. D'Alloi. "For I hope to be back next week."
"Next week!" cried Watts. "What has been sprung on you that will take you that long?"
"It doesn't depend on me, unfortunately," said Peter, "or I wouldn't go."
When the carriage was announced later, Peter shook hands with Watts and Mrs. D'Alloi, and then held out his hand to Leonore. "Good-bye," he said.
"Are you going to tell me why you are going?" said that young lady, with her hands behind her, in the prettiest of poses.
"Then I shan't say good-bye."
"I cannot tell you," said Peter, quietly; "please say good-bye."
That refusal caused Peter gloom all the way to the station. But if Leonore could have looked into the future she would have seen in her refusal the bitterest sorrow she had ever known.
As soon as Peter was on the express he went into the smoking cabin of the sleeping-car, and lighting a cigar, took out a letter and read it over again. While he was still reading it, a voice exclaimed:
"Good! Here's Peter. So you are in it too?" Ogden continued, as Ray and he took seats by Peter.
"I always did despise Anarchists and Nihilists," sighed Ray, "since I was trapped into reading some of those maudlin Russian novels, with their eighth-century ideas grafted on nineteenth-century conditions. Baby brains stimulated with whisky."
Ogden turned to Peter. "How serious is it likely to be, Colonel?"
"I haven't any idea," replied Peter, "The staff is of the opposite party now, and I only have a formal notification to hold my regiment in readiness. If it's nothing but this Socialist and Anarchist talk, there is no real danger in it."
"This country can never be in danger from discontent with our government, for it's what the majority want it to be, or if not, it is made so at the next election. That is the beauty of a Democracy. The majority always supports the government. We fight our revolutions with ballots, not with bullets."
"Yet Most says that blood must be shed."
"I suppose," said Peter, "that he has just reached the stage of intelligence which doctors had attained when they bled people to make them strong."
"What can you do with such a fellow's talk? You can't argue with him," said Ogden.
"Talk!" muttered Ray, "Don't dignify it with that word. Gibberish!"
"No?" said Peter, "It's too earnest to deserve that name. The man can't express himself, but way down underneath all the absurd talk of 'natural monopolies,' and of 'the oppression of the money-power,' there lies a germ of truth, without which none of their theories would have a corporal's guard of honest believers. We have been working towards that truth in an unsystematic way for centuries, but we are a long way from it, and till we solve how to realize it, we shall have ineffectual discontent."
"But that makes the whole thing only the more arrant nonsense," grumbled Ray. "It's foolish enough in all conscience sake, if they had a chance of success, but when they haven't any, why the deuce do they want to drag us poor beggars back from Newport?"
"Why did Rome insist on burning while Nero fiddled?" queried Peter smiling. "We should hear nothing of socialism and anarchy if Newport and the like had no existence."
"I believe at heart you're a Socialist yourself," cried Ray.
"No danger," laughed Ogden; "his bank account is too large. No man with Peter's money is ever a Socialist"
"You forget," said Ray, "that Peter is always an exception to the rule."
"No," said Peter. "I disagree with Socialists entirely both in aims and methods, but I sympathize with them, for I see the fearful problems which they think their theories will solve, and though I know how mistaken they are, I cannot blame them, when I see how seriously and honestly they believe in, and how unselfishly they work for, their ideas. Don't blame the Socialists, for they are quite as conscientious as were the Abolitionists. Blame it to the lack of scientific education, which leaves these people to believe that theories containing a half truth are so wholly true that they mean the regeneration and salvation of society."
"I suppose you are right," sighed Ray, "for you've thought of it, and I haven't. I don't want to, either. I thank the Lord I'm not as serious as you, Graveyard. But if you want to air your theory, I'll lend you my ears, for friendship's sake. I don't promise to remember."
