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The Veiled Lady - and Other Men and Women
by F. Hopkinson Smith
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At mention of the partnership a vague, cloudy expression crossed my face; my companion caught it, and continued:

Or (again the voice slowed down) I would be paid for the structure on its erection by me on the reef.

Again my eyes wandered, and again he took the cue:

Or—if that was not satisfactory—he would be willing to pay for the ironwork alone as soon as it arrived in the harbor of San Juan.

My Spanish is more like an old uniform that is rubbed up for a parade and then put away in camphor. Much of his talk was therefore lost on me; but the last sentences were as clear as if they had dropped from the lips of my old teacher, Senor Morales.

Half-rising from my chair, I placed my hand over my shirt-front and thanked his Excellency for his confidence—really one of the greatest compliments that had ever been paid me in all my professional career. To be at once the partner of two such distinguished caballeros as General Alvarez, the saviour of his country, and my distinguished guest, was an honor that few men could resist, but—BUT—here I picked up a lead pencil and a pad—BUT—the only way I could permit myself to rob him of his just desserts would be—here I traced a few lines on the pad—would be—my voice now became impressive—to receive one-third when it was erected in the yard in Brooklyn, and the balance on delivery of the bills of lading to his agent; payments to be made by his distinguished Excellency's bankers in New York.

If the modification of terms in any way disappointed the gentleman from San Juan, my closest observation of his smile and glance failed to detect it. He merely quivered his shoulders—a sort of plural shrug—rolled his cigarette tighter between his thumb and forefinger, remarked that the memoranda were entirely satisfactory, and folding the paper slid it carefully into his pocket; then with a series of salaams that reminded me of a Mohammedan spreading a prayer rug, and an "A Dios, Senor," the ivory-tinted individual withdrew.

A week later Mawkum, carrying a tin case addressed to his sun-dried Excellency, passed up the gangplank of the Tampico; this he placed in that gentleman's hands. Inside its soldered top were the plans and specifications of a First Order Light, to be made of iron, to be properly packed, and to have three coats of red lead before shipment—together with a cross-section of foundation to be placed on the reef known as "La Garra de Lobo"—The Claw of the Wolf—outside the harbor of San Juan—all at the risk of his Supreme Excellency, Senor Tomas Correntes Garlicho, of the Republic of Moccador, South America—the price of the ironwork to hold good for three months.

On his return to the office Mawkum took up his position once more at my window, waited until the Tampico, the case and his Excellency were well on their way to Sandy Hook and started in on other work. The next day the incident, like so many similar ventures—his racks were full of just such estimates—was forgotten. If any of the bread thus cast upon the waters came back, the chief would be glad, and so would the Grandioso; if not, we were both willing to cut a fresh slice to keep it company.



II

Four months passed. The ice was out of the river; the steam heat had been turned off in the high building and the two time-worn awnings had been fixed to my windows by the obliging janitor. The Tampico had come and gone, and had come again. Its arrivals, and departures were, as usual, always commented upon by Mawkum, generally in connection with "That Bunch of Dried Garlic," that being the irreverent way in which he spoke of his ivory-tinted Excellency. Otherwise the lighthouse, and all that pertained to it, had become ancient history.

One lovely spring morning—one of those warm mornings when every window and door is wide open to get the breeze from Sandy Hook and beyond—another visitor stepped into Mawkum's room. He brought no letters of introduction, nor did he confine himself to his mother tongue, although his nationality was as apparent as that of his predecessor. Neither did he possess a trace of Garlicho's affability or polish. On the contrary, he conducted himself like a muleteer, and spoke with the same sort of brutal authority.

And the differences did not stop here. Garlicho was shrivelled and sun-dried. This man was round and plump—plump as a stuffed olive fished from a jar of oil, and as shiny; dark-skinned, with a pair of heavy eyebrows that met over a stub of a nose ending in a knob; two keen rat eyes, a mouth hidden by a lump of a mustache black as tar, and a sagging, flabby chin which slunk into his collar. Next came a shirt-front soiled and crumpled, and then the rest of him in a suit of bombazine.

"You designed a lighthouse some months ago for Mr. Garlicho, of San Juan," he blurted out with hardly an accent. "I arrived this morning by the Tampico. My name is Carlos Onativia." And he laid a thin, elongated piece of cardboard on Mawkum's desk.

Only the arrival of a South American fresh from the Republic of Moccador, with a spade designed to dig up a long-buried treasure could have robbed Mawkum of his habitual caution of always guarding plans and estimates from outsiders—a custom which was really one of the fundamental laws of the office. The indiscretion was no doubt helped by the discovery that the owner of the spade spoke English, a fact which freed him at once of all dependence on the superior lingual attainments possessed by the Grandioso in the adjoining room.

Down came the duplicate blue-prints without a word of protest or any further inquiry, and before I could reach the inquirer's side and be properly introduced—I did not want to interfere too abruptly—Mawkum had not only unrolled the elevation and cross-sections, but had handed out a memorandum showing the estimate of cost.

Onativia acknowledged my presence with a slight bob of his head, loosened the upper button of his coat, fished up a pair of glasses, stuck them on the knob end of his nose, and began devouring the plans in a way that showed both of us that it was not the first time he had looked over a set of blue-prints.

"This estimate is for the ironwork alone," the stranger said, "and is, as you see, good for three months. The time, as you will note, has expired. Do you now ask for an additional sum, or will the price stand?" All this in the tone of a Tombs lawyer cross-examining a witness.

Mawkum murmured that, as there had been no advance in the cost of the raw material, the price would stand.

"Very well. And now, what, in your judgment, should be added for the cost of erection?"

"Can't say," answered Mawkum; "don't know the coast or kind of labor, or the bottom of the reef—may be coral, may be hard-pan, may be sand. Do YOU know?"

"Yes—the coast is an ugly one, except four months in the year. Site is twelve miles from San Juan, exposed to the rake of the sea; bottom coral, I understand; labor cheap and good for nothing, and appliances none—except what can be shipped from here." This came with the air of one who knew.

I now took charge of the negotiations:

"We have refused to erect the structure or be responsible for it after it leaves our dock. We told Senor Garlicho so."

Onativia lowered his chin, arched his eyebrows and looked at me over his glasses.

"I don't want you to erect it," he said in a purring tone with a patronizing strain through it. "I'll do that. What I want to know is what it would cost HERE? That's what I came to New York to find out."

"Has Senor Garlicho been awarded the contract?" I asked. It was useless to distribute any more bread upon the waters; certainly not on the ripples washing the shores of Moccador. If there were any business in sight I could very easily give either one of them an approximate cost; if there were none the bakery was closed.

"No, Senor Garlicho has NOT been awarded the contract. I am here to keep the affair alive. If I had thought it necessary I would have brought a certified check with me drawn to your order, which I would have handed you with my card. The standing of your firm prevented my doing so. This is business, and I want to get back home as quick as possible. Our coast is a dangerous one and the loss of life increases every year. Do you want this matter hung up for six weeks until we can communicate with Mr. Garlicho? Every hour's delay in putting the light on the Lobo means that many more deaths." As he spoke a peculiar smile struggled from under his black dab of a mustache, got as far as the base of his nose and there collapsed.

My duty was now clear. Senor Garlicho, for some reason unknown to me, had waited until his option had expired and had then sent Onativia in his place. This wiped out the past and made a new deal necessary—one which included the price of erection on the reef, a point which had not been raised in the former negotiation.

"All right," I said, "you shall have the estimate. What you want is the cost of erecting a structure like the one here in the plans. Well, if it was to be put on our Florida coast, where I think the conditions are somewhat similar to those you describe, I would advise you to add about one hundred thousand dollars to the cost of the ironwork."

"Is that safe?" Again the smile worked itself loose.

"Yes," I replied, "if you don't lose your plant too often by bad weather. We have warnings of our coast storms and can provide against them. I don't know anything about yours—what are they like?"

"They come suddenly and without warning," he rejoined; "typhoons, generally, with the tiles rattling off the roofs and the natives hugging the cocoanut trees." With this he turned to the plans again. "Better add another twenty thousand—I want to be safe," he said, in a tone that showed me he had at last made up his mind.

I added it, marking the sum on the memorandum which Mawkum had given him.

"Now, please put that in writing over your signature. I'll call to-morrow at ten for the document. Good-day."

When he was well down the corridor—we waited really until we heard the down-chug of the elevator—Mawkum looked at me and gave a low whistle.

"Add another twenty! What do you think is up? That Bunch of Garlic is working some funny business, or he wouldn't have sent that brigand up here."

I ruminated for a moment, walked to the window and took in the brick wall, the clerks and the clock tower. Frankly, I did not know what Garlicho was up to. It was the first time that any passenger by the Tampico, or any other steamer, from any quarter of the globe, had asked either Mawkum or myself to add one penny to the cost of anything. The effort heretofore had been to cut down each item to the last cent. Was the ivory-tinted gentleman going to build the lighthouse at his own expense out of loyalty to President Alvarez, the saviour of his country, and then donate it to the Government, using our estimate to prove the extent of his generosity? Or was there a trick somewhere? I decided to sound Senor Onativia the next morning, and find out.

I had not long to wait. He arrived on the minute, bobbed to Mawkum, drew a chair to my desk and squared, or rather rounded, his body in front of me.

