The Lion and the Mouse
A Story of an American Life
Novelized from the play by
"Judges and Senates have been bought for gold;
Love and esteem have never been sold."
THE LION AND THE MOUSE
There was unwonted bustle in the usually sleepy and dignified New York
offices of the Southern and Transcontinental Railroad Company in lower
Broadway. The supercilious, well-groomed clerks who, on ordinary days,
are far too preoccupied with their own personal affairs to betray the
slightest interest in anything not immediately concerning them, now
condescended to bestir themselves and, gathered in little groups,
conversed in subdued, eager tones. The slim, nervous fingers of half a
dozen haughty stenographers, representing as many different types of
business femininity, were busily rattling the keys of clicking
typewriters, each of their owners intent on reducing with all possible
despatch the mass of letters which lay piled up in front of her.
Through the heavy plate-glass swinging doors, leading to the elevators
and thence to the street, came and went an army of messengers and
telegraph boys, noisy and insolent. Through the open windows the hoarse
shouting of news-venders, the rushing of elevated trains, the clanging
of street cars, with the occasional feverish dash of an ambulance—all
these familiar noises of a great city had the far-away sound peculiar
to top floors of the modern sky-scraper. The day was warm and sticky,
as is not uncommon in early May, and the overcast sky and a distant
rumbling of thunder promised rain before night.
The big express elevators, running smoothly and swiftly, unloaded every
few moments a number of prosperous-looking men who, chatting volubly
and affably, made their way immediately through the outer offices
towards another and larger inner office on the glass door of which was
the legend "Directors Room. Private." Each comer gave a patronizing nod
in recognition of the deferential salutation of the clerks. Earlier
arrivals had preceded them, and as they opened the door there issued
from the Directors Room a confused murmur of voices, each different in
pitch and tone, some deep and deliberate, others shrill and nervous,
but all talking earnestly and with animation as men do when the subject
under discussion is of common interest. Now and again a voice was heard
high above the others, denoting anger in the speaker, followed by the
pleading accents of the peace-maker, who was arguing his irate
colleague into calmness. At intervals the door opened to admit other
arrivals, and through the crack was caught a glimpse of a dozen
directors, some seated, some standing near a long table covered with
It was the regular quarterly meeting of the directors of the Southern
and Transcontinental Railroad Company, but it was something more than
mere routine that had called out a quorum of such strength and which
made to-day's gathering one of extraordinary importance in the history
of the road. That the business on hand was of the greatest significance
was easily to be inferred from the concerned and anxious expression on
the directors' faces and the eagerness of the employes as they plied
each other with questions.
"Suppose the injunction is sustained?" asked a clerk in a whisper. "Is
not the road rich enough to bear the loss?"
The man he addressed turned impatiently to the questioner: "That's all
you know about railroading. Don't you understand that this suit we have
lost will be the entering wedge for hundreds of others. The very
existence of the road may be at stake. And between you and me," he
added in a lower key, "with Judge Rossmore on the bench we never stood
much show. It's Judge Rossmore that scares 'em, not the injunction.
They've found it easy to corrupt most of the Supreme Court judges, but
Judge Rossmore is one too many for them. You could no more bribe him
than you could have bribed Abraham Lincoln."
"But the newspapers say that he, too, has been caught accepting $50,000
worth of stock for that decision he rendered in the Great Northwestern
"Lies! All those stories are lies," replied the other emphatically.
Then looking cautiously around to make sure no one overheard, he added
contemptuously, "The big interests fear him, and they're inventing
these lies to try and injure him. They might as well try to blow up
Gibraltar. The fact is the public is seriously aroused this time and
the railroads are in a panic."
It was true. The railroad, which heretofore had considered itself
superior to law, had found itself checked in its career of outlawry and
oppression. The railroad, this modern octopus of steam and steel which
stretches its greedy tentacles out over the land, had at last been
brought to book.
At first, when the country was in the earlier stages of its
development, the railroad appeared in the guise of a public benefactor.
It brought to the markets of the East the produce of the South and
West. It opened up new and inaccessible territory and made oases of
waste places. It brought to the city coal, lumber, food and other prime
necessaries of life, taking back to the farmer and the woodsman in
exchange, clothes and other manufactured goods. Thus, little by little,
the railroad wormed itself into the affections of the people and
gradually became an indispensable part of the life it had itself
created. Tear up the railroad and life itself is extinguished.
So when the railroad found it could not be dispensed with, it grew
dissatisfied with the size of its earnings. Legitimate profits were not
enough. Its directors cried out for bigger dividends, and from then on
the railroad became a conscienceless tyrant, fawning on those it feared
and crushing without mercy those who were defenceless. It raised its
rates for hauling freight, discriminating against certain localities
without reason or justice, and favouring other points where its own
interests lay. By corrupting government officials and other unlawful
methods it appropriated lands, and there was no escape from its
exactions and brigandage. Other roads were built, and for a brief
period there was held out the hope of relief that invariably comes from
honest competition. But the railroad either absorbed its rivals or
pooled interests with them, and thereafter there were several masters
instead of one.
Soon the railroads began to war among themselves, and in a mad scramble
to secure business at any price they cut each other's rates and
unlawfully entered into secret compacts with certain big shippers,
permitting the latter to enjoy lower freight rates than their
competitors. The smaller shippers were soon crushed out of existence in
this way. Competition was throttled and prices went up, making the
railroad barons richer and the people poorer. That was the beginning of
the giant Trusts, the greatest evil American civilization has yet
produced, and one which, unless checked, will inevitably drag this
country into the throes of civil strife.
From out of this quagmire of corruption and rascality emerged the
Colossus, a man so stupendously rich and with such unlimited powers for
evil that the world has never looked upon his like. The famous Croesus,
whose fortune was estimated at only eight millions in our money, was a
pauper compared with John Burkett Ryder, whose holdings no man could
count, but which were approximately estimated at a thousand millions of
dollars. The railroads had created the Trust, the ogre of corporate
greed, of which Ryder was the incarnation, and in time the Trust became
master of the railroads, which after all seemed but retributive justice.
John Burkett Ryder, the richest man in the world—the man whose name
had spread to the farthest corners of the earth because of his wealth,
and whose money, instead of being a blessing, promised to become not
only a curse to himself but a source of dire peril to all mankind—was
a genius born of the railroad age. No other age could have brought him
forth; his peculiar talents fitted exactly the conditions of his time.
Attracted early in life to the newly discovered oil fields of
Pennsylvania, he became a dealer in the raw product and later a
refiner, acquiring with capital, laboriously saved, first one refinery,
then another. The railroads were cutting each other's throats to secure
the freight business of the oil men, and John Burkett Ryder saw his
opportunity. He made secret overtures to the road, guaranteeing a vast
amount of business if he could get exceptionally low rates, and the
illegal compact was made. His competitors, undersold in the market,
stood no chance, and one by one they were crushed out of existence.
Ryder called these manouvres "business"; the world called them
brigandage. But the Colossus prospered and slowly built up the
foundations of the extraordinary fortune which is the talk and the
wonder of the world today. Master now of the oil situation, Ryder
succeeded in his ambition of organizing the Empire Trading Company, the
most powerful, the most secretive, and the most wealthy business
institution the commercial world has yet known.
Yet with all this success John Burkett Ryder was still not content. He
was now a rich man, richer by many millions that he had dreamed he
could ever be, but still he was unsatisfied. He became money mad. He
wanted to be richer still, to be the richest man in the world, the
richest man the world had ever known. And the richer he got the
stronger the idea grew upon him with all the force of a morbid
obsession. He thought of money by day, he dreamt of it at night. No
matter by what questionable device it was to be procured, more gold and
more must flow into his already overflowing coffers. So each day,
instead of spending the rest of his years in peace, in the enjoyment of
the wealth he had accumulated, he went downtown like any
twenty-dollar-a-week clerk to the tall building in lower Broadway and,
closeted with his associates, toiled and plotted to make more money.
He acquired vast copper mines and secured control of this and that
railroad. He had invested heavily in the Southern and Transcontinental
road and was chairman of its board of directors. Then he and his
fellow-conspirators planned a great financial coup. The millions were
not coming in fast enough. They must make a hundred millions at one
stroke. They floated a great mining company to which the public was
invited to subscribe. The scheme having the endorsement of the Empire
Trading Company no one suspected a snare, and such was the magic of
John Ryder's name that gold flowed in from every point of the compass.
The stock sold away above par the day it was issued. Men deemed
themselves fortunate if they were even granted an allotment. What
matter if, a few days later, the house of cards came tumbling down, and
a dozen suicides were strewn along Wall Street, that sinister
thoroughfare which, as a wit has said, has a graveyard at one end and
the river at the other! Had Ryder any twinges of conscience? Hardly.
Had he not made a cool twenty millions by the deal?
Yet this commercial pirate, this Napoleon of finance, was not a wholly
bad man. He had his redeeming qualities, like most bad men. His most
pronounced weakness, and the one that had made him the most conspicuous
man of his time, was an entire lack of moral principle. No honest or
honourable man could have amassed such stupendous wealth. In other
words, John Ryder had not been equipped by Nature with a conscience. He
had no sense of right, or wrong, or justice where his own interests
were concerned. He was the prince of egoists. On the other hand, he
possessed qualities which, with some people, count as virtues. He was
pious and regular in his attendance at church and, while he had done
but little for charity, he was known to have encouraged the giving of
alms by the members of his family, which consisted of a wife, whose
timid voice was rarely heard, and a son Jefferson, who was the destined
successor to his gigantic estate.
Such was the man who was the real power behind the Southern and
Transcontinental Railroad. More than anyone else Ryder had been aroused
by the present legal action, not so much for the money interest at
stake as that any one should dare to thwart his will. It had been a pet
scheme of his, this purchase for a song, when the land was cheap, of
some thousand acres along the line, and it is true that at the time of
the purchase there had been some idea of laying the land out as a park.
But real estate values had increased in astonishing fashion, the road
could no longer afford to carry out the original scheme, and had
attempted to dispose of the property for building purposes, including a
right of way for a branch road. The news, made public in the
newspapers, had raised a storm of protest. The people in the vicinity
claimed that the railroad secured the land on the express condition of
a park being laid out, and in order to make a legal test they had
secured an injunction, which had been sustained by Judge Rossmore of
the United States Circuit Court.
These details were hastily told and re-told by one clerk to another as
the babel of voices in the inner room grew louder, and more directors
kept arriving from the ever-busy elevators. The meeting was called for
three o'clock. Another five minutes and the chairman would rap for
order. A tall, strongly built man with white moustache and kindly smile
emerged from the directors room and, addressing one of the clerks,
"Has Mr. Ryder arrived yet?"
The alacrity with which the employe hastened forward to reply would
indicate that his interlocutor was a person of more than ordinary
"No, Senator, not yet. We expect him any minute." Then with a
deferential smile he added: "Mr. Ryder usually arrives on the stroke,
The senator gave a nod of acquiescence and, turning on his heel,
greeted with a grasp of the hand and affable smile his fellow-directors
as they passed in by twos and threes.
Senator Roberts was in the world of politics what his friend John
Burkett Ryder was in the world of finance—a leader of men. He started
life in Wisconsin as an errand boy, was educated in the public schools,
and later became clerk in a dry-goods store, finally going into
business for his own account on a large scale. He was elected to the
Legislature, where his ability as an organizer soon gained the
friendship of the men in power, and later was sent to Congress, where
he was quickly initiated in the game of corrupt politics. In 1885 he
entered the United States Senate. He soon became the acknowledged
leader of a considerable majority of the Republican senators, and from
then on he was a figure to be reckoned with. A very ambitious man, with
a great love of power and few scruples, it is little wonder that only
the practical or dishonest side of politics appealed to him. He was in
politics for all there was in it, and he saw in his lofty position only
a splendid opportunity for easy graft.
He did not hesitate to make such alliances with corporate interests
seeking influence at Washington as would enable him to accomplish this
purpose, and in this way he had met and formed a strong friendship with
John Burkett Ryder. Each being a master in his own field was useful to
the other. Neither was troubled with qualms of conscience, so they
never quarrelled. If the Ryder interests needed anything in the Senate,
Roberts and his followers were there to attend to it. Just now the
cohort was marshalled in defence of the railroads against the attacks
of the new Rebate bill. In fact, Ryder managed to keep the Senate busy
all the time. When, on the other hand, the senators wanted
anything—and they often did—Ryder saw that they got it, lower rates
for this one, a fat job for that one, not forgetting themselves.
Senator Roberts was already a very rich man, and although the world
often wondered where he got it, no one had the courage to ask him.
But the Republican leader was stirred with an ambition greater than
that of controlling a majority in the Senate. He had a daughter, a
marriageable young woman who, at least in her father's opinion, would
make a desirable wife for any man. His friend Ryder had a son, and this
son was the only heir to the greatest fortune ever amassed by one man,
a fortune which, at its present rate of increase, by the time the
father died and the young couple were ready to inherit, would probably
amount to over SIX BILLIONS OF DOLLARS. Could the human mind grasp the
possibilities of such a colossal fortune? It staggered the imagination.
Its owner, or the man who controlled it, would be master of the world!
Was not this a prize any man might well set himself out to win? The
senator was thinking of it now as he stood exchanging banal remarks
with the men who accosted him. If he could only bring off that marriage
he would be content. The ambition of his life would be attained. There
was no difficulty as far as John Ryder was concerned. He favoured the
match and had often spoken of it. Indeed, Ryder desired it, for such an
alliance would naturally further his business interests in every way.
Roberts knew that his daughter Kate had more than a liking for Ryder's
handsome young son. Moreover, Kate was practical, like her father, and
had sense enough to realize what it would mean to be the mistress of
the Ryder fortune. No, Kate was all right, but there was young Ryder to
reckon with. It would take two in this case to make a bargain.
Jefferson Ryder was, in truth, an entirely different man from his
father. It was difficult to realize that both had sprung from the same
stock. A college-bred boy with all the advantages his father's wealth
could give him, he had inherited from the parent only those
characteristics which would have made him successful even if born
poor—activity, pluck, application, dogged obstinacy, alert mentality.
To these qualities he added what his father sorely lacked—a high
notion of honour, a keen sense of right and wrong. He had the honest
man's contempt for meanness of any description, and he had little
patience with the lax so-called business morals of the day. For him a
dishonourable or dishonest action could have no apologist, and he could
see no difference between the crime of the hungry wretch who stole a
loaf of bread and the coal baron who systematically robbed both his
employes and the public. In fact, had he been on the bench he would
probably have acquitted the human derelict who, in despair, had
appropriated the prime necessary of life, and sent the over-fed,
conscienceless coal baron to jail.
"Do unto others as you would have others do unto you." This simple and
fundamental axiom Jefferson Ryder had adopted early in life, and it had
become his religion—the only one, in fact, that he had. He was never
pious like his father, a fact much regretted by his mother, who could
see nothing but eternal damnation in store for her son because he never
went to church and professed no orthodox creed. She knew him to be a
good lad, but to her simple mind a conduct of life based merely on a
system of moral philosophy was the worst kind of paganism. There could,
she argued, be no religion, and assuredly no salvation, outside the
dogmatic teachings of the Church. But otherwise Jefferson was a model
son and, with the exception of this bad habit of thinking for himself
on religious matters, really gave her no anxiety. When Jefferson left
college, his father took him into the Empire Trading Company with the
idea of his eventually succeeding him as head of the concern, but the
different views held by father and son on almost every subject soon led
to stormy scenes that made the continuation of the arrangement
impossible. Senator Roberts was well aware of these unfortunate
independent tendencies in John Ryder's son, and while he devoutly
desired the consummation of Jefferson's union with his daughter, he
quite realized that the young man was a nut which was going to be
exceedingly hard to crack.
"Hello, senator, you're always on time!"
Disturbed in his reflections, Senator Roberts looked up and saw the
extended hand of a red-faced, corpulent man, one of the directors. He
was no favourite with the senator, but the latter was too keen a man of
the world to make enemies uselessly, so he condescended to place two
fingers in the outstretched fat palm.
"How are you, Mr. Grimsby? Well, what are we going to do about this
injunction? The case has gone against us. I knew Judge Rossmore's
decision would be for the other side. Public opinion is aroused. The
Mr. Grimsby's red face grew more apoplectic as he blurted out:
"Public opinion and the press be d—-d. Who cares for public opinion?
What is public opinion, anyhow? This road can manage its own affairs or
it can't. If it can't I for one quit railroading. The press! Pshaw!
It's all graft, I tell you. It's nothing but a strike! I never knew one
of these virtuous outbursts that wasn't. First the newspapers bark
ferociously to advertise themselves; then they crawl round and whine
like a cur. And it usually costs something to fix matters."
The senator smiled grimly.
"No, no, Grimsby—not this time. It's more serious than that. Hitherto
the road has been unusually lucky in its bench decisions—"
The senator gave a covert glance round to see if any long ears were
listening. Then he added:
"We can't expect always to get a favourable decision like that in the
Cartwright case, when franchise rights valued at nearly five millions
were at stake. Judge Stollmann proved himself a true friend in that
Grimsby made a wry grimace as he retorted:
"Yes, and it was worth it to him. A Supreme Court judge don't get a
cheque for $20,000 every day. That represents two years' pay."
"It might represent two years in jail if it were found out," said the
senator with a forced laugh.
Grimsby saw an opportunity, and he could not resist the temptation.
Bluntly he said:
"As far as jail's concerned, others might be getting their deserts
The senator looked keenly at Grimsby from under his white eyebrows.
Then in a calm, decisive tone he replied:
"It's no question of a cheque this time. The road could not buy Judge
Rossmore with $200,000. He is absolutely unapproachable in that way."
The apoplectic face of Mr. Grimsby looked incredulous.
It was hard for these men who plotted in the dark, and cheated the
widow and the orphan for love of the dollar, to understand that there
were in the world, breathing the same air as they, men who put honour,
truth and justice above mere money-getting. With a slight tinge of
sarcasm he asked:
"Is there any man in our public life who is unapproachable from some
direction or other?"
"Yes, Judge Rossmore is such a man. He is one of the few men in
American public life who takes his duties seriously. In the strictest
sense of the term, he serves his country instead of serving himself. I
am no friend of his, but I must do him that justice."
He spoke sharply, in an irritated tone, as if resenting the insinuation
of this vulgarian that every man in public life had his price. Roberts
knew that the charge was true as far as he and the men he consorted
with were concerned, but sometimes the truth hurts. That was why he had
for a moment seemed to champion Judge Rossmore, which, seeing that the
judge himself was at that very moment under a cloud, was an absurd
thing for him to do.
He had known Rossmore years before when the latter was a city
magistrate in New York. That was before he, Roberts, had become a
political grafter and when the decent things in life still appealed to
him. The two men, although having few interests in common, had seen a
good deal of one another until Roberts went to Washington when their
relations were completely severed. But he had always watched Rossmore's
career, and when he was made a judge of the Supreme Court at a
comparatively early age he was sincerely glad. If anything could have
convinced Roberts that success can come in public life to a man who
pursues it by honest methods it was the success of James Rossmore. He
could never help feeling that Rossmore had been endowed by Nature with
certain qualities which had been denied to him, above all that ability
to walk straight through life with skirts clean which he had found
impossible himself. To-day Judge Rossmore was one of the most
celebrated judges in the country. He was a brilliant jurist and a
splendid after-dinner speaker. He was considered the most learned and
able of all the members of the judiciary, and his decisions were noted
as much for their fearlessness as for their wisdom. But what was far
more, he enjoyed a reputation for absolute integrity. Until now no
breath of slander, no suspicion of corruption, had ever touched him.
Even his enemies acknowledged that. And that is why there was a panic
to-day among the directors of the Southern and Transcontinental
Railroad. This honest, upright man had been called upon in the course
of his duty to decide matters of vital importance to the road, and the
directors were ready to stampede because, in their hearts, they knew
the weakness of their case and the strength of the judge.
Grimsby, unconvinced, returned to the charge.
"What about these newspaper charges? Did Judge Rossmore take a bribe
from the Great Northwestern or didn't he? You ought to know."
"I do know," answered the senator cautiously and somewhat curtly, "but
until Mr. Ryder arrives I can say nothing. I believe he has been
inquiring into the matter. He will tell us when he comes."
The hands of the large clock in the outer room pointed to three. An
active, dapper little man with glasses and with books under his arm
passed hurriedly from another office into the directors room.
"There goes Mr. Lane with the minutes. The meeting is called. Where's
There was a general move of the scattered groups of directors toward
the committee room. The clock overhead began to strike. The last stroke
had not quite died away when the big swinging doors from the street
were thrown open and there entered a tall, thin man, gray-headed, and
with a slight stoop, but keen eyed and alert. He was carefully dressed
in a well-fitting frock coat, white waistcoat, black tie and silk hat.
It was John Burkett Ryder, the Colossus.
At fifty-six, John Burkett Ryder was surprisingly well preserved. With
the exception of the slight stoop, already noted, and the rapidly
thinning snow-white hair, his step was as light and elastic, and his
brain as vigorous and alert, as in a man of forty. Of old English
stock, his physical make-up presented all those strongly marked
characteristics of our race which, sprung from Anglo-Saxon ancestry,
but modified by nearly 300 years of different climate and customs, has
gradually produced the distinct and true American type, as easily
recognizable among the family of nations as any other of the earth's
children. Tall and distinguished-looking, Ryder would have attracted
attention anywhere. Men who have accomplished much in life usually bear
plainly upon their persons the indefinable stamp of achievement,
whether of good or evil, which renders them conspicuous among their
fellows. We turn after a man in the street and ask, Who is he? And nine
times out of ten the object of our curiosity is a man who has made his
mark—a successful soldier, a famous sailor, a celebrated author, a
distinguished lawyer, or even a notorious crook.
There was certainly nothing in John Ryder's outward appearance to
justify Lombroso's sensational description of him: "A social and
physiological freak, a degenerate and a prodigy of turpitude who, in
the pursuit of money, crushes with the insensibility of a steel machine
everyone who stands in his way." On the contrary, Ryder, outwardly at
least, was a prepossessing-looking man. His head was well-shaped, and
he had an intellectual brow, while power was expressed in every gesture
of his hands and body. Every inch of him suggested strength and
resourcefulness. His face, when in good humour, frequently expanded in
a pleasant smile, and he had even been known to laugh boisterously,
usually at his own stories, which he rightly considered very droll, and
of which he possessed a goodly stock. But in repose his face grew stern
and forbidding, and when his prognathous jaw, indicative of will-power
and bull-dog tenacity, snapped to with a click-like sound, those who
heard it knew that squalls were coming.
But it was John Ryder's eyes that were regarded as the most reliable
barometer of his mental condition. Wonderful eyes they were, strangely
eloquent and expressive, and their most singular feature was that they
possessed the uncanny power of changing colour like a cat's. When their
owner was at peace with the world, and had temporarily shaken off the
cares of business, his eyes were of the most restful, beautiful blue,
like the sky after sunrise on a Spring morning, and looking into their
serene depths it seemed absurd to think that this man could ever harm a
fly. His face, while under the spell of this kindly mood, was so
benevolent and gentle, so frank and honest that you felt there was
nothing in the world—purse, honour, wife, child—that, if needs be,
you would not entrust to his keeping.
When this period of truce was ended, when the plutocrat was once more
absorbed in controlling the political as well as the commercial
machinery of the nation, then his eyes took on a snakish, greenish hue,
and one could plainly read in them the cunning, the avariciousness, the
meanness, the insatiable thirst for gain that had made this man the
most unscrupulous money-getter of his time. But his eyes had still
another colour, and when this last transformation took place those
dependent on him, and even his friends, quaked with fear. For they were
his eyes of anger. On these dreaded occasions his eyes grew black as
darkest night and flashed fire as lightning rends the thundercloud.
Almost ungovernable fury was, indeed, the weakest spot in John Ryder's
armour, for in these moments of appalling wrath he was reckless of what
he said or did, friendship, self-interest, prudence—all were
Such was the Colossus on whom all eyes were turned as he entered.
Instantly the conversations, stopped as by magic. The directors nudged
each other and whispered. Instinctively, Ryder singled out his crony,
Senator Roberts, who advanced with effusive gesture:
"You're punctual as usual, Mr. Ryder. I never knew you to be late!"
The great man chuckled, and the little men standing around, listening
breathlessly, chuckled in respectful sympathy, and they elbowed and
pushed one another in their efforts to attract Ryder's notice, like so
many cowardly hyenas not daring to approach the lordly wolf. Senator
Roberts made a remark in a low tone to Ryder, whereupon the latter
laughed. The bystanders congratulated each other silently. The great
man was pleased to be in a good humour. And as Ryder turned with the
senator to enter the Directors Room the light from the big windows fell
full on his face, and they noticed that his eyes were of the softest
"No squalls to-day," whispered one.
"Wait and see," retorted a more experienced colleague. "Those eyes are
more fickle than the weather."
Outside the sky was darkening, and drops of rain were already falling.
A flash of lightning presaged the coming storm.
Ryder passed on and into the Directors Room followed by Senator Roberts
and the other directors, the procession being brought up by the dapper
little secretary bearing the minutes.
The long room with its narrow centre table covered with green baize was
filled with directors scattered in little groups and all talking at
once with excited gesture. At the sight of Ryder the chattering stopped
as if by common consent, and the only sound audible was of the
shuffling of feet and the moving of chairs as the directors took their
places around the long table.
With a nod here and there Ryder took his place in the chairman's seat
and rapped for order. Then at a sign from the chair the dapper little
secretary began in a monotonous voice to read the minutes of the
previous meeting. No one listened, a few directors yawned. Others had
their eyes riveted on Ryder's face, trying to read there if he had
devised some plan to offset the crushing blow of this adverse decision,
which meant a serious loss to them all. He, the master mind, had served
them in many a like crisis in the past. Could he do so again? But John
Ryder gave no sign. His eyes, still of the same restful blue, were
fixed on the ceiling watching a spider marching with diabolical intent
on a wretched fly that had become entangled in its web. And as the
secretary ambled monotonously on, Ryder watched and watched until he
saw the spider seize its helpless prey and devour it. Fascinated by the
spectacle, which doubtless suggested to him some analogy to his own
methods, Ryder sat motionless, his eyes fastened on the ceiling, until
the sudden stopping of the secretary's reading aroused him and told him
that the minutes were finished. Quickly they were approved, and the
chairman proceeded as rapidly as possible with the regular business
routine. That disposed of, the meeting was ready for the chief business
of the day. Ryder then calmly proceeded to present the facts in the
Some years back the road had acquired as an investment some thousands
of acres of land located in the outskirts of Auburndale, on the line of
their road. The land was bought cheap, and there had been some talk of
laying part of it out as a public park. This promise had been made at
the time in good faith, but it was no condition of the sale. If,
afterwards, owing to the rise in the value of real estate, the road
found it impossible to carry out the original idea, surely they were
masters of their own property! The people of Auburndale thought
differently and, goaded on by the local newspapers, had begun action in
the courts to restrain the road from diverting the land from its
alleged original purpose. They had succeeded in getting the injunction,
but the road had fought it tooth and nail, and finally carried it to
the Supreme Court, where Judge Rossmore, after reserving his opinion,
had finally sustained the injunction and decided against the railroad.
That was the situation, and he would now like to hear from the members
of the board.
Mr. Grimsby rose. Self-confident and noisily loquacious, as most men of
his class are in simple conversation, he was plainly intimidated at
speaking before such a crowd. He did not know where to look nor what to
do with his hands, and he shuffled uneasily on his feet, while streams
of nervous perspiration ran down his fat face, which he mopped
repeatedly with a big coloured handkerchief. At last, taking courage,
"Mr. Chairman, for the past ten years this road has made bigger
earnings in proportion to its carrying capacity than any other railroad
in the United States. We have had fewer accidents, less injury to
rolling stock, less litigation and bigger dividends. The road has been
well managed and"—here he looked significantly in Ryder's
direction—"there has been a big brain behind the manager. We owe you
that credit, Mr. Ryder!"
Cries of "Hear! Hear!" came from all round the table.
Ryder bowed coldly, and Mr. Grimsby continued: "But during the last
year or two things have gone wrong. There has been a lot of litigation,
most of which has gone against us, and it has cost a heap of money. It
reduced the last quarterly dividend very considerably, and the new
complication—this Auburndale suit, which also has gone against us—is
going to make a still bigger hole in our exchequer. Gentlemen, I don't
want to be a prophet of misfortune, but I'll tell you this—unless
something is done to stop this hostility in the courts you and I stand
to lose every cent we have invested in the road. This suit which we
have just lost means a number of others. What I would ask our chairman
is what has become of his former good relations with the Supreme Court,
what has become of his influence, which never failed us. What are these
rumours regarding Judge Rossmore? He is charged in the newspapers with
having accepted a present from a road in whose favour he handed down a
very valuable decision. How is it that our road cannot reach Judge
Rossmore and make him presents?"
The speaker sat down, flushed and breathless. The expression on every
face showed that the anxiety was general. The directors glanced at
Ryder, but his face was expressionless as marble. Apparently he took
not the slightest interest in this matter which so agitated his
Another director rose. He was a better speaker than Mr. Grimsby, but
his voice had a hard, rasping quality that smote the ears unpleasantly.
"Mr. Chairman, none of us can deny what Mr. Grimsby has just put before
us so vividly. We are threatened not with one, but with a hundred such
suits, unless something is done either to placate the public or to
render its attacks harmless. Rightly or wrongly, the railroad is hated
by the people, yet we are only what railroad conditions compel us to
be. With the present fierce competition, no fine question of ethics can
enter into our dealings as a business organization. With an irritated
public and press on one side, and a hostile judiciary on the other, the
outlook certainly is far from bright. But is the judiciary hostile? Is
it not true that we have been singularly free from litigation until
recently, and that most of the decisions were favourable to the road?
Judge Rossmore is the real danger. While he is on the bench the road is
not safe. Yet all efforts to reach him have failed and will fail. I do
not take any stock in the newspaper stories regarding Judge Rossmore.
They are preposterous. Judge Rossmore is too strong a man to be got rid
of so easily."
The speaker sat down and another rose, his arguments being merely a
reiteration of those already heard. Ryder did not listen to what was
being said. Why should he? Was he not familiar with every possible
phase of the game? Better than these men who merely talked, he was
planning how the railroad and all his other interests could get rid of
this troublesome judge.
It was true. He who controlled legislatures and dictated to Supreme
Court judges had found himself powerless when each turn of the legal
machinery had brought him face to face with Judge Rossmore. Suit after
suit had been decided against him and the interests he represented, and
each time it was Judge Rossmore who had handed down the decision. So
for years these two men had fought a silent but bitter duel in which
principle on the one side and attempted corruption on the other were
the gauge of battle. Judge Rossmore fought with the weapons which his
oath and the law directed him to use, Ryder with the only weapons he
understood—bribery and trickery. And each time it had been Rossmore
who had emerged triumphant. Despite every manoeuvre Ryder's experience
could suggest, notwithstanding every card that could be played to
undermine his credit and reputation, Judge Rossmore stood higher in the
country's confidence than when he was first appointed.
So when Ryder found he could not corrupt this honest judge with gold,
he decided to destroy him with calumny. He realized that the sordid
methods which had succeeded with other judges would never prevail with
Rossmore, so he plotted to take away from this man the one thing he
cherished most—his honour. He would ruin him by defaming his
character, and so skilfully would he accomplish his work that the judge
himself would realize the hopelessness of resistance. No scruples
embarrassed Ryder in arriving at this determination. From his point of
view he was fully justified. "Business is business. He hurts my
interests; therefore I remove him." So he argued, and he considered it
no more wrong to wreck the happiness of this honourable man than he
would to have shot a burglar in self-defence. So having thus
tranquillized his conscience he had gone to work in his usually
thorough manner, and his success had surpassed the most sanguine
This is what he had done.
Like many of our public servants whose labours are compensated only in
niggardly fashion by an inconsiderate country, Judge Rossmore was a man
of but moderate means. His income as Justice of the Supreme Court was
$12,000 a year, but for a man in his position, having a certain
appearance to keep up, it little more than kept the wolf from the door.
He lived quietly but comfortably in New York City with his wife and his
daughter Shirley, an attractive young woman who had graduated from
Vassar and had shown a marked taste for literature. The daughter's
education had cost a good deal of money, and this, together with life
insurance and other incidentals of keeping house in New York, had about
taken all he had. Yet he had managed to save a little, and those years
when he could put by a fifth of his salary the judge considered himself
lucky. Secretly, he was proud of his comparative poverty. At least the
world could never ask him "where he got it."
Ryder was well acquainted with Judge Rossmore's private means. The two
men had met at a dinner, and although Ryder had tried to cultivate the
acquaintance, he never received much encouragement. Ryder's son
Jefferson, too, had met Miss Shirley Rossmore and been much attracted
to her, but the father having more ambitious plans for his heir quickly
discouraged all attentions in that direction. He himself, however,
continued to meet the judge casually, and one evening he contrived to
broach the subject of profitable investments. The judge admitted that
by careful hoarding and much stinting he had managed to save a few
thousand dollars which he was anxious to invest in something good.
Quick as the keen-eyed vulture swoops down on its prey the wily
financier seized the opportunity thus presented. And he took so much
trouble in answering the judge's inexperienced questions, and generally
made himself so agreeable, that the judge found himself regretting that
he and Ryder had, by force of circumstances, been opposed to each other
in public life so long. Ryder strongly recommended the purchase of
Alaskan Mining stock, a new and booming enterprise which had lately
become very active in the market. Ryder said he had reasons to believe
that the stock would soon advance, and now there was an opportunity to
get it cheap.
A few days after he had made the investment the judge was surprised to
receive certificates of stock for double the amount he had paid for. At
the same time he received a letter from the secretary of the company
explaining that the additional stock was pool stock and not to be
marketed at the present time. It was in the nature of a bonus to which
he was entitled as one of the early shareholders. The letter was full
of verbiage and technical details of which the judge understood
nothing, but he thought it very liberal of the company, and putting the
stock away in his safe soon forgot all about it. Had he been a business
man he would have scented peril. He would have realized that he had now
in his possession $50,000 worth of stock for which he had not paid a
cent, and furthermore had deposited it when a reorganization came.
But the judge was sincerely grateful for Ryder's apparently
disinterested advice and wrote two letters to him, one in which he
thanked him for the trouble he had taken, and another in which he asked
him if he was sure the company was financially sound, as the investment
he contemplated making represented all his savings. He added in the
second letter that he had received stock for double the amount of his
investment, and that being a perfect child in business transactions he
had been unable to account for the extra $50,000 worth until the
secretary of the company had written him assuring him that everything
was in order. These letters Ryder kept.
From that time on the Alaskan Mining Company underwent mysterious
changes. New capitalists gained control and the name was altered to the
Great Northwestern Mining Company. Then it became involved in
litigation, and one suit, the outcome of which meant millions to the
company, was carried to the Supreme Court, where Judge Rossmore was
sitting. The judge had by this time forgotten all about the company in
which he owned stock. He did not even recall its name. He only knew
vaguely that it was a mine and that it was situated in Alaska. Could he
dream that the Great Northwestern Mining Company and the company to
which he had entrusted his few thousands were one and the same? In
deciding on the merits of the case presented to him right seemed to him
to be plainly with the Northwestern, and he rendered a decision to that
effect. It was an important decision, involving a large sum, and for a
day or two it was talked about. But as it was the opinion of the most
learned and honest judge on the bench no one dreamed of questioning it.
But very soon ugly paragraphs began to appear in the newspapers. One
paper asked if it were true that Judge Rossmore owned stock in the
Great Northwestern Mining Company which had recently benefited so
signally by his decision. Interviewed by a reporter, Judge Rossmore
indignantly denied being interested in any way in the company.
Thereupon the same paper returned to the attack, stating that the judge
must surely be mistaken as the records showed a sale of stock to him at
the time the company was known as the Alaskan Mining Company. When he
read this the judge was overwhelmed. It was true then! They had not
slandered him. It was he who had lied, but how innocently—how
His daughter Shirley, who was his greatest friend and comfort, was then
in Europe. She had gone to the Continent to rest, after working for
months on a novel which she had just published. His wife, entirely
without experience in business matters and somewhat of an invalid, was
helpless to advise him. But to his old and tried friend, ex-Judge
Stott, Judge Rossmore explained the facts as they were. Stott shook his
head. "It's a conspiracy!" he cried. "And John B. Ryder is behind it."
Rossmore refused to believe that any man could so deliberately try to
encompass another's destruction, but when more newspaper stories came
out he began to realize that Stott was right and that his enemies had
indeed dealt him a deadly blow. One newspaper boldly stated that Judge
Rossmore was down on the mining company's books for $50,000 more stock
than he had paid for, and it went on to ask if this were payment for
the favourable decision just rendered. Rossmore, helpless, child-like
as he was in business matters, now fully realized the seriousness of
his position. "My God! My God!" he cried, as he bowed his head down on
his desk. And for a whole day he remained closeted in his library, no
one venturing near him.
As John Ryder sat there sphinx-like at the head of the directors' table
he reviewed all this in his mind. His own part in the work was now done
and well done, and he had come to this meeting to-day to tell them of
The speaker, to whom he had paid such scant attention, resumed his
seat, and there followed a pause and an intense silence which was
broken only by the pattering of the rain against the big windows. The
directors turned expectantly to Ryder, waiting for him to speak. What
could the Colossus do now to save the situation? Cries of "the Chair!
the Chair!" arose on every side. Senator Roberts leaned over to Ryder
and whispered something in his ear.
With an acquiescent gesture, John Ryder tapped the table with his gavel
and rose to address his fellow directors. Instantly the room was silent
again as the tomb. One might have heard a pin drop, so intense was the
attention. All eyes were fixed on the chairman. The air itself seemed
charged with electricity, that needed but a spark to set it ablaze.
Speaking deliberately and dispassionately, the Master Dissembler began.
They had all listened carefully, he said, to what had been stated by
previous speakers. The situation no doubt was very critical, but they
had weathered worse storms and he had every reason to hope they would
outlive this storm. It was true that public opinion was greatly
incensed against the railroads and, indeed, against all organized
capital, and was seeking to injure them through the courts. For a time
this agitation would hurt business and lessen the dividends, for it
meant not only smaller annual earnings but that a lot of money must be
spent in Washington.
The eyes of the listeners, who were hanging on every word,
involuntarily turned in the direction of Senator Roberts, but the
latter, at that moment busily engaged in rummaging among a lot of
papers, seemed to have missed this significant allusion to the road's
expenses in the District of Columbia. Ryder continued:
In his experience such waves of reform were periodical and soon wear
themselves out, when things go on just as they did before. Much of the
agitation, doubtless, was a strike for graft. They would have to go
down in their pockets, he supposed, and then these yellow newspapers
and these yellow magazines that were barking at their heels would let
them go. But in regard to the particular case now at issue—this
Auburndale decision—there had been no way of preventing it. Influence
had been used, but to no effect. The thing to do now was to prevent any
such disasters in future by removing the author of them.
The directors bent eagerly forward. Had Ryder really got some plan up
his sleeve after all? The faces around the table looked brighter, and
the directors cleared their throats and settled themselves down in
their chairs as audiences do in the theatre when the drama is reaching
The board, continued Ryder with icy calmness, had perhaps heard, and
also seen in the newspapers, the stories regarding Judge Rossmore and
his alleged connection with the Great Northwestern Company. Perhaps
they had not believed these stories. It was only natural. He had not
believed them himself. But he had taken the trouble to inquire into the
matter very carefully, and he regretted to say that the stories were
true. In fact, they were no longer denied by Judge Rossmore himself.
The directors looked at each other in amazement. Gasps of astonishment,
incredulity, satisfaction were heard all over the room. The rumours
were true, then? Was it possible? Incredible!
Investigation, Ryder went on, had shown that Judge Rossmore was not
only interested in the company in whose favour, as Judge of the Supreme
Court, he had rendered an important decision, but what was worse, he
had accepted from that company a valuable gift—that is, $50,000 worth
of stock—for which he had given absolutely nothing in return unless,
as some claimed, the weight of his influence on the bench. These facts
were very ugly and so unanswerable that Judge Rossmore did not attempt
to answer them, and the important news which he, the chairman, had to
announce to his fellow-directors that afternoon, was that Judge
Rossmore's conduct would be made the subject of an inquiry by Congress.
This was the spark that was needed to ignite the electrically charged
air. A wild cry of triumph went up from this band of jackals only too
willing to fatten their bellies at the cost of another man's ruin, and
one director, in his enthusiasm, rose excitedly from his chair and
demanded a vote of thanks for John Ryder.
Ryder coldly opposed the motion. No thanks were due to him, he said
deprecatingly, nor did he think the occasion called for congratulations
of any kind. It was surely a sad spectacle to see this honoured judge,
this devoted father, this blameless citizen threatened with ruin and
disgrace on account of one false step. Let them rather sympathize with
him and his family in their misfortune. He had little more to tell. The
Congressional inquiry would take place immediately, and in all
probability a demand would be made upon the Senate for Judge Rossmore's
impeachment. It was, he added, almost unnecessary for him to remind the
Board that, in the event of impeachment, the adverse decision in the
Auburndale case would be annulled and the road would be entitled to a
Ryder sat down, and pandemonium broke loose, the delighted directors
tumbling over each other in their eagerness to shake hands with the man
who had saved them. Ryder had given no hint that he had been a factor
in the working up of this case against their common enemy, in fact he
had appeared to sympathise with him, but the directors knew well that
he and he alone had been the master mind which had brought about the
On a motion to adjourn, the meeting broke up, and everyone began to
troop towards the elevators. Outside the rain was now coming down in
torrents and the lights that everywhere dotted the great city only
paled when every few moments a vivid flash of lightning rent the
Ryder and Senator Roberts went down in the elevator together. When they
reached the street the senator inquired in a low tone:
"Do you think they really believed Rossmore was influenced in his
Ryder glanced from the lowering clouds overhead to his electric
brougham which awaited him at the curb and replied indifferently:
"Not they. They don't care. All they want to believe is that he is to
be impeached. The man was dangerous and had to be removed—no matter by
what means. He is our enemy—my enemy—and I never give quarter to my
As he spoke his prognathous jaw snapped to with a click-like sound, and
in his eyes now coal-black were glints of fire. At the same instant
there was a blinding flash, accompanied by a terrific crash, and the
splinters of the flag-pole on the building opposite, which had been
struck by a bolt, fell at their feet.
"A good or a bad omen?" asked the senator with a nervous laugh. He was
secretly afraid of lightning but was ashamed to admit it.
"A bad omen for Judge Rossmore!" rejoined Ryder coolly, as he slammed
to the door of the cab, and the two men drove rapidly off in the
direction of Fifth Avenue.
Of all the spots on this fair, broad earth where the jaded globe
wanderer, surfeited with hackneyed sight-seeing, may sit in perfect
peace and watch the world go by, there is none more fascinating nor one
presenting a more brilliant panorama of cosmopolitan life than that
famous corner on the Paris boulevards, formed by the angle of the
Boulevard des Capucines and the Place de l'Opera. Here, on the
"terrace" of the Cafe de la Paix, with its white and gold facade and
long French windows, and its innumerable little marble-topped tables
and rattan chairs, one may sit for hours at the trifling expense of a
few sous, undisturbed even by the tip-seeking garcon, and, if one
happens to be a student of human nature, find keen enjoyment in
observing the world-types, representing every race and nationality
under the sun, that pass and re-pass in a steady, never ceasing,
exhaustless stream. The crowd surges to and fro, past the little
tables, occasionally toppling over a chair or two in the crush, moving
up or down the great boulevards, one procession going to the right, in
the direction of the Church of the Madeleine, the other to the left
heading toward the historic Bastille, both really going nowhere in
particular, but ambling gently and good humouredly along enjoying the
Paris, queen of cities! Light-hearted, joyous, radiant Paris—the
playground of the nations, the Mecca of the pleasure-seekers, the city
beautiful! Paris—the siren, frankly immoral, always seductive, ever
caressing! City of a thousand political convulsions, city of a million
crimes—her streets have run with human blood, horrors unspeakable have
stained her history, civil strife has scarred her monuments, the German
conqueror insolently has bivouaced within her walls. Yet, like a virgin
undefiled, she shows no sign of storm and stress, she offers her
dimpled cheek to the rising sun, and when fall the shadows of night and
a billion electric bulbs flash in the siren's crown, her resplendent,
matchless beauty dazzles the world!
As the supreme reward of virtue, the good American is promised a visit
to Paris when he dies. Those, however, of our sagacious fellow
countrymen who can afford to make the trip, usually manage to see
Lutetia before crossing the river Styx. Most Americans like Paris—some
like it so well that they have made it their permanent home—although
it must be added that in their admiration they rarely include the
Frenchman. For that matter, we are not as a nation particularly fond of
any foreigner, largely because we do not understand him, while the
foreigner for his part is quite willing to return the compliment. He
gives the Yankee credit for commercial smartness, which has built up
America's great material prosperity; but he has the utmost contempt for
our acquaintance with art, and no profound respect for us as scientists.
Is it not indeed fortunate that every nation finds itself superior to
its neighbour? If this were not so each would be jealous of the other,
and would cry with envy like a spoiled child who cannot have the moon
to play with. Happily, therefore, for the harmony of the world, each
nation cordially detests the other and the much exploited "brotherhood
of man" is only a figure of speech. The Englishman, confident that he
is the last word of creation, despises the Frenchman, who, in turn,
laughs at the German, who shows open contempt for the Italian, while
the American, conscious of his superiority to the whole family of
nations, secretly pities them all.
The most serious fault which the American—whose one god is Mammon and
chief characteristic hustle—has to find with his French brother is
that he enjoys life too much, is never in a hurry and, what to the
Yankee mind is hardly respectable, has a habit of playing dominoes
during business hours. The Frenchman retorts that his American brother,
clever person though he be, has one or two things still to learn. He
has, he declares, no philosophy of life. It is true that he has learned
the trick of making money, but in the things which go to satisfy the
soul he is still strangely lacking. He thinks he is enjoying life, when
really he is ignorant of what life is. He admits it is not the
American's fault, for he has never been taught how to enjoy life. One
must be educated to that as everything else. All the American is taught
is to be in a perpetual hurry and to make money no matter how. In this
mad daily race for wealth, he bolts his food, not stopping to masticate
it properly, and consequently suffers all his life from dyspepsia. So
he rushes from the cradle to the grave, and what's the good, since he
must one day die like all the rest?
