"Is it home, Mrs. Rivington?" asked the tiger, sublimely unconscious, as a good servant should be, of this dialogue, and of his mistress's tears.
"No, Portman, the Club," sobbed Dorothy.
"Dorothy," begged Leonore, "what is it?"
"Don't you understand?" sobbed Dorothy. "All this fearful anarchist talk and discontent? And my poor, poor darling! Oh, don't talk to me." Dorothy became inarticulate once more.
"How foolish married women are!" thought Leonore, even while putting her arm around Dorothy, and trying blindly to comfort her.
"Is it a message, Mrs. Rivington?" asked the man, opening the carriage-door.
"Ask for Mr. Melton, or Mr. Duer, and say Mrs. Rivington wishes to see one of them." Dorothy dried her eyes, and braced up. Before Leonore had time to demand an explanation, Peter's gentlemanly scoundrel was at the door.
"What is it, Mrs. Rivington?" he asked.
"Mr. Duer, is there any bad news from New York?"
"Yes. A great strike on the Central is on, and the troops have been called in to keep order."
"Is that all the news?" asked Dorothy.
"Thank you," said Dorothy. "Home, Portman."
The two women were absolutely silent during the drive. But they kissed each other in parting, not with the peck which women so often give each other, but with a true kiss. And when Leonore, in crossing the porch, encountered the mastiff which Peter had given her, she stopped and kissed him too, very tenderly. What is more, she brought him inside, which was against the rules, and put him down before the fire. Then she told the footman to bring her the evening-papers, and sitting down on the rug by Betise, proceeded to search them, not now for the political outlook, but for the labor troubles. Leonore suddenly awoke to the fact that there were such things as commercial depressions and unemployed. She read it all with the utmost care. She read the outpourings of the Anarchists, in a combination of indignation, amazement and fear, "I never dreamed there could be such fearful wretches!" she said. There was one man—a fellow named Podds—whom the paper reported as shrieking in Union Square to a select audience:
"Rise! Wipe from the face of the earth the money power! Kill! Kill! Only by blood atonement can we lead the way to better things. To a universal brotherhood of love. Down with rich men! Down with their paid hirelings, the troops! Blow them in pieces!"
"Oh!" cried Leonore shuddering. "It's fearful. I wish some one would blow you in pieces!" Thereby was she proving herself not unlike Podds. All humanity have something of the Anarchist in them. Then Leonore turned to the mastiff and told him some things. Of how bad the strikers were, and how terrible were the Anarchists. "Yes, dear," she said, "I wish we had them here, and then you could treat them as they deserve, wouldn't you, Betise? I'm so glad he has my luck-piece!"
A moment later her father and another man came into the hall from the street, compelling Leonore to assume a more proper attitude.
"Hello, Dot!" said Watts. "Still up? Vaughan and I are going to have a game of billiards. Won't you score for us?"
"Yes," said Leonore.
"Bad news from New York, isn't it?" said Vaughan, nonchalantly, as he stood back after his first play.
Leonore saw her father make a grimace at Vaughan, which Vaughan did not see. She said, "What?"
"I missed," said Watts. "Your turn, Will."
"Tell me the news before you shoot?" said Leonore.
"The collision of the strikers and the troops."
"Was any one hurt?" asked Leonore, calmly scoring two to her father's credit.
"Yes. Eleven soldiers and twenty-two strikers."
"What regiment was it?" asked Leonore.
"Colonel Stirling's," said Vaughan, making a brilliant masse. "Fortunately it's a Mick regiment, so we needn't worry over who was killed."
Leonore thought to herself: "You are as bad every bit as Podds!" Aloud she said, "Did it say who were killed?"
"No. The dispatch only said fourteen dead."
"That was a beautiful shot," said Leonore. "You ought to run the game out with that position. I think, papa, that I'll go to bed. I find I'm a little tired. Good-night, Mr. Vaughan." Leonore went upstairs, slowly, deep in thought. She did not ring for her maid. On the contrary she lay down on her bed in her dinner-gown, to its everlasting detriment. "I know he isn't hurt," she said, "because I should feel it. But I wish the telegram had said." She hardly believed herself, apparently, for she buried her head in the pillow, and began to sob quietly. "If I only had said good-bye," she moaned.
Early the next morning Watts found Leonore in the hall.
"How pale my Dot is!" he exclaimed.
"I didn't sleep well," said Leonore.
"Aren't you going to ride with me?"
"No. I don't feel like it this morning," said Leonore.
As Watts left the hall, a servant entered it.
"I had to wait, Miss D'Alloi," he said. "No papers are for sale till eight o'clock."
Leonore took the newspaper silently and went to the library. Then she opened it and looked at the first column. She read it hurriedly.
"I knew he wasn't hurt," she said, "because I would have felt it, and because he had my luck piece." Then she stepped out of one of the windows, called Betise to her, and putting her arms about his neck, kissed him.
When the New York papers came things were even better, for they recorded the end of the strike. Leonore even laughed over that big, big D. "I can't imagine him getting so angry," she said "He must have a temper, after all." She sang a little, as she fixed the flowers in the vases, and one of the songs was "Happiness." Nor did she snub a man who hinted at afternoon tea, as she had a poor unfortunate who suggested tennis earlier in the day.
While they were sipping their tea, however, Watts came in from the club.
"Helen," he said, going to the bay window farthest from the tea-table, "come here I want to say something."
They whispered for a moment, and then Mrs. D'Alloi came back to her tea.
"Won't you have a cup, papa?" asked Leonore.
"'Not to-day, dear," said Watts, with an unusual tenderness in his voice.
Leonore was raising a spoon to her mouth, but suddenly her hand trembled a little. After a glance at her father and mother, she pushed her tea-cup into the centre of the table as if she had finished it, though it had just been poured. Then she turned and began to talk and laugh with the caller.
But the moment the visitor was out of the room, Leonore said:
"What is it, papa?"
Watts was standing by the fire. He hesitated. Then he groaned. Then he went to the door. "Ask your mother," he said, and went out of the room.
"Mamma?" said Leonore.
"Don't excite yourself, dear," said her mother. "I'll tell you to-morrow."
Leonore was on her feet. "No," she said huskily, "tell me now."
"Wait till we've had dinner."
"Mamma," cried Leonore, appealingly, "don't you see that—that—that I suffer more by not knowing it? Tell me."
"Oh, Leonore," cried her mother, "don't look that way. I'll tell you; but don't look that way!"
Mrs. D'Alloi put her arms about Leonore. "The Anarchists have exploded a bomb."
"Yes?" said Leonore.
"And it killed a great many of the soldiers."
"Thank you, mamma," said Leonore. She unclasped her mother's arms, and went towards the door.
"Leonore," cried her mother, "stay here with me, dear."
"I'd rather be alone," said Leonore, quietly. She went upstairs to her room and sank down by an ottoman which stood in the middle of the floor. She sat silent and motionless, for over an hour, looking straight before her at nothing, as Peter had so often done. Is it harder to lose out of life the man or woman whom one loves, or to see him or her happy in the love of another. Is the hopelessness of the impossible less or greater than the hopelessness of the unattainable?
Finally Leonore rose, and touched her bell. When her maid came she said, "Get me my travelling dress." Ten minutes later she came into the library, saying to Watts.
"Papa, I want you to take me to New York, by the first train."
"Are you crazy, my darling?" cried Watts. "With riots and Anarchists all over the city."
"I must go to New York," said Leonore. "If you won't take me, I'll go with madame."
"Not for a moment—" began Watts.
"Papa," cried Leonore, "don't you see it's killing me? I can't bear it—" and Leonore stopped.
"Yes, Watts, we must," said Mrs. D'Alloi.
Two hours later they were all three rolling towards New York. It was a five hours' ride, but Leonore sat the whole distance without speaking, or showing any consciousness of her surroundings. For every turn of those wheels seemed to fall into a rhythmic repetition of: "If I had only said 'good-bye.'"
The train was late in arriving, and Watts tried to induce Leonore to go to a hotel for the night. She only said "No. Take me to him," but it was in a voice which Watts could not disregard. So after a few questions at the terminal, which produced no satisfactory information, Watts told the cabman to drive to the City Hall Park.
They did not reach it, however, for at the corner of Centre Street and Chambers, there came a cry of "halt," and the cab had to stop.
"You can't pass this line," said the sentry. "You must go round by Broadway."
"Why?" asked Watts.
"The street is impassable."
Watts got out, and held a whispered dialogue with the sentry. This resulted in the summoning of the officer of the watch. In the mean time Leonore descended and joined them. Watts turned and said to her: "The sentry says he's here."
Presently an officer came up.
"An' what do the likes av yez want at this time av night?" he inquired crossly. "Go away wid yez."
"Oh, Captain Moriarty," said Leonore, "won't you let me see him? I'm Miss D'Alloi."
"Shure," said Dennis, "yez oughtn't to be afther disturbin' him. It's two nights he's had no sleep."
Leonore suddenly put her hand on Dennis's arm. "He's not killed?" she whispered, as if she could not breathe, and the figure swayed a little.
"Divil a bit! They got it wrong entirely. It was that dirty spalpeen av a Podds."
"Are you sure?" said Leonore, pleadingly. "You are not deceiving me?"
"Begobs," said Dennis, "do yez think Oi could stand here wid a dry eye if he was dead?"
