The Golden Justice
VOL. LVIII. — DECEMBER, 1886. — No. CCCL.
THE POWERS OF THE AIR.
A KEEN enjoyment of nature was one of the ties that bound the pair, and there was much in the drive to-day to gratify their taste. Dismissing their graver cares at times, they reveled almost like children in the short respite thus granted them, and talked of the blue lake, the trivial sights and figures met with by the way, and of the wealth of the June roses.
Their last excursion together had been a very brief one, when the orchards were in flower. They recalled it now. It was the season of paradise upon earth, if paradise it ever be. How lovely the branches of fragrant blossoms had been, flung broadcast against the blue lake ; how enchanting the rolling clouds, the pastures, and the grayish-green fields of grain ruffled by the breeze !
The country was now in the full luxuriance of summer. The clouds to-day also were particularly fine, and, as our friends drove onward, it was a part of their pleasure to watch them piled up before them in those stupendous heights and gorges, dazzling minarets and domes, or fantastic shapes of animal life, with which they realize the phantasmagoria of dreamland.
“ Perhaps every one who can afford it ought to live only amid beautiful scenery,” began Barclay, in a speculative way he had, which generally embodied nothing more than some ingenious, passing theory of the moment. “ Perhaps he ought to pick out the most attractive spot in the whole earth, and spend his days there exclusively. If this should happen not to consist with the other alleged duties of life, so much the worse for them. I am inclined to think there ought always to be mountains in the prospect, for one thing,” he went on. “ That is like having a high ideal always on the horizon, even though you never reach it. We ought to establish ourselves where the hours of the day would pass along like successive stanzas of a beautiful poem.”
“ And how as to society in this elysium, provided it could be managed otherwise ? ”
“ There ought to be absolute solitude,” he declared positively; “ that is to say, solitude à deux. The philosopher — he — I —for you see I speak for myself — ought to have only the dearest being in existence beside him, as I have now, and all the other billions of population might cease to exist.”
Certain random verses of Theocritus he had once liked came into his head, and he quoted to her from the translation : —
Copyright, 1886, by HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN & Co.
Nor speed fleet as the wind, but by this rock
To sing, and clasp my darling, and behold
The sea’s blue reach and many a pasturing flock.”
He accentuated the end with a caress.
He had a way of making love to her — a tenderness mingling with his manly strength, and heightened, perhaps, by his reputation for reserve with others, of which we have spoken — that inexpressibly charmed her. He had, for her, ways and epithets of devotion that lingered in her memory long after he had gone, and sometimes caused her to fall into moods of delicious day-dreaming, with half-shut eyes. There were times when her heart went out to him with such an ineffable expansion that it would have seemed positive pleasure to endure tortures for his sake. Nor, though kept apart in reality, had they been so in mind and soul, during their period of probation. They could not sufficiently embrace each other in ardent written words. The privilege of pouring out to each other in this way their long pent-up feelings was too precious a one to be foregone. Tender epistles had constantly been exchanged between them.
“ I find myself like the lover in tradition, who went away from his mistress to write to her,” wrote Barclay on one occasion. “ I observe that I stay as long as possible, however, before going, and he no doubt did the same thing.”
“ I am sure the post-office is positively ashamed of me,” said Mrs. Varemberg. “ I should never dare face my letter-carrier in person, and I trust he has little idea of what kind of a person it is who sits trembling above-stairs while the missives are brought up by the servant, whom I have induced to be discreet about them, that they may not be too much scrutinized by the rest of the household. Do you suppose he could possibly find out who it is that deposits the principal contents of his letter-box at the corner ? ”
There had been letters and notes at irregular hours, and in all sorts of informal shapes. There had been some dated at midnight, others at two and three o’clock in the morning, and at daylight. The writers set forth their last waking thoughts at night or first in the morning, or took the occasion of many sleepless vigils to dwell upon some new phase or detail of their absorbing passion. There had been a long one, chiefly anxious and melancholy, from Mrs. Varemberg, in the journal form, some part of it being done in nearly every successive hour of the day. Once, when Barclay was absent from town, there had arrived from him three all together. These had been mailed by him at different times, but were brought, as it chanced, from the small place where he was, at the same time.
“ I had no means of telling one from the other, at first,” the dear recipient had told him, “ so I opened and read them one by one. Then I read them again in their proper order, getting thus a double and unexpected pleasure from them, don’t you see? And oh ! then I read them over again a hundred times, as I always do, and kissed them, and thanked God for his goodness to me, and my heart was full to overflowing with my pride and delight in you and the love you bear me.”
In this delicious intoxication, — which is said to be even sweeter to be possessed by than to inspire, — a rapture with pain in its pleasure, they wished well to each other with an intensity far beyond the poor limit of mere human expression or performance.
It was natural enough, on a day like this, that there should be iteration of these words of fondness, — forever trite, yet touched with living fire, — though formal propriety was imposed upon their actions by the public gaze. They passed from grave to gay. They began to formulate their plan of life. Barclay said they were no longer children, to be kept apart by the caprices of others. He would seek David Lane, in a final interview, when he got back, — his ire awoke at the recollection, — and after that they would endure no further opposition. Florence must be his own ; he insisted upon it. Let the world at last know it. They dwelt upon the future in detail. It had always been one of Barclay’s ideas to build a house, and incorporate into it his favorite notions. They would do that. They thought they would arrange their life somewhat like that of the Radbrooks. They would not know too many people. They pronounced it frittering and destructive of the best objects of human intercourse. A part of their time they would reserve for travel. Paul Barclay wished to revisit with her some of the places where he had been so unhappy on her account, to remove, as it were, certain undeserved stigma he had attached to them. And, then, they both meant to be better, morally. It is one of the aspirations of such an affection that it aims to secure not only time, but eternity. They meant to keep their minds only upon high and noble things.
“ I shall help you in all your projects and labors,” insisted Mrs. Varemberg. “ You must make a name, and be known far and wide for your abilities and your goodness of heart, just as I know them.”
But oh, best of all!—oh, inexpressible delight! — they were to be always together.
“ Every day, on my return,” thought Barclay, with subtle thrills of rapture stealing over him, “ I shall find her there awaiting me.” He could only think of her as an influence to dissipate every sorrow and redouble every joy.
She thought in like manner of those comings-home, when she was to tell him all the events of the day, even to those of no importance. The prospect had the keener zest for her, from her previous unhappy experience. She dreamed the sweet, feminine dream of the inseparable companion and friend, the strong protector who would banish fear. She would look her best, talk her best; she meant to tell him everything; she would prepare loving surprises for him. Ah, yes, much as he had seen, she knew some ingenuity would remain to her to do this. In his strength her weakness and trouble would disappear, her past would be forgotten.
“We will rule the world, my loved one, my sweet one,” pronounced Barclay, in one of his moments of high enthusiasm. “ Yes, we will yet throne it together, like another Antony and Cleopatra.”
“ Dear heart, I fear I shall play but a sorry Cleopatra to your highness’s Antony. I often have to think what a poor, weak creature I am still; and, after all, I suppose even happiness will not imperatively cause one’s health and strength to be restored.”
“ I will see to it; I take it upon myself,” he returned, with the heartiest reassurance. “ You are going to be young and strong and blooming again. Trust me with it; it is not longer your affair. We have most of life yet before us. All shall go well. Nothing shall keep our happiness from us.”
“ I have often thought of asking you to put me out of your life, even now, and to forget me,” persisted Mrs. Varemberg, half despondently. There seemed to be something in the air that invited it. “ Who knows what misfortune will yet happen? I distract you from your own best interests and from useful work. I am not worth it.”
“ You do not love me when you talk so. I have no interests but you. I could not forget you.”
“If thought you could I should die. I will try to be all that you desire. I shall not be what you ought to have, but you must have patience with me.”
The business that brought Barclay to the vicinity of the little rural inland lake was duly finished, and they turned homeward. The clouds they had so much admired, on their way up, had, for some time past, been acting rather strangely. The tops of all the battlements and peaks were blown off, and their general mass was driven about in confusion, as by strong upper currents, while the air at the surface of the earth was abnormally calm. There was a certain oppressiveness at intervals, almost a difficulty in breathing, that recalled to Barclay his feelings of the night before.
They had planned to stop a moment, in passing, at the new cottage of Fahnenstock, on the White-Fish Bay road, considering that it was exactly in their way. A peculiarly interesting family of protégés was assembled there just at present. Besides old Fahnenstock himself,— who, being a bachelor, could not very well attend to his own comfort, — it comprised the McClarys, whom he had brought there to keep house for him during the summer months. It was an excellent place for the babies, who were already fat and rosy. The young wife, whom we have seen pinched and faded, was recovering her spirits and good looks. The enterprising McClary had set up the little shop for which he had wished, near the upper city limits, and was now absent there. And then there was a spinster sister of Mrs. McClary, a person apparently of much executive ability and natural thrift. She had but lately come to these parts, having been blown out of both house and home, it was said, by some such catastrophe as a tornado in Missouri or Kansas, where her family had lived. It appeared that Fahnenstock was quite taken with this spinster sister, and the waggish thought that, after all his long years of bachelorhood, the two might yet make a match of it.