And what, asks the foreigner, has the American hustler accomplished
that his slower-going Continental brother has not done as well? Are
finer cities to be found in America than in Europe, do Americans paint
more beautiful pictures, or write more learned or more entertaining
books, has America made greater progress in science? Is it not a fact
that the greatest inventors and scientists of our time—Marconi, who
gave to the world wireless telegraphy, Professor Curie, who discovered
radium, Pasteur, who found a cure for rabies, Santos-Dumont, who has
almost succeeded in navigating the air, Professor Rontgen who
discovered the X-ray—are not all these immortals Europeans? And those
two greatest mechanical inventions of our day, the automobile and the
submarine boat, were they not first introduced and perfected in France
before we in America woke up to appreciate their use? Is it, therefore,
not possible to take life easily and still achieve?
The logic of these arguments, set forth in Le Soir in an article on the
New World, appealed strongly to Jefferson Ryder as he sat in front of
the Cafe de la Paix, sipping a sugared Vermouth. It was five o'clock,
the magic hour of the aperitif, when the glutton taxes his wits to
deceive his stomach and work up an appetite for renewed gorging. The
little tables were all occupied with the usual before-dinner crowd.
There were a good many foreigners, mostly English and Americans and a
few Frenchmen, obviously from the provinces, with only a sprinkling of
Jefferson's acquaintance with the French language was none too
profound, and he had to guess at half the words in the article, but he
understood enough to follow the writer's arguments. Yes, it was quite
true, he thought, the American idea of life was all wrong. What was the
sense of slaving all one's life, piling up a mass of money one cannot
possibly spend, when there is only one life to live? How much saner the
man who is content with enough and enjoys life while he is able to.
These Frenchmen, and indeed all the Continental nations, had solved the
problem. The gaiety of their cities, and this exuberant joy of life
they communicated to all about them, were sufficient proofs of it.
Fascinated by the gay scene around him Jefferson laid the newspaper
aside. To the young American, fresh from prosaic money-mad New York,
the City of Pleasure presented indeed a novel and beautiful spectacle.
How different, he mused, from his own city with its one fashionable
thoroughfare—Fifth Avenue—monotonously lined for miles with hideous
brownstone residences, and showing little real animation except during
the Saturday afternoon parade when the activities of the smart set,
male and female, centred chiefly in such exciting diversions as going
to Huyler's for soda, taking tea at the Waldorf, and trying to outdo
each other in dress and show. New York certainly was a dull place with
all its boasted cosmopolitanism. There was no denying that. Destitute
of any natural beauty, handicapped by its cramped geographical position
between two rivers, made unsightly by gigantic sky-scrapers and that
noisy monstrosity the Elevated Railroad, having no intellectual
interests, no art interests, no interest in anything not immediately
connected with dollars, it was a city to dwell in and make money in,
but hardly a city to LIVE in. The millionaires were building
white-marble palaces, taxing the ingenuity and the originality of the
native architects, and thus to some extent relieving the general
ugliness and drab commonplaceness, while the merchant princes had begun
to invade the lower end of the avenue with handsome shops. But in spite
of all this, in spite of its pretty girls—and Jefferson insisted that
in this one important particular New York had no peer—in spite of its
comfortable theatres and its wicked Tenderloin, and its Rialto made so
brilliant at night by thousands of elaborate electric signs, New York
still had the subdued air of a provincial town, compared with the
exuberant gaiety, the multiple attractions, the beauties, natural and
artificial, of cosmopolitan Paris.
The boulevards were crowded, as usual at that hour, and the crush of
both vehicles and pedestrians was so great as to permit of only a
snail-like progress. The clumsy three-horse
omnibuses—Madeleine-Bastille—crowded inside and out with passengers
and with their neatly uniformed drivers and conductors, so different in
appearance and manner from our own slovenly street-car rowdies, were
endeavouring to breast a perfect sea of fiacres which, like a swarm of
mosquitoes, appeared to be trying to go in every direction at once,
their drivers vociferating torrents of vituperous abuse on every man,
woman or beast unfortunate enough to get in their way. As a dispenser
of unspeakable profanity, the Paris cocher has no equal. He is unique,
no one can approach him. He also enjoys the reputation of being the
worst driver in the world. If there is any possible way in which he can
run down a pedestrian or crash into another vehicle he will do it,
probably for the only reason that it gives him another opportunity to
display his choice stock of picturesque expletives.
But it was a lively, good-natured crowd and the fashionably gowned
women and the well-dressed men, the fakirs hoarsely crying their
catch-penny devices, the noble boulevards lined as far as the eye could
reach with trees in full foliage, the magnificent Opera House with its
gilded dome glistening in the warm sunshine of a June afternoon, the
broad avenue directly opposite, leading in a splendid straight line to
the famous Palais Royal, the almost dazzling whiteness of the houses
and monuments, the remarkable cleanliness and excellent condition of
the sidewalks and streets, the gaiety and richness of the shops and
restaurants, the picturesque kiosks where they sold newspapers and
flowers—all this made up a picture so utterly unlike anything he was
familiar with at home that Jefferson sat spellbound, delighted.
Yes, it was true, he thought, the foreigner had indeed learned the
secret of enjoying life. There was assuredly something else in the
world beyond mere money-getting. His father was a slave to it, but he
would never be. He was resolved on that. Yet, with all his ideas of
emancipation and progress, Jefferson was a thoroughly practical young
man. He fully understood the value of money, and the possession of it
was as sweet to him as to other men. Only he would never soil his soul
in acquiring it dishonourably. He was convinced that society as at
present organized was all wrong and that the feudalism of the middle
ages had simply given place to a worse form of slavery—capitalistic
driven labour—which had resulted in the actual iniquitous conditions,
the enriching of the rich and the impoverishment of the poor. He was
familiar with the socialistic doctrines of the day and had taken a keen
interest in this momentous question, this dream of a regenerated
mankind. He had read Karl Marx and other socialistic writers, and while
his essentially practical mind could hardly approve all their programme
for reorganizing the State, some of which seemed to him utopian,
extravagant and even undesirable, he realised that the socialistic
movement was growing rapidly all over the world and the day was not far
distant when in America, as to-day in Germany and France, it would be a
formidable factor to reckon with.
But until the socialistic millennium arrived and society was
reorganized, money, he admitted, would remain the lever of the world,
the great stimulus to effort. Money supplied not only the necessities
of life but also its luxuries, everything the material desire craved
for, and so long as money had this magic purchasing power, so long
would men lie and cheat and rob and kill for its possession. Was life
worth living without money? Could one travel and enjoy the glorious
spectacles Nature affords—the rolling ocean, the majestic mountains,
the beautiful lakes, the noble rivers—without money? Could the
book-lover buy books, the art-lover purchase pictures? Could one have
fine houses to live in, or all sorts of modern conveniences to add to
one's comfort, without money? The philosophers declared contentment to
be happiness, arguing that the hod-carrier was likely to be happier in
his hut than the millionaire in his palace; but was not that mere
animal contentment, the happiness which knows no higher state, the
ignorance of one whose eyes have never been raised to the heights?
No, Jefferson was no fool. He loved money for what pleasure,
intellectual or physical, it could give him, but he would never allow
money to dominate his life as his father had done. His father, he knew
well, was not a happy man, neither happy himself nor respected by the
world. He had toiled all his life to make his vast fortune and now he
toiled to take care of it. The galley slave led a life of luxurious
ease compared with John Burkett Ryder. Baited by the yellow newspapers
and magazines, investigated by State committees, dogged by
process-servers, haunted by beggars, harassed by blackmailers,
threatened by kidnappers, frustrated in his attempts to bestow charity
by the cry "tainted money"—certainly the lot of the world's richest
man was far from being an enviable one.
That is why Jefferson had resolved to strike out for himself. He had
warded off the golden yoke which his father proposed to put on his
shoulders, declining the lucrative position made for him in the Empire
Trading Company, and he had gone so far as to refuse also the private
income his father offered to settle on him. He would earn his own
living. A man who has his bread buttered for him seldom accomplishes
anything he had said, and while his father had appeared to be angry at
this open opposition to his will, he was secretly pleased at his son's
grit. Jefferson was thoroughly in earnest. If needs be, he would forego
the great fortune that awaited him rather than be forced into
questionable business methods against which his whole manhood revolted.
Jefferson Ryder felt strongly about these matters, and gave them more
thought than would be expected of most young men with his
opportunities. In fact, he was unusually serious for his age. He was
not yet thirty, but he had done a great deal of reading, and he took a
keen interest in all the political and sociological questions of the
hour. In personal appearance, he was the type of man that both men and
women like—tall and athletic looking, with smooth face and clean-cut
features. He had the steel-blue eyes and the fighting jaw of his
father, and when he smiled he displayed two even rows of very white
teeth. He was popular with men, being manly, frank and cordial in his
relations with them, and women admired him greatly, although they were
somewhat intimidated by his grave and serious manner. The truth was
that he was rather diffident with women, largely owing to lack of
experience with them.
He had never felt the slightest inclination for business. He had the
artistic temperament strongly developed, and his personal tastes had
little in common with Wall Street and its feverish stock manipulating.
When he was younger, he had dreamed of a literary or art career. At one
time he had even thought of going on the stage. But it was to art that
he turned finally. From an early age he had shown considerable skill as
a draughtsman, and later a two years' course at the Academy of Design
convinced him that this was his true vocation. He had begun by
illustrating for the book publishers and for the magazines, meeting at
first with the usual rebuffs and disappointments, but, refusing to be
discouraged, he had kept on and soon the tide turned. His drawings
began to be accepted. They appeared first in one magazine, then in
another, until one day, to his great joy, he received an order from an
important firm of publishers for six washdrawings to be used in
illustrating a famous novel. This was the beginning of his real
success. His illustrations were talked about almost as much as the
book, and from that time on everything was easy. He was in great demand
by the publishers, and very soon the young artist, who had begun his
career of independence on nothing a year so to speak, found himself in
a handsomely appointed studio in Bryant Park, with more orders coming
in than he could possibly fill, and enjoying an income of little less
than $5,000 a year. The money was all the sweeter to Jefferson in that
he felt he had himself earned every cent of it. This summer he was
giving himself a well-deserved vacation, and he had come to Europe
partly to see Paris and the other art centres about which his fellow
students at the Academy raved, but principally—although this he did
not acknowledge even to himself—to meet in Paris a young woman in whom
he was more than ordinarily interested—Shirley Rossmore, daughter of
Judge Rossmore, of the United States Supreme Court, who had come abroad
to recuperate after the labours on her new novel, "The American
Octopus," a book which was then the talk of two hemispheres.
Jefferson had read half a dozen reviews of it in as many American
papers that afternoon at the New York Herald's reading room in the
Avenue de l'Opera, and he chuckled with glee as he thought how
accurately this young woman had described his father. The book had been
published under the pseudonym "Shirley Green," and he alone had been
admitted into the secret of authorship. The critics all conceded that
it was the book of the year, and that it portrayed with a pitiless pen
the personality of the biggest figure in the commercial life of
America. "Although," wrote one reviewer, "the leading character in the
book is given another name, there can be no doubt that the author
intended to give to the world a vivid pen portrait of John Burkett
Ryder. She has succeeded in presenting a remarkable character-study of
the most remarkable man of his time."
He was particularly pleased with the reviews, not only for Miss
Rossmore's sake, but also because his own vanity was gratified. Had he
not collaborated on the book to the extent of acquainting the author
with details of his father's life, and his characteristics, which no
outsider could possibly have learned? There had been no disloyalty to
his father in doing this. Jefferson admired his father's smartness, if
he could not approve his methods. He did not consider the book an
attack on his father, but rather a powerfully written pen picture of an
Jefferson had met Shirley Rossmore two years before at a meeting of the
Schiller Society, a pseudo-literary organization gotten up by a lot of
old fogies for no useful purpose, and at whose monthly meetings the
poet who gave the society its name was probably the last person to be
discussed. He had gone out of curiosity, anxious to take in all the
freak shows New York had to offer, and he had been introduced to a tall
girl with a pale, thoughtful face and firm mouth. She was a writer,
Miss Rossmore told him, and this was her first visit also to the
evening receptions of the Schiller Society. Half apologetically she
added that it was likely to be her last, for, frankly, she was bored to
death. But she explained that she had to go to these affairs, as she
found them useful in gathering material for literary use. She studied
types and eccentric characters, and this seemed to her a capital
hunting ground. Jefferson, who, as a rule, was timid with girls and
avoided them, found this girl quite unlike the others he had known. Her
quiet, forceful demeanour appealed to him strongly, and he lingered
with her, chatting about his work, which had so many interests in
common with her own, until refreshments were served, when the affair
broke up. This first meeting had been followed by a call at the
Rossmore residence, and the acquaintance had kept up until Jefferson,
for the first time since he came to manhood, was surprised and somewhat
alarmed at finding himself strangely and unduly interested in a person
of the opposite sex.
The young artist's courteous manner, his serious outlook on life, his
high moral principles, so rarely met with nowadays in young men of his
age and class, could hardly fail to appeal to Shirley, whose ideals of
men had been somewhat rudely shattered by those she had hitherto met.
Above all, she demanded in a man the refinement of the true gentleman,
together with strength of character and personal courage. That
Jefferson Ryder came up to this standard she was soon convinced. He was
certainly a gentleman: his views on a hundred topics of the hour
expressed in numerous conversations assured her as to his principles,
while a glance at his powerful physique left no doubt possible as to
his courage. She rightly guessed that this was no poseur trying to make
an impression and gain her confidence. There was an unmistakable ring
of sincerity in all his words, and his struggle at home with his
father, and his subsequent brave and successful fight for his own
independence and self-respect, more than substantiated all her
theories. And the more Shirley let her mind dwell on Jefferson Ryder
and his blue eyes and serious manner, the more conscious she became
that the artist was encroaching more upon her thoughts and time than
was good either for her work or for herself.
So their casual acquaintance grew into a real friendship and
comradeship. Further than that Shirley promised herself it should never
go. Not that Jefferson had given her the slightest hint that he
entertained the idea of making her his wife one day, only she was
sophisticated enough to know the direction in which run the minds of
men who are abnormally interested in one girl, and long before this
Shirley had made up her mind that she would never marry. Firstly, she
was devoted to her father and could not bear the thought of ever
leaving him; secondly, she was fascinated by her literary work and she
was practical enough to know that matrimony, with its visions of
slippers and cradles, would be fatal to any ambition of that kind. She
liked Jefferson immensely—more, perhaps, than any man she had yet
met—and she did not think any the less of him because of her resolve
not to get entangled in the meshes of Cupid. In any case he had not
asked her to marry him—perhaps the idea was far from his thoughts.
Meantime, she could enjoy his friendship freely without fear of
When, therefore, she first conceived the idea of portraying in the
guise of fiction the personality of John Burkett Ryder, the Colossus of
finance whose vast and ever-increasing fortune was fast becoming a
public nuisance, she naturally turned to Jefferson for assistance. She
wanted to write a book that would be talked about, and which at the
same time would open the eyes of the public to this growing peril in
their midst—this monster of insensate and unscrupulous greed who, by
sheer weight of his ill-gotten gold, was corrupting legislators and
judges and trying to enslave the nation. The book, she argued, would
perform a public service in awakening all to the common danger.
Jefferson fully entered into her views and had furnished her with the
information regarding his father that she deemed of value. The book had
proven a success beyond their most sanguine expectations, and Shirley
had come to Europe for a rest after the many weary months of work that
it took to write it.
The acquaintance of his son with the daughter of Judge Rossmore had not
escaped the eagle eye of Ryder, Sr., and much to the financier's
annoyance, and even consternation, he had ascertained that Jefferson
was a frequent caller at the Rossmore home. He immediately jumped to
the conclusion that this could mean only one thing, and fearing what he
termed "the consequences of the insanity of immature minds," he had
summoned Jefferson peremptorily to his presence. He told his son that
all idea of marriage in that quarter was out of the question for two
reasons: One was that Judge Rossmore was his most bitter enemy, the
other was that he had hoped to see his son, his destined successor,
marry a woman of whom he, Ryder, Sr., could approve. He knew of such a
woman, one who would make a far more desirable mate than Miss Rossmore.
He alluded, of course, to Kate Roberts, the pretty daughter of his old
friend, the Senator. The family interests would benefit by this
alliance, which was desirable from every point of view. Jefferson had
listened respectfully until his father had finished and then grimly
remarked that only one point of view had been overlooked—his own. He
did not care for Miss Roberts; he did not think she really cared for
him. The marriage was out of the question. Whereupon Ryder, Sr., had
fumed and raged, declaring that Jefferson was opposing his will as he
always did, and ending with the threat that if his son married Shirley
Rossmore without his consent he would disinherit him.
Jefferson was cogitating on these incidents of the last few months when
suddenly a feminine voice which he quickly recognised called out in
"Hello! Mr. Ryder."
He looked up and saw two ladies, one young, the other middle aged,
smiling at him from an open fiacre which had drawn up to the curb.
Jefferson jumped from his seat, upsetting his chair and startling two
nervous Frenchmen in his hurry, and hastened out, hat in hand.
"Why, Miss Rossmore, what are you doing out driving?" he asked. "You
know you and Mrs. Blake promised to dine with me to-night. I was coming
round to the hotel in a few moments."
Mrs. Blake was a younger sister of Shirley's mother. Her husband had
died a few years previously, leaving her a small income, and when she
had heard of her niece's contemplated trip to Europe she had decided to
come to Paris to meet her and incidentally to chaperone her. The two
women were stopping at the Grand Hotel close by, while Jefferson had
found accommodations at the Athenee.
Shirley explained. Her aunt wanted to go to the dressmaker's, and she
herself was most anxious to go to the Luxembourg Gardens to hear the
music. Would he take her? Then they could meet Mrs. Blake at the hotel
at seven o'clock and all go to dinner. Was he willing?
Was he? Jefferson's face fairly glowed. He ran back to his table on the
terrasse to settle for his Vermouth, astonished the waiter by not
stopping to notice the short change he gave him, and rushed back to the
A dirty little Italian girl, shrewd enough to note the young man's
attention to the younger of the American women, wheedled up to the
carriage and thrust a bunch of flowers in Jefferson's face.
"Achetez des fleurs, monsieur, pour la jolie dame?"
Down went Jefferson's hand in his pocket and, filling the child's hand
with small silver, he flung the flowers in the carriage. Then he turned
inquiringly to Shirley for instructions so he could direct the cocher.
Mrs. Blake said she would get out here. Her dressmaker was close by, in
the Rue Auber, and she would walk back to the hotel to meet them at
seven o'clock. Jefferson assisted her to alight and escorted her as far
as the porte-cochere of the modiste's, a couple of doors away. When he
returned to the carriage, Shirley had already told the coachman where
to go. He got in and the fiacre started.
"Now," said Shirley, "tell me what you have been doing with yourself
Jefferson was busily arranging the faded carriage rug about Shirley,
spending more time in the task perhaps than was absolutely necessary,
and she had to repeat the question.
"Doing?" he echoed with a smile, "I've been doing two things—waiting
impatiently for seven o'clock and incidentally reading the notices of
"Tell me, what do the papers say?"
Settling herself comfortably back in the carriage, Shirley questioned
Jefferson with eagerness, even anxiety. She had been impatiently
awaiting the arrival of the newspapers from "home," for so much
depended on this first effort. She knew her book had been praised in
some quarters, and her publishers had written her that the sales were
bigger every day, but she was curious to learn how it had been received
by the reviewers.
In truth, it had been no slight achievement for a young writer of her
inexperience, a mere tyro in literature, to attract so much attention
with her first book. The success almost threatened to turn her head,
she had told her aunt laughingly, although she was sure it could never
do that. She fully realized that it was the subject rather than the
skill of the narrator that counted in the book's success, also the fact
that it had come out at a timely moment, when the whole world was
talking of the Money Peril. Had not President Roosevelt, in a recent
sensational speech, declared that it might be necessary for the State
to curb the colossal fortunes of America, and was not her hero, John
Burkett Ryder, the richest of them all? Any way they looked at it, the
success of the book was most gratifying.
While she was an attractive, aristocratic-looking girl, Shirley
Rossmore had no serious claims to academic beauty. Her features were
irregular, and the firm and rather thin mouth lines disturbed the
harmony indispensable to plastic beauty. Yet there was in her face
something far more appealing—soul and character. The face of the
merely beautiful woman expresses nothing, promises nothing. It presents
absolutely no key to the soul within, and often there is no soul within
to have a key to. Perfect in its outlines and coloring, it is a delight
to gaze upon, just as is a flawless piece of sculpture, yet the delight
is only fleeting. One soon grows satiated, no matter how beautiful the
face may be, because it is always the same, expressionless and
soulless. "Beauty is only skin deep," said the philosopher, and no
truer dictum was ever uttered. The merely beautiful woman, who
possesses only beauty and nothing else, is kept so busy thinking of her
looks, and is so anxious to observe the impression her beauty makes on
others, that she has neither the time nor the inclination for matters
of greater importance. Sensible men, as a rule, do not lose their
hearts to women whose only assets are their good looks. They enjoy a
flirtation with them, but seldom care to make them their wives. The
marrying man is shrewd enough to realize that domestic virtues will be
more useful in his household economy than all the academic beauty ever
chiselled out of block marble.
Shirley was not beautiful, but hers was a face that never failed to
attract attention. It was a thoughtful and interesting face, with an
intellectual brow and large, expressive eyes, the face of a woman who
had both brain power and ideals, and yet who, at the same time, was in
perfect sympathy with the world. She was fair in complexion, and her
fine brown eyes, alternately reflective and alert, were shaded by long
dark lashes. Her eyebrows were delicately arched, and she had a good
nose. She wore her hair well off the forehead, which was broader than
in the average woman, suggesting good mentality. Her mouth, however,
was her strongest feature. It was well shaped, but there were firm
lines about it that suggested unusual will power. Yet it smiled
readily, and when it did there was an agreeable vision of strong,
healthy-looking teeth of dazzling whiteness. She was a little over
medium height and slender in figure, and carried herself with that
unmistakable air of well-bred independence that bespeaks birth and
culture. She dressed stylishly, and while her gowns were of rich
material, and of a cut suggesting expensive modistes, she was always so
quietly attired and in such perfect taste, that after leaving her one
could never recall what she had on.
At the special request of Shirley, who wanted to get a glimpse of the
Latin Quarter, the driver took a course down the Avenue de l'Opera,
that magnificent thoroughfare which starts at the Opera and ends at the
Theatre Francais, and which, like many others that go to the
beautifying of the capital, the Parisians owe to the much-despised
Napoleon III. The cab, Jefferson told her, would skirt the Palais Royal
and follow the Rue de Rivoli until it came to the Chatelet, when it
would cross the Seine and drive up the Boulevard St. Michel—the
students' boulevard—until it reached the Luxembourg Gardens. Like most
of his kind, the cocker knew less than nothing of the art of driving,
and he ran a reckless, zig-zag flight, in and out, forcing his way
through a confusing maze of vehicles of every description, pulling
first to the right, then to the left, for no good purpose that was
apparent, and averting only by the narrowest of margins half a dozen
bad collisions. At times the fiacre lurched in such alarming fashion
that Shirley was visibly perturbed, but when Jefferson assured her that
all Paris cabs travelled in this crazy fashion and nothing ever
happened, she was comforted.
"Tell me," he repeated, "what do the papers say about the book?"
"Say?" he echoed. "Why, simply that you've written the biggest book of
the year, that's all!"
"Really! Oh, do tell me all they said!" She was fairly excited now, and
in her enthusiasm she grasped Jefferson's broad, sunburnt hand which
was lying outside the carriage rug. He tried to appear unconscious of
the contact, which made his every nerve tingle, as he proceeded to tell
her the gist of the reviews he had read that afternoon.
"Isn't that splendid!" she exclaimed, when he had finished. Then she
"I wonder if your father has seen it?"
Jefferson grinned. He had something on his conscience, and this was a
good opportunity to get rid of it. He replied laconically:
"He probably has read it by this time. I sent him a copy myself."
The instant the words were out of his mouth he was sorry, for Shirley's
face had changed colour.
"You sent him a copy of 'The American Octopus?'" she cried. "Then he'll
guess who wrote the book."
"Oh, no, he won't," rejoined Jefferson calmly. "He has no idea who sent
it to him. I mailed it anonymously."
Shirley breathed a sigh of relief. It was so important that her
identity should remain a secret. As daughter of a Supreme Court judge
she had to be most careful. She would not embarrass her father for
anything in the world. But it was smart of Jefferson to have sent
Ryder, Sr., the book, so she smiled graciously on his son as she asked:
"How do you know he got it? So many letters and packages are sent to
him that he never sees himself."
"Oh, he saw your book all right," laughed Jefferson. "I was around the
house a good deal before sailing, and one day I caught him in the
library reading it."
They both laughed, feeling like mischievous children who had played a
successful trick on the hokey-pokey man. Jefferson noted his
companion's pretty dimples and fine teeth, and he thought how
attractive she was, and stronger and stronger grew the idea within him
that this was the woman who was intended by Nature to share his life.
Her slender hand still covered his broad, sunburnt one, and he fancied
he felt a slight pressure. But he was mistaken. Not the slightest
sentiment entered into Shirley's thoughts of Jefferson. She regarded
him only as a good comrade with whom she had secrets she confided in no
one else. To that extent and to that extent alone he was privileged
above other men. Suddenly he asked her:
"Have you heard from home recently?"
A soft light stole into the girl's face. Home! Ah, that was all she
needed to make her cup of happiness full. Intoxicated with this new
sensation of a first literary success, full of the keen pleasure this
visit to the beautiful city was giving her, bubbling over with the joy
of life, happy in the almost daily companionship of the man she liked
most in the world after her father, there was only one thing
lacking—home! She had left New York only a month before, and she was
homesick already. Her father she missed most. She was fond of her
mother, too, but the latter, being somewhat of a nervous invalid, had
never been to her quite what her father had been. The playmate of her
childhood, companion of her girlhood, her friend and adviser in
womanhood, Judge Rossmore was to his daughter the ideal man and father.
Answering Jefferson's question she said:
"I had a letter from father last week. Everything was going on at home
as when I left. Father says he misses me sadly, and that mother is
ailing as usual."
She smiled, and Jefferson smiled too. They both knew by experience that
nothing really serious ailed Mrs. Rossmore, who was a good deal of a
hypochondriac, and always so filled with aches and pains that, on the
few occasions when she really felt well, she was genuinely alarmed.
The fiacre by this time had emerged from the Rue de Rivoli and was
rolling smoothly along the fine wooden pavement in front of the
historic Conciergerie prison where Marie Antoinette was confined before
her execution. Presently they recrossed the Seine, and the cab, dodging
the tram car rails, proceeded at a smart pace up the "Boul' Mich',"
which is the familiar diminutive bestowed by the students upon that
broad avenue which traverses the very heart of their beloved Quartier
Latin. On the left frowned the scholastic walls of the learned
Sorbonne, in the distance towered the majestic dome of the Pantheon
where Rousseau, Voltaire and Hugo lay buried.
Like most of the principal arteries of the French capital, the
boulevard was generously lined with trees, now in full bloom, and the
sidewalks fairly seethed with a picturesque throng in which mingled
promiscuously frivolous students, dapper shop clerks, sober citizens,
and frisky, flirtatious little ouvrieres, these last being all hatless,
as is characteristic of the work-girl class, but singularly attractive
in their neat black dresses and dainty low-cut shoes. There was also
much in evidence another type of female whose extravagance of costume
and boldness of manner loudly proclaimed her ancient profession.
On either side of the boulevard were shops and cafes, mostly cafes,
with every now and then a brasserie, or beer hall. Seated in front of
these establishments, taking their ease as if beer sampling constituted
the only real interest in their lives, were hundreds of students,
reckless and dare-devil, and suggesting almost anything except serious
study. They all wore frock coats and tall silk hats, and some of the
latter were wonderful specimens of the hatter's art. A few of the more
eccentric students had long hair down to their shoulders, and wore
baggy peg-top trousers of extravagant cut, which hung in loose folds
over their sharp-pointed boots. On their heads were queer plug hats
with flat brims.
Shirley laughed outright and regretted that she did not have her kodak
to take back to America some idea of their grotesque appearance, and
she listened with amused interest as Jefferson explained that these men
were notorious poseurs, aping the dress and manners of the old-time
student as he flourished in the days of Randolph and Mimi and the other
immortal characters of Murger's Bohemia. Nobody took them seriously
except themselves, and for the most part they were bad rhymesters of
decadent verse. Shirley was astonished to see so many of them busily
engaged smoking cigarettes and imbibing glasses of a pale-green
beverage, which Jefferson told her was absinthe.
"When do they read?" she asked. "When do they attend lectures?"
"Oh," laughed Jefferson, "only the old-fashioned students take their
studies seriously. Most of the men you see there are from the
provinces, seeing Paris for the first time, and having their fling.
Incidentally they are studying life. When they have sown their wild
oats and learned all about life—provided they are still alive and have
any money left—they will begin to study books. You would be surprised
to know how many of these young men, who have been sent to the
University at a cost of goodness knows what sacrifices, return to their
native towns in a few months wrecked in body and mind, without having
once set foot in a lecture room, and, in fact, having done nothing
except inscribe their names on the rolls."
Shirley was glad she knew no such men, and if she ever married and had
a son she would pray God to spare her that grief and humiliation. She
herself knew something about the sacrifices parents make to secure a
college education for their children. Her father had sent her to
Vassar. She was a product of the much-sneered-at higher education for
women, and all her life she would be grateful for the advantages given
her. Her liberal education had broadened her outlook on life and
enabled her to accomplish the little she had. When she graduated her
father had left her free to follow her own inclinations. She had little
taste for social distractions, and still she could not remain idle. For
a time she thought of teaching to occupy her mind, but she knew she
lacked the necessary patience, and she could not endure the drudgery of
it, so, having won honors at college in English composition, she
determined to try her hand at literature. She wrote a number of essays
and articles on a hundred different subjects which she sent to the
magazines, but they all came back with politely worded excuses for
their rejection. But Shirley kept right on. She knew she wrote well; it
must be that her subjects were not suitable. So she adopted new
tactics, and persevered until one day came a letter of acceptance from
the editor of one of the minor magazines. They would take the article
offered—a sketch of college life—and as many more in similar vein as
Miss Rossmore could write. This success had been followed by other
acceptances and other commissions, until at the present time she was a
well-known writer for the leading publications. Her great ambition had
been to write a book, and "The American Octopus," published under an
assumed name, was the result.
The cab stopped suddenly in front of beautiful gilded gates. It was the
Luxembourg, and through the tall railings they caught a glimpse of
well-kept lawns, splashing fountains and richly dressed children
playing. From the distance came the stirring strains of a brass band.
The coachman drove up to the curb and Jefferson jumped down, assisting
Shirley to alight. In spite of Shirley's protest Jefferson insisted on
"Combien?" he asked the cocher.
The jehu, a surly, thick-set man with a red face and small, cunning
eyes like a ferret, had already sized up his fares for two sacre
foreigners whom it would be flying in the face of Providence not to
cheat, so with unblushing effrontery he answered:
"Dix francs, Monsieur!" And he held up ten fingers by way of
Jefferson was about to hand up a ten-franc piece when Shirley
indignantly interfered. She would not submit to such an imposition.
There was a regular tariff and she would pay that and nothing more. So,
in better French than was at Jefferson's command, she exclaimed:
"Ten francs? Pourquoi dix francs? I took your cab by the hour. It is
exactly two hours. That makes four francs." Then to Jefferson she
added: "Give him a franc for a pourboire—that makes five francs
Jefferson, obedient to her superior wisdom, held out a five-franc
piece, but the driver shrugged his shoulders disdainfully. He saw that
the moment had come to bluster so he descended from his box fully
prepared to carry out his bluff. He started in to abuse the two
Americans whom in his ignorance he took for English.
"Ah, you sale Anglais! You come to France to cheat the poor Frenchman.
You make me work all afternoon and then pay me nothing. Not with this
coco! I know my rights and I'll get them, too."
All this was hurled at them in a patois French, almost unintelligible
to Shirley, and wholly so to Jefferson. All he knew was that the
fellow's attitude was becoming unbearably insolent and he stepped
forward with a gleam in his eye that might have startled the man had he
not been so busy shaking his fist at Shirley. But she saw Jefferson's
movement and laid her hand on his arm.
"No, no, Mr. Ryder—no scandal, please. Look, people are beginning to
come up! Leave him to me. I know how to manage him."
With this the daughter of a United States Supreme Court judge proceeded
to lay down the law to the representative of the most lazy and
irresponsible class of men ever let loose in the streets of a civilised
community. Speaking with an air of authority, she said:
"Now look here, my man, we have no time to bandy words here with you. I
took your cab at 3.30. It is now 5.30. That makes two hours. The rate
is two francs an hour, or four francs in all. We offer you five francs,
and this includes a franc pourboire. If this settlement does not suit
you we will get into your cab and you will drive us to the nearest
police-station where the argument can be continued."
The man's jaw dropped. He was obviously outclassed. These foreigners
knew the law as well as he did. He had no desire to accept Shirley's
suggestion of a trip to the police-station, where he knew he would get
little sympathy, so, grumbling and giving vent under his breath to a
volley of strange oaths, he grabbed viciously at the five-franc piece
Jefferson held out and, mounting his box, drove off.
Proud of their victory, they entered the gardens, following the
sweet-scented paths until they came to where the music was. The band of
an infantry regiment was playing, and a large crowd had gathered. Many
people were sitting on the chairs provided for visitors for the modest
fee of two sous; others were promenading round and round a great circle
having the musicians in its centre. The dense foliage of the trees
overhead afforded a perfect shelter from the hot rays of the sun, and
the place was so inviting and interesting, so cool and so full of sweet
perfumes and sounds, appealing to and satisfying the senses, that
Shirley wished they had more time to spend there. She was very fond of
a good brass band, especially when heard in the open air. They were
playing Strauss's Blue Danube, and the familiar strains of the
delightful waltz were so infectious that both were seized by a desire
to get up and dance.
There was constant amusement, too, watching the crowd, with its many
original and curious types. There were serious college professors, with
gold-rimmed spectacles, buxom nounous in their uniform cloaks and long
ribbon streamers, nicely dressed children romping merrily but not
noisily, more queer-looking students in shabby frock coats, tight at
the waist, trousers too short, and comical hats, stylishly dressed
women displaying the latest fashions, brilliantly uniformed army
officers strutting proudly, dangling their swords—an attractive and
interesting crowd, so different, thought the two Americans, from the
cheap, evil-smelling, ill-mannered mob of aliens that invades their own
Central Park the days when there is music, making it a nuisance instead
of a pleasure. Here everyone belonged apparently to the better class;
the women and children were richly and fashionably dressed, the
officers looked smart in their multi-coloured uniforms, and, no matter
how one might laugh at the students, there was an atmosphere of
good-breeding and refinement everywhere which Shirley was not
accustomed to see in public places at home. A sprinkling of workmen and
people of the poorer class were to be seen here and there, but they
were in the decided minority. Shirley, herself a daughter of the
Revolution, was a staunch supporter of the immortal principles of
Democracy and of the equality of man before the law. But all other talk
of equality was the greatest sophistry and charlatanism. There could be
no real equality so long as some people were cultured and refined and
others were uneducated and vulgar. Shirley believed in an aristocracy
of brains and soap. She insisted that no clean person, no matter how
good a democrat, should be expected to sit close in public places to
persons who were not on speaking terms with the bath-tub. In America
this foolish theory of a democracy, which insists on throwing all
classes, the clean and the unclean, promiscuously together, was
positively revolting, making travelling in the public vehicles almost
impossible, and it was not much better in the public parks. In
France—also a Republic—where they likewise paraded conspicuously the
clap-trap "Egalite, Fraternite," they managed these things far better.
The French lower classes knew their place. They did not ape the dress,
nor frequent the resorts of those above them in the social scale. The
distinction between the classes was plainly and properly marked, yet
this was not antagonistic to the ideal of true democracy; it had not
prevented the son of a peasant from becoming President of the French
Republic. Each district in Paris had its own amusement, its own
theatres, its own parks. It was not a question of capital refusing to
fraternize with labour, but the very natural desire of persons of
refinement to mingle with clean people rather than to rub elbows with
the Great Unwashed.
"Isn't it delightful here?" said Shirley. "I could stay here forever,
"With you—yes," answered Jefferson, with a significant smile.
Shirley tried to look angry. She strictly discouraged these
conventional, sentimental speeches which constantly flung her sex in
"Now, you know I don't like you to talk that way, Mr. Ryder. It's most
undignified. Please be sensible."
Quite subdued, Jefferson relapsed into a sulky silence. Presently he
"I wish you wouldn't call me Mr. Ryder. I meant to ask you this before.
You know very well that you've no great love for the name, and if you
persist you'll end by including me in your hatred of the hero of your
Shirley looked at him with amused curiosity.
"What do you mean?" she asked. "What do you want me to call you?"
"Oh, I don't know," he stammered, rather intimidated by this
self-possessed young woman who looked him calmly through and through.
"Why not call me Jefferson? Mr. Ryder is so formal."
Shirley laughed outright, a merry, unrestrained peal of honest
laughter, which made the passers-by turn their heads and smile, too,
commenting the while on the stylish appearance of the two Americans
whom they took for sweethearts. After all, reasoned Shirley, he was
right. They had been together now nearly every hour in the day for over
a month. It was absurd to call him Mr. Ryder. So, addressing him with
mock gravity, she said:
"You're right, Mr. Ryder—I mean Jefferson. You're quite right. You are
Jefferson from this time on, only remember"—here she shook her gloved
finger at him warningly—"mind you behave yourself! No more such
sentimental speeches as you made just now."
Jefferson beamed. He felt at least two inches taller, and at that
moment he would not have changed places with any one in the world. To
hide the embarrassment his gratification caused him he pulled out his
watch and exclaimed:
"Why, it's a quarter past six. We shall have all we can do to get back
to the hotel and dress for dinner."
Shirley rose at once, although loath to leave.
"I had no idea it was so late," she said. "How the time flies!" Then
mockingly she added: "Come, Jefferson—be a good boy and find a cab."
They passed out of the Gardens by the gate facing the Theatre de
l'Odeon, where there was a long string of fiacres for hire. They got
into one and in fifteen minutes they were back at the Grand Hotel.
At the office they told Shirley that her aunt had already come in and
gone to her room, so she hurried upstairs to dress for dinner while
Jefferson proceeded to the Hotel de l'Athenee on the same mission. He.
had still twenty-five minutes before dinner time, and he needed only
ten minutes for a wash and to jump into his dress suit, so, instead of
going directly to his hotel, he sat down at the Cafe de la Paix. He was
thirsty, and calling for a vermouth frappe he told the garcon to bring
him also the American papers.
The crowd on the boulevard was denser than ever. The business offices
and some of the shops were closing, and a vast army of employes,
homeward bound, helped to swell the sea of humanity that pushed this
way and that.
But Jefferson had no eyes for the crowd. He was thinking of Shirley.
What singular, mysterious power had this girl acquired over him? He,
who had scoffed at the very idea of marriage only a few months before,
now desired it ardently, anxiously! Yes, that was what his life
lacked—such a woman to be his companion and helpmate! He loved
her—there was no doubt of that. His every thought, waking and
sleeping, was of her, all his plans for the future included her. He
would win her if any man could. But did she care for him? Ah, that was
the cruel, torturing uncertainty! She appeared cold and indifferent,
but perhaps she was only trying him. Certainly she did not seem to
The waiter returned with the vermouth and the newspapers. All he could
find were the London Times, which he pronounced T-e-e-m-s, and some
issues of the New York Herald. The papers were nearly a month old, but
he did not care for that. Jefferson idly turned over the pages of the
Herald. His thoughts were still running on Shirley, and he was paying
little attention to what he was reading. Suddenly, however, his eyes
rested on a headline which made him sit up with a start. It read as
JUDGE ROSSMORE IMPEACHED
JUSTICE OF THE SUPREME COURT TO BE TRIED ON BRIBERY CHARGES
The despatch, which was dated Washington two weeks back, went on to say
that serious charges affecting the integrity of Judge Rossmore had been
made the subject of Congressional inquiry, and that the result of the
inquiry was so grave that a demand for impeachment would be at once
sent to the Senate. It added that the charges grew out of the recent
decision in the Great Northwestern Mining Company case, it being
alleged that Judge Rossmore had accepted a large sum of money on
condition of his handing down a decision favourable to the company.
Jefferson was thunderstruck. He read the despatch over again to make
sure there was no mistake. No, it was very plain—Judge Rossmore of
Madison Avenue. But how preposterous, what a calumny! The one judge on
the bench at whom one could point and say with absolute conviction:
"There goes an honest man!" And this judge was to be tried on a charge
of bribery! What could be the meaning of it? Something terrible must
have happened since Shirley's departure from home, that was certain. It
meant her immediate return to the States and, of course, his own. He
would see what could be done. He would make his father use his great
influence. But how could he tell Shirley? Impossible, he could not! She
would not believe him if he did. She would probably hear from home in
some other way. They might cable. In any case he would say nothing yet.
He paid for his vermouth and hurried away to his hotel to dress.
It was just striking seven when he re-entered the courtyard of the
Grand Hotel. Shirley and Mrs. Blake were waiting for him. Jefferson
suggested having dinner at the Cafe de Paris, but Shirley objected that
as the weather was warm it would be more pleasant to dine in the open
air, so they finally decided on the Pavilion d'Armonville where there
was music and where they could have a little table to themselves in the
They drove up the stately Champs Elysees, past the monumental Arc de
Triomphe, and from there down to the Bois. All were singularly quiet.
Mrs. Blake was worrying about her new gown, Shirley was tired, and
Jefferson could not banish from his mind the terrible news he had just
read. He avoided looking at Shirley until the latter noticed it and
thought she must have offended him in some way. She was more sorry than
she would have him know, for, with all her apparent coldness, Jefferson
was rapidly becoming very indispensable to her happiness.
They dined sumptuously and delightfully with all the luxury of
surroundings and all the delights of cooking that the French culinary
art can perfect. A single glass of champagne had put Shirley in high
spirits and she had tried hard to communicate some of her good humour
to Jefferson who, despite all her efforts, remained quiet and
preoccupied. Finally losing patience she asked him bluntly:
"Jefferson, what's the matter with you to-night? You've been sulky as a
bear all evening."
Pleased to see she had not forgotten their compact of the afternoon in
regard to his name, Jefferson relaxed somewhat and said apologetically:
"Excuse me, I've been feeling a bit seedy lately. I think I need
another sea voyage. That's the only time when I feel really
first-class—when I'm on the water."
The mention of the sea started Shirley to talk about her future plans.
She wasn't going back to America until September. She had arranged to
make a stay of three weeks in London and then she would be free. Some
friends of hers from home, a man and his wife who owned a steam yacht,
were arranging a trip to the Mediterranean, including a run over to
Cairo. They had asked her and Mrs. Blake to go and she was sure they
would ask Jefferson, too. Would he go?
There was no way out of it. Jefferson tried to work up some enthusiasm
for this yachting trip, which he knew very well could never come off,
and it cut him to the heart to see this poor girl joyously making all
these preparations and plans, little dreaming of the domestic calamity
which at that very moment was hanging over her head.
It was nearly ten o'clock when they had finished. They sat a little
longer listening to the gipsy music, weird and barbaric. Very
pointedly, Shirley remarked:
"I for one preferred the music this afternoon."
"Why?" inquired Jefferson, ignoring the petulant note in her voice.
"Because you were more amiable!" she retorted rather crossly.
This was their first misunderstanding, but Jefferson said nothing. He
could not tell her the thoughts and fears that had been haunting him
all night. Soon afterward they re-entered their cab and returned to the
boulevards which were ablaze with light and gaiety. Jefferson suggested
going somewhere else, but Mrs. Blake was tired and Shirley, now quite
irritated at what she considered Jefferson's unaccountable
unsociability, declined somewhat abruptly. But she could never remain
angry long, and when they said good-night she whispered demurely:
"Are you cross with me, Jeff?"
He turned his head away and she saw that his face was singularly drawn
"Cross—no. Good-night. God bless you!" he said, hoarsely gulping down
a lump that rose in his throat. Then grasping her hand he hurried away.
Completely mystified, Shirley and her companion turned to the office to
get the key of their room. As the man handed it to Shirley he passed
her also a cablegram which had just come. She changed colour. She did
not like telegrams. She always had a dread of them, for with her sudden
news was usually bad news. Could this, she thought, explain Jefferson's
strange behaviour? Trembling, she tore open the envelope and read:
Come home at once,
Rolling, tumbling, splashing, foaming water as far as the eye could
reach in every direction. A desolate waste, full of life, movement and
colour, extending to the bleak horizon and like a vast ploughed field
cut up into long and high liquid ridges, all scurrying in one direction
in serried ranks and with incredible speed as if pursued by a fearful
and unseen enemy. Serenely yet boisterously, gracefully yet
resistlessly, the endless waves passed on—some small, others
monstrous, with fleecy white combs rushing down their green sides like
toy Niagaras and with a seething, boiling sound as when flame touches
water. They went by in a stately, never ending procession, going
nowhere, coming from nowhere, but full of dignity and importance, their
breasts heaving with suppressed rage because there was nothing in their
path that they might destroy. The dancing, leaping water reflected
every shade and tint—now a rich green, then a deep blue and again a
dirty gray as the sun hid for a moment behind a cloud, and as a gust of
wind caught the top of the combers decapitating them at one mad rush,
the spray was dashed high in the air, flashing out all the prismatic
colours. Here and yonder, the white caps rose, disappeared and came
again, and the waves grew and then diminished in size. Then others
rose, towering, became larger, majestic, terrible; the milk-like comb
rose proudly, soared a brief moment, then fell ignominiously, and the
wave diminished passed on humiliated. Over head, a few scattered cirrus
clouds flitted lazily across the blue dome of heaven, while a dozen
Mother Carey chickens screamed hoarsely as they circled in the air. The
strong and steady western breeze bore on its powerful pinions the sweet
and eternal music of the wind and sea.
Shirley stood at the rail under the bridge of the ocean greyhound that
was carrying her back to America with all the speed of which her mighty
engines were capable. All day and all night, half naked stokers, so
grimed with oil and coal dust as to lose the slightest semblance to
human beings, feverishly shovelled coal, throwing it rapidly and evenly
over roaring furnaces kept at a fierce white heat. The vast boilers,
shaken by the titanic forces generating in their cavern-like depths,
sent streams of scalding, hissing steam through a thousand valves,
cylinders and pistons, turning wheels and cranks as it distributed the
tremendous power which was driving the steel monster through the seas
at the prodigious speed of four hundred miles in the twenty-four hours.
Like a pulsating heart in some living thing, the mammoth engines
throbbed and panted, and the great vessel groaned and creaked as she
rose and fell to the heavy swell, and again lurched forward in
obedience to each fresh propulsion from her fast spinning screws. Out
on deck, volumes of dense black smoke were pouring from four gigantic
smoke stacks and spread out in the sky like some endless cinder path
leading back over the course the ship had taken.
They were four days out from port. Two days more and they would sight
Sandy Hook, and Shirley would know the worst. She had caught the North
German Lloyd boat at Cherbourg two days after receiving the cablegram
from New York. Mrs. Blake had insisted on coming along in spite of her
niece's protests. Shirley argued that she had crossed alone when
coming; she could go back the same way. Besides, was not Mr. Ryder
returning home on the same ship? He would be company and protection
both. But Mrs. Blake was bent on making the voyage. She had not seen
her sister for many years and, moreover, this sudden return to America
had upset her own plans. She was a poor sailor, yet she loved the ocean
and this was a good excuse for a long trip. Shirley was too exhausted
with worry to offer further resistance and by great good luck the two
women had been able to secure at the last moment a cabin to themselves
amidships. Jefferson, less fortunate, was compelled, to his disgust, to
share a stateroom with another passenger, a fat German brewer who was
returning to Cincinnati, and who snored so loud at night that even the
thumping of the engines was completely drowned by his eccentric nasal
The alarming summons home and the terrible shock she had experienced
the following morning when Jefferson showed her the newspaper article
with its astounding and heart rending news about her father had almost
prostrated Shirley. The blow was all the greater for being so entirely
unlooked for. That the story was true she could not doubt. Her mother
would not have cabled except under the gravest circumstances. What
alarmed Shirley still more was that she had no direct news of her
father. For a moment her heart stood still—suppose the shock of this
shameful accusation had killed him? Her blood froze in her veins, she
clenched her fists and dug her nails into her flesh as she thought of
the dread possibility that she had looked upon him in life for the last
time. She remembered his last kind words when he came to the steamer to
see her off, and his kiss when he said good-bye and she had noticed a
tear of which he appeared to be ashamed. The hot tears welled up in her
own eyes and coursed unhindered down her cheeks.
What could these preposterous and abominable charges mean? What was
this lie they had invented to ruin her father? That he had enemies she
well knew. What strong man had not? Indeed, his proverbial honesty had
made him feared by all evil-doers and on one occasion they had gone so
far as to threaten his life. This new attack was more deadly than
all—to sap and destroy his character, to deliberately fabricate lies
and calumnies which had no foundation whatever. Of course, the
accusation was absurd, the Senate would refuse to convict him, the
entire press would espouse the cause of so worthy a public servant.
Certainly, everything would be done to clear his character. But what
was being done? She could do nothing but wait and wait. The suspense
and anxiety were awful.
Suddenly she heard a familiar step behind her, and Jefferson joined her
at the rail. The wind was due West and blowing half a gale, so where
they were standing—one of the most exposed parts of the ship—it was
difficult to keep one's feet, to say nothing of hearing anyone speak.
There was a heavy sea running, and each approaching wave looked big
enough to engulf the vessel, but as the mass of moving water reached
the bow, the ship rose on it, light and graceful as a bird, shook off
the flying spray as a cat shakes her fur after an unwelcome bath, and
again drove forward as steady and with as little perceptible motion as
a railway train. Shirley was a fairly good sailor and this kind of
weather did not bother her in the least, but when it got very rough she
could not bear the rolling and pitching and then all she was good for
was to lie still in her steamer chair with her eyes closed until the
water was calmer and the pitching ceased.
"It's pretty windy here, Shirley," shouted Jefferson, steadying himself
against a stanchion. "Don't you want to walk a little?"
He had begun to call her by her first name quite naturally, as if it
were a matter of course. Indeed their relations had come to be more
like those of brother and sister than anything else. Shirley was too
much troubled over the news from home to have a mind for other things,
and in her distress she had turned to Jefferson for advice and help as
she would have looked to an elder brother. He had felt this impulse to
confide in him and consult his opinion and it had pleased him more than
he dared betray. He had shown her all the sympathy of which his warm,
generous nature was capable, yet secretly he did not regret that events
had necessitated this sudden return home together on the same ship. He
was sorry for Judge Rossmore, of course, and there was nothing he would
not do on his return to secure a withdrawal of the charges. That his
father would use his influence he had no doubt. But meantime he was
selfish enough to be glad for the opportunity it gave him to be a whole
week alone with Shirley. No matter how much one may be with people in
city or country or even when stopping at the same hotel or house, there
is no place in the world where two persons, especially when they are of
the opposite sex, can become so intimate as on shipboard. The reason is
obvious. The days are long and monotonous. There is nowhere to go,
nothing to see but the ocean, nothing to do but read, talk or
promenade. Seclusion in one's stuffy cabin is out of the question, the
public sitting rooms are noisy and impossible, only a steamer chair on
deck is comfortable and once there snugly wrapped up in a rug it is
surprising how quickly another chair makes its appearance alongside and
how welcome one is apt to make the intruder.
Thus events combined with the weather conspired to bring Shirley and
Jefferson more closely together. The sea had been rough ever since they
sailed, keeping Mrs. Blake confined to her stateroom almost
continuously. They were, therefore, constantly in one another's
company, and slowly, unconsciously, there was taking root in their
hearts the germ of the only real and lasting love—the love born of
something higher than mere physical attraction, the nobler, more
enduring affection that is born of mutual sympathy, association and
"Isn't it beautiful?" exclaimed Shirley ecstatically. "Look at those
great waves out there! See how majestically they soar and how
gracefully they fall!"
"Glorious!" assented Jefferson sharing her enthusiasm. "There's nothing
to compare with it. It's Nature's grandest spectacle. The ocean is the
only place on earth that man has not defiled and spoiled. Those waves
are the same now as they were on the day of creation."
"Not the day of creation. You mean during the aeons of time creation
was evolving," corrected Shirley.
"I meant that of course," assented Jefferson. "When one says 'day' that
is only a form of speech."
"Why not be accurate?" persisted Shirley. "It was the use of that
little word 'day' which has given the theologians so many sleepless
There was a roguish twinkle in her eye. She well knew that he thought
as she did on metaphysical questions, but she could not resist teasing
Like Jefferson, she was not a member of any church, although her nature
was deeply religious. Hers was the religion the soul inculcates, not
that which is learned by rote in the temple. She was a Christian
because she thought Christ the greatest figure in world history, and
also because her own conduct of life was modelled upon Christian
principles and virtues. She was religious for religion's sake and not
for public ostentation. The mystery of life awed her and while her
intelligence could not accept all the doctrines of dogmatic religion
she did not go so far as Jefferson, who was a frank agnostic. She would
not admit that we do not know. The longings and aspirations of her own
soul convinced her of the existence of a Supreme Being, First Cause,
Divine Intelligence—call it what you will—which had brought out of
chaos the wonderful order of the universe. The human mind was, indeed,
helpless to conceive such a First Cause in any form and lay prostrate
before the Unknown, yet she herself was an enthusiastic delver into
scientific hypothesis and the teachings of Darwin, Spencer, Haeckel had
satisfied her intellect if they had failed to content her soul. The
theory of evolution as applied to life on her own little planet
appealed strongly to her because it accounted plausibly for the
presence of man on earth. The process through which we had passed could
be understood by every intelligence. The blazing satellite, violently
detached from the parent sun starting on its circumscribed orbit—that
was the first stage, the gradual subsidence of the flames and the
cooling of the crust—the second stage: the gases mingling and forming
water which covered the earth—the third stage; the retreating of the
waters and the appearance of the land—the fourth stage; the appearance
of vegetation and animal life—the fifth stage; then, after a long
interval and through constant evolution and change the appearance of
man, which was the sixth stage. What stages still to come, who knows?
This simple account given by science was, after all, practically
identical with the biblical legend!
It was when Shirley was face to face with Nature in her wildest and
most primitive aspects that this deep rooted religious feeling moved
her most strongly. At these times she felt herself another being,
exalted, sublimated, lifted from this little world with its petty
affairs and vanities up to dizzy heights. She had felt the same
sensation when for the first time she had viewed the glories of the
snow clad Matterhorn, she had felt it when on a summer's night at sea
she had sat on deck and watched with fascinated awe the resplendent
radiance of the countless stars, she felt it now as she looked at the
foaming, tumbling waves.
"It is so beautiful," she murmured as she turned to walk. The ship was
rolling a little and she took Jefferson's arm to steady herself.
Shirley was an athletic girl and had all the ease and grace of carriage
that comes of much tennis and golf playing. Barely twenty-four years
old, she was still in the first flush of youth and health, and there
was nothing she loved so much as exercise and fresh air. After a few
turns on deck, there was a ruddy glow in her cheeks that was good to
see and many an admiring glance was cast at the young couple as they
strode briskly up and down past the double rows of elongated steamer
They had the deck pretty much to themselves. It was only four o'clock,
too early for the appetite-stimulating walk before dinner, and their
fellow passengers were basking in the sunshine, stretched out on their
chairs in two even rows like so many mummies on exhibition. Some were
reading, some were dozing. Two or three were under the weather,
completely prostrated, their bilious complexion of a deathly greenish
hue. At each new roll of the ship, they closed their eyes as if
resigned to the worst that might happen and their immediate neighbours
furtively eyed each of their movements as if apprehensive of what any
moment might bring forth. A few couples were flirting to their heart's
content under the friendly cover of the life-boats which, as on most of
the transatlantic liners, were more useful in saving reputations than
in saving life. The deck steward was passing round tea and biscuits,
much to the disgust of the ill ones, but to the keen satisfaction of
the stronger stomached passengers who on shipboard never seem to be
able to get enough to eat and drink. On the bridge, the second officer,
a tall, handsome man with the points of his moustache trained upwards a
la Kaiser Wilhelm, was striding back and forth, every now and then
sweeping the horizon with his glass and relieving the monotony of his
duties by ogling the better looking women passengers.
"Hello, Shirley!" called out a voice from a heap of rugs as Shirley and
Jefferson passed the rows of chairs.
They stopped short and discovered Mrs. Blake ensconced in a cozy
corner, sheltered from the wind.
"Why, aunt Milly," exclaimed Shirley surprised. "I thought you were
downstairs. I didn't think you could stand this sea."
"It is a little rougher than I care to have it," responded Mrs. Blake
with a wry grimace and putting her hand to her breast as if to appease
disturbing qualms. "It was so stuffy in the cabin I could not bear it.
It's more pleasant here but it's getting a little cool and I think I'll
go below. Where have you children been all afternoon?"
Jefferson volunteered to explain.
"The children have been rhapsodizing over the beauties of the ocean,"
he laughed. With a sly glance at Shirley, he added, "Your niece has
been coaching me in metaphysics."
Shirley shook her finger at him.
"Now Jefferson, if you make fun of me I'll never talk seriously with
"Wie geht es, meine damen?"
Shirley turned on hearing the guttural salutation. It was Captain
Hegermann, the commander of the ship, a big florid Saxon with great
bushy golden whiskers and a basso voice like Edouard de Reszke. He was
imposing in his smart uniform and gold braid and his manner had the
self-reliant, authoritative air usual in men who have great
responsibilities and are accustomed to command. He was taking his
afternoon stroll and had stopped to chat with his lady passengers. He
had already passed Mrs. Blake a dozen times and not noticed her, but
now her pretty niece was with her, which altered the situation. He
talked to the aunt and looked at Shirley, much to the annoyance of
Jefferson, who muttered things under his breath.
"When shall we be in, captain?" asked Mrs. Blake anxiously, forgetting
that this was one of the questions which according to ship etiquette
must never be asked of the officers.
But as long as he could ignore Mrs. Blake and gaze at Shirley Capt.
Hegermann did not mind. He answered amiably:
"At the rate we are going, we ought to sight Fire Island sometime
to-morrow evening. If we do, that will get us to our dock about 11
o'clock Friday morning, I fancy." Then addressing Shirley direct he
"And you, fraulein, I hope you won't be glad the voyage is over?"
Shirley sighed and a worried, anxious look came into her face.
"Yes, Captain, I shall be very glad. It is not pleasure that is
bringing me back to America so soon."
The captain elevated his eyebrows. He was sorry the young lady had
anxieties to keep her so serious, and he hoped she would find
everything all right on her arrival. Then, politely saluting, he passed
on, only to halt again a few paces on where his bewhiskered gallantry
met with more encouragement.
Mrs. Blake rose from her chair. The air was decidedly cooler, she would
go downstairs and prepare for dinner. Shirley said she would remain on
deck a little longer. She was tired of walking, so when her aunt left
them she took her chair and told Jefferson to get another. He wanted
nothing better, but before seating himself he took the rugs and wrapped
Shirley up with all the solicitude of a mother caring for her first
born. Arranging the pillow under her head, he asked:
"Is that comfortable?"
She nodded, smiling at him.
"You're a good boy, Jeff. But you'll spoil me."
"Nonsense," he stammered as he took another chair and put himself by
her side. "As if any fellow wouldn't give his boots to do a little job
like that for you!"
She seemed to take no notice of the covert compliment. In fact, she
already took it as a matter of course that Jefferson was very fond of
Did she love him? She hardly knew. Certainly she thought more of him
than of any other man she knew and she readily believed that she could
be with him for the rest of her life and like him better every day.
Then, too, they had become more intimate during the last few days. This
trouble, this unknown peril had drawn them together. Yes, she would be
sorry if she were to see Jefferson paying attention to another woman.
Was this love? Perhaps.
These thoughts were running through her mind as they sat there side by
side isolated from the main herd of passengers, each silent, watching
through the open rail the foaming water as it rushed past. Jefferson
had been casting furtive glances at his companion and as he noted her
serious, pensive face he thought how pretty she was. He wondered what
she was thinking of and suddenly inspired no doubt by the mysterious
power that enables some people to read the thoughts of others, he said
"Shirley, I can read your thoughts. You were thinking of me."
She was startled for a moment but immediately recovered her self
possession. It never occurred to her to deny it. She pondered for a
moment and then replied:
"You are right, Jeff, I was thinking of you. How did you guess?"
He leaned over her chair and took her hand. She made no resistance. Her
delicate, slender hand lay passively in his big brown one and met his
grasp frankly, cordially. He whispered:
"What were you thinking of me—good or bad?"
"Good, of course. How could I think anything bad of you?"
She turned her eyes on him in wonderment. Then she went on:
"I was wondering how a girl could distinguish between the feeling she
has for a man she merely likes, and the feeling she has for a man she
Jefferson bent eagerly forward so as to lose no word that might fall
from those coveted lips.
"In what category would I be placed?" he asked.
"I don't quite know," she answered, laughingly. Then seriously, she
added: "Jeff, why should we act like children? Your actions, more than
your words, have told me that you love me. I have known it all along.
If I have appeared cold and indifferent it is because"—she hesitated.
"Because?" echoed Jefferson anxiously, as if his whole future depended
on that reason.
"Because I was not sure of myself. Would it be womanly or honourable on
my part to encourage you, unless I felt I reciprocated your feelings?
You are young, one day you will be very rich, the whole world lies
before you. There are plenty of women who would willingly give you
"No—no!" he burst out in vigorous protest, "it is you I want, Shirley,
Grasping her hand more closely, he went on, passion vibrating in every
note of his voice. "I love you, Shirley. I've loved you from the very
first evening I met you. I want you to be my wife."
Shirley looked straight up into the blue eyes so eagerly bent down on
hers, so entreating in their expression, and in a gentle voice full of
emotion she answered:
"Jefferson, you have done me the greatest honour a man can do a woman.
Don't ask me to answer you now. I like you very much—I more than like
you. Whether it is love I feel for you—that I have not yet determined.
Give me time. My present trouble and then my literary work—-"
"I know," agreed Jefferson, "that this is hardly the time to speak of
such matters. Your father has first call on your attention. But as to
your literary work. I do not understand."
"Simply this. I am ambitious. I have had a little success—just enough
to crave for more. I realize that marriage would put an extinguisher on
all aspirations in that direction."
"Is marriage so very commonplace?" grumbled Jefferson.
"Not commonplace, but there is no room in marriage for a woman having
personal ambitions of her own. Once married her duty is to her husband
and her children—not to herself."
"That is right," he replied; "but which is likely to give you greater
joy—a literary success or a happy wifehood? When you have spent your
best years and given the public your best work they will throw you over
for some new favorite. You'll find yourself an old woman with nothing
more substantial to show as your life work than that questionable
asset, a literary reputation. How many literary reputations to-day
conceal an aching heart and find it difficult to make both ends meet?
How different with the woman who married young and obeys Nature's
behest by contributing her share to the process of evolution. Her life
is spent basking in the affection of her husband and the chubby smiles
of her dimpled babes, and when in the course of time she finds herself
in the twilight of her life, she has at her feet a new generation of
her own flesh and blood. Isn't that better than a literary reputation?"
He spoke so earnestly that Shirley looked at him in surprise. She knew
he was serious but she had not suspected that he thought so deeply on
these matters. Her heart told her that he was uttering the true
philosophy of the ages. She said:
"Why, Jefferson, you talk like a book. Perhaps you are right, I have no
wish to be a blue stocking and deserted in my old age, far from it. But
give me time to think. Let us first ascertain the extent of this
disaster which has overtaken my father. Then if you still care for me
and if I have not changed my mind," here she glanced slyly at him, "we
will resume our discussion."
Again she held out her hand which he had released.
"Is it a bargain?" she asked.
"It's a bargain," he murmured, raising the white hand to his lips. A
fierce longing rose within him to take her in his arms and kiss
passionately the mouth that lay temptingly near his own, but his
courage failed him. After all, he reasoned, he had not yet the right.
A few minutes later they left the deck and went downstairs to dress for
dinner. That same evening they stood again at the rail watching the
mysterious phosphorescence as it sparkled in the moonlight. Her
thoughts travelling faster than the ship, Shirley suddenly asked:
"Do you really think Mr. Ryder will use his influence to help my
Jefferson set his jaw fast and the familiar Ryder gleam came into his
eyes as he responded:
"Why not? My father is all powerful. He has made and unmade judges and
legislators and even presidents. Why should he not be able to put a
stop to these preposterous proceedings? I will go to him directly we
land and we'll see what can be done."
So the time on shipboard had passed, Shirley alternately buoyed up with
hope and again depressed by the gloomiest forebodings. The following
night they passed Fire Island and the next day the huge steamer dropped
anchor at Quarantine.
A month had passed since the memorable meeting of the directors of the
Southern and Transcontinental Railroad in New York and during that time
neither John Burkett Ryder nor Judge Rossmore had been idle. The former
had immediately set in motion the machinery he controlled in the
Legislature at Washington, while the judge neglected no step to
vindicate himself before the public.
Ryder, for reasons of his own—probably because he wished to make the
blow the more crushing when it did fall—had insisted on the
proceedings at the board meeting being kept a profound secret and some
time elapsed before the newspapers got wind of the coming Congressional
inquiry. No one had believed the stories about Judge Rossmore but now
that a quasi-official seal had been set on the current gossip, there
was a howl of virtuous indignation from the journalistic muck rakers.
What was the country coming to? they cried in double leaded type. After
the embezzling by life insurance officers, the rascality of the
railroads, the looting of city treasuries, the greed of the Trusts, the
grafting of the legislators, had arisen a new and more serious
scandal—the corruption of the Judiciary. The last bulwark of the
nation had fallen, the country lay helpless at the mercy of legalized
sandbaggers. Even the judges were no longer to be trusted, the most
respected one among them all had been unable to resist the tempter. The
Supreme Court, the living voice of the Constitution, was honeycombed
with graft. Public life was rotten to the core!
Neither the newspapers nor the public stopped to ascertain the truth or
the falsity of the charges against Judge Rossmore. It was sufficient
that the bribery story furnished the daily sensation which newspaper
editors and newspaper readers must have. The world is ever more prompt
to believe ill rather than good of a man, and no one, except in
Rossmore's immediate circle of friends, entertained the slightest doubt
of his guilt. It was common knowledge that the "big interests" were
behind the proceedings, and that Judge Rossmore was a scapegoat,
sacrificed by the System because he had been blocking their game. If
Rossmore had really accepted the bribe, and few now believed him
spotless, he deserved all that was coming to him. Senator Roberts was
very active in Washington preparing the case against Judge Rossmore.
The latter being a democrat and "the interests" controlling a
Republican majority in the House, it was a foregone conclusion that the
inquiry would be against him, and that a demand would at once be made
upon the Senate for his impeachment.
Almost prostrated by the misfortune which had so suddenly and
unexpectedly come upon him, Judge Rossmore was like a man demented. His
reason seemed to be tottering, he spoke and acted like a man in a
dream. Naturally he was entirely incapacitated for work and he had
applied to Washington to be temporarily relieved from his judicial
duties. He was instantly granted a leave of absence and went at once to
his home in Madison Avenue, where he shut himself up in his library,
sitting for hours at his desk wrestling with documents and legal tomes
in a pathetic endeavour to find some way out, trying to elude this net
in which unseen hands had entangled him.
What an end to his career! To have struggled and achieved for half a
century, to have built up a reputation year by year, as a man builds a
house brick by brick, only to see the whole crumble to his feet like
dust! To have gained the respect of the country, to have made a name as
the most incorruptible of public servants and now to be branded as a
common bribe taker! Could he be dreaming? It was too incredible! What
would his daughter say—his Shirley? Ah, the thought of the expression
of incredulity and wonder on her face when she heard the news cut him
to the heart like a knife thrust. Yet, he mused, her very unwillingness
to believe it should really be his consolation. Ah, his wife and his
child—they knew he had been innocent of wrong doing. The very idea was
ridiculous. At most he had been careless. Yes, he was certainly to
blame. He ought to have seen the trap so carefully prepared and into
which he had walked as if blindfolded. That extra $50,000 worth of
stock, on which he had never received a cent interest, had been the
decoy in a carefully thought out plot. They, the plotters, well knew
how ignorant he was of financial matters and he had been an easy
victim. Who would believe his story that the stock had been sent to him
with a plausibly-worded letter to the effect that it represented a
bonus on his own investment? Now he came to think of it, calmly and
reasonably, he would not believe it himself. As usual, he had mislaid
or destroyed the secretary's letter and there was only his word against
the company's books to substantiate what would appear a most improbable
if not impossible occurrence.
It was his conviction of his own good faith that made his present
dilemma all the more cruel. Had he really been a grafter, had he really
taken the stock as a bribe he would not care so much, for then he would
have foreseen and discounted the chances of exposure. Yes, there was no
doubt possible. He was the victim of a conspiracy, there was an
organized plot to ruin him, to get him out of the way. The "interests"
feared him, resented his judicial decisions and they had halted at
nothing to accomplish their purpose. How could he fight them back, what
could he do to protect himself? He had no proofs of a conspiracy, his
enemies worked in the dark, there was no way in which he could reach
them or know who they were.
He thought of John Burkett Ryder. Ah, he remembered now. Ryder was the
man who had recommended the investment in Alaskan stock. Of course, why
did he not think of it before? He recollected that at the time he had
been puzzled at receiving so much stock and he had mentioned it to
Ryder, adding that the secretary had told him it was customary. Oh, why
had he not kept the secretary's letter? But Ryder would certainly
remember it. He probably still had his two letters in which he spoke of
making the investment. If those letters could be produced at the
Congressional inquiry they would clear him at once. So losing no time,
and filled with renewed hope he wrote to the Colossus a strong, manly
letter which would have melted an iceberg, urging Mr. Ryder to come
forward now at this critical time and clear him of this abominable
charge, or in any case to kindly return the two letters he must have in
his possession, as they would go far to help him at the trial. Three
days passed and no reply from Ryder. On the fourth came a polite but
frigid note from Mr. Ryder's private secretary. Mr. Ryder had received
Judge Rossmore's letter and in reply begged to state that he had a
vague recollection of some conversation with the judge in regard to
investments, but he did not think he had advised the purchase of any
particular stock, as that was something he never did on principle, even
with his most intimate friends. He had no wish to be held accountable
in case of loss, etc. As to the letter which Judge Rossmore mentioned
as having written to Mr. Ryder in regard to having received more stock
than he had bought, of that Mr. Ryder had no recollection whatsoever.
Judge Rossmore was probably mistaken as to the identity of his
correspondent. He regretted he could not be of more service to Judge
Rossmore, and remained his very obedient servant.
It was very evident that no help was to be looked for in that quarter.
There was even decided hostility in Ryder's reply. Could it be true
that the financier was really behind these attacks upon his character,
was it possible that one man merely to make more money would
deliberately ruin his fellow man whose hand he had grasped in
friendship? He had been unwilling to believe it when his friend
ex-judge Stott had pointed to Ryder as the author of all his
misfortunes, but this unsympathetic letter with its falsehoods, its
lies plainly written all over its face, was proof enough. Yes, there
was now no doubt possible. John Burkett Ryder was his enemy and what an
enemy! Many a man had committed suicide when he had incurred the enmity
of the Colossus. Judge Rossmore, completely discouraged, bowed his head
to the inevitable.
His wife, a nervous, sickly woman, was helpless to comfort or aid him.
She had taken their misfortune as a visitation of an inscrutable Deity.
She knew, of course, that her husband was wholly innocent of the
accusations brought against him and if his character could be cleared
and himself rehabilitated before the world, she would be the first to
rejoice. But if it pleased the Almighty in His wisdom to sorely try her
husband and herself and inflict this punishment upon them it was not
for the finite mind to criticise the ways of Providence. There was
probably some good reason for the apparent cruelty and injustice of it
which their earthly understanding failed to grasp. Mrs. Rossmore found
much comfort in this philosophy, which gave a satisfactory ending to
both ends of the problem, and she was upheld in her view by the rector
of the church which she had attended regularly each Sunday for the past
five and twenty years. Christian resignation in the hour of trial,
submission to the will of Heaven were, declared her spiritual adviser,
the fundamental principles of religion. He could only hope that Mrs.
Rossmore would succeed in imbuing her husband with her Christian
spirit. But when the judge's wife returned home and saw the keen mental
distress of the man who had been her companion for twenty-five long
years, the comforter in her sorrows, the joy and pride of her young
wifehood, she forgot all about her smug churchly consoler, and her
heart went out to her husband in a spontaneous burst of genuine human
sympathy. Yes, they must do something at once. Where men had failed
perhaps a woman could do something. She wanted to cable at once for
Shirley, who was everything in their household—organizer, manager,
adviser—but the judge would not hear of it. No, his daughter was
enjoying her holiday in blissful ignorance of what had occurred. He
would not spoil it for her. They would see; perhaps things would
improve. But he sent for his old friend ex-Judge Stott.
They were life-long friends, having become acquainted nearly thirty
years ago at the law school, at the time when both were young men about
to enter on a public career. Stott, who was Rossmore's junior, had
begun as a lawyer in New York and soon acquired a reputation in
criminal practice. He afterwards became assistant district attorney and
later, when a vacancy occurred in the city magistrature, he was
successful in securing the appointment. On the bench he again met his
old friend Rossmore and the two men once more became closely intimate.
The regular court hours, however, soon palled on a man of Judge Stott's
nervous temperament and it was not long before he retired to take up
once more his criminal practice. He was still a young man, not yet
fifty, and full of vigor and fight. He had a blunt manner but his heart
was in the right place, and he had a record as clean as his close
shaven face. He was a hard worker, a brilliant speaker and one of the
cleverest cross-examiners at the bar. This was the man to whom Judge
Rossmore naturally turned for legal assistance.
Stott was out West when he first heard of the proceedings against his
old friend, and this indignity put upon the only really honest man in
public life whom he knew, so incensed him that he was already hurrying
back to his aid when the summons reached him.
Meantime, a fresh and more serious calamity had overwhelmed Judge
Rossmore. Everything seemed to combine to break the spirit of this man
who had dared defy the power of organized capital. Hardly had the news
of the Congressional inquiry been made public, than the financial world
was startled by an extraordinary slump in Wall Street. There was
nothing in the news of the day to justify a decline, but prices fell
and fell. The bears had it all their own way, the big interests
hammered stocks all along the line, "coppers" especially being the
object of attack. The market closed feverishly and the next day the
same tactics were pursued. From the opening, on selling orders coming
from no one knew where, prices fell to nothing, a stampede followed and
before long it became a panic. Pandemonium reigned on the floor of the
Stock Exchange. White faced, dishevelled brokers shouted and struggled
like men possessed to execute the orders of their clients. Big
financial houses, which stood to lose millions on a falling market,
rallied and by rush orders to buy, attempted to stem the tide, but all
to no purpose. One firm after another went by the board unable to
weather the tempest, until just before closing time, the stock ticker
announced the failure of the Great Northwestern Mining Co. The drive in
the market had been principally directed against its securities, and
after vainly endeavoring to check the bear raid, it had been compelled
to declare itself bankrupt. It was heavily involved, assets nil, stock
almost worthless. It was probable that the creditors would not see ten
cents on the dollar. Thousands were ruined and Judge Rossmore among
them. All the savings of a lifetime—nearly $55,000 were gone. He was
practically penniless, at a time when he needed money most. He still
owned his house in Madison Avenue, but that would have to go to settle
with his creditors. By the time everything was paid there would only
remain enough for a modest competence. As to his salary, of course he
could not touch that so long as this accusation was hanging over his
head. And if he were impeached it would stop altogether. The salary,
therefore, was not to be counted on. They must manage as best they
could and live more cheaply, taking a small house somewhere in the
outskirts of the city where he could prepare his case quietly without
Stott thought this was the best thing they could do and he volunteered
to relieve his friend by taking on his own hands all the arrangements
of the sale of the house and furniture, which offer the judge accepted
only too gladly. Meantime, Mrs. Rossmore went to Long Island to see
what could be had, and she found at the little village of Massapequa
just what they were looking for—a commodious, neatly-furnished
two-story cottage at a modest rental. Of course, it was nothing like
what they had been accustomed to, but it was clean and comfortable, and
as Mrs. Rossmore said, rather tactlessly, beggars cannot be choosers.
Perhaps it would not be for long. Instant possession was to be had, so
deposit was paid on the spot and a few days later the Rossmores left
their mansion on Madison Avenue and took up their residence in
Massapequa, where their advent created quite a fluster in local social
Massapequa is one of the thousand and one flourishing communities
scattered over Long Island, all of which are apparently modelled after
the same pattern. Each is an exact duplicate of its neighbour in
everything except the name—the same untidy railroad station, the same
sleepy stores, the same attractive little frame residences, built for
the most part on the "Why pay Rent? Own your own Home" plan. A healthy
boom in real estate imparts plenty of life to them all and Massapequa
is particularly famed as being the place where the cat jumped to when
Manhattan had to seek an outlet for its congested population and
ever-increasing army of home seekers. Formerly large tracts of flat
farm lands, only sparsely shaded by trees, Massapequa, in common with
other villages of its kind, was utterly destitute of any natural
attractions. There was the one principal street leading to the station,
with a few scattered stores on either side, a church and a bank.
Happily, too, for those who were unable to survive the monotony of the
place, it boasted of a pretty cemetery. There were also a number of
attractive cottages with spacious porches hung with honeysuckle and of
these the Rossmores occupied one of the less pretentious kind.
But although Massapequa, theoretically speaking, was situated only a
stone's throw from the metropolis, it might have been situated in the
Great Sahara so far as its inhabitants took any active interest in the
doings of gay Gotham. Local happenings naturally had first claim upon
Massapequa's attention—the prowess of the local baseball team, Mrs.
Robinson's tea party and the highly exciting sessions of the local
Pinochle Club furnishing food for unlimited gossip and scandal. The
newspapers reached the village, of course, but only the local news
items aroused any real interest, while the women folk usually
restricted their readings to those pages devoted to Daily Hints for the
Home, Mrs. Sayre's learned articles on Health and Beauty and Fay
Stanton's Daily Fashions. It was not surprising, therefore, that the
fame of Judge Rossmore and the scandal in which he was at present
involved had not penetrated as far as Massapequa and that the natives
were considerably mystified as to who the new arrivals in their midst
Stott had been given a room in the cottage so that he might be near at
hand to work with the judge in the preparation of the defence, and he
came out from the city every evening. It was now June. The Senate would
not take action until it convened in December, but there was a lot of
work to be done and no time to be lost.
The evening following the day of their arrival they were sitting on the
porch enjoying the cool evening air after dinner. The judge was
smoking. He was not a slave to the weed, but he enjoyed a quiet pipe
after meals, claiming that it quieted his nerves and enabled him to
think more clearly. Besides, it was necessary to keep at bay the
ubiquitous Long Island mosquito. Mrs. Rossmore had remained for a
moment in the dining-room to admonish Eudoxia, their new and only
maid-of-all-work, not to wreck too much of the crockery when she
removed the dinner dishes. Suddenly Stott, who was perusing an evening
"By the way, where's your daughter? Does she know of this radical
change in your affairs?"
Judge Rossmore started. By what mysterious agency had this man
penetrated his own most intimate thoughts? He was himself thinking of
Shirley that very moment, and by some inexplicable means—telepathy
modern psychologists called it—the thought current had crossed to
Stott, whose mind, being in full sympathy, was exactly attuned to
receive it. Removing the pipe from his mouth the judge replied:
"Shirley's in Paris. Poor girl, I hadn't the heart to tell her. She has
no idea of what's happened. I didn't want to spoil her holiday."
He was silent for a moment. Then, after a few more puffs he added
confidentially in a low tone, as if he did not care for his wife to
"The truth is, Stott, I couldn't bear to have her return now. I
couldn't look my own daughter in the face."
A sound as of a great sob which he had been unable to control cut short
his speech. His eyes filled with tears and he began to smoke furiously
as if ashamed of this display of emotion. Stott, blowing his nose with
suspicious vigor, replied soothingly:
"You mustn't talk like that. Everything will come out all right, of
course. But I think you are wrong not to have told your daughter. Her
place is here at your side. She ought to be told even if only in
justice to her. If you don't tell her someone else will, or, what's
worse, she'll hear of it through the newspapers."
"Ah, I never thought of that!" exclaimed the judge, visibly perturbed
at the suggestion about the newspapers.
"Don't you agree with me?" demanded Stott, appealing to Mrs. Rossmore,
who emerged from the house at that instant. "Don't you think your
daughter should be informed of what has happened?"
"Most assuredly I do," answered Mrs. Rossmore determinedly. "The judge
wouldn't hear of it, but I took the law into my own hands. I've cabled
"You cabled for Shirley?" cried the judge incredulously. He was so
unaccustomed to seeing his ailing, vacillating wife do anything on her
own initiative and responsibility that it seemed impossible. "You
cabled for Shirley?" he repeated.
"Yes," replied Mrs. Rossmore triumphantly and secretly pleased that for
once in her life she had asserted herself. "I cabled yesterday. I
simply couldn't bear it alone any longer."
"What did you say?" inquired the judge apprehensively.
"I just told her to come home at once. To-morrow we ought to get an
Stott meantime had been figuring on the time of Shirley's probable
arrival. If the cablegram had been received in Paris the previous
evening it would be too late to catch the French boat. The North German
Lloyd steamer was the next to leave and it touched at Cherbourg. She
would undoubtedly come on that. In a week at most she would be here.
Then it became a question as to who should go to meet her at the dock.
The judge could not go, that was certain. It would be too much of an
ordeal. Mrs. Rossmore did not know the lower part of the city well, and
had no experience in meeting ocean steamships. There was only one way
out—would Stott go? Of course he would and he would bring Shirley back
with him to Massapequa. So during the next few days while Stott and the
judge toiled preparing their case, which often necessitated brief trips
to the city, Mrs. Rossmore, seconded with sulky indifference by
Eudoxia, was kept busy getting a room ready for her daughter's arrival.
Eudoxia, who came originally from County Cork, was an Irish lady with a
thick brogue and a husky temper. She was amiable enough so long as
things went to her satisfaction, but when they did not suit her she was
a termagant. She was neither beautiful nor graceful, she was not young
nor was she very clean. Her usual condition was dishevelled, her face
was all askew, and when she dressed up she looked like a valentine. Her
greatest weakness was a propensity for smashing dishes, and when
reprimanded she would threaten to take her traps and skidoo. This news
of the arrival of a daughter failed to fill her with enthusiasm.
Firstly, it meant more work; secondly she had not bargained for it.
When she took the place it was on the understanding that the family
consisted only of an elderly gentleman and his wife, that there was
practically no work, good wages, plenty to eat, with the privilege of
an evening out when she pleased. Instead of this millennium she soon
found Stott installed as a permanent guest and now a daughter was to be
foisted on her. No wonder hard working girls were getting sick and
tired of housework!
As already hinted there was no unhealthy curiosity among Massapequans
regarding their new neighbors from the city but some of the more
prominent people of the place considered it their duty to seek at least
a bowing acquaintance with the Rossmores by paying them a formal visit.
So the day following the conversation on the porch when the judge and
Stott had gone to the city on one of their periodical excursions, Mrs.
Rossmore was startled to see a gentleman of clerical appearance
accompanied by a tall, angular woman enter their gate and ring the bell.
The Rev. Percival Pontifex Beetle and his sister Miss Jane Beetle
prided themselves on being leaders in the best social circle in
Massapequa. The incumbent of the local Presbyterian church, the Rev.
Deetle, was a thin, sallow man of about thirty-five. He had a
diminutive face with a rather long and very pointed nose which gave a
comical effect to his physiognomy. Theology was written all over his
person and he wore the conventional clerical hat which, owing to his
absurdly small face, had the unfortunate appearance of being several
sizes too large for him. Miss Deetle was a gaunt and angular spinster
who had an unhappy trick of talking with a jerk. She looked as if she
were constantly under self-restraint and was liable at any moment to
explode into a fit of rage and only repressed herself with considerable
effort. As they came up the stoop, Eudoxia, already instructed by Mrs.
Rossmore, was ready for them. With her instinctive respect for the
priestly garb she was rather taken back on seeing a clergyman, but she
brazened it out:
"Mr. Rossmore's not home." Then shaking her head, she added: "They
don't see no visitors."
Unabashed, the Rev. Deetle drew a card from a case and handing it to
the girl said pompously:
"Then we will see Mrs. Rossmore. I saw her at the window as we came
along. Here, my girl, take her this card. Tell her that the Reverend
Pontifex Deetle and Miss Deetle have called to present their
Brushing past Eudoxia, who vainly tried to close the door, the Rev.
Deetle coolly entered the house, followed by his sister, and took a
seat in the parlour.
"She'll blame me for this," wailed the girl, who had not budged and who
stood there fingering the Rev. Deetle's card.
"Blame you? For what?" demanded the clerical visitor in surprise.
"She told me to say she was out—but I can't lie to a minister of the
Gospel—leastways not to his face. I'll give her your card, sir."
The reverend caller waited until Eudoxia had disappeared, then he rose
and looked around curiously at the books and pictures.
"Hum—not a Bible or a prayer book or a hymn book, not a picture or
anything that would indicate the slightest reverence for holy things."
He picked up a few papers that were lying on the table and after
glancing at them threw them down in disgust.
"Law reports—Wall Street reports—the god of this world. Evidently
very ordinary people, Jane."
He looked at his sister, but she sat stiffly and primly in her chair
and made no reply. He repeated:
"Didn't you hear me? I said they are ordinary people."
"I've no doubt," retorted Miss Deetle, "and as such they will not thank
us for prying into their affairs."
"Prying, did you say?" said the parson, resenting this implied
criticism of his actions.
"Just plain prying," persisted his sister angrily. "I don't see what
else it is."
The Rev. Pontifex straightened up and threw out his chest as he replied:
"It is protecting my flock. As Leader of the Unified All Souls
Baptismal Presbytery, it is my duty to visit the widows and orphans of
"These people are neither widows or orphans," objected Miss Deetle.
"They are strangers," insisted the Rev. Pontifex, "and it is my duty to
minister to them—if they need it. Furthermore it is my duty to my
congregation to find out who is in their midst. No less than three of
the Lady Trustees of my church have asked me who and what these people
are and whence they came."
"The Lady Trustees are a pack of old busybodies," growled his sister.
Her brother raised his finger warningly.
"Jane, do you know you are uttering a blasphemy? These Rossmore people
have been here two weeks They have visited no one, no one visits them.
They have avoided a temple of worship, they have acted most
mysteriously. Who are they? What are they hiding? Is it fair to my
church, is it fair to my flock? It is not a bereavement, for they don't
wear mourning. I'm afraid it may be some hidden scandal—"
Further speculations on his part were interrupted by the entrance of
Mrs. Rossmore, who thought rightly that the quickest way to get rid of
her unwelcome visitors was to hurry downstairs as quickly as possible.
"Miss Deetle—Mr. Deetle. I am much honoured," was her not too effusive
The Reverend Pontifex, anxious to make a favourable impression, was all
smiles and bows. The idea of a possible scandal had for the moment
ceased to worry him.
"The honour is ours," he stammered. "I—er—we—er—my sister Jane and
I called to—"
"Won't you sit down?" said Mrs. Rossmore, waving him to a chair. He
danced around her in a manner that made her nervous.
"Thank you so much," he said with a smile that was meant to be amiable.
He took a seat at the further end of the room and an awkward pause
followed. Finally his sister prompted him:
"You wanted to see Mrs. Rossmore about the festival," she said.
"Oh, of course, I had quite forgotten. How stupid of me. The fact is,
Mrs. Rossmore," he went on, "we are thinking of giving a festival next
week—a festival with strawberries—and our trustees thought, in fact
it occurred to me also that if you and Mr. Rossmore would grace the
occasion with your presence it would give us an opportunity—so to
speak—get better acquainted, and er—"
Another awkward pause followed during which he sought inspiration by
gazing fixedly in the fireplace. Then turning on Mrs. Rossmore so
suddenly that the poor woman nearly jumped out of her chair he asked:
"Do you like strawberries?"
"It's very kind of you," interrupted Mrs. Rossmore, glad of the
opportunity to get a word in edgeways. "Indeed, I appreciate your
kindness most keenly but my husband and I go nowhere, nowhere at all.
You see we have met with reverses and—"
"Reverses," echoed the clerical visitor, with difficulty keeping his
seat. This was the very thing he had come to find out and here it was
actually thrown at him. He congratulated himself on his cleverness in
having inspired so much confidence and thought with glee of his triumph
when he returned with the full story to the Lady Trustees. Simulating,
therefore, the deepest sympathy he tried to draw his hostess out:
"Dear me, how sad! You met with reverses."
Turning to his sister, who was sitting in her corner like a petrified
mummy, he added:
"Jane, do you hear? How inexpressibly sad! They have met with reverses!"
He paused, hoping that Mrs. Rossmore would go on to explain just what
their reverses had been, but she was silent. As a gentle hint he said
"Did I interrupt you, Madam?"
"Not at all, I did not speak," she answered.
Thus baffled, he turned the whites of his eyes up to the ceiling and
"When reverses come we naturally look for spiritual consolation. My
dear Mrs. Rossmore, in the name of the Unified All Souls Baptismal
Presbytery I offer you that consolation."
Mrs. Rossmore looked helplessly from one to the other embarrassed as to
what to say. Who were these strangers that intruded on her privacy
offering a consolation she did not want? Miss Deetle, as if glad of the
opportunity to joke at her brother's expense, said explosively:
"My dear Pontifex, you have already offered a strawberry festival which
Mrs. Rossmore has been unable to accept."
"Well, what of it?" demanded Mr. Deetle, glaring at his sister for the
"You are both most kind," murmured Mrs. Rossmore; "but we could not
accept in any case. My daughter is returning home from Paris next week."
"Ah, your daughter—you have a daughter?" exclaimed Mr. Deetle,
grasping at the slightest straw to add to his stock of information.
"Coming from Paris, too! Such a wicked city!"
He had never been to Paris, he went on to explain, but he had read
enough about it and he was grateful that the Lord had chosen Massapequa
as the field of his labours. Here at least, life was sweet and
wholesome and one's hopes of future salvation fairly reasonable. He was
not a brilliant talker when the conversation extended beyond Massapequa
but he rambled on airing his views on the viciousness of the foreigner
in general, until Mrs. Rossmore, utterly wearied, began to wonder when
they would go. Finally he fell back upon the weather.
"We are very fortunate in having such pleasant weather, don't you think
so, Madam? Oh, Massapequa is a lovely spot, isn't it? We think it's the
one place to live in. We are all one happy family. That's why my sister
and I called to make your acquaintance."
"You are very good, I'm sure. I shall tell my husband you came and
he'll be very pleased."
Having exhausted his conversational powers and seeing that further
efforts to pump Mrs. Rossmore were useless, the clerical visitor rose
"It looks like rain. Come, Jane, we had better go. Good-bye, Madam, I
am delighted to have made this little visit and I trust you will assure
Mr. Rossmore that All Souls Unified Baptismal Presbytery always has a
warm welcome for him."
They bowed and Mrs. Rossmore bowed. The agony was over and as the door
closed on them Mrs. Rossmore gave a sigh of relief.
That evening Stott and the judge came home earlier than usual and from
their dejected appearance Mrs. Rossmore divined bad news. The judge was
painfully silent throughout the meal and Stott was unusually grave.
Finally the latter took her aside and broke it to her gently. In spite
of their efforts and the efforts of their friends the Congressional
inquiry had resulted in a finding against the judge and a demand had
already been made upon the Senate for his impeachment. They could do
nothing now but fight it in the Senate with all the influence they
could muster. It was going to be hard but Stott was confident that
right would prevail. After dinner as they were sitting in silence on
the porch, each measuring the force of this blow which they had
expected yet had always hoped to ward off, the crunching sound of a
bicycle was heard on the quiet country road. The rider stopped at their
gate and came up the porch holding out an envelope to the judge, who,
guessing the contents, had started forward. He tore it open. It was a
cablegram from Paris and read as follows:
Am sailing on the Kaiser Wilhelm to-day.
The pier of the North German Lloyd Steamship Company, at Hoboken,
fairly sizzled with bustle and excitement. The Kaiser Wilhelm had
arrived at Sandy Hook the previous evening and was now lying out in
midstream. She would tie up at her dock within half an hour. Employes
of the line, baggage masters, newspaper reporters, Custom House
officers, policemen, detectives, truck drivers, expressmen,
longshoremen, telegraph messengers and anxious friends of incoming
passengers surged back and forth in seemingly hopeless confusion. The
shouting of orders, the rattling of cab wheels, the shrieking of
whistles was deafening. From out in the river came the deep toned
blasts of the steamer's siren, in grotesque contrast with the strident
tooting of a dozen diminutive tugs which, puffing and snorting, were
slowly but surely coaxing the leviathan into her berth alongside the
dock. The great vessel, spick and span after a coat of fresh paint
hurriedly put on during the last day of the voyage, bore no traces of
gale, fog and stormy seas through which she had passed on her 3,000
mile run across the ocean. Conspicuous on the bridge, directing the
docking operations, stood Capt. Hegermann, self satisfied and smiling,
relieved that the responsibilities of another trip were over, and at
his side, sharing the honours, was the grizzled pilot who had brought
the ship safely through the dangers of Gedney's Channel, his shabby pea
jacket, old slouch hat, top boots and unkempt beard standing out in
sharp contrast with the immaculate white duck trousers, the white and
gold caps and smart full dress uniforms of the ship's officers. The
rails on the upper decks were seen to be lined with passengers, all
dressed in their shore going clothes, some waving handkerchiefs at
friends they already recognized, all impatiently awaiting the shipping
of the gangplank.
Stott had come early. They had received word at Massapequa the day
before that the steamer had been sighted off Fire Island and that she
would be at her pier the next morning at 10 o'clock. Stott arrived at
9.30 and so found no difficulty in securing a front position among the
small army of people, who, like himself, had come down to meet friends.
As the huge vessel swung round and drew closer, Stott easily picked out
Shirley. She was scanning eagerly through a binocular the rows of
upturned faces on the dock, and he noted that a look of disappointment
crossed her face at not finding the object of her search. She turned
and said something to a lady in black and to a man who stood at her
side. Who they might be Stott had no idea. Fellow passengers, no doubt.
One becomes so intimate on shipboard; it seems a friendship that must
surely last a lifetime, whereas the custom officers have not finished
rummaging through your trunks when these easily-made steamer friends
are already forgotten. Presently Shirley took another look and her
glass soon lighted on him. Instantly she recognized her father's old
friend. She waved a handkerchief and Stott raised his hat. Then she
turned quickly and spoke again to her friends, whereupon they all moved
in the direction of the gangplank, which was already being lowered.
Shirley was one of the first to come ashore. Stott was waiting for her
at the foot of the gangplank and she threw her arms round his neck and
kissed him. He had known her ever since she was a little tot in arms,
and bystanders who noticed them meet had no doubt that they were father
and daughter. Shirley was deeply moved; a great lump in her throat
seemed to choke her utterance. So far she had been able to bear up, but
now that home was so near her heart failed her. She had hoped to find
her father on the dock. Why had he not come? Were things so bad then?
She questioned Judge Stott anxiously, fearfully.
He reassured her. Both her mother and father were well. It was too long
a trip for them to make, so he had volunteered.
"Too long a trip," echoed Shirley puzzled. "This is not far from our
house. Madison Avenue is no distance. That could not have kept father
"You don't live on Madison Avenue any longer. The house and its
contents have been sold," replied Stott gravely, and in a few words he
outlined the situation as it was.
Shirley listened quietly to the end and only the increasing pallor of
her face and an occasional nervous twitching at the corner of her mouth
betrayed the shock that this recital of her father's misfortunes was to
her. Ah, this she had little dreamed of! Yet why not? It was but logic.
When wrecked in reputation, one might as well be wrecked in fortune,
too. What would their future be, how could that proud, sensitive man
her father bear this humiliation, this disgrace? To be condemned to a
life of obscurity, social ostracism, and genteel poverty! Oh, the
thought was unendurable! She herself could earn money, of course. If
her literary work did not bring in enough, she could teach and what she
earned would help out. Certainly her parents should never want for
anything so long as she could supply it. She thought bitterly how
futile now were plans of marriage, even if she had ever entertained
such an idea seriously. Henceforward, she did not belong to herself.
Her life must be devoted to clearing her father's name. These
reflections were suddenly interrupted by the voice of Mrs. Blake
"Shirley, where have you been? We lost sight of you as we left the
ship, and we have been hunting for you ever since."
Her aunt, escorted by Jefferson Ryder, had gone direct to the Customs
desk and in the crush they had lost trace of her. Shirley introduced
"Aunt Milly, this is Judge Stott, a very old friend of father's. Mrs.
Blake, my mother's sister. Mother will be surprised to see her. They
haven't met for ten years."
"This visit is going to be only a brief one," said Mrs. Blake. "I
really came over to chaperone Shirley more than anything else."
"As if I needed chaperoning with Mr. Ryder for an escort!" retorted
Shirley. Then presenting Jefferson to Stott, she said:
"This is Mr. Jefferson Ryder—Judge Stott. Mr. Ryder has been very kind
to me abroad."
The two men bowed and shook hands.
"Any relation to J.B.?" asked Stott good humouredly.
"His son—that's all," answered Jefferson laconically.
Stott now looked at the young man with more interest. Yes, there was a
resemblance, the same blue eyes, the fighting jaw. But how on earth did
Judge Rossmore's daughter come to be travelling in the company of John
Burkett Ryder's son? The more he thought of it the more it puzzled him,
and while he cogitated, Shirley and her companions wrestled with the
United States Customs, and were undergoing all the tortures invented by
Uncle Sam to punish Americans for going abroad.
Shirley and Mrs. Blake were fortunate in securing an inspector who was
fairly reasonable. Of course, he did not for a moment believe their
solemn statement, already made on the ship, that they had nothing
dutiable, and he rummaged among the most intimate garments of their
wardrobe in a wholly indecent and unjustifiable manner, but he was
polite and they fared no worse than all the other women victims of
this, the most brutal custom house inspection system in the world.
Jefferson had the misfortune to be allotted an inspector who was half
seas over with liquor and the man was so insolent and threatening in
manner that it was only by great self-restraint that Jefferson
controlled himself. He had no wish to create a scandal on the dock, nor
to furnish good "copy" for the keen-eyed, long-eared newspaper
reporters who would be only too glad of such an opportunity for a
"scare head". But when the fellow compelled him to open every trunk and
valise and then put his grimy hands to the bottom and by a quick upward
movement jerked the entire contents out on the dock, he interfered:
"You are exceeding your authority," he exclaimed hotly. "How dare you
treat my things in this manner?"
The drunken uniformed brute raised his bloodshot, bleary eyes and took
Jefferson in from tip to toe. He clenched his fist as if about to
resort to violence, but he was not so intoxicated as to be quite blind
to the fact that this passenger had massive square shoulders, a
determined jaw and probably a heavy arm. So contenting himself with a
sneer, he said:
"This ain't no country for blooming English docks. You're not in
England now you know. This is a free country. See?"
"I see this," replied Jefferson, furious, "that you are a drunken
ruffian and a disgrace to the uniform you wear. I shall report your
conduct immediately," with which he proceeded to the Customs desk to
lodge a complaint.
He might have spared himself the trouble. The silver-haired,
distinguished looking old officer in charge knew that Jefferson's
complaint was well founded, he knew that this particular inspector was
a drunkard and a discredit to the government which employed him, but at
the same time he also knew that political influence had been behind his
appointment and that it was unsafe to do more than mildly reprimand
him. When, therefore, he accompanied Jefferson to the spot where the
contents of the trunks lay scattered in confusion all over the dock, he
merely expostulated with the officer, who made some insolent reply.
Seeing that it was useless to lose further time, Jefferson repacked his
trunks as best he could and got them on a cab. Then he hurried over to
Shirley's party and found them already about to leave the pier.
"Come and see us, Jeff," whispered Shirley as their cab drove through
"Where," he asked, "Madison Avenue?"
She hesitated for a moment and then replied quickly:
"No, we are stopping down on Long Island for the Summer—at a cute
little place called Massapequa. Run down and see us."
He raised his hat and the cab drove on.
There was greater activity in the Rossmore cottage at Massapequa than
there had been any day since the judge and his wife went to live there.
Since daybreak Eudoxia had been scouring and polishing in honour of the
expected arrival and a hundred times Mrs. Rossmore had climbed the
stairs to see that everything was as it should be in the room which had
been prepared for Shirley. It was not, however, without a passage at
arms that Eudoxia consented to consider the idea of an addition to the
family. Mrs. Rossmore had said to her the day before:
"My daughter will be here to-morrow, Eudoxia."
A look expressive of both displeasure and astonishment marred the
classic features of the hireling. Putting her broom aside and placing
her arms akimbo she exclaimed in an injured tone:
"And it's a dayther you've got now? So it's three in family you are!
When I took the place it's two you tould me there was!"
"Well, with your kind permission," replied Mrs. Rossmore, "there will
be three in future. There is nothing in the Constitution of the United
States that says we can't have a daughter without consulting our help,
The sarcasm of this reply did not escape even the dull-edged wits of
the Irish drudge. She relapsed into a dignified silence and a few
minutes later was discovered working with some show of enthusiasm.
The judge was nervous and fidgety. He made a pretence to read, but it
was plain to see that his mind was not on his book. He kept leaving his
chair to go and look at the clock; then he would lay the volume aside
and wander from room to room like a lost soul. His thoughts were on the
dock at Hoboken.
By noon every little detail had been attended to and there was nothing
further to do but sit and wait for the arrival of Stott and Shirley.
They were to be expected any moment now. The passengers had probably
got off the steamer by eleven o'clock. It would take at least two hours
to get through the Customs and out to Massapequa. The judge and his
wife sat on the porch counting the minutes and straining their ears to
catch the first sound of the train from New York.
"I hope Stott broke the news to her gently," said the judge.
"I wish we had gone to meet her ourselves," sighed his wife.
The judge was silent and for a moment or two he puffed vigorously at
his pipe, as was his habit when disturbed mentally. Then he said:
"I ought to have gone, Martha, but I was afraid. I'm afraid to look my
own daughter in the face and tell her that I am a disgraced man, that I
am to be tried by the Senate for corruption, perhaps impeached and
turned off the bench as if I were a criminal. Shirley won't believe it,
sometimes I can't believe it myself. I often wake up in the night and
think of it as part of a dream, but when the morning comes it's still
true—it's still true!"
He smoked on in silence. Then happening to look up he noticed that his
wife was weeping. He laid his hand gently on hers.
"Don't cry, dear, don't make it harder for me to bear. Shirley must see
no trace of tears."
"I was thinking of the injustice of it all," replied Mrs. Rossmore,
wiping her eyes.
"Fancy Shirley in this place, living from hand to mouth," went on the
"That's the least," answered his wife. "She's a fine, handsome girl,
well educated and all the rest of it. She ought to make a good
marriage." No matter what state of mind Mrs. Rossmore might be in, she
never lost sight of the practical side of things.
"Hardly with her father's disgrace hanging over her head," replied the
judge wearily. "Who," he added, "would have the courage to marry a girl
whose father was publicly disgraced?"
Both relapsed into another long silence, each mentally reviewing the
past and speculating on the future. Suddenly Mrs. Rossmore started.
Surely she could not be mistaken! No, the clanging of a locomotive bell
was plainly audible. The train was in. From the direction of the
station came people with parcels and hand bags and presently there was
heard the welcome sound of carriage wheels crunching over the stones. A
moment later they saw coming round the bend in the road a cab piled up
with small baggage.
"Here they are! Here they are!" cried Mrs. Rossmore. "Come, Eudoxia!"
she called to the servant, while she herself hurried down to the gate.
The judge, fully as agitated as herself, only showing his emotion in a
different way, remained on the porch pale and anxious.
The cab stopped at the curb and Stott alighted, first helping out Mrs.
Blake. Mrs. Rossmore's astonishment on seeing her sister was almost
"Milly!" she exclaimed.
They embraced first and explained afterwards. Then Shirley got out and
was in her mother's arms.
"Where's father?" was Shirley's first question.
The judge, unable to restrain his impatience longer, ran down from the
porch towards the gate. Shirley, with a cry of mingled grief and joy,
precipitated herself on his breast.
"Father! Father!" she cried between her sobs. "What have they done to
"There—there, my child. Everything will be well—everything will be
Her head lay on his shoulder and he stroked her hair with his hand,
unable to speak from pent up emotion.
Mrs. Rossmore could not recover from her stupefaction on seeing her
sister. Mrs. Blake explained that she had come chiefly for the benefit
of the voyage and announced her intention of returning on the same
"So you see I shall bother you only a few days," she said.
"You'll stay just as long as you wish," rejoined Mrs. Rossmore.
"Happily we have just one bedroom left." Then turning to Eudoxia, who
was wrestling with the baggage, which formed a miniature Matterhorn on
the sidewalk, she gave instructions:
"Eudoxia, you'll take this lady's baggage to the small bedroom
adjoining Miss Shirley's. She is going to stop with us for a few days."
Taken completely aback at the news of this new addition, Eudoxia looked
at first defiance. She seemed on the point of handing in her
resignation there and then. But evidently she thought better of it,
for, taking a cue from Mrs. Rossmore, she asked in the sarcastic manner
of her mistress:
"Four is it now, M'm? I suppose the Constitootion of the United States
allows a family to be as big as one likes to make it. It's hard on us
girls, but if it's the law, it's all right, M'm. The more the merrier!"
With which broadside, she hung the bags all over herself and staggered
off to the house.
Stott explained that the larger pieces and the trunks would come later
by express. Mrs. Rossmore took him aside while Mrs. Blake joined
Shirley and the judge.
"Did you tell Shirley?" asked Mrs. Rossmore. "How did she take it?"
"She knows everything," answered Stott, "and takes it very sensibly. We
shall find her of great moral assistance in our coming fight in the
Senate," he added confidently.
Realizing that the judge would like to be left alone with Shirley, Mrs.
Rossmore invited Mrs. Blake to go upstairs and see the room she would
have, while Stott said he would be glad of a washup. When they had gone
Shirley sidled up to her father in her old familiar way.
"I've just been longing to see you, father," she said. She turned to
get a good look at him and noticing the lines of care which had
deepened during her absence she cried: "Why, how you've changed! I can
scarcely believe it's you. Say something. Let me hear the sound of your
The judge tried to smile.
"Why, my dear girl, I—-"
Shirley threw her arms round his neck.
"Ah, yes, now I know it's you," she cried.
"Of course it is, Shirley, my dear girl. Of course it is. Who else
should it be?"
"Yes, but it isn't the same," insisted Shirley. "There is no ring to
your voice. It sounds hollow and empty, like an echo. And this place,"
she added dolefully, "this awful place—"
She glanced around at the cracked ceilings, the cheaply papered walls,
the shabby furniture, and her heart sank as she realized the extent of
their misfortune. She had come back prepared for the worst, to help win
the fight for her father's honour, but to have to struggle against
sordid poverty as well, to endure that humiliation in addition to
disgrace—ah, that was something she had not anticipated! She changed
colour and her voice faltered. Her father had been closely watching for
just such signs and he read her thoughts.
"It's the best we can afford, Shirley," he said quietly. "The blow has
been complete. I will tell you everything. You shall judge for
yourself. My enemies have done for me at last."
"Your enemies?" cried Shirley eagerly. "Tell me who they are so I may
go to them."
"Yes, dear, you shall know everything. But not now. You are tired after
your journey. To-morrow sometime Stott and I will explain everything."
"Very well, father, as you wish," said Shirley gently. "After all," she
added in an effort to appear cheerful, "what matter where we live so
long as we have each other?"
She drew away to hide her tears and left the room on pretence of
inspecting the house. She looked into the dining-room and kitchen and
opened the cupboards, and when she returned there were no visible signs
of trouble in her face.
"It's a cute little house, isn't it?" she said. "I've always wanted a
little place like this—all to ourselves. Oh, if you only knew how
tired I am of New York and its great ugly houses, its retinue of
servants and its domestic and social responsibilities! We shall be able
to live for ourselves now, eh, father?"
She spoke with a forced gaiety that might have deceived anyone but the
judge. He understood the motive of her sudden change in manner and
silently he blessed her for making his burden lighter.
"Yes, dear, it's not bad," he said. "There's not much room, though."
"There's quite enough," she insisted. "Let me see." She began to count
on her fingers. "Upstairs—three rooms, eh? and above that three more—"
"No," smiled the judge, "then comes the roof?"
"Of course," she laughed, "how stupid of me—a nice gable roof, a
sloping roof that the rain runs off beautifully. Oh, I can see that
this is going to be awfully jolly—just like camping out. You know how
I love camping out. And you have a piano, too."
She went over to the corner where stood one of those homely instruments
which hardly deserve to be dignified by the name piano, with a cheap,
gaudily painted case outside and a tin pan effect inside, and which are
usually to be found in the poorer class of country boarding houses.
Shirley sat down and ran her fingers over the keys, determined to like
"It's a little old," was her comment, "but I like these zither effects.
It's just like the sixteenth-century spinet. I can see you and mother
dancing a stately minuet," she smiled.
"What's that about mother dancing?" demanded Mrs. Rossmore, who at that
instant entered the room. Shirley arose and appealed to her:
"Isn't it absurd, mother, when you come to think of it, that anybody
should accuse father of being corrupt and of having forfeited the right
to be judge? Isn't it still more absurd that we should be helpless and
dejected and unhappy because we are on Long Island instead of Madison
Avenue? Why should Manhattan Island be a happier spot than Long Island?
Why shouldn't we be happy anywhere; we have each other. And we do need
each other. We never knew how much till to-day, did we? We must stand
by each other now. Father is going to clear his name of this
preposterous charge and we're going to help him, aren't we, mother?
We're not helpless just because we are women. We're going to work,
mother and I."
"Work?" echoed Mrs. Rossmore, somewhat scandalized.
"Work," repeated Shirley very decisively.
The judge interfered. He would not hear of it.
"You work, Shirley? Impossible!"
"Why not? My book has been selling well while I was abroad. I shall
probably write others. Then I shall write, too, for the newspapers and
magazines. It will add to our income."
"Your book—'The American Octopus,' is selling well?" inquired the
"So well," replied Shirley, "that the publishers wrote me in Paris that
the fourth edition was now on the press. That means good royalties. I
shall soon be a fashionable author. The publishers will be after me for
more books and we'll have all the money we want. Oh, it is so
delightful, this novel sensation of a literary success!" she exclaimed
with glee. "Aren't you proud of me, dad?"
The judge smiled indulgently. Of course he was glad and proud. He
always knew his Shirley was a clever girl. But by what strange
fatality, he thought to himself, had his daughter in this book of hers
assailed the very man who had encompassed his own ruin? It seemed like
the retribution of heaven. Neither his daughter nor the financier was
conscious of the fact that each was indirectly connected with the
impeachment proceedings. Ryder could not dream that "Shirley Green",
the author of the book which flayed him so mercilessly, was the
daughter of the man he was trying to crush. Shirley, on the other hand,
was still unaware of the fact that it was Ryder who had lured her
father to his ruin.
Mrs. Rossmore now insisted on Shirley going to her room to rest. She
must be tired and dusty. After changing her travelling dress she would
feel refreshed and more comfortable. When she was ready to come down
again luncheon would be served. So leaving the judge to his papers,
mother and daughter went upstairs together, and with due maternal pride
Mrs. Rossmore pointed out to Shirley all the little arrangements she
had made for her comfort. Then she left her daughter to herself while
she hurried downstairs to look after Eudoxia and luncheon.
When, at last, she could lock herself in her room where no eye could
see her, Shirley threw herself down on the bed and burst into a torrent
of tears. She had kept up appearances as long as it was possible, but
now the reaction had set in. She gave way freely to her pent up
feelings, she felt that unless she could relieve herself in this way
her heart would break. She had been brave until now, she had been
strong to hear everything and see everything, but she could not keep it
up forever. Stott's words to her on the dock had in part prepared her
for the worst, he had told her what to expect at home, but the
realization was so much more vivid. While hundreds of miles of ocean
still lay between, it had all seemed less real, almost attractive as a
romance in modern life, but now she was face to face with the grim
reality—this shabby cottage, cheap neighbourhood and commonplace
surroundings, her mother's air of resignation to the inevitable, her
father's pale, drawn face telling so eloquently of the keen mental
anguish through which he had passed. She compared this pitiful
spectacle with what they had been when she left for Europe, the fine
mansion on Madison Avenue with its rich furnishings and well-trained
servants, and her father's proud aristocratic face illumined with the
consciousness of his high rank in the community, and the attention he
attracted every time he appeared on the street or in public places as
one of the most brilliant and most respected judges on the bench. Then
to have come to this all in the brief space of a few months! It was
incredible, terrible, heart rending! And what of the future? What was
to be done to save her father from this impeachment which she knew well
would hurry him to his grave? He could not survive that humiliation,
that degradation. He must be saved in the Senate, but how—how?
She dried her eyes and began to think. Surely her woman's wit would
find some way. She thought of Jefferson. Would he come to Massapequa?
It was hardly probable. He would certainly learn of the change in their
circumstances and his sense of delicacy would naturally keep him away
for some time even if other considerations, less unselfish, did not.
Perhaps he would be attracted to some other girl he would like as well
and who was not burdened with a tragedy in her family. Her tears began
to flow afresh until she hated herself for being so weak while there
was work to be done to save her father. She loved Jefferson. Yes, she
had never felt so sure of it as now. She felt that if she had him there
at that moment she would throw herself in his arms crying: "Take me,
Jefferson, take me away, where you will, for I love you! I love you!"
But Jefferson was not there and the rickety chairs in the tiny bedroom
and the cheap prints on the walls seemed to jibe at her in her misery.
If he were there, she thought as she looked into a cracked mirror, he
would think her very ugly with her eyes all red from crying. He would
not marry her now in any case. No self-respecting man would. She was
glad that she had spoken to him as she had in regard to marriage, for
while a stain remained upon her father's name marriage was out of the
question. She might have yielded on the question of the literary
career, but she would never allow a man to taunt her afterwards with
the disgrace of her own flesh and blood. No, henceforth her place was
at her father's side until his character was cleared. If the trial in
the Senate were to go against him, then she could never see Jefferson
again. She would give up all idea of him and everything else. Her
literary career would be ended, her life would be a blank. They would
have to go abroad, where they were not known, and try and live down
their shame, for no matter how innocent her father might be the world
would believe him guilty. Once condemned by the Senate, nothing could
remove the stigma. She would have to teach in order to contribute
towards the support, they would manage somehow. But what a future, how
unnecessary, how unjust!
Suddenly she thought of Jefferson's promise to interest his father in
their case and she clutched at the hope this promise held out as a
drowning man clutches at a drifting straw. Jefferson would not forget
his promise and he would come to Massapequa to tell her of what he had
done. She was sure of that. Perhaps, after all, there was where their
hope lay. Why had she not told her father at once? It might have
relieved his mind. John Burkett Ryder, the Colossus, the man of
unlimited power! He could save her father and he would. And the more
she thought about it, the more cheerful and more hopeful she became,
and she started to dress quickly so that she might hurry down to tell
her father the good news. She was actually sorry now that she had said
so many hard things of Mr. Ryder in her book and she was worrying over
the thought that her father's case might be seriously prejudiced if the
identity of the author were ever revealed, when there came a knock at
her door. It was Eudoxia.
"Please, miss, will you come down to lunch?"
A whirling maelstrom of human activity and dynamic energy—the city
which above all others is characteristic of the genius and virility of
the American people—New York, with its congested polyglot population
and teeming millions, is assuredly one of the busiest, as it is one of
the most strenuous and most noisy places on earth. Yet, despite its
swarming streets and crowded shops, ceaselessly thronged with men and
women eagerly hurrying here and there in the pursuit of business or
elusive pleasure, all chattering, laughing, shouting amid the
deafening, multisonous roar of traffic incidental to Gotham's daily
life, there is one part of the great metropolis where there is no
bustle, no noise, no crowd, where the streets are empty even in
daytime, where a passer-by is a curiosity and a child a phenomenon.
This deserted village in the very heart of the big town is the
millionaires' district, the boundaries of which are marked by Carnegie
hill on the north, Fiftieth Street on the south, and by Fifth and
Madison Avenues respectively on the west and east. There is nothing
more mournful than the outward aspect of these princely residences
which, abandoned and empty for three-quarters of the year, stand in
stately loneliness, as if ashamed of their isolation and utter
uselessness. Their blinds drawn, affording no hint of life within,
enveloped the greater part of the time in the stillness and silence of
the tomb, they appear to be under the spell of some baneful curse. No
merry-voiced children romp in their carefully railed off gardens, no
sounds of conversation or laughter come from their hermetically closed
windows, not a soul goes in or out, at most, at rare intervals, does
one catch a glimpse of a gorgeously arrayed servant gliding about in
ghostly fashion, supercilious and suspicious, and addressing the chance
visitor in awed whispers as though he were the guardian of a house of
affliction. It is, indeed, like a city of the dead.
So it appeared to Jefferson as he walked up Fifth Avenue, bound for the
Ryder residence, the day following his arrival from Europe. Although he
still lived at his father's house, for at no time had there been an
open rupture, he often slept in his studio, finding it more convenient
for his work, and there he had gone straight from the ship. He felt,
however, that it was his duty to see his mother as soon as possible;
besides he was anxious to fulfil his promise to Shirley and find what
his father could do to help Judge Rossmore. He had talked about the
case with several men the previous evening at the club and the general
impression seemed to be that, guilty or innocent, the judge would be
driven off the bench. The "interests" had forced the matter as a party
issue, and the Republicans being in control in the Senate the outcome
could hardly be in doubt. He had learned also of the other misfortunes
which had befallen Judge Rossmore and he understood now the reason for
Shirley's grave face on the dock and her little fib about summering on
Long Island. The news had been a shock to him, for, apart from the fact
that the judge was Shirley's father, he admired him immensely as a man.
Of his perfect innocence there could, of course, be no question: these
charges of bribery had simply been trumped up by his enemies to get him
off the bench. That was very evident. The "interests" feared him and so
had sacrificed him without pity, and as Jefferson walked along Central
Park, past the rows of superb palaces which face its eastern wall, he
wondered in which particular mansion had been hatched this wicked,
iniquitous plot against a wholly blameless American citizen. Here, he
thought, were the citadels of the plutocrats, America's aristocracy of
money, the strongholds of her Coal, Railroad, Oil, Gas and Ice barons,
the castles of her monarchs of Steel, Copper, and Finance. Each of
these million-dollar residences, he pondered, was filled from cellar to
roof with costly furnishings, masterpieces of painting and sculpture,
priceless art treasures of all kinds purchased in every corner of the
globe with the gold filched from a Trust-ridden people. For every stone
in those marble halls a human being, other than the owner, had been
sold into bondage, for each of these magnificent edifices, which the
plutocrat put up in his pride only to occupy it two months in the year,
ten thousand American men, women and children had starved and sorrowed.
Europe, thought Jefferson as he strode quickly along, pointed with envy
to America's unparalleled prosperity, spoke with bated breath of her
great fortunes. Rather should they say her gigantic robberies, her
colossal frauds! As a nation we were not proud of our
multi-millionaires. How many of them would bear the search-light of
investigation? Would his own father? How many millions could one man
make by honest methods? America was enjoying unprecedented prosperity,
not because of her millionaires, but in spite of them. The United
States owed its high rank in the family of nations to the country's
vast natural resources, its inexhaustible vitality, its great wheat
fields, the industrial and mechanical genius of its people. It was the
plain American citizen who had made the greatness of America, not the
millionaires who, forming a class by themselves of unscrupulous
capitalists, had created an arrogant oligarchy which sought to rule the
country by corrupting the legislature and the judiciary. The
plutocrats—these were the leeches, the sores in the body politic. An
organized band of robbers, they had succeeded in dominating legislation
and in securing control of every branch of the nation's industry,
crushing mercilessly and illegally all competition. They were the Money
Power, and such a menace were they to the welfare of the people that,
it had been estimated, twenty men in America had it in their power, by
reason of the vast wealth which they controlled, to come together, and
within twenty-four hours arrive at an understanding by which every
wheel of trade and commerce would be stopped from revolving, every
avenue of trade blocked and every electric key struck dumb. Those
twenty men could paralyze the whole country, for they controlled the
circulation of the currency and could create a panic whenever they
might choose. It was the rapaciousness and insatiable greed of these
plutocrats that had forced the toilers to combine for self-protection,
resulting in the organization of the Labor Unions which, in time,
became almost as tyrannical and unreasonable as the bosses. And the
breach between capital on the one hand and labour on the other was
widening daily, masters and servants snarling over wages and hours, the
quarrel ever increasing in bitterness and acrimony until one day the
extreme limit of patience would be reached and industrial strikes would
give place to bloody violence.
Meantime the plutocrats, wholly careless of the significant signs of
the times and the growing irritation and resentment of the people,
continued their illegal practices, scoffing at public opinion, snapping
their fingers at the law, even going so far in their insolence as to
mock and jibe at the President of the United States. Feeling secure in
long immunity and actually protected in their wrong doing by the
courts—the legal machinery by its very elaborateness defeating the
ends of justice—the Trust kings impudently defied the country and
tried to impose their own will upon the people. History had thus
repeated itself. The armed feudalism of the middle ages had been
succeeded in twentieth century America by the tyranny of capital.
Yet, ruminated the young artist as he neared the Ryder residence, the
American people had but themselves to blame for their present
thralldom. Forty years before Abraham Lincoln had warned the country
when at the close of the war he saw that the race for wealth was
already making men and women money-mad. In 1864 he wrote these words:
"Yes, we may congratulate ourselves that this cruel war is nearing its
close. It has cost a vast amount of treasure and blood. The best blood
of the flower of American youth has been freely offered upon our
country's altar that the nation might live. It has been indeed a trying
hour for the Republic, but I see in the near future a crisis
approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of
my country. As a result of the war, corporations have been enthroned
and an era of corruption in high places will follow and the money power
of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the
prejudices of the people until all the wealth is aggregated in a few
hands and the Republic is destroyed."
Truly prophetic these solemn words were to-day. Forgetting the austere
simplicity of their forebears, a love of show and ostentation had
become the ruling passion of the American people. Money, MONEY,
MONEY! was to-day the only standard, the only god! The whole nation,
frenzied with a wild lust for wealth no matter how acquired, had
tacitly acquiesced in all sorts of turpitude, every description of
moral depravity, and so had fallen an easy victim to the band of
capitalistic adventurers who now virtually ruled the land. With the
thieves in power, the courts were powerless, the demoralization was
general and the world was afforded the edifying spectacle of an entire
country given up to an orgy of graft—treason in the Senate—corruption
in the Legislature, fraudulent elections, leaks in government reports,
trickery in Wall Street, illegal corners in coal, meat, ice and other
prime necessaries of life, the deadly horrors of the Beef and Drug
Trusts, railroad conspiracies, insurance scandals, the wrecking of
savings banks, police dividing spoils with pickpockets and sharing the
wages of prostitutes, magistrates charged with blackmailing—a foul
stench of social rottenness and decay! What, thought Jefferson, would
be the outcome—Socialism or Anarchy?
Still, he mused, one ray of hope pierced the general gloom—the common
sense, the vigour and the intelligence of the true American man and
woman, the love for a "square deal" which was characteristic of the
plain people, the resistless force of enlightened public opinion. The
country was merely passing through a dark phase in its history, it was
the era of the grafters. There would come a reaction, the rascals would
be exposed and driven off, and the nation would go on upward toward its
high destiny. The country was fortunate, too, in having a strong
president, a man of high principles and undaunted courage who had
already shown his capacity to deal with the critical situation. America
was lucky with her presidents. Picked out by the great political
parties as mere figureheads, sometimes they deceived their sponsors,
and showed themselves men and patriots. Such a president was Theodore
Roosevelt. After beginning vigorous warfare on the Trusts, attacking
fearlessly the most rascally of the band, the chief of the nation had
sounded the slogan of alarm in regard to the multi-millionaires. The
amassing of colossal fortunes, he had declared, must be stopped—a man
might accumulate more than sufficient for his own needs and for the
needs of his children, but the evil practice of perpetuating great and
ever-increasing fortunes for generations yet unborn was recognized as a
peril to the State. To have had the courage to propose such a sweeping
and radical restrictive measure as this should alone, thought
Jefferson, ensure for Theodore Roosevelt a place among America's
greatest and wisest statesmen. He and Americans of his calibre would
eventually perform the titanic task of cleansing these Augean stables,
the muck and accumulated filth of which was sapping the health and
vitality of the nation.
Jefferson turned abruptly and went up the wide steps of an imposing
white marble edifice, which took up the space of half a city block. A
fine example of French Renaissance architecture, with spire roofs,
round turrets and mullioned windows dominating the neighbouring houses,
this magnificent home of the plutocrat, with its furnishings and art
treasures, had cost John Burkett Ryder nearly ten millions of dollars.
It was one of the show places of the town, and when the "rubber neck"
wagons approached the Ryder mansion and the guides, through their
megaphones, expatiated in awe-stricken tones on its external and hidden
beauties, there was a general craning of vertebrae among the "seeing
New York"-ers to catch a glimpse of the abode of the richest man in the
Only a few privileged ones were ever permitted to penetrate to the
interior of this ten-million-dollar home. Ryder was not fond of
company, he avoided strangers and lived in continual apprehension of
the subpoena server. Not that he feared the law, only he usually found
it inconvenient to answer questions in court under oath. The explicit
instructions to the servants, therefore, were to admit no one under any
pretext whatever unless the visitor had been approved by the Hon.
Fitzroy Bagley, Mr. Ryder's aristocratic private secretary, and to
facilitate this preliminary inspection there had been installed between
the library upstairs and the front door one of those ingenious electric
writing devices, such as are used in banks, on which a name is hastily
scribbled, instantly transmitted elsewhere, immediately answered and
the visitor promptly admitted or as quickly shown the door.
Indeed the house, from the street, presented many of the
characteristics of a prison. It had massive doors behind a row of
highly polished steel gates, which would prove as useful in case of
attempted invasion as they were now ornamental, and heavily barred
windows, while on either side of the portico were great marble columns
hung with chains and surmounted with bronze lions rampant. It was
unusual to keep the town house open so late in the summer, but Mr.
Ryder was obliged for business reasons to be in New York at this time,
and Mrs. Ryder, who was one of the few American wives who do not always
get their own way, had good-naturedly acquiesced in the wishes of her
Jefferson did not have to ring at the paternal portal. The sentinel
within was at his post; no one could approach that door without being
seen and his arrival and appearance signalled upstairs. But the great
man's son headed the list of the privileged ones, so without ado the
smartly dressed flunkey opened wide the doors and Jefferson was under
his father's roof.
"Is my father in?" he demanded of the man.
"No, sir," was the respectful answer. "Mr. Ryder has gone out driving,
but Mr. Bagley is upstairs." Then after a brief pause he added: "Mrs.
Ryder is in, too."
In this household where the personality of the mistress was so
completely overshadowed by the stronger personality of the master the
latter's secretary was a more important personage to the servants than
the unobtrusive wife.
Jefferson went up the grand staircase hung on either side with fine old
portraits and rare tapestries, his feet sinking deep in the rich velvet
carpet. On the first landing was a piece of sculptured marble of
inestimable worth, seen in the soft warm light that sifted through a
great pictorial stained-glass window overhead, the subject representing
Ajax and Ulysses contending for the armour of Achilles. To the left of
this, at the top of another flight leading to the library, was hung a
fine full-length portrait of John Burkett Ryder. The ceilings here as
in the lower hall were richly gilt and adorned with paintings by famous
modern artists. When he reached this floor Jefferson was about to turn
to the right and proceed direct to his mother's suite when he heard a
voice near the library door. It was Mr. Bagley giving instructions to
The Honourable Fitzroy Bagley, a younger son of a British peer, had
left his country for his country's good, and in order to turn an honest
penny, which he had never succeeded in doing at home, he had entered
the service of America's foremost financier, hoping to gather a few of
the crumbs that fell from the rich man's table and disguising the
menial nature of his position under the high-sounding title of private
secretary. His job called for a spy and a toady and he filled these
requirements admirably. Excepting with his employer, of whom he stood
in craven fear, his manner was condescendingly patronizing to all with
whom he came in contact, as if he were anxious to impress on these
American plebeians the signal honour which a Fitzroy, son of a British
peer, did them in deigning to remain in their "blarsted" country. In
Mr. Ryder's absence, therefore, he ran the house to suit himself,
bullying the servants and not infrequently issuing orders that were
contradictory to those already given by Mrs. Ryder. The latter offered
no resistance, she knew he was useful to her husband and, what to her
mind was a still better reason for letting him have his own way, she
had always had the greatest reverence for the British aristocracy. It
would have seemed to her little short of vulgarity to question the
actions of anyone who spoke with such a delightful English accent.
Moreover, he dressed with irreproachable taste, was an acknowledged
authority on dinner menus and social functions and knew his Burke
backwards—altogether an accomplished and invaluable person.
Jefferson could not bear the sight of him; in fact, it was this man's
continual presence in the house that had driven him to seek refuge
elsewhere. He believed him to be a scoundrel as he certainly was a cad.
Nor was his estimate of the English secretary far wrong. The man, like
his master, was a grafter, and the particular graft he was after now
was either to make a marriage with a rich American girl or to so
compromise her that the same end would be attained. He was shrewd
enough to realize that he had little chance to get what he wanted in
the open matrimonial market, so he determined to attempt a raid and
carry off an heiress under her father's nose, and the particular
proboscis he had selected was that of his employer's friend, Senator
Roberts. The senator and Miss Roberts were frequently at the Ryder
House and in course of time the aristocratic secretary and the daughter
had become quite intimate. A flighty girl, with no other purpose in
life beyond dress and amusement and having what she termed "a good
time," Kate thought it excellent pastime to flirt with Mr. Bagley, and
when she discovered that he was serious in his attentions she felt
flattered rather than indignant. After all, she argued, he was of noble
birth. If his two brothers died he would be peer of England, and she
had enough money for both. He might not make a bad husband. But she was
careful to keep her own counsel and not let her father have any
suspicion of what was going on. She knew that his heart was set on her
marrying Jefferson Ryder and she knew better than anyone how impossible
that dream was. She herself liked Jefferson quite enough to marry him,
but if his eyes were turned in another direction—and she knew all
about his attentions to Miss Rossmore—she was not going to break her
heart about it. So she continued to flirt secretly with the Honourable
Fitzroy while she still led the Ryders and her own father to think that
she was interested in Jefferson.
"Jorkins," Mr. Bagley was saying to the butler, "Mr. Ryder will occupy
the library on his return. See that he is not disturbed."
"Yes, sir," replied the butler respectfully. The man turned to go when
the secretary called him back.
"And, Jorkins, you will station another man at the front entrance.
Yesterday it was left unguarded, and a man had the audacity to address
Mr. Ryder as he was getting out of his carriage. Last week a reporter
tried to snapshot him. Mr. Ryder was furious. These things must not
happen again, Jorkins. I shall hold you responsible."
"Very good, sir." The butler bowed and went downstairs. The secretary
looked up and saw Jefferson. His face reddened and his manner grew
"Hello! Back from Europe, Jefferson? How jolly! Your mother will be
delighted. She's in her room upstairs."
Declining to take the hint, and gathering from Bagley's embarrassed
manner that he wanted to get rid of him, Jefferson lingered purposely.
When the butler had disappeared, he said:
"This house is getting more and more like a barracks every day. You've
got men all over the place. One can't move a step without falling over
Mr. Bagley drew himself up stiffly, as he always did when assuming an
air of authority.
"Your father's personality demands the utmost precaution," he replied.
"We cannot leave the life of the richest and most powerful financier in
the world at the mercy of the rabble."
"What rabble?" inquired Jefferson, amused.
"The common rabble—the lower class—the riff-raff," explained Mr.
"Pshaw!" laughed Jefferson. "If our financiers were only half as
respectable as the common rabble, as you call them, they would need no
bars to their houses."
Mr. Bagley sneered and shrugged his shoulders.
"Your father has warned me against your socialistic views." Then, with
a lofty air, he added: "For four years I was third groom of the
bedchamber to the second son of England's queen. I know my
"But you are not groom of the bedchamber here," retorted Jefferson.
"Whatever I am," said Mr. Bagley haughtily, "I am answerable to your
"By the way, Bagley," asked Jefferson, "when do you expect father to
return? I want to see him."
"I'm afraid it's quite impossible," answered the secretary with studied
insolence. "He has three important people to see before dinner. There's
the National Republican Committee and Sergeant Ellison of the Secret
Service from Washington—all here by appointment. It's quite
"I didn't ask you if it were possible. I said I wanted to see him and I
will see him," answered Jefferson quietly but firmly, and in a tone and
manner which did not admit of further opposition. "I'll go and leave
word for him on his desk," he added.
He started to enter the library when the secretary, who was visibly
perturbed, attempted to bar his way.
"There's some one in there," he said in an undertone. "Someone waiting
for your father."
"Is there?" replied Jefferson coolly. "I'll see who it is," with which
he brushed past Mr. Bagley and entered the library.
He had guessed aright. A woman was there. It was Kate Roberts.
"Hello, Kate! how are you?" They called each other by their first
names, having been acquainted for years, and while theirs was an
indifferent kind of friendship they had always been on good terms. At
one time Jefferson had even begun to think he might do what his father
wished and marry the girl, but it was only after he had met and known
Shirley Rossmore that he realized how different one woman can be from
another. Yet Kate had her good qualities. She was frivolous and silly
as are most girls with no brains and nothing else to do in life but
dress and spend money, but she might yet be happy with some other
fellow, and that was why it made him angry to see this girl with
$100,000 in her own right playing into the hands of an unscrupulous
adventurer. He had evidently disturbed an interesting tete-a-tete. He
decided to say nothing, but mentally he resolved to spoil Mr. Bagley's
game and save Kate from her own folly. On hearing his voice Kate turned
and gave a little cry of genuine surprise.
"Why, is it you, Jeff? I thought you were in Europe."
"I returned yesterday," he replied somewhat curtly. He crossed over to
his father's desk where he sat down to scribble a few words, while Mr.
Bagley, who had followed him in scowling, was making frantic dumb signs
"I fear I intrude here," said Jefferson pointedly.
"Oh, dear no, not at all," replied Kate in some confusion. "I was
waiting for my father. How is Paris?" she asked.
"Lovely as ever," he answered.
"Did you have a good time?" she inquired.
"I enjoyed it immensely. I never had a better one."
"You probably were in good company," she said significantly. Then she
added: "I believe Miss Rossmore was in Paris."
"Yes, I think she was there," was his non-committal answer.
To change the conversation, which was becoming decidedly personal, he
picked up a book that was lying on his father's desk and glanced at the
title. It was "The American Octopus."
"Is father still reading this?" he asked. "He was at it when I left."
"Everybody is reading it," said Kate. "The book has made a big
sensation. Do you know who the hero is?"
"Who?" he asked with an air of the greatest innocence.
"Why, no less a personage than your father—John Burkett Ryder himself!
Everybody says it's he—the press and everybody that's read it. He says
"Really?" he exclaimed with well-simulated surprise. "I must read it."
"It has made a strong impression on Mr. Ryder," chimed in Mr. Bagley.
"I never knew him to be so interested in a book before. He's trying his
best to find out who the author is. It's a jolly well written book and
raps you American millionaires jolly well—what?"
"Whoever wrote the book," interrupted Kate, "is somebody who knows Mr.
Ryder exceedingly well. There are things in it that an outsider could
not possibly know."
"Phew!" Jefferson whistled softly to himself. He was treading dangerous
ground. To conceal his embarrassment, he rose.
"If you'll excuse me, I'll go and pay my filial respects upstairs. I'll
see you again." He gave Kate a friendly nod, and without even glancing
at Mr. Bagley left the room.
The couple stood in silence for a few moments after he disappeared.
Then Kate went to the door and listened to his retreating footsteps.
When she was sure that he was out of earshot she turned on Mr. Bagley
"You see what you expose me to. Jefferson thinks this was a rendezvous."
"Well, it was to a certain extent," replied the secretary unabashed.
"Didn't you ask me to see you here?"
"Yes," said Kate, taking a letter from her bosom, "I wanted to ask you
what this means?"
"My dear Miss Roberts—Kate—I"—stammered the secretary.
"How dare you address me in this manner when you know I and Mr. Ryder
No one knew better than Kate that this was not true, but she said it
partly out of vanity, partly out of a desire to draw out this
Englishman who made such bold love to her.
"Miss Roberts," replied Mr. Bagley loftily, "in that note I expressed
my admiration—my love for you. Your engagement to Mr. Jefferson Ryder
is, to say the least, a most uncertain fact." There was a tinge of
sarcasm in his voice that did not escape Kate.
"You must not judge from appearances," she answered, trying to keep up
the outward show of indignation which inwardly she did not feel. "Jeff
and I may hide a passion that burns like a volcano. All lovers are not
demonstrative, you know."
The absurdity of this description as applied to her relations with
Jefferson appealed to her as so comical that she burst into laughter in
which the secretary joined.
"Then why did you remain here with me when the Senator went out with
Mr. Ryder, senior?" he demanded.
"To tell you that I cannot listen to your nonsense any longer,"
retorted the girl.
"What?" he cried, incredulously. "You remain here to tell me that you
cannot listen to me when you could easily have avoided listening to me
without telling me so. Kate, your coldness is not convincing."
"You mean you think I want to listen to you?" she demanded.
"I do," he answered, stepping forward as if to take her in his arms.
"Mr. Bagley!" she exclaimed, recoiling.
"A week ago," he persisted, "you called me Fitzroy. Once, in an
outburst of confidence, you called me Fitz."
"You hadn't asked me to marry you then," she laughed mockingly. Then
edging away towards the door she waved her hand at him playfully and
said teasingly: "Good-bye, Mr. Bagley, I am going upstairs to Mrs.
Ryder. I will await my father's return in her room. I think I shall be
He ran forward to intercept her, but she was too quick for him. The
door slammed in his face and she was gone.
Meantime Jefferson had proceeded upstairs, passing through long and
luxuriously carpeted corridors with panelled frescoed walls, and hung
with grand old tapestries and splendid paintings, until he came to his
mother's room. He knocked.
"Come in!" called out the familiar voice. He entered. Mrs. Ryder was
busy at her escritoire looking over a mass of household accounts.
"Hello, mother!" he cried, running up and hugging her in his boyish,
impulsive way. Jefferson had always been devoted to his mother, and
while he deplored her weakness in permitting herself to be so
completely under the domination of his father, she had always found him
an affectionate and loving son.
"Jefferson!" she exclaimed when he released her. "My dear boy, when did
"Only yesterday. I slept at the studio last night. You're looking
bully, mother. How's father?"
Mrs. Ryder sighed while she looked her son over proudly. In her heart
she was glad Jefferson had turned out as he had. Her boy certainly
would never be a financier to be attacked in magazines and books.
Answering his question she said:
"Your father is as well as those busybodies in the newspapers will let
him be. He's considerably worried just now over that new book 'The
American Octopus.' How dare they make him out such a monster? He's no
worse than other successful business men. He's richer, that's all, and
it makes them jealous. He's out driving now with Senator Roberts. Kate
is somewhere in the house—in the library, I think."
"Yes, I found her there," replied Jefferson dryly. "She was with that
cad, Bagley. When is father going to find that fellow out?"
"Oh, Jefferson," protested his mother, "how can you talk like that of
Mr. Bagley. He is such a perfect gentleman. His family connections
alone should entitle him to respect. He is certainly the best secretary
your father ever had. I'm sure I don't know what we should do without
him. He knows everything that a gentleman should."