Leonore put her head on Dennis's shoulder, and began to sob softly. For a moment Dennis looked aghast at the results of his speech, but suddenly his face changed. "Shure," he whispered, "we all love him just like that, an that's why the Blessed Virgin saved him for us."
Then Leonore, with tears in her eyes, said, "I felt it," in the most joyful of voices. A voice that had a whole Te Deum in it.
"Won't you let me see him?" she begged. "I won't wake him, I promise you."
"That yez shall," said Dennis. "Will yez take my arm?" The four passed within the lines. "Step careful," he continued. "There's pavin' stones, and rails, and plate-glass everywheres. It looks like there'd been a primary itself."
All thought that was the best of jokes and laughed. They passed round a great chasm in the street and sidewalk. Then they came to long rows of bodies stretched on the grass, or rather what was left of the grass, in the Park. Leonore shuddered. "Are they all dead?" she whispered. "Dead! Shurely not. It's the regiment sleepin'," she was told. They passed between these rows for a little distance. "This is him," said Dennis, "sleepin' like a babby." Dennis turned his back and began to describe the explosion to Mrs. D'Alloi and Watts.
There, half covered with a blanket, wrapped in a regulation great coat, his head pillowed on a roll of newspapers, lay Peter. Leonore knelt down on the ground beside him, regardless of the proprieties or the damp. She listened to hear if he was breathing, and when she found that he actually was, her face had on it a little thanksgiving proclamation of its own. Then with the prettiest of motherly manners, she softly pulled the blanket up and tucked it in about his arms. Then she looked to see if there was not something else to do. But there was nothing. So she made more. "The poor dear oughtn't to sleep without something on his head. He'll take cold." She took her handkerchief and tried to fix it so that it should protect Peter's head. She tried four different ways, any one of which would have served; but each time she thought of a better way, and had to try once more. She probably would have thought of a fifth, if Peter had not suddenly opened his eyes.
"Oh!" said Leonore, "what a shame? I've waked you up. And just as I had fixed it right."
Peter studied the situation calmly, without moving a muscle. He looked at the kneeling figure for some time. Then he looked up at the arc light a little distance away. Then he looked at the City Hall clock. Then his eyes came back to Leonore. "Peter," he said finally, "this is getting to be a monomania. You must stop it."
"What?" said Leonore, laughing at his manner as if it was intended as a joke.
Peter put out his hand and touched Leonore's dress. Then he rose quickly to his feet. "What is the matter?" he asked.
"Hello," cried Watts. "Have you come to? Well. Here we are, you see. All the way from Newport to see you in fragments, only to be disappointed. Shake!"
Peter said nothing for a moment. But after he had shaken hands, he said, "It's very good of you to have thought of me."
"Oh," explained Leonore promptly, "I'm always anxious about my friends. Mamma will tell you I am."
Peter turned to Leonore, who had retired behind her mother. "Such friends are worth having," he said, with a strong emphasis on "friends."
Then Leonore came out from behind her mother. "'How nice he's stupid," she thought. "He is Peter Simple, after all."
"Well," said Watts, "'your friends are nearly dying with hunger and want of sleep, so the best thing we can do, since we needn't hunt for you in scraps, is to go to the nearest hotel. Where is that?"
"You'll have to go uptown," said Peter. "Nothing down here is open at this time."
"I'm not sleepy," said Leonore, "but I am so hungry!"
"Serves you right for eating no din—" Watts started to say, but Leonore interjected, in an unusually loud voice. "Can't you get us something?"
"Nothing; that will do for you, I'm afraid," said Peter. "I had Dennett send up one of his coffee-boilers so that the men should have hot coffee through the night, and there's a sausage-roll man close to him who's doing a big business. But they'll hardly serve your purpose."
"The very thing," cried Watts. "What a lark!"
"I can eat anything," said Leonore.
So they went over to the stands. Peter's blanket was spread on the sidewalk, and three Newport swells, and the Democratic nominee for governor sat upon it, with their feet in the gutter, and drank half-bean coffee and ate hot sausage rolls, made all the hotter by the undue amount of mustard which the cook would put in. What is worse, they enjoyed it as much as if it was the finest of dinners. Would not society have been scandalized had it known of their doings?
How true it is that happiness is in a mood rather than in a moment. How eagerly we prepare for and pursue the fickle sprite, only to find our preparations and chase giving nothing but dullness, fatigue, and ennui. But then how often without exertion or warning, the sprite is upon us, and tinges the whole atmosphere. So it was at this moment, with two of the four. The coffee might have been all beans, and yet it would have been better than the best served in Viennese cafes. The rolls might have had even a more weepy amount of mustard, and yet the burning and the tears would only have been the more of a joke. The sun came up, as they ate, talked and laughed, touching everything about them with gold, but it might have poured torrents, and the two would have been as happy.
For Leonore was singing to herself: "He isn't dead. He isn't dead."
And Peter was thinking: "She loves me. She must love me."
After the rolls and coffee had been finished, Peter walked with his friends to their cab. It had all been arranged that they were to go to Peter's quarters, and get some sleep. These were less than eight blocks away, but the parting was very terrific! However, it had to be done, and so it was gone through with. Hard as it was, Peter had presence of mind enough to say, through the carriage window.
"You had better take my room, Miss D'Alloi, for the spare room is the largest. I give you the absolute freedom of it, minus the gold-box. Use anything you find."
Then Peter went back to the chaotic street and the now breakfasting regiment, feeling that strikes, anarchists, and dynamite were only minor circumstances in life.
About noon Leonore came back to life, and succeeded in making a very bewitching toilet despite the absence of her maid. Whether she peeped into any drawers or other places, is left to feminine readers to decide. If she did, she certainly had ample authority from Peter.
This done she went into the study, and, after sticking her nose into some of the window flowers, she started to go to the bookshelves. As she walked her foot struck something which rang with a metallic sound, as it moved on the wood floor. The next moment, a man started out of a deep chair.
"Oh!" was all Leonore said.
"I hope I didn't startle you. You must have kicked my sword."
"I—I didn't know you were here!" Leonore eyed the door leading to the hall, as if she were planning for a sudden flight.
"The regiment was relieved by another from Albany this morning. So I came up here for a little sleep."
"What a shame that I should have kept you out of your room," said Leonore, still eyeing the door. From Leonore's appearance, one would have supposed that she had purloined something of value from his quarters, and was meditating a sudden dash of escape with it.
"I don't look at it in that light," said Peter. "But since you've finished with the room for the moment, I'll borrow the use temporarily. Strikers and anarchists care so little for soap and water themselves, that they show no consideration to other people for those articles." Peter passed through the doorway towards which Leonore had glanced. Then Leonore's anxious look left her, and she no longer looked at the door. One would almost have inferred that Leonore was afraid of Peter, but that is absurd, since they were such good friends, since Leonore had come all the way from Newport to see him, and since Leonore had decided that Peter must do as she pleased.
Yet, curiously enough, when Peter returned in about twenty minutes, the same look came into Leonore's face.
"We shall have something to eat in ten minutes," Peter said, "for I hear your father and mother moving."
Leonore looked towards the door. She did not intend that Peter should see her do it, but he did.
"Now what shall we do or talk about?" he said. "You know I am host and mustn't do anything my guests don't wish."
Peter said this in the most matter-of-fact way, but Leonore, after a look from under her eyelashes at him, stopped thinking about the door. She went over to one of the window-seats.
"Come and sit here by me," she said, "and tell me everything about it."
So Peter described "the war, and what they fought each other for," as well as he was able, for, despite his intentions, his mind would wander as those eyes looked into his.
"I am glad that Podds was blown to pieces!" said Leonore.
"Don't say that."
"Because it's one of those cases of a man of really good intentions, merely gone wrong. He was a horse-car driver, who got inflammatory rheumatism by the exposure, and was discharged. He suffered fearful pain, and saw his family suffer for bread. He grew bitter, and took up with these wild theories, not having enough original brain force, or education, to see their folly. He believed firmly in them. So firmly, that when I tried to reason him out of them many years ago he came to despise me and ordered me out of his rooms. I had once done him a service, and felt angered at what I thought ungrateful conduct, so I made no attempt to keep up the friendliness. He knew yesterday that dynamite was in the hands of some of those men, and tried to warn me away. When I refused to go, he threw himself upon me, to protect me from the explosion. Nothing else saved my life."
"Peter, will your regiment have to do anything more?"
"I don't think so. The dynamite has caused a reaction, and has driven off the soberer part of the mob. The pendulum, when it swings too far, always swings correspondingly far the other way. I must stay here for a couple of days, but then if I'm asked, I'll go back to Newport."
"Papa and mamma want you, I'm sure," said Leonore, glancing at the door again, after an entire forgetfulness.
"Then I shall go," said Peter, though longing to say something else.
Leonore looked at him and said in the frankest way; "And I want you too." That was the way she paid Peter for his forbearance.
Then they all went up on the roof, where in one corner there were pots of flowers about a little table, over which was spread an awning. Over that table, too, Jenifer had spread himself. How good that breakfast was! What a glorious September day it was! How beautiful the view of the city and the bay was! It was all so thoroughly satisfactory, that the three nearly missed the "limited." Of course Peter went to the station with them, and, short as was the time, he succeeded in obtaining for one of the party, "all the comic papers," "the latest novel," a small basket of fruit, and a bunch of flowers, not one of which, with the exception of the latter, the real object of these attentions wanted in the least.
