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Title: Felix O'Day
Author: Smith, Francis Hopkinson
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Felix O'Day" ***

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FELIX O’DAY

By F. Hopkinson Smith



Chapter I



Broadway on dry nights, or rather that part known as the Great White
Way, is a crowded thoroughfare, dominated by lofty buildings, the
sky-line studded with constellations of colored signs pencilled in fire.
Broadway on wet, rain-drenched nights is the fairy concourse of the
Wonder City of the World, its asphalt splashed with liquid jewels afloat
in molten gold.

Across this flood of frenzied brilliance surge hurrying mobs, dodging
the ceaseless traffic, trampling underfoot the wealth of the Indies,
striding through pools of quicksilver, leaping gutters filled to the
brim with melted rubies--horse, car, and man so many black silhouettes
against a tremulous sea of light.

Along this blinding whirl blaze the playhouses, their wide
portals aflame with crackling globes, toward which swarm bevies of
pleasure-seeking moths, their eyes dazzled by the glare. Some with heads
and throats bare dart from costly broughams, the mountings of their
sleek, rain-varnished horses glittering in the flash of the electric
lamps. Others spring from out street cabs. Many come by twos and threes,
their skirts held high. Still others form a line, its head lost in
a small side door. These are in drab and brown, with worsted shawls
tightly drawn across thin shoulders. Here, too, wedged in between shabby
men, the collars of their coats muffling their chins, their backs to the
grim policeman, stand keen-eyed newsboys and ragged street urchins, the
price of a gallery seat in their tightly closed fists.

Soon the swash and flow of light flooding the street and sidewalks
shines the clearer. Fewer dots and lumps of man, cab, and cart now cross
its surface. The crowd has begun to thin out. The doors of the theatres
are deserted; some flaunt signs of “Standing Room Only.” The cars still
follow their routes, lunging and pausing like huge beetles; but much of
the wheel traffic has melted, with only here and there a cab or truck
between which gold-splashed umbrellas pick a hazardous way.

With the breaking of the silent dawn, shadowed in a lonely archway or
on an abandoned doorstep the wet, bedraggled body of a hapless moth is
sometimes found, her iridescent wings flattened in the mud. Then for a
brief moment a cry of protest, or scorn, or pity goes up. The passers-by
raise their hands in anger, draw their skirts aside in horror, or kneel
in tenderness. It is the same the world over, and New York is no better
and, for that matter, no worse.


On one of these rain-drenched nights, some ten years or more ago, when
the streets were flooded with jewels, and the sky-line aflame, a man in
a slouch hat, a wet mackintosh clinging to his broad shoulders, stood
close to the entrance of one of the principal playhouses along this
Great White Way. He had kept his place since the doors were opened, his
hat-brim, pulled over his brow, his keen eye searching every face that
passed. To all appearances he was but an idle looker-on, attracted by
the beauty of the women, and yet during all that time he had not moved,
nor had he been in the way, nor had he been observed even by the door
man, the flap of the awning casting its shadow about him. Only once had
he strained forward, gazing intently, then again relaxed, settling into
his old position.

Not until the last couple had hurried by, breathless at being late, did
he refasten the top button of his mackintosh, move clear of the nook
which had sheltered him, and step out into the open.

For an instant he glanced about him, seemed to hesitate, as does a bit
of driftwood blocked in the current; then, with a sudden straightening
of his shoulders, he wheeled and threaded his way down-town.

At Herald Square, he mounted with an aimless air a flight of low steps,
peered though the windows, and listened to the crunch of the presses
chewing the cud of the day’s news. When others crowded close he stepped
back to the sidewalk, raising his hat once in apology to an elderly dame
who, with head down, had brushed him with her umbrella.

By the time he reached 30th Street his steps had become slower. Again
he hesitated, and again with an aimless air turned to the left, the rain
still pelting his broad shoulders, his hat pulled closer to protect his
face. No lights or color pursued him here. The fronts of the houses were
shrouded in gloom; only a hall lantern now and then and the flare of
the lamps at the crossings, he alone and buffeting the storm--all others
behind closed doors. When Fourth Avenue was reached he lifted his head
for the first time. A lighted window had attracted his attention--a
wide, corner window filled with battered furniture, ill-assorted china,
and dented brass--one of those popular morgues that house the remains of
decayed respectability.

Pausing automatically, he glanced carelessly at the contents, and was
about to resume his way when he caught sight of a small card propped
against a broken pitcher. “Choice Articles Bought and Sold--Advances
Made.”

Suddenly he stopped. Something seemed to interest him. To make sure that
he had read the card aright, he bent closer. Evidently satisfied by his
scrutiny, he drew himself erect and moved toward the shop door as if
to enter. Through the glass he saw a man in shirt-sleeves, packing. The
sight of the man brought another change of mind, for he stepped back
and raised his head to a big sign over the front. His face now came into
view, with its well-modelled nose and square chin--the features of a
gentleman of both refinement and intelligence. A man of forty--perhaps
of forty-five--clean-shaven, a touch of gray about his temples, his eyes
shadowed by heavy brows from beneath which now and then came a flash
as brief and brilliant as an electric spark. He might have been a civil
engineer, or some scientist, or yet an officer on half pay.

“Otto Kling, 445 Fourth Avenue,” he repeated to himself, to make sure of
the name and location. Then, with the quick movement of a man suddenly
imbued with new purpose, he wheeled, leaped the overflowed gutter, and
walked rapidly until he reached 13th Street. Half-way down the block
he entered the shabby doorway of an old-fashioned house, mounted to the
third floor, stepped into a small, poorly furnished bedroom lighted by a
single gas-jet, and closed the door behind him. Lifting his wet hat
from his well-rounded head, with its smoothly brushed, closely trimmed
hair--a head that would have looked well in bronze--he raised the edge
of the bedclothes and from underneath the narrow cot dragged out a flat,
sole-leather trunk of English make. This he unlocked with a key fastened
to a steel chain, took out the tray, felt about among the contents, and
drew out a morocco-covered dressing-case, of good size and of evident
value, bearing on its top a silver plate inscribed with a monogram and
crest. The trunk was then relocked and shoved under the bed.

At this moment a knock startled him.

“Come in,” he called, covering the case with a corner of the cotton
quilt.

A bareheaded, coarse-featured woman with a black shawl about her
shoulders stood in the doorway. “I’ve come for my money,” she burst out,
too angry for preliminaries. “I’m gittin’ tired of bein’ put off. You’re
two weeks behind.”

“Only two weeks? I was afraid it was worse, my dear madame,” he answered
calmly, a faint smile curling his thin lips. “You have a better head
for figures than I. But do not concern yourself. I will pay you in the
morning.”

“I’ve heard that before, and I’m gittin’ sick of it. You’d ‘a’ been out
of here last week if my husband hadn’t been laid up with a lame foot.”

“I am sorry to hear about the foot. That must be even worse than my
being behind with your rent.”

“Well, it’s bad enough with all I got to put up with. Of course I don’t
want to be ugly,” she went on, her fierceness dying out as she noticed
his unruffled calm, “but these rooms is about all we’ve got, and we
can’t afford to take no chances.”

“Did you suppose I would let you?”

“Let me what?”

“Let you take chances. When I become convinced that I cannot pay you
what I owe you, I will give you notice in advance. I should be much more
unhappy over owing you such a debt than you could possibly be in not
getting your money.”

The answer, so unlike those to which she had been accustomed from other
delinquents, suddenly rekindled her anger. “Will some of them friends of
yours that never show up bring you the money?” she snapped back.

“Have you met any of them on the stairs?” he inquired blandly.

“No, nor nowhere else. You been here now goin’ on three months, and
there ain’t come a letter, nor nothin’ by express, and no man, woman, or
child has asked for you. Kinder queer, don’t you think?”

“Yes, I do think so; and I can hardly blame you. It IS suspicious--VERY
suspicious--alarmingly so,” he rejoined with an indulgent smile. Then
growing grave again: “That will do, madame. I will send for you when I
am ready. Do not lose any sleep and do not let your husband lose any. I
will shut the door myself.”

When the clatter of her rough shoes had ceased to echo on the stairs
he drew the dressing-case from its hiding-place, tucked it inside
his mackintosh, turned down the gas-jet, locked the door of the room,
retracing his steps until he stood once more in front of Kling’s sign.
This time he went in.

“I am glad you are still open,” he began, shaking the wet from his coat.
“I hoped you would be. You are Mr. Kling, are you not?”

“Yes, dot is my name. Vot can I do for you?”

“I passed by your window a short time ago, and saw your card, stating
that advances were made on choice articles. Would this be of any use
to you?” He took the dressing-case from under his coat and handed it to
Kling. “I am not ready to sell it--not to sell it outright; you might,
perhaps, make me a small loan which would answer my purpose. Its value
is about sixty pounds--some three hundred dollars of your money. At
least, it cost that. It is one of Vickery’s, of London, and it is almost
new.”

Kling glanced sharply at the intruder. “I don’t keep open often so late
like dis. You must come in de morning.”

“Cannot you look at it now?”

Something in the stranger’s manner appealed to the dealer. He lowered
his chin, adjusted his spectacles, and peered over their round silver
rims--a way with him when he was making up his mind.

“Vell, I don’t mind. Let me see,” and opening the case he took out the
silver-topped bottles, placing them in a row on the counter behind
which he stood. “Yes, dot’s a good vun,” he continued with a grunt
of approval. “Yes--dot’s London, sure enough. Yes, I see Vickery’s
name--whose initials is on dese bottles? And de arms--de lion and de
vings on him--dot come from somebody high up, ain’t it? Vhere did you
get ‘em?”

“That is of no moment. What I want to know is, will you either pay me a
fair price for it or loan me a fair sum on it?”

“Is it yours to sell?”

“It is.” There was no trace of resentment in his voice, nor did he show
the slightest irritation at being asked so pointed a question.

“Vell, I don’t keep a pawn-shop. I got no license, and if I had I
vouldn’t do it--too much trouble all de time. Poor vomans, dead-beats,
suckers, sneak-thieves--all kind of peoples you don’t vant, to come in
the door vhen you have a pawn-shop.”

“Your sign said advances made.”

“Vich vun?”

“The one in the window, or I would not have troubled you.”

“Vell, dot means anyting you please. Sometimes I get olt granfadder
vatches dot vay, and olt Sheffield plate and tings vich olt families
sell vhen everybody is gone dead. Vy do you vant to give dis away? I
vouldn’t, if I vas you. You don’t look like a man vot is broke. I vill
put back de bottles. You take it home agin.”

“I would if I had any home to take it to. I am a stranger here and am
two weeks behind in the rent of my room.”

“Is dot so? Vell, dot is too bad. Two weeks behint and no home but a
room! I vouldn’t think dot to look at you.”

“I would not either if I had the courage to look at myself in the glass.
Then you cannot help me?”

“I don’t say dot I can’t. Somebody may come in. I have lots of tings
belong to peoples, and ven other peoples come in, sometimes dey buy,
and sometimes dey don’t. Sometimes only one day goes by, and sometimes a
whole year. You leave it vid me. I take care of it. Den I get my little
Masie--dat little girl of mine vot I call Beesvings--to polish up all de
bottles and make everyting look like new.”

“Then I will come in the morning?”

“Yes, but give me your name--someting might happen yet, and your
address. Here, write it on dis card.”

“No, that is unnecessary. I will take your word for it.”

“But vere can I find you?”

“I will find myself, thank you,” and he strode out into the rain.



Chapter II



In the days when Otto Kling’s shop-windows attracted collectors in
search of curios and battered furniture, “The Avenue,” as its denizens
always called Fourth Avenue between Madison Square Garden and the
tunnel, was a little city in itself.

Almost all the needs of a greater one could be supplied by the stores
fronting its sidewalks. If tea, coffee, sugar, and similar stimulating
and soothing groceries were wanted, old Bundleton, on the corner above
Kling’s, in a white apron and paper cuffs, weighed them out. If it were
butter or eggs, milk, cream, or curds, the Long Island Dairy--which was
really old man Heffern, his daughter Mary, and his boy Tom--had them
in a paper bag, or on your plate, or into your pitcher before you could
count your change. If it were a sirloin, or lamb-chops, or Philadelphia
chickens, or a Cincinnati ham, fat Porterfield, watched over from her
desk by fat Mrs. Porterfield, dumped them on a pair of glittering brass
scales and sent them home to your kitchen invitingly laid out in a flat
wicker basket. If it were fish--fresh, salt, smoked, or otherwise--to
say nothing of crabs, oysters, clams, and the exclusive and expensive
lobster--it was Codman, a few doors above Porterfield’s, who had them on
ice, or in barrels, the varnished claws of the lobsters thrust out like
the hands of a drowning man.

Were it a question of drugs, there was Pestler, the apothecary, with his
four big green globes illuminated by four big gas-jets, the joy of the
children. A small fellow this Pestler, with a round head and up-brushed
hair set on a long, thin stem of a neck, the whole growing out of a pair
of narrow shoulders, quite like a tulip from a glass jar.

And then there were Jarvis, the spectacle man, and that canny Scotchman
Sanderson, the florist, who knew the difference between roses a week
old and roses a day old, and who had the rare gift of so mixing the
two vintages that hardly enough dead stock was left over for funerals
including those presided over by his fellow conspirator Digwell, the
undertaker, who lived over his mausoleum of a back room.

And, of course, there were the bakeshop emitting enticing smells, mostly
of currants and burnt sugar, and the hardware store, full of nails and
pocket-knives, and old Mr. Jacobs, the tailor, who sat cross-legged on
a wide table in a room down four stone steps from the sidewalk, and the
grog-shops--more’s the pity--one on every corner save Kling’s.

Hardly a trace is now left of any one of them, so sudden and
overwhelming has been the march of modern progress. Even the little
Peter Cooper House, picked up bodily by that worthy philanthropist and
set down here nearly a hundred years ago, is gone, and so are the row
of musty, red-bricked houses at the lower end of this Little City in
Itself. And so are the tenants of this musty old row, shady locksmiths
with a tendency toward skeleton keys; ingenious upholsterers who
indulged in paper-hanging on the sly; shoemakers who did half-soling and
heeling, their day’s work set to dry on the window-sill, not to mention
those addicted to the use of the piano, banjo, or harp, as well as the
wig and dress makers who lightened the general gloom.

And with the disappearance of these old landmarks--and it all took place
within less than ten years--there disappeared, also, the old family life
of “The Avenue,” in which each home shared in the good-fellowship of the
whole, all of them contributing to that sane and sustaining stratum,
if we did but know it, of our civic structure--facts that but few New
Yorkers either recognize or value.


On the block below Kling’s in those other days was the quaint Book
Shop owned by Tim Kelsey, the hunchback, a walking encyclopaedia of
knowledge, much of it as musty and out of date as most of his books;
while overtopping all else in importance, so far as this story is
concerned, was the shabby, old-fashioned two-story house known the town
over as the Express Office of John and Kitty Cleary, sporting above its
narrow street-door a swinging sign informing inquirers that trunks were
carried for twenty-five cents.

And not only trunks, but all of the movable furniture up and down the
avenue, and most of that from the adjacent regions, found their way
in and out of the Cleary wagons. Indeed Otto Kling’s confidence in
Kitty--and Kitty was really the head of the concern--was so great that
he always refused to allow any of her rivals to carry his purchases
and sales, even at a reduced price, a temptation seldom resisted by the
economical Dutchman.

Nor did the friendly relations end here. Not only did Kitty’s man Mike
hammer up at night the rusty iron shutters protecting Kling’s side
window, clean away the snow before his store, and lend a hand in the
moving of extra-heavy pieces, but he was even known to wash the windows
and kindle a fire.

That Mike had delayed or entirely forgotten to hammer up these same iron
shutters when the stranger brought in the dressing-case accounted for
the fact of Otto Kling’s shop having been kept open until so late. It
also accounted for the fact that when the same stranger appeared early
the next morning (Mike was tending the store) and made his way to where
the Irishman sat he found him conning the head-lines of the morning
paper. That worthy man-of-all-work, never having laid eyes on him
before, at once made a mental note of the intruder’s well-cut English
clothes, heavy walking-shoes, and short brier-wood pipe, and, concluding
therefrom that he was a person of importance, stretched out his hand
toward the bell-rope in connection with the breakfast-room above, at the
same time saying with great urbanity: “Take a chair, or, if yer cold,
come up near the stove. Mr. Kling will be down in a minute. He’s
up-stairs eatin’ his breakfast with his little girl. I’m not his man or
I’d wait on ye meself. A little fresh, ain’t it, after the wet night we
had?”

“I left a dressing-case here last night,” ventured the intruder.

Mike’s chin went out with a quick movement, his face expressive of
supreme disgust at his mistake. “Oh, is it that? Somethin’ ye had to
sell? Well, then, maybe you’d better call durin’ the day.”

“No, I will wait--you need not ring. I have nothing else to do, and
Mr. Kling may have a great deal. I take it you are from the north of
Ireland, either Londonderry or near there. Am I right?”

“I’m from Lifford, within reach of it. How the divil did ye know?”

“I can tell from your brogue. How long have you been in this country?”

“About five years--going on six now. How long have you been here?”

“How long? Well--” Here he bent over the table against which he had been
leaning, selected a cup from a group of china, turned it upside down
in search of the mark, and then, as if he had momentarily forgotten
himself, answered slowly: “Oh, not long--a few months or so. You do not
object to my looking these over?” he asked, this time reversing a plate
and subjecting it to the same scrutiny.

“No, so ye don’t let go of ‘em. Fellow come in here last week and broke
a teapot foolin’ wid it.”

The visitor, without replying, continued his cool examination of the
collection, consisting of articles of different makes and colors.
Presently, gathering up a pair of cups and saucers, he said: “These
should be in a glass case or in the safe. They are old Spode and very
rare. Ah, here is Mr. Kling! I have amused myself, sir, in looking over
part of your stock. You seem to have undervalued these cups and saucers.
They are very rare, and if you had a full set of them they would be
almost priceless. This is old Spode,” he continued, pointing to the
cipher on the bottom of each cup.

“Vell, I didn’t tink dot ven I bought it.”

There was no greeting, no reference to their having met before. One
might have supposed that their last talk had been uninterrupted.

“It vas all in a lump, and der vas a soup tureen in de lot--I don’t know
vot I did vid it. I tink dat’s up-stairs. Mike, you go up and ask my
little girl Masie if she can find dot big tureen vich I bought from old
Mrs. Blobbs who keeps dot old-clothes place on Second Avenue. And you
vas sure about dis china?”

“Very sure.”

“How do you know?”

“From the mark.”

“Vot’s it vorth?”

“The cups and saucers would bring about two pounds apiece in London. If
there were a full dozen they would bring a matter of fifteen or twenty
pounds--some hundred dollars of your money.”

Kling stepped nearer and peered intently at the stranger. “You give dot
for dem?”

The man’s eyebrows narrowed. “I am not buying cups at present,” he
answered, with quiet dignity, “but they are worth what I tell you.

“And now tell me vot dis tureen is vorth?” he asked as Mike reappeared
and set it on the table, backing away with the remark that he’d go
now, Mrs. Cleary would be wantin’ him. Kling moved the relic toward the
expert for closer examination.

“Don’t trouble yourself, Mr. Kling; I can see it. All I can say is that
the old lady must have known better days and must have been terribly
poor to have parted with it. What, if I may ask, did you pay her for
this?”

“Two dollars. Vas it too much?” The stranger had suddenly become an
important personage.

“No--too little. It is old Lowestoft, and”--here he took the lid
from the dealer’s hand--“yes, without a crack or blemish--yes, old
Lowestoft--worth, I should say, ten or more pounds. They are giving
large sums for these things in London. Perhaps you have not made a
specialty of china.”

Otto had now forgotten the tureen and was scrutinizing the speaker,
wondering what kind of a man he really was--this fellow who looked and
spoke like a person of position, knew the value of curios at sight, and
yet who had confessed the night before to being behind with his rent and
anxious to sell his belongings to keep off the street. Then the doubt,
universal in the minds of second-hand dealers, arose. “Come along vid
me and tell me some more. Vot is dot chair?” and he drew out a freshly
varnished relic of better days.

The man seized the chair by the back, canted it to see all sides of it,
and was about to give his decision when the laughter of a child and the
sharp, quick bark of a dog caused him to pause and raise his head. A
white fox-terrier with a clothes-pin tail, two scissored ears, and two
restless, shoe-button eyes, peering through button-hole lids, followed
by a little girl ten or twelve years of age, was regarding him
suspiciously.

“He won’t hurt you,” cried the child. “Come back, you naughty Fudge!”

“I do not intend he shall,” said the man, reaching down and picking
the dog up bodily by the scruff of his neck. “What is the matter, old
fellow?” he continued, twisting the dog’s head so that he could look
into his eyes. “Wanted to make a meal of me?--too bad. Your little
daughter, of course, Mr. Kling? A very good breed of dog, my dear young
lady--just a little nervous, and that is in his favor. Now, sir, make
your excuses to your mistress,” and he placed the terrier in her arms.

The child lifted her face toward his in delight. Most of the men whom
Fudge attacked either shrunk out of his way or replied to his attentions
with a kick.

“You love dogs, don’t you, sir?” she asked. Fudge was now routing his
sharp nose under her chin as if in apology for his antics.

“I am afraid I do, and I am glad you do--they are sometimes the best
friends one has.”

“Yes,” broke in Kling, “and so am I glad. Dot dog is more as a brudder
to my Masie, ain’t he, Beesvings? And now you run avay, dear, and play,
and take Fudge vid you and say ‘Good morning’ to Mrs. Cleary, and maybe
dot fool dog of Bobby’s be home.” He stooped and kissed her, caressing
her cheek with his thumb and forefinger, as he pushed her toward the
door, and again turned to the stranger. “And now, vot about dot chair
you got in your hand?”

“Oh, the chair! I had forgotten that you had asked. Your little daughter
drove everything else out of my head. Let me have a closer look.” He
swung it round to get a nearer view.

“The legs--that is, three of them--are Chippendale. The back is a
nondescript of something--I cannot tell. Perhaps from some colonial
remnant.”

“Vot’s it vorth?”

“Nothing, except to sit upon.”

Otto laughed--a gurgling, chuckling laugh, his pudgy nose wrinkling like
a rabbit’s.

“Ain’t dot funny!” and he rubbed his fat hands. “Dot’s true. Yes, I
make it myselluf--and five oders, vich vas sold out of a lot of olt
furniture. I got two German men down-stairs puttin’ in new legs and new
backs; dey can do anyting. Nobody but you find dot out. I guess you know
‘bout dot china--I must look into dot. Maybe some mens on Fifth Avenue
buy dot china--dey never come in here because dey tink dey find only olt
furniture. And now about dot dressing-case. Don’t you sell it. I find
somebody pay more as I can give, and you pay me for my trouble. I lend
you tventy--yes, I lend tventy-five dollars on it. Vill dot be enough?”

“That will be enough for a week, after I pay what I owe.”

“Vell, den, ven dot is gone ve tink out someting else, don’t ve? I look
it all over last night. It is all right--no breaks anyvere. And dot
tventy-five only last you a veek! Vy is dot? Vot board do you pay?” His
interest in the visitor was increasing.

“Eight dollars with my meals, whenever my landlady is on time.”

“Eight dollars! Dot voman’s robbin’ you. Eight dollars! She is a skin!”

“It was the best I could do,” he replied simply.

“Vot does she give you?”

“A small bedroom, my coffee in the morning, and my dinner--both served
in my room on a tray.”

“Yes, I see; dot’s it. She charge about tree dollars for de tray. I
find you someting better as dot. Kitty Cleary has a room--you don’t know
Kitty? Vell, you ought to begin right avay. Dot’s vun voman you don’t
ever see again. She vas in here last night, after you left, looking for
her man Mike. She take you for five dollars a veek, maybe, and you get
good tings to eat and you get Kitty besides, and dot is vorth more
as ten dollars. She lives across de street--you can see one of her
vagons--dot big vite horse is hers, and she love dot horse as much as
she love her husband John and her boy Bobby, all but dot fool dog of
Bobby’s, she don’t love him. You go over dere and tell her I sent you.”

The stranger had relighted his pipe, and was watching the dealer
clutching nervously at his spectacles, pushing them far up on his
forehead, only to readjust them again on his nose. He had begun to
detect behind the fat, round face of the thrifty shopkeeper a certain
kindly quality. “And who may this remarkable lady be, this Mrs. Cleary?”
 he inquired.

“She ain’t no lady. She is better as a hundert ladies--she is joost a
plain vomans who keeps a express office over dere--Cleary’s Express. You
don’t know it? Vell, dot’s your fault. Dot’s her boy Bobby outside
de door. He has been up vid his fadder to de Grand Central for some
sideboards and sofas I been buyin’. You vant to look at ‘em ven dey
git unloaded. They joost ready to fall to pieces, and if I patch ‘em up
nobody don’t buy ‘em. Vot I do is to leave ‘em out on de sidewalk for a
veek or two and let de dirt and rain get on ‘em, den somebody come along
and say: ‘Dot is genuine. You can see right avay how olt dot is. Dot
is because de bottom is out of de sofas, and de back of de behind of de
sideboard is busted. So den I get fifty dollars more for repairin’ my
own furniture. Ain’t dot funny? And ven I send it home dey say: ‘Oh,
ain’t dot beautiful! You ought to have seen dot ven I bought it of old
Kling! You vouldn’t give two dollars for it. All he did vas to scrape
it down and revarnish it--and now it is joost as good as new.’ Ain’t
dot funny? Vy, sometimes I have to holt on to my sides for fear dey vill
split vid my laughter, and my two German mens dey stuff dere fingers
in dere mouths so de customers can’t hear. And all de backs new, and de
legs made outer udder legs, and de handles I get across at de hardvare
store! Oh, I tell you, it’s funny! But you know all about it. Maybe you
vunce keep a place yourself?”

“No, never.”

“VOT!”

“No, I have never been in your line of trade.”

“Vell, how do you know so much?”

“I know very little, but I have always enjoyed such things.”

“Vell, dot’s more funny yet. You vould make a lot of money if you did.
Ven you get someting for nudding you know it--I don’t. You see dem--vot
you call ‘em--Spodes--and dot tureen, dot--”

“Lowestoft?” suggested the stranger, adjusting the mouthpiece of his
pipe.

“Yes, dot Lowestoft. If you come in yesterday and say, ‘Have you any olt
cups and saucers and olt soup tureens?’ I say: ‘Yes--help yourselluf.
Take your pick for tventy-five cents each for de cups and saucers.’ You
see, I pay nudding and I get nudding. Dot give me an idea! How vould you
like to go round de store vid me and pick out de good vuns? Dot von’t
take you long--vait a minute--I give you dat money.”

“I should not be of the slightest value, and if you are loaning me
the twenty-five dollars on any other basis than the worth of the
dressing-case, I would rather not take it.”

“Oh, I have finished vid de loan. Vot I say I say.” He thrust his hand
into a side pocket, from which he drew a flat wallet. “And dere is de
money. I give you a receipt for de case.”

“No, I do not want any receipt. I am quite willing you should keep it
until I can either pay this back or you can loan me some more on it.”

“Vell, den, I don’t vant no receipt for de money. Here comes a customer.
Don’t you go yet. I know her. She comes most every day. She only vants
to look around. Such a lot of peoples only vants to look around.
Dey don’t know vat dey vant and you never have it. No, it ain’t no
customer--it’s Bobby.”

The door was burst open, and a boy in a blue jumper, his cap thrust so
far back on his head that it was a wonder it didn’t fall off, cried out:

“Say! One of the sideboards is stuck on the iron railing and we can’t
get it furrards or back. Them two weiss-beers ye got down-stairs can’t
lift nothin’ but full mugs. Send somebody to help.” And the door went to
with a bang.

Kling was about to call for assistance when Hans--one of the
maligned--shuffled in from the rear of the store, carrying a wooden
image very much in want of repair.

“Oh, dots awful good you brought dot! Set it here on dis chair--now you
go avay and help vid dem sideboards. See here vunce, mister. You see,
dey vas makin’ de altar over new, and one of de mens come to me last
week and he says: ‘Mister Kling, come vid me and buy vot ve don’t vant.
De school is too small, and some of de children got no place to sit down
in. Ve got to sell sometings, and maybe now ve don’t vant dem images.’
And so I buy dem two and some olt vestments dat my Masie make so good as
new, vid patches. Now, vot can I do vid dis--?”

Again the door was burst open, shutting off all possibility for
conversation. Bobby’s voice had now reached the volume of a fog-horn.
“What do ye take us fur out here--lobsters? Dad and I can’t wait all
day. He’s got to go down to Lafayette Place for a trunk.”

Kling looked at his companion, as if to see what effect the talk had had
upon him, and broke out into a suffocating chuckle. “Dot’s vot it is all
day long--don’t you yonder I go crazy? First it is sideboards and den it
is vooden saints. Here you, Bobby! Come inside vunce! I vant to ask you
sometings.”

“Say the rest, Skeesicks,” returned the boy, eying the stranger.

“Has your mudder got empty dot room yet?”

“Yep--the shyster got to swearin’, and the mother wouldn’t stand for it
and she fired him. We ain’t keepin’ no house o’ refuge nor no station
parlor fer bums. Holy Moses! look at the guy that’s been robbin’ a
church! And see the nose on him all busted! Have ye started them mugs?”

Kling cleared the air with his fat hands as the boy made for the door,
and turned to his visitor once more. “Dot boy make me deaf vid his noise
like a fire-engine! Now, vunce more. Vat shall I do vid dis image?”

“I give it up,” observed the stranger, passing his hand over the head
and down its side. “I am not very much on saints--wooden ones, I mean.
He seems a good deal out of place here. Why buy such things at all, and
why sell them? But that, of course, is not your point of view. I would
send it back to the good father, if I were you, and have him put it
behind the altar if he is ashamed to put it in front. Holy things belong
to holy places. But I am already taking up too much of your time. Thank
you very much for the money. It comes at an opportune moment. I shall
come in once in a while to see you and, if you are willing, to talk to
you.”

“But you don’t say nudding about Kitty’s room. Vait till--oh, dere you
are, you darlin’ girl! You mind de store, Masie. Now you come vid me and
I show you de finest vomans you never see in your whole life!”



Chapter III



Kitty Cleary’s wide sidewalk, littered with trunks, and her narrow,
choked-up office, its window hung with theatre bills and chowder-party
posters, all of which were in full view of Kling’s doorway, was the
half-way house of any one who had five minutes to spare; it was inside
its walls that closer greetings awaited those who, even with the
thinnest of excuses, made bold to avail themselves of her hospitality.
Drivers from the livery-stable next door, where Kitty kept her own two
horses; the policeman on the beat; the night-watchman from the big store
on 28th Street, just off duty, or just going on; the newsman in the
early morning, who would use her benches on which to rearrange his
deliveries--all were welcome as long as they behaved themselves. When
they did not--and once or twice such a thing had occurred--she would
throw wide the door and, with a quick movement of her right thumb, order
them out, a look in her eye convincing the culprits at once that they
might better obey.

Never a day passed but there was a pot of coffee simmering away at the
back of the kitchen stove. Indeed, hot coffee was Kitty’s standby. Many
a night when she was up late poring over her delivery book, getting
ready for the next day’s work, a carriage or cab would drive into the
livery-stable next door, and she would send her husband out to bring in
the coachman.

“Half froze, he is, waitin’ outside Sherry’s or Delmonico’s, and nobody
thinkin’ of what he suffers. Go, git him, John, dear, and I’ll stir up
the fire. They ought to be ashamed of themselves, dancin’ till God knows
when--and here it is two o’clock and a string of cabs out in the cold.
Thank ye, John. In with ye, my lad, and get something to warm ye up,”
 and then the rosy-cheeked, deep-breasted, cheery little woman--she was
under forty--her eyes the brighter for her thought, would begin pulling
down cups and saucers from her dresser, making ready not only for the
“lad,” but for John and herself--and anybody else who happened to be
within call.

The hospitalities of her family sitting-room, opening out of the
kitchen, were reserved for her intimates. These she welcomed at any hour
of the day or night, from sunrise to sunset, and even as late as two in
the morning, if either business or pleasure necessitated such hours.

Tim Kelsey, the hunchback, often dropped in. Otto Kling, after Masie was
abed; Digwell, the undertaker, quite a jolly fellow during off hours;
Codman and Porterfield, with their respective wives; and, most welcome
of all, Father Cruse, of St. Barnabas’s Church around the corner, the
trusted shepherd of “The Avenue”--a clear-skinned, well-built man,
barely forty, whose muscular body just filled his black cassock so that
it neither fell in folds nor wrinkled crosswise, and whose fresh, ruddy
face was an index of the humane, kindly, helpful life that he led. For
him Kitty could never do enough.

The office, sitting-room, and kitchen, however, were not all that
the expressman and his wife possessed in the way of accommodations.
Up-stairs were two front bedrooms, one occupied by John and Kitty,
and the other by their boy Bobby, while in the extreme rear, over the
kitchen, was a single room which was let to any respectable man who
could pay for it. These rooms were all reached by a staircase ascending
from a narrow hall entered by a separate street-door adjoining that
of the office. The door and staircase were convenient for the lodger
wishing to stumble up to bed without disturbing his hosts--an event,
however, that seldom happened, as Kitty was generally the last person
awake in her house.

The horses, as has been said, were kept in the livery-stable next
door--the brown mare, a recent purchase, and the old white horse, Jim,
the pride of Kitty’s heart, in a special stall. The wagons were either
backed in the shed in the rear or left overnight close to the curb, with
chains on the hind wheels. This was contrary to regulations, and
would have been so considered but for the fact that the captain of
the precinct often got his coffee in Kitty’s back kitchen, as did Tom
McGinniss, the big policeman, whose beat reached nearly to the tunnel,
both men soothing their consciences with the argument that Kitty’s job
lasted so late and began so early, sometimes a couple of hours or so
before daylight, that it was not worth while to bother about her wagons,
when everybody else was in bed, or ought to be.

She was smoothing old Jim’s neck, crooning over him, talking to him in
her motherly way, telling him what a ruffian he was and how ashamed
she was of him for getting the hair worn off under his collar, and he a
horse old enough to know better, Bobby’s “Toodles,” an animated doormat
of a dog, sniffing at her skirt, when Otto and his friend hove in sight.

“The top of the mornin’ to ye, Otto Kling, and ye never see a better
and a finer. And what can I do for ye?--for ye wouldn’t be lavin’ them
gimcracks of yours this time O’day unless there was somethin’ up.”

“No, I don’t got nudding you can do for me, Kitty. It’s dis gentlemans
wants someting--and so I bring him over.”

“That’s mighty kind of ye, Otto--wait till I get me book. Careful,
Mike.” The Irishman had just dumped a trunk on the sidewalk, ready to
be loaded on Jim’s wagon. “And now,” continued his mistress, “go to the
office and bring me my order-book--where’ll I go for your baggage, sir?”

“That is a matter I will talk about later.” He had taken her all in
with a rapid glance--her rosy, laughing face, her head covered by a
close-fitting hood, the warm shawl crossed over her full bosom and
knotted in the back, short skirt, stout shoes, and gray yarn stockings.

“I don’t care where it is--Hoboken, Brooklyn--I’ll get it. Why, we got a
trunk last week clear from Yonkers!”

“I haven’t a doubt of it, my good woman”--he was still absorbed in the
contemplation of her perfect health and the air of breezy competency
flowing out from her, making even the morning air seem more
exhilarating--“but you may not want to go for my two trunks.”

“Why not?” She was serious now, her brows knitting, trying to solve his
meaning.

Kling shuffled up alongside. “It’s de room he vants, Kitty. I been
tellin’ him about it. Bobby says dot odder man skipped an’ you don’t got
nobody now.

“Skipped! I threw him out, me and John, for swearin’ every time
he stubbed his toe on the stairs,” and up went her strong arms in
illustration. “And it isn’t yer trunks, but me room. Who might ye be
wantin’ it for?” She had begun to weigh him carefully in return. Up to
this moment he had been to her merely the mouthpiece of an order, to be
exchanged later for a card, or slip of paper, or a brass check. Now he
became a personality. She swept him from head to foot with one of her
“sizing-up” examinations, noticing the refinement and thoughtfulness of
his clean-shaven face, the white teeth, and the careful trimming of his
hair, and the way it grew down on his temples, forming a small quarter
whisker.

She noted, too, how the muscles of his face had been tightened as if
some effort at self-control had set them into a mask, the real man lying
behind his kindly eyes, despite the quick flash that escaped from them
now and then. The inspection over--and it had occupied some seconds of
time--she renewed the inquiry in a more searching tone, as if she had
not heard him aright at first. “And who did ye say wanted me room?”

“I wanted it.”

“Yes, but who for?”

“For myself.”

“What! To live in?”

“I hope so--I certainly do not want it to die in.” A quiet smile
trembled for an instant on his lips, momentarily lightening an
expression of extreme reserve.

“You won’t do no dyin’ if I can help it--but ye don’t know what kind a
room it is. It’s not mor’n twice as big as that wagon. And ye want it
for yourself? Well, ye don’t look it!”

“I am sorry.”

“And it’s only five dollars a week, and all ye want to eat--all we can
give ye.”

“I am glad it is not more. I may not be able to pay that for very long,
but I will pay the first week in advance, and I will pay the next one in
the same way and leave when my money is gone. Can I see the room?”

Again she studied him. This time it was the gray waistcoat, the
well-ironed shirt and collar, English scarf, and the blackthorn stick
which he carried balanced in the hollow of his arm. If he had been in
overalls she would not have hesitated an instant, but she saw that this
man was not of her class, nor of any other class about her. “I don’t
know whether ye can or not,” came the frank reply. “I’m thinkin’ about
it. You don’t look as if ye were flat broke. If you’re goin’ to take me
room, I don’t want to be watchin’ ye, and I won’t! Once we know ye’re
clean and decent, ye can have the run of the place and welcome to it. We
had one dead-beat here last month, and that’s enough. Out with it now!
How is it that a”--she hesitated an instant--“yes, a gentleman like you
wants to live over an express office and eat what we can give ye?”

He made a slight movement with his right hand in acknowledgment of the
class distinction and answered in a calm, straightforward way: “You
have put it quite correctly. I am, as you are pleased to state it, flat
broke--quite flat.”

“Well, then, how will ye pay me?” Her question, a certain curiosity
tinged by a growing interest in for all its directness, implied no
suspicion--but rather the man.

“I have just borrowed twenty-five dollars from Mr. Kling on something
which, for the present, I can do without.”

“Pawned it?”

“No, not exactly. Mr. Kling will explain.”

“It vas dot dressin’-case, Kitty, vat I showed you last night--de vun
vid dem bottles vid de silver tops--and dey are real--I found dot out
after you vent avay.”

Kitty’s glance softened, and her voice fell to a sympathetic tone. “Oh,
that was yours, was it? I might have known I was right about ye when
I first see ye. Ye are a gentleman, unless ye are a thief, and I don’t
belave that--nor nobody can make me belave it.”

Once more his hand was raised, and a smile flashed from his eyes and as
quickly died out.

“That is very good of you, Mrs. Cleary. No, I am not a thief. And now
about the room. Can I see it? But, before you answer, let me tell you
that I have only these twenty-five dollars on which I can lay my hands.
Some of this I owe to my landlady. The balance I am quite willing to
turn over to you, and when it is all gone I will move somewhere else.”
 He drew a silver watch from his pocket. “You must decide at once; it is
getting late and I must be moving on.”

Kitty squared herself, her hands on her hips--a favorite gesture when
her mind was fully made up--looked straight at the speaker as if to
reply, then suddenly catching sight of a strapping-looking fellow in
blue overalls, a trunk on one shoulder, a carpetbag in his hand, called
out: “John, dear, come here! I want ye. Here, Mike! You and Bobby get
that steamer baggage out on the sidewalk, and don’t be slack about it,
for it goes to Hoboken, and there may be a block in the river and the
ferry-boats behind time. Wait, I’ll lend ye a hand.”

“You’ll lend nothing, Kitty Cleary! Get out of my way,” came her
husband’s hearty answer. “Ye hurt yer back last week. There’s men enough
round here to--stop it, I tell ye!” and he loosened her fingers from the
lifting-strap.

“I can hist the two of ye, John! Go along wid ye!”

“No, Kitty, darlin’--let go of it,” and with a twist of his hand and
lurch of his shoulder John shot the trunk over the edge of the wagon,
tossed the bag after it, and joined the group, the stranger absorbed in
watching the husband and wife.

“And now the trunk’s in, what’s it you want, Kitty?” asked John
squeezing her plump arm, as if in compensation for having had his way.

“John, dear, here’s a gentleman who--what’s your name?--ye haven’t told
me, or if ye did I’ve forgot it.”

“Felix O’Day.”

“Then you’re Irish?”

“I am afraid I am--at least, my ancestors were.”

“Afraid! Ye ought to be glad. I’m Irish, and so is my John here, and
Bobby, and Father Cruse, and Tom McGinniss, the policeman, and the
captain up at the station-house--we’re all Irish, except Otto, who is
as Dutch as sauerkraut! But where was I? Oh, yes! Now, John, dear, this
gentleman is on his uppers, he says, and wants to hire our room and eat
what we can give him.”

The expressman, who stood six feet in his stockings, looked first at
his wife, then at Kling, and then at the applicant, and broke out into
a loud guffaw. “It’s a joke, Kitty. Don’t let ‘em fool ye. Go on, Otto;
try it somewhere else! It’s my busy day. Here, Mike!”

“You drop Mike and listen, John! It’s no joke--not for Mr. O’Day. You
take him up-stairs and show him what we got, and down into the kitchen
and the sitting-room and out into the yard. Come, now; hurry! Go ‘long
with him, Mr. O’Day, and come back to me when ye are through and tell me
what you think of it all. And, John, take Toodles with you and lock him
up. First thing I know I’ll be tramplin’ on him. Get out, you varmint!”

John grabbed the wad of matted hair midway between his floppy tail and
perpetually moist nose, controlled his own features into a semblance of
seriousness, and turned to O’Day. “This way, sir--I thought it was one
of Otto’s jokes. The room is only about as big as half a box car, but
it’s got runnin’ water in the hall, and Kitty keeps it mighty clean. As
to the grub, it ain’t what you are accustomed to, maybe, but it’s what
we have ourselves, and neither of us is starvin’, as ye can see,” and
he thumped his chest. “No, not the big door, sir; the little one. And
there’s a key, too, for ye, when ye’re out late--and ye will be out
late, or I miss my guess,” and out rolled another laugh.

Kitty looked after the two until they disappeared through the smaller
door, then turned and faced Kling. “I know just what’s happened, Otto--a
baby a month old could see it all. That man is up against it for the
first time. He’d rather die than beg, and he’ll keep on sellin’ his
traps until there’s nothin’ left but the clothes he stands in. He may be
a duke, for all ye know, or maybe only a plain Irish gentleman come to
grief. Them bottles ye showed me last night had arms engraved on ‘em,
and his initials. I noticed partic’lar, for I’ve seen them things
before. My father, when he was young, was second groom for a lord and
used to tell me about the silver in the house and the arms on the sides
of the carriages. What he’s left home for the dear God only knows; but
it will come out, and when it does it won’t be what anybody thinks. And
he’s got a fine way wid him, and a clear look out of his eye, and I’ll
bet ye he’s tellin’ the truth and all of it. Here they come now, and
I’m glad they’ve got rid of that rag baby of Bobby’s.” She turned to her
husband. “And, John, dear, don’t forget that sewing-machine--oh, yes, I
see, you’ve got it in the wagon--go on wid ye, then!--Well, Mr. O’Day,
how is it? Purty small and cramped, ain’t it? And there’s a chair
missin’ that I took downstairs, which I’ll put back. And there’s a
cotton cover belongs to the table. Won’t suit, will it?” and a shade of
disappointment crossed her face.

“The room will answer very well, Mrs. Cleary. I can see the work of your
deft hands in every corner. I have been living in one much larger, but
this is more like a home. And do I get my breakfast and dinner and the
room for the pound--I mean for the five dollars?”

“You do, and welcome, and somethin’ in the middle of the day if ye
happen to be around and hungry.”

“And can I move in to-day?”

“Ye can.”

“Then I will go down and pay what I owe and see about getting my boxes.
And now, here is your money,” and he held out two five-dollar bills.

Kitty stretched her two hands far behind her back, her brown holland
over-apron curving inward with the movement. “I won’t touch it; ye can
have the room and ye can keep your money. When I want it I’ll ask fer
it. Now tell me where I can get your trunks. Mike will go fer ‘em and
bring ‘em back.”

A new, strange look shone out from the keen, searching eyes of O’Day.
His interest in the woman had deepened. “And you have no misgivings and
are sure you will get your rent?”

“Just as sure as I am that me name is Kitty Cleary, and that is not
altogether because you’re an Irishman but because ye are a gentleman.”

This time O’Day made her a little bow, the lines of his face softening,
his eyes sparkling with sudden humor at her speech. He stepped forward,
called to the man who was still handling the luggage, and, in the tone
of one ordering his groom, said: “Here, Mike!--Did you say his name was
Mike?--Go, if you please, to this address, just below Union Square-I
will write it on a card--any time to-day after six o’clock. I will
meet you there and show you the trunks--there are two of them.” Then he
turned to Otto, still standing by, a silent and absorbed spectator.

“I have also to thank you, Mr. Kling. It was very kind of you, and I am
sure I shall be very happy here. After I am settled I shall come over
and see whether I can be of some service to you in going through your
stock. There may be some other things that are valuable which you have
mislaid. And then, again, I should like to see something more of your
little daughter--she is very lovable, and so is her dog.”

“Vell, vy don’t you come now? Masie don’t go to school to-day, and
I keep her in de shop. I been tinkin’ since you and Kitty been
talkin’--Kitty don’t make no mistakes: vot Kitty says goes. Look here,
Kitty, vun minute--come close vunce--I vant to speak to you.”

O’Day, who had been about to give a reason why he could not “come now,”
 and who had halted in his reply in order to hunt his pockets for a card
on which to write his address, hearing Kling’s last words, withdrew to
the office in search of both paper and pencil.

“Now, see here, Kitty! Dot mans is a vunderful man--de most VUNDERFUL
man I have seen since I been in 445. You know dem cups and saucers vat
I bought off dot olt vomans who came up from Baltimore? Do you know dot
two of ‘em is vorth more as ten dollars? He find dot out joost as soon
as he pick ‘em up, and he find out about my chairs, and vich vas fakes
and vich vas goot. Vot you tink of my givin’ him a job takin’ my old
cups and my soup tureens and stuff and go sell ‘em someveres? I don’t
got nobody since dot tam fool of a Svede go avay. Vat you tink?”

“He can have my room--that’s what I think! You heard what I said to him!
That’s all the answer you’ll get out of me, Otto Kling.”

“An’ you don’t tink dot he’d git avay vid de stuff und ve haf to hunt up
or down Second Avenue in the pawn-shops to git ‘em back?”

“No, I don’t!”

“Den, by golly, I take him on, und I gif him every veek vat he pay you
in board.”

Kitty broke into one of her derisive laughs. “YOU WILL! Ain’t that good
of ye? Ye’ll give him enough to starve on, that’s what it is. Ye ought
to be ashamed of yourself, Otto Kling!”

“Vell, but I don’t know vat he is vurth yet.”

“Well, then, tell him so, but don’t cheat him out of everything but
his bare board; and that’s what ye’d be doin’. Ye know he’s pawnin’
his stuff; ye know ye got five times the worth of your money in the
dressing-case he give up to ye! See here, Otto! Before ye offer him that
five dollars a week ye better get on the other side of big John there,
where ye’ll be safe, and holler it at him over them trunks, or ye’ll
find yourself flat on your back.”

“All right, Kitty, all right! Don’t git oxcited. I didn’t mean nudding.
I do just vat you say. I gif him more. Oh! Here you are! Mr. O’Day, vud
you let me speak to you vun minute? Suppose dot I ask you to come into
my shop as a clerk, like, and pay you vat I can--of course, you are new
und it vill take some time, but I can pay sometings--vud you come?”

O’Day gave an involuntary start and from under his heavy brows there
shot a keen, questioning glance. “What would you want me to do?” he
asked evenly.

“Vell--vait on de customers, and look over de stock, and buy tings ven
dey come in.”

“You certainly cannot be serious, Mr. Kling. You know nothing about me.
I am an entire stranger and must continue to be. With the exception of
my landlady, who, if she knows my name, forgets it every time she comes
up for her rent, there is not a human being in New York to whom I could
apply for a reference. Are you accustomed to pick up strangers out of
the street and take them into your shops--and your homes?” he added,
smiling at Kitty, who had been following the conversation closely.

“But you is a different kind of a mans.”

No answer came. The man was lost in thought.

“Ye’d better think it over, sir,” said Kitty, laying a strong,
persuasive hand on his wrist. “It’s near by, and ye can have your meals
early or late as ye plaze, and the work ain’t hard. My Mike does the
liftin’ and two big fat Dutchies helps.”

“But I know nothing about the business, Mrs. Cleary--nothing about any
business, for that matter. I should only be a disappointment to Mr.
Kling. I would rather keep his friendship and look elsewhere.”

Kitty relaxed her hold of his wrist. “Then ye have been lookin’ for
work?” she asked. The inquiry sprang hot from her heart.

“I have not, so far, but I shall have to very soon.”

She threw back her head and faced the two men. “Ye’ll look no further,
Mr. O’Day. You go over to Otto’s and go to work; and it will be to-night
after you gets your things stowed away. And ye’ll pay him ten dollars
a week, Otto, for the first month, and more the second if he earns it,
which he will. Now are ye all satisfied, or shall I say it over?”

“One moment, please, Mrs. Cleary. If I may interrupt,” he laughed, his
reserve broken through at last by the friendly interest shown by the
strangers about him, “and what will be the hours of my service?” Then,
turning to Otto: “Perhaps you, Mr. Kling, can best tell me.”

“Vot you mean?”

“How early must I come in the morning, and until how late must I stay at
night?”

The dealer hesitated, then answered slowly, “In de morning at eight
o’clock, and”--but, seeing a cloud cross O’Day’s face, added: “Or maybe
haf past eight vill do.”

“And at night?”

“Vell--you can’t tell. Sometimes it is more late as udder times--about
nine o’clock ven I have packing to do.”

O’Day shook his head.

“Vell, den, say eight o’clock.”

Again O’Day shook his head slowly and thoughtfully as if some
insurmountable obstacle had suddenly arisen before him. Then he said
firmly: “I am afraid I must decline your kind offer, Mr. Kling. The
latest I could stay on any evening is seven o’clock--some days I might
have to leave at six--certainly no later than half past. I suppose you
have dinner at seven, Mrs. Cleary?”

Kitty nodded. She was too interested in this new phase of the situation
to speak.

“Yes, seven would have to be the hour, Mr. Kling” said O’Day.

“Vell, make it seven o’clock, den.”

“And if,” he continued in a still more serious voice, “I should on
certain days--absent myself entirely, would that matter?”

Otto was being slowly driven into a corner, but he determined not to
flinch with Kitty standing by. “No, I tink I git along vid my little
Beesvings.”

O’Day studied the pavement for an instant, then looked into space as
if seeking to clear his mind of every conflicting thought, and said at
last, slowly and deliberately: “Very well. Then I will be with you in
the morning at nine o’clock. Now, good day, Mrs. Cleary. I know we will
get on very well together, and you, too, Mr. Kling. Thank you for your
confidence.” Then, turning to the Irishman: “Don’t forget, Mike, that
the street-door is open and that I’m up two flights. You will find the
number on this card.”



Chapter IV



The customary scene took place when Felix, late that afternoon, handed
his landlady the overdue rent. Now that the two crisp bills which O’Day
owed her lay in her hand, she was ready to pass them back to him if the
full payment at all embarrassed him. Indeed, she had never had a more
quiet and decent lodger, and she hoped it didn’t mean he was “goin’
away,” and, if she was rather sharp with him the night before, it was
because she had been “that nervous of late.”

But Felix, ignoring her overtures, only shook his head in a good-natured
way. He would begin packing at once, and the express wagon would be here
at six. She would know it by the white horse which the man was driving.
When his trunks were finished he would put them outside his bedroom
door, and please not to forget his mackintosh and leather hat-case which
he would leave inside the room.

So the packing began. First the sole-leather trunk, from which he had
taken the hapless dressing-case the night before, was pulled out and the
heavy black tin box hauled into position and unlocked. With the raising
of the scarred and dented top a mass of letters and papers came into
view, filling the box to the brim--some tied with red tape, others in
big envelopes. In a corner lay some photographs--one in a gilt frame,
the edge showing clear of the tissue-paper in which it was wrapped. This
he took out and studied long and earnestly, his lips tightly pressed
together. Retying the paper, he tucked them all back into place, turned
the key, shook the box to see that the lock held tight, picked it up
with one hand by its side handle, and, throwing open the door, deposited
it on the landing outside. Its leather companion was then placed beside
it, the hat-case crowning the whole.

Mike’s voice was now heard in the narrow front hall. “How fur is it up,
mum? Oh, another flight! Begorra, it’s as dark as a coal-hole and about
as dirty!” This was followed by: “Oh, is that you, sor? How many pieces
have you?”

“Only two, Mike; and the mackintosh and hat-case,” answered Felix, who
had watched him stumbling up the stairs until his red face was level
with the landing. “By the way, mind you don’t lose the rubber coat, for,
although I never wear an overcoat, this comes in well when it rains.”

“I’ll never take me eyes off it. I bet ye niver bought that down on the
Bowery from a Johnny-hand-me-down!”

“And, Mike!”

“Yes, sor?”

“Will you please say to Mrs. Cleary that I may not be in to-night before
eleven o’clock?”

“Eleven! Why that’s the shank o’ the evenin’ for her, sor. If it was
twelve, or after, she’d be up.” Then he bent forward and whispered: “I
should think ye would be glad, sor, to get out of this rookery.”

Felix nodded in assent, waited until the leather trunk had been dumped
into the wagon, watched Mike remount the stairs until he had reached his
landing, helped him to load up the balance of his luggage--the tin
box on one shoulder, the coat over the other, the hat-case in the free
hand--and then walked back to his empty room. Here he made a thoughtful
survey of the dismal place in which he had spent so many months, picked
up his blackthorn stick, and, leaving the door ajar, walked slowly
down-stairs, his hand on the rail as a guide in the dark.

“And you aren’t comin’ back, sir?” remarked the landlady, who had
listened for his steps.

“That, madame, one never can tell.”

“Well, you are always welcome.”

“Thank you--good-by.”

“Good-by, sir; my husband’s out or he would like to shake your hand.”

