Изображения страниц
[graphic][merged small][merged small]

prayed that God would take away this ambition and that I would wake on the morrow with only the old spirit of happiness and


"It was not the first time; the same thought had come to me before; but it never took hold as it did that night. It gripped me like a vise and urged me on to make good the unfilled promise of the past. I chafed under my own failure and I was jealous of your success—yes, the success of you four-the best friends a man ever had. I wanted to be to you in all things as I had been that Christmas Eve-your master."

Carter pulled himself to his feet and a strange light burned in his fevered eyesthe same light that had flamed up a year before and driven him out into the world.

"And the next day," he ran on, "the hatred of the things about me was still strong, and the thought uppermost in my mind was to get away-away to the broad life that was waiting for me. And so I left my home, as you know, and I went in search of something big and great, and yet something I could not define even in my own mind—perhaps it was power, or it may have been fame or great wealth-I don't knowbut it was something which my life lacked and something that a new spirit in me craved."

Carter suddenly broke into a violent fit of coughing, and falling back into his chair laid his head on his arms, which were stretched out on the table in front of him. The four men sat silent and pityingly watched the emaciated frame shake convulsively under the folds of the ragged suit of clothes. The man sitting at his right put the glass of whiskey in front of Carter, but he pushed it away and started in again, very slowly, to finish his story.

"And what did I find? What did I find? I found the freedom of the escaped convict. Money, I had in plenty, and everything I touched turned into gold. I tried stocks and I went to the races and I gambled, and I bet my money like a drunken sailor, and I always won. That was good, because I needed a great deal of money those days. I was forever travelling-always moving on in the hope that I would find the big life-the high place that was waiting for me. I had never known what it was to have 'easy' money before, but now

my pockets were bulging with it, and I spent it as freely as it came, and yet it brought me nothing. I chased on from town to city, and afterward from one country to another-my eyes were blinded by the colors of the rainbow always in front of me and my dogged brain hurried me on in my search for the pot of gold. And then one night the good luck which had been my evil companion through all my travels suddenly left me-left me alone, friendless and miserable. Budapest was the name of the place. I had lost heavily all day at the races, and I tried to win it back at night at a gambling club, and I lost and lost. The cards were human things, cruel human things, that reached out and took my money from me and laughed at me. The damned things had no mercy and they took it away from me-everything. And then I cursed them and I cursed the men who grinned at me across the green table. They were poor foreign things with short pointed beards and turned-up mustaches and little decorations in the lapels of their coats, and their fingers were covered with jewels, the fingers that took my money from me, and I cursed them out for thieves and blackguards. They threw me into the street, and I groped my way along until I came to a café where there was a regular blaze of lights and the men and women were sitting about little tables and laughing loud and singing with the band. For a time I sat with them, and in the cool night air my brain got clearer, and I saw things as they really were. In place of beauty I found paint and powder and rouge, and the women smiled like monkeys and the poor wizened men showed their gold and their bank-notes as if to prove they were really men, and the music itself was tainted with the desire for things which are only material. The whole place breathed of passion and excess and unrest, and it seemed as if the world had returned to the state of animals.

"The next day, with the help of the consul, I got light work on a boat that started me in the direction of my own land. The rainbow had gone-and in its place there was nothing left but a great desire for home and rest and the peace and the content which could never again be mine. There is no use in telling you what happened after this-you can see for yourselves.

It was bad enough to suffer as I have suffered, but it isn't the body that hurtsit's the mind-I tell you it's the mind." Carter put his hand to his head and slowly pulled himself out of his chair.

"I don't want any of you to think I came here for your sympathy, or your aid, but I just wanted you to know. If there was one place in the world where I might find an empty chair waiting for me I knew that it would be here. If I had opened that door to-night and had found this place filledI thank you for that, boys, anyhow."

“I think you had better have that drink now," said one of the men.

Carter stopped on his way to the door and held up his hand protestingly, "Not yet," he said, "not yet. I've got something else to do. I'm going to town." He slowly shuffled to the door and went out in the storm. The four men silently rose from the table and looked out of the windows on the great white landscape. The road marked by the heavy drifts lay deep in snow, and along it they watched the solitary figure of Carter fighting against the storm on his way to the town.

At the stroke of twelve the annual outing of the club was officially brought to an end and the four remaining members climbed into their sleigh and started to plough their way back home over the snowfilled roads. The bank president held the reins, and no one expressed surprise or curiosity when he turned into the street at the end of which stood "the Widow's" cottage. It was not necessary to go all the way, for from afar off they saw that the little house was aglow with the light of welcome


and good cheer, and they knew that the prodigal had returned. The bank president suddenly turned the horses and drew the long whip sharply across their backs. "God bless her!" he said; "and Tommy too damn him!"

