A NEW PARTNER AT BARCLAY’S ISLAND.
WHEN Paul Barclay went to keep his appointment to go to the State Fair, he found a young girl, of the humbler sort, just taking her leave of Mrs. Varemberg, in the porch of the house. The girl wore a long, dark cloth coat, of a kind in vogue with the shopwomen of the day, fitting closely to a trim figure. From beneath a round hat projected, in front, a fluff of strongly growing, dark hair, and she had a smooth, olive complexion and a pair of hazel eyes, demurely bright.
“ I thank you so very much, Mrs. Varemberg,” Barclay heard her say, in a voice marked by a trace of foreign accent.
“ This is our little friend Stanislava Zelinsky, from the Polish settlement,” said the lady, presenting the visitor.
Barclay touched his hat to her. He had seen something of her country and its people at home, and certain recollections drawn from his travels would have enlisted his interest, even had not the fact of her being Mrs. Varemberg’s protégée and her own rather pretty face, as she made a timid response to his bow, been sufficient.
“ Stanislava has many accomplishments,” continued her patroness ; “ she is never idle. Besides doing all kinds of house-work, she can embroider, paint flowers, play the church organ, and has a most excellent handwriting. Have you not a beautiful handwriting, Stanislava ? ”
“ Well, I don’t know. They get me to write the books of the Polish Benevolent Society, though, what keeps the names of all the families in the church,” replied the girl, half disclaiming yet accepting the eulogy.
“ And how do they get on now at the church ? It seems to me they are not always as amiable, down there, as they ought to be.”
She referred, no doubt, to a late disturbance, in which the schoolmaster, leading trader, pastor, and militia organization known as the Sobieski Guards had all been mixed up in a confused combat that had not been straightened out even at the police court itself, to which it had come in last resort.
“ Oh, that was mostly the Warsaw men and the Cracow men,” said Stanislava, referring to some ancient feud of locality, like that of Cork and Kerry among the Irish.
“ Pronounce your pretty name for us,”said Mrs. Varemberg.
The girl did so, in a very soft and pleasing way. Being urged, she followed with a few further expressions in the speech of her fatherland.
“ How charming ! You must give us lessons in the Polish language,” said Barclay, playfully.
“ No American person wants to know the Polander language ; ” and she showed her fine white teeth in a smile at the exquisite absurdity of his idea.
When she had gone and they were in the carriage awaiting them, Mrs. Varemberg explained : “ She is the child of the bridge-tender who was killed at the same time my father received his own injuries. He has had a fancy to look after her ever since.”
A decidedly new touch of interest was added by this to what Barclay had already shown. He wondered, as he had often wondered before, and was on the point of saying aloud: —
“ Why was not this motive a source of equal consideration, on David Lane’s part, for me ? ”
“ She has just come to me on a rather singular errand. She has arrived at her eighteenth birthday, and for the first time has begun to be troubled with compunctions about the money she receives. She inquires what it is for. She thinks she ought not to accept it any longer without doing some service in return.”
“A commendable spirit, surely.”
“ I urged her to save it against her wedding-day. She did not seem satisfied, and I promised to see my father about it on his return, and find her something to do, if possible.” From the Fair ground, as they drew near, they heard issuing forth a strident music of barrel-organs and the orchestras of side-shows, and they could see, above the far-stretching, high white palisade that encompassed it, a series of the crests of pavilions, booths, and tents, decked with gayly floating banners. Within were parked the dusty vehicles of country folk, who looked upon the occasion as a wonderful iestival, and the equipages of wealthy city people, who, like our friends, had made it the terminus of an afternoon’s drive. The praises of the Learned Pig mingled with those of the Wild Australian Children, the lowing of animals with the shuffle and clatter of agricultural apparatus, and the steaming and whir and thud of falling stamps in Machinery Hall. A knot of committee-men trudged, with important air, among the stalls arranged around the outer circuit of the iuclosure, distributing medals and ribbons to favored live stock. Something could be seen of a sham battle in progress on an elevated green common without; and from time to time a man with a red sash and stentorian voice announced trials of speed on the trotting track.
Ives Wilson was there, in a kiosk specially erected for the Daily Index. He seemed even unusually full of business. With profuse enthusiasm he handed out to our friends a copy of his special State Fair Edition. Thousands of copies of it were being distributed gratis, containing excellently-paid-for puffs of the Eureka farm pump, the Little Giant harvester, the Pearl Feather windmill, and the like. He broke away to confer with two notables known as the “ Hop King” and the “Cranberry King,” and to receive subscriptions from small country politicians, who made it a point to come and pay in person, at this time, to keep the eye of the Index favorably fixed upon them during the ensuing year. He hurried back, and threw into the lap of Mrs. Varemberg, till it resembled the lap of Abundance, specimens of mammoth fruits, which had been donated him as an editor, and hence the most fitting recipient of all that was curious,
“ What an energy! what a zeal ! ” said Barclay.
“ I should not wonder if he even went to sleep with a greater energy than other people,” responded his companion. “ I have an idea he shuts his eyes with an actual snap, and proposes to show the world one of the most vigorous examples of sleeping on record.”
The Art Pavilion, to which they were bound, was found to be a rather rudely finished structure of pine boards, octagonal in shape. On one side was arranged, by itself, the little collection sent by Mrs. Varemberg, consisting chiefly of some choice textile stuffs and bright foreign pictures of the modern schools, from her own home, together with some few other specimens of merit, loaned by their owners with reluctance, and only upon the personal representations of one so influential as herself. The contribution next in importance to her own was that of a certain refined Radbrook family, of whom she spoke incidentally with warm admiration.
“ They have almost everything,” she said: “money enough for every refined taste, without splendor, health, good looks, charming children, and fondness for each other. It is a most enviable household. The chief pleasure of the master of it is music. It is not for display or applause, in a too common way ; on the contrary, he prefers to be alone ; and there is something poetic and gentle in the way he sits, by the hour, in his music-room, fingering over to himself his difficult compositions. His wife protects this taste, but does not share it. They are amiable and gay in the world, but pay no weak deference to it, and do not let it invade their genuine, self-centred happiness.”
There were indications of her own ideals of domestic life to be gathered from this.
Another class of pictures, very smoothly varnished copies after the old masters, in very brightly gilded frames, complacently displayed by one of the latest of the class of new rich, perhaps met with the leading favor of connoisseurs. The former were spoken of as “ too gaudy,” and doubts entertained of their being in good taste. Ingenuous schoolgirls and the like sought the latter with eagerness. They had read of the originals in text books, and felt that here they were reveling with proper sentiment over the grandest creations of art.
Then followed dull portraits and leaden landscapes by practitioners who eked out a bare subsistence in the place by the aid of teaching ; woodeny prize cattle, painted broadside on, to please their owners ; a figure-piece by a onearmed veteran of the Soldiers’ Home ; a smudged crayon drawing “ by a boy of thirteen,” who spent the greater part of his time before it in rapt admiration ; and chromos, lithographed circulars and bill-heads, and a mammoth St. George and the Dragon, executed in Spencerian penmanship.
A number of people they knew were met with in passing through. Miss Justine DeBow, accompanied by Lieutenant Gregg, of the revenue cutter, gave Barclay a gracious nod, among others. Mrs. Varemberg sank down on a bench with fatigue.
“ You see the cause of art has not yet made very enormous strides in Keewaydin,” she said, summing up.
“ Yes, I suppose that is a safe statement to agree to.”
“ But it is advancing, it is coming this way; it is, really. I myself am old enough to have seen wonderful changes in my time,”
“ Let it come by itself, then. Let its tottering steps be supported on some more vigorous shoulder than yours.” He had noted an unusually pallid and worn look overspread her face. “ Good heavens, why have I let you so overtax your strength? How can I have been so stupid ? ”
“It is nothing. It is not my proceedings to-day that tire me; the bare exertion of getting these few things together bad already done it.”
“ Then why did you have anything to do with it ? ” he asked, in energetic reproof.
“ I suppose I was weak, and let myself be persuaded. They told me I ought to share my superior advantages with others less fortunate. They said I was a leader; and when one is a leader one ought to lead, you know.”
“ But in all these ways you dissipate vital force you can ill spare. You ought to lead the calmest, most untroubled life possible.”
“ ‘ Calm ’ and ‘ untroubled ‘ are good. Well, there is sometimes a certain need of distraction. And was it not you who were only lately counseling me athletic sports ? ”
“ This is not athletic sport, and now I counsel you rest,” he said, looking into her eyes with deep earnestness. “ Come! we must get you well.”
“ There will be all eternity to rest in.”
But this sincere concern in her wellbeing had evidently awakened her gratitude. As if with compunction for her conduct of yesterday, she returned, of her own accord, to the point at which they had then left off.
“ I repulsed your interest in my affairs yesterday. I fear I was very rude to you,” she said, with much gentleness. Now I would like to tell you all you may care to know.”
“No, no; it was unpardonable in me to trench upon the subject at all. Pray try to forgive and forget it.”
“ But I want to tell you,” she insisted, with a gentle imperiousness.
Upon this they resumed their carriage and drove homeward. Restive Castor and Pollux had been fuming under the unwonted sounds and phantasmagoria of the Fair, and did not recover their customary gait till the inclosure was left well behind them. The drill of the local militia was still in progress. The American Light Guard, the Irish Emmet Guard, the German Jägers, and the Polish Sobieskis marched and countermarched before one another in gallant style. When the bayonets of the caterpillar-like squads twinkled finally at a distance, and the smoke of their volleys floated on the air like puffs of thistledown, Mrs. Varemberg began her story.
“ Under Varemberg’s gay and frank demeanor,” said she, “ a superficial veneer adopted only for society, he covered a morose and barbarous nature. He developed, in particular, a phenomenal cruelty of disposition which in recollection seems incredible.”
“ Who would have credited it ? ”
“ Something strange seemed to come between us from the very outset. There was no companionship, not a feeling nor thought in common. It was too hideous. At first I used to persuade myself it was my fault, and try to dispel it. The more I humiliated myself, the harder and more brutal he became.”
“ There are natures like that Alpine rose, the type of ingratitude, which, comparatively tame in its pastures, bristles with thorns the more it is cultivated,” said Barclay.
“ His native trait of cruelty was exercised on horses, dogs, inferiors, and all around. I was a daily witness to unmerited suffering. It was an outbreak of this kind that first alienated me from him, even before it had been wreaked on myself.”
“ And we esteem ourselves judges of character ! ” said Barclay.
“ A poor soldier who had been guilty of some offense, which though certainly a breach of military discipline was not a crime, had been condemned to death, by court-martial. The circumstances were so peculiar that they had attracted much attention. The soldier was from our own village, where his detachment was stationed at the time. A strongfeeling of sympathy was aroused for him among his friends, neighbors, and comrades. He was led out the first time to be shot, and the platoon would not fire. The villagers rushed between, and bared their breasts, crying, ‘You shall not harm him ; you shall kill us first! ’ He was led back to his prison, and they came to me, among others, to invoke my intercession with my husband. ‘ If he can but obtain a reprieve, and the case be carried to the higher authorities,’ they pleaded, ‘ he will surely have justice done him,and be saved.’”
“ You had identified yourself well with your village, then ? ”
“ Yes, one would naturally do so. A woman’s country, you know, is that where she loves.” (Her companion winced.) “ Though that motive endured but so short a time, I had early found a sort of distraction in the place. My husband was connected, in some retired or supernumerary way, with the army, yet was one of those, though not the principal one, who had to do with the execution of the sentence. When I spoke to him, he repulsed my interference with insulting sarcasms. No reprieve was obtained. The man was once more led out to die.”
She paused a moment, and covered her eyes with her hand, as if to shut out a terrible recollection. Barclay waited in respectful silence for her to go on.
“ I found myself by accident near the open parade-ground, that morning, quite ignorant of what was to take place. The peasants again ran to me, with streaming eyes, as a melancholy procession came down the village street. I took a few steps, in a confused way, towards it. I was close to both my husband and the prisoner. Hardly knowing what I did, I reached forth and laid a hand on Varemberg’s arm. It seemed to inspire in him a rage like actual madness. He seized a revolver from his holster, and ran and placed it against the head of the prisoner. ‘ A million devils,’ he cried, ‘ can we never get this vermin shot! ’ and hie fired.
“ I was so near that the blood of the poor victim scattered over me, and his pleading eyes directed into mine their last glance on earth.”
Barclay’s breath came thick and fast, as he listened with horror to this recital.
“ After such an event, what more could there ever be between us ? He terrified me inexpressibly. I did not know at what moment I might meet a similar fate. His appearance, which I had once thought so gallant and handsome, seemed sinister to the last degree, and his smile froze me. He saw my aversion, and was pleased at first to make some small efforts to overcome it, and be like his former self. But if this shocking deed were not by itself sufficient, others of a like nature followed. Then I began to learn of glaring infidelities. He twice demanded of my father large sums in addition to what had been paid as my wedding portion. He had been a bankrupt, himself, from the very start; and finally his transactions in money were such that he had to leave the country. In the midst of it, my child, too, had died. Ah, if I had had but that solace, I think I might have endured all the rest. How lonely I was in the great foreign house, far from all I had ever known! My father came there and took me home.”
“ It puzzles me beyond measure, —his pretext for turning to such courses ; his motive in throwing away such a happiness as was his.”
“ He must have followed a natural bias that had been hidden from us. It could not have been the beginning of it we witnessed. Much of his conduct seemed without motive, his cruelty pure wantonness; perhaps it would be most merciful to suppose it insanity. There are such characters, we know, in history, who delighted in torture for its own sake. His seemed one of those natures that at a certain point had to go wholly and irremediably to the bad.”
“ But how, but why did such a dreadful mistake ever arise? ” exclaimed Barclay excitedly.
“ I suppose I chose with a young girl’s want of reflection. I must have been very thoughtless, even for my age. Truly, I had formed but a dim conception of what it was to be married, and of the need of a true affection. Varemberg interested and dazzled me. He told me, too, that no one could ever love me as much as he, and I think I allowed myself to believe it.”
“ And yet it ought not to have been so difficult to love you, in those times,” broke in Barclay, with a sad sort of bitterness. “ I sometimes used to wonder that everybody who knew you did not do it.”
He had yielded momentarily to an emotion against which he vainly struggled. Surely it was evident now that her father had never told her of his proposal, and she had never known the true state of his feelings. Such naïveté of statement, as unconscious as her former flippancy, would otherwise have been impossible.