Just here it is of value to record an interesting scientific discovery of Leonore's, because women so rarely have made them. It was, that the distance from New York to Newport is very much less than the distance from Newport to New York.
Curiously enough, two days later, his journey seemed to Peter the longest railroad ride he had ever taken. "His friend" did not meet him this time. His friend felt that her trip to New York must be offset before she could resume her proper self-respect. "He was very nice," she had said, in monologue, "about putting the trip down to friendship. And he was very nice that morning in his study. But I think his very niceness is suspicious, and so I must be hard on him!" A woman's reasoning is apt to seem defective, yet sometimes it solves problems not otherwise answerable.
Leonore found her "hard" policy harder than she thought for. She told Peter the first evening that she was going to a card-party. "I can't take you," she said.
"I shall be all the better for a long night's sleep," said Peter, calmly.
This was bad enough, but the next morning, as she was arranging the flowers, she remarked to some one who stood and watched her, "Miss Winthrop is engaged. How foolish of a girl in her first season! Before she's had any fun, to settle down to dull married life."
She had a rose in her hand, prepared to revive Peter with it, in case her speech was too much for one dose, but when she glanced at him, he was smiling happily.
"What is it?" asked Leonore, disapprovingly.
"I beg your pardon," said Peter. "I wasn't listening. Did you say Miss Winthrop was married?"
"What were you smiling over?" said Leonore, in the same voice.
"I was thinking of—of—." Then Peter hesitated and laughed.
"Of what?" asked Leonore.
"You really mustn't ask me," laughed Peter.
"Of what were you thinking?"
"Of eyelashes," confessed Peter.
"It's terrible!" cogitated Leonore, "I can't snub him any more, try as I may."
In truth, Peter was not worrying any longer over what Leonore said or did to him. He was merely enjoying her companionship. He was at once absolutely happy, and absolutely miserable. Happy in his hope. Miserable in its non-certainty. To make a paradox, he was confident that she loved him, yet he was not sure. A man will be absolutely confident that a certain horse will win a race, or he will be certain that a profit will accrue from a given business transaction. Yet, until the horse has won, or the profit is actually made, he is not assured. So it was with Peter. He thought that he had but to speak, yet dared not do it. The present was so certain, and the future might have such agonies. So for two days he merely followed Leonore about, enjoying her pretty ways and hardly heeding her snubs and petulance. He was very silent, and often abstracted, but his silence and abstraction brought no relief to Leonore, and only frightened her the more, for he hardly let her out of his sight, and the silent devotion and tenderness were so obvious that Leonore felt how absolutely absurd was her pretence of unconsciousness. In his very "Miss D'Alloi" now, there was a tone in his voice and a look in his face which really said the words: "My darling." Leonore thought this was a mean trick, of apparently sustaining the conventions of society, while in reality outraging them horribly, but she was helpless to better his conduct. Twice unwittingly he even called her "Leonore" (as he had to himself for two months), thereby terribly disconcerting the owner of that name. She wanted to catch him up and snub him each time, but she was losing her courage. She knew that she was walking on a mine, and could not tell what chance word or deed of hers would bring an explosion. "And then what can I say to him?" she asked.
What she said was this:
Peter came downstairs the third evening of his stay "armed and equipped as the law directs" for a cotillion. In the large hallway, he found Leonore, likewise in gala dress, resting her hand on the tall mantel of the hall, and looking down at the fire. Peter stopped on the landing to enjoy that pose. He went over every detail with deliberation. But girl, gown, and things in general, were much too tempting to make this distant glimpse over lengthy. So he descended to get a closer view. The pose said nothing, and Peter strolled to the fire, and did likewise. But if he did not speak he more than made up for his silence with his eyes.
Finally the pose said, "I suppose it's time we started?"
"Some one's got to speak," the pose had decided. Evidently the pose felt uneasy under that silent gaze.
"It's only a little past ten," said Peter, who was quite satisfied with the status quo.
Then silence came again. After this had held for a few moments, the pose said: "Do say something!"
"Something," said Peter. "Anything else I can do for you?"
"Unless you can be more entertaining, we might as well be sitting in the Purdies' dressing-rooms, as standing here. Suppose we go to the library and sit with mamma and papa?" Clearly the pose felt nervous.
Peter did not like this idea. So he said: "I'll try to amuse you. Let me tell you something very interesting to me. It's my birthday to-morrow."
"Oh!" said Leonore. "Why didn't you tell me sooner? Then I would have had a gift for you."
"That's what I was afraid of."
"Don't you want me to give you something?"
"Yes." Then Peter's hands trembled, and he seemed to have hard work in adding, "I want you to give me—a kiss."
"Peter!" said Leonore, drawing back grieved and indignant. "I didn't think you would speak to me so. Of all men!"
"You mustn't think," said Peter, "that I meant to pain you."
"You have," said Leonore, almost ready to cry.
"Because," said Peter, "that isn't what I meant." Peter obviously struggled to find words to say what he did mean as he had never struggled over the knottiest of legal points, or the hardest of wrestling matches. "If I thought you were a girl who would kiss a man for the asking, I should not care for a kiss from you." Peter strayed away from the fire uneasily. "But I know you are not." Peter gazed wildly round, as if the furnishings, of the hall might suggest the words for which he was blindly groping. But they didn't, and after one or two half-begun sentences, he continued: "I haven't watched you, and dreamed about you, and loved you, for all this time, without learning what you are." Peter roamed about the great hall restlessly. "I know that your lips will never give what your heart doesn't." Then his face took a despairing look, and he continued quite rapidly: "I ask without much hope. You are so lovely, while I—well I'm not a man women care for. I've tried to please you. Tried to please you so hard, that I may have deceived you. I probably am what women say of me. But if I've been otherwise with you it is because you are different from any other woman in the world." Here the sudden flow of words ended, and Peter paced up and down, trying to find what to say. If any one had seen Peter as he paced, without his present environment, he would have thought him a man meditating suicide. Suddenly his voice and face became less wild, and he said tenderly: "There is no use in my telling you how I love you. You know it now, or will never learn it from anything I can say." Peter strode back to the fire. "It is my love which asks for a kiss. And I want it for the love you will give with it, if you can give it."
Leonore had apparently kept her eyes on the blazing logs during the whole of this monologue. But she must have seen something of Peter's uneasy wanderings about the room, for she had said to herself: "Poor dear! He must be fearfully in earnest, I never knew him so restless. He prowls just like a wild animal."
A moment's silence came after Peter's return to the fire. Then he said: "Will you give it to me, Miss D'Alloi?" But his voice in truth, made the words, "Give me what I ask, my darling."
"Yes," said Leonore softly. "On your birthday." Then Leonore shrank back a little, as if afraid that her gift would be sought sooner. No young girl, however much she loves a man, is quite ready for that first kiss. A man's lips upon her own are too contrary to her instinct and previous training to make them an unalloyed pleasure. The girl who is over-ready for her lover's first kiss, has tasted the forbidden fruit already, or has waited over-long for it.
Peter saw the little shrinking and understood it. What was more, he heeded it as many men would not have done. Perhaps there was something selfish in his self-denial, for the purity and girlishness which it indicated were very dear to him, and he hated to lessen them by anything he did. He stood quietly by her, and merely said, "I needn't tell you how happy I am!"
Leonore looked up into Peter's face. If Leonore had seen there any lack of desire to take her in his arms and kiss her, she would never have forgiven him. But since his face showed beyond doubt that he was longing to do it, Leonore loved him all the better for his repression of self, out of regard for her. She slipped her little hand into Peter's confidingly, and said, "So am I." It means a good deal when a girl does not wish to run away from her lover the moment after she has confessed her love.
So they stood for some time, Leonore looking down into the fire, and Peter looking down at Leonore.
Finally Peter said, "Will you do me a great favor?"
"No," said Leonore, "I've done enough for one night. But you can tell me what it is."
"Will you look up at me?"
"What for?" said Leonore, promptly looking up.
"I want to see your eyes," said Peter.
"Why?" asked Leonore, promptly looking down again.
"Well," said Peter, "I've been dreaming all my life about some eyes, and I want to see what my dream is like in reality."
"That's a very funny request," said Leonore perversely. "You ought to have found out about them long ago. The idea of any one falling in love, without knowing about the eyes!"
"But you show your eyes so little," said Peter. "I've never had a thoroughly satisfying look at them."
"You look at them every time I look at you," said Leonore. "Sometimes it was very embarrassing. Just supposing that I showed them to you now, and that you find they aren't what you like?"
"I never waste time discussing impossibilities," said Peter. "Are you going to let me see them?"
"How long will it take?"
"I can tell better after I've seen them," said Peter, astutely.
"I don't think I have time this evening," said Leonore, still perversely, though smiling a look of contentment down into the fire.
Peter said nothing for a moment, wishing to give Leonore's conscience a chance to begin to prick. Then be ended the silence by saying: "If I had anything that would give you pleasure, I wouldn't make you ask for it twice."
"That's—different," said Leonore. "Still, I'll—well, look at them," and Leonore lifted her eyes to Peter's half laughingly and half timidly.
Peter studied those eyes in silence—studied them till Leonore, who did not find that steady look altogether easy to bear, and yet was not willing to confess herself stared out of countenance, asked: "Do you like them?"