But even more important figures than these were a young bridal couple, William Alfsen and his wife. Yes, Alfsen and Stanislava Zelinsky were at last united, and, as it happened, were passing a day or two of their honeymoon here. It had come about through Ludwig Trapschuh, furious at her for having given evidence against him at the trial, having made her life so unendurable that she had finally left her home and sought a refuge elsewhere. She had repaired first to Mrs. Varemberg, who received her kindly, and found her occupation, and a temporary abidingplace with the McClarys. During all this time, however, she would not marry her lover. With some curious ideas of the binding force of relationship, she obstinately refused him till the consent of her uncle, her guardian and the authoritative head of her family, could be obtained, and there was no prospect whatever that that irate person would consent. Her sighing swain was in despair; but circumstances had favored him, the obstacle had disappeared of its own accord, and they had married two days before the present. David Lane had seen to it that they had a handsome gift from him, disguising it partly as a subscription to the fund to Alfsen for his services in the great river fire.
The impolicy and fruitlessness of his opposition gradually impressed Trapschuh. Reports of the growing prosperity of Alfsen reached his ears. Still, he was not thoroughly humbled till he lost his place on the Chippewa Street bridge. Though no political proscription was declared, as has been said, an example was made of a few of those holding public office, who had been most prominent in the frauds, and the offense of Trapschuh had been so flagrant that no one could say anything in his favor. At the moment that he was coming out of the Board of Public Works, after hearing his sentence of dismissal, — it was only on the day succeeding David Lane’s installation, — he met Alfsen face to face. He all at once assumed before him as humble an air as Haman, after his overthrow, might have taken before Mordecai.
“ I always bin friend o’ yours, Billy,” he said obsequiously, “ though sometimes I guess may be you don’t always know it. I never got no sure objections that you get married with Stanislava. She got pretty bad temper, that’s so ; but she can come back to my house, if she want, and you can get married with her any time what you like. I say, Billy, you could n’t get a feller out o’ work some kind o’ good job, could you ? ”
Alfsen let no grass grow under his feet, but immediately proceeded to have this authorization confirmed in the presence of his sweetheart, and they had been married forthwith.
This case had made talk, among the rest, for Barclay and Mrs. Varemberg, as they approached the cottage. The opposition of Ludwig Trapschuh struck them both as a sort of parody of that to which they had been so long subjected. They recognized an echo, as it were, of the same note.
“ I wonder if we shall have to wait till David Lane, too, is overthrown and wrecked, in some wholesale collapse, before we can expect to have his objections withdrawn?” suggested Barclay, with half-humorous lightness. “ That would need a long delay indeed.”
All the men of the house were, at present, away at their work ; only the women were at home. But the women warmly did the honors of the place. They ran into the garden and plucked its fairest flowers, with an almost reckless hospitality, to press upon the visitors. There had been bushes of fragrant syringa and lilacs already in the yard, and the new tenants had added roses, and especially a double row of tulips, flanking the path from the gate to the door. These flowers, vividly glowing with their various hues of scarlet and yellow, were most trimly kept, and every foot of the small domain gave evidence that pains were being taken to develop its utmost capabilities.
Hardly was this cottage reached, however, when there came on a sudden thunder-storm, that had been for some time threatening, and all were driven for a brief space in-doors. The rain — very slight in quantity—was accompanied by violent hail ; the ingredient of cold, as it were, in the grateful glass of sherbet, which the summer day might fancifully be conceived to be. The flower-beds, so shapely but a few moments before, were much broken down, and presented to view numbers of the charming tulips sadly hanging their heads. Hailstones had fallen, on this occasion, of sizes variously estimated — according to the current way of measuring this product of nature — at from “ as large as a hen’s egg to as large as a man’s fist,” In the suburbs of town, at the same time, as was afterwards learned, one mass of compacted ice had fallen, estimated to be as large as a man’s head.
When the guests came forth to resume their journey, the storm had passed over ; the sun was shining, though through broken clouds, still in turmoil, and all nature looked fresher and greener for its late ablutions. The enterprising spinster sister of Mrs. McClary came out with them. Looking up at the heavens, while shading her wrinkling forehead with her hand, she felt moved to say, " ‘Pears as if them clouds looked like some we used to have down in our country. There ’s a kind o’ curious feelin’ in the air, these last’ few days, any way. Down there, we should ’a’ called it kind o’ tornader weather.”
“ But we do not have them, fortunately,” said Barclay. “ You must not let that make you uneasy here.”
“ No, of course not, but the wind’s ben to the south’ard so long. — till today, when it come round, — an no rain, though the clouds has gathered up every day and tried to give some, that it’s looked to me more ’n once just as it used to down in Kansas, when we was expectin’ one of ’em. But of course they don’t get as far north as this,” she concluded.
Getting under way again, Mrs. Varemberg and Barclay came presently to the spot, at no great distance from town, where Mrs. Radbrook was giving her garden-party, as mentioned by Mrs. Clinton. This was Ingebrand’s on the Lake, a pretty spot, left much in its condition of natural wildness, which was patronized in a quiet way by people driving out from town. It was distinguished from Ingebrand’s on the River, another resort of the same kind, much frequented by pleasure-parties of rowers, whereas there was but little rowing on the lake, which was generally esteemed much too rough and uncertain for that sport. A touch of romance hung about Ingebrand’s on the Lake, — some legend of a countess who had once occupied the rural dwelling on the grounds, when it was a simple farm-house. It appeared that this Mrs. Radbrook was noted for originality in her entertainments, which she but rarely gave, and which were the more highly esteemed on that account. Following some little precedent derived from abroad, she had taken this pleasant spot to-day for her exclusive use, and promised to turn its attractions, together with those of the season, to account, in a charming fête champêtre. She had caused to be set up a number of pretty tents and pavilions, of gayly decorated canvas. In a large pavilion, open to the water, an attractive collation was prepared. The tents and waving pennants, with the summer costumes of the ladies intermingled, upon the background of the moor and varied shrubbery, made a gay and dainty scene, such as a Rossi, or some of his compeers of the Spanish-Roman school, might have painted.
Our friends had already met some representatives from the fête, taking merry drives farther up the road. They had been adjured not to miss it, and now civilly stopped at it, but only for the very briefest moment. Mrs. Varemberg was in mourning, and had no need to plead any excuse for not participating further in the entertainment. Their presence together was gossiped about, as it would naturally be in such a company, but there was no severity in the tone. The true state of the case had begun to get abroad, as, in some mysterious way, such things always will, and people invested them with a certain poetry and pleasant interest. That is to say, it was known that Barclay was an old lover, that he had been unhappy, and that he had been true and highminded as well throughout most trying circumstances. The critics at the Saturday Morning Club and the charitable guild now admitted that he was probably a man of flesh and blood, like others, and they secretly admired him the more for his stout fidelity to a forlorn, almost desperate ideal.
The two had left the fête but a little behind, when the threatening aspect of the weather impressed itself upon them. No engrossment with their own affairs could wholly withhold their attention from the amazing panorama that began to unroll itself in the heavens.
It was no ordinary storm that seemed impending. The entire masses of broken clouds had gathered and distributed themselves, as it were, into two hostile camps, over against each other, in opposite quarters of the sky. After gathering thus, a most turbulent commotion broke out among them, and they began to approach each as in battle array. Their rate of motion increased, and, as they drew near, lightnings darted from one to the other.
“Look! look!” suddenly exclaimed Mrs. Varemberg,in consternation. They had been urging their pace to the utmost, to seek a place of safety. Blasts of hot air had smitten their faces, followed immediately by others so cold that they drew their wraps closer around them.
“ Oh ! oh ! ” cried Barclay, unable to refrain from manifesting almost as much agitation as his fair companion.
They were in the presence of the dread scourge of the tornado.
The spinster sister of the McClarys, whose words had, perhaps, seemed even to herself only desultory chatter, was right. One of those rare visitants had come far to the northward of its usual course, and, like some fell marauder, seeking new and untried fields to foray, was about to swoop down with ruin and dismay upon a locality that had never hitherto had to give a thought to this particular form of danger.
The great plain of the Mississippi Valley is the theatre where these mighty forces, the torrid winds from the equator and frigid airs from the poles, meet and struggle for the mastery. This vast unimpeded stretch, the inhabitants of which pay a woful cost in lives and treasure for the gladiatorial shows they witness, is the " battle-ground of the tornadoes.” Here the detail of the phenomenon was the same as there. Rain had been lacking for a very long time past : a veritable drought had been threatened. The barometer, to - day, stood remarkably low. A swift current of wind in the upper air was blowing southward, while that at the surface of the earth was northward.