Peter puffed his cigar for a moment "I sometimes conclude," he said, "that the people who are most in need of education, are the college-bred men. They seem to think they've done all the work and study of their life in their four years, and so can dissipate mentally ever after." But Peter smiled as he said this and continued, more seriously: "Society and personal freedom are only possible in conjunction, when law or public opinion interferes to the degree of repressing all individual acts that interfere with the freedom of others; thus securing the greatest individual freedom to all. So far as physical force is concerned, we have pretty well realized this condition. Because a man is strong he can no longer take advantage of the weak. But strength is not limited to muscle. To protect the weak mind from the strong mind is an equal duty, and a far more difficult task. So far we have only partially succeeded. In this difficulty lies the whole problem. Socialism, so far as it attempts to repress individualism, and reduce mankind to an evenness opposed to all natural laws, is suicidal of the best in favor of mediocrity. But so far as it attempts to protect that mediocrity and weakness from the superior minds of the best, it is only in line with the laws which protect us from murder and robbery. You can't expect men of the Most variety, however, to draw such distinctions."
"I do wish they would settle it, without troubling me," groaned Ray. "Lispenard's right. A man's a fool who votes, or serves on a jury, or joins a regiment. What's the good of being a good citizen, when the other fellow won't be? I'm sick of being good for nothing."
"Have you just discovered that?" laughed Ogden. "You're progressing."
"No," said Ray, "I am good for one thing. Like a good many other men I furnish the raw material on which the dearest of women may lavish her affection. Heigh-ho! I wish I was before the fire with her now. It's rather rough to have visits to one's wife cut short in this way."
Peter rose. "I am going to get some sleep, for we don't know what's before us, and may not have much after to-night. But, Ray, there's a harder thing than leaving one's wife at such a time."
"What's that, Peter?" asked Ray, looking at Peter with surprise.
"To know that there is no one to whom your going or return really matters." Peter passed out of the cabin.
"By George!" said Ray, "if it wasn't Peter, I'd have sworn there was salt water in his eyes."
"Anneke has always insisted that he was lonely. I wonder if she's right?" Ogden queried.
"If he is, why the deuce does he get off in those solitary quarters of his?"
"Ray," said Ogden, "I have a sovereign contempt for a man who answers one question with another."
Peter reached the city at six the next morning, and, despite the hour, began his work at once. He made a number of calls in the district, holding whispered dialogues with men; who, as soon as Peter was gone, hurried about and held similar conversations with other men; who promptly went and did the same to still others. While they were doing this, Peter drove uptown, and went into Dickel's riding academy. As he passed through the office, a man came out.
"Ah, Mr. Stirling. Good-morning."
"Good-morning, Mr. Byrnes," said Peter. "How serious is it likely to be?"
"We can't say yet. But the force has all it can do now to handle the Anarchists and unemployed, and if this strike takes place we shall need you."
Peter passed into another room where were eight men.
"Good-morning, Colonel," said one. "You are prompt."
"What is the trouble?"
"The Central has decided to make a general reduction. They put it in force at noon to-day, and are so certain that the men will go out, that they've six hundred new hands ready somewhere to put right in."
"Byrnes tells me he has all he can do."
"Yes. We've obtained the governor's consent to embody eight regiments. It isn't only the strike that's serious, but this parade of the unemployed to-morrow, and the meeting which the Anarchists have called in the City Hall. Byrnes reports a very ugly feeling, and buying of arms."
"It's rather rough on you, Stirling," spoke up a man, "to have it come while you are a nominee."
Peter smiled, and passed into the room beyond. "Good-morning, General Canfield," he said. "I have taken the necessary steps to embody my regiment. Are there any further orders?"
"If we need you, we shall put you at the Central Station," the officer replied; "so, if you do not know the lay of the land, you had better familiarize yourself at once."
"General Canfield," said Peter, "my regiment has probably more sympathizers with the strikers than has any other in the city. It could not be put in a worse place."
"Are you objecting to orders?" said the man, in a sharp decisive voice.
"No," replied Peter. "I am stating a fact, in hopes that it may prevent trouble."
The man and Peter looked each other in the eye.
