"Mr. Storms is not in our set, dear," said Mrs. Hanway-Harley coldly.
"He is in my heart," returned Dorothy.
The self-willed one seated herself stoutly, and never another word could Mrs. Hanway-Harley draw from her.
Storri received the excuses for Dorothy's vacant place at table which Mrs. Hanway-Harley offered; for all that he read the reason of her absence, and his pride fretted under it as under a lash.
New Year's Day; and the diplomatic reception at the White House. The President stood in line with his Cabinet people, and the others filed by. Richard, being utterly the democrat, was, of course, utterly the aristocrat, since these be extremes that never fail to meet. Wherefore, Richard did not take his place in the procession and waver painfully forward, at a snail's pace, to shake the Presidential hand. It was a foolish ceremony at which Richard's self-respect rebelled. There was no hand, no masculine hand, at least, which Richard would wait in line to grasp.
Richard, while declining to become part of the pageant, looked on. It was worth while as a study in human nature. The President peculiarly claimed his notice; by every sign it was this man who would oppose Senator Hanway, if the latter gentleman achieved his ambition and was put forward to lead his party's ticket. Richard compared the present handshaking President with Senator Hanway, the latter being thereby advanced. The President was a smooth, smug personage, of an appetite rather than an ambition for office. Ambition is a captain, appetite a camp-follower; for which reason the President was one who would never lead, never oppose a movement. Essentially, he was of the candidate class. Indeed, he had, as an individual, the best characteristics of a canal. He was narrow, even, currentless, with a mental fall of two feet in the mile. He lived conservatively between his banks, and went never so foolishly lucid as to show you how shallow he was. Just a trifle thick, he seemed to the eye as deep as the skies were high; any six-foot question, however, would have sounded him.
And yet he was in his day much lauded as a safe executive. There may have been truth in that. Your man of timid, slim, and shallow mediocrities, comparable to a canal, is not to be despised. He will not be the Mississippi, truly; he will sweep away no bridges, overflow no regions roundabout; no navies will battle on his bosom; the world in its giant commerces will not make of him a thoroughfare. But he will mean safety and profit for a horde of little special selfish interests, and that is the sort of President a day dominated of Money demands. In the far Southwest the cattle barons knock the horns off cattle; a hornless steer comes to the slaughter pen more quietly and with less of threat to those who handle him. In a day when Money rules as King, its first care is to knock the horns off originality and brains. Money wants no great horned mental forces roaming the world; they might become a threat. Richard thought on these matters as he considered this conservative, careful White House one, whose pains had ever been to think nothing that hadn't been thought, say nothing that hadn't been said, do nothing that hadn't been done.
"He is like a bucket of spring water," thought Richard, as he turned away, "cool, pure, tasteless. But there isn't enough of him to put out a fire, or swim a boat, or turn the wheel of any mill of moment."
Richard went into the Green Drawing-room, where the younger, gayer spirits were "receiving behind the line." There he saw Dorothy and Bess. Before he could go to them, he caught the snarling accents of Storri. He turned; that Russ was almost at his elbow. Storri, as though for Richard's ear, was saying to a vapid young man whom Richard had seen at the club:
"Oh! that is Miss Harley;—the one with the blue eyes and black hair. Bad combination, believe me! I, who am a gentleman—a Russian gentleman—give you my word that blue eyes and black hair mean treason to a lover. No, I can't take you to her; she has shown a preference for me, and I do not care to distinguish her by too much notice until I have thought her over. On my soul, yes; I must think her over!"
Richard's hand fell heavy and rude on Storri's shoulder.
"Come with me," said he.
Storri had not counted on this; those sacred White House walls should have protected him. He looked appealingly at his friend.
"Your friend will pardon you," said Richard coolly, "and, for this time, you shall come back safe."
Richard drew Storri to a window, where they were by themselves.
"Pay heed to what I shall say," gritted Richard, and his eyes gave forth a gray glimmer, like a saber suddenly unsheathed: "You must never take Miss Harley's name upon your lips. Should you do so, I shall twist your neck as once I twisted your fingers."
Storri began a spluttering stammer of protest and reproach.
"Don't hector me!" whispered Richard, with a sharp fervor of ferocity that made Storri start, "or, when next we meet in the street, I'll take my cane and beat you like a dog!"
Storri turned and tried to hide the fear that fed upon him with a tinge of swagger. This in the White House—the palace of their President! Storri was more and more convinced that the Americans were a rabble and not a people!
"Remember!" said Richard, and the tones were like a threat of death.
That evening, early, Richard met Dorothy at Bess Marklin's. He made no revelations touching his colloquy with Storri. There was a thick down-come of snow, and the new flakes covered the street like feathers to a fluffy depth of two inches. As Dorothy and Richard reached the sidewalk on Dorothy's return to the Harley house, Richard, with the abrupt remark: "I'll save you from the snow, my dear!" caught Dorothy in those Pict arms and strode across.
Dorothy was so amazed by this gallant attention that she was over before she spoke a word. As Richard landed her, light as a leaf, within her father's portals, she said in remonstrance:
"What made you do it? Did you not see that odious Storri coming?"
"It was for Storri I did it. I wanted to emphasize some remarks I had the honor to make to him this afternoon."
Dorothy fluttered to her room to prepare for the seven-o'clock dinner, while her unconventional loved one turned with a hope of meeting Storri. The fierce truth was, Richard, who, as you have been told, was at bottom full as savage as the Russian, had gone hungering for hostilities with that nobleman. Storri's comments on Dorothy had exploded all the hateful powder in Richard's composition.
Storri may have had some glint of Richard's feeling; sure it was that, although bent upon dining at the Harley house when he was so unexpectedly treated by Richard and Dorothy to that picture of Paul and Virginia modernized, he wheeled upon his heel and disappeared. Richard, search as he might, met never the shadow nor the ghost of Storri.
Storri went direct to his rooms. All the wolves of anger and jealousy and hate were tearing at his soul. Richard's threats; and he too craven to make reply! Dorothy in Richard's arms; and he powerless to interfere! The day had been a day of fire for him! He must make a plan; he must have revenge.
Full of a black resolve, Storri tore open his desk. He took out those French shares and fluttered the little package of papers between his angry fingers as though the feel of them could give him consolation. He looked at those poor forgeries of his name by Mr. Harley. Then he wrote a note to that gentleman and urged him, by every name of business, to call without delay. Mr. Harley must come at once. The note in the hands of a messenger, Storri commenced to rove the floor like some rage-frenzied beast.
"We shall see!" he cried, tossing his hands. "I have the father in my fingers—aye! in these fingers! I can pull him to pieces like a toasted lark—yes, limb from pinion, I, Storri, shall tear him asunder! I can torture, I can crush! He is mine to destroy! My power over him shall be my power over her! The stubborn Dorothy shall come to me on her knees—to me, Storri, whom she has affronted! She shall beg my favor for her father! What should be the ransom? Who shall measure my demands when I have conquered? I, who am to have my neck twisted!—I, who am to be beaten like a dog!—I shall name to her the terms. They shall be ruin—ruin for her, ruin for him, ruin for all who have put their slights upon me! The proud Dorothy must give me herself to buy her father's safety! Her pride shall creep, her face lie in the dust! She shall be Storri's! When her beauty fades—in a year—in two years—I will cast her aside; I, Storri, whom these feeble people have defied!"
In the midst of the ravings of the hate-racked Storri, there came a tap. A card was thrust in. Storri's onyx eyes gloated as he read the name.
"Harley!" said Storri. Then to the one at the door: "Have him up!" His voice sunk to an exultant whisper as he heard Mr. Harley's step in the hall. "Now is my vengeance to begin the feast! They shall know, these feeble ones, what it is to brave a Russian!"
HOW MR. HARLEY FOUND HIMSELF A FORGER
In the economy of the Harleys, the gray mare was the better horse, at least the gray mare thought so. Mrs. Hanway-Harley put no faith in Mr. Harley. He was an acquiescent if not an obedient husband, and, rather than bicker, would submit to be moderately henpecked. When the henpecking was carried to excess, Mr. Harley did not peck back; he clapped on his hat, bolted for the door, and escaped. These measures, while effective in so far that they carried Mr. Harley beyond the immediate range of Mrs. Hanway-Harley's guns, left that wife and mother with a depleted opinion of Mr. Harley. She could not respect one who failed to give her battle, being offered proper provocation; and in that Mrs. Hanway-Harley was one with all the world. To fight is now and then an obligation.
Thinking thus lightly of Mr. Harley, and remembering, too, that Dorothy could coil him round her finger, quell him with a tear, Mrs. Hanway-Harley did not take him into her confidence as to those love proffers of Storri, and Dorothy's rebellion. What would have been the good? Mr. Harley's advice was nothing, while his countenance, as far as it went, would be given to Dorothy the disobedient. Also, he would go to Senator Hanway with the tangle. Such a course might bring her brother actively upon the field; and Mrs. Hanway-Harley had gleaned enough from her talk with Senator Hanway to know that, should he assume a part, it would not be in support of her interest. These considerations came and went in Mrs. Hanway-Harley's mind, with the result that she decided to say nothing to Mr. Harley.
Dorothy, for argument of modesty and a girl's reserve, emulated her mother's example of silence. For one thing, she felt herself in no danger. As against the demands of Mrs. Hanway-Harley, Dorothy, thus far, had held the high ground. Moreover, she was confident of final victory. No one could compel her either to receive Storri's addresses or cease to think of Richard. Dorothy added to this the knowledge that, should she draw Mr. Harley into her troubles by even so much as a word of their existence, Mrs. Hanway-Harley might be relied upon from that moment to charge him with being the author of every disappointment she underwent. Thus it came to pass that, as Mr. Harley complacently sat down to dinner that particular New Year's evening, he had not been given a murmur of those loves and hates and commands and defiances and promises and intermediations which made busy the closing days of the recent year for Dorothy, Richard, Bess, Storri, and Mrs. Hanway-Harley. Mr. Harley possessed an excellent appetite that New Year's evening; it might have been diminished of edge had his ignorance been less.
Mrs. Hanway-Harley looked for Storri to drop in, but since the promise of his coming was known only to herself—she did not care to furnish the news of it to Dorothy the rebellious—the failure of that nobleman to appear bred no general dismay. The dinner went soberly forward, and Mr. Harley especially derived great benefit therefrom.