The sudden sharp exclamation of Mrs. Varemberg had been drawn forth by the meeting of the great opposing cloud masses mentioned. From their point of junction dropped down a strange and ominous funnel of dark and murky vapor. Some described it afterwards as shaped like a wicker basket; others, as like a snake, the head of which was held up in the sky, while the body writhed and lashed about below. At any rate, this definite form began to turn round upon itself, with a rapid gyratory motion, and at the same time to progress in a right line course, taking its direction towards the northeast. A violent boiling movement could be observed within it, and it was presently filled with flying débris of every kind, caught up by the suction into its destroying vortex. The small end of its funnel dangled just above the ground, and it had a way of striking and rebounding as if highly elastic.
The domes of Keewaydin were now visible, but no promising point of escape from such a peril appeared over a wide intervening stretch. The couple drew up, upon a high ground, the better to mark the route of the tornado, and thus determine their own. The dread scourge struck the city, here and there, as in selected spots, under their very eyes. It was like some stinging whiplash of the gods, whirled with an avenging purpose. Wherever it touched, devastation followed. Turrets and steeples were seen to go down, and the fragments of roofs to whirl into the air. Bells struck of themselves, with a lugubrious sound. There was smoke, as from shells in a bombardment; but the thickest of this was when some of the flouring - mills along the river were wrecked, and the line white powder choked the air.
There were no buildings easy of access for the refugees, and perhaps shelter ought not to be sought, at such a time, even in the most solid of buildings. It was uncertain what direction the desolating force might finally take. Its rate of progress, now faster, now slower, and again, for brief periods, coming to almost an absolute stand-still, could be plainly traced; but what rule was to be laid down, by novices, for this gigantic eddy of the atmosphere, that beats, like a greater ocean, on the whole round world ? Mrs. Varemberg sat pale and trembling, with her hand clasped in her lover’s. They saw much to excite a reverent awe and dismay, but fortunately they could not see all that was passing in the town.
The tornado fell first upon the sparsely settled region below the city limits on the South Side. There it uprooted orchards, and beat down the soft earth of gardens and ploughed lands till it seemed as if they had been macadamized. It wrenched the very grass from the ground, as by ravening teeth. It was not a wide-spread and all-devouring force, however, but moved in a narrow and well-defined path. Its area of widest destruction was hardly more than three hundred yards across, while that of its greatest energy was, perhaps, a hundred. It was in evidence afterwards that at a quarter of a mile away one would not have known what was in progress, and only a gentle breeze fanned the brow. Next, it touched the line of the city proper, and, as if at a given signal, every chimney and turret went down.
Presently a minor funnel was seen to separate itself from the main one, and go whirling away on a new career. This followed the ravine of Sobieski Street to the right, unroofing or shattering to pieces the Polish houses. Had the addresses of certain voters been looked for now, they would have been found missing indeed. The house of Ludwig Trapschuh was rapt up into the air bodily, as if on the magic praying-carpet of the Arabian Nights ; and the proprietor, not knowing it was in transit, — for in the few moments of the immediate passage of the storm-cloud all was Plutonian darkness,— attempting, in a panic, to step out of his own front door, fell headlong to the ground, a distance of some twenty feet, and broke a leg and various ribs.
All the ordinary operations of the law of gravitation seemed suspended. All movable objects flew, as if possessed by witchcraft, to an imperative centre of attraction : heavy benches and toolchests rose from the ground, furniture and bedding leaped from the doors and windows, to join in the mad carnival. A few hapless animals feeding in suburban pastures suffered wofully. Cows and horses were driven, dragged, and rolled, against their utmost resistance, — the hoof-marks in the ground showing, afterwards, the desperate opposition many had made, — and were found with bones broken, or beaten to jelly and left in a shapeless mass. Nor was it brute animals alone that perished ; there were many human victims as well. One of the poor Polish women, among others, was found battered and dead, with her hair twisted from her head, and lying in a sort of rope beside her. The very soles of her shoes were torn from her feet.
Many corpses were naked, and so ecchymosed, — the surgical term came to be freely used,—discolored by numberless bruises, that they might have been taken for those of negroes.
Among the comic incidents, in this quarter, may be mentioned that of the graceless young Barney Trapschuh. He was sitting loaferishly on a fence at the time ; he made a long excursion into the air, leaving shreds of his clothing on the roofs of houses and trees over which he passed, and, covered with black mud, was cast down in a distant field. This was a mud peculiar to the tornado : it was of the consistency of paint, and was forced into the eyes, ears, and nostrils, and even the very pores of the skin so energetically that it took weeks to eradicate it.
The lesser funnel reached the shore. It danced and spun there, for a brief space, among the sand-dunes, like another merry Pau-Puk-Keewis ; then, as a parting bit of malice, wrecked a luckless shallop or two it found abroad on the water, and was finally dissipated in the lake.
The principal storm-cloud, however, kept on its original course. A tithe of its eccentric and virile doings could not be described. It lifted one of the German turn-halls from its base, made it plough the ground for many feet, and racked it completely to pieces. It cut in two a railroad freight-house as cleanly as if with a saw, leaving one half standing intact. A row of boards, which had belonged to the other half, was found set up in a circle and firmly driven into the ground, some four miles from the original point of departure. It did not respect even the Johannisberger House. It raised up one end of that worthy caravansary so high that the terrified inmates, who had taken refuge in the cellar, reported that they had glimpses of the prospect without, between the sills and the foundations ; but to make amends, it set it back again nearly as good as ever.
The tornado did not think all objects alike deserving of its vengeance. It seemed to pick and choose, and struck at notable points, as if to decide the day by the fall of certain leaders, as in mediæval times.
“ There goes St. Jude’s ! ” exclaimed Barclay, as they saw its prominent spire enveloped in the fog, and, the moment after, a distant jangle of bells came to their ears.
And so it was. A small, panic-stricken congregation had assembled in the church of the Rev. Edward Brockston, — much as the early inhabitants of Britain fled to their sanctuaries for refuge from the fury of the Northmen, who descended periodically on their coasts, — when the whole massive structure was rapt from over their heads, fortunately doing the inmates but little harm. With a few mighty gyrations, the edifice was wrenched into a tall pyramid of interwoven iron, timbers, stones, and bricks, a more impressive monument of the resistless power that had done it than any of the others left behind. Next, the ruin of one of the mammoth grain elevators could be distinguished, and the yellow wheat from it floated on the river and bay for many days thereafter. The Chippewa Street bridge, in the vicinity, — though this they could not see, — followed suit. It was twisted, like the church, into a chaotic mass of materials, and the whole unceremoniously dumped into the stream. When it came to be rebuilt, it may be here mentioned, it was on a new and handsomer model; for a sentiment had arisen for making these so necessary but unsightly bridges, of which the lake towns are full, somewhat more in keeping with the comely buildings and effects of street perspective which abut upon them.
The very river-bed itself was exposed to view, and a heavy column of water was lifted from it and precipitated over the most proper district of the city, the trim Seventh Ward itself. The sides of many buildings in that quarter were so encrusted with river slime, weeds, and shells that they took a decidedly venerable and submarine aspect. The case might have recalled the story of the turbid douche given by the offended elephant to the tailor who had pricked his trunk with a needle.
The storm-cloud, which had once or twice wavered towards the city hall, and again away from it, was now plainly seen to swoop down upon that important structure, as if finally to claim it for its own. How could the building fail to succumb ? Mrs. Varemberg’s filial thoughts flew in terror to her father. At such a moment every resentful impulse vanished before the dread of his personal danger. She stretched forth her hand mutely in his direction, as to save him.
The turbulence and obscurity cleared away from the point in question, and the civic building was seen still standing. There was but one change, but this a notable one, — the twinkling Golden Justice had disappeared from its dome.
“ It stands firm, but I do not see the Golden Justice,” said Barclay, straining his eyes painfully.
“Yes, it is surely gone,” said his companion. “ There is not a trace of it. It is too bad, is it not? ”
Little time was afforded for comment on this or any other phenomenon. The tornado, either satisfied with its achievement or having met with a foe beyond its strength, had the look of intending a new departure. It made one, in fact. It greatly increased its rate of speed, and shaking off the dust of the town from its feet, as it were, advanced upon the suburbs and the open country northward. Our lookers-on recognized two men who came breathlessly running up the slope. These were Fahnenstock and Alfsen, making for their cottage, to be present with the inmates in time of danger.
“ Fly, fly for your lives ! ” they shouted, in voices hoarse with alarm, to those who lingered. “ It is coming this way.”