It does not take good or bad news very long to reach the farthermost quarters of a small city, and by ten o'clock the next day everyone in town was talking of Tommy Carter's return. And although it was Christmas Day, and no one seemed to have very much in particular to do, there were no visitors at "the Widow's" cottage. There seemed to be a general understanding that the day and Tommy belonged just to her. As a matter of fact, the bank president did drop in during the evening, but it was only for a moment-just long enough to tell Carter his place was waiting for him at the bank. And the next day there was a long line of depositors which all through the morning passed slowly in front of the receiving-teller's window. There were old business men with a pocket full of checks and young clerks with little black satchels and poor old ladies and rich young ladies and many little children, all with gold pieces and crisp bank-notes which the real Santa Claus or just some modern Kriss Kingle had given them the day before. And as everyone in that long line approached Carter's desk they rehearsed the few remarks they had prepared, but it so happened that not one of these little speeches of welcome was ever made. But as a compromise each old man or young woman or little child just reached through the window and squeezed Tommy's hand.


By Guy Wetmore Carryl


HE big house stands upon a rise of ground, commanding a tolerable stretch of country; the gardener's cottage is back of its imposing neighbor, and further down the slope, and impresses even an unimaginative observer as having a deprecatory air, the air of a dependent-which, indeed,

it is.

I have travelled a good bit, and seen a number of people who are or have been counted famous, and, among these, not a few who, by reason of an exalted position, a lofty manner, or a brilliant dress, were signally impressive; but even so, I found Mrs. Enoch Blake imposing at the first glance, and never met her thereafter without a sensation of respect. It was not remarkable, therefore, that upon William, Alfy, and Henry John that lady's presence should have produced an effect nothing short of stupefying. Mrs. Enoch Blake was a charming and sufficiently wealthy widow of my acquaintance, who lived in the big house aforementioned, and William, Alfy, and Henry John were her gardener's sons. There were so many good points about Mrs. Blake that it would be sheer folly to attempt their enumeration; but she had no eye for her inferiors. Other people, and, in particular, your scientist, your author, and your painter, pride themselves upon the amount of things they contrive to see in going through the world; but Mrs. Enoch Blake plumed herself upon the people she managed not to e-a curious vanity! Her use of an elaborate gold lor

gnette was so constant that she might fairly have been said to wear, rather than simply to carry, it, and was not, as might be surmised, designed primarily to reënforce a de

fective vision, but, quite as much, to emphasize the superb hauteur of her demeanor. It was only the envious among her acquaintances who compared her on this account to a basilisk or Gorgon, although I not infrequently heard it done. Not the least of her good points were two daughters so charming that I should infallibly have made an offer for the pair if I had been so fortunate as to be born twins, but between whom, as it was, I was unable to decide; a miniature Eden of a country-place; three capital saddle-horses; and a thoroughly initiated, if somewhat formal, theory and practice of hospitality. In short, Mrs. Enoch Blake was a lady whose tolerance (since I hardly expected to get much farther) I thought it very well worth a bachelor's while to cultivate. I had done so assiduously for close upon six years, and was regularly invited, once a quarter, to spend Sunday, and, at Thanksgiving, to pass a week.

I have more than once reflected upon the incongruity of the supposition that Mrs. Blake and her dozen or more servants were created equal. That she in person should ever have engaged them; that from time to time she should instruct, command, or reprove them, in the performance of their duties; that, in brief, she was so much as aware in any respect of their existence,

To emphasize the superb hauteur
of her demeanor.

[ocr errors][merged small]

seemed to me to be the least logical of human relations, so monumental was the contrast between the magnificent reserve of her attitude and the timid inconspicuity of theirs. They seemed to, and I think they did, regard her with almost superstitious awe, but the manner of none was so instinct with mute reverence and admiration as was that of William, Alfy, and Henry John.

[ocr errors]


From the moment when first I clapped eyes on them this infant trio exercised upon me the strangest and most powerful magnetism. Their ages I should have taken to be, respectively, five, four, and two. All three were solidly built, and distinguished by a stupendous gravity of expression, as well as by their gregarious habit of travelling heavily about in company. From the they vaguely suggested to my mind a

, I should infallibly have made an offer for the pair if I had been so fortunate as to be born twins.-Page 722.


group which I seemed to remember in Biblical history-I should be at a loss to place them-who "stood afar off, gazing," or something of the kind. As we were strolling about the place, or starting for a walk, we would suddenly espy them in the middle distance, motionless, staring, seemingly entranced. The elder Miss Blake proposed to draw from them a resemblance to buffalo, disturbed in their grazing, upon the crest of a prairie-swell. There was something in that. The younger Miss Blake was reminded of the natives of San Salvador observing the landing of Columbus from the slopes back of the beach. There was something in that also. But so far as I am concerned, I have only to whisper to myself," They stood afar off, gazing," and I have called up the most vivid imaginable picture of William, Alfy, and Henry John.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »