Alexander the Great
by Charles Weathers Bump
Alexander loved everything about Antoinette except her too pronounced
fondness for the romantic. That perturbed him greatly. Nobody liked to
be sentimental with a pretty girl more than did Alexander. If he could
squeeze Antoinette's hand slyly at Ford's or the Academy when a "dark
scene" was on, and get a sweet answering pressure; if he engineered his
arm about her undisturbed when he took her driving on Druid Hill's
unlighted roads of a summer night; if he hazarded an occasional kiss on
her warm, cherry-red lips as they lingered in the parting on the front
steps of her Harlem-avenue home—he was as pleased as any admiring lover
could well be. And the next day in that dull, prosaic German-street
office, pictures of Antoinette as she laughed, of Antoinette as she
lowered her clear brown eyes after that kiss, would thrust themselves
most impertinently into each page of the big ledger he had to post.
The trouble, however, with Antoinette from Alexander's viewpoint was
that she was more romantic than that. It was all right for her to be a
trusting little dear and allow him the occasional kiss or hug. But no
adorer likes to be told that he doesn't come up to the lady's ideal, and
that was what Antoinette had plainly given Alexander to understand in
those moments when, spurred on by the kiss or the hug, he had sought to
make her more truly his only and own. "The man I marry," vowed the
darling Antoinette, "must be a hero. You're just an ordinary fellow.
You're better than the rest I know, and I like you awfully much. But
Alexander, dear," and she gave a little twist to the top button of his
coat, "I don't love you, because you have never shown yourself capable
of bold deeds or brave actions. I am woman enough to worship a man who
can do things of that kind. The age of chivalry is not dead. There are
heroes in this world, and though I'm awfully fond of you, Alexander, I'm
going to wait until I meet my ideal." Then Alexander would hie himself
to his Gilmor-street home and curse his luck. What could a plain,
unassuming, workaday clerk do in the way of being a hero? Where did he
have opportunities of meeting situations of peril in which he could
prove his valor?
One of those evenings when Antoinette waxed confidential and revealed
her true thoughts—evenings rare, because, as a rule, she was fencing
coquettishy with tongue and eyes—she acknowledged that the nearest
approach to her ideal that she had ever seen was a handsome, lithe young
Atlantic City life guard. She put such a valuation upon the courage of
this sun-bronzed, red-shirted Adonis that Alexander's jealousy rose to
the fuming point. There pressed upon him the notion of going to the
City-by-the-Sea, either to challenge this approximate ideal to mortal
combat or of emulating his choice of occupation and working a lifeboat
and a rescue-line himself. Then he reflected that, after all, he would
rather be a live clerk in Baltimore than a dead hero in the restless
"It's all the fault of those blamed novels," muttered Alexander, in his
wrath. "She has filled up her head with that silly trash until she has
spoiled the finest girl on earth." He never met her on Lexington street
that she was not on her way to or from the Enoch Pratt Library, or was
carrying home the latest bit of fiction from the bookstores. The old and
the new alike fed her imagination—Scott, the elder Dumas, the King
Arthur romances, Stanley Weyman, Anthony Hope, Hallie Erminie Rives,
Laura Jean Libbey, Bertha M. Clay, Mrs. Alexander—all were fish for her
net, tabloids for her mental digestion. "If she had her way, she would
make me a Rob Roy, a Romeo, a Prisoner of Zenda, a Sir Gal—or whatever
the dickens that old fellow's name was," vowed Alexander, who, it must
be confessed, was not strong on literature.
For three hours and more he lay awake on his bed that night. He knew the
length of time, because the wind was from the east and brought the sound
of the City Hall's strike to him. How to gain Antoinette in marriage,
how to meet her fancy of what a man ought to be, how to be a hero
without an untimely fate in the flower of his youth—was ever lover more
perplexed, more worried!
The next morning brought his deliverance. It came to him as he held
himself in place on two inches of the footboard of a crowded open car.
A queer spot for salvation to be handed to a despairing lover! Yet
salvation is accustomed to odd performances. In this instance it popped
into Alexander's mind so unexpectedly that he chuckled and made a seated
individual think Alexander was reading the jokes of his penny paper over
his shoulder. As a matter of fact, Alexander was soaring into a new and
unexplored world. A great white light was leading him far from the
For three days chuckling alternated with heavy thinking. His mind was so
engrossed with the probability of his deliverance from the trials and
anxieties of trying vainly to please Antoinette that when he went, by
appointment, to take her to Electric Park to see the vaudeville show he
came perilously near telling her all about it. And that to the swain who
hopes to capture a hesitating maiden would, as every masculine knows,
have been fatal. As it was, Alexander's countenance was so benign and
cheerful that the little lady noticed it.