"Yes," said Peter.
"Is that all you can say? Other people have said very complimentary things!" said Leonore, pretending to be grieved over the monosyllable, yet in reality delighting in its expressiveness as Peter said it.
"I think," said Peter, "that before I can tell you what I think of your eyes, we shall have to invent some new words."
Leonore looked down again into the fire, smiling a satisfied smile. Peter looked down at that down-turned head, also with a satisfied smile. Then there was another long silence. Incidentally it is to be noted that Peter still held the hand given him some time before. To use a poker term, Peter was standing "pat," and wished no change. Once or twice the little hand had hinted that it had been held long enough, but Peter did not think so, and the hand had concluded that it was safest to let well alone. If it was too cruel It might rouse the sleeping lion which the owner of that hand knew to exist behind that firm, quiet face.
Presently Peter put his unoccupied hand in his breast-pocket, and produced a small sachet. "I did something twice," he said, "that I have felt very meanly about at times. Perhaps you'll forgive me now?" He took from the sachet, a glove, and a small pocket-handkerchief, and without a word showed them to Leonore.
Leonore looked at them. "That's the glove I lost at Mrs. Costell's, isn't it?" she asked gravely.
Peter nodded his head.
"And is that the handkerchief which disappeared in your rooms, at your second dinner?"
Peter nodded his head.
"And both times you helped me hunt for them?"
Peter nodded his head. He at last knew how prisoners felt when he was cross-examining them.
"I knew you had them all the time," said Leonore laughing. "It was dreadfully funny to see you pretend to hunt, when the guilty look on your own face was enough to show you had them. That's why I was so determined to find them."
Peter knew how prisoners felt when the jury says, "Not guilty."
"But how did the holes come in them?" said Leonore. "Do you have mice in your room?" Leonore suddenly looked as worried as had Peter the moment before.
Peter put his hand in the sachet, and produced a bent coin. "Look at that," he said.
"Why, it's my luck-piece!" exclaimed Leonore. "And you've spoiled that too. What a careless boy!"
"No," said Peter. "They are not spoiled to me. Do you know what cut these holes and bent this coin?"
"Yes. Your luck-piece stopped it, or I shouldn't be here."
"There," said Leonore triumphantly, "I said you weren't hurt, when the news of the shooting came, because I knew you had it. I was so glad you had taken it!"
"I am going to give it back to you by and by," said Peter.
"I had rather that you should have it," said Leonore. "I want you to have my luck."
"I shall have it just the same even after I've given it to you," said Peter.
"I'm going to have it made into a plain gold ring," replied Peter, "and when I give it to you, I shall have all your luck."
Then came a silence.
Finally Peter said, "Will you please tell me what you meant by talking about five years!"
"Oh! Really, Peter," Leonore hastened to explain, in an anxious way, as if Peter had charged her with murder or some other heinous crime. "I did think so. I didn't find it out till—till that night. Really! Won't you believe me?"
Peter smiled. He could have believed anything.
"Now," he said, "I know at last what Anarchists are for."
His ready acceptance of her statement made Leonore feel a slight prick of conscience. She said: "Well—Peter—I mean—that is—at least, I did sometimes think before then—that when I married, I'd marry you—but I didn't think it would come so soon. Did you? I thought we'd wait. It would have been so much more sensible!"
"I've waited a long time," said Peter.
"Poor dear!" said Leonore, putting her other hand over Peter's, which held hers.
Peter enjoyed this exquisite pleasure in silence for a time, but the enjoyment was too great not to be expressed So he said;
"I like your hands almost as much as your eyes."
"That's very nice," said Leonore.
"And I like the way you say 'dear,'" said Peter. "Don't you want to say it again?"
"No, I hate people who say the same thing twice."
Then there was a long pause.
"What poor things words are?" said Peter, at the end of it.
"I know just what you mean," said Leonore.
Clearly they both meant what they said, for there came another absence of words. How long the absence would have continued is a debatable point. Much too soon a door opened.
"Hello!" said a voice. "Back already? What kind of an evening had you?"
"A very pleasant one," said Peter, calmly, yet expressively.
"Let go my hand, Peter, please," a voice whispered imploringly. "Oh, please! I can't to-night. Oh, please!"
"Say 'dear,'" whispered Peter, meanly.
"Please, dear," said Leonore. Then Leonore went towards the stairs hurriedly.
"Not off already, Dot, surely?"
"Yes. I'm going to bed."
"Come and have a cigar, Peter," said Watts, walking towards the library.
"In a moment," said Peter. He went to the foot of the stairs and said, "Please, dear," to the figure going up.
"Well?" said the figure.
Peter went up five steps. "Please," he begged.
"No," said the figure, "but there is my hand."
So Peter turned the little soft palm uppermost and kissed it Then he forgot the cigar and Watts. He went to his room, and thought of—of his birthday gift.
"GATHER YE ROSEBUDS WHILE YE MAY."
If Peter had roamed about the hall that evening, he was still more restless the next morning. He was down early, though for no apparent reason, and did nothing but pass from hall to room, and room to hall, spending most of his time in the latter, however.
How Leonore could have got from her room into the garden without Peter's seeing her was a question which puzzled him not a little, when, by a chance glance out of a window, he saw that personage clipping roses off the bushes. He did not have time to spare, however, to reason out an explanation. He merely stopped roaming, and went out to—to the roses.
"Good-morning," said Leonore pleasantly, though not looking at Peter, as she continued her clipping.
Peter did not say anything for a moment. Then he asked, "Is that all?"
"I don't know what you mean," said Leonore, innocently. "Besides, someone might be looking out of a window."
Peter calmly took hold of the basket to help Leonore sustain its enormous weight. "Let me help you carry it," he said.
"Very well," said Leonore. "But there's no occasion to carry my hand too. I'm not decrepit."
"I hoped I was helping you," said Peter.
"You are not. But you may carry the basket, since you want to hold something."
"Very well," said Peter meekly.
"Do you know," said Leonore, as she snipped, and dropped roses into the basket, "you are not as obstinate as people say you are."
"Don't deceive yourself on that score," said Peter.
"Well! I mean you are not absolutely determined to have your own way."
"I never give up my own views," said Peter, "unless I can see more to be gained by so doing. To that extent I am not at all obstinate."
"Suppose," said Leonore, "that you go and cut the roses on those furthest bushes while I go in and arrange these?"
"Suppose," said Peter calmly, and with an evident lack of enthusiasm.
"Well. Will you?"
"The motion to adjourn," said Peter, "is never debatable."
"Do you know," said Leonore, "that you are beginning very badly?"
"That is what I have thought ever since I joined you."
"Then why don't you go away?"
"Why make bad, worse?"
"There," said Leonore, "Your talking has made me cut my finger, almost."
"Let me see," said Peter, reaching out for her hand.
"I'm too busy," said Leonore.
"Do you know," said Peter, "that if you cut many more buds, you won't have any more roses for a week. You've cut twice as many roses as you usually do."
"Then I'll go in and arrange them. I wish you would give Betise a run across the lawn."
"I never run before breakfast," said Peter. "Doctors say it's very bad."
So he followed her in. Leonore became tremendously occupied in arranging the flowers, Peter became tremendously occupied in watching her.
"You want to save one of those for me," he said, presently.
"Take one," said Leonore.
"My legal rule has been that I never take what I can get given me. You can't do less than pin it in my button-hole, considering that it is my birthday."
"If I have a duty to do, I always get through with it at once," said Leonore. She picked out a rose, arranged the leaves as only womankind can, and, turning to Peter, pinned it in his button-hole. But when she went to take her hands away, she found them held against the spot so firmly that she could feel the heart-beats underneath.
"Oh, please," was all she said, appealingly, while Peter's rose seemed to reflect some of its color on her cheeks.
"I don't want you to give it to me if you don't wish," said Peter, simply. "But last night I sat up late thinking about it. All night I dreamed about it. When I waked up this morning, I was thinking about it. And I've thought about it ever since. I can wait, but I've waited so long!"
Then Leonore, with very red cheeks, and a very timid manner, held her lips up to Peter.
"Still," Leonore said presently, when again arranging of the roses, "since you've waited so long, you needn't have been so slow about it when you did get it."
"I'm sorry I did it so badly," said Peter, contritely. "I always was slow! Let me try again?"
"Then show me how?"
"Now who's obstinate?" inquired Peter.
"You," said Leonore, promptly. "And I don't like it."
"Oh, Leonore," said Peter. "If you only knew how happy I am!"
Leonore forgot all about her charge of obstinacy. "So am I," she said. "And I won't be obstinate any more."
"Was that better?" Peter asked, presently.
"No," said Leonore. "That wouldn't have been possible. But you do take so long! I shan't be able to give you more than one a day. It takes so much time."
"But then I shall have to be much slower about it."
"Then I'll only give you one every other day."
"Then I shall be so much the longer."
"Yes," sighed Leonore. "You are obstinate, after all!"
So they went on till breakfast was announced. Perhaps it was foolish. But they were happy in their foolishness, if such it was. It is not profitable to write what they said. It is idle to write of the week that followed. To all others what they said and did could only be the sayings and doings of two very intolerable people. But to them it was what can never be told in words—and to them we will leave it.