"I will now tell you what I omitted to say yesterday," he began. "When an order comes for this lighthouse—and it will arrive by the next steamer—it will not be signed by Senor Garlicho, but by me. I have reasons for this which I cannot explain, and which are not necessary for you to know. The ironwork—all you will have to furnish—will also be shipped in my name. With the order will be sent a letter introducing my bankers, who will call upon you at your convenience, and who will pay the amounts in the way you desire—one-third on the signing of the contract (one of the firm will act as my agent), one-third on erection and inspection of the ironwork properly put together in the yard, and the balance on delivery to them of the bills of lading. Is that quite satisfactory?"

I bowed my head in answer.

"And have you signed your estimate showing what you consider to be a fair price for both the lighthouse itself and for the cost of its erection on the Lobo Reef?"

"Yes; there it is," and I pointed to the document lying on my desk. "And now one word, please. When did you last see Mr. Lawton? He's our agent, you know, and you must have met him in connection with this matter. When Senor Garlicho arrived he brought us a letter from him."

Onativia's lips curled slightly as he recognized the hidden meaning of the inquiry, but his expression never changed.

"I have never seen him. If I had I should not have wasted my time in getting a letter from him or from anybody else. As to Senor Garlicho, his time has expired; he has not asked for its renewal, and so far as this deal is concerned he does not count. I am here, as I told you, to keep the affair alive. I would have come sooner, but I have been away from the city of San Juan for months. Most of us who have opinions of our own have been away from San Juan—some for years. San Juan has not been a healthy place for men who believe in Paramba."

"And do you?"

"Absolutely. So do thousands of our citizens."

"You don't seem to agree with Senor Garlicho, then. He thought your former president, Paramba, a tyrant. As for President Alvarez, he looked upon him as the saviour of his country."

The lips had full play now, the smile of contempt wrinkling up to his eyelids.

"Saviour of his country! Saviour of his pocket! Pardon me; I am not here to discuss the polities of our people. Is this your estimate?" And he reached over and picked it from my desk. "Ah, yes: forty thousand dollars for the ironwork; one hundred and twenty thousand for the erection on the Lobo Reef; one hundred and sixty thousand in all. Thank you." Here he tucked the paper in his pocket and rose from his seat. "You will hear from me in a month, perhaps earlier. Good-day." And he waddled out.

The return of the Tampico six weeks later brought another South American consignment. This was a roll of plans concealed in a tin case—the identical package which Mawkum had handed the "Bunch of Dried Garlic" months before, together with a document stamped, restamped and stamped again, containing an order in due form, signed "Carlos Onativia," for a lighthouse to be erected on the "Garra de Lobo"—this last was in red ink—with shipping directions, etc., etc.

With it came the clerk of the bankers (he had the case under his arm), a reputable concern within a stone's throw of my office, who signed the contract and paid the first instalment.

Then followed the erection of the ironwork in the Brooklyn yard; its inspection by the engineer appointed by the bankers; its dismemberment and final coat of red lead—each tie-rod and beam red as sticks of sealing-wax—its delivery, properly bundled and packed, aboard a sailing vessel bound for San Juan, and the payment of the last instalment.

This closed the transaction, so far as we were concerned.

A year passed—two of them, in fact—during which time no news of any kind reached us of the lighthouse. Mawkum kept the duplicate blue-print of the elevation tacked on the wall over his desk to show our clients the wide range of our business, and I would now and then try to translate the newspapers which Lawton sent by every mail. These would generally refer to the dissatisfaction felt by many of the Moccadorians over the present government, one editorial, as near as I could make out, going so far as to hint that a secret movement was on foot to oust the "Usurper" Alvarez and restore the old government under Paramba. No reference was ever made to the lighthouse. We knew, of course, that it had arrived, for the freight had been paid: this we learned from the brokers who shipped it; but whether it was still in storage at San Juan or was flashing red and white—a credit to Onativia's energy and a godsend to incoming shipping—was still a mystery.

Mawkum would often laugh whenever Garlicho's or Onativia's name was mentioned, and once in a while we would discuss the difficulties they must have encountered in the erection of the structure in the open sea. One part of the transaction we could never understand, and that was why Garlicho had allowed the matter to lapse if the lighthouse was needed so badly, and what were his reasons for sending Onativia to renew the negotiations instead of coming himself.

All doubts on this and every other point were set at rest one fine morning by the arrival of a sunburned gentleman with gray side-whiskers, a man I had not seen for years.

"Why, Lawton!" I cried, grasping his hand. "This is a surprise. Came by the Tampico, did you? Oh, but I am glad to see you! Here, draw up a chair. But stop—not a word until I ask you some questions about that lighthouse."

The genial Scotchman broke out into a loud laugh.

"Don't laugh! Listen!" I said to him. "Tell me, why didn't Garlicho go on with the work, and what do you know about Onativia?"

Lawton leaned back in his chair and closed one eye in merriment.

"Garlicho did not go on with the work, my dear friend, because he was breaking stone in the streets of San Juan with a ball and chain around his ankle. When Paramba came back to power he was tried for high treason and condemned to be shot. He saved his neck by turning over the lighthouse papers to Onativia. As to Carlos Onativia, he is a product of the soil. Started life as a coolie boss in a copper mine, became manager and owner, built the bridge over the Quitos River and the railroad up the Andes; is the brightest man in Moccador and the brains of the Paramba Government. One part of his duty is to keep the people satisfied, and he does it every single time; another is to divide with Paramba every dollar he makes."

"But the lighthouse!" I interrupted. "Is it up? You must have passed it on your way out of the harbor."

"Up? Yes, and lighted every night—up in the public garden in San Juan among the palms and bananas. The people eat ice-cream on the first platform and the band plays Sundays in the balcony under the boat davits. The people are wild about it—especially the women. It was the last coat of red lead that did it."

And again the office rang with Lawton's laugh.



MISS MURDOCK,—"SPECIAL"

A row of gas jets hooded by green paper shades lighting a long table at which sit half a dozen men in their shirt sleeves writing like mad; against the wall other men,—one drawing Easter lilies, another blocking in the background around a photograph, a third pasting clippings on sheets of brown paper. Every few minutes a bare-headed boy in a dirty apron, with smudged face and ink-stained fingers, bounds into the stifling, smoke-laden room, skirts the long table, dives through a door labelled "City Editor," remains an instant and bounds out again, his hands filled with long streamers of proof.

In the opening and shutting of the swinging door a round-bodied, round-headed man in his shirt sleeves comes into view. Covering his forehead, shielding his eyes from the glare of the overhead gas jet, is a half-moon of green leather held in place by strings tied behind his ears. The line of shadow caused by this shade makes a blank space about his eyes and brings into relief his pale, flabby cheeks, hard, straight mouth, and coarse chin. Only when he lifts his head to give some order, or holds the receiver of the telephone to his ear, can his eyes be exactly located. Then they shine like a cat's in a cellar,—gray, white, gray again, with a glint of metallic green,—always the same distance apart, never wavering, never blinking. Overstrung, overworked, nervous men, working at high pressure, spurred by the merciless lash of passing minutes, have these eyes. So do cornered beasts fighting for air and space. Eleven-thirty had just been tolled by the neighboring clock; deliverance would come when the last form of the morning edition was made up. Until then safety could only be found in constant attack.

Outside the city editor's office, sprawled over a pile of mail sacks, between the long table and the swinging door, lay Joe Quinn, man-of-all-work,—boy, in fact, for he was but nineteen, big for his age, with arms and legs like cordwood and a back straight and hard as a plank. Joe's duty was to keep his eyes peeled, his ears open, and his legs in working order. If a reporter wanted a fresh pad, a cup of water, or a file of papers, Joe brought them; sometimes he foraged for sandwiches and beer,—down four pair of stairs, across the street into a cellar and up again; sometimes he carried messages; oftener he made an elevator of himself, running between the presses in the basement and the desk behind the swinging door. Fifty trips in a single night had not been an unusual tally.

To the inmates of the room the boy was known as "Joe" or "Quinn" or "Sonny." To the man with the half-moon shade over his eyes he was "Say" or "That Damned Kid." High-strung, high-pressure editors omit the unnecessary, condensation being part of their creed.

Up in the Franconia Notch, in a little hollow under White Face and below Bog Eddy, Joe had been known as "Jonathan's boy," Jonathan being the name his father went by, the last half never being used,—there being but one "Jonathan"—the one whom everybody loved.

The cabin was still standing, where Joe was born,—a slant of logs with a stone chimney and some out-buildings; and his old father was still alive, and so was his mother and his little "Sis." Summer mornings the smoke would curl straight up from the rude stone chimney, catch a current of air from the valley, and stretch its blue arms toward the tall hemlocks covering the slope of the mountain. Winter mornings it lay flat, buffeted by the winds, hiding itself later on among the trees. Joe knew these hemlocks,—loved them,—had hugged them many a time, laying his plump, ruddy cheek against the patches of cool moss velveting their sides. "Nothin' like trees," his old father had told him,—"real human when ye know 'em."

To-night, as he lay stretched out on the mail sacks, his ears unlatched, listening for the sound of the night city editor's bell, or his gruff "Say, you!" his mind kept reverting to their bigness and wide, all embracing, protecting arms. A letter from Jonathan received that morning, and still tucked away in his inside pocket, had revived these memories.

