IN MAGOON BUILDING OFFICES.
THE Magoon Building stood in lower Broadway, near the head of Wall Street, among the marts and exchanges, in that imposing quarter whose tower-like structures seem to loom up nearer heaven every day.
There were in the Magoon Building offices of canal and coal companies, offices of brick, cement, salt, and silver-mining companies ; offices of attorneys, trustees of estates, and general agents ; of locomotive, sleeping-car, iron, and dynamite works ; offices of the Weekly Coin Expositor, the Devious Air-Line Railway, and the Eureka Tool Works of Kingboltsville. Bainbridge sometimes met Kingbolt coming to this latter, on the business of drawing additional funds. “ What are you doing now, Russ?” this fortunate person, whom he had known at college, inquired on such occasions, and passed on, hardly waiting for his answer. There were offices that seemed never to be entered but by stealth, and others, like the Prudential Land and Loan Company, always freely open, perhaps that their equipment of mahogany desks and counters and engraved glass screens might not be lost upon the general public. Feet never ceased clacking on the pavements of the Magoon Building, and its crowded elevators were never done flitting mysteri-
ously behind their wire inclosures, from story to story.
The day after we saw him last, Bainbridge, on returning from his lunch, an hour later than usual, stood by his high office window, gazing out at the view. His view commanded a corner of Trinity church-yard, the old, historic graves of which are robbed now of gloom, and invested only with a gentle sentiment of melancholy. The striking of the belfry clock, and the jangling of the chimes ringing for afternoon service daily at three, came across to him where he was, almost from a level. The expanse of roofs beyond, studded with innumerable brick chimneys, like a cemetery too of some other curious sort, terminated at the water’s edge in a palisade of masts and spars. Over in the Jerseys, across the river, and beyond the settlements, the steam of a locomotive, here and there, speeding out into the country was seen thrown back in solid-looking puffs, as if these were a kind of clods produced by its rapid burrowing movement into the atmosphere. “ The tempter no doubt puts us young and needy ones up into these high places to make us fall down and worship him,” soliloquized the young man. “ Nevertheless, the prospect just here, though interesting, certainly does not seem to offer anything we need especially sigh for, so get thee behind me, Satan, with all my heart.”
A knock sounded at the door as he turned back to his desk. Gammage entered. This protégé — if it can be admitted that a young man so opposed, according to his own statement, to all humane impulses, could have a protégé — was a dignified, almost senatorial-looking person, with dome-like bald head, large gray moustache, and clothing, though shabby, of a surviving gentility. Such a figure, at his desk in the Prudential L. and L. Company’s office, was worth much more than the small stipend it commanded, from the point of view of pure dignity. It was a very weak and decayed dignity now. A roving eye, an unsteady gait, and an unusual lightness of greeting in one who was habitually serious, oppressed by a sense of his unfortunate position, told to the pained eye of Bainbridge the story of a relapse into a ruinous habit. His face, instead of being flushed, was of a marble pallor, as though his drams and opiates, more dangerous yet, took hold upon his very vitals. He explained that he called upon his young friend with a purely social purpose. He seated himself without being asked, and appeared in no haste to return to the duties of his office. He had lunched, he said, with a very pleasant fellow. Bainbridge recollected having seen him at the Nassau Street restaurant, where he took his own light midday meal. He had been among the auditors of the builder Jocelyn, who was once more abusing Rodman Harvey, apropos of the account in the newspaper of his expensive entertainment to the President.
“ Jocelyn is right,” said Gammage. “ Rodman Harvey is a bad man, — a hard man, if ever there was one ; spending money like water on himself, and holding it back from those who drudge for him, and any of the — the broken-up, that might need a helping hand.”
“ What did Harvey ever do to you, Gammage, that you speak of him in that way ? What do you know about him ? ” Seemingly this was an opportunity to secure some of the information which he had had it in mind to acquire.
“ He would not give me a situation I asked of him when 1 was first—down. He might have given it to me. May he I’d have been different then. He knew me when I held my head up with the best. He was not always so easy in his circumstances, so high and mighty and strait - laced, himself. Certain things came under my obsiv— my ob—servatiou. Because some doings are passed over, that is not to say that they are forgotten. I suppose he could afford to pay me for keeping quiet, Rodman Harvey could, if I was a mind — I sup-
pose you would not want to go into it, would you ? ” he proposed, as if struck, in his maudlin way, by a new reflection.
“Go into what?” inquired Bainbridge sternly.
“ Oh, of course, I did not mean — I am too high-toned for that ” — the shattered visitor apologized humbly, and thereupon rambled from the subject. He would have avoided it wholly but that Bainbridge drew him back with some art, and heard a certain story in which, as in that of McFadd, the names of General Burlington and Hackley, now of Hackley and Valentine, occurred as persons who knew something to the detriment of Rodman Harvey. It was too incoherent and fragmentary to be a complete whole, and was highly improbable, besides, as far as it went. Not to aid to give it in the inebriate’s mind an exaggerated importance by an appearance of interest, he abandoned any attempt to make a lucid system of its obscurities now, proposing to defer further inquiry into its details, should any such seem desirable, till Gammage could be met with in a sober mood. He only asked at present whether the narrator had repeated the story to any others, — to his employer, Sir. St. Hill, for instance.
Gammage, in reply, complained of St. Hill as a person too supercilious to invite confidences of any kind. He threw out suspicions, also, as to the usefulness of the business transacted at the company’s office, and expressed his belief that there was a purpose afoot to supplant him, Gammage, in his clerkship. “ I advise you, then, not to go back in your present condition,” said Bainbridge. “ You will certainly lose your place. You had better go home now, and return to your office to-morrow, with the best excuse you can offer.”
“ Why do you not take me to task ? Why do you not plead with me, as you once did ? ” urged the wretched man, curiously making a kind of luxury of his woe under the cold demeanor of his patron.
“ It is too late for all that now, Gammage. Your most solemn promises are of no avail. I shall have to give you up.”
“ Don’t say that! Don't say it yet! You were the only one to give me another chance. Harvey would n’t do it. None of the old ones that knew me would do it. You took hold of me when I was in the streets, ragged and starving. You told me there was n’t a man in a thousand as good-looking as I, and that it was no place for me. Did n’t you say that ? You put me up among the farmers of Westchester to sober off, and I did odd jobs and writing for them. Then, when we thought it safe, at last, you looked about and found me a place — and I — lost it, and then you got me this: Did n’t you do it? Were n’t you the only one who would trust me again ? ”
“Well, and here you are,” replied the performer of these deeds, which were certainly curious for one professing so unrelenting an antipathy to charities of every kind ; “ this is my reward for it.”
“ My wife was a friend of your mother’s, — as noble a woman as ever lived,” went on the miserable man disconnectedly. “ Something will catch me yet. Don’t say it is too late. Something will stop me yet. You will see.”