"And a good deal more, I wager," growled Jefferson. "He wasn't groom of
the backstairs to England's queen for nothing." Then changing the
topic, he said suddenly: "Talking about Kate, mother, we have got to
reach some definite understanding. This talk about my marrying her must
stop. I intend to take the matter up with father to-day."
"Oh, of course, more trouble!" replied his mother in a resigned tone.
She was so accustomed to having her wishes thwarted that she was never
surprised at anything. "We heard of your goings on in Paris. That Miss
Rossmore was there, was she not?"
"That has got nothing to do with it," replied Jefferson warmly. He
resented Shirley's name being dragged into the discussion. Then more
calmly he went on: "Now, mother, be reasonable, listen. I purpose to
live my own life. I have already shown my father that I will not be
dictated to, and that I can earn my own living. He has no right to
force this marriage on me. There has never been any misunderstanding on
Kate's part. She and I understand each other thoroughly."
"Well, Jefferson, you may be right from your point of view," replied
his mother weakly. She invariably ended by agreeing with the last one
who argued with her. "You are of age, of course. Your parents have only
a moral right over you. Only remember this: it would be foolish of you
to do anything now to anger your father. His interests are your
interests. Don't do anything to jeopardize them. Of course, you can't
be forced to marry a girl you don't care for, but your father will be
bitterly disappointed. He had set his heart on this match. He knows all
about your infatuation for Miss Rossmore and it has made him furious. I
suppose you've heard about her father?"
"Yes, and it's a dastardly outrage," blurted out Jefferson. "It's a
damnable conspiracy against one of the most honourable men that ever
lived, and I mean to ferret out and expose the authors. I came here
to-day to ask father to help me."
"You came to ask your father to help you?" echoed his mother
"Why not?" demanded Jefferson. "Is it true then that he is selfishness
incarnate? Wouldn't he do that much to help a friend?"
"You've come to the wrong house, Jeff. You ought to know that. Your
father is far from being Judge Rossmore's friend. Surely you have sense
enough to realize that there are two reasons why he would not raise a
finger to help him. One is that he has always been his opponent in
public life, the other is that you want to marry his daughter."
Jefferson sat as if struck dumb. He had not thought of that. Yes, it
was true. His father and the father of the girl he loved were mortal
enemies. How was help to be expected from the head of those "interests"
which the judge had always attacked, and now he came to think of it,
perhaps his own father was really at the bottom of these abominable
charges! He broke into a cold perspiration and his voice was altered as
"Yes, I see now, mother. You are right." Then he added bitterly: "That
has always been the trouble at home. No matter where I turn, I am up
against a stone wall—the money interests. One never hears a glimmer of
fellow-feeling, never a word of human sympathy, only cold calculation,
heartless reasoning, money, money, money! Oh, I am sick of it. I don't
want any of it. I am going away where I'll hear no more of it."
His mother laid her hand gently on his shoulder.
"Don't talk that way, Jefferson. Your father is not a bad man at heart,
you know that. His life has been devoted to money making and he has
made a greater fortune than any man living or dead. He is only what his
life has made him. He has a good heart. And he loves you—his only son.
But his business enemies—ah! those he never forgives."
Jefferson was about to reply when suddenly a dozen electric bells
sounded all over the house.
"What's that?" exclaimed Jefferson, alarmed, and starting towards the
"Oh, that's nothing," smiled his mother. "We have had that put in since
you went away. Your father must have just come in. Those bells announce
the fact. It was done so that if there happened to be any strangers in
the house they could be kept out of the way until he reached the
"Oh," laughed Jefferson, "he's afraid some one will kidnap him?
Certainly he would be a rich prize. I wouldn't care for the job myself,
though. They'd be catching a tartar."
His speech was interrupted by a timid knock at the door.
"May I come in to say good-bye?" asked a voice which they recognized as
Kate's. She had successfully escaped from Mr. Bagley's importunities
and was now going home with the Senator. She smiled amiably at
Jefferson and they chatted pleasantly of his trip abroad. He was
sincerely sorry for this girl whom they were trying to foist on him.
Not that he thought she really cared for him, he was well aware that
hers was a nature that made it impossible to feel very deeply on any
subject, but the idea of this ready-made marriage was so foreign, so
revolting to the American mind! He thought it would be a kindness to
warn her against Bagley.
"Don't be foolish, Kate," he said. "I was not blind just now in the
library. That man is no good."
As is usual when one's motives are suspected, the girl resented his
interference. She knew he hated Mr. Bagley and she thought it mean of
him to try and get even in this way. She stiffened up and replied
"I think I am able to look after myself, Jefferson. Thanks, all the
He shrugged his shoulders and made no reply. She said good-bye to Mrs.
Ryder, who was again immersed in her tradespeople bills, and left the
room, escorted by Jefferson, who accompanied her downstairs and on to
the street where Senator Roberts was waiting for her in the open
victoria. The senator greeted with unusual cordiality the young man
whom he still hoped to make his son-in-law.
"Come and see us, Jefferson," he said. "Come to dinner any evening. We
are always alone and Kate and I will be glad to see you."
"Jefferson has so little time now, father. His work and—his friends
keep him pretty busy."
Jefferson had noted both the pause and the sarcasm, but he said
nothing. He smiled and the senator raised his hat. As the carriage
drove off the young man noticed that Kate glanced at one of the upper
windows where Mr. Bagley stood behind a curtain watching. Jefferson
returned to the house. The psychological moment had arrived. He must go
now and confront his father in the library.
The library was the most important room in the Ryder mansion, for it
was there that the Colossus carried through his most important business
deals, and its busiest hours were those which most men devote to rest.
But John Burkett Ryder never rested. There could be no rest for any man
who had a thousand millions of dollars to take care of. Like Macbeth,
he could sleep no more. When the hum of business life had ceased down
town and he returned home from the tall building in lower Broadway,
then his real work began. The day had been given to mere business
routine; in his own library at night, free from inquisitive ears and
prying eyes, he could devise new schemes for strengthening his grip
upon the country, he could evolve more gigantic plans for adding to his
already countless millions.
Here the money Moloch held court like any king, with as much ceremony
and more secrecy, and having for his courtiers some of the most
prominent men in the political and industrial life of the nation.
Corrupt senators, grafting Congressmen, ambitious railroad presidents,
insolent coal barons who impudently claimed they administered the coal
lands in trust for the Almighty, unscrupulous princes of finance and
commerce, all visited this room to receive orders or pay from the head
of the "System." Here were made and unmade governors of States, mayors
of cities, judges, heads of police, cabinet ministers, even presidents.
Here were turned over to confidential agents millions of dollars to
overturn the people's vote in the National elections; here were
distributed yearly hundreds of thousands of dollars to grafters, large
and small, who had earned it in the service of the "interests."
Here, secretly and unlawfully, the heads of railroads met to agree on
rates which by discriminating against one locality in favour of another
crushed out competition, raised the cost to the consumer, and put
millions in the pockets of the Trust. Here were planned tricky
financial operations, with deliberate intent to mislead and deceive the
investing public, operations which would send stocks soaring one day,
only a week later to put Wall Street on the verge of panic. Half a
dozen suicides might result from the coup, but twice as many millions
of profits had gone into the coffers of the "System." Here, too, was
perpetrated the most heinous crime that can be committed against a free
people—the conspiring of the Trusts abetted by the railroads, to
arbitrarily raise the prices of the necessaries of life—meat, coal,
oil, ice, gas—wholly without other justification than that of greed,
which, with these men, was the unconquerable, all-absorbing passion. In
short, everything that unscrupulous leaders of organized capital could
devise to squeeze the life blood out of the patient, defenceless toiler
was done within these four walls.
It was a handsome room, noble in proportions and abundantly lighted by
three large and deeply recessed, mullioned windows, one in the middle
of the room and one at either end. The lofty ceiling was a marvellously
fine example of panelled oak of Gothic design, decorated with gold, and
the shelves for books which lined the walls were likewise of oak,
richly carved. In the centre of the wall facing the windows was a
massive and elaborately designed oak chimney-piece, reaching up to the
ceiling, and having in the middle panel over the mantel a fine
three-quarter length portrait of George Washington. The room was
furnished sumptuously yet quietly, and fully in keeping with the rich
collection of classic and modern authors that filled the bookcases, and
in corners here and there stood pedestals with marble busts of
Shakespeare, Goethe and Voltaire. It was the retreat of a scholar
rather than of a man of affairs.
When Jefferson entered, his father was seated at his desk, a long black
cigar between his lips, giving instructions to Mr. Bagley. Mr. Ryder
looked up quickly as the door opened and the secretary made a movement
forward as if to eject the intruder, no matter who he might be. They
were not accustomed to having people enter the sanctum of the Colossus
so unceremoniously. But when he saw who it was, Mr. Ryder's stern, set
face relaxed and he greeted his son amiably.
"Why, Jeff, my boy, is that you? Just a moment, until I get rid of
Bagley, and I'll be with you."
Jefferson turned to the book shelves and ran over the titles while the
financier continued his business with the secretary.
"Now, Bagley. Come, quick. What is it?"
He spoke in a rapid, explosive manner, like a man who has only a few
moments to spare before he must rush to catch a train. John Ryder had
been catching trains all his life, and he had seldom missed one.
"Governor Rice called. He wants an appointment," said Mr. Bagley,
holding out a card.
"I can't see him. Tell him so," came the answer, quick as a flash. "Who
else?" he demanded. "Where's your list?"
Mr. Bagley took from the desk a list of names and read them over.
"General Abbey telephoned. He says you promised—"
"Yes, yes," interrupted Ryder impatiently, "but not here. Down town,
to-morrow, any time. Next?"
The secretary jotted down a note against each name and then said:
"There are some people downstairs in the reception room. They are here
"Who are they?"
"The National Republican Committee and Sergeant Ellison of the Secret
Service from Washington," replied Mr. Bagley.
"Who was here first?" demanded the financier.
"Sergeant Ellison, sir."
"Then I'll see him first, and the Committee afterwards. But let them
all wait until I ring. I wish to speak with my son." He waved his hand
and the secretary, knowing well from experience that this was a sign
that there must be no further discussion, bowed respectfully and left
the room. Jefferson turned and advanced towards his father, who held
out his hand.
"Well, Jefferson," he said kindly, "did you have a good time abroad?"
"Yes, sir, thank you. Such a trip is a liberal education in itself."
"Ready for work again, eh? I'm glad you're back, Jefferson. I'm busy
now, but one of these days I want to have a serious talk with you in
regard to your future. This artist business is all very well—for a
pastime. But it's not a career—surely you can appreciate that—for a
young man with such prospects as yours. Have you ever stopped to think
Jefferson was silent. He did not want to displease his father; on the
other hand, it was impossible to let things drift as they had been
doing. There must be an understanding sooner or later. Why not now?
"The truth is, sir," he began timidly, "I'd like a little talk with you
now, if you can spare the time."
Ryder, Sr., looked first at his watch and then at his son, who, ill at
ease, sat nervously on the extreme edge of a chair. Then he said with a
"Well, my boy, to be perfectly frank, I can't—but—I will. Come, what
is it?" Then, as if to apologize for his previous abruptness, he added,
"I've had a very busy day, Jeff. What with Trans-Continental and
Trans-Atlantic and Southern Pacific, and Wall Street, and Rate Bills,
and Washington I feel like Atlas shouldering the world."
"The world wasn't intended for one pair of shoulders to carry, sir,"
rejoined Jefferson calmly.
His father looked at him in amazement. It was something new to hear
anyone venturing to question or comment upon anything he said.
"Why not?" he demanded, when he had recovered from his surprise.
"Julius Caesar carried it. Napoleon carried it—to a certain extent.
However, that's neither here nor there. What is it, boy?"
Unable to remain a moment inactive, he commenced to pick among the mass
of papers on his desk, while Jefferson was thinking what to say. The
last word his father uttered gave him a cue, and he blurted out
"That's just it, sir. You forget that I'm no longer a boy. It's time to
treat me as if I were a man."
Ryder, Sr., leaned back in his chair and laughed heartily.
"A man at twenty-eight? That's an excellent joke. Do you know that a
man doesn't get his horse sense till he's forty?"
"I want you to take me seriously," persisted Jefferson.
Ryder, Sr., was not a patient man. His moments of good humour were of
brief duration. Anything that savoured of questioning his authority
always angered him. The smile went out of his face and he retorted
explosively: "Go on—damn it all! Be serious if you want, only don't
take so long about it. But understand one thing. I want no preaching,
no philosophical or socialistic twaddle. No Tolstoi—he's a great
thinker, and you're not. No Bernard Shaw—he's funny, and you're not.
Now go ahead."
This beginning was not very encouraging, and Jefferson felt somewhat
intimidated. But he realized that he might not have another such
opportunity, so he plunged right in.
"I should have spoken to you before if you had let me," he said. "I
"If I let you?" interrupted his father. "Do you expect me to sit and
listen patiently to your wild theories of social reform? You asked me
one day why the wages of the idle rich was wealth and the wages of hard
work was poverty, and I told you that I worked harder in one day than a
tunnel digger works in a life-time. Thinking is a harder game than any.
You must think or you won't know. Napoleon knew more about war than all
his generals put together. I know more about money than any man living
to-day. The man who knows is the man who wins. The man who takes advice
isn't fit to give it. That's why I never take yours. Come, don't be a
fool, Jeff—give up this art nonsense. Come back to the Trading
Company. I'll make you vice-president, and I'll teach you the business
of making millions."
Jefferson shook his head. It was hard to have to tell his own father
that he did not think the million-making business quite a respectable
one, so he only murmured:
"It's impossible, father. I am devoted to my work. I even intend to go
away and travel a few years and see the world. It will help me
Ryder, Sr., eyed his son in silence for a few moments; then he said
"Don't be obstinate, Jeff. Listen to me. I know the world better than
you do. You mustn't go away. You are the only flesh and blood I have."
He stopped speaking for a moment, as if overcome by a sudden emotion
over which he had no control. Jefferson remained silent, nervously
toying with a paper cutter. Seeing that his words had made no effect,
Ryder thumped his desk with his fist and cried:
"You see my weakness. You see that I want you with me, and now you take
advantage—you take advantage—"
"No, father, I don't," protested Jefferson; "but I want to go away.
Although I have my studio and am practically independent, I want to go
where I shall be perfectly free—where my every move will not be
watched—where I can meet my fellow-man heart to heart on an equal
basis, where I shall not be pointed out as the son of Ready Money
Ryder. I want to make a reputation of my own as an artist."
"Why not study theology and become a preacher?" sneered Ryder. Then,
more amiably, he said: "No, my lad, you stay here. Study my
interests—study the interests that will be yours some day."
"No," said Jefferson doggedly, "I'd rather go—my work and my
self-respect demand it."
"Then go, damn it, go!" cried his father in a burst of anger. "I'm a
fool for wasting my time with an ungrateful son." He rose from his seat
and began to pace the room.
"Father," exclaimed Jefferson starting forward, "you do me an
"An injustice?" echoed Mr. Ryder turning round. "Ye gods! I've given
you the biggest name in the commercial world; the most colossal fortune
ever accumulated by one man is waiting for you, and you say I've done
you an injustice!"
"Yes—we are rich," said Jefferson bitterly. "But at what a cost! You
do not go into the world and hear the sneers that I get everywhere. You
may succeed in muzzling the newspapers and magazines, but you cannot
silence public opinion. People laugh when they hear the name
Ryder—when they do not weep. All your millions cannot purchase the
world's respect. You try to throw millions to the public as a bone to a
dog, and they decline the money on the ground that it is tainted.
Doesn't that tell you what the world thinks of your methods?"
Ryder laughed cynically. He went back to his desk, and, sitting facing
his son, he replied:
"Jefferson, you are young. It is one of the symptoms of youth to worry
about public opinion. When you are as old as I am you will understand
that there is only one thing which counts in this world—money. The man
who has it possesses power over the man who has it not, and power is
what the ambitious man loves most."
He stopped to pick up a book. It was "The American Octopus." Turning
again to his son, he went on:
"Do you see this book? It is the literary sensation of the year. Why?
Because it attacks me—the richest man in the world. It holds me up as
a monster, a tyrant, a man without soul, honour or conscience, caring
only for one thing—money; having but one passion—the love of power,
and halting at nothing, not even at crime, to secure it. That is the
portrait they draw of your father."
Jefferson said nothing. He was wondering if his sire had a suspicion
who wrote it and was leading up to that. But Ryder, Sr., continued:
"Do I care? The more they attack me the more I like it. Their puny pen
pricks have about the same effect as mosquito bites on the pachyderm.
What I am, the conditions of my time made me. When I started in
business a humble clerk, forty years ago, I had but one goal—success;
I had but one aim—to get rich. I was lucky. I made a little money, and
I soon discovered that I could make more money by outwitting my
competitors in the oil fields. Railroad conditions helped me. The whole
country was money mad. A wave of commercial prosperity swept over the
land and I was carried along on its crest. I grew enormously rich, my
millions increasing by leaps and bounds. I branched out into other
interests, successful always, until my holdings grew to what they are
to-day—the wonder of the twentieth century. What do I care for the
world's respect when my money makes the world my slave? What respect
can I have for a people that cringe before money and let it rule them?
Are you aware that not a factory wheel turns, not a vote is counted,
not a judge is appointed, not a legislator seated, not a president
elected without my consent? I am the real ruler of the United
States—not the so-called government at Washington. They are my puppets
and this is my executive chamber. This power will be yours one day,
boy, but you must know how to use it when it comes."
"I never want it, father," said Jefferson firmly. "To me your words
savour of treason. I couldn't imagine that American talking that way."
He pointed to the mantel, at the picture of George Washington.
Ryder, Sr., laughed. He could not help it if his son was an idealist.
There was no use getting angry, so he merely shrugged his shoulders and
"All right, Jeff. We'll discuss the matter later, when you've cut your
wisdom teeth. Just at present you're in the clouds. But you spoke of my
doing you an injustice. How can my love of power do you an injustice?"
"Because," replied Jefferson, "you exert that power over your family as
well as over your business associates. You think and will for everybody
in the house, for everyone who comes in contact with you. Yours is an
influence no one seems able to resist. You robbed me of my right to
think. Ever since I was old enough to think, you have thought for me;
ever since I was old enough to choose, you have chosen for me. You have
chosen that I should marry Kate Roberts. That is the one thing I wished
to speak to you about. The marriage is impossible."
Ryder, Sr., half sprang from his seat. He had listened patiently, he
thought, to all that his headstrong son had said, but that he should
repudiate in this unceremonious fashion what was a tacit understanding
between the two families, and, what was more, run the risk of injuring
the Ryder interests—that was inconceivable. Leaving his desk, he
advanced into the centre of the room, and folding his arms confronted
"So," he said sternly, "this is your latest act of rebellion, is it?
You are going to welsh on your word? You are going to jilt the girl?"
"I never gave my word," answered Jefferson hotly. "Nor did Kate
understand that an engagement existed. You can't expect me to marry a
girl I don't care a straw about. It would not be fair to her."
"Have you stopped to think whether it would be fair to me?" thundered
His face was pale with anger, his jet-black eyes flashed, and his white
hair seemed to bristle with rage. He paced the floor for a few moments,
and then turning to Jefferson, who had not moved, he said more calmly:
"Don't be a fool, Jeff. I don't want to think for you, or to choose for
you, or to marry for you. I did not interfere when you threw up the
position I made for you in the Trading Company and took that studio. I
realized that you were restless under the harness, so I gave you plenty
of rein. But I know so much better than you what is best for you.
Believe me I do. Don't—don't be obstinate. This marriage means a great
deal to my interests—to your interests. Kate's father is all powerful
in the Senate. He'll never forgive this disappointment. Hang it all,
you liked the girl once, and I made sure that—"
He stopped suddenly, and the expression on his face changed as a new
light dawned upon him.
"It isn't that Rossmore girl, is it?" he demanded. His face grew dark
and his jaw clicked as he said between his teeth: "I told you some time
ago how I felt about her. If I thought that it was Rossmore's daughter!
You know what's going to happen to him, don't you?"
Thus appealed to, Jefferson thought this was the most favourable
opportunity he would have to redeem his promise to Shirley. So, little
anticipating the tempest he was about to unchain, he answered:
"I am familiar with the charges that they have trumped up against him.
Needless to say, I consider him entirely innocent. What's more, I
firmly believe he is the victim of a contemptible conspiracy. And I'm
going to make it my business to find out who the plotters are. I came
to ask you to help me. Will you?"
For a moment Ryder was speechless from utter astonishment. Then, as he
realized the significance of his son's words and their application to
himself he completely lost control of himself. His face became livid,
and he brought his fist down on his desk with a force that shook the
"I will see him in hell first!" he cried. "Damn him! He has always
opposed me. He has always defied my power, and now his daughter has
entrapped my son. So it's her you want to go to, eh? Well, I can't make
you marry a girl you don't want, but I can prevent you throwing
yourself away on the daughter of a man who is about to be publicly
disgraced, and, by God, I will."
"Poor old Rossmore," said Jefferson bitterly. "If the history of every
financial transaction were made known, how many of us would escape
public disgrace? Would you?" he cried.
Ryder, Sr., rose, his hands working dangerously. He made a movement as
if about to advance on his son, but by a supreme effort he controlled
"No, upon my word, it's no use disinheriting you, you wouldn't care. I
think you'd be glad; on my soul, I do!" Then calming down once more, he
added: "Jefferson, give me your word of honour that your object in
going away is not to find out this girl and marry her unknown to me. I
don't mind your losing your heart, but, damn it, don't lose your head.
Give me your hand on it."
Jefferson reluctantly held out his hand.
"If I thought you would marry that girl unknown to me, I'd have
Rossmore sent out of the country and the woman too. Listen, boy. This
man is my enemy, and I show no mercy to my enemies. There are more
reasons than one why you cannot marry Miss Rossmore. If she knew one of
them she would not marry you."
"What reasons?" demanded Jefferson.
"The principal one," said Ryder, slowly and deliberately, and eyeing
his son keenly as if to judge of the effect of his words, "the
principal one is that it was through my agents that the demand was made
for her father's impeachment."
"Ah," cried Jefferson, "then I guessed aright! Oh, father, how could
you have done that? If you only knew him!"
Ryder, Sr., had regained command of his temper, and now spoke calmly
"Jefferson, I don't have to make any apologies to you for the way I
conduct my business. The facts contained in the charge were brought to
my attention. I did not see why I should spare him. He never spared me.
I shall not interfere, and the probabilities are that he will be
impeached. Senator Roberts said this afternoon that it was a certainty.
You see yourself how impossible a marriage with Miss Rossmore would be,
"Yes, father, I see now. I have nothing more to say."
"Do you still intend going away?"
"Yes," replied Jefferson bitterly. "Why not? You have taken away the
only reason why I should stay."
"Think it well over, lad. Marry Kate or not, as you please, but I want
you to stay here."
"It's no use. My mind is made up," answered Jefferson decisively.
The telephone rang, and Jefferson got up to go. Mr. Ryder took up the
"Hallo! What's that? Sergeant Ellison? Yes, send him up."
Putting the telephone down, Ryder, Sr., rose, and crossing the room
accompanied his son to the door.
"Think it well over, Jeff. Don't be hasty."
"I have thought it over, sir, and I have decided to go."
A few moments later Jefferson left the house.
Ryder, Sr., went back to his desk and sat for a moment in deep thought.
For the first time in his life he was face to face with defeat; for the
first time he had encountered a will as strong as his own. He who could
rule parliaments and dictate to governments now found himself powerless
to rule his own son. At all costs, he mused, the boy's infatuation for
Judge Rossmore's daughter must be checked, even if he had to blacken
the girl's character as well as the father's, or, as a last resort,
send the entire family out of the country. He had not lost sight of his
victim since the carefully prepared crash in Wall Street, and the sale
of the Rossmore home following the bankruptcy of the Great Northwestern
Mining Company. His agents had reported their settlement in the quiet
little village on Long Island, and he had also learned of Miss
Rossmore's arrival from Europe, which coincided strangely with the
home-coming of his own son. He decided, therefore, to keep a closer
watch on Massapequa now than ever, and that is why to-day's call of
Sergeant Ellison, a noted sleuth in the government service, found so
ready a welcome.
The door opened, and Mr. Bagley entered, followed by a tall, powerfully
built man whose robust physique and cheap looking clothes contrasted
strangely with the delicate, ultra-fashionably attired English
"Take a seat, Sergeant," said Mr. Ryder, cordially motioning his
visitor to a chair. The man sat down gingerly on one of the rich
leather-upholstered chairs. His manner was nervous and awkward, as if
intimidated in the presence of the financier.
"Are the Republican Committee still waiting?" demanded Mr. Ryder.
"Yes, sir," replied the secretary.
"I'll see them in a few minutes. Leave me with Sergeant Ellison."
Mr. Bagley bowed and retired.
"Well, Sergeant, what have you got to report?"
He opened a box of cigars that stood on the desk and held it out to the
"Take a cigar," he said amiably.
The man took a cigar, and also the match which Mr. Ryder held out. The
financier knew how to be cordial with those who could serve him.
"Thanks. This is a good one," smiled the sleuth, sniffing at the weed.
"We don't often get a chance at such as these."
"It ought to be good," laughed Ryder. "They cost two dollars apiece."
The detective was so surprised at this unheard of extravagance that he
inhaled a puff of smoke which almost choked him. It was like burning
Ryder, with his customary bluntness, came right down to business.
"Well, what have you been doing about the book?" he demanded. "Have you
found the author of 'The American Octopus'?"
"No, sir, I have not. I confess I'm baffled. The secret has been well
kept. The publishers have shut up like a clam. There's only one thing
that I'm pretty well sure of."
"What's that?" demanded Ryder, interested.
"That no such person as Shirley Green exists."
"Oh," exclaimed, the financier, "then you think it is a mere nom de
"And what do you think was the reason for preserving the anonymity?"
"Well, you see, sir, the book deals with a big subject. It gives some
hard knocks, and the author, no doubt, felt a little timid about
launching it under his or her real name. At least that's my theory,
"And a good one, no doubt," said Mr. Ryder. Then he added: "That makes
me all the more anxious to find out who it is. I would willingly give
this moment a check for $5,000 to know who wrote it. Whoever it is,
knows me as well as I know myself. We must find the author."
The sleuth was silent for a moment. Then he said:
"There might be one way to reach the author, but it will be successful
only in the event of her being willing to be known and come out into
the open. Suppose you write to her in care of the publishers. They
would certainly forward the letter to wherever she may be. If she does
not want you to know who she is she will ignore your letter and remain
in the background. If, on the contrary, she has no fear of you, and is
willing to meet you, she will answer the letter."
"Ah, I never thought of that!" exclaimed Ryder. "It's a good idea. I'll
write such a letter at once. It shall go to-night."
He unhooked the telephone and asked Mr. Bagley to come up. A few
seconds later the secretary entered the room.
"Bagley," said Mr. Ryder, "I want you to write a letter for me to Miss
Shirley Green, author of that book 'The American Octopus. We will
address it care of her publishers, Littleton & Co. Just say that if
convenient I should like a personal interview with her at my office,
No. 36 Broadway, in relation to her book, 'The American Octopus.' See
that it is mailed to-night. That's all."
Mr. Bagley bowed and retired. Mr. Ryder turned to the secret service
"There, that's settled. We'll see how it works. And now, Sergeant, I
have another job for you, and if you are faithful to my interests you
will not find me unappreciative. Do you know a little place on Long
Island called Massapequa?"
"Yes," grinned the detective, "I know it. They've got some fine
specimens of 'skeeters' there."
Paying no attention to this jocularity, Mr. Ryder continued:
"Judge Rossmore is living there—pending the outcome of his case in the
Senate. His daughter has just arrived from Europe. My son Jefferson
came home on the same ship. They are a little more friendly than I care
to have them. You understand. I want to know if my son visits the
Rossmores, and if he does I wish to be kept informed of all that's
going on. You understand?"
"Perfectly, sir. You shall know everything."
Mr. Ryder took a blank check from his desk and proceeded to fill it up.
Then handing it to the detective, he said:
"Here is $500 for you. Spare neither trouble or expense."
"Thank you, sir," said the man as he pocketed the money. "Leave it to
"That's about all, I think. Regarding the other matter, we'll see how
the letter works."
He touched a bell and rose, which was a signal to the visitor that the
interview was at an end. Mr. Bagley entered.
"Sergeant Ellison is going," said Mr. Ryder. "Have him shown out, and
send the Republican Committee up."
"What!" exclaimed Shirley, changing colour, "you believe that John
Burkett Ryder is at the bottom of this infamous accusation against
It was the day following her arrival at Massapequa, and Shirley, the
judge and Stott were all three sitting on the porch. Until now, by
common consent, any mention of the impeachment proceedings had been
avoided by everyone. The previous afternoon and evening had been spent
listening to an account of Shirley's experiences in Europe and a smile
had flitted across even the judge's careworn face as his daughter gave
a humorous description of the picturesque Paris student with their long
hair and peg-top trousers, while Stott simply roared with laughter. Ah,
it was good to laugh again after so much trouble and anxiety! But while
Shirley avoided the topic that lay nearest her heart, she was consumed
with a desire to tell her father of the hope she had of enlisting the
aid of John Burkett Ryder. The great financier was certainly able to do
anything he chose, and had not his son Jefferson promised to win him
over to their cause? So, to-day, after Mrs. Rossmore and her sister had
gone down to the village to make some purchases Shirley timidly
broached the matter. She asked Stott and her father to tell her
everything, to hold back nothing. She wanted to hear the worst.
Stott, therefore, started to review the whole affair from the
beginning, explaining how her father in his capacity as Judge of the
Supreme Court had to render decisions, several of which were adverse to
the corporate interests of a number of rich men, and how since that
time these powerful interests had used all their influence to get him
put off the Bench. He told her about the Transcontinental case and how
the judge had got mysteriously tangled up in the Great Northern Mining
Company, and of the scandalous newspaper rumours, followed by the news
of the Congressional inquiry. Then he told her about the panic in Wall
Street, the sale of the house on Madison Avenue and the removal to Long
"That is the situation," said Stott when he had finished. "We are
waiting now to see what the Senate will do. We hope for the best. It
seems impossible that the Senate will condemn a man whose whole life is
like an open book, but unfortunately the Senate is strongly Republican
and the big interests are in complete control. Unless support comes
from some unexpected quarter we must be prepared for anything."
Support from some unexpected quarter! Stott's closing words rang in
Shirley's head. Was that not just what she had to offer? Unable to
restrain herself longer and her heart beating tumultuously from
suppressed emotion, she cried:
"We'll have that support! We'll have it! I've got it already! I wanted
to surprise you! Father, the most powerful man in the United States
will save you from being dishonoured!"
The two men leaned forward in eager interest. What could the girl mean?
Was she serious or merely jesting?
But Shirley was never more serious in her life. She was jubilant at the
thought that she had arrived home in time to invoke the aid of this
powerful ally. She repeated enthusiastically:
"We need not worry any more. He has but to say a word and these
proceedings will be instantly dropped. They would not dare act against
his veto. Did you hear, father, your case is as good as won!"
"What do you mean, child? Who is this unknown friend?"
"Surely you can guess when I say the most powerful man in the United
States? None other than John Burkett Ryder!"
She stopped short to watch the effect which this name would have on her
hearers. But to her surprise neither her father nor Stott displayed the
slightest emotion or even interest. Puzzled at this cold reception, she
"Did you hear, father—John Burkett Ryder will come to your assistance.
I came home on the same ship as his son and he promised to secure his
The judge puffed heavily at his pipe and merely shook his head, making
no reply. Stott explained:
"We can't look for help from that quarter, Shirley. You don't expect a
man to cut loose his own kite, do you?"
"What do you mean?" demanded Shirley, mystified.
"Simply this—that John Burkett Ryder is the very man who is
responsible for all your father's misfortunes."
The girl sank back in her seat pale and motionless, as if she had
received a blow. Was it possible? Could Jefferson's father have done
them such a wrong as this? She well knew that Ryder, Sr., was a man who
would stop at nothing to accomplish his purpose—this she had
demonstrated conclusively in her book—but she had never dreamed that
his hand would ever be directed against her own flesh and blood.
Decidedly some fatality was causing Jefferson and herself to drift
further and further apart. First, her father's trouble. That alone
would naturally have separated them. And now this discovery that
Jefferson's father had done hers this wrong. All idea of marriage was
henceforth out of the question. That was irrevocable. Of course, she
could not hold Jefferson to blame for methods which he himself
abhorred. She would always think as much of him as ever, but whether
her father emerged safely from the trial in the Senate or not—no
matter what the outcome of the impeachment proceedings might be,
Jefferson could never be anything else than a Ryder and from now on
there would be an impassable gulf between the Rossmores and the Ryders.
The dove does not mate with the hawk.
"Do you really believe this, that John Ryder deliberately concocted the
bribery charge with the sole purpose of ruining my father?" demanded
Shirley when she had somewhat recovered.
"There is no other solution of the mystery possible," answered Stott.
"The Trusts found they could not fight him in the open, in a fair,
honest way, so they plotted in the dark. Ryder was the man who had most
to lose by your father's honesty on the bench. Ryder was the man he hit
the hardest when he enjoined his Transcontinental Railroad. Ryder, I am
convinced, is the chief conspirator."
"But can such things be in a civilized community?" cried Shirley
indignantly. "Cannot he be exposed, won't the press take the matter up,
cannot we show conspiracy?"
"It sounds easy, but it isn't," replied Stott. "I have had a heap of
experience with the law, my child, and I know what I'm talking about.
They're too clever to be caught tripping. They've covered their tracks
well, be sure of that. As to the newspapers—when did you ever hear of
them championing a man when he's down?"
"And you, father—do you believe Ryder did this?"
"I have no longer any doubt of it," answered the judge. "I think John
Ryder would see me dead before he would raise a finger to help me. His
answer to my demand for my letters convinced me that he was the arch
"What letters do you refer to?" demanded Shirley.
"The letters I wrote to him in regard to my making an investment. He
advised the purchase of certain stock. I wrote him two letters at the
time, which letters if I had them now would go a long way to clearing
me of this charge of bribery, for they plainly showed that I regarded
the transaction as a bona fide investment. Since this trouble began I
wrote to Ryder asking him to return me these letters so I might use
them in my defence. The only reply I got was an insolent note from his
secretary saying that Mr. Ryder had forgotten all about the
transaction, and in any case had not the letters I referred to."
"Couldn't you compel him to return them?" asked Shirley.
"We could never get at him," interrupted Stott. "The man is guarded as
carefully as the Czar."
"Still," objected Shirley, "it is possible that he may have lost the
letters or even never received them."
"Oh, he has them safe enough," replied Stott. "A man like Ryder keeps
every scrap of paper, with the idea that it may prove useful some day.
The letters are lying somewhere in his desk. Besides, after the
Transcontinental decision he was heard to say that he'd have Judge
Rossmore off the Bench inside of a year."
"And it wasn't a vain boast—he's done it," muttered the judge.
Shirley relapsed into silence. Her brain was in a whirl. It was true
then. This merciless man of money, this ogre of monopolistic
corporations, this human juggernaut had crushed her father merely
because by his honesty he interfered with his shady business deals! Ah,
why had she spared him in her book? She felt now that she had been too
lenient, not bitter enough, not sufficiently pitiless. Such a man was
entitled to no mercy. Yes, it was all clear enough now. John Burkett
Ryder, the head of "the System," the plutocrat whose fabulous fortune
gave him absolute control over the entire country, which invested him
with a personal power greater than that of any king, this was the man
who now dared attack the Judiciary, the corner stone of the
Constitution, the one safeguard of the people's liberty. Where would it
end? How long would the nation tolerate being thus ruthlessly trodden
under the unclean heels of an insolent oligarchy? The capitalists,
banded together for the sole purpose of pillage and loot, had already
succeeded in enslaving the toiler. The appalling degradation of the
working classes, the sordidness and demoralizing squalor in which they
passed their lives, the curse of drink, the provocation to crime, the
shame of the sweat shops—all which evils in our social system she had
seen as a Settlement worker, were directly traceable to Centralized
Wealth. The labor unions regulated wages and hours, but they were
powerless to control the prices of the necessaries of life. The Trusts
could at pleasure create famine or plenty. They usually willed to make
it famine so they themselves might acquire more millions with which to
pay for marble palaces, fast motor cars, ocean-going yachts and
expensive establishments at Newport. Food was ever dearer and of poorer
quality, clothes cost more, rents and taxes were higher. She thought of
the horrors in the packing houses at Chicago recently made the subject
of a sensational government report—putrid, pestiferous meats put up
for human food amid conditions of unspeakable foulness, freely exposed
to deadly germs from the expectorations of work people suffering from
tuberculosis, in unsanitary rotten buildings soaked through with blood
and every conceivable form of filth and decay, the beef barons careless
and indifferent to the dictates of common decency so long as they could
make more money. And while our public gasped in disgust at the
sickening revelations of the Beef scandal and foreign countries quickly
cancelled their contracts for American prepared meats, the millionaire
packer, insolent in the possession of wealth stolen from a poisoned
public, impudently appeared in public in his fashionable touring car,
with head erect and self-satisfied, wholly indifferent to his shame.
These and other evidences of the plutocracy's cruel grip upon the
nation had ended by exasperating the people. There must be a limit
somewhere to the turpitudes of a degenerate class of nouveaux riches.
The day of reckoning was fast approaching for the grafters and among
the first to taste the vengeance of the people would be the Colossus.
But while waiting for the people to rise in their righteous wrath,
Ryder was all powerful, and if it were true that he had instituted
these impeachment proceedings her father had little chance. What could
be done? They could not sit and wait, as Stott had said, for the action
of the Senate. If it were true that Ryder controlled the Senate as he
controlled everything else her father was doomed. No, they must find
some other way.
And long after the judge and Stott had left for the city Shirley sat
alone on the porch engrossed in thought, taxing her brain to find some
way out of the darkness. And when presently her mother and aunt
returned they found her still sitting there, silent and preoccupied. If
they only had those two letters, she thought. They alone might save her
father. But how could they be got at? Mr. Ryder had put them safely
away, no doubt. He would not give them up. She wondered how it would be
to go boldly to him and appeal to whatever sense of honour and fairness
that might be lying latent within him. No, such a man would not know
what the terms "honour," "fairness" meant. She pondered upon it all day
and at night when she went tired to bed it was her last thought as she
dropped off to sleep.
The following morning broke clear and fine. It was one of those
glorious, ideal days of which we get perhaps half a dozen during the
whole summer, days when the air is cool and bracing, champagne-like in
its exhilarating effect, and when Nature dons her brightest dress, when
the atmosphere is purer, the grass greener, the sky bluer, the flowers
sweeter and the birds sing in more joyous chorus, when all creation
seems in tune. Days that make living worth while, when one can forget
the ugliness, the selfishness, the empty glitter of the man-made city
and walk erect and buoyant in the open country as in the garden of God.
Shirley went out for a long walk. She preferred to go alone so she
would not have to talk. Hers was one of those lonely, introspective
natures that resent the intrusion of aimless chatter when preoccupied
with serious thoughts. Long Island was unknown territory to her and it
all looked very flat and uninteresting, but she loved the country, and
found keen delight in the fresh, pure air and the sweet scent of new
mown hay waited from the surrounding fields. In her soft, loosefitting
linen dress, her white canvas shoes, garden hat trimmed with red roses,
and lace parasol, she made an attractive picture and every
passer-by—with the exception of one old farmer and he was half
blind—turned to look at this good-looking girl, a stranger in those
parts and whose stylish appearance suggested Fifth Avenue rather than
the commonplace purlieus of Massapequa.
Every now and then Shirley espied in the distance the figure of a man
which she thought she recognized as that of Jefferson. Had he come,
after all? The blood went coursing tumultuously through her veins only
a moment later to leave her face a shade paler as the man came nearer
and she saw he was a stranger. She wondered what he was doing, if he
gave her a thought, if he had spoken to his father and what the latter
had said. She could realize now what Mr. Ryder's reply had been. Then
she wondered what her future life would be. She could do nothing, of
course, until the Senate had passed upon her father's case, but it was
imperative that she get to work. In a day or two, she would call on her
publishers and learn how her book was selling. She might get other
commissions. If she could not make enough money in literary work she
would have to teach. It was a dreary outlook at best, and she sighed as
she thought of the ambitions that had once stirred her breast. All the
brightness seemed to have gone out of her life, her father disgraced,
Jefferson now practically lost to her—only her work remained.
As she neared the cottage on her return home she caught sight of the
letter carrier approaching the gate. Instantly she thought of
Jefferson, and she hurried to intercept the man. Perhaps he had written
instead of coming.
"Miss Shirley Rossmore?" said the man eyeing her interrogatively.
"That's I," said Shirley.
The postman handed her a letter and passed on. Shirley glanced quickly
at the superscription. No, it was not from Jefferson; she knew his
handwriting too well. The envelope, moreover, bore the firm name of her
publishers. She tore it open and found that it merely contained another
letter which the publishers had forwarded. This was addressed to Miss
Shirley Green and ran as follows:
DEAR MADAM.—If convenient, I should like to see you at my office, No.
36 Broadway, in relation to your book "The American Octopus." Kindly
inform me as to the day and hour at which I may expect you.
JOHN BURKETT RYDER, per B.
Shirley almost shouted from sheer excitement. At first she was
alarmed—the name John Burkett Ryder was such a bogey to frighten bad
children with, she thought he might want to punish her for writing
about him as she had. She hurried to the porch and sat there reading
the letter over and over and her brain began to evolve ideas. She had
been wondering how she could get at Mr. Ryder and here he was actually
asking her to call on him. Evidently he had not the slightest idea of
her identity, for he had been able to reach her only through her
publishers and no doubt he had exhausted every other means of
discovering her address. The more she pondered over it the more she
began to see in this invitation a way of helping her father. Yes, she
would go and beard the lion in his den, but she would not go to his
office. She would accept the invitation only on condition that the
interview took place in the Ryder mansion where undoubtedly the letters
would be found. She decided to act immediately. No time was to be lost,
so she procured a sheet of paper and an envelope and wrote as follows:
MR. JOHN BURKETT RYDER,
Dear Sir.—I do not call upon gentlemen at their business office.
Her letter was abrupt and at first glance seemed hardly calculated to
bring about what she wanted—an invitation to call at the Ryder home,
but she was shrewd enough to see that if Ryder wrote to her at all it
was because he was most anxious to see her and her abruptness would not
deter him from trying again. On the contrary, the very unusualness of
anyone thus dictating to him would make him more than ever desirous of
making her acquaintance. So Shirley mailed the letter and awaited with
confidence for Ryder's reply. So certain was she that one would come
that she at once began to form her plan of action. She would leave
Massapequa at once, and her whereabouts must remain a secret even from
her own family. As she intended to go to the Ryder house in the assumed
character of Shirley Green, it would never do to run the risk of being
followed home by a Ryder detective to the Rossmore cottage. She would
confide in one person only—Judge Stott. He would know where she was
and would be in constant communication with her. But, otherwise, she
must be alone to conduct the campaign as she judged fit. She would go
at once to New York and take rooms in a boarding house where she would
be known as Shirley Green. As for funds to meet her expenses, she had
her diamonds, and would they not be filling a more useful purpose if
sold to defray the cost of saving her father than in mere personal
adornment? So that evening, while her mother was talking with the
judge, she beckoned Stott over to the corner where she was sitting:
"Judge Stott," she began, "I have a plan."
He smiled indulgently at her.
"Another friend like that of yesterday?" he asked.
"No," replied the girl, "listen. I am in earnest now and I want you to
help me. You said that no one on earth could resist John Burkett Ryder,
that no one could fight against the Money Power. Well, do you know what
I am going to do?"
There was a quiver in her voice and her nostrils were dilated like
those of a thoroughbred eager to run the race. She had risen from her
seat and stood facing him, her fists clenched, her face set and
determined. Stott had never seen her in this mood and he gazed at her
half admiringly, half curiously.
"What will you do?" he asked with a slightly ironical inflection in his
"I am going to fight John Burkett Ryder!" she cried.
Stott looked at her open-mouthed.
"You?" he said.
"Yes, I," said Shirley. "I'm going to him and I intend to get those
letters if he has them."
Stott shook his head.
"My dear child," he said, "what are you talking about? How can you
expect to reach Ryder? We couldn't."
"I don't know just how yet," replied Shirley, "but I'm going to try. I
love my father and I'm going to leave nothing untried to save him."
"But what can you do?" persisted Stott. "The matter has been sifted
over and over by some of the greatest minds in the country."
"Has any woman sifted it over?" demanded Shirley.
"No, but—" stammered Stott.
"Then it's about time one did," said the girl decisively. "Those
letters my father speaks of—they would be useful, would they not?"
"They would be invaluable."
"Then I'll get them. If not—"
"But I don't understand how you're going to get at Ryder," interrupted
"This is how," replied Shirley, passing over to him the letter she had
received that afternoon.
As Stott recognized the well-known signature and read the contents, the
expression of his face changed. He gasped for breath and sank into a
chair from sheer astonishment.
"Ah, that's different!" he cried, "that's different!"
Briefly Shirley outlined her plan, explaining that she would go to live
in the city immediately and conduct her campaign from there. If she was
successful, it might save her father and if not, no harm could come of
Stott demurred at first. He did not wish to bear alone the
responsibility of such an adventure. There was no knowing what might
happen to her, visiting a strange house under an assumed name. But when
he saw how thoroughly in earnest she was and that she was ready to
proceed without him, he capitulated. He agreed that she might be able
to find the missing letters or if not, that she might make some
impression on Ryder himself. She could show interest in the judge's
case as a disinterested outsider and so might win his sympathies. From
being a skeptic, Stott now became enthusiastic. He promised to
cooperate in every way and to keep Shirley's whereabouts an absolute
secret. The girl, therefore, began to make her preparations for
departure from home by telling her parents that she had accepted an
invitation to spend a week or two with an old college chum in New York.
That same evening her mother, the judge, and Stott went for a stroll
after dinner and left her to take care of the house. They had wanted
Shirley to go, too, but she pleaded fatigue. The truth was that she
wanted to be alone so she could ponder undisturbed over her plans. It
was a clear, starlit night, with no moon, and Shirley sat on the porch
listening to the chirping of the crickets and idly watching the flashes
of the mysterious fireflies. She was in no mood for reading and sat for
a long time rocking herself, engrossed in her thoughts. Suddenly she
heard someone unfasten the garden gate. It was too soon for the return
of the promenaders; it must be a visitor. Through the uncertain
penumbra of the garden she discerned approaching a form which looked
familiar. Yes, now there was no doubt possible. It was, indeed,
She hurried down the porch to greet him. No matter what the father had
done she could never think any the less of the son. He took her hand
and for several moments neither one spoke. There are times when silence
is more eloquent than speech and this was one of them. The gentle grip
of his big strong hand expressed more tenderly than any words, the
sympathy that lay in his heart for the woman he loved. Shirley said
"You have come at last, Jefferson."