"They've started to cut roads, son," it read. "I was out gummin' yesterday and got up under White Face. Won't be nothing left if they keep on. Cy Hawkins sold his timber land to them last winter and they've histed up a biler on wheels and a succular saw, and hev cleared off purty nigh every tree clean from the big windslash down to the East Branch. It ain't going into building stuff; they're sending it down to Plymouth to a pulp mill and grinding it up to print newspapers on, so the head man told me. Guess you know all about it, but it was news to me. I told him it was a gol-darn-shame to serve a tree so, being as how trees had feelings same as men, but he laughed and said it warn't none of my bizness, and I guess it ain't. Beats all what some folks will do for money."

Joe thought so too,—had been thinking so ever since he broke the seal of the letter that the postmaster at Woodstock had directed for his father. "Dad's right; trees have feelings," he kept repeating to himself. And, as to being human, he could recall a dozen that he had talked to and that had talked back to him ever since he could remember. His father had taught him their language on the long days when he had trailed behind carrying the gum bag or had hidden in the bushes while the old man wormed himself along, his rifle in the hollow of his arm, or when the two lay stretched out before their camp fire.

"Dogs and trees, my son, will never go back on ye like some folks I've hearn tell of. Allers find 'em the same. See that yaller birch over thar?—Well, I've knowed that birch over forty-two year and he ain't altered a mite, 'cept his clothes ain't as decent as they was, and his shoes is give out 'round the roots. You kin see whar the bark's busted 'long 'round his toes,—but his heart's all right and he's alive and peart, too. You'll find him fust tree out in the spring,—sometimes 'fore the sugar sap's done runnin'. Purty soon, if you watch him same's me, ye'll see him begin to shake all over,—kind o' shivery with some inside fun; then comes the buds and, fust thing ye know, he gives a little see-saw or two in the warm air and out busts the leaves, and he a laughin' fit to kill. Maybe the birds ain't glad, and maybe them squirrels that's been snowed up all winter with their noses out o' that crotch, ain't jes' holdin' their sides, and maybe, too, them little sunbeams don't like to sneak in and go to sleep on the bark all silvery and shinin' like the ribbons on Sis's hat! They're human, them trees is, I tell ye, son,—real human!

"And ye want to treat 'em with some perliteness, too they're older'n anything 'round here 'cept the rocks; and they've been holdin' up the dignity of this valley, too,—kind o' 'sponsible for things. That's another thing ye mustn't forgit. The fust folks that come travellin' through this notch—'bout time the Injins quit,—took notice on 'em, I tell ye. That's what they come for. Bald Top and White Face was all right, but it was the trees that knocked 'em silly. That's what you kin read in the book school-teacher has, and that's true. And see how they treat their brothers that git toppled over,—by a windslash, maybe, or lightnin' or a landslide, or some such cussed thing, givin' 'em a shoulder to lean on same as you would help a cripple. When they're clean down and done for it ain't more'n a year or two 'fore they got 'em kivered all over with leaves, and then they git tergether and hev a quiltin' party and purty soon they're all over blankets o' green moss, and the others jes stand 'round solemn and straight like's if they was mountin' guard over their graves.

"It's wicked to kill most anything 'less ye got some use—and a good one, too,—for the meat, but it's a durned sight meaner to cut down a tree that took so long to grow and that's been so decent all its life, 'less ye can't do without the stuff ye git out'n it."

Joe had listened and had drunk it all in, and his love for the tall giants away back in the deep wilderness had never left him. It was these dear old friends more than anything else that had kept him at home, under plea of helping his father, months after he knew he ought to be up and doing if he would ever be of any use to the old man in his later years.

It was Plymouth first, as stable boy, and then down to Nashua and Boston as teamster and freight handler, and then, by what he considered at the time a lucky chance—(Katie Murdock, from his own town, and now a reporter in the same newspaper office with himself, had helped), man of all work in this whirl where he felt like a fly clinging to a driving wheel.

Stretching out his stout saw-log legs and settling his big shoulders into the soft cushions made by the sacks, his mind went back to the old sawmill,—Baker's Mill,—and the dam backed up alongside the East Branch. An old kingfisher used to sit on a limb over the still water and watch for minnows,—a blue and white fellow with a sharp beak. He had frightened him away many a time. And there was a hole where two big trout lived. He remembered the willows, too, and the bunch of logs piled as high as the mill. These would be rolled down and cant-hooked under its saw when the spring opened, but Baker never ground any one of them up into wood pulp. It went into clapboards to keep out the cold, and shingles to keep off the rain, and the "waste" went under the kettles of the neighbors, the light of the jolly flames dancing round the room. He had carried many a bundle home himself that the old man had sent to Jonathan. Most everybody sent Jonathan something, especially if they thought he needed it.

Then his mind reverted to his own share in the whirl about him. It wasn't a job he liked, but there wasn't anything else offering, and then Katie might want somebody to look after her, and so it was just as well he had the job. He and Katie had been schoolmates together not so long ago, in the wooden schoolhouse near the crossroads. She had gone to college, and had come home with a diploma. She was two or three years older than he was, but that didn't make any difference to a boy and girl from the same village when they had grown up alongside of each other. He wondered how long it was to July, when he was promised a week,—and so was Katie. He knew just what they'd do; he could get two passes to Plymouth,—his old friend the freight boss had promised him that,—then about daylight, the time the train arrived, he'd find Marvin, who drove the stage up the valley and past his old home, and help him curry his team and hitch up, and Marvin would give them a ride free. He could feel the fresh air on his cheeks as he rattled out of the village, across the railroad track and out into the open. Tim Shekles, the blacksmith, would be at work, and old Mother Crawport would be digging in her garden, early as it was; and out in the fields the crows would be hunting corn; and pretty soon down would go the wheels into the soft, clean gravel of the brook that crossed the turnpike and out again on the other side dripping puddles in the dirt; and soon the big trees would begin, and keep on and on and on,—away up to the tops of the mountains, the morning sun silvering the mists sweeping up their sides,—and—

"Say! you! Wake up! He's been hollering at you for five minutes. GIT!"

Joe sat up and rubbed his eyes. The fresh air of the morning had vanished.

"Yes, sir." He was on his feet now, alert as a terrier that had sniffed a rat.

"YES, SIR, eh! How many times do you want me to call you? Go and find Miss Murdock, and send her here on the run. Tell her to get her hat and cloak and show up in two minutes. I've got an assignment for her on the East Side,—just come over the 'phone. Hurry now! That damned kid ought to be—"

But Joe was already out of the room and down two pair of stairs. Before the minutes were up he was back again, Katie Murdock with him. She was sliding her arm into the sleeve of her jacket as she entered.

"Forty-third and First Avenue, Miss Murdock," said the night city editor, lifting his head so that the cat eyes had full play. "Girl overboard from one of the ferry boats,—lives at 117.—Drowned, they say,—some fellow mixed up in it. Take your snapshot along and get everything. Find the mother if she's got one and—"

But the girl had gone. She knew the value of time,—especially at that hour, even if she had been but a week in her new department of "Special." Her chief knew it, too, or he wouldn't have sent her at that hour. There was time—plenty of time if everything went right,—thirty minutes, perhaps an hour,—to spare, but they were not hers to waste.

"Wait for me, Joe," she said, as she hurried past him. "We'll go up town together, soon as the presses start."

Joe threw himself again on the pile of sacks and kept his ears open for orders. It was a bad night for Katie to go out. She was plucky and could hold her own,—had done so a dozen times,—once in a street car when some fellow tried to be familiar,—but he didn't like her to go, all the same. Nobody who looked into her face and then down into her blue eyes would ever make any mistake, but then some men mightn't take the trouble to look. He'd wait for her, no matter how late it might be. When she came in she would be out of breath, and perhaps hungry,—then he'd take her over to Cobb's for a cup of coffee.

During the interim Joe's legs had been kept busy. Not only had he rushed downstairs and up again half a dozen times, springing to the night city editor's curse, or pound, or shout, whichever had come handiest, but he had also been twice to the corner for frankfurters for reporters who hadn't had a crumb to eat for hours. He was unwrapping the second one when Katie burst in.

Her hat and coat were dripping wet and her hair hung in disorder about her pale face. Her notes were nearly completed; she had worked them out on the elevated on her way downtown. Joe absorbed her with a look, and slid to her side. Something in her face told him of her errand; something of the suffering, and perhaps horror,—and he wanted to get close to her. The girl had reached the editor's desk now, and was waiting until he had finished the paragraph his pen was inditing.

"Well," he said, laying down his pen,—"What have you got?" He was running his cat eyes over the girl's notes as he spoke,—taking in at a glance the "meat" of her report. Then he added,—"Get any snaps?"

"No, sir, I—"

"Didn't I tell you I must have 'em?"

"Yes, but I couldn't do it. The mother was half crazy and the two little children would have broken your heart. She was the only one who could earn anything—"

"And you got into the house and had the whole bunch right in your fist and never snapped a shutter! See here, Miss Murdock I ain't running a Bible class and you're not working in the slums,—you can keep that gush for some other place. You had your camera and flash,—I saw you go out with them. I wanted everything: corpse of girl, the mother, children; where she was hauled out,—who hauled her out,—her lover,—she went overboard for some fellow, you remember,—I told you all that. Well, you're the limit!"