It was Leonore who put an end to this week. Each day that Peter lingered brought letter and telegraphic appeals to him from the party-leaders, over which Peter only laughed, and which he not infrequently failed even to answer. But Mr. Pell told Leonore something one day which made her say to Peter later:
"Is it true that you promised to speak in New York on the fifteenth?"
"Yes. But I wrote Green last night saying I shan't."
"And were you to have made a week of speeches through the State?"
"Yes. But I can't spare the time."
"Yes, you can. You must leave to-morrow and make them."
"I can't," groaned Peter.
"Who says so?"
"I do. Please, Peter? I so want to see you win. I shall never forgive myself if I defeat you."
"But a whole week," groaned Peter.
"We shall break up here on the eighteenth, and of course you would have to leave a day sooner. So you'll not be any better off."
"Well," sighed Peter, "If I do as you want, will you give me the seven I shall lose before I go."
"Dear me, Peter," sighed Leonore, "you oughtn't to ask them, since it's for your own sake. I can't keep you contented. You do nothing but encroach."
"I should get them if I was here," said Peter, "And one a day is little enough! I think, if I oblige you by going away, I shouldn't be made to suffer more than is necessary."
"I'm going to call you Growley," said Leonore, patting him on the cheek. Then she put her own against it. "Thank you, dear," she said. "It's just as hard for me."
So Peter buckled on his armor and descended into the arena. Whether he spoke well or ill, we leave it to those to say who care to turn back to the files of the papers of that campaign. Perhaps, however, it may be well to add that an entirely unbiassed person, after reading his opening speeches, delivered in the Cooper Union and the Metropolitan Opera House, in New York City, wrote him: "It is libel to call you Taciturnity. They are splendid! How I wish I could hear you—and see you, dear. I'm very lonely, and so are Betise and Tawney-eye. We do nothing but wander round the house all day, waiting for your letter, and the papers." Three thousand people in the Brooklyn Rink were kept waiting for nearly ten minutes by Peter's perusal of that letter. But when he had finished it, and had reached the Rink, he out-Stirlinged Stirling. A speaker nowadays speaks far more to the people absent than to the people present. Peter did this that evening. He spoke, it is true, to only one person that night, but it was the best speech of the campaign.
A week later, Peter rang the bell of the Fifty-seventh Street house. He was in riding costume, although he had not been riding.
"Mr. and Mrs. D'Alloi are at breakfast," he was informed.
Peter rather hurriedly laid his hat and crop on the hall-table, and went through the hall, but his hurry suddenly came to an end, when a young lady, carrying her napkin, added herself to the vista. "I knew it must be you," she said, offering her hand very properly—(on what grounds Leonore surmised that a ring at the door-bell at nine o'clock meant Peter, history does not state)—"I wondered if you knew enough to come to breakfast. Mamma sent me out to say that you are to come right in."
Peter was rather longer over the handshake than convention demands, but he asked very politely, "How are your father and—?" But just then the footman closed a door behind him, and Peter's interest in parents suddenly ceased.
"How could you be so late?" said some one presently. "I watched out of the window for nearly an hour."
"My train was late. The time-table on that road is simply a satire!" said Peter. Yet it is the best managed road in the country, and this particular train was only seven minutes overdue.
"You have been to ride, though," said Leonore.
"No. I have an engagement to ride with a disagreeable girl after breakfast, so I dressed for it."
"Suppose the disagreeable girl should break her engagement—or declare there never was one?"
"She won't," said Peter. "It may not have been put in the contract, but the common law settles it beyond question."
Leonore laughed a happy laugh. Then she asked: "For whom are those violets?"
"I had to go to four places before I could get any at this season," said Peter. "Ugly girls are just troublesome enough to have preferences. What will you give me for them?"
"Some of them," said Leonore, and obtained the bunch. Who dares to say after that that women have no business ability nor shrewdness? It is true that she kissed the fraction returned before putting it in Peter's button-hole, which raises the question which had the best of the bargain.
"I'm behind the curtain, so I can't see anything," said a voice from a doorway, "and therefore you needn't jump; but I wish to inquire if you two want any breakfast?"
A few days later Peter again went up the steps of the Fifty-seventh Street house. This practice was becoming habitual with Peter; in fact, so habitual that his cabby had said to him this very day, "The old place, sir?" Where Peter got the time it is difficult to understand, considering that his law practice was said to be large, and his political occupations just at present not small. But that is immaterial. The simple fact that Peter went up the steps is the essential truth.
From the steps, he passed into a door; from the door he passed into a hall; from a hall he passed into a room; from a room he passed into a pair of arms.
"Thank the Lord, you've come," Watts remarked. "Leonore has up and down refused to make the tea till you arrived."
"I was at headquarters, and they would talk, talk, talk," said Peter. "I get out of patience with them. One would think the destinies of the human race depended on this campaign!"
"So the Growley should have his tea," said a vision, now seated on the lounge at the tea-table. "Then Growley will feel better."
"I'm doing that already," said Growley, sitting down on the delightfully short lounge—now such a fashionable and deservedly popular drawing-room article. "May I tell you how you can make me absolutely contented?"
"I suppose that will mean some favor from me," said Leonore. "I don't like children who want to be bribed out of their bad temper. Nice little boys are never bad-tempered."
"I was only bad-tempered," whispered Peter, "because I was kept from being with you. That's cause enough to make the best-tempered man in the universe murderous."
"Well?" said Leonore, mollifying, "what is it this time?"
"I want you all to come down to my quarters this evening after dinner. I've received warning that I'm to be serenaded about nine o'clock, and I thought you would like to hear it."
"What fun," cried Leonore. "Of course we'll go. Shall you speak?"
"No. We'll sit in my window-seats merely, and listen."
"How many will there be?"
"It depends on the paper you read. The 'World' will probably say ten thousand, the 'Tribune' three thousand, and the 'Voice of Labor' 'a handful.' Oh! by the way, I brought you a 'Voice'." He handed Leonore a paper, which he took from his pocket.
Now this was simply shameful of him! Peter had found, whenever the papers really abused him, that Leonore was doubly tender to him, the more, if he pretended that the attacks and abuse pained him. So he brought her regularly now that organ of the Labor party which was most vituperative of him, and looked sad over it just as long as was possible, considering that Leonore was trying to comfort him.
"Oh, dear!" said Leonore. "That dreadful paper. I can't bear to read it. Is it very bad to-day?"
"I haven't read it," said Peter, smiling. "I never read—" then Peter coughed, suddenly looked sad, and continued—"the parts that do not speak of me." "That isn't a lie," he told himself, "I don't read them." But he felt guilty. Clearly Peter was losing his old-time straightforwardness.
"After its saying that you had deceived your clients into settling those suits against Mr. Bohlmann, upon his promise to help you in politics, I don't believe they can say anything worse," said Leonore, putting two lumps of sugar (with her fingers) into a cup of tea. Then she stirred the tea, and tasted it. Then she touched the edge of the cup with her lips. "Is that right?" she asked, as she passed it to Peter.
"Absolutely," said Peter, looking the picture of bliss. But then he remembered that this wasn't his role, so he looked sad and said: "That hurt me, I confess. It is so unkind."
"Poor dear," whispered a voice. "You shall have an extra one to-day, and you shall take just as long as you want!"
Now, how could mortal man look grieved, even over an American newspaper, with that prospect in view? It is true that "one" is a very indefinite thing. Perhaps Leonore merely meant another cup of tea. Whatever she meant, Peter never learned, for, barely had he tasted his tea when the girl on the lounge beside him gave a cry. She rose, and as she did so, some of the tea-things fell to the floor with a crash.
"Leonore!" cried Peter. "What—"
"Peter!" cried Leonore. "Say it isn't so?" It was terrible to see the suffering in her face and to hear the appeal in her voice.
"My darling," cried the mother, "what is the matter?"
"It can't be," cried Leonore. "Mamma! Papa! Say it isn't so?"
"What, my darling?" said Peter, supporting the swaying figure.
"This," said Leonore, huskily, holding out the newspaper.
Mrs. D'Alloi snatched it. One glance she gave it. "Oh, my poor darling!" she cried. "I ought not to have allowed it. Peter! Peter! Was not the stain great enough, but you must make my poor child suffer for it?" She shoved Peter away, and clasped Leonore wildly in her arms.
"Mamma!" cried Leonore. "Don't talk so! Don't! I know he didn't! He couldn't!"
Peter caught up the paper. There in big head-lines was:
SPEAK UP, STIRLING!
* * * * *
WHO IS THIS BOY?
DETECTIVE PELTER FINDS A WARD UNKNOWN TO THE COURTS, AND EXPLANATIONS ARE IN ORDER FROM
The rest of the article it is needless to quote. What it said was so worded as to convey everything vile by innuendo and inference, yet in truth saying nothing.
"Oh, my darling!" continued Mrs. D'Alloi. "You have a right to kill me for letting him come here after he had confessed it to me. But I—Oh, don't tremble so. Oh, Watts! We have killed her."
Peter held the paper for a moment. Then he handed it to Watts. He only said "Watts?" but it was a cry for help and mercy as terrible as Leonore's had been the moment before.
"Of course, chum," cried Watts. "Leonore, dear, it's all right. You mustn't mind. Peter's a good man. Better than most of us. You mustn't mind."
"Don't," cried Leonore. "Let me speak. Mamma, did Peter tell you it was so?"
All were silent.