"You have your orders," said the man, but he didn't look pleased or proud.
Peter turned and left the room, looking very grave. He look his cab and went to his quarters. He ate a hurried breakfast, and then went down into the streets. They seemed peaceably active as he walked through them. A small boy was calling an extra, but it was in reference to the arrival of a much-expected racing-yacht. There was nothing to show that a great business depression rested with crushing weight on the city, and especially on the poor; that anarchy was lifting its head, and from hungering for bread was coming to hunger for blood and blaze; that capital and labor were preparing to lock arms in a struggle which perhaps meant death and destruction.
The armory door was opened only wide enough to let a man squeeze through, and was guarded by a keeper. Peter passed in, however, without question, and heard a hum of voices which showed that if anarchy was gathering, so too was order. Peter called his officers together, and gave a few orders. Then he turned and whispered for a moment with Dennis.
"They don't put us there, sir!" exclaimed Dennis.
"Are they mad?"
"They've given us the worst job, not merely as a job, but especially for the regiment. Perhaps they won't mind if things do go wrong."
"What will people say of me on November fourth, if my regiment flunks on September thirtieth?"
"Arrah musha dillah!" cried Dennis. "An' is that it?"
"I'm afraid so. Will the men stand by me?"
"Oi'll make them. Yez see," shouted Dennis, "Oi'll tell the b'ys they are tryin' to put yez in a hole, an' they'll stan' by yez, no matter what yez are told to do."
As quickly as possible Peter put on his fatigue uniform. When he came out, it was to find that the rank and file had done the same, and were now standing in groups about the floor. A moment later they were lined up.
Peter stepped forward and said in a clear, ringing voice: "Before the roll is called I wish to say a word. We may receive orders any moment to take possession of the buildings and switches at the Central Station, to protect the property and operators of that road. This will be hard to some of you, who believe the strikers are right. But we have nothing to do with that. We have taken our oath to preserve order and law, and we are interested in having it done, far more than is the capitalist, for he can buy protection, whether laws are enforced or not, while the laboring man cannot. But if any man here is not prepared to support the State in its duty to protect the life and property of all, by an enforcement of the laws, I wish to know it now."
Peter stood a moment waiting, and then said, "Thank you, men."
The roll-call was made, and Peter sent off a line to headquarters, stating that his regiment, with only eighteen reported "missing" was mustered and ready for further orders. Then the regiment broke ranks, and waited.
Just as two o'clock struck a despatch was handed Peter. A moment later came the rap of the drum, and the men rose from the floor and fell in. A few sharp, quick words were passed from mouth to mouth. Guns rose to the shoulders with a click and a movement almost mechanical. The regiment swung from a long straight line into companies, the door rolled open, and without a sound, except the monotonous pound of the regular tread, the regiment passed into the street. At the corner they turned sharply, and marched up a side street, so narrow that the ranks had to break their lines to get within the curbs. So without sound of drum or music they passed through street after street. A regiment is thrilling when it parades to music: it is more so when it marches in silence.
Presently it passed into a long tunnel, where the footfall echoed in a startling way. But as it neared the other end, a more startling sound could be heard. It was a low murmur, as of many voices, and of voices that were not pleasant. Peter's wisdom in availing himself of the protection and secrecy of the tunnel as an approach became obvious.
A moment later, as the regiment debouched from the tunnel's mouth, the scene broke upon them. A vast crowd filled Fourth Avenue and Forty-second Street. Filled even the cut of the entrance to the tunnel. An angry crowd, judging from the sounds.
A sharp order passed down the ranks, and the many broad lines melted into a long-thin one again, even as the regiment went forward. It was greeted with yells, and bottles and bricks were hurled from above it, but the appearance of the regiment had taken the men too much by surprise for them to do more. The head entered the mob, and seemed to disappear. More and more of the regiment was swallowed up. Finally, except to those who could trace the bright glint of the rifle-barrels, it seemed to have been submerged. Then even the rifles disappeared. The regiment had passed through the crowd, and was within the station. Peter breathed a sigh of relief. To march up Fifth Avenue, with empty guns, in a parade, between ten thousand admiring spectators is one thing. To march between ten thousand angry strikers and their sympathizers, with ball cartridges in the rifles, is quite another. It is all the difference between smoking a cigar after dinner, and smoking one in a powder magazine.