Joe had moved up closer, now. He was formulating in his mind what would happen to Katie if he caught the night city editor under his chin and slammed his head against the wall. He knew what would happen to the editor and to himself, but it was Katie's fate that kept his hands flat to his sides.

"I would rather throw up my position than have done it, sir," Katie pleaded. "There are some things never ought to be printed. This drowned girl—"

The night city editor sprang from his chair, brushed the pile of notes aside with his hand, and shouted

"Say, you! Find that damned boy, somebody, if he isn't asleep!"

Joe, who was not ten feet away, stepped up and faced him,—stepped so quickly that the man backed away as if for more room.

"Get a move on and send Miss Parker here. Hunt for her,—if she isn't downstairs she may be at Cobb's getting something to eat. Quick, now!" Then he turned to Katie

"You better go home, Miss Murdock. You're tired, maybe: anyhow, you're way off. Miss Parker'll get what we want,—she isn't so thin-skinned. Here, take that stuff with you,—it's no use to me."

The girl reached across the desk, gathered up the scattered notes, and without a word left the room. On the way downstairs she met Miss Parker coming up, Joe at her heels. She was older than Katie,—and harder; a woman of thirty-five, whose experience had ranged from nurse in a reformatory to a night reporter on a "Yellow." The two women passed each other without even a nod. Joe turned and followed Katie Murdock downstairs and into the night air. Miss Parker kept on her way. As she glided through the room to the city editor's office, she had the air of a sleuth tracking a criminal.

Once outside in the night air, Joe drew Katie from under the glare of the street lamp. Her eyes were running tears,—at the man's cruelty and injustice, she who had worked to any hour of the night to please him.

Joe was boiling.

"I'll go back and punch him, if you'll let me. I heard it all."

"No, it'll do no good,—both of us would get into trouble, then."

"Well, then, I'll chuck my job. This ain't no place for any decent girl nor man. Was it pretty bad where you went, Katie?"

"Bad! Oh, Joe, you don't know. I said, last week, when I forced my way into the room of that poor mother whose son was arrested, that I'd never report another case like it. But you ought to have seen what I saw to-night. The poor girl worked in a box factory, they told me, and this man hounded her, and in despair she threw herself overboard. The room was full when I got there,—policemen,—one or two other reporters,—no woman but me. They had brought her in dripping wet and I found her on the floor,—just a child, Joe,—hardly sixteen,—her hair filled with dirt from the water,—the old mother wringing her hands. Oh, it was pitiful! I could have flashed a picture,—nobody would have cared nor stopped me,—but I couldn't. Don't you see I couldn't, Joe? He has no right to ask me to do these things,—nobody has,—it's awful. It's horrible! What would that poor mother have said when she saw it in the paper? I'll go home now. No, you needn't come,—they'll want you. Go back upstairs. Good-night."

Joe watched her until she caught an uptown car, and then turned into the side door opening on the narrow street. A truck had arrived while they were talking, and the men were unloading some great rolls of paper,—enormous spools. "What would dad say if he saw what his trees had come to?" Joe thought, as he stood for a moment looking them over,—his mind going back to his father's letter. One roll of wood pulp had already been jacked up and was now feeding the mighty press. The world would be devouring it in the morning; the drowned girl would have her place in its columns,—so would every other item that told of the roar and crash, the crime, infamy, and cruelty of the preceding hours. Then the issues would be thrown away to make room for a fresher record;—some to stop a hole in a broken window; some to be trampled under foot of horse and man; many to light the fires the city over.

"My poor trees!" sighed Joe, as he slowly mounted the steps to the top floor. "There ain't no common sense in it, I know. Got to make sumpin' out o' the timber once they're cut down, but it gits me hot all the same when I think what they've come to. Gol-darn-shame to serve ye so! Trees has feelin's, same's men,—that's what dad says, and that's true!"

Miss Parker had done her work. Joe saw that when he opened the paper the next morning: saw it at a glance, and with a big lump in his throat and a tightening of his huge fists. Flaring headlines marked the first page; under them was a picture of the girl in a sailor hat,—she had found the original on the mantel and had slipped it in her pocket. Then followed a flash photo of the dead girl lying on the floor,—her poor, thin, battered and bruised body straight out, the knees and feet stretching the wet drapery,—nothing had been left out. Most of the details were untrue,—the story of the lover being a pure invention, but the effect was all right. Then, again, no other morning journal had more than a few lines.

Everybody congratulated her. "Square beat," one man said, at which her gray, cold face lightened up.

"Glad you liked it," she answered with a nod of her head,—"I generally 'get there.'"

When the night city editor arrived—the city editor was ill and he had taken his place for the day—he reached out and caught her hand. Then he drew her inside the office. When she passed Joe again on her way out, her smile had broadened.

"Got her pay shoved up," one of the younger men whispered to another.

When Katie came in an hour later, no one in the room but Joe caught the dark lines under her eyes and the reddened lids,—as if she had passed a sleepless night,—one full of terror. She walked straight to where the boy stood at work.

"I've just seen that poor mother, Joe. I saw the paper and what Miss Parker had said and I went straight to her. I did not want her to think I had been so cruel. When I got to her house this morning there was a patrol wagon at the door and all the neighbors outside. A woman told me she was all right until somebody showed her the morning paper with the picture of her drowned daughter; then she began to scream and went stark mad, and they were getting ready to take her to Ward's Island when I walked in. You've seen the picture, haven't you?"

Joe nodded. He had seen the picture,—had it in his hand. He dare not trust himself to speak,—everybody was around and he didn't want to appear green and countrified. Then again, he didn't want to make it harder for Katie. She had had nothing to do with it, thank God!

The door of the office swung open. The editor this time caught sight of Katie, called her by name, and, with a "Like to see you about a little matter," beckoned her inside and shut the door upon them both.

A moment later she was out again, a blue envelope in her hand.

"He's got me discharged, Joe. Here's a note from the city editor," she said. Her voice quivered and the tears stood in her eyes.

"Fired you!"

"Yes,—he says I'm too thin-skinned."

Joe stood for a moment with the front page of the paper still in his hand. Something of Jonathan came into his face,—the same firm lines about his mouth that his father had when he crawled under the floor timbers of the mill to save Baker's girl, pinned down and drowning, the night of the freshet.

Crushing the sheet in his hand Joe walked straight into the city editor's office, a swing in his movement and a look in his eye that roused everybody in the room.

"You've got Katie Murdock fired, she says," he hissed between his teeth. "What fur?" He was standing over the night city editor now, his eyes blazing, his fists tightly closed.

"What business have you to ask?" growled the editor.

"Every business!" There was something in the boy's face that made the man move his hand toward a paper weight.

"She's fired because she wouldn't do your dirty work. Look at this!"—he had straightened out the crumpled sheet now: "Look at it! That's your work!—ain't a dog would a-done it, let alone a man. Do you know what's happened? That girl's mother went crazy when she saw that picture! You sent that catamount, Miss Parker, to do it, and she done it fine, and filled it full o' lies and dirt! Ye didn't care who ye hurt, you—"

The man sprang to his feet.

"Here!—put yourself outside that door! Get out or I'll—"

"Git out, will I!—ME!—I'll git out when you eat yer words,—and you WILL eat 'em. Down they go—"

Joe had him by the throat now, his fingers tight under his chin, his head flattened against the wooden partition. In his powerful grasp the man was as helpless as a child.

"Eat it,—swallow it!—MORE—MORE—all of it! damn ye!"

He was cramming the wad between the editor's lips, one hand forcing open his teeth, the other holding his head firm against the wall.

Then flinging the half strangled man from him he turned, and facing the crowd of reporters and employes—Miss Parker among them,—shouted:—

"And ye're no better,—none o' ye. Ye all hunt dirt,—live on dirt and eat dirt. Ye're like a lot o' buzzards stuck up on a fence rail waitin' fur an old horse to die. Ain't one o' you reporters wouldn't been glad to do what that catamount over there done last night, and ain't one o' ye wouldn't take pay fur it. Katie Murdock's fired? Yes,—two of us is fired,—me and her. We'll go back whar we come from. We mayn't be so almighty smart as some o' you city folks be, but we're a blamed sight decenter. Up in my country dead girls is sumpin' to be sorry fur, not sumpin' to make money out'er, and settin' a poor mother crazy is worse'n murder. Git out o' my way thar, or I'll hurt some o' ye! Come, Katie!"



THE BEGUILING OF PETER GRIGGS

Peter was in his room when I knocked—up two flights of stairs off Washington Square—Eighth Street really—in one of those houses with a past—of mahogany, open wood fires, old Madeira in silver coasters pushed across hand-polished tables,—that kind of a past.

None of all this could be seen in its present. The marble steps outside were worn down like the teeth of an old horse, and as yellow; the iron railings were bent and cankered by rust; the front door was in blisters; the halls bare, steps uncarpeted, and the spindling mahogany balusters showed here and there substitutes of pine.

Nor did the occupants revive any of its old-time charm. The basement held a grocery—a kindling-wood, ice and potato sort of grocery; the parlor boasted a merchant tailor—much pressing and repairing, with now and then a whole suit; the second floor front was given over to a wig-maker and the second story back to a manicure. Here the tide of the commercial and the commonplace stopped—stopped just short of the third floor where old Peter Griggs lived.