Barclay had already turned the heads of the trembling horses away from the tempest. A decisive move now seemed necessary. He lashed Castor and Pollux to their utmost speed, hoping to reach a certain cross-road, at a little distance, which turned to the left. Following this, they might traverse the path of the danger, now that they distinctly knew what it was, and place themselves out of its reach on the other side. Looking, fearfully, back over their shoulders, however, they saw the tornado advancing by gigantic leaps and bounds. It was evident that the crossroad could not be reached in time. They came to a place where a score or more of fugitives from Mrs. Radbrook’s fête were huddled confusedly, not knowing what to do next. It appeared that the fête had been overtaken by panic. The principal pavilion had been blown down, by a sudden gust, upon the very heads of the banqueters, turning the revelry into a sort of Belshazzar’s feast. Many had fled, with a blind purpose of reaching town ; but arrived thus far, they had stopped, and were awaiting the issue in terrified suspense.
The destroying force had at first followed the line of the Keewaydin River; then broken away from it, and veered more to the eastward. Woe to any pleasure skiffs abroad on the quiet, sylvan current that day! Woe to the vegetation, the gardens, the summer chalets, along the pleasant banks ! The very bluffs shook under its heavy tread. A roar as of ten thousand moving railway trains, momentarily increasing, filled the air.
The couple alighted, and Barclay, loosing the horses from the conveyance, quickly secured them to a rail fence, near which all stood. Fahnenstock and Alfsen had time to come up and join them. The monstrous funnel cloud, looming perhaps five hundred feet in the air, was so near at hand that its texture could be plainly studied by any bold eyes that dared to gaze upon it. Part of it was fleecy white, as if the sun were shining in the midst of it ; but the greater part was murky, lurid, or of a greenish hue, like the thick, unwholesome smoke of the chimneys of factories or of chemical works.
“To the lake! to the lake!” cried some alarmed voice. Forthwith, a gen, eral stampede took place to an open, field. Most of the fugitives hurried to its verge, above the lake shore, and there threw themselves on the ground. Barclay tenderly aided the steps of her who leaned upon him, and urged their pace to the utmost.
“ Courage ! courage ! ” he said, reassuringly. “A moment more and we are safe. It will not follow there ; I am sure of it.”
“ I am not afraid,” she responded more than once. “ You are with me.”
Perhaps through the minds of both there passed the same thought, that if this were to be indeed the end of all things, it would be sweet to die together. They would mitigate with their warm hand-clasps the chill and dreary way to eternity.
The noise of the tempest increased to an awful roar. Drops of a warm, viscid, loathsome mud fell in their faces and on their clothing. Green leaves, rent from their parent stems, were thicker in this blast than are withered ones in autumn, and intermingled with them were broken twigs, blossoms, dead birds, and wraiths of mist. A semi-obscurity enveloped the refugees, while a vast wall of murky blackness seemed about to overwhelm them. Bulky objects, brought from afar, the impact of any of which would have brought certain death, fell around them. There were found on the ground the figure-head and part of the forecastle of the brig Orphan Boy, the cupola of the Johannisberger House and the refreshment - booth of Coffee John, a great section of the metal cornice of the city hall, and the tongue and wheels of a heavy baggage wagon. Though the wall of gloom at no time wholly overspread the party, it was night instead of day around them. It seemed a time of almost Apocalyptic terrors. The books of judgment were about to be opened, and all the vials of wrath poured forth.
Old Fahnenstock began to pray aloud, possibly with a trace of exultation, even in the midst of his terror, that his appalling forecasts were at last about to be realized.
“ O all ye lightnings and clouds,” he said, “ bless the Lord; praise and exalt him above all forever ! ”
“ I am here,” murmured Paul Barclay, meanwhile, to his beloved companion.
“ I do not fear,” she returned.
If she trembled, it was with some involuntary physical tremor, but with none of the mind or heart. She rested her head against his shoulder, and they waited in the darkness.
“We are but as the chaff of the threshing floor, before thee,” Fahnenstock went on, sonorously. “ He made the midst of the furnace like a blowing wind. Thy kingdom hath consumed all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever.”
The tornado wrecked many large trees around the field in question, so that their upper portions were found, afterwards, literally whipped to shreds. William Alfsen, who was a little in advance of the rest, and nearer to it, was violently seized by a wandering gust, whirled twice or thrice round a sapling to which he clung for support, and thrown to the ground. With this, however, it seemed to have reached its farthest point. It was perhaps checked in part by a stout quickset hedge, bordering the other side of the high-road, with which it wrestled furiously, and over which it paused for some time, as if recognizing an enemy rather worthy of its steel. A woful snapping and crackling, such as might have been made by fire, was heard in this hedge, and also a loud, sucking noise as the plants were drawn bodily from the ground. They were particularly old and tough, and it was estimated by competent judges that a greater force was required to uproot them thus than if they had been the strongest oaks.
The air again grew lighter. The baffled or capricious visitant distinctly turned aside, struck a new course, and began to move off to the northwestward. The little group of fugitives dared not at once rise from the ground, or credit the reality of their deliverance ; but when it was certain, they exchanged the most joyful words and hand-shakings of congratulation.
The danger over and dazed faculties grown calmer, it was observed that the sky appeared to threaten rain, and soon all was haste and confusion to be back again in town. Barclay found the horses he had tethered to the fence severely maimed by falling débris, and rendered wholly unserviceable. He was casting about to make some disposition of Mrs. Varemberg, when the Radbrooks drove up and offered her a vacant seat in their carriage. They had waited not far from the scene of the fête itself, and had escaped with perhaps less inconvenience than any of their friends. Having seen Mrs. Varemberg safely bestowed, Barclay, left to his own resources, set out to walk. He had proceeded but a little way, when he was overtaken by a man in a light spring wagon, who offered to take him in. It proved to be Welby Goff, of the Index. Mr. Goff was in a very affable, chatty mood, and apparently anxious to find some one to talk to about the doings they had both witnessed.
“ I’ve been canvassing a nursery and garden-seeds place, out this way,”he said, by way of explaining his presence on the road. “ I struck it for an article and advertisement, and got ’em, too. After that, I was just going to start over Wauwatosa way, where I’ve had a party on the string for some time, when I saw this coming, and turned round. I’ve watched it all along the road, and had solid comfort out of it. I knew from the first it was n’t near enough to do me any harm.”
“ You are a person of judgment.”
“Judgment? A newspaper man has to be. He’s got to see how close he can run to some lively new sensation, all the time, and then stand out from under, before it has a chance to fall on him.”
“ We shall see some curious sights when we get to town,” suggested Paul Barclay.
“ It will be a circus, and no mistake. I would n’t miss it for a farm. I’ve seen some of the biggest things there is, in my time. — I generally make it a point to keep posted on all the biggest things in every line, — but probably this will lay way over any of ’em.”
“ You don’t let it depress your spirits, I see ? ”
“Well, hardly. There’s not much depress about this; it’s the biggest chance to pick up news items that was ever struck. You want to look out for the extra Index, these next few days,
— that’s all. It will make your hair curl.”
The retreating tornado moved slowly and in ever-widening circles. As if fatigued with rapine and too heavily gorged with all the spoil it had gathered, it was throwing out, over its upper rim, as it were, a continual rain of the smaller articles it had carried up to so great a height.
“ Chucks ’em out in a kind o’ lazy way, now that it has n’t any more use for ’em,” commented the amateur in large sights, in terms that well enough described the phenomenon. “ A fellow could probably pick up stuff of a good deal of value, if he had any time to attend to it,” he went on ; “ but I’ve got to get back to town.”
His eyes were actively on the alert, however, among these objects, and he could not forbear getting down, now and then, to forage a little. He made a pretext of tightening a buckle or adjusting a strap on the harness, as often as he did so.
There were, indeed, marvelous items to he told of this day. The Index was to revel in them, and the Johannisberger House to have stories — besides its own
— for its gossips for many a year to come. Miracles of delicacy as well as incredible force had been wrought. Locomotives had been raised into the air and mill-stones broken asunder, at the same time that the fragile jars of colored liquid in a druggist’s window had been spared, though buried under the most jagged rubbish. There were startling anecdotes to he told à propos of letters, of legal documents, and of a packet of bank-bills wrenched out of a safe. One of the parties to a certain lawsuit was as good as served with a process of court that properly belonged to him. A long-remiss debtor, in Sheboygan County, had had his account — brought by the wind from the wrecked place of business of his creditor — thrown into his door-yard. Consciencestricken, as if at the direct interposition of Providence, he at last hastened to town and paid it. A tin-type likeness of a pretty girl, whisked from her home, was found stuck by a sharp corner into the bark of a tree, far away in the country. It happened, too, that it was found by a man of romantic tendencies, who was greatly interested in the circumstances, and hunted up the original of the picture, and with such good results that a marriage eventually took place between the two.
But all this was in the future, and yet to be collected, wondered at, and dilated upon.
The newspaper man got down finally to pick up a packet of official-looking documents that lay in the road. A part of them had become loosened, and were about to blow away. They eluded his grasp, as he first stooped for them ; but he went after them, and secured these with the rest.