Mr. Harley had just finished his final glass of wine, and was saying something fictional about a gentleman at the Arlington upon whom he ought to call, and what a bore calling upon the fictional gentleman would be, when Storri's note came into his hands. He glanced it over, and then seized upon it as the very thing to furnish a look of integrity to his story of the mythical one. He gave the note a petulant slap with the back of his fingers, and remarked:
"I declare! Here he is writing me to come at once."
Mr. Harley got into his hat and coat, and then got into the street, observing as he did so that he feared the business in hand might keep him far into the morning.
The guilty truth was this: Mr. Harley concealed a private purpose to play cards with a select circle of statesmen who owned a taste to begin the year with draw poker at Chamberlin's. However, there existed in the destinies of Mr. Harley not the faintest call for all this elaboration of deceit. Mrs. Hanway-Harley would not have uttered a whisper of objection had he openly declared for an absence of a fortnight, with the design of playing poker, nothing but poker, every moment of the time. But it is the vain fancy of some men to believe themselves and their company those things most longed for at home, when the precise converse of such condition of longing is the one which exists, and this fancy was among the weaknesses of Mr. Harley. Besides, he revered the truth so much that, like his Sunday coat, he employed it only on rare occasions, and when advantage could be arrived at in no other way. Truth was a pearl, and Mr. Harley felt strongly against casting it before the swine of every common occurrence, when mendacity would do as well or better. Wherefore, and to keep his hand in, Mr. Harley invariably romanced in whatever he vouchsafed of himself or his habits to Mrs. Hanway-Harley. Nor was this so unjust as at a first blink it might seem. If Mr. Harley misled Mrs. Hanway-Harley as to his personal movements, she in return told him nothing at all of her own, the result, to wit, total darkness, being the same for both. However, they were perfectly satisfied, rightly esteeming the situation one wherein, if ignorance were not bliss, at least it was folly to be wise.
The winter evening, still, not cold, was clear and crisp, with the snow squeaking cheerfully under foot, and Mr. Harley waddled on his way towards Storri's door in that blandness of mood which comes to one whose wine and dinner and stomach are in comfortable accord. Waddled is the word; for with his short legs, and that profundity of belt proper to gentlemen who have reached the thither side of middle age, and given years to good eating and drinking, Mr. Harley had long since ceased to walk.
Mr. Harley was not surprised by the urgent character of Storri's summons. Doubtless, the business related to Credit Magellan, and what steps in Wall Street and the Senate were being taken for a conquest of Northern Consolidated. Affairs in those theaters of commercial effort were as they should be. Things were moving slowly, they must of necessity move slowly, and Storri had grown impatient. The Russian's warmth was expected; Mr. Harley had read him long since like a primer book. Storri was excitable, volatile, full of fever and impulse, prone to go off at tangents. In some stress of nerves he had sent for Mr. Harley to urge expedition or ask for explanations. The thing had chanced before. Mr. Harley would cool him into calmness with a dozen words. Storri's poise restored, Mr. Harley would seek those speculative statesmen, lusting for draw-poker. He should be with them by ten o'clock—a ripe hour for cards. Mr. Harley would oppose poker in its usual form and argue for table-stakes—five thousand dollars a corner. Two of the speculative statesmen were not worth five thousand dollars. So much the better; in case he were fortunate, Mr. Harley would accept their paper. The last was to be preferred to money. Mr. Harley had many irons of legislation in the congressional fires; a statesman's note of hand should operate to pave the way when his influence and his vote were to be asked for. Should Mr. Harley lose at poker, his losses would be charged against that railroad and those coal companies whose interests about Congress it was Mr. Harley's mission to conserve. There was no doubt of the propriety of such charges; they belonged in any account which was intended to register the cost of legislation. If you but stop and think, you must see the truth of the above. Thus cantered the cogitations of Mr. Harley until, fetching up at his journey's end, he sent in his card to Storri.
At Mr. Harley's appearance, Storri's arm-tossing and raving ended abruptly. He became oily and purringly suave, and bid Mr. Harley light a cigar which he tendered. A cat will play with a mouse before coming to the final kill; and there was a broad streak of the feline in Storri. Now that his victim was within spring, he would play with him as preliminary to the supreme joy of that last lethal crunch.
Following the usual salutations, Mr. Harley sat in peace and favor with himself, waiting for Storri to begin. He would let Storri vent his excitement, blow off steam, as Mr. Harley expressed it; and then he would go about those calmative steps of explanation and assurance suggested of the case.
Storri strode up and down, eying Mr. Harley with a mixed expression of cruelty and triumph which, had Mr. Harley caught the picture of it, might have made him feel uneasy. However, Mr. Harley was not looking at Storri. He was thinking on ending the interview as quickly and conveniently as he might, and hurrying posthaste to those speculative ones.
"Why did I bring you here to-night?" asked Storri at last.
"Northern Consolidated, I suppose," said Mr. Harley, looking up.
Storri laughed, and a white flash of his teeth showed in a tigerish way.
"Come!" cried Storri, smiting his hands in a kind of rapture of cruelty; "I will not, what you call it, beat about the bush. It is not Credit Magellan; it is not Northern Consolidated; no, it is not business at all. What! shall Storri be forever at some grind of business? Shall he never pause for love? My Czar would tell you another tale. Listen, my friend. I have done you the honor—I, Storri, a Russian nobleman, have done you the honor to adore your daughter."
Mr. Harley gaped and stared; he could not have been more impressed had the statue of Liberty which topped the Capitol dome stepped down for a stroll in the Capitol grounds. And yet he was not shocked; if Dorothy had decided on Storri for her husband, well and good; he was too indulgent a father to quarrel with her.
"I have spoken to Mrs. Hanway-Harley of my passion," continued Storri, still pacing to and fro. "She is so charming as to encourage it."
"Why, then," broke in Mr. Harley, in evident relief, "you have gone the right way about the matter. If my wife favors you, assuredly you may count upon my consent."
"Bah!" returned Storri, snapping his fingers. "Mrs. Hanway-Harley consents; you consent; I am flattered! The fastidious Miss Dorothy, however, refuses my love—puts it aside! Storri is not the man! On my soul! Storri is declined by a little American who draws her blood from peasants!" and Storri threw his hands palm upward, expressing self-contempt in view of the insult thus put upon him.
"Does my daughter decline your love?"
"It is not that." Storri could not for his vanity's sake, even after he himself had used them, accept those terms. "Her heart has—what shall we say?—a tenant. Your daughter has gone among her own kind with her love. It is that fellow Storms—it is he whom your daughter's taste prefers."
"Dorothy loves Mr. Storms," said Mr. Harley, speaking slowly, as men will on the receipt of surprising news. "And she does not love you." After a thoughtful pause, Mr. Harley concluded: "It is a subject about which I should hesitate to counsel my daughter."
"I do not ask you to counsel her; you shall compel her."
"Why, sir!" exclaimed Mr. Harley, starting up and growing apoplectic with anger, "do you imagine that I'll force my child into your arms? If you were that Czar whom you are so fond of quoting, I would not do it!"
This came off in a great burst, and Mr. Harley in his turn began to pace the floor. The two passed and repassed each other as they walked up and down, Mr. Harley puffing and swelling, Storri surveying him with leering superiority.
"Sit down!" cried Storri suddenly, after a minute spent in marching and countermarching. "I will show you that you are in my hand."
Storri had become calm and business-like; his new manner mystified Mr. Harley and worked upon him. He dropped into the chair to which Storri motioned him. From his pocket, Storri took out those French shares.
"Do you see where you forged my name?" said he. "Can you tell me the punishment for forgery?"
"Forgery!" panted Mr. Harley, in a whirl of rage and wonder. "Did you not tell me to write your name? Was it not to sustain your deal in sugar?"
"Come—you Harley—you John Harley," returned Storri, his cruelty beginning to bubble into exultation, "how small a thing you are when opposed to Storri! See, now; it begins when you sacrifice for me those seven thousand dollars. It was then I set a trap for you—you, the cunning Mr. Harley! It was so simple; I need only give you a chance to forge my name and you forge it. From that moment you have had but the one alternative. You must follow my commands, or you must take the common course of criminals, and go to prison. And now—you Harley—you John Harley—you, who pride yourself for your respectability, for your place in the world, for your illustrious relative Senator Hanway—hear me: You are to be my slave—my dog to fetch and carry. You are to do my will; or I swear by my Czar and by the heart in the breast of my Czar that I'll drag you before the world as a felon."
Storri delivered this menace with a ruthless energy that sent it home like a javelin. It struck the color from the ruddy countenance of Mr. Harley, and left him white as linen three times bleached.
"Yes," went on the vindictive Storri in an exultant crow, "did you little people believe you were to laugh at Storri and pass unpunished? Did you think to insult him and escape his vengeance? Bah! the super-fine Dorothy is to spurn Storri for a varlet like this Storms! She is to laugh at Storri's love, and tell how she refused a nobleman! Excellent; we shall see her laugh when her father—Mr. Harley—Mr. John Harley—the great Mr. John Harley—brother-by-law of the still greater Senator Hanway—stands in the dock as a forger. Will not our Dorothy laugh? John Harley, forger; why not!"
Mr. Harley sat ghastly and still, while Storri rambled on for the mere pleasure of torture. He did not leave Mr. Harley a hope wherewith to prop himself. The deal in sugar had been in Mr. Harley's sole name—an individual deal. There was not the flourish of a pen to prove Storri's interest. Storri would even show how, for that very sugar stock, in that very market, he was dealing the other way, selling ten thousand shares.
"But you paid your half of the losses in the deal in my name." Mr. Harley's voice, commonly rich and full, was huskily dry. "That, when I show it, will prove your interest."
"And how are you to show it?" cried Storri. "I paid in money; I did not give you a check. There's not an exculpatory scrap at bank or broker's in your defense. You make a deal; you are crowded for margins; you have my French shares in your pocket as my agent in another transaction; you offer them; the broker will not accept, they do not have my signature; you are back in five minutes with a forgery, and obtain the money you require. The thing is complete; I tell you, Harley—Mr. John Harley—you are trapped. There is no escape; I have my knee on your neck."