In the course of a fortnight Bainbridge had not fallen in with him again. He took occasion to inquire for him, in passing the Prudential Land and Loan office, and learned that he had then been absent for three days. A further inquiry, towards the end of another fortnight, was answered by St. Hill in person. “ We had to let him go. Frankly, we had to ' bounce ’ him,” said the consequential manager, emerging from his inner, private room, and airily dusting the sleeve of his coat with a silk handkerchief while he spoke. “ He was off two or three days every now and then, and always came back in a beastly, shaking condition, so that he could not write. He was no use to the company whatever. He had had plenty of warnings, and this time we decided that we could not keep him any longer.”
Bainbridge, later, allowed himself to be led by sympathetic interest to Charlton Street, where the man had lodged. The people at the place said that, as far as they knew, he had gone back, after a deplorable debauch, to his Westchester farmers. He had told them that he wished to put himself out of the way of temptation, out of harm’s way. Bainbridge gave little heed to the fact that the further details needed to complete the story Gammage had begun were thus placed effectually beyond his reach, but devoted himself instead to forswearing benevolence for the future more than ever.
It might have been inferred that so minor an employee as Gammage could easily have been spared, especially in the dull midsummer season, but a new incumbent was soon installed at his desk. Through the open doors, Cutter, formerly with Rodman Harvey & Co., could be seen lending the splendor of his scarlet braces, bis florid neck-tie and sleeve-buttons to the service of the Prudential Land and Loan Company. He was a young man who had lately married, as it was said, and come into control, about the same time, of some little property.
Though Mr. St. Hill dusted his sleeve with his silk handkerchief airily enough, he went back to his inner, private room to unpleasant reflections, which were not uncommon with him. His enterprise, to tell the truth, was not, at this time, in a flourishing condition. It advertised itself, especially throughout the small country newspapers of the interior, to furnish investments returning two and four per cent, a month, and to be the only company buying in its shares, at par, on demand; and there had been at one time a considerable stir of activity in response. But this had gradually subsided ; one annoying drawback after another supervened, and the general manager saw himself, as unfortunately he had often seen himself before, in highly uncomfortable straits.
If we may be let into a dark secret, too, at this time, the responsibility for the affairs of the company was not so divided that comfort could be sought from other advisers. The impression prevailed that Fletcher, of the firm name of Fletcher, St. Hill & Co., was an elderly capitalist, of high character and great wealth, residing in London, and attending to the company’s affairs there, while the “ Co.” no doubt indicated minor partners of a corresponding sort. As the fact was, however, the Prudential Land and Loan Company consisted solely of Mr. F., or Fletcher, St. Hill, and no other. The fictitious London nabob had grown out of no more substantial basis than a comma, which had unfortunately crept in — as errors will occur even with the strictest precautions — between the prenomen and family name of the advertiser in the first prospectuses, and had somehow got itself perpetuated. As to the “ Co.,” that is quite a common assumption in commercial business, to give a finer roundness to a firm name and style, and sometimes perhaps for the benefit of such as feel themselves vaguely more comfortable under the impression of having a number of persons to look to in case of embarrassments, instead of one.
Mr. St. Hill took out the yellow old letters to which reference has been made, and inspected them with renewed attention. Harvey’s campaign for the congressional nomination was making something of a stir, and he found them highly satisfactory. “It is true that Kingbolt has not recovered from his absurd passion for Angelica Harvey,” he said, “ and would make a precious row should I use them. But, on the other hand, why need he know ? The chances are twenty to one that, whether I succeed or fail, the secret rests between Rodman Harvey and myself. He cannot afford to spread the scandal about, and whether I should care to or not would be a matter to be determined afterwards.”
His meditations resulted in a purpose to use at last the power at his command, and he cast about for the most desirable means. He considered it more or less in the intervals of his other occupations, — while driven up town in his coupé, riding his friend Kingbolt’s fine saddlehorse “Jim ” in the Park, calling at the houses on the Avenue to which he had the entrée, dining at Delmonico’s or at the Empire Club. His accomplishments, his easy air of knowledge of the world, his risqué stories, and his impressive habit of permitting himself always the best of everything had gained him everywhere much consideration, — a consideration perhaps warmest at first, and of a declining rather than increasing order. He reflected with such deliberation, however, and one delay after another so interposed, that he had taken no step till the departure of the Harvey family, with the exception of its head, to their place at Newport, and till Kingbolt, as in the moodiness and glooms of a genuine love affair disappointed of its aim, had set off in his yacht for a cruise to the coast of Labrador, leaving him, St. Hill, in possession of his comfortable bachelor quarters and many other appurtenances.
He dispatched then a note to Rodman Harvey. He reopened the subject of his claim, on grounds of simple consideration and justice. The animosities of the war had now so far passed away, such time had elapsed for mature reflection, that he trusted that his application would be met in a very different spirit. Since the validity of the debt had never been disputed, he ventured to hope, from a person of such standing in the community, from one to whom his reputation for probity and honor must be dear, a voluntary reversal of his former judgment. Very delicately, as one fingers the hair trigger of a weapon which is not to go off but at urgent need, he touched upon the matter of the receipt, of late, of some old letters from the plantation on the Ashley River. It was the pleasant interest he found in these, as recalling the cordial relations that had once subsisted between Harvey and his father, General J. Rockbridge St. Hill, by which he was especially moved and encouraged at this time to a renewal of his appeal.
Rodman Harvey replied in a curt note of refusal, as before. He knew of no such claim, valid in law, and he must decline to be interested in any personal circumstances and reminiscences of the writer whatever. It was apparent, St. Hill thought, that he did not remember the contents of his old letters with sufficient distinctness. Possibly he did not believe in their existence at all. Or could it even be that he meant open defiance ? Again St. Hill meditated, and, sustained by a slightly more favorable turn of affairs which relieved his pressingnecessities, allowed more time to elapse. The autumn months arrived, and the election drew near. Should this be allowed to pass, his opportunity would be lost to him for good. Too wily to put upon paper what might be construed as a threat, with purpose of extortion, he sought an interview with the merchant prince at his Broadway store.
Meanwhile Harvey had enjoyed much of the society of a modest young person, whose conversation, as it happened, had both influenced his reply and was to have an important bearing on the interview in question. Ottilie Harvey, in the charming organdie muslin, had read her essay on The Reformation of Criminals, and received her diploma, at Vassar, when she was met by the problem of an entreaty, almost a command, to come and take charge of her uncle’s house at New York for the summer, while the family were absent. The invitation came from him, though forwarded by her aunt, in the hands of the butler, William Skiff. Her father, a more thick-set and belligerent-looking copy of Rodman Harvey, who waited at the Commencement to take her home, gave his grudging consent. He even accompanied her to New York, and spent a night or two under his brother’s roof, during which, Ottilie being a hostage to civility as it were, an unbroken truce reigned between them.
It was Harvey’s purpose to keep open the fine new mansion, during the absence of the family, for the entertainment of some minor persons necessary to him in his political campaign, who could not be so much flattered in any other way. His wife and daughter, had they consented to undertake such a mission at all, could hardly have abstained from a disdainful air with some of these guests, which would have been fatal to the end in view. He wished Ottilie to sit at his table, pour his tea, and preside over the house with a reduced force of servants, with the coöperation of Mrs. Ambler, the housekeeper.
She fancied in the faces of the Hasbroucks, who were to spend the summer at a farm-house in the Catskills, a mute reproach, when they learned of her plan. The first use she made of an affability on the part of her uncle Rodman, which she thought might be construed into the possession of a slight influence over him, was an attempt to conciliate him in their favor. He peremptorily denied the positions she assumed; but it was in a general description she gave of her friends, of what they had suffered from other sources, and who it was that had injured them, that a history of St. Hill came out which proved of interest and value in replying to the impudent communications of the man.
EMBITTERED RECOLLECTIONS OF OLD SLAVE DAYS.
Advancing a little the pace of our story, — for the events of the summer must again be returned to, — let us see at once what the manner of the interview in question, in late October, was. The merchant prince breakfasted that day as usual, before the rest of his family, whom he seldom saw at the morning meal, and came down to his Broadway store, where the semblance of pillage, in the tossed-about contents of the packing-cases, was already in progress. A cheerful fire of cannel coal burned in his office grate. He permitted himself the luxury of a pair of slippers, of a handsome sort, which his daughter Angelica, it seemed, had wrought for him, as a preliminary to some exceptionally heavy demand upon his purse.
He dictated letters to San Francisco, in reference to waste lands he was redeeming there ; to Cincinnati, to resist the opening of a street through some of his suburban property; and to Chicago, to foreclose a mortgage. He saw Mr. Minn about sending their order for Merrimac prints at once, in view of an anticipated ease in the money market which would enhance prices. He saw Hackley, who brought reassuring news of his, Harvey’s, prospects in the coming election of the first Tuesday in November, and then spoke casually of himself in connection with the new firm to be constituted upon Rodman Harvey’s withdrawal. The talk was that Hackley should raise and put in a sum larger than that which could be commanded by Mr. Minn, in order to outrank Minn in the allotment of dignities, in the new order of things. He could not afford to play second fiddle to a quiet man, who, however well up in the details of the dry-goods trade, had always taken so much less conspicuous a stand in the community than himself. He wished the firm name to be Hackley, Minn & Co., not Minn, Hackley & Co. The Co. was to be Selkirk Harvey, whose father would leave for him in the business a capital which would be largely the controlling interest. Hackley had had a number of advantageous things “ put in his way ” by Rodman Harvey at various times, and had flattered and fawned much upon him in return. Perhaps he secretly cherished a belief that it might not be necessary to secure the whole of the sum proposed, in order to take precedence of Minn in the partnership, after all.
Harvey received a man who came on the business of offering him substantial advantages if be would allow his name to be used in the directorship of a promising mining scheme. He declined the proposition. He could not afford to be mixed up in anything of a problematic character. He bought next of a dealer, whose customer he was for such property, a new lot of defaulted bonds, of Western cities and towns, having found that, with ample ability to wait, this was in the long run a kind of investment likely to pay dollar for dollar of the face value.
Over a luncheon, brought in on a tray, from the down-town branch of the fashionable up town restaurant, he glanced more particularly at a newspaper. A writer in the financial column said that a report of the serious illness of Rodman Harvey had served to depress certain stocks, and notably Devious Air-Line, in which he was the largest holder, the day before. Happily, it had proved a canard. A trifling touch of vertigo experienced by him at his broker’s office had been magnified by interested parties into a paralytic stroke, and used on the market with effect until the fiction was explodedThe shares named had recovered later, and even advanced considerably beyond the point at which the decline set in. Their tendency was likely to continue upward for some time to come, the financial writer thought, as Rodman Harvey’s proposed retirement from trade, on his entrance into public life, was no longer a secret, and the opportunity for a closer personal attention to them, together with his assuming a share in the legislation by which they were likely to be affected, must result in benefit to all of his large outside interests. Such notices were not infrequent. Perhaps in no other way were his sense of power, his feelings of self-importance, more thoroughly gratified. These were the great capitalist’s pleasures, — to see his least movement, an indisposition, a journey, a taste or whim, eagerly noted, and of a momentous influence in the gravest affairs of men.
A visiting-card was brought to him by the boy who sat without, to answer the frequent summons of his sharp little bell. “ Show him in,” he said, meditating a moment over the name of a person with whom he had had a brief correspondence, and Fletcher St. Hill entered.
The merchant prince scanned the visitor with a keen scrutiny, which passed on the instant into a cool impassiveness. Yet it had served to recall a type of form and features he had once known well.
“ I had the honor of sending you a communication, some little time ago, on the subject of — a—an indebtedness,” Mr. Fletcher St. Hill began, after having taken a seat indicated to him.
“ I had the honor of returning you an answer.”
“ It was naturally a disappointing answer,” said the visitor, brushing his hat gently with his sleeve, “ and I have ventured to hope that in a personal meeting there may still be possibility of change.”
“ You had not proposed to undertake legal proceedings. That is satisfactory to know. You are several years too late for that. You understand, of course, that you could have done so, with probable success, had you availed yourself of your privileges in time. War suspends but does not annul indebtedness, and this was not confiscated by any special enactment. You base your application upon grounds of ” —
“ Simple consideration, as between man and man. You do not deny the original validity of the claim. I find, on arriving in this community, that you enjoy the repute of being the support of many worthy enterprises, a church member, and a person of integrity and principle. I was inspired with a lively confidence, on learning this, that you would not permanently continue to take refuge from an honest obligation behind a mere technicality. You yourself have demanded from your debtors at the South what was overdue you there under precisely the same circumstances as this debt of yours to my father. I may call attention to the fact that I was personally but little identified with the course of affairs in our — in the ” —
“ Rebellion, if that is what you mean,” supplied Rodman Harvey, sternly.
“ As you please. I was very young, and passed much of the time of its continuance abroad. And further, I will urge as a reason for consideration at your hands a peculiar situation in which I find myself involved at this time. I will trust in your discretion as a man of honor, and admit that I have met with unexpected and serious difficulties in the enterprise which I have undertaken here. I am, in short, Mr. Harvey, sir, at this moment, without means.”
He spread both hands wide open, as by way of exhibiting their entire emptiness of resources. He did not show resentment. He did not yet bluster. This was not at all the Southern fire, as traditionally understood. He was keeping himself in check, essaying first a policy of ingenuousness and humility, on the bare chance that it might serve by itself.
Rodman Harvey swung back in his padded chair, upholstered in Russia leather and turning on a swivel, in which he had swung a little away towards his office desk, and gazed at his visitor with a level directness. “ As you were so young at the time,” he began, — “ though permit me to remark upon the expedition with which you have since aged, — I will relate a small chapter of history. There was owing to me at the South, when it thought good to secede from the Union, about a quarter of a million dollars. I have never, either then or since, recovered so much of it as would pay my lawyers’ fees, in the few efforts made to look it up. I had been a conservative, — even more, of a friendly bias towards the South. I had never assailed your ‘ peculiar institution,’ as it was called.” St. Hill received this with a certain significant expression. “ I was one of those who knew that slavery had not been established in our time, but had come down as an inheritance. As to authorities, texts of Scripture and the like, there were almost as many on one side as the other, in those days. I did not hold the present generation guilty, and looked to see the difficulties settled by constitutional means. I liked the Southern people, and had confidence in them. I sent them my goods as usual, upon their demand, up to the last moment. How was I repaid ? By the rankest ingratitude, — a baseness that words cannot characterize. They betrayed me as easily as if I had been their most fanatic opponent. I became an ‘ alien enemy,’ like the rest.
“ ' The payment of alien enemies is treason to the state,'” he read from a newspaper clipping which he had hurriedly taken from a pigeon-hole in his desk. “ ‘ Millions and millions, if it be not prevented, may be sent to the enemy’s country by Southern patriots, magnifying with a narrow and perverted honesty the duty of individual gratitude, over the holier obligation of national fidelity.' Do you know who wrote that?”
“No,” said his hearer, wincing.
“Your father, the late ‘General’ Rockbridge St. Hill, of Savannah. It came to me in a letter. His initials are attached to it. Here ! You may see. He had been my correspondent, almost an intimate friend, and understood my condition thoroughly; but none proved baser now. He it was who, more than any other, as I have reason to know, by his speeches and articles, — having in some way secured himself, — organized a general movement for the repudiation of debts, mine with the rest.”
“ There are many similar initials. I have never heard that those were my father’s words. I certainly recall many of our newspapers which insisted that debts were not to be repudiated. And how many persons have there not been since to come forward voluntarily and pay what they owed ? ” said St. Hill, making a show of argument.
“ The time to have paid was then,'” said the merchant prince, striking his desk violently. “ What does it avail that a few should come whining, five years later, with the money in their hands, as a plea for new credits ? I only tell what has happened to me. It would have been ‘ a narrow and perverted honesty,’ you see, to send ine the funds for want of which, to meet obligations maturing elsewhere, an old and reputable house was tottering to its fall. For want of them I was made to suffer the tortures of the damned, — I was well-nigh ruined, body and soul.”
It seemed a curious violence, and a somewhat odd use of expressions also, to lavish upon what had happened so long in the past, even with the excellent provocation. Rodman Harvey possibly noticed this himself, for he continued, more coolly, though with a snapping glance in his eyes, “ Instead of payment, in those last days, when ordinary years of anxiety were concentrated into hours and minutes, came such clippings as this ; came adjurations that the South, having now both its crop and the price of it received in advance, should give only to its own glorious cause.
“ Instead of payment, came the rhodomontade of your Barnwell Rhetfcs : ‘ I would go to the fanatic, the manufacturer, the plunderer, who has fattened upon us like the vulture upon garbage, and I would tell him in thunder tones, This Union is dissolved! I would write on the walls of their banqueting-halls, This Union is dissolved.’
“ Instead of payment, came intelligence that attorneys would not aid in the collection of debts, that the courts would be closed for collections against citizens of the non-slave-holding States ; and intelligence of the riding on a rail, and bare escape with their lives, of my agents, who, in quiet pursuance of their duties, had made the least demand for it. Instead of payment, missions to Great Britain and the emperor of the French, to open free ports and ruin entirely the “mudsill ” merchants of the North. Instead of payment, news of disaster and default by every post and by every telegram.
“ Will you see now how all this was crystallized into legislation ? It is all here,” — running over with a mumbling kind of commentary another bunch of papers, taken from the same pigeonhole: “Montgomery,— Proceedings of first Confederate Congress, May, ’61,— payment to alien enemies forbidden, — payment to Confederate treasury authorized: Richmond, — debtors to alien enemies held to give information to government receiver, under penalty, — debtors to alien enemies held to pay receiver, — and so on, and so forth.” He cast them all aside, as if suddeidy recognizing that it was not worth the pains. “ And you,” he went on, “ of the people who have done this to me, who have given me a day ” — And here he stopped.
“ I am to understand, then,” said St. Hill, with a flickering smile, of a sardonic cast, “ that my application is not favorably received ? ”
“You are to understand that it is the height of effrontery. Even had the claim been technically valid, I should have resisted it to the last extreme. I would have spent twenty times its face before you, or any of your blood especially, should have benefited by a considerable sum from my purse. As to your desiring to place yourself in the list of my private benefactions, I fail to see that you are an orphan asylum, a missionary establishment, or a worthy object of charity in any way whatever. If you are really in difficulties, as you represent, with your fine new nondescript corporation, of which I have seen something, I cannot truthfully say — though this I should rather say to your father than yourself, were it possible — that I regret, and do not rejoice instead, to hear it. Should your troubles be but a tithe of what I was made to suffer, they would be troubles indeed.”
St. Hill changed his manner. “ I fear you may not have sufficiently attended to the remark in my note, in reference to letters of yours in my possession,” he said. “ They were not destroyed at the time, it seems, in conformity with the caution from you, written in one or two of them. They turned up, the other day, at the plantation on the Ashley River. You know the old place well. There is not much left of it now, but it had closet room enough to contain these. They say you gave a regiment that you helped fit out the hint to let it have particularly bad usage, should they ever happen to fall in with it; and they did fall in with it and followed your instructions.”
“ I had attended to the remark, and thought of offering you five hundred dollars for your pretended correspondence,”said the merchant. He bent the caller’s visiting-card into ellipses, and pivoted it by the corners between a thumb and the second finger, while he talked.
“You cannot yet have a distinct recollection of their contents. It would be a ridiculous sum for so much entertaining matter. I must have the full amount of my claim. You have given me an abstract of certain papers. Let me give you one in return. The letters are complete and in order. They are dated from long before the election of Lincoln, through that agitating period, and up to the very brink of the war. Letter one — to take a few of a typical sort at random — is a simple direction to lease out your slaves, known as ‘ House Molly’ and ‘Sue’s Tom,’who have been with us, to a neighboring plantation. Letter two takes the position that the North and South are antagonistic in their essence, and had better separate quietly, each going about the regulation of its destiny in its own way.
“ Letter three, in which you are certain that there will be a peaceful separation, is one of a number discussing a proposition of much interest. You think of removing to the South, to become the leading merchant of the new Confederate republic. Charleston, Savannah, and Mobile opened for trade with Europe as free ports can perhaps, one and all, be made to surpass New York. As first in the field, with your ample capital, and your large connections already established, you may confidently expect to monopolize the business of supplying the vast back country, at the unprecedentedly low rates to prevail under the new system. In letter four you are less positive of non-coercion. A violent sentiment is rising which may be capable of very unreasonable things. But the conflict at the worst must be short, and can end in but one way, — the success of the South. You dally with the idea of removal still. Blockade - running has been spoken of as a lucrative resource, during the continuance of the brief struggle, if it come, with the scheme as indicated to fall back upon. But to this you are not wholly favorable. Letter five relates to a shipment of arms, ‘ to keep down the niggers with.’ This is the last in the treasonable series.
“You begin almost immediately complaints and unsparing abuse, because some of our small traders, in a most strange and alarming crisis, have not been able to conduct themselves towards you with quite the clock-work regularity of the piping times of peace. All this would sound well in a gathering of your political friends, would it not ? ”
“ You are a fluent talker, Mr. St. Hill,” said the merchant at the end of this review. “ You have interested me in a class of reminiscences to which it is long since I have given so much attention. A thousand dollars for these alleged letters of mine.”