O’Day bowed slightly and stepped into the street, his stick under his
arm, his hands hooked behind his back. That he had no immediate purpose
in view was evident from the way he loitered along, stopping to look at
the store windows or to scrutinize the passing crowd, each person intent
on his or her special business. By the time he had reached Broadway the
upper floors of the business buildings were dark, but the windows of
the restaurants, cigar shops, and saloons had begun to blaze out and a
throng of pleasure seekers to replace that of the shoppers and workers.
This aspect of New York appealed to him most. There were fewer people
moving about the streets and in less of a hurry, and he could study them
the closer.

In a cheap restaurant off Union Square he ate a spare and inexpensive
meal, whiled away an hour over the free afternoon papers, went out to
watch an audience thronging into one of the smaller theatres, and then
boarded a down-town car. When he reached Trinity Church the clock was
striking, and, as he often did when here at this hour, he entered the
open gate and, making his way among the shadows sat down, on a flat
tomb. The gradual transition from the glare and rush of the up-town
streets to the sombre stillness of this ancient graveyard always seemed
to him like the shifting of films upon a screen, a replacement of the
city of the living by the city of the dead. High up in the gloom soared
the spire of the old church, its cross lost in shadows. Still
higher, their roofs melting into the dusky blue vault, rose the great
office-buildings, crowding close as if ready to pounce upon the small
space protected only by the sacred ashes of the dead.

For some time he sat motionless, listening to the muffled peals of the
organ. Then the humiliating events of the last twenty-four hours began
crowding in upon his memory: the insolent demands of his landlady; the
guarded questions of Kling when he inspected the dressing-case; the look
of doubt on both their faces and the changes wrought in their manner and
speech when they found he was able to pay his way. Suddenly something
which up to that moment he had held at bay gripped him.

“It was money, then, which counted,” he said to himself, forgetting for
the moment Kitty’s refusal to take it. And if money were so necessary,
how long could he earn it? Kling would soon discover how useless he
was, and then the tin box, emptied of its contents and the last keepsake
pawned or sold, the end would come.

None of these anxieties had ever assailed him before. He had been like
a man walking in a dream, his gaze fixed on but one exit, regardless of
the dangers besetting his steps. Now the truth confronted him. He had
reached the limit of his resources. To hope for much from Kling was
idle. Such a situation could not last, nor could he count for long
either on the friendship or the sympathy of the big-hearted expressman’s
wife. She had been absolutely sincere, and so had her husband, but that
made it all the more incumbent upon him to preserve his own independence
while still pursuing the one object of his life with undiminished
effort.

A flood of light from the suddenly opened church-door, followed by a
burst of pent-up melody, recalled him to himself. He waited until all
was dark again, rose to his feet, passed through the gate and, with a
brace of his shoulders and quickened step, walked on into Wall Street.

As he made his way along the deserted thoroughfare, where but a few
hours since the very air had been charged with a nervous energy whose
slightest vibration was felt the world over, the sombre stillness of
the ancient graveyard seemed to have followed him. Save for a private
watchman slowly tramping his round and an isolated foot-passenger
hurrying to the ferry, no soul but himself was stirring or awake except,
perhaps, behind some electric light in a lofty building where a janitor
was retiring or, lower down, some belated bookkeeper in search of an
error.

Leaving the grim row of tall columns guarding the front of the old
custom-house, he turned his steps in the direction of the docks, wheeled
sharply to the left, and continued up South Street until he stopped in
front of a ship-chandler’s store.

Some one was at work inside, for the rays of a lantern shed their light
over piles of old cordage and heaps of rusty chains flanking the low
entrance.

Picking his way around some barrels of oil, he edged along a line of
boxes filled with ship’s stuff until he reached an inside office, where,
beside a kerosene lamp placed on a small desk littered with papers, sat
a man in shirt-sleeves. At the sound of O’Day’s step the occupant lifted
his head and peered out. The visitor passed through the doorway.

“Good evening, Carlin; I hoped you would still be up. I stopped on the
way down or I should have been here earlier.”

A man of sixty, with a ruddy, weather-beaten face set in a half-moon of
gray whiskers, the ends tied under his chin, sprang to his feet. “Ah!
Is that you, Mr. Felix? I been a-wonderin’ where you been a-keepin’
yourself. Take this chair; it’s more comfortable. I was thinkin’ somehow
you might come in to-night, and so I took a shy at my bills to have
somethin’ to do. I suppose”--he stopped, and in a whisper added: “I
suppose you haven’t heard anything, have you?”

“No; have you?”

“Not a word,” answered the ship-chandler gravely.

“I thought perhaps you might have had a letter,” urged Felix.

“Not a line of any kind,” came the answer, followed by a sidewise
movement of the gray head, as if its owner had long since abandoned hope
from that quarter.

“Do you think anything is the matter?”

“Nothin’, or I should ‘a’ ‘eard. My notion is that Martha kep’ on to
Toronto with that sick man she nursed on the steamer. Maybe she’s got
work stiddy and isn’t a-goin’ to come back.”

“But she would have let you KNOW?” There was a ring of anxiety now,
tinged with a certain impatience.

“Perhaps she would, Mr. Felix, and perhaps she wouldn’t. Since our
mother died Martha gets rather cocky sometimes. Likes to be her own boss
and earn her own living. I’ve often ‘eard her say it before I left ‘ome,
and she HAS earned it, I must say--and she’s got to, same as all of us.
I suppose you been keepin’ it up same as usual--trampin’ and lookin’?”

“Yes.” This came as the mere stating of a fact.

“And I suppose there ain’t nothin’ new--no clew--nothin’ you can
work on?” The speaker felt assured there was not, but it might be an
encouragement to suggest its possibility.

“No, not the slightest clew.”

“Better give it up, Mr. Felix, you’re only wastin’ your time. Be worse
maybe when you do come up agin it.” The ship-chandler was in earnest;
every intonation proved it.

O’Day arose from his seat and looked down at his companion. “That is
not my way, Carlin, nor is it yours; and I have known you since I was a
boy.”

“And you are goin’ to keep it up, Mr. Felix?”

“Yes, until I know the end or reach my own.”

“Well, then, God’s help go with ye!”

Into the shadows again--past long rows of silent warehouses, with here
and there a flickering gas-lamp--until he reached Dover Street. He had
still some work to do up-town, and Dover Street would furnish a short
cut along the abutment of the great bridge, and so on to the Elevated at
Franklin Square.

He was evidently familiar with its narrow, uneven sidewalk, for he swung
without hesitation into the gloom and, with hands hooked behind his
back, his stick held, as was his custom, close to his armpit, made his
way past its shambling hovels and warehouses. Now and then he would
pause, following with his eyes the curve of the great steel highway,
carried on the stone shoulders of successive arches, the sweep of its
lines marked by a procession of lights, its outstretched, interlocked
palms gripped close. The memory of certain streets in London came to
him--those near its own great bridges, especially the city dump at
Black-friars and the begrimed buildings hugging the stone knees of
London Bridge, choking up the snakelike alleys and byways leading to the
Embankment.

Crossing under the Elevated, he continued along the side of the giant
piers and wheeled into a dirt-choked, ill-smelling street, its distant
outlet a blaze of electric lights. It was now the dead hour of the
twenty-four--the hour before the despatch of the millions of journals,
damp from the presses. He was the only human being in sight.

Suddenly, when within a hundred feet of the end of the street, a figure
detached itself from a deserted doorway. Felix caught his stick from
under his armpit as the man held out a hand.

“Say, I want you to give me the price of a meal.”

Felix tightened his hold on the stick. The words had conveyed a threat.

“This is no place for you to beg. Step out where people can see you.”

“I’m hungry, mister.” He had now taken in the width of O’Day’s shoulders
and the length of his forearm. He had also seen the stick.

Felix stepped back one pace and slipped his hand down the blackthorn.
“Move on, I tell you, where I can look you over--quick!--I mean it.”

“I ain’t much to look at.” The threat was out of his voice now. “I
ain’t eaten nothin’ since yisterday, mister, and I got that out of a
ash-barrel. I’m up agin it hard. Can’t you see I ain’t lyin’? You
ain’t never starved or you’d know. You ain’t--” He wavered, his eyes
glittering, edged a step nearer, and with a quick lunge made a grab for
O’Day’s watch.

Felix sidestepped with the agility of a cat, struck straight out
from the shoulder, and, with a twist of his fingers in the tramp’s
neck-cloth, slammed him flat against the wall, where he crouched,
gasping for breath. “Oh, that’s it, is it?” he said calmly, loosening
his hold.

The man raised both hands in supplication. “Don’t kill me! Listen to
me--I ain’t no thief--I’m desperate. When you didn’t give me nothin’
and I got on to the watch--I got crazy. I’m glad I didn’t git it. I been
a-walkin’ the streets for two weeks lookin’ for work. Last night I slep’
in a coal-bunker down by the docks, under the bridge, and I was goin’
there agin when you come along. I never tried to rob nobody before.
Don’t run me in--let me go this time. Look into my face; you can see
for yourself I’m hungry! I’ll never do it agin. Try me, won’t you?” His
tears were choking him, the elbow of his ragged sleeve pressed to his
eyes.

Felix had listened without moving, trying to make up his mind, noting
the drawn, haggard face, the staring eyes and dry, fevered lips--all
evidences of either hunger or vice, he was uncertain which.

Then gradually, as the man’s sobs continued, there stole over him
that strange sense of kinship in pain which comes to us at times when
confronted with another’s agony. The differences between them--the rags
of the one and the well-brushed garments of the other, the fact that one
skulked with his misery in dark alleys while the other bore his on
the open highways--counted as nothing. He and this outcast were bound
together by the common need of those who find the struggle overwhelming.
Until that moment his own sufferings had absorbed him. Now the throb of
the world’s pain came to him and sympathies long dormant began to stir.

“Straighten up and let me see your face,” he said at last, intent on
the tramp’s abject misery. “Out here where the full light can fall on
it--that’s right! Now tell me about yourself. How long have you been
like this?”

The man dragged himself to his feet.

“Ever since I lost my job.” The question had calmed him. There was a
note of hope in it.

“What work did you do?”

“I’m a plumber’s helper.”

“Work stopped?”

“No, a strike--I wouldn’t quit, and they fired me.”

“What happened then?”

“She went away.”

“Who went away?”

“My wife.”

“When?”

“About a month back.”

“Did you beat her?”

“No, there was another man.”

“Younger than you?”

“Yes.”

“How old was she?”

“Eighteen.”

“A girl, then.”

“Yes, if you put it that way. She was all I had.”

“Have you seen her since?”

“No, and I don’t want to.”

These questions and answers had followed in rapid succession, Felix
searching for the truth and the man trying to give it as best he could.

With the last answer the man drew a step nearer and, in a voice which
was fast getting beyond his control, said: “You know now, don’t you? You
can see it plain as day how long it takes to make a bum of a man when
he’s up agin things like that. You--” He paused, listened intently, and
sprang back, hugging the wall. “What’s that? Somebody comin’! My God!
It’s a cop! Don’t tell him--say you won’t tell him--say it! SAY IT!”

Felix gripped his wrist. “Pull yourself together and keep still.”

The officer, who was idly swinging a club as if for companionship along
his lonely beat, stopped short. “Any trouble, sir?” he said as soon as
he had Felix’s outline and bearing clear.

“No, thank you, officer. Only a friend of mine who needs a little
looking after. I’ll take care of him.”

“All right, sir,” and he passed on down the narrow street.

The man gave a long breath and staggered against the wall. Felix caught
him by his trembling shoulders. “Now, brace up. The first thing you need
is something to eat. There is a restaurant at the corner. Come with me.”

“They won’t let me in.”

“I’ll take care of that.”

Felix entered first. “What is there hot this time of night, barkeeper?”

“Frankfurters and beans, boss.”

“Any coffee?”

“Sure.”

“Send a double portion of each to this table,” and he pulled out a
chair. “Here’s a man who has missed his dinner. Is that enough?” and he
laid down a dollar bill--one Kling had given him.

“Forty cents change, boss.”

“Keep it, and see he gets all he wants. And now here,” he said to the
tramp, “is another dollar to keep you going,” and with a shift of his
stick to his left arm Felix turned on his heel, swung back the door, and
was lost in the throng.


Kitty was up and waiting for him when he lifted the hinged wooden flap
which provided an entrance for the privileged and, guided by the glow of
the kerosene lamp, turned the knob of her kitchen door. She was close to
the light, reading, the coffee-pot singing away on the stove, the aroma
of its contents filling the room.

“I hope I have not kept you up, Mrs. Cleary. You had my message by Mike,
did you not?” he asked in an apologetic tone.

“Yes, I got the message, and I got the trunks; they’re up-stairs, and if
you had given Mike the keys I’d have ‘em unpacked by this time and all
ready for you. As to my bein’ up--I’m always up, and I got to be. John
and Mike is over to Weehawken, and Bobby’s been to the circus and just
gone to bed, and I’ve been readin’ the mornin’ paper--about the only
time I get to read it. Will ye sit down and wait till John comes in?
Hold on ‘til I get ye a cup of hot coffee and--”

“No, Mrs. Cleary. I will go to bed, if you do not mind.”

“Oh, but the coffee will put new life into ye, and--”

“Thanks, but it would be more likely to put it OUT of me if it kept me
awake. Can I reach my room this way or must I go outside?”

“Ye can go through this door--wait, I’ll go wid ye and show ye about the
light and where ye’ll find the water. It’s dark on the stairs and ye may
stumble. I’ll go on ahead and turn up the gas in the hall,” she called
back, as she mounted the steps and threw wide his room door. “Not much
of a place, is it? But ye can get plenty of fresh air, and the bed’s not
bad. Ye can see for yourself,” and her stout fist sunk into its middle.
“And there’s your trunks and tin chest, and the hat-box is beside the
wash-stand, and the waterproof coat’s in the closet. We have breakfast
at seven o’clock, and ye’ll eat down-stairs wid me and John. And now
good night to ye.”

Felix thanked her for her attention in his simple, straightforward way,
and, closing the door upon her, dropped into a chair.

The night’s experience had been like a sudden awakening. His anxiety
over his dwindling finances and his disappointment over Carlin’s news
had been put to flight by the suffering of the man who had tried to rob
him. There were depths, then, to which human suffering might drive a
man, depths he himself had never imagined or reached--horrible, deadly
depths, without light or hope, benumbing the best in a man, destroying
his purposes by slow, insidious stages.

He arose from his chair and began walking up and down the small room,
stopping now and then to inspect a bureau drawer or to readjust one of
the curtains shading the panes of glass. In the same absent-minded way
he drew out one of the trunks, unlocked it, paused now and then with
some garment in his hand only to awake again to consciousness and resume
his task, pushing the trunk back at last under the bed and continuing
his walk about the narrow room, always haunted by the tramp’s haggard,
hopeless look.

Again he felt the mysterious sense of kinship in pain that wipes away
all distinctions. With it, too, there came suddenly another sense--that
of an overwhelming compassion out of which new purposes are born to
human souls.

The encounter, then, had been both a blessing and a warning. He would
now stand guard against the onslaught of his own sorrows while keeping
up the fight, and this with renewed vigor. He would earn money, too,
since this was so necessary, laboring with his hands, if need be; and he
would do it all with a wide-open heart.



Chapter V



If O’Day’s presence was a welcome addition to Kitty’s household, it
was nothing compared to the effect produced at Kling’s. Long before the
month was out he had not only earned his entire wages five times over by
the changes he had wrought in the arrangement and classification of the
stock, but he had won the entire confidence of his employer. Otto had
surrendered when an old customer who had been in the habit of picking up
rare bits of china, Japanese curios, and carvings at his own value had
been confronted with the necessity of either paying Felix’s price or
going away without it, O’Day having promptly quadrupled the price on a
piece of old Dresden, not only because the purchaser was compelled to
have it to complete his set but because the interview had shown that the
buyer was well aware he had obtained the former specimens at one-fourth
of their value.

And the same discernment was shown when he was purchasing old furniture,
brass, and so-called Sheffield plate to increase Otto’s stock. If the
articles offered could still boast of either handle, leg, or back of
their original state and the price was fair, they were almost always
bought, but the line was drawn at the fraudulent and “plugged-up”
 sideboards and chairs with their legs shot full of genuine worm-holes;
ancient Oriental stuffs of the time of the early Persians (one year
out of a German loom), rare old English plate, or undoubted George
III silver, decorated with coats of arms or initials and showing those
precious little dents only produced by long service--the whole fresh
from a Connecticut factory. These never got past his scrutiny. While it
was true, as he had told Kling, that he knew very little in the way of
trade and commerce--nothing which would be of use to any one--he was
a never-failing expert when it came to what is generally known as
“antiques” and “bric-a-brac.”

Masie--Kling’s only child--a slender, graceful little creature with a
wealth of gold-yellow hair flying about her pretty shoulders and a pair
of blue eyes in which were mirrored the skies of ten joyous springs,
had given her heart to him at once. She had never forgotten his gentle
treatment of her dog Fudge, whose attack that first morning Felix had
understood so well, lifting and putting the refractory animal back in
her arms instead of driving him off with a kick. Fudge, whose manners
were improving, had not forgotten either and was always under O’Day’s
feet except when being fondled by the child.

Until Felix came she had had no other companions, some innate reserve
keeping her from romping with the children on the street, her sole
diversion, except when playing at home among her father’s possessions or
making a visit to Kitty, being found in the books of fairy-tales which
the old hunchback, Tim Kelsey, had lent her. At first this natural
shyness had held her aloof even from O’Day, content only to watch his
face as he answered her childish appeals. But before the first week had
passed she had slipped her hand into his, and before the month was over
her arms were around his neck, her fresh, soft cheek against his own,
cuddling close as she poured out her heart in a continuous flow of
prattle and laughter, her father looking on in blank amazement.

For, while Kling loved her as most fathers love their motherless
daughters, Felix had seen at a glance that he was either too engrossed
in his business or too dense and unimaginative to understand so winning
a child. She was Masie, “dot little girl of mine dot don’t got no
mudder,” or “Beesvings, who don’t never be still,” but that was about as
far as his notice of her went, except sending her to school, seeing that
she was fed and clothed, and on such state occasions as Christmas, New
Year’s, or birthdays, giving her meaningless little presents, which, in
most instances, were shut up in her bureau drawers, never to be looked
at again.

Kitty, who remembered the child’s mother as a girl with a far-away look
in her eyes and a voice of surprising sweetness, always maintained that
it was a shame for Kling, who was many years her senior, to have married
the girl at all.

“Not, John, dear, that Otto isn’t a decent man, as far as he goes,”
 she had once said to him, when the day’s work was over and they were
discussing their neighbors, “and that honest, too, that he wouldn’t get
away with a sample trunk weighing a ton if it was nailed fast to the
sidewalk, and a good friend of ours who wouldn’t go back on us, and
never did. But that wife of his, John! If she wasn’t as fine as the best
of em, then I miss my guess. She got it from that father of hers--the
clock-maker that never went out in the daytime, and hid himself in his
back shop. There was something I never understood about the two of ‘em
and his killing himself when he did. Why, look at that little Masie!
Can’t ye see she is no more Kling’s daughter than she is mine? Ye can’t
hatch out hummin’-birds by sittin’ on ducks’ eggs, and that’s what’s the
matter over at Otto’s.”

“Well, whose eggs were they?” John had inquired, half asleep by the
stove, his tired legs outstretched, the evening paper dropping from his
hand.

“Oh, I don’t say that they are not Kling’s right enough, John. Masie is
his child, I know. But what I say is that the mother is stamped all over
the darling, and that Otto can’t put a finger on any part and call it
his own.”

Whether Kitty were right or wrong regarding the mystery is no part of
our story, but certain it was that the soul of the unhappy young mother
looked through the daughter’s eyes, that the sweetness of the child’s
voice was hers, and the grace of every movement a direct inheritance
from one whose frail spirit had taken so early a flight.

To Felix this companionship, with the glimpses it gave him of a child’s
heart, refreshed his own as a summer rain does a thirsty plant. Had she
been his daughter, or his little sister, or his niece, or grandchild, a
certain sense of responsibility on his part and of filial duty on hers
would have clouded their perfect union. He would have had matters of
education to insist upon--perhaps of clothing and hygiene. She would
have had her secrets--hidden paths on which she wandered alone--things
she could never tell to one in authority. As it was, bound together as
they were by only a mutual recognition, their joy in each other knew no
bounds. To Masie he was a refuge, some one who understood every thought
before she had uttered it; to O’Day she was a never-ending and warming
delight.

And so this man of forty-five folded his arms about this child of ten,
and held her close, the opening chalice of her budding girlhood widening
hourly at his touch--a sight to be reverenced by every man and never to
be forgotten by one privileged to behold it.

And with the intimacy which almost against his will held him to the
little shop, there stole into his life a certain content. Springs long
dried in his own nature bubbled again. He felt the sudden, refreshing
sense of those who, after pent-up suffering, find the quickening of new
life within.

Mike noticed the change in the cheery greetings and in the passages of
Irish wit with which the new clerk welcomed him whenever he appeared in
the store, and so did Kling, and even the two Dutchies when Felix would
drop into the cellar searching for what was still good enough to be made
over new. And so did Kitty and John and all at their home.

Masie alone noticed nothing. To her, “Uncle Felix,” as she now called
him, was always the same adorable and comprehending companion, forever
opening up to her new vistas of interest, never too busy to answer her
questions, never too preoccupied to explain the different objects he was
handling. If she were ever in the way, she was never made to feel it.
Instead, so gentle and considerate was he, that she grew to believe
herself his most valuable assistant, daily helping him to arrange the
various new acquisitions.

One morning in June when they were busy over a lot of small curios,
arranging bits of jade, odd silver watches, seals, and pinchbeck rings,
in a glass case that had been cleaned and revarnished, the door
opened and an old fellow strolled in--an odd-looking old fellow, with
snow-white hair and beard, wearing a black sombrero and a shirt cut very
low in the neck. But for a pair of kindly eyes, which looked out at you
from beneath the brim of the hat, he might have been mistaken for one
of the dwarfs in “Rip Van Winkle.” Fudge, having now been disciplined by
Felix, only sniffed at his trousers.

“I see an old gold frame in your window,” began the new customer. “Might
I measure it?”

“Which one, sir?” replied Felix. “There are half a dozen of them, I
believe.”

“Well; will you please come outside? And I will point it out. It is the
Florentine, there in the corner--perhaps a reproduction, but it looks to
me like the real thing.”

“It is a Florentine,” answered Felix. “There are two or three pictures
in the Uffizi with similar frames, if I recall them aright. Would you
like a look at it?”

“I don’t want to trouble you to take it out,” said the old man
apologetically. “It might not do, and I can’t afford to pay much for
it anyway. But I would like to measure it; I’ve got an Academy picture
which I think will just fit it, but you can’t always tell. No, I
guess I’ll let it go. It’s all covered up, and you would have to move
everything to reach it.”

“No, I won’t have to move a thing. Here, you bunch of sunshine! Squeeze
in there, Masie, dear, and let me know how wide and high that frame
is--the one next the glass. Take this rule.”

The child caught up the rule and, followed by Fudge, who liked nothing
so well as rummaging, crept among the jars, mirrors, and candelabra
crowding the window, her steps as true as those of a kitten. “Twenty
inches by thirty-one--no, thirty,” she laughed back, tucking her little
skirts closer to her shapely limbs so as to clear a tiny table set out
with cups and saucers.

“You’re sure it’s thirty?” repeated the painter.

“Yes, sir, thirty,” and she crept back and laid the rule in O’Day’s
hand.

“Thank you, my dear young lady,” bowed the old gnome. “It is a pleasure
to be served by one so obliging and bright. And I am glad to tell you,”
 he added, turning to O’Day, “that it’s a fit--an exact fit. I thought
I was about right. I carry things in my eye. I bought a head once in
Venice, about a foot square, and in Spain three months afterward, on my
way down the hill leading from the Alhambra to the town, there on a wall
outside a bric-a-brac shop hung a frame which I bought for ten francs,
and when I got to Paris and put them together, I’ll be hanged if they
didn’t fit as if they had been made for each other.”

“And I know the shop!” broke out Felix, to Masie’s astonishment. “It’s
just before you get to the small chapel on the left.”

“By cracky, you’re right! How long since you were there?”

“Oh, some five years now.”

“Picking up things to sell here, I suppose. Spain used to be a great
place for furniture and stuffs; I’ve got a lot of them still--bought a
whole chest of embroideries once in Seville, or rather, at that hospital
where the big Murillo hangs. You must know that picture--Moses striking
water from the rock--best thing Murillo ever did.”

Felix remembered it, and he also remembered many of the important
pictures in the Prado, especially the great Velasquez and the two Goyas,
and that head of Ribera which hung on the line in the second gallery on
the right as you entered. And before the two enthusiasts were aware of
what was going on around them, Masie and Fudge had slipped off to dine
upstairs with her father, Felix and the garrulous old painter still
talking--renewing their memories with a gusto and delight unknown to the
old artist for years.

“And now about that frame!” the gnome at last found time to say. “I’ve
got so little money that I’d rather swap something for it, if you don’t
mind. Come down and see my stuff! It’s only in 10th Street--not twenty
minutes’ walk. Maybe you can sell some of my things for me. And bring
that blessed little girl--she’s the dearest, sweetest thing I’ve seen
for an age. Your daughter?”

Felix laughed gently. “No, I wish she were. She is Mr. Kling’s child.”

“And your name?”

“O’Day.”

“Irish, of course--well, all the same, come down any morning this week.
My name is Ganger; I’m on the fourth floor--been there twenty-two years.
You’ll have to walk up--we all do. Yes, I’ll expect you.”

Kling, whom Felix consulted, began at once to demur. He knew all about
the building on 10th Street. More than one of his old frames--part of
the clearing-out sale of some Southern homestead, the portraits being
reserved because unsalable--had resumed their careers on the walls of
the Academy as guardians and protectors of masterpieces painted by the
denizens of this same old rattletrap, the Studio Building. Some of its
tenants, too, had had accounts with him--which had been running for
more than a year. Bridley, the marine painter; Manners, who took pupils;
Springlake, the landscapist; and half a dozen others had been in the
habit of dropping into his shop on the lookout for something good in
Dutch cabinets at half-price, or no price at all, until Felix, without
knowing where they had come from, had put an end to the practice.

“Got a fellow up to Kling’s who looks as if he had been a college
athlete, and knows it all. Can’t fool him for a cent,” was the talk now,
instead of “Keep at the old Dutchman and you may get it. He don’t know
the difference between a Chippendale sideboard and a shelf rack from
Harlem. Wait for a rainy day and go in. He’ll be feeling blue, and
you’ll be sure to get it.”

Kling, therefore, when he heard some days later, of Felix’s proposed
visit, began turning over his books, looking up several past-due
accounts. But Felix would have none of it.

“I’m going on a collecting tour, Mr. Kling, this lovely June morning,”
 he laughed, “but not for money. We will look after that later on. And
I will take Masie. Come, child, get your hat. Mr. Ganger wanted you to
come, and so do I. Call Hans, Mr. Kling, if the shop gets full. We will
be back in an hour.”

“Vell, you know best,” answered Kling in final surrender. “Ven it comes
to money, I know. You go ‘long, little Beesvings. I mind de shop.”

“And I’ll take Fudge,” the child cried, “and we’ll stop at Gramercy
Park.”

Fudge was out first, scampering down the street and back again before
they had well closed the door, and Masie was as restless. “Oh, I’m just
as happy as I can be, Uncle Felix. You are always so good. I never had
any one to walk with until you came, except old Aunty Gossberger, and
she never let me look at anything.”

Days in June--joyous days with all nature brimful with laughter--days
when the air is a caress, the sky a film of pearl and silver, and the
eager mob of bud, blossom, and leaf, having burst their bonds, are
flaunting their glories, days like these are always to be remembered the
world over. But June days about Gramercy Park are to be marked in big
Red Letters upon the calendar of the year. For in Gramercy Park the
almanac goes to pieces.

Everything is ahead of time. When little counter-panes of snow are still
covering the baby crocuses away off in Central Park, down in Gramercy
their pink and yellow heads are popping up all over the enclosure. When
the big trees in Union Square are stretching their bare arms, making
ready to throw off the winter’s sleep, every tiny branch in Gramercy
is wide awake and tingling with new life. When countless dry roots
in Madison Square are still slumbering under their blankets of straw,
dreading the hour when they must get up and go to work, hundreds of
tender green fingers in Gramercy are thrust out to the kindly sun,
pleading for a chance to be up and doing.

And the race keeps up, Gramercy still ahead, until the goal of summer
is won, and every blessed thing that could have burst into bloom has
settled down to enjoy the siesta of the hot season.

Masie was never tired of watching these changes, her wonder and delight
increasing as the season progressed.

In the earlier weeks there had been nothing but flower-beds covered with
unsightly clods, muffled shrubs, and bandaged vines. Then had come a
blaze of tulips, exhausting the palette. And then, but a short time
before--it seemed only yesterday--every stretch of brown grass had lost
its dull tints in a coat of fresh paint, on which the benches, newly
scrubbed, were set, and each foot of gravelled walks had been raked and
made ready for the little tots in new straw hats who were then trundling
their hoops and would soon be chasing their first butterflies.

And now, on this lovely June morning, summer had come--REAL SUMMER--for
a mob of merry roses were swarming up a trellis in a mad climb to reach
its top, the highest blossom waving its petals in triumph.

Felix waited until she had taken it all in, her face pressed between the
bars (only the privileged possessing a key are admitted to the gardens
within), Fudge scampering up and down, wild to get at the two gray
squirrels, which some vandal has since stolen, and then, remembering his
promise to Ganger, he called her to him and continued his walk.

But her morning outing was not over. He must take her to the
marble-cutter’s yard, filled with all sorts of statues, urns, benches,
and columns, and show her again the ruts and grooves cut in the big
stone well-head, and tell her once more the story of how it had stood in
an old palace in Venice, where the streets were all water and everybody
went visiting in boats. And then she must stop at the florist’s to see
whether he had any new ferns in his window, and have Felix again explain
the difference between the big and little ferns and why the palms had
such long leaves.

She was ready now for her visit to the two old painters, but this time
Felix lingered. He had caught sight of a garden wall in the rear of an
old house, and with his hand in hers had crossed the street to study
it the closer. The wall was surmounted by a solid, wrought-iron railing
into which some fifty years or more ago a gardener had twisted the
tendrils of a wistaria. The iron had cut deep, and so inseparable
was the embrace that human skill could not pull them apart without
destroying them both.

As he reached the sidewalk and got a clearer view of the vine, tracing
the weave of its interlaced branches and tendrils, Masie noticed that he
stopped suddenly and for a moment looked away, lost in deep thought. She
caught, too, the shadow that sometimes settled on his face, one she had
seen before and wondered over. But although her hand was still in his,
she kept silent until he spoke.

“Look, dear Masie,” he said at last, drawing her to him, “see what
happens to those who are forced into traps! It was the big knot that
held it back! And yet it grew on!”

Masie looked up into his thoughtful face. “Do you think the iron hurts
it, Uncle Felix?” she asked with a sigh.

“I shouldn’t wonder; it would me,” he faltered.

“But it wasn’t the vine’s fault, was it?”

“Perhaps not. Maybe when it was planted nobody looked after it, nor
cared what might happen when it grew up. Poor wistaria! Come along,
darling!”


At last they turned into 10th Street, Fudge scurrying ahead to the very
door of the grim building, where a final dash brought him to Ganger’s,
his nose having sniffed at every threshold they passed and into every
crack and corner of the three flights of stairs.

Felix’s own nostrils were now dilating with pleasure. The odor of
varnish and turpentine had brought back some old memories--as perfumes
do for us all. A crumpled glove, a bunch of withered roses, the salt
breath of an outlying marsh, are often but so many fairy wands reviving
comedies and tragedies on which the curtains of forgetfulness have been
rung down these many years.

Something in the aroma of the place was recalling kindred spirits across
the sea, when the door was swung wide and Ganger in a big, hearty voice,
cried:

“Mr. O’Day, is it? Oh, I am glad! And that dear child, and--Hello! who
invited you, you restless little devil of a dog? Come in, all of you!
I’ve a model, but she doesn’t care and neither do I. And this, Mr.
O’Day, is my old friend, Sam Dogger--and he’s no relation of yours,
you imp!”--with a bob of his grizzled head at Fudge--“He’s a
landscape-painter and a good one--one of those Hudson River fellows--and
would be a fine one if he would stick to it. Give me that hat and coat,
my chick-a-biddy, and I’ll hang them up. And now here’s a chair for you,
Mr. O’Day, and please get into it--and there’s a jar full of tobacco,
and if you haven’t got a pipe of your own you’ll find a whole lot of
corncobs on the mantelpiece and you can help yourself.”

O’Day had stood smiling at the painter, Masie’s hand fast in his, Fudge
tiptoeing softly about, divided between a sense of the strangeness of
the place and a certainty of mice behind the canvases. Felix knew the
old fellow’s kind, and recognized the note of attempted gayety in the
voice--the bravado of the poor putting their best, sometimes their only,
foot foremost.

“No, I won’t sit down--not yet,” he answered pleasantly; “I will look
around, if you will let me, and I will try one of your pipes before I
begin. What a jolly place you have here! Don’t move”--this to the model,
a slip of a girl, her eyes muffled in a lace veil, one of Ganger’s
Oriental costumes about her shoulders--“I am quite at home, my dear, and
if you have been a model any length of time you will know exactly what
that means.”

“Oh, she’s my Fatima,” exclaimed Ganger. “Her real name is Jane Hoggson,
and her mother does my washing, but I call her Fatima for short. She can
stop work for the day. Get down off the platform, Jane Hoggson, and talk
to this dear little girl. You see, Mr. O’Day, now that the art of the
country has gone to the devil and nobody wants my masterpieces, I have
become an Eastern painter, fresh from Cairo, where I have lived for half
a century--principally on Turkish paste and pressed figs. My specialty
at present--they are all over my walls, as you can see--is dancing-girls
in silk tights or without them, just as the tobacco shops prefer. I
also do sheiks, muffled to their eyebrows in bath towels, and with
scimitars--like that one above the mantel. And very profitable, too;
MOST profitable, my dear sir. I get twenty doldars for a real odalisk
and fifteen for a bashi-bazouk. I can do one about every other day, and
I sell one about every other month. As for Sam Dogger here--Sam, what is
your specialty? I said landscapes, Sam, when Mr. O’Day came in, but you
may have changed since we have been talking.”

The wizened old gentleman thus addressed sidled nearer. He was ten years
younger than Ganger, but his thin, bloodless hands, watery eyes, their
lids edged with red, and bald head covered by a black velvet skull-cap
made him look that much older.

“Nat talks too much, Mr. O’Day,” he piped in a high-keyed voice. “I
often tell Nat that he’s got a loose hinge in his mouth, and he ought to
screw it tight or it will choke him some day when he isn’t watching. He!
He!” And a wheezy laugh filled the room.

“Shut up, you old sardine! You don’t talk enough. If you did you’d
get along better. I’ll tell you, Mr. O’Day, what Sam does. Sam’s a
patcher-up--a ‘puttier.’ That’s what he is. Sam can get more quality out
of a piece of sandpaper, a pot of varnish, and a little glue than any
man in the business. If you don’t believe it, just bring in a fake
Romney, or a Gainsborough, or some old Spanish or Italian daub with the
corners knocked off where the signature once was, or a scrape down half
a cheek, or some smear of a head, with half the canvas bare, and put Sam
to work on it, and in a week or less out it comes just as it left the
master’s easel--‘Found by his widow after his death’ or ‘The property
of an English nobleman on whose walls it has hung for two centuries.’
By thunder! isn’t it beautiful?” He chuckled. “Wonderful how these
bullfrogs of connoisseurs swallow the dealers’ flies! And here am I,
who can paint any blamed thing from a hen-coop to a battle scene,
doing signs for tobacco shops; and there is Sam, who can do Corots and
Rousseaus and Daubignys by the yard, obliged to stick to a varnish pot
and a scraper! Damnable, isn’t it? But we don’t growl, do we, Sammy?
When Sammy has anything left over, he brings half of it down to me--he
lives on the floor above--and when I get a little ahead and Sammy is
behind, I send it up to him. We are the Siamese twins, Sammy and I,
aren’t we, Sam? Where are you, anyway? Oh, he’s after the dog, I see,
moving the canvases so the little beggar won’t run a thumb-tack in his
paw. Sam can no more resist a dog, my dear Mr. O’Day, than a drunkard
can a rum-mill, can you, Sam?”

“At it again, are you, Nat?” wheezed the wizened old gentleman, dusting
his fingers as he reappeared from behind the canvases, his watery eyes
edged with a deeper red, due to his exertions. “Don’t pay any attention
to him, Mr. O’Day. What he says isn’t half true, and the half that
is true isn’t worth listening to. Now tell me about that frame he’s
ordered. He don’t want it, and I’ve told him so. If you are willing to
lend it to him, he’ll pay you for it when the picture is sold, which
will never be, and by that time he’ll--”

“Dry up, you old varnish pot!” shouted Ganger, “how do you know I won’t
pay for it?”

“Because your picture will never be hung--that’s why!”

“Mr. Ganger did not want to buy it,” broke in Felix, between puffs from
one of his host’s corn-cob pipes. “He wanted to exchange something for
it--‘swap’ he called it.”

“Oh, well,” wheezed Sam, “that’s another thing. What were you going to
give him in return, Nat? Careful, now--there’s not much left.”

“Oh, maybe some old stuff, Sammy. Move along, you blessed little
child--and you, too, Jane Hoggson! You’re sitting on my Venetian
wedding-chest--real, too! I bought it forty years ago in Padua. There
are some old embroideries down in the bottom, or were, unless Sam has
been in here while I--Oh, no, here they are! Beg pardon, Sammy, for
suspecting you. There--what do you think of these?”

Felix bent over the pile of stuffs, which, under Ganger’s continued
dumpings, was growing larger every minute--the last to see the light
being part of a priest’s Cope and two chasubles.

“There--that is enough!” said Felix. “This chasuble alone is worth more
than the frame. We will put the Florentine frame at ten dollars and the
vestment at fifteen. What others have you, Mr. Ganger? There’s a great
demand for these things when they are good, and these are good. Where
did you get them?”

“Worth more than the frame? Holy Moses!” whistled Ganger. “Why, I
thought you’d want all there was in the chest! And you say there are
people out of a lunatic asylum looking for rags like this?” And he held
up one end of the cope.

“Yes, many of them. To me, I must say, they are worth nothing, as I
don’t like the idea of mixing up church and state. But Mr. Kling’s
customers do, and if they choose to say their prayers before a chasuble
on a priest’s back on Sunday and make a sofa cushion of it the next day,
that is their affair, not mine. And now, what else? You spoke of some
costumes this morning.”

“Yes, I did speak of my costumes, but I’m afraid they are too modern
for you--I make ‘em up myself. Get up, Jane, and let Mr. O’Day see what
you’ve got on!”

Jane jumped to her feet, looking less Oriental than ever, her spangled
veil having dropped about her shoulders, her red hair and freckled face
now in full view.

“I think her dress is beautiful, Uncle Felix,” whispered Masie.

“Do you, sweetheart? Well, then, maybe I might better look again. What
else have you in the way of Costumes, Mr. Ganger?”

Dogger stepped up. “He hasn’t got a single thing worth a cent; he buys
these pieces down in Elizabeth Street, out of push-carts, and Jane
Hoggson’s mother sews them together. But, my deary”--here he laid
his hand on Masie’s head--“would you like to see some REAL ONES,
all-gold-and-silver lace--and satin shoes--and big, high bonnets with
feathers?”

Masie clapped her hands in answer and began whirling about the room, her
way of telling everybody that she was too happy to keep still.

“Well, wait here; I won’t be a minute.”

“Sam’s fallen in love with her, too,” muttered Ganger, “and I don’t
blame him. Come here, you darling, and let me talk to you. Do you know
you are the first little girl that’s ever been inside this place for
ever--and ever and EVER--so long? Think of that, will you? Not one
single little girl since--Oh, well, I just can’t remember--it’s such
an awful long time. Dreadful, isn’t it? Hear that old Sam stumbling
down-stairs! Now let’s see what he brings you.”

Dogger’s arms were full. “I’ve a silk dress,” he puffed, “and a ruffled
petticoat, and a great leghorn hat--and just look at these feathers, and
you never saw such a pair of slippers and silk stockings! And now let’s
try ‘em on!”

The child uttered a little scream of delight. “Oh, Uncle Felix! Isn’t it
lovely? Can’t I have them? Please, Uncle Felix!” she cried, both hands
around his shirt collar in supplication.

“Take ‘em all, missy,” shouted Sam. Then, turning to Felix: “They
belonged to an actor who hired half of my studio and left them to pay
for his rent, which they didn’t do, not by a long chalk, and--Oh,
here’s another hat--and, oh, such a lovely old cloak! Yes, take ‘em all,
missy--I’m glad to get rid of ‘em--before Nat claps them on Jane and
goes in for Puritan maidens and Lady Gay Spankers. Oh, I know you, Nat!
I wouldn’t trust you out of my sight! Take ‘em along, I say.” He stopped
and turned toward Felix again.

“Couldn’t you bring her down here once in a while, Mr. O’Day?” he
continued, a strange, pathetic note in his wheezing voice. “Just for
ten minutes, you know, when she’s out with the dog, or walking with you.
Nobody ever comes up these stairs but tramps and book agents--even the
models steer clear. It would help a lot if you’d bring her. Wouldn’t
you like to come, missy? What did you say her name was? Oh,
yes--Masie--well, my child, that’s not what I’d call you; I’d call
you--well, I guess I wouldn’t call you anything but just a dear, darling
little girl! Yes, that’s just what I’d call you. And you are going to
let me give them to her, aren’t you, Mr. O’Day?”

Felix grasped the old fellow’s thin, dry hand in his own strong fingers.
For an instant a strange lump in his throat clogged his speech. “Of
course, I’ll take the costumes, and many thanks for your wish to make
the child happy,” he answered at last. “I am rather foolish about Masie
myself; and may I tell you, Mr. Dogger, that you are a very fine old
gentleman, and that I am delighted to have made your acquaintance, and
that, if you will permit me I shall certainly come again?”

Dogger was about to reply when Masie, Looking up into the wizened face,
cried: “And may I put them on when I like, if I’m very, very--oh, so
VERY careful?”

“Yes, you buttercup, and you can wear them full of holes and do anything
else you please to them, and I won’t care a mite.”

And then, with Jane Hoggson’s help, he put on Masie’s own hat and coat,
which Ganger had hung on an easel, and Masie called Fudge from his
mouse-hole, and Felix shook hands first with Nat and then with Sam, and
last of all with Jane, who looked at him askance out of one eye as she
bobbed him half a courtesy. And then everybody went out into the hall
and said good-by once more over the banisters, Felix with the bundle
under his arm, Masie throwing kisses to the two old gnomes craning their
necks over the banisters, Fudge barking every step of the way down the
stairs.



Chapter VI



The glimpse which Felix had caught of these two poor, unappreciated old
men, living contentedly from hand to mouth, gayly propping each other
up when one or the other weakened, had strangely affected him. If, as
he reasoned, such battered hulks, stranded these many years on the dry
sands of incompetency, with no outlook for themselves across the wide
sea over which their contemporaries were scudding with all sails set
before the wind of success--if these castaways, their past always with
them and their hoped-for future forever out of their reach, could laugh
and be merry, why should not he carry some of their spirit into his
relations with the people among whom his lot was now thrown?

That these people had all been more than good to him, and that he owed
them in return something more than common politeness now took possession
of his mind. Few such helping hands had ever been held out to him.
When they had been, the proffered palm had generally concealed a hidden
motive. Hereafter he would try to add what he could of his own to the
general fund of good-fellowship and good deeds.

He would continue his nightly search--and he had not missed a single
evening--but he would return earlier, so as to be able to spend an hour
reading to Masie before she went to bed, or with his other friends and
acquaintances of “The Avenue”--especially with Kitty and John. He had
been too unmindful of them, getting back to his lodgings at any hour of
the night, either to let himself in by his pass-key--all the lights out
and everybody asleep--or to find only Kitty or John, or both, at work
over their accounts or waiting up for Mike or Bobby or for one of their
wagons detained on some dock. And since Kling had raised his salary,
enabling him not only to recover his dressing-case, which then rested
on his mantel, but to take his meals wherever he happened to be at the
moment--he had seldom dined at home--a great relief in many ways to a
man of his tastes.

Kitty, though he did not know it, had demurred and had talked the matter
over with John, wondering whether she had neglected his comfort. When
she had questioned him, he had settled it with a pat on her shoulders.
“Just let me have my way this time, my dear Mrs. Cleary,” he had said
gently but firmly. “I am a bad boarder and cause you no end of trouble,
for I am never on time. And please keep the price as it is, for I don’t
pay you half enough for all your goodness to me.”

Now under the impulse of his new resolution, and rather ashamed of his
former attitude in view of all her unremitting attentions, he resumed
his place at her table. Nor did he stop here. He taught her to broil a
chop over her coal fire by removing the stove lid--until then they had
been fried--and a new way with a rasher of bacon, using the carving-fork
instead of a pan. The clearing of the famous coffee-pot with an
egg--making the steaming mixture anew whenever wanted instead of letting
the dented old pot simmer away all day on the back of the stove--was
another innovation, making the evening meal just that much more
enjoyable, greatly to the delight of the hostess, who was prouder of her
boarder than of any other human being who had come into her life, except
John and Bobby.

These renewed intimacies opened his eyes to another phase of the life
about him, and he soon found himself growing daily more interested in
the sweet family relations of the small household.

“What do I care for what we haven’t got,” Kitty said to him one night
when some economies in the small household were being discussed. “I’m
better off than half the women who stop at my door in their carriages.
I got two arms, and I can sleep eight hours when I get the chance, and
John loves me and so does Bobby and so does my big white horse Jim.
There ain’t one of them women as knows what it is to work for her man
and him to work for her.” All the other married couples he had seen had
pulled apart, or lived apart--mentally, at least. These two seemed bound
together heart and soul.

More than once he contrived to stop at the Studio Building, where both
of the old fellows were almost always to be found sitting side by side,
and, picking them up bodily, he had set them down on hard chairs in a
rathskeller on Sixth Avenue, where they had all dined together, the old
fellows warmed up with two beers apiece. This done, he had escorted them
back, seen them safely up-stairs, and returned to his lodgings.

It was after one of these mild diversions that, before going to his
room, he pushed open the door of the Clearys’ sitting-room with a cheery
“May I come in, Mistress Kitty?”

“Oh, but I’m glad to see ye!” was the joyous answer. “I was sayin’ to
myself: ‘Maybe ye’d come in before he went.’ Here’s Father Cruse I been
tellin’ ye about--and, Father, here’s Mr. O’Day that’s livin’ wid us.”

A full-chested man of forty, in a long black cassock, standing six feet
in his stockings, his face alight with the glow of a freshly kindled
pleasure, rose from his chair and held out his hand. “The introduction
should be quite unnecessary, Mr. O’Day,” he exclaimed in the full,
sonorous voice of a man accustomed to public speaking. “You seem to have
greatly attached these dear people to you, which in itself is enough,
for there are none better in my parish.”

Felix, who had been looking the speaker over, taking in his thoughtful
face, deep black eyes, and more especially the heavy black eyebrows that
lay straight above them, felt himself warmed by the hearty greeting and
touched by its sincerity. “I agree with you, Father, in your praise
of them,” he said as he grasped the priest’s hand. “They have been
everything to me since my sojourn among them. And, if I am not mistaken,
you and I have something else in common. My people are from Limerick.”

“And mine from Cork,” laughed the priest as he waved his hand toward his
empty chair, adding: “Let me move it nearer the table.”

“No, I will take my old seat, if you do not mind. Please do not move,
Mr. Cleary; I am near enough.”

“And are you an importation, Father, like myself?” continued Felix,
shifting the rocker for a better view of the priest.

“No. I am only an Irishman by inheritance. I was brought up on the soil,
born down in Greenwich village--and a very queer old part of the town it
is. Strange to say, there are very few changes along its streets since
my boyhood. I found the other day the very slanting cellar door I used
to slide on when I was so high! Do you know Greenwich?”

He was sitting upright as he spoke, his hands hidden in the folds of his
black cassock, wondering meanwhile what was causing the deep lines on
the brow of this high-bred, courteous man, and the anxious look in the
deep-set eyes. As priest he had looked into many others, framed in the
side window of the confessional--the most wonderful of all schools for
studying human nature--but few like those of the man before him; eyes so
clear and sincere, yet shadowed by what the priest vaguely felt was some
overwhelming sorrow.

“Oh, yes, I know it as I know most of New York,” Felix was saying; “it
is close to Jefferson Market and full of small houses, where I should
think people could live very cheaply”; adding, with a sigh, “I have
walked a great deal about your city,” and as suddenly checked himself,
as if the mere statement might lead to discussion.

Kitty, who had been darning one of John’s gray yarn stockings--the
needle was still between her thumb and forefinger--leaned forward.
“That’s the matter with him, Father, and he’ll never be happy until he
stops it,” she cried. “He don’t do nothin’ but tramp the streets until I
think he’d get that tired he’d go to sleep standin’ up.”

Felix turned toward her. “And why not, Mrs. Cleary?” he asked with a
smile. “How can I learn anything about this great metropolis unless I
see it for myself?”

“But it’s all Sunday and every night! I get that worried about ye
sometimes, I’m ready to cry. And ye won’t listen to a thing I say! I
been waitin’ for Father Cruse to get hold of ye, and I’m goin’ to say
what’s in my mind.” Here she looked appealingly to the priest. “Now, ye
just talk to him, Father, won’t ye, please?”

The priest, laughing heartily, raised his protesting hands toward her.
“If he fails to heed you, Mrs. Cleary, he certainly won’t listen to me.
What do you say for yourself, Mr. O’Day?”

Felix twisted his head until he could address his words more directly to
his hostess. “Please keep on scolding me, my dear Mrs. Cleary. I love
to hear you. But there is Father Cruse, why not sympathize with him?
He tramps to some purpose. I am only the Wandering Jew, who does it for
exercise.”

Kitty held the point of the darning-needle straight out toward Felix.
“But why must you do it Sundays, Mr. O’Day? That’s what I want to know.”

“But Sunday is my holiday.”

“Yes, and there’s early mass. Ye’d think he’d come, wouldn’t ye,
Father?”

One of O’Day’s low, murmuring laughs, that always sounded as if he had
grown unaccustomed to letting the whole of it pass his lips, filtered
through the room.

“You see what a heathen I am, Father,” he exclaimed. “But I am going to
turn over a new leaf. I shall honor myself by visiting St. Barnabas’s
some day very soon, and shall sit in the front pew--or, perhaps, in
yours, Mrs. Cleary, if you will let me--now that I know who officiates,”
 and he inclined his head graciously toward the priest. “I hope the
service is not always in the morning!”

“Oh, no, we have a service very often at night, sometimes at eight
o’clock.”

“And how long does that last?”

“Perhaps an hour.”

“And so if I should come at eight and wait until you are free, you could
give me, perhaps, another hour of yourself?”

“Yes, and with the greatest pleasure. But why at those hours?” asked the
priest with some curiosity.

“Because I am very busy at other times. But I want to be quite frank. If
I come, it will not be because I need your service, but because I shall
want to see YOU. Your church is not my church, and never has been, but
your people--especially your priests--have always had my admiration
and respect. I have known many of your brethren in my time. One in
particular, who is now very old--a dear abbe, living in Paris. Heaven is
made up of just such saints.”

The priest clasped his hands together. “We have many such, sir,” he
replied solemnly. The acknowledgment came reverently, with a gleam that
shone from under the heavy brows.

Felix caught its brilliance, and the sense of a certain bigness in the
man passed through him. He had been prepared for his quiet, well-bred
dignity. All the priests he had known were thoroughbreds in their manner
and bearing; their self-imposed restraint, self-effacement, absence of
all unnecessary gesture, and modulated voices had made them so; but
the warmth of this one’s underlying nature was as unexpected as it was
pleasurable.

“Yes, you have many such,” O’Day repeated simply after a slight pause
during which his thoughts seemed to have wandered afar. “And now tell
me,” he asked, rousing himself to renewed interest, “where your work
lies--your real work, I mean. The mass is your rest.”

The priest turned quickly. He wondered if there were a purpose behind
the question. “Oh, among my people,” he answered, the slow, even,
non-committal tones belying the eagerness of his gesture.

“Yes, I know; but go on. This is a great city--greater than I had ever
supposed--greater, in many ways, than London. The luxury and waste are
appalling; the misery is more appalling still. What sort of men and
women do you put your hands on?”

“Here are some of them,” answered the priest, his forefinger pointing to
Kitty and John.

“We could all of us do without churches and priests,” ventured Felix,
his eyes kindling, “if your parishioners were as good as these dear
people.”

“Well, there’s Bobby,” laughed the priest, his face turned toward the
boy, who was sound asleep in his chair, Toodles, the door-mat of a dog,
sprawled at his feet.

“And are there no others, Father Cruse?”

The priest, now convinced of a hidden meaning in the insistent tones,
grew suddenly grave, and laid his hand on O’Day’s knee. “Come and see
me some time, and I will tell you. My district runs from Fifth Avenue
to the East River, from the homes of the rich to the haunts of the poor,
and there is no form of vice and no depth of suffering the world over
that does not knock daily at my study door. Do not let us talk about it
here. Perhaps some day we may work together, if you are willing.”

Kitty, who had been listening, her heart throbbing with pride over
Felix, who had held his own with her beloved priest, and still
fearing that the talk would lead away from what was uppermost in her
mind--O’Day’s welfare--now sprang from her chair before Felix could
reply. “Of course he’ll come, Father, once he’s seen ye.”

“Yes, I will,” answered Felix cordially. “And it will not be very
long either, Father. And now I must say good night. It has been a real
pleasure to meet you. You have been a most kindly grindstone to a very
dull and useless knife, and I am greatly sharpened up. After all, I
think we both agree that it is rather difficult to keep anything bright
very long unless you rub it against something still brighter and keener.
Thank you again, Father,” and with a pat of his fingers on Kitty’s
shoulder as he passed, and a good night to John, he left the room on his
way to his chamber above.

Kitty waited until the sound of O’Day’s footsteps told her that he had
reached the top of the stairs and then turned to the priest. “Well, what
do ye think of him? Have I told ye too much? Did ye ever know the beat
of a man like that, livin’ in a place like this and eatin’ at my table,
and never a word of complaint out o’ him, and everybody lovin’ him the
moment they clap their two eyes on him?”

The priest made no immediate answer. For some seconds he gazed into
the fire, then looked at John as if about to seek some further
enlightenment, but changing his mind faced Kitty. “Is his mail sent
here?”

“What? His letters?”

“Yes.”

“He don’t have any--not one since he’s been wid us.”

“Anybody come to see him?”

“Niver a soul.”