"I came as soon as I could," he replied gently. "I saw Father only
"You need not tell me what he said," Shirley hastened to say.
Jefferson made no reply. He understood what she meant. He hung his head
and hit viciously with his walking stick at the pebbles that lay at his
feet. She went on:
"I know everything now. It was foolish of me to think that Mr. Ryder
would ever help us."
"I can't help it in any way," blurted out Jefferson. "I have not the
slightest influence over him. His business methods I consider
disgraceful—you understand that, don't you, Shirley?"
The girl laid her hand on his arm and replied kindly:
"Of course, Jeff, we know that. Come up and sit down."
He followed her on the porch and drew up a rocker beside her.
"They are all out for a walk," she explained.
"I'm glad," he said frankly. "I wanted a quiet talk with you. I did not
care to meet anyone. My name must be odious to your people."
Both were silent, feeling a certain awkwardness. They seemed to have
drifted apart in some way since those delightful days in Paris and on
the ship. Then he said:
"I'm going away, but I couldn't go until I saw you."
"You are going away?" exclaimed Shirley, surprised.
"Yes," he said, "I cannot stand it any more at home. I had a hot talk
with my father yesterday about one thing and another. He and I don't
chin well together. Besides this matter of your father's impeachment
has completely discouraged me. All the wealth in the world could never
reconcile me to such methods! I'm ashamed of the role my own flesh and
blood has played in that miserable affair. I can't express what I feel
"Yes," sighed Shirley, "it is hard to believe that you are the son of
"How is your father?" inquired Jefferson. "How does he take it?"
"Oh, his heart beats and he can see and hear and speak," replied
Shirley sadly, "but he is only a shadow of what he once was. If the
trial goes against him, I don't think he'll survive it."
"It is monstrous," cried Jefferson. "To think that my father should be
responsible for this thing!"
"We are still hoping for the best," added Shirley, "but the outlook is
"But what are you going to do?" he asked. "These surroundings are not
for you—" He looked around at the cheap furnishings which he could see
through the open window and his face showed real concern.
"I shall teach or write, or go out as governess," replied Shirley with
a tinge of bitterness. Then smiling sadly she added: "Poverty is easy;
it is unmerited disgrace which is hard."
The young man drew his chair closer and took hold of the hand that lay
in her lap. She made no resistance.
"Shirley," he said, "do you remember that talk we had on the ship? I
asked you to be my wife. You led me to believe that you were not
indifferent to me. I ask you again to marry me. Give me the right to
take care of you and yours. I am the son of the world's richest man,
but I don't want his money. I have earned a competence of my
own—enough to live on comfortably. We will go away where you and your
father and mother will make their home with us. Do not let the sins of
the fathers embitter the lives of the children."
"Mine has not sinned," said Shirley bitterly.
"I wish I could say the same of mine," replied Jefferson. "It is
because the clouds are dark about you that I want to come into your
life to comfort you."
The girl shook her head.
"No, Jefferson, the circumstances make such a marriage impossible. Your
family and everybody else would say that I had inveigled you into it.
It is even more impossible now than I thought it was when I spoke to
you on the ship. Then I was worried about my father's trouble and could
give no thought to anything else. Now it is different. Your father's
action has made our union impossible for ever. I thank you for the
honour you have done me. I do like you. I like you well enough to be
your wife, but I will not accept this sacrifice on your part. Your
offer, coming at such a critical time, is dictated only by your noble,
generous nature, by your sympathy for our misfortune. Afterwards, you
might regret it. If my father were convicted and driven from the bench
and you found you had married the daughter of a disgraced man you would
be ashamed of us all, and if I saw that it would break my heart."
Emotion stopped her utterance and she buried her face in her hands
"Shirley," said Jefferson gently, "you are wrong. I love you for
yourself, not because of your trouble. You know that. I shall never
love any other woman but you. If you will not say 'yes' now, I shall go
away as I told my father I would and one day I shall come back and then
if you are still single I shall ask you again to be my wife."
"Where are you going?" she asked.
"I shall travel for a year and then, may be, I shall stay a couple of
years in Paris, studying at the Beaux Arts. Then I may go to Rome. If I
am to do anything worth while in the career I have chosen I must have
that European training."
"Paris! Rome!" echoed Shirley. "How I envy you! Yes, you are right. Get
away from this country where the only topic, the only thought is money,
where the only incentive to work is dollars. Go where there are still
some ideals, where you can breathe the atmosphere of culture and art."
Forgetting momentarily her own troubles, Shirley chatted on about life
in the art centres of Europe, advised Jefferson where to go, with whom
to study. She knew people in Paris, Rome and Munich and she would give
him letters to them. Only, if he wanted to perfect himself in the
languages, he ought to avoid Americans and cultivate the natives. Then,
who could tell? if he worked hard and was lucky, he might have
something exhibited at the Salon and return to America a famous painter.
"If I do," smiled Jefferson, "you shall be the first to congratulate
me. I shall come and ask you to be my wife. May I?" he added.
Shirley smiled gravely.
"Get famous first. You may not want me then."
"I shall always want you," he whispered hoarsely, bending over her. In
the dim light of the porch he saw that her tear-stained face was drawn
and pale. He rose and held out his hand.
"Good-bye," he said simply.
"Good-bye, Jefferson." She rose and put her hand in his. "We shall
always be friends. I, too, am going away."
"You going away—where to?" he asked surprised.
"I have work to do in connection with my father's case," she said.
"You?" said Jefferson puzzled. "You have work to do—what work?"
"I can't say what it is, Jefferson. There are good reasons why I can't.
You must take my word for it that it is urgent and important work."
Then she added: "You go your way, Jefferson; I will go mine. It was not
our destiny to belong to each other. You will become famous as an
artist. And I—"
"And you—" echoed Jefferson.
"I—I shall devote my life to my father. It's no use,
Jefferson—really—I've thought it all out. You must not come back to
me—you understand. We must be alone with our grief—father and I.
He raised her hand to his lips.
"Good-bye, Shirley. Don't forget me. I shall come back for you."
He went down the porch and she watched him go out of the gate and down
the road until she could see his figure no longer. Then she turned back
and sank into her chair and burying her face in her handkerchief she
gave way to a torrent of tears which afforded some relief to the weight
on her heart. Presently the others returned from their walk and she
told them about the visitor.
"Mr. Ryder's son, Jefferson, was here. We crossed on the same ship. I
introduced him to Judge Stott on the dock."
The judge looked surprised, but he merely said:
"I hope for his sake that he is a different man from his father."
"He is," replied Shirley simply, and nothing more was said.
Two days went by, during which Shirley went on completing the
preparations for her visit to New York. It was arranged that Stott
should escort her to the city. Shortly before they started for the
train a letter arrived for Shirley. Like the first one it had been
forwarded by her publishers. It read as follows:
MISS SHIRLEY GREEN,
Dear Madam.—I shall be happy to see you at my residence—Fifth
Avenue—any afternoon that you will mention.
Yours very truly,
JOHN BURKETT RYDER, per B.
Shirley smiled in triumph as, unseen by her father and mother, she
passed it over to Stott. She at once sat down and wrote this reply:
MR. JOHN BURKETT RYDER,
Dear Sir.—I am sorry that I am unable to comply with your request. I
prefer the invitation to call at your private residence should come
from Mrs. Ryder.
She laughed as she showed this to Stott: "He'll write me again," she
said, "and next time his wife will sign the letter."
An hour later she left Massapequa for the city.
The Hon. Fitzroy Bagley had every reason to feel satisfied with
himself. His affaire de coeur with the Senator's daughter was
progressing more smoothly than ever, and nothing now seemed likely to
interfere with his carefully prepared plans to capture an American
heiress. The interview with Kate Roberts in the library, so awkwardly
disturbed by Jefferson's unexpected intrusion, had been followed by
other interviews more secret and more successful, and the plausible
secretary had contrived so well to persuade the girl that he really
thought the world of her, and that a brilliant future awaited her as
his wife, that it was not long before he found her in a mood to refuse
Bagley urged immediate marriage; he insinuated that Jefferson had
treated her shamefully and that she owed it to herself to show the
world that there were other men as good as the one who had jilted her.
He argued that in view of the Senator being bent on the match with
Ryder's son it would be worse than useless for him, Bagley, to make
formal application for her hand, so, as he explained, the only thing
which remained was a runaway marriage. Confronted with the fait
accompli, papa Roberts would bow to the inevitable. They could get
married quietly in town, go away for a short trip, and when the Senator
had gotten over his first disappointment they would be welcomed back
with open arms.
Kate listened willingly enough to this specious reasoning. In her heart
she was piqued at Jefferson's indifference and she was foolish enough
to really believe that this marriage with a British nobleman, twice
removed, would be in the nature of a triumph over him. Besides, this
project of an elopement appealed strangely to her frivolous
imagination; it put her in the same class as all her favourite novel
heroines. And it would be capital fun!
Meantime, Senator Roberts, in blissful ignorance of this little plot
against his domestic peace, was growing impatient and he approached his
friend Ryder once more on the subject of his son Jefferson. The young
man, he said, had been back from Europe some time. He insisted on
knowing what his attitude was towards his daughter. If they were
engaged to be married he said there should be a public announcement of
the fact. It was unfair to him and a slight to his daughter to let
matters hang fire in this unsatisfactory way and he hinted that both
himself and his daughter might demand their passports from the Ryder
mansion unless some explanation were forthcoming.
Ryder was in a quandary. He had no wish to quarrel with his useful
Washington ally; he recognized the reasonableness of his complaint. Yet
what could he do? Much as he himself desired the marriage, his son was
obstinate and showed little inclination to settle down. He even hinted
at attractions in another quarter. He did not tell the Senator of his
recent interview with his son when the latter made it very plain that
the marriage could never take place. Ryder, Sr., had his own reasons
for wishing to temporize. It was quite possible that Jefferson might
change his mind and abandon his idea of going abroad and he suggested
to the Senator that perhaps if he, the Senator, made the engagement
public through the newspapers it might have the salutary effect of
forcing his son's hand.
So a few mornings later there appeared among the society notes in
several of the New York papers this paragraph:
"The engagement is announced of Miss Katherine Roberts, only daughter
of senator Roberts of Wisconsin, to Jefferson Ryder, son of Mr. John
Two persons in New York happened to see the item about the same time
and both were equally interested, although it affected them in a
different manner. One was Shirley Rossmore, who had chanced to pick up
the newspaper at the breakfast table in her boarding house.
"So soon?" she murmured to herself. Well, why not? She could not blame
Jefferson. He had often spoken to her of this match arranged by his
father and they had laughed over it as a typical marriage of
convenience modelled after the Continental pattern. Jefferson, she
knew, had never cared for the girl nor taken the affair seriously. Some
powerful influences must have been at work to make him surrender so
easily. Here again she recognized the masterly hand of Ryder, Sr., and
more than ever she was eager to meet this extraordinary man and measure
her strength with his. Her mind, indeed, was too full of her father's
troubles to grieve over her own however much she might have been
inclined to do so under other circumstances, and all that day she did
her best to banish the paragraph from her thoughts. More than a week
had passed since she left Massapequa and what with corresponding with
financiers, calling on editors and publishers, every moment of her time
had been kept busy. She had found a quiet and reasonable priced
boarding house off Washington Square and here Stott had called several
times to see her. Her correspondence with Mr. Ryder had now reached a
phase when it was impossible to invent any further excuses for delaying
the interview asked for. As she had foreseen, a day or two after her
arrival in town she had received a note from Mrs. Ryder asking her to
do her the honour to call and see her, and Shirley, after waiting
another two days, had replied making an appointment for the following
day at three o'clock. This was the same day on which the paragraph
concerning the Ryder-Roberts engagement appeared in the society
chronicles of the metropolis.
Directly after the meagre meal which in New York boarding houses is
dignified by the name of luncheon, Shirley proceeded to get ready for
this portentous visit to the Ryder mansion. She was anxious to make a
favourable impression on the financier, so she took some pains with her
personal appearance. She always looked stylish, no matter what she
wore, and her poverty was of too recent date to make much difference to
her wardrobe, which was still well supplied with Paris-made gowns. She
selected a simple close-fitting gown of gray chiffon cloth and a
picture hat of Leghorn straw heaped with red roses, Shirley's favourite
flower. Thus arrayed, she sallied forth at two o'clock—a little gray
mouse to do battle with the formidable lion.
The sky was threatening, so instead of walking a short way up Fifth
Avenue for exercise, as she had intended doing, she cut across town
through Ninth Street, and took the surface car on Fourth Avenue. This
would put her down at Madison Avenue and Seventy-fourth Street, which
was only a block from the Ryder residence. She looked so pretty and was
so well dressed that the passers-by who looked after her wondered why
she did not take a cab instead of standing on a street corner for a
car. But one's outward appearance is not always a faithful index to the
condition of one's pocketbook, and Shirley was rapidly acquiring the
art of economy.
It was not without a certain trepidation that she began this journey.
So far, all her plans had been based largely on theory, but now that
she was actually on her way to Mr. Ryder all sorts of misgivings beset
her. Suppose he knew her by sight and roughly accused her of obtaining
access to his house under false pretences and then had her ejected by
the servants? How terrible and humiliating that would be! And even if
he did not how could she possibly find those letters with him watching
her, and all in the brief time of a conventional afternoon call? It had
been an absurd idea from the first. Stott was right; she saw that now.
But she had entered upon it and she was not going to confess herself
beaten until she had tried. And as the car sped along Madison Avenue,
gradually drawing nearer to the house which she was going to enter
disguised as it were, like a burglar, she felt cold chills run up and
down her spine—the same sensation that one experiences when one rings
the bell of a dentist's where one has gone to have a tooth extracted.
In fact, she felt so nervous and frightened that if she had not been
ashamed before herself she would have turned back. In about twenty
minutes the car stopped at the corner of Seventy-fourth Street. Shirley
descended and with a quickened pulse walked towards the Ryder mansion,
which she knew well by sight.
There was one other person in New York who, that same morning, had read
the newspaper item regarding the Ryder-Roberts betrothal, and he did
not take the matter so calmly as Shirley had done. On the contrary, it
had the effect of putting him into a violent rage. This was Jefferson.
He was working in his studio when he read it and five minutes later he
was tearing up-town to seek the author of it. He understood its object,
of course; they wanted to force his hand, to shame him into this
marriage, to so entangle him with the girl that no other alternative
would be possible to an honourable man. It was a despicable trick and
he had no doubt that his father was at the back of it. So his mind now
was fully made up. He would go away at once where they could not make
his life a burden with this odious marriage which was fast becoming a
nightmare to him. He would close up his studio and leave immediately
for Europe. He would show his father once for all that he was a man and
expected to be treated as one.
He wondered what Shirley was doing. Where had she gone, what was this
mysterious work of which she had spoken? He only realized now, when she
seemed entirely beyond his reach, how much he loved her and how empty
his life would be without her. He would know no happiness until she was
his wife. Her words on the porch did not discourage him. Under the
circumstances he could not expect her to have said anything else. She
could not marry into John Ryder's family with such a charge hanging
over her own father's head, but, later, when the trial was over, no
matter how it turned out, he would go to her again and ask her to be
On arriving home the first person he saw was the ubiquitous Mr. Bagley,
who stood at the top of the first staircase giving some letters to the
butler. Jefferson cornered him at once, holding out the newspaper
containing the offending paragraph.
"Say, Bagley," he cried, "what does this mean? Is this any of your
The English secretary gave his employer's son a haughty stare, and
then, without deigning to reply or even to glance at the newspaper,
continued his instructions to the servant:
"Here, Jorkins, get stamps for all these letters and see they are
mailed at once. They are very important."
"Very good, sir."
The man took the letters and disappeared, while Jefferson, impatient,
repeated his question:
"My doing?" sneered Mr. Bagley. "Really, Jefferson, you go too far! Do
you suppose for one instant that I would condescend to trouble myself
with your affairs?"
Jefferson was in no mood to put up with insolence from anyone,
especially from a man whom he heartily despised, so advancing
menacingly he thundered:
"I mean—were you, in the discharge of your menial-like duties,
instructed by my father to send that paragraph to the newspapers
regarding my alleged betrothal to Miss Roberts? Yes or No?"
The man winced and made a step backward. There was a gleam in the Ryder
eye which he knew by experience boded no good.
"Really, Jefferson," he said in a more conciliatory tone, "I know
absolutely nothing about the paragraph. This is the first I hear of it.
Why not ask your father?"
"I will," replied Jefferson grimly,
He was turning to go in the direction of the library when Bagley
"You cannot possibly see him now," he said. "Sergeant Ellison of the
Secret Service is in there with him, and your father told me not to
disturb him on any account. He has another appointment at three o'clock
with some woman who writes books."
Seeing that the fellow was in earnest, Jefferson did not insist. He
could see his father a little later or send him a message through his
mother. Proceeding upstairs he found Mrs. Ryder in her room and in a
few energetic words he explained the situation to his mother. They had
gone too far with this matchmaking business, he said, his father was
trying to interfere with his personal liberty and he was going to put a
stop to it. He would leave at once for Europe. Mrs. Ryder had already
heard of the projected trip abroad, so the news of this sudden
departure was not the shock it might otherwise have been. In her heart
she did not blame her son, on the contrary she admired his spirit, and
if the temporary absence from home would make him happier, she would
not hold him back. Yet, mother like, she wept and coaxed, but nothing
would shake Jefferson in his determination and he begged his mother to
make it very plain to his father that this was final and that a few
days would see him on his way abroad. He would try and come back to see
his father that afternoon, but otherwise she was to say good-bye for
him. Mrs. Ryder promised tearfully to do what her son demanded and a
few minutes later Jefferson was on his way to the front door.
As he went down stairs something white on the carpet attracted his
attention. He stooped and picked it up. It was a letter. It was in
Bagley's handwriting and had evidently been dropped by the man to whom
the secretary had given it to post. But what interested Jefferson more
than anything else was that it was addressed to Miss Kate Roberts.
Under ordinary circumstances, a king's ransom would not have tempted
the young man to read a letter addressed to another, but he was
convinced that his father's secretary was an adventurer and if he were
carrying on an intrigue in this manner it could have only one meaning.
It was his duty to unveil a rascal who was using the Ryder roof and
name to further his own ends and victimize a girl who, although
sophisticated enough to know better, was too silly to realize the risk
she ran at the hands of an unscrupulous man. Hesitating no longer,
Jefferson tore open the envelope and read:
My dearest wife that is to be:
I have arranged everything. Next Wednesday—just a week from to-day—we
will go to the house of a discreet friend of mine where a minister will
marry us; then we will go to City Hall and get through the legal part
of it. Afterwards, we can catch the four o'clock train for Buffalo.
Meet me in the ladies' room at the Holland House Wednesday morning at
11 a.m. I will come there with a closed cab. Your devoted
"Phew!" Jefferson whistled. A close shave this for Senator Roberts, he
thought. His first impulse was to go upstairs again to his mother and
put the matter in her hands. She would immediately inform his father,
who would make short work of Mr. Bagley. But, thought Jefferson, why
should he spoil a good thing? He could afford to wait a day or two.
There was no hurry. He could allow Bagley to think all was going
swimmingly and then uncover the plot at the eleventh hour. He would
even let this letter go to Kate, there was no difficulty in procuring
another envelope and imitating the handwriting—and when Bagley was
just preparing to go to the rendezvous he would spring the trap. Such a
cad deserved no mercy. The scandal would be a knock-out blow, his
father would discharge him on the spot and that would be the last they
would see of the aristocratic English secretary. Jefferson put the
letter in his pocket and left the house rejoicing.
While the foregoing incidents were happening John Burkett Ryder was
secluded in his library. The great man had come home earlier than
usual, for he had two important callers to see by appointment that
afternoon. One was Sergeant Ellison, who had to report on his mission
to Massapequa; the other was Miss Shirley Green, the author of "The
American Octopus," who had at last deigned to honour him with a visit.
Pending the arrival of these visitors the financier was busy with his
secretary trying to get rid as rapidly as possible of what business and
correspondence there was on hand.
The plutocrat was sitting at his desk poring over a mass of papers.
Between his teeth was the inevitable long black cigar and when he
raised his eyes to the light a close observer might have remarked that
they were sea-green, a colour they assumed when the man of millions was
absorbed in scheming new business deals. Every now and then he stopped
reading the papers to make quick calculations on scraps of paper. Then
if the result pleased him, a smile overspread his saturnine features.
He rose from his chair and nervously paced the floor as he always did
when thinking deeply.
"Five millions," he muttered, "not a cent more. If they won't sell
we'll crush them—"
Mr. Bagley entered. Mr. Ryder looked up quickly.
"Well, Bagley?" he said interrogatively. "Has Sergeant Ellison come?"
"Yes, sir. But Mr. Herts is downstairs. He insists on seeing you about
the Philadelphia gas deal. He says it is a matter of life and death."
"To him—yes," answered the financier dryly. "Let him come up. We might
as well have it out now."
Mr. Bagley went out and returned almost immediately, followed by a
short, fat man, rather loudly dressed and apoplectic in appearance. He
looked like a prosperous brewer, while, as a matter of fact, he was
president of a gas company, one of the shrewdest promoters in the
country, and a big man in Wall Street. There was only one bigger man
and that was John Ryder. But, to-day, Mr. Herts was not in good
condition. His face was pale and his manner flustered and nervous. He
was plainly worried.
"Mr. Ryder," he began with excited gesture, "the terms you offer are
preposterous. It would mean disaster to the stockholders. Our gas
properties are worth six times that amount. We will sell out for twenty
millions—not a cent less."
Ryder shrugged his shoulders.
"Mr. Herts," he replied coolly, "I am busy to-day and in no mood for
arguing. We'll either buy you out or force you out. Choose. You have
our offer. Five millions for your gas property. Will you take it?"
"We'll see you in hell first!" cried his visitor exasperated.
"Very well," replied Ryder still unruffled, "all negotiations are off.
You leave me free to act. We have an offer to buy cheap the old
Germantown Gas Company which has charter rights to go into any of the
streets of Philadelphia. We shall purchase that company, we will put
ten millions new capital into it, and reduce the price of gas in
Philadelphia to sixty cents a thousand. Where will you be then?"
The face of the Colossus as he uttered this stand and deliver speech
was calm and inscrutable. Conscious of the resistless power of his
untold millions, he felt no more compunction in mercilessly crushing
this business rival than he would in trampling out the life of a worm.
The little man facing him looked haggard and distressed. He knew well
that this was no idle threat. He was well aware that Ryder and his
associates by the sheer weight of the enormous wealth they controlled
could sell out or destroy any industrial corporation in the land. It
was plainly illegal, but it was done every day, and his company was not
the first victim nor the last. Desperate, he appealed humbly to the
tyrannical Money Power:
"Don't drive us to the wall, Mr. Ryder. This forced sale will mean
disaster to us all. Put yourself in our place—think what it means to
scores of families whose only support is the income from their
investment in our company."
"Mr. Herts," replied Ryder unmoved, "I never allow sentiment to
interfere with business. You have heard my terms. I refuse to argue the
matter further. What is it to be? Five millions or competition? Decide
now or this interview must end!"
He took out his watch and with his other hand touched a bell. Beads of
perspiration stood on his visitor's forehead. In a voice broken with
suppressed emotion he said hoarsely:
"You're a hard, pitiless man, John Ryder! So be it—five millions. I
don't know what they'll say. I don't dare return to them."
"Those are my terms," said Ryder coldly. "The papers," he added, "will
be ready for your signature to-morrow at this time, and I'll have a
cheque ready for the entire amount. Good-day."
Mr. Bagley entered. Ryder bowed to Herts, who slowly retired. When the
door had closed on him Ryder went back to his desk, a smile of triumph
on his face. Then he turned to his secretary:
"Let Sergeant Ellison come up," he said.
The secretary left the room and Mr. Ryder sank comfortably in his
chair, puffing silently at his long black cigar. The financier was
thinking, but his thoughts concerned neither the luckless gas president
he had just pitilessly crushed, nor the detective who had come to make
his report. He was thinking of the book "The American Octopus," and its
bold author whom he was to meet in a very few minutes. He glanced at
the clock. A quarter to three. She would be here in fifteen minutes if
she were punctual, but women seldom are, he reflected. What kind of a
woman could she be, this Shirley Green, to dare cross swords with a man
whose power was felt in two hemispheres? No ordinary woman, that was
certain. He tried to imagine what she looked like, and he pictured a
tall, gaunt, sexless spinster with spectacles, a sort of nightmare in
the garb of a woman. A sour, discontented creature, bitter to all
mankind, owing to disappointments in early life and especially
vindictive towards the rich, whom her socialistic and even
anarchistical tendencies prompted her to hate and attack. Yet, withal,
a brainy, intelligent woman, remarkably well informed as to political
and industrial conditions—a woman to make a friend of rather than an
enemy. And John Ryder, who had educated himself to believe that with
gold he could do everything, that none could resist its power, had no
doubt that with money he could enlist this Shirley Green in his
service. At least it would keep her from writing more books about him.
The door opened and Sergeant Ellison entered, followed by the
secretary, who almost immediately withdrew.
"Well, sergeant," said Mr. Ryder cordially, "what have you to tell me?
I can give you only a few minutes. I expect a lady friend of yours."
The plutocrat sometimes condescended to be jocular with his
"A lady friend of mine, sir?" echoed the man, puzzled.
"Yes—Miss Shirley Green, the author," replied the financier, enjoying
the detective's embarrassment. "That suggestion of yours worked out all
right. She's coming here to-day."
"I'm glad you've found her, sir."
"It was a tough job," answered Ryder with a grimace. "We wrote her half
a dozen times before she was satisfied with the wording of the
invitation. But, finally, we landed her and I expect her at three
o'clock. Now what about that Rossmore girl? Did you go down to
"Yes, sir, I have been there half a dozen times. In fact, I've just
come from there. Judge Rossmore is there, all right, but his daughter
has left for parts unknown."
"Gone away—where?" exclaimed the financier.
This was what he dreaded. As long as he could keep his eye on the girl
there was little danger of Jefferson making a fool of himself; with her
disappeared everything was possible.
"I could not find out, sir. Their neighbours don't know much about
them. They say they're haughty and stuck up. The only one I could get
anything out of was a parson named Deetle. He said it was a sad case,
that they had reverses and a daughter who was in Paris—"
"Yes, yes," said Ryder impatiently, "we know all that. But where's the
"Search me, sir. I even tried to pump the Irish slavey. Gee, what a
vixen! She almost flew at me. She said she didn't know and didn't care."
Ryder brought his fist down with force on his desk, a trick he had when
he wished to emphasize a point.
"Sergeant, I don't like the mysterious disappearance of that girl. You
must find her, do you hear, you must find her if it takes all the
sleuths in the country. Had my son been seen there?"
"The parson said he saw a young fellow answering his description
sitting on the porch of the Rossmore cottage the evening before the
girl disappeared, but he didn't know who he was and hasn't seen him
"That was my son, I'll wager. He knows where the girl is. Perhaps he's
with her now. Maybe he's going to marry her. That must be prevented at
any cost. Sergeant, find that Rossmore girl and I'll give you $1,000."
The detective's face flushed with pleasure at the prospect of so
liberal a reward. Rising he said:
"I'll find her, sir. I'll find her."
Mr. Bagley entered, wearing the solemn, important air he always
affected when he had to announce a visitor of consequence. But before
he could open his mouth Mr. Ryder said:
"Bagley, when did you see my son, Jefferson, last?"
"To-day, sir. He wanted to see you to say good-bye. He said he would be
Ryder gave a sigh of relief and addressing the detective said:
"It's not so bad as I thought." Then turning again to his secretary he
"Well, Bagley, what is it?"
"There's a lady downstairs, sir—Miss Shirley Green."
The financier half sprang from his seat.
"Oh, yes. Show her up at once. Good-bye, sergeant, good-bye. Find that
Rossmore woman and the $1,000 is yours."
The detective went out and a few moments later Mr. Bagley reappeared
ushering in Shirley.
The mouse was in the den of the lion.
Mr. Ryder remained at his desk and did not even look up when his
visitor entered. He pretended to be busily preoccupied with his papers,
which was a favourite pose of his when receiving strangers. This frigid
reception invariably served its purpose, for it led visitors not to
expect more than they got, which usually was little enough. For several
minutes Shirley stood still, not knowing whether to advance or to take
a seat. She gave a little conventional cough, and Ryder looked up. What
he saw so astonished him that he at once took from his mouth the cigar
he was smoking and rose from his seat. He had expected a gaunt old maid
with spectacles, and here was a stylish, good-looking young woman, who
could not possibly be over twenty-five. There was surely some mistake.
This slip of a girl could not have written "The American Octopus." He
advanced to greet Shirley.
"You wish to see me, Madame?" he asked courteously. There were times
when even John Burkett Ryder could be polite.
"Yes," replied Shirley, her voice trembling a little in spite of her
efforts to keep cool. "I am here by appointment. Three o'clock, Mrs.
Ryder's note said. I am Miss Green."
"You—Miss Green?" echoed the financier dubiously.
"Yes, I am Miss Green—Shirley Green, author of 'The American Octopus.'
You asked me to call. Here I am."
For the first time in his life, John Ryder was nonplussed. He coughed
and stammered and looked round for a place where he could throw his
cigar. Shirley, who enjoyed his embarrassment, put him at his ease.
"Oh, please go on smoking," she said; "I don't mind it in the least."
Ryder threw the cigar into a receptacle and looked closely at his
"So you are Shirley Green, eh?"
"That is my nom-de-plume—yes," replied the girl nervously. She was
already wishing herself back at Massapequa. The financier eyed her for
a moment in silence as if trying to gauge the strength of the
personality of this audacious young woman, who had dared to criticise
his business methods in public print; then, waving her to a seat near
his desk, he said:
"Won't you sit down?"
"Thank you," murmured Shirley. She sat down, and he took his seat at
the other side of the desk, which brought them face to face. Again
inspecting the girl with a close scrutiny that made her cheeks burn,
"I rather expected—" He stopped for a moment as if uncertain what to
say, then he added: "You're younger than I thought you were, Miss
Green, much younger."
"Time will remedy that," smiled Shirley. Then, mischievously, she
added: "I rather expected to see Mrs. Ryder."
There was the faintest suspicion of a smile playing around the corners
of the plutocrat's mouth as he picked up a book lying on his desk and
"Yes—she wrote you, but I—wanted to see you about this."
Shirley's pulse throbbed faster, but she tried hard to appear
unconcerned as she answered:
"Oh, my book—have you read it?"
"I have," replied Ryder slowly and, fixing her with a stare that was
beginning to make her uncomfortable, he went on: "No doubt your time is
valuable, so I'll come right to the point. I want to ask you, Miss
Green, where you got the character of your central figure—the Octopus,
as you call him—John Broderick?"
"From imagination—of course," answered Shirley.
Ryder opened the book, and Shirley noticed that there were several
passages marked. He turned the leaves over in silence for a minute or
two and then he said:
"You've sketched a pretty big man here—"
"Yes," assented Shirley, "he has big possibilities, but I think he
makes very small use of them."
Ryder appeared not to notice her commentary, and, still reading the
book, he continued:
"On page 22 you call him 'the world's greatest individualized
potentiality, a giant combination of materiality, mentality and
money—the greatest exemplar of individual human will in existence
to-day.' And you make indomitable will and energy the keystone of his
marvellous success. Am I right?" He looked at her questioningly.
"Quite right," answered Shirley.
"On page 26 you say 'the machinery of his money-making mind typifies
the laws of perpetual unrest. It must go on, relentlessly,
resistlessly, ruthlessly making money-making money and continuing to
make money. It cannot stop until the machinery crumbles.'"
Laying the book down and turning sharply on Shirley, he asked her
"Do you mean to say that I couldn't stop to-morrow if I wanted to?"
She affected to not understand him.
"You?" she inquired in a tone of surprise.
"Well—it's a natural question," stammered Ryder, with a nervous little
laugh; "every man sees himself in the hero of a novel just as every
woman sees herself in the heroine. We're all heroes and heroines in our
own eyes. But tell me what's your private opinion of this man. You drew
the character. What do you think of him as a type, how would you
"As the greatest criminal the world has yet produced," replied Shirley
without a moment's hesitation.
The financier looked at the girl in unfeigned astonishment.
"Criminal?" he echoed.
"Yes, criminal," repeated Shirley decisively. "He is avarice, egotism,
and ambition incarnate. He loves money because he loves power, and he
loves power more than his fellow man."
Ryder laughed uneasily. Decidedly, this girl had opinions of her own
which she was not backward to express.
"Isn't that rather strong?" he asked.
"I don't think so," replied Shirley. Then quickly she asked: "But what
does it matter? No such man exists."
"No, of course not," said Ryder, and he relapsed into silence.
Yet while he said nothing, the plutocrat was watching his visitor
closely from under his thick eyebrows. She seemed supremely unconscious
of his scrutiny. Her aristocratic, thoughtful face gave no sign that
any ulterior motive had actuated her evidently very hostile attitude
against him. That he was in her mind when she drew the character of
John Broderick there was no doubt possible. No matter how she might
evade the identification, he was convinced he was the hero of her book.
Why had she attacked him so bitterly? At first, it occurred to him that
blackmail might be her object; she might be going to ask for money as
the price of future silence. Yet it needed but a glance at her refined
and modest demeanour to dispel that idea as absurd. Then he remembered,
too, that it was not she who had sought this interview, but himself.
No, she was no blackmailer. More probably she was a dreamer—one of
those meddling sociologists who, under pretence of bettering the
conditions of the working classes, stir up discontent and bitterness of
feeling. As such, she might prove more to be feared than a mere
blackmailer whom he could buy off with money. He knew he was not
popular, but he was no worse than the other captains of industry. It
was a cut-throat game at best. Competition was the soul of commercial
life, and if he had outwitted his competitors and made himself richer
than all of them, he was not a criminal for that. But all these attacks
in newspapers and books did not do him any good. One day the people
might take these demagogic writings seriously and then there would be
the devil to pay. He took up the book again and ran over the pages.
This certainly was no ordinary girl. She knew more and had a more
direct way of saying things than any woman he had ever met. And as he
watched her furtively across the desk he wondered how he could use her;
how instead of being his enemy, he could make her his friend. If he did
not, she would go away and write more such books, and literature of
this kind might become a real peril to his interests. Money could do
anything; it could secure the services of this woman and prevent her
doing further mischief. But how could he employ her? Suddenly an
inspiration came to him. For some years he had been collecting material
for a history of the Empire Trading Company. She could write it. It
would practically be his own biography. Would she undertake it?
Embarrassed by the long silence, Shirley finally broke it by saying:
"But you didn't ask me to call merely to find out what I thought of my
"No," replied Ryder slowly, "I want you to do some work for me."
He opened a drawer at the left-hand side of his desk and took out
several sheets of foolscap and a number of letters. Shirley's heart
beat faster as she caught sight of the letters. Were her father's among
them? She wondered what kind of work John Burkett Ryder had for her to
do and if she would do it whatever it was. Some literary work probably,
compiling or something of that kind. If it was well paid, why should
she not accept? There would be nothing humiliating in it; it would not
tie her hands in any way. She was a professional writer in the market
to be employed by whoever could pay the price. Besides, such work might
give her better opportunities to secure the letters of which she was in
search. Gathering in one pile all the papers he had removed from the
drawer, Mr. Ryder said:
"I want you to put my biography together from this material. But
first," he added, taking up "The American Octopus," "I want to know
where you got the details of this man's life."
"Oh, for the most part—imagination, newspapers, magazines," replied
Shirley carelessly. "You know the American millionaire is a very
overworked topic just now—and naturally I've read—"
"Yes, I understand," he said, "but I refer to what you haven't
read—what you couldn't have read. For example, here." He turned to a
page marked in the book and read aloud: "As an evidence of his petty
vanity, when a youth he had a beautiful Indian girl tattooed just above
the forearm." Ryder leaned eagerly forward as he asked her searchingly:
"Now who told you that I had my arm tattooed when I was a boy?"
"Have you?" laughed Shirley nervously. "What a curious coincidence!"
"Let me read you another coincidence," said Ryder meaningly. He turned
to another part of the book and read: "the same eternal long black
cigar always between his lips…" "General Grant smoked, too,"
interrupted Shirley. "All men who think deeply along material lines
seem to smoke."
"Well, we'll let that go. But how about this?" He turned back a few
pages and read: "John Broderick had loved, when a young man, a girl who
lived in VERMONT, BUT CIRCUMSTANCES SEPARATED THEM." He stopped and
stared at Shirley a moment and then he said: "I loved a girl when I was
a lad and she came from Vermont, and circumstances separated us. That
isn't coincidence, for presently you make John Broderick marry a young
woman who had money. I married a girl with money."
"Lots of men marry for money," remarked Shirley.
"I said WITH money, not for money," retorted Ryder. Then turning again
to the book, he said: "Now, this is what I can't understand, for no one
could have told you this but I myself. Listen." He read aloud: "WITH
ALL HIS PHYSICAL BRAVERY AND PERSONAL COURAGE, JOHN BRODERICK WAS
INTENSELY AFRAID OF DEATH. IT WAS ON HIS MIND CONSTANTLY." "Who told
you that?" he demanded somewhat roughly. "I swear I've never mentioned
it to a living soul."
"Most men who amass money are afraid of death," replied Shirley with
outward composure, "for death is about the only thing that can separate
them from their money."
Ryder laughed, but it was a hollow, mocking laugh, neither sincere nor
hearty. It was a laugh such as the devil may have given when driven out
"You're quite a character!" He laughed again, and Shirley, catching the
infection, laughed, too. "It's me and it isn't me," went on Ryder
flourishing the book. "This fellow Broderick is all right; he's
successful and he's great, but I don't like his finish."'
"It's logical," ventured Shirley.
"It's cruel," insisted Ryder.
"So is the man who reverses the divine law and hates his neighbour
instead of loving him," retorted Shirley.
She spoke more boldly, beginning to feel more sure of her ground, and
it amused her to fence in this way with the man of millions. So far,
she thought, he had not got the best of her. She was fast becoming used
to him, and her first feeling of intimidation was passing away.
"Um!" grunted Ryder, "you're a curious girl; upon my word you interest
me!" He took the mass of papers lying at his elbow and pushed them over
to her. "Here," he said, "I want you to make as clever a book out of
this chaos as you did out of your own imagination."
Shirley turned the papers over carelessly.
"So you think your life is a good example to follow?" she asked with a
tinge of irony.
"Isn't it?" he demanded.
The girl looked him square in the face.
"Suppose," she said, "we all wanted to follow it, suppose we all wanted
to be the richest, the most powerful personage in the world?"
"Well—what then?" he demanded.
"I think it would postpone the era of the Brotherhood of man
indefinitely, don't you?"
"I never thought of it from that point of view," admitted the
billionaire. "Really," he added, "you're an extraordinary girl. Why,
you can't be more than twenty—or so."
"I'm twenty-four—or so," smiled Shirley.
Ryder's face expanded in a broad smile. He admired this girl's pluck
and ready wit. He grew more amiable and tried to gain her confidence.
In a coaxing tone he said:
"Come, where did you get those details? Take me into your confidence."
"I have taken you into my confidence," laughed Shirley, pointing at her
book. "It cost you $1.50!" Turning over the papers he had put before
her she said presently: "I don't know about this."
"You don't think my life would make good reading?" he asked with some
"It might," she replied slowly, as if unwilling to commit herself as to
its commercial or literary value. Then she said frankly: "To tell you
the honest truth, I don't consider mere genius in money-making is
sufficient provocation for rushing into print. You see, unless you come
to a bad end, it would have no moral."
Ignoring the not very flattering insinuation contained in this last
speech, the plutocrat continued to urge her:
"You can name your own price if you will do the work," he said. "Two,
three or even five thousand dollars. It's only a few months' work."
"Five thousand dollars?" echoed Shirley. "That's a lot of money."
Smiling, she added: "It appeals to my commercial sense. But I'm afraid
the subject does not arouse my enthusiasm from an artistic standpoint."
Ryder seemed amused at the idea of any one hesitating to make five
thousand dollars. He knew that writers do not run across such
opportunities every day.
"Upon my word," he said, "I don't know why I'm so anxious to get you to
do the work. I suppose it's because you don't want to. You remind me of
my son. Ah, he's a problem!"
Shirley started involuntarily when Ryder mentioned his son. But he did
not notice it.
"Why, is he wild?" she asked, as if only mildly interested.
"Oh, no, I wish he were," said Ryder.
"Fallen in love with the wrong woman, I suppose," she said.
"Something of the sort—how did you guess?" asked Ryder surprised.
Shirley coughed to hide her embarrassment and replied indifferently.
"So many boys do that. Besides," she added with a mischievous twinkle
in her eyes, "I can hardly imagine that any woman would be the right
one unless you selected her yourself!"
Ryder made no answer. He folded his arms and gazed at her. Who was this
woman who knew him so well, who could read his inmost thoughts, who
never made a mistake? After a silence he said:
"Do you know you say the strangest things?"
"Truth is strange," replied Shirley carelessly. "I don't suppose you
hear it very often."
"Not in that form," admitted Ryder.
Shirley had taken on to her lap some of the letters he had passed her,
and was perusing them one after another.
"All these letters from Washington consulting you on politics and
finance—they won't interest the world."
"My secretary picked them out," explained Ryder. "Your artistic sense
will tell you what to use."
"Does your son still love this girl? I mean the one you abject to?"
inquired Shirley as she went on sorting the papers.
"Oh, no, he does not care for her any more," answered Ryder hastily.
"Yes, he does; he still loves her," said Shirley positively.
"How do you know?" asked Ryder amazed.
"From the way you say he doesn't," retorted Shirley.
Ryder gave his caller a look in which admiration was mingled with
"You are right again," he said. "The idiot does love the girl."
"Bless his heart," said Shirley to herself. Aloud she said:
"I hope they'll both outwit you."
Ryder laughed in spite of himself. This young woman certainly
interested him more than any other he had ever known.
"I don't think I ever met anyone in my life quite like you," he said.
"What's the objection to the girl?" demanded Shirley.
"Every objection. I don't want her in my family."
"Anything against her character?"
To better conceal the keen interest she took in the personal turn the
conversation had taken, Shirley pretended to be more busy than ever
with the papers.
"Yes—that is no—not that I know of," replied Ryder. "But because a
woman has a good character, that doesn't necessarily make her a
desirable match, does it?"
"It's a point in her favor, isn't it?"
"Yes—but—" He hesitated as if uncertain what to say.
"You know men well, don't you, Mr. Ryder?"
"I've met enough to know them pretty well," he replied.
"Why don't you study women for a change?" she asked. "That would enable
you to understand a great many things that I don't think are quite
clear to you now."
Ryder laughed good humouredly. It was decidedly a novel sensation to
have someone lecturing him.
"I'm studying you," he said, "but I don't seem to make much headway. A
woman like you whose mind isn't spoiled by the amusement habit has
great possibilities—great possibilities. Do you know you're the first
woman I ever took into my confidence—I mean at sight?" Again he fixed
her with that keen glance which in his business life had taught him how
to read men. He continued: "I'm acting on sentiment—something I rarely
do, but I can't help it. I like you, upon my soul I do, and I'm going
to introduce you to my wife—my son—"
He took the telephone from his desk as if he were going to use it.
"What a commander-in-chief you would have made—how natural it is for
you to command," exclaimed Shirley in a burst of admiration that was
half real, half mocking. "I suppose you always tell people what they
are to do and how they are to do it. You are a born general. You know
I've often thought that Napoleon and Caesar and Alexander must have
been great domestic leaders as well as imperial rulers. I'm sure of it
Ryder listened to her in amazement. He was not quite sure if she were
making fun of him or not.
"Well, of all—" he began. Then interrupting himself he said amiably:
"Won't you do me the honour to meet my family?"
Shirley smiled sweetly and bowed.
"Thank you, Mr. Ryder, I will."
She rose from her seat and leaned over the manuscripts to conceal the
satisfaction this promise of an introduction to the family circle gave
her. She was quick to see that it meant more visits to the house, and
other and perhaps better opportunities to find the objects of her
search. Ryder lifted the receiver of his telephone and talked to his
secretary in another room, while Shirley, who was still standing,
continued examining the papers and letters.
"Is that you, Bagley? What's that? General Dodge? Get rid of him. I
can't see him to-day. Tell him to come to-morrow. What's that? My son
wants to see me? Tell him to come to the phone."
At that instant Shirley gave a little cry, which in vain she tried to
suppress. Ryder looked up.
"What's the matter?" he demanded startled.
"Nothing—nothing!" she replied in a hoarse whisper. "I pricked myself
with a pin. Don't mind me."
She had just come across her father's missing letters, which had got
mixed up, evidently without Ryder's knowledge, in the mass of papers he
had handed her. Prepared as she was to find the letters somewhere in
the house, she never dreamed that fate would put them so easily and so
quickly into her hands; the suddenness of their appearance and the
sight of her father's familiar signature affected her almost like a
shock. Now she had them, she must not let them go again; yet how could
she keep them unobserved? Could she conceal them? Would he miss them?
She tried to slip them in her bosom while Ryder was busy at the 'phone,
but he suddenly glanced in her direction and caught her eye. She still
held the letters in her hand, which shook from nervousness, but he
noticed nothing and went on speaking through the 'phone:
"Hallo, Jefferson, boy! You want to see me. Can you wait till I'm
through? I've got a lady here. Going away? Nonsense! Determined, eh?
Well, I can't keep you here if you've made up your mind. You want to
say good-bye. Come up in about five minutes and I'll introduce you to a
very interesting person." He laughed and hung up the receiver. Shirley
was all unstrung, trying to overcome the emotion which her discovery
had caused her, and in a strangely altered voice, the result of the
nervous strain she was under, she said:
"You want me to come here?"
She looked up from the letters she was reading across to Ryder, who was
standing watching her on the other side of the desk. He caught her
glance and, leaning over to take some manuscript, he said:
"Yes, I don't want these papers to get—"
His eye suddenly rested on the letters she was holding. He stopped
short, and reaching forward he tried to snatch them from her.
"What have you got there?" he exclaimed.
He took the letters and she made no resistance. It would be folly to
force the issue now, she thought. Another opportunity would present
itself. Ryder locked the letters up very carefully in the drawer on the
left-hand side of his desk, muttering to himself rather than speaking
"How on earth did they get among my other papers?"
"From Judge Rossmore, were they not?" said Shirley boldly.
"How did you know it was Judge Rossmore?" demanded Ryder suspiciously.
"I didn't know that his name had been mentioned."
"I saw his signature," she said simply. Then she added: "He's the
father of the girl you don't like, isn't he?"