“ It must be the amount of my claim, and nothing loss ! ”
“ Then, Mr. Fletcher St. Hill, you have met with a very obstinate person. Be good enough to take yourself off, with your black-mailing scheme. There is the door.” He swung back to the matters demanding his attention at his desk with a very offensive air, as if the subject were finally disposed of.
“ You will regret this. I shall find another customer for them,” said the visitor, after a pause, buttoning his overcoat irresolutely, preparing to depart. He was greatly chagrined at his failure, and was not sure but that he should have done well to accept the lesser offer. But the matter was to take an even worse turn still.
“ No doubt,” said Harvey, answering him, as it at first appeared that he was not inclined to do. “ It is what I expected. They will make some little stir, in the heat of my campaign. It is an old calumny, for the rest. I suppose I was not the only one who changed front in face of the wicked attempt to destroy the government, when violence actually began. At the same time, I should consider, if I were you, whether there were any circumstances in my own situation and career upon which it would not he well to have a full light of publicity turned. You know, for instance, whether your father was not reimbursed by his government for this claim you impudently thrust upon me. You know whether both he and yourself were so well occupied to your private advantage, in the department of the business of the Confederacy with which you were entrusted, as to have come off — whether you have lost it now or not —with a handsome amount invested in the foreign funds.
“ Tut! ” he continued, as St. Hill gave a violent start of indignation. “ Of course these things are not generally spoken of. A Southern gentleman emerging from the ruins of his country, with a fortune despoiled from its very woes, is not at all the conventional figure. You know whether, in spite of your tender youth, you sailed at one time as officer of a slave-ship, taking advantage of the new situation of affairs to reopen the trade with the coast of Guinea. You may recall also some later transactions in your own part of the country, not altogether of a reputable sort, — the collection of moneys, as agent, for a certain Hasbrouck family, and the like. You know, I say, as I do not fully pretend to, whether some such indications as these could be worked up into highly unpleasant certainties.”
St. Hill, having no longer a grand stroke in reserve to restrain his temper, clenched his hands, so that it almost seemed that a bodily assault upon Harvey was imminent, and cried, “ You shall give me satisfaction for these outrageous libels.”
But the merchant prince, showing so little fear of violence that he kept his back still contemptuously half turned, replied, “If you mean a duel, it is not the custom here. Your own code, too, would no doubt interpose obstacles, on account of the difference in our ages. All the satisfaction to be had in this matter, I regret to say, you have already obtained.”
Surely such a way of rasping the feelings of people, even of an objectionable sort, to the quick could result only from a high sense of rectitude, a consciousness of a position altogether impregnable. With this the conference ended. St. Hill took his departure, a bitter personal hatred added to the annoyance of failure. He did not market bis wares elsewhere. He had found the means of offense he had counted upon comparatively idle, but he would search for others. If there were any weak spots in the polish of Rodman Harvey’s respectability, here was an unscrupulous person interested in applying to them the corrosive acid of an envenomed malice. The clerks without, among their packing-cases, thought they noticed in “ the old man,” when he departed also soon after, an unusual sprightliness. He had relieved his mind that day, to say the truth, in a fashion that gave him much content.
OTTILIE HARVEY’S ROUTINE.
Ottilie’s position, upon becoming a member of the household of the merchant prince, some time after the middle of June, was at first of an indeterminate character. Her uncle treated her with about the same grave consideration that he would have extended had she come perhaps on a visit to his wife or daughter. Her aunt proposed to draw out a regular schedule of occupations for her, but the plan, like many others of that remarkable woman, after having first been postponed till the return from the country, was never realized at all. A stated allowance was fixed, which Ottilie had some scruples about accepting before her duties should seem to her of a more tangible sort.
Her cousin Angelica was affable in a condescending way, to begin with ; but then, as the novelty of her presence wore off, tried to throw upon her, in a selfish way she had, burdens which could not have been included by any fair construction in the original understanding. Secretly, this accomplished cousin would have liked to treat her as an upper servant. “Why not,” she said to herself, “ since my father pays her? ” She inquired into the allowance made Ottilie, and, modest as it was, — even without relation to the magnificent sums she lavished upon herself, — she appeared to look upon it grudgingly. She had that trait of parsimony which is so odious and surprising in those who have never either known the lack of money, or been brought by experience to a realization of the hardships by which the struggle for its acquisition is often attended. It was a trait not likely to be known by suitors and admirers, whose business it naturally was to bestow upon so charming a creature, and not to receive from her. It was known by small tradesmen, and by inferiors generally, but did not often come to the notice of equals. Ottilie felt herself stung, too, from time to time by intangible offenses from this source, of such a texture that she could not always convince herself afterwards, as a conscientious person, that they had really existed. This beautiful and accomplished cousin might be compared to a large, lithe cat, which scratched cruelly, even when no more than lazily stretching its claws. But all this came later, as perhaps did some others of the small experiences here more conveniently set down together.
Ottilie did not mind being condescended to a little by so superior and distinguished a person. “ How talented you are ! ” she said to her one day, in warm admiration, drawn out by a deftness which included so many things in its scope.
“Well, I ought to he,” Angelica replied, serenely accepting the compliment. “ I am sure I have had advantages. My father tells me that the European part of my education alone cost twenty thousand dollars in gold.”
The reflective mind of Ottilie would have been disposed, besides, to pardon much in consideration of a pampered and luxurious bringing up, astonishing new evidences of which she saw every day. Her aunt Alida took occasion to show her the christening robe and other effects of Angelica’s ten derest years. This robe was of the rarest old lace, and there was a tiny ring set with a costly pearl, coming down from the same ceremony. Her cradle had been of ivory and pearl, and spread with an ermine quilt, on which her name was embroidered in the black tails of the fur. She had two nurses : one a steady-going Englishwoman, in the family employ for years ; the other a robust French shepherdess, brought over from her home in the Juras for this especial purpose. Then came a nursery-governess, with whom she acquired the French tongue earlier than her native English ; then an infantine day-school; and then the long course of education abroad, varied by a return, and a short stay, not greatly to her liking, at a select young ladies’ seminary in an elm-shaded Connecticut village. There was a costly gold box for carrying bon-bons in, which she had used in the earliest school-days. “Alas, when one sees all that it takes to give us the few airs and graces, the petty smattering of things, that we can acquire at the best,” said Ottilie later, in talk with Bainbridge, “ does it not show of what poor material we are ? ”
“ She is certainly of a lovely, what you might call an artistic, taste in dress,” wrote Ottilie, in her letters home. “At one time you will see her brilliant and Amazonian, in black, with a cuirass covered with flashing bugles, or in jackets braided across the front, hussar-fashion. Or she will have a girdle bordered with gold fringe following around the lines of her charming figure, which she knows how to pose in so many graceful attitudes. Again, she is in India mulls, and other such textures, as soft and misty as early midsummer morning on our dear Kewaydin Lake. There is a dress of white muslin with an embroidery of blue floss, and another of drab satin embroidered with blue and pink forget-me-nots, that drive even poor uncovetons me quite wild with envy. Sometimes she appears with a sort of Japanese touch ; then like a court lady of the time of Josephine; and again, getting herself up with her hair rolled high and powdered, and a dot or two of court-plaster, she is like those German beauties that you see in the pictures, calling upon Goethe and Mozart.”