The priest ruminated for a moment more, and then said slowly, as if his
mind were made up: “It does not matter; somebody or something has hurt
him, and he has gone off to die by himself. In the old days such men
sought the monasteries; to-day they try to lose themselves in the
crowd.”

Again he ruminated, the delicate antennae of his hands meeting each
other at the tips.

“A most extraordinary case,” he said at last. “No malice, no
bitterness--yet eating his heart out. Pitiful, really; and the worst
thing about it is that you can’t help him, for his secret will die with
him. Bring him to me sometime, and let me know before you come so I may
be at home.”

“You don’t think there’s anything crooked about him, Father, do you?”
 said John, who had sat tilted back against the wall and now brought the
front legs of his chair to the floor with a bang.

“What do you mean by crooked. John?” asked the priest.

“Well, he blew in here from nowheres, bringin’ a couple of trunks and
a hat-box, and not much in ‘em, from what Kitty says. And he might blow
out again some fine night, leavin’ his own full of bricks, carting
off instead some I keep on storage for my customers, full of God knows
what!--but somethin’ that’s worth money, or they wouldn’t have me take
care of ‘em. There ain’t nothin’ to prevent him, for he’s got the run
of the place day and night. And Kitty’s that dead stuck on him she’ll
believe anything he says.”

Kitty wheeled around in her seat, her big strong fist tightly clinched.
“Hold your tongue, John Cleary!” she cried indignantly. “I’d knock any
man down--I don’t care how big he was--that would be a-sayin’ that of ye
without somethin’ to back it up, and that’s what’ll happen to ye if ye
don’t mend your manners. Can’t ye see, Father, that Mr. Felix O’Day is
the real thing, and no sham about him? I do, and Kling does, and so does
that darlin’ Masie, and every man, woman, and child around here that can
get their hands on him or a word wid him. Shame on ye, John! Tell him
so, Father Cruse!”

The priest kept silent, waiting until the slight family squall--never
very long nor serious between John and Kitty--had spent itself.

“Well, I’m not sayin’ anything against Mr. O’Day, Kitty,” broke in John.
“I’m only askin’ for information. What do you think of him, Father?
What’s he up to, anyhow? There ain’t any of ‘em can fool ye. I don’t
want to watch him--I ain’t got no time--and I won’t if he’s all right.”

The priest rose from his chair and stood looking down at Kitty, his
hands clasped behind his back. “You believe in him, do you not?”

“I do--up to the handle-and I don’t care who knows it!”

“Then I would not worry, John Cleary, if I were you.”

“Well, what does she know about it, Father?”

“What every good woman always knows about every good man. And now I must
go.”



Chapter VII



As was to be expected, Kitty’s first words to O’Day on the following
morning related to his meeting with Father Cruse. “Ye’ll not find a
better man anywhere,” she had said to him, “and there ain’t a trouble he
can’t cure.”

Felix had smiled at her enthusiasm for her idol and comforted her by
saying that it had given him distinct pleasure to meet him, adding: “A
big man with a big soul, that priest of yours, Mistress Kitty. I begin
to see now why you and your husband lead such human lives. Yes--a fine
man.”

But no closer intimacy ensued, nor did he pursue the acquaintance--not
even on the following Sunday, when Kitty urged him, almost to
importunity, to go and hear the Father say mass. He was not ready
as yet, he said to himself, for friendships among men of his own
intellectual caliber. In the future he might decide otherwise. For the
present, at least, he meant to find whatever peace and comfort he could
among the simple people immediately around him--meagrely educated,
often strangely narrow-minded, but possessing qualities which every day
aroused in him a profounder admiration.

With the quick discernment of the man of the world--one to whom many
climes and many people were familiar--he had begun to discover for
himself that this great middle class was really the backbone of the
whole civil structure about him, its self-restraint, sanity, and
cleanliness marking the normal in the tide-gauge of the city’s
activities; the hysteria of the rich and the despair of the poor being
the two extremes.

Here, as he repeatedly observed, were men absorbed in their several
humble occupations, proud of their successes, helpful of those who fell
by the wayside, good citizens and good friends, honest in their business
relations, each one going about his appointed task and leaving the other
fellow unmolested in his. Here, too, were women, good mothers to their
children and good wives to their husbands, untiring helpmates, regarding
their responsibilities as mutual, and untroubled as yet by thoughts of
their own individual identities or what their respective husbands owed
to them.

This was why, instead of renewing his acquaintance with Father Cruse,
he preferred to halt for a few minutes’ talk with some one of Kitty’s
neighbors--it might be the liveryman next door who had been forty years
on the Avenue, or one of the shopkeepers near by, most of whom were
welcome to Kitty’s sitting-room and kitchen, and all of whom had shared
her coffee. Or it might be that he would call at Digwell’s, whose
undertaker’s shop was across the way and whose door was always open, the
gas burning as befitted one liable to be called upon at any hour of the
day or night; or perhaps he would pass the time of day with Pestler,
the druggist; or give ten minutes to Porterfield, listening to his talk
about the growing prices of meat.

Had you asked his former associates why a man of O’Day’s intelligence
should have cultivated the acquaintance of an undertaker like Digwell,
for instance, whose face was a tombstone, his movements when on duty
those of a crow stepping across wet places in a cornfield, they would
have shaken their heads in disparaging wonder. Had you asked Felix he
would have answered with a smile: “Why to hear Digwell laugh!” And then,
warming to his subject, he would have told you what a very jolly person
Digwell really was, if you were fortunate enough to find him unoccupied
in his private den, way back in the rear of his shop. How he had
entertained him by the hour with anecdotes of his early life when he was
captain of a baseball team, and what fun he had gotten out of it, and
did still, when he could sneak away to help pack the benches.

Had you inquired about Pestler, the druggist, there would have followed
some such reply as: “Pestler? Did you say? Because Pestler is one of the
most surprising men I know. He has kept that same shop, he tells me,
for twenty-two years. Of course, he knows only a very little about
drugs--just enough to keep him out of the hands of the police--but then
none of you are aware, perhaps, that Pestler is also a student? You
might think, when you saw only the top of his fuzzy, half-bald head
sticking up above the wooden partition, that he was putting up a
prescription, but you would be wrong. What he is really doing, with the
aid of his microscope, is dissecting bugs, and pasting them on glass
slides for use in the public schools. And he plays the violin--and very
well, too! He often entertains me with his music.”

Sanderson, the florist, was another denizen who interested him. To look
at Sanderson tying ribbons on funeral wreaths, no one would ever have
supposed that there was rarely a first night at the opera at which
he was not present, paying for his ticket, too, and rather despising
Pestler, who got his theatre tickets free because he allowed the
managers the use of his windows for advertisements. Felix forgave even
his frozen roses whenever the Scotchman, having found a sympathetic
listener, launched out upon his earlier experiences among opera stars,
especially his acquaintance with Patti, whom he had known before
she became great and whom he always spoke of as devotees do of the
Madonna--with bated breath and a sigh of despair that he would never
hear her again.

Then, too, there was Codman. O’Day was always enthusiastic over Codman.
“I have taken a great fancy to that fishmonger, and a fine fellow he
is,” he said one night to Kitty and John. “His shop was shut when I
first called on him, but he was good enough to open it at my knock,
and I have just spent half an hour, and a very delightful half-hour,
watching him handle the sea food, as he calls it, in his big
refrigerator. I got a look, too, at his chest and his arms, and at
his pretty wife and children. She is really the best type of the two.
American, you say, both of them, and a fine pair they are, and he
tells me he pulled a surf-boat in your coast-guard when he was a lad of
twenty, then took up fishing, and then went into Fulton Market, helping
at a stall, and now he is up here with two delivery wagons and four
assistants and is a member of a fish union, whatever that is.
It’s astonishing! And yet I have met him many a time pushing his
baby-carriage around the block.”

“Yes,” Kitty answered, putting on a shovel of coal, “and I’ll lay ye a
wager, Mr. O’Day, that Polly Codman will be drivin’ through Central Park
in her carriage before five years is out; and she deserves it, for there
ain’t a finer woman from here to the Battery.”

“I am quite sure of it, Mistress Kitty. That is where the American comes
in--or, perhaps it is the New Yorker. I have not been here long enough
to find out.”

Of all these neighbors, however, it was Timothy Kelsey, the hunchback,
largely because of his misfortunes and especially because of his vivid
contrast to all the others, who appealed to him most. Tim, as has been
said, kept the second-hand book-shop, half-way down the block on the
opposite side of the street. He was but a year or two older than O’Day,
but you would never have supposed it had Tim not told you--and not then
unless you had looked close and followed the lines of care deep cut in
his face and the wrinkles that crowded close to his deep, hollowed-out
eyes. When he was a boy of two, his sister, a girl of six, had let him
drop to the sidewalk, and he had never since straightened his back. The
customary outlets by which fully equipped men earn their living having
been denied Tim, he had passed his boyhood days in one of the
small, down-town libraries cataloguing the books. With this came the
opportunity to attend the auction sales when some rare volume was to be
bid for, he representing the library. A small shop of his own followed
in the lower part of the town, and then the one a little below Kling’s,
where he lived alone with only a caretaker to look after his wants.

Kelsey had arrived one morning shortly after Felix had entered Kling’s
service, carrying a heavily bound book which he laid on a glass case
under Otto’s nose. “Take a look at it, Otto,” he said, after pausing a
moment to get his breath, the volume being heavy. “There is more brass
than leather on the outside, and more paint than text on the inside. I
have two others from the same collection. It is in your line rather than
in mine, I take it. What do you think of it? Could you sell it?”

Kling dropped his glasses from his forehead to the bridge of his flat
nose. “Vell! Dot is a funny-looking book, Tim. Dot is awful old, you
know.”

“Yes, seventeenth century, I think,” replied Tim.

“Vot you tink, Mr. O’Day? Ain’t dot a k’veer book? Oh, you don’t have
met my new clerk, have you, Tim? Vell dot’s funny, for he lives over at
Kitty’s. Vell, dis is him--Mr. Felix O’Day. Tim Kelsey is an olt friend
of mine, Mr. O’Day. You must have seen dot k’veer shop vich falls down
into de cellar from de sidevalk--vell, dat’s Tim’s.”

Felix smiled good-naturedly, bowed to Kelsey, and taking the huge,
brass-bound volume in his hands, passed his fingers gently across the
leather and then over the heavy clamps, turning the book to the light
of the window so as to examine the chasing the closer. Tim, who had been
watching him, remarked the ease with which he handled the volume and the
care with which he ran his eye along the edges of the inside of the back
before paying the slightest attention to the quality of the vellum or
to the title-page.

“Did you say you thought it was seventeenth century, Mr. Kelsey?” Felix
asked thoughtfully.

“Yes, I should say so.”

“I would put it somewhat earlier. The binding is wholly tool-work, much
older than the brasses, which, I think, have been renewed--at least the
clamps--certainly one of them is of a later period. The vellum and
the illuminated text”--again he scrutinized the title-page, this
time turning a few of the inside leaves--“is before Gutenberg’s
time. Handwork, of course, by some old monk. Very curious and very
interesting. And you say there are two others like this one?”

The hunchback, whose big, shaggy head reached but a very little above
the case over which the colloquy was taking place, stretched himself
upon his toes as if to see Felix the better. “You seem to know something
of books, sir,” he remarked in a surprised tone. “May I ask where you
picked it up?”

Again Felix smiled, a curious expression lurking around his thin lips--a
way with him when he intended to be non-committal. He was now more
interested in the speaker than in the object before him, especially in
the big dome head and sunken eyes, shaded by bushy eyebrows, the only
feature of the man which seemed to have had a chance to grow to its
normal size. He had caught, too, a certain high-pitched note, one of
suffering running through the hunchback’s speech--often discernible
in those who have been robbed of their full physical strength and
completeness.

“Oh, I don’t know, Mr. Kelsey. There are, as you know, but few old clamp
books like this in existence. There are some in the Bibliotheque in
Paris, and a good many in Spain. I remember handling one some years ago
in Cordova. When you have seen a fine example you are not apt to forget
it. Why do you sell it?”

Kelsey settled down upon his heels--the upper half of his misshapen body
telescoping the lower--and shoved both hands into his pockets. “I did
not come here to sell it”--there was a touch of irony in his voice--“I
came to find out whether Kling could sell it. Do you think YOU could?”

“I might, or I might not. Only a few people about here, so I understand,
can appreciate this sort of thing.”

“What is it worth?” He was still eying him closely. People who praised
his things were those who never wanted to buy.

“Not very much,” replied Felix.

“Oh, but I thought you said it was very rare?”

“So it is--almost too rare--and almost too old. If it had been done
fifty or more years later, on one of Gutenberg’s presses, Quaritch might
give you two thousand pounds for it. Hand-work--which ought really to be
more valuable than machine-work--is worth pence, where the other sells
for pounds. One of Gutenberg’s Bibles sold here a year ago for three
thousand guineas, so I am told. What are the other two like?”

“No difference--a clasp is gone from one. The other is--” He stopped,
his mien suddenly changing to one of marked respect, even to one of awe.
“Will you do me a favor, sir?”

“With pleasure”--again the same quiet smile. He had read the financial
workings of the bookseller’s mind with infinite amusement and decided to
see more of him. “What can I do for you?”

“I want you to come over with me to my shop. You won’t object, will you,
Otto? I won’t keep him a minute.”

“Let me come a little later, sir, say about nine o’clock. I have work
here until six and an engagement, which is important, until nine. You
are open as late as that?”

“Oh, I am always open, or can be,” Kelsey answered. “What would I shut
up shop for except to keep out the rats--human and otherwise? I live in
my place, and, as I live alone, nobody ever disturbs me--nobody I want
to see--and I do want you, and want you very much. Well, then, come at
nine, and if the blinds are up, ring the bell.” And so the acquaintance
began.


And yet, interesting as he found these diversions with his neighbors,
there were moments when, despite his determination to be cheerful and to
add his quota to the general fund of good-fellowship, he had to summon
all his courage to prevent his spirit sinking to its lowest ebb. It was
then he would turn to the thing that lay nearest to hand, his work--work
often so irksome to him that, but for his sense both of obligation
and of justice to his employer and his love for Masie, he would have
abandoned it altogether.

A possible relief came when through the protests of a customer he
had begun to realize the clearer Kling’s deficiencies and had, in
consequence, cast about for some plan of helping him to do a larger and
more remunerative business.

Several ways by which this could be accomplished were outlined in his
mind. The disorder everywhere apparent in the shop should first come to
an end. The present chaos of tables, chairs, bureaus, and sideboards,
heaped higgledy-piggledy one upon the other--the customers edging their
way between lanes of dusty furniture--must next be abolished. So must
the jumble of glass, china, curios, and lamps. This completed, color and
form would be considered, each taking its proper place in the general
scheme.

To accomplish these results, all the unsalable, useless, and ugly
furniture taking up valuable space must be carted away to some auction
room and sold for what it would bring. Light, air, and much-needed room
would then follow, and prices advanced to make up for the loss on the
“rattletrap” and the “rickety.” Stuffs which had been poked away in
worthless bureau drawers for years, as being too ragged even to show,
were next to be hauled out, patched, and darned, and then hung on the
bare white walls, concealing the dirt and the cracks.

And these improvements, strange to say--Kling being as obstinate as the
usual Dutch cabinetmaker, and as set in his ways--were finally carried
out; slowly at first, and with a rush later when every customer who
entered the door began by complimenting Otto on the improvement. Soon
the sales increased to such an extent and the stock became so depleted
that Kling was obliged to look around for articles of a better and
higher grade to take its place.

At this juncture a happy and unforeseen accident came to his aid. A
bric-a-brac dealer with a shop in Jersey City filled with some very
good English and Italian patterns and a fine assortment of European
gatherings--most of them rare, and all of them good--fell ill and was
ordered to Colorado for his health. His wife had insisted on going with
him, and thus the whole concern, including its good-will--worthless to
Kling--was offered to him at half its value.

O’Day spent the entire morning crawling in and out of the interstices
of the choked-up Jersey City shop; Masie, as his valuable assistant,
propped up with Fudge on a big table until he had finished. The next day
the bargain was made. Mike, Bobby, the two Dutchies, and both Kitty’s
teams were then called in and the transfer began.

It was when this collection of things really worth having were being
moved into their new home under Felix’s personal direction that Masie
announced to him an important event. They were on the second floor at
the time, overlooking Hans and Mike, who had just brought up-stairs the
first of the purchase, a huge, high-backed gilt chair, stately in its
proportions--Spanish, Felix thought--with a few renovations about the
arms and back, but a good specimen withal. The chair had evidently
excited her imagination, reminding her, perhaps, of some of the pictures
in Tim Kelsey’s fairy books, for after looking at it for a moment she
began clapping her hands and whirling about the room.

“I’ve thought of such a lovely thing, Uncle Felix! Let’s play kings and
queens! I will sit in this chair and will dress Fudge up like a page and
everybody will come up and courtesy, or I will be the fairy princess and
you will be my beauty prince, and--”

Felix, who was holding up the heavy end of a piece of tapestry while
the two men were clearing a place for it behind the chair, called out,
“When’s all this to happen, Tootcoms?”--one of his pet names; he had a
dozen of them.

“Next Saturday.”

“Why next Saturday?”

“Because then I’m eleven years old, and you know that a great many fairy
princesses are never any older.”

Down went the tapestry. “Your birthday! You blessed little angel! Eleven
years old! My goodness, how time flies! Pretty soon you will be in long
dresses, with your hair in a knot on the top of your head. You never
told me a word about it!”

“No, but I do now. And I am just going to have a party--a real party.
And I am going to invite everybody, all the girls I know and all the
boys and all the old people.”

Felix had her beside him now, her fresh young cheek against his. “You
don’t tell me! Well! I never heard anything like it! And what will your
father say?”

Her face fell. “Don’t let’s tell him! Let’s have a surprise.”

Felix shook his head. “I am afraid we could never do that, unless we
locked him up in the cellar and did not give him a thing to eat until
everything was ready. Oh, just think how he would beg for mercy!”

Masie rubbed her cheek up and down that of Felix in disapproval. “No,
you wouldn’t be so mean to poor Popsy.”

“Well, then, suppose--suppose--” and he held her teasingly from him
to note the effect of his words--“suppose we make him go away--way off
somewhere, to buy something--so far away that he could not come back
until the next day. How would that do?”

“No, that won’t do--not a little bit! I’ve got a better plan. You go
right down-stairs this minute and tell him it’s all fixed, and that I’m
going out this very afternoon to invite everybody myself.”

Felix made a wry fate. “Suppose he sends me about my business?”

“He won’t. He thinks you are the most WONDERFUL man in the world--he
told Mr. Kelsey so; I heard him--and he won’t refuse you anything--oh,
Uncle Felix”--both arms were around his neck now, always her last
argument--“I do so want a birthday party and I want it right here in
this room.”

Felix smoothed back the hair from her pleading eyes and kissed her
tenderly on the forehead. For a moment there was silence between them,
he continuing to smooth back her hair, she cuddling the tighter, her
usual way. She always let him think a while and it always came out
right. But he had made up his mind. It had been years since a birthday
of his own had been celebrated; nor had he ever helped, so far as he
could recollect, to celebrate the birthday of any child. Yes, Masie
should have her birthday, if he could bring it about, and it should be
the happiest of all her life.

Suddenly he rose, releasing his neck from her grasp, and ran his eyes
around the almost bare interior--the big chair being the only article,
so far, in place. “It will make a grand banquet hall, Masie,” he said,
as if speaking more to himself than to her. “Let me see!” He walked
half the length of the floor and began studying the walls and the bare
rafters of the ceiling. These last had once been yellow-washed, age and
dust having turned the kalsomine to an old-gold tint, reminding him of a
ceiling belonging to a Venetian palace.

“Yes,” he continued, with the same abstracted air, his head upturned,
“there’s a good place for hanging a big lamp, if there is one in the new
lot, and there are spots where I can hang twenty or more smaller ones.
I will cover the side walls with stuffs and embroideries and put those
long Italian settees against--yes, Tweety-kins, it will come out all
right. It will make a splendid banquet hall! And after the party we will
leave it just so. Fine, my child! And I have an idea, too--a brilliant
idea. Hans, ask Mr. Kling to be good enough to come up here!”

With the surrender of her Uncle Felix, Masie resumed her spinning around
the room and kept it up until the father’s bald head showed clear above
the top of the stairs.

“Masie has had one brilliant idea, Mr. Kling, and I have another. I will
tell you mine first.” It was wonderful how thoroughly he understood the
Dutchman.

“Vell, vot is it?” Otto had sniffed something unusual in the atmosphere
and was on the defensive. When there was only one to deal with he
sometimes had his way; never when they were leagued together.

“I propose,” continued O’Day, “to turn this whole floor into the sort
of a room one could live in--like many of the great halls I have seen
abroad--and I think we have enough material to make a success of it,
plenty of space in which to put everything where it belongs. Leave that
big chair where I have placed it, throw some rugs on the floor, nail the
stuffs and tapestries to the walls, fasten the brackets and sconces and
appliques on top of them, filled with candles, and hang the lanterns and
church lamps to the rafters. When I finish with it, you will have a room
to which your customers will flock.”

Kling, bewildered, followed the play of O’Day’s fingers in the air as if
he were already placing the ornaments and hangings with which his mind
was filled.

“Vell, vot ve do vid de stuff dot’s comin’--all dem sideboards and
chairs and de pig tables? Ve ain’t got de space.”

“Half of them will go here, and the balance we will pile away on the
top floor. When these are sold then we’ll bring down the others--always
keeping up the character of the room. That is my idea. What do you think
of it?”

The shopkeeper hesitated, his fat features twisted in calculation.
Every move of his new salesman had brought him in double his money. The
placing of his goods so that a customer would be compelled to crawl over
a table in order to see whether a chair had three whole legs or two,
dust and darkness helping, had always seemed to him one of the tricks of
the trade and not to be abandoned lightly.

“You mean dot ve valk ‘round loose in de middle, and everyting is shoved
back de Vall behind, so you can see it all over?”

Felix smothered a smile. “Certainly, why not?”

“Vell, Mr. O’Day, I don’t know.” Then, noticing the quickly drawn brows
of his clerk’s face and the shadow of disappointment: “Of course, ve can
try it, and if it don’t vork ve do it over, don’t ve?”

Masie slipped her arm through O’Day’s and began a joyous tattoo with her
foot. She knew now that Felix had carried the day.

“And now for Masie’s idea, Mr. Kling.”

“Oh, dere is someting else, eh? I tought dere vould be ven you puts your
two noddles togedder--Vell, vot is dot all about, eh?”

“She is to have a birthday. She will be eleven years old next Saturday.”

“By Jeminy, yes, dot’s so! I forgot dot, Masie. Yes, it comes on de
tventy-fust. Vy you don’t tell me before, little Beesvings?”

“Yes, next Saturday; only four days off,” continued Felix, forging ahead
to avoid any side-tracking of his main theme. “And what are you going to
do for her? Not many more of them before she will be out of the window
like a bird, and off with somebody else.”

Otto ruminated. He loved his daughter, even if he did sometimes forget
her very existence. “Oh, I don’t know. I guess ve buy her sometings
putty--vot you like to have, Beesvings? Or maybe you like to go to de
teater vid Auntie Gossburger. I get de tickets.”

The child disengaged her hand from O’Day’s arm, pushed back her hair
and tiptoed to her father. “I want a party, Popsy--a real party,” she
whispered, tipping his chin back with her fingers, so he could look at
her through his spectacles--not over them, like an ogre.

“Vere you have it?” This came in a bewildered way, as if the pair had
the big ballroom at Delmonico’s in the back of their heads.

“Here, in this very place,” broke in Felix, “after I get it in order.”

Kling, gently freeing himself from Masie’s hold, stared at his clerk.
“Dot vill cost a lot of money, don’t it?”

“No, I do not think so.”

“Vell, who is coming? De childer all around?”

“Everybody is coming--big, little, and middle-sized,” answered Felix.
The cat was all out of the bag now.

“Vell, dot’s vot I said. You don’t can get someting for nodding. You
must have blenty to eat and drink.”

“No. Some simple refreshment will do--sandwiches, cake, and some
ice-cream. I’ll take care of that myself, if you’ll permit me.”

“Vell, now stop a minute vunce--here is anudder idea. Suppose ve make
it a Dutch treat--everybody bring sometings. Ve had vun last vinter at
Budvick’s, de upholsterer, ven he vas married tventy-five years. I give
de apples--more as half a peck.”

Felix broke into a hearty, ringing laugh--one of the few either Masie or
his employer had ever heard escape his lips.

“We will let you off without even the apples this time,” he said, when
he recovered himself. “They are not coming to get something to eat this
time. I will give them something better.”

“And you say everybody is comin’. Who is dot everybody?”

“Just leave it all to me, Mr. Kling. And give yourself no concern. I
am going to use everything we have: all our cups and saucers, no matter
whether they are Spode, Lowestoft, or Worcester; all the platters,
German beer mugs, candlesticks--even that rare old tablecloth
trimmed with church lace. This is an entertainment to be given by a
distinguished antiquary in honor of his lovely daughter”--and he bowed
to each in turn--“the whole conducted under the management of his junior
clerk, Mr. F. O’Day, who is very much at your service, sir.”



Chapter VIII



Bright and early the following morning Felix began work, and for the
next two days took entire charge of the room, walking up and down its
length, an absolute dictator, brooking no interference from any one.
When Mike’s frowsy head or Hans’s grimy hands appeared above the level
of the landing from the floor below, steadying with their chins some new
possession, it was either, “here, in the middle of the room, men!” or,
if it were big and cumbersome, “up-stairs, out of the way!” This had
gone on until the banquet hall was one conglomerate mass of mixed
chattels from the Jersey shop, Kling’s old stock being stowed in some
other part of the building. Then began the picking out. First the
doubtful, but rich in color, tapestries, then the rugs--some fairly
good ones--stuffs, old and new, and every available rag which would
hold together were spread over the four walls and the front windows. The
heavier and more decorative pieces of furniture came next--among them
a huge wooden altar which had never been put together and which was now
backed close against the tapestries and hanging rugs in the centre of
the long wall. Two Venetian wedding-chests, low enough to sit upon, were
next placed in position, and between them three Spanish armchairs in
faded velvet and one in crinkly leather, held together by big Moorish
nails of brass. Above these chests and chairs were hung gilt brackets
holding church candles, Spanish mirrors so placed that the shortest
woman in the party could see her face, and big Italian disks of dull
metal. The walls were wonderful in their rich simplicity, and so was the
disposition of the furniture, Felix’s skilful eye having preserved
the architectural proportions in both the selection and placing of the
several articles.

More wonderful than all else, however, was the great gold throne at the
end of the room, on which Masie was to sit and receive her guests and
which was none other than the big cardinal’s chair, incrusted with
mouldy gilt, that had first inspired her with the idea of the party.
This was hoisted up bodily and placed on an auctioneer’s platform which
Mike had found tilted back against the wall in the cellar. To hide its
dirt and cracks, rugs were laid, pieced out by a green drugget which
extended half across the floor, now swept of everything except two
refreshment tables.

Next came the ceiling. What Felix did to that ceiling, or rather what
that ceiling did for Felix, and how it looked when he was through with
it is to this very day a topic of discussion among the now scattered
inhabitants of “The Avenue.” Masie knew, and so did deaf Auntie
Gossburger, who often spent the day with the child. She, with Masie, had
been put in charge of the china and glass department, and when the
old woman had pulled up from the depths of a barrel first one red cup
without a handle and then a dozen or more, and had asked what they were
for, Felix had seized them with a cry of joy: “Oil cups! They fit on
the tops of these church lamps. I never expected to find these! Mike!
Go over to Mr. Pestler’s and tell him to send me a small box of floating
night-tapers--the smallest he has. Now, Tootcums, you wait and see!”

And then the step-ladder was moved up, and Mike and one of the
Dutchies passed up the lamps to Felix, who drove the hooks into the
rafters--twenty-two of them--and then slid down to the floor, taking in
the general effect, only to clamber up again to lengthen this chain, or
shorten that, so that the whole ceiling, when the cups were filled and
the tapers lighted, would be a blaze of red stars hung in a firmament of
dull, yellow-washed gold.

The final touch came last. This was both a surprise and a discovery.
Hans had found it flattened out on the top of a big, circular table,
and was about to tear it loose when Felix, who let nothing escape
his vigilant eye, seized its metal handle, whereupon the mass sagged,
tilted, straightened, and then rounded out into a superb Chinese lantern
of yellow silk, decorated with black dragons, with only one tear in its
entire circumference, and that one Auntie Gossburger darned so skilfully
that nobody noticed the hole. This, Felix, after much consideration,
swung to the rafter immediately over the throne, so that its mellow
light should fall directly on the child’s face.

Kling, while these preparations were in progress, was in a state of mind
bordering on the pathetic. Felix had made him promise not to come up
until the room was finished, but every few hours his head would be
thrust up over the edge of the stairs, his eyes screwed up in his fat
face, an expression of wonder, not unmixed with anxiety, flitting across
his countenance. Then he would back down-stairs, muttering to himself
all the time; his chief cause of complaint being the hiding of so many
things his customers might want to buy and the displaying of so many
others at which they might only want to look!

There was, however, even after the decorations seemed complete, a bare
corner to be filled with something neither too big, nor too small, nor
too insistent in color or form. Felix went twice over the stock, old
and new, twisted and turned, and was about to give up when he
suddenly called to Masie, his face lighting under the glow of a fresh
inspiration:

“I have it now! Come, Tootcums, with me! Mr. Sanderson will help us
out.” All of which came true; for Mr. Sanderson, ten minutes later,
had bent his head close to the child’s lips to hear the better, and had
said: “Only two? Why, Masie, you can have the lot.” And that was how the
bare corner was filled with three great palms--the biggest he had in
his shop--and the grand salon of the Grande Duchesse Masie Beeswings de
Kling at last made ready for her guests.

This done, Felix made a final inspection of the room, adding a touch
here and there--shifting a piece of pottery or redraping the frayed end
of a square of tapestry--and finding that everything kept its place in
the general effect, without a single discordant note, drew Masie to a
seat beside him on one of the old Venetian chests. Here, with his arms
about the enthusiastic child, he laid bare the next and to him the most
important number on the programme.

And in this he wrought another upheaval, one almost as great as had
taken place in the room. The time-honored custom of all birthday parties
entailing upon the invited the giving of presents as proof of affection,
was not, he hinted gently, to be observed upon this occasion. “It is
Masie who is to give the presents,” he whispered, holding her closer,
“and not her guests.”

The child at first had protested. The long procession of guests coming
up to hand her their gifts, and her fun next day when looking them
over--knowing how queer some of them would be--had been part of her
joyful anticipation, but Felix would not yield.

“You see, Masie, darling,” he coaxed, “now that you are going to be a
real princess,” he was smoothing back her curls as he spoke, “you are
going to be so high up in the world that nobody will dare to give you
any presents. That is the way with all princesses. Kings and queens
are never given presents on their birthdays unless their permission is
asked, but, just because they ARE kings and queens, they give presents
to everybody else. And then again, Masie, dear, if you stop to think
about it, people really get a great deal more fun out of giving things
than they do of having things given to them.”

She succumbed, as she always did, when her “Uncle Felix,” with his voice
lowered to a whisper, his lips held close to her ear, either counselled
or chided her, and a new joy thrilled through her as he explained how
his plan was to be carried out.

Kling lifted up his hands in protest when he heard of O’Day’s
innovation, but was overruled and bowled over before he had framed his
first sentence. It was the sentiment, Felix insisted, which was to be
considered, the good feeling behind the gift, not the cost of it. He and
Masie had worked it all out together, and please not to interfere.

But Kling did interfere, and right royally, too, when he found time to
think it over. Some one of the old German legends must have worked its
way through the dull crust of his brain, bringing back memories of his
childhood. Perhaps his conscience was pricked by his clerk’s attitude.
Whatever the cause, certain it is that he crept up-stairs a few hours
before his house was to be thrown open to Masie’s guests, and, finding
the banquet hall completely finished and nobody about, Felix and Masie
having gone out together to perfect some little detail connected with
the gifts, walked around in an aimless way, overwhelmed by the beauty
and charm of the interior as it lay before him in the afternoon light.

On his way down he met the deaf Gossburger coming up.

“Dot is awful nice!” he shouted. “I couldn’t believe dot was possible!
Dot is a vunderful--VUNderful man! I don’t see how dem rags and dot
stuff look like dot ven you get ‘em togedder anodder vay. And now dere
is vun thing I don’t got in my head yet: Vot is it about dese presents?”

The old woman recounted the details as best she could.

“And dot is all, is it, Auntie Gossburger? Only of pasteboard boxes
vid candies in ‘em, and little pieces paper vid writings on ‘em dot Mr.
O’Day makes? Is dot vot you mean?”

The old woman nodded.

Kling turned suddenly, went down-stairs with his head up and shoulders
back, called Hans to keep shop, and put on his hat.

When he returned an hour later, he was followed by a man carrying a big
box. This was placed behind Masie’s throne and so concealed by a rug
that even Felix missed seeing it.


That everybody had accepted--everybody who had been invited--“big,
little, and middle-sized”--goes without saying. Masie had called at each
house herself, with Felix as cavalier--just as he had promised her. And
they had each and every one, immediately abandoned all other plans
for that particular night, promising to be there as early as could be
arranged, it being a Saturday and the shops on “The Avenue” open an hour
later than usual--an indulgence counterbalanced by the fact that next
day was Sunday and they could all sleep as long as they pleased.

And not only the neighbors, but Nat Ganger and Sam Dogger accepted.
Felix had gone down himself with Masie’s message, and they both had said
they would come--Sam to be on hand half an hour before the appointed
hour of nine so as to serve as High Lord of the Robes, Masie having
determined that nobody but “dear old Mr. Dogger” should show her how to
put on the costume he had given her.

As for these two castaways, when they did enter the gorgeous room on the
eventful night they fairly bubbled over.

“Don’t let old Kling touch it,” Ganger roared out as soon as he stepped
inside, before he had even said “How do you do?” to anybody. “Keep it as
an exhibit. Better still, send circulars up and down Fifth Avenue,
and open it up as a school--not one of ‘em knows how to furnish their
houses. How the devil did you--Oh, I see! Just plain yellow-wash and the
reflected red light. Looks like a stained-glass window in a measly old
church. Where’s Sam. Oh, behind that screen. Well come out here and look
at that ceiling!”

Sam didn’t come out, and didn’t intend to. He was busy with the child’s
curls, which were bunched up in the fingers of one hand, while the other
was pressing the wide leghorn hat into the precise angle which would
become her most, the Gossburger standing by with the rest of the
costume, Masie’s face a sunburst of happiness.

“And now the long skirt, Mrs. Bombagger, or whatever your name is.
That’s it, over her head first and then down along the floor so she will
look as if she was grown up. And now the big ostrich-plume fan--a little
seedy, my dear, and yellow as a kite’s foot, but nobody’ll see it under
that big, yellow lantern. Now let me look at you! Nat, NAT! where are
you, you beggar, stop rummaging around that dead stuff and come behind
here and look at this live child! yes, right in here. Now look! Did you
ever in all your born days see anything half so pretty?” the outburst
ending with, “Scat, you little devil of a dog!” when Fudge gave a howl
at being stepped upon.

Masie, as she listened, plumed her head as a pigeon would preen its
feathers, stood up to see her train sweep the floor, sat down again to
watch the stained satin folds crumple themselves about her feet, and was
at last so overcome by it all that she threw her arms around Sam, to his
intense delight, and kissed him twice, and would have given Nat an equal
number had not Felix called to him that the guests were beginning to
arrive.

As to these guests, you could not have gotten their names on one side of
Kitty’s order-book, nor on both sides, for that matter. There was brisk,
bustling Bundleton the grocer in a green necktie, white waistcoat,
and checked trousers, arm and arm with his thin wife in black silk and
mitts; there was Heffern the dairyman in funeral black, relieved by a
brown tie, and his daughter, in variegated muslin, accompanied by two
young men whom neither Kling nor Felix nor the Gossburger had ever
heard of or seen before, but who were heartily welcomed; there were fat
Porterfield the butcher in his every-day clothes, minus his apron, with
his two girls, aged ten and fourteen, their hair in pigtails tied
with blue ribbons; there were Mr. and Mrs. Codman, all in their best
“Sunday-go-to-meetings,” with their little daughter Polly, named after
the mother, pretty as a picture and a great friend of Masie--most
distinguished people were the Codmans, he looking like an alderman and
his wife the personification of good humor, her rosy cheeks matching the
tint of her husband’s necktie.

There was Digwell the undertaker in his professional clothes, enlivened
by a white waistcoat and red scarf, quite beside himself with joy
because nobody had died or was likely to die so far as he had heard,
thus permitting him to “send dull care to the winds!”--his own way of
putting it. There was Pestler the druggist in an up-to-date dress suit
as good as anybody’s--almost as good as the one Felix wore, and from
which, for the first time since he landed, he had shaken the creases.
There was Tim Kelsey, in the suit of clothes he wore every day, the only
difference being the high collar instead of the turned-down one, the
change giving him the appearance of a man with a bandaged neck, so
narrow were his poor shoulders and so big was the fine head overtopping
it. There were Mike and Bobby and the two Dutchies and Sanderson, who
came with his hands full of roses for Masie, and a score of others whose
names the scribe forgets, besides lots and lots of children of all sizes
and ages.

And there were Kitty and John--and they were both magnificent--at least
Kitty was--she being altogether resplendent in black alpaca finished off
by a fichu of white lace, her big, full-bosomed, robust body filling
it without a crease; and he in a new suit bought for the occasion, and
which fitted him everywhere except around the waist--a defect which
Kitty had made good by means of a well-concealed safety-pin in the back.

It was for Kitty that Felix had been on the lookout ever since the
guests began to arrive, and no sooner did her rosy, beaming face appear
behind that of her husband, than he pushed his way through the throng
to reach her side. “No, not out here, Mistress Kitty,” he cried. Had she
been of royal blood he could not have treated her with more distinction.
“You are to stand alongside of Masie when she comes in; the child has no
mother, and you must look after her.”

“No mother! Mr. O’Day! God rest your soul, she won’t need to do without
one long, she’s that lovely. There’ll be plenty will want to mother, and
brother her, too, for that matter. My goodness, what a place ye made of
it! Look at them lamps, all fireworks up there, and that big chair! I
wonder who robbed a church to get it! Well--well---WELL! John! did
ye ever see the like? Otto, ye ought to rent this place out for a
chowder-party ball. Well, well, I NEVER!”

The comments of some of the others, while they voiced their complete
surprise, were less enthusiastic. Bundleton, after shaking hands with
Felix and Kitty, and then with Kling, dropped his wife and made a tour
of the room without uttering a sound of any kind until he reached Felix
again, when he remarked gravely: “I should think it would worry you some
to keep the moths out of this stuff,” and then passed on to tell Kling
he must look out “them lamps didn’t spill and set things on fire.”

Porterfield, as was to be expected, was distinctly practical. “Awful lot
of truck when you get it all together, ain’t it, Mr. O’Day? I was
just tellin’ my wife that them two chairs up t’other side of the room
wouldn’t last long in my parlor, they’re that wabbly. But maybe these
Fifth Avenue folks don’t do no sittin’--just keep ‘em in a glass case to
look at.”

Pestler was more discerning. He had come across an iridescent glass jar,
and was edging around for an opportunity to ask Kling the price without
letting Felix overhear him--it being an occasion, he knew, in which Mr.
O’Day would feel offended if business were mentioned. “Might do to put
in my window, if it didn’t cost too much,” he had begun, and as suddenly
stopped as he caught Felix’s eyes fastened upon him.

There were others, however, whose delight could not be repressed. Tim
Kelsey, after the proper greetings were over, had wandered off down
the room, stopping to examine each article in its place on the walls.
Finally some pieces of old Delft caught his eye. He made a memorandum of
two in a little book he took from his inside pocket, and later on, when
a break in the surrounding conversation made it possible, remarked
to Felix: “They seem to get everything in the new Delft but the old
delicious glaze. On a wall it doesn’t matter, but you don’t feel like
putting real old Delft on a wall. I like to stroke it, as I would a
friend’s hand.”

These inspections and comments over, and that peculiar timidity which
comes over certain classes lifted out of their customary environment and
doing their best to become accustomed to new surroundings having begun
to wear away under the tactful welcome of Felix, and the hour having
arrived for the grand ceremony of gift-giving, the throne was pushed
back, Masie called from behind her screen, and O’Day’s wicker basket
filled with the presents was laid by the side of the big chair.

Kling and Kitty were now beckoned to and placed on the left of the
throne, Felix taking up his position on the right.

The stir on the platform caused by these arrangements soon attracted
everybody’s attention and a sudden hush fell upon the room. What was
about to happen nobody knew, but something important, or Mr. O’Day would
not have stepped to its edge, nor would Otto have been so red in the
face, nor Kitty so radiant.

Felix raised his hand to command supreme silence.

“Masie wishes me,” he began in his low, even voice, “to tell you that
she has done her best to remember every one, and that she hopes nobody
has been forgotten. These little trifles she is about to give you are
not gifts, but just little mementos to express her thanks for your
kindness in coming to her first party. She bids me tell you, too, that
her love goes out to every one of you on this the happiest night of her
life and that she welcomes you all with her whole heart.”

He turned, stepped back a pace, made the radiant child a low bow, held
out his hand, and led her into full view of the audience, the rays of
the big lantern softening the tones of the quaint, picturesque costume
which concealed her slight figure, transforming the child of eleven into
the woman of eighteen.

For at least ten seconds, and that is a long period of time when your
heart is in your mouth and you are ready to explode with uncontrollable
delight, not a sound of any kind broke the silence, no handclap of
welcome, no murmur of applause; just plain, simple astonishment, the
kind that takes your breath away. That Kling’s little girl stood before
them, nobody believed. O’Day had fooled them with this new vision, just
as he had bewitched them by the glamour of the decorated room. Only when
a few simple words of welcome fell from her lips were the flood-gates
opened. Then a shout went up which set the candles winking--a shout
only surpassed in volume and good cheer when Felix began handing up the
little packages from Masie’s basket. And dainty little packages they
were, filled with all sorts of inexpensive souvenirs that she and Felix
(not much money between the two of them) had picked up at Baxter’s
Toy Shop on Third Avenue, all suggested by some peculiarity of the
recipient, all kindly and good-natured, and each one enlivened by a
quotation or some original line in Felix’s own handwriting.

During the whole delightful ceremony Otto had stood on the left of his
daughter, his heart thumping away, his face growing redder every minute,
his eyes intent on each guest elbowing a way through the crowd as Masie
handed them their gifts, noting the general happiness and the laughter
that followed the reading of the lines, wondering all the time why no
one was offended at the size and, to him, worthlessness of the several
offerings.

When it was all over and the basket empty, he jumped down from the
platform, his fat back bent in excitement, tossed aside the rug, lifted
the big box, placed it beside the gilt throne, and raised his puffy
hands to command attention: “Now listen, everybody! I got someting to
say. Beesvings don’t have all dis to herselluf. Now it is my turn. Come
up closer so I get hold of you. Vait, and I git back on de platform.
Here, you olt frent of mine, Dan Porterfield, here is a new
butcher-knife sharpener for you, to sharpen your knives on ven you cuts
dem bifsteaks. And, Heffern, come close; here is a silver-plated skimmer
for dot cream you make, and a pig fan for your daughter. And Polly
Codman--git out of de way dere, and let Polly Codman come up!--here,
Polly, is a pair of gloves for you and a muffler for Codman, and here is
more gloves and neckties and--I got a lot more; I didn’t got much time
and I bought dem all in a hurry--and dey are all from me and Masie and
don’t you forgit dot. I ain’t never been so happy as I am to-night,
and you vas awful good to come and see my little girl dot don’t got no
mudder. And you must all tank Mr. O’Day for de great help he vas. Now
dot’s all I got to say.”

He drew his hand across his eyes, made an awkward bow, and sat down.
Everybody gasped in amazement. Many of them had known him for years,
ever since he moved into “The Avenue”--twenty years, at least--but
nobody had ever seen him as he was to-night. That he had in his intended
generosity overlooked half of his friends made no difference. Those who
received something showed it for weeks afterward to everybody who came.
Those who had nothing forgave him in their delight over the good-will
he had shown to the others. Even Felix, who had been watching him soften
and thaw out under the warmth of the child’s happiness, and who thought
he knew the man and his nature, was astounded, and showed it by grasping
for the first time his employer’s hand, looking him in the eyes as he
said, “I owe you an apology, sir,” a proceeding Otto often pondered
over, its meaning wholly escaping him.

But the great surprise of the evening, in which even Felix had had no
share, was yet to come. He had carried out his promise to provide the
simple refreshments, and a table had been set apart for their serving.
The sandwiches made at the bakeshop a block below had already arrived
and been put in place, and he was about to announce supper, when he
became aware that a mysterious conference was being held near the top of
the stairs, in which Kitty, Polly Codman, and Heffern’s daughter Mary,
were taking part. He had already noticed, with some discomfiture, the
absence of a number of male guests, half of them having left the room
without presenting themselves before Masie to bid her good night, and
was about to ask Kitty for an explanation, when a series of thumping
sounds reached his ear; something heavy was being rolled along the
floor beneath his feet. As the noise increased, Kitty and her beaming
coconspirators craned their necks over the banisters and a welcoming
roar went up. Bundleton’s head now came into view, a wreath of smilax
wound loosely around his neck, followed by one of his men carrying a keg
of beer; another shouldering a sawhorse, a wooden mallet, and a wooden
spigot; and still a third with a basket of stone mugs.

“Come, folks and neighbors, everybody have a glass of beer with me!”
 shouted Bundleton.

Up went the sawhorse before you would wink your eye! Down went the keg
across its arms, the smilax around it! Bang went the bung! In went the
wooden spigot! And out flew the white froth!

Another roar now went up, accompanied by great clapping of hands. It
was Codman’s head this time, a cook’s cap resting on his ears, his hands
bearing a great dish athwart which lay a cold salmon that the baker
had cooked for him that morning. Close behind came Pestler with a tray
filled with boxes of candy, and next Sanderson with a flattish basket
piled high with carnations, each one tied as a boutonniere; and
Porterfield with a bunch of bananas; and so on and so on--each arrival
being received with fresh roars and shouts of welcoming approval. Last
of all came Kitty, her face one great, pervading, all-embracing laugh,
her own big coffee-pot filled to the brim and smoking hot on a waiter,
her boy Bobby following, loaded down with cups and saucers.

Supper over--and it was a mighty feast, with everybody waiting on
everybody else, Kitty busiest of all, filling each cup herself--Digwell
the undertaker, who had really been the life of the party, remarked in
a voice loud enough to be heard half-way across the room that it was a
pity there was no piano, as a party could not be a real party without
a dance. At this Kling, who was having a mug with Codman, rose from
his seat, stepped to the top of the stairs and, looking over the crowd,
called for four strong men, “right avay, k’vick!” Codman, Pestler, Mike,
and Digwell responded, and before anybody knew where they had gone,
or what it was all about, up came an old-fashioned spinet, which Kling
remembered had been hidden behind a Martha Washington bedstead on the
floor below.

“All together, men!” shouted Codman, and it was picked up bodily,
whirled into position, dusted off in a jiffy, and ready for use.

At this Pestler sprang to his feet, shouted he was coming back in a
minute, rushed to the stairway, went down three steps at a time, bolted
through the front door, across the street, up into his bedroom, and back
again, all in one breath, waving his violin triumphantly over his head
as he entered.

And then it was that the real fun began. And then it was that virtue had
its own reward, for not a living soul in the room could play a note on
the spinet except the tallest and spookiest and, to all appearances, the
stupidest of the two young men, whom the Heffern girl had brought and
who turned out to have once been the star pianist in some dance-hall
on the Bowery. And the scribe remarks, parenthetically and in all
seriousness, that the way that lank, pin-headed young man revived the
soul of that old, worn-out harpischord, digging into its ribs, kicking
at its knees with both feet, hand-massaging every one of the keys up,
down, and crossways, until the ancient fossil fairly rattled itself
loose with the joy of being alive once more, was altogether the most
astounding miracle he has ever had to record. And Pestler with his
violin was not far behind.

Everything had now broken loose.

At the first note, up jumped Kitty, caught John around the neck, and
went whirling around the room. At the second note, up jumped Codman,
made a dive for Polly, missed her in the mix-up and, grabbing Mrs.
Digwell instead, went sailing down the room as if he had done nothing
else all his life. At the third note, away went Sanderson and Bundleton,
Heffern, everybody but the two castaways and Tim Kelsey, who beat juba
on their knees, old Sam Dogger playing a tattoo all by himself with two
knife-handles and a plate. Some danced with their own wives; some
with anybody’s wife or daughter or child--a grand hullabaloo, down the
middle, across, back, and up again, until everybody was exhausted
and fell in a heap into Felix’s Spanish chairs, or on his Venetian
wedding-chests, or wherever else they could find resting-places in which
to catch their breaths.

And now comes the crowning touch of all--the last of the evening’s
surprises, and one remembered the longest because of its simplicity and
its beauty!

When everybody was resting, out stepped Felix, the light of the overhead
candles falling on his pale, thoughtful face, white shirt-front, and
faultless suit of black which fitted his well-knit, handsome frame like
a glove, and with him the Grande Duchesse Masie de Kling, the child
bowing and smiling as she passed, the wide leghorn hat shading her
face from the light of the lanterns above, her long train caught,
woman-fashion, over her arm. Then, with a low word to the pin-headed
young man, followed by a downward wave of his palm to denote the time,
and the child’s fingers firm in his own, Felix led her through an
old-fashioned, stately minuet, telling her in an undertone just what
steps to take.


It was Sunday morning before the merry party broke up and streamed out
through Kling’s lower shop, and so on into the street. Everybody had had
the time of their lives. Such remarks as “Would ye have believed it
of Otto?” or, “Wasn’t Masie the sweetest thing ye ever saw?” or, “Just
think of Mr. O’Day fixing up that old junk room the way he did--ye can’t
beat him nowheres!” or, “Oh, I tell ye, Otto struck it rich when he took
him on!”, were heard on all sides.

So loud were the laughter and chatter, the good nights and good-bys,
that big Tom McGinniss moved over from the opposite curb.

“Halloo, John!” cried the policeman. “I thought I couldn’t be mistaken.
And Kitty, that you with your coffee-pot? I just come up from Lexington
Avenue and heard the row, wondering what was up. Is it up-stairs ye
were? WHAT! Dutchy givin’ a ball? Oh, ye can’t mean it! No, thank ye,
Kitty, it will be too late for ye all--I’ll drop in to-morrow night.
Well, take care of yourselves,” and he disappeared in the darkness.

Felix watched the throng disperse, bade Kitty and John good night, and,
turning sharply, directed his steps toward Madison Square. Here he sank
upon a bench, away from the glare of an overhead lamp. For some minutes
he sat without moving, his mind wholly absorbed with the events of the
preceding hours. The roar and crush of the room came back to him. He
caught again the light in Masie’s eyes as she followed his lead in the
dance and the mob of happy faces crowding to her side, and then with a
shudder he confronted the gaunt sorrow that had hourly dogged his steps.
An overpowering sense of depression now took possession of him. Pushing
back his hat as if to give himself more air, he was about to resume his
walk when he became conscious that something had stirred at the far end
of the seat.

Straightening his broad shoulders, his quick, alert manner returning, he
moved nearer, his eyes searching the gloom. A newsboy, a little chap of
seven or eight, his papers under him, lay fast asleep.

For an instant he watched the rise and fall of the boy’s breath,
adjusted the short, patched coat about the little fellow’s knees, and
then slid back to his end of the bench.

“Same old grind,” he said to himself, “no home--no money--cold--maybe
hungry. Never too young to suffer--never too old to eat your heart out.
What a damnable world it is!”

Rising to his feet, he felt in his pocket for a coin, widened the pocket
of the waif’s jacket, and slipped it in. The boy stirred, tightened his
grasp on his papers, and lay still.

Felix looked down at him for a moment, turned, and with lightened steps
continued his walk.

“Well, thank God,” he said as he neared “The Avenue,” “Masie was happy
one night in her life.”



Chapter IX



That the memories of Masie’s birthday party should have been revived
again and again, and that the several incidents should have been
discussed for days thereafter--every eye growing the brighter in the
telling--was to have been expected. Kitty could talk of nothing
else. The beauty of the room; the charm of Masie’s costume; Kling’s
generosity; and last, O’Day’s bearing and appearance as he led the child
through the stately dance, looking, as Kitty expressed it, “that fine
and handsome you would have thought he was a lord mayor,” were now her
daily topics of conversation.

Masie was equally enthusiastic, rushing down-stairs the next morning to
throw her arms around his neck with an “Oh, Uncle Felix, I never, NEVER,
NEVER was so happy in all my life!”

Kling was still more jubilant. The success of Masie’s banquet room had
established him at once among bric-a-brac dealers as a competitor quite
out of the ordinary. His old customers came in flocks, walking about
with gasps of astonishment. Before the week was out, a masonic lodge had
bought the throne, a seaside resort the big Chinese lantern, and two of
the four Spanish chairs had found a home in a millionaire’s library.

Moreover--and this was all the more remarkable in view of his early
training--a certain deference became apparent in the Dutchman’s manner
not only toward Felix but toward his customers. He no longer received
them in his shirt-sleeves. He bought some new clothes and sported a
collar, necktie, and hat, duplicating those worn by Felix as near as his
memory served.

Still more remarkable were the changes wrought among the neighbors in
their attitude toward O’Day. Until then they had, in their independent
fashion, treated him like any of the other men who came in and out their
several stores, pleased with his interest in the business, but quickly
forgetting him as they became reabsorbed in the affairs of the day. Now,
as they told him what a good time they had had on the birthday, they
raised their hats. Porterfield went so far as to tell the radiant Kitty
that her boarder was a “Jim Dandy,” and that if she should lay her hands
on another to “trot him out.”

Kitty of course had expected these triumphs, but that it was she who had
made them possible, and that but for her own individual efforts Felix
might still be wandering around the streets in search of bed and board,
apparently never crossed her mind. He would have been just as splendid,
she said to herself, and just as much of a man no matter who had helped
and no matter where his feet had landed.

If O’Day were aware of the changes of public opinion going on around
him, there was nothing in either his manner or in his speech to show it.
When they complimented him on the way in which he had utilized Otto’s
old stock, producing so wonderful an interior, he would remark quietly
that it was nothing to his credit. He had always loved such things; that
it came natural to some people to put things to rights, and that any one
could have done as much. It was only when some one alluded to Masie that
his face would light up. “Yes, charming, was she not? Such a wonderful
little lady, and so good!”

That which did please him--please him immensely--was the outcome of a
visit made some days after the party by old Nat Ganger.