The regiment's task had only just begun, however. Peter had orders to clear the streets about the station. After a consultation with the police captain, the companies were told off, and filing out of the various doors, they began work. Peter had planned his debouchments so as to split the mob into sections, knowing that each fragment pushed back rendered the remainder less formidable. First a sally was made from the terminal station, and after two lines of troops had been thrown across Forty-second Street, the second was ordered to advance. Thus a great tongue of the mob, which stretched towards Third Avenue, was pressed back, almost to that street, and held there, without a quarter of the mob knowing that anything was being done. Then a similar operation was repeated on Forty-third Street and Forty-fourth Street, and possession was taken of Madison Avenue. Another wedge was driven into the mob and a section pushed along Forty-second, nearly to Fifth Avenue. Then what was left of the mob was pushed back from the front of the building down Park Avenue. Again Peter breathed more freely.
"I think the worst is done," he told his officers. "Fortunately the crowd did not expect us, and was not prepared to resist. If you can once split a mob, so that it has no centre, and can't get together again, except by going round the block, you've taken the heart out of it"
As he said this a soldier came up, and saluting, said: "Captain Moriarty orders me to inform you that a committee of the strikers ask to see you, Colonel."
Peter followed the messenger. He found a couple of sentries marking a line. On one side of this line sat or reclined Company D. and eight policemen. On the other stood a group of a dozen men, and back of them, the crowd.
Peter passed the sentry line, and went up to the group. Three were the committee. The rest were the ubiquitous reporters. From the newspaper report of one of the latter We quote the rest:
"You wish to see me?" asked Colonel Stirling.
"Yes, Colonel," said Chief Potter. "We are here to remonstrate with you."
"We've done nothing yet," said Doggett, "and till we had, the troops oughtn't to have been called in."
"And now people say that the scabs are to be given a regimental escort to the depot, and will go to work at eight."
"We've been quiet till now," growled a man in the crowd surlily, "but we won't stand the militia protecting the scabs and rats."
"Are you going to fight for the capitalist?" ask Kurfeldt, when Colonel Stirling stood silent.
"I am fighting no man's battle, Kurfeldt," replied Colonel Stirling. "I am obeying orders."
The committee began to look anxious.
"You're no friend of the poor man, and you needn't pose any more," shouted one of the crowd.
"Shut your mouth," said Kurfeldt to the crowd. "Colonel Stirling," he continued, "we know you're our friend. But you can't stay so if you fight labor. Take your choice. Be the rich man's servant, or our friend."
"I know neither rich man nor poor man in this," Colonel Stirling said. "I know only the law."
"You'll let the scabs go on?"
"I know no such class. If I find any man doing what the law allows him to do, I shall not interfere. But I shall preserve order."
"Will you order your men to fire on us?"
"If you break the laws."
"Do it at your peril," cried Potter angrily. "For every shot your regiment fires, you'll lose a thousand votes on election day."
Colonel Stirling turned on him, his face blazing with scorn. "Votes," he cried. "Do you think I would weigh votes at such a time? There is no sacrifice I would not make, rather than give the order that ends a human life; and you think that paper ballots can influence my action? Votes compared to men's lives!"
"Oh," cried Doggett, "don't come the heavy nobility racket on us. We are here for business. Votes is votes, and you needn't pretend you don't think so."
Colonel Stirling was silent for a moment. Then he said calmly: "I am here to do my duty, not to win votes. There are not votes enough in this country to make me do more or less."
"Hear him talk," jeered one of the crowd, "and he touting round the saloons to get votes."
The crowd jeered and hissed unpleasantly.