"Yes, he's the——"
A cloud came over the financier's face; his eyes darkened, his jaws
snapped and he clenched his fist.
"How you must hate him!" said Shirley, who observed the change.
"Not at all," replied Ryder recovering his self-possession and suavity
of manner. "I disagree with his politics and his methods, but—I know
very little about him except that he is about to be removed from
"About to be?" echoed Shirley. "So his fate is decided even before he
is tried?" The girl laughed bitterly. "Yes," she went on, "some of the
newspapers are beginning to think he is innocent of the things of which
he is accused."
"Do they?" said Ryder indifferently.
"Yes," she persisted, "most people are on his side."
She planted her elbows on the desk in front of her, and looking him
squarely in the face, she asked him point blank:
"Whose side are you on—really and truly?"
Ryder winced. What right had this woman, a stranger both to Judge
Rossmore and himself, to come here and catechise him? He restrained his
impatience with difficulty as he replied:
"Whose side am I on? Oh, I don't know that I am on any side. I don't
know that I give it much thought. I—"
"Do you think this man deserves to be punished?" she demanded.
She had resumed her seat at the desk and partly regained her
"Why do you ask? What is your interest in this matter?"
"I don't know," she replied evasively; "his case interests me, that's
all. Its rather romantic. Your son loves this man's daughter. He is in
disgrace—many seem to think unjustly." Her voice trembled with emotion
as she continued: "I have heard from one source or another—you know I
am acquainted with a number of newspaper men—I have heard that life no
longer has any interest for him, that he is not only disgraced but
beggared, that he is pining away slowly, dying of a broken heart, that
his wife and daughter are in despair. Tell me, do you think he deserves
such a fate?"
Ryder remained thoughtful a moment, and then he replied:
"No, I do not—no—"
Thinking that she had touched his sympathies, Shirley followed up her
"Oh, then, why not come to his rescue—you, who are so rich, so
powerful; you, who can move the scales of justice at your will—save
this man from humiliation and disgrace!"
Ryder shrugged his shoulders, and his face expressed weariness, as if
the subject had begun to bore him.
"My dear girl, you don't understand. His removal is necessary."
Shirley's face became set and hard. There was a contemptuous ring to
her words as she retorted:
"Yet you admit that he may be innocent!"
"Even if I knew it as a fact, I couldn't move."
"Do you mean to say that if you had positive proof?" She pointed to the
drawer in the desk where he had placed the letters. "If you had
absolute proof in that drawer, for instance? Wouldn't you help him
Ryder's face grew cold and inscrutable; he now wore his fighting mask.
"Not even if I had the absolute proof in that drawer?" he snapped
"Have you absolute proof in that drawer?" she demanded.
"I repeat that even if I had, I could not expose the men who have been
my friends. It's noblesse oblige in politics as well as in society, you
He smiled again at her, as if he had recovered his good humour after
their sharp passage at arms.
"Oh, it's politics—that's what the papers said. And you believe him
innocent. Well, you must have some grounds for your belief."
"You said that even if you had the proofs, you could not produce them
without sacrificing your friends, showing that your friends are
interested in having this man put off the bench—" She stopped and
burst into hysterical laughter. "Oh, I think you're having a joke at my
expense," she went on, "just to see how far you can lead me. I daresay
Judge Rossmore deserves all he gets. Oh, yes—I'm sure he deserves it."
She rose and walked to the other side of the room to conceal her
Ryder watched her curiously.
"My dear young lady, how you take this matter to heart!"
"Please forgive me," laughed Shirley, and averting her face to conceal
the fact that her eyes were filled with tears. "It's my artistic
temperament, I suppose. It's always getting me into trouble. It
appealed so strongly to my sympathies—this story of hopeless love
between two young people—with the father of the girl hounded by
corrupt politicians and unscrupulous financiers. It was too much for
me. Ah! ah! I forgot where I was!"
She leaned against a chair, sick and faint from nervousness, her whole
body trembling. At that moment there was a knock at the library door
and Jefferson Ryder appeared. Not seeing Shirley, whose back was
towards him, he advanced to greet his father.
"You told me to come up in five minutes," he said. "I just wanted to
"Miss Green," said Ryder, Sr., addressing Shirley and ignoring whatever
it was that the young man wanted to say, "this is my son Jefferson.
Jeff—this is Miss Green."
Jefferson looked in the direction indicated and stood as if rooted to
the floor. He was so surprised that he was struck dumb. Finally,
recovering himself, he exclaimed:
"Yes, Shirley Green, the author," explained Ryder, Sr., not noticing
the note of familiar recognition in his exclamation.
Shirley advanced, and holding out her hand to Jefferson, said demurely:
"I am very pleased to meet you, Mr. Ryder." Then quickly, in an
undertone, she added: "Be careful; don't betray me!"
Jefferson was so astounded that he did not see the outstretched hand.
All he could do was to stand and stare first at her and then at his
"Why don't you shake hands with her?" said Ryder, Sr., "She won't bite
you." Then he added: "Miss Green is going to do some literary work for
me, so we shall see a great deal of her. It's too bad you're going
away!" He chuckled at his own pleasantry.
"Father!" blurted out Jefferson, "I came to say that I've changed my
mind. You did not want me to go, and I feel I ought to do something to
"Good boy," said Ryder pleased. "Now you're talking common sense." He
turned to Shirley, who was getting ready to make her departure: "Well,
Miss Green, we may consider the matter settled. You undertake the work
at the price I named and finish it as soon as you can. Of course, you
will have to consult me a good deal as you go along, so I think it
would be better for you to come and stay here while the work is
progressing. Mrs. Ryder can give you a suite of rooms to yourself,
where you will be undisturbed and you will have all your material close
at hand. What do you say?"
Shirley was silent for a moment. She looked first at Ryder and then at
his son, and from them her glance went to the little drawer on the
left-hand side of the desk. Then she said quietly:
"As you think best, Mr. Ryder. I am quite willing to do the work here."
Ryder, Sr., escorted her to the top of the landing and watched her as
she passed down the grand staircase, ushered by the gorgeously
uniformed flunkies, to the front door and the street.
Shirley entered upon her new duties in the Ryder household two days
later. She had returned to her rooms the evening of her meeting with
the financier in a state bordering upon hysteria. The day's events had
been so extraordinary that it seemed to her they could not be real, and
that she must be in a dream. The car ride to Seventy-fourth Street, the
interview in the library, the discovery of her father's letters, the
offer to write the biography, and, what to her was still more
important, the invitation to go and live in the Ryder home—all these
incidents were so remarkable and unusual that it was only with
difficulty that the girl persuaded herself that they were not figments
of a disordered brain.
But it was all true enough. The next morning's mail brought a letter
from Mrs. Ryder, who wrote to the effect that Mr. Ryder would like the
work to begin at once, and adding that a suite of rooms would be ready
for her the following afternoon. Shirley did not hesitate. Everything
was to be gained by making the Ryder residence her headquarters, her
father's very life depended upon the successful outcome of her present
mission, and this unhoped for opportunity practically ensured success.
She immediately wrote to Massapequa. One letter was to her mother,
saying that she was extending her visit beyond the time originally
planned. The other letter was to Stott. She told him all about the
interview with Ryder, informed him of the discovery of the letters, and
after explaining the nature of the work offered to her, said that her
address for the next few weeks would be in care of John Burkett Ryder.
All was going better than she had dared to hope. Everything seemed to
favour their plan. Her first step, of course, while in the Ryder home,
would be to secure possession of her father's letters, and these she
would dispatch at once to Massapequa, so they could be laid before the
Senate without delay.
So, after settling accounts with her landlady and packing up her few
belongings, Shirley lost no time in transferring herself to the more
luxurious quarters provided for her in the ten-million-dollar mansion
At the Ryder house she was received cordially and with every mark of
consideration. The housekeeper came down to the main hall to greet her
when she arrived and escorted her to the suite of rooms, comprising a
small working library, a bedroom simply but daintily furnished in pink
and white and a private bathroom, which had been specially prepared for
her convenience and comfort, and here presently she was joined by Mrs.
"Dear me," exclaimed the financier's wife, staring curiously at
Shirley, "what a young girl you are to have made such a stir with a
book! How did you do it? I'm sure I couldn't. It's as much as I can do
to write a letter, and half the time that's not legible."
"Oh, it wasn't so hard," laughed Shirley. "It was the subject that
appealed rather than any special skill of mine. The trusts and their
misdeeds are the favourite topics of the hour. The whole country is
talking about nothing else. My book came at the right time, that's all."
Although "The American Octopus" was a direct attack on her own husband,
Mrs. Ryder secretly admired this young woman, who had dared to speak a
few blunt truths. It was a courage which, alas! she had always lacked
herself, but there was a certain satisfaction in knowing there were
women in the world not entirely cowed by the tyrant Man.
"I have always wanted a daughter," went on Mrs. Ryder, becoming
confidential, while Shirley removed her things and made herself at
home; "girls of your age are so companionable." Then, abruptly, she
asked: "Do your parents live in New York?"
Shirley's face flushed and she stooped over her trunk to hide her
"No—not at present," she answered evasively. "My mother and father are
in the country."
She was afraid that more questions of a personal nature would follow,
but apparently Mrs. Ryder was not in an inquisitive mood, for she asked
nothing further. She only said:
"I have a son, but I don't see much of him. You must meet my Jefferson.
He is such a nice boy."
Shirley tried to look unconcerned as she replied:
"I met him yesterday. Mr. Ryder introduced him to me."
"Poor lad, he has his troubles too," went on Mrs. Ryder. "He's in love
with a girl, but his father wants him to marry someone else. They're
quarrelling over it all the time."
"Parents shouldn't interfere in matters of the heart," said Shirley
decisively. "What is more serious than the choosing of a life
companion, and who are better entitled to make a free selection than
they who are going to spend the rest of their days together? Of course,
it is a father's duty to give his son the benefit of his riper
experience, but to insist on a marriage based only on business
interests is little less than a crime. There are considerations more
important if the union is to be a happy or a lasting one. The chief
thing is that the man should feel real attachment for the woman he
marries. Two people who are to live together as man and wife must be
compatible in tastes and temper. You cannot mix oil and water. It is
these selfish marriages which keep our divorce courts busy. Money alone
won't buy happiness in marriage."
"No," sighed Mrs. Ryder, "no one knows that better than I."
The financier's wife was already most favourably impressed with her
guest, and she chatted on as if she had known Shirley for years. It was
rarely that she had heard so young a woman express such common-sense
views, and the more she talked with her the less surprised she was that
she was the author of a much-discussed book. Finally, thinking that
Shirley might prefer to be alone, she rose to go, bidding her make
herself thoroughly at home and to ring for anything she might wish. A
maid had been assigned to look exclusively after her wants, and she
could have her meals served in her room or else have them with the
family as she liked. But Shirley, not caring to encounter Mr. Ryder's
cold, searching stare more often than necessary, said she would prefer
to take her meals alone.
Left to herself, Shirley settled down to work in earnest. Mr. Ryder had
sent to her room all the material for the biography, and soon she was
completely absorbed in the task of sorting and arranging letters,
making extracts from records, compiling data, etc., laying the
foundations for the important book she was to write. She wondered what
they would call it, and she smiled as a peculiarly appropriate title
flashed through her mind—"The History of a Crime." Yet she thought
they could hardly infringe on Victor Hugo; perhaps the best title was
the simplest "The History of the Empire Trading Company." Everyone
would understand that it told the story of John Burkett Ryder's
remarkable career from his earliest beginnings to the present time. She
worked feverishly all that evening getting the material into shape, and
the following day found her early at her desk. No one disturbed her and
she wrote steadily on until noon, Mrs. Ryder only once putting her head
in the door to wish her good morning.
After luncheon, Shirley decided that the weather was too glorious to
remain indoors. Her health must not be jeopardized even to advance the
interests of the Colossus, so she put on her hat and left the house to
go for a walk. The air smelled sweet to her after being confined so
long indoor, and she walked with a more elastic and buoyant step than
she had since her return home. Turning down Fifth Avenue, she entered
the park at Seventy-second Street, following the pathway until she came
to the bend in the driveway opposite the Casino. The park was almost
deserted at that hour, and there was a delightful sense of solitude and
a sweet scent of new-mown hay from the freshly cut lawns. She found an
empty bench, well shaded by an overspreading tree, and she sat down,
grateful for the rest and quiet.
She wondered what Jefferson thought of her action in coming to his
father's house practically in disguise and under an assumed name. She
must see him at once, for in him lay her hope of obtaining possession
of the letters. Certainly she felt no delicacy or compunction in asking
Jefferson to do her this service. The letters belonged to her father
and they were being wrongfully withheld with the deliberate purpose of
doing him an injury. She had a moral if not a legal right to recover
the letters in any way that she could.
She was so deeply engrossed in her thoughts that she had not noticed a
hansom cab which suddenly drew up with a jerk at the curb opposite her
bench. A man jumped out. It was Jefferson.
"Hello, Shirley," he cried gaily; "who would have expected to find you
rusticating on a bench here? I pictured you grinding away at home doing
literary stunts for the governor." He grinned and then added: "Come for
a drive. I want to talk to you."
Shirley demurred. No, she could not spare the time. Yet, she thought to
herself, why was not this a good opportunity to explain to Jefferson
how he came to find her in his father's library masquerading under
another name, and also to ask him to secure the letters for her? While
she pondered Jefferson insisted, and a few minutes later she found
herself sitting beside him in the cab. They started off at a brisk
pace, Shirley sitting with her head back, enjoying the strong breeze
caused by the rapid motion.
"Now tell me," he said, "what does it all mean? I was so startled at
seeing you in the library the other day that I almost betrayed you. How
did you come to call on father?"
Briefly Shirley explained everything. She told him how Mr. Ryder had
written to her asking her to call and see him, and how she had eagerly
seized at this last straw in the hope of helping her father, She told
him about the letters, explaining how necessary they were for her
father's defence and how she had discovered them. Mr. Ryder, she said,
had seemed to take a fancy to her and had asked her to remain in the
house as his guest while she was compiling his biography, and she had
accepted the offer, not so much for the amount of money involved as for
the splendid opportunity it afforded her to gain possession of the
"So that is the mysterious work you spoke of—to get those letters?"
"Yes, that is my mission. It was a secret. I couldn't tell you; I
couldn't tell anyone. Only Judge Stott knows. He is aware I have found
them and is hourly expecting to receive them from me. And now," she
said, "I want your help."
His only answer was to grasp tighter the hand she had laid in his. She
knew that she would not have to explain the nature of the service she
wanted. He understood.
"Where are the letters?" he demanded.
"In the left-hand drawer of your father's desk," she answered.
He was silent for a few moments, and then he said simply:
"I will get them."
The cab by this time had got as far as Claremont, and from the hill
summit they had a splendid view of the broad sweep of the majestic
Hudson and the towering walls of the blue palisades. The day was so
beautiful and the air so invigorating that Jefferson suggested a ramble
along the banks of the river. They could leave the cab at Claremont and
drive back to the city later. Shirley was too grateful to him for his
promise of cooperation to make any further opposition, and soon they
were far away from beaten highways, down on the banks of the historic
stream, picking flowers and laughing merrily like two truant children
bent on a self-made holiday. The place they had reached was just
outside the northern boundaries of Harlem, a sylvan spot still
unspoiled by the rude invasion of the flat-house builder. The land,
thickly wooded, sloped down sharply to the water, and the perfect quiet
was broken only by the washing of the tiny surf against the river bank
and the shrill notes of the birds in the trees.
Although it was late in October the day was warm, and Shirley soon
tired of climbing over bramble-entangled verdure. The rich grass
underfoot looked cool and inviting, and the natural slope of the ground
affording an ideal resting-place, she sat there, with Jefferson
stretched out at her feet, both watching idly the dancing waters of the
broad Hudson, spangled with gleams of light, as they swept swiftly by
on their journey to the sea.
"Shirley," said Jefferson suddenly, "I suppose you saw that ridiculous
story about my alleged engagement to Miss Roberts. I hope you
understood that it was done without my consent."
"If I did not guess it, Jeff," she answered, "your assurance would be
sufficient. Besides," she added, "what right have I to object?"
"But I want you to have the right," he replied earnestly. "I'm going to
stop this Roberts nonsense in a way my father hardly anticipates. I'm
just waiting a chance to talk to him. I'll show him the absurdity of
announcing me engaged to a girl who is about to elope with his private
"Elope with the secretary?" exclaimed Shirley.
Jefferson told her all about the letter he had found on the staircase,
and the Hon. Fitzroy Bagley's plans for a runaway marriage with the
senator's wealthy daughter.
"It's a godsend to me," he said gleefully. "Their plan is to get
married next Wednesday. I'll see my father on Tuesday; I'll put the
evidence in his hands, and I don't think," he added grimly, "he'll
bother me any more about Miss Roberts."
"So you're not going away now?" said Shirley, smiling down at him.
He sat up and leaned over towards her.
"I can't, Shirley, I simply can't," he replied, his voice trembling.
"You are more to me than I dreamed a woman could ever be. I realize it
more forcibly every day. There is no use fighting against it. Without
you, my work, my life means nothing."
Shirley shook her head and averted her eyes.
"Don't let us speak of that, Jeff," she pleaded gently. "I told you I
did not belong to myself while my father was in peril."
"But I must speak of it," he interrupted. "Shirley, you do yourself an
injustice as well as me. You are not indifferent to me—I feel that.
Then why raise this barrier between us?"
A soft light stole into the girl's eyes. Ah, it was good to feel there
was someone to whom she was everything in the world!
"Don't ask me to betray my trust, Jeff," she faltered. "You know I am
not indifferent to you—far from it. But I—"
He came closer until his face nearly touched hers.
"I love you—I want you," he murmured feverishly. "Give me the right to
claim you before all the world as my future wife!"
Every note of his rich, manly voice, vibrating with impetuous passion,
sounded in Shirley's ear like a soft caress. She closed her eyes. A
strange feeling of languor was stealing over her, a mysterious thrill
passed through her whole body. The eternal, inevitable sex instinct was
disturbing, for the first time, a woman whose life had been singularly
free from such influences, putting to flight all the calculations and
resolves her cooler judgment had made. The sensuous charm of the
place—the distant splash of the water, the singing of the birds, the
fragrance of the trees and grass—all these symbols of the joy of life
conspired to arouse the love-hunger of the woman. Why, after all,
should she not know happiness like other women? She had a sacred duty
to perform, it was true; but would it be less well done because she
declined to stifle the natural leanings of her womanhood? Both her soul
and her body called out: "Let this man love you, give yourself to him,
he is worthy of your love."
Half unconsciously, she listened to his ardent wooing, her eyes shut,
as he spoke quickly, passionately, his breath warm upon her cheek:
"Shirley, I offer you all the devotion a man can give a woman. Say the
one word that will make me the happiest or the most wretched of men.
Yes or no! Only think well before you wreck my life. I love you—I love
you! I will wait for you if need be until the crack of doom. Say—say
you will be my wife!"
She opened her eyes. His face was bent close over hers. Their lips
"Yes, Jefferson," she murmured, "I do love you!" His lips met hers in a
long, passionate kiss. Her eyes closed and an ecstatic thrill seemed to
convulse her entire being. The birds in the trees overhead sang in more
joyful chorus in celebration of the betrothal.
It was nearly seven o'clock when Shirley got back to Seventy-fourth
Street. No one saw her come in, and she went direct to her room, and
after a hasty dinner, worked until late into the night on her book to
make up for lost time. The events of the afternoon caused her
considerable uneasiness. She reproached herself for her weakness and
for having yielded so readily to the impulse of the moment. She had
said only what was the truth when she admitted she loved Jefferson, but
what right had she to dispose of her future while her father's fate was
still uncertain? Her conscience troubled her, and when she came to
reason it out calmly, the more impossible seemed their union from every
point of view. How could she become the daughter-in-law of the man who
had ruined her own father? The idea was preposterous, and hard as the
sacrifice would be, Jefferson must be made to see it in that light.
Their engagement was the greatest folly; it bound each of them when
nothing but unhappiness could possibly come of it. She was sure now
that she loved Jefferson. It would be hard to give him up, but there
are times and circumstances when duty and principle must prevail over
all other considerations, and this she felt was one of them.
The following morning she received a letter from Stott. He was
delighted to hear the good news regarding her important discovery, and
he urged her to lose no time in securing the letters and forwarding
them to Massapequa, when he would immediately go to Washington and lay
them before the Senate. Documentary evidence of that conclusive nature,
he went on to say, would prove of the very highest value in clearing
her father's name. He added that the judge and her mother were as well
as circumstances would permit, and that they were not in the least
worried about her protracted absence. Her Aunt Milly had already
returned to Europe, and Eudoxia was still threatening to leave daily.
Shirley needed no urging. She quite realized the importance of acting
quickly, but it was not easy to get at the letters. The library was
usually kept locked when the great man was away, and on the few
occasions when access to it was possible, the lynx-eyed Mr. Bagley was
always on guard. Short as had been her stay in the Ryder household,
Shirley already shared Jefferson's antipathy to the English secretary,
whose manner grew more supercilious and overbearing as he drew nearer
the date when he expected to run off with one of the richest catches of
the season. He had not sought the acquaintance of his employer's
biographer since her arrival, and, with the exception of a rude stare,
had not deigned to notice her, which attitude of haughty indifference
was all the more remarkable in view of the fact that the Hon. Fitzroy
usually left nothing unturned to cultivate a flirtatious intimacy with
every attractive female he met. The truth was that what with Mr.
Ryder's demands upon his services and his own preparations for his
coming matrimonial venture, in which he had so much at stake, he had
neither time nor inclination to indulge his customary amorous
Miss Roberts had called at the house several times, ostensibly to see
Mrs. Ryder, and when introduced to Shirley she had condescended to give
the latter a supercilious nod. Her conversation was generally of the
silly, vacuous sort, concerning chiefly new dresses or bonnets, and
Shirley at once read her character—frivolous, amusement-loving,
empty-headed, irresponsible—just the kind of girl to do something
foolish without weighing the consequences. After chatting a few moments
with Mrs. Ryder she would usually vanish, and one day, after one of
these mysterious disappearances, Shirley happened to pass the library
and caught sight of her and Mr. Bagley conversing in subdued and eager
tones. It was very evident that the elopement scheme was fast maturing.
If the scandal was to be prevented, Jefferson ought to see his father
and acquaint him with the facts without delay. It was probable that at
the same time he would make an effort to secure the letters. Meantime
she must be patient. Too much hurry might spoil everything.
So the days passed, Shirley devoting almost all her time to the history
she had undertaken. She saw nothing of Ryder, Sr., but a good deal of
his wife, to whom she soon became much attached. She found her an
amiable, good-natured woman, entirely free from that offensive
arrogance and patronizing condescension which usually marks the
parvenue as distinct from the thoroughbred. Mrs. Ryder had no claims to
distinguished lineage; on the contrary, she was the daughter of a
country grocer when the then rising oil man married her, and of
educational advantages she had had little or none. It was purely by
accident that she was the wife of the richest man in the world, and
while she enjoyed the prestige her husband's prominence gave her, she
never allowed it to turn her head. She gave away large sums for
charitable purposes and, strange to say, when the gift came direct from
her, the money was never returned on the plea that it was "tainted."
She shared her husband's dislike for entertaining, and led practically
the life of a recluse. The advent of Shirley, therefore, into her quiet
and uneventful existence was as welcome as sunshine when it breaks
through the clouds after days of gloom. Quite a friendship sprang up
between the two women, and when tired of writing, Shirley would go into
Mrs. Ryder's room and chat until the financier's wife began to look
forward to these little impromptu visits, so much she enjoyed them.
Nothing more had been said concerning Jefferson and Miss Roberts. The
young man had not yet seen his father, but his mother knew he was only
waiting an opportunity to demand an explanation of the engagement
announcements. Her husband, on the other hand, desired the match more
than ever, owing to the continued importunities of Senator Roberts. As
usual, Mrs. Ryder confided these little domestic troubles to Shirley.
"Jefferson," she said, "is very angry. He is determined not to marry
the girl, and when he and his father do meet there'll be another scene."
"What objection has your son to Miss Roberts?" inquired Shirley
"Oh, the usual reason," sighed the mother, "and I've no doubt he knows
best. He's in love with another girl—a Miss Rossmore."
"Oh, yes," answered Shirley simply. "Mr. Ryder spoke of her."
Mrs. Ryder was silent, and presently she left the girl alone with her
The next afternoon Shirley was in her room busy writing when there came
a tap at her door. Thinking it was another visit from Mrs. Ryder, she
did not look up, but cried out pleasantly:
John Ryder entered. He smiled cordially and, as if apologizing for the
intrusion, said amiably:
"I thought I'd run up to see how you were getting along."
His coming was so unexpected that for a moment Shirley was startled,
but she quickly regained her composure and asked him to take a seat. He
seemed pleased to find her making such good progress, and he stopped to
answer a number of questions she put to him. Shirley tried to be
cordial, but when she looked well at him and noted the keen, hawk-like
eyes, the cruel, vindictive lines about the mouth, the square-set,
relentless jaw—Wall Street had gone wrong with the Colossus that day
and he was still wearing his war paint—she recalled the wrong this man
had done her father and she felt how bitterly she hated him. The more
her mind dwelt upon it, the more exasperated she was to think she
should be there, a guest, under his roof, and it was only with the
greatest difficulty that she remained civil.
"What is the moral of your life?" she demanded bluntly.
He was quick to note the contemptuous tone in her voice, and he gave
her a keen, searching look as if he were trying to read her thoughts
and fathom the reason for her very evident hostility towards him.
"What do you mean?" he asked.
"I mean, what can you show as your life work? Most men whose lives are
big enough to call for biographies have done something useful—they
have been famous statesmen, eminent scientists, celebrated authors,
great inventors. What have you done?"
The question appeared to stagger him. The audacity of any one putting
such a question to a man in his own house was incredible. He squared
his jaws and his clenched fist descended heavily on the table.
"What have I done?" he cried. "I have built up the greatest fortune
ever accumulated by one man. My fabulous wealth has caused my name to
spread to the four corners of the earth. Is that not an achievement to
relate to future generations?"
Shirley gave a little shrug of her shoulders.
"Future generations will take no interest in you or your millions," she
said calmly. "Our civilization will have made such progress by that
time that people will merely wonder why we, in our day, tolerated men
of your class so long. Now it is different. The world is money-mad. You
are a person of importance in the eyes of the unthinking multitude, but
it only envies you your fortune; it does not admire you personally.
When you die people will count your millions, not your good deeds."
He laughed cynically and drew up a chair near her desk. As a general
thing, John Ryder never wasted words on women. He had but a poor
opinion of their mentality, and considered it beneath the dignity of
any man to enter into serious argument with a woman. In fact, it was
seldom he condescended to argue with anyone. He gave orders and talked
to people; he had no patience to be talked to. Yet he found himself
listening with interest to this young woman who expressed herself so
frankly. It was a decided novelty for him to hear the truth.
"What do I care what the world says when I'm dead?" he asked with a
"You do care," replied Shirley gravely. "You may school yourself to
believe that you are indifferent to the good opinion of your fellow
man, but right down in your heart you do care—every man does, whether
he be multi-millionaire or a sneak thief."
"You class the two together, I notice," he said bitterly.
"It is often a distinction without a difference," she rejoined promptly.
He remained silent for a moment or two toying nervously with a paper
knife. Then, arrogantly, and as if anxious to impress her with his
importance, he said:
"Most men would be satisfied if they had accomplished what I have. Do
you realize that my wealth is so vast that I scarcely know myself what
I am worth? What my fortune will be in another fifty years staggers the
imagination. Yet I started with nothing. I made it all myself. Surely I
should get credit for that."
"How did you make it?" retorted Shirley.
"In America we don't ask how a man makes his money; we ask if he has
"You are mistaken," replied Shirley earnestly. "America is waking up.
The conscience of the nation is being aroused. We are coming to realize
that the scandals of the last few years were only the fruit of public
indifference to sharp business practice. The people will soon ask the
dishonest rich man where he got it, and there will have to be an
accounting. What account will you be able to give?"
He bit his lip and looked at her for a moment without replying. Then,
with a faint suspicion of a sneer, he said:
"You are a socialist—perhaps an anarchist!"
"Only the ignorant commit the blunder of confounding the two," she
retorted. "Anarchy is a disease; socialism is a science."
"Indeed!" he exclaimed mockingly, "I thought the terms were synonymous.
The world regards them both as insane."
Herself an enthusiastic convert to the new political faith that was
rising like a flood tide all over the world, the contemptuous tone in
which this plutocrat spoke of the coming reorganization of society
which was destined to destroy him and his kind spurred her on to
"I imagine," she said sarcastically, "that you would hardly approve any
social reform which threatened to interfere with your own business
methods. But no matter how you disapprove of socialism on general
principles, as a leader of the capitalist class you should understand
what socialism is, and not confuse one of the most important movements
in modern world-history with the crazy theories of irresponsible
cranks. The anarchists are the natural enemies of the entire human
family, and would destroy it were their dangerous doctrines permitted
to prevail; the socialists, on the contrary, are seeking to save
mankind from the degradation, the crime and the folly into which such
men as you have driven it."
She spoke impetuously, with the inspired exaltation of a prophet
delivering a message to the people. Ryder listened, concealing his
impatience with uneasy little coughs.
"Yes," she went on, "I am a socialist and I am proud of it. The whole
world is slowly drifting toward socialism as the only remedy for the
actual intolerable conditions. It may not come in our time, but it will
come as surely as the sun will rise and set tomorrow. Has not the flag
of socialism waved recently from the White House? Has not a President
of the United States declared that the State must eventually curb the
great fortunes? What is that but socialism?"
"True," retorted Ryder grimly, "and that little speech intended for the
benefit of the gallery will cost him the nomination at the next
Presidential election. We don't want in the White House a President who
stirs up class hatred. Our rich men have a right to what is their own;
that is guaranteed them by the Constitution."
"Is it their own?" interrupted Shirley.
Ryder ignored the insinuation and proceeded:
"What of our boasted free institutions if a man is to be restricted in
what he may and may not do? If I am clever enough to accumulate
millions who can stop me?"
"The people will stop you," said Shirley calmly. "It is only a question
of time. Their patience is about exhausted. Put your ear to the ground
and listen to the distant rumbling of the tempest which, sooner or
later, will be unchained in this land, provoked by the iniquitous
practices of organized capital. The people have had enough of the
extortions of the Trusts. One day they will rise in their wrath and
seize by the throat this knavish plutocracy which, confident in the
power of its wealth to procure legal immunity and reckless of its
danger, persists in robbing the public daily. But retribution is at
hand. The growing discontent of the proletariat, the ever-increasing
strikes and labour disputes of all kinds, the clamour against the
Railroads and the Trusts, the evidence of collusion between both—all
this is the writing on the wall. The capitalistic system is doomed;
socialism will succeed it."
"What is socialism?" he demanded scornfully. "What will it give the
public that it has not got already?"
Shirley, who never neglected an opportunity to make a convert, no
matter how hardened he might be, picked up a little pamphlet printed
for propaganda purposes which she had that morning received by mail.
"Here," she said, "is one of the best and clearest definitions of
socialism I have ever read:
"Socialism is common ownership of natural resources and public
utilities, and the common operation of all industries for the general
good. Socialism is opposed to monopoly, that is, to private ownership
of land and the instruments of labor, which is indirect ownership of
men; to the wages system, by which labor is legally robbed of a large
part of the product of labor; to competition with its enormous waste of
effort and its opportunities for the spoliation of the weak by the
strong. Socialism is industrial democracy. It is the government of the
people by the people and for the people, not in the present restricted
sense, but as regards all the common interests of men. Socialism is
opposed to oligarchy and monarchy, and therefore to the tyrannies of
business cliques and money kings. Socialism is for freedom, not only
from the fear of force, but from the fear of want. Socialism proposes
real liberty, not merely the right to vote, but the liberty to live for
something more than meat and drink.
"Socialism is righteousness in the relations of men. It is based on the
fundamentals of religion, the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of
men. It seeks through association and equality to realize fraternity.
Socialism will destroy the motives which make for cheap manufacturers,
poor workmanship and adulterations; it will secure the real utility of
things. Use, not exchange, will be the object of labour. Things will be
made to serve, not to sell. Socialism will banish war, for private
ownership is back of strife between men. Socialism will purify
politics, for private capitalism is the great source of political
corruption. Socialism will make for education, invention and discovery;
it will stimulate the moral development of men. Crime will have lost
most of its motive and pauperism will have no excuse. That," said
Shirley, as she concluded, "is socialism!"
Ryder shrugged his shoulders and rose to go.
"Delightful," he said ironically, "but in my judgment wholly Utopian
and impracticable. It's nothing but a gigantic pipe dream. It won't
come in this generation nor in ten generations if, indeed, it is ever
taken seriously by a majority big enough to put its theories to the
test. Socialism does not take into account two great factors that move
the world—men's passions and human ambition. If you eliminate ambition
you remove the strongest incentive to individual effort. From your own
account a socialistic world would be a dreadfully tame place to live
in—everybody depressingly good, without any of the feverish turmoil of
life as we know it. Such a world would not appeal to me at all. I love
the fray—the daily battle of gain and loss, the excitement of making
or losing millions. That is my life!"
"Yet what good is your money to you?" insisted Shirley. "You are able
to spend only an infinitesimal part of it. You cannot even give it
away, for nobody will have any of it."
"Money!" he hissed rather than spoke, "I hate money. It means nothing
to me. I have so much that I have lost all idea of its value. I go on
accumulating it for only one purpose. It buys power. I love power—that
is my passion, my ambition, to rule the world with my gold. Do you
know," he went on and leaning over the desk in a dramatic attitude,
"that if I chose I could start a panic in Wall Street to-morrow that
would shake to their foundations every financial institution in the
country? Do you know that I practically control the Congress of the
United States and that no legislative measure becomes law unless it has
"The public has long suspected as much," replied Shirley. "That is why
you are looked upon as a menace to the stability and honesty of our
political and commercial life."
An angry answer rose to his lips when the door opened and Mrs. Ryder
"I've been looking for you, John," she said peevishly. "Mr. Bagley told
me you were somewhere in the house. Senator Roberts is downstairs."
"He's come about Jefferson and his daughter, I suppose," muttered
Ryder. "Well, I'll see him. Where is he?"
"In the library. Kate came with him. She's in my room."
They left Shirley to her writing, and when he had closed the door the
financier turned to his wife and said impatiently:
"Now, what are we going to do about Jefferson and Kate? The senator
insists on the matter of their marriage being settled one way or
another. Where is Jefferson?"
"He came in about half an hour ago. He was upstairs to see me, and I
thought he was looking for you," answered the wife.
"Well," replied Ryder determinedly, "he and I have got to understand
each other. This can't go on. It shan't."
Mrs. Ryder put her hand on his arm, and said pleadingly:
"Don't be impatient with the boy, John. Remember he is all we have. He
is so unhappy. He wants to please us, but—"
"But he insists on pleasing himself," said Ryder completing the
"I'm afraid, John, that his liking for that Miss Rossmore is more
serious than you realize—"
The financier stamped his foot and replied angrily:
"Miss Rossmore! That name seems to confront me at every turn—for years
the father, now the daughter! I'm sorry, my dear," he went on more
calmly, "that you seem inclined to listen to Jefferson. It only
encourages him in his attitude towards me. Kate would make him an
excellent wife, while what do we know about the other woman? Are you
willing to sacrifice your son's future to a mere boyish whim?"
Mrs. Ryder sighed.
"It's very hard," she said, "for a mother to know what to advise. Miss
"What!" exclaimed her husband, "you have consulted Miss Green on the
"Yes," answered his wife, "I don't know how I came to tell her, but I
did. I seem to tell her everything. I find her such a comfort, John. I
haven't had an attack of nerves since that girl has been in the house."
"She is certainly a superior woman," admitted Ryder. "I wish she'd ward
that Rossmore girl off. I wish she—" He stopped abruptly as if not
venturing to give expression to his thoughts, even to his wife. Then he
said: "If she were Kate Roberts she wouldn't let Jeff slip through her
"I have often wished," went on Mrs. Ryder, "that Kate were more like
Shirley Green. I don't think we would have any difficulty with Jeff
"Kate is the daughter of Senator Roberts, and if this marriage is
broken off in any way without the senator's consent, he is in a
position to injure my interests materially. If you see Jefferson send
him to me in the library. I'll go and keep Roberts in good humour until
He went downstairs and Mrs. Ryder proceeded to her apartments, where
she found Jefferson chatting with Kate. She at once delivered Ryder
"Jeff, your father wants to see you in the library."
"Yes, I want to see him," answered the young man grimly, and after a
few moments more badinage with Kate he left the room.
It was not a mere coincidence that had brought Senator Roberts and his
daughter and the financier's son all together under the Ryder roof at
the same time. It was part of Jefferson's well-prepared plan to expose
the rascality of his father's secretary, and at the same time rid
himself of the embarrassing entanglement with Kate Roberts. If the
senator were confronted publicly with the fact that his daughter, while
keeping up the fiction of being engaged to Ryder Jr., was really
preparing to run off with the Hon. Fitzroy Bagley, he would have no
alternative but to retire gracefully under fire and relinquish all idea
of a marriage alliance with the house of Ryder. The critical moment had
arrived. To-morrow, Wednesday, was the day fixed for the elopement. The
secretary's little game had gone far enough. The time had come for
action. So Jefferson had written to Senator Roberts, who was in
Washington, asking him if it would be convenient for him to come at
once to New York and meet himself and his father on a matter of
importance. The senator naturally jumped to the conclusion that
Jefferson and Ryder had reached an amicable understanding, and he
immediately hurried to New York and with his daughter came round to
When Ryder Sr. entered the library, Senator Roberts was striding
nervously up and down the room. This, he felt, was an important day.
The ambition of his life seemed on the point of being attained.
"Hello, Roberts," was Ryder's cheerful greeting. "What's brought you
from Washington at a critical time like this? The Rossmore impeachment
needs every friend we have."
"Just as if you didn't know," smiled the senator uneasily, "that I am
here by appointment to meet you and your son!"
"To meet me and my son?" echoed Ryder astonished.
The senator, perplexed and beginning to feel real alarm, showed the
financier Jefferson's letter. Ryder read it and he looked pleased.
"That's all right," he said, "if the lad asked you to meet us here it
can mean only one thing—that at last he has made up his mind to this
"That's what I thought," replied the senator, breathing more freely. "I
was sorry to leave Washington at such a time, but I'm a father, and
Kate is more to me than the Rossmore impeachment. Besides, to see her
married to your son Jefferson is one of the dearest wishes of my life."
"You can rest easy," said Ryder; "that is practically settled.
Jefferson's sending for you proves that he is now ready to meet my
wishes. He'll be here any minute. How is the Rossmore case progressing?"
"Not so well as it might," growled the senator. "There's a lot of
maudlin sympathy for the judge. He's a pretty sick man by all accounts,
and the newspapers seem to be taking his part. One or two of the
Western senators are talking Corporate influence and Trust legislation,
but when it comes to a vote the matter will be settled on party lines."
"That means that Judge Rossmore will be removed?" demanded Ryder
"Yes, with five votes to spare," answered the senator.
"That's not enough," insisted Ryder. "There must be at least twenty.
Let there be no blunders, Roberts. The man is a menace to all the big
commercial interests. This thing must go through."
The door opened and Jefferson appeared. On seeing the senator talking
with his father, he hesitated on the threshold.
"Come in, Jeff," said his father pleasantly. "You expected to see
Senator Roberts, didn't you?"
"Yes, sir. How do you do, Senator?" said the young man, advancing into
"I got your letter, my boy, and here I am," said the senator smiling
affably. "I suppose we can guess what the business is, eh?"
"That he's going to marry Kate, of course," chimed in Ryder Sr. "Jeff,
my lad, I'm glad you are beginning to see my way of looking at things.
You're doing more to please me lately, and I appreciate it. You stayed
at home when I asked you to, and now you've made up your mind regarding
Jefferson let his father finish his speech, and then he said calmly:
"I think there must be some misapprehension as to the reason for my
summoning Senator Roberts to New York. It had nothing to do with my
marrying Miss Roberts, but to prevent her marriage with someone else."
"What!" exclaimed Ryder, Sr.
"Marriage with someone else?" echoed the senator. He thought he had not
heard aright, yet at the same time he had grave misgivings. "What do
you mean, sir?"
Taking from his pocket a copy of the letter he had picked up on the
staircase, Jefferson held it out to the girl's father.
"Your daughter is preparing to run away with my father's secretary.
To-morrow would have been too late. That is why I summoned you. Read
The senator took the letter, and as he read his face grew ashen and his
hand trembled violently. At one blow all his ambitious projects for his
daughter had been swept away. The inconsiderate act of a silly,
thoughtless girl had spoiled the carefully laid plans of a lifetime.
The only consolation which remained was that the calamity might have
been still more serious. This timely warning had saved his family from
perhaps an even greater scandal. He passed the letter in silence to
The financier was a man of few words when the situation called for
prompt action. After he had read the letter through, there was an
ominous silence. Then he rang a bell. The butler appeared.
"Tell Mr. Bagley I want him."
The man bowed and disappeared.
"Who the devil is this Bagley?" demanded the senater.
"English—blue blood—no money," was Ryder's laconic answer.
"That's the only kind we seem to get over here," growled the senator.
"We furnish the money—they furnish the blood—damn his blue blood! I
don't want any in mine." Turning to Jefferson, he said: "Jefferson,
whatever the motives that actuated you, I can only thank you for this
warning. I think it would have broken my heart if my girl had gone away
with that scoundrel. Of course, under the circumstances, I must abandon
all idea of your becoming my son-in-law. I release you from all
obligations you may have felt yourself bound by."
Jefferson bowed and remained silent.
Ryder, Sr. eyed his son closely, an amused expression hovering on his
face. After all, it was not so much he who had desired this match as
Roberts, and as long as the senator was willing to withdraw, he could
make no objection. He wondered what part, if any, his son had played in
bringing about this sensational denouement to a match which had been so
distasteful to him, and it gratified his paternal vanity to think that
Jefferson after all might be smarter than he had given him credit for.
At this juncture Mr. Bagley entered the room. He was a little taken
aback on seeing the senator, but like most men of his class, his
self-conceit made him confident of his ability to handle any emergency
which might arise, and he had no reason to suspect that this hasty
summons to the library had anything to do with his matrimonial plans.
"Did you ask for me, sir? he demanded, addressing his employer.
"Yes, Mr. Bagley," replied Ryder, fixing the secretary with a look that
filled the latter with misgivings. "What steamers leave to-morrow for
"To-morrow?" echoed Mr. Bagley.
"I said to-morrow," repeated Ryder, slightly raising his voice.
"Let me see," stammered the secretary, "there is the White Star, the
North German Lloyd, the Atlantic Transport—" "Have you any
preference?" inquired the financier.
"No, sir, none at all."
"Then you'll go on board one of the ships to-night," said Ryder. "Your
things will be packed and sent to you before the steamer sails
The Hon. Fitzroy Bagley, third son of a British peer, did not
understand even yet that he was discharged as one dismisses a housemaid
caught kissing the policeman. He could not think what Mr. Ryder wanted
him to go abroad for unless it were on some matter of business, and it
was decidedly inconvenient for him to sail at this time.
"But, sir," he stammered. "I'm afraid—I'm afraid——"
"Yes," rejoined Ryder promptly, "I notice that—your hand is shaking."
"I mean that I——"
"You mean that you have other engagements!" said Ryder sternly.
"Oh no—no but——"
"No engagement at eleven o'clock to-morrow morning?" insisted Ryder.
"With my daughter?" chimed in the senator.
Mr. Bagley now understood. He broke out in a cold perspiration and he
paled visibly. In the hope that the full extent of his plans were not
known, he attempted to brazen it out.
"No, certainly not, under no circumstances," he said.
Ryder, Sr. rang a bell.
"Perhaps she has an engagement with you. We'll ask her." To the butler,
who entered, he said: "Tell Miss Roberts that her father would like to
see her here."
The man disappeared and the senator took a hand in cross-examining the
now thoroughly uncomfortable secretary.
"So you thought my daughter looked pale and that a little excursion to
Buffalo would be a good thing for her? Well, it won't be a good thing
for you, young man, I can assure you of that!"
The English aristocrat began to wilt. His assurance of manner quite
deserted him and he stammered painfully as he floundered about in
"Not with me—oh dear, no," he said.
"You never proposed to run away with my daughter?" cried the irate
"Run away with her?" stammered Bagley.
"And marry her?" shouted the senator, shaking his fist at him.
"Oh say—this is hardly fair—three against one—really—I'm awfully
sorry, eh, what?"
The door opened and Kate Roberts bounced in. She was smiling and full
of animal spirits, but on seeing the stern face of her father and the
pitiable picture presented by her faithful Fitz she was intelligent
enough to immediately scent danger.
"Did you want to see me, father?" she inquired boldly.
"Yes, Kate," answered the senator gravely, "we have just been having a
talk with Mr. Bagley, in which you were one of the subjects of
conversation. Can you guess what it was?"
The girl looked from her father to Bagley and from him to the Ryders.
Her aristocratic lover made a movement forward as if to exculpate
himself but he caught Ryder's eye and remained where he was.
"Well?" she said, with a nervous laugh.
"Is it true?" asked the senator, "that you were about to marry this man
She cast down her eyes and answered:
"I suppose you know everything."
"Have you anything to add?" asked her father sternly.
"No," said Kate shaking her head. "It's true. We intended to run away,
didn't we Fitz?"
"Never mind about Mr. Bagley," thundered her father. "Haven't you a
word of shame for this disgrace you have brought upon me?"
"Oh papa, don't be so cross. Jefferson did not care for me. I couldn't
be an old maid. Mr. Bagley has a lovely castle in England, and one day
he'll sit in the House of Lords. He'll explain everything to you."
"He'll explain nothing," rejoined the senator grimly. "Mr. Bagley
returns to England to-night. He won't have time to explain anything."
"Returns to England?" echoed Kate dismayed.
"Yes, and you go with me to Washington at once."
The senator turned to Ryder.
"Good-bye Ryder. The little domestic comedy is ended. I'm grateful it
didn't turn out a drama. The next time I pick out a son-in-law I hope
I'll have better luck."
He shook hands with Jefferson, and left the room followed by his
Ryder, who had gone to write something at his desk, strode over to
where Mr. Bagley was standing and handed him a cheque.
"Here, sir, this settles everything to date. Good-day."
"But I—I—" stammered the secretary helplessly.
Ryder turned his back on him and conversed with his son, while Mr.
Bagley slowly, and as if regretfully, made his exit.
It was now December and the Senate had been in session for over a week.