Mr. Harley, still white, was beginning to regain his mental feet. He saw the apparent hold that Storri had upon him. It was enough. To be merely charged as a forger—to be apprehended as a criminal, would be ruin, utter ruin, even if the affair were there to end. It would mean the downfall of Senator Hanway's hopes of a White House. The simple arrest—it would go like wildfire throughout the press—meant destruction for Senator Hanway, for Dorothy, for Mrs. Hanway-Harley, for all.
White and stricken, Mr. Harley pondered these questions, while Storri watched him. Storri himself did not care to push for extremes. In his vain egotism, which was like a madness, he would not have scrupled to brand Mr. Harley as a forger had he been defied. But such a step was not what Storri aimed at. It was his own possession of Dorothy rather than a vengeance upon Mr. Harley that he sought to compass. Therefore, as Storri made plain his power and threatened its exercise, he considered Mr. Harley with the narrow intentness of a lynx. He was striving to measure the other's resistance. He noted the horror of Mr. Harley at the term forger; he observed Mr. Harley's growing sense of helplessness as he, Storri, set forth how Mr. Harley lay in the toils. Now, when Mr. Harley was prostrate beneath the harrow of every alarm, Storri, sure of success, went off on an easier tack—that is, easier for Mr. Harley.
"But why do we lose our self-control?" cried Storri, voice and manner changed from black to white, clouds to sunshine; "we are men, not angry children! See, now, I want nothing a gentleman of honor might not grant. I love your daughter—good! a Russian nobleman loves your daughter! Is that disgrace? You approve; your wife approves! The daughter is young; she must be wooed before she is won. What then: Is Storri to despair? The lady would put Storri's love to the test. She says: 'You must court me before you shall wed me. You are not to have me without a struggle, lest you think me of small worth.' The lady has pride; the lady has discretion; the lady sets a value upon herself. Why should she not? It compels me, Storri, to appreciate her charms still more and more. There; I have painted the state of affairs. I have now but two requests; I will not call those requests commands," and Storri rustled the French shares suggestively. "No, I am to call them requests. Can you not exercise a paternal authority to have your daughter receive my respectful visits? Also, can you not exercise it to put an end, absolutely an end, to her interviews with this Mr. Storms?"
"How can I compel her?"
"You must do it!" roared Storri, his anger taking renewed edge. "You must, you shall! What! am I to be thwarted, affronted, undone by a girl? Two things I demand: she is to see me; and she is not to see that Storms. Do I ask much? It is little for a child to pay for a father's safety; little for a man to pay for his own. What forger or what forger's daughter has made such terms? Bah!"
The insult scarcely roused Mr. Harley; he was stunned, his face was clammy with sweat. It was like a dream of horror! Look where he would, there showed but the one door of escape. Storri was to see Dorothy; Dorothy was not to see Richard!
After all, it did not present unbearable conditions. Moreover, time would bring about its shifts. In a week, in a month, in six months, Mr. Harley might have Storri helpless as Storri now had him. It was a case for delay; Mr. Harley must have breathing space.
"That is all you require?" said Mr. Harley, his voice the same dry, husky croak. "You are to see my daughter? and Mr. Storms is not to see her?"
"Do that, and I will answer for the balance!" cried Storri. "Do that, and she will love me—she will be my wife!"
"And no more talk of—of forgeries?"
"My dear Mr. Harley!" exclaimed Storri, "I am a gentleman—a Russian gentleman. I ask you, in candor, does a gentleman arrest his wife's father on a charge of forgery? Come; let us have confidence in one another. We are friends, are we not?—we, who are to be in closer alliance when your daughter becomes my Countess wife. Bah! who shall talk of forgeries then?"
The evening was still young—nine o'clock—when Mr. Harley found himself again in the street, bending his slow step homeward. He was wholly adrift now from any thought of those speculative ones at Chamberlin's. What Storri had said engrossed him miserably. He entertained no doubt but what Storri would carry into execution those threats of arrest, should his desires concerning Dorothy meet with opposition. The fear of his own disgrace appalled Mr. Harley. He did not lack for courage, but his interview with Storri had buried him beneath a spell of terror.
It was peculiarly a condition to frighten Mr. Harley to the core. He was proud in a coarse way of the fortune he had gathered. He had based himself on his position as a business, not to say a legislative, force, and used it to patronize, not always delicately, those among his fellows who had not climbed so high. In exacting what was a money due, he had ever proceeded with but little scruple. He had measured his right by measuring his strength, and had not failed to take his pound of flesh. In brief, Mr. Harley, possessing, like many another fat gentleman, those numerous porcine traits of brutal selfishness and a lack of sentiment or sympathy, had considered always his own interests, following them though they took him roughshod over another's dearest hopes. For which good reasons Mr. Harley had foes, and knew it; there would be no absence of rejoicing over his downfall.
But what could Mr. Harley offer for defense? What, beyond mere compliance with Storri's wishes, might avert those calamities that seemed swinging in the air above him? He considered everything, and devised nothing; he was like a man without eyes or as one shut in by night. In his desperation, a flighty thought of taking Storri's life appealed to him for one murderous moment. It was only for a moment, and then he thrust it aside with a shudder; not from any morality, but his instant common sense showed how insane it would be as a method of escape, and with that he shrunk back from it as from a precipice. And yet there was to be no standing still; he must push on in some direction.
Mr. Harley, being himself a business soul, did not omit to consider how far Storri might be held at bay by showing him the certain destruction of Credit Magellan, should he persist to the bitter length of forgery charges and open war. Mr. Harley might be disgraced, destroyed; but what then? Storri's plans would assuredly be trampled flat; millions, about to come into his hands, would be swept away.
These, as arguments to be addressed to Storri, no sooner entered the mind of Mr. Harley than he dismissed them as offering no solution of his perils. He had felt, rather than seen, the barbarism of Storri beneath the tissue of what that nobleman would have styled his elegant refinement. Storri was a coward, and therefore Storri was malignant; he had shown, as he went promising disgrace to Mr. Harley, that petulance of evil which is remarked in savages and cruel children. Storri was dominated of a passion for revenge; under sway of that passion no chance of money-loss would stay him; he would sacrifice all and begin his schemes anew before he would deny himself those vainglorious triumphs upon which he had set his heart. He hated Richard; he hungered for Dorothy; and Mr. Harley knew how he would go to every extravagant extent in feeding those two sentiments.
Mr. Harley sighed dismally as he reviewed these conclusions; he could do nothing, and must serve, or seem to serve, the villain humor of Storri. What were those two demands? Storri must meet Dorothy; and Richard must not. There was no help; Mr. Harley, in his present stress, would see Dorothy and beg her co-operation. He could not tell the whole story; but he would say that he was borne upon by trouble, and ask her to acquiesce in Storri's conditions. He would promise that those conditions were not to live forever.
Deciding thus, Mr. Harley went forward on his homeward course; he must see Dorothy without delay, for he would be upon the rack until the painful conference was over. The night was chill as New Year's nights have a right to be, and yet Mr. Harley was fain to mop his forehead as though it were the Dog days. As he neared his own door, his reluctant pace became as slow as sick men find the flight of time.
There had come no one to the Harley house this New Year's evening to engage the polite attentions of Mrs. Hanway-Harley, and that lady, being armored to the teeth, in the name of comfort had retired to her own apartments with a purpose to unloose what buttons and remove what pins and untie what strings stood between her and a great bodily relief. Dorothy was of neither the size nor the years at which women torture themselves, and, having no quarrel with her buttons and pins and strings, sat alone in the library. She was deep in a novel that reeled with ardent love, and had fallen to despising the lover because he did not resemble Richard.
It was in the library that Mr. Harley came seeking Dorothy. When he found her, he stood stock-still, unable to speak one word of all that tide of talk which would be necessary to bring before her his dangerous perplexities and the one manner of their possible relief.
Dorothy at his step looked up, pleased to have him home so early. She was about to say as much, but at sight of him the words perished on her tongue. It was as though her heart were touched with ice. Mr. Harley's countenance had been of that quasi claret hue called rubicund. It was now turned gray and pasty, and his cheeks, as firmly round as those of a trumpeter, were pouched and fallen as with the palsy of age. He looked ten years worse than when he went forth two hours before.
Dorothy sprang up in alarm; she feared that he was ill.
"Let me call mamma!" she cried; "let me call Uncle Pat! You are sick."
"No; call nobody!" said Mr. Harley feebly, and speaking with difficulty. "I'm not ill; I'll be right in a moment." Then he had Dorothy back into her chair, gazing upon her the while in a stricken way, as though she were hangman or headsman, and he before her for execution. Mr. Harley was held between terror of Storri and shame for what he must say to Dorothy. Wondering what fearful blow had fallen upon them, Dorothy sat facing her father the color of death.
"Tell me, papa," she whispered, with a terror in her tones, "tell me what has happened."
Despair brought a sickly calmness to Mr. Harley; he cleared his mind with a struggle and controlled himself to speak. He would say all at once, and leave the rest with Dorothy.
"Dorothy," he began, the iron effort he was making being plainly apparent, "Dorothy, I have had a talk with that scoundrel without a conscience, Count Storri. I do not pretend that I come willingly to you from him. I tell you, however, that I am fearfully within that villain's power, and cannot help myself. No, I've done no crime; but none the less he has it in his hands to cover me with disgrace—destroy me, and every sign of me, from the midst of respectable men. It would avail nothing should I show you how he spread a snare for my feet, and how blindly I walked into it. I can only say again that he has me helpless, hand and foot; I am his to make or break in all that a man of honor or station holds dearest. He can cover me with infamy at will; he can unloose upon me an avalanche of disgrace, and with the one blow crush us all. I keep back nothing, exaggerate nothing, I merely lay bare to you what is. Once the stroke falls, I shall never again hold up my head. Indeed, I shall not live to see it fall, for when I know it is inevitable I shall take my own life."
Mr. Harley paused a moment to recall his coolness, while Dorothy, her little hands crushed between her knees, sat panting like a spent hare.