“Regular Aladdin lamp,” Nat shouted, slamming Kling’s door behind
him. “One rub, bang goes the rubbish, and up comes an Oriental palace.
Another rub and little devils swarm over the walls and ceilings and
begin hanging up stuffs and lamps. Another rub, and before you can wink
your eye, out steps a little princess, a million times prettier than any
Cinderella that ever lived. Wonderful! WONDERFUL!

“Where is the darling child anyway. Can’t I see her? I got away from
Sam, telling him I was going to look up another frame for one of my
pictures. Here it is. All a lie, every bit of it. It’s Sam’s picture.
Not mine. I wrapped it up so he wouldn’t know, but I came to see that
darling child all the same, for I’ve got a surprise for her. But first I
want you to see this picture. Here, wait until I untie this string.
It’s one of Sam’s Hudson Rivery things. Palisades and a steamboat in the
foreground, and an afternoon sky. Easy dodge, don’t you see? Yellow sky
and purple hill, and short streak for the steamboat and its wake, and a
smear of white steam straggling behind. Sam does ‘em as well as anybody.
Sometimes he puts in a pile or two in the foreground for a broken dock
and a rowboat with a lone fisherman squatting on the hind seat. Then
he asks five dollars more. Always get more you know for figures in a
landscape.”

He had unwrapped the canvas by this time, and was holding it to the
light of the window that Felix might see it better.

Felix studied it carefully, even to the cramped signature in the corner,
“Samuel Dogger, A. N. A.”; and with an appreciative smile said: “Very
good, I should say. Yes, very good.”

“Good! It’s really very bad, and you know it. So do I. But you’re too
much of a gentleman to say so. Can’t be worse, really, but ‘puttying up’
is down by the heels, and there hasn’t been an old master from Flushing,
Long Island, or Weehawken, New Jersey, lugged up our stairs for a
month;--two months, really. We had one last week from a dealer down-town
which turned out to be genuine after Sam had looked it over. And, of
course, Sam wouldn’t touch it and sent for the auctioneer and told him
so. And the beggar made Sam hunt for the signature and Sam found it
at the top of the canvas instead of at the bottom. One of the early
Dutchmen Sam said it was. Some kind of a Beck or a Koven. And would you
believe it, the very next day the fellow got a whacking price for it
from a collector up in one of the side streets near the Park. So Sam
has gone back to the early American school. This means that he’s getting
down to his last five-dollar bill, and I want to tell you that I’m
not far from it myself. I’d have been dead broke if I hadn’t sold
two Fatimas. One in pink pants and the other a flying angel in summer
clothes to fit an alcove in an up-town barroom over the cigar-stand.

“But my money isn’t Sam’s money,” he went on without pausing, “and Sam
won’t touch a penny of it. Never does unless I fool him on the sly. And
I’ve come up here to fool him now, and fool him bad. I want you to hold
on to this bust--wait until I get it out of my pocket.” Here he pulled
out a small bronze, a head of Augustus, beautifully wrought.

“If you buy the picture, I’ll throw in the ancient Roman,” and he laid
it on the counter.

“And I want you to write Sam a note, asking him if he can’t look around
for one of his masterpieces, something say ten by fourteen; wanted for a
customer who only buys good things. That any little landscape with water
in it will do. Remember, don’t leave out the water. Then Sam will come
thumping down-stairs with the note, and I’ll be awfully astonished and
we’ll talk it over, and I’ll pull this out from under a pile of stuff
where I’ll hide it as soon as I get home. Then I’ll say: ‘Well, I’m
going up-town and have Mr. O’Day look at it, and maybe it will suit him,
and that if it does, I’ll make him pay fifty dollars for it.’ How do you
think that will work?”

Felix, who had been looking into the old fellow’s eyes, reading his mind
in their depths, seeing clear down into the heart beneath, now picked up
the bronze and began passing his hand over it.

“Very lovely,” he said at last, “and a marvellous paten. Where did you
get it?”

“Spoken like a gentleman and a man of honor, and this time you tell the
truth. It’s just what you say--marvellous. I swapped a twenty by thirty
for it. Will you take it?”

Felix shook his head, a smile playing about his lips.

“I would if I wanted to be unfair. Here, take your bronze and leave the
picture. I will find a frame for it, and have one of the men give it a
coat of varnish.”

“And you’ll write the note?”

“Is that necessary?”

“Of COURSE, it’s necessary. You don’t know Sam. He’s as cunning as a
weasel and can get away before you know it. Got to fool him. I always
do. Told him more lies in one minute this morning than a horse can trot.
Will you write the note?”

Felix laughed. “Yes, just as soon as you go.”

“And you won’t hold on to the bronze?”

“No, I won’t hold on to the bronze.”

“And you can get fifty dollars for this unexampled work of art? That, of
course, is the ASKING price. Ten would do a whole lot of good.”

“I cannot say positively, but I will try.”

“All right. And now where’s that darling child?”

A laugh rang out from the top of the stairs, the laugh of a child
overjoyed at meeting some one she loves, followed by “do you mean me?”

“Of course, I mean you, Toddlekins. Come down here and let me give you
a big hug. And I’ve got a message for you from that dried-up old fellow
with the shaggy head. He sent you his love--every bit of it, he said.
And he’s found some more gewgaws he’s going to bring up some day. Told
me that, too.”

Masie had reached the floor and was running toward him with her hands
extended, Fudge springing in front.

The old painter caught her up in his arms, lifting her off her little
feet, and as quickly setting her down, his eyes snapping, his whole face
aglow. The joy bottled up in the child seemed to have swept through him
like an electric current.

“And wasn’t it a beautiful party?” she burst out when she found her
breath. “And wasn’t Uncle Felix good to make it all for me?” She had
moved to O’Day’s side and had slipped her hand in his.

“Yes, of course, it was,” roared Ganger. “Why, old Sam Dogger was so
excited when he went to bed, he didn’t sleep a wink all night. He’s
thought of nothing else but parties ever since. He’s getting up one for
you. Told me so this morning.”

The child’s eyes dilated.

“What sort of a party?”

“Oh, a dandy party, but it’s not going to be at night. It’s going to be
in the daytime. All out in the blessed sunshine and under the trees. And
everybody is going to be invited--everybody who belongs.”

The child’s brow clouded. “Everybody who belongs? Why, can’t Uncle Felix
come?”

“Certainly, he can come. He ‘belongs.’”

“And--Fudge?”

“What, that little devil of a dog? Yes, he can come, if he promises
to behave himself,” and he shook his head at the culprit. “And all the
chippies can come. Lots of ‘em, and perhaps a couple of robins, if they
haven’t gone away south. And there’s a big Newfoundland dog, or was
before he was stolen, that could have swallowed this gentleman down
at one gulp, but he won’t now. HE ‘belonged’ and always has. And, of
course, you ‘belong’ and so does Sam and so do I. We go out every
other week and sit under these very same trees. Sam paints the branches
wiggling down in the water, and I do leaky boats. When I get the picture
home, I put Jane Hoggson fishin’ in the stern.”

Masie rolled her eyes.

“And you don’t take her with you?”

“No.”

“Why?”

“‘Cause she don’t ‘belong.’ Great difference whether you belong or not.
Jane Hoggson couldn’t ‘belong’ if she was to be born all over again.”

O’Day now joined in. He had been watching Masie, noting the lights and
shadows which swept over her face as the old painter chattered away.
He always welcomed any plan for giving her pleasure, and was blessing
Ganger in his heart for providing the diversion.

“And where is all this to take place, Mr. Ganger?” Felix asked at last.

“Up on the Bronx. A place you know nothing of and wouldn’t believe a
word about if I should tell you--not ‘til you see it yourself. It’s as
full of birds and butterflies as England along the Thames, or one of
those ducky little streams out of Paris. And it only costs five cents to
get there and five cents to get back. And you won’t be more than a few
hours away from your shop. Fine, I tell you, you’ll never forget it.”

Again Felix broke in.

“I have not a doubt of it, but when is all this to take place?”

Ganger gave a little start and grew suddenly grave.

“Well, as to that, you see the day is not yet fixed, not precisely. In
a week maybe, or it may be two weeks. This is Sam’s party, you know, and
he hasn’t completed all his arrangements--that is, he hadn’t completed
them when I left him this morning. And, of course, a lot has to be
done to make everything ready”--here he nodded at Masie--“for little
princesses and great ladies in plumes and satins. But it is certainly
coming off. Old Sam told me so, and he means every word of it. And he
was to let you know when. That’s it, he was to LET YOU KNOW. That’s
another thing he told me to tell you.”

The child’s name was now called from the top of the stairs, and the
Gossburger’s head craned itself over the hand-rail. Fudge opened with a
sharp bark, and Masie, with an air kiss to Ganger, raced up the steps,
the dog at her heels, shouting as she ran: “Tell Mr. Dogger I send him a
kiss, and I thank him ever so much, and won’t he please come and see me
very soon.”

When she had disappeared, the old fellow leaned forward, gazed knowingly
at Felix, and in soft-pedal tones said:

“You see, Sam couldn’t say EXACTLY when the party was to take place
because--well, because he hasn’t heard a word about it, and won’t until
I get back. It is my party, not Sam’s, and I’ve got to break it to him
gently. And I’ve got to fool him about the party, make him think it’s
his party, or he’ll think I’m holding it over him because I’ve got a
little more money than he has, just as I intend to fool him about the
picture. I couldn’t say, when you asked me, when the day was to be
fixed, because I’ve told lies enough to that dear child. But I know just
what Sam will do when I tell him about his party; he’ll stand on his
head he’ll be so happy. You see if, when I unwrapped the picture, you
had talked ten dollars right out, why then I was going to make it next
Saturday; that is, to-morrow. But you hemmed and hawed so, I had to make
it ‘some day soon.’ Of course, I never expected the fifty; ten will be
enough for car-fare all around and some beer and sandwiches, that’s all
we ever have. That’s why I chucked in Augustus to make sure. Well, see
what you can do, and don’t forget to write the note and I’ll do the rest
of the lying.” And chuckling to himself he hurried away.

As the door swung wide, a slim man bustled past him, and, spying Felix,
moved briskly to where he stood. He had just ten minutes to spare, he
announced, and was looking for a present for his wife; “something in the
way of fans, old ones, and not over five dollars.”

Felix, who had raised the lid of the case and was stowing Dogger’s
masterpiece inside to keep it out of harm’s way, his mind wholly
occupied with the two old painters and their tenderness toward each
other, roused himself to answer:

“Yes, half a dozen. Not at your price, though, not old ones. Here are
two fairly good specimens,” and he handed them out and laid them on the
glass before him.

The man leaned forward and peered into the case.

“That’s a picture of the Palisades, isn’t it?” He had ignored the fans.

“Yes, so I understand.”

“Oh, I knew it first time I put my eyes on it. I’m in the real-estate
business. I’ve got a lot of cottage sites along that top edge. Is it for
sale?”

“It will be when it’s cleaned and varnished and I have it framed.”

“Belong to you?”

“No; it belongs to a man who has left it for sale. He went out as you
came in.”

“What does he want for it?”

“He would be satisfied with ten dollars, even less, because he needs the
money. I want fifty.”

“You want to make the rest?”

“No, it all goes to him.”

“Well, what do you stick it on for?”

“Because if it isn’t worth that, it isn’t worth anything.”

“Take it out and let me have a look at it. Yes, just the spot. That
whitish streak and that little puff of steam is where they’re breaking
stone. Make a good advertisement, wouldn’t it, hanging up in your
office? You can show the owners just where the land lies, and you can
show a customer just what he’s going to own.”

A brisk bargaining then followed, he determined to buy, and Felix to
maintain his price. Before the ten minutes were out, the bustling man
had forgotten all about the fan he was in search of for his wife and,
having assured himself that it was all oil-paint, every square inch of
it, had propped it up against an ancient clock, standing back to see the
effect, had haggled on five, then ten, then twenty-five, and had finally
surrendered by laying five ten-dollar bills on the glass case. After
which he tucked the picture under his arm, and without a word of any
kind disappeared through the street-door.

And that is why the note which Felix had promised to write Dogger was
sent by messenger instead of by mail within five minutes after the
picture and the buyer had disappeared. And that is why, too, all the
preliminary subterfuges were omitted, and the substitute contained the
announcement which follows:

“Dear Mr. Dogger:

“I have just sold your Palisade picture for fifty dollars. The amount is
at your service whenever you call.

“Yours truly,

               “Felix O’Day.”


That, too, is why Dogger was so overjoyed that he beat the messenger
back to Kling’s, skipping over the flag-stones most of the way till he
reached the Dutchman’s door, where, as befitted a painter whose genius
had at last been recognized, he slowed down, entering the store with a
steady gait, a little restrained in his manner, saying, as he tried to
cram down his joy, that it was a mere sketch, you know, something that
he had knocked off out-of-doors; that Nat had liked it and had, so
he said, taken it up to have it framed. That, of course, he could not
afford ever to repeat the sale price--not for a ten by fourteen of that
quality, but that most of his rich patrons were still out of town, and
so it came in very well.

And, oh, yes, he had almost forgotten! He and Nat were going up to
Laguerre’s, on the Bronx, to an old French cafe, where they often
lunched and painted; that Nat had suggested just as he left the studio
that it would be a good thing if Felix and that dear child Masie would
go with them, and that they would go Saturday, which was to-morrow, if
that would suit O’Day and Masie. And if that wouldn’t suit, why then
they’d go the very first day that did, say Sunday or Monday, the sooner
the better.

To all of which Felix, reading every thought that lurked behind the
moist eyes of the tender-hearted old fraud, had replied that, if he had
the choosing, to-morrow, of all the days in the year, would be the very
day he would select, and that he and Masie would be ready any hour that
he and Mr. Ganger would be good enough to call for them.

At which the old painter took himself off in high glee.

And an altogether delightful and a very happy party it was. Sam, as
host-in-chief, sparing no expense, his first act being to pre-empt
a summer-house covered with vines, already tinged by the touches of
autumn’s fingers; and his second to insist in a loud voice on chairs and
table-cloths, instead of a sandwich spread out on a bench, as had been
their custom, followed by a demand for olives and a small bottle of red
wine, to say nothing of a double brace of chops, and all with the air of
a multimillionaire ordering a cold bottle and a hot bird at Delmonico’s.
And Nat, grown ten years younger--a mere boy in fact--showed Masie how
to throw little leaden weights down the throat of a small cast-iron
frog, and Felix mixed the salad and served it, Masie changing the dishes
and running back to the house for fresh ones, while Fudge, in frenzied
glee, scurried over the soft earth as if he had suddenly been seized
with St. Vitus’s dance. And then, when there was not a crumb of anything
left even for the chippies, they all stretched themselves flat on
the grass in the warm Indian summer weather, the two old fellows
entertaining the child with all the stories they could think of, Felix
looking on, replenishing his pipe from time to time, his own spirit
soothed and comforted by the happiness around him.

Even Kitty noticed the new light in his eyes when they all came back,
for Felix brought the two old painters into her sitting-room so that
they might renew an acquaintance they had made on the night of the ball
and “become better known to a woman of distinction,” as he laughingly
put it, which so delighted the dear soul that that night she said to her
husband:

“He’ll stop trampin’ pretty soon, I think, John. Somethin’s soaked into
him in the last day or two. It’s them old painters, I think, that’s
helpin’ him. He come in a while ago with that child clingin’ to him and
them two mossbacks followin’ behin’, and his face was all ironed out,
and I could see a song trembling on his lips all ready to burst out.
Pray God it’ll last!”



Chapter X



While it was true that Felix, since Masie’s party, had gained the
complete good-will of his neighbors, there were, strange as it may
seem, certain individuals who, while they acknowledged the charm of his
personality, resented his quiet reserve. What nettled them most was his
not having told them at once who he was and why he had come to Kling’s,
and why he had stayed on wrapped in mystery. They considered themselves,
so to speak, as defrauded of something which was their right and said so
in plain terms.

“Well, I hope it won’t be a pair of handcuffs they’ll surprise him with
some day”; or, “When that pal of his turns up, then you’ll see fun,”
 being some of the suggestions frequently made over counters, to be
answered by his loyal adherents with a “Well, I don’t care what ye say.
I ain’t never come across no man any better than Felix O’Day since I
lived here, and that’s no lie.”

There were others, too, who refused to believe any good of the
self-contained, reticent stranger. The nephew of somebody’s
brother-in-law, who lived in Lexington Avenue, was one. He had been
promised, by the cousin of somebody else, the position of clerk with
Otto Kling, and although Otto had never heard of it, he WOULD have heard
of it and the nephew been duly installed but for “a galoot who SAID his
name was O’Day.”

And another thing. What was a fellow, who would work under a Dutchman
like Kling, for only enough to pay his board, doing with a dress suit,
anyhow? The fact was that O’Day was either here “on the quiet” to escape
his creditors, while his friends were trying to patch things up for his
return, or he was an English valet who had stolen his master’s clothes.

A new rumor now filled the air. O’Day, was a spy sent by some foreign
government to look after important interests, like that Russian who
had been employed in a publishing house, where he wrote articles for an
encyclopaedia, only to be recognized later, whereupon he had disappeared
and was never seen again. Tim Kelsey had known him. In fact, he had
visited often Tim’s bookstore at night, just as O’Day was visiting it,
and where a lot of other queer-looking people could be found if anybody
would “take the trouble to knock at Kelsey’s door and peer in through
the tobacco smoke some night.”

All this gossip rolled off Kitty’s mind as rain from a tin roof. Only
once did she rise up in anger with a “Get out of my place! I’ll not have
ye soiling the air with yer dirty talk. Get out, I say! Ye don’t know a
gentleman when ye see him, and ye never will.”

It was when these rumors as to her lodger’s identity were thickest and
when Kitty’s heart had begun to fear that his despondency was returning,
his nightly prowls having been resumed, that a hansom cab stopped in
front of her door.

It was one of her busy days, the sidewalk being blocked up with twenty
or more trunks, parcels, cribs, and baby-carriages on their way, by the
aid of Mike, the big white horse, and John, to the Ferry for shipment
to Lakewood. Kitty was in charge of the quarter-deck, her head bare,
her sleeves rolled above her elbows, showing her plump, ruddy arms, her
cheeks and eyes aglow with the crisp air of the morning. October had
set in, and one of those lung-filling, bracing days--the sky swept by
dancing clouds, dragging their skirts in their flight--was making glad
the great city.

Kitty loved its snap and tang. She loved, too, the excitement aroused
by her duties, and was never so happy as when there were but so many
minutes to catch a train--a fact she never ceased to impress upon
everybody about her, she knowing all the time that she would so manage
the loading as to have five minutes to spare.

“In with those hand-bags, Mike--in the front, where that Saratoga trunk
won’t smash ‘em. Now that crib--no--not loose! Get that strap around it;
do ye want to have to pick it up before ye get half-way to the tunnel?
Hurry up, John, dear! Hold on--give me the other handle of that--look at
it now, big as a chicken-coop! Them Fifth Avenue ladies will be livin’
in these things if they keep on.”

These orders and remarks, fired in rapid succession, were interrupted to
her great annoyance by the driver of the hansom cab, who, impatient at
the delay, had touched his horse lightly with the whip, bringing the
big wheels to a stop in front of the huge trunk which Kitty was
anathematizing.

“Go on wid ye! Drive on, I tell ye!” she cried, opening fire on the
driver.

“Gentleman wants to--”

“Well, I don’t care what the gentleman wants. This stuff’s got to go
aboard that wagon.”

Here the passenger’s head was thrust forward.

“Can you--”

“Yes, of course I can, and glad to, no matter what it is--but not this
minute. Don’t ye see what I’m up against?”

The hansom was backed its full length, the passenger watching Kitty’s
movements with evident amusement.

Two strong hands, one Kitty’s and the other John’s--mostly
John’s--lifted the chicken-coop of a trunk bodily, rested it for an
instant on the forward wheel, and with another “all together” jerk sent
it rolling into the wagon. This completed the loading.

The passenger craned his head again.

“I am staying in Gramercy Park, and want--”

Kitty, who had been stretching her neck to its full length to catch his
words, straightened up. “Ye’ll have to get out. I’m no long-distance
telephone, and the racket of them horse-cars is enough to set a body
crazy.”

The passenger laughed, stretched out a leg, gathered the other beside
it, and stepped to the sidewalk. “You seem to understand your business,
my good woman,” he began, unbuttoning his overcoat to get at the inside
pocket of his cutaway.

“Why shouldn’t I? I been at it these twenty years.”

She had taken him in now, from his polished silk hat, gray hair, and red
cheeks down to his check trousers, white spats, and well-brushed shoes.
Her own face was by this time wreathed in smiles; she saw the man was a
gentleman who had intended only to be courteous. “Is that what ye came
to tell me?” she cried.

“No, but I would have done so if I had ever watched you work. Oh, here
it is,” he continued, drawing out his pocketbook. “I want you to--”
 he stopped and looked at her from over the rims of his gold
spectacles--“but I may not have hold of the right person. May I ask if
you belong here?”

Her head went up with a toss, her eyes dancing. “Of course ye can ask
anything ye please, but I’ll tell ye right off I don’t belong here.
Every blessed thing here belongs to me and my man John.”

The passenger broke into a laugh. He had evidently found a rara avis,
and was enjoying the discovery to the full. American types always
interested him; this sample of Irish-New York was a revelation.

“Go on,” smiled Kitty, “I’m waitin’.”

“Well, take this order to No. 3 Gramercy Park, and they will give you my
two boxes, a shirt case, a roll of steamer-rugs, and some golf-sticks in
a leather pouch, five pieces in all. Get them down to the Cunard dock by
eleven, and my servant will be there to take charge of them. The steamer
sails at twelve. Is that clear?”

She reached for the paper and began checking off the number of
the apartment, number of pieces, dock, and hour. This was all that
interested her.

“It is--clear as mud--and they’ll be on time. And now, who’s to pay?”

“I am, and--” He stopped suddenly, staring in blank amazement at Felix,
who had just emerged from the side door and was stopping for a word
with one of John’s drivers. “My God!” he muttered in a low voice, as if
talking to himself. “I can’t be mistaken.”

Felix nodded a good morning to Kitty and, with an alert, quick stride
crossed the sidewalk diagonally, and bent his steps toward Kling’s.

The Englishman followed him with his gaze, his open pocketbook still in
his hands. “Is that gentleman a customer of yours?” Had he seen a dead
man suddenly come to life he could not have been more astounded.

“He is, and pays his rent like one.”

“Rent? For what?” The customer seemed completely at sea.

“For my up-stairs room. He’s my lodger and I never had a better.”

The Englishman caught his breath. “Do you know who he is?” he asked
cautiously.

“Of course I do! Do you happen to know him?” John had moved up now and
stood listening.

“Not personally, but, unless I am very much mistaken, that is Sir Felix
O’Day.”

“Ye ain’t mistaken, you’re dead right--all but the ‘Sir.’ That’s
somethin’ new to me. It’s MR. Felix O’Day around here, and there ain’t
a finer nor a better. What do ye know about him?” Her voice had softened
and a slight shade of anxiety had crept into it. John craned his head to
hear the better.

“Nothing to his discredit. He has had a lot of trouble--terrible
trouble--more than anybody I know. I heard he had gone to Australia. I
see now that he came to New York. Well, upon my soul, Sir Felix living
over an express office!”

He handed her a bill, waited until John had fished up the change from
the trousers pocket, repeated, in an absent-minded way: “Sir Felix
living here! Good God! What next?” and, beckoning to the driver, stepped
inside the hansom and drove off.

Kitty looked at her husband, her color coming and going. “What did I
tell ye, John, dear? And ye wouldn’t believe a word of it.”

John returned Kitty’s look. He, too, was trying to grasp the full
meaning of the announcement. “Are ye going to tell him ye know, Kitty?”
 Neither of them had the slightest doubt of its truth.

“No, I ain’t,” she flashed back. “Not a word--nor nobody else. When Mr.
Felix O’Day gits ready to tell us, he will.”

“Will ye tell Father Cruse?” he persisted.

“I don’t know that I will. I’ll have to think it over. And now, John,
remember!--not a word of this to any livin’ soul. Do ye promise?”

“I do.” He hesitated, another question struggling to his lips, and then
added: “What’s up wid him, do ye think, Kitty?”

“I don’t know, John, dear. I wish I did, but whatever it is, its
breakin’ his heart.”



Chapter XI



The discovery of her lodger’s title made but little difference to
Kitty, nor did it raise him a whit in her estimation. At best, it only
confirmed her first impression of his being a gentleman--every inch of
him. She may have studied the more closely her lodger’s habits, noting
his constant care of his person, the way in which he used his knife and
fork, the softness and cleanliness of his hands--all object-lessons to
her, for she broke out on her husband the day after her talk with the
Englishman in the hansom cab with:

“I want to tell ye that ye’ll have to stop spatterin’ yer soup around
after this, John, dear. I’m going to have a clean table-cloth on every
day, and a clean napkin for him, and as I’m doin’ the washing myself
ye’ve got to help an’ not muss things. First thing ye know he’ll sour
on what we are giving him and be goin’ off worse than ever, trampin’ the
streets till all hours of the night.” At which John had stretched
his big frame and with a prolonged yawn, his arms over his head, had
remarked: “All right, Kitty, you’re boss. Sir or no sir, he’s got no
frills about him--just plain man like the rest of us.”

Neither would his title, had they known it, have made the slightest
difference to any one of the habitues who gathered in Tim Kelsey’s
book-shop.

Who Felix was, or what he had done, or what he was about to do, were
questions never considered, either by Kelsey or by his friends. That
he was part of the driftwood left stranded and unrecognized on the
intellectual shore was enough. All that any of them asked for was
brains, and Felix, even before the first evening had ended, had
uncovered a stock so varied, and of such unusual proportions, and of
so brilliant a character that he was always accorded the right of way
whenever he took charge of the talk.

And a queer lot they were who listened, and a queer lot they had to be,
to enjoy Kelsey’s confidence. “Men are like books,” he would often say
to Felix. “It is their insides I care for, no matter how badly they
are bound. The half-calf or all-morocco sort never appeal to me. Shelf
fellows seldom handled, I call them, and a man who is not handled and
rubbed up against, with a corner worn off here and there, is like a book
kept under glass. Nobody cares anything about it except as an ornament,
and I have no room for ornaments.”

That is why the door was kept shut at night, when some half-calf rapped
and Tim would get a look at his binding through the shutter and tiptoe
back, closing the door of the inner room behind him.

Among Kelsey’s collection was old Silas Murford, the custom-house
clerk--a fat, stupid-looking old fellow whose chin rested on his
shirt-front and whose middle rested on his knees, the whole of him, when
seated, filling Tim’s biggest chair. Tim prized this volume most, for
when Silas began to talk, the sheepish look would fade out of his placid
face, his little pig eyes would vanish, and the listener would discover
to his astonishment that not only was this lethargic lump of flesh a
delightful conversationalist but that he had spent every hour he
could spare from his custom-house in a study of the American system
of immigration--and had at his tongue’s end a mass of statistics about
which few men knew anything.

Crackburn, an authority on the earlier printers, then in charge of the
prints in the Astor Library, and who, for diversion, ground lenses on
the sly, was another prize document. And so was Lockwood, the lapidary,
famous as a designer of medals and seals; and many more such oddities.
“Fine old copies,” Kelsey would say of them, “hand-printed, all of them;
one or two, like old Silas, extremely rare.”

That he considered Felix entitled to a place in his private collection
had been decided at their first meeting. “Met a mask with a man behind
it,” he had announced to his intimates that same night. “Got a fine nose
for what’s worth having. Located that chant book as soon as he laid his
hands on it. I didn’t get any farther than the skin of his face and you
won’t, either. He has promised to come over, and when you have rubbed up
against him for half an hour, as I did this morning, you will think as I
do.”

Since that time, Felix had spent many comforting hours in Kelsey’s
little back room. Sometimes he would drop in about nine and remain until
half past ten; at other times, it would be nearer midnight before he
would turn the knob.

As for the shop itself, nothing up and down “The Avenue” was quite as
odd, quite as ramshackly, or quite as picturesque. What the public saw,
on either side of the down-two-steps entrance, was a bench with slanting
shelves, holding a double row of books and two patched glass windows,
protecting disordered heaps of prints, stained engravings, and old
etchings, the whole embedded in dust.

What the owner’s intimates saw, once they got inside and continued
to the end of the building, was a low-ceiled room warmed by an
old-fashioned Franklin stove and lighted by a drop covered by a green
shade. All about were easy chairs, a table or two, a sideboard, some
long shelves loaded down with books, and an iron safe which held some
precious manuscripts and one or two early editions.

When the room was shut the shop was open, and when the shop was shut,
the shutters fastened, and the two benches with their books lifted
bodily and brought inside, the little back room, smoke-dried as an old
ham, and as savory and inviting, once you got its flavor, was ready for
his guests.

On one of these rare nights when the room was full, it happened that
the same fifteenth-century chant book, which had brought Tim and Felix
together, was lying on the table. The discussion which followed easily
drifted into the influence of the Roman Catholic church on the art of
the period; Felix maintaining that but for the impetus it gave, neither
the art of illumination nor any of the other arts would at the time have
reached the heights they attained.

“This missal is but an example of it,” he continued, drawing the
battered, yellow-stained book toward him. “Whatever these old monks,
with their religious fervor, touched they enriched and glorified,
whether it were an initial letter, as you see here, or an altar-piece;
and more than that, many of them painted wonderfully well.”

“And a narrow-minded, bigoted lot they were,” broke in Crackburn. “If
they’d had their way there would not have been a printing-press in
existence. If you are going to canonize anybody, begin with Aldus
Minutius.”

“Only a difference in patrons,” chimed in Lockwood, “the difference
between a pope and a doge.”

“And it’s the same to-day,” echoed Kelsey, taking the book from O’Day’s
hand, to keep the leaves from buckling. “Only it’s neither pope nor
doge, but the money king who’s the patron. We should all starve to death
but for him. I’ve been waiting for Mr. O’Day to hunt one down and make
him buy this,” he added, closing the book carefully. “Nobody else around
here appreciates its rarity or would give a five-dollar bill for it.”

“Go slow,” puffed old Silas, hunched up in his chair. “Money kings are
good in their way, and so perhaps were popes and doges, but give me a
plain priest every time. You wonder, Mr. O’Day, what those great masters
in art could have done without the protection of the church. I wonder
what the poor of to-day would do without their priests. Go up to 28th
Street and look in at St. Barnabas’s. Its doors are open from before
sunrise until near midnight. When you are in trouble, either hungry or
hunted, and most of the poor are both, walk in and see what will happen.
You’ll find that a priest in New York is everything from a policeman to
a hospital nurse, and he is always on his job. When nobody else listens,
he listens; when nobody else helps, he holds out a hand. I haven’t lived
here sixty years for nothing.”

“When you say ‘listen,’” asked Felix, whose attention to the
conversation had never wavered, “do you refer to the confessional?”

“I do not. That’s the least part of it. So are the mass and the candles
and choir-boys and the rest of the outfit, all very well in their way,
for Sundays and fast-days, but just so much stage scenery to me, though
its heaven to the poor devils who get color and music and restful quiet
in contrast to their barren homes. But praying before the altar is only
one-quarter of what these priests are doing every hour of the day and
night. It’s part of my business to follow them around, and I know. Hand
me a light, Tim, my pipe’s out.”

Felix, being nearest the box, struck a match and held it close to
Silas’s bowl, a cloud of smoke rising between them. When it had cleared,
O’Day remarked quietly: “Don’t stop, Mr. Murford; go on, I am listening.
You have, as you said, only told us one-quarter of what these priests
are doing. Where do the other three-quarters come in?”

Silas rapped the bowl against the arm of his chair to clear it the
better, and, twisting his great bulk toward O’Day, said slowly: “If I
tell you, will you listen and keep on listening until I get through?”

Felix bowed his head in acquiescence. The others, knowing what a story
from Silas meant, craned their necks in his direction.

“Well! One night last winter--over on Avenue A, snow on the ground,
mind you, and cold as Greenland--a row broke out on the third floor of a
tenement house. In the snow on the sidewalk shivered a half-naked girl.
She was sobbing. Her father had come in from his night shift at the gas
house, crazy drunk, a piece of lead pipe in his hand.

“Two or three people had stopped, gazed at the girl, and passed her
by. Tenement-house rows are too common in some districts to be bothered
over. A policeman crossed the street, peered up the stairway, listened
to the screams inside, looked the sobbing girl over, and kept on his
way, swinging his club. A priest came along--one I know, a well-set-up
man, who can take care of himself, no matter where. He touched the
girl’s arm and drew her inside the doorway, his head bent to hear her
story. Then he went up--in jumps--two steps at a time--stumbling in the
dark, picking himself up again, catching at the rail to help him mount
the quicker, the screams overhead increasing at every step. When he
reached the door, it was bolted on the inside. He let drive with his
shoulder and in it went. The girl’s mother was crouching in the far
corner of the room, behind a heavy sofa. The drunken husband stood over
her, trying to get at her skull with the piece of lead pipe.

“At the bursting in of the door the brute wheeled and, with an oath,
made straight for the priest, the weapon in his fist.

“The priest stepped clear of the door-jamb, moved under the single
gas-jet, drew out his crucifix, and held it up.

“The drunkard stood staring.

“The priest advanced step by step. The brute cowered, staggered back,
and fell in a heap on the floor.”

“Magnificent,” broke out Lockwood. “Superb! And well told. You would
make a great actor, Murford.”

“Perhaps,” answered Silas with a reproving look, “but don’t forget that
it HAPPENED.”

“I haven’t a doubt of it,” exclaimed Felix quietly, “but please go on,
Mr. Murford. To me your story has only begun. What happened next?”

Silas’s eyes glistened. Lockwood’s criticism had gone over his head; he
was accustomed to that sort of thing. What pleased him was the interest
O’Day had shown in his pet subject--the sufferings of the poor being one
of his lifelong topics of thought and conversation.

“The confessional happened next,” replied Silas. “Then a sober husband,
a sober wife, and a girl at work--and they are still at it--for I got
the man a job as night-watchman in the custom-house, at Father Cruse’s
request.”

Felix started forward. “You surely don’t mean Father Cruse of St.
Barnabas’s?” he exclaimed eagerly.

“Exactly.”

“Was it he who burst in that door?”

“It was, and there isn’t a tramp or a stranded girl within half a mile
of where we sit that he doesn’t know and take care of. So I say you can
have your money kings and your popes and your doges; as for me, I’ll
take Father Cruse every time, and there’s dozens just like him.”

Felix pushed back his chair, reached for his hat, said good night in his
usual civil tone, and left the shop, Murford merely nodding at him over
the bowl of his pipe, the others taking no notice of his departure. It
was the way they did things at Kelsey’s. There were no great welcomings
when they arrived and no good-bys when they parted. They would meet
again the next night, perhaps the next morning--and more extended
courtesies were considered unnecessary.

All the way back to Kitty’s the erect figure of Father Cruse, holding
the emblem of his faith in that dimly lighted room stood out clear. He
wondered why he had not seen more of the man whose courage and faith he
himself had dimly recognized at their first meeting, and determined to
cultivate his acquaintance at once. Long ago he had promised Kitty to
do so. He would keep that promise by timing his visit so as to reach St.
Barnabas’s when the service was over. The balance of the evening could
then be spent with the father.

He glanced at his watch and a glow of satisfaction spread over his
face as he noted the hour. Kitty would be up, and he would have the
opportunity of delighting her with the details of the tribute Murford
had paid her beloved priest. The more he pictured the effect upon her,
the lighter grew his heart.

He began before the knob of the sitting-room had left his hand and had
gone as far as: “Oh I heard something about a friend of yours who--”
 when she checked him by rising to her feet and exclaiming:

“Hold on a minute and listen to me first. I have something that belongs
to ye. I found it after ye’d gone out, and ran after ye. I thought ye’d
miss it and come back. I wonder ye didn’t. Ye see I was tidyin’ up yer
room, and yer brush dropped down behind the bureau; and when I pushed it
out from the wall I found this under the edge of the carpet. Ye better
keep these little things in the drawer.” Her hand was in the capacious
pocket of her apron as she spoke, her plump fingers feeling about its
depths. “Oh, here it is,” she cried. “I was gettin’ nigh scared ter
death fer fear I’d lost it. Here, give me your cuff and I’ll put it in
fer ye.”

“What is it? A cuff button?” he asked, controlling his disappointment
but biding his time.

“Yes, and a good one.”

“I’m sorry, Mistress Kitty, but it cannot be mine,” he returned with a
smile. “I have but one pair, and both buttons are in place, as you can
see,” and he held out his cuffs.

“Well, then, who can this one belong to? Take a look at it. It’s got
arms on one button and two letters mixed up together on the other,” and
she dropped it into his hand.

Felix held the sleeve-links to the light, smothered a cry and, with a
quick movement of his hands, steadied himself by the table.

“Where did you get this?” he breathed rather than spoke.

“I just told ye. Down behind the bureau where ye dropped it, along with
your hair-brush.”

Felix tightened his fingers, straining the muscles of his arms, striving
with all his might to keep his body from shaking. He had his back to
her, his face toward the lamp, and had thus escaped her scrutiny. “I
haven’t lost it,” he faltered, prolonging the examination to gain time
and speaking with great deliberation.

“Ye haven’t! Oh, I am that disappointed! And ye didn’t drop it? Well,
then, who did drop it?” she cried, looking over his shoulder. She had
been thinking all the evening how pleased he would be when she returned
it, and in her chagrin had not noticed the mental storm he was trying to
master.

“And ye’re sure ye didn’t drop it?” she reiterated.

“Quite sure,” he answered slowly, his face still in the shadow, the link
still in his hand.

“Well, that’s the strangest thing I ever heard! We don’t have nobody--we
ain’t never had nobody up in that room with things on ‘em like that. The
fellow that John and I fired didn’t have no sleeve-buttons.”

“Perhaps somebody else may have dropped it,” he answered, sinking into
a chair. He was devouring her face, trying to read behind her eyes,
praying she would go on, yet fearing to prolong the inquiry lest she
should discover his agitation.

“No, there ain’t nobody,” she said at last, “and if there was there
wouldn’t--Stop! Hold on a minute, I got it! You’ve bin here six months
or more, ain’t ye?”

Felix nodded, his eyes still fastened on her own. A nod was better than
the spoken word until his voice obeyed him the better.

“An’ ye ain’t had a soul in that room but yerself since ye’ve been here?
Is that true?”

Again Felix nodded.

“Of course it’s true, whether ye say it or not. What a fool I was to ask
ye! I got it now. That sleeve-link belongs to a poor creature who slept
in that room three or four days before ye come and skipped the next
morning.”

Felix’s fingers tightened on the arm of the chair. For the moment it
seemed to him as if he were swaying with the room. “Some one you were
kind to, I suppose,” he said, lifting a hand to shade his face, the
words coming one at a time, every muscle in his body taut.

“What else could we do? Leave the poor thing out in the cold and wet?”

“It was, then, some one you picked up, was it not?” The room had stopped
swaying and he was beginning to breathe evenly again. He saw that he had
not betrayed himself. Her calm proved it; and so did the infinite pity
that crept into her tones as she related the incident.

“No, some one Tom McGinniss picked up on his beat, or would have picked
up hadn’t John and I come along. And that wet she was, and everything
streamin’ puddles, an’ she, poor dear, draggled like a dog in the
gutter.”

Felix’s sheltering hand sagged suddenly, exposing for a moment his
strained face and wide-open eyes.

“I didn’t understand it was a woman,” he stammered, turning his head
still farther from the light of the lamp.

“Yes, of course, it was a woman, and a lady, too. That’s what I’ve been
a-tellin’ ye. Here, take my seat if that light gets into your eyes. I
see it’s botherin’ ye. It’s that red shade that does it. It sets John
half crazy sometimes. I’ll turn it down. Well, that’s better. Yes, a
lady. An’ she wet as a rat an’ all the heart out of her. An’ that link
ye got in yer hand is hers and nobody else’s. John and I had been to
evening service at St. Barnabas’s, an’ we hung on behind till everybody
had gone so as to have a word with Father Cruse, after he had taken off
his vestments. We bid him good night, come out of the 29th Street door,
and kept on toward Lexington Avenue. We hadn’t gone but a little way
from the church, when John, who was walking ahead, come up agin Tom
McGinniss. He was stooping over a woman huddled up on them big front
steps before you get to the corner.

“‘What are you doin’, Tom?’ says John.

“‘It’s a drunk,’ he says, ‘an I’ll run her in an’ she’ll sleep it off
and be all the better in the mornin’.’

“‘Let me take a look at her, Tom,’ says I; an’ I got close to her breath
and there was no more liquor inside her than there is in me this minute.

“‘You’ll do nothin’ of the kind, Tom McGinniss,’ says I. ‘This poor
thing is beat out with cold and hunger. Give her to me. I’ll take her
home. Get hold of her, John, an’ lift her up.’

“If ye’d ‘a’ seen her, Mr. O’Day, it would have torn ye all to pieces.
The life and spirit was all out of her. She was like a child half
asleep, that would go anywhere you took her. If I’d said, ‘Come along,
I’m goin’ to drown ye,’ she’d ‘a’ come just the same. Not one word fell
out of her mouth. Just went along between us, John an’ I helpin’ her
over the curbs and gutters until she got to this kitchen, an’ I sat her
down in that chair, close by the stove, and began to dry her out, for
her dress was all soaked in the mud and streamin’ with water. I got some
hot coffee into her, an’ found a pair of John’s old shoes, an’ put ‘em
on her feet till I had dried her own, an’ when she got so she could
speak--not drunk, mind ye, nor doped; just dazed like as if she had been
hunted and had given up all hope. She said like a sick child speakin’:
‘You’ve been very kind, and I’m very grateful. I’ll go now.’

“‘No, ye won’t,’ I says; ‘ye’ll stay where ye are. Ye don’t leave this
place to-night. Ye’ll go up-stairs and git into my bed.’ She looked at
me kind o’ scared-like; then she looked at John an’ our big man Mike who
had come in while I was dryin’ her out, but I stopped that right away.
‘No, ye needn’t worry,’ I said, ‘an’ ye won’t. Ye’re just as safe here
as ye would be in your mother’s arms. Ye ain’t the first one my man John
an’ I have taken care of, an’ ye won’t be the last. Take another sip o’
that hot coffee, an’ come with me.’

“Well, we got her up-stairs, an’ I helped her undress, an’ when I
unhooked her skirt an’ it fell to the floor, I saw what I was up aginst.
She had the finest pair of silk stockings on her feet ye ever seen
in your life, and her petticoat was frills up to her knees. She said
nothin’ an’ I said nothin’. ‘Git in,’ I said, an’ I turned down the
cover and come out. The next mornin’ the boys had to get over to
Hoboken, an’ I was up before daylight and then back to bed again. At
seven o’clock I went to her room and pushed in the door. She was gone,
an’ I’ve never seen her since. That cuff-link’s hers. Take it up-stairs
with ye an’ put it in the wash-stand drawer. I’ll lose it if I keep it
down here, an’ she’s bound to come back for it some day. What time is
it? Twelve o’clock, if I’m alive! Well, then, I’m goin’ to bed, and
you’re goin’, too. John’s got his key, and there’s his coffee, but he
won’t be long now.”

Felix sat still. Only when she had finished busying herself about the
room making ready to close the place for the night did he rouse himself.
So still was he, and so absorbed that she thought he had fallen asleep,
until she became aware of a flash from under the overhanging brows and
heard him say, as if speaking to himself: “It was very good of you. Yes,
very good--of you--to do it, and--I suppose she never came back?”

“She never did,” returned Kitty, drawing a chair away from the heat
of the stove, “and I’m that sorry she didn’t. I’ll fix the lights when
ye’ve gone up. Good night to ye.”

“Good night, Mrs. Cleary,” and he left the room.

In the same absorbed way he mounted the stairs, opened his own door and,
without turning up the gas, sank heavily into a chair, the link still
held fast in his hand. A moment later he sprang from his seat, stepped
quickly to the gas-jet, turned up the light, and held one of the small
buttons to the flame, as if to reassure himself of the initials; then
with a smothered cry fell across the narrow bed, his face hidden in the
quilt.

For an hour he lay motionless, his mind a seething caldron, above which
writhed distorted shapes who hid their faces as they mounted upward.
When these vanished and a certain calm fell upon him, two figures
detached themselves and stood clear: a woman cowering on a door-step,
her skirts befouled with the slime of the streets, and a priest with
hand upraised, his only weapon the symbol of his God.



Chapter XII



The morning brought him little relief. He drank his coffee in
comparative silence and crossed the street to his work with only a
slight bend of his head toward Kitty, who was helping Mike tag some
baggage. She noticed then how pale he was and the wan smile that swept
over his face as she waved her hand at him in answer, but she was too
busy over the trunks to give the subject further thought.

Masie was waiting for him in the back part of the shop, which, by the
same old process of moving things around, had been fitted up into a sort
of private office for Kling, two high-back settles serving for one wall,
three bureaus for another, while some Spanish chairs, a hair-cloth sofa
studded with brass nails, an inlaid table, and a Daghestan rug helped to
make it secluded and attractive. Kling liked the new arrangement because
he could keep one eye on his books and the other on the front door, thus
killing two birds with one stone. Masie loved it because when Felix
had so many customers that he could neither talk nor play with her, it
served her as a temporary refuge--as would a shelter until the rain was
over--and Felix delighted in it because it kept Kling out of the way,
the good-natured Dutchman having often spoiled a sale by what Felix
called “inopportune remarks at opportune moments.”

Although Masie’s business on this particular morning was nothing more
important than merely saying good-by to her “Uncle Felix” before she
went to school, her wee stub of a nose had, until she saw him cross the
street, been flattened against the glass of her father’s front door,
her two eager, anxious eyes fixed on Kitty’s sidewalk. Felix was over an
hour late, something which had never happened before and something which
could not have happened now unless he had either overslept himself--an
unbelievable fact, or was ill--a calamity which could not be thought of
for a moment.

While a nod and a faint smile had done for Kitty, and a “No, I was not
very well last night,” had sufficed for Kling, whose eyebrows made the
inquiry--he never finding fault with O’Day for lapses of any kind--the
case was far different when it came to Masie. The little lady had to
be coaxed into one of the easy chairs in the improvised office and
comforted with an arm around her shoulder, to say nothing of having
her hair smoothed back from her face, followed by a kiss on her white
forehead, before her overwrought anxieties were allayed.

That he was not himself was apparent to every one. Masie was still sure
of it when she bade him good-by, and Kling became convinced of it long
before the day was over. As the afternoon wore on, however, he grew
calmer. His indomitable will began to reassert itself. His manner became
more alert, and his glance clearer.

When he found himself able to think, he determined that his first move
must be to find Carlin, and that very night. It had been some weeks
since he had visited the ship-chandler. He had tried the latch several
times, and would have repeated his visits had not a bystander told
him that Carlin was in the country fitting out a yacht for one of his
customers and would not be back for a month. The time was now up.

And yet, when he thought it all over, could he, in view of this
new phase of the case, seek Carlin’s help and advice? What might be
better--and his heart gave a bound--would be to see Father Cruse. The
woman whom Kitty had picked up might be one of his waifs, who, overcome
by fatigue or illness after leaving the church, had fallen on the
door-step where the policeman had found her.

At six o’clock he left the shop with a formal good night to Kling, a
hasty, almost abrupt good-by to Masie, and, without a word of any kind
to Kitty, whose quiet scrutiny he dreaded, bent his steps to a small
eating-room in the basement of one of the old-time private houses in
Lexington Avenue, where he sometimes took his meals. At seven o’clock he
was threading his way through the crowds in Third Avenue, searching the
face of every one he met. At eight o’clock, his impatience growing, he
turned into 28th Street and mounted the short flight of steps in front
of St. Barnabas’s. The tones of the organ, as well as the illumined
stained-glass windows and the groups of people around the swinging doors
of the vestibule, showed that a service was being held. These, however,
were the only evidences that a body of people had met to pray inside,
both pavements outside being filled with hurrying throngs, as were the
barrooms opposite, crowded with loud-talking men lining the bars, with
here and there a woman at a table.

Passing through the vestibule doors, he entered the church and found
a seat near the entrance. Father Cruse, in full vestments, was
officiating. He was before the altar at the moment, his back to the
congregation. Most of them were working people who had only their
evenings free, and for whom these services were held: girls from the
department stores, servants with an evening out, trainmen from the
Elevated, off duty for an hour or two, small storekeepers whose places
closed early, with their wives and children beside them, all under the
spell of the hushed interior. Some prayed without moving, their heads
bowed; others kept their eyes fixed on the priest. One or two had their
faces turned toward the choir-loft, completely absorbed in the full,
deep tones that rolled now and then through the responses.

Nothing of all this impressed Felix at first. He had always regarded
the Roman Catholic church as embodying a religion adapted only to the
ignorant and the superstitious. But, as he looked about on the rapt body
of worshippers, he suddenly wondered if there were not something in its
beliefs, forms, and ceremonies that he had hitherto missed.

The wonder grew upon him as he watched the worshippers, his eyes resting
now on a figure of a woman on her knees before the small altar at his
left, her half-naked baby flat on its back beside her; and again that of
an unkempt gray-haired man, his clothes old and ragged, his body bent,
his lips trembling in supplication. All at once, and for the first
time in his life, he began to realize the existence of a something
all-powerful, to which these people appealed, a something beneficent
which swept their faces free of care, as a light drives out darkness,
and sent them home with new hope and courage. Religion had played no
part in his life. From his boyhood he had made his fight without it. Had
they tried and failed and, disheartened in their failure, sought at last
for higher help, realizing that no one man was strong enough to make the
fight of life alone?

As he asked himself these questions, the personality of the priest began
to exert its influence over him. He followed his movements, the dignity
and solemnity with which he exercised his functions, the reverential
tones of his voice, the adoration shown in his every act and gesture.
And as he watched there arose another question--one he had often debated
within himself: Were these people about him calmed and rested by the
magnetic personality of the big-chested, strong-armed man; were they
aided by the seductions of music, incense, and color, including the very
vestments that hung from his broad shoulders; or did the calm and rest
and aid proceed from a source infinitely higher, more powerful, more
compelling, as had been shown in the case of the would-be murderer cowed
by the sight of a sacred emblem? And if there were two personalities,
two influences, two dominant powers, one of man and the other of God,
which one had he, Felix O’Day, come here to invoke?

At this mental question, the more practical side of his nature came to
the fore.

“Neither of them,” he said firmly to himself, “neither God nor priest.”
 What he had come for had nothing to do with religion or with its forms.
A woman had been found lying on a door-step near this church, who might
have attended the same evening service. If so, Father Cruse might have
seen her--no doubt knew her, in fact, must have both seen and recognized
her. She was the kind of woman whom Murford said Father Cruse helped.
What he was here for was to ask the priest a simple, straightforward
question. This over, he would continue on his way.

Then a sudden check arose. How was he to describe this woman? He had not
dared probe Kitty for any further details than those she had given
him. To waste therefore, the valuable time of Father Cruse with no more
information than he at present possessed would be as inconsiderate as it
was foolish.

With this new view of the difficulty confronting him, he reached for
his hat, so as to be ready at the first break in the service to tiptoe
noiselessly out. He would then go back to Kitty and, without exciting
her suspicions, learn something more of the outward appearance of the
object of her tender sympathy.

As he was about to leave the pew, the tones of a tiny bell were heard
through the aisles. Instantly a deep, almost breathless, silence fell
upon the church. The penitents, who were on their knees beneath the
clusters of candles lighting the side chapels, remained motionless;
those in the seats bowed their heads, their foreheads resting on the
backs of the pews.

As he listened with lowered head, a dull, scuffling sound was heard near
the swinging doors of the vestibule, as if some one were being
roughly handled. Then an angry voice, “she shan’t go in!” followed by
high-pitched, defiant tones: “Get out of my way. I shan’t go in, shan’t
I? I’d like to see you or anybody else keep me out! This place is free,
and so am I. Jim hasn’t showed up, and I’m going to wait for him here.
I’ve got a date.”

She was abreast of Felix now, a girl of twenty, maudlin drunk, her hat
awry, her hair in a frowse, her dress open at the neck.

She steadied herself for a moment, and became conscious of Felix, who
had risen, horror-stricken, from his seat.

“Jim ain’t showed up. He is all right, and don’t you forget it. Them
guys wanted to give me the grand bounce, but I got a date, see?”

She reeled on up the aisle until she reached the steps of the altar.
There she stood, swaying before the lights, repeating her cry: “They
dassen’t touch me. I got a date, I tell you!”

Father Cruse, without turning, continued his ministrations with the same
composure he would have maintained at a baptism had its solemnity been
disturbed by the cry of a child. By this time, several women, appalled
by the sacrilege, left their seats and moved toward her, begging, then
commanding, her to stop talking, all fearing to add to the noise yet
not daring to let it continue, until they gently but firmly pushed her
through the door at the end of the church and so on into the street.

Felix had followed every movement of the girl with an intensity that
almost paralyzed his senses. He had looked into her bloodshot eyes,
noted the hard lines drawn around the corners of her mouth, the coarse,
painted lips, dry hair, and sunken cheeks. He had heard her harsh laugh
and caught the glint of her drunken leer. A cold shiver swept through
him. It was as if he had stepped on a flat stone covering a grave which
had tilted beneath his feet, revealing a corpse but a few months buried.
Had he been anywhere else he would have sunk to the floor--not to pray,
but to rest his knees, which seemed giving out under him.

When service was over, he made his way down the aisle, waited until the
last of the worshippers had had their final word with their priest, and,
with a respectful bend of the head in recognition, followed Father Cruse
into the sacristy.

“You remember me?” he said in a hoarse, constrained voice when the
priest turned and faced him.

“Yes, you are Mr. O’Day--Kitty Cleary’s friend, and I need not tell you
how glad I am to see you,” and he held out a cordial hand.

“I have come as I promised you I would. Can you give me half an hour?”

“With the greatest pleasure. My duties are over just as soon as I put
these vestments away. But I am sorry you came to-night, for you have
witnessed a most distressing sight.”

Felix looked at him steadily. “Do such things happen often?” he asked,
his voice breaking.

“Everything happens here, Mr. O’Day,” replied the priest gravely;
“incredible things. We once found a baby a month old in the gallery. We
baptized him and he is now one of our choir-boys. But, forgive me,” he
added with a smile, “such sights are best forgotten and may not interest
you.” He was studying his visitor as a doctor does a patient, trying to
discover the seat of the disease. That Felix was not the same man he
had met the night at Kitty’s was apparent; then he had been merely a man
with a sorrow, now he seemed laboring under a weight too heavy to bear.

Felix drew back his shoulders as if to brace himself the better and
said: “Can we talk here?”

“Yes, and with absolute privacy and freedom. Take this chair; I will sit
beside you.” It was the voice of the father confessor now, encouraging
the unburdening of a soul.

Felix glanced first around the simple room, with its quiet and
seclusion, then stepped back and closed the sacristy door, saying, as he
took his seat: “There is no need, I suppose, of locking it?”

“Not the slightest.”

For a moment he sat with head bowed, one hand pressed to his forehead.
The priest waited, saying nothing.

“I have come to you, Father Cruse, because I need a man’s help--not a
priest’s--a MAN’S. If I have made no mistake, you are one.”

The fine white fingers of the priest were rising and falling ever so
slightly on the velvet arm of the chair on which his hand rested, a
compound gesture showing that both his brain and his hand were at his
listener’s service.

“Go on,” he said gently and firmly. “As priest or man, Mr. O’Day, I am
ready.”

Felix paused; the priest bent his head in closer attention. He was
accustomed to halting confessions, and ready with a prompting word if
the sinner faltered.

“It is about my wife.”

The words seemed to choke him, as if the grip of a long-held silence had
not yet quite relaxed its hold.

“Not ill, I hope?”

“No, she is not ill.”

The priest leaned forward, a startled look on his face. “You surely
don’t mean she is dead?”

O’Day did not answer.

Father Cruse settled back into the depths of his chair. “She has left
you, then,” he said in a conclusive tone.

“Yes--a year ago.”

He stopped, started to speak, and, with a baffled gesture, said: “No,
you might better have it all. It is the only way you will understand; I
will begin at the beginning.”

The priest laid his hand soothingly on O’Day’s wrist. “Take your time. I
have nothing else to do except to listen and--help you if I can.”

The touch of the priest had steadied him. “Thank you, Father,” he said
simply, and went on.

“A year ago, as I have said, my wife left me and went off with a man
named Dalton. Later I learned she was here, and I came over to see what
I could do to help her.”

Father Cruse raised his eyebrows inquiringly.

“Yes, just that--to help her when she needed help, for I knew she would
need it sooner or later. She was not a bad woman when she left me,
and she is not now, unless he has made her so. She is only an easily
persuaded, pleasure-loving woman, and when my father was forced into
bankruptcy and we all suffered together, she blamed me for giving up
what money I had in trying to straighten out his affairs; and then our
infant daughter died, and that so upset her mind that when Dalton came
along she let everything go. That is one solution of it--the one which
her friends give out. I will tell you the truth. It is that I was twenty
years older than she, that she loved me as a young girl loves an older
man who had been brought up almost in her own family, for our properties
adjoined, and that when she woke up, it was to find out that I was not
the man she would have married had she been given a few more years’ time
in which to make up her mind.

“When she ran away I lost my bearings. I used to sit in my room in the
club for hours at a time, staring at the morning paper, never seeing the
print; thinking only of my wife and our life together--all of it, from
the day we were married. I recalled her childish nature, her fits of
sudden temper always ending in tears, and her wilfulness. Then my own
responsibility loomed up. To let this child go to the devil would be
a crime. When this idea became firmly set in my mind, I determined to
follow her no matter what she had done or where she had gone.

“I had meant to go to Australia and look after sheep--I knew something
about them--but I changed my plans when I overheard a conversation at
my club and concluded that Dalton had brought her here--although the
conversation itself was only the repetition of a rumor. Since then I
have found out that they are both here, or were some six months ago.

“You can understand, now, why I am living at Mrs. Cleary’s and working
in Mr. Kling’s store. I had but a few pounds left after paying my
passage and there was no one from whom I could borrow, even if I had
been so disposed; so work of some kind was necessary. It may be just as
well for me to tell you, too, that nobody at home knows where I am,
and that but two persons in New York know me at all. One is a man named
Carlin, who served on one of my father-in-law’s vessels, and the other
is his sister Martha, who was a nurse in my wife’s family.

“Dalton, so I understood, had considerable money when he left, enough to
last him some months, and until yesterday I have hunted for them where
I thought he would be sure to spend it, in the richer cafes
and restaurants, outside the opera-houses and the fashionable
theatres--places where two strangers in the city would naturally spend
their evenings, and a woman loving light and color as she did would want
to go.

“All these theories were upset last night when Mrs. Cleary gave me some
details of a woman she had picked up near your church. She found her, it
seems, some months ago--last April, in fact--on the steps of a private
house near your church--here on 29th Street--took her home and made her
spend the night there. In the morning she disappeared without any one
seeing her. Yesterday, while moving the bureau in my room, Mrs. Cleary
found a sleeve-link on the carpet; she thought it was one I had dropped.
I have it in my trunk. It is one of a pair my wife gave me on my
birthday, the year we were married. I missed it from my jewel case after
she left, and thought somebody had stolen it. Now I know that my wife
must have taken it, and then dropped it at Mrs. Cleary’s. So I came
here tonight hoping against hope--it was so many months ago--to get
some further information regarding her. Then I remembered that I had not
asked Mrs. Cleary what the woman looked like, and I was about to return
home, when that poor girl staggered in, and I got a look at her face. I
lost my hold on myself then and--”

He sprang to his feet and began striding across the room, his eyes
blazing, one clinched fist upraised: “By God! Father Cruse, I know
something of Dalton’s earlier life and of what he is capable. And I tell
you right here, that if he has brought my wife to that, I shall kill him
the moment I set my eyes on him. To take a child of a woman, foolish and
vain as she was--stupid if you will--and--” he halted, covered his face
in his hands, and broke into sobs.

During the long recital Father Cruse had neither spoken nor moved. He
was accustomed to such outbursts, but it had been many years since he
had seen so strong a man weep as bitterly. Better let the storm pass--he
would master himself the sooner.

A full minute elapsed, and then, with a groan that seemed to come from
the depths of his being, O’Day lifted his head, brushed the hot tears
from his eyes, and continued:

“You must forgive me, for I am utterly broken up. But I can’t go on any
longer this way! I have got to let go--I have got to talk to somebody.
That dear woman with whom I live is kindness itself and would do
anything she could for me, but somehow I cannot tell her about these
things. I may be wrong about it--but I was born that way. You know black
from white--you live here right in the midst of it--you see it every
day. Mr. Silas Murford told me the other night at Kelsey’s that you knew
everybody in this neighborhood, and so I came to you. Help me find my
wife!”

Father Cruse drew his chair closer and laid his hand soothingly on
O’Day’s knee.

“It is unnecessary for me to tell you I will help you,” he answered in
his low, smooth voice: “And now let us get to work systematically and
see what can be done. I will begin by asking you a few questions. What
sort of a looking woman is your wife?”

Felix straightened himself in his chair, felt in his inside pocket, and
took from it a colored photograph. “As you see, she is rather small,
with fair hair, blue eyes, and a slight figure--the usual English type.
She has very beautiful teeth--very white--teeth you would never forget
once you saw them; and she has quite small ears and, although the
picture does not show this, small hands and feet.”

“And how would she dress now? This evidently was taken some years ago.
I mean, what was her habit of dress? Would it be such as an Englishwoman
would wear?”

Felix pondered. “Well, when Lady Barbara left she had--”

An expression of surprise on the priest’s face cut short the sentence.
O’Day looked at him in a startled way; then he recalled his words.

“Pardon me, but it is only fair that you should know that Lady Barbara
is the daughter of Lord Carnavon, and that since my father’s death they
call me Sir Felix. I have never used the title here and may never use
it anywhere. I would have assumed some other name when I arrived
here, except that I could not bring myself to give up my own and my
father’s--he never did anything to disgrace it. He was caught in a trap,
that is all, and I signed away everything I could to help him out. He
stood by me when I was in India, and when he had a shilling he gave me
half. I would rather have died, much as my wife blamed me, than not to
have done what I did.

“And I would do it all over again, although I did not realize how big
the load was until settling-day came. Dalton was at the bottom of it
all. He floated the company. There was a story going around the clubs
that he had got me into squaring it all up, knowing that I would be done
for, and he could get away with her easier, but I never believed it.
He has come into his own, if this wretched, suffering woman that Mrs.
Cleary picked up is my wife; and I will come into mine”--here his eyes
flashed--“if he has dragged her down and--”

Father Cruse again laid his quieting fingers this time on Felix’s wrist.

“He has not dragged her down, Mr. O’Day. Of that you may be sure. A
woman of her class doesn’t go to pieces in a year. When she reaches the
end of her means she will either seek work or she will go to one of the
institutions to wait until she can hear from her people at home. I have
known--”

Felix shook his head with an impatient movement. “You don’t know her,”
 he exclaimed excitedly, “nor do you know her family. Her father has shut
his door against her, and would step across her body if he found it
on the sidewalk rather than recognize her. Nor would she ask him for a
penny, nor let him or me or any one else know of her misery.”

Again the priest sat silent. He did not attempt to defend his
theory--some better way of calming his visitor must be found. He merely
said, as if entirely convinced by O’Day’s denial: “Oh, well, we will let
that go, perhaps you know best”; and then added, his voice softening,
“and now one word more, before we go into the details of our search,
so that no complications may arise in the future. You, of course, are
hunting for Lady Barbara to reinstate her as your wife if--”

O’Day sprang from his chair and stood over the priest. The suggestion
had come as a blow.

“I will take her back!”

The priest looked up in astonishment. “Yes, is it not so?”

The answer came between closed teeth. “I did not expect that of
you, Father Cruse, I thought you were bigger--MUCH bigger. Can’t you
understand how a man may want to stand by a woman for herself alone
without dragging in his own selfishness and--No, I forgot--you cannot
understand--you never held a woman in your arms--you do not realize her
many weaknesses, her childishness, her whims, her helplessness. But take
her back? NEVER! That chapter in my life is dosed. My hunt for her all
these months has been to save her from herself and from the scoundrel
who has ruined her. When that is done I shall pick up my life as best I
can, but not with her.”

For some seconds the priest did not speak. Then he said gently, again
avoiding any disagreement. “Let us hope that so happy an ending to
all your sufferings is not far off, my dear Mr. O’Day. And now another
question before we part for the night, one I perhaps ought to have asked
you before. Are you quite positive that Kitty’s visitor was your wife?”

He had reserved this hopeful suggestion--one he himself believed in--for
the last. It would help lift the dead weight of bitter anxiety which was
sure to overwhelm his visitor in the wakeful hours of the night.

Felix moved impatiently, like one combating a physician’s cheering
words. “It must have been she, who else could have dropped the
sleeve-link?”

“Several people. Excuse me if I talk along different lines, but I have
had a good deal of experience in tracing out just such things as this,
and I have always found it safest to be sure of my facts before deducing
theories. It is not all clear to me that Kitty’s woman dropped the
links. And even if she did, the fact is no proof that the woman is your
wife.”

“But the links are mine. There is no question of it--my initials and
arms are cut into them.” The impatience was gone and a certain curiosity
was manifesting itself.

“Quite true, and yet you once thought the links were stolen. So let us
presume for the present that they were stolen and that this woman either
bought them, or was given them, or found them.”

Felix began pacing the floor, a gleam of hope illumining the dark
corners of his heart. The interview, too, had calmed him--as do all
confessions.

The priest settled back in his seat. He saw that the crisis had passed.
There might be another outburst in the future, but it would not have the
intensity of the one he had just witnessed. He waited until Felix was
opposite his chair and then asked, in a low voice: “Well, may I not be
right, Mr. O’Day?”

Felix paused in his walk and gazed down at the priest. “I don’t know,”
 he answered slowly. “My head is not clear enough to think it out. Mrs.
Cleary might help unravel it. She saw her and will remember. Shall I
sound her when I go home--not to excite her suspicions, of course, but
so as to find out whether her visitor were large or small--details like
that?”

“No, I will ask her, and in a way not to make her suspect. She will
think I am hunting for one of my own people. It is wiser that she should
not know yet what you have told me. I would rather wait for the time
when this poor creature, whoever she is, needs a sister’s tenderness.
She will get it there, for no finer woman lives than Kitty Cleary.”

A sigh of intense relief escaped Felix. “And now tell me where you will
begin your hunt?” he asked, one of his old search-light glances flashing
from beneath his brows.

“Nowhere in particular. On the East Side, perhaps, where I have means
of knowing what strangers come and go. Then among my own people here. I
shall know within twenty-four hours whether she has been in the habit of
attending evening service--that is, within the last six months. A woman
of the poorer class would be difficult to locate, but there should not
be the slightest trouble in picking out one who, less than a year ago,
occupied your wife’s social position--no matter how badly she were
dressed.”

Felix stood musing. He had reached the limit of the help he had come
for.

“And what can I do to assist?”

“Nothing. Go home, and when I need you I will send word. Good night.”



Chapter XIII



Had Felix continued his visits to Stephen Carlin’s shop, he might have
escaped many sleepless hours and saved himself many weary steps.

Fate had doubtless dealt him one of those unlucky cards which we so
often find in our hands when the game of life is being played. If, for
instance, the book to the right, holding the lost will, had been opened
instead of the book to the left; or if we had caught the wrecked train
by a minute or less; or had our penny come up heads instead of coming
up tails: how many of the ills of life would have been avoided? And so
I say that had Felix continued his visits to Stephen as he should have
done, he would, one December afternoon, have found the ship-chandler
standing in the door, spectacles on his nose, checking off a wagon-load
of manila rope which had just been discharged on his pavement, stopping
only to nod to the postman who had brought him a letter. The delay in
breaking the seal was due entirely to the fact that a coil of light
cordage, used aboard the yachts he was accustomed to fit out, had just
been reported as missing, and so the unopened letter was tossed on top
a barrel of sperm-oil to await his convenience. But it was when Stephen
caught sight of the small cramped writing scrawled over the cheap yellow
envelope, the stamp askew, his own name and address crowded in the lower
left-hand corner, that the supreme moment really arrived, for at that
instant--had Felix been there--he would have seen Carlin slit the
covering with his thumb-nail, lay aside his invoice, and drop on the
first seat within reach, to steady himself.

Indeed, had Felix on this same December afternoon surprised him even an
hour later, say at six o’clock, which he could very well have done, for
Carlin did not close his shop until seven, he would have come upon
him with the same letter in his hand, his whole mind absorbed in its
contents, especially the last paragraph: “Be here at seven o’clock,
sharp; don’t ring the bell below, just rap twice and I shall know it is
you. I have to be very careful who I let in.”


It had been several weeks since Carlin had heard from his sister. She
had called at the store on her return from Canada, where she had spent
the summer, and he had helped her find a small suite of rooms on a side
street off St. Mark’s Place, which she subsequently occupied, but since
then she had never crossed his threshold. At first she had kept him
advised of her nursing engagements--the days when her work carried her
out of town, or the addresses of those who needed her in the city.
These brief communications having entirely ceased, he had decided in his
anxiety to look her up and, strange to say, on that very night. That
his hand trembled and his rough, weather-browned face became tinged with
color as he read her letter to the end, turning the page and reading the
whole a second time, would have surprised anybody who knew the stern,
silent old sailor. His clerk, a thin, long-necked young man wearing
a paper collar and green necktie, noticed his agitation and guessed
wrong--Carlin being a confirmed old bachelor. And so did the driver
of the wagon, who had to wait for his receipt and who, wondering at
Stephen’s emotion, would have asked what the letter was all about had
not the ship-chandler, after consulting his watch, crammed the envelope
into his side pocket, jumped to his feet, and shouted to the Paper
Collar to “roll the stuff off that sidewalk and get everything stowed
away, as he was going up to St. Mark’s Place.”


Here and there in the whir of the great city a restful breathing-spot
is found, its stretch of grass dotted with moss-covered tombs grouped
around a low-pitched church. At certain hours the sound of bells is
heard and the low rhythm of the organ throbbing through the aisles. Then
lines of quietly dressed worshippers stroll along the bordered walks,
the children’s hands fast in their mothers’ the arched vestibule-door
closing upon them.

Most of these oases, like Trinity, St. Paul’s, and St. Mark’s, differ
but little--the same low-pitched church, the same slender spire, the
same stretch of green with its scattered gravestones. And, outside, the
same old demon of hurry, defied and hurled back by a lifted hand armed
with the cross.

Of these three breathing-spaces, St. Mark’s is, perhaps, a little
greener in the early spring, less dusty in the summer heat, less bare
and uninviting in the winter snow. It is more restful, too, than the
others, a place in which to sit and muse--even to read. Out from its
shade and sunshine run queer side streets, with still queerer houses,
rising two stories and an attic, each with a dormer and huge chimney.
Dried-up old aristocrats, these, living on the smallest of pensions,
taking toll of notaries public, shyster lawyers, peddlers of steel pens,
die-cutters, and dismal real-estate agents in dismal offices boasting a
desk, two chairs, and a map.

Stephen’s course lay in the direction of one of these relics of better
days--a wide-eyed house with a pieced-out roof, flattened like an old
woman’s wig over a sloping forehead, the eyebrows of eaves shading
two blinking windows. A most respectable old dowager of a building, no
doubt, in its time, with the best of Madeira and the choicest of cuts
going down two steps into its welcoming basement. That was before the
iron railings were covered with rust and before the three brownstone
steps leading to the front door were worn into scoops by heavy shoes;
before the polished mahogany doors were replaced by pine and painted a
dull, dirty green; before the banisters with their mahogany rail were
as full of cavities as a garden fence with half its palings gone; and
before--long before--some vulgar Paul Pry had cut a skylight in the
hipped roof, through which he could peer, taking note of whatever went
on inside the gloomy interior: each of these several calamities but so
much additional testimony to its once grand estate, and every one of
them but so many steps in its downward career.

For it had become anything but a happy house--this old dowager dwelling
of the long ago. Indeed, it was a very mournful and most depressing
house, and so were its tenants. In the basement was a barber who spent
half his time lounging about inside the small door, without his white
jacket, waiting for customers. On the first-floor-back there was a
music-teacher whose pupils were so few and far between that only the
shortest of lessons at the longest of intervals were recited on her
piano; on the second-floor-front was a wood-engraver who took to
photography to pay his rent. On the second-floor-back was a dressmaker
who could not collect her bills; while in the rear was a laundress who
washed for the tenants. Lastly, there was Mrs. Martha Munger, Stephen
Carlin’s sister, who occupied the third floor both front and back, over
the laundress’s quarters, the one chimney serving them both.

While the evil eye of the skylight, despite its dishonorable calling,
might have been put to some good use during the day, it can be safely
said that it was of no earthly, and for that matter of no heavenly, use
during the night. Nor did anything else in the way of illumination take
its place. My Lady Dowager’s patrons were too poor or too stingy to
furnish even a single burner up and down the three flights. The excuse
was that the rays of the arc-light, blazing away on the opposite side
of the street, were not only powerful enough to shine through the
weather-beaten hall door covering the entrance but, still further, to
illuminate the rickety staircase--the very staircase up which Stephen
Carlin was now groping in answer to Martha’s letter.

She had heard his heavy tread on the creaky steps, and was watching
for him with the door ajar--an inch at first, and then wide open, her
kerosene lamp held over the railing to give him light.

“Oh, but I’m glad you’ve come, Stephen. I was getting worried. I was
afraid maybe you didn’t get the letter. It’s black dark outside, isn’t
it?” and she glanced at the cheap clock on the mantel behind her. “Come
in, the kettle was boiling over when I heard you. I’ll talk to you in a
minute.”

He followed with only a pressure of her hand, and, without a word of
greeting, seated himself near a table. In the same quiet, silent way
he watched her as she busied herself about the apartment, lifting the
kettle from the stove, adjusting the wick of the lamp which had begun to
smoke from the draft of the open door, taking from a shelf two cups and
saucers and from a tin bread box a loaf and some crackers.

When, in one of her journeys to and fro, she passed where the light of
the lamp fell full upon her round face, framed in its white cap and long
strings, he gave a slight start. There were dark circles below her eyes
and heavy lines near the corners of her mouth--signs he had not seen
since the month she had spent in the Marine Hospital when the plague
was stamped out. He noticed, too, that her robust figure, with its broad
shoulders and capacious bosom, restful pillow to many a new-born
baby, seemed shrunken--not in weight, but in its spring, as if all her
alertness (she was under fifty) had oozed out. It was only when she had
completed her labors and taken a chair beside him, her soft, nursing
hand covering his own, that his mind reverted to the tragedy which
had brought him to her side. Even then, although she sat with her face
turned toward his, her eyes reading his own, some moments passed before
either of them spoke. At last, in a wondering, dazed way, she exclaimed:
“Have you, in all your life, Stephen, ever heard anything like it?”

Carlin shook his head. The letter had given him the facts, and no
additional details could alter the situation. It was as if a dead body
were lying in the next room awaiting interment; when the time came
he would step in and look at it, ask the hour of burial, and step out
again.

“I came as soon as I’d read your letter,” he said slowly examining
one by one his rough fingers bunched together in his lap. “We got
chuck-a-block on Second Avenue or I’d have been here before. Why didn’t
you let me know sooner?” As he spoke he shifted his gaze to the wrinkles
in her throat--a new anxiety rising as he noticed how many more had
gathered since he saw her last.

“She wouldn’t have it, and I want to tell you that you’ve got to be
careful, as it is. And mind you don’t speak too sudden to her.”

In answer he craned his head as if to see around the jamb of the door
leading into the smaller room and, lowering his voice, whispered: “Is
she here now?”

“No, but she will be in a few minutes; she’s often late, she waits until
it’s dark.”

“How long has she been here with you?”

“About two weeks.”

“Two weeks! You didn’t tell me that.”

“She wouldn’t let me. She is having trouble enough and I have to do
pretty much as she wants.”

He ruminated for a moment, this time scrutinizing the palms of his
hands, seemingly interested in some callous spots near the thumb-joint,
and then asked: “How did she find you?”

“By God’s mercy and nothing else. I was sitting in a Third Avenue car
and there she was opposite. I couldn’t believe my eyes, she was that
changed! She would have been off the dock, I believe, if she hadn’t
found me. She has run away from Dalton now, and is so scared of him she
trembles every time some one comes up the stairs. That’s why I wrote you
not to ring. He has nothing left. He kept a-hounding her to write to her
father and nigh drove her crazy; so she left him.”

“Does she know Mr. Felix is here?” He had finished with the callous
spots and was cracking every horny knuckle in his fingers as he spoke,
as if their loosening might help solve the problem that vexed him.

“No, I haven’t dared tell her. She would be off the dock for sure then.
She is more afraid of him than she is of Dalton.”

“Mr. Felix won’t hurt her,” he rejoined sharply.

“Yes, but she knows she’d hurt HIM if he finds out how bad she’s
off. She’d rather he’d think she’s living like she used to do. Oh,
Stephen--Stephen, but it’s a bad, bad business! I’m beat out wondering
what ought to be done.”

She pushed back her chair, and began walking up and down the room like
one whose suffering can find no other relief, pausing now and then to
speak to him as she passed. “I tried to get her to listen. I told her
Mr. Felix might be coming over from London. I had to put it to her that
way, but she nearly went out of her mind, stiffened up, and began to put
on such a wild look that I had to stop. Have you heard from him lately?”

“No, I wrote and wrote and could get no answer. Then I went up to where
he boarded, and the woman told me he’d been gone some months--she didn’t
know where. He left no word, and she forgot to get the name of the
express that came for his trunk. He is down with sickness somewheres,
or he’d have showed up. He was not himself at all when I last saw
him--that’s long before you got back from Canada. He’s done nothing but
walk the streets since he come ashore.”

Stephen stopped, as if it were too painful for him to continue, looked
around the room, noting its bareness, and asked, with a break in his
voice: “Where do you put her?”

“In the little room. She wouldn’t take mine and she won’t let me help
her. She got work at first on 14th Street, in that big store near the
Square, and worked there for a while, that was when she was with Dalton.
But Dalton drove her out. And when she was near dead, with nothing to
eat, some people picked her up and she stayed with them all night--she
never told me where. That was last spring. She stood it for some months
living from hand to mouth, she working her fingers to the bone for him,
until she was afraid of her life and left him again. She was going she
didn’t know where when I looked at her ‘cross the car and she saw me.

“‘Martha!’ she cried, and was on the seat next me, my two arms about
her. She was sobbing like a lost child who has found its mother again.
There were two other women in the car, and they wanted to help, but I
told them it was only my baby back again. We were near 10th Street
at the time and I got her out and brought her here and put her to
bed--Listen! Keep still a moment! That’s her step! Yes, thank God, she’s
alone! I’m always scared lest he should come with her. Get in there
behind the curtain!”

Martha had lifted the lamp again as she spoke, and was holding it over
the banister, one hand down-stretched toward a woman whose small white
fingers were clutching the mahogany rail, pulling herself up one step at
a time.

“Don’t hurry, my child. It’s a hard climb, I know. Give me the box. I
began to get worried. Are you tired?”

“A little. It has been a long day.” She sighed as she passed into the
room, the nurse following with a large pasteboard box.

“It’s good to get back to you,” she continued, sinking into a chair near
the mantel and unfastening her cloak. “The stairs seem to grow steeper
every time I come up. Thank you. Just hang it behind the door. And now
my hat, please.” She lifted the cheap black straw from her head, freeing
a fluff of light-golden hair, and with her fingers combed it back from
her forehead.

“And please bring me my slippers. I have walked all the way home, and my
poor feet ache.”

The nurse stooped for the hat, patted the thin shoulders, and went into
the adjacent room for the slippers, whispering to Carlin on her way back
to keep hidden until she called. He was still standing concealed by
the folds of the calico curtain dividing the apartment, a choke in his
throat as he watched the frail woman, her sharpened knees outlined
under the folds of the black dress and, below it, the edge of a white
petticoat bespattered with mud, the whole figure drooping as if there
were not strength enough along its length to hold the body upright. What
shocked him even more were the deep-sunken eyes and the hollows in
the cheeks and about the brows. All the laugh and sparkle of the once
joyous, beautiful girl he had known were gone. Only the gentle voice was
left.

Martha was now back, kneeling on the floor, untying the shabby shoes,
rubbing the small, delicately shaped feet in her plump hands to rest
and warm them. “There, my lamb, that’s better,” he heard her say, as she
drew on the heelless slippers. “I’ll have tea in a minute. The kettle’s
been boiling this hour.” Then, as though it were an afterthought:
“Stephen wants to see you, so I told him maybe you would let him. Shall
I tell him to come?”

“Your brother, you mean? The one who lives here in New York?” she asked
listlessly.

“Yes, he’s never forgotten you. And--”

“Some day I will see him, Martha. I shall be better soon, and then--”

She stopped and stared at Carlin, who misunderstanding Martha’s words,
had drawn aside the calico curtain and was advancing toward her, bowing
as he walked, the choke still in his throat. “I hope your ladyship is
not offended,” he ventured. “It was all one family once, if I may say
so, and there is only Martha and me.”

She had straightened as she saw him coming and then, remembering that
she was in Martha’s room, and he Martha’s brother, she held out her
hand. “No, Stephen, I am very glad. I was only a little startled. It is
a long time since I saw you, but I remember you quite well, and you have
not changed. A little grayer perhaps. When was it?”

“When I came back from Calcutta, your ladyship, and the Rover was
wrecked. Your father ordered the crew home. I was first mate, your
ladyship remembers, and had to look after them. Some six years agone, I
take it.”

“Yes, it all comes back to me now,” she answered dreamily “six years--is
it not more than that?”

“No, your ladyship. Just about six.”

She paused, rested her head on her hand, and looked at him intently
from beneath the wave of hair that had dropped again about her brow, and
asked: “Why do you still call me ‘your ladyship’ Stephen?”

“Well, I don’t know, your ladyship. Mebbe it’s because I’ve always been
used to it. But I won’t if your ladyship doesn’t want me to.”

“Never mind, it does not matter. It has been so long since I have heard
it that it sounded odd, that was all.” She roused herself with an effort
and added, in a brighter tone, changing the topic: “It was very good of
you to come to see Martha. She has me to look after now, and I am afraid
she gets unhappy at times. You cannot think how good she is to me--so
good--so good! I often wake in the night dreaming I am a child again
and stretch out my hand to her, just as I used to do years ago when she
slept beside me. She often speaks of you. I am glad you came to-day.”

Carlin had been standing over her all the time, his rough pea-jacket
buttoned across his broad chest, his ruddy sailor’s face with its
fringe of gray whiskers, bushy eyebrows, and clear, steady gaze in vivid
contrast to her own shrinking weakness.

“It ain’t altogether Martha,” he exclaimed in tones suddenly grown
deliberate. “It’s you, your ladyship, that I particular came to see. You
ain’t fit to take care of yourself, and there ain’t nobody but me and
Martha that I can lay hands on now to help--nobody but just us two. I’m
not here to judge nobody. I know what’s happened and what you’re going
through, and you’ve got to let me lend a hand. If I lived to be a
hundred I could never forget his lordship’s kindness to me, and things
can’t go on as they are with you. There is a way out of it if you only
knew it.”

She threw back her head quickly. “Not my Father?”

“No, not your father. Although his lordship would haul down his colors
mighty quick if once he saw you as I do now. But there are others who
would be glad to take a hand at the wheel and help you steer out of all
this misery. You ain’t accustomed to it and you don’t deserve it, and
I’m going to put a stop to it if I can.” This last came with still
greater emphasis--the first mate was speaking now.

“Thank you, Stephen. You and Martha are very much alike. She has the
loyalty of an old servant, and you have the loyalty of an old friend.
But we must all pay for our mistakes--” she halted, drew in her breath,
and added, picking at her dress, “--and our sins. Everybody condemns us
but God. He is the only one who forgets, when we are sorry.”

“Not so many remember as you may think, your ladyship. Some of ‘em have
forgotten--forgotten everything--and are standing by ready to catch a
line or man a boat.”

“Yes, there are always kind people in the world.”

“Well, there mayn’t be such an awful lot of ‘em as you think, but I know
one. There’s Mr. Felix, for instance, who--”

She sprang to her feet, her hands held out as a barrier, and stood
trembling, staring wildly at him, all the blood gone from her cheeks.
“Stop, Stephen! Not another word. You must not mention that name to me.
I cannot and will not permit it. I have listened too long already. I am
very grateful for your kindness and for your offers to me, but you must
not touch on my private affairs. I am earning my own living, and I shall
continue to do so. And now I would like to be alone.”

“But, your ladyship, I’ve got something to tell you which--”

Martha stepped between them. “I think, Stephen, you’d better not talk to
her ladyship any more. You might come some other night when she’s more
rested. You see she’s had a very bad day and--”

Stephen’s voice rang out clear. “Not say anything more, when--”

Martha dug her fingers into his arm. “Hush!” she whispered hoarsely, her
lips close against his hairy cheek. “She’ll be on the floor in a dead
faint in a minute. Didn’t I tell you not to mention his name?”

She stepped quickly to the side of her charge, who had walked
falteringly toward the window and now stood peering into the darkness
through the panes of the dormer.

“It’s only Stephen’s way, child, and you mustn’t mind him. He doesn’t
mean anything. He hasn’t seen much of women, living aboard ship half his
life. It’s only his way of trying to be kind. And you see he’s known you
from a baby, same as me--and that’s why he lets out.”

She had folded the pitiful figure in her arms, her hand patting the bent
shoulders. “But we’ll get on together, my lamb--you and me. And we’ll
have supper right away--And I must ask you, Stephen, to go, now, because
her ladyship is worn out and I’m going to put her to bed.”

Carlin picked up his hat and stood fingering the rim, trying to make up
his mind whether he should force the truth upon her then or obey orders
and wait. The training of long years told.

“Well, just as you say, your ladyship, I won’t stay if you don’t want
me, but don’t forget I’m within call, not more than a half-hour away.
All Martha’s got to do is to send a postal card and I’m here. I’m sorry
I hurt your feelings. God knows I didn’t mean to! Martha knows what
I wanted to tell you. You’ll have to come to it sooner or later. Good
night. I hope your ladyship will be rested in the morning. Good night,
Martha. You know you can write when you want me. Good night again, your
ladyship.”

He opened the door softly, closed it behind him without a sound, placed
his hat on his head, and, reaching out for the hand-rail, felt his way
in the dark down the rickety stairs and out onto the sidewalk.

Once there, he looked up and down the street as if undecided, turned
sharply, and bent his steps toward Second Avenue, muttering to himself
over and over again as he walked: “I got to find Mr. Felix. I got to
find Mr. Felix.”



Chapter XIV



Felix O’Day’s runaway wife, despite the many quiet hours spent in
Martha’s room, near St. Mark’s Place, had not told her old nurse all her
story. She had wept her heart out on the dear woman’s shoulder and had
cuddled close in her arms, giving her scraps and bits of her unfortunate
history, with side-lights here and there on a misery so abject and
so terrifying that the dear nurse had hugged the frail figure all the
tighter, seeing only the wound and knowing nothing of the steps that had
led up to the final blow or the anger that hastened it.

Martha had known, of course, that there had been bankruptcy and ruin;
that Oakdale, the ancestral estate of the O’Days--theirs for two
centuries, with all its priceless old furniture, tapestries, pictures,
and porcelains--had, after the owner’s death, been sold at public
auction; that Fernlodge, Mr. Felix’s own home, had gone in the same way;
that Lady Barbara, for some reason, had returned to her father, Lord
Carnavon; that the girl baby had died; and that “Mr. Felix,” as she
always called him, had gone to London where he had taken up his abode
at his club. Lady Barbara herself had given these details in a letter
written a couple of weeks after the death of the child, Martha being in
Toronto at the time.

Martha had also learned, through a letter from the head gardener’s wife,
that after a few months’ stay, Lady Barbara had left her father’s house
because of a fierce scene with Lord Carnavon, who had sent for his
carriage, conducted her into it, and given directions to his coachman
either to set his daughter down on the main road, outside his gates, or
to take her to the nearest public house.

She had learned, too, that her former charge, after having eloped
with Dalton, had dropped entirely out of sight and, so far as her own
knowledge was concerned, had never come to light again until, with a cry
of joy, Lady Barbara sank sobbing on her shoulder in that Third Avenue
car.

Much of this information had been gathered from newspaper clippings that
her old uncle, living in London, had mailed to her. More particulars had
come in a letter from James Muldoon, one of the grooms at Oakdale, who
gave a most pitiful and graphic account of the way the London dealers
crowded about the old porcelains in the ebony cabinets, and of the
prices paid by the Earl of Brinsmore, who bought most of the pictures,
half of the old Spanish furniture, as well as the largest but one of
the great tapestries, to enrich the new mansion he was then building in
London and in which James Muldoon was happy to say he had been promised
a place.

In still other letters, open references had also been made to a much
discussed speculation, entangling many of those whom Martha had formerly
known, followed by a grand financial explosion in which some of the
same people had been badly injured. In connection with these disasters
mention was likewise made of a certain Mr. Dalton, who had disappeared
shortly after, leaving rather a bad name behind him, altogether
undeserved, according to many of the papers, he always having been a
“financier of the highest standing.” This last ball of gossip was rolled
Martha’s way by her nephew, who was a clerk in a solicitor’s office off
the Strand and who had mailed an editorial on the matter to his uncle,
who promptly forwarded it to Martha. She had read it carefully to the
end and had put it in her drawer without at first grasping the full
meaning of the fact that, but for the activities of this same Mr.
Dalton, her dear mistress and her dear mistress’s husband, Felix O’Day,
and her dear mistress’s father-in-law, the late Sir Carroll O’Day, would
still be in possession of their ancestral estates and in undisturbed
enjoyment of whatever happiness they, individually and collectively,
could get out of life.

What the dear woman never knew, and it was just as well that she
did not, were the special happenings which ended in the overwhelming
catastrophe.

It really began with a tea basket, holding enough for two, which was
opened one lovely afternoon under the big willows skirting that little
strip of land bordering the backwater at Cookham-on-Thames. My lady at
the time was wearing a wide leghorn hat with blue ribbons that matched
her eyes and set off the roses in her fair English cheeks. Her companion
was in white flannels--a muscular, well-set-up young man of thirty,
fifteen years younger than her husband and with twice his charm--one of
those delightful companions who possess the rare quality of making an
hour seem but five minutes. A gay party had dropped down the river in
her father’s launch, which had been tied up at Ferry Inn, and Dalton
had insisted on taking my lady for just a half-hour’s poling in a punt,
Felix and the others preferring to take their tea at the Inn--plans
readily agreed to and carried out, except that the half-hour prolonged
itself into two whole ones.

Then there had come a week-end at Glenmore Castle and a garden party
outside London, and then five-o’clock teas at half a dozen private
houses, including one or two meetings a trifle more secluded. And all
quite as it should be, for a most desirable and valuable guest was this
same Mr. Guy Dalton, a man received everywhere with open arms, as “one
of the rising men of the time, my dear sir,” a financier of distinction,
indeed, and a promoter of such skill that he had only to issue a
prospectus, or wink knowingly on the street, or take you aside at the
club and whisper confidentially to you, when everything he had issued,
winked at, or whispered about would go up with a rush, and countless men
and women--a goodly number were women--would be hundreds, nay, thousands
of pounds the richer before the week was out.

That his own buoyant imagination, as well as that of those who followed
his lead, should have been stretched to the utmost was quite within the
possibilities when one recollects that the basis of all this wealth was
crude rubber, a substance of pronounced elasticity. This, too, accounts
for the vim and suddenness of the final recoil attending the final
collapse--a recoil which smashed everything and everybody within its
reach.

There were “words,” of course, between Dalton and some of his victims.
There always are “words” when the ball bounces back and you catch it
full in the eye. And for salves and soothing plasters there were the
customary explanations regarding the state of the market, the tightness
of money, the non-arrival of important details, the delaying of
despatches owing to a break in the cable, together with offers of heavy
discounts, and increased allotments of stock for renewed subscriptions.
But the end came, just as it always does.

And so did the aftermath, as was shown by the advertisements in the
auction columns of the daily papers and the motley mob of hungry,
perspiring dealers, pawing over the household gods; and, more disastrous
still, because of its rarity, Felix’s brave fight to save his father’s
name, the whole struggle ending in his own ruin.

As for the very pretty young woman who had been wearing the hat with
blue ribbons, it may be as well to remark that when the milk in the
heart of a woman has become slightly curdled, it is to be expected that,
under certain exciting influences, the whole will turn sour. When to
this curdling process is added the loss of her child and her fortune,
calamities made all the more insupportable by reason of an interview
lasting an hour in which her two hot hands were held in those of a
sympathetic man of thirty, her cheeks within an inch of his lips, the
quickest--in fact, the only way--yes, really the only way, to
prevent any further calamity is to put your best gown in your best
dressing-case, catch up your jewels, and exchange your husband’s roof
for that of your father’s. And this is precisely what my lady did do,
and there in her father’s house she stayed, despite the entreaties of
her own and her father’s friends.

“And why not?” she had argued, with flashing eyes: “I am without a
shilling of my own, owing to the Quixotic ideas of my husband, who,
without thinking of me, has beggared himself to pay his father’s debts.
And that, too, just when I need to be comforted most. He does not care
how I suffer; and now that my father has offered me a home, I will lead
my own life, surrounded by the few friends who have loved me for myself
alone.”

That the eminent financier--it might be better perhaps to say the LATE
eminent financier--was one of those same unselfish beings who had “loved
her for herself alone,” and that he had, at once and without the delay
of an hour, flown to her side followed as a matter of course, as did the
gossip, men and women in and about the clubs and drawing-rooms nodding
meaningly or hinting behind their hands.

“Rather rough on O’Day,” the men had agreed. “That comes of marrying
a woman young enough to be your daughter.” “She ought to have known
better,” was the verdict of the women. “So many other ways of getting
what you want without making a scandal,” this from a duchess from
behind her fan to a divorcee. But few words of sympathy for the deserted
husband escaped any of them and, except from his old servants, Felix
allowed himself to receive none.

He had made no move to win her back. To him she was, at the worst, only
the same wilful and spoiled child she had always been, while he was over
twenty years her senior. What he hoped for was that her common sense,
her breeding, and her pride would come to the rescue, and that after her
pique had spent itself, she would become once more the loving wife.

And it is quite possible that this hope might have been realized had
it not been for one of those unfortunate and greatly to be regretted
concurrences which so often precede if they do not precipitate many of
life’s catastrophes.

One of Lord Carnavon’s grooms was the unfortunate match that caused this
explosion. He had been sent down to Dorsetshire for a horse and, in an
out-of-the-way inn in one corner of the county, had stumbled--early
the next morning--into a cosey little sitting-room. When he came to his
senses--he never recovered the whole of them until he was safe once
more inside his lordship’s stables--he told, with bulging eyes and bated
breath, what he had seen. Whereupon the head coachman forthwith informed
his wife, who at once poured it into the ears of the housekeeper,
who, being jealous of my lady, fearing her dominance, lost no time in
amplifying the details to Lord Carnavon. That gentleman had walked his
library the rest of the night and, on my lady’s return from Scotland,
two mornings later (she had “spent the night with her aunt”), had
denounced her in tones so shrill that every word was heard at the end
of the long gallery; the tirade, to his lordship’s amazement, being cut
short by his daughter’s defiant answer: “And why not, if I love him?”

All of which accounts for the infamous order roared five minutes later
by the distinguished nobleman to his coachman, who, having known her
ladyship from a child and loved her accordingly, had not set her down
on the main road, but had taken her to a cottage on an adjoining
estate--her second change of roofs--from whence Dalton carried her off
next day to Ostend, a refuge she had herself selected, the season there
being then at its height.

Had either of them kept a diary, it is safe to say that the delirious
hours which filled that first week at Ostend would have been checked off
in gold letters. Neither of them had ever been so blissfully happy, nor
so passionately enamoured of the other, nor so overjoyed that the dreary
past, with all its misunderstandings, calumnies, and injustice, had been
wiped out forever.

There had, of course, been a few colorless moments. On a certain
Saturday, for instance, the eminent ex-financier, having lost his head
after the manner of some born gamblers, had, at the Casino, played
the wrong number--a series of wrong numbers, in fact--an error which
resulted in his pushing a crisp bundle of Bank of England notes--almost
all he had with him--toward the spidery hands of a suave gentleman with
rat eyes and bloodless face, who gathered them up with a furtive, deadly
smile.

The gold Letters might have been omitted here, and, in their stead, my
lady could have made a common pinhole to remind her, if she ever cared
to remember, that it was on that very night that her passionately
enamoured lover had helped her unfasten from her throat a string of
pearls which O’Day had given her, and which, strange to say, for a
woman so injured, so maligned, and so misunderstood, she, with Dalton’s
advice, had carried off when she deserted both her husband and her
husband’s bed and board. And she might have inserted just below the
pinhole the illuminating note that, after unfastening the string, Dalton
had forgotten to return it.

And then there had come an August morning--the following Monday, to be
exact--when, his coffee untasted, he had sat staring at a paragraph in
the financial column of a London paper, not daring to lay it down for
fear she would pick it up. It gave a full and detailed account of the
discovery of a series of certificates bearing duplicate numbers, said
duplicates claiming to be the genuine shares of the Bawhadder Rubber
Co., Ltd. It also hinted at a searching investigation about to be made
by a financial committee of the highest standing at its next regular
meeting, but a few days off. More important still was a crisp editorial,
charging the directors of the aforesaid company, and particularly its
promoter--name withheld--with irregularities of the gravest import.

And it was on this same Monday morning--another pinhole, made with a big
black pin would serve best here--before the stone-cold coffee and the
dry, uneaten toast had been sent away, that there had arrived a most
important telegram (that is, Dalton had SAID it had arrived) ordering
him back to London on business of the UTMOST IMPORTANCE. So urgent were
the summons that he was forced to leave at once--so he explained to the
manager of the hotel--and as madame wished to avoid the night journey
by way of Ostend--the channel being almost always rough, even in summer,
and she easily disturbed--he had decided to take the shorter and more
comfortable route, and would the urbane and obliging gentleman please
secure two tickets to London by way of Calais and Dover? This would give
them a day in Paris at the house of a friend, and the next morning would
see them safely landed in London, in ample time for the business in
question.

The pins can be dispensed with now; so can the pencil and so can any
special entries. Henceforth life for these two exiles was to be one long
toboggan slide, with every post they passed marking a lower level. The
sled with its occupants made no stop at Paris nor did it go by way of
Calais nor did it reach Dover. It swooped on down to Havre, the steamer
sailing an hour after the train arrived, crossed the ocean at full
speed, and dumped its two passengers one hot August night in front of a
cheap and inconspicuous hotel on the East Side, New York, where Mr. and
Mrs. Stanton, from Toronto, Canada, would he at home, should anybody
call--which, it is quite safe to say, nobody ever did.

No, nothing of all this did the heart-broken woman tell the tender old
nurse, who had carried her in her arms many a night, and who was now
willing to sacrifice everything she possessed to give her mistress one
hour of peace.

Nor did she tell of the shock which she, a woman of quality, had
received when she entered the two cheaply furnished rooms, her only
shelter for months, and which, to a woman accustomed from babyhood to
a luxurious home and the care of attentive and loyal servants, had
affected her more keenly than anything that had yet happened.

Neither did she confide into the willing ears of the sympathetic
woman the details of her gradual awakening from Dalton’s spell as his
irritability, cowardice, and selfishness became more and more apparent.
Nor yet of her growing anxiety as their resources declined; an anxiety
which had so weighed upon her mind that she could neither sleep nor
rest, despite his continued promises of daily remittances that never
came and his rose-colored schemes for raising money which never
materialized.

Neither did she uncover the secret places of her own heart, and tell the
old nurse of the fight she had made in those earlier days when she had
faced the situation without flinching; nor of her stubborn determination
to still fight on to the end. She had even at one time sought to defend
him against herself. All men had their weaknesses, she had reasoned;
Guy had his. Moreover, the crash had been none of his doing. He had been
deceived by false reports instigated by his enemies, including her own
father-in-law and--yes, her husband as well, who could have avoided
the catastrophe had he followed Guy’s advice, and persuaded Sir Carroll
O’Day to hold on to his shares. How, then, could she desert him, poor as
he was and with the world against him? She had been untrue to everything
else. Could she not redeem herself by being at least true to her sin?

What she did tell Martha, and there was the old ring in her voice as she
spoke, was of her refusal to yield to Dalton’s presistent entreaties
to write to her father for sufficient money to start him in a new
enterprise which, with “even his limited means”--thus ran the letter
she was to copy and sign--“was already exceeding his most sanguine
expectations, and which, with a few thousand pounds of additional
capital, would yield enormous returns.” And she might have added that
so emphatic had been her refusal that, for the first time in all their
intercourse, Dalton’s eyes had been opened to something he had never
realized in her before, the quality of the blood that runs in some
Englishwomen’s veins--this time the blood of the Carnavons, who for two
centuries had been noted for their indomitable will.

Her defiance had seemed all the more remarkable to him because as he
well knew their combined resources were dwindling. She had, in fact,
only a few finger-rings left, together with some cheap trinkets; among
them a pair of sleeve-buttons then in her cuff’s, a pair which she had
given Felix and which she found in her jewel-box the day after she left
him, and which she had determined to return until she realized how small
was their value.

The rest of her sad story came by fits and starts.

With her head on Martha’s shoulder she told of the horror of that rainy
April night when, with agonized hands against her hot cheeks, she had
heard him stumbling up the narrow stairs staggering drunk, lunging
through the door, and falling headlong at her feet. Of the deadly fear
born in her, for the first time in her life, she, helpless and alone,
without a human being to whom she could appeal, not daring to disclose
her own identity lest graver results might follow; he, prostrate before
her, naked to his inmost bone, with all his perfidy exposed. Of his
cursing her conscientious scruples and family pride, her milk-and-water
principles, demanding again that she should write her father and that
very night, ending his entreaties with a blow of his fiat hand on her
cheek which sent her reeling toward her narrow bed.

She had watched her chance, caught up her hat and cloak, and had slipped
down-stairs, avoiding the crowd about the side-door, and had then fled
as if for her life, to be found an hour later by an expressman’s wife,
who had put her to bed with a kindness and tenderness she had not known
since she left her husband’s roof.

Then there had followed a long, weary day’s search for work, ending at
last in defeat when, disheartened and footsore, she had dragged herself
once more up the hotel stairs, with another tightening of her resolution
to fight it out to the end.

Greatly to her surprise, Dalton had received her with marked politeness.
He had begged her forgiveness, pleading that his nerves had been upset
by his financial troubles. With his arm around her, he had told her how
young and pretty she still was, and how sad it made him when he thought
he had ruined her life and brought her all these weary miles from home,
his contrition being apparently so genuine, that she had determined to
trust him once more, and would have told him so had she not gone into
her room to change her dress, only to find that he had pawned the few
remaining trinkets and articles of wearing-apparel she possessed, in
order to try his luck in a neighboring pool-room.

She had realized, then, where she stood. There was but one thing for
her to do and that was to hunt again for work. She had been an expert
needlewoman in her better days and this knowledge might earn her their
board.

With this in her mind, she had consulted a woman, living on the floor
above, who had often spoken to her when they passed each other on the
stairs, and who was employed in a department store on 14th Street
near Broadway, the result being that Stiger & Company had given “Mrs.
Stanton” a place in the repair shop, her wages being equal to her own
and Dalton’s board. This had continued all through the summer, her
earnings keeping the roof over their heads, Dalton leaving her for
days at a time, his invariable excuse for his absence being that he was
“trying to get employment.”

Finally--and again her eyes burned, and the color mounted to her hot
cheeks as she reached this part of her story--there had come that last
awful, unforgettable December night.

She had come home from work and had put on a thin silk wrapper, too well
worn for pawning, when the door of their little sitting-room was opened
and Dalton entered, bringing two men with him. One of them kept his hat
on as he talked, the other slouched his from his head after he had taken
a seat and had had a chance to look her over. The three had come upon
her suddenly, and she, realizing her dishabille, had risen hastily,
excusing herself, when Dalton, who was half tipsy, stepped between her
and her bedroom door.

“No, you’ll stay here,” he had cried; “you’re prettier as you are. I
never saw you so fetching. Don’t mind them, they’re friends of mine.
We’ve ordered up something to drink.”

She had stood trembling, looking from one to the other, her heart
hammering wildly. No man had ever addressed her with such insolence and
before such company. What she feared was that something would snap in
her and she fall fainting to the floor.

“I will change my dress,” she had answered firmly, speaking slowly to
hide her terror. She was Lord Carnavon’s daughter now.

“No, I tell you, Barbara--I--”

There was something in her eyes that told him he had reached the limit
of her forbearance. Beyond that there was danger.

She had glided past him, shut and locked her bedroom door, struggled
with bungling fingers into her walking-dress, pinned on her hat, thrown
an old silk waterproof around her shoulders, had slid back the bolt of
her chamber opening into the hall, crept down the steps, and fled.

Ten minutes later Martha’s arms were about her, and she sobbing on her
old nurse’s shoulder.



Chapter XV



The day following Stephen’s visit was one of many spent by Lady Barbara
in working at “home,” as she called the simple apartment in which Martha
had given her shelter.

With the aid of a shop-girl whose mother Martha had known, she had found
employment at Rosenthal’s, on upper Third Avenue. There had been need
of an expert needlewoman in a department recently opened, and Mangan,
in charge of the work, had taken her name and address. The repairing of
rare laces had been one of her triumphs when a girl, she having placed
an inset in the middle of an old piece of Valenciennes which had
deceived even the experts at Kensington Museum. And so, when one of
Rosenthal’s agents had looked up her lodgings, had seen Martha, and
noted “Mrs. Stanton’s” quiet refinement, he had at once given her the
place. She had retained, with Martha’s advice, the name that Dalton had
assumed for her on her arrival in New York, and Rosenthal’s pay-roll and
messengers knew her by no other.

These days at home bad been gradually extended, her employer finding
that she could work there more satisfactorily, and of late the greater
part of each week had been spent in the small suite of rooms in St.
Mark’s Place--much to Martha’s delight, who had arranged her own duties
so as to be with her mistress. The good woman had long since given up
night-nursing, and the few patrons dependent upon her during the day
had had to be content with an “exchange,” which she generally managed to
obtain, there being one or two of the fraternity on whom she could call.

And these days, in spite of the sorrow hovering over her charge, Martha
never found wholly unhappy. They constantly reminded her of the
good times at Oakdale when she used to bring in her young mistress’s
breakfast. She could recall the dainty, white egg-shell china, the squat
silver service bearing the Carnavon arms, and the film of lace which she
used to throw around her ladyship’s shoulders, lifting her hair to give
it room. The butler would bring the tray to the door, and Martha would
carry it herself to the bedside, where she would be met with the
cry, “Must I get up?” or the more soothing greeting of, “Oh, you good
Martha--well, give me my wrapper!”

The delicate porcelain and heirloom silver were missing now, and so
was the filmy lace, but the tired mistress, could sleep as long as she
pleased, thank Heaven! and the same loving care be given her. And the
meal could be as nicely served, even though the thick cup cost but a
penny and the tea was poured from an earthen pot kept hot on the stove.

Martha’s deft hands relieved her mistress, too, of many other little
necessary duties, such as the repair of her clothes; having them
carefully laid out for the morning so that the nap might be prolonged
and time be given for the care of the beautiful hair and frail hands;
helping her dress; serving her breakfast, and getting her ready for the
day’s work. These services over, Martha would move the small pine table
close to the sill of the window, where the light was better, spread a
clean white towel over its top, and sit beside her while she sewed.

This restful, almost happy, life had been rudely shaken, if not entirely
wrecked, by Stephen’s visit. Up to that time, Lady Barbara--who had been
nearly three weeks with Martha--had not only delighted in her work,
but had shown an enviable pride in keeping pace with her employer’s
engagements, often working rather late into the night to finish her
allotment on time.

The particular work uppermost in her mind on the night Stephen had
called was the repairing of a costly Spanish mantilla which had
been picked up in Spain by one of Rosenthal’s customers. Through the
carelessness of a packer, it had been badly slashed near the centre--an
ugly, ragged tear which only the most skilful of needles could restore.
Mangan, some days before, had given it to her to repair with special
instructions to return it at a given time, when he had agreed to deliver
it to its owner. It was with a sudden gripping of her heart, therefore,
that Martha on her return from an errand at noon had found the mantilla,
promised for that very afternoon at three o’clock, lying neglected on
the table, Lady Barbara sitting by the window with listless hands and
drooping head. She grew still more anxious when at the appointed hour
Rosenthal’s messenger rapped at the door and stood silently waiting, his
presence voicing the purpose of his mission, and she heard her mistress
say, without an attempt at explanation: “I am sorry, tell Mr. Mangan,
but the Spanish mantilla is not finished. Some of the other pieces are
ready, but you need not wait. I cannot stop now, even to do them up
properly, but I will bring the mantilla myself to-morrow. Please say so
to Mr. Mangan.”

The extreme lassitude of her manner only added to Martha’s anxiety and,
as the afternoon wore on, she watched Lady Barbara’s every move with
ever-increasing alarm. Now and then her poor mistress would drop her
needle, turn her face to the window, and look out into vacancy, her
mouth quivering as if with some inward thought which she had neither the
will nor the desire to voice aloud.

As the hours lengthened, this mental absorption and growing physical
weariness were followed by a certain nervous tension, so pronounced
that the nurse, accustomed to various forms of feminine breakdowns, had
already determined what remedies to use should the symptoms increase.

That Stephen’s visit was responsible for this condition, she now no
longer doubted. What she had intended as a relief had only complicated
the situation. And yet in going over all that had happened and all that
was likely to happen, she became more than ever convinced that either
his visit must be repeated, or that she alone must make the announcement
that had trembled on Stephen’s lips. She had recognized, almost from the
first, that despite the relief her mistress had enjoyed in the little
apartment some strong, masculine hand and mind were needed to stem the
tide of further disaster. Her own practical common sense also told her
that their present way of living was far too precarious to be counted
upon. Lady Barbara’s position with Rosenthal was but temporary. At any
moment it might be lost, and then would follow another dreary hunt for
work, with all its rebuffs, and sooner or later the delicately nurtured
woman would succumb and go under in a mental or physical collapse, the
hospital her only alternative.

None of these forebodings, it must be said, had filled Lady Barbara’s
mind. As long as she continued under Martha’s care she could rest in
peace, free from the dread of the drunken step on the stair or the rude
bursting in of her chamber door. Free, too, from other deadly terrors
which had pursued her, and of which she could not even think without a
shudder, for try as she could she never forgot Dalton’s willingness to
turn their home into a gamblers’ resort.

That he would force her to return to him for any other purpose she did
not believe. He had no legal hold upon her--such as an Englishman has
upon his wife--and, as he had pawned everything of value she possessed
and most of her clothes, she could be of no further use to him, except
by applying to her father or to her friends for pecuniary relief. This,
as she had told him, she would rather die than do, and from the oaths he
had muttered at the time she was convinced he believed her.

All she wanted now was to earn her bread, help Martha with her rent,
and, when the day’s work was over, creep into her arms and rest.

And yet, while it was true that Stephen’s visit had been responsible for
her nervous breakdown, it was not for the reason that Martha supposed.
His reference to her private affairs had of course offended her, and
justly so, but there was something else which hurt her far more--a
something in the old ship-chandler’s manner when he spoke to her which
forced to the front a question ever present in her mind, whatever her
task and however tender the ministrations of the old nurse; one that
during all her sojourn under this kindly roof had haunted her, like a
nightmare.

And it was this. What did the look mean that she sometimes surprised in
Martha’s eyes--the same look she had detected in Stephen’s? Were they
looks of pity or were they--and she shuddered--looks of scorn? This was
the nightmare which had haunted her, the problem she could not fathom.

And because she could not fathom it, she had passed a wakeful night, and
this long, unhappy day. This mystery must end, and that very night.

When the shadows fell and the evening meal was ready, she put away
her work, smoothed her hair and took her seat beside the nurse, eating
little and answering Martha’s anxious, but carefully worded questions in
monosyllables. With the end of the meal, she pushed back her chair and
sought her bedroom, saying that, if Martha did not mind, she would throw
herself on her bed and rest awhile.

She lay there listening until the last clink of the plates and cups and
the moving of the table told her that the evening’s work was done and
the things put away; then she called:

“Martha, won’t you come and sit beside me, so that you can brush out my
hair? I want to talk to you. You need not bring the lamp, I have light
enough.”

Martha hurried in and settled herself beside the narrow bed. Lady
Barbara lifted her head so that the tresses were free for Martha’s
hands, and sinking back on the pillow said almost in a whisper: “I have
been thinking of your brother, and want your help. What did he mean when
he said that things could not go on as they were with me? And that he
was going to put a stop to them if he could?”

Martha caught herself just in time. She was not ready yet to divulge
her plans for her mistress’s relief, and the question had taken her
unawares. “He never forgets, my lady, what he owes your people,” she
answered at last. “And when he saw you, he was so sorry for you he was
all shrivelled up.”

She had the mass of blonde hair in her fingers now, the comb in hand
prepared to straighten out the tangle.

For a moment Lady Barbara lay still, then turning her cheek, her eyes
fixed on Martha’s, she said in firmer tones: “You are to tell me the
truth, you know; that is why I sent for you.”

“I have told it, my lady.”

“And you are keeping nothing back?”

“Nothing.”

The thin hand crept out and grasped the nurse’s wrist.

“Then you are sure your brother does not despise me, Martha?”

“MY LADY! How can you say such a thing!” exclaimed Martha, dropping the
comb.

“Well, everybody else does--everybody I know--and a great many I never
saw and who never saw me. And now about yourself--and you must tell me
frankly--do you hate me, Martha?”

“Hate you, you poor Lamb”--tears were now choking her--“you, whom I held
in my arms?--Oh, don’t talk that way to me--I can’t stand it, my lady!
Ever since you were a child, I--”

“Yes, Martha, that is one reason for my asking you. You did love me as
a child--but do you love me as a woman? A child is forgiven because it
knows no better; a woman DOES know. Tell me, straight from your heart; I
want to know; it will not make any difference in the way I love you. You
have been everything to me, father, mother--everything, Martha. Tell me,
do you forgive me?”

“I have nothing to forgive, my lady,” she answered, her voice clearing,
her will asserting itself. “You have always been my lady and you always
will be. Maybe you’d better not talk any more--you are all tired out,
and--”

“Oh, yes, I will talk and you must Listen. Don’t pick up my comb. Never
mind about my hair now. I know very well that there is not a single
human being at home who would not shut the door in my face. Some of them
do not understand, and never will, and I should never try to explain
my life to them. I have suffered for my mistakes and made myself an
outcast, and nobody has any compassion for an outcast. That is why I sit
and wonder about Stephen, and why I have sat all day and wondered about
you, and whether I ought to run away, for I could not stay here if you
felt about me as I know those people feel at home. I want you to love
me, Martha. Oh! yes, you prove it. You do everything for me, but way
down deep in your heart, how do you feel? Do you love me as you always
did?--LOVE, Martha, not just pity, or feeling sorry like Stephen, or
blaming me like the others? Yes, yes, yes, I know it, but I have wanted
you to tell me. I am so in the dark. There, there, don’t cry! Just one
thing more. What did your brother mean when he said there were others
who would lift me out of my misery?”

Again the old servant, brushing away her tears, hesitated to reply. She
had sent for Stephen to answer this very question, and her mistress had
practically driven him from the room. How, then, was she to meet it?

“He meant Mr. Felix, and if you had only listened, my lady, he would
have--”

“Yes, I knew he did--although he did not dare say it,” she cried with
sudden intensity, sinking deeper back in her pillow as if to protect
herself even from Martha. “I did not listen, for I never want to hear
his name again. He drove me to what I did. He let me leave his house
without so much as a word of regret, and not one line did he write
me the whole time I was at my father’s. Two months, Martha!
TWO--WHOLE--MONTHS!” The words seemed to clog in her throat. “All
that time he hid himself in his club, abusing me to every man he met.
Somebody told me so. What was I to do? He had turned over to his father
every shilling he possessed and left me without a penny--or, worse
still, dependent on my father, and you know what that means! And then,
when I could stand it no longer and went home, he sailed for South
Africa on a shooting expedition.”

Martha listened patiently. The outburst was not what she had expected,
but she knew the unburdening would help in the end. She slid one plump
hand under the tired head, and with the other stroked back the mass of
hair from the damp forehead--very gently, as she might have calmed some
fevered patient.

“May I finish what Stephen tried to tell you, my lady?” she crooned,
still stroking back the hair. “And may I first tell you that Mr. Felix
never went to Africa?”

“Oh, but he did!” she cried out again. “I know the men he went with.
He was disgusted with the whole business--so he told one of his
friends--and never wanted to see me or England again.”

“You are sure?”

“Yes, I heard about it in Ostend when--” She did not finish the
sentence.

The nurse’s free hand now closed on Lady Barbara’s thin fingers, with a
quiet, compelling softness, as if preparing her for a shock.

“Mr. Felix--came here--to New York--my lady--and is here now--or was
some weeks ago--doing nothing but walk the streets.” The words had come
one by one, Martha’s clasp tightening as she spoke.

The wasted figure lifted itself from the pillow and sat bolt upright.

“MARTHA! What do you mean!”

“Yes, right here in New York, my lady.”

“It isn’t so!” Her hands were now clutching Martha’s shoulders. “Tell me
it isn’t so! It can’t be so!”

“It’s the blessed God’s truth, every word of it! He and Stephen have
been looking for you day and night.”

“Looking for me? Me! Oh, the shame of it, the shame!” Then with sudden
fright: “But he must not find me! He shall not find me! You won’t let
him find me, will you, Martha?” Her arms were now tight about the old
woman’s neck, her agonized face turning wildly toward the door, as if
she thought that Felix were already there. “You don’t think he wants to
kill me, do you?” she whispered at last, her face hidden in the nurse’s
neck.

Martha folded her own strong arms about the shaking woman, warming and
comforting her, as she had warmed and comforted the child. She would go
through with it now to the end.

“No, it’s not you he wants to kill,” she said firmly, when the trembling
figure was still.

Lady Barbara loosened her grasp and stared at her companion. “Then what
does he want to see me for?” she asked, in a dazed, distracted tone.

“He wants to help you. He never forgets that you were his wife. He’ll
have his arms around you the moment he gets his eyes on you, and all
your troubles will be over.”

“But I do not want his help and I won’t accept his help,” she exclaimed,
drawing herself up. “And I won’t see him if he comes! You must not let
me see him! Promise me you won’t! And he must not find”--she hesitated
as if unwilling to pronounce the name--“he must not find Mr. Dalton.
There has been scandal enough. You do not think he wants to find Mr.
Dalton, too, do you, Martha?” she added slowly, as if some new terror
were growing on her.

“That’s what Stephen thinks--find him and kill him. That’s why he wanted
you to listen last night. That’s why he wants to get you and Mr. Felix
together. Mr. Dalton won’t stay here if he knows Mr. Felix is looking
for him. He’s too big a coward.”

Lady Barbara shivered, drew her gown closer, and sank to the bed again,
gazing straight before her. “Yes, that is what will happen, Martha--he
would kill him. I see it all now. That is what would have happened to
our gardener who ruined the gatekeeper’s daughter, if the man had not
left England. She was only a girl--hardly grown; yes, it all comes back
to me. I remember what my husband did.” She was still speaking under
her breath, reciting the story more to herself than to Martha, her
voice rising and falling, at times hardly audible. “Nothing--happened
then--because my husband--did not find the man.”

She faced the nurse again. “You won’t let him come here, will you,
Martha?”

“He’ll come, my lady, if Stephen can get hold of him,” came the positive
reply. “He had a room in a lodging-house not far from here, but he left
it, and Stephen doesn’t know where he’s gone. But he’ll turn up again
down at the shop, and then--”

“But you must not let him come,” she burst out.

Again she sat upright. “I won’t have it--please--PLEASE! I will go away
if you do, where nobody will ever find me. I could not have him see
me--see me like this.” She looked at her thin hands and over her shabby
gown. “Not like THIS!”

“No, you won’t go away, my lady.” There was a ring of authority now
in the nurse’s voice. “You’ll stay here. It’s the only way out of this
misery for you. As for Mr. Felix and that scoundrel who has ruined you,
Mr. Felix will take care of him. But I’m going to let Mr. Felix in, if
the dear Lord will let him come. Mr. Felix loves you and--”

Her body stiffened. “He never loved me. He only loved his father,” she
cried angrily, and again she sank back on her pillow. “All my misery
came from that.”

Martha bent closer. “You never got that right, my lady,” she returned
firmly. “You mustn’t get angry with me, for I got to let it all out.”
 She was the nurse no longer; no matter what happened, she would unburden
her heart. “Mr. Felix isn’t like other men. He stood by his father and
helped him when he was in trouble, just as he’ll stand by and help you,
just as he helps everybody--Tom Moulton’s daughter for one, that he
picked up on the streets of London and sent home to her mother. If he’d
killed Sam Lawson, who ruined her, he’d have given him what he deserved;
and if he kills this man Dalton, he won’t give him half what he deserves
or what’s coming to him sooner or later. Dalton isn’t fit to live. He
got Sir Carroll O’Day all tangled up so that his character and all his
money was hanging by a thread, and then, when Mr. Felix gave up what he
had to save Sir Carroll, Dalton coaxed you away. You didn’t know that,
did you? But it’s true. That man Dalton ruined Mr. Felix’s father. Oh,
I know it all--and I have known it for a long time. Stephen told me all
about it. No, don’t stop me, my lady! I’m your old Martha, who’s nursed
you and sat by you many a night, and I’ll never stop loving you as
long as I live. I don’t care what you do to me or what you have done to
yourself. Your leaving Mr. Felix was like a good many other things you
used to do when you were crossed. You would have your way, just as your
father will have his way, no matter who is hurt. What Lord Carnavon
wants, he wants, and there is no stopping him. Anybody else but his
lordship would have hushed the matter up, instead of ruining everybody.
But that’s all past now; I don’t love you any less for it; I’m only
sorrier and sorrier for you every time I think of it. Now we’ve got to
make another start. Stephen’ll help and I’ll work my fingers to the bone
for you--and Mr. Felix’ll help most of all.”

Except for the gesture of surprise when Dalton’s part in the ruin of
her husband’s father was mentioned, Lady Barbara had listened to the
breathless outburst without moving her head. Even when the words cut
deepest she had made no protest. She knew the nurse’s heart, and
that every word was meant for her good. Her utter helplessness, too,
confronted her, surrounded as she was by conditions she could neither
withstand nor evade.

“And if he comes, Martha,” she asked in a low, resigned voice, “what
will happen then?”

“He’ll get you out of this--take you where you needn’t work the soul out
of you.”

“Pay for my support, you mean?” she asked, with a certain dignity.

“Of course; why not?”

“Never--NEVER! I will never touch a penny of his money--I would rather
starve than do it!”

“Oh, it wouldn’t be much--he’s as poor as any of us. When Stephen saw
him last, all he had was a rubber coat to keep him warm. But little as
he has you’ll get half or all of it.”

“Poor as--any of us! Oh, my God, Martha!” she groaned, covering her face
with her hands. “I never thought it would come to that--I never thought
he could be poor! I never thought he would suffer in that way. And it is
my fault, Martha--all of it! You must not think I do not see it! Every
word you say is true--and every one else knows that it is true. It was
all vanity and selfishness and stubbornness, never caring whom I hurt,
so that I had the things I wanted. I put the blame on my husband a while
ago because I did not want you to hate me too much. All the women who
do wrong talk that way, hoping for some comforting word in their misery.
But it is I who am to blame, not he. I talk that way to myself in the
night when I lie awake until I nearly lose my mind. Sometimes, too, I
try to cheat myself by thinking that all these terrible things might not
have happened had God not taken my baby. But I don’t know. They might
have happened just the same, my head was so full of all that was wicked.
When I think of that, I am glad the baby died. It could never have
called me mother. Oh, Martha, Martha, take me in your arms again--yes,
like that--close against your breast! Kiss me, Martha, as you used to do
when I was little! You do love me, don’t you? And you will promise not
to let my husband see me? And now go away, please, and leave me alone. I
cannot stand any more.”



Chapter XVI



The talk with Father Cruse, while it had calmed and, to a certain
extent, reassured Felix, had not in any way swerved him from his
determination to find his wife at any cost.

The only change he made in his plans was one of locality. Heretofore,
with the exception of his visits to Stephen--long since discontinued
now that he feared she was an outcast--he had mingled with the throngs
crowding the Great White Way ablaze with light or had haunted the doors
of the popular theatres and expensive restaurants, and the waiting-rooms
of the more fashionable hotels. After this it must be the byways, places
where the poor or worse would congregate: cheap eating-houses; barrooms,
with so-called “family rooms” attached; and always the streets at a
distance from those trodden by the rich and prosperous classes. Father
Cruse might have been right in his diagnosis, and the sleeve-button
might form but a minor link in the chain of events circling the problem
to the solution of which he had again consecrated his life, but certain
it was that the clew Kitty had discovered had only strengthened his own
convictions. If the woman whom Kitty had picked up some months before,
and put to bed, were not his wife, she must certainly have been near
her person; which still meant not only poverty but the possibility of
Dalton’s having abandoned her. Possibly, too, this woman, whose outside
garments had contrasted so strangely with her more sumptuous underwear,
might have been an inmate of the same house in which his wife was
living--some one, perhaps, in whom his wife had had confidence.
Perhaps--no! That was impossible. Whatever the depths of suffering into
which his wife had fallen, she had not yet reached the pit--of that
he was convinced. If he were mistaken--at the thought his fingers
tightened, and his heavy eyebrows and thin, drawn lips became two
parallel straight lines--then he would know exactly what to do.

These convictions filled his mind when, having bid good-by to Kitty--who
knew nothing of his interview with the priest--he buttoned his
mackintosh close up to his throat, tucked his blackthorn stick under his
arm, and, pressing his hat well on his head, bent his steps toward the
East Side. A light rain was falling and most of the passers-by were
carrying umbrellas. Overhead thundered the trains of the Elevated--a
continuous line of lights flashing through the clouds of mist.
Underneath stretched Third Avenue, its perspective dimmed in a slowly
gathering fog.

As he tramped on, the brim of his soft hat shadowing his brow, he
scanned without ceasing the faces of those he passed: the men with
collars turned up, the women under the umbrellas--especially those with
small feet. At 28th Street he entered a cheap restaurant, its bill of
fare, written on a pasteboard card and tacked on the outside, indicating
the modest prices of the several viands.

He had had no particular reason for selecting this eating-house from
among the others. He had passed several just like it, and was only
accustoming himself to his new line of search; for that purpose, one
eating-house was as good as another.

Drawing out a chair from a table, he sat down and ran his eye over the
interior.

What he saw was a collection of small tables, flanked by wooden chairs,
their tops covered with white cloths and surmounted by cheap casters,
a long bar with the usual glistening accessories, and a flight of steps
which led to the floor above. His entrance, quiet as it had been, had
evidently attracted some attention, for a waiter in a once-white apron
detached himself from a group of men in the far corner of the room and,
picking up, as he passed, a printed card from a table, asked him what he
would have to eat.

“Nothing--not now. I will sit here and smoke.” He loosened his
mackintosh and drew his pipe from his pocket, adding: “Hand me a match,
please.”

The waiter looked at him dubiously. “Ain’t you goin’ to order nothin’?”

“Not yet--perhaps not at all. Do you object to my smoking here?”

“Don’t object to nothin’, but this ain’t no place to warm up in, see!”

Felix looked at him, and a faint smile played about his lips--the first
that had lightened them all day. “I shan’t ask you to start a fresh
fire,” he said in a decided tone; “and now, do as I bid you, and pass me
that box of matches.”

The man caught the tone and expression, placed the box beside him, and
joined the group in the rear. There was a whispered conference, and a
stout man wearing a dingy jacket disengaged himself from the others and
lounged toward Felix.

“Nasty night,” he began. “Had a lot of this weather this month. Never
see a December like it.”

“Yes, a bad night. Your servant seemed to think I was in the way. Are
you the proprietor?”

“Well, I am one of them. Why?”

“Nothing--only I hoped to find you more hospitable.”

“Oh, smoke away--guess we can stand it, if you can. Dinner’s over”--he
looked at the big clock decorating the white wall--“but they’ll be
piling in here after the theatres is out. You live around here?”

“No, not immediately.”

“Looking for any one?”

Felix gave a slight start and, from under his narrowed lids, shot one of
his bull’s-eye flashes.

The man caught the flash and, misinterpreting it, bent down and said in
a hoarse whisper: “Come from the central office, don’t you?”

Felix took a long puff at his pipe. “No, I am only a very tired man who
has come in out of the wet to rest and smoke,” he answered, with a dry
smile, “but if it will add to your comfort and improve your hospitality
in any way, you can send your waiter back here and I will order
something to eat.”

The stout man laid his hand confidently on Felix’s shoulder. “That’s all
right, pard--I ain’t worryin’, and don’t you. There’s nothin’ doin’, and
I’m a-givin’ it to you straight.”

Felix nodded in dismissal, rested his elbows on the table, and again
puffed away at his brierwood. Being mistaken for a central office
detective might or might not be of assistance. At present, he would let
matters stand.

As he smoked on, the room, which had been almost entirely empty of
customers, began filling up. A reporter bustled in, ordered a cup of
coffee, and, clearing away the plates and casters, squared his elbows
and attacked a roll of paper. Two belated shop-girls entered laughing,
hung their wet waterproofs on a hook behind their chairs, and were soon
lost in the intricacies of the printed menu. Groups of three and four
passed him, beating the rain from their hats and cloaks, the women
stamping their wet feet.

The sudden influx from the outside, bringing in the wet and mud of the
streets, had started innumerable puddles over the clean, sanded floor.
The man wearing the dingy white jacket craned his head, noticed the
widening pools, opened a door behind the bar leading to the cellar
below, and shouted down, in a coarse voice, “Here, Stuffy, git
busy--everything slopped up,” and resumed his place beside the group
of men, their talk still centred on the stranger in the mackintosh, who
could be seen scrutinizing each new arrival.

Something in the poise and dignity of the object of their attention as
he sat quietly, paper in hand, a curl of blue smoke mounting ceilingward
from his pipe, must also have impressed the newcomers, for no one of
them drew out any of the empty chairs immediately beside him, although
the room was now comparatively crowded. Finally, the man who answered to
the name of “Stuffy” appeared from the direction of the group near the
bar, and made his way toward Felix. He carried a broom and a bucket,
from which trailed a mop used for swabbing wet floors. When he reached
O’Day’s table, he dropped to his knees and attacked a sluiceway leading
to a miniature lake, fed by the umbrellas and waterproofs belonging to
the two girls opposite.

“Got to ask ye to move a little, sir,” he said in apology.

“Hold on,” replied Felix, in considerate tones, “I will stand up and you
can get at it better. Bad night for everybody.” He was on his feet now,
his long mackintosh hanging straight, his hat still on his head, and in
his hand the blackthorn stick, which he had picked up from beside the
table as he rose.

The man stared at the mackintosh, the hat, and the cane, and sprang to
his feet. “I know ye!” he cried excitedly. “Do you know me?”

Felix studied him closely. “I do not think I do,” he answered, frowning
slightly.

“Well, ye ought to. I ain’t never forgot ye, and I never will. You give
me a meal once and a dollar to keep me going.”

O’Day’s brow relaxed. “Yes, now I do. You are the man whose wife left
him, and who tried to steal my watch.”

“That’s it--you got it. You didn’t give me away. Say, I been straight
ever since. It’s been tough, but I kep’ on--I work here three nights in
the week and I got another job in a joint on Second Avenue. Say--” he
added, glancing furtively over his shoulder. Then finding his suspicions
confirmed, and the attention of the group fastened on him, he began to
push the broom vigorously, muttering in jerks to Felix: “This ain’t no
place for ye--git into trouble sure--what yer doin’ here?--They’re
onto ye, or the bunch wouldn’t have their heads together--don’t make no
difference who’s here, everybody gits pinched--I can’t talk--they’ll git
wise and fire me.”

Felix’s lip curled and an amused expression drifted over his face. His
jaws set, the muscles forming little ridges about his ears.

“I will attend to that later,” he said, in a firm voice. “Keep on with
your work.”

He shook the ashes from his pipe, resumed his seat, and leaned
carelessly forward with his elbows on his thighs, his former protege,
now deep in his work, squeezing the wet rag into the bucket, and using
the broom where the mud was thickest. When the swabbing-up process
brought the man within speaking distance again Felix leaned still
further forward and asked:

“What sort of a place is this--a restaurant?”

The man turned his head. He was again on his knees, and had drawn
nearer. He was now wiping the same spot so as to be within reach of
Felix’s ear.

“Downstairs--yes,” he returned in a low voice. “Upstairs--in the
rear--across a roof--” He glanced again at the group and stopped.

“A gambling house?”

“No--a pool-room. That’s why I give ye the tip.”

Felix ruminated, the man polishing vigorously. “What kind of people come
here?”

“The kind ye see--and crooks.”

“Do you know them all?”

“Why not? I been workin’ here two months. Had two raids--that’s why I
posted ye. It’s the chop-house game now, with a new deal all around, but
they’re onto it--so a pal of mine tells me.”

Again Felix ruminated. “Women ever come here?”

“Oh, yes, up to ten o’clock or so--telephone operators, shop-girls--that
kind. Two of ‘em are over there now; they work in Cryder’s store
Christmas and New Year’s, and they get taken on extra.”

“Any others?”

“You mean fancies?”

“No--straight, decent women, who may live around here and who come
regularly in for their meals.”

“Oh, yes--but they don’t stay long. And then”--he nodded toward the
group--“they don’t want ‘em to stay--no money in grub. Just a bluff
they’ve put up.”

“Have you come across your wife since I saw you?”

“No, and don’t want to. I’ve got all over that. A man’s a damn fool to
get crazy over a woman, and a bigger damn fool to keep worryin’ when she
goes back on him. They ain’t wuth it, none on ‘em.”

“What became of the man she went off with?”

“Got tired and chucked her, after he made a tank of her. That’s what
they all do.”

“Have you ever tried to find her?”

“What for?”

“You might do her some good.”

“Cut it out! Nuthin’ doin’! She was rotten when she left me, and she’s
rotten now. Bums round a Raines joint over here on Twenty-eighth Street.
Pick up anybody. Came staggerin’ into the church full of booze, so a pal
o’ mine told me, and got half-way down the aisle before they could fire
her. Drop in there sometime when you go by and ask the sexton if I’m
a-lyin’. No more of that for me, I’m through. There ain’t but one place
for that kind, and that’s Blackwell’s Island, and that’s where they
fetch up. I went through hell afore I saw you because of her, and I’m
just pullin’ out and I want to stay out.”

He raised his head, glanced furtively again at the group by the bar, and
in a low whisper muttered:

“I’ve got to go now. They’ll get onto me next.”

“Never mind those men. They cannot harm you,” Felix answered, and was
about to add some word of sympathy, when he checked himself. It would
only hurt him the more, he thought. He said instead, his voice conveying
what his lips would have uttered:

“Do you like it here?”

“Got to.”

Felix pushed back his chair, stood erect, and with a gesture as if his
mind had been made up said: “Would you care to do something else?”

The man dropped his broom and straggled to his feet. “Can ye give me
somethin’? I been a-tryin’ everywhere, but this kind o’ work hoodoos a
man, and they won’t give me no ref’rence ‘cause I don’t git more’n
my board and they don’t want to lose me. And then”--here he winked
meaningly--“I know a thing or two. But, say, do ye mean it? I’ll go
anywhere you want.”

Felix felt in his pocket, drew out a card, and pencilled his address.
“Come some night--say about eight o’clock. It’s not far from here. I am
glad you pulled yourself together and went to work. That is a good deal
better than the business you tried to follow when we first met,”--and
one of his dry smiles flickered about his mouth. “And now, good night,”
 and he held out his hand.

The man drew back. It was a new experience. “You mean it?” he asked.

“Yes, give me your hand. Now that you are decent I want to shake it.
That is the only way we can help each other.”

Kitty was poring over her accounts when Felix arrived at the
express-office and made his way to her sitting-room. She had had a busy
day, the holiday season always bringing a rush of extra work, and her
wagons had been kept going since daylight. The trend of travel was to
Long Island and Jersey towns, the goods being mainly for the Christmas
and New Year’s festivities. John was away--somewhere between the Battery
and Central Park--and so were Mike and Bobby, the boy having been
pressed into service now that his vacation had begun.

“Are you too busy to talk to me, Mistress Kitty?” he said, stripping off
his mackintosh and hanging it where its drip would do no harm.

“Too busy! God rest ye. Mr. O’Day! I’m never too busy to eat, sleep,
look after John and Bobby, and listen to what ye’ve got to say. Hold
on till I put these bills away. There ain’t one of ‘em’ll be paid till
after New Year--not then, if the customer can help it. They’ll all spend
their own money or somebody else’s. There!”--and she laid the pile on a
shelf behind her. “Now, go on--what’s it ye want? Come, out with it; and
mind, I’ve said ‘Yes, and welcome’ before ye’ve asked it.”

O’Day, from his seat near the stove, studied her face for a moment, his
own brightening as he felt the warmth of her loyalty. “Don’t promise too
much till you hear me out. I am looking for a job.”

Kitty turned quickly, her eyes two round O’s, all the ruddiness gone
from her cheeks. “Mr. O’Day! Why! Why!--and what’s Otto done to ye? I’ll
go to him this minute and--”

Felix laughed gently. “You will do nothing of the kind. Mr. Kling is all
right and so am I. I want the job for a tramp who tried to hold me up
one night, and who is now scrubbing the floor in a rather disreputable
public house on Third Avenue.”

Kitty let out all her breath and brought her plump hands down on her
plump knees, her body rocking as she did so. “Oh, is that it? What a
start ye give me! I thought ye and Kling had quarrelled. Sure, I’ll take
your tramp if ye say so. We want a man to wash the wagons, and help Mike
clean up. John fired the macaroni we had last month and I didn’t blame
him. What can yer man do?”

“Not much.”

“What do ye know about him?”

“Nothing, except that he tried to rob me.”

“And what do ye want me to take him on for? To have him get away some
night with a Saratoga trunk and--”

“No, to KEEP him from getting away with it. He’s been on the ragged edge
of life for some months, if I read him aright, and has all he can do to
keep his footing. I found him a while ago by the merest accident, and he
is still holding on. A week with you and your husband will do him more
good than a legacy. He will get a new standard.”

“What’s he been doin’ that he’s up against it like this?” she asked,
ignoring the compliment.

“Trying to forget a wife who went back on him--so he tells me.”

“Has he done it?”

“Yes. If you can believe him. She has become a drunkard.”

“Well--that’s about the worst thing can happen to a man--if he’s telling
ye the truth. What’s become of her?”

“He did not say. All I know is that he has not seen her since she went
away.”

“Maybe he didn’t want to,” she flashed back. “Did ye get out of him
whose fault it was?”

Felix, whose remarks had been addressed to the red-hot coals in the
stove, glanced quickly toward Kitty, but made no answer.

“Ye don’t know, that’s it, and so ye don’t say I’ll tell ye that it’s
the man’s fault more’n half the time.”

“And what makes you think so, Mistress Kitty?” he asked, trying to speak
casually, not daring to look at her for fear she would detect the tremor
on his lips, wondering all the time at her interest in the subject.

“It ain’t for thinkin’, Mr. O’Day, it’s just seein’ what goes on every
day, and it sets me crazy. If a man’s got gumption enough to make a girl
love him well enough to marry him, he ought to know enough to keep
it goin’ night and day--if he don’t want her to forget him. Half of
‘em--poor souls!--are as ignorant as unborn babes, and don’t know any
more what’s comin’ to them than a chicken before its head’s cut off. She
wakes up some mornin’ after they’ve been married a year or two and finds
her man’s gone to work without kissin’ her good-by--when he was nigh
crazy before they were married if he didn’t get one every ten minutes.
The next thing he does is to stay out half the night, and when she is
nigh frightened to death, and tells him so with her eyes streamin’,
instead of comfortin’ her, he tells her she ought to have better sense,
and why didn’t she go to sleep and not worry, that he was of age and
could take care of himself--when all the time she is only lovin’ him
and pretty near out of her mind lest he gets hurted. And last he gets to
lyin’ as to where he HAS been--maybe it’s the lodge, or a game in a back
room, or somethin’ ye can’t talk about--anyhow, he lies about it, and
then she finds it out, and everything comes tumblin’ down together, and
the pieces are all over the floor. That runs on for a while, and
pretty soon in comes a dandy-lookin’ chap and tells her she’s an abused
woman--and she HAS been--and he begins pickin’ up the scraps and piecin’
them together, tellin’ her all the time the pretty things the first man
told her and which, fool-like, she believes over agin, and then one
fine day she skips off and the husband goes round, tearin’ his hair with
shame or shakin’ his fist with rage, and says she broke up his home, and
if she ever sets foot on his doorstep again he’ll set the dogs on her,
or let her starve before he’d give her a crumb. Don’t it make you laugh?
It does me. And you should see ‘em swell round and air their troubles
when most everybody knows just what’s happened from the beginnin’! If it
was any of my business, I’d let out and tell ‘em so.

“What my John knows, I know; and what I know, he knows. There’s never
been a time, and there ain’t one now, when I’m beat out and my bones are
hangin’ stiff in me--and I get that way sometimes even now--that I don’t
go to John and say, ‘John, dear, get yer arms around me and hold me
tight, I’m that tired,’ and down goes everything, and he’s got my head
on his shoulder and pattin’ my cheeks, and up I get all made over new,
and him too. That’s the way we get on, and that’s the way they all ought
to get on if--”

She paused, stretching her neck as if for more air.

“God save me! Will ye hear me run on? And ye sittin’ there drinkin’ it
all in, not known’ a word about the women and carin’ less. Ye’ve got to
forgive me, for I’m like John’s alarm-clock in this wife business, and
when I’m wound up I keep strikin’ until I run down. Whew! What a heat I
got myself into! Now go on, Mr. O’Day. What’ll I pay him, and when’s he
comin?”

Felix waved his hand deprecatingly. “And so you never think, Mistress
Kitty, that it may be the woman’s fault?”

“Yes, sometimes it is. Faults on both sides, maybe. If it’s the woman’s
fault, it always begins when she lets her man do all the work. Look up
and down ‘The Avenue’ here! Every wife is helpin’ her husband in his
business, and every wife knows as much about it as the man does. That
ain’t the way up around Central Park. Half of ‘em ain’t out of bed till
purty nigh lunch-time. I’ve heard ‘em all talk; and worse yet, they
glory in it. What can ye expect when there ain’t five of ‘em to a block
who knows whether her husband has made a million in the past year or
whether he’s flat broke, except what he tells her? No wonder, when
trouble comes, they shift husbands as they do their petticoats, and try
it over again with a new one!”

“And if she takes this last plunge, when will she wake up to her
mistake?” asked Felix, in a low voice.

“Oh, ye can’t always tell. It’ll generally run on for a while until
she starts up and stares about her like she’s been in a trance or a
nightmare, and then the dear God help her after that, for nobody else
can--nor will! That’s the worst of it--NOR WILL! John was readin’ out
to me the other night about the Red Cross Society for pickin’ up wounded
off the battle-field, and carryin’ them in where they can be patched up
again and join their companies when they get well. Why don’t they have a
Red Cross for some of the poor girls and wives who are hurted--hundreds
of ‘em lyin’ all over the lot--and patch ‘em up and bring ‘em back to
their homes? Now I’m done.”

“No! Not yet. One more question. After the last nightmare, what?”

“The gutter--or worse--that’s what! And when it’s all over, most people
say: ‘Served her right--she had a happy home once, why didn’t she stay
in it?’ And somebody else says: ‘She was always wild and foolish--I knew
her as a girl.’ And some don’t say a blessed word because they couldn’t
dirty their clean lips with her name-the hypocrites!--and so they cart
off her poor body and dump it in a lot back of Calvary cemetery. Oh, I
know ‘em, and that’s what makes me get hot under the collar every time
I get talkin’ as I’ve been to-night!--And now let’s quit it. If yer
dead-beat wants a job, and we can keep him from stealin’ the tires
off the wagon and the shoes off my big Jim, he can come to work in the
mornin’, and John will pay him a dollar a day and he can sleep over the
stables. And if he’s decent, he can come in here once in a while and
I’ll warm him up with a cup of coffee. I’m glad to take him on just
because ye want it--and ye knew that before I said it, for there’s
nothin’ I wouldn’t do for ye, and ye know that, too. Listen! That’s John
drivin’ in, and I’m going out to meet him.”



Chapter XVII



To the fears already possessing Lady Barbara a new one had now been
added, freezing her blood and leaving her prostrate and helpless, like a
plant stricken by an icy blast.

There had been no sleep for her after Martha’s revelations regarding
the presence of Felix in town, and turn as she would on her pillow, she
could not escape the dread of one hideous possibility--her meeting him
face to face, uncovering to his penetrating gaze her shame.

That he had had any other purpose in pursuing her across the sea than to
humiliate and punish her, she did not believe. No man, certainly no
man as proud as her husband, would forgive a woman who had trailed his
ancestral name in the mud, and made his family life a byword in clubs
and drawing-rooms. That Martha believed he could still love her was
natural. Such good souls, women of the people, who had always led
restrained and wholesome lives, would believe nothing else, but not a
woman of her own class. She had only to recall a dozen instances where
the bonds of marriage had been broken, with all the attendant scandal
and misery, to be convinced of what would befall her were she and Felix
to meet.

Her one hope was that her husband, baffled in his search, had left the
city, and that neither Martha nor Stephen would ever see him again.
Their inability to find him of late might mean that he had given up the
search, having found no trace of her during all the months in which
he had been trying to find her. Or it might mean that he, too, had
succumbed to the same poverty which she had endured and, being no longer
able to maintain himself in the great city, had sought work elsewhere.

As the thought of this last possibility suddenly took possession of her,
her heart gave a great bound of relief, and in the quiet that ensued,
a certain tenderness for the man whom she had wronged began to well up
within her. She recalled their early life and his unfailing generosity.
Never in all the years she had known him had he refused her the
slightest thing which could, in any way, add to her happiness. Indeed,
he had often denied himself many of the luxuries to which a man of his
tastes and training was entitled, in order to add to her store. Nor had
he ever restrained her in her whims or her extravagance, and never, in
any way, had he curtailed her freedom. She had been free to come and
free to go, and with whom she pleased. Her intimacy with Dalton had been
proof of all this, as well as her friendships with various men to whose
companionship many another husband might have objected. “All right,
Barbara,” was his invariable reply; “you will get over your youth one of
these days, and then you and I will settle down.”

Even when the financial crash had come, he had begged her to go with him
to Australia, where he had important family connections, and where he
could build up his fortunes anew. It was by no means certain, he had
told her, that he was entirely ruined. His father’s estate, when all the
debts were paid, might still leave a surplus. There was some land just
outside of London, too, on the line of suburban improvement, and this,
with the title which had come to him with his father’s death, would
doubtless, after a few years, enable them to return to England and
resume their former position. She remembered very well the night he had
pleaded with her, and she remembered, too, with a gripping at her heart,
her own contemptuous answer, and her departure the next morning for her
father’s roof. And then the lie she had told!--that Felix had bluntly
announced to her his plan for raising sheep in Australia, ordering her
to get ready to go with him at once.

She recalled, too, this time with burning cheeks, a certain unsigned
letter, in an unknown hand, which had reached her after her flight with
Dalton, describing her husband as stunned and dazed by the blow,
the writer denouncing her for her desertion, and warning her of the
retribution in store for her if she remained with a man like the one
on whom she had staked her future happiness. She had laughed at its
contents and tossed it across the table to Dalton, who had read it with
a smile, caught it between a pair of tongs and, lighting a match, held
it over the flame until it was consumed.

Then--as, tortured by these recollections, she lay staring at the
dark--Martha’s prediction, based on Stephen’s, belief, that Felix would
kill Dalton at sight, rose up in her mind, and with it came another
great fear--one that, for a moment, stopped her heart from beating and
left her numb. In the quick succession of blows that Martha had dealt,
she had not fully grasped this part of the story. Now she did. That her
husband was capable of it she fully believed. Quiet, reticent men like
Felix--men who had served their country both in India and Egypt--men who
never boasted, who never discussed their intentions or plans until they
were carried out, were the men to take the law into their own hands when
their honor was involved, no matter who was hurt. Such a catastrophe
would not only bring to light her own misery, but the unavoidable
publicity would tarnish still further the good name of her people at
home. Even were only an attempt on Dalton’s life made, and an official
investigation held--as she was convinced would be the case--the scandal
would be almost as bad. Rather than have this occur she would make
any sacrifice, even that of humiliating herself on her knees before
Felix--begging his forgiveness, not for the sake of the man she now
feared and detested, but for the sake of her father at home, and to
shield her own identity. She feared, too, for Felix. He, of all men,
should be saved from committing such an act.

With this a sudden resolve born of her fears and shattered nerves took
possession of her. She would not only see her husband whenever he
came, but she would send word in the morning to Stephen to redouble his
search, leaving no stone unturned until he was found.

Nothing of all this did she say to Martha, who helped her dress,
watching the dark circles beneath the eyes. Breakfast over, she silently
took her seat by the window, drew from the big paper box at her feet her
several pieces of lace, including the mantilla, and began to work.

As she held up to the light the ragged tear in the Spanish lace, and
noted the width and length of the gash in its delicate texture, her
heart sank. She saw at a glance that she could not finish it before
closing time, even if she devoted the whole day to its repair. Better
complete, thought she, the other and smaller pieces--one a fichu of
Brussels lace, and the others some embroidered handkerchiefs on which
she was to place monograms. These she would finish and take to Mangan.
When he saw how tired she was, he would accept her excuses and give her
another day for the large and more important piece. She did not have to
leave the house until four o’clock, and as Martha was to be out most of
the day, she could work on without distraction of any kind.

When, at noon, Martha left her, with a caressing pat of the hand,
promising to be back in time for supper, the anxious, weary woman picked
up her needle again, her fingers darting in and out like shuttles, her
shoulders aching with the strain, her mind still intent on the problems
which had tortured her all night, and only rousing herself when the
clock in a neighboring tower struck four. Then she gathered up her work,
wrapped the whole in the same sheet of tissue-paper in which the several
pieces had been packed, and, adjusting her hat and cloak, started for
Rosenthal’s.

Mangan, who was in charge of the department, had been waiting for her
in a small room off the repair shop, and as he caught sight of her frail
figure making her way toward him, rose to greet her. “Well, I’m glad
you’ve come,” he began, as she reached his desk. “Brought that Spanish
piece, didn’t you? Ought to have had it last night.”

She tried to smile, but his face was too forbidding. “No, I am sorry to
say that--”

“You didn’t! What have you done with it?”

“I could not finish it. I have brought everything else. I will have it
for you in the morning.”

Mangan looked at her curiously, a smirk of suspicion crossing his narrow
fox face. “Oh! You’ll bring it to-morrow, will you?” he sneered. “Well,
do you know that to-morrow’s New Year’s Eve and that this mantilla’s
got to be delivered to-night? They have been telephoning all day for it.
To-morrow, eh? Well, don’t that make you tired! It does me.”

An indignant protest quivered through her, but she dared not show
resentment. Only within the last few months had she been subjected to
these insults, and only her helplessness had compelled her to bear them.

“I am very sorry,” she answered simply, and with a certain dignity. “I
have not been very well. I have done all I could. The damage was greater
than I expected. Some of the threads must be entirely restored.”

“What time to-morrow?” Every kind of excuse known to the shop-worker
had been poured into his ears. Very few of them contained a particle of
truth.

“Before noon, if I can; certainly by four o’clock.”

“Four o’clock?” he roared. He had already made up his mind that she was
lying, but there was no use in his telling her so, nor would any time
be gained by taking the work from her and handing it over to another
employee.

“Four means eight, I guess. What’s the matter with ten o’clock? I got
to have that sure, and no monkeying. Can’t you brace up and jam it
through?”

“I will try.” Her cheeks were burning under the sting of his coarse
lashes.

“Try! You bet you’ll try! Better get home right away. Give me that
bundle--I’ll have it checked up, so you won’t lose no time.”

She bit her lip, her whole nature in revolt, but she made no reply. Too
much was at stake for her to show anger at such coarseness. She had no
rights that he was bound to respect. She was only one of his work-girls,
and her short experience had shown her that but few of her associates
received better treatment from him.

“Thank you,” was all she said as, with downcast eyes, she picked her way
through the crowded workroom, down the long, steep staircase reserved
for employees and so on to the street. There she caught a Third Avenue
car and sank into a seat near the door, encroaching upon her small
reserve of pennies to reach home the sooner. She saw but too clearly
that not only did her present position depend on her returning the
mantilla at the earliest possible moment, but that, exhausted as she
was, she must utilize the few remaining minutes of daylight as well as
the earlier hours of the morning to keep her promise. To work long
at night she knew was impossible. She had not the eyes to follow the
intricacies of the meshes with no other light than that afforded by
Martha’s kerosene lamp. She had tried it before, and had been forced to
stop.

When she reached the cross street leading to Martha’s door, she hurried
from the car, caught her skirts in her hand, a habit of hers when
nervously hurried, and, summoning up all her strength, sped on, mounting
the narrow, rickety steps with but a pause for breath on the last
landing. Once there, she took her latch-key from her pocket and unlocked
the door, leaving it on the jar, as she knew Martha might come in at any
moment.

As she entered the humble apartment, its restful seclusion, after her
experience with Mangan, sent a thrill of thankfulness through her. One
after another the several objects passed in review--the kettle singing
on the stove, its ample bed of coals warming the room; her own tiny
chamber, leading out of the one large room, with its small iron bedstead
and white cotton quilt; the table with its lamp; the pine shelves with
the few pieces of china, and even the big paper box in which her work
was delivered and later returned to the shop, either by wagon or special
messenger, and which Martha, before she had gone out, had placed on a
chair near the door to keep it out of the dust. All told her of peace
and warmth and comfort.

She lighted the lamp, picked up the box containing the mantilla,
and half raised the lid, intending to place the contents on her
sewing-table, but, catching sight of the kettle again, she let the box
lid drop from her hands. She was chilled from the ride in the car, the
water was boiling, and it would take but a minute to make herself a cup
of tea. This would give her renewed strength for her task. Hardly had
she drained her cup when she became conscious of a step on the stairs--a
steady, firm step. Not Martha’s nor that of the boy. Nor that of the
expressman who often sought Martha’s apartment.

As it approached the landing, a sickening faintness assailed her.

She had heard that step before.

It was Felix!

Her hour of trial had come!

He would find the door ajar, stride into the room with that quiet,
self-contained manner of his; and she must face him and stand ashamed!

For a brief instant she wavered, her resolution of the morning, to throw
herself at his feet, put to flight by a sense of some impending terror.
Should she spring forward and shut the door before he reached it,
refusing to admit him until Martha came, or should she creep noiselessly
into her room and lock herself in, remaining silent until he should
leave the premises, believing no one at home? While she stood, half
paralyzed with fear, the door moved gently, almost stealthily, swinging
back half its width, and a man in cape-coat, and slouch hat drawn dose
over his eyes, stepped into the room.

Lady Barbara gave a piercing shriek, sprang from her seat, and staggered
back, grasping a chair to keep her from falling. “How dare you, Guy
Dalton, to--”

The intruder loosened the top button of his cape, watching, meanwhile,
the terrified woman, and, with a sneer, said: “Oh, stop that, will you?
I’ve had enough of it. You thought you could get away, did you? Well,
you can’t, and the sooner you find that out the better for you.” He
glanced coolly around the room. “So this is where you are, is it?--a
rotten hole, anyhow. You might better have stayed where you were. Does
Rosenthal pay you enough to keep this up, or is somebody else footing
the bills? Now, you get your things on and be quick about it.”

She had been edging toward her bedroom door all this time, her eyes
glaring into his with the fierceness of a cornered animal, muttering
as she stepped--one word at a time:

“You--have--no--right--to--come--in--here.”

“I haven’t, haven’t I? I’d like to know who has a better right?” he
returned angrily.

“No, you have not.” She was moving an inch at a time, keeping a chair
between herself and Dalton, her eyes watching his every expression, her
right hand stretched along the wall.

“Still at it, are you? Well, get through, and hurry up. I’ll go where I
please, and you’ll come when I want you. Everybody is inquiring for you
down at the house, and I promised them you would be back to-night, and
you will. You were a fool to leave. It’s a lot better than this. From
what I heard last night, from one of Rosenthal’s girls, I thought you
had moved into something palatial.”

She had reached the bedroom door now, and her hand was on the knob.

“Yes--that’s right,” he said, mistaking her purpose, “get into your
wraps, and--”

The door closed with a sudden bang, and the inside bolt was pushed
tight.

Dalton stood with his hands in his pockets. “Oh, that’s the game, is
it?” he called, in a loud voice. He saw he had been outwitted, and an
oath escaped him. He saw, too, that the door was a heavy one, and the
effort to force it might bring in the neighbors. “Well, there’s no
hurry. I can wait,” he added savagely, “but if you know what’s good for
you, you’ll come out now.”

She had sunk down on her bed, hardly daring to breathe. Her only hope
now lay in Martha, and she might not come back for an hour.

Dalton sauntered away from the door and began an inspection of the room.
The box on the chair came first. He lifted the lid and drew out the
mantilla. “Rather good, this--wonder how she got hold of it--Oh, yes, I
see, she must be repairing it. There are her work-basket and the spools
of black silk.”

He turned to the box again and read the name of “Rosenthal” stencilled
on the bottom. “So that is what she is doing--they did not tell me what
she worked at.” He spread out the mantilla again and looked it over
carefully. Then a smile of cunning crossed his face. “Just what I want,”
 he said, folding it up and tucking it inside his capacious cape.

He now made a tour of the room, his tread like that of a cat, lifted the
plates on the dresser as if in search of something behind them, rummaged
through the work-basket, opening and turning the leaves of a book lying
on the table. So occupied was he that he did not hear Martha’s noiseless
step nor know that she had entered the room.

For a moment she stood watching his every movement. The man she saw was
well-knit and rather handsome, not much over thirty, with clean-shaven
face, drooping eyelids, and a hard-set lower jaw. She had a suspicion
that it might be Dalton, but was not sure, never having seen him but
once, when he was much younger.

“Who do you want to see?” she asked at last, in a firm voice.

Dalton wheeled sharply, and took her in with one comprehensive glance.
He had always prided himself on never having been outwitted or taken
unawares, and that Lady Barbara could lock herself in her room, and that
this woman could creep up behind him unobserved, rather nettled him.

“I don’t know that it is any of your business, my good woman,”
 he answered, his insolence increasing as he noticed how mild and
inoffensive she appeared to be; “but if it makes any difference to you,
I will tell you that I am waiting for my wife.”

“Where is she?” Martha’s voice was clear and incisive, with a ring of
determination through it that, for the moment, disconcerted him.

Dalton pointed to the bedroom door.

Martha stepped across the room and tried the knob. “Open the door, Lady
Barbara. It’s Martha. Who is this man?”

The bolt shot back and Barbara’s frightened face peered out. “Oh, thank
God you have come!” she moaned, her teeth chattering. “It is Mr. Dalton.
I ordered him from the room, and he would not go, and--”

“Oh, it’s Mr. Guy Dalton, is it?” Martha cried, facing him. “The man
who’s been a curse to you ever since you met him. I know every crook and
turn of you--you ought to be ashamed of yourself to treat a woman as you
have treated Lady Barbara O’Day. Now, sir, this is my room and you can’t
stay in it a minute longer. There’s the door!”

Dalton laughed a dry, crackling laugh. “You are a regular virago, are
you not, my dear woman?” he said. “Quite refreshing to hear your defense
of a woman on whom I have spent every shilling I had. Now, do not get
excited--cool down a bit, and we will talk it over--and while we are at
it, please make me a cup of tea. It is about my hour. When my wife comes
to her senses, as she will in a minute, she will get over her tantrums
and think better of it.”

Martha strode straight toward him until her capacious body was within a
few inches of his shirt-front, her hands tightly clinched. “Don’t make
any mistake, Mr. Dalton. Your airs won’t go here. My brother Stephen
looks after me and after Lady O’Day, and he and another man you wouldn’t
care to meet are looking after you.”

She called to her mistress: “Lock and bolt that door on you, and don’t
open it until I tell you.”

Again she confronted Dalton, her contempt for him increasing as she
caught the wave of anxiety that swept his face at her reference to the
men who would help her. “Now, you can have just one minute to leave this
room, Mr. Dalton,” she cried, throwing back the door. “If you’re over
that time, the policeman on the block will help you down-stairs.”

Dalton hesitated. The allusion to Stephen, whoever he might be, and to
the other man, disturbed him. That the woman knew more of his history
than she was willing at that time to tell was evident. That she was
entirely in earnest, and meant what she said, and that it would be more
than dangerous for him to defy her, should she appeal to the police for
help, were equally evident.

“Of course, my dear woman,” he said, with assumed humility, his eyes
glistening with anger, “if you do not want me to stay, I suppose I shall
have to go. I did not come to make any fuss; I only came to take my wife
home where I can take care of her. She seems to think she can get along
without me. All right--I am willing she should try it for a while. She
has my address, which is more than I had when she left me without a word
of any kind.”

He slid his hand under his cape to assure himself that the mantilla
was safe and out of sight, picked up his hat, and stepped jauntily out,
saying as he went down the staircase: “Next time, she will come to me.
Do you hear? Tell her so, will you?”



Chapter XVIII



Sometimes on life’s highway we meet a man who reminds us of one of those
high-priced pears seen in fruiterers’ windows: wholesome, good to look
at, without a speck or stain on their smooth, round, rosy skins--until
we bite into them. Then, close to their hearts, we uncover a greedy,
conscienceless worm, gnawing away in the dark--and consign the whole to
the waste-barrel.

Dalton, despite his alluring exterior, had been rotten at heart from the
time he was sixteen years of age, when he had lied to his father about
his school remittances, which the old man had duplicated at once.

That none of his associates had discovered this was owing to the fact
that no one had probed deeper than the skin of his attractiveness--and
with good reason: it was clean, good to look at, bright in color, a most
welcome addition to any dinner-table. But when the drop came--and
very few fruits can stand being bumped on the sidewalk--the revelation
followed all the quicker, simply because bruised fruit rots in a day, as
even the least qualified among us can tell.

And the bruises showed clearer as time went on. The lines in his once
well-rounded, almost boyish face grew deeper and more strongly marked,
the eyes shrank far back beneath the brows, the lips became thinner and
less mobile, the hair was streaked with gray, and the feet lacked their
old-time spring.

With these there had come other changes. The smile which had won many a
woman was replaced by a self-conscious smirk; the debonair manner which
had charmed all who met him was now a mere bravado. His dress, too,
showed the strain. While his collar and neckwear were properly looked
after, and his face was clean-shaven, other parts of his make-up,
especially his shoes and hat, were much the worse for wear.

This, then, was the man who, with thoughts intent on his last and
most degrading makeshift, was forging his way up Second Avenue, the
mantilla--the veriest film of old Salamanca lace--pressed into a small
wad and stuffed in his inside pocket.


And now, while we follow him on his way up-town, it may be just as well
for us to note that up to this precise moment our devil-may-care, still
rather handsome Mr. Dalton, with the drooping eyelids and cold, hard
lips, had entirely failed to grasp the idea that, in so far as public
and private morals were concerned, he had in the last thirty minutes
fallen to the level of a common sneak-thief.

His own reasoning, in disproof of this theory, was entirely
characteristic of the man. While the pawning of one’s things was of
course unfortunate and might occasion many misunderstandings and
much obloquy, such an act was not necessarily dishonest, because many
gentlemen, some of high social position, had been compelled to do the
same thing. He himself, yielding to force of circumstances, had already
pawned a good many things--his wife’s first, and then his own--and would
do it again under similar conditions. That the article carefully hidden
in his pocket belonged to neither one of them, did not strike him as
altering the situation in the slightest. The mantilla was of no value to
him, nor, for that matter, to Lady Barbara. He would pawn it not alone
for the sake of the money it would bring him, to tide him over his
troubles until he could recover his losses--only a question of days,
perhaps hours--but because, by means of the transaction, he would be
enabled to restore harmony to a home which, through the obstinacy of a
woman on whom he had squandered every penny he possessed in the world,
had been temporarily broken up.