Her system was, it appeared, to bring a portion of her costumes from Paris, though all may have passed for coming from there, and have the remaining, and possibly the most effective, portion made under her own supervision by a local dress-maker, or even — so far at least as some alterations and happy new inventions of a minor sort — by her maid Cécile, with the aid of her own hands. She had a knack of leadership, as has been said. She it was to whom was ascribed the first use — for some ephemeral purpose — of a bonnet made entirely of natural flowers. When flowers were not particularly the mode she wore at her belt an immense bouquet; when immense bouquets came into fashion she wore none at all. She adopted certain rough serges and velveteens which no one had before thought of using for costumes. She had certain peculiarly ribbed and figured stuffs made to her own command by the manufacturers, with orders to break the loom afterwards, that the patterns should not be duplicated. These were her greater feats. If she found a striking hat or costume of hers imitated she threatened to burn it. But in reality it is more probable that she sold it to a dealer, who came privily by the back stairs, and who was supposed to have a ready mar ket for the cast-off finery of the elegant upper classes among minor actresses.
Breakfast at the Harveys was a movable feast. The table stood, and William Skiff’s services were likely to be in demand, by one or other of the family, till noon. Angelica took her light repast in bed, or in the intervals of dressing in her chamber, assisted by Cécile. Noth ing could have been more charming than the view of her in some one of the gauzy robes of lace and ribbon she wore, reclining, with a cup of chocolate, in one of her silk chintz or plush fauteuils. Cécile did her hair, which was abundant, and fell far below her waist when loose, pointed and delicately stained her fine nails, laced her stays, and buttoned or laced up the marvelously elegant boots that were to bear her on her errands of pleasure and fashion for the day.
The time for the annual departure for Newport was close at hand, and she now spent some part of every day with Cécile, perfecting the toilettes which were to give her the usual cachet of distinction during the summer months. Ottilie was drafted, too, — not unwillingly, since it gave her the advantage of association with her cousin in so informal a way, — into this service. Angelica showed her amiable side, and was pleased to gossip, as they worked, in reply to her deferential questions, on that European school life, everything in connection with which appeared so fascinating to the younger girh Angelica had a refined voice and a beautiful manner of telling a story when she chose, so that, what with this and the interest of the subject, Ottilie listened as if to the reading of some delightful book of memoirs.
“We had a good deal of practice in narration at Paris,” said Angelica. “ I perfected myself there. We had sewing and embroidering one morning in the week, — on Saturdays, — and one or two of the pupils were appointed at these times to entertain the rest with stories, which they must have prepared beforehand. Madame Batignolles-Clichy sat with us, and criticised. If there were any straying away from the principal points, any drawling or hard drawing of the breath, or if there were too many et puis, et alors, and lorsques in the story, it had to be repeated until it was done properly.
“ At Geneva,” she said, “ we had such a lovely view of Mont Blanc, in the distance, across the lake. Our school was an old château, which the owner had rented, for economy, having gone himself, with his family, to live in the orangery. I have been back there since, and tested the old gentleman’s recollection of me. There he sat, as if it were only yesterday, in his skull cap with a bobbing tassel, on his stone bench, in the sunshine. I let him look at me a long time, as I came up, after alighting from the carriage. ‘ Tiens ! ’ he exclaimed, at length, ‘ c'est la petite Angelica,’ remembering me, though I left there when I was fourteen. We used to play hideand-seek in the garden, and run on top of a wall there was that extended along the lake front. A door opening through the wall gave access to the shore. I remember that the water used to make wavering reflections on the white curtains of our beds in the summer mornings, and sometimes there were images of the lateen-sailed boats also. Once we saw one from the windows capsized, and three men drowned. I was the youngest pupil, and the only American, at first; the others were of all nations, and many of noble families. Afterwards more Americans came. I recollect that there was Edith Wynn, of Philadelphia, who made a brilliant match with the Due de la Tribord-Babord, — though I hear since that she wishes she hadn’t. Lilly Weidenmeyer was a beautiful girl, noted for particularly lovely arms, which she would hardly ever consent to have covered. She rested them on a marble mantel when overheated with dancing, afterwards, felt a sudden icy chill run through her, and was dead in a month of quick consumption. Alice Burlington was there with me, too. She ducked Madame’s pet lapdog in the fountain one day, and I told Madame — I do not know what possessed mo to — that she did it. I believe it was the beginning of the trouble in our families. I never see her yet but I think of it.
“ At Paris we were close to the eccentric Duke of Brunswick’s. You never could tell, when you looked out of the window, what color his house was going to be. He had a mania for painting it light blue, dark blue, pink, green, and yellow. He used to make his maid-servants ride his horses around the courtyard, in their ordinary dresses. We were amused, too, by another school, of a common sort, which there was on the other side of us, so near that we could look over into the garden and see almost everything going on. The poor girls there had to pass a regular muster as they went in to breakfast every morning. We saw each one in turn hold out her hands, smile — so — in order to show her teeth ” (here Miss Angelica smiled in mimicry, displaying her own white teeth to excellent advantage), “lift her skirt above the tops of her shoes, and then swing around, with a kind of flourish, to let it be seen that her dress was properly hooked and so pass on.
“ At Hanover, where I went afterwards, the young German officers used to walk past, by threes and fours, very sentimentally, at the afternoon concerts at the Thiergarten. But any girl who showed a disposition to flirt was made to sit with her face towards the shrubbery. Once a very bold young aid-decamp dashed by at full speed on horseback, and threw a bouquet in at an open window. There could not have been more excitement if a bomb-shell had burst in the school.”
She went on to tell of the steps she had taken in Italy in order to acquire the so much recommended lingua Toscana in bocca Romana, and nothing less. From Paris, again, the school had been accustomed to adjourn during the summer months to a villa at Etretat, and lessons had depended on the tides. A ridiculous proposal for her hand had been sent by the son of a rich Paris grocer, who had seen her walking on the beach. The girls upon that had been used to ask her the price of sugars, and if soap were looking up to-day.
The comfortable sitting-room of Mrs. Rodman Harvey, on the story above the parlors, proved to be both the central focus of authority and something of a general rendezvous for the members of the household. Angelica came there for criticism on new apparel, the yellow-haired Calista to complain querulously of the difficulties of her studies. This child displayed a curious shrinking — encouraged by neglect — from every form of mental effort. She almost seemed to cherish the idea that her instructors, of one sort and another, being sufficiently paid, could not only teach, but somehow learn her tasks for her as well. But she was found by Ottilie, who took some pains to win her confidence, to be of a certain slow shrewdness, after all, and of a generous and loyal disposition, and not likely, under competent management, to remain always as dull as she seemed.