"I have given you my precise position," continued Mr. Harley, with a sort of hopelessness. "I shall now tell you the conditions upon which my safety depends. They rest with you; I stand or fall as you decide." Dorothy tried to speak, but her voice died on her lips. "If you receive Count Storri, not as a lover, but as an acquaintance, or, if you will, a friend; and if you have no further meeting—that is, for a month—or perhaps two—or at the most three—have no further interviews, I say"—Mr. Harley blundered a trifle as he saw Dorothy's face whitening with the sorrows he was laying upon her—"have no further interviews with Mr. Storms, I am saved. Forgive me—forgive your father who has so failed of his duty that, instead of protecting you, he comes to you for protection. There is no more: You have my fortune, my good repute, my life in your charge. If you meet Count Storri in friendship, if you refuse Mr. Storms, I am secure. Should you fail of either, then, by heart and soul! I think it is my end!"
HOW MR. FOPLING WAS INSPIRED
Next to Richard, Dorothy worshiped her father. Women never weigh men closely; with them it is the kindness of men that counts, and all her life no one could have been more generously affectionate than was Mr. Harley to Dorothy. And now her estimate of him became her memory of his unflagging goodness; and this kept her from harsh judgment as he told what heartbreaking sacrifices she must make. Nor did she distrust a syllable; nor would she ask for explanation. The latter she would avoid; it was enough that Storri held her father at his horrid mercy. As against the setting forth in detail of Storri's cruel power she instinctively closed her ears as she would have shut her eyes against a fearsome sight. Dorothy had never a question; and when Mr. Harley was done she seemed simply to bow to the will of events too strong for her to cope with.
"But you must never ask me to marry that man!" cried Dorothy. There went a tremor through her words that marked how deep of root was the feeling that prompted them. "I couldn't, wouldn't marry him! Before that, I would die—yes, and die again! You must not ask it!" and she lifted up her face, all wrung with pain and anxious terror.
"I shall never ask it!" declared Mr. Harley; and he spoke stoutly, for the worst was over and his heart was coming back. This gave Dorothy a better confidence, and she began to hope that things in the end might come fairer than they threatened. "No," repeated Mr. Harley with even greater courage, and smoothing her black, thick hair in a fatherly way, "you shall never be asked to marry the scoundrel. That I promise; and let him do his worst."
And now, when both were measurably recovered from the shame and the shock of it, Mr. Harley began to elaborate. He went no further, however, than just to point out how nothing was really required of Dorothy beyond those common courtesies good women exhibit to what men the respectable chances of existence bring into their society. He said nothing, asked nothing concerning her love for Richard: he appeared to consider that love admitted, and found no fault with it. What he impressed upon Dorothy was the present danger of her love's display, and how his safety rested upon her not meeting with Richard for a space. Surely that might be borne; it would not be for long. Given room wherein to work, he, Mr. Harley, would find some pathway out. Also, it would be unwise to say aught of what had taken place to Dorothy's mother. Mr. Harley and Dorothy would keep it secret from both Mrs. Hanway-Harley and Senator Hanway. Storri would not broach the subject to Mrs. Hanway-Harley; he could not without revealing more than he desired known.
"Nor will the rascal do more," observed Mr. Harley, with the hope of adding to the fortitude of Dorothy, "than come here now and then to dine or sit an hour. That is all he will count upon; and before he seeks anything nearer I'll have him under my foot as now he has me under his. When that hour comes," concluded Mr. Harley, rapping out a sudden great oath that made Dorothy start in her frock, "there will be no saving limits in his favor. I'll apply the torch, and burn him like so much refuse off the earth."
When Mrs. Hanway-Harley endeavored to break Dorothy to the yoke of her ambitions concerning Storri, Dorothy sparkled and blazed and wept and did those divers warlike things that ladies do when engaged in conflict with each other. Dorothy, down in her heart, attached no more than a surface importance to the efforts of Mrs. Hanway-Harley; and that was the reason why on those fierce occasions she only sparkled and blazed and wept. Now, be it known, what Mr. Harley told her seared like hot iron; what he asked of kindness to Storri and cruelty to Richard cut like a knife; and yet there was never tear nor spark to show throughout. She waited cold and white and steady. Dorothy was convinced of her father's danger without knowing its cause or what form it might take; and she filled up with a resolution to do whatever she could, saving only the acceptance of Storri and his love, to buckler him against it. Nor was this difference which Dorothy made between Mrs. Hanway-Harley and Mr. Harley to be marveled at; for just as a mother exerts more influence over a son than would his father, so will a father have weight with a daughter beyond any that her mother might possess.
While Dorothy remained firm and brave as Mr. Harley revealed his troubles and their remedy, she broke down later when she found herself in her own room. She did not call her maid; she must be alone. What had transpired began to come over her in such slow fashion that she was given time to fully feel the ignoble position into which she had fallen. She must not see the man whom she adored; she must meet—with politeness even if she could not with grace—the man whom she loathed. To one of Dorothy's spirit and fineness there dwelt in this an infamy, a baseness, of which Mr. Harley with his lucky coarseness of fiber escaped all notice.
Throwing herself on the bed, Dorothy burrowed her face in the pillow and gave her tears their way. It was the happiest impulse she could have had; when the tears were dried, and in the calm of that relief which was their afterglow, she considered what she had to do. Oh! if only she might have sought her mother with her sorrow! Dorothy shivered; her mother was the ally of her enemy. How Dorothy hated and feared that black and savage man! What fiend's power must he possess to thus gain a fearful mastery over her father! What could be his secret tipped with terror? Dorothy again buried her face as though she would hide herself from any blasting chance of its discovery.
When Dorothy was with Mr. Harley she had been in a maze, a whirl. Wrapped in a cloud of fear, she had reached out blindly through the awful fog of it and seized upon the dear fact of Richard. By Richard she held on; by Richard she sustained herself. She entertained no quaking doubts as to his loyalty; loyal herself, as ever was flower to sun, to distrust Richard was to doubt the ground beneath her little feet. In her innocence, she felt that sublime confidence which is the fruit, the sweet purpose, of a young girl's earliest love. Dorothy must write Richard a letter; she must tell him of the sad gap in their happiness. Yes; she would put him in possession of the entire story so far as it was known to her. He owned a right to hear it. Must his heart be broken, and he not learn the secret or know the author of the blow?
When Dorothy was again mistress of herself, between sobs and tender showers she blotted down those words which were to warn Richard from her side. His love, like her own, would go on; there was to be no final breaking away. It was faith in a dear day that should find them reunited which upheld Dorothy through the ordeal of her letter; her prayer was that the day might be close at hand.
Her letter finished, Dorothy, late as was the hour, sent for Bess; she must have someone's love, someone's sympathy to lean upon. Bess came; and, saying no more than she was driven to reveal of her father's helplessness and Storri's baleful strength, Dorothy told Bess what dolorous fate had overtaken her.
"I've written Richard to go to you, Bess," whispered Dorothy at the woeful close. "Have him write me a letter every day; I shall write one to him. I didn't promise not to write, you know, only not to see him. But you must not let Richard go to Storri, that above all. Poor Richard! he is very fierce; and if he were to arouse Storri's anger it would provoke him to some awful step."
There was a man of robust curiosity who once suggested that it would prove entertaining if one were to lift the roofs off a city as one might the upper crust off a pie, and then, looking down into the very bowels of life, observe what plots and counterplots, defeats and triumphs, loves and hates, pains and pleasures, losses and gains, hopes and despairs, honors and disgraces belonged with the struggles of everyday humanity. It is by no means sure the survey would repay the cost of making it, and the chances run heavily that the student would gather more of grief than good from the lesson. Proceeding, however, by the hint of contradiction furnished above, had one, at the moment when Storri was binding Mr. Harley by fetters wrought from the metal of Mr. Harley's own fearful apprehensions, glanced in upon Richard, he would have found that worthy young gentleman seated by his fireside, soothing himself with tobacco smoke, and reveling in thoughts of Dorothy. And the cogitations of Richard, if written down in words, would have read like this:
"Why should I defer a denouement that will rejoice them all? Dorothy loves me—loves me for myself, and for nothing but myself. Who could have offered deeper proof of it? She has come to me in the face of her mother, in the face of poverty; she is willing to abandon everything to become my wife. And if her mother objects—as she does object—why not cure the objection with a trifle of truth? I am not seeking to make a conquest of Mrs. Hanway-Harley; that tremendous ambition does not claim me. I am not to marry her. What she thinks, or why she thinks it, should not be so important. It is Dorothy whom I love, Dorothy who is to be my wife—none but Dorothy. No, I'll end a farce which no longer can defend its own existence. To-morrow I'll seek out my intended mother-in-law, and make her happy in the only way I may. I trust the good news may not kill her!" and Richard put on one of those grins of cynicism.
In this frame, Richard retired to bed and dreamed of Dorothy. His heart was enjoying a prodigious calm; he would no longer play at Democritus; he would fill Mrs. Hanway-Harley's soul with radiance, restrain to what extent he might his contempt for that radiance and the reason of it, and with Dorothy on his arm march away to bliss forever after. No, he would not have Dorothy to the altar within the moment following the enthronement of Mrs. Hanway-Harley in the midst of that splendid happiness he plotted for her. He was not so precipitate. Dorothy should have a voice and a will in fixing her marriage day; most young women had. But he would advise expedition—nay, he would pray for speed in the matter of that wedlock; for every hour that barred him from his loved one's arms would seem an age.
Thus dreamed Richard. And in the irony of fate, even while Richard was coming to these sage, not to say delicious, decisions and giving himself to these dreams, Storri was raving, Mr. Harley was cowering, and Dorothy was weeping and writing that they must not meet.
When Richard arose in the morning, the first object his fond eye caught was that dear hand-write sprawling all across the envelope: "Mr. Richard Storms." He tore it open, and this is what he read:
As I write, my heart is breaking for us both. If I knew how, I would soften what I must say. Storri has gained some fearful ascendency over papa. Never have I seen papa look so gray and worn and old as when he came to me. He tells me that his safety, his life, depend on me. I am not to see you for a while. He says that if we meet it will mean his disgrace—his destruction. I can't explain; I have only my love for you, sweetheart, and you must not fail me now. It will all come right, I feel sure of that; only you must write me every day how dear I am to you, so that I shall have something to help my courage with. Go to Bess, and believe me yours with all my heart's love.
Richard read and re-read Dorothy's note. He did not ramp off into a temper; the first effects of it were to drive the color out of his face and steal away his appetite. His eye grew moody, and in the end angry. Some flame of wrath was kindled against poor Dorothy, who was so ready—that is the way he put it to himself—to sacrifice him in defense of her father. But the flame went out, and never attained either height or intensity as a flame of repute and standing among flames. Richard was too normal, too healthy, too much in love. Besides, Dorothy's note was warped and polka-dotted with small round scars where her poor tears had fallen as she wrote; and with that the flame of anger was quenched by the mere sight of those tear-scars; and Richard kissed them one by one—the tear-scars—and found, when he had kissed the last one and then kissed it again for love and for luck, that he worshiped Dorothy the more for being in trouble. And now Richard felt a vast yearning over her as though she were a child. Had she not fought a gallant war with her mother for love of him? Richard was all but swept away on a very tide of tenderness. He would comply with Dorothy's requests; he would not press to see her; he would write her every day; he would love her more passionately than before. Incidentally, he would go questing Bess.
Richard did not permit himself to dwell upon Storri. He knew him for the source of all this poison in his cup. In his then temper, he put Storri out of his thought. He feared that if he considered that Russian too long he would be drawn into some indiscretion that, while curing nothing, might pull down upon Mr. Harley, and in that way upon Dorothy, the catastrophe that hung over their heads. There could be no doubt of the black measure of that catastrophe, whatever it might be. Richard, while no mighty admirer of Mr. Harley, had been enough in that gentleman's company to realize that it was more than a common apprehension which had sent him, limp and fear-shaken, to Dorothy begging for defense. The longer Richard pondered, the clearer the truth grew that some deadly chance was pending against Mr. Harley, and that Storri held the key which might unlock that chance against him. Until he understood the trend of affairs, a hostile collision with Storri would be the likeliest method by which disaster might be invoked. He must avoid Storri. This prudence on Richard's part went tremendously against the grain, for he was full of stalwart, primitive impulses that moved him to find Storri by every shortest cut and beat him to rags. He must keep away from Storri. Also, he would defer those revelations to Mrs. Hanway-Harley which were to have filled her soul with that radiance and made her as ready for Dorothy's marriage with Richard as was Richard himself. Those confidences could not aid now when it was Storri, not Mrs. Hanway-Harley, who stood in the way. And they might even work a harm. Richard went on his road to Bess, while these thoughts came flying thick as twilight bats.
Richard found the blonde sorceress bending above a flower, and doing something to the flower's advantage with a pair of scissors. As Bess hung over the leafy object of her solicitude, with her yellow wealth of hair coiled round and round, she herself looked not unlike a graceful, gaudy chrysanthemum. This poetic reflection, which would have been creditable to Mr. Fopling, never occurred to Richard; he was too full of Dorothy to have room for Bess. However, the good Bess found no fault with his loving preoccupation; she, too, was pensively thinking on poor Dorothy, and at once abandoned the invalid flower to console and counsel Richard.
"For you see," quoth Bess, as though a call had been made for the reason of her interest in another's love troubles, "I feel responsible for Dorothy. It was I who told you to love her."
This was not quite true, and gave too much blame or credit—whichever you will—to Bess; but Richard made no objections, and permitted Bess to define her position as best pleased her.
Bess laid out Richard's programme as though she were his mother or his guardian; she told him what his conduct should be. He must write Dorothy a daily letter; there ought to be a world of love in it, Bess thought, in view of those conditions of present distress which surrounded Dorothy.
"Her lot," observed Bess, "is much harder than yours, you know!"
Richard, being selfish, did not know; but he was for no dispute with Bess and kept his want of knowledge to himself. Yes; Richard was to write Dorothy every day; and she, for her sweet part, was likewise to write Richard every day. The good Bess, like an angel turned postman, would manage the exchange of tender missives.
Bess said nothing about Storri's coming visits to the Harley house or that he would insist on seeing Dorothy. She and Dorothy had been of one mind on that point of ticklish diplomacy. The bare notion of Storri meeting Dorothy would send the fiery lover into a fury whereof the end could be only feared, not guessed. Richard was to be told nothing beyond the present impossibility of meeting Dorothy.
"And most of all," said Bess to Richard warningly, "you are not to involve yourself with Storri. Remember, should you and he have differences upon which the gossips can take hold, there will be a perfect scandal, and Dorothy the central figure."
Richard was horrified at Bess's picture.
"And so," concluded Bess, "you must do exactly as Dorothy requests. Have a little patience and a deal of love, and the cloud, be sure, will pass away."
"While I am having patience and love, I would give my left hand if I might bring that cobra Storri to account," said Richard.
What was written concerning the mouths of babes and sucklings? Mr. Fopling sat with Bess and Richard while they considered those above-related ways and means of interrupted love. Mr. Fopling was experiencing an uncommon elevation of spirits; for he had stared Ajax out of countenance—a notable feat—and sent the rival favorite growling and bristling from the room. Usually Mr. Fopling took no part in what conversations raged around him; it was the reason of some surprise, therefore, to both Bess and Richard when, at the mention of Storri's name, Mr. Fopling's ears pricked up a flicker of interest and he betrayed symptoms of being about to speak.
"Stow-wy!" exclaimed Mr. Fopling thoughtfully, as though identifying that nobleman, while Bess and Richard looked on as do folk who behold a miracle, "Stow-wy! I say, Stawms, why don't you go into Wall Stweet and bweak the beggah? He's always gambling, don't y' know! Bweak him; that's the way to punish such a fellah."
"Why! what a malicious soul you have grown!" cried Bess in astonishment. "Really, Algy,"—Mr. Fopling's name was Algernon,—"if you burst on us in this guise often, I for one shall stand in terror of you!"
"But, weally," protested Mr. Fopling, "if you want to get even with a fellah, Bess, just bweak him! It's simply awful, they say, for a chap to be bwoke. As for this Stow-wy, if Stawms hasn't got the money to go aftah him, I'll let him have some of mine. You see, Bess," concluded Mr. Fopling, with a broad candor that proved his love, "I hate this cweature Stow-wy."
"Why?" asked Richard, somewhat interested in his unexpected ally.
"He spoke dewisively of me," and with that Mr. Fopling lapsed.
Richard went slowly homeward, his chin on his chest, not in discouragement, but thought. The counsel of the vacuous Mr. Fopling followed him to ring in his ears like words of guidance.
"Bweak him!" squeaked Mr. Fopling, feebly vicious.
Since Mr. Fopling had never been known to think anything or say anything anterior to this singular outburst, the conclusion forced itself upon Richard that Mr. Fopling was inspired. Nor could Richard put Mr. Fopling and his violent advice out of his head.
"Money is the villain's heart's-blood!" thought Richard. "I'm inclined to conclude that Fopling is right. If I take his money from him, he is helpless—a viper without its fangs, a bear with its back broken!"
Richard put in that evening in his own apartments. Had you been there to watch his face, you would have been struck by the capacity for hate and love and thought displayed in the lowering brow and brooding eye. Richard smoked and considered; at eight o'clock he rang for Mr. Gwynn.
That precise gentleman of stiffness and English immobility appeared, clothed in extreme evening dress, and established himself, ramrod-like, in a customary spot in the center of the floor. There was a figure on the Persian rug whereon Mr. Gwynn never failed to take position. Once in place, eye as expressionless as the eye of a fish, Mr. Gwynn would wait in dead silence for Richard to speak.
Mr. Gwynn had occupied his wonted spot on the rug two minutes before Richard came out of his reverie. Turning to Mr. Gwynn, he addressed him through murky wreaths.
"I shall go to New York to-morrow."
"Very good, sir," said Mr. Gwynn, and his back creaked in just the specter of a bow.
"When are the President and General Attorney of the Anaconda to be here?"
"Tuesday, sir; the eighth of the month."
"I shall return before that time."
"Very good, sir!" and Mr. Gwynn again approved the utterances of Richard with a creaky mandarin inclination of the head and shoulders.
"They will arrive on the eighth. Say to them that they must remain until the fifteenth, one week. On Thursday—the tenth—you will give a dinner in honor of Senator Hanway; it is to be fifty covers. The Anaconda people will come. I'll furnish you the completed list of guests when I get back."
"Very good, sir."
"You may go."
"Yes, sir; you are very kind, sir;" and the austere Mr. Gwynn creaked himself out.
Richard was left with his thoughts, while the silent Matzai, who had heard the word New York, began packing what trunks were needed for the journey.
Storri was ruthlessly eager to get some taste of his great triumph, and came that same evening to the Harley house. Senator Hanway had been detained by a night session, and the quartette—Dorothy, Mr. Harley, Mrs. Hanway-Harley, and Storri—sat together at dinner. Dorothy, pale and still and chill, was like a girlish image made of snow. There was a queer look of fright and shame and horror all in one about her virgin eyes. How she got through the dinner she could not have told, and only her love for her father held her up.
Mr. Harley was in no livelier case; and, albeit he drank much more than usual, the wine put no color in his muddy cheek nor did it cure its flabbiness. To sit at his own table and tremble before his own guest might have wasted the spirits of even a hardier man than Mr. Harley.
Dorothy was in agony—a kind of despair of shame, eating nothing, saying less, and this attracted the shallow attention of Mrs. Hanway-Harley.
"What makes you so gloomy, Dorothy?" she asked. Mrs. Hanway-Harley was in most cheerful feather. A nobleman at her table, and though for the fortieth time, was ever fresh and delightful to Mrs. Hanway-Harley. "You are not ill?" Then, with arch politeness to Storri: "She has been out of sorts all day, Count, and given us all the blues. I was delighted when you came in to cheer us up."
"It is to my great honor, madam," responded Storri, smiling and fixing Dorothy with that beady glance which serpents keep for what linnets they mean to fascinate and swallow, "it is to my great honor, madam, that you say so. I shall tell my Czar of your charming goodness to his Storri. If I might only think that the bewitching Miss Dorothy was also glad, I should be in heaven! Truly, it would make a paradise; ah, yes, why not!"
As Storri threw off this languishing speech, Dorothy could feel his eyes like points of hateful fire piercing her satirically. It taught her vaguely, even through the torture her soul was undergoing, that composite sentiment of passion and cruelty felt for her by this Tartar in evening dress who mixed sneer with compliment in all he said. Dorothy could have shrieked out in the mere torment of it, and only the sight of Mr. Harley, broken and hopeless and helpless and old, gave her strength and courage to refrain.
Storri departed on the heels of dinner to the profound regret of Mrs. Hanway-Harley, who pressed him to remain. The Russian was wise; he must not attempt too much. Dorothy should have respite for a week. In seven days he would again take dinner with the Harleys. Dorothy would have employed those seven days in thinking on the perils to her father which he, Storri, could launch; she would have considered how he, Storri, must be courted and flattered and finally loved to insure her father's safety. It was victory as it stood. Was he not compelling the proud Dorothy to receive his compliments, his glances, his sighs, his love? Was not Richard, the detestable, excluded, and the Harley door closed fast in his face? Ah! Storri would impress upon these little people the terrors of him whom they had affronted! He would cause them to mourn in bitterness the day they heard first his name!
Storri, in midswing of all these comforting ruminations, felt a light hand on his arm. He was sauntering leisurely along the street at the time, and had not journeyed a block from the Harley house.
Storri started at the touch, and wheeled.
"What!" he exclaimed, "is it you, my San Reve? And what fetched you out so cold an evening?"
Storri attempted a manner of light and confident assurance. Somehow, he did not altogether attain it; a sharp ear would have caught the false note in his tones which told of an uneasiness he was trying to conceal.
That one whom Storri addressed as San Reve and who, following the touch that startled Storri, had taken his arm, was a woman. In the dark of the winter evening, nothing could be known of her save that she was above a middle height.
"Yes; it is I, Sara," said the woman, in a pure contralto. "Come with me to-night, Storri; I have not seen you for four days."
"We are pleasantly met!" cried Storri, still affecting an acquiescent gayety. "And is it not strange? I was on my way to your fond, sweet presence, my San Reve. Yes, your Storri was flying to you even now!"
All of which were lies, being leaf and stalk of that uneasiness which rang so falsely in his voice and manner. Still, if Mademoiselle San Reve took notice of his insincerity, she kept the fact to herself. Storri drew her hand further within his arm, and the two walked slowly onward, while the street lamps as they passed merged and separated and again merged and separated their shadows as though the pair were agreeing and disagreeing in endless alternation.
Richard, the next day, departed for New York as he had planned. Sending Matzai and his luggage to the hotel, Richard on his arrival drove straight from the station to Thirty, Broad. He glanced at a card as he entered the elevator.
"Tenth floor!" was his word to the resplendent functionary in gold and blue who presided in the elevator.
"Tenth floor!" cried the resplendent functionary in the sing-song of a seaman taking soundings and calling the marks, and the elevator came to a kind of bouncing stop.
"Mr. Bayard?" inquired Richard.
"Second floor to th' left," sang the blue and golden one; then the iron door clashed and the cage flew on.
Richard entered a reception room, and from this outer harbor, like a newly arrived ship sending up a signal, he dispatched his card to Mr. Bayard. Under "Mr. Richard Storms" he wrote the words, "son of the late Mr. Dudley Storms."
The stealthy, whispering individual, who spoke with a hiss and scrutinized Richard as he took his card with a jealous intensity which might have distinguished a hawk in a state of half alarm and whole suspicion, presently returned. His air was altered to one of confidence.
"You are to come in, please!" he hissed like a respectful snake.
It was two hours later, five o'clock, when Richard emerged from that private room of Mr. Bayard's. Taking the carriage which had waited, he returned to the station and caught a train for Washington. A message went to Matzai notifying that Mongol of what changes had been determined on in the destinies of himself and the luggage.
It was the following morning at the hour of eight. Richard called for Mr. Gwynn. When that severe personage had taken his proper station on the rug, he rolled his piscatorial eye on Richard as though inviting notice. The latter young gentleman was improving himself with coffee, now and then pausing to thoughtfully glance over a roll of names.
"What were the last quotations on Anaconda stock?" demanded Richard, still contemplating the names.
"Common, two hundred and eleven; preferred, two hundred and seventeen, sir," and Mr. Gwynn creaked by way of ending the sentence.
"Here are the keys to my boxes in the Colonial Trust. Here also are the names of fifty New York banks. Please establish a credit of two millions in each of them—one hundred millions of dollars in all. Use Anaconda stock. Bring me certified checks for the one hundred millions, with a statement from each bank showing what Anaconda shares it holds as security. I think you understand. I want one hundred millions instantly available. You will go to New York at once and make the arrangements. Day after to-morrow meet me in Mr. Bayard's rooms, Thirty, Broad, at three o'clock P. M., with everything as I have outlined."
"Very good, sir; you are very kind, sir," creaked Mr. Gwynn.
HOW THE SAN REVE GAVE STORRI WARNING
Had you, at the time Richard visited that gentleman, written Mr. Bayard a letter, you would have addressed it to Mr. Robert Lance Bayard, and anyone who saw you do it would have gazed in wonder and respect to think you were upon terms of personal correspondence with that blinding meteor of speculation. Mr. Bayard sat in his rooms at Thirty, Broad, like an astrologer in his tower cell; he considered the stars and cast the horoscopes of companies. That done, he took profitable advantage of his prescience.
In the kingdom of stocks Mr. Bayard's position was unique. He, like Napoleon, was without a model and without a shadow. He constructed no corporations, shoved no companies from shore; he stood at the ticker and took his money off the tape. Whenever he won a dollar he had risked a dollar.
In person Mr. Bayard was slim, elegant, thoroughbred, with blood as red and pure of strain as the blood of a racing horse. To see him was to realize the silk and steel whereof he was compounded. There was a vanity about him, too; but it was a regal vanity, as though a king were vain. His brow was full and grave, his face dignified, his eye thoughtful, and he knew men in the dark by feel of bark, as woodmen know a tree. He stepped about with a high carriage of the head, as might one who has prides well founded. His health was even, his nerves were true; he owned a military courage that remained cool with victory, steady with defeat. It was these which rendered Mr. Bayard the Bourse-force men accounted him, and compelled consideration even from folk most powerful whenever they would float an enterprise or foray a field of stocks. Did Oil or Sugar or Steel come into the Street with purpose of revenge or profit, its first care was a peace-treaty with Mr. Bayard. That was not because Oil or Steel or Sugar loved, but because it feared him. The King might not hunt in Sherwood without permission of Robin Hood, nor Montrose walk in Glenfruin wanting the MacGregor's consent.
In his youth—that is to say, almost a third of a century away—Mr. Bayard had been of open, frank, and generous impulse. He believed in humanity and relied upon his friends. Mr. Bayard at sixty was changed from that pose of thirty years before. He was cold and distant and serene in a cloud-capped way of ice. He trusted no one but himself, took no man's word save his own, was self-reliant to the point of bitterness, and rife of proud suspicions. Also, he had carried concealment to the plane of Art, and those who knew him best were most in the dark concerning him. And yet Mr. Bayard made a specialty of verbal truth, and his word was a word of gold.
It was not that Mr. Bayard deceived men, he allowed them to deceive themselves. They watched and they listened; and in the last they learned, commonly at the cost of a gaping wound in their bank balances, that what they thought they saw they did not see, and what they were sure they heard they did not hear; that from the beginning they had been the victims of self-constructed delusions, and were cast away by errors all their own. Once burned, twice wise; and the paradox crept upon Wall and Broad Streets, as mosses creep upon stones, that the more one knew of Mr. Bayard the less one was aware of. The feeling was expressed by a gentleman rich in Exchange experiences when he said:
"If I were to meet him in Broadway, I wouldn't believe it."
And that experienced one spoke well. For as the tiger, striped black and gold, is made to match and blend with the sun-slashed shadows of the jungle through which he hunts his prey, so was Mr. Bayard invisible in that speculation whereof he crouched a most formidable factor, with this to add to the long-toothed peril of it, that, although always in sight, he was never more unseen than at the moment of his spring.
The change from faith and friendship and a genial warmth that had taken place in Mr. Bayard and left him their rock-bound opposites, had its origin in the treachery of a friend. Mr. Bayard those years before was, in his stock sailing, beaten upon by a sudden squall of treason and lying ingratitude; his nature was capsized, and those softer and more generous graces were spilled out. They went to the bottom, as things golden will; and they never came up. Mr. Bayard was betrayed by one who had taken his hand in friendship not the hour before—one who was his partner in business and had risen through his favor. Struck in the dark, Mr. Bayard stood at the ticker and watched his fortune of eight millions bleed away; when he dropped the tape he was two millions worse than bankrupt. It was that case-hardening experience which had worked the callous metamorphosis.
"It has taught me caution," was all he said as the quotations chattered off the loss of his last dollar.
From that hour of night and wormwood, Mr. Bayard was another individual. He gave men his acquaintance, but not his faith; he listened and never believed; he had allies, not friends, and the limits of his confidence in a man were the limits of that man's interest.
And yet in this arctic hardness there remained one generous spot. There was one name to retain a sweetness and a perfume for Mr. Bayard that one finds in flowers, and the perishing years had not withered it on the hillsides of his regard. When Mr. Bayard went down on that day of storm and the dark waters of defeat and bankruptcy closed above him, there had been stretched one hand to save. Dudley Storms was hardly known to Mr. Bayard, for the former was of your silent, retiring men whom no one discovers until the time of need. His sort was evidenced on this occasion. He did not send to Mr. Bayard, he came. He told him by shortest possible sentences that his fortune was at his, Mr. Bayard's, disposal to put him again upon his feet. And Mr. Bayard availed himself of the aid thus proffered; he regained his feet; he paid off his bankruptcy of two millions; he repaid Dudley Storms; and then he went on—and no more slips or treason-founded setbacks—to pile up new millions for himself.
Following that one visit of succor from Dudley Storms, he and Mr. Bayard were no oftener in one another's company than before. The former retreated into his native reticence and the fastnesses of his own multitudinous affairs, coming no more to Mr. Bayard, who did not require help. Dudley Storms was a lake of fire in a rim of ice, as somebody somewhere once said of someone else, and labored under peculiarities of temperament and trait-contradictions which you may have observed in Richard. For his side, Mr. Bayard, proudly sensitive, while he never forgot, never failed to feel in the edge of that saving favor done him by Dudley Storms the edge of a sword; and this served to hold him aloof from one who any hour might have had his life and fortune, without a question, to do with as he would.