Should she rebel and refuse to join him--and she unquestionably had that
right--he would carry out a plan which had come to him in a flash when
he first picked it up. He would pawn it for what it would bring and,
watching his chance some day when Lady Barbara was out at work, force
his way into the apartment, slip the pawn-ticket where it could easily
be found--behind the china or in among her sewing materials--and with
that as proof, charge her with having stolen the lace, threatening her
with exposure unless she yielded. If she relented, he would destroy the
ticket and let the matter drop; if she continued obstinate, he would
charge her companion with being an accessory. The woman was evidently
befriending Lady Barbara for what she could get out of her. Neither
of them was seeking trouble. Between the two he could accomplish his
purpose.

What would happen in the meanwhile, when she tried to account for its
loss to Rosenthal, never caused him the slightest concern. She, of
course, could concoct some story which they would finally believe. If
not, they could deduct the value of the lace from her earnings.

He had the best of motives for his action. Their board bill was overdue.
He was harassed by the want of even the small sums of money needed for
car-fare, and of late it had become very evident that if they were to
keep their present quarters--and he was afraid to try for any others--he
must yield at once to the proprietor’s pressing suggestion to “patch
up his differences with his wife,” and have her come home and once more
take charge of the suite of rooms; the owner arguing that as Mr. and
Mrs. Stanton were known to be “family people,” a profitable little game
free from police interruption might be carried on, the surplus to be
divided between the “house and Mrs. Stanton’s husband.”

That she should decline again to be party to any such plan seemed to
him altogether improbable, since all she had to do to insure them
both comfort was to return home like a sensible woman, put on the best
clothes she possessed--the more attractive the better, and she certainly
was fetching in that wrapper--and be reasonably polite to such of his
friends as chose to drop in evenings for a quiet game of cards.

Moreover, she owed him something. He had made every sacrifice for her,
shared with her his every shilling, making himself an exile, if not a
fugitive, for her sake, and it was time she recognized it.

With the recall of these incidents in his checkered career a new thought
blazed up in his mind--rather a blinding thought. As its rays brightened
he halted in his course, and stood gazing across the street as if
uncertain as to his next move. Perhaps, after all, it would be best NOT
to pawn the mantilla. An outright sale would be much better. If this
were impossible, it would be just as well to destroy the ticket and
postpone his scheme for regaining possession of her person. While
something certainly was due him--and she of all women in the world
should supply it--forcing her to carry out the landlord’s plan, now that
he thought it over, might result in a certain kind of publicity,
which, if his own antecedents were looked into, would be particularly
embarrassing. She might--and here a slight shiver passed through
him--she might, in her obstinacy, threaten him with the forged
certificates, a result hardly possible, for no letters of any kind had
reached her, none so far as he knew; neither had he ever discussed the
incident with her, for the simple reason that women, as a rule, never
understood such things. And yet how could he, as a financier, have tided
over an accounting which, if allowed to go on, would have wiped out the
savings of hundreds who had trusted him and whom he could not desert in
their hour of need, except by some such desperate means? Of course,
if he had to do it all over again, he would never have locked up the
stock-book in his own safe. That was a mistake. He ought to have left it
with the treasurer. Then he could have shifted the responsibility.

Just here, oddly enough, he began to think of Felix--that cold-blooded,
unimaginative man, who knew absolutely nothing about how to treat a
woman, and, for that matter, knew nothing about anything else in so far
as the practical side of life was concerned. The fool--here his brow
knit--had not only broken up the final deal, in which everything had
been fixed with Mullhallsen, the German banker, for an additional loan,
but he had unearthed and compared certain certificates, in his fight to
protect an obstinate old father. Worse still, he had taken himself
off to Australia to starve, instead of saving what he could out of the
wreck. Had he only listened to advice, the whole catastrophe might have
been averted.

And this fool would have ruined his wife as well, had not
he--Dalton--stepped in and saved her from burying herself in the
wilderness.

As the memory of the scene with Felix when the stock-book was unearthed
passed through his mind, his hand instinctively sought the bulge in his
coat-pocket. He must get rid of it and at once. Just as the certificates
had proved to be dangerous, so might this lace.

With this idea of his own peril possessing his mind his whole manner
changed. The air of triumph shown in his step and bearing when he left
Marta’s door, due to his discovery of the fugitive and the terror his
presence had inspired, was gone. The old spectre always pursuing him
stepped again to his side and linked arms. His slinking, furtive air
returned, and a certain well-defined fear, as if he dreaded being
followed, showed itself in every glance.

Suddenly he caught sight of a well-patronized retreat, owned and
operated by a Mrs. Blobbs, the Polish wife of an English cheap John, and
with a quick sliding movement, he paused in front of the narrow door. He
had already taken in, from under his hat, the single gas-jet lighting
up its collection of pinchbeck jewelry, watches, revolvers, satin shoes,
fans, and other belongings of the unfortunate, and after peering up and
down the street, he slipped in noiselessly, his countenance wearing
that peculiar, shame-faced expression common to gentlemen on similar
missions. That it was not his first experience could be seen from the
way he leaned far over the counter, dropped the filmy wad, and then
straightened back--the gesture meaning that if any other customer
should come in while his negotiations were in progress, he was not to be
connected in any way with the article.

“Something rather good,” he said, pointing to the black roll.

The proprietress, a square-built woman, solid as a sack of salt, her
waist-line marked by a string tightened just above a black alpaca apron,
her dried-apple face surmounted by a dingy lace cap topped with a soiled
red ribbon, eyed him cautiously, and remarked, after loosening out
the mantilla: “Dem teater gurls only vant such tings, and dey can pay
nuddin’. No, I vouldn’t even gif fife tollars. Petter dake it somevares
else.”

Dalton hesitated, turning the matter over in his mind. The transfer
would bring him the desired pawn-ticket, but the five dollars was not
sufficient to help him tide over the most pressing of his difficulties.
He had borrowed double that sum two nights before, from the barkeeper
of a pool-room where he occasionally played, and he dared not repeat his
visit until he could carry him the money.

The male Blobbs, the taller and more rotund of the two
shopkeepers--especially about the middle--now strolled in, leaned over
the counter, and picking up the lace, held it to the overhead light.
Looked at from behind, Blobbs was all shirt-sleeves and waist-coat, the
back of his flat head resting like a lid on his shoulders. Looked at
from the front, Blobbs developed into a person with shoe-brush whiskers
bristling against two yellow cheeks, the features being the five dots
a child always insists upon when drawing a face. Dalton saw at a glance
that it was Mrs. Blobbs, and not Mr. Blobbs, who was in charge of
the shop, and that any discussions with him as to the price would be
useless.

“You’re an Hinglishnan, I take it,” came from the lowest dot of the
five, a blurred and uncertain mouth.

Dalton colored slightly and nodded.

“Well, what I should adwise ye to do is to take this ‘ere lace to some
of them hold furnitoor shops. I know what this is. I ‘ate to see a chap
like ye put to it like this, that’s why I tell ye. ‘Ard on your woman,
but--there’s a shop hup on Fourth Avenue where they buy such things. A
Dutchman by the name of Kling, right on the corner--you can’t miss it.
Take it hup to ‘im and tell ‘im I sent ye--we often ‘elps one another.”

Dalton crumpled up the black wad, slid the package under his coat, and
without a word of thanks left the shop.

This was not the first time Blobbs had sent Kling a customer.
Indeed, there had always been more or less of a trade between the two
establishments. For, while Mrs. Blobbs had a license and could advance
money at reasonable rates, her principal business was in old-clothes
and ready-to-wear finery. Being near “The Avenue” and well known to its
denizens, many of their outgrown and out-of-fashion garments had passed
across her counter. Here the young man who pounded away on Masie’s
piano, the night of her birthday party, borrowed, for a trifle, his
evening suit. Here Codman had exchanged a three-year-old overcoat,
which refused to be buttoned across his constantly increasing girth,
for enough money to pay for the velvet cuffs and collar of the new one
purchased on Sixth Avenue. Here Mrs. Codman bought remnants of finery
with which to adorn her young daughter’s skirts when she went to the
ball given by the Washington chowder party. Here, too, was where the
undertaker sold the clothes of the man who stepped off a ten-story
building in the morning and was laid out that same night in Digwell’s
back room, his friends depositing a fresh suit for him to be buried in,
telling the undertaker to do with the old one as he pleased. And to this
old-clothes shop flocked many another denizen of side streets, who at
one time or another had reached crises in their careers which nothing
else could relieve.

Mrs. Blobbs’s curt refusal to receive the lace only added fuel to the
blazing thought that had flared up in Dalton’s mind when he recalled the
certificates. Holding on to them had caused one explosion. The mantilla
might prove another such bomb. He dared not leave it at home and he
could not carry it for an indefinite time on his person. If the man
Kling would pay any decent price for it, he could have it and welcome.

With the grim spectre still linking arms with him he hurried on, making
short-cuts across the streets, until he arrived at Kling’s corner. At
this point he paused. His terror must not betray him. Shaking himself
free of the spectre, he assumed his one-time nonchalant air, entered the
store and walked down the middle aisle, between the lines of sideboards,
bureaus and high desks drawn up in dress parade. Over the barricade of
the small office he caught the shine of Otto’s bald head, the only other
live occupant, except Fudge, who had crept out from behind a bureau, and
bounded back with a growl. Fudge had sniffed around the legs of a good
many people, and might have written their biographies, but Dalton was
new to him. Few thieves had ever entered Kling’s doors.

“I have just left your old friends, Mr. and Mrs. Blobbs,” he began
gayly, “who have advised me to bring to you rather a rare piece of lace
belonging to my wife. Fine, isn’t it?” He loosened the bundle and shook
out the folds of the mantilla.

Otto put on his glasses, felt the texture of the piece between his
fingers, and spread out the pattern for closer examination. “Yes, dot’s
a good piece of lace. Vot you vant to do vid it? Dere’s a hole in it,
you see,” and he thrust a pudgy finger into the gash.

“Yes, I know,” returned Dalton, who, with his eye still on the dog, had
been crushing it together so that the tear might not show; “but that is
easily remedied. I want to sell it. Mr. Blobbs tells me it is worth a
hundred dollars.”

“Is dot so? Vell--vell--a hundred tollars! Dot’s a good deal of money.”
 He had begun to wrap it up, tucking in the ends. “No--dot Fudge dog
don’t bite--go away, you. T’ank you for lettin’ me see it, tell Mr.
Blobbs, but I don’t vant it at dot price. And I doan know I vant it at
any price. Dey doan buy dem t’ings any more.”

Dalton saw that the mantilla had favorably impressed the dealer. He had
caught the look of pleasure when the lace was first unrolled, reading
the man’s brain as he had often read the brains of the men at home who
listened to some rose-colored prospectus. These experiences had taught
him that there was always a supreme moment when one must stop praising
an article for sale, whether it were a rubber concession from an African
chief or a pound of tea over a grocer’s counter. This moment had arrived
with Kling.

“I agree with you,” he said smilingly. “The valuation was Mr. Blobbs’s,
not mine. I told him I should be glad to get half that amount--or even
less.”

Otto took the bundle and loosened the roll again. “I got a little girl,
Beesving--dot was her dog make such foolishness--who likes dese t’ings.
But dot is not business, for I doan sell it again once I gif it to her.
I joost put it around her shoulders for a New Year’s gift. Maybe if
you--” He re-examined it closely, especially the tear, which had partly
yielded to Lady Barbara’s deft fingers and tired eyes. “Vell, I tell you
vot I do, I gif you tventy tollars.”

“That, I am afraid, will not answer my purpose,” said Dalton. “Perhaps,
however, you will loan me thirty dollars on it and hold the lace for a
week or so, and I will pay you back thirty-five when some money that is
due me comes in?”

Otto looked at him from under his bushy eyebrows. “Ve don’t do dot kind
of business. If I buy--I buy. If I sell--I sell. Sometimes I pay more as
a t’ing is vorth. Sometimes I pay less. I have a expert vid me who knows
vat dis is vorth, but he is busy vid a customer on de next floor, and I
doan sent for him. If you vant de tventy tollars you can have it. If you
doan, den take avay de lace. I got a lot of t’ings to do more as to talk
about it. Ven you see Blobbs, you tell him vat I say.”

Dalton’s mind worked rapidly. To take the money would clean off his debt
and leave him a margin which he might treble before midnight.

“Give me the money,” he said. “It is not one-third of its value, but I
see that it is all I can do.”

Otto smiled--the smile of a man who had hit the thing at which he
aimed--felt in his inside pocket, drew out a great flat pocketbook, and
counted out the bills.

Dalton swept them up as a winner at baccarat sweeps up his coin,
apparently without counting them, stuffed the crumpled bank-notes into
his pocket, and started for the door.

Half-way down the long shop he halted opposite a sideboard laden with
old silver and glass and, to show that he was not in a hurry, paused for
an instant, picking up a cut-glass decanter with a silver top, remarking
casually, as he laid it back, “Like one I have at home,” continuing
his inspection by holding aloft a pipe-stem glass, to see the color the
better.

As he resumed his walk to the door, Felix, with Masie and a customer
ahead of him, was just descending the rear stairs from the “banquet
hall” above. He thus had a full view of the store below. Something in
the way with which the bubble-blown glass was handled attracted O’Day’s
attention. He had seen a wrist with a movement like that, the poised
glass firmly held in an outstretched hand. Where, he could not tell; at
his own table, perhaps, or possibly at a club dinner. He remembered
the quick, upward toss, the slender receptacle held high. He leaned far
forward, and watched the nervous step and halting gait. Had Masie and
the customer not been ahead of him, he would have hurried past them
and called to the man to stop--not an unusual thing with him when his
suspicions were aroused. Instead, he waited until he was well down the
stairs, then strolled carelessly toward the door, intending to make some
excuse to accost the man on the sidewalk. Not that he had any definite
conviction regarding his likeness to the man he wanted; more to satisfy
his conscience that he had permitted no clew to slip past him.

What made him hesitate was the way the slouch-hat shaded the intruder’s
face, the gas-jets not revealing the features. Only the end of the chin
was visible, and the round of the lower cheek showing above the heavy
cape-collar of the overcoat.

Dalton by this time had reached the street-door, which he closed gently
behind him, holding it for an instant to prevent its making a noise.
Felix lunged forward, reopened it quickly, and gazed out into the night.
Dalton had vanished as completely as if the earth had swallowed him.

Another man, who had kept his eyes on O’Day as he peered into the dark,
an undersized, gaunt-looking man, sidled toward Felix and pulled at his
coat sleeve. “I ain’t too early, am I? You said eight o’clock?”

Felix looked at him keenly. “Oh, yes, I remember--no, you are all right.
How long have you been here?”

“About half an hour.”

“Did you notice which way that man went who has just shut the door?”

The tramp looked about him in a helpless way. “I wasn’t lookin’. I was
a-watchin’ you--waitin’ for you to come out--but I got on to him when he
went in awhile ago.”

“Then you have seen him before?”

“Of course I’ve seen him before. He plays pool where I’ve been
a-workin’.”

Felix bent closer. “Do you know his name?”

“Sure! His name’s Stanton. He’s been puttin’ sompin’ to soak, I guess. I
heard last week he was up against it. Do you know him?”

Felix remained silent a moment, checking his own disappointment, and
then answered slowly: “I thought I did, but I see I am mistaken. Come
inside the store where it is warmer. I have secured you a job, and will
take you with me when I have finished here.”



Chapter XIX



Had a spark of human feeling been left in Dalton’s body, it would have
been kindled into a flame of sympathy, could he have seen Lady Barbara
when she opened the box early next morning, and stood trembling over the
loss of the mantilla.

Her first hope was that she had inadvertently taken it to Rosenthal’s
with the other pieces of lace, and that Mangan had found it when he
checked up her work. Then a cold chill ran through her, her anxiety
increasing every moment. Had she dropped it in the street? Had the woman
who jostled her on the way up the long staircase to the workroom, picked
up her package when she stumbled? Perhaps some one had crept in during
the night and, finding the box near the door, had caught up the mantilla
and escaped without being detected? Could she herself have dragged it
into her bedroom, entangled in the folds of her skirt? Was it not near
the window, or in her basket, or behind the door, or--

Martha, with a shake of her head, put all these theories to flight.

“No, it isn’t in your room at all, and it isn’t anywhere else around
here; and nobody’s been in here from the outside; and they couldn’t get
in if they tried, for I bolted the door when we went to bed. The only
person who has had the run of the place is Mr. Dalton, and he--”

“Martha!”

“Well, I wasn’t here when he first came, but when I opened the door he
was peeking behind the china.”

“But I had not been inside my room a minute before I heard your voice.
How could he have taken it? You don’t think--”

“I don’t say what I think, because I don’t know, but he’s mean enough
to do anything he could to hurt you. How long had he been talking to you
when I came in?”

“Just long enough for me to run past him and lock myself in.”

“And how long do you think it would take him to steal it, if he thought
nobody was looking?”

“But he could not have stolen it, Martha; he was on the other side of
the room. The box is by the door where I left it; you can see it for
yourself. Oh what shall I do? Where could I have dropped it? It must be
at the store in that bundle. Mr. Mangan said I need not wait, and I did
not see him open it. He has found it by this time and he is waiting for
me. I will go right away and see him. Anybody could make a mistake like
that. He must--he WILL understand when I explain it all. Get my cloak
and hat, please, Martha. I will take the car up and back, and you can
have my coffee ready for me upon my return. I won’t be half an hour. Oh!
how awful it is, how awful! If I had only found it out last night! I had
meant to work, but I could not after what happened. Mr. Mangan was very
much put out yesterday, and I know he will be furious to-day. No, you
need not come with me,” and she was gone.

Martha closed the door, walked to the window, and stood looking through
the panes until the slight figure had reached the street, where she
caught up her skirt, to free her steps the better, and started on a run
for the car line. When the fragile form was lost in the whirl of the
traffic, Martha walked slowly to the table and sank into a chair, her
elbows resting on its top, her face in her hand.

The next instant she was on her feet examining Lady Barbara’s
work-basket, wondering what Dalton had found in it, wondering, too, why
he had looked through it. Crossing to the dresser, she moved the plates
and cups, as he had done, searching for a possible note, or perhaps for
a duplicate key of their former apartment which he might have left for
Barbara, and then moved toward the door of the smaller chamber, behind
which her mistress had lain shivering. Her eye now fell on the box, the
lid awry. She remembered that this lid had been in that same position
when she had ordered the intruder from the room, and that, at the time,
she had thought it strange that Lady Barbara, always so careful, had
not fastened it to keep the dust from its contents. Stooping closer,
she examined the various articles. She noted that one sleeve of the lace
blouse had been lifted from its place, while the other sleeve remained
snug where her mistress had tucked it. In pulling out one of the upper
pieces, this sleeve must have been caught in its meshes and dragged
clear. This could only have been done by the mantilla which, she
distinctly remembered, had been laid neatly on top the afternoon before,
so as to be ready for work in the morning.

“He’s got it,” she exclaimed in an excited tone, replacing the lid.
“I’ll stake my life he stole it, the dirty cur! He’s done it to get even
with her. She’ll be back in a little while, half distracted. There is
going to be trouble, plenty of it. I’ll have Stephen here right away,
and we’ll talk it over. I can take care of her when she’s inside these
rooms, but what if that man waylays her on the street and raises a row,
and she goes back to him to smooth over things? This has got to stop.
She won’t live the month out if he gets to hounding her again, and now
he’s found out where she is, I shan’t have a moment’s peace. What a
hang-dog face he’s got on him! And he’s a coward, too, or he wouldn’t
have slunk out when I ordered him. And he had it on him all the time! I
wonder what he’ll do with it. Hold it over her, I expect; maybe take it
to Rosenthal’s with some lie about her, so they will discharge her and
she come back to him.

“Maybe--” Here she stopped, and grew suddenly grave. “Maybe he’ll--No, I
don’t think he’d dare do that, but I’ve got to get Stephen, and I’ll go
for him this minute. Going’s quicker than a letter, and I’ll leave word
down-stairs where I’m gone, so she’ll know when she comes in, and I’ll
fix her coffee so she can get it.”

Hurrying into her own room, she began changing her dress, putting on her
shoes, taking her night cloak and big, flare bonnet from the hook behind
the door, talking to herself as she moved.

“It’s getting worse all the time, instead of getting better. God knows
what’s to become of her! She’s most beat out now, and can’t stand much
more; and she’s the best of the lot, except Mr. Felix, for she’s clean
inside of her, and only her heart is to blame--and that father of hers,
Lord Carnavon, with his dirty pride, and this scoundrel she’s wrecking
her life on, and all the fine ladies at home who turned up their noses
at her when half of them are twice as bad--oh, I know ‘em--you can’t
fool Martha Munger! I’ve been too long with ‘em. And this poor child
who--Oh! I tell you this is a bad business, and it’s getting worse--yes,
it’s getting worse. Rosenthal isn’t going to stand losing that piece of
lace, without its costing somebody some money. Stephen’s got to come and
be around evenings while I’m out. And I’ll go with her to Rosenthal’s
and fetch her back home, so that man Dalton can’t frighten the life out
of her.”

She put the coffee-pot where it would keep hot, and laid the cups and
saucers ready for her mistress. This done, she shut the door, and made
her way down-stairs. “Tell Mrs. Stanton when she comes in,” she said to
the old woman who acted as janitor, “that I’ve gone to see my brother,
and that I’ll be back just as soon as I can.”

All hopes which had cheered Lady Barbara on her way to Rosenthal’s, even
when she climbed the long stairs and was ushered into Mangan’s small
office, died out of her heart when she saw the manager’s face. She had
anticipated an outburst of anger, followed by a brutal tirade over
her carelessness in wrapping up the mantilla with the other pieces and
leaving it behind her the night before. Instead, he came forward to meet
her--his lean, nervous body twitching with expectation.

“Well, this is something like! Didn’t think you’d turn up for an hour.
Let’s have it.” This with a low chuckle--the nearest he ever got to a
laugh.

“Something dreadful has happened, Mr. Mangan,” she began, stumbling over
her words, her knees shaking under her. “I thought I had wrapped the
mantilla up with the pieces I brought you last night, but I see now
that--”

“You thought! Say, what are you giving me? Ain’t you got it?”

“I have not, and I don’t know what has become of it. It was not in the
box this morning, and--”

“IT WASN’T IN THE BOX THIS MORNING!” he roared. “See here, what kind of
a damn fool do you take me for?” He wheeled suddenly, caught her by the
wrist, dragged her clear of the door, and shut it behind her.

“Now, Mrs. Stanton,” he said, in cold, incisive tones, “let’s you and I
have this out, and I want to tell you right here that I believe you’re
lying, and I’ve been suspecting it for some time. Now, make a clean
breast of it. You’ve pawned it, haven’t you?”

“I--pawn it? You think I--I won’t allow you to speak to me in that way.
I--”

“Oh, cut that out, it won’t wash here. Now, listen! I’ve got to get that
mantilla, see? And I’m going to get it if I go through every pawn-shop
in town with a fine-tooth comb. I orter to have had better sense than
to let you take it out of the shop. Now open up, and I’ll help you
straighten out things. Where is it? Come, now--no side-tracking.”

She had sunk down on the chair, her fingers tightly interlocked, his
words stunning her like blows. Their full meaning she missed in her
dazed condition. All she knew was that, in some way, she must defend
herself.

“Mr. Mangan, will you please listen to me? I have not pawned it, and I
would never dream of doing such a thing. I can only think that some one
has taken it from the box--I don’t know who. I came to you the moment
I discovered the loss. I thought perhaps I had wrapped it up with the
other pieces I brought you last night, or that I had dropped it in the
street on my way here. And, yet, none of these things seemed possible
when I began to think about it. I will do all I can to pay for it. You
can take its value from my work until it is all paid.”

Mangan, who had been pacing the floor, hearing nothing of her
explanation--his mind intent upon his next move--dragged a chair next to
hers.

“Now, pull yourself together for a minute, Mrs. Stanton. I’m not going
to be ugly. I’m going to make this just as easy as I can for you. You’ve
got a lot of common sense, and you’re some different from the women who
handle our stuff. I’ve seen that, and that’s why I’ve trusted you. Now,
think of me a little. That mantilla don’t belong to Rosenthal’s. It
belongs to a big customer who lives up near the Park, and who left it
here on condition we had it mended on time. It’s worth $250 if it’s
worth a cent, and it’s worth a lot more to me, because I lose my job if
I don’t get hold of it to-day. It’s a New Year’s present and has got
to be sent home to-night. Now, don’t that make things look a little
different to you? And now, one thing more, and I’m going to put it up to
you, just between ourselves, and nobody will get onto it--nobody around
here. If it’s a matter of ten or fifteen dollars, I’ve got the money
right here in my clothes. And you can slip out and I’ll keep close
behind, and you can go in and get it, and I’ll bring it back here, and
that’s all there will be to it. Now, be decent to me. I’ve been decent
to you ever since you come here. Ain’t that so?”

Lady Barbara had now begun to understand. This man was accusing her of
lying, if not of theft, while she sat powerless before him, incapable of
speech. Once, as the horror of his suspicion rose before her, she felt a
wild impulse to cry out, even to throw herself on his mercy--telling him
her story and Martha’s suspicions. Then the recollection of the cunning
of the man, his vulgarity, his insincerity, slowly steadied her. Her
secret must be kept, and she must not anger him further.

“Perhaps, Mr. Mangan, if you came with me to my rooms, and saw my old--”
 she paused, then added softly, “the old woman I live with, and I showed
you where the box is always kept and the way the door opens, perhaps you
could help us to find out how it could have happened.”

Mangan rose and pushed back his chair. “Well, you are the limit!” he
gritted between his teeth. “I guess I’m in for it. The old man will be
howling mad, and I don’t blame him.”

He walked to his desk, picked up his telephone, and, in a restrained
voice, said: “Send Pickert up here. I’m in my office. Tell him there’s
something doing.”

Lady Barbara rose from her chair and stood waiting. She did not know
who Pickert was nor whether her pleading had moved Mangan, who had now
resumed his seat at the desk, piled high with papers, one of which he
was studying closely.

“And you don’t think it will do any good if you come to my room?”

Mangan shook his head.

“And shall I wait any longer?” she continued. The words were barely
audible. She knew her dismissal had come and that she must face another
dreary hunt for new work.

Mangan did not raise his head. “Sit down. I’ll tell you when I’m
through.”

The door opened and a thick-set man, in a brown suit and derby hat,
stepped in.

Mangan wheeled his chair and fronted the two. “This woman, Pickert, is
carried on our pay-roll as Mrs. Stanton. She’s got a room off St. Mark’s
Place. Here’s the number. About a week ago I gave her a lace mantilla
to fix, something good--worth over $200--and every day she’s been coming
here with a new lie. Now she says she’s lost it. She’s either got it
down where she lives or she’s pawned it. I’ve done what I could to
save her, but she sticks to it. Better take some one from the office,
down-stairs, with you. Maybe when she thinks it over she’ll come to her
senses. Take her along with you. I’m through.”

As the man stepped forward, Lady Barbara sprang away from his touch.
“You do not mean you are going to let this man take me--Mr. Mangan,
you must not, you shall not! You would not commit that outrage. Do you
mean--?”

Pickert made a gesture of disgust, his fingers outspread. “Keep all that
for the captain. It won’t cut any ice here, and you’d better not talk.
Now come along, and don’t make any fuss. If it’s a mistake, you can
clear it up at the station-house. I ain’t going to touch you. You keep
ahead until you get to the street-door. I’ll be right behind, and meet
you on the sidewalk.”

Lady Barbara drew herself up proudly. “I won’t allow it!” she cried;
“what I told you--”

Pickert swaggered closer. “Drop that, will you? I got my orders. You
heard ‘em, didn’t you? Will you go easy, or shall I have to--” and he
half dragged a pair of handcuffs from his side pocket. “Now, you do just
as I tell you; it’ll all come right, and there won’t nobody know what’s
goin’ on. You get to hollerin’ and mussin’ up things and there’ll be
trouble, see? Open that door now, and walk out just as if everything was
reg’lar.”



Chapter XX



The routine of Felix’s daily life had been broken this morning by the
receipt of a letter. The postman had handed it to him as he crossed the
street from Kitty’s to Kling’s, the tramp who was sweeping the sidewalk
having pointed him out.

“That’s him,” cried the tramp. “That’s Mr. O’Day. Catch him before he
gets inside his place, or you’ll lose him. Here, I’ll take it.”

“You’ll take nothin’. Get out of my way.”

“For me?” asked Felix, coloring slightly as the postman accosted him.

“Yes, if you’re Mr. O’Day.”

“I’m afraid I am. Thank you. If you have any others, bring them here to
Mr. Kling’s, where I can always be found during the day.”

He glanced at the seal and the address, but kept it in his hands until
he reached Kling’s counter, where he settled into a chair, and with the
greatest care slit the envelope with his knife. A year had passed since
he had received a letter, nor had he expected any.

He read it through to the end, turning the pages again, rereading
certain passages, his face giving no hint of the contents, folded the
sheets, put them back in the envelope, and slid the whole into his
inside pocket. After a little he rose, stood for a moment watching
Fudge, who, now that Masie had gone to school, had taken up his
customary place in the window, his nose pressed against the pane. Then,
as if some sudden resolve had seized him, he walked quickly to the rear
of the store in search of his employer.

Otto was poring over his books, his bald head glistening under the rays
of the gas-jet, which he had lighted to assist him in his work, the
morning being dark.

“I have been wanting to talk to you for some time, Mr. Kling, about
Masie,” he began abruptly. “I may be going home to England, perhaps for
a few weeks, perhaps longer, and I should like to take her with me.
I have a sister who would look after her, and the trip would do her a
world of good. I have been wanting to do this for a long time, but I am
a little freer now to carry out the plan I had for her. And so I have
come to propose it to you.”

Otto listened gravely, his fat features frozen into calm. This clerk of
his had made him many startling propositions, and every surrender had
brought him profit. But turning over Beesving to him meant something
so different that the father in him stood aghast. Yet his old habit of
deference did not desert him when at last he spoke:

“Vell, vat vill I do? You knew I don’t got notin’ but Beesving. Don’t
she get everytin’ vere she is? I do all de schoolin’ and de clothes and
Aunty Gossburger look after her. Vhen she gets older maybe perhaps she
vould like a trip. And den maybe ve both go and leave you here to mind
de shop in de summer-time. But now she’s notin’ but jus’ Beesving, vid
her head full of skippin’ aroun’. No, I don’t tink I can do dat for you.
I do most anytin’ for you, but my little girl, you see, dat come pretty
close. Dat make a awful hole in me if Beesving go avay. No, you mustn’t
ask me dot.”

“Not if it were for her good?”

“Yes, vell, of course, but how do I know dot? And vot you vant to go
avay for? Dot’s more vorse as Beesving. Ain’t I pay you enough? Maybe
you vants a little interest in de business? I vas tinkin’ about dat only
yesterday. Ve vill talk about dot sometimes.”

Felix laughed gently.

“No, I don’t wish any interest in the business. You pay me quite enough
for the work I do, and I am quite willing to continue to serve you as
long as I can. But Masie should not be brought up in these surroundings
much longer. Perhaps you would be willing to send her to a good school
away from here, if I could arrange it. Either here or in England.”

Otto threw up his hands; he was becoming indignant, his mind more and
more set against Felix’s proposition.

“Vell, but vat’s de matter vid de school she has now? She is more dan
on de top of all de classes. De superintendent told me so ven he vas in
here last veek buying Christmas presents. I sold him dat old chair you
got Hans to put a new leg on. You remember dot chair. Vell, dat vas
better as a new von vhen Hans got trough. Hadn’t been for you, dot
old chair vould be kicking around now, and I vouldn’t have de fifteen
dollars he paid me for it. I vish sometimes you look around for more
chairs like dot.”

Felix nodded in assent, reading the Dutchman’s obstinate mind in the
shopkeeper’s sudden return to business questions. If Masie’s future was
to be helped, another hand than his own must be stretched out. He turned
on his heel, and was about to regain his chair, when Otto, craning his
head, called out:

“Dot’s Father Cruse comin’ in. You ask him now vonce about dis goin’
avay bizness. He tell you same as me.”

The priest was now abreast of Felix, who had stepped forward to greet
him, Otto watching their movements. The two stood talking in a
low voice, Felix’s eyes downcast as if in deep thought, the priest
apparently urging some plan, which O’Day, by his manner, seemed to
favor. They were too far off, and spoke too low, for Otto to catch the
drift of the talk, and it was only when Felix, who had followed the
priest outside the door, had returned that he called, from his high seat
under the gas-jet: “Vell, vat did Father Cruse say?”

Felix drew his brows together. “Say about what?” he asked, as if the
question had surprised him.

“About Beesving. Didn’t you ask him?”

“No, we talked of other things,” replied Felix and, turning on his heel,
occupied himself about the shop.

Across the street meanwhile Kitty’s own plans had also gone astray this
winter’s morning--so many of them, in fact, that she was at her wits’
end which way to turn. A trunk had been left at the wrong address, and
John had been two hours looking for it. Bobby had come home from school
with a lump on his head as big as a hen’s egg, where some “gas-house
kid,” as Bobby expressed it, “had fetched him a crack.” Mike, on his way
down from the Grand Central, knowing that John was away with the other
horse and Kitty worrying, had urged big Jim to gallop, and, in his
haste, had bowled over a ten-year-old boy astride of a bicycle, and,
worse yet, the entire outfit--big Jim, wagon, Mike, boy, bicycle, and
the boy’s father--were at that precise moment lined up in front of the
captain’s desk at the 35th Street police station.

The arrest did not trouble Kitty. She knew the captain and the captain
knew her. If bail were needed, there were half a dozen men within fifty
yards of where she stood who would gladly furnish it. Mike was careless,
anyhow, and a little overhauling would do him good.

What did trouble her was the tying up of big Jim and her wagon at a
time when she needed them most. Nobody knew when John would be back, and
there was the stuff piling up, and not a soul to handle it. She stood,
leaning over her short counter, trying to decide what to do first.
She could not ask Felix to help her. He was tired out with the holiday
sales. Nor was there anybody else on whom she could put her hands. It
was Porterfield’s busy time, and Codman had all he could jump to. No,
she could not ask them. Here she stepped out on the sidewalk to get a
broader view of the situation, her mind intent on solving the problem.

At that same instant she saw Kling’s door swing wide and Father Cruse
step out, Felix beside him. The two shook each other’s hands in parting,
Felix going back into the shop, and Father Cruse taking the short-cut
across the street to where Kitty stood--an invariable custom of his
whenever he found himself in her neighborhood.

Instantly her anxiety vanished. “Look at it!” she cried
enthusiastically. “Can you beat it? There he comes. God must ‘a’ sent
him!” Then, as she ran to meet him: “Oh, Father, but it’s better than
a pair o’ sore eyes to see ye! I’m all balled up wi’ trouble. John’s
huntin’ a lost trunk. Bobby’s up-stairs with a slab o’ raw beef on his
head. Mike’s locked up for runnin’ over a boy. And my big Jim and my
wagon is tied up outside the station, till it’s all straightened out.
Will ye help me?”

“I am on my way now to the police station,” said the priest in his
kindest voice.

“Oh, then, ye heard o’ Mike?”

“Not a word. But I often drop in there of a morning. Many of the night
arrests need counsel outside the law, and sometimes I can be of service.
Is the boy badly hurt?”

“No, he hollered too loud when the wheel struck him, so they tell me.
He’s not half as bad as Bobby, I warrant, who hasn’t let a squeak out o’
him. Will ye please put in a word for me, Father? I can’t leave here or
I’d go meself. I don’t care if the captain holds on to Mike for a while,
so he lets me have big Jim and the wagon. John will be up to go bail as
soon as he gets back, if the captain wants it, which he won’t, when he
finds out who Mike is. Oh, that’s a good soul! I knew ye’d help me. An’
how did ye find Mr. Felix?”--a new anxiety now filling her mind.

The priest’s face clouded. “Oh, very well; he spent last evening with
me.”

“Oh, that was it, was it? An’ were ye trampin’ the streets with him,
too? It was pretty nigh daylight when he come in. I always know, for he
wakes me when he shuts his door.”

The priest, evidently absorbed in some strain of thought, parried her
question with another: “And so the boy was not badly hurt? Well, that is
something to be thankful for. Perhaps I may know his people. I will send
Mike and the wagon back to you, if I can. Good-by.” And he touched his
hat, passing up the street with his long, even stride, the skirt of his
black cassock clinging to his knees.


The arrest, so far as could be seen from Mike’s general deportment, had
not troubled that gentleman in the least. He had nodded pleasantly
to the captain, who, in return, had frowned severely at him while the
father of the boy was making the complaint; had winked good-naturedly at
him the moment the accuser had left the room; had asked after Kitty and
John, motioned to him to stay around until somebody put in an appearance
to go bail, and had then busied himself with more important matters. A
thick-set man, in a brown suit and derby hat, accompanied by an officer
and another man, had brought in a frail woman, looking as if life were
slowly ebbing out of her; and the four were in a row before his desk.
The usual questions were asked and answered by the detective and the
clerk--the nature of the charge, the name and address of the party
robbed, the name and address of the accused--and the entries properly
made.

During the hearing, the frail woman had stood with bent head, dazed and
benumbed. When her name was asked, she had made no answer nor did she
give her residence. “I am an Englishwoman,” was all she had said.

Mike, now privileged to enjoy the freedom of the room, had been watching
the proceedings with increasing interest, so much so that he had edged
up to the group, as close as he dared, where he could get the light
full on the woman. When the words, “I am an Englishwoman,” fell from
her lips, he let out an oath, and slapped his thigh with the fiat of
his hand. “Of course it is! I thought I know’d her when she come in.
English, is she? What a lot o’ lies they do be puttin’ up. She never
saw England. She’s a dago from ‘cross town. Won’t Mrs. Cleary’s eyes pop
when I tell her!”

The group in front of the captain’s desk disintegrated. The woman, still
silent, was led away to the cell. Rosenthal’s clerk, who had made the
charge for the firm, had come round to the captain’s side of the desk
to sign some papers. Pickert and the officer had already disappeared
through the street-door. At this juncture the priest entered. His
presence was noted by every man in the room, most of whom rose to their
feet, some removing their hats.

“Good-morning, captain,” he said, including with his bow the other
people present. “I have just left Mrs. Cleary, who tells me that one of
her men is in trouble. Ah! I see him now. Is there anything that I can
do for him?”

“Nothing, your reverence; the boy’s not much hurt. I don’t think it was
Mike’s fault, from the testimony, but it’s a case of bail, all right.”

“I am afraid, captain, she is not worrying so much about our poor Mike
here as she is about the horse and wagon. These she needs, for Mr.
Cleary is away, and there is no one to help her. Perhaps you would be
good enough to send an officer with Mike, and let them drive back to
her?”

“I guess that won’t be necessary, your reverence. See here, Mike, get
into your wagon and take it back to the stable, and bring somebody with
you to go bail. We didn’t want the wagon, only there was no place to
leave it, and we knew they would send up for it sooner or later. It’s
outside now.”

“Thank you, captain. And now, Mike, be very sure you come back,”
 exclaimed the priest, with an admonishing finger; “do you hear?” He
always liked the Irishman.

Mike grinned the width of his face, caught up his cap, and made for
the door. The priest watched him until he had cleared the room, then,
leaning over the desk, asked: “Anything for me this morning, captain?”

“No, your reverence, not that I can see. Two drunks come in with the
first batch, and a couple of crooks who had been working the ‘elevated’;
and a woman, a shoplifter. Got away with a piece of lace--a mantilla,
they called it, whatever that is. She’s just gone down to wait for the
four o’clock delivery. It’s a case of grand larceny. They say the lace
is worth $250. Wasn’t that about it?”

Rosenthal’s man bobbed his head. He had not lifted his hat to the
priest, and seemed to regard him with suspicion.

“What sort of a looking woman is she?” continued the priest.

“Oh, the same old kind; they’re all alike. Nothing to say--too smart for
that. I guess she stole it, all right. All I could get out of her was
that she was an Englishwoman, but she didn’t look it.”

The priest lowered his head, an expression of suddenly awakened interest
on his face. “May I see her?” he asked, in an eager tone.

“Why, sure! Bunky, take Father Cruse down. He wants to talk to that
Englishwoman.”

To most unfortunates, whether innocent or guilty, the row of polished
steel bars which open and close upon those in the grip of the law, are
poised rifles awaiting the order to fire. To a woman like Lady Barbara,
these guarded a dark and loathsome tomb, in which her last hope lay
buried. That she had not deserved the punishment meted out to her did
not soothe her agony. She had deserved none of Dalton’s cruelty, and yet
she had withered under its lash. This was the end; beyond, lay only a
slow, lingering death, with her torture increasing as the hours crept
on.

The sound of the turnkey’s hand on the lock roused her to consciousness.

“Bring her outside where I can talk to her,” said Father Cruse, pointing
to a bench in the corridor.

She followed the guard mechanically, as a whipped spaniel follows its
master, her steps dragging, her body trembling, her head bowed as if
awaiting some new humiliation. She had no strength to resist. Something
in the priest’s quiet, in the way he trod beside her, seemed to have
reassured her, for as she sank on the bench beside him, she leaned over,
laid one hand on his sleeve, and asked feebly: “Are they going to let me
go?”

“That I cannot say, my good woman; I can only hope so.” He looked toward
the guard. “Better leave us for a while, Bunky.” The turnkey touched his
cap and mounted the narrow iron steps to the room above.

Father Cruse waited until the footsteps had ceased to echo in the
corridor, and then turned to Lady Barbara. “And now tell me something
about yourself; have you no friends you can send for? I will see they
get your message. The captain told me you were English. Is this true?”

She had withdrawn her hand and now sat with averted face, the faint
flicker of hope his presence had enkindled extinguished by his evasive
answer. Only when he repeated the question did she reply, and then in a
mere whisper, without lifting her head: “Yes, I am English.”

“And your people, are they where you can reach them?”

She did not answer; there was nothing to be gained by yielding to his
curiosity. Nor did she intend to reply to any more of his questions. He
was only one of those kind priests who looked after the poor and whose
sympathy, however well meant, would be of little value. If she told
him how cruel had been the wrong done her, and how unjust had been her
arrest, it would make no difference; he could not help her.

“There must be somebody,” he urged. He had read her indecision in the
nervous play of her fingers, as he had read many another human emotion
in his time. “There must be somebody,” he repeated.

“There is only Martha,” she answered at last, yielding to his influence.
“She was my nurse when I was a child. She is as poor as I am. She will
come to me if you will send word to her. They would not listen to me at
Rosenthal’s when I begged them to bring her to the store.” She lifted
her head and stared wildly about her. “Oh, the injustice of it all--and
the awful horror of this place! How can men do such things? I told them
the truth, Father, I told them the truth. I never stole it. How could I
ever steal anything? How dared he speak to me as he did?”

She turned, straining her whole body as if in mortal anguish; then, with
her shoulder against the hard, whitewashed wall, she broke at last into
sobs.

The priest sat still, waiting and watching, as a surgeon does a patient
slowly emerging from delirium.

“Men are seldom reasonable, my good woman, when they lose their
property, and they often do things which they regret afterward. Of what
were you accused?”

His tone reassured her, and, for the first time, she looked directly at
him. “Of stealing a mantilla which I had taken to my rooms to repair.”

“Whose was it?”

“Rosenthal’s, for whom I worked.”

“The large store near by here, on Third Avenue?”

“Yes.”

Father Cruse lapsed once more into silence, absorbed in a study of
certain salient points of her person--her way of sitting and of folding
her hands, her thin, delicately modelled frame, the pallor of her oval
face, with its mobile mouth, the singular whiteness of her teeth, and
the blue of her eyes, shaded by the cheap, black-straw hat which hid her
forehead. Then he glanced at her feet, one of which protruded from her
coarse skirt--no larger than a child’s.

When he spoke again, it was in a positive way, as if his inspection had
caused him to adopt a definite course which he would now follow. “This
old nurse of yours, this woman you called Martha, does she know of any
one who could get bail for you? You can only stay here for a few hours,
and then they will take you to the Tombs, unless some one can go bail.
I know the Rosenthals, and they would, I think, listen to any reasonable
proposition.”

“Would they let me go home, then?”

“Yes, until your trial came off.”

She shuddered, hugging herself the closer. Her mind had not gone that
far. It was the present horror that had confronted her, not a trial in
court.

“Martha has a brother,” she said at last, “who has a business of some
kind, and who might help. If you will bring her to me, she can find
him.”

“You don’t remember what his business is?” he continued.

“I think it is something to do with fitting out ships. He was once a
mate on one of my father’s vessels and--”

She stopped abruptly, frightened now at her own indiscretion. She had
been wrong in wanting to send for Stephen, even in referring to him.
Whatever befell her, she was determined that her people at home should
not suffer further on her account.

Father Cruse had caught the look, and his heart gave a bound, though
no gesture betrayed him. “You have not told me your name,” he said
simply--as if it were a matter of routine in cases like hers.

She glanced at him quickly. “Does it make any difference?”

“It might. I do not believe you are a criminal, but if I am to help you
as I want to do, I must know the truth.”

She thought for a moment. Here was something she could not escape. The
assumed name had so far shielded her. She would brave it out as she had
done before.

“They call me Mrs. Stanton.”

“Is that your true name?”

The Carnavons were imperious, unforgiving, and sometimes brutal. Many
of them had been roues, gamblers, and spendthrifts, but none of them had
ever been a liar.

“No!” she answered firmly.

Father Cruse settled back in his seat. The ring of sincerity in the
woman’s “No” had removed his last doubt. “You do very wrong, my good
woman, not to tell me the whole truth,” he remarked, with some
emphasis. “I am a priest, as you see, and attached to the Church of St.
Barnabas--not far from here. I visit this station-house almost every
morning, seeing what I can do to help people just like yourself. I will
go to Rosenthal, and then I will find your old nurse, and I will try to
have your case delayed until your nurse can get hold of her brother. But
that is really all I can do until I have your entire confidence. I am
convinced that you are a woman who has been well brought up, and that
this is your first experience in a place of this kind. I hope it will be
the last; I hope, too, that the charge made against you will be proved
false. But does not all this make you realize that you should be frank
with me?”

She drew herself up with a certain dignity infinitely pathetic, yet in
which, like the flavor of some old wine left in a drained glass, there
lingered the aroma of her family traditions. “I am very grateful, sir,
to you. I know you only want to be kind, but please do not ask me to
tell you anything more. It would only make other people unhappy. There
is no one but myself to blame for my poverty, and for all I have gone
through. What is to become of me I do not know, but I cannot make my
people suffer any more. Do not ask me.”

“It might end their suffering,” he replied quickly. “I have a case in
point now where a man has been searching New York for months, hoping to
get news of his wife, who left him nearly a year ago. He comes in to
see me every few nights and we often tramp the streets together. My work
takes me into places she would be apt to frequent, so he comes with
me. He and I were up last night until quite late. He has nothing in his
heart but pity for that poor woman, who he fears has been left stranded
by the man she trusted. So far he has heard nothing of her. I left him
hardly an hour ago. Now, there, you see, is a case where just a word of
frankness and truth might have ended all their sufferings. I told Mr.
O’Day this morning, when I left him, that--”

She had grown paler and paler during the long recital, her wide-open
eyes staring into his, her bosom heaving with suppressed excitement,
until at the mention of Felix’s name, she staggered to her feet, and
cried: “You know Felix O’Day?”

“Yes, thank God, I do, and you are his wife, Lady Barbara O’Day, Lord
Carnavon’s daughter.”

She cowered like a trapped animal, uncertain which way to spring. In her
agony she shrank against the wall, her arms outstretched. How did
this man know all the secrets of her life? Then there arose a calming
thought. He was a priest--a man who listened and did not betray.
Perhaps, after all, he could help her. He wanted the truth. He should
have it.

“Yes,” she answered, her voice sinking. “I am Lord Carnavon’s daughter.”

“And Felix O’Day’s wife?”

“And Felix O’Day’s wife,” came the echo, and, with the last word, her
last vestige of strength seemed to leave her.

The priest rose to his full height. “I was sure of it when I first
saw you,” he said, a note of triumph in his voice. “And now, one last
question. Are you guilty of this theft?”

“GUILTY! I guilty! How could I be?” The denial came with a lift of the
head, her eyes kindling, her bosom heaving.

“I believe you. There is not a moment to be lost.” The priest and father
confessor were gone now; it was the man of affairs who was speaking. “I
will see Rosenthal at once, and then send for your nurse. Give me her
address.”

When he had written it, he stepped to the foot of the stairs, and called
to one of the guards. Then he slipped his hand under his cassock, drew
out his watch, noted the hour, and in a firm voice--one intended to be
obeyed--said:

“Go back into your cell and sit there until I come. Do not worry if I
am away longer than I expect, and do not be frightened when the key is
turned on you. It is best that you be locked up for a while. You should
give thanks to God, my dear woman, that I have found you.”



Chapter XXI



The news of Mike’s arrest had been received by kitty’s neighbors
with varying degrees of indifference. Everybody realized that, as the
run-over boy had lost nothing but his breath--and but little of that,
judging from his vigorous howl when Mike picked him up--nothing would
come of the affair so long as the present captain ruled the precinct.
Kitty and John and all who belonged to them were too popular around the
station; too many of the boys had slipped in and slipped out of a cold
night, warmed up by the contents of her coffee-pot.

Indeed, between the captain and the denizens of “The Avenue,” only the
most friendly, amicable, and delightful personal relations prevailed. To
the habitual criminal, the sneak-thief, and the hold-up, he might be
a mailed despot swinging a mailed fist, but to the occasional “Monday
drunk,” or the man who had had the best or the worst of it in a fight,
or to one like Mike who was the victim of an unavoidable accident,
he was only a heathen idol of justice behind which sat a big-waisted,
tightly belted man whose wife and daughters everybody knew as he himself
knew everybody in return; who belonged to the same lodge, played poker
in the same up-stairs room when off duty, and was as tender-hearted in
time of trouble as any one of their other acquaintances. Not to have
allowed Mike, a man he knew, a man who had been Kitty and John’s driver
for years, to hunt up his own bond, would have been as unwise and
impossible as his releasing a burglar on straw bail, or a murderer
because the dead man could not make a complaint.

When, therefore, Mike burst into the kitchen with the additional
information that “the cap” had let him go to bring back the wagon and
somebody with “cash” enough to go bail, a general movement, headed by
Tim Kelsey, who happened to be passing at the time, was immediately
organized--Tim to proceed at once to the station-house, take the captain
on one side, and so end the matter. Locking up Mike, even threatening
him, was, as the captain knew, an invasion of the rights of “The
Avenue.” Nobody within its confines had ever been entangled in the
meshes of the law--simply because nobody had wanted to break it. It was
the howling boy who should have been locked up for getting under Mike’s
wheels, or his father who ought to have kept his son off the street.

Mike listened impatiently to the discussion and, watching his chance,
beckoned to Kitty, shut the door upon the two, and poured into her ear a
full account of what he had seen and heard at the station-house.

“Well, what’s that got to do with it?” Kitty demanded. “What did she
have to do with the boy?”

“Nothing, don’t I tell ye--she’s been swipin’ a department store, and
they got her dead to rights.”

“Who’s been swipin’? What are ye talkin’ about, Mike? Stop it now--I’ve
got a lot to do, and--”

“The woman ye put to bed that night. The one ye picked up near St.
Barnabas, and brought in here and dried her off. She skipped in the
mornin’ without sayin’ ‘thank ye’--why, ye must remember her! She was--”

Kitty clapped her two palms to her face, framing her bulging eyes--a
favorite gesture when she was taken completely by surprise.

“That woman!” she cried, staring at Mike. “Where is she now? Tell me--”

“I don’t know--but she--”

“Ye don’t know, and ye come down here with this yarn? Don’t ye try and
fool me, Mike, or I’ll break every bone in yer skin. Go on, now! How do
ye know it’s the same woman?”

“I’m tellin’ ye no lies. Come back with me and see for yerself. The cap
will let ye go down and talk to her. I heard Father Cruse tell ye to
keep an eye out for her if she ever came around here agin. Ye got to
hurry or they’ll have her in the Black Maria on the way to the Tombs.
Bunky told me so.”

Kitty stood in deep meditation. She remembered that Mike had been in
the kitchen when the woman sat by the stove. She remembered, too, that
Father Cruse had cautioned her to send word to the rectory if the poor
creature came again and, if there were not time to reach him, then to
tell Mr. O’Day. That the priest had not run across the woman at the
station-house was evident, or he would have sent word by Mike. She would
herself find out and then act.

“But ye must have seen Father Cruse. Did he send any word?”

“Yes, he come in just as I was leavin’. It was him who told me to be
sure to hurry back. See the horse gits some water, will ye? I got to go
back.”

“Hold on--what did the Father say about the woman?”

“Nothin’, don’t I tell ye?--he didn’t see her. They’d locked her up
before he came.”

“Why didn’t ye tell him who it was?”

“How was I a-goin’ to tell him when the cap told me to git?”

“Go on, then, wid ye! If the Father’s still there, tell him I’m a-comin’
up, and will bring Mr. O’Day wid me, and to hold on till I get there.”

She took her wraps from a peg behind the door, threw it wide, and joined
her neighbors in the office, composing her face as best she could.

“I’ve got to go over to Otto Kling’s,” she announced bluntly, without
any attempt at apologies. “Some one of ye must go up and bail Mike
out--any one of ye will do. Mr. Kelsey spoke first, so maybe he’d better
go. I’d go myself and sign the bond only I’m no good, for I don’t own
a blessed thing in the world, except the shoes I stand in--and they’re
half-soled and not paid for; John’s got the rest. I’ll be there later
on, ye can tell the captain. Mr. Codman, please send over one of your
boys to mind my place. John ain’t turned up and won’t for an hour. That
trunk went to Astoria instead of the Astor House, bad ‘cess to it, and
that’s about as far apart as it could git. And, Mike, don’t stand there
with yer tongue out! And don’t let Toodles go with ye. Get back as quick
as ye can--and tell the captain to make it easy for me, that if the
boy’s badly hurt I’ll go and nurse him if he ain’t got anybody to take
care of him. Git out, ye varmint--thank ye, Tim Kelsey, I’ll do as much
for you next time ye have to go to jail. Good-by”--and she kept on to
Kling’s.