“ No great find here,” he said, sardonically, after looking them over, as he walked back to the wagon. “ Latest news from fifteen years ago. Here’s a copy of the old Keewaydin Advertiser, — ain’t even published now. Did you ever see it? Here’s a venerable old Chamber of Commerce report. These must be some of the documents that were deposited in the statue on the city hall. I recollect when she was dedicated. They’ve come quite a journey.”
He tossed them all carelessly into Barclay’s lap, while he went round to the other side, to give a blow, with a stone, to a bolt, or large rivet, that had begun to shake itself loose there.
Paul Barclay turned over these papers with a certain reverence and a decided interest. The random prediction of the old weather-vane maker, ridiculous as it was, had come true, after all. The Golden Justice had fallen, and scattered her contents broadcast, and here was the bulk of them, tossed at his very feet. There was no doubt as to their identity ; each was plainly marked with a stamp showing its origin. Here was the copy of the school census, here the Chamber of Commerce report, here the copy of the ancient Examiner, here — Suddenly he uttered a smothered exclamation. He had come upon something very different from all the rest.
He brushed away most of the others with an involuntary movement, and devoted himself with all his eyes to a paper bearing in a plain hand the inscription, The Confession of a Repentant Man. Below this was labeled as a secondary head, in an equally legible writing, Being a True Account of the Connection of David Lane with the Disaster at the Chippewa Street Bridge, and the Deaths of Christopher Barclay and Stanislaus Zelinsky.
“ What’s the matter ? ” asked his companion, who had again mounted to his place and was seated beside him.
I thought we were going to get another jolt,” said Barclay, and quickly changed the subject. The wreck of a once beautiful dwelling, that lay close at hand, afforded a ready diversion. A part of its material was piled up like veritable cord-wood. The ornamental trees in its spacious door-yard had been torn to strings by the fury of the gale, and a few pitiful rags of clothing fluttered from their bare stems. Barclay screened his paper from observation among the others, and managed to read it piecemeal. He read it twice more, without exciting suspicion, studied every sentence intently, and then secreted it about him.
How violently his heart beat as he read ! What new light this strange history, so miraculously brought to his knowledge, cast back over all the past! How many things it explained !
And now what should he do ? Had the instrument been delivered to him as the means of a just retribution? Was he to arise, like another Hamlet, and signally revenge the slaying of his father, and the unmerited suffering that had so long been poured out upon himself ?
Whatever may have been his meditations, at the conclusion of them his eyes gazed lovingly in the direction in which Mrs. Varemberg had shortly before disappeared, going towards her home, and he had involuntarily almost stretched forth his hand after her, as she had towards her father, from the hill-top.
“ Where shall I set you down ? ” his companion asked him, after a time, arousing him from reverie.
“ I will not take you out of your way,” returned Barclay.
“ It’s all the same to me. One place is as good as another. There will be items enough everywhere.”
“ At the city hall, then, if quite convenient.”
Meantime, the acute disturbance in the air, that had wrought so much havoc, had grown heavy and sluggish in its movements, and was fast losing its distinctive character. It proceeded now at some little distance above the ground, to which it seldom descended to do further harm.
During the time of its most furious energy, it had absorbed into itself forces of every other kind, but now some crinkled lightnings began to play in its track, like satellites celebrating the triumph of their truculent monarch. It ceased entirely to be a hurricane, and then it swept on some twenty miles further across the country, as a violent storm of rain and hail. The wind at Keewaydin shifted round and blew from the north, and such of the wounded as still lay unattended where they fell began to groan anew, with their stiffening wounds.
The cold was so severe that a thin surface of ice formed on the water of ponds, and the same night the heaviest hoar frost known in years grievously damaged all the fruit crops.
David Lane had returned, as we have seen, to his office, to await the coming of night, for the renewal of his attempt.
While there he busied himself with his papers, received visitors, and attended to the usual duties of his routine. Ives Wilson dropped in, and talked awhile on the happy results of the late election. He was getting up a column of city hall notes, for the nonce, in the place of Welby Goff, having a fancy for setting all departments of his paper in turn an example of the way in which he would manage their respective specialties.
The next visitor was of a less ordinary sort. This was Schwartzmann, the sculptor of the Golden Justice, who came to pay his respects, being about to start for Europe. He had some artistic commissions to execute there for David Lane, among others.
“ Do you know,” said he, in the course of familiar conversation, “ that the Justice up on the dome pleases me about as well as anything I ever did? There are some mighty good things about that figure, if I do say it myself. I ’ve just been looking at it again, taking it in from different points of view. There ’s a go about it that I ’m not always certain of getting even when I want it.”
He had a sort of business-like and at the same time impersonal and almost naive manner in praising his own work that relieved it of offensiveness.
“ But where could one have found such another model as I had ?” he went on. “ Your charming daughter has changed since then. She is more spirttuelle and even lovelier than before,” — disclaiming any disparagement, — “ but just that precise union of soul and physique she then possessed, and which go to make up the true goddess-like type, I expect rarely to meet with again.”
“Yes, she is changed,” assented her father.
The conversation served to bring vividly before him anew his daughter’s features, her situation, the Golden Justice, the dizzy height to which he must climb, the whole painful ordeal awaiting him. Why did the talk, the actions, of everybody in the world, even the most inconsiderable, now seem to harp on this single string?
“ I don’t know as there’s more than one small detail I’d alter if I was doing the work over again,” pursued Schwartzmann. “ I think now I should put the figure on a sort of cone-shaped base, instead of that globular one, and, say, a few feet lower. If she should ever have to come down for anything, I ’d like to make that change.”
A furtive suggestion of hope, such as he had indulged on some former occasions, flitted through the mind of the mayor. Might he not possibly encourage Schwartzmann to lead a movement for having the Golden Justice taken down, to be set up again on a coneshaped pedestal, some feet lower? The fancy was but a passing one. Ah, no ; the emendation proposed would be looked upon by the hard-headed spirits of economy as the veriest trifle. They would appropriate no funds for such a purpose.
Schwartzmann presently took his departure. The mayor was immersed to the eyes in his papers, when the same gust of rain and hail we have seen devastate the flowers at Fahnenstock’s cottage smote against the city hall. The hail broke some lights of glass in the dome, and was heard rattling briskly down upon the tessellated marble pavement of the rotunda. The janitor, hearing it, anxiously hastened up from his basement region to lend his aid where due, not unlike a stout beaver who comes to the top of the water when his dam is threatened by the trappers.
The sun shone out anew, but presently the air grew obscure and yet more obscure. Even David Lane, preoccupied as he tried to be and had been, could not long remain unaware that some portentous atmospheric disturbance was impending. As the tornado drew near, the mayor heard a distant sound like the roar of the sea, which gradually increased in volume. Hasty footsteps were heard in the halls without, and voices speaking in alarm. The roar grew nearer and louder, till it became an infernal din. David Lane rose and hurried to look out of his window.
For one brief lurid instant he had a vision as of chaos come again. Trees uprooted in the square, twisting around one another like serpents or strands of rope, were coming towards him, on the wings of the furious gale. The atmosphere, choked with dust, torn leaves, miscellaneous small débris of every kind, resembled turbulent clouds of dark smoke. The shock of the mighty force impinged upon the façade of the building, and, at the same moment, all was enveloped in the blackness of night, which the tornado carried in its bosom. A riven tree trunk had burst through the window, carrying sash and frame with it, and, drenched with mud and weeds as it was, lay in the midst of the floor like a snag from the current of the Mississippi. The city hall rocked to its foundations. The lights were extinguished. The plastering of the room was thrown down in large sections, and electric sparks played upon its ceiling and walls, like scintillations from an emery wheel.
The mayor, in this pandemonium, had turned away with an instinctive impulse to escape, and groped his way to the door of the apartment. As he found it and laid a hand upon it, before he had time to make any effort of his own, it suddenly flew open, yielding to resistless, expansive force from within, and struck him a violent blow. He was hurled backwards, and fell, stunned and bleeding, to the floor.
As he lay thus prone, in a half stupor, he knew not how long, his fancy renewed the scene, of years long past, at the Chippewa Street bridge. He thought that it was by the collision with the propeller Pride of the West that he was once more hurled down, crushed, and suffering in every fibre. Then he thought he was again awakening from his heavy sleep, as in the morning just past. The traces of havoc around him struck on his sight at first like a part of his troubled dreams. But then, with an effort, he remembered where he was, the convulsion of nature that had passed over, and all that had befallen him. His first anxious thought was for the Golden Justice, and the mission yet awaiting him. All was now still. It was light again. The great building no longer vibrated. He seemed to have been lying there in his stupor a very long time. In reality, it might have been some three quarters of an hour.
He rose from the floor, gathering his battered frame painfully together. “ Surely,” he said to himself, “ the dome has gone ; the statue can never have weathered it.” And he thought with sinking heart of the possible fate of the papers he had made such herculean efforts to obtain.