You would understand why if you knew the man.

Just as this particular old house possessed two distinct personalities—one of the past and the other of the present—so did the occupant of the third floor.

Downtown in the custom house, where he was employed (he had something to do with invoices), he was just plain Mr. Griggs—a short, crisp, "Yes and so" little man—exact, precise and absurdly correct: never, in all his life, had he made a mistake.

Up in these rooms on the third floor he was dear old Peter—or Pete—or Griggsy—or whatever his many friends loved best to call him. Up here, too, he was the merriest companion possible; giving out as much as he absorbed, and always with his heart turned inside out. That he had been for more than thirty years fastened to a high stool facing his desk bespoke neither political influence nor the backing of rich friends. Nobody, really, had ever wanted his place. If they did they never dared ask for it—not above their breath. They would as soon have thought of ousting the old clock from its perch in the rotunda, or moving one of the great columns that faced the street. So he just stayed on ticking away at his post, quite like the old clock itself, and getting stiffer and stiffer in the line of his duty—quite like the columns—and getting more and more covered with the dust of long habit—quite like both of them.

This dust, being outside dust, and never sinking the thousandth part of an inch below the surface, left its mark on the man beneath as a live coal fading and whitening leaves its covering of ashes on the spark.

These two—the ashes and the spark—made up the sum of Peter's individuality. The ash part was what he offered to the world of routine—the world he hated. The spark part—cheery, warm, enthusiastic, full of dreams, of imaginings, with an absorbing love for little bits of beauty, such as old Satsuma, Cloisonne, quaint miniatures and the like—all good, and yet within reach of his purse—this part he gave to his friends.

I am inside his room now, standing behind him taking in the glow of the fire and the red damask curtains shielding the door that leads to his bedroom; my eye roving over the bookcases crammed with books, the tables littered with curios and the mantel covered with miniatures and ivories. I invariably do this to discover his newest "find" before he calls my attention to it. As he has not yet moved or given me any other sign of recognition than a gruff "Draw up a chair," in a voice that does not sound a bit like him—his eyes all the time on the smouldering fire, there is yet a chance to look him over before he begins to talk. (We shall all be busy enough listening when he does begin.)

I say "ALL," for there is a second visitor close behind me, and the sound of still another footstep can already be heard in the hall below.

It is the back of Peter's head now that interests me, and the droop of his shoulders. They always remind me of Leech's sketch of Old Scrooge waiting for Marly's ghost, whenever I come upon him thus unobserved. To-night he not only wears his calico dressing-gown—unheard-of garment in these days—but a red velvet cap pulled over his scalp. Most bald men would have the cap black—but then most bald men have not Peter's eye for color.

It's a queer head—this head of Peter Griggs. Not at all like any other head I know. If I should attempt to describe it, I should merely have to say bluntly that it was more like an enlarged hickory-nut than any other object I can think of. It is of the same texture, too, and almost as devoid of hair. Except on his temples, and close down where his collar binds his thin neck, there is really very little hair left; and this is so near the color of the shrivelled skin beneath that I never know where one begins and the other ends.

When I face him—and by this time I am facing him—I must admit that the hickory-nut simile still holds. There are no particular features, no decided bumps, no decided hollows; the nose is only an enlarged ridge, the cheeks and eye-sockets only seams. But the eyes count—yes, the eyes count—count so that you see at once that they are the live points of the live coal smouldering beneath.

Here the hickory-nut as a simile goes all to pieces. These eyes are the flash from some distant lighthouse, burning dull when the commonplace of life passes before him, and bursting into effulgence when something touches his heart or stirs his imagination. Downtown in the Dismal Tomb even the lighthouse goes to smash. Here the eyes set so far back in his head that they look for all the world like two wary foxes peeping out of a hole, losing nothing of what is going on outside—never being fooled, never being wheedled or coaxed out of their retreat. "Can't fool Mr. Griggs," some broker says, as he tries to get his papers signed out of his turn. Uptown these same foxes are running around loose in an abandonment of jollity, frisking here and there, all restraint cast aside—trusting everybody—and glad to. That's why I couldn't understand his tone of voice when I opened his door.

"Not sick, old fellow?" I cried. He had not yet lifted his head or vouchsafed a single word of welcome.

"Yes, sick at heart. My old carcass is all right, but inside—way down where a man lives—I'm sick unto death. Take a look at the mantelpiece. You see my best miniature's gone, don't you?"

"Not the Cosway?"

"Yes, the Cosway!"

"Stolen?"

"Worse than stolen! Oh, my boy, such mean people live in the world! I couldn't believe it possible. I've read in the papers something like it, but that I should have been—oh, I can't get over it! It haunts me like a ghost. It isn't the value—it's the way it was done; and I was so helpless, and I meant only to be kind."

The other men had arrived now and the three of us were ranged around Peter in a circle, wondering with wide-opened eyes at his tone of voice, his dismal expression, and especially at the air of dejection which seemed to ooze through every square inch of his calico dressing-gown.

"Sit down, all of you," he continued "and listen. And it's all your fault. If only one of you had come up to see me! I waited and waited; I knew most of you would be off somewhere eating your Thanksgiving turkey, but that every mother's son of you should have forgotten me—that's what I won't forgive you for."

We, with one accord, began to make excuses, but he waved us into silence.

"After a while I got so lonely I couldn't stand it any longer. So about six o'clock I started out to dine alone somewhere—some place where I had no associations with any one of you. I hadn't gone as far as Broadway when along came two men and a woman. You'd have said 'two gentlemen and a lady'—I say two men and a woman. I looked at them and they looked at me. I saw they were from out of town, and right away came the thought, they must be lonely, too. Everybody is lonesome on Thanksgiving if he's away from home, or, like me, has no place to go to. The Large Man stopped and nudged the Small Man, and the Woman turned and looked at me earnestly, then all three talked together for a minute, then I heard the Small Man say, 'I'll go you a ten on it,' which conveyed no meaning to me. Then all three of them walked back to where I stood and the Large Man asked me where Foscari's restaurant was.

"Well, of course, that was in the next street, so I volunteered to show them the place. On the way over the Small Man and the Woman lagged behind and I overheard them say that it would never do—that is, the Woman said so; at which the Small Man laughed and said they couldn't find a better. All this time the Large Man held me by the arm in a friendly sort of way, as if he were afraid I would stub my toe and fall if he didn't help me over the gutters; telling me all the time that he didn't know the ropes around New York and how much obliged he was to me for taking all this trouble to show him. Pretty soon we arrived at Foscari's. I never dined there—never had been inside the place. Cheap sort of a restaurant—down two steps from the sidewalk, but they asked for Foscari's, and that's where I took them.

"'Here's the place,' I said, and I lifted my hat to the Woman and turned to go back.

"'No, don't go,' said the Large Man, still holding on to my arm. 'You've been white and decent to us; we're all stranded here. This is Thanksgiving—come in and have dinner with us.'

"Then I began by thanking them and ended by saying I couldn't. Then the Small Man began to urge me, saying that out in his country, near the Rockies, everybody was willing to sit down at anybody's table when he was invited; and the Large Man kept on squeezing my arm in a friendly sort of way, so I finally said I didn't care if I did, and in we all went. When we got inside the place was practically empty—only one guest, really—and he was over by the wall in a corner. There were only two waiters—one an Irishman who said his name was Mike, with a very red head and an enormous mouth—a queer kind of a servant for that kind of a restaurant, I thought—and the other a young Italian, who was probably the cook.

"'You order,' said the Large Man. 'You know what's good in New York.'

"So I ordered.

"And I want to tell you that the dinner was a particularly good one—well cooked and well served. We had soup and fish and an Italian ragout, macaroni, peppers and two bottles of red wine. Before the soup was over I was glad I'd come; glad, not only because the dinner was all right, but because the people were human kind of people—no foolishness about them—no pretension. They were not our kind of people, of course—couldn't find them in New York if you looked everywhere—not born and brought up here. The Woman was gentle and kindly, saying very little, but the Large Man was a hearty, breezy sort of fellow—even if his language at times was rough and uncouth—at least I thought so. Big bones and a well-fed body; quick in his movements, yet slow in his talk, showing force and determination in everything he said. The Small Man was as tough physically and as alert mentally, but there wasn't so much of him. He talked, however, twice as fast as the Large Man, and said less.

"He talked of the city—how smart the people were, how stuck up some of them, thinking they knew it all, and how, if they but thought about it, they must see after all that the West was the only thing that kept the country alive. That kind of talk—not in an offensive way—just as all of us talk when we believe in our section of the country.

"All this time the solitary guest sat against the wall listening. Near as I could make out he only had one dish and a small bottle of wine. Presently he made a remark—not to us—not to the room—more as if to himself.

"'West is the only thing, is it? And every man Jack of them from New England stock!'

"This, too, didn't come in any offensive spirit—just as an aside, as if to keep himself company, being lonely, of course.

"But the Large Man caught it before all the words were out of his mouth.

"'Dead right, pard,' he said—I only quote his words, gentlemen. 'My father came from Boston, left there in '58. Where're you from?'

"'Boston,' answered the man looking at him over the prongs of his fork.

"'That so? Well, why ain't you eatin' your turkey with your folks? Got any?'