Selkirk dropped in occasionally to report upon some commission he had undertaken, or, perhaps, as much as anything, by way to keeping up an acquaintance which, with the varying habits and hours of the several members of the family, sometimes appeared in danger of lapsing altogether. Rodman, Jr., helped himself liberally to his mother’s fine stationery, and renewed a nagging argument that he had in progress for the privilege — at his time of life — of a latch-key. His father was opposed to it. His mother, “ for the sake of peace,” more than once lent him her own. He was entered at the Columbia Grammar School now, and preparing for college. “ He may not be a saint ” — said Mrs. Harvey to Ottilie, and paused there. Some kind of a saving clause seemed to be implied in her accent, but it would have been difficult to explain what it was.
Conrad, the cook, in His white cap and apron, came to his mistress’ sittingroom to confer with her on the day’s dinner. Mrs. Ambler, the housekeeper, came to say that she had been or was going to market, and had given out or was going to give out the stores for the day, from a store-room almost as large as an ordinary shop, and a veritable treasury of delectable goods and faint attractive odors. She brought the latest gossip of the servants’hall. John Welsh, from the stables, had come in in a flushed condition the evening before, and made himself very obnoxious at the diningtable. Miss Angelica’s maid Cécile had been causing trouble in the laundry department, because some fine clothing of hers had been washed with other of a commoner sort. “ She is an image, if ever there was one,” said Mrs. Harvey ; but she rarely ventured upon further interference in a quarter which belonged to the jurisdiction of her daughter,— of whom she was afraid, as even irrational and self-willed mothers may be of children of stronger will than themselves.
One day the formal, majestic-looking Alphonse had slapped Mary Callahan in the face. Who would have believed it ? Who would have supposed that so irreproachable a person, to the view, could be such a rude and graceless barbarian underneath it ? Mary Callahan was a pretty parlor-maid, who cleaned the mirrors and brasses, and was often seen in pink calico, on the ledges of the upper windows, her body half without, holding the sashes in her lap while she polished the glass till it shone again. She was now crying in her room, dressing in haste at the same time, with the avowed intention of “ going down to the court for a warrant.”
It was a trait of interest in Mrs. Rodman Harvey that you could never tell upon which side of a cause she was going to appear. Her judgments were nothing if not remarkable. Mrs. Ambler was accustomed to receive all opinions alike from her with an equal deference and freedom from comment, saying only, “ Yes, Mrs. Harvey,” or “ No, Mrs. Harvey,” as the case might be. So now, instead of siding with injured innocence, as might have been expected, against the ungallant Alphonse, it was precisely the aggressor himself—who was a servant of qualities much in demand, it should be borne in mind, however, and hard to replace if lost — that she supported.
“ That Mary Callahan is a limb,” she exclaimed. “ You will have to go up and quiet her now, Mrs. Ambler, and prevent her from being ridiculous. But when you get time just put on your things and step down to Galpin’s, and see whom else he has got for me in her place. Tell Galpin it is too dreadful of him to treat me so ! Tell him it is too terrible of him to send me the people he does! ”
Mrs. Harvey seemed to have divided her servants into three classes, according to relative depravity. If the shortcomings were comparatively slight, the offender was only a “curiosity ; ” a considerable decline from this was the image ; ” while the most aggravated and heinous degree of all was the “limb,” whatever that might be. Specimens of all these varieties were of constant occurrence in the household, and there was an active rotation in office, and much recourse to Galpin in consequence. Galpin, being well paid, shrugged his shoulders now and then, and said little, as was the practice with a number of other worthy persons dealt with by Mrs. Rodman Harvey. The rows of aspirants themselves, sitting along the benches of the intelligence office, and exchanging philosophic reflections, spoke of her as a lady “ a bit too free wid her tongue.” At the same time some mind of larger scope among them might remark, “ She do be over it as quick; and may be she’d be the first to be sorry after.”
It was in virtue of irresolute and forbearing traits of this kind on both sides, no doubt, that some of the very worst of these so-called limbs, whose departure from the house had been attended by titanic convulsions and upheavals, were to he seen — and even after more dismissals than one — reinstated at their posts, and going about their affairs as though the domestic serenity had never been clouded.
When Mrs. Harvey had brought matters to a pass from which there appeared no escape, she threw off the direction helplessly upon Mrs. Ambler, and rested upon her laurels till the way seemed again clear. She had had housekeepers, she said, who brought her too many complaints of the servants, showing want of discipline ; and others who brought too few, showing collusion. Mrs. Ambler, deferential under authority, and of a good deal of self-reliance when its presence was withdrawn,— when she indulged a mild vanity in speaking of “ my servants,” and “ my kitchen,” — seemed for the moment to have realized the happy medium.
Into all this Ottilie became duly initiated, as a part of her new experiences. Her aunt professed to expect much from her in the way of assistance. From no other quarter, from no human eye, up to this time,—instead of having the view of gods and men fixed upon her, — had she received even so much of a ray of aid and sympathy as might have penetrated into the darkest caves of ocean. She adverted, guardedly at first, then more openly, to a selfishness on the part of her daughter Angelica. “ Angelica would walk over chaos, mountains high,” she said, “and never raise hand or foot to help it.”
If an excitable, she was also, in intent at least, a fond mother. She bore no grudge for the selfishness of which she complained. At the most trivial ailment of Angelica’s she manifested a concern which had no fault but overofficiousness. She hastened to fetch and carry, prepared tea and medicines, and asked a thousand superfluous questions as to relative symptoms and states of feeling, which often met with but short answers. Ottilie once saw the charming patient dash away a teaspoon held by her mother’s hand so vehemently that it fell clinking to the floor. At such times the good Mrs. Harvey repeated often her formula: “She is a regular Harvey.”
The card of Arthur Kingbolt of Kingboltsville came up one afternoon, when the business of preparing the toilettes was going on as described. Angelica frowned over it. She was beautifully dressed, as usual, and there was no ostensible reason why she should not go down ; but she handed the card to Ottilie, saying, “ Please go and say that I am otherwise occupied, — that I cannot conveniently see him. I wish it to be rather sharp ; do you understand ? ”
Ottilie had considerable trepidation at the idea of meeting this grand personage, and especially as the bearer of an ungracious message. But some plainly visible uneasiness of his own prevented him from attending to that of other people. His countenance fell when he saw who it was that rustled down to him instead of Angelica. Ottilie softened her message at least by her gentle manner of delivery. Kingbolt babbled a commonplace or two about the June races, the kind of a season it had been socially, and the increasing heat of the weather, and took his departure, hardly having deigned to give her, as she thought, a glance. “ Little enough poor I, just down from Vassar, knew about the kind of a season it had been,” she said, writing home about the interview.