Otto’s store was full of customers when Kitty strode in. Even little
Masie had been pressed into service to help on with the sales, as well
as one of the “Dutchies” whom Kling had brought up from the cellar. The
few remaining hours of the old year were fast disappearing and the crowd
of buyers, intent on securing some small remembrance for those they
loved, or more important gifts with which to welcome the New Year,
thronged the store and upper floor.

Kitty made straight for Felix, who was leaning over the low counter,
absorbed in the sale of some old silver. His disappointment over Kling’s
rebuff regarding Masie’s future had been greatly lightened, relieved
by his talk with Father Cruse an hour before, and he had again thrown
himself into his work with a determination to make the last days of
the year a success for his employer,--all the more necessary when he
remembered his plans for the child. The customer, an important one,
was trying to make up her mind as to the choice between two pieces, and
Felix was evidently intent on not hurrying her.

He had seen Kitty when she opened the door and approached the counter,
had noticed her excitement when she stopped in front of him, and knew
that something out of the ordinary had sent her to him at this, the
busiest part of his own and her day. But his only sign of recognition
was the lift of an eyelid and a slight movement of his hand, the palm
turned toward her, a gesture which told as plainly as could be that,
while he was glad to see her--something she was never in doubt of--the
present moment was ill adapted to protracted conversation.

Kitty, however, was not built on diplomatic lines. What she wanted she
wanted at once. When she had something vital to accomplish she went
straight at it, and certainly nothing more vital than her present
mission had come her way for weeks.

That the news she carried had something to do with O’Day’s happiness,
she was convinced, or Father Cruse would not have been so insistent.
That the woman herself was, in some way, connected with his misfortunes,
she also suspected--and had done so, in reality, ever since the night
on which she gave him the sleeve-links. She had not said so to John; she
had not hinted as much to Father Cruse; but she had never dismissed the
possibility from her mind.

“I’m sorry, ma’am,” she said, ignoring Felix and going straight to the
cause of the embargo, “but couldn’t ye let me have Mr. O’Day for a few
minutes? I’ve somethin’ very partic’lar to say to him.”

“Why, Mistress Kitty--” began Felix, smiling at her audacity, the
customer also regarding her with amused curiosity.

“Yes, Mr. O’Day, I wouldn’t butt in if I could help it. Excuse me,
ma’am, but there’s Otto just got loose, and--Otto, come over here and
take care of this lady who is goin’ to let me have Mr. O’Day for half
an hour. Thank ye, ma’am, you don’t know me, but I’m Kitty Cleary, the
expressman’s wife, from across the street, and I’m always mixin’ in
where I don’t belong and I know ye’ll forgive me. Otto’ll charge ye
twice the price Mr. O’Day would, but he can’t help it because he’s
Dutch. Oh, Otto, I know ye!”

Felix laughed outright. “Thank you, Mr. Kling,” he said, yielding his
place to his employer, “and if you will excuse me, madam,” and he bowed
to his customer, “I will see what it is all about--and now, Mistress
Kitty, what can I do for you?”

Kitty backed away toward the door, so that a huge wardrobe shielded her
from Otto and his customer.

“Come near, Mr. O’Day,” she whispered, all her forced humor gone. “I’ve
got the woman who dropped the sleeve-buttons.”

Felix swayed unsteadily, and gripped a chair-back for support.

“You’ve got--the woman--What do you mean?” he said at last.

“Mike saw her at the police-station. They’ve put her in a cell.”

“Arrested?”

“Yes, for stealin’.”

Involuntarily his fingers brushed his throat as if he were choking, but
no words came. He had been all his life accustomed to surprises, some
of them appalling, but against this, for the instant, he had no power to
stand.

Kitty stood watching the quivering of his lips and the drawn, strained
muscles about his jaw and neck as his will power whipped them back
to their normal shape. She was convinced now of the truth of her
suspicions--the woman was not only interwoven with his past, but was
closely identified with his present anguish.

She drew closer, her voice rising. “Ye’ll go with me, won’t ye,
Mr. Felix?” she went on, hiding under an assumed indifference all
recognition of his struggle. “Father Cruse told me if I ever come across
her again, and there wasn’t time to get hold of him, to let ye know.”

“I will go anywhere, where Father Cruse thinks I should, Mrs.
Cleary--especially in cases of this kind, where I may be of use.” The
words had come from between partly closed lips; his hands were still
tightly clinched. “And you say she was arrested--for stealing?”

“Yes, shopliftin’, they call it. Poor creatures, they get that miserable
and trodden on they don’t know right from wrong!”

Then, as if to give him time in which to recover himself fully, she went
on, speaking rapidly: “And, after all, it may only be a put-up job or
a mistake. Half the women they pinch in them big stores ain’t reg’lar
thieves. They get tempted, or they can’t find anybody to tell ‘em the
price o’ things, especially these holiday times, and they carry ‘em
round from counter to counter, and along comes a store detective and
nabs ‘em with the goods on ‘em. They did that to me once, over at
Cryder’s, and I told him I’d knock him down if he put his hand on me,
and somebody come along who knew me, and they was that scared when they
found out who I was that they bowed and scraped like dancin’ masters
and wanted me to take the skirt along if I’d say nothin’ about it. That
might have happened to this poor child--”

“Has Father Cruse seen her?” asked Felix. No word of the recital had
reached his ears.

“No--that’s why I come to ye.”

“And where did you say she was?” He had himself under perfect control
again, and might have been a man bent only on aiding Father Cruse in
some charitable work.

“Locked up in the station-house not far from here. It won’t take ye ten
minutes to get there.”

Felix glanced at the big-faced clock, facing the side window of the
store.

“Yes, of course I will go, since Father Cruse wishes it. Thank you for
bringing his message. You need not wait.”

“Needn’t wait! Ye’re not goin’ one step without me. They’d chuck ye out
if ye did, and that’s what they won’t do to me if the captain’s in his
office. Besides, Mike run over a boy, and Tim Kelsey is up there now
standin’ bail for him. There’s no use goin’ unless ye see her. That’s
what the Father wanted ye to do, and that ain’t easy unless ye’ve got
the run of the station. So, ye see, I got to go with ye whether ye want
me or not, or ye won’t get nowheres. I’ll wait till ye get yer hat and
coat.”

All the way to the station-house, Kitty beside him, Felix was putting
into silent words the thoughts that raced through his mind.

“Barbara arrested as a vulgar thief!” he kept saying over and over.
“A woman brought up a lady--with the best blood of England in her
veins--her father a man of distinction! The woman I married!”

Then, as a jagged thread of light breaks away from a centre bolt,
illuminating a distant cloud, a faint ray cheered him. Perhaps the woman
was not Barbara. No one had any proof. Father Cruse had never believed
it, and he had only argued himself into thinking that the woman who had
dropped the sleeve-link must be his wife. Until he knew definitely, saw
her with his own eyes, neither would HE believe it, and a certain shame
of his own suspicion swept through him like a flame.

The captain was out when the two reached the station. Nor was there
any one who knew Kitty except a departing patrolman, who nodded to her
pleasantly as she passed in, adding in a whisper the information that
Mike and Kelsey had gone up to Magistrate Cassidy, who held court in the
next block, and that she was “not to worry,” as it was “all right.”

A new appointee--a lieutenant she had never seen before--was temporarily
in charge of the station.

“I’m Mrs. Cleary,” she began, in her free, outspoken way, “and this is
Mr. Felix O’Day.”

The new appointee stared and said nothing.

“Ye never saw me before, but that wouldn’t make any difference if the
captain was around. But ye can find out about me from any one of yer men
who knows me. I’m here with Mr. O’Day lookin’ up a woman who was brought
here this morning for stealin’ some finery or whatever it was from one
of these big stores--and we want to see her, if ye plaze.”

The lieutenant shook his head. “Can’t see no prisoner without the
captain’s orders.”

Kitty bridled, but she kept her temper. “When will he be back?”

“Six o’clock. He’s gone to headquarters.”

“He’d let me see her if he was here,” she retorted, with some asperity.

“No doubt--but I can’t.” All this time he had not changed his
position--his arms on the desk, his fingers drumming idly.

Felix rested his hands on the rail fronting the desk. “May I ask if you
saw the woman?”

“No. I only came on half an hour ago.”

“Is there any one here who did see her?”

Something in O’Day’s manner and in the incisive tones of his voice,
those of command not supplication, made the lieutenant change his
position. The speaker might have a “pull” somewhere. He turned to the
sergeant. “You were on duty. What did she look like?”

The sergeant yawned from behind his hand. He had been up most of the
previous night and was some hours behind his sleep schedule. Kitty’s
presence had not roused him but the self-possessed man could not be
ignored.

“You mean the girl who got Rosenthal’s lace?” he answered.

“You’re dead right,” returned the lieutenant obligingly. He had, of
course, always been ready to do what he could for people in trouble, and
was so now.

“Oh, about as they all look.” This time the sergeant directed his
remarks to Felix. “We get two or three of ‘em every day, specially
about Christmas and New Year’s. Rather run down at the heel, this one,
and--no, come to think of it, I’m wrong--she looked different. Been
a corker in her time--not bad now--about thirty, I guess--maybe
younger--you can’t always tell. Rather slim--had on a black-straw hat
and some kind of a cloak.”

Kitty was about to freshen his memory with some remembrance of her
own, and had got as far as, “Well, my man Mike was here and he told me
that--” when Felix lifted a restraining hand, supplementing her outburst
by the direct question: “Did she say nothing about herself?”

“She did not. All we could get out of her was that she was English.”

Felix bent nearer. “Will you please describe her a little closer? I have
a reason for knowing.”

The sergeant caught the look of determination, dallied with a tin
paper-cutter, bent his head on one side, and pursed a pair of thick
lips. It was a strain on his memory, this recalling the features of one
of a dozen prisoners, but somehow he dared not refuse.

“Well, she was one of the pocket kind of women, small and well put up
but light built, you know. She had blue eyes--big ones--I noticed ‘em
partic’lar--and about the smallest pair of feet I ever seen on a girl.
She stumbled down-stairs and caught her dress, and I remember they was
about as big as a kid’s. That was another thing set me to wondering how
she got into a scrape like this. She could have done a lot better if she
had a-wanted to,” this last came with a leer.

Felix clenched his teeth, and drove his nails into the palms of his
hands. He would have throttled the man had he dared.

“Did she make any defense?” he asked, when he had himself under control
again.

“No--there warn’t no use--she owned up to having pinched it. Not here
at the desk, but to Rosenthal’s man who made the charge--that is, she
didn’t deny it. The stuff was worth $250. That’s a felony, you know.”

Kitty saw Felix sway for an instant, and was about to put out a
protecting hand when he turned again to the lieutenant.

“Officer, I do not ask you to break your rules, but I would consider it
an especial favor if you would let me see this woman for a moment--even
if you do not permit me to speak to her.”

“Well, you can’t see her.” The reply came with some positiveness and a
slight touch of irony. He had made up his mind now that if the speaker
had a pull, he would meet it by keeping strictly to the regulations.

“Why not?”

“Because she ain’t here. She’s in the Tombs by this time, unless
somebody went her bail up at court. They had her in the patrol-wagon as
I come on duty.”

“The Tombs? That is the city prison, is it not?” Felix asked, hardly
conscious of his own question, absorbed only in one thought--Lady
Barbara’s degradation.

“That’s what it is,” answered the lieutenant with a contemptuous glance
at Felix, followed by a curl of the lip. No man had a pull who asked a
question like that.

“If I went there, could I see her?”

“When?”

“This afternoon.”

“Nothin’ doin’--too late. You might work it to-morrow. Step down to
headquarters, they’ll tell you. If she’s up for felony it means five
years and them kind ain’t easy to see. Can I do anything more for you?”

“No,” said Felix firmly.

“Well, then, move on, both of you--you can’t block up the desk.”

Felix turned and left the station-house, Kitty following in silence, her
heart torn for the man beside her. Never had he seemed finer to her than
at this moment; never had her own heart stirred with greater loyalty.
But never since she had known him had she seen him so shaken.

“There is nothing more we can do to-day,” he said, speaking evenly,
almost coldly, when they reached the corner of the street. “I will see
Father Cruse to-night and tell him of your kindness, and he can decide
as to what is to be done. And if you do not mind, I will leave you.”

She stood and watched him as he disappeared in the throng. She
understood her dismissal and was not offended. It was not her secret and
she had no right to interfere or even to advise. When he was ready he
would tell her. Until that time she would wait with her hands held out.

Felix crossed the street, halted for an instant as if uncertain as to
his course, and turned toward the river. He wanted to be alone, and the
crowd gave him a greater sense of isolation. It was the first time
in months that he had tramped the thoroughfares without some definite
object in view. All that was now a thing of the past, never to be
revived. His quest was finished. The interview with the sergeant had
ended it all. Every item in his detailed account of the woman now in
the Tombs tallied with Kitty’s description of the woman with the
sleeve-buttons and so on, in turn, with the woman who was once his wife.

With this knowledge there flamed up in his heart an uncontrollable
anger, fanned to white heat by hatred of the man who had caused it all.
His fingers tightened and his teeth ground together. That reckoning, he
said to himself, would come later, once he got his hands on him. If
she were a thief, Dalton had made her so. If she were an outcast and a
menace to society, Dalton had done it. By what hellish process, he could
not divine, knowing Lady Barbara as he did, but the fact was undeniable.

What then was he to do? Go back to London and leave her, or stay here
and fight on in the effort to save her? SAVE HER! Who could save her?
She had stolen the goods; been arrested with them in her possession; was
in the Tombs; and, in a few weeks, would be lost to the world for a term
of years.

He could even now see the vulgar, leering crowd; watch the jury, picked
from the streets, file in and take their seats; hear the few, curt,
routine words, cold as bullets, drop from the lips of the callous judge,
the frail, desolate woman deserted by every soul, paying the price
without murmur or protest--glad that the end had come.

And then, with one of those tricks that memory sometimes plays, he saw
the altar-rail, where he had stood beside her--she in her bridal robes,
her soft blue eyes turned toward his; he heard again the responses,
“for better or for worse”--“until death do us part,” caught the scent
of flowers and the peal of the organ as they turned and walked down the
aisle, past the throng of richly dressed guests.

“Great God!” he choked, worming his way through the crowd, unconscious
of his course, unmindful of his steps, oblivious to passers-by--alone
with an agony that scorched his very soul.



Chapter XXII



When Martha, on her return from Stephen’s, had climbed the dimly lighted
stairs leading to her apartment, she ran against a thick-set man, in
brown clothes and derby hat, seated on the top step. He had interviewed
the faded old wreck who served as janitress and, learning that Mrs.
Munger would be back any minute, had taken this method of being within
touching distance when the good woman unlocked her door. She might
decide to leave him outside its panels while she got in her fine work of
hiding the thing he had climbed up three flights of stairs to find. In
that case, a twist of his foot between the door and the jamb would block
the game.

“Are you the man who has been waiting for me?” she exclaimed, as the
detective’s big frame became discernible under the faint rays from the
“Paul Pry” skylight.

“Yes, if you are the woman who is living with Mrs. Stanton.” He had
risen to his feet and had moved toward the door.

“I’m Mrs. Munger, if that’s who you are looking for, and we live
together. She’s not back yet, so the woman down-stairs has just told me.
Are you from Rosenthal’s?”

“I am.” He had edged nearer, his fingers within reach of the knob, his
lids narrowing as he studied her face and movements.

“Did they find the lace--the mantilla?”

“Not as I heard,” he answered, noting her anxiety. “That’s what brought
me down. I thought maybe you might know something about it.”

“Didn’t find it?” she sighed. “No, I knew they wouldn’t. She was sure
she had taken it up night before last, but I knew she hadn’t. Where’s
my key?--Oh, yes--stand back and get out of my light so I can find the
keyhole. It’s dark enough as it is. That’s right. Now come inside. You
can wait for her better in here than out on these steps. Look, will you!
There’s her coffee just as she left it. She hasn’t had a crumb to eat
to-day. What do you want to see her about? The rest of the work? It’s in
the box there.”

Pickert, with a swift, comprehensive glance, summed up the apartment
and its contents: the little table by the window with Lady Barbara’s
work-basket; the small stove, and pine table set out with the breakfast
things; the cheap chairs; the dresser with its array of china, and the
two bedrooms opening out of the modest interior. Its cleanliness and
order impressed him; so did Martha’s unexpected frankness. If she knew
anything of the theft, she was an adept at putting up a bluff.

“When do you expect Mrs. Stanton back?” he began, in an offhand way,
stretching his shoulders as if the long wait on the stairs had stiffened
his joints. “That’s her name, ain’t it?”

“I expected to find her here,” she answered, ignoring his inquiry as to
Lady Barbara’s identity. “They are keeping her, no doubt, on some new
work. She hasn’t had any breakfast, and now it’s long past lunch-time.
And they didn’t find the piece of lace? That’s bad! Poor dear, she was
near crazy when she found it was gone!”

Pickert had missed no one of the different expressions of anxiety and
tenderness that had crossed her placid face. “No--it hadn’t turned
up when I left,” he replied; adding, with another stretch, quite as a
matter of course, “she had it all right, didn’t she?”

“Had it! Why, she’s been nearly a week on it. I helped her all I could,
but her eyes gave out.”

“Then you would know it again if you saw it?” The stretch was cut short
this time.

“Of course I’d know it--don’t I tell you I helped her fix it?”

The detective turned suddenly and, with a thrust of his chin, rasped
out: “And if one, or both of you, pawned it somewhere round here, you
could remember that, too, couldn’t you?”

Martha drew back, her gentle eyes flashing: “Pawned it! What do you
mean?”

The detective lunged toward her. “Just what I say. Now don’t get on your
ear, Mrs. Munger.” He was the thorough bully now. “It won’t cut any ice
with me or with Mr. Mangan. It didn’t this morning or he wouldn’t have
sent me down here. We want that mantilla and we got to have it. If we
don’t there’ll be trouble. If you know anything about it, now’s the
time to say so. The woman you call Mrs. Stanton got all balled up this
morning, and couldn’t say what she did with it. They all do that--we get
half a dozen of ‘em every week. She’s pawned it all right--what I want
to know is WHERE. Rosenthal’s in a hole if we don’t get it. If you’ve
spent the money, I’ve got a roll right here.” And he tapped his pocket.
“No questions asked, remember! All I want is the mantilla, and if
it don’t come she’ll be in the Tombs and you’ll go with her. We mean
business, and don’t you forget it!”

Martha turned squarely upon him--was about to speak--changed her
mind--and drawing up a chair, settled down upon it.

“You’re a nice young man, you are!” she exclaimed, scornfully. “A very
nice young man! And you think that poor child is a thief, do you? Do
you know who she is and what she’s suffered? If I could tell you, you’d
never get over it, you’d be that ashamed!”

She was not afraid of him; her army hospital experience had thrown her
with too many kinds of men. What filled her with alarm was his reference
to Lady Barbara. But for this uncertainty, and the possible consequences
of such a procedure, she would have thrown open her door and ordered him
out as she had done Dalton. Then, seeing that Pickert still maintained
his attitude--that of a setter-dog with the bird in the line of his
nose--she added testily:

“Don’t stand there staring at me. Take a chair where I can talk to you
better. You get on my nerves. It’s pawned, is it? Yes. I believe you,
and I know who pawned it. Dalton’s got it--that’s who. I thought so
last night--now I’m sure of it.” She was on her feet now, tearing at her
bonnet-string as if to free her throat. “He sneaked it out of that box
on the floor beside you, when she was hiding from him in her bedroom.”

Pickert retreated slightly at this new development; then asked sharply:
“Dalton! Who’s Dalton?”

“The meanest cur that ever walked the earth--that’s who he is. He’s
almost killed my poor lady, and now she must go to jail to please him.
Not if I’m alive, she won’t. He stole that mantilla! I’m just as sure of
it as I am that my name is Martha Munger!”

Pickert’s high tension relaxed. If this new clew had to be followed it
could best be followed with the aid of this woman, who evidently hated
the man she denounced. She would be of assistance, too, in identifying
both the lace and the thief--and he had seen neither the one nor the
other as yet. So it was the same old game, was it?--with a man at the
bottom of the deal!

“Do you know the pawn-shops around here?” he asked, becoming suddenly
confidential.

“Not one of them, and don’t want to,” came the contemptuous reply. “When
I get as low down as that, I’ve got a brother to help me. He’ll be up
here himself to-night and will tell you so.”

Pickert had been standing over her throughout the interview, despite
her invitation to be seated. He now moved toward a seat, his hat still
tilted back from his forehead.

“What makes you think this man you call Dalton stole it?” he asked,
drawing a chair out from the table, as though he meant to let her lead
him on a new scent.

“Come over here before you sit down and I’ll tell you,” she exclaimed,
peremptorily. “Now take a look at that box. Now watch me lift the lid,
and see what you find,” and she enacted the little pantomime of the
morning.

The detective stroked his chin with his forefinger. He was more
interested in Martha’s talk about Dalton than he was in the contents of
the box. “And you want to get him, don’t you?” he asked slyly.

“Me get him! I wouldn’t touch him with a pair of tongs. What I want is
for him to keep out of here--I told him that last night.”

“Well, then, tell me what he looks like, so I can get him.”

“Like anybody else until you catch the hang-dog droop in his eyes, as if
he was afraid people would ask him some question he couldn’t answer.”

“One of the slick kind?”

“Yes, for he’s been a gentleman--before he got down to be a dog.”

“How old?”

“About thirty--maybe thirty two or three. You can’t tell to look at him,
he’s that battered.”

“Smooth-shaven--well-dressed?”

“Yes--no beard nor mustache on him. I couldn’t see his clothes. His big
cape-coat, buttoned up to his chin, hid them and his face, too. He had a
slouch-hat on his head with the brim pulled down when he went out.”

“And you say he’s been living off of Mrs. Stanton since--”

“No, I didn’t say it. I said he was a cur and that she wouldn’t go
to jail to please him--that’s what I said. Now, young man, if you’re
through, I am. I’ve got to get my work done.”

Pickert tilted his hat to the other side of his bullet head, felt in his
side pocket for a cigar, bit off the end, and spat the crumbs of tobacco
from his lips.

“You could put me on to the mantilla, couldn’t you?--spot it for me once
I come across it?”

“Of course I could, the minute I clapped my eyes on it.”

“It’s a kind of lace shawl, ain’t it?”

“Yes. All black--a big one with a frill around it and a tear in one
side--that’s what she was mending. A good piece, I should think, because
it was so fine and silky. You could squash it up in one hand, it was
that soft. That’s why she took such care of it, putting it back in that
box every night to keep the dust out of it.”

“Well, what’s the matter with your coming along with me?”

“And where are you going to take me?”

“To one or two pawn-shops around here.”

“Well, I’m not going with you. If I go anywhere it will be up to
Rosenthal’s. I’m getting worried. It’s after three o’clock now. She’s
got no money to get anything to eat. She’ll come home dead beat out if
she’s been hungry all this time.”

“Well, it’s right on the way. We’ll take in a few of the small shops,
and then we’ll keep on up. There are two on Second Avenue, and then
there’s Blobbs’s, one of the biggest around here. The old woman gets
a lot of that kind of stuff and she’ll open up when she finds out who
wants to know. I’ve done business with her--where does this fellow,
Dalton, live?”

“Up on the East Side.”

“Well, then, we are all right. He will make for some fence where he is
not known. Come along.”

Martha hesitated for an instant, abandoned her decision, and retied her
bonnet-strings; she might find her mistress the quicker if she acceded
to his request. She stepped to the stove, examined the fire to see that
it was all right, added a shovel of coal and, with Pickert at her
heels, groped her way down the dingy stairs, her fingers following the
handrail. In the front hall she stopped to say to the janitress that she
was going to Rosenthal’s and to tell Mrs. Stanton, when she came, that
she was not to leave the apartment again, as Mr. Carlin was coming to
see her.

When they reached the corner of the next block, Pickert halted outside
a small loan-office, told her to wait, and disappeared inside, only to
emerge five minutes later and continue his walk with her up-town. The
performance was repeated twice, his last stop being in front of a gold
sign notifying the indigent and the guilty that one Blobbs bought,
sold, and exchanged various articles of wearing-apparel for cash or its
equivalent.

Martha eyed the cluster of balls suspended above the door, and occupied
herself with a cursory examination of the contents of the front window,
to none of which, she said to herself, would she have given house-room
had the choice of the whole collection been offered her. She was about
to march into the shop and end the protracted interview when Pickert
flung himself out.

“I’m on--got him down fine! Listen--see if I’ve got this right! He wore
a black cape-coat buttoned up close-that’s what you told me, wasn’t
it?--and a kind of a slouch-hat. Been an up-town swell before he got
down and out? That kind of a man, ain’t he? Smooth-shaven, with a droop
in his eye--speaks like a foreigner--English. Somethin’ doin’!--Do you
know a man named Kling who keeps an old-furniture store up on Fourth
Avenue?”

“No, I don’t know Kling and I don’t want to know him. It will be dark,
and Rosenthal’s ‘ll be shut up if I keep up this foolishness, and I’m
going to find my mistress. If you can’t find Dalton, I will, when my
brother Stephen comes. Now you go your way and I’ll go mine.”

He waited until she had boarded a car, then wheeled quickly and dashed
up Third Avenue, crossing 26th Street at an angle, forging along toward
Kling’s. He was through with the old woman. She was English, and so was
Dalton, and so, for that matter, was a man who, Blobbs had told him, had
“blown in” at Kling’s about a year ago from nobody knew where. They’d
all help one another--these English. No, he’d go alone.

When he reached Otto’s window he slowed down, pulled himself together,
and strolled into the store with the air of a man who wanted some one to
help him make up his mind what to buy. The holiday crowd had thinned for
a moment, and only a few men and women were wandering about the store
examining the several articles. Otto at the moment was in tow of a stout
lady in furs, who had changed her mind half a dozen times in the hour
and would change it again, Otto thought, when, as she said, she would
“return with her husband.”

“Vich she von’t do,” he chuckled, addressing his remark to the newcomer,
“and I bet you she never come back. Dot’s de funny ting about some
vimmins ven dey vant to talk it over vid her husbands, and de men ven
dey vant to see der vives. Den you might as vell lock up de shop--ain’t
dot so? Vat is it you vant--one of dem tables? Dot is a Chippendale--you
can see de legs and de top.”

“Yes, I see ‘em,” replied the detective, scanning the circumference of
Otto’s fat body. “But I’m not buying any tables to-day, I’m on another
lead--that is, if I’ve got it right and your name is Kling.”

“Yes, you got it right,” answered Otto; “dot’s my name. Vat is it you
vant?”

“And you own this store?”

“And I own dis store. Didn’t you see de sign ven you come in?” The man’s
manner and cock-sure air were beginning to nettle him.

“I might, and then again, I mightn’t,” Pickert retorted, relaxing into
his usual swaggering tone. “I’m not looking for signs. I’m looking for a
piece of lace, a mantilla they call it, that disappeared a few days ago
from Rosenthal’s up here on Third Avenue--a kind of shawl with a frill
around it--and I thought you might have run across it.”

Otto looked at him over the tops of his glasses, his anger increasing as
he noticed the man’s scowl of suspicion. “Oh, dot’s it, is it? Dot’s vat
you come for. You tink I am a fence, eh?”

The detective grinned derisively. “You bought a piece of lace, didn’t
you?”

“I buy a dozen pieces maybe--vot’s dot your business?”

“My business will come later. What I want to know is whether you’ve got
a piece with a hole in it--black, soft, and squashy--with a frill--a
flounce, they call it--and I want to tell you right here that it will
be a good deal better if you keep a decent tongue in your head and stop
puttin’ on lugs. It’s business with me.”

Masie had crept up and stood listening, wondering at the stranger’s
rough way of talking. So had the tramp, whom Kitty had loaned to Otto
for a few hours to help move some of the heavier furniture. He seemed to
be especially interested in what was taking place, for he kept edging up
the closer, dusting the Colonial sideboard close to which Kling and the
man were standing, his ears stretched to their utmost, in order to miss
no word of the interview.

“Vell, if it’s business, and you don’t mean noddin, dot’s anudder ting,”
 replied Kling, in a milder tone, “maybe den I tell you. Run avay,
Masie, I got someting private to say. Dot’s right. You go talk to Mrs.
Gossburger--Yes,” he added, as the child disappeared, “I did buy a big
lace shawl like dot.”

Pickert’s grin covered half his face. He could get along now without a
search-warrant. “And have you got it now?”

“Yes, I got it now.”

The grin broadened--the triumphant grin of a boy when he hears the click
of a trap and knows the quarry is inside.

“Can I see it?”

“No, you can’t see it.” The man’s cool persistency again irritated him.
“I buy dot for a present and I--Look here vunce! Vat you come in here
for an’ ask dose questions? I never see you before. Dis is my busy time.
Now you put yourselluf outside my place.”

The detective made a step forward, turned his back on the rest of the
shop, unbuttoned his outer coat, lifted the lapel of the inner one, and
uncovered his shield.

“Come across,” he said, in low, cutting tones, “and don’t get gay. I’m
not after you--but you gotter help, see! I’ve traced this mantilla down
to this shop. Now cough it up! If you’ve bought it on the level, I’ve
got a roll here will square it up with you.”

Otto gave a muffled whistle. “Den dot fellow vas a tief, vas he? He
didn’t look like it, for sure. Vell--vell--vell--dot’s funny! Vy, I
vouldn’t have tought dot. Look like a quiet man, and--”

“You remember the man, then?” interrupted the detective, following up
his advantage, and again scraping his chin with his forefinger.

“Oh, yes. I don’t forgot him. Vore a buttoned-up coat--high like up to
his chin--”

“And a slouch-hat?” prompted Pickert.

“Yes, vun of dose soft hats, for I tink de light hurt his eyes ven he
come close up to my desk ven I gif him de money.”

“And had a sort of a catch-look, a kind of a slant in his eye,
didn’t he?” supplemented Pickert; “and was smooth-shaven and--on the
whole--rather decent-looking chap, just getting on his uppers and not
quite. Ain’t that it?”

“Yes, maybe, I don’t recklemember everyting about him. Vell--vell--ain’t
dot funny? But he vasn’t a dead beat--no, I don’t tink so. An’ he stole
it? You vud never tink dot to see him. I got it in my little office,
behind dot partition, in a drawer. You come along. To-morrow is New
Year’s”--here he glanced up the stairs to be sure that Masie was out of
hearing--“and I bought dat lace for a present for my little girl vat you
saw joost now--she loves dem old tings. She has got more as a vardrobe
full of dem. Vait till I untie it. Look! Ain’t dot a good vun? And all I
pay for it vas tventy tollars.”

The detective loosened the folds, shook out the flounce, held it up to
the light, and ran his thumb through the tear in the mesh.

“Of course dere’s a hole--I buy him cheaper for dot hole--my little
Beesving like it better for dot. If it vas new she vouldn’t have it.”

Pickert was now caressing the soft lace, his satisfaction complete. “A
dead give-away,” he said at last. “Much obliged. I’ll take it along,”
 and he began rolling it up.

“You take it--VAT?” exclaimed Otto.

“Well, of course, it’s stolen goods.”

Kling leaned over and caught it from his hand. “If it’s stolen goods,
somebody more as you must come in and tell me dot. By Jeminy, you have
got a awful cheek to come in here and tell me dot! Ven I buy, I buy, and
it is mine to keep. Ven I sell, I sell, and dot’s nobody’s business.”

Pickert bit his lip. His bluff had failed. He must go about it in
another way, if Rosenthal’s customer, who owned the lace, was to regain
possession before the New Year set in.

“Well, then, sell it to me,” he snarled.

“No, I don’t sell it to you. Not if you give me tventy times tventy
tollars. And now you get out of here so k’vick as you can--or me and dot
man over by dot sideboard and two more down-stairs vill trow you out! I
don’t care a tam how big a brass ting you got on your coat. So you dake
it along vid you? Vell, you have got a cheek!”

Pickert’s underlip curled in contempt. He had only to step to the door
and blow a whistle were a row to begin. But that would neither help him
to trail the thief nor to secure the mantilla.

“Now see here, Mr. Kling,” he said, fingering the lapel of Otto’s coat,
“I’ve treated you white, now you treat me white. You make me tired with
your hot air, and it don’t go--see, not with me!--and now I’ll put it to
you straight. Will you sell me that mantilla? Here’s the money”--and he
pulled out a roll of bills.

Otto was now thoroughly angry. “NO!” he shouted, moving toward the door
of his office.

“Will you help put me on to the man who sold it to you?”

“No!” roared Kling again, his Dutch blood at boiling-point. “I put you
on noddin--dot’s your bis’ness, dis puttin’ on, not mine.” He had walked
out of the office and was beckoning to the tramp. “Here, you! You go
down-stairs and tell Hans to come up k’vick--right avay.”

The tramp slouched up--a sliding movement, led by his shoulder, his feet
following.

“Maybe, boss, I kin help if you don’t mind my crowdin’ in.” He had
listened to the whole conversation and knew exactly what would happen
if he carried out Kling’s order. He had seen too many mix-ups in his
time--most of them through resisting an officer in the discharge of
his duty. Kling, the first thing he knew, would be wearing a pair of
handcuffs, and he himself might lose his job.

He addressed the detective: “I saw the guy when he come in and I saw him
when he went out. Mr. O’Day saw him, too, but he’d skipped afore he got
on to his mug. He’ll tell ye same as me.”

The detective canted his head, looked the tramp over from his shoes to
his unkempt head, and turned suddenly to Kling. “Who’s Mr. O’Day?” he
snapped.

“He’s my clerk,” growled Otto, his determination to get rid of the man
checked by this new turn in the situation.

“Can I see him?”

“No, you can’t see him, because he’s gone out vid Kitty Cleary. He’ll
be back maybe in an hour--maybe he don’t come back at all. He don’t know
noddin about dis bis’ness and nobody don’t let him know noddin about it
until to-morrow. Den my little Beesving know de first. Half de fun is in
de surprise.”

The detective at once lost interest in Kling, and turned to the tramp
again--the two moving out of Otto’s hearing. A new and fresh scent had
crossed the trail--one it might be wise to follow.

“You work here?” he asked. He had taken his measure in a glance and was
ready to use him.

“No, I work in John Cleary’s express office,” grunted the tramp. “Mr.
O’Day wanted me to come over and help for New Year’s.”

“What’s he got to do with you?”

“He got me my job.”

“He’s an Englishman, ain’t he?”

“Yes, and the best ever.”

“Oh, yes, of course,” sneered the detective. “Been working here a year
and knows the ropes. So you saw the man come in and O’Day, the clerk,
saw him go out, did he? And O’Day sent for you to stay around in case
any questions were asked? Is that it?”

The tramp’s lip was lifted, showing his teeth. “No, that ain’t it by a
damned sight! I know who pinched the goods--knowed him for months. Know
his name, just as well as I know yours. I got on to you soon as you come
in.”

The detective shot a quick glance at the speaker. “Me?” he returned
quietly.

“Yes--YOU. Your name is Pickert--ONE of your names--you’ve got half a
dozen. And the guy’s name is Stanton. He hangs out at the Bowdoin House,
and when he ain’t there he’s playin’ pool at Steve Lipton’s where I used
to work. Are you on?”

The detective betrayed no surprise, neither over the mention of his own
name nor that of Stanton. If the tramp’s story were true he would have
the bracelets on the thief before morning. He decided, however, to try
the old game first.

“It may be worth something to you if you can make good,” he said, with a
confidential shrug of his near shoulder.

The tramp thrust out his chin with a gesture of disgust. “Nothin’ doin’!
You can keep your plunks. I don’t want ‘em. I know you fellers--I
got onto your curves when I was on my uppers. When you can’t get your
flippers on the right man you slip ‘em on the first galoot you catch,
and I want to tell you right here that you can’t mix Mr. O’Day in this
business, for he don’t know nothin’ about it, nor anything else that’s
crooked. I’ll get this man Stanton for you if the boss will let me out
for an hour. Shall I ask him?”

Pickert examined his finger-nails for a brief moment--one seemed in need
of immediate repairs--his mind all the while in deep thought. The tramp
might help or he might not. He evidently knew him, and it was possible
that he also knew Stanton, the name borne by the woman charged with the
theft; or the whole yarn might be a ruse to give the real thief a tip,
and thus block everything. Lipton’s place he frequented, and the Bowdoin
House he could find.

“No, you stay here,” he broke out. “I’ll get him.”

He walked back to the office, the tramp following. “I say, Mr. Kling!”
 he called impudently.

Otto lifted his head. He had locked up the mantilla and had the key in
his pocket. For him the incident was closed.

“Vell?” replied Otto dryly.

“Does this man work over at Cleary’s express?”

“He does. Vy?”

“Oh, nothing. I may want him later. And, say!”

“Vell,” again replied Otto.

“Git wise and surprise that little girl of yours with something
else--she’ll never wear that mantilla. So long,” and he strode out of
the store.



Chapter XXIII



The short winter’s day had run its course and a soft, aimless snow was
falling--each flake a lazy feather, careless of its fate. The store
windows were ablaze, and many of the houses on both sides of “The
Avenue” were alive with newly kindled gas-jets, the street-lamps
shedding their light over a broad highway blocked with slipping teams,
their carts crammed to the utmost with holiday freight.

A spirit of good-fellowship and unrestrained joyousness was everywhere.
When a team was stalled, two or three men put their shoulders to the
wheels; when a horse slipped and fell, a dozen others helped him to his
feet. Snowballs, thrown in good humor and received with a laugh, filled
the air. New York was getting ready to celebrate the night before New
Year’s, the maddest night of all the year in old Manhattan, when groups
of merrymakers, carrying tin horns and jingling cow-bells, crowd the
sidewalks, singing and shouting, forming flying wedges, swooping down on
other wedges--strangers all--the whole ending in roars of laughter and
“Happy New Year’s,” repeated again and again until the next collision.

None of this roused Felix as, with heavy heart, he turned into Kitty’s.
Of what the morrow would bring forth he dared not think. Father Cruse,
he knew, would do what he could to save Barbara, and the British
consul--a man he had always avoided--might help. But nothing of all
this could lighten his load or relieve his pain. She might be given
her freedom for a time, or she might be turned over to one of the
reformatories for a term of years--either course meant untold suffering
to a woman reared as his wife had been. These mental tortures of the day
had burned their way into his brain, as branding-irons burn into flesh,
the agony seaming the lines of his face and deep-hollowing the eyes,
forming scars that might take years to efface.

As his fingers gripped the knob of Kitty’s outside office, shouts of
“Happy New Year” rang out from a group of girls showering each other
with snowballs.

“Pray God,” he said to himself, “that it be better than the one which is
passing,” and stepped inside, to find Kitty in the kitchen.

“I have come to talk to you,” he said, speaking as a man whose strength
is far spent. “And if you do not mind, I will ask you to go into the
sitting-room where we shall not be disturbed. I have something to say to
you. Will you be alone?”

Kitty gave a start. She knew at once that some new development had
brought him to her at this hour.

“Yes, not a soul but me. John and Bobby are up to the Grand Central,
Mike’s bailed out, and yer tramp just come over from Otto’s. They’re
cleanin’ out the stables. Is it some news ye have of her?”

“No--nothing more than you know. That must wait until to-morrow. Nothing
can be done to-night.”

She followed him into the room, dragged out a chair from against the
wall, waited until he had slipped off his mackintosh, and then seated
herself beside him.

“No,” he repeated, passing his hand across his eyes as if to shut out
some haunting vision. “There is no news. She is in a cell, I suppose. My
God, what does it all mean!”

He paused, his head averted, staring straight ahead.

“You have been very kind to me, Mrs. Cleary, since I have been here--you
and your husband. You may not have realized it, but I do not think I
could have gone through the year without you--you and little Masie. I
have come to the end now, where no one can help. I have tried to carry
it through alone. I did not want to burden you with my troubles and--if
I could prevent it, I would not now, but you will know it sooner or
later, and I would rather tell you myself than have you hear it from
strangers.”

He hesitated for an instant, looked into her eyes, and said slowly: “The
woman you picked up in the street and who is now in prison, is my wife,
or was, until a year ago.”

Kitty neither moved nor spoke. The announcement did not greatly surprise
her. What absorbed her was the new, hard lines in his face, her wonder
being that such suffering should have fallen upon the head of a man who
so little deserved it.

“And is that what has been breakin’ yer heart all these months ye lived
with us?”

Felix moved uneasily. “Yes. There has been nothing else.”

“And she’s the same one ye’ve been a-trampin’ the streets to find?”

Felix bowed his head in assent.

“And ye kep’ all this from me?” she asked, as a mother might reproach
her son.

“You could have done nothing.”

“I could have comforted ye. That would have been somethin’. Did she
leave ye?”

Again Felix bowed his head in answer. The spoken words would only add to
his pain.

“For another man, was it?--Yes, I see--you twice her age, and she a chit
of a child. Ye can’t do much for that kind once they get their heads
set--no matter how good ye are to them. And I suppose that when I found
her that night on the door-steps and brought her into the kitchen, he’d
turned her into the street. That’s it, isn’t it? And then she got to
stealin’ to keep from starvin’?”

“Yes, I suppose so--I do not know. I only know she is a criminal. That
is shame enough.”

“And is that all ye came to tell me?” She was going to the bottom of it
now. This man was gripped in the tortures of the damned and could only
be helped when he had emptied out his heart--all of it, down to the very
dregs.

“No, there is something else. I wanted to speak to you about Masie. I
may go back to England in a few days and I am not satisfied to leave her
unprotected. She has no mother and you have no daughter--would you
look after her for me? I have learned to love her very dearly--and I
am greatly disturbed over her future and who is to look after her. Her
father will not listen to any plans I might make for her, nor will he
take proper care of her. He thinks he does, but he lets her do as she
pleases. She will be a woman in a very short time, and I shudder when
I think of the dangers which beset her. A shop like Kling’s is no place
for a child like Masie.”

Kitty had turned pale when Felix announced his probable departure,
something to which she had not yet given a thought, but she heard him to
the end.

“I will do all I can for Masie, but that can wait. And now I’m goin’ to
talk to ye as if ye were my John, and ye got to be patient with me, Mr.
O’Day. God knows I’d help ye in any way I could, but ye’ve got to help
me a little so I can help ye the better. May I go on?”

“Help! How can I help?” he asked listlessly.

“By trustin’ me--and I can be trusted, and so can John. I found out some
months ago that ye were Sir Felix O’Day, but ye never heard me blab it
to any livin’ soul, nor did John either--not even to Father Cruse. I’ve
watched ye go in and out all these months, and many a night, tired as
I was, I didn’t get to sleep, worryin’ about ye until I’d heard ye shut
yer door. Ye said nothin’ to me and I could say nothin’ to ye. I knew
ye’d tell me when the time come and it has, with ye nigh crazy, and
she on her way to Sing Sing. What she’s been through since that night I
brought her here, I don’t know--but she’d ‘a’ broke your heart if ye’d
seen her staggerin’ weak, followin’ me and John like a whipped dog. I
thought then she had got the worst of it, somehow, and that she hadn’t
deserved what had been handed out to her, and John thought so, too. What
it was I didn’t know, but I’ve got somebody now who does know and who
will tell me the truth, and I’m askin’ ye to give it to me straight.
If she was your wife she must be a lady, for ye wouldn’t ‘a’ married
anybody else. And if she was a lady, how has it happened that she is
locked up in the Tombs, and that a gentleman like ye is working at
Otto’s? And before ye answer, remember that I’m not askin’ for meself,
but for you and the poor woman ye tried to find to-day.”

His tired eyes had not left her own during the long outburst. He had
never doubted her sincerity nor her kindliness, but now, as he listened,
there stole over him a yearning, strange in one so habitually reticent,
to share with her the secret he had hidden all these months--except from
Father Cruse.

“Yes, you shall know,” he answered, with a sigh of relief. “It is best
that somebody should know, and best of all that it should be you. But
first tell me how you found out that I could use my father’s title--I
have never told anybody here.”

“An Englishman told me, who wanted his trunk taken to the steamer. He
saw you cross the street. ‘That’s Sir Felix O’Day,’ he said, ‘and he has
had more trouble than any man I ever knew.’”

“Did you check the trunk?”

“Yes.”

“That explains how my solicitor in London, whom I have just heard from,
discovered my address. He mentioned a trunk-tag as his clew; he and the
Englishman evidently met. As to the title, it was of no use to me
here. I may use it now, at home, for he writes that there were several
hundreds of pounds sterling saved out of my own and my father’s wreck,
together with a small cottage and a few acres of land near London. Had I
known it, however, before I came here, it would have made no difference,
nor would it have altered my plan. I had come here to find my wife, for
I knew that sooner or later she would be utterly stranded, without a
human being to whom she could appeal; but I never expected to find her a
criminal. Terrible! Terrible! I cannot yet take it in. Poor child! What
is to become of her, God only knows!”

He had risen, and in his agony walked to the window, his updrawn
shoulders tense, like those of a man standing by an open grave. He stood
there for a moment, Kitty silently watching him, until, with a deep
sigh, he came back to his chair.

“I have been a fool, no doubt, to pursue this thing as I have, but there
seemed no other way. I could not have lived with myself afterward, if I
had not made the effort. I knew that you and your husband often wondered
at the life I led, and I have often thanked you in my heart for your
loyalty. It is but another one of the things that have made this home so
dear to me. I told Father Cruse what brought me to New York, so that he
could help me find her, and he has been more than kind. Many a night we
have tramped the streets together, or have searched haunts that either
she, or the man who ruined her, might frequent, or where we should meet
persons who had seen them, but so far, you are the only person who has
brought us near to each other.

“I tell you now because it is better that you and I should understand
each other before I sail, and because, too, you are a big, brave,
true-hearted woman who can and will understand. You may not think
it, but you have been a revelation to me, Mrs. Cleary--you and this
home--and the neighborhood, in fact, peopled with clean, wholesome men
and women. It has been a great lesson to me and a marvellous contrast to
what had surrounded me at home. You were right in your surmise that my
wife is a lady, and that I have been born a gentleman. And now I will
tell you why we are both here.”

Then, in broken words, with long pauses between, he told her the story
of his own and Lady Barbara’s home life, and of Dalton’s perfidy with
all the horror that had followed, Kitty’s body bent forward, her ears
drinking in every word, her plump, ruddy hands resting in her lap, her
heart throbbing with sympathy for the man who sat there so calm and
patient, stating his case without bitterness, his anger only rising when
he recounted the incidents leading up to his wife’s estrangement and
denounced the man who had planned her ruin.

Only when the tale was ended did she burst out: “And I ain’t surprised
yer heart’s broke! Ye’ve had enough to kill ye. The wonder to me is that
ye’re walkin’ around with yer head up and your heart not soured. I been
thinkin’ and thinkin’ all these months, and John and I have talked it
over many a night; but we never thought it was as bad as it is. And now
I’m goin’ to ask ye a question and ye must tell me the truth. What are
ye goin’ to do next?”

“See Father Cruse to-night and tell him what I have found out. He must
do the rest. I have gone as far as I dared, and can go no further.
I must draw the line at crime. In spite of it all, I would have gone
down-stairs to see her, had she not been sent away, but I am glad now
that I did not. She comes of a proud race and that would have been the
last thing she could have borne. As it is, she thinks I am in Australia,
and it’s better that she should. She would have thought I had come to
taunt her, and no one could have undeceived her. I know her--and her
wilfulness. Poor child! She has always been her own worst enemy. And
so, just as soon as I learn what is to happen to her, I shall settle my
account with the man who has caused her ruin, and return to England--and
I can go the easier, and pick up my old life again the better, if I can
be assured that you will look after little Masie, and see that no harm
comes to her.”

Kitty raised her hands from her lap and folded them across her bosom.
“Let me talk a little, will ye, Mr. O’Day? Ye needn’t worry about Masie.
I’ll take care of her--all that Kling will let me. I knew her mother,
who died when the child was born, and a fine woman she was--ten times as
good as Kling whom her father made her marry. But there’s somebody else
who needs me, and who needs ye more than Masie needs us, and that’s yer
wife. How do ye know her heart is not breakin’ for somebody to say a
kind word to her? Are ye goin’ home and leave her like this? That’s not
like ye, and I don’t want to hear ye say it. Do you mean that if she is
put away up the river, ye won’t stay here and--”

“What for, to sit for five years waiting for her to come out? And what
then? Have you ever seen one reform?”

“And if she gets off, and wanders around the streets?”

“Father Cruse must answer that question.”

“But ye came all these miles to New York to pull her out of the mess she
had got into with that man who’s ruined yer home, and ye out in the cold
without a cent--and ye forgave her for that--and now that she’s locked
up with only herself to suffer, ye turn yer back on her and leave her to
fight it out alone.”

“I did not forgive HER, Mrs. Cleary,” he said in deliberate tones. “I
forgave her childish nature, remembering the way she had been educated;
remembering, too, that I was twice her age. Nor did I forget the poverty
I had brought upon her.”

“And why not forgive her this?” She could hardly restrain a sob as she
spoke.

His lips straightened and his brows narrowed. “This is not due to
her nature,” he answered coldly, “nor to her bringing up. She has now
committed a crime and is beyond reclaim. Once a thief, always a thief. I
must stop somewhere.”

“But why not hear her story from her own lips?” she pleaded, her voice
choking. “YOU hear it--not Father Cruse, nor me, nor anybody but YOU,
who have loved her!”

Felix shook his head. “It is kinder for me to stay away. The very sight
of me would kill her.” His answer was final.

Kitty squared herself. “I don’t believe it,” she cried, the tears now
coursing down her cheeks. “Oh, for the blessed God’s sake don’t say
it--take it back! Listen to me, Mr. O’Day. If she ever wanted a friend
it’s now. I’d go meself but I’d do no good--nor nothin’ I’d tell her
would do her any good. It’s a man she wants to lean on, not a woman. I
can almost lift my John off his feet with one hand, but when I get into
trouble I’m just so much putty, runnin’ to him like a baby, weak as a
rag, and he pattin’ my cheek same as if I was a three-year-old. Go and
get yer arms around her and tell her ye don’t believe a word of it, and
that ye’ll stand by her to the end, and ye’ll make a good woman of her.
Turn yer back on her, and they’ll have her in potter’s field if she
gets out of this scrape, for she can’t fight long--she hasn’t got the
strength.

“She could hardly get up-stairs the night I put her to bed--she was that
tremblin’, and she’s no better to-day. Don’t let yer pride shut up yer
heart, Mr. O’Day. You are a gentleman and ye’ve lived like one, and
ye’ve got your own and yer father’s name to keep clean, and that poor
child has dragged it in the mud, and the papers will be full of it, and
the disgrace of it all dries ye up, and ye can go no further, and so ye
cut loose and let her sink. No, don’t ye get angry with me--if ye were
my own John I’d tell ye the same. Listen--do ye hear them horns blowin’
and the children shoutin’? It’s New Year’s Eve--to-morrow all the slates
will be wiped clean--the past rubbed out and everybody’ll have a new
start. Make a clean slate of yer own heart--wipe out everything ye’ve
got against that poor child. Take her in yer arms once more--help her
come back! If God didn’t clean His own slate once in a while and forgive
us, none of us would ever get to heaven. Hush! Quiet now! Somebody’s
just come into the office. I’ll not let any one in to disturb ye. Stay
where ye are till I see. I hear a voice. WHAT! Well, as I’m alive, it’s
Father Cruse--what’s he come for at this hour? Shall I let him in?”

Felix lifted himself slowly to his feet, as would a man in a hospital
ward who sees the doctor approaching.

“Yes, let him in; I was going to look him up.” He was relieved at the
interruption. Kitty’s appeal had deeply stirred him, but had not swerved
him from his purpose. He had done his duty--all of it, to the very last.
The day’s developments had ended everything. He had no right to bring a
criminal into his family.

Kitty swung wide the door and Father Cruse stepped in. He wore his heavy
cassock, which was flecked with snow, and his wide hat.

“My messenger told me you were here, Mr. O’Day,” he cried out, in a
cheery voice, “and I came at once. And, Mrs. Cleary, I am more than glad
to find you here as well.”

Felix stepped forward. “It was very good of you, Father. I was coming
down to see you in a few minutes.” They had shaken hands and the three
stood together.

The priest glanced in question at Kitty, then back again at Felix. “Does
Mrs. Cleary--”

“Yes, Mrs. Cleary knows,” returned Felix calmly. “I have told her
everything. Lady Barbara--” he paused, the words were strangling him,
“has been arrested--for stealing--and is now in the Tombs prison.”

Father Cruse laid his hand on O’Day’s shoulder. “No, my friend, she
is not in the Tombs. I took her to St. Barnabas’s Home and put her in
charge of the Sisters.”

Felix straightened his back. “You have saved her from it.”

“Yes, two hours ago. And she can stay there until the matter is settled,
or just as long as you wish it.” His hand was still on O’Day’s shoulder,
his mind intent on the drawn features, seamed with the furrows the last
few hours had ploughed. He saw how he had suffered.

Felix stretched out his hand as if to steady himself, motioned the
priest to a chair, and sank into his own.

“In the Sisters’ Home,” he repeated mechanically, after a moment’s
silence. Then rousing himself: “And you will see her, Father, from time
to time?”

“Yes, every day. Why do you ask such a question--of me, in particular?”

“Because,” replied Felix slowly, “I may be away--out of the country. I
have just asked Mrs. Cleary to look after Masie and she has promised she
will. And I am going to ask you to look after my poor wife. They must
be very gentle with her--and they should not judge her too harshly.” He
seemed to be talking at random, thinking aloud rather than addressing
his companions. “Since I saw you I have received a letter from my
solicitor. There is some money coming to me, he says, and I shall see
that she is not a burden to you.”

The priest turned abruptly, and laid a firm hand on O’Day’s knee. “But
you will see her, of course?”

“No, it is better that you act for me. She will not want to see me in
her present condition.”

Kitty was about to protest, when Father Cruse waved her into silence.
“You certainly cannot mean what you have just said, Mr. O’Day?”

“I do.”

The priest rose quickly, passed though the kitchen, and opened the door
leading to the outer office. Two women stood waiting, one in a long
cloak, the other clinging to her arm, her face white as chalk, her lips
quivering.

“Come in,” said the priest.

Martha put her arm around Lady Barbara and led her into the room.

Felix staggered to his feet.

The two stood facing each other, Lady Barbara searching his eyes, her
fingers tight hold of Martha’s arm.

“Don’t turn away, Felix,” she sobbed. “Please listen. Father Cruse said
you would. He brought me here.”

No answer came, nor did he move, nor had he heard her plea. It was
the bent, wasted figure and sunken cheeks, the strands of her still
beautiful hair in a coil about her neck, that absorbed him.

Again her eyes crept up to his.

“I’m so tired, Felix--so tired. Won’t you please take me home to my
father--”

He made a step forward, halted as if to recover his balance, wavered
again, and stretched out his hands.

“Barbara! BARBARA!” he cried. “Your home is here.” And he caught her in
his arms.

END





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