"'Yes, got a lot of them, but I was short of a ticket.'

"Here the Large Man got up and went over to the Man from Boston.

"'Shake for Boston,' he said, holding out his big hand. 'And now bring that bottle over here and chip in with us.' Then he opened his pocketbook and took out a square slip of paper.

"'Here, tuck that in your clothes.' Again I must remark, gentlemen, that I am only quoting their language so that you can get a better idea of what sort of people I was with. 'That's a pass to your 'burg. I'm going South and I won't use it.'

"There were five of us at the table now, the Bostonian bringing over his plate without a word except 'Thank you,' and taking his share of the different dishes.

"The talk now became very interesting. The Large Man told stories of his early life on a farm and the Bostonian recited verses, and recited them very well, and the Woman laughed in the right place, and when the cigars were brought and the coffee and the cognac, I was sorry it was all over. That, when I look back upon it, is the most extraordinary thing of all. How a man of my experience could have—Well, I won't stop, I'll just keep on.

"With the coffee, and before the red-headed Irishman had brought the bill—oh, you should go round to Foscari's and look at that Irishman just to see how coarse and vulgar a man can be who spends his whole life feeding animals who—no I WILL go on, for the most interesting part is to come. When the coffee was served, I say, the Large Man asked the waiter where he could send a telephone message to his hotel—wanted the porter to get his trunks down. The Irishman answered: 'Out in the hall, to the right o' where ye come in.' 'I'll go with you,' said the Woman; so the two got up and I opened the door for her, and we three sat down again—that is, the Small Man, the Bostonian and myself.

"We talked on, not noticing the time; then the Small Man looked at his watch, jumped up and called out to the waiter: 'Where did you say that telephone place was?'

"'In the hall—on the other side of that dure; ye kin see it from where ye're sittin'.'

"'Well, he's taking a devil of a time to do his telephoning' said the Small Man. 'Hold on to my coffee till I go and punch him up.'

"The Bostonian and I kept on talking. He was a draughtsman in an architect's office, so he told me, and was promised a place the following week, and I was very much interested in what he told me of his walking the streets looking for work.

"Mike, the waiter, now laid the bill on the table. I didn't want to know the amount; my hosts wouldn't want me to see it, of course, and so I didn't look at it. The Bostonian craned his head, but I forestalled his glance and turned a plate over it before he could read the total.

"Mike now approached.

"'Ye'd better pay now,' he said, 'before any more o' ye skip. It's nine dollars and sixty cints.'

"'They'll all be back in a minute,' I said. 'Wait till they come. I'm only an invited guest.'

"'I'll wait nothin'. The boss is out and I'm in charge. H'ist out yer money.'

"The Bostonian had risen from the table now and was looking at me as if I'd just been detected in picking his pocket.

"'But I'm an invited guest,' I protested.

"'Invited guest, are ye?' continued the Irishman. 'And ye ordered the grub yersilf! You heard him!' This to the Bostonian. 'Didn't he order the stuff? Let's see yer wad. No more o' ye's goin' to l'ave this room 'till I gits nine dollars and sixty cints. Here, Macaroni'—and he called the Italian—'ring up the station-house and till thim to sind somebody 'round. Ye can't play that game on me!"

"'My dear fellow,' I said—I had now to be as courteous as I could—'I don't want to play anything on you. You may be right in your views that these people have served me a scurvy trick, but I don't believe it.'

"'Well, thin, pull yer wad out, or I'll call the perlice.'

"'Don't do anything of the kind,' I urged. 'My name is Peter Griggs and I live quite near here. Lived there for twenty years. You can find out all about me from any of the neighbors; I haven't enough money with me, but I'll go to my room and get it.'

"'No ye don't; none o' that guff for me!' You can't think how coarse he was. Then he walked deliberately over to the door and stood with his back against it.

"The Bostonian now joined in.

"'It looks as if you had been buncoed, my friend,' he said. 'It's an old dodge, this, of getting somebody to pay for your dinner, especially on holidays, and yet I can't see how anybody would pick you out as a greenhorn. I'd divide the bill with you, but really, as you know, I haven't the money.' I saw from his tone that he was thinking better of me.

"'No, I'll pay it myself. You, certainly, were not to blame. Will you go to my room with me, Mike?' I called him Mike because it seemed the best way to conciliate the man.

"'How far is it?' he asked, softening a little.

"'Two blocks.'

"'And ye'll pay if I go?'

"'Of course I will pay. Do I look like a man who would cheat you?'

"'All right, come on.'

"I bade the Bostonian good-by, and we started.

"Mike didn't speak a word on the way, nor did I. I felt like a suspected thief that a policeman was taking to the station-house; I've passed them many times in the street, and I've often wondered what was passing in the thief's mind. I knew now. I knew, too, what the Bostonian thought of me, and the Italian, and Mike.

"Then a shiver went through me, and the next moment I broke out into a cold sweat. I suddenly remembered that I hadn't any money in my room. I had given every cent, except two dollars of the amount I had brought uptown with me, to my washerwoman the night before. The bill was not due, but Mrs. Jones wanted it for Thanksgiving and so I let her have it. And yet, gentlemen—would you believe it!—I walked on, trying to think if there mightn't be some bills in the vest I'd worn the day before, or in the top drawer of my desk or in a china cup on the mantel. Really, it was an awful, awful position! I couldn't run! I couldn't explain. I just had to keep on.

"When I got here I turned up the light and asked him to sit down while I searched my clothes—you can see what disgrace does for a man—asked a common, low, vulgar waiter to sit down in my room. He didn't sit down—he just kept walking round and round, peering into the bookcases, handling the little things on the mantel, feeling the quality of the curtain that hangs there at the door—like a pawnbroker making up an inventory.

"Finally he said: 'Ye got a nice place here'—the first words that had come from his lips since we left the restaurant. 'The boss likes these jimcracks; he's got a lot o' thim up where he lives. I seen him pay twinty dollars to a Jew-dago for one o' THIM.' And he pointed to my row of miniatures.

"By this time I was face to face with the awful truth. There was nothing in the vest-pocket, nor in the cup, and there was nothing in the drawer. The only money I had was the two-dollar bill which had been left over after paying Mrs. Jones. I spread it out before him and looked him straight in the eye—fearlessly—that he might know I wasn't telling him an untruth.

"'My good man,' I said in my kindest voice, 'I was mistaken. I find I have no money. I have paid away every cent except these two dollars; take this bill and let me come in to-morrow and pay the balance.'

"'Good man be damned!' he said. 'I don't want yer two dollars. I'll take this and call it square.' Then he put my precious Cosway in his pocket and without another word walked out of the room."

"But wouldn't they give it back to you when you went for it?" I blurted out.

Peter leaned back in his chair and drummed on the arm with his fingers.

"To tell the truth, I have been ashamed to go. I suppose they will give it back when I ask them. And every day I intended going and paying them the money, and every day I shun the street as if a plague was there. I will go some time, but not now. Please don't ask me."

"Have you seen none of them since?" inquired another of his visitors.

"Only the Bostonian. He walked up to me while I was having my lunch in Nassau Street yesterday.

"'I came out better than you did,' he said. 'The pass was good. I used it the next day. Just home from the Hub.'"

"Accomplice, maybe," remarked Peter's third visitor, "just fooling you with that architect yarn."

"Buncoed that pass out of somebody else," suggested the second visitor.

"Perhaps," Peter continued. "I give it up. It's one of the things that can never be explained. The Bostonian was polite, but he still thinks me a cheat. He let me down as easy as he could, being a gentleman, but I can never forget that he saw me come in with them and order the dinner, and that then I tried to sneak out of paying for it. Oh, it's dreadful! Dreadful!"

Peter settled in his seat until only the top of his red skull cap showed above the back of his easy chair. For some minutes he did not speak, then he said slowly, and as if talking to himself:

"Mean, mean people to serve me so!"

Some days later I again knocked at Peter's door. I had determined, with or without his consent, to go myself to Foscari's, redeem the miniature and explain the circumstances, and let them know exactly who Peter was. My hand had hardly touched the panel when his cheery voice rang out:

"Whoever you are, come in!"

He had sprung from his chair now and had advanced to greet me.

"Oh, is it you! So glad—come over here before you get your coat off. Look!"

"The Cosway! You paid the bill and redeemed it?"

"Didn't cost me a cent."

"They sent it to you, then, and apologized?"

"Nothing of the kind. Give me your hat and coat and plump yourself down on that chair by the fire. I've got the most extraordinary story to tell you you've ever heard in your whole life."

He was himself again—the same bubbling spirit, the same warmth in his manner, foxes out frolicking, lighthouse flashing, everything let loose.

"Last night I was sitting here at my desk writing, about nine o'clock, as near as I can remember"—his voice dropped now to a tragic whisper, as if an encounter with a burglar was to follow—"WHEN-I-HEARD-A-HEAVY-TREAD-ON-THE-STAIRS, getting louder and louder as it reached my door. Then came a knock strong enough to crack the panels. I got up at once and turned the knob. In the corridor stood the Large Man. He was inside before I could stop him—I couldn't have stopped him. You have no idea, my dear friend, how big and strong that man is. What he expected to see I don't know, but it evidently was not what he found.