Richard had never met Mr. Bayard, nor did he know aught of that gentleman's long-ago disasters, for they occurred in the year of Richard's birth. But he had heard his father speak of Mr. Bayard in terms of glowing praise; wherefore, when it became Richard's turn to know somewhat the ins and outs of Wall Street, a dark interior trade-region of which his ignorance for depth was like unto the depth of the ocean, and as wide, our young gentleman went instantly in search of him. Had he beheld the softened eye of Mr. Bayard when that war-lord of the Street first read his card, had he heard his voice as he repeated the line "son of the late Mr. Dudley Storms," he might have been encouraged in a notion that he had not rapped at the wrong door. But Richard, in the anteroom awaiting the return of that person of the serpent hiss, did not witness these phenomena. When he was shown into the presence of Mr. Bayard, he saw only one who for dignity and courteous poise seemed the superior brother of the best-finished gentleman he had ever met.
"So you are the son of Dudley Storms," said Mr. Bayard, running his eye over the visitor as though looking for a confirmatory resemblance. Then, having concluded his scrutiny: "You are like him. Have a chair; tell me what I can do to serve you."
Richard was taken with Mr. Bayard's words, for that gentleman managed to put into them a reassuring emphasis that was from nowhere save the heart. Thus led, Richard began by asking Mr. Bayard if he knew aught of Storri.
"Storri? He is the Russian who helped the sugar people get their hold in Odessa. The oil interests have some thought of employing him in their affairs. What of Storri?"
Richard explained the propriety of destroying Storri; this he did with an ingenuous ferocity that caused Mr. Bayard to smile.
"The man," observed Richard in conclusion, "is no more than so much vermin. He is a menace to my friends; he has intrigued villainously against me. I have no option; I must destroy him out of my path as I would any footpad or any brigand."
Being primal in his instincts, as every great man is, Mr. Bayard, at this hostile declaration, could not avoid a quick side-glance at Richard's door-wide shoulders, Pict arms, and panther build. Richard caught the look.
"Oh, if it might have been settled in that way," cried he, "I should have had his head wrung round ere this!"
"You will readily conceive," observed Mr. Bayard, after musing a bit, "that I keep myself posted concerning the least movement of the least man who comes speculating into stocks. You may take it for granted that I know a trifle or so of your Count Storri. To be frank, he and Mr. Harley, with Senator Hanway and five others, are preparing for some movement in Northern Consolidated. I don't know whether it is to be a 'bull' or a 'bear' movement, or when they will begin. Those are matters which rest heavily on the finding of that special committee of which Senator Hanway is the chief. Do you know when the finding may be looked for? Can you tell me what the committee will report?"
Richard could not bring himself to speak of Senator Hanway's confidential assurances of a white report for Northern Consolidated. From those assurances he was sure that the pool meditated a "bull" campaign, but he did not say so since he could not give his reasons.
Mr. Bayard came to the protection of his anxieties.
"Senator Hanway," went on Mr. Bayard, "has privately told a number of people that the report will favor the road."
Richard was struck by the cool fullness of Mr. Bayard's information. It was likewise impressive to learn that he was not the only one in Senator Hanway's confidence. On top of Richard's wonder Mr. Bayard piled another marvel. He declared that he did not believe the word of Senator Hanway.
"He is a fox for caution," quoth Mr. Bayard, "and I cannot think he told the truth. Believe me, the committee's report will tear Northern Consolidated to pieces. The market has been exceedingly strong since the beginning of the year. He will watch, and plump in that adverse report the moment general prices show a weakness."
Richard, while taken by the reasoning of Mr. Bayard, was not convinced. However, he asked Mr. Bayard what might be done.
"Remembering always," said Richard, "that the one purpose I have in view is the overthrow of Storri."
"Every member of that pool," returned Mr. Bayard, "has made himself fair game. A pool is like a declaration of war against the world; the pool itself would tell you so. And speaking of the pool, you understand that the eight are bound together like a fagot. You can't break one without breaking all; if Storri fall, Mr. Harley, Senator Hanway, and the others fall."
Richard could not forbear a smile as he recalled how Mrs. Hanway-Harley had said that her only objection to him was his lack of riches, and how, should his fortune one day mend and measure up with Mr. Harley's, Dorothy and he might wed. The peculiar humor of those possibilities which the situation offered began to address itself to Richard. Was not here a chance to remove Mrs. Hanway-Harley's objection?
"Since they are open game," said Richard, "I see no reason why the whole octagonal combination should not be wiped out. Indeed, there might be a distinct advantage in it," he concluded, thinking on Dorothy.
"There would be a distinct advantage of several millions in it," returned Mr. Bayard, who was thinking on dollars and cents. Then, as might one who, having decided, takes the first step in a great enterprise: "Where, by the way, are those millions that were left by Dudley Storms?"
"They are where you may put your hand upon them," returned Richard, "in any hunting of this vermin Storri."
The eyes of Mr. Bayard began to glitter and light up like the windows of a palace on the evening of a ball.
"I fancy," said he, "that I shall go with you for this Storri's destruction."
"I shall put the matter wholly into your hands. It is a game of which I know nothing but the name."
"The game is not difficult; it is mere purse-matching."
"How much of a fund will you require?"
"At the least, fifty millions. We must lie concealed until the pool develop its purpose. It will make but little difference, once it be developed; 'bull' or 'bear,' we meet them either way. Fifty millions should do. If that sum crowd you, we must recollect that I, myself, am not without a handful of millions that can never have better employment than fighting the battles of a son of Dudley Storms."
"Fifty millions would be no strain," replied Richard quickly. "To be safe, let us call those fifty millions one hundred. Still, I am deeply obliged for your proffer."
"One hundred millions be it," quoth Mr. Bayard. "We'll organize ourselves, and we'll wait and watch. When they move, we meet them. Should they sell, we buy; should they buy,—which they won't,—we sell; in either event we buy or sell them to a standstill. Should they connive a 'bear' raid, they'll sell their way into as formidable a corner as ever 'bear' was squeezed in."
This befell upon that first visit of Richard to Mr. Bayard. Two days later, Richard returned. Mr. Gwynn met him, brisk upon the hour, in one of the numerous private rooms of Mr. Bayard, and turned over one hundred millions in certified checks upon those fifty banks. Richard dismissed Mr. Gwynn and went in to Mr. Bayard.
"I shall deposit these," said Mr. Bayard, "in ten banks, twenty millions in the City Bank and the balance scattered among the other nine. You may leave the details of our enterprise to me; I have been through many of similar color. I need not suggest the value of silence. Meanwhile, and I can't emphasize this too much, if you would busy yourself to advantage make what discoveries you may touching the pending report on Northern Consolidated."
On that evening when they came together outside the Harley house, Storri and the San Reve continued slowly on their way, turning now east, now south, until after ten minutes of walking they entered a narrow thoroughfare to which the street lamp on the corner gave the name of Grant Place. The houses were sober and reputable. Up the steps of one of the soberest went Storri and the San Reve; the latter let them in with a latch-key. Storri consigned his overcoat and hat to the rack in the hall as though his surroundings were familiar, and he with the San Reve passed into what in the original plan of the house had been meant for a drawing-room.
The house was occupied by a stirring lady named Warmdollar, who served her country as head scrubwoman in one of the big departments—a place of fatter salary than its menial name implies. There was a Mr. Warmdollar, who in an earlier hour had held through two terms a seat in Congress. This was years before. Failing of a second re-election, and having become fixed in the habit of officeholding, which habit seizes upon certain natures like a taste for opium, Mr. Warmdollar urged his claims for some appointive place. The Senators from his home-State felt compelled to moderately bestir themselves, the result of their joint efforts being that Mr. Warmdollar was tendered a position as guard about the congressional cemetery, said last resting-place of greatness-gone-to-sleep being a wild, weird tract in a semi-farmerish region on the fringe of town. Mr. Warmdollar objected to the place, and the gloomy kind of its duties; but since this was before Mrs. Warmdollar had begun to earn a salary as scrubwoman, he was driven to accept.
"Take it until something better turns up," urged one of the Senators, who had grown tired of having Mr. Warmdollar on his hands.
It was a blustering night of rain when Mr. Warmdollar entered upon his initial vigil as a guardian of the dead. Wet, weary, disgusted, Mr. Warmdollar sought refuge in a coop of a sentry-box, which stood upon the crest of a hill through which the road that bounded one side of the burying ground had been cut. The sentry-box was waterproof and to that extent a comfort, being designed for deluges of the sort then soaking Mr. Warmdollar.
Had there been nothing but a downpour, Mr. Warmdollar might have borne it until his watch was relieved; he might have even continued to perform the duties and draw the emoluments of his place indefinitely. But the winds rose; and they blew down Mr. Warmdollar's sentry-box. Toppling into the road, it rolled merrily down a steep and then lay upon its front, door downward, in the mud. Mr. Warmdollar could not get out; being discouraged by what he had undergone, he broke into yells and cries like a soul weltering in torment.
The yells and cries engaged the heated admiration of a farmer's dog that dwelt hard by, and the dog descended upon the sentry-box and Mr. Warmdollar, attacking both with an impartiality which showed him no one to split hairs. Then the farmer came to his door, arrayed in a shirt and a shotgun, and emptied both barrels of the latter at Mr. Warmdollar and his sentry-box—the agriculturist not understanding the case, as sometimes happens to agriculturists, notably in politics.
Following his baptism of dog and fire, Mr. Warmdollar crawled back to town and worked no more. Mrs. Warmdollar was named scrubwoman, while her disheartened spouse devoted himself to strong drink, as though to color one's nose and fuddle one's wits were the great purposes of existence. Being eager of gain, Mrs. Warmdollar had sub-rented her parlor floor to the San Reve; and since Mrs. Warmdollar was a lady in whom curiosity had had its day and died, she asked no questions the answers to which might prove embarrassing.
The San Reve, like Mrs. Warmdollar, worked in a department, being a draughtswoman in the Treasury Building, and attached to the staff of the supervising architect. The place had been granted the San Reve at the request of Senator Hanway, who was urged thereunto by Mr. Harley, to whom Storri explained the San Reve's skill in plates and plans and the propriety of work.