As he sallied forth, the inmates of the building, who had fled in a general stampede, were cautiously venturing back again, and marveling aloud to find that so little damage had been done their offices and the structure as a whole. David Lane overheard one of them saying to another, —
“The yellow gal from the dome looks as if she were laid out for her wake, eh, piled up there among that lot of trees. What kept the whole upper works from coming down with her is more than I can see, blest if it ain’t ! ” It was thus that the Golden Justice was designated, as is perhaps the irreverent way of the Americans with their statues generally, — which, to be sure, do not often deserve greater consideration. David Lane knew well what was meant. “ Oh, my prophetic soul ! ” he might have exclaimed. His worst premonitions were verified. The Golden Justice was down. And now those papers, — could they be still intact in their box ? or into whose bands had they already fallen ? The people who were coming in tried to detain him, to tell him of their individual experiences and inquire his own, to demand his theories, to ask directions from him; but he pushed them aside, and went on his way.
It was twilight now. Rather the diffused storm-clouds, a mass of which had settled in the west in heavy leaden strata, which the sunset penetrated only in a few dull red bars, had created an artificial twilight. The mayor looked back and up at the city hall. The tornado had either found it too stout an antagonist, or had not well planned the attack. It had been shaken as with a mighty hand, it is true, and in certain spots had taken on a ragged, half-archaic appearance; one of the lesser domes of the wings, a great iron column from one of the porticoes, and liberal sections of its iron cornices, for instance, had gone ; but, in the main, it had stood the ordeal. After some profitable days’ work by the ingenious race of contractors, it would be about as good as ever. Its central dome did not appear to have suffered in the least; the cupola, or lantern, upon it was intact; only the Golden Justice, on its apex, had gone.
The eyes of the man whose destiny was so much bound up with hers roved wildly, pathetically, about. He soon caught a trace of the figure. A gleam from her shining surface came to him from above a formidable mass of wreckage. Going thither, he found her lying as in state, a little inclined, her head supported on the ruined fountain. The uprooted tree trunks, as they had been tossed together, inclosed her on three sides in a bristling chevaux-de-frise, resembling somewhat an early Indian redoubt.
The tempest had used a certain consideration or gallantry in dealing with the statue; respected, as it were, the very charming person it represented. It had brought it down lightly, leaving the comely features calm and smiling still, and little distorted by fractures. The chief damage appeared about the lower portion of the drapery, where it had joined with the supporting pedestal. Here considerable portions of the metal had been rent away, exposing the mechanical devices of the interior construction.
David Lane, bending above the figure, discerned plainly the trace of his tampering with it the night before. He saw, breathless with anxiety and dread, that the metal box of the receptacle was shattered, as if by lightning, and its precious contents were missing.
His forces deserted him, and he seated himself, bowed with dismay, upon a projecting fragment of the débris. “Alas!” he said, “it has been carried away by the four winds of heaven. From what quarter will detection overtake me ? ”
Later, he tried to argue with himself : “ Why may it not have fallen in the lake, or in some ploughed field, some swamp or piece of lonely woods, where it will rot undisturbed, and no human eye ever rest upon it ? ”
He searched the vicinity with eager eyes, but no vestige of any of the papers appeared. They had probably been loosed and taken flight like a flock of birds while still far aloft. He was roused by the voices of Schwartzmann the sculptor and Ives Wilson the editor who had climbed over an end of the rugged barricade. The latter was rapidly possessing himself, note-book in hand, of all the striking details of the sights and scenes around him, having sent Welby Goff off on a more distant mission. Like his subordinate, whom he had well trained in his own manner, he was brimming over with interest, not to say enthusiasm. He meant to make the Tornado Edition of the Index the event of his life-time.
“ As to the statue, the head is unharmed, you see. It can be set up again, about as good as ever, at no great expense,” Lane heard Schwartzmann saying; “and this time, I would like it to have a little different pedestal.”
“ Here is a curious thing,” said Ives Wilson, stooping to examine it. “ Here is a place that looks as if it had been regularly cut out with a saw. A brace is cut, too, — looks as fresh as if done yesterday. It beats everything what pranks the lightning can play.”
“ If it was done by the lightning, yesterday is rather an ancient date, is it not?” said the first speaker. “But the fact is that tornadoes have nothing to do with electricity. It used to be thought necessary to account for their capers, but the idea is exploded. They are purely an atmospheric force.”
Wilson disputed this, Schwartzmann reaffirmed it. They caught sight of David Lane, and deferred their controversy to him ; but he evaded them, and renewed, instead, his disconsolate quest about the vicinity for some trace of the missing document. He set out — perhaps beside himself, and not quite conscious of all he did — to pick his steps first away from, and then towards, the Golden Justice by many different paths.
This, then, was the end of all his diplomacy, his arts, his indomitable perseverance, his sufferings, his feats of physical strength. He was betrayed by the very elements. He would have called back the pledge he had given to justice, but the opportunity was taken from him. As if the wish to do so had but served as a signal, the secret was placed forever beyond his reach and recall. It was launched into space, published broadcast to all the world. The wretched evil-doer was now to face the obloquy of the world, and to be visited, as well, with the condign punishment of the law due his crime. He could formulate no plan for his next immediate actions. Could he ever meet his family again ? He hardly even thought of the perils they also might have met with in the tornado. That convulsion itself was all but forgotten. Should he fly and hide his shame in a foreign dominion ? No, he could only dumbly await his fate.
Paul Barclay alighted at his house in the city hall square. His inquiring eye missed the Golden Justice from her accustomed place, and, ranging around, soon caught a glimpse of her, as David Lane had done, lying on her funeral pyre, or amid the stockade-like heap of rubbish. He thought good to hasten at first to see how his relations, the amiable Thornbrooks, had passed through the dangers of these exciting times. He found them well and unharmed; the hurricane had passed by them, on another side of the park. He then repaired to his room, hurriedly made some muchneeded changes in his damaged attire, sat down and read the confession over again, word by word, with the most sedulous care, and once more sallied forth.
He did not yet know what he should do with the document so providentially conveyed to his hands. His ideas were still in a whirl over this most singular of situations. It was now likely that he would see David Lane ; indeed, it was with that object that he had come hither. What should he say to him?
But his thoughts continually mingled together the father and the daughter. He had suffered a grievous wrong, his life had been marred, his mother and sisters had been bereft of their mainstay and comforter. What punishment did not the perpetrator of all this, the cause of so much suffering, deserve, in spite of his bizarre attempt at satisfaction, in spite of his having committed himself to an ideal justice? These had been his gloomy ponderings, at first, as he rode along to town. But now he did not seem a man struggling wholly with bitter resentment. He had permitted himself even a speculative interest. It was all so very long ago, this story. What a strange revelation into the character of David Lane was it not! Was Barclay, then, recreant to the memory of his own dearly loved parent? Ah, no; but at present the sweet affection by which he was held gave to all other opinions and feelings, even this, an exceeding remoteness. No doubt, too, the scenes of devastation and death through which he had passed by the way, and the recent memory of the mighty force of nature, so dwarfing to all sublunary things, had their effect upon his state of mind.
He directed himself towards the overthrown Golden Justice, in which he had held so tremendous a stake. His interest in it was now fully accounted for, above and beyond all past explanations. He descried David Lane pursuing his wistful search, and quickly divined its object. The latter, raising his head at the sound of approaching footsteps, suddenly discovered in his presence the one man of all others who should have been far from him at such a time, — the man with whom fate had brought him into such astounding relations. Surely, however, it was but a coincidence at best. It would be too miraculous to suppose that Barclay had already become possessed of his secret. It would come, no doubt, but not so directly as this. For the time being, and until the blow should fall, this visitor might be regarded like any other, in whose eyes he, the mayor, was still the honored citizen, the figure of unimpeached standing, the model of probity and integrity. He thought that the younger man would recall only the match with his daughter, to which the pair were awaiting his consent. Alack ! his consent or his refusal,— what did it matter now? All honorable proceedings in the world were henceforth to take place without him.
“ It has been a terrible day,” he said, to make talk, not daring to evade this new-comer as he had the others, “ but the worst is surely over.”
“ You have lost something? You seem to be searching,” began Paul Barclay, in a vibrating voice.
“I searching? I have lost — Oh, no,” stammered the other. “ There are many articles of value scattered about, but, but— one has not time for that as yet. I have much to do. I was examining the state in which the city hall was left. The damage is not extreme. It is nothing like so great as I had expected. It might have been much worse.”
Still his eyes involuntarily sought the ground, over which they wandered, at moments, with such a feverish energy as it they would have burned the spot on which they rested.
Barclay paused. The gaze which he fixed upon the averted head of the man before him was full of commiseration.
“ She came down, as my weatherprophet predicted she would,” he said, as they stood together beside the fallen Golden Justice.