"'I had a hell of a time finding you,' he began, looking about him in astonishment. 'Been up and down everywhere inquiring. Only got your number from that red-headed plate-shover half an hour ago.'"

Peter's voice had now regained its customary volume:

"I had backed to the fireplace by this time and had picked up the poker, as if to punch the fire, but I really intended to strike him if he advanced too close or tried to help himself to any of my things. He never took the slightest notice of my movements, or waited for any answer to his outburst—just kept right on talking.

"'You were so dead easy there warn't no fun in it. I dropped to that the first time you opened your head, but Sam had picked you out and it had to go at that. My wife saw his mistake as soon as she got her eyes on you, but Sam, like a fool, wouldn't listen. He was to do the picking, and so I couldn't say a word. When we all got outside, clear, we took a turn around Washington Square so I could have my laugh out on Sam, and when we got back you were gone and so was the fellow from Boston who chipped in, and so was that red-headed Irish waiter. That knocked us silly—wife gave us rats, and I felt like a yellow dog. Been a-feeling so ever since. The Dago couldn't or wouldn't understand. Said we'd better come in when the boss was there. We had to take the eleven o'clock to Boston that night and had only time to catch the train. When I got back at six-ten to-night I drove to Foscari's, found the Irishman and the boss, heard how he'd pulled your leg—paid the bill—$9.60, wasn't it?—that's what he said it was, anyhow—and here's your picture!'

"I had dropped the poker now and was motioning him to a chair.

"'No, thank you, I won't sit down; ain't got time. Got to take the eleven forty-five for Chicago. Well, we had a lot of fun out of it, anyhow, only I didn't intend it should end up the way it did. Just wanted to get even with Sam and win my bet.'

"'Bet? I asked. I was still in the dark as to what he meant.

"'Yes—bet Sam I'd bunco any New York man he'd pick out, and you happened to be the one. You see, wife and I and Sam were here for a few days and we struck Thanksgiving and wanted some fun, and we HAD it. You're white, old man all the way through—white as cotton and our kind—never flunked once, or turned a hair. Sally took an awful shine to you. Shake! Next time I'm in New York I'll look you up and if you ever come out our way we'll open a keg o' nails, and make it red-hot for you, and don't you forget it. Here's my card, so you can remember.'"

Peter picked up the card from the table, threw up his chin, and broke into one of his infectious laughs. I reached over and took it from his hand. It bore this inscription:

J. C. MURPHY General Travelling Agent C. S. & Q. R. R.

OGDEN, UTAH



MISS JENNINGS'S COMPANION

The big Liner slowed down and dropped anchor inside the Breakwater. Sweeping toward her, pushing the white foam in long lines from her bow, her flag of black smoke trailing behind, came the company's tender—out from Cherbourg with passengers.

Under the big Liner's upper deck, along its top rail, was strung a row of heads watching the tender's approach—old heads—young heads—middle-aged heads—Miss Jennings's among these last—their eyes taking in the grim Breakwater with its beacon light, the frowning casemates specked with sentinels, and the line of the distant city blurred with masts and spent steam. They saw, too, from their height (they could look down the tender's smokestack) the sturdy figure of her Captain, his white cap in relief against the green sea, and below him the flat mass of people, their upturned faces so many pats of color on a dark canvas.

With the hauling taut and making fast of the fore and aft hawsers, a group of sailors broke away from the flat mass and began tugging at the gangplank, lifting it into position, the boatswain's orders ringing clear. Another group stripped off the tarpaulins from the piles of luggage, and a third—the gangplank in place—swarmed about the heaps of trunks, shouldering the separate pieces as ants shoulder grains of sand, then scurrying toward the tender's rail, where other ants reached down and relieved them of their loads.

The mass of people below now took on the shape of a funnel, its spout resting on the edge of the gangplank, from out which poured a steady stream of people up and over the Liner's side.

Two decks below where Miss Jennings and her fellow-travellers were leaning over the steamer's rail craning their necks, other sights came into view. Here not only the funnel-shaped mass could be seen, but the faces of the individuals composing it, as well as their nationality and class; whether first, second or steerage. There, too, was the line of stewards reaching out with open hands, relieving the passengers of their small belongings; here too stood the First Officer in white gloves and gold lace bowing to those he knew and smiling at others; and here too was a smooth-shaven, closely-knit young man in dark clothes and derby hat, who had taken up his position just behind the First Officer, and whose steady steel gray eyes followed the movements of each and every one of the passengers from the moment their feet touched the gangplank until they had disappeared in charge of the stewards.

These passengers made a motley group: first came a stout American with two pretty daughters; then a young Frenchman and his valet; then a Sister of Charity draped in black, her close-fitting, white, starched cap and broad white collar framing her face, one hand clutching the rope rail as she stepped feebly toward the steamer, the other grasping a bandbox, her only luggage; next wriggled some college boys in twos and threes, and then the rest of the hurrying mass, followed close by a herd of emigrants crowding and stumbling like sheep, the men with pillow-case bundles over their backs, the women with babies muffled in shawls.

When the last passenger was aboard, the closely-knit young man with the steel gray eyes leaned forward and said in a low voice to the First Officer:

"He's not in this bunch."

"Sure?"

"Yes—dead sure."

"Where will you look for him now, Hobson?" continued the officer.

"Paris, maybe. I told the Chief we wouldn't get anywhere on this lead. Well, so long"—and the closely-knit young man swung himself down the gangplank and disappeared into the cabin of the tender.

The scenes on the gangplank were now repeated on the steamer. The old travellers, whose hand luggage had been properly numbered, gave themselves no concern—the stewards would look after their belongings. The new travellers—the Sister of Charity among them—wandered about asking questions that for the moment no one had time to answer. She, poor soul, had spent her life in restful places, and the in-rush of passengers and their proper bestowal seemed to have completely dazed her.

"Can I help you?" asked the First Officer—everybody is ready to help a Sister, no matter what his rank or how pressing his duties.

"Yes, please—I want to know where my room is. It is Number 49, so my ticket says."

Here the Purser came up—he, too, would help a Sister.

"Sister Teresa, is it not—from the Convent of the Sacred Heart? Yes, we knew you would get on at Cherbourg. You are on the lower deck in the same stateroom with Miss Jennings. Steward—take the Sister to—"

"With whom?" she cried, with a look of blank amazement "But I thought I was alone! They told me so at the office. Oh, I cannot share my room with anybody. Please let—"

"Yes, but we had to double up. We would willingly give you a room alone, but there isn't an empty berth on board." He was telling the truth and showed it in his voice.

"But I have the money to pay for a whole room. I would have paid for it at the office in Paris, but they told me it was not necessary."

"I know, Sister, and I'm very sorry, but it can't be helped now. Steward, take Sister Teresa to Number 49." This last came as an order, and ended the discussion.

When the Steward pushed open the door Miss Jennings was sitting on the sofa berth reading, a long gray cloak about her shoulders. She had a quiet, calm face and steady eyes framed in gold spectacles. She looked to be a woman of fifty who had seen life and understood it.

"The officer says I am to share your room," began Sister Teresa in a trembling voice. "Don't think me rude, please, but I don't want to share your room. I want to be alone, and so do you. Can't you help me?"

"But I don't mind it, and you won't after you get used to it." The voice was poised and well modulated—evidently a woman without nerves—a direct, masterful sort of woman, who looked you straight in the eyes, was without guile, hated a lie and believed in human nature. "And we ought to get on together," she continued simply, as if it were a matter of course. "You are a Sister, and from one of the French institutions—I recognize your dress. I'm a nurse from the London Hospital. The First Officer told me you had the other berth and I was looking for you aboard the Cherbourg tender, but I couldn't see you for the smoke, you were so far below me. We'll get on together, never fear. Which bed will you have—this one or the one curtained off?"

"Oh, do you take the one curtained off," she answered in a hopeless tone, as if further resistance was useless. "The sofa is easier perhaps for me, for I always undress in the dark."

"No, turn on the light. It won't wake me—I'm used to sleeping anywhere—sometimes bolt upright in my chair with my hand on my patient."

"But it is one of the rules of our order to dress and undress in the dark," the Sister pleaded; "candles are luxuries only used for the sick, and so we do without them."

"All right—just as you say," rejoined Miss Jennings cheerily. "My only desire was to make you comfortable."

That night at dinner Sister Teresa and Nurse Jennings found themselves seated next to each other, the Chief Steward, who had special orders from the First Officer to show Miss Jennings and her companion every courtesy, having conducted them to their seats.

Before the repast was half over, the two had attracted the attention of all about them. What was particularly noticed was the abstemious self-denying life of the Sister so plainly shown in the lines of her grave, almost hard, face, framed close in the tight bands of white linen concealing every vestige of her hair, the whole in strong contrast to the kind, sympathetic face of the Nurse, whose soft gray locks hung loosely about her temples. Their history, gleaned at the First Officer's table had also become public property. Nurse Jennings had served two years in South Africa, where she had charge of a ward in one of the largest field hospitals outside of Pretoria; on her return to England, she had been placed over an important case in one of the London hospitals—that of a gallant Canadian officer who had been shipped home convalescent, and who had now sent for her to come to him in Montreal. The good Sister was one of those unfortunate women who had been expelled from France under the new law, and who was now on her way to Quebec, there to take up her life-work again. This had been the fifth refugee, the officer added, whom the Line had cared for.