"Mamma! Say something? Papa! Peter! Will nobody speak?"
"Leonore," said Peter, "do not doubt me. Trust me and I will—"
"Tell me," cried Leonore interrupting, "was this why you didn't come to see us? Oh! I see it all! This is what mamma knew. This is what pained you. And I thought it was your love for—!" Leonore screamed.
"My darling," cried Peter wildly, "don't look so. Don't speak—"
"Don't touch me," cried Leonore. "Don't. Only go away." Leonore threw herself upon the rug weeping. It was fearful the way those sobs shook her.
"It can't be," said Peter. "Watts! She is killing herself."
But Watts had disappeared from the room.
"Only go away," cried Leonore. "That's all you can do now. There's nothing to be done."
Peter leaned over and picked up the prostrate figure, and laid it tenderly on the sofa. Then he kissed the edge of her skirt. "Yes. That's all I can do," he said quietly. "Good-bye, sweetheart. I'll go away." He looked about as if bewildered, then passed from the room to the hall, from the hall to the door, from the door to the steps. He went down them, staggering a little as if dizzy, and tried to walk towards the Avenue. Presently he ran into something. "Clumsy," said a lady's voice. "I beg your pardon," said Peter mechanically. A moment later he ran into something again. "I beg your pardon," said Peter, and two well-dressed girls laughed to see a bareheaded man apologize to a lamp-post. He walked on once more, but had not gone ten paces when a hand was rested on his shoulder.
"Now then, my beauty," said a voice. "You want to get a cab, or I shall have to run you in. Where do you want to go?"
"I beg your pardon," said Peter.
"Come," said the policeman shaking him, "where do you belong? My God! It's Mr. Stirling. Why, sir. What's the matter?"
"I think I've killed her," said Peter.
"He's awfully screwed," ejaculated the policeman. "And him of all men! Nobody shall know." He hailed a passing cab, and put Peter into it. Then he gave Peter's office address, and also got in. He was fined the next day for being off his beat "without adequate reasons," but he never told where he had been. When they reached the building, he helped Peter into the elevator. From there he helped him to his door. He rang the bell, but no answer came. It was past office-hours, and Jenifer having been told that Peter would dine up-town, had departed on his own leave of absence. The policeman had already gone through Peter's pockets to get money for cabby, and now he repeated the operation, taking possession of Peter's keys. He opened the door and, putting him into a deep chair in the study, laid the purse and keys on Peter's desk, writing on a scrap of paper with much difficulty: "mr. stirling $2.50 I took to pay the carriage. John Motty policeman 22 precinct," he laid it beside the keys and purse. Then he went back to his beat.
And what was Peter doing all this time? Just what he now did. He tried to think, though each eye felt as if a red hot needle was burning in it. Presently he rose, and began to pace the floor, but he kept stumbling over the desk and chairs. As he stumbled he thought, sometimes to himself, sometimes aloud: "If I could only think! I can't see. What was it Dr. Pilcere said about her eyes? Or was it my eyes? Did he give me some medicine? I can't remember. And it wouldn't help her. Why can't I think? What is this pain in her head and eyes? Why does everything look so dark, except when those pains go through her head? They feel like flashes of lightning, and then I can see. Why can't I think? Her eyes get in the way. He gave me something to put on them. But I can't give it to her. She told me to go away. To stop this agony! How she suffers. It's getting worse every moment. I can't remember about the medicine. There it comes again. Now I know. It's not lightning. It's the petroleum! Be quick, boys. Can't you hear my darling scream? It's terrible. If I could only think. What was it the French doctor said to do, if it came back? No. We want to get some rails." Peter dashed himself against a window. "Once more, men, together. Can't you hear her scream? Break down the door!" Peter caught up and hurled a pot of flowers at the window, and the glass shattered and fell to the floor and street "If I could see. But it's all dark. Are those lights? No. It's too late. I can't save her from it."
So he wandered physically and mentally. Wandered till sounds of martial music came up through the broken window. "Fall in," cried Peter. "The Anarchists are after her. It's dynamite, not lightning. Podds, Don't let them hurt her. Save her. Oh! save her I Why can't I get to her? Don't try to hold me," he cried, as he came in contact with a chair. He caught it up and hurled it across the room, so that it crashed into the picture-frames, smashing chair and frames into fragments. "I can't be the one to throw it," he cried, in an agonized voice. "She's all I have. For years I've been so lonely. Don't I can't throw it. It kills me to see her suffer. It wouldn't be so horrible if I hadn't done it myself. If I didn't love her so. But to blow her up myself. I can't. Men, will you stand by me, and help me to save her?"
The band of music stopped. A moment's silence fell and then up from the street, came the air of: "Marching through Georgia," five thousand voices singing:
"Rally round our party, boys; Rally to the blue, And battle for our candidate, So sterling and so true, Fight for honest government, boys, And down the vicious crew; Voting for freedom and Stirling.
"Hurrah, hurrah, for Stirling, brave and strong. Hurrah, hurrah, for Stirling, never wrong. And roll the voters up in line, Two hundred thousand strong; Voting for freedom and Stirling."
"I can't fight so many. Two hundred thousand! I have no sword. I didn't shoot them. No! I only gave the order. It hurt me, but I didn't mean to hurt her. She's all I have. Do you think I intended to kill her? No! No sacrifice would be too great. And you can talk to me of votes! Two hundred thousand votes! I did my best for her. I didn't mean to hurt her. And I went to see the families. I went to see them all. If I only could think. But she is suffering too much. I can't think as long as she lies on the rug, and trembles so. See the flashes of lightning pass through her head. Don't bury your face in the rug. No wonder it's all dark. Try to think, and then it will be all right."
Up from the street came the air of: "There were three crows," and the words:
"Steven Maguire has schemed to be elected November fourth, Steven Maguire has schemed to be elected November fourth. Steven Maguire has schemed and schemed, But all his schemes will end in froth! And the people will all shout, Hurrah, rah, rah, rah. And the people will all shout, Hurrah, rah, rah, rah.
"For Peter Stirling elected will be upon November fourth, For Peter Stirling elected will be upon November fourth, For Peter Stirling elected will be And Steven Maguire will be in broth, And the people will all shout, Hurrah, rah, rah, rah, And the people will all shout, Hurrah, rah, rah, rah."
"It's Steven Maguire. He never could be honest. If I had him here!" Peter came in contact with a chair. "Who's that? Ah! It's you. You've killed her. Now!" And another chair went flying across the room with such force, that the door to the hall flew off its hinges, and fell with a crash. "I've killed him" screamed Peter. "I've—No, I've killed my darling. All I have in the world!"
And so he raved, and roamed, and stumbled, and fell; and rose, and roamed, and raved, and stumbled, and fell, while the great torchlight procession sang and cheered him from below.
He was wildly fighting his pain still when two persons, who, after ringing and ringing, had finally been let in by Jenifer's key, stood where the door had been.
"My God," cried one, in terror. "He's crazy! Come away!"
But the other, without a word or sign of fear, went up to that wild-looking figure, and put her hand in his.
Peter stopped his crazed stride.
"I can't think, I tell you. I can't think as long as you lie there on the rug. And your eyes blaze so. They feel just like balls of fire."
"Please sit down, Peter. Please? For my sake. Here. Here is the chair. Please sit down."
Peter sank back in the chair. "I tell you I can't think. They do nothing but burn. It's the petroleum!" He started forward, but a slender arm arrested his attempt to rise, and he sank back again as if it had some power over him.
"Hyah, miss. Foh de lub ub heaben, put some ub dis yar on he eyes," said Jenifer, who had appeared with a bottle, and was blubbering enough to supply a whole whaling fleet. "De doctor he done give dis yar foh de Aspic nerve." Which is a dish that Jenifer must have invented himself, for it is not discoverable even on the fullest of menus.
Leonore knelt in front of Peter, and, drenching her fingers with the wash, began rubbing it softly over his eyes. It has always been a problem whether it was the remedy or the ends of those fingers which took those lines of suffering out of Peter's face and made him sit quietly in that chain Those having little faith in medicines, and much faith in a woman's hands, will opine the latter. Doctors will not.
Sufficeth it to say, after ten minutes of this treatment, during which Peter's face had slowly changed, first to a look of rest, and then to one which denoted eagerness, doubt and anxiety, but not pain, that he finally put out his hands and took Leonore's.
"You have come to me," he said, "Has he told you?"
"Who? What?" asked Leonore.
"You still think I could?" cried Peter. "Then why are you here?" He opened his eyes wildly and would have risen, only Leonore was kneeling in front of the chair still.
"Don't excite yourself, Peter," begged Leonore. "We'll not talk of that now. Not till you are better."
"What are you here for?" cried Peter. "Why did you come—?"
"Oh, please, Peter, be quiet."
"Tell me, I will have it." Peter was exciting himself, more from Leonore's look than by what she said.
"Oh, Peter. I made papa bring me—because—Oh! I wanted to ask you to do something. For my sake!"
"What is it?"
"I wanted to ask you," sobbed Leonore, "to marry her. Then I shall always think you were what I—I—have been loving, and not—" Leonore laid her head down on his knee, and sobbed bitterly.
Peter raised Leonore in his arms, and laid the little head on his shoulder.
"Dear one," he said, "do you love me?"
"Yes," sobbed Leonore.
"And do you think I love you?"