In truth, the numerous victims in a sentimental way — blonde and brunette, and in many lands — to the personal charms and the magnificence of Kingbolt of Kingboltsville might now have felt a certain sympathy for him. Rebuffed in advances of a vehement earnestness, which he had allowed himself to make to the betrothed of another, his affections, his pride, and his confidence in his own distinguished merits had all suffered cruelly. He was driven to despair. This refusal to see him completed the measure of his humiliation, and, as he said, of his folly. He had thrown himself into the scales against that dolt of a Sprowle — Yes, he had brought himself to this, he had condescended to it,—and thus it had ended. He went at once and put his yacht in order, bustling vigorously himself about the preparations, and set off for a cruise. At first he was capable of flying the black flag, in his rage and misanthropy, and becoming a terror of the main after the most approved pattern. But the winds blew fresh, and the seas curled bravely around his prow ; he was involved in the manœuvres of a squadron in the Sound; he put in at summer resorts along the New England coasts ; rose and fell on the tremendous tides of the Bay of Fundy ; made Halifax and Sydney ; passed into the Bras d’Or, and around Prince Edward’s Island and the Magdalen Islands, and so home again.
Much before the end of his six weeks’ cruise, he figured to himself that he was entirely cured. He was back at Newport in the last part of August, by no means because She was there, but because it was the correct thing to be at Newport at that time. Sprowle Onderdonk had marshaled the Narragausett Gun Club, and sport of many kinds was under way.
The day came when the family departed at length for their villa, and Ottilie was left to the duties for which she had been more particularly engaged. Harvey’s campaign for the congressional nomination began in earnest. The people whom it was considered desirable to gain were dined as proposed. Hackley, who served, with a great show of activity, as a sort of confidential agent, procured the insertion of artful communications in certain newspapers. The reconciliation of some coolnesses of long standing was effected. Sums of money were apportioned out in an occult way for expenses, and placed, as a saying of the time was, “ where they would do the most good.” When the worst midsummer heats came on, Harvey transferred his headquarters for a fortnight, taking his niece with him, to one of the great hotels at Coney Island, then newly rising into prominence as a summer resort.
Ottilie did not send for Bainbridge, but preferred that their meeting should come about, as it no doubt shortly would, in some more natural way. Miss Rawson called upon her, partly in the hope, in which she was disappointed, of making the acquaintance of the principals of this important family.
So considerable a time elapsed, however, before the expected meeting with Bainbridge took place, that Ottilie perhaps found the surprise he expressed at her being in town rather natural.
“ I thought possibly that Miss Rawson might have told you,” she said.
“ I have seen her, but I dare say she forgot it,” he answered dryly.
She had been inclined to a touch of anxiety in reflecting on the manner of their parting, but as he made no other advances than those of an easy, unsentimental good-comradeship, this happily vanished, and they were soon upon their old friendly footing. Bainbridge, never at any time too much pressed with business, had more leisure than before, now in the dull summer season. He was employing a part of his time, he said, and adding a trifle to his income, by writing occasional articles for a newspaper. She insisted on his showing her some of them, and he allowed himself to be persuaded to do so.
It stood her in good stead, now, to have been the elder sister, and the first lieutenant of her mother in the management of a large family. She got on well with the servants who remained, and with Mrs. Ambler, the housekeeper. She presided at her uncle’s dinnertable with a demure composure. More than one of the masculine guests regarded with approval the slender figure appearing above the board, against its high-backed carven chair. The presence of Stoneglass, the editor of the Meteor, among others, was secured in some apparently informal way. This was a person thought to have peculiar influence with a party of independents in the district, who really held the balance of power. His position on the nomination, like theirs, had not yet been determined, and was a source of much anxiety. He was pleased to compliment the merchant on his “ little housekeeper.” Few young women nowadays, he said, knew anything of the good old domestic arts, so becoming to them too, if they did but know it. He went back to the days of his youth, in the country, when these had been as regular a part of education as any other. Harvey, finding him in this vein of genial simplicity, encouraged it. He brought out the further fact about Ottilie — recollecting to have heard it from her father on his visit — that she had taken a prize, offered in her family, for the best loaf of bread.
Stoneglass turned to her for an opinion, from the talk on serious matters with her uncle. What was the opinion of a learned young lady fresh from Vassar, he asked in pleasant banter, on specie resumption? Instead of a blushing disclaimer, such as might have been looked for, she made him, to his surprise, a little reply which was by no means void of sense. Thereafter, whether Ottilie had anything to do with it or not, he became, both in the Meteor and out of it, a firm adherent of Harvey’s cause.
“ Where in the world,” her uncle inquired, when the guest had gone, “ did you come to have an opinion about the currency question ? ”
“ I happened to have just read it in a newspaper,” she explained, coloring. “ Should I have told him that ? ” But she did not appear to find it necessary to say that it was in a paper brought her by Bainbridge, as containing a specimen of those occasional articles of his which she had expressed a desire to see.
Harvey had her read to him, too, and now and then to sing some ballad music for which he had a lingering taste, seldom gratified by his daughter Angelica. She read his financial column, with the incidental references to himself contained in it; or long reports which he saved for her till evening, not having had time to finish them in the morning. These were often accounts, continuing over several days, of cases of defalcation, forgery, breach of trust, and other financial crimes, for which cases — especially where occurring among persons who had once enjoyed the consideration of the community in an especially high degree — he showed something like a definite taste. Ottilie even ventured to commend his political ambitions. There were so many persons of position and means, she said ingenuously, who remained selfishly wrapped up in their own affairs, and would take no part in the government, nor aid in any way to improve the general condition. She had heard that nothing was needed so much in politics as good men.
It was at this time that she approached, with trepidation, the subject of the Hasbroucks, and was repulsed, as has been explained.
“ Your interest is creditable, but misdirected,” Harvey said. “ Let me bear no more of sympathy for that section of the country or its people. Had it depended upon them, I should have been to-day a beggar in the streets. That I am not, that I escaped bankruptcy, is due — I hardly know to what it is due.” He acquainted her with some of tho particulars which we have heard already as laid before St. Hill. “I would not fail,” he continued, “for then I should have been impotent to repay in any way the harm they had done me. I could not have borne arms, but I remained solvent, to strengthen the power of the government, and gather in those who could. I put into the field a regiment at my own expense. As they had forgotten, together with my dues, all my favors and my good will, I sent bayonets by way of pricking their recollection. Let me hear no more on this subject.”
Why was he so bitter, why so sweeping in his resentment ? Ottilie asked herself. It was all so long ago, and her friends were women, who could not personally have injured him. Others had escaped bankruptcies, and even fallen into them, she was sure, without cherishing such long and vehement animosity. She was humiliated and depressed at her rebuff. She enjoyed no such measure of his esteem as she had foolishly allowed herself to suppose. It was something, too, to recall once more an adamauthie hardness, an unrelenting obstinacy of character, which she had begun to persuade herself did not exist. She thought of going away at once, but this could hardly have been done now with credit, and it would not be understood. For the present she stayed. One small event succeeding another dimmed the impression. He certainly had had provocation, and different natures take things so differently. He brought her one day a sum of money, with directions to distribute it in such charities as she saw fit. He wished her to be assured that it was not niggardliness or insensibility to distress that caused him to withhold relief from the Hasbroucks, but a settled aversion which had become a principle. At the same time, perhaps, he did not forget that whatever benefactions she might distribute from his house would be easily traced to their proper source, and redound to his advantage politically.
William Henry Bishop.