"Come, Colonel," said Kurfeldt, "we know you're after votes this year, and know too much to drive them away. You ain't goin' to lose fifty thousand votes, helpin' scabs to take the bread away from us, only to see you and your party licked."
"No," shouted a man in the crowd. "You don't dare monkey with votes!"
Colonel Stirling turned and faced the crowd. "Do you want to know how much I care for votes," he called, his head reared in the air.
"Speak up loud, sonny," shouted a man far back in the mass, "we all want to hear."
Colonel Stirling's voice rang quite clear enough, "Votes be damned!" he said, and turning on his heel, strode back past the sentries. And the strikers knew the fate of their attempt to keep out the scabs. Colonel Stirling's "damn" had damned the strike as well as the votes.
Dead silence fell on the committee and crowd. Even Company D. looked astounded. Finally, however, one of the committee said, "There's no good wasting time here." Then a reporter said to a confrere, "What a stunning headline that will make?" Then the Captain of Company D. got his mouth closed enough to exclaim, "Oi always thought he could swear if he tried hard. Begobs, b'ys, it's proud av him we should be this day. Didn't he swear strong an' fine like? Howly hivens! it's a delight to hear damn said like that."
For some reason that "swear-word" pleased New York and the country generally, showing that even an oath has its purpose in this world, so long as it is properly used. Dean Swift said a lie "was too good to be lavished about." So it is of profanity. The crowd understood Peter's remark as they would have understood nothing else. They understood that besides those rifles and bayonets there was something else not to be trifled with. So in this case, it was not wasted.
And Mr. Bohlmann, Christian though he was, as he read his paper that evening cried, "Och! Dod Beder Stirling he always does say chust der righd ding!"
Of the further doings of that day it seems hardly necessary to write, for the papers recorded it with a fulness impossible here. The gathering crowds. The reinforcement of the militia. The clearing and holding of Forty-second Street to the river. The arrival of the three barge-loads of "scabs." Their march through that street to the station safely, though at every cross street greeted with a storm of stones and other missiles. The struggle of the mob at the station to force back the troops so as to get at the "rats." The impact of the "thin line" and that dense seething mass of enraged, crazed men. The yielding of the troops from mere pressure. The order to the second rank to fix bayonets. The pushing back of the crowd once more. The crack of a revolver. Then the dozen shots fired almost simultaneously. The great surge of the mob forward. The quick order, and the rattle of guns, as they rose to the shoulder. Another order, and the sheet of flame. The great surge of the mob backwards. Then silence. Silence in the ranks. Silence in the mob. Silence in those who lay on the ground between the two.
Capital and Labor were disagreed as to a ten per cent reduction of wages, and were trying to settle it. At first blush capital had the best of it. "Only a few strikers and militia-men killed," was the apparent result of that struggle. The scabs were in safety inside the station, and trains were already making up, preparatory to a resumption of traffic. But capital did not go scot-free. "Firing in the streets of New York," was the word sent out all over the world, and on every exchange in the country, stocks fell. Capital paid twenty-five million dollars that day, for those few ounces of lead. Such a method of settlement seems rather crude and costly, for the last decade of the nineteenth century.
Boys all over the city were quickly crying extras of the "Labor-party" organ, the first column of which was headed:
THE NOMINEE OF THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY
SHOOTS DOWN UNARMED MEN
This was supplemented by inflammatory broadsides. Men stood up on fences, lamp-posts, or barrels, wherever they could get an audience, and shrieked out invectives against police, troops, government, and property; and waved red flags. Orders went out to embody more regiments. Timid people retired indoors, and bolted their shutters. The streets became deserted, except where they were filled by groups of angry men listening to angrier speakers. It was not a calm night in New York.
Yet in reality, the condition was less serious, for representatives of Capital, Labor, and Government were in consultation. Inside the station, in the Directors' room of the railroad, its officials, a committee of the strikers, and an officer in fatigue uniform, with a face to match, were seated in great leather-covered chairs, around a large table. When they had first gathered, there had been dark brows, and every sentence had been like the blow of flint on steel. At one moment all but the officer had risen from their seats, and the meeting had seemed ended. But the officer had said something quietly, and once more they had seated themselves. Far into the night they sat, while mobs yelled, and sentries marched their beats. When the gathering ended, the scowls were gone. Civil partings were exchanged, and the committee and the officer passed out together.
"That Stirling is a gritty bull-dog for holding on, isn't he?" said one of the railroad officials. "It's a regular surrender for us."
"Yes, but we couldn't afford to be too obstinate with him, for he may be the next governor."
One of the committee said to the officer as they passed into the street, "Well, we've given up everything to the road, to please you. I hope you'll remember it when you're governor and we want things done."
"Gentlemen," said Peter, "for every surrender of opinion you and the railroad officials have made to-night, I thank you. But you should have compromised twelve hours sooner."
"So as you should not have had to make yourself unpopular?" asked Kurfeldt. "You needn't be afraid. You've done your best for us. Now we'll do our best for you."
"I was not thinking of myself. I was thinking of the dead," said Peter.
Peter sent a despatch to headquarters and went the rounds to see if all was as it should be. Then spreading his blanket in the passenger waiting-room, he fell asleep, not with a very happy look on the grave face.
But the morning-papers announced that the strike was ended by a compromise, and New York and the country breathed easier.
Peter did not get much sleep, for he was barely dreaming of—of a striker, who had destroyed his peace, by striking him in the heart with a pair of slate-colored eyes—when a hand was placed on his shoulder. He was on his feet before the disturber of his dreams could speak.
"A despatch from headquarters," said the man.
Peter broke it open. It said:
"Take possession of Printing-house Square, and await further orders." In ten minutes the regiment was tramping through the dark, silent streets, on its way to the new position.
"I think we deserve a rest," growled the Lieutenant-Colonel to Peter.
"We shan't get it," said Peter, "If there's anything hard to be done, we shall have it." Then he smiled. "You'll have to have an understanding hereafter, before you make a man colonel, that he shan't run for office."
"What are we in for now?"
"I can't say. To-day's the time of the parade and meeting in City Hall Park."
It was sunrise when the regiment drew up in the square facing the Park. It was a lovely morning, with no sign of trouble in sight, unless the bulletin boards of the newspapers, which were chiefly devoted to the doings about the Central Station, could be taken as such. Except for this, the regiment was the only indication that the universal peace had not come, and even this looked peaceful, as soon as it had settled down to hot coffee, bread and raw ham.
In the park, however, was a suggestive sight. For not merely were all the benches filled with sleeping men, but the steps of the City Hall, the grass, and even the hard asphalt pavement were besprinkled with a dirty, ragged, hungry-looking lot of men, unlike those usually seen in the streets of New York. When the regiment marched into the square, a few of the stragglers rose from their recumbent attitudes, and looked at it, without much love in their faces. As the regiment breakfasted, more and more rose from their hard beds to their harder lives. They moved about restlessly, as if waiting for something. Some gathered in little groups and listened to men who talked and shrieked far louder than was necessary in order that their listeners should hear. Some came to the edge of the street and cursed and vituperated the breakfasting regiment. Some sat on the ground and ate food which they produced from their pockets or from paper bundles. It was not very tempting-looking food. Yet there were men in the crowd who looked longingly at it, and a few scuffles occurred in attempts to get some. That crowd represented the slag and scum of the boiling pot of nineteenth-century conditions. And as the flotsam on a river always centres at its eddies, so these had drifted, from the country, and from the slums, to the centre of the whirlpool of American life. Here they were waiting. Waiting for what? The future only would show. But each moment is a future, till it becomes the present.
While the regiment still breakfasted it became conscious of a monotonous sound, growing steadily in volume. Then came the tap of the drum, and the regiment rose from a half-eaten meal, and lined up as if on parade. Several of the members remarked crossly: "Why couldn't they wait ten minutes?"
The next moment the head of another regiment swung from Chambers Street into the square. It was greeted by hisses and groans from the denizens of the park, but this lack of politeness was more than atoned for, by the order: "Present arms," passed down the immovable line awaiting it. After a return salute the commanding officers advanced and once more saluted.
"In obedience to orders from headquarters, I have the honor to report my regiment to you, Colonel Stirling, and await your orders," said the officer of the "visiting" regiment, evidently trying not to laugh.
"Let your men break ranks, and breakfast, Major Rivington," said Peter. In two minutes dandy and mick were mingled, exchanging experiences, as they sliced meat off the same ham-bones and emptied the same cracker boxes. What was more, each was respecting and liking the other. One touch of danger is almost as efficacious as one touch of nature. It is not the differences in men which make ill-feeling or want of sympathy, it is differences in conditions.
In the mean time, Peter, Ray and Ogden had come together over their grub, much as if it was a legal rather than an illegal trouble to be dealt with.
"Where were you?" asked Peter.
"At the Sixty-third Street terminals," said Ray. "We didn't have any fun at all. As quiet as a cow. You always were lucky! Excuse me, Peter, I oughtn't to have said it," Ray continued, seeing Peter's face. "It's this wretched American trick of joking at everything."
Ogden, to change the subject, asked: "Did you really say 'damn'?"
"But I thought you disapproved of cuss words."
"I do. But the crowd wouldn't believe that I was honest in my intention to protect the substitutes. They thought I was too much of a politician to dare to do it. So I swore, thinking they would understand that as they would not anything else. I hoped it might save actual firing. But they became so enraged that they didn't care if we did shoot."
Just then one of the crowd shrieked, "Down with the blood-suckers. On to freedom. Freedom of life, of property, of food, of water, of air, of land. Destroy the money power!"
"If we ever get to the freedom he wants," said Ray, "we'll utilize that chap for supplying free gas."
"Splendid raw material for free soap," said Ogden.
"He's not the only one," said Ray. "I haven't had a wash in nine hours, and salt meats are beginning to pall."
"There are plenty of fellows out there will eat it for you, Ray," said Peter, "and plenty more who have not washed in weeks."
"It's their own fault."
"Yes. But if you burn or cut yourself, through ignorance, that doesn't make the pain any the less."
"They don't look like a crowd which could give us trouble."
"They are just the kind who can. They are men lifted off their common sense, and therefore capable of thinking they can do anything, just as John Brown expected to conquer Virginia with forty men."
"But there's no danger of their getting the upper hand."
"No. Yet I wish we had orders to clear the Park now, while there are comparatively few here, or else to go back to our armories, and let them have their meeting in peace. Our being here will only excite them."
"Hear that," said Ray, as the crowd gave a great roar as another regiment came up Park Place, across the Park and spread out so as to cover Broadway.
As they sat, New Yorkers began to rise and begin business. But many seemed to have none, and drifted into the Park. Some idlers came from curiosity, but most seemed to have some purpose other than the mere spectacle. From six till ten they silted in imperceptibly from twenty streets. As fast as the crowd grew, regiments appeared, and taking up positions, lay at ease. There was something terrible about the quiet way in which both crowd and troops increased. The mercury was not high, but it promised to be a hot morning in New York. All the car lines took off their cars. Trucks disappeared from the streets. The exchanges and the banks closed their doors, and many hundred shops followed their example. New York almost came to a standstill as order and anarchy faced each other.
While these antagonistic forces still gathered, a man who had been yelling to his own coterie of listeners in that dense crowd, extracted himself, and limped towards Peter.
"Mr. Stirling," he shouted, "come out from those murderers. I want to tell you something."
Peter went forward. "What is it, Podds?" he asked.
Podds dropped his voice. "We're out for blood to-day. But I don't want yours, if you do murder my fellow-men. Get away from here, quick. Hide yourself before the people rise in their might."