She turned towards him a look of genuine surprise.
“ Truly,” she said, “ you have come back an accomplished flatterer. Once, praise from you was praise from Sir Hubert, to be esteemed indeed.”
“ Whatever I have come back, it is no flatterer.”
“ Then it only remains to set you down as misguided. I was far from certain in my own mind about this marriage,” she went on presently, “but my father reassured me, and laid my scruples at rest.”
“ Your father ? ”
“ Yes, alas ! he too was deceived.” Paul Barclay’s surmise, to which so many indications had pointed, was confirmed. Her father had been the author of the match, she only a consenting party. He groaned in spirit, but too late, to think that all his agony had passed even unnoted, and to recall his own words of consuming passion unspoken, when it appeared how easily the glib sophistries of the foreigner had prevailed with her.
“ Bear with me,” ho resumed, after some one of those casual interruptions from the sights and scenes around them that occur in such out-of-doors jaunts. “ And after all this, they tell me, you will not avail yourself even of the poor remedy of the law.”
“ Oh no, not that; never! ” she ejaculated, in a sort of horror.
“ And why ? ”
“ There is but one thing for a woman to do in a situation like mine, and that is to accept the consequences of her folly gracefully, and conceal them from the public eye as far as possible. No new trials, no further experiments for me ! ”
“ But even apart from further experiments,” he reasoned with her, grieved at the terms, “ is it not irksome to drag a ball and chain, as it were, some five or ten thousand miles long?”
“ There are international aspects to the case, and it is not certain that release could be obtained, valid in both countries, did I desire it never so much. And where is the great harm in a ball and chain, if one does not wish to dance?” with a melancholy smile.
“ I have not heard it was dancers only to whom those appendages were hateful. One would always like to walk unimpeded, even at the slowest pace.”
“No, I have firm convictions against what you suggest,” she persisted.
“And so have I had till now. Or rather, I fear my attention has never been closely turned to it. But surely the step was never better justified.” " Whom God hath joined together, he only can put asunder. That is what I have always been taught to believe. That is what my father believes, with me. Alas! in many things I no longer know what my convictions are. Varemberg shook my faith, in our early days, with his brilliant, hateful skepticism ; that harm he did me with the rest. But, in all my uncertainties, on this point I have never wavered.”
Barclay abandoned the argument with a sigh. He afterwards felt greatly his temerity in entering on it. He sighed over his companion in many ways.
“ Ah, that such a fate,” he said, “ should have been hers, so made as she was for sunshine, for distinction ! Ah, that yonder wretch should have been allowed to throw away this treasure of affection and loveliness, when I — I would have given my heart’s blood to save her from an instant’s pain ! ”
A week after this, the statement was current that a new partner had gone into the management of the StampedWare Works with Maxwell. The news was brought into the Johannisberg House, which stood at no great distance from Barclay’s Island, on the main land, by the South Side letter-carrier, Peter Stransky.
It was a quiet afternoon at that respectable caravansary. There were visible a collection of shells and a fullrigged ship, behind the bar of the long, neatly sanded room. A little platform crossed one end of this room, on which a quartette of Tyroleans with zither accompaniment, sometimes sang the national yodel. The wall behind it was painted with a mammoth Alpine scene, with a door in the centre ; so that the performers, on taking leave, seemed to disappear into the heart of the mountain, like a species of kobolds. Christian Idak, grown older and confirmed in that important air of the small landlord who is better off than most of his guests, still moved about in his shirt-sleeves. Frau Idak sat knitting in a corner, and a child by her side was doing sums on its slate. The same marine gossips, or their like, were at their posts, recounting hair-breadth escapes and curious happenings, which are even more common, perhaps, in the lake navigation than that of the salt ocean.
One had told of cruising amid floating ice-fields, twenty feet thick, in Lake Superior, in June. Another had told that, once, when wrecked, he had seen the ghost of a former captain swimming by him in the water. The mysterious questions of a tide and subterranean outlets for the lakes had been touched upon.
“ What I know is,” said a tug-man, on this latter subject, “ that a precious sight more water goes down that Saint Lawrence River than ever gets out o’ the lakes fair and above-board.”
“ Most anywhere out Waukesha way, — where I hail from,” — added a skipper, corroborating him, " if you bore down into the solid rock you get water comin’ up, with live fish in it. And ‘cisco,’ which is a Lake Superior fish, and nothin’ else, appears in Genevy Lake a few days every year, and then disappears again, so you can’t find one for love nor money. Now what does all that mean if it ain’t that there’s underground channels ? ”
The " hard times,” supposed to be existing, next came in for their fair share of attention.
An engineer of the Owl Line complained that they did not get one trip now where they formerly got a dozen.
“ It is the same way with us,” added a rival of the Diamond Jim Line: " the big craft is eatin’ up all the small ones, in the carryin’ trade. And even they don’t make no very heavy pile out of it.”
“ The bloated money kings and monopolist sharks is at the bottom of it,” cried a vigorous exponent of the " greenback ” school of doctrines. “ This country ’ll never see a well day again till it gets a poor man’s currency, and makes it ekil to the wants o’ trade.”
It was about this time that the South Side letter-carrier came in, from his swift rounds, with his leather satchel slung over his shoulder.
“ The Stamped-Ware Works is one place where they don’t show much signs o’ hard times,” said he, pausing a moment, in his thirst imbibing a glass of Keewaydin’s excellent beer. “I’ve just been there. They’ve got in a new partner ; they ’re puttin’ on a new lot of hands, and everything’s boomin’.”
“ Who ? ” “ What? ” “ How ?” greeted the announcement, from all sides, with a lively interest. “ Who’s the new partner? ”
“ Name’s Barclay, — a New York feller, with loads o’ money ; same one what his father used to own the island afore him.” And he was off again, on his route, down to the remote precincts of Windlake Avenue and Muckwonago Road.
The little notary public, Kroeger, who spent much of his time here, having little to detain him at his own office, and who obtained a repute for wisdom and insight by a policy of cynical smiling and disparagement, commented sagely : —
“ I guess Maxwell he got bigger ideas as what he know how to do business.”
Akins, the foreman of the Works, came in presently, with a hard-pressed air, and confirmed the intelligence, with additions.
“ Of course the concern was solid,” said he, “ and no need o’ changin’, but a little more money don’t never do no harm. Mr. Barclay, he was lookin’ round for a job, and bein’ as we suited him, and the island was his, any way, what more natural than that we should strike up a bargain ? ”
Mrs. Varemberg derived her first authentic information from Barclay himself. Some rumor of it had already reached her. She received it with an open enthusiasm.
“You are going to stay?” she exclaimed.
“ Yes, I am going to stay.”
“ It seems one of those things really too good to be true.”
“ It appears that the too-good-to-betrue sometimes happens,” he replied, smiling.
He surprised himself in a certain tremor, at her pleasant excitement, but quickly dismissed it. She had had really nothing to do with his staying, he assured himself. She was in the place, it is true, and was weak and suffering, and he might be of some small solace and assistance to her, — as he should be glad to be to any friend in like situation in whom he felt an interest, — but that was all.
“ Maxwell put the matter in such a light that I could not decline his offer,” he explained. “ If I were in earnest in my ideas, — and I assure you I was, — here was an opening just suited to my peculiar case, and, strangely enough, ready to my hand. Why should I search further ? ”
And so indeed he thought. He had yielded to that subtile warping by inclination and sympathy which sometimes has its way even with the clearest of consciences. He had not the faintest notion in the world of being that equivocal figure, the masculine consoler of an unhappy wife. He was endowed with an excellent Anglo-Saxon common sense, and he felt himself to be, now, with his ample experience, a person of a sturdy temperament, upon which the imagination could play but few of its tricks. Was he not heart-whole? And have we not seen lovers meeting in after years, and even exchanging congratulations on their fortunate escape from each other? It was his general purpose in life to set his face resolutely against all those courses of conduct requiring extenuation or apology, and he had no intention of departing from it in this instance.
When David Lane returned, after the absence we have noted, he found Paul Barclay fairly settled in Keewaydin.
“ What does this mean ?” he demanded of his daughter, with a face of ominous and rigid severity, of which she by no means comprehended the occasion.
“ What could it mean, papa ? I do
not understand you.” she responded, in strong astonishment.
“ This young man must needs follow us about the world, and now he comes hither, and even makes a pretext of engaging in business.”
“ And why should he not go into a business here ? I do not understand you, papa. As to his following us about the world, surely you remember that it is a good four years since we have seen him, and it was but by the merest accident he knew I was here.”
David Lane, in his first access of consternation, had made a very false step. He hastened to repair its consequences as best he could.
“ I was only thinking, dearest,” he began, in a confused way, “ if it should be said that a former admirer had followed you here, at this particular time ” —
“ But he is not my ‘ former admirer,’ ” she interrupted, impatiently. " He was a very staunch friend, whom I should like to keep. At the worst, we hardly have the right to turn out of Keewaydin all those who have been my admirers, — if we can suppose any so misguided. I do not understand you at all. Was not Paul Barclay, at Paris, one of our most esteemed acquaintances ? ”
“I — I have nothing against him,” stammered the wretched man. “ Only, your position, just at this time, requires a great deal of circumspection.”
Under the influence of her brother, Mrs. Clinton, in her turn, offered a feeble counsel, on the same subject. " He is a most gentlemanly man, and all that could be desired in every way, I am sure,” she said, deprecatingly; “ but, since he is now going to remain here, it seems to me I would not see quite so much — not too much of him, Florence, dear.”
“ You know my views and practice on all those matters; you have even urged me to modify them, make them less severe. Why do you now become more loyal than the queen ? ”
“ Your situation is one requiring a great deal of circumspection,” said the aunt, repeating her brother’s words.
“ My situation is one requiring a good cup of tea and a night’s rest,” returned the object of these expostulations, and she retired to her own chamber.
TAUGHT BY MISFORTUNE, I PITY THE UNHAPPY.”
At an early day after taking the important step described, Barclay went to New York to settle up certain of his affairs awaiting him there, and finally conclude, by a brief visit to his family, his long tour round the world.
He found himself glad, on reaching New York again, to have chosen Keewaydin as his field of action. The great metropolis would have been too vast, its influence too discouraging for his simple experiment. An individual like himself would have been swallowed up in its Babel of conflicting interests, and could not have hoped to make the faintest impression.
The city had changed much, even during the few years of his absence. The great apartment-houses, for one thing, had then begun to tower up newly above the level of ordinary life, some even surpassing the tops of the churches. His own family, meantime, had moved far up town, near Central Park, choosing their new abode in a quarter that had been in his day but a waste of desert lots, and abandoning the old one on Fifth Avenue before the encroachments of trade. His sisters came in, one day, and told mournfully how they had made purchases over the counter in the chambers sacred to the most intimate memories of their childhood.
Old acquaintances, whom he met at some clubs, where he still kept his membership, and elsewhere, were inclined to joke him about the remote precinct where, they understood, he had taken up his new habitat; but they were respectful about it, too, identifying it more or less with the cattle ranches of Dakota and Montana, to which various friends, “swell ” young Englishmen and the like, had taken lately, and they asked him questions about stock-raising, and begged him to bear them in mind if he should meet with opportunities for money-making he himself might not be able to use.
Paul Barclay returned to Keewaydin, and took up his quarters in the spacious residence of his kinsfolk, the Thornbrooks, a pleasant old couple, quite free from the crabbedness of age, who insisted upon it with a pressing hospitality. They had their own primitive ideas and habits, they said, but these should in no way be allowed to interfere with his convenience. They promised him an exaggerated liberty. They insisted that there was room enough, and to spare, for all ; and so indeed it seemed, when Barclay came to inspect the large, comfortable chambers placed at his disposal. The Thornbrooks proceeded forthwith to give a large entertainment, with the view of introducing him to the society of the place, and nearly everybody of note assembled to do him honor. There came, among the rest, his traveling-companions, Jim DeBow, who rose once more on his heel, and Miss Justine DeBow, who this time asked him to come and see her at her home.
But he began his labors immediately in active earnest. Establishing a regular routine, he rose and breakfasted early ; then drove, in a buggy he had set up, — or sometimes walked, for the benefit of the more active exercise,— down to the Works, where he spent a long, busy day. He crossed the Chippewa Street Bridge, where Ludwig Trapschuh soon came to add him to the large list of acquaintance he claimed “ by sight.” It was the purpose of Barclay to post himself thoroughly in all parts of his enterprise before he should set out upon any novel schemes. Accordingly, he studied the great books of account, the systems of sales and credit, the character and source of supply of the raw materials, then the processes of manufacture, and finally the shipment of the completed product to many and distant markets.
His “ office ” was a small wooden house, with platform-scales beside it. It had worn cocoa matting on the floor ; it contained a great iron safe, a low desk and another high one; to sit beside this latter it was necessary to mount on a high stool. On the wall was a capacious frame filled with specimens of the smaller wares turned out by the factory, with their price-list attached. The hum of a distant planing-mill rose unceasingly on the ear, like some homely song forever celebrating the plodding industries of the quarter.
The main buildings were partly of brick and partly of wood; their roofs were covered with a preparation of asphalt, which, with the tan-bark, from a not far distant tannery, laid on the road of approach, gave out distinctive odors when heated by the sun. Over the principal doorway was the legend : “ No Admission Except on Business.” All around was a litter of piece-moulds, old castings, and general débris, and against the walls leaned some mammoth gearwheels, still so long from their swift revolutions that the slow rust and cobwebs had overtaken them. The dry, unsentimental nature of his surroundings by no means chilled the early ardor of Barclay; if anything, it even increased it.
“ The mine itself does not shine,” said he ; “ it is only the product that comes from its gloomy depths.”
There was even a certain romance in their utter commonplaceness. It was a reaction, no doubt, a form of the testimony of respect that the studious, scholarly temperament pays to the more rugged sort that makes the money and carries on the practical affairs of the world. Barclay felt that he had been too long a mere loiterer and looker-on, and he now took a manly delight in knowing himself, at last, a part of the great, stirring, useful, workaday world of affairs.
He had conceived, as we have seen, an ideal of duty towards his men far beyond that of the mere payment of wages. If he were to be the autocrat of their destinies, he meant to be at least an autocrat of the beneficent type. So he was fond of watching them, when he thought them unaware of it, at their work. He found a kind of grotesque pathos, as well as humor, in their smudged faces, their flannel shirts of red and blue, stained with oil, all the vagaries of their grimy costume. He wondered to himself how he would have stood such a life as theirs, had it been forced upon him. The flowers that bloomed for them were the flames and molten metal from the furnaces; the stars that shone for them were the scintillations of the forging ; the birds that sang for them were the clink of the hammers; and the grass that grew under their feet was the waste of slag and cinders.
If the men observed him at this study, they thought it only the sharp eye of the task-master bent upon them, to see that they neglected no duty touching his pocket. There was range enough of character. He had timid spirits and bold, the gay and the morose, the faithful at their tasks and the chronic shirkers, sycophants who would have curried favor with him by spying upon the rest, and the surly independent who seemed even to go out of their way to seek occasions for offense.
Instead of some episode of the humanitarian sort, to which he aspired, curiously enough one of the first experiences he had was to deal with a fractious and rebellious hand. This man, a dangerous character as well as inefficient workman, after having been discharged, returned again, under the influence of drink, and, in the long main shop, fired twice at Barclay with a revolver, almost at point-blank range.
“ You’d ’a’ thought the boss kind o’ liked it,” said belligerent young Johnny Maguire, of the packing-room, commenting on the occurrence. “ He kep’ as cool as a cucumber all the time. Oh, he ’s got plenty of sand in his gizzard, and don’t you forget it.”
This proceeding, so questionable, perhaps, as philanthropy, stood Barclay in good stead in other respects. His coolness under fire and indifference to danger won him the respect of the rude class with which he had to deal as the manifestation of no other kind of qualities at first would have done. In the long run it lightened his management in many ways, and gave his labors and influence the more telling efficacy.
The news of it came to Mrs. Varemberg, as that of the steamer accident had done, only from outsiders and after a considerable time. She was alarmed, and said to him,—
“ Is it not dangerous for you to mix with such rough characters, and go among them as freely as you do ? They may knock you on the head some day for revenge, or robbery ; who knows ? ”
“ The only fear is that none of them will be so obliging,” he replied, smiling enigmatically, in a way that much puzzled her. Barclay aimed also, with an all-embracing ambition, to acquaint himself thoroughly with his new abode, Keewaydin. He studied its map, its topography, its past and present. He designed to grasp all the elements of its population; its social life, the sources and prospects of its trade, the method of its government, policing, lighting, heating, water supply, protection from fire; its courts, schools, churches, and cemeteries. There was a definite satisfaction to him in the compactness, the moderate compass, of the city, — large, important, and flourishing though it was. He found it agreeable to have become part of a place in which it would be easily possible to rise to the top, and even, should he so desire, to be one of its controlling spirits.
“ The leaven is working,” he said to Mrs. Varemberg. “I feel within me the makings of a bitter East or West or South Sider.”
He went on ’Change. He wondered if the same wrinkles of shrewdness did not begin to appear about his own eyes as about those of the business people he met with there.
Jim DeBow welcomed him cordially, and discoursed as before on the present and prospective greatness of Keewaydin. Ives Wilson, who was extending the range of his infallibility at the moment to the domain of grain and pork, touched up Jim DeBow a little on the subject of a certain recent large operation of the latter’s in winter wheat, — a “ corner,” in fact, of such extent as to have caused Chicago to claim with pride to be the birthplace of its manipulator. Both leaned nonchalantly back against one of the long tables, and munched grains of wheat as they talked.
“ Speaking of winter wheat,” said the editor parenthetically, " you ’ll see winters out here that ’ll make your hair curl. Why, back in the country where this comes from,” and he tossed a few more grains into his mouth, “ when the thermometer’s only at zero, the people put their summer clothes on.”
On ’Change seemed a sort of commercial club. Vessel-men, agents of freight lines and insurance companies, attorneys, builders, and money-lenders resorted thither, to look for business from its regular constituency and carry on transactions with these and one another. Telegraphic instruments clicked, messengers ran hither and thither, and from time to time the secretary mounted to an upper gallery, and, like a muezzin summoning to prayers, gave out the latest quotations of foreign markets, — the shouting circle around a small platform in the centre pausing briefly in their turmoil to listen.
There Barclay met also with David Lane. In his guise of capitalist, the ex-governor stood about on the outer edge of the circle, supporting his dignified, stocky figure on a cane, and speaking an occasional word with one of the more active members. He was rheumatic now, and at times could walk only with exceeding difficulty.
Ives Wilson came up, and, half presenting Barclay to Lane, in his offhand fashion, said of him, —
“ He has become one of us, — I’m glad you know each other. I tell you, little by little Keewaydin is going to gather in all the brains, capital, and industry of the country. By the way,” to Barclay, “ I ’m thinking of sending a man down to write up your place. I think I ’ll have Goff, our Assistant Local, do it; he’s particularly good at those things.”
“ To write up my place? ”
“ Yes, a column article, you know, under the head of Keewaydin’s Industries. We give you a hundred copies, free, to distribute round among your friends, and you let us have a hundreddollar advertisement, — see ? ”
David Lane’s manner to the young manufacturer was cold and repellent,— the manner he so well remembered in the old times. It added to his sense of a confirmed hostility, a feeling vividly aroused by the revelation of Mrs. Varemberg. In the difficulty of forming, at present, any more general programme, and while awaiting the development of events, David Lane had taken refuge in moroseness. The young man should at least have no countenance from him; he would not invite him to his house, nor show any willingness to receive him; he would not encourage, if he could not put an end to, this most ominous invasion.
“ It shall never be, — it shall never be! ” he muttered. But even those who saw him glance fiercely after the retiring figure of Barclay could have had little idea of all the tragic thoughts passing in his mind.
His most imminent danger had come back,— the danger, too, he had once thought forever averted, by the most cautious of planning, the most doleful of sacrifices. Was it to have been imagined that his punishment would follow him in this of all other forms — follow him through his daughter ? Nothing was more probable than that some violent end of Varemberg would be heard of at any moment. And here was this honorable lover, to whom his daughter had never been indifferent, returned and ready to renew his suit.
“ Heaven knows it is no malice of mine, but his own interest. I must and will always oppose him ! ” he cried despairingly. “ Have I not done him harm enough ? He shall never marry her.”
Some others, perhaps, might think it the best of all reparations that the son of the man who was slain should be allowed to wed his heart’s desire, the daughter of the slayer, a noble and lovable creature in herself, and the dearest thing in life to her father. Self-protection, too, would have dictated this policy to David Lane, but he had never inclined to it. There was an element of the exalted and unpractical in his course; he was not seeking his personal safety. He would have no marriage with such a prospective Nemesis on its track ! Barclay ought not to be allowed to unite himself with them. He would awake some day to the discovery that his wife had been used as a bait and a snare to tie his hands against the just retribution he would have demanded, awake perhaps to loathe as much as he had once fancied he loved her.
This feeling, misguided perhaps, and fraught already with the bitter consequence of the baneful foreign marriage, had been the ruling force and motive of the destiny of David Lane for years, and he still grimly adhered to it. It was his bias of mind, his whim, his hallucination or mania, perhaps; but so he was constituted, so he had begun, and he could not change. It was to be counted with as an inevitable part of the situation.
He went to his home by way of the City Hall Square, and, as he hobbled along the promenade at one side of it, he turned his eyes upward to the Golden Justice. There had been times, during his stay abroad, when he had all but forgotten its existence, with both his crime and his eccentric reparation. It would be recalled to him, perchance, by some accident of travel, some faint resemblance to this in a foreign building, or some gilded saint gleaming afar, as from the basilicas on the plain of Lombardy. Even at home it had often lapsed into a certain vagueness. But now, since the arrival of this young man, his memory was jogged indeed ; his sense of what the image conveyed to him was renewed in all its vividness.
“ I gave my pledge to Justice to respond whenever she should call me. Is the fulfillment of the pledge about to be exacted?” he speculated mournfully.
Often, too, had he wished the fateful paper down again and safe in his own possession, and now, as he gazed, this feeling intensely revived. His burning glance seemed as if it would go straight to the heart of the receptacle, ignite the confession, and consume it where it lay.
“ Dry rot has perhaps destroyed it by this time,” he speculated; “or the moisture penetrated to it, through some crevice, and caused it to fester away in mildew and mould.”
Then he returned to his house, and sat by his window, as was so often his wont, and gazed wistfully still at the Golden Justice, above the top of a forest composed of the shade trees interspersed among the dwellings.
Paul Barclay looked up one day from his writing, and inspected a card handed him by a very light-complexioned young man, of energetic aspect, wearing a slouch hat and cloak. The card bore the inscription, “ Welby B. Goff, Local Ed. Keewaydin Index.” This visitor spoke first of the general state of the country, of the approaching close of navigation, the quantity of wheat in store, and the heavy condition of the country roads, that rendered collections difficult, then finally came down to the business he had in hand.
“ The Index is getting up a series of articles on the ‘ Industries of Keewaydin,’ ” said he, “ and your place will naturally figure among the most prominent. We make it a point always to send to headquarters for our information. The Index, as you know, has a circulation larger than all its contemporaries combined, and it aims to be strictly accurate.”
Barclay recollected the hint he had already got from the editor-in-chief, and good humoredly acceded to the scheme, partly because the Index was Ives Wilson’s paper, and partly because he was not really averse to having his new enterprise described in print in a form which he might send to some of his friends at a distance. He therefore accompanied the reporter about the factory in person, and took great pains to supply him with the proper information. He was also led to consider having an advertisement of much larger size than the one first proposed; and when an ingenuous new proprietor once begins to “ figure ” with a wily agent in this kind of wares, he is extremely likely to do very much more than he may have expected to in the beginning.
“ It draws blood,” said Welby Goff, as he put up his pencil, after booking a highly profitable contract, “ but I ’ve done it, and I’ll stick to it. Only I ’ll ask you as a special favor not to mention it to any one else, as it would do us harm.”
In due time the article appeared. It proved a tissue of exaggerations from beginning to end ; every figure was at least doubled, and hardly an adjective was used under the superlative degree. The stamped-ware factory was called “ one of the marvels of the age,” and the new partner, “ Paul Barclay, Esq.,” was said to have “prepared himself expressly for his present duties by a long and exhaustive course of travel, study, and scientific research among similar establishments.”
Barclay hurried round to the Index, in a rage, and found Ives Wilson immersed to the eyes in scissored “ exchanges,” in a stuffy little office. The editor at first thought he had come to make a complaint of the totally opposite character.
“ My own idea of an article of this kind, to tell you the truth,” said he, when undeceived, “is that the person it is written about should be almost ashamed to read it himself. I told Goff to do the handsome thing by you, and I suppose he has put it fairly strong.”
“ But it is absurd : we are made ridiculous,” protested Barclay. “ We have n’t half that number of men at the factory ; they do not work ‘ night and day; ’ the total product turned out is not ” —
“ Readers want statements of a bold, impressive, well-rounded sort; they have no real taste for little, every-day matters, but want to hear about things on a great scale. We give them what they ask for, and they are quite capable of making their own discounts.”
This was all the satisfaction to be obtained, and Barclay was fain to content himself with suppressing his part of the edition, and resolving to see to it that any future literature of the kind, of which he might have need, should be conceived after a less highly florid taste. While at the office of the Index, on this visit, he met with one further instance of what readers might “ expect ” that tended to amuse and to distract him from his own annoyance. A small Englishlooking man, of a shabby aspect, wearing a hat many seasons out of the mode, came rushing in angrily, and extended a copy of the paper at full length with one hand, while he tapped a certain article in it with the other. The article bore the flaming head-lines, “A MuchMarried Impostor of the South Side. A Bogus Doctor Skips the Town.” It referred to him, it appeared; it had met his eye as far away as Kansas City, and he had come back, he said, to deny the unwarranted aspersion, and spend, if need be, his last dollar in the prosecution of its author. Ives Wilson, in a diplomatic way, begged the visitor to sit down, which he indignantly refused to do. The editor then whistled up the speaking-tube to the composing-room for Welby Goff to ascertain the responsibility for and true status of the offending article. Welby Goff, coming down, wrinkled his brows, as in reflection.
“ I seem to recollect something of this,” said he, “ and yet, again — I don’t know. Surely there must be some means of tracing it. I know we can. Would you kindly step in again in a few days ? ”
“ Days ? ” cried the complainant, with a fierce glare.
“ Or a week, then,” blandly. “ If it should prove that the Index has done you injustice, if this article has been contributed by an outsider, if we have been imposed upon by any personal enemy of yours, of course the — the Index will see you righted. Do you know,” confidentially, “ the abuses that sometimes creep into the press in these matters are simply infamous. In your case, my dear sir, I should probably feel exactly as you do.”
The visitor, who was really a person of questionable standing, no doubt with certain shady features in his record, was little by little mollified by treatment of this sort, and left the office, agreeing to wait till justice was done him.
“I wrote it myself,” said Welby Goff, gleefully, to Barclay, as soon as the man’s back was turned. " It’s the gospel truth, too, — at least, I think it is. Any way, there’s a certain amount of truth in it. Of course I had to put him off a little at first, being tackled all at once, that way. I ’ll keep it up for a while, till I can look up some more information of the same sort to lay him out with. I’m pretty sure I can, and then we ’ll give him a worse deal than before.”
Barclay saw comparatively little of Mrs. Varemberg in these earliest days. His new status as a resident of the place did not seem to warrant a continuance of the close intimacy of the brief preliminary visit. The coolness of his relations with her father, his real devotion to his new undertaking; together with the natural considerations of propriety and good judgment that would occur to Mrs. Varemberg as well, all contributed to this result.
The window of his chamber gave upon the quiet City Hall Park, where he could descry her likeness, in the guise of the Golden Justice. He now got out his field-glass — an exceptionally good one that had served him well in his travels, had looked at macrocosms and microcosms, at a famous beauty in her operabox, and down into the seething heart of a volcano — and added to the many sights, both fair and wondrous, it had taken in, a close study of this statue. He would take up the glass sometimes when at his books, and direct at it a long and earnest gaze. It was a distraction, in the brief period of daylight he could pass at this window, from a heavy course of reading he had begun ; he was reviewing and extending his acquaintance with socialistic works of every kind, his quick good sense detecting their fallacies, while his imagination often sighed over the utopias of human happiness they embodied. The Golden Justice was his exalted companion. His thoughts would shoot off, arrow-like, to that shining mark, and glancing thence, as it were, fall to Mrs. Varemberg, on the other side, often crossing, no doubt, with those of David Lane, similarly occupied.
Barclay said to himself that he was glad she was there, — glad she should be thus raised aloft above the city, as its emblem of right and justice. There was something grand in the apotheosis ; it was in keeping with his worship of her, his enchantment of other days, and it added dignity to that far-off love. He distinguished with his glass the proud and noble poise of the head, under its golden helmet, the subtle, reassuring smile that wreathed the features. They were the features of her blooming, untroubled girlhood, showing a character far less deep and serious, less tempered by experience, than that she possessed at the present time ; but she was for that reason only the more goddess-like, since a traditional property of the gods is untroubled calm. Nor was it needed that the model who had so well served the artist as his inspiration should have herself possessed all the grave and tragic qualities he would depict; were it so, the plastic arts must soon come to a stand-still. She had been a point of departure such as is rarely met with, and the imagination of the spectator was to do the rest.
With the passing of the seasons, with the varying days and times of day, and perhaps even the personal moods of the looker-on, the Golden Justice seemed to take many different aspects. Now she half melted into the delicious skies of autumn, now showed through light mists, like flame burning behind a screen of gauze. She was harsh and coppery in the cold bleakness of November; she seemed yellow, burnished gold against the background of some opaque blue firmament of winter; she glared lurid and threatening as an angel of wrath in the red sunsets ; and, again, would twinkle as with genuine merriment, under the shifting lights and shadows of the glorious cloud-masses of the spring-time. Even on obscure nights, as has been said, some wandering star-beam, some vestige of the radiance that is never wholly extinguished from the universe, would seek her out and indicate her position. Barclay noted the peculiar feature that she was to be most distinctly seen on dark days ; every lineament and fold of her drapery then came out against the more favoring ground of leaden gray, while in clear sunshine she was apt to be obliterated in a general dazzle.
“ That is as it should be,” said he. “ Justice should show the most clearly in time of adversity and trial ; if she conceal her face at all, let it be when all goes well.”
He little knew, as yet, the stake she held for him, and what it really might have been, even apart from the features of his lost love, that led him to the close study of this figure and the discovery of all these fine distinctions.
If he did not see Mrs. Varemberg often, as has been said, their friendship and a wholesome feeling of good-comradeship between them were certainly renewed. Mrs. Varemberg seemed to find an unusual content in this element that had come into her life, and an unwonted animation arising out of it perhaps accounted, on some of her “ well days,” for an ephemeral recovery of her looks, an aspect almost of health, that was to be noted in her. She still appeared to Barclay, in truth, a beautiful, lovable woman. Her type, marked by its perpetual pensiveness or sadness, reminded him of those sweet, candid, and noble figures of Raphael, of the earlier period. By some inspiration of natural grace, she seemed to him to fall always into the precise attitudes most becoming to her. She did everything with a certain refined deliberation, an absence of excitability, growing partly out of her invalidism, and partly out of an innate dignity, that gave all her movements an indescribable, fascinating quality of rhythm.
She bantered him about his enthusiasms and his project, called him Watt Tyler and Caius Gracchus, pretended that he was an alarmingly incendiary person, about to upheave the foundations of society. But she was secretly pleased, notwithstanding, with all he told her; for, after living so long in darkness, apathy, distrust, and skepticism, she was disposed to be pleased with anything that was believing, strong, positive, and hopeful.
“ Yours is not the indulgent ear into which a reformer could pour all his pet follies,” Barclay had objected, to her interest, at first.
“ Try me,” she answered gayly ; “ you do not half know how indulgent I can be.”
She soon became, in fact, the trusted confidante of most of his doings. By her own wish, she one day, accompanied by her aunt, paid a visit to the Works. To Barclay she seemed to consecrate the dry, rude place, and ever after he thought better of his office, since she had blessed it with the charm of her presence, since she had sat upon the high stool and toyed with the heavy ruler.
“ You speak as one having authority. You say ‘ go,’ and he goeth ; and ‘ come,’ and he cometh,” she said to him in raillery, noting the many subordinates who came to make reports and receive orders from him, and the profound deference with which he was treated on all hands. " I declare I don’t know whether it is quite safe to trust you with such arbitrary powers ; I am not sure you do not begin to have an odiously overbearing way with you already.”
“ There is no pressing danger of the rise of any unnecessary conceit.” And he proceeded to describe to her some of his difficulties, — traditions arising out of the association with trades-unions, and the like, which the most despotic of authority could not overcome.
“ I warn you to expect plenty of ingratitude in all this,” his young visitor cautioned him, in a mentor-like way.
“ Ingratitude is a part of the disease ; they are probably too much absorbed in their own troubles, as yet, to have much time for anything else. I look neither for gratitude nor ingratitude ; I take the people as I find them.”
“ It would sometimes be much better to leave them as you found them. You may have to come to that. But I refuse to quarrel with you. Are you not going to show me your favorite protégés ? ”
So Barclay took the ladies about, and indicated to them a few persons upon whom he had already cast an eye with a view to the improvement of their condition. In the first place, there was one Martin Krieg, a small apprentice lad, black as a powder-monkey, who concealed a real shyness under a quaint imitation of the surly manner affected by some of the older workmen. Barclay had Martin Krieg show a specimen of drawing he had made quite without instruction, and said he thought of giving the boy advantages for cultivating the decided bent he seemed to show in that direction. Next was McClary, a hollow-chested, round-shouldered young man, with a sickly face, who stood in a stooping position, engaged in filing brass work.
“ He is a good workman and an honest fellow,” said Barclay; “he is temperate, economical, industrious with an assiduity that spares himself least of all, — but look at him. He files away, like that, day in and day out ; takes night work, too, whenever he can get it; and even asks for more to take home over holidays.”
“ He is killing himself by inches.”
“ Almost by feet.”
“ Why will he do it ? ”
“ It is a misguided ambition. It is a good enough motive at bottom; I quite appreciate it. He aspires to a shop and house of his own, and says there is no other way to get them. He married a trim, nice-looking girl, who worked in a paper-box factory. With their two small children they live in two poor rooms in a tenement-house, and his wife ekes out their scanty subsistence by taking a couple of mechanic boarders. But you are not interested in these petty details ? ”
“ Oh, yes, I find them very interesting.”
“ I hear of a touch of jealousy, too, arising out of one of these boarders. The wife, fast losing her good looks, and becoming a mere drudge, was driven to seek a bit of relaxation in some quarter, I suppose, and let this man take her to the theatre a few times. Her husband was wild about it.”
“ That is one of the dangers of such a situation, I suppose?”
“ Under the pressure of his fierce ambition, McClary is probably as penurious with her as with himself, and, with his poor health added, cannot be the most agreeable companion in the world. And this McClary, I want you to observe, is one of the better class of workmen.”
“ Why don’t you talk to him?”
“ I have talked to him.” “ Well, what are you going to do ? ”
“ What would you do ? What do you advise ? ” he asked, trying her.
“ Raise his pay ? ” she suggested, doubtfully. “ But dear me ! don’t ask me anything; I have n’t a particle of imagination.”
“ We have stretched a point in that direction ; but to pay a man more than he is really worth can be no permanent resource. Oh, this monster of political economy, — how inexorable it is ! Absolute right of every workman to sell his labor for all he can get, absolute right of every employer to buy his labor for as little as he can pay, — nobody to blame, and yet what a slaughter of happiness and lives ! ”
“ The improvement of his health would seem to be the first thing to attend to ; then, his family arrangements.”
“ Good! so it seemed to me, also. He is to be drafted into the packingroom at easier work, and I have arranged to move them out of their tenement-house into a cottage, which they can have at even lower rent, and where they can get rid of the boarders.”
These may be received as fair ordinary examples of the way the young proprietor aimed to lend a helping hand to those who helped themselves, to extend it at the proper time, and to keep his protégés out of the gutter instead of waiting till they were fairly in it to raise them. If his partner, Maxwell, was disposed to criticise any of this as unbusiness-like, he gladly paid the extra cost from his own pocket; and he defended it on the ground that, by rendering the hands thoroughly contented, he would bring them up to a greatly improved standard of efficiency, and get more work out of them than had ever been known before.
There are usually “ characters ” of one sort and another in an establishment of the kind. Under this head of a “ character,” one Fahnenstock was presented to the guests. He was a slowspeaking, rusty old fellow, the veteran of the shops. In long years of service he had never become a thoroughly skilled workman, nor indeed risen but a few steps above the point at which he started.
“ Some of ’em can’t,” said the foreman, Akins, in explanation. “ It’s like playin’ a good game o’ billiards, or anything o’ that kind ; it takes knack ; some has got it in ’em, and some has n’t, and you can’t put it there. Most of ’em that I deal with get just about so fur, and there they stick, and forty yoke of oxen could n’t drag ’em an inch ahead.”
Akins had all the confidence of a rudely successful man, and showed but little patience with his less efficient and less fortunate brethren.
“ It’s no trick at all to get a livin’,” said he. “It’s never been so to me; I’ve always found it easy enough. There ’s parties round here, with a crazy German paper, that tells the men it isn’t, and they ought to strike, and make folks that’s got more than they have divide up with ’em. My idee is that that style o’ papers ought to be shut up. I s’pose, though, it’s a good deal like blowin’ off powder in an open lot; it can’t hurt nobody. Hoolan, over there,” indicating a saturnine-looking man at a work-bench, “ is one o’ them red-flag fellers.”
Foreman Akins went on to say, furthermore, that, in his belief, things were better for the workingman when times were rather hard and wages comparatively low. " He knows he can’t get a place most anywheres, then,” said he, “ and he sticks to the one he has. You can depend onto him more ; he ’tends steadier to his work; and if he don’t make quite so much money, he don’t drink up so much o’ what he has got as when times is flush.”
Old Fahnenstock, being induced to talk, aired, among other things, some peculiar religious views of his own. His cardinal doctrine was the speedy destruction of the world. He would argue this topic by the hour, expounding from the law and the prophets and chiefly the prophet Daniel. The beast with the ten horns, the one with teeth and claws of iron, the little horn that sprung out from the greater, the ram that pushed against the west, Alexander, Cæsar, Napoleon, the Pope, the Sultan, and the Czar, all had their place in his system, together with contemporary portents of all kinds, great and small.
“ I don’t see how we can last longer than this year — or next — any way,” he said. “ The Rooshian is going to drive the Turk out o’ Europe. Ain’t he doin’ it now? And ain’t it as clear as crystil that that’s the last warnin’ sign ? ”
His comrades reported that he had more than once already fixed the date, and gone up on the roof of his boarding-house and flapped his arms in imitation of wings, endeavoring to fly, but part of this may have been only their waggish invention.
In curious contrast with his dismal prognostics for the universe was his desire to possess a certain small house and bit of land at White-Fish Bay. It was an aspiration for which he had long hoarded his savings ; he meant to fish, to cultivate vegetables there, and make the spot the retreat of his old age, when he should retire from the factory. This small property, sometimes in the market, and then withdrawn again, had advanced in value at an unequal pace with his accumulations, so that it kept always about a thousand dollars ahead of him.
“ I should like to ha’ married, too, if it was so’s I could. I can’t say I’ve ever had what I should ha’ considered the best in this world,” he went on, with a kind of patient smile that Mrs. Varemberg considered pathetic. " They call them improvident that plunges into it whether or no, but sometimes I’ve thought may be I ’d better ben improvident, too ; there’s just about so much trouble to live through, no matter which way you fix it. But all that’s too late now, for an old party like me.”
“ Oh, I ’m sure, Mr. Fahnenstock, you ’re still a very young-looking, handsome man,” protested Mrs. Varemberg.
“ Well, marm,” said the veteran, much pleased, at least, if not convinced, “ I ’m glad there’s them as thinks so. I suppose it would n’t do for us to have things just as we wanted ’em in this mundane spear, or we would n’t want to leave it. But I tell you that’s got to be done pretty quick now, and in short order, too.”
The talk was rather more sober when they went over next to Hoolan, described as one of the “ red-flag fellers.” He was a small, spare man, with high cheek-bones, and a skin yellowed as by jaundice. He was distrustful and disposed, at first, to waive all discussion. He thought it idle, so far as the conversion was concerned of persons with such fixed and supercilious opinions as these must necessarily have, and also personally dangerous for one in his situation. He was lured into it by pleasant arts and small controversial traps slyly set for him by Mrs. Varemberg. When asked as to the condition and prospective future of the laboring man, he had but a gloomy picture to draw.
“ The mechanic don’t live out half his days,” he said. “ He’s old before his time, good for nothing to work, and ready to be planted away, just about the time when others is gettin’ ready to live. Look at Fahnenstock. He ain’t fifty yet, but you ’d take him for seventy.”
“And how is old age provided for?” Mrs. Varemberg inquired.
“ It ain’t provided for. If he has had a family to bring up, he has n’t had no chance to save anything; and, by that time, his children have all they can do to take care of themselves, without him. So when he is too old to work, he’s turned out to starve. May be he gets a light place somewhere as night-watchman for a while, but more like he goes to the poorhouse.”
“ What means had you thought of by which things could be made better? ”
“ Congress ought to pass a law.”
He was evidently unwilling to let out any of the more violent socialistic theories he was said to entertain.
“ What kind of a law ? ”
“ A law to give every man a fair day’s wages for a fair day’s work.”
“ Would that not be a rather difficult matter for Congress to determine ? ”
“Yes, made up of money kings, as it is now : but the workin’ classes has got to get control of legislation themselves. Labor has got to be unified and stand together.”
Hoolan went on to complain of “ piece-work ” as an agency particularly hard on the men, and largely responsible for their crippled condition. It overstimulated effort, he said, drove them up to an impossible standard of performance. The employers would try it long enough to find out what they could do, and then, returning to the old plan, tried to make this the rule for an ordinary day’s work ; and so the pressure was increasing to an intolerable degree, while wages as constantly declined.
“ I had often wondered what became of the older mechanics,” said Mrs. Varemberg ; “ you so rarely see any of them about.”
“No, you don’t hardly ever see no old mechanics,” responded the saturnine Hoolan ; “ all you see is young ones, — precious young and frisky.”
“ I’m sure I don’t half see what it’s all about,” said Mrs. Clinton, wearily, as they went away ; but Mrs. Varemberg carried with her a keen interest in these men, and a new appreciation of the problem, that made her a much more valuable assistant to Barclay.
William Henry Bishop.