When the hour for retiring came, Sister Teresa, with the remark that she would wait until Miss Jennings was in bed before she sought her own berth, followed her companion to the stateroom, bade her good-night, and then, with her hand on the knob, lingered for a moment as if there was still some further word on her lips.

"What is it?" asked the Nurse, with one of her direct, searching glances. "Speak out—I'm a woman like yourself, and can understand."

"Well, it's about the Hour of Silence. I must have one hour every day when I can be alone. It has been the custom of my life and I cannot omit it. It will be many days before we reach the land, and there is no other place for me to pray except in here. Would you object if I—"

"Object! Of course not! I will help you to keep it, and I will see, too, that the Stewardess does not disturb you. Now, is there anything else? Tell me—I love people who speak right out what they mean."

"No—except that I always rise at dawn, and will be gone when you wake. Good-night."

The morning after this first night the two lay in their steamer chairs on the upper deck. The First Officer, noticing them together, paused for a moment on his way to the bridge:

"You knew, of course, Miss Jennings, that Hobson went back to Cherbourg on the tender. He left good-by for you."

"Hunting for somebody, as usual, I suppose?" she rejoined.

"Yes"—and he passed on.

"A wretched life, isn't it," said Nurse Jennings, "this hunting for criminals? This same man, Mr. Hobson, after a hunt of months, found one in my ward with a bullet through his chest."

"You know him then?" asked Sister Teresa, with a tremor in her voice.

"Yes—he's a Scotland Yard man."

"And you say he was looking for some one on board and didn't find him?"

"No, not yet, but he will find him, he always does; that's the pity of it. Some of these poor hunted people would lead a different life if they had another chance. I tried to save the one Hobson found in my ward. He was quite frank with me, and told me everything. When people trust me my heart always goes out to them—so much so that I often do very foolish things that are apt to get me into trouble. It's when they lie to me—and so many do—making one excuse after another for their being in the ward—that I lose all interest in them. I pleaded with Hobson to give the man another chance, but I could do nothing. Thief as he was, he had told the truth. He had that quality left, and I liked him for it. If I had known Hobson was on his track I'd have helped him in some way to get off. He stole to help his old mother, and wasn't a criminal in any sense—only weak-hearted. The law is cruel—it never makes allowances—that's where it is wrong."

"Cruel!—it's brutal. It is more brutal often than the crime," answered Sister Teresa in a voice full of emotion. "Do you think the man your friend was looking for here on board will escape?"

"No, I'm afraid not. There is very little chance of any criminal escaping when they once get on his track, so Mr. Hobson has told me. If he is on this steamer he must run another gauntlet in New York, even if he is among the emigrants. You know we have over a thousand on board. If he is not aboard they will track him down. Dreadful, isn't it?"

"Poor fellow," said Sister Teresa, a sob in her voice, "how sorry I am for him. If men only knew how much wiser mercy is than justice in the redemption of the world." Here she rose from her chair, and gathering her black cloak about her crossed to the rail and looked out to sea. In a few minutes she returned. "Let us walk out to the bow where we can talk undisturbed," she said. "The constant movement of the passengers on deck, passing backward and forward, disturbs my head. I see so few people, you know."

When they reached the bow, she made a place beside her for the Nurse.

"Don't misunderstand what I said about the brutality of the law," she began. "There must be laws, and brutal men who commit brutal crimes must be punished. But there are so many men who are not brutal, although the crimes may be. I knew of one once. We had educated his little daughter—such a sweet child! The man himself was a scene-painter and worked in the theatres in London. Sometimes he would take part in the play himself, making up for the minor characters, although most of his time was spent in painting scenery. He had married a woman who was on the stage, and she had deserted him for one of the actors, and left her child behind. Her faithlessness nearly broke his heart. Through one of our own people in London he found us and sent the child to the convent where we have a school for just such cases. When the girl got to be seventeen years old he sent for her and she went to London to see him. He remembered her mother's career, and guarded her like a little plant. He never allowed her to come to the theatre except in the middle of the day. Then she would come where he was at work up on the top of the painting platform high above the stage. There he and she would be alone. One morning while he was at work one of the scene-shifters—a man with whom he had had some difficulty—met the girl as she was crossing the high platform. He had never seen her before and, thinking she was one of the chorus girls, threw his arm about her. The girl screamed, the scene-painter dropped his brushes, ran to her side, hit the man in the face—the scene-shifter lost his balance and fell to the stage. Before he died in the hospital he told who had struck him; he told why, too; that the scene-painter hated him; and that the two had had an altercation the day before—about some colors; which was not true, there only having been a difference of opinion. The man fled to Paris with his daughter. The girl today is at one of our institutions at Rouen. The detectives, suspecting that he would try to see her, have been watching that place for the last five months. All that time he has been employed in the garden of a convent out of Paris. Last week we heard from a Sister in London that some one had recognized him, although he had shaved off his beard—some visitor or parent of one of the children, perhaps, who had come upon him suddenly while at work in the garden beds. He is now a fugitive, hunted like an animal. He never intended to harm this man—he only tried to save his daughter—and yet he knew that because of the difficulty that he had had with the dead man and the fact that his daughter's testimony would not help him—she being an interested person—he would be made to suffer for a crime he had not intended to commit. Now, would you hand this poor father over to the police? In a year his daughter must leave the convent. She then has no earthly protection."

Miss Jennings gazed out over the sea, her brow knit in deep thought. Her mind went back to the wounded criminal in the hospital cot and to the look of fear and agony that came into his eyes when Hobson stood over him and called him by name. Sister Teresa sat watching her companion's face. Her whole life had been one of mercy and she never lost an opportunity to plead its cause.

The Nurse's answer came slowly:

"No, I would not. There is misery enough in the world without my adding to it."

"Would you help him to escape?"

"Yes, if what you tell me is true and he trusted me."

Sister Teresa rose to her feet, crossed herself, and said in a voice that seemed to come through pent-up tears:

"Thank God! I go now to pray. It is my Hour of Silence."

When she returned, Nurse Jennings was still in her seat in the bow. The sun shone bright and warm, and the sea had become calm.

"You look rested, Sister," she said, looking up into her face. "Your color is fresher and the dark rings have gone from your eyes. Did you sleep?"

"No, I wait for the night to sleep. It is hard enough then."

"What did you do?"

"I prayed for you and for myself. Come to the stateroom—I have something to tell you."

"Tell it here," said Nurse Jennings in a more positive tone.

"No, it might hurt you, and others will notice. Come quick, please, or my courage will fail."

"Can't I hear it to-night—" She was comfortable where she was and remembered the narrow, steep steps to the lower deck.

"No! come now—and QUICK."

At the tone of agony in the Sister's voice Miss Jennings scrutinized her companion's face. Her trained ear had caught an indrawn, fluttering sob which she recognized as belonging to a certain form of hysteria. Brooding over her troubles, combined with the effects of the sea air, had unstrung the dear Sister's nerves.

"Yes, certainly," assented Miss Jennings. "Let me take your arm—step carefully, and lean on me."

On reaching the stateroom, Sister Teresa waited until Miss Jennings had entered, then she locked the door and pulled the curtains close.

"Listen, Miss Jennings, before you judge me. You remember yesterday how I pleaded with you to help me find a bedroom where I could be alone. You would not, and I could do nothing but let matters take their course. Fate has placed me in your hands. When you said that you were on the lookout for me and that you knew Hobson, the detective, I knew that all was lost unless your heart went out to me. I know him, too. I faced his eyes when I came aboard. I staggered with fright and caught at the ropes, but he did not suspect—I saw in his face that he did not. He may still trace me and arrest me when I land. If anybody comes for me, say you met me in the hospital where you work."

Nurse Jennings stood staring into the woman's eyes. Her first impulse was to ring the bell for the Steward and send for the ship's doctor. Sudden insanity, the result of acute hysteria, was not uncommon in women leading sedentary lives who had gone through a heavy strain, and the troubles of this poor Sister had, she saw, unseated her reason.

"Don't talk so—calm yourself. No one is seeking you. You ought to lie down. Come—"

"Yes, I know you think I am crazy—I am crazy—crazy from a horrible fear that stares me in the face—from a spectre that—"

"Sister, you MUST lie down! I'll ring for the Doctor and he—"

Sister Teresa sprang forward and caught the hand of the Nurse before it touched the bell.

"Stop! STOP!—or all will be lost! I am not a Sister—I am the scene-painter—the father of that girl! See!" He threw back his hood, uncovering his head and exposed his short-cropped hair.

Nurse Jennings turned quickly and looked her companion searchingly in the face. The surprise had been so great that for an instant her breath left her. Then slowly the whole situation rushed over and upon her. This man had made use of her privacy—had imposed upon her—tricked her.

"And you—you have dared to come into this room, making me believe you were a woman—and lied to me about your Hour of Silence and all the—"

"It was the only way I could be safe. You and everybody else would detect me if I did not shave and fix up my face. You said a minute ago the dark rings had gone from my eyes—it is this paint-box that did it. Think of what it would mean to me to be taken—and my little girl! Don't—don't judge me wrongly. When I get to New York I promise never to see you again—no one will ever know. If you had been my own sister I could not have treated you with more respect since I have been in the room. I will do anything you wish—to-night I will sleep on the floor—anything, if—"

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