"Now look into your heart. Could you tell me a lie?"
"Nor can I you. I am not the father of that boy, and I never wronged his mother."
"But you told—" sobbed Leonore.
"I lied to your mother, dear."
"For what?" Leonore had lifted her head, and there was a look of hope in her eyes, as well as of doubt.
"Because it was better at that time than the truth. But Watts will tell you that I lied."
"Yes, Dot. Dear old Peter speaks the truth."
"But if you lied to her, why not to me?"
"I can't lie to you, Leonore. I am telling you the truth. Won't you believe me?"
"I do," cried Leonore. "I know you speak the truth. It's in your face and voice." And the next moment her arms were about Peter's neck, and her lips were on his.
Just then some one in the "torchlight" shouted:
"What's the matter wid Stirling?"
And a thousand voices joyfully yelled;
"He's all right."
And so was the crowd.
Mr. Pierce was preparing to talk. Usually Mr. Pierce was talking. Mr. Pierce had been talking already, but it had been to single listeners only, and for quite a time in the last three hours Mr. Pierce had been compelled to be silent. But at last Mr. Pierce believed his moment had come. Mr. Pierce thought he had an audience, and a plastic audience at that. And these three circumstances in combination made Mr. Pierce fairly bubbling with words. No longer would he have to waste his precious wit and wisdom, tete-a-tete, or on himself.
At first blush Mr. Pierce seemed right in his conjecture. Seated—in truth, collapsed, on chairs and lounges, in a disarranged and untidy-looking drawing-room, were nearly twenty very tired-looking people. The room looked as if there had just been a free fight there, and the people looked as if they had been the participants. But the multitude of flowers and the gay dresses proved beyond question that something else had made the disorder of the room and had put that exhausted look upon the faces.
Experienced observers would have understood it at a glimpse. From the work and fatigues of this world, people had gathered for a little enjoyment of what we call society. It is true that both the room and its occupants did not indicate that there had been much recreation. But, then, one can lay it down as an axiom that the people who work for pleasure are the hardest-working people in the world; and, as it is that for which society labors, this scene is but another proof that they get very much fatigued over their pursuit of happiness and enjoyment, considering that they hunt for it in packs, and entirely exclude the most delicious intoxicant known—usually called oxygen—from their list of supplies from the caterer. Certainly this particular group did look exhausted far beyond the speech-making point. But this, too, was a deception. These limp-looking individuals had only remained in this drawing-room for the sole purpose of "talking it over," and Mr. Pierce had no walk-over before him.
Mr. Pierce cleared his throat and remarked: "The development of marriage customs and ceremonies from primeval days is one of the most curious and—"
"What a lovely wedding it has been!" said Dorothy, heaving a sigh of fatigue and pleasure combined.
"Wasn't it!" went up a chorus from the whole party, except Mr. Pierce, who looked eminently disgusted.
"As I was remarking—" began Mr. Pierce again.
"But the best part," said Watts, who was lolling on one of the lounges, "was those 'sixt' ward presents. As Mr. Moriarty said; 'Begobs, it's hard it would be to find the equal av that tureen!' He was right! Its equal for ugliness is inconceivable."
"Yet the poor beggars spent eight hundred dollars on it" sighed Lispenard, wearily.
"Relative to the subject—" said Mr. Pierce.
"And Leonore told me," said a charmingly-dressed girl, "that she liked it better than any other present she had received."
"Oh, she was more enthusiastic," laughed Watts, "over all the 'sixt' ward and political presents than she was over what we gave her. We weren't in it at all with the Micks. She has come out as much a worshipper of hoi-polloi as Peter."
"I don't believe she cares a particle for them," said our old friend, the gentlemanly scoundrel; "but she worships them because they worship him."
"Well," sighed Lispenard, "that's the way things go in life. There's that fellow gets worshipped by every one, from the Irish saloon-keeper up to Leonore. While look at me! I'm a clever, sweet-tempered, friendly sort of a chap, but nobody worships me. There isn't any one who gives a second thought for yours truly. I seem good for nothing, except being best man to much luckier chaps. While look at Peter! He's won the love of a lovely girl, who worships him to a degree simply inconceivable. I never saw such idealization."
"Then you haven't been watching Peter," said Mrs. D'Alloi, who, as a mother, had no intention of having it supposed that Leonore was not more loved than loving.
"Taking modern marriage as a basis—" said Mr. Pierce.
"Oh," laughed Dorothy, "there's no doubt they are a pair, and I'm very proud of it, because I did it."
"Cock-a-doodle-doo!" crowed Ray.
"I did," said Dorothy, "and my own husband is not the one to cast reflection on my statement."
"He's the only one who dares," said Ogden.
"Well, I did. Leonore would never have cared for such a silent, serious man if I hadn't shown her that other women did, and—"
"Nonsense," laughed Ogden. "It was Podds did it. Dynamite is famous for the uncertainty of the direction in which it will expend its force, and in this case it blew in a circle, and carried Leonore's heart clear from Newport to Peter."
"Or, to put it scientifically," said Lispenard, "along the line of least resistance."
"It seems to me that Peter was the one who did it," said Le Grand. "But of course, as a bachelor, I can't expect my opinion to be accepted."
"No," said Dorothy. "He nearly spoiled it by cheapening himself. No girl will think a man is worth much who lets her tramp on him."
"Still," said Lispenard, "few girls can resist the flattery of being treated by a man as if she is the only woman worth considering in the world, and Peter did that to an extent which was simply disgraceful. It was laughable to see the old hermit become social the moment she appeared, and to see how his eyes and attention followed her. And his learning to dance! That showed how things were."
"He began long before any of you dreamed," said Mrs. D'Alloi. "Didn't he, Watts?"
"Undoubtedly," laughed Watts. "And so did she. I really think Leonore did quite as much in her way, as Peter did. I never saw her treat any one quite as she behaved to Peter from the very first. I remember her coming in after her runaway, wild with enthusiasm over him, and saying to me 'Oh, I'm so happy. I've got a new friend, and we are going to be such friends always!'"
"That raises the same question," laughed Ogden, "that the Irishman did about the street-fight, when he asked 'Who throwed that last brick first?'"
"Really, if it didn't seem too absurd," said Watts, "I should say they began it the moment they met."
"I don't think that at all absurd," said a gray-haired, refined looking woman who was the least collapsed of the group, or was perhaps so well bred as to conceal her feelings. "I myself think it began before they even met. Leonore was half in love with Peter when she was in Europe, and Peter, though he knew nothing of her, was the kind of a man who imagines an ideal and loves that. She happened to be his ideal."
"Really, Miss De Voe," said Mr. Pierce, "you must have misjudged him. Though Peter is now my grandson, I am still able to know what he is. He is not at all the kind of man who allows himself to be controlled by an ideal."
"I do not feel that I have ever known Peter. He does not let people perceive what is underneath," said Miss De Voe. "But of one thing I am sure. Nearly everything he does is done from sentiment. At heart he is an idealist."
"Oh!" cried several.
"That is a most singular statement," said Mr. Pierce. "There is not a man I know who has less of the sentimental and ideal in him. An idealist is a man of dreams and romance. Peter is far too sensible a fellow to be that. There is nothing heroic or romantic in him."
"Nonsense, Paternus," said Watts. "You don't know anything about the old chap. You've only seen him as a cool clever lawyer. If your old definition of romance is right: that it is 'Love, and the battle between good and evil,' Peter has had more true romance than all the rest of us put together."
"No," said Mr. Pierce. "You have merely seen Peter in love, and so you all think he is romantic. He isn't. He is a cool man, who never acts without weighing his actions, and therein has lain the secret of his success. He calmly marks out his line of life, and, regardless of everything else, pursues it. He disregards everything not to his purpose, and utilizes everything that serves. I predicted great success for him many years ago when he was fresh from college, simply from a study of his mental characteristics and I have proved myself a prophet. He has never made a slip, legally, politically, or socially. To use a yachting expression, he has 'made everything draw.' An idealist, or a man of romance and fire and impulse could never succeed as he has done. It is his entire lack of feeling which has led to his success. Indeed—"
"I can't agree with you," interrupted Dorothy, sitting up from her collapse as if galvanized into life and speech by Mr. Pierce's monologue. "You don't understand Peter. He is a man of great feeling. Think of that speech of his about those children! Think of his conduct to his mother as long as she lived! Think of the goodness and kindness he showed to the poor! Why, Ray says he has refused case after case for want of time in recent years, while doing work for people in his ward which was worth nothing. If—"
"They were worth votes," interjected Mr. Pierce.
"Look at his buying the Costell place in Westchester when Mr. Costell died so poor, and giving it to Mrs. Costell," continued Dorothy, warming with her subject. "Look at his going to those strikers' families, and arranging to help them. Were those things done for votes? If I could only tell you of something he once did for me, you would not say that he was a man without feeling."
"I have no doubt," said Mr. Pierce blandly, "that he did many things which, on their face, seemed admirable and to indicate feeling. But if carefully examined, they would be found to have been advantageous to him. Any service he could have done to Mrs. Rivington surely did not harm him. His purchase of Costell's place pleased the political friends of the dead leader. His aiding the strikers' families placated the men, and gained him praise from the press. I dislike greatly to oppose this rose-colored view of Peter, but, from my own knowledge of the man, I must. He is without feeling, and necessarily makes no mistakes, nor is he led off from his own ambitions by sentiment of any kind. When we had that meeting with the strikers, he sat there, while all New York was seething, with mobs and dead just outside the walls, as cool and impassive as a machine. He was simply determined that we should compromise, because his own interests demanded it, and he carried his point merely because he was the one cool man at that meeting. If he had had feeling he could not have been cool. That one incident shows the key-note of his success."