Schwartzmann and Ives Wilson were still to be heard, at the further end of the inclosure, continuing their argument.
“ You don’t suppose anybody has been cutting up the image, for the value of the metal, since the storm, or climbed up there to do it before ? ” demanded Wilson.
“ Well, no, it is n’t very likely.”
“The way of it was this,” went on the editor. “ The opening was made and the brace broken by the lightning beforehand. That let in the wind, and gave it its powerful purchase inside the figure. If it had n’t been weakened by the cutting of the brace, it would n’t have come down at all. It stands to reason. You can see for yourself. Notice how that light cupola stood it, if you don’t think so.”
Barclay’s vision of the night — the man, with a ladder, crouched against the pedestal in the fitful flashes of the storm — once more came before him. He could no longer doubt that it was real. David Lane, too, had heard the words. His very effort to escape, and that alone, had brought the image down.
“ I don’t believe it was ever done by lightning,” persisted Schwartzmann.
Upon this the two walked away, disappearing through a gap in the chevauxde-frise, at the other end of the unwieldy bulk, where they had been posted.
“ I must go and look after my — my house. I have not been near it yet,” said the mayor, apologizing for a move as if towards withdrawal. He had roused himself from his preoccupation, and perhaps really harbored some such intention. But with what front was he to present himself again at his home? Would that he had died, rather, by the fury of the hurricane !
“ Your daughter is safe and well.” said Paul Barclay.
“ She is safe ? You have seen her?”
“ Yes, I have but just left her. She has met with no harm.”
“ Thank God for that! ”
There could be no doubt of the fatherly interest that spoke in such a voice. He still continued, however, his movement to withdraw. He pleaded, also, public duties that would soon demand his attention. Barclay watched him depart a few steps; then, reluctantly,—
“ I spoke of a loss. What if I had found the object of your search ? ”
“ A loss ? ” said the mayor, turning sharply. " Have I not said ” —
But his glance, which had risen to meet that of Barclay, discovered something stern and mysterious there. It fell again before it, and he left the sentence unfinished.
“ Give yourself no further concern for its destination. I have found it,” said the younger man.
“ Oh, no, you have not found that for which I was looking. It may be so later, but not yet, not yet. You speak of other things.”
“ Shall I describe it to you? Was it not a certain document which had been sealed up in this dismantled statue ? Was it not indorsed in a most legible hand, The Confession of a Repentant Man ? ”
“ God ! You have found it ? You know all?” cried the mayor, with a shudder of indescribable anguish and dismay.
“ Was it called further, A True Account of the Connection of David Lane with the Disaster at the Chippewa Street Bridge, and the Deaths of Christopher Barclay and Stanislaus Zelinsky?”
“ How can it be possible that it has come into your hands, — you who should have been the last in the world ” —
Barclay silently drew forth the paper, and extended it towards the other, for the conviction which the sight of it must overwhelmingly produce. The character and superscription were plainly visible.
David Lane fixed his eyes upon it with a pitiful intensity. Then he opened wide his hands, with an involuntary gesture of self-abasement and overthrow.
“What will you do with me?” he asked simply.
It is not the habit of Anglo-Saxons, trained to abhorrence of “ scenes,” to express emotion in the melodramatic way. When something important is in progress, they do not necessarily saw the air, nor violently contort their bodies. An impassiveness of manner even may take the place of demonstrativeness. The voice, instead of being raised, is as likely to be sunk yet lower than usual. So any spectators who might have looked on would by no means have divined the tragic nature of the interview in progress between the two men. Flushings and paleness would not be repressed, it is true, and there were crispation of the hands, and some subtle penetrating tones that seemed to vibrate from the very inmost strings of being; but, for the most part, they faced each other, and talked with apparent calm of the momentous situation in which they found themselves involved. David Lane, indeed, broken by his previous labors and terrors, had small force remaining for effort of any kind.
Paul Barclay did not directly reply to the question last put to him, nor as yet exhibit his purpose. He led on his interlocutor to speak of the history of the affair.
“ You have made some attempts to relieve yourself of this heavy burden ? ” he finally asked. There was a definite significance in his words, and yet he was hardly prepared, even now, to hear so complete a corroboration of his vision as that laid before him in reply.
“ Yes, last night I endeavored to recover the confession. I climbed to the dome, and had reached the box, when my forces failed me. But for the wind and rain I should have succeeded. I made the opening and cut the brace of which those men were speaking.”
“ I knew it.”
“ How could you possibly have known it ? ”
“ I was awake, and, from my window, saw a man on the dome. I learned that you had passed the night at the city hall, and I found the paper. Then all was explained.”
“ I should have gone back and finished the work to-night,” said the mayor mournfully. “ With the paper once more in my own hands, I should have been free. It would have been better for all of us. But Providence willed otherwise.”
“ And had you made no efforts of the same kind before ? ”
“ Never. There had never been the same overpowering stimulus, nor had there been an opportunity. But at last I could endure no more. It was for this alone I became mayor. In no other way could I have remained in the city hall by night without awakening suspicion.”
This was yet a new revelation to Barclay. The involvement in the affair of the destinies of a great city and its inhabitants, the struggles and uncertainties of the political contest through which they had just passed, gave to it an enlarged and more dignified aspect. It took the air of some strange epic, with vast ramifications, centring round the fortunes of himself, David Lane, and Mrs. Varemberg. He saw David Lane, broken with age and infirmities as he had never been broken before, bowed in humiliation before him, the younger man. The pathos of such a situation, the recollection of what the labors of the past night must have been, and the thought of the many and varied tortures, even if deserved, of all the years gone by combined with his affection to sweep away from his heart the last lingering traces of resentment. Even the crime itself seemed to him the unreasonable act of one, for the time being, of some weaker, less responsible order of humanity. He was all ready to say, —
“ It is the motive that is to be judged, and not the consequence. Surely you have suffered enough.” But before he could open his mouth to this purport, David Lane anticipated him, with, —
“ I await your orders. You will exact ample expiation : it is your due.”
“ Yes, I shall exact ample expiation.”
“ I am ready. I shall make no complaint. at whatever you please to demand,” rejoined David Lane, with a melancholy smile.
“ Give me, then, your daughter’s hand in marriage ! ” exclaimed the young man passionately.
“ My daughter’s hand ? You can still demand her? ” returned the other, with a wholly astounded air. Was this the punishment for which he had sullenly braced himself? “You do not hate us unutterably ? You do not let this weigh with you ? ”
“There has never been a moment from the first when this wretched secret would have weighed with me. Oh, why did you not make it known ? I loved her more than life, more than family, more than any and all other interests whatever. There has never been a moment, if the guilt were a hundred fold worse, when it could have diminished my loving regard for her, or induced me to bring discredit upon one whose fair fame and standing were bound tip in hers. If you would have been really safe, why did you not tell me ? It was that way most of all that safety lay.”
“ Believe me, it was not my own safety I consulted,” protested the mayor, with tearful earnestness. “ Ah, what a lamentable error ! Each successive step of it led to the next. I thought it a matter of conscientious duty to keep you apart. Believe me, it was but a misguided desire for your welfare and hers that prompted it. I dreaded what would happen when you should one day come to know, and found yourself indissolubly bound to poor Florence.”
“ Let us talk of it no more. Come, let us go to her,” said Barclay, persuasively, passing his arm through that of David Lane. It is doubtful if the elder man could have sustained himself on his feet, so weak had he grown, or even risen from his seat, without this aid. He let himself be taken possession of, and even went on a little way in this fashion; but then, all at once, he demurred, and drew back with horror.
“ No,” he said, “ I cannot go, I cannot meet her. She was the dearest in the world to me, and I sacrificed her health and her happiness. My treatment of her was infamous. How shall I face the scorn and bitterness of my daughter when she knows the kind of a father I have been to her ? ”
“ She knows nothing, and never shall know,” said Barclay, and his manner had the solemnity of that of one registering a vow. “ I had already thought it all over. It is best for her own peace of mind and happiness, best on every account, that no word of this should ever be spoken to her.”
“But how can it be, if others — if justice — surely — do you mean that the paper will not be given to — will not be disclosed to the public ? ” exclaimed David Lane, gasping and confounded at the possibility of so amazing a consummation.
For his sole reply, Paul Barclay slowly began to tear the confession into fragments, and scatter them about him.
David Lane grasped his hand with the warmth of excessive gratitude.
“ It is your secret and mine,” said Barclay; “ let it rest forever with us alone. It seems that you have suffered as much as we. Justice must be satisfied. Let Florence Lane be the bond of forgiveness and union between us.”
“ Oh ! ” cried the other abjectly, “ for this I will be your slave. I will do whatever you wish.”
At that moment, Mrs. Varemberg herself was seen approaching, from a conveyance that had stopped at the curbstone. She came on with a light, gliding tread, very quick and elastic for her. She had paused at home only long enough to throw over her tempest-tossed attire the first enveloping mantle found at hand, an ample gray wrap, and to add to this a gray Tyrolean hat with a white wing in it. The gray, with the dash of white, gave her, in the gathering dusk of evening, — such a fleeting fancy passed through the mind of Barclay,— the suggestion of a lonely heron visiting some haunted spring.
The site was that, by the fountain, where Barclay had once called her the princess of the pearls and diamonds. As she drew near, he was scattering to the winds the last fragments of the destroyed confession. David Lane precipitated himself upon the hand that did this, and pressed it to his lips in a fervor of reverent gratitude.
“ I will be your humble slave forever,” he said. “ Henceforth I will be and do whatever you shall command.”
Tears of joy filled his eyes, at the thought that he was not to be disgraced in the sight of his daughter.
Mrs. Varemberg saw that something of no common import had taken place between the two men. Nor did it seem to be of an unfriendly nature.
“ You are safe, you are not harmed? ” she cried, addressing her father in a voice full of anxious affection. The Radbrooks had broken their harness in driving to town, and she had been delayed; but on arriving at home and finding her father not there, she had hastened at once to seek him.
There was still a certain constraint in the manner in which he received her, but her lover came to her, and took her tenderly in his arms. It was done openly, in the presence of the other. There was no need of concealment, then, no opposition any longer ?
“ Our troubles are over, my darling,” said Barclay, in answer to her wondering looks. “ You are to be mine. The last obstacles have vanished.”
“ You are friends ? ” she exclaimed, looking from one to the other, while prayers of gratitude welled up from her heart. “You are reconciled?”
“ Yes, we are friends. Let us speak no more of it; there have been troubles enough in this tragic day — And yet our happiness, dearest, has sprung out of the very midst of them.”
He drew her a little nearer to her father, who took one of her hands also, so that they were all three united.
“ We had misunderstood each other, — that is all,” said David Lane, embarrassed, offering the only explanation of the past that was given.
“ Ah yes, you had misunderstood each other,” she murmured, glad of any consummation that had ended it all, and oblivious as yet of details.
“ That will happen, even where intentions are of the best,” Barclay hastened to add, with all his cheerfulness; “ and, once begun, such things are often hard to set right. But luckily it is all over, and now we are going to be as happy as we can, all three together. Tornado or no tornado, this will always be the most blissful day of my life.”
Nor had Mrs. Varemberg’s spirits wholly deserted her. She soon began to examine with interest the fallen statue which lay in the midst of them, the subject and basis of their conference. “ One can no longer exclaim, ‘ Great is Diana of the Ephesians,’” she said, quoting lightly, " but rather, ‘ Her magnificence is destroyed whom all Asia and the world worshiped.’ ”
“ Not so ; she is in an excellent state to set up again, — better than ever,” rejoined Barclay. “We have just heard Schwartzmann say so.”
“ Well, I do not find myself too beautiful on so mammoth a scale. Thirtysix feet of loveliness all at once is rather paralyzing. I feel as if I saw myself distorted in a vast magnifying mirror.”
“ For my part,” said Barclay gallantly, “ I could find it in my heart to be in love with her were she a hundred times as big. There never can be too much of even the poorest imitation of so sweet a model.”
The fair, helmeted features did not seem to indicate, even in their fall, broken hopes or gloomy prospects. They smiled up a definite reassurance, instead. It was as if the trio consulted some beautiful sphinx, who foretold for them yet a prosperous destiny.
People now began to come and seek them, and invade the stockade, which had hitherto screened their interview in privacy. The mayor was in demand to put himself at the head of affairs. Urgent measures of relief were necessary. Loss of life and tragic devastation had taken place in many quarters of the city, particularly, perhaps, on the outskirts, and messengers were now beginning to arrive from those districts in hot haste, with pressing appeals for aid.
Mrs. Varemberg seemed aroused most keenly to the duties of the hour, all but forgotten for the moment in the engrossment with their own affairs. “ We will go with you,” she said to her father. “ We will celebrate our new-found happiness by doing something for these sufferers around us. We will help you. You must make us your lieutenants.”
All three went to the mayor’s office. There were ambulances to be sent forth, ruins to be cleared away, food, clothing, and shelter to be provided. Medicines and surgery were needed for the injured, and decorous burial for the slain. David Lane, in his enfeebled condition of mind and body, would never have been equal, unaided, to the heavy responsibilities thus suddenly thrust upon him. It was really Barclay who assumed the heat and burden of the day, while Mrs. Varemberg, up to the furthest limit of her strength, acted as private secretary, full of sympathy and resource. And all opened their purses liberally as well as their hearts.
In considerate labors like these their new existence began. It was not a question of the toil of one night or one day alone, but of several. Such terror had been struck by the tornado that many of the people anxiously watched every passing cloud and puff of air, and sat up at night, ready dressed and with lanterns burning, dreading a return of its devastations. The excitements of such a time already took something away from the sharpness and vividness of the troubles of our friends. Their future at once commenced to blend imperceptibly with their past. It is a rapidly moving world, that does not stop long in amazement before any crises, even the most stupendous, nor in wondering at any individual fortunes. And so, in their own consciousness, as in the actual fact, their fate began to be woven again into the general pattern, from which it had a little departed. Or rather only departed in seeming; for if we pick up a portion of the web, and screen our eyes momentarily from the rest, it is not that we have discovered a separate and complete pattern, but that we may see by this close inspection the strangeness and richness of the design we call life, in all its parts, and thus perhaps come to the better understanding of the whole.
Shall it be told here, or is it best only inferred, that Paul Barclay went on in the career of enlightened political usefulness he had marked out for himself? He rebuilt his factory, and incorporated into it all his original favorite ideas, so that its fame spread far and wide. His popularity, obtained by his able and sympathetic efforts in relieving the suffering caused by hurricane, soon made him the mayor of the city in his turn. He next served in legislative bodies, by degrees approaching the highest. It was thought that few were better equipped than he, by reason of his sound reading and excellent judgment, or few more desirous, through his good heart and progressive views, to play a useful part in all current industrial questions that fell within his sphere. He, would seem, too, one of those to whom the country might best turn as a resource in the greater economic problems of the times, the vast conflicts of capital and labor, the antagonisms of social classes even with arms in their hands that loom on the horizon, as a threat to free institutions and even to civilization.
And as to Florence Barclay, the Mrs. Varemberg and Florence Lane that had been, if ever combatant in the rude battle of life had tender nurse to bind up his wounds, if ever philanthropist and rising public man had worthy consort to grace his home, and win to his measures yet more ready support by the engaging charm of her presence, surely it was Paul Barclay, in the sweet model of the Golden Justice, which came to be set up, to gleam once more as the symbol of impartial right, over Keewaydin.
The new relation that sprang up between Paul Barclay and David Lane was a strange one. There was now manifest as warm regard as there had once been hostility arid estrangement. The mayor’s daughter was greatly touched by it, and with an innocent self-complacency ascribed it solely to her own influence; her heart swelled with gratitude at the thought that the affection of both for her had brought them thus together, and joined them in bonds of enduring amity.
By no word or implication of the younger man’s was the secret ever referred to, though David Lane, in the earlier days, would often have fallen into his self-accusing spirit, and renewed the expression of his remorse. Paul Barclay would have none of it, but put down, with a friendly insistence, all painful recallings from the past.
Thus the reunited household lived in an atmosphere of perfect harmony and peace. But David Lane did not long survive, to enjoy this seemingly blissful condition of affairs. He was gnawed within by his self-abasement and repentance, and perhaps but suffered the more for the forced suppression of them. Within two years he passed away from their midst, leaving to his daughter the sincerest regret, unalloyed by any stigma upon his memory.
At the beginning of her married life, she had asked her husband, it is true, " How was it that our happiness rose out of the very calamities of that day?” But Barclay had put her off with a careless manner, and as often as the subject was referred to made use of that kind prevarication of which perhaps the recording angel makes his lightest notes. He let it appear that there had never been any real difference between her father and himself, save some bickerings by reason of differing ages and temperaments, and possibly now and then an unfortunate manner on both sides. He thought he had imagined much of it; and that he had not been happy in his way of proposing for her hand, in the first place. The tragic experience of the tornado had naturally made their quarrel seem petty, and reconciliation had been easy when it chanced that opportunity offered. With this, the topic was dropped out of sight, and soon well-nigh wholly forgotten.
It was only after long years had rolled by, and all possibility of shock or pain had departed from the story, that Paul Barclay at last disclosed it to the wife of his bosom. He could not bear to be permanently separated from her, united as they were in the most perfect confidence in every other way, even by so pardonable a reticence. They sat by the monument of David Lane in the grass-grown cemetery, and the listener’s tears flowed as if at some far-off, pensive, fanciful tale.
William Henry Bishop.