The San Reve's apartments were comfortable with chairs, lounges, and ottomans; a piano occupied one corner, while two or three good pictures hung upon the walls. In the bow-window was a window-seat piled high with cushions, from which by daylight one might have surveyed the passing show—dull enough in Grant Place.
"Have you no kiss for your Storri, my San Reve?" cried Storri plaintively, but still sticking to the lightly confident.
The San Reve accepted Storri's gallant attention as though thinking on other things than kisses. Then she threw aside her hat and wraps, and glanced at herself in the glass.
She was a striking figure, the San Reve, with brick-colored hair and eyes more green than gray. Her skin showed white as ivory; her nose and mouth and chin, heavy for a woman, told of a dangerous energy when aroused. The eyebrows, too, had a lowering falcon trick that touched the face with fierceness. The forehead gave proof of brains, and yet the San Reve was one more apt to act than think, particularly if she felt herself aggrieved. If you must pry into a matter so delicate, the San Reve was twenty-eight; standing straight as a spear, with small hands and feet, she displayed that ripeness of outline which sculptors give their Phrynes.
"Storri," said the San Reve, with a chill bluntness that promised the disagreeable while it lost no time, "why do you visit that house—the Harley house?"
Storri was in an easy-chair, puffing a cigar as though at home. The San Reve, half lying, half sitting, reclined upon a sofa. They looked at each other; Storri trying to seem brave, the San Reve with staring courage, open and more real.
"You know, my San Reve, I have business with Mr. Harley. Let me tell you: Mr. Harley, through his relative, Senator Hanway——"
"You go to see the girl," interrupted the San Reve, and the sullen contralto was vibrant of danger. "You go to see Miss Harley, not her father."
"And if I do?"
Storri put his query blusteringly.
"You will marry her," went on the San Reve, who appeared to care as little for Storri's bluster as his kiss.
"I never promised to marry you."
"I do not ask you to marry me. I want neither your name nor your title. But you promised me your love; I want that." The San Reve's tones were unruffled. They did not lift or mount, and told only of passionate resolution. "Storri, why did you bring me from Ottawa?"
"If it come to that," retorted Storri spitefully, "why did you leave Ottawa?"
"I left Ottawa for love," the San Reve replied, as though considering with herself. "I left Ottawa for love of you, just as four years before I came to Ottawa for love of another."
"You have had adventures," remarked Storri sarcastically. "I have never heard your story, my San Reve; go on, I beseech you!"
"I will tell you one thing," said the San Reve, "from which you may wring a warning. My father was a showman—a tamer of lions and leopards. When I was twelve, I went into the den with him to hold a hoop while he lashed those big cats through it. Yes, Storri," cried the San Reve, a sudden flame to burst forth in her voice like an oral brightness, and as apparent as a fire in a forest, "when to fear was to die, I have held aloft my little hoop to the lions and the leopards! And for all their snarls they jumped tamely; for all their threats they did nothing. I, as a child, was not afraid of a lion under the lash; am I now to fear a bear, a Russian bear, I, who am a woman?"
"Why, my San Reve," protested Storri, "and what has stirred your anger?"
Storri was startled by the San Reve's fury rather than her revelations. Having a politic mind to soothe her, he sought to take her hand.
"Keep your attentions to yourself!" cried the San Reve; "I am in no temper for tenderness."
"Ah, as to that," said Storri, turning proud, "I, who am a Russian gentleman, yes, a Russian nobleman, shall not offend. Yes," yawning and giving himself an air, "I am relieved by your cold attitude. That is the folly of being noble! One cannot be attentive to those beneath one save at a loss of self-respect. Bah! my Czar, could he but see, would call his Storri disgraced by the mere nearness of such as you."
"And you name your Czar to me!" returned the San Reve, now sneering calm, her cool contralto restored; "to me, a French woman! And your nobility, too—that thing of Caspian mud! Storri, the San Reves were soldiers with Napoleon; your noble kind ran from them like hares. The San Reves stabled their horses in the audience chambers of your Czars."
The San Reve rippled off these periods in quiet, invincible scorn. Storri, beaten, frightened, began to whine. His bluster, his bombast, his nobility, his affected elevations, were alike broken down. He professed love; he said that he had wronged his San Reve. His San Reve was a goddess, a flower, a star! Would she make her Storri desolate?—her Storri who would die for love of her!
The San Reve became sensibly composed; her falcon brow relaxed, her spirit took on a tranquil frame, her anger was cooled by the cooing contrition of Storri. The San Reve permitted herself to be soothed.
"Let us go no more in that direction," said the San Reve. "Such tauntings are but a childish barter of words."
The San Reve delivered this sentiment in a serene, high way that brought her honor. Then she lighted a cigarette and blew peaceful rings. Storri, encouraged in his soul by the return of his San Reve to reason, solaced himself with a fresh cigar. The two smoked in silent truce.
"It was a love quarrel, my San Reve!" said Storri.
"Only a love quarrel!" assented San Reve.
Silence and smoke; with Storri timid, shrinking from fresh offense and further outbreak.
Storri, fearing all who had no fear of him, feared the San Reve. Nor were his apprehensions void of warrant; the San Reve was of that hot and blinded strain which loves and slays.
"Your father dead," said Storri, pretending a perking interest, "your father dead, my San Reve, what then became of you?"
"I fell into the hands of a doting old architect of Paris. He was good to me; it was with him I learned my trade. No, I did not love him; but I was grateful. He died, and I came to Ottawa as a draughtswoman for the young engineer, Balue. I did not love Balue; he was tame. And then Ottawa, with those sodden Canadians, their Scotch whiskey, and narrow lives framed in with snow—how I loathed them! What a weariness of the heart they were, those frozen people! Then came you—Storri!"
The San Reve's gray-green eyes burned with white fire. She got up from the couch where she had lain curled like a tawny lioness.
"Yes; you came!" purred the San Reve, and she stooped and kissed Storri with her fierce lips. "Then for the first time I loved."
The San Reve recurled herself on the couch. Storri, who had met her kiss valorously, considered whether he might not please her by solicitude in a new direction.
"There is one thing, my San Reve," he observed, a show of feeling in his words. "Why do you tie yourself to that draughting? It grieves your Storri! Am I a pauper that my San Reve should work? Is Storri so miserly that the idol of his heart must be a slave?"
The San Reve shook her head.
"I must have something to do," she explained, a half-smile parting her rose-red lips. "I am like those poor rats of which my father told me who must gnaw and gnaw and forever gnaw to wear away their teeth, which otherwise would grow and kill them. No, I like my work; let me alone with it."
Storri tossed his hand and shrugged his shoulders in mute resignation and reproof. His San Reve would work; he consented, while he deprecated her so mad resolve.
"Let us return to our first concern," said the San Reve.
Storri quaked; he could follow her trail of thought by mental smell as the hound follows the fox.
"Storri, tell me; do you love this Miss Harley?"
"My San Reve, how can you ask? Look in the mirror! No, I do not love Miss Harley."
The San Reve toyed with her cigarette. Storri, thinking on escape, arose to go. He stepped into the hallway for his coat and hat. Then he returned, and, giving his hand to the reclining San Reve, drew her to her feet. Storri, about to go, was beaming; the kiss he printed lightly on the San Reve's lips spoke of a heart relieved. The San Reve herself was amiably placid; her anger apparently had died with her doubts.
"And you do not love Miss Harley?"
"No; I swear by my mother's grave!"
"By your mother's grave!" Then, voice deep as the mellow pipe of an organ: "Storri, you lie!"
Storri, aghast, was surprised into his usual defense of bluster. He started to bully; the San Reve raised her shapely hand.
"Storri, let me show you." The San Reve took from the drawer of a cabinet a beautiful pistol. She partly raised the hammer and buzzed the liberated cylinder. It gave forth clear, musical clicks. "Do you see?" said the San Reve half wistfully. "I have this!"
"You would not kill Miss Harley!" exclaimed Storri nervously.
"No! Storri, no!"
"Whom then?" and Storri moistened his dry lips. His San Reve was such a heathen! The thought parched him. "Whom would you kill, my San Reve?" This came off pleadingly.
"Whom would I kill?" the San Reve repeated tenderly, stretching for a kiss. "I would kill you! No, not now, my Storri; but some time. My resolution is only born; it is not yet grown. Storri, you must beware! I come of the race that kill! I have now only the tiny root of that blood resolution. Do not let us nourish it! We must destroy it—blight it with much love! I speak for you, for me!" The San Reve began to cry convulsively. "I speak against a dark day! I feel, I know it! It is you, you whom I shall kill! And then myself—oh, yes, my Storri, you cannot go alone!"
The San Reve threw herself weeping upon the couch; her gusty nature seemed torn by whirlwinds of passion and jealous love. Storri hung in the door, and the white of his cravat was not so white as his face. He could neither go nor stay, neither speak nor do; craven to the heart, he quailed before the stormy San Reve. An artist might have painted him as the Genius of Cowardice.
"Good-night, my Storri," said the San Reve, her voice mournfully sweet.
HOW THEY TALKED POLITICS AT MR. GWYNN's
In accord with the requests of Mr. Gwynn, which with them had those graver aspects the requests of royalty possess for London shopkeepers, the President and General Attorney of the Anaconda Airline came to Washington. The Anaconda president was a short, corpulent man, with dark skin, eyes black as beads, round, alert face, and a nose like the ace of clubs. The General Attorney was no taller than his superior officer, but differed from him in a figure so spare and starved that it snapped its fingers at description. As though to make amends for a niggardliness of the physical, Providence had conferred upon our legal one a prodigious head. A facetious opponent once said that he had a seven and a half hat and a six and a half belt, being, as steamboat folk would put it, over-engined for his beam. Both the President and the General Attorney were devoted to their company, and neither would have scrupled to loot an orphanage or burn a church had such drastic measure been demanded by Anaconda interests. Once in town, these excellent officers lost no time in presenting themselves at Mr. Gwynn's. To their joy that unbending personage was so good as to grant them a personal audience. Richard was present—such, as you have discovered, being the invariable usage with Mr. Gwynn. After the latter had shaken each visitor by the hand, a shake of mighty formality, he sat in state while Richard did the talking.