"And I say his strong sympathies and feeling were the key-note," reiterated Dorothy.
"I think," said Pell, "that Peter's great success lay in his ability to make friends. It was simply marvellous. I've seen it, over and over again, both in politics and society. He never seemed to excite envy or bitterness. He had a way of doing things which made people like him. Every one he meets trusts him. Yet nobody understands him. So he interests people, without exciting hostility. I've heard person after person say that he was an uninteresting, ordinary man, and yet nobody ever seemed to forget him. Every one of us feels, I am sure, that, as Miss De Voe says, he had within something he never showed people. I have never been able to see why he did or did not do hundreds of things. Yet it always turned out that what he did was right. He makes me think of the Frenchwoman who said to her sister, 'I don't know why it is, sister, but I never meet any one who's always right but myself.'"
"You have hit it," said Ogden Ogden, "and I can prove that you have by Peter's own explanation of his success. I spoke to him once of a rather curious line of argument, as it seemed to me, which he was taking in a case, and he said: 'Ogden, I take that course because it is the way Judge Potter's mind acts. If you want to convince yourself, take the arguments which do that best, but when you have to deal with judges or juries, take the lines which fit their capacities. People talk about my unusual success in winning cases. It's simply because I am not certain that my way and my argument are the only way and the only argument. I've studied the judges closely, so that I know what lines to take, and I always notice what seems to interest the jury most, in each case. But, more important than this study, is the fact that I can comprehend about how the average man will look at a certain thing. You see I am the son of plain people. Then I am meeting all grades of mankind, and hearing what they say, and getting their points of view. I have never sat in a closet out of touch with the world and decided what is right for others, and then spent time trying to prove it to them. In other words, I have succeeded, because I am merely the normal or average man, and therefore am understood by normal or average people, or by majorities, to put it in another way.'"
"But Mr. Stirling isn't a commonplace man," said another of the charmingly dressed girls. "He is very silent, and what he says isn't at all clever, but he's very unusual and interesting."
"Nevertheless," said Ogden, "I believe he was right. He has a way of knowing what the majority of people think or feel about things. And that is the secret of his success, and not his possession or lack of feeling."
"You none of you have got at the true secret of Peter's success," said Ray. "It was his wonderful capacity for work. To a lazy beggar like myself it is marvellous. I've known that man to work from nine in the morning till one at night, merely stopping for meals."
"Yet he did not seem an ambitious man," said Le Grand. "He cared nothing for social success, he never has accepted office till now, and he has refused over and over again law work which meant big money."
"No," said Ray. "Peter worked hard in law and politics. Yet he didn't want office or money. He could more than once have been a judge, and Costell wanted him governor six years ago. He took the nomination this year against his own wishes. He cared as little for money or reputation in law, as he cared for society, and would compromise cases which would have added greatly to his reputation if he had let them go to trial. He might have been worth double what he is to-day, if he had merely invested his money, instead of letting it lie in savings banks or trust companies. I've spoken about it repeatedly to him, but he only said that he wasn't going to spend time taking care of money, for money ceased to be valuable when it had to be taken care of; its sole use to him being to have it take care of him. I think he worked for the sake of working."
"That explains Peter, certainly. His one wish was to help others," said Miss De Voe. "He had no desire for reputation or money, and so did not care to increase either."
"And mark my words," said Lispenard. "From this day, he'll set no limit to his endeavors to obtain both."
"He can't work harder than he has to get political power," said an usher. "Think of how anxious he must have been to get it, when he would spend so much time in the slums and saloons! He couldn't have liked the men he met there."
"I've taken him to task about that, and told him he had no business to waste his time so," said Ogden; "but he said that he was not taking care of other people's money or trying to build up a great business, and that if he chose to curtail his practice, so as to have some time to work in politics, it was a matter of personal judgment."
"I once asked Peter," said Miss De Voe, "how he could bear, with his tastes and feelings, to go into saloons, and spend so much time with politicians, and with the low, uneducated people of his district. He said, 'That is my way of trying to do good, and it is made enjoyable to me by helping men over rough spots, or by preventing political wrong. I have taken the world and humanity as it is, and have done what I could, without stopping to criticise or weep over shortcomings and sins. I admire men who stand for noble impossibilities. But I have given my own life to the doing of small possibilities. I don't say the way is the best. But it is my way, for I am a worker, not a preacher. And just because I have been willing to do things as the world is willing to have them done, power and success have come to me to do more.' I believe it was because Peter had no wish for worldly success, that it came to him."
"You are all wrong," groaned Lispenard. "I love Peter as much as I love my own kin, with due apology to those of it who are present, but I must say that his whole career has been the worst case of sheer, downright luck of which I ever saw or heard."
"Luck!" exclaimed Dorothy.
"Yes, luck!" said Lispenard. "Look at it. He starts in like all the rest of us. And Miss Luck calls him in to look at a sick kitten die. Very ordinary occurrence that! Health-board report several hundred every week. But Miss Luck knew what she was about and called him in to just the right kind of a kitten to make a big speech about. Thereupon he makes it, blackguarding and wiping the floor up with a millionaire brewer. Does the brewer wait for his turn to get even with him? Not a bit. Miss Luck takes a hand in and the brewer falls on Peter's breast-bone, and loves him ever afterwards. My cousin writes him, and he snubs her. Does she annihilate him as she would have other men? No. Miss Luck has arranged all that, and they become the best of friends."
"Lispenard—" Miss De Voe started to interrupt indignantly, but Lispenard continued, "Hold on till I finish. One at a time. Well. Miss Luck gets him chosen to a convention by a fluke and Peter votes against Costell's wishes. What happens? Costell promptly takes him up and pushes him for all he's worth. He snubs society, and society concludes that a man who is more snubby and exclusive than itself must be a man to cultivate. He refuses to talk, and every one promptly says: 'How interesting he is!' He gets in the way of a dynamite bomb. Does it kill him? Certainly not. Miss Luck has put an old fool there, to protect him. He swears a bad word. Does it shock respectable people? No! Every one breathes easier, and likes him the better. He enrages and shoots the strikers. Does he lose votes? Not one. Miss Luck arranges that the directors shall yield things which they had sworn not to yield; and the strikers are reconciled and print a card in praise of him. He runs for office. Do the other parties make a good fight of it? No. They promptly nominate a scoundrelly demagogue and a nonentity who thinks votes are won by going about in shirtsleeves. So he is elected by the biggest plurality the State has ever given. Has Miss Luck done enough? No. She at once sets every one predicting that he'll get the presidential nomination two years from now, if he cares for it. Be it friend or enemy, intentional or unintentional, every one with whom he comes in contact gives him a boost. While look at me! There isn't a soul who ever gave me help. It's been pure, fire-with-your-eyes-shut luck.
"Was this morning luck too?" asked a bridesmaid.
"Absolutely," sighed Lispenard. "And what luck! I always said that Peter would never marry, because he would insist on taking women seriously, and because at heart he was afraid of them to a woeful degree, and showed it in such a way, as simply to make women think he didn't like them individually. But Miss Luck wouldn't allow that. Oh, no! Miss Luck isn't content even that Peter shall take his chance of getting a wife, with the rest of us. She's not going to have any accidents for him. So she takes the loveliest of girls and trots her all over Europe, so that she shan't have friends, or even know men well. She arranges too, that the young girl shall have her head filled with Peter by a lot of admiring women, who are determined to make him into a sad, unfortunate hero, instead of the successful man he is. A regular conspiracy to delude a young girl. Then before the girl has seen anything of the world, she trots her over here. Does she introduce them at a dance, so that Peter shall be awkward and silent? Not she! She puts him where he looks his best—on a horse. She starts the thing off romantically, so that he begins on the most intimate footing, before another man has left his pasteboard. So he's way ahead of the pack when they open cry. Is that enough? No! At the critical moment he is called to the aid of his country. Gets lauded for his pluck. Gets blown up. Gets everything to make a young girl worship him. Pure luck! It doesn't matter what Peter says or does. Miss Luck always arranges that it turn up the winning card."
"There is no luck in it," cried Mr. Pierce. "It was all due to his foresight and shrewdness. He plans things beforehand, and merely presses the button. Why, look at his marriage alone? Does he fall in love early in life, and hamper himself with a Miss Nobody? Not he! He waits till he has achieved a position where he can pick from the best, and then he does exactly that, if you'll pardon a doating grandfather's saying it."
"Well," said Watts, "we have all known Peter long enough to have found out what he is, yet there seems to be a slight divergence of opinion. Are we fools, or is Peter a gay deceiver?"
"He is the most outspoken man I ever knew," said Miss De Voe.
"But he tells nothing," said an usher.
"Yes. He is absolutely silent," said a bridesmaid.
"Except when he's speechifying," said Ray.
"And Leonore says he talks and jokes a great deal," said Watts.
"I never knew any one who is deceiving herself so about a man," said Dorothy. "It's terrible. What do you think she had the face to say to me to-day?"