"You've got a surprise for me, I know," she declared as she eyed him,
pouting most charmingly.
She had hit so near the truth that Alexander, helpless masculine,
floundered. "N—n—no. I—I—I haven't," he vowed.
"Yes, you have, Alexander Brotherton," she replied, spiritedly; and at
midnight as they were crossing Harlem square, homeward bound, she
snuggled up to him confidingly and intimated that it was about time to
Alexander weakened. When a fellow is 24 and a girl is 22 and unusually
pretty and winsome, his heart must be adamant to withstand that little
trick of snuggling up. Alexander gasped, but with the gasp gained sense
enough to see he couldn't tell her about the "great white light."
Antoinette, girl like, was miffed. It was the first time in her
experience with Alexander, and in fact with several other adorers, that
she had not been able to operate that little device successfully. As a
result, she was rather cool when they parted.
The next evening Alexander went around to make it up. He had to "crawl,"
of course. They all do. The girls make them do it. And when he had
apologized earnestly for the eleventh time and vowed with a double
criss-cross that there really wasn't any secret, Antoinette was
partially mollified and allowed Alexander to stay until past 11 o'clock
without a recurrence of pouting on her part.
The next night she was in a lovely humor when Alexander came around. It
was close and hot, and, after buying sondaes at the drug store on the
corner below, Alexander suggested riding out and strolling along some of
the paths of Druid Hill Park. He put it humbly, but he was most blithe
and joyous when she consented.
They were walking up the Mall on their way to the boat lake half an hour
later. It was dark just there, and, as no one seemed to be near,
Alexander let his hand steal around Antoinette's little waist.
"You shouldn't do that," said Antoinette slipping away from him, but not
angrily. "We're not engaged, you know."
"I'd like to be," asserted Alexander ardently.
What answer she would have made can only be guessed at, for just at this
moment two muscular fellows sprang in front of them from behind a tree.
In the few arc-light rays that penetrated the low-hanging limbs
Antoinette could see that both were masked and that one held a pistol at
her. Antoinette backed close to Alexander and screamed. It was a good,
lusty scream, far stronger than Alexander had thought her capable of
"Hand over your money and valuables," gruffly said the companion of him
who held the pistol.
Antoinette could feel Alexander double his fists and his muscles grow
hard. He started toward the two highwaymen. "Don't! don't!" she cried,
as she threw her arms around him. "They'll kill you!"
But Alexander heeded her not. Instead, he pushed her aside and sprang
determinedly at the other pair. With his left hand he knocked up the
pistol and caused it to fall to the ground. With his right he delivered
a swinging blow on the shoulder that staggered the other fellow.
Apparently the pair had not expected resistance, for they darted off in
the shadows, with Alexander in stern pursuit.
"Don't leave me alone," called Antoinette agonizingly. Visions of dire
peril to distressed womanhood leaped into her brain from a score of
favorite novels. She might be kidnapped and confined in some dark
tower—she might be shot down from ambush—she might—but, ah, now! her
fears were dissipated, for the doughty Alexander was back. He was
puffing most unromantically, but was overjoyed at the turn that enabled
him to show himself so valiant.
Several strangers had been attracted by Antoinette's scream. Alexander
satisfied their curiosity by a modest recital of the incident. And then
with the adoring Antoinette holding close to him he turned away. One of
the strangers stopped him.
"You've left the pistol," he said.
"By George! so I did," said Alexander.
"Don't take that awful thing," said Antoinette with a shudder.
"It will be a prize trophy," said Alexander, and Antoinette with this
point of view was content. Under the first light he showed the weapon to
her. She needed to be encouraged to handle the pistol, but finally she
inspected it closely. "It has your initials—'A. B.'—on it," she
"Why so it has," stammered Alexander. Without further ado he put the
revolver in his pocket.
"Hadn't you better tell the park gateman about the outrage?" asked
"No; I think it wiser to keep it out of the papers," returned Alexander.
"After all, it was only a little incident, with no serious
But Antoinette did not regard it in that light. To her it was a
valorous deed, and she rehearsed her view of it all the way home.
"You are my hero, my first hero," she said to the proud Alexander on her
stoop, and reaching up to his face she impulsively gave him the warmest
kiss he had ever secured from her. The hero business wasn't so bad after
Some evenings later they were again strolling in the park. Alexander had
received permission to smoke a cigarette as they walked, but could not
light it in the breeze that was blowing. "Wait a moment, little girl,"
he finally said, and he stepped aside to the protection of a broad tree
trunk, perhaps forty feet away, leaving Antoinette on the path. It was
the main-traveled way from Madison-avenue gate to the Mansion House, but
at the time no one was near. Suddenly, however, a tall man loomed up
from behind Antoinette and seized her rudely in his arms.
"A kiss, my little beauty," he said as he put his face close to hers.
Antoinette would have dropped with fright had not his firm grasp upheld
her. She was too scared to scream, but she did have presence of mind
enough to turn her face aside. What she saw when she did turn overjoyed
her, for Alexander was coming agilely over the turf to her rescue.
"Here, let go of that lady, you dirty whelp!" cried Alexander, when yet
some paces away. The man relaxed his hold on her, but, instead of
running as her hold-up man had done, he turned to meet the oncoming
champion. Alexander grappled with him and there was a stout tussle. It
seemed ages to Antoinette, who was watching the struggle with tense,
strained eyes, before Alexander proved his redoubtability by throwing
her insulter over on the grass.
"Oh, Alexander!" she cried in exultation and relief. "You are so strong
Alexander, panting, swelled his chest. Such praise from the girl he
loved was like divine, enchanting wine. He took her to his bosom, as
they say. But the fond embrace was cut short by a snicker from the
onlooker. He had not risen from the recumbent position in which
Alexander's prowess had placed him. Antoinette's beloved turned angrily
on him, "Get you gone, you vile dog!" he exclaimed theatrically. And
then he kicked him, not gently, but positively.
In a flash the other man was up and had grabbed the surprised Alexander.
It was such a grab that Alexander murmured in pain. Antoinette thought
she heard one of them say something about "Not in the bargain." She was
not sure. But she was sure that Alexander was not doing so well in the
second round of combat as in the first. Then he whispered to his
opponent, and almost immediately the strength of the other diminished,
even as did Samson's when shorn of his locks. Presently the other broke
away and ran, and Alexander stood breathless, master of the field.
On the walk back to the Druid Hill-avenue entrance to take a car for
home Antoinette again proposed that they tell the authorities of the
two attacks. Alexander was against it. He said he dreaded the mire of
publicity for the sweetest creature on earth. And he looked at her
lovingly as he said it. Antoinette's purpose weakened, but she had
enough strength of will left to declare she was almost sure she could
identify her assailant. "He had an odd-shaped mole on his right cheek,"
she remarked. "And, do you know, it's curious that I think I am nearly
certain that one of our highwaymen of last week had a similar mark. I
got a glimpse of it once when a puff of air caught his mask." Alexander
redoubled his urgings that they keep silent. He breathed easier when
they were past the gateman and on the car.
For a week he basked in the glory of her adulation. Never was a hero so
worshiped as this proven one. Never was a sweet girl so happy as
Antoinette. She had met her ideal, and he was hers. Twenty hours of the
twenty-four she dreamed of him; the other four she rejoiced at being
The eighth night after the second encounter in Druid Hill he had taken
her to Gwynn Oak Park to dance. Until the sixth number, the waltzes and
two-steps were all his. Then Will Harrison, an old acquaintance, came
up. "I hate to leave you," whispered Antoinette, as she gazed up into
her hero's face, "but Will is a nice boy, and I don't like to refuse him
one." Alexander smiled in return, and told her to enjoy herself. As she
floated around on Will's arm she took advantage of every turn to watch
the adored Alexander. She thought he looked lonely, and she wished she
could decently end her waltz and get back to him. For a moment, in a
reverse step, she lost sight of him, and when she saw him again a tall
young fellow was talking to him. Alexander seemed ill at ease and
perturbed. In fact, he quite failed to notice that she was nearing him
again in the dance. "I want that extra five you whispered you'd give
me," Antoinette heard the tall chap say. "That kick was worth it. If you
don't cough up I'll tell the lady how much it cost you, you coward, to
be a hero twice." Antoinette looked intently at the tall man. There was
a mole on his right cheek. She was wise all of a sudden. Then she grew
faint with the shock of the knowledge.
"Take me out of here," she muttered to her partner. He obeyed. A car was
fast filling up to leave for Walbrook. Antoinette made a dash for it.
"Come, take me home, Will!" she called. Again he obeyed, and bounced her
into a seat.
"I'll never speak to that awful wretch again," said Antoinette to the
curious Will. "I am ashamed of myself."
And thus was Alexander the Great dethroned.