Peter smiled sadly. "How are Mrs. Podds and the children?" he asked kindly.
"What is a family at such a moment?" shrieked Podds.
"The world is my family. I love the whole world, and I'm going to revolutionize it. I'm going to give every man his rights. The gutters shall reek with blood, and every plutocrat's castle shall be levelled to the soil. But I'll spare you, for though you are one of the classes, it's your ignorance, not your disposition, that makes you one. Get away from here. Get away before it's too late."
Just then the sound of a horse's feet was heard, and a staff officer came cantering from a side street into the square. He saluted Peter and said, "Colonel Stirling, the governor has issued a proclamation forbidding the meeting and parade. General Canfield orders you to clear the Park, by pushing the mob towards Broadway. The regiments have been drawn in so as to leave a free passage down the side streets."
"Don't try to move us a foot," screamed Podds, "or there'll be blood. We claim the right of free meeting and free speech."
Even as he spoke, the two regiments formed, stiffened, fixed bayonets, and moved forward, as if they were machines rather than two thousand men.
"Brethren," yelled Podds, "the foot of the tyrant is on us. Rise. Rise in your might." Then Podds turned to find the rigid line of bayonets close upon him. He gave a spring, and grappled with Peter, throwing his arms about Peter's neck. Peter caught him by the throat with his free arm.
"Don't push me off," shrieked Podds in his ear, "it's coming," and he clung with desperate energy to Peter.
Peter gave a twist with his arm. He felt the tight clasp relax, and the whole figure shudder. He braced his arm for a push, intending to send Podds flying across the street.
But suddenly there was a flash, as of lightning. Then a crash. Then the earth shook, cobble-stones, railroad tracks, anarchists, and soldiers, rose in the air, leaving a great chasm in crowd and street. Into that chasm a moment later, stones, rails, anarchists, and soldiers fell, leaving nothing but a thick cloud of overhanging dust. Underneath that great dun pall lay soldier and anarchist, side by side, at last at peace. The one died for his duty, the other died for his idea. The world was none the better, but went on unchanged.
The evening on which Peter had left Grey-Court, Leonore had been moved "for sundry reasons" to go to her piano and sing an English ballad entitled "Happiness." She had sung it several times, and with gusto.
The next morning she read the political part of the papers. "I don't see anything to have taken him back," she said "but I am really glad, for he was getting hard to manage. I couldn't send him away, but now I hope he'll stay there." Then Leonore fluttered all day, in the true Newport style, with no apparent thought of her "friend."
But something at a dinner that evening interested her.
"I'm ashamed," said the hostess, "of my shortage of men. Marlow was summoned back to New York last night, by business, quite unexpectedly, and Mr. Dupont telegraphed me this afternoon that he was detained there."
"It's curious," said Dorothy. "Mr. Rivington and my brother came on Tuesday expecting to stay for a week, but they had special delivery letters yesterday, and both started for New York. They would not tell me what it was."
"Mr. Stirling received a special delivery, too," said Leonore, "and started at once. And he wouldn't tell."
"How extraordinary!" said the hostess. "There must be something very good at the roof-gardens."
"It has something to do with headwears," said Leonore, not hiding her light under a bushel.
"Headwear?" said a man.
"Yes," said Leonore. "I only had a glimpse of the heading, but I saw 'Headwears N.G.S.N.Y.'"
A sudden silence fell, no one laughing at the mistake.
"What's the matter?" asked Leonore.
"We are wondering what will happen," said the host, "if men go in for headwear too."
"They do that already," said a man, "but unlike women, they do it on the inside, not the outside of the head."
But nobody laughed, and the dinner seemed to drag from that moment.
Leonore and Dorothy had come together, and as soon as they were in their carriage, Leonore said, "What a dull dinner it was?"
"Oh, Leonore," cried Dorothy, "don't talk about dinners. I've kept up till now, bu—" and Dorothy's sentence melted into a sob.