Jefferson had not forgotten his promise, and one day, about two weeks
after Mr. Bagley's spectacular dismissal from the Ryder residence, he
had brought Shirley the two letters. She did not ask him how he got
them, if he forced the drawer or procured the key. It sufficed for her
that the precious letters—the absolute proof of her father's
innocence—were at last in her possession. She at once sent them off by
registered mail to Stott, who immediately acknowledged receipt and at
the same time announced his departure for Washington that night. He
promised to keep her constantly informed of what he was doing and how
her father's case was going. It could, he thought, be only a matter of
a few days now before the result of the proceedings would be known.
The approach of the crisis made Shirley exceedingly nervous, and it was
only by the exercise of the greatest self-control that she did not
betray the terrible anxiety she felt. The Ryder biography was nearly
finished and her stay in Seventy-fourth Street would soon come to an
end. She had a serious talk with Jefferson, who contrived to see a good
deal of her, entirely unsuspected by his parents, for Mr. and Mrs.
Ryder, had no reason to believe that their son had any more than a mere
bowing acquaintance with the clever young authoress. Now that Mr.
Bagley was no longer there to spy upon their actions these clandestine
interviews had been comparatively easy. Shirley brought to bear all the
arguments she could think of to convince Jefferson of the hopelessness
of their engagement. She insisted that she could never be his wife;
circumstances over which they had no control made that dream
impossible. It were better, she said, to part now rather than incur the
risk of being unhappy later. But Jefferson refused to be convinced. He
argued and pleaded and he even swore—strange, desperate words that
Shirley had never heard before and which alarmed her not a little—and
the discussion ended usually by a kiss which put Shirley completely
hors de combat.
Meantime, John Ryder had not ceased worrying about his son. The removal
of Kate Roberts as a factor in his future had not eliminated the danger
of Jefferson taking the bit between his teeth one day and contracting a
secret marriage with the daughter of his enemy, and when he thought of
the mere possibility of such a thing happening he stormed and raved
until his wife, accustomed as she was to his choleric outbursts, was
thoroughly frightened. For some time after Bagley's departure, father
and son got along together fairly amicably, but Ryder, Sr. was quick to
see that Jefferson had something on his mind which was worrying him,
and he rightly attributed it to his infatuation for Miss Rossmore. He
was convinced that his son knew where the judge's daughter was,
although his own efforts to discover her whereabouts had been
unsuccessful. Sergeant Ellison had confessed absolute failure; Miss
Rossmore, he reported, had disappeared as completely as if the earth
had swallowed her, and further search was futile. Knowing well his
son's impulsive, headstrong disposition, Ryder, Sr. believed him quite
capable of marrying the girl secretly any time. The only thing that
John Ryder did not know was that Shirley Rossmore was not the kind of a
girl to allow any man to inveigle her into a secret marriage. The
Colossus, who judged the world's morals by his own, was not of course
aware of this, and he worried night and day thinking what he could do
to prevent his son from marrying the daughter of the man he had wronged.
The more he pondered over it, the more he regretted that there was not
some other girl with whom Jefferson could fall in love and marry. He
need not seek a rich girl—there was certainly enough money in the
Ryder family to provide for both. He wished they knew a girl, for
example, as attractive and clever as Miss Green. Ah! he thought, there
was a girl who would make a man of Jefferson—brainy, ambitious,
active! And the more he thought of it the more the idea grew on him
that Miss Green would be an ideal daughter-in-law, and at the same time
snatch his son from the clutches of the Rossmore woman.
Jefferson, during all these weeks, was growing more and more impatient.
He knew that any day now Shirley might take her departure from their
house and return to Massapequa. If the impeachment proceedings went
against her father it was more than likely that he would lose her
forever, and if, on the contrary, the judge were acquitted, Shirley
never would be willing to marry him without his father's consent; and
this, he felt, he would never obtain. He resolved, therefore, to have a
final interview with his father and declare boldly his intention of
making Miss Rossmore his wife, regardless of the consequences.
The opportunity came one evening after dinner. Ryder, Sr. was sitting
alone in the library, reading, Mrs. Ryder had gone to the theatre with
a friend, Shirley as usual was writing in her room, giving the final
touches to her now completed "History of the Empire Trading Company."
Jefferson took the bull by the horns and boldly accosted his
"May I have a few minutes of your time, father?"
Ryder, Sr. laid aside the paper he was reading and looked up. It was
unusual for his son to come to him on any errand, and he liked to
"Certainly, Jefferson. What is it?"
"I want to appeal to you, sir. I want you to use your influence, before
it is too late, to save Judge Rossmore. A word from you at this time
would do wonders in Washington."
The financier swung half-round in his chair, the smile of greeting
faded out of his face, and his voice was hard as he replied coldly:
"Again? I thought we had agreed not to discuss Judge Rossmore any
"I can't help it, sir," rejoined Jefferson undeterred by his sire's
hostile attitude, "that poor old man is practically on trial for his
life. He is as innocent of wrongdoing as a child unborn, and you know
it. You could save him if you would."
"Jefferson," answered Ryder, Sr., biting his lip to restrain his
impatience, "I told you before that I could not interfere even if I
would; and I won't, because that man is my enemy. Important business
interests, which you cannot possibly know anything about, demand his
dismissal from the bench."
"Surely your business interests don't demand the sacrifice of a man's
life!" retorted Jefferson. "I know modern business methods are none too
squeamish, but I should think you'd draw the line at deliberate murder!"
Ryder sprang to his feet and for a moment stood glaring at the young
man. His lips moved, but no sound came from them. Suppressed wrath
rendered him speechless. What was the world coming to when a son could
talk to his father in this manner?
"How dare you presume to judge my actions or to criticise my methods?"
he burst out, finally.
"You force me to do so," answered Jefferson hotly. "I want to tell you
that I am heartily ashamed of this whole affair and your connection
with it, and since you refuse to make reparation in the only way
possible for the wrong you and your associates have done Judge
Rosmore—that is by saving him in the Senate—I think it only fair to
warn you that I take back my word in regard to not marrying without
your consent. I want you to know that I intend to marry Miss Rossmore
as soon as she will consent to become my wife, that is," he added with
bitterness, "if I can succeed in overcoming her prejudices against my
Ryder, Sr. laughed contemptuously.
"Prejudices against a thousand million dollars?" he exclaimed
"Yes," replied Jefferson decisively, "prejudices against our family,
against you and your business practices. Money is not everything. One
day you will find that out. I tell you definitely that I intend to make
Miss Rossmore my wife."
Ryder, Sr. made no reply, and as Jefferson had expected an explosion,
this unnatural calm rather startled him. He was sorry he had spoken so
harshly. It was his father, after all.
"You've forced me to defy you, father," he added. "I'm sorry—-"
Ryder, Sr. shrugged his shoulders and resumed his seat. He lit another
cigar, and with affected carelessness he said:
"All right, Jeff, my boy, we'll let it go at that. You're sorry—so am
I. You've shown me your cards—I'll show you mine."
His composed unruffled manner vanished. He suddenly threw off the mask
and revealed the tempest that was raging within. He leaned across the
desk, his face convulsed with uncontrollable passion, a terrifying
picture of human wrath. Shaking his fist at his son he shouted:
"When I get through with Judge Rossmore at Washington, I'll start after
his daughter. This time to-morrow he'll be a disgraced man. A week
later she will be a notorious woman. Then we'll see if you'll be so
eager to marry her!"
"Father!" cried Jefferson.
"There is sure to be something in her life that won't bear inspection,"
sneered Ryder. "There is in everybody's life. I'll find out what it is.
Where is she to-day? She can't be found. No one knows where she is—not
even her own mother. Something is wrong—the girl's no good!"
Jefferson started forward as if to resent these insults to the woman he
loved, but, realizing that it was his own father, he stopped short and
his hands fell powerless at his side.
"Well, is that all?" inquired Ryder, Sr. with a sneer.
"That's all," replied Jefferson, "I'm going. Good-bye."
"Good-bye," answered his father indifferently; "leave your address with
Jefferson left the room, and Ryder, Sr., as if exhausted by the
violence of his own outburst, sank back limp in his chair. The crisis
he dreaded had come at last. His son had openly defied his authority
and was going to marry the daughter of his enemy. He must do something
to prevent it; the marriage must not take place, but what could he do?
The boy was of age and legally his own master. He could do nothing to
restrain his actions unless they put him in an insane asylum. He would
rather see his son there, he mused, than married to the Rossmore woman.
Presently there was a timid knock at the library door. Ryder rose from
his seat and went to see who was there. To his surprise it was Miss
"May I come in?" asked Shirley.
"Certainly, by all means. Sit down."
He drew up a chair for her, and his manner was so cordial that it was
easy to see she was a welcome visitor.
"Mr. Ryder," she began in a low, tremulous voice, "I have come to see
you on a very important matter. I've been waiting to see you all
evening—and as I shall be here only a short time longer I—want to ask
yon a great favour—perhaps the greatest you were ever asked—I want to
ask you for mercy—for mercy to—"
She stopped and glanced nervously at him, but she saw he was paying no
attention to what she was saying. He was puffing heavily at his cigar,
entirely preoccupied with his own thoughts. Her sudden silence aroused
him. He apologized:
"Oh, excuse me—I didn't quite catch what you were saying."
She said nothing, wondering what had happened to render him so
absent-minded. He read the question in her face, for, turning towards
her, he exclaimed:
"For the first time in my life I am face to face with defeat—defeat of
the most ignominious kind—incapacity—inability to regulate my own
internal affairs. I can rule a government, but I can't manage my own
family—my own son. I'm a failure. Tell me," he added, appealing to
her, "why can't I rule my own household, why can't I govern my own
"Why can't you govern yourself?" said Shirley quietly.
Ryder looked keenly at her for a moment without answering her question;
then, as if prompted by a sudden inspiration, he said:
"You can help me, but not by preaching at me. This is the first time in
my life I ever called on a living soul for help. I'm only accustomed to
deal with men. This time there's a woman in the case—and I need your
"How can I help you?" asked Shirley.
"I don't know," he answered with suppressed excitement. "As I told you,
I am up against a blank wall. I can't see my way." He gave a nervous
little laugh and went on: "God! I'm ashamed of myself—ashamed! Did you
ever read the fable of the Lion and the Mouse? Well, I want you to gnaw
with your sharp woman's teeth at the cords which bind the son of John
Burkett Ryder to this Rossmore woman. I want you to be the mouse—to
set me free of this disgraceful entanglement."
"How? asked Shirley calmly.
"Ah, that's just it—how?" he replied. "Can't you think—you're a
woman—you have youth, beauty—brains." He stopped and eyed her closely
until she reddened from the embarrassing scrutiny. Then he blurted out:
"By George! marry him yourself—force him to let go of this other
woman! Why not? Come, what do you say?"
This unexpected suggestion came upon Shirley with all the force of a
violent shock. She immediately saw the falseness of her position. This
man was asking for her hand for his son under the impression that she
was another woman. It would be dishonorable of her to keep up the
deception any longer. She passed her hand over her face to conceal her
"You—you must give me time to think," she stammered. "Suppose I don't
love your son—I should want something—something to compensate."
"Something to compensate?" echoed Ryder surprised and a little
disconcerted. "Why, the boy will inherit millions—I don't know how
"No—no, not money," rejoined Shirley; "money only compensates those
who love money. It's something else—a man's honour—a man's life! It
means nothing to you."
He gazed at her, not understanding. Full of his own project, he had
mind for nothing else. Ignoring therefore the question of compensation,
whatever she might mean by that, he continued:
"You can win him if you make up your mind to. A woman with your
resources can blind him to any other woman."
"But if—he loves Judge Rossmore's daughter?" objected Shirley.
"It's for you to make him forget her—and you can," replied the
financier confidently. "My desire is to separate him from this Rossmore
woman at any cost. You must help me." His sternness relaxed somewhat
and his eyes rested on her kindly. "Do you know, I should be glad to
think you won't have to leave us. Mrs. Ryder has taken a fancy to you,
and I myself shall miss you when you go."
"You ask me to be your son's wife and you know nothing of my family,"
"I know you—that is sufficient," he replied.
"No—no you don't," returned Shirley, "nor do you know your son. He has
more constancy—more strength of character than you think—and far more
principle than you have."
"So much the greater the victory for you," he answered good humouredly.
"Ah," she said reproachfully, "you do not love your son."
"I do love him," replied Ryder warmly. "It's because I love him that
I'm such a fool in this matter. Don't you see that if he marries this
girl it would separate us, and I should lose him. I don't want to lose
him. If I welcomed her to my house it would make me the laughing-stock
of all my friends and business associates. Come, will you join forces
Shirley shook her head and was about to reply when the telephone bell
rang. Ryder took up the receiver and spoke to the butler downstairs:
"Who's that? Judge Stott? Tell him I'm too busy to see anyone. What's
that? A man's life at stake? What's that to do with me? Tell him—"
On hearing Stott's name, Shirley nearly betrayed herself. She turned
pale and half-started up from her chair. Something serious must have
happened to bring her father's legal adviser to the Ryder residence at
such an hour! She thought he was in Washington. Could it be that the
proceedings in the Senate were ended and the result known? She could
hardly conceal her anxiety, and instinctively she placed her hand on
"No, Mr. Ryder, do see Judge Stott! You must see him. I know who he is.
Your son has told me. Judge Stott is one of Judge Rossmore's advisers.
See him. You may find out something about the girl. You may find out
where she is. If Jefferson finds out you have refused to see her
father's friend at such a critical time it will only make him
sympathize more deeply with the Rossmores, and you know sympathy is
akin to love. That's what you want to avoid, isn't it?"
Ryder still held the telephone, hesitating what to do. What she said
sounded like good sense.
"Upon my word—" he said. "You may be right and yet—"
"Am I to help you or not?" demanded Shirley. "You said you wanted a
"Yes," said Ryder, "but still—"
"Then you had better see him," she said emphatically.
Ryder turned to the telephone.
"Hello, Jorkins, are you there? Show Judge Stott up here." He laid the
receiver down and turned again to Shirley. "That's one thing I don't
like about you," he said. "I allow you to decide against me and then I
agree with you." She said nothing and he went on looking at her
admiringly. "I predict that you'll bring that boy to your feet within a
month. I don't know why, but I seem to feel that he is attracted to you
already. Thank Heaven! you haven't a lot of troublesome relations. I
think you said you were almost alone in the world. Don't look so
serious," he added laughing. "Jeff is a fine fellow, and believe me an
excellent catch as the world goes."
Shirley raised her hand as if entreating him to desist.
"Oh, don't—don't—please! My position is so false! You don't know how
false it is!" she cried.
At that instant the library door was thrown open and the butler
appeared, ushering in Stott. The lawyer looked anxious, and his
dishevelled appearance indicated that he had come direct from the
train. Shirley scanned his face narrowly in the hope that she might
read there what had happened. He walked right past her, giving no sign
of recognition, and advanced direct towards Ryder, who had risen and
remained standing at his desk.
"Perhaps I had better go?" ventured Shirley, although tortured by
anxiety to hear the news from Washington.
"No," said Ryder quickly, "Judge Stott will detain me but a very few
Having delivered himself of this delicate hint, he looked towards his
visitor as if inviting him to come to the point as rapidly as possible.
"I must apologize for intruding at this unseemly hour, sir," said
Stott, "but time is precious. The Senate meets to-morrow to vote. If
anything is to be done for Judge Rossmore it must be done to-night."
"I fail to see why you address yourself to me in this matter, sir,"
replied Ryder with asperity.
"As Judge Rossmore's friend and counsel," answered Stott, "I am
impelled to ask your help at this critical moment."
"The matter is in the hands of the United States Senate, sir," replied
"They are against him!" cried Stott; "not one senator I've spoken to
holds out any hope for him. If he is convicted it will mean his death.
Inch by inch his life is leaving him. The only thing that can save him
is the good news of the Senate's refusal to find him guilty."
Stott was talking so excitedly and loudly that neither he nor Ryder
heard the low moan that came from the corner of the room where Shirley
was standing listening.
"I can do nothing," repeated Ryder coldly, and he turned his back and
began to examine some papers lying on his desk as if to notify the
caller that the interview was ended. But Stott was not so easily
discouraged. He went on:
"As I understand it, they will vote on strictly party lines, and the
party in power is against him. He's a marked man. You have the power to
help him." Heedless of Ryder's gesture of impatience he continued:
"When I left his bedside to-night, sir, I promised to return to him
with good news; I have told him that the Senate ridicules the charges
against him. I must return to him with good news. He is very ill
to-night, sir." He halted for a moment and glanced in Shirley's
direction, and slightly raising his voice so she might hear, he added:
"If he gets worse we shall send for his daughter."
"Where is his daughter?" demanded Ryder, suddenly interested.
"She is working in her father's interests," replied Stott, and, he
added significantly, "I believe with some hope of success."
He gave Shirley a quick, questioning look. She nodded affirmatively.
Ryder, who had seen nothing of this by-play, said with a sneer:
"Surely you didn't come here to-night to tell me this?"
"No, sir, I did not." He took from his pocket two letters—the two
which Shirley had sent him—and held them out for Ryder's inspection.
"These letters from Judge Rossmore to you," he said, "show you to be
acquainted with the fact that he bought those shares as an
investment—and did not receive them as a bribe."
When he caught sight of the letters and he realized what they were,
Ryder changed colour. Instinctively his eyes sought the drawer on the
left-hand side of his desk. In a voice that was unnaturally calm, he
"Why don't you produce them before the Senate?"
"It was too late," explained Stott, handing them to the financier. "I
received them only two days ago. But if you come forward and declare—"
Ryder made an effort to control himself.
"I'll do nothing of the kind. I refuse to move in the matter. That is
final. And now, sir," he added, raising his voice and pointing to the
letters, "I wish to know how comes it that you had in your possession
private correspondence addressed to me?"
"That I cannot answer," replied Stott promptly.
"From whom did you receive these letters?" demanded Ryder.
Stott was dumb, while Shirley clutched at her chair as if she would
fall. The financier repeated the question.
"I must decline to answer," replied Stott finally.
Shirley left her place and came slowly forward. Addressing Ryder, she
"I wish to make a statement."
The financier gazed at her in astonishment. What could she know about
it, he wondered, and he waited with curiosity to hear what she was
going to say. But Stott instantly realized that she was about to take
the blame upon herself, regardless of the consequences to the success
of their cause. This must be prevented at all hazards, even if another
must be sacrificed, so interrupting her he said hastily to Ryder:
"Judge Rossmore's life and honour are at stake and no false sense of
delicacy must cause the failure of my object to save him. These letters
were sent to me by—your son."
"From my son'" exclaimed Ryder, starting. For a moment he staggered as
if he had received a blow; he was too much overcome to speak or act.
Then recovering himself, he rang a bell, and turned to Stott with
"So," he cried, "this man, this judge whose honour is at stake and his
daughter, who most likely has no honour at stake, between them have
made a thief and a liar of my son! false to his father, false to his
party; and you, sir, have the presumption to come here and ask me to
intercede for him!" To the butler, who entered, he said: "See if Mr.
Jefferson is still in the house. If he is, tell him I would like to see
him here at once."
The man disappeared, and Ryder strode angrily up and down the room with
the letters in his hand. Then, turning abruptly on Stott, he said:
"And now, sir, I think nothing more remains to be said. I shall keep
these letters, as they are my property."
"As you please. Good night, sir."
"Good night," replied Ryder, not looking up.
With a significant glance at Shirley, who motioned to him that she
might yet succeed where he had failed, Stott left the room. Ryder
turned to Shirley. His fierceness of manner softened down as he
addressed the girl:
"You see what they have done to my son—"
"Yes," replied Shirley, "it's the girl's fault. If Jefferson hadn't
loved her you would have helped the judge. Ah, why did they ever meet!
She has worked on his sympathy and he—he took these letters for her
sake, not to injure you. Oh, you must make some allowance for him!
One's sympathy gets aroused in spite of oneself; even I feel sorry
"Don't," replied Ryder grimly, "sympathy is often weakness. Ah, there
you are!" turning to Jefferson, who entered the room at that moment.
"You sent for me, father?"
"Yes," said Ryder, Sr., holding up the letters. "Have you ever seen
these letters before?"
Jefferson took the letters and examined them, then he passed them back
to his father and said frankly:
"Yes, I took them out of your desk and sent them to Mr. Stott in the
hope they would help Judge Rossmore's case."
Ryder restrained himself from proceeding to actual violence only with
the greatest difficulty. His face grew white as death, his lips were
compressed, his hands twitched convulsively, his eyes flashed
dangerously. He took another cigar to give the impression that he had
himself well under control, but the violent trembling of his hands as
he lit it betrayed the terrific strain he was under.
"So!" he said, "you deliberately sacrificed my interests to save this
woman's father—you hear him, Miss Green? Jefferson, my boy, I think
it's time you and I had a final accounting."
Shirley made a motion as if about to withdraw. He stopped her with a
"Please don't go, Miss Green. As the writer of my biography you are
sufficiently well acquainted with my family affairs to warrant your
being present at the epilogue. Besides, I want an excuse for keeping my
temper. Sit down, Miss Green."
Turning to Jefferson, he went on:
"For your mother's sake, my boy, I have overlooked your little
eccentricities of character. But now we have arrived at the parting of
the ways—you have gone too far. The one aspect of this business I
cannot overlook is your willingness to sell your own father for the
sake of a woman."
"My own father," interrupted Jefferson bitterly, "would not hesitate to
sell me if his business and political interests warranted the
Shirley attempted the role of peacemaker. Appealing to the younger man,
"Please don't talk like that, Mr. Jefferson." Then she turned to Ryder,
Sr.: "I don't think your son quite understands you, Mr. Ryder, and, if
you will pardon me, I don't think you quite understand him. Do you
realize that there is a man's life at stake—that Judge Rossmore is
almost at the point of death and that favourable news from the Senate
to-morrow is perhaps the only thing that can save him?"
"Ah, I see," sneered Ryder, Sr. "Judge Stott's story has aroused your
"Yes, I—I confess my sympathy is aroused. I do feel for this father
whose life is slowly ebbing away—whose strength is being sapped hourly
by the thought of the disgrace—the injustice that is being done him! I
do feel for the wife of this suffering man!"
"Ah, its a complete picture!" cried Ryder mockingly. "The dying father,
the sorrowing mother—and the daughter, what is she supposed to be
"She is fighting for her father's life," cried Shirley, "and you, Mr.
Jefferson, should have pleaded—pleaded—not demanded. It's no use
trying to combat your father's will."
"She is quite right, father I should have implored you. I do so now. I
ask you for God's sake to help us!"
Ryder was grim and silent. He rose from his seat and paced the room,
puffing savagely at his cigar. Then he turned and said:
"His removal is a political necessity. If he goes back on the bench
every paltry justice of the peace, every petty official will think he
has a special mission to tear down the structure that hard work and
capital have erected. No, this man has been especially conspicuous in
his efforts to block the progress of amalgamated interests."
"And so he must be sacrificed?" cried Shirley indignantly.
"He is a meddlesome man," insisted Ryder "and—"
"He is innocent of the charges brought against him," urged Jefferson.
"Mr. Ryder is not considering that point," said Shirley bitterly. "All
he can see is that it is necessary to put this poor old man in the
public pillory, to set him up as a warning to others of his class not
to act in accordance with the principles of Truth and Justice—not to
dare to obstruct the car of Juggernaut set in motion by the money gods
of the country!"
"It's the survival of the fittest, my dear," said Ryder coldly.
"Oh!" cried Shirley, making a last appeal to the financier's heart of
stone, "use your great influence with this governing body for good, not
evil! Urge them to vote not in accordance with party policy and
personal interest, but in accordance with their consciences—in
accordance with Truth and Justice! Ah, for God's sake, Mr. Ryder! don't
permit this foul injustice to blot the name of the highest tribunal in
the Western world!"
Ryder laughed cynically.
"By Jove! Jefferson, I give you credit for having secured an eloquent
"Suppose," went on Shirley, ignoring his taunting comments, "suppose
this daughter promises that she will never—never see your son
again—that she will go away to some foreign country!"
"No!" burst in Jefferson, "why should she? If my father is not man
enough to do a simple act of justice without bartering a woman's
happiness and his son's happiness, let him find comfort in his
Shirley, completely unnerved, made a move towards the door, unable
longer to bear the strain she was under. She tottered as though she
would fall. Ryder made a quick movement towards his son and took him by
the arm. Pointing to Shirley he said in a low tone:
"You see how that girl pleads your cause for you! She loves you, my
boy!" Jefferson started. "Yes, she does," pursued Ryder, Sr. "She's
worth a thousand of the Rossmore woman. Make her your wife and I'll—"
"Make her my wife!" cried Jefferson joyously. He stared at his parent
as if he thought he had suddenly been bereft of his senses.
"Make her my wife?" he repeated incredulously.
"Well, what do you say?" demanded Ryder, Sr.
The young man advanced towards Shirley, hands outstretched.
"Yes, yes, Shir—Miss Green, will you?" Seeing that Shirley made no
sign, he said: "Not now, father; I will speak to her later."
"No, no, to-night, at once!" insisted Ryder. Addressing Shirley, he
went on: "Miss Green, my son is much affected by your disinterested
appeal in his behalf. He—he—you can save him from himself—my son
wishes you—he asks you to become his wife! Is it not so, Jefferson?"
"Yes, yes, my wife!" advancing again towards Shirley.
The girl shrank back in alarm.
"No, no, no, Mr. Ryder, I cannot, I cannot!" she cried.
"Why not?" demanded Ryder, Sr. appealingly. "Ah, don't—don't decide
Shirley, her face set and drawn and keen mental distress showing in
every line of it, faced the two men, pale and determined. The time had
come to reveal the truth. This masquerade could go on no longer. It was
not honourable either to her father or to herself. Her self-respect
demanded that she inform the financier of her true identity.
"I cannot marry your son with these lies upon my lips!" she cried. "I
cannot go on with this deception. I told you you did not know who I
was, who my people were. My story about them, my name, everything about
me is false, every word I have uttered is a lie, a fraud, a cheat! I
would not tell you now, but you trusted me and are willing to entrust
your son's future, your family honour in my keeping, and I can't keep
back the truth from you. Mr. Ryder, I am the daughter of the man you
hate. I am the woman your son loves. I am Shirley Rossmore!"
Ryder took his cigar from his lips and rose slowly to his feet.
"You? You?" he stammered.
"Yes—yes, I am the Rossmore woman! Listen, Mr. Ryder. Don't turn away
from me. Go to Washington on behalf of my father, and I promise you I
will never see your son again—never, never!"
"Ah, Shirley!" cried Jefferson, "you don't love me!"
"Yes, Jeff, I do; God knows I do! But if I must break my own heart to
save my father I will do it."
"Would you sacrifice my happiness and your own?"
"No happiness can be built on lies, Jeff. We must build on truth or our
whole house will crumble and fall. We have deceived your father, but he
will forgive that, won't you?" she said, appealing to Ryder, "and you
will go to Washington, you will save my father's honour, his life, you
They stood face to face—this slim, delicate girl battling for her
father's life, arrayed against a cold-blooded, heartless, unscrupulous
man, deaf to every impulse of human sympathy or pity. Since this woman
had deceived him, fooled him, he would deal with her as with everyone
else who crossed his will. She laid her hand on his arm, pleading with
him. Brutally, savagely, he thrust her aside.
"No, no, I will not!" he thundered. "You have wormed yourself into my
confidence by means of lies and deceit. You have tricked me, fooled me
to the very limit! Oh, it is easy to see how you have beguiled my son
into the folly of loving you! And you—you have the brazen effrontery
to ask me to plead for your father? No! No! No! Let the law take its
course, and now Miss Rossmore—you will please leave my house to-morrow
Shirley stood listening to what he had to say, her face white, her
mouth quivering. At last the crisis had come. It was a fight to the
finish between this man, the incarnation of corporate greed and
herself, representing the fundamental principles of right and justice.
She turned on him in a fury:
"Yes, I will leave your house to-night! Do you think I would remain
another hour beneath the roof of a man who is as blind to justice, as
deaf to mercy, as incapable of human sympathy as you are!"
She raised her voice; and as she stood there denouncing the man of
money, her eyes flashing and her head thrown back, she looked like some
avenging angel defying one of the powers of Evil.
"Leave the room!" shouted Ryder, beside himself, and pointing to the
"Father!" cried Jefferson, starting forward to protect the girl he
"You have tricked him as you have me!" thundered Ryder.
"It is your own vanity that has tricked you!" cried Shirley
contemptuously. "You lay traps for yourself and walk into them. You
compel everyone around you to lie to you, to cajole you, to praise you,
to deceive you! At least, you cannot accuse me of flattering you. I
have never fawned upon you as you compel your family and your friends
and your dependents to do. I have always appealed to your better nature
by telling you the truth, and in your heart you know that I am speaking
the truth now."
"Go!" he commanded.
"Yes, let us go, Shirley!" said Jefferson.
"No, Jeff, I came here alone and I'm going alone!"
"You are not. I shall go with you. I intend to make you my wife!"
Ryder laughed scornfully.
"No," cried Shirley. "Do you think I'd marry a man whose father is as
deep a discredit to the human race as your father is? No, I wouldn't
marry the son of such a merciless tyrant! He refuses to lift his voice
to save my father. I refuse to marry his son!"
She turned on Ryder with all the fury of a tiger:
"You think if you lived in the olden days you'd be a Caesar or an
Alexander. But you wouldn't! You'd be a Nero—a Nero! Sink my
self-respect to the extent of marrying into your family!" she exclaimed
contemptuously. "Never! I am going to Washington without your aid. I am
going to save my father if I have to go on my knees to every United
States Senator. I'll go to the White House; I'll tell the President
what you are! Marry your son—no, thank you! No, thank you!"
Exhausted by the vehemence of her passionate outburst, Shirley hurried
from the room, leaving Ryder speechless, staring at his son.
When Shirley reached her rooms she broke down completely, she threw
herself upon a sofa and burst into a fit of violent sobbing. After all,
she was only a woman and the ordeal through which she had passed would
have taxed the strongest powers of endurance. She had borne up
courageously while there remained the faintest chance that she might
succeed in moving the financier to pity, but now that all hopes in that
direction were shattered and she herself had been ordered harshly from
the house like any ordinary malefactor, the reaction set in, and she
gave way freely to her long pent-up anguish and distress. Nothing now
could save her father—not even this journey to Washington which she
determined to take nevertheless, for, according to what Stott had said,
the Senate was to take a vote that very night.
She looked at the time—eleven o'clock. She had told Mr. Ryder that she
would leave his house at once, but on reflection it was impossible for
a girl alone to seek a room at that hour. It would be midnight before
she could get her things packed. No, she would stay under this hated
roof until morning and then take the first train to Washington. There
was still a chance that the vote might be delayed, in which case she
might yet succeed in winning over some of the senators. She began to
gather her things together and was thus engaged when she heard a knock
at her door.
"Who's there?" she called out.
"It's I," replied a familiar voice.
Shirley went to the door and opening it found Jefferson on the
threshold. He made no attempt to enter, nor did she invite him in. He
looked tired and careworn. "Of course, you're not going to-night?" he
asked anxiously. "My father did not mean to-night."
"No, Jeff," she said wearily; "not to-night. It's a little too late. I
did not realize it. To-morrow morning, early."
He seemed reassured and held out his hand:
"Good-night, dearest—you're a brave girl. You made a splendid fight."
"It didn't do much good," she replied in a disheartened, listless way.
"But it set him thinking," rejoined Jefferson. "No one ever spoke to my
father like that before. It did him good. He's still marching up and
down the library, chewing the cud—"
Noticing Shirley's tired face and her eyes, with great black circles
underneath, he stopped short.
"Now don't do any more packing to-night," he said. "Go to bed and in
the morning I'll come up and help you. Good night!"
"Good night, Jeff," she smiled.
He went downstairs, and after doing some more packing she went to bed.
But it was hours before she got to sleep, and then she dreamed that she
was in the Senate Chamber and that she saw Ryder suddenly rise and
denounce himself before the astonished senators as a perjurer and
traitor to his country, while she returned to Massapequa with the glad
news that her father was acquitted.
Meantime, a solitary figure remained in the library, pacing to and fro
like a lost soul in Purgatory. Mrs. Ryder had returned from the play
and gone to bed, serenely oblivious of the drama in real life that had
been enacted at home, the servants locked the house up for the night
and still John Burkett Ryder walked the floor of his sanctum, and late
into the small hours of the morning the watchman going his lonely
rounds, saw a light in the library and the restless figure of his
employer sharply silhouetted against the white blinds.
For the first time in his life John Ryder realized that there was
something in the world beyond Self. He had seen with his own eyes the
sacrifice a daughter will make for the father she loves, and he asked
himself what manner of a man that father could be to inspire such
devotion in his child. He probed into his own heart and conscience and
reviewed his past career. He had been phenomenally successful, but he
had not been happy. He had more money than he knew what to do with, but
the pleasures of the domestic circle, which he saw other men enjoy, had
been denied to him. Was he himself to blame? Had his insensate craving
for gold and power led him to neglect those other things in life which
contribute more truly to man's happiness? In other words, was his life
a mistake? Yes, it was true what this girl charged, he had been
merciless and unscrupulous in his dealings with his fellow man. It was
true that hardly a dollar of his vast fortune had been honestly earned.
It was true that it had been wrung from the people by fraud and
trickery. He had craved for power, yet now he had tasted it, what a
hollow joy it was, after all! The public hated and despised him; even
his so-called friends and business associates toadied to him merely
because they feared him. And this judge—this father he had persecuted
and ruined, what a better man and citizen he was, how much more worthy
of a child's love and of the esteem of the world! What had Judge
Rossmore done, after all, to deserve the frightful punishment the
amalgamated interests had caused him to suffer? If he had blocked their
game, he had done only what his oath, his duty commanded him to do.
Such a girl as Shirley Rossmore could not have had any other kind of a
father. Ah, if he had had such a daughter he might have been a better
man, if only to win his child's respect and affection. John Ryder
pondered long and deeply and the more he ruminated the stronger the
conviction grew upon him that the girl was right and he was wrong.
Suddenly, he looked at his watch. It was one o'clock. Roberts had told
him that it would be an all night session and that a vote would
probably not be taken until very late. He unhooked the telephone and
calling "central" asked for "long distance" and connection with
It was seven o'clock when the maid entered Shirley's room with her
breakfast and she found its occupant up and dressed.
"Why you haven't been to bed, Miss!" exclaimed the girl, looking at the
bed in the inner room which seemed scarcely disturbed.
"No, Theresa I—I couldn't sleep." Hastily pouring out a cup of tea she
added. "I must catch that nine o'clock train to Washington. I didn't
finish packing until nearly three."
"Can I do anything for you, Miss?" inquired the maid. Shirley was as
popular with the servants as with the rest of the household.
"No," answered Shirley, "there are only a few, things to go in my suit
case. Will you please have a cab here in half an hour?"
The maid was about to go when she suddenly thought of something she had
forgotten. She held out an envelope which she had left lying on the
"Oh, Miss, Mr. Jorkins said to give you this and master wanted to see
you as soon as you had finished your breakfast."
Shirley tore open the envelope and took out the contents. It was a
cheque, payable to her order for $5,000 and signed "John Burkett Ryder."
A deep flush covered the girl's face as she saw the money—a flush of
annoyance rather than of pleasure. This man who had insulted her, who
had wronged her father, who had driven her from his home, thought he
could throw his gold at her and insolently send her her pay as one
settles haughtily with a servant discharged for impertinence. She would
have none of his money—the work she had done she would make him a
present of. She replaced the cheque in the envelope and passed it back
"Give this to Mr. Ryder and tell him I cannot see him."
"But Mr. Ryder said—" insisted the girl.
"Please deliver my message as I give it," commanded Shirley with
authority. "I cannot see Mr. Ryder."
The maid withdrew, but she had barely closed the door when it was
opened again and Mrs. Ryder rushed in, without knocking. She was all
flustered with excitement and in such a hurry that she had not even
stopped to arrange her toilet.
"My dear Miss Green," she gasped; "what's this I hear—going away
suddenly without giving me warning?"
"I wasn't engaged by the month," replied Shirley drily.
"I know, dear, I know. I was thinking of myself. I've grown so used to
you—how shall I get on without you—no one understands me the way you
do. Dear me! The whole house is upset. Mr. Ryder never went to bed at
all last night. Jefferson is going away, too—forever, he threatens. If
he hadn't come and woke me up to say good-bye, I should never have
known you intended to leave us. My boy's going—you're
going—everyone's deserting me!"
Mrs. Ryder was not accustomed to such prolonged flights of oratory and
she sank exhausted on a chair, her eyes filling with tears.
"Did they tell you who I am—the daughter of Judge Rossmore?" demanded
It had been a shock to Mrs. Ryder that morning when Jefferson burst
into his mother's room before she was up and acquainted her with the
events of the previous evening. The news that the Miss Green whom she
had grown to love, was really the Miss Rossmore of whose relations with
Jefferson her husband stood in such dread, was far from affecting the
financier's wife as it had Ryder himself. To the mother's simple and
ingenuous mind, free from prejudice and ulterior motive, the girl's
character was more important than her name, and certainly she could not
blame her son for loving such a woman as Shirley. Of course, it was
unfortunate for Jefferson that his father felt this bitterness towards
Judge Rossmore, for she herself could hardly have wished for a more
sympathetic daughter-in-law. She had not seen her husband since the
previous evening at dinner so was in complete ignorance as to what he
thought of this new development, but the mother sighed as she thought
how happy it would make her to see Jefferson happily married to the
girl of his own choice, and in her heart she still entertained the hope
that her husband would see it that way and thus prevent their son from
leaving them as he threatened.
"That's not your fault, my dear," she replied answering Shirley's
question. "You are yourself—that's the main thing. You mustn't mind
what Mr. Ryder says? Business and worry makes him irritable at times.
If you must go, of course you must—you are the best judge of that, but
Jefferson wants to see you before you leave." She kissed Shirley in
motherly fashion, and added: "He has told me everything, dear. Nothing
would make me happier than to see you become his wife. He's downstairs
now waiting for me to tell him to come up."
"It's better that I should not see him," replied Shirley slowly and
gravely. "I can only tell him what I have already told him. My father
comes first. I have still a duty to perform."
"That's right, dear," answered Mrs. Ryder. "You're a good, noble girl
and I admire you all the more for it. I'll let Jefferson be his own
advocate. You'll see him for my sake!"
She gave Shirley another affectionate embrace and left the room while
the girl proceeded with her final preparations for departure. Presently
there was a quick, heavy step in the corridor outside and Jefferson
appeared in the doorway. He stood there waiting for her to invite him
in. She looked up and greeted him cordially, yet it was hardly the kind
of reception he looked for or that he considered he had a right to
expect. He advanced sulkily into the room.
"Mother said she had put everything right," he began. "I guess she was
"Your mother does not understand, neither do you," she replied
seriously. "Nothing can be put right until my father is restored to
honour and position."
"But why should you punish me because my father fails to regard the
matter as we do?" demanded Jefferson rebelliously.
"Why should I punish myself—why should we punish those nearest and
dearest?" answered Shirley gently, "the victims of human injustice
always suffer where their loved ones are tortured. Why are things as
they are—I don't know. I know they are—that's all."
The young man strode nervously up and down the room while she gazed
listlessly out of the window, looking for the cab that was to carry her
away from this house of disappointment. He pleaded with her:
"I have tried honourably and failed—you have tried honourably and
failed. Isn't the sting of impotent failure enough to meet without
striving against a hopeless love?" He approached her and said softly:
"I love you Shirley—don't drive me to desperation. Must I be punished
because you have failed? It's unfair. The sins of the fathers should
not be visited upon the children."
"But they are—it's the law," said Shirley with resignation.
"The law?" he echoed.
"Yes, the law," insisted the girl; "man's law, not God's, the same
unjust law that punishes my father—man's law which is put into the
hands of the powerful of the earth to strike at the weak."
She sank into a chair and, covering up her face, wept bitterly. Between
her sobs she cried brokenly:
"I believed in the power of love to soften your father's heart, I
believed that with God's help I could bring him to see the truth. I
believed that Truth and Love would make him see the light, but it
hasn't. I stayed on and on, hoping against hope until the time has gone
by and it's too late to save him, too late! What can I do now? My going
to Washington is a forlorn hope, a last, miserable, forlorn hope and in
this hour, the darkest of all, you ask me to think of myself—my love,
your love, your happiness, your future, my future! Ah, wouldn't it be
Jefferson kneeled down beside the chair and taking her hand in his,
tried to reason with her and comfort her:
"Listen, Shirley," he said, "do not do something you will surely
regret. You are punishing me not only because I have failed but because
you have failed too. It seems to me that if you believed it possible to
accomplish so much, if you had so much faith—that you have lost your
faith rather quickly. I believed in nothing, I had no faith and yet I
have not lost hope."
She shook her head and gently withdrew her hand.
"It is useless to insist, Jefferson—until my father is cleared of this
stain our lives—yours and mine—must lie apart."
Someone coughed and, startled, they both looked up. Mr. Ryder had
entered the room unobserved and stood watching them. Shirley
immediately rose to her feet indignant, resenting this intrusion on her
privacy after she had declined to receive the financier. Yet, she
reflected quickly, how could she prevent it? He was at home, free to
come and go as he pleased, but she was not compelled to remain in the
same room with him. She picked up the few things that lay about and
with a contemptuous toss of her head, retreated into the inner
apartment, leaving father and son alone together.
"Hum," grunted Ryder, Sr. "I rather thought I should find you here, but
I didn't quite expect to find you on your knees—dragging our pride in
"That's where our pride ought to be," retorted Jefferson savagely. He
felt in the humor to say anything, no matter what the consequences.
"So she has refused you again, eh?" said Ryder, Sr. with a grin.
"Yes," rejoined Jefferson with growing irritation, "she objects to my
family. I don't blame her."
The financier smiled grimly as he answered:
"Your family in general—me in particular, eh? I gleaned that much when
I came in." He looked towards the door of the room in which Shirley had
taken refuge and as if talking to himself he added: "A curious girl
with an inverted point of view—sees everything different to others—I
want to see her before she goes."
He walked over to the door and raised his hand as if he were about to
knock. Then he stopped as if he had changed his mind and turning
towards his son he demanded:
"Do you mean to say that she has done with you?"
"Yes," answered Jefferson bitterly.
"Does she mean it?" asked Ryder, Sr., sceptically.
"Yes—she will not listen to me while her father is still in peril."
There was an expression of half amusement, half admiration on the
financier's face as he again turned towards the door.
"It's like her, damn it, just like her!" he muttered.
He knocked boldly at the door.
"Who's there?" cried Shirley from within.
"It is I—Mr. Ryder. I wish to speak to you."
"I must beg you to excuse me," came the answer, "I cannot see you."
"Why do you want to add to the girl's misery? Don't you think she has
"Do you know what she has done?" said Ryder with pretended indignation.
"She has insulted me grossly. I never was so humiliated in my life. She
has returned the cheque I sent her last night in payment for her work
on my biography. I mean to make her take that money. It's hers, she
needs it, her father's a beggar. She must take it back. It's only
flaunting her contempt for me in my face and I won't permit it."
"I don't think her object in refusing that money was to flaunt contempt
in your face, or in any way humiliate you," answered Jefferson. "She
feels she has been sailing under false colours and desires to make some
"And so she sends me back my money, feeling that will pacify me,
perhaps repair the injury she has done me, perhaps buy me into entering
into her plan of helping her father, but it won't. It only increases my
determination to see her and her—" Suddenly changing the topic he
asked: "When do you leave us?"
"Now—at once—that is—I—don't know," answered Jefferson embarrassed.
"The fact is my faculties are numbed—I seem to have lost my power of
thinking. Father," he exclaimed, "you see what a wreck you have made of
"Now, don't moralize," replied his father testily, "as if your own
selfishness in desiring to possess that girl wasn't the mainspring of
all your actions!" Waving his son out of the room he added: "Now leave
me alone with her for a few moments. Perhaps I can make her listen to
Jefferson stared at his father as if he feared he were out of his mind.
"What do you mean? Are you—?" he ejaculated.
"Go—go leave her to me," commanded the financier. "Slam the door when
you go out and she'll think we've both gone. Then come up again
The stratagem succeeded admirably. Jefferson gave the door a vigorous
pull and John Ryder stood quiet, waiting for the girl to emerge from
sanctuary. He did not have to wait long. The door soon opened and
Shirley came out slowly. She had her hat on and was drawing on her
gloves, for through her window she had caught a glimpse of the cab
standing at the curb. She started on seeing Ryder standing there
motionless, and she would have retreated had he not intercepted her.
"I wish to speak to you Miss—Rossmore," he began.
"I have nothing to say," answered Shirley frigidly.
"Why did you do this?" he asked, holding out the cheque.
"Because I do not want your money," she replied with hauteur.
"It was yours—you earned it," he said.
"No, I came here hoping to influence you to help my father. The work I
did was part of the plan. It happened to fall my way. I took it as a
means to get to your heart."
"But it is yours, please take it. It will be useful."
"No," she said scornfully, "I can't tell you how low I should fall in
my own estimation if I took your money! Money," she added, with ringing
contempt, "why, that's all there is to YOU! It's your god! Shall I make
your god my god? No, thank you, Mr. Ryder!"
"Am I as bad as that?" he asked wistfully.
"You are as bad as that!" she answered decisively.
"So bad that I contaminate even good money?" He spoke lightly but she
noticed that he winced.
"Money itself is nothing," replied the girl, "it's the spirit that
gives it—the spirit that receives it, the spirit that earns it, the
spirit that spends it. Money helps to create happiness. It also creates
misery. It's an engine of destruction when not properly used, it
destroys individuals as it does nations. It has destroyed you, for it
has warped your soul!"
"Go on," he laughed bitterly, "I like to hear you!"
"No, you don't, Mr. Ryder, no you don't, for deep down in your heart
you know that I am speaking the truth. Money and the power it gives
you, has dried up the well-springs of your heart."
He affected to be highly amused at her words, but behind the mask of
callous indifference the man suffered. Her words seared him as with a
red hot iron. She went on:
"In the barbaric ages they fought for possession, but they fought
openly. The feudal barons fought for what they stole, but it was a fair
fight. They didn't strike in the dark. At least, they gave a man a
chance for his life. But when you modern barons of industry don't like
legislation you destroy it, when you don't like your judges you remove
them, when a competitor outbids you you squeeze him out of commercial
existence! You have no hearts, you are machines, and you are cowards,
for you fight unfairly."
"It is not true, it is not true," he protested.
"It is true," she insisted hotly, "a few hours ago in cold blood you
doomed my father to what is certain death because you decided it was a
political necessity. In other words he interfered with your personal
interests—your financial interests—you, with so many millions you
can't count them!" Scornfully she added: "Come out into the
light—fight in the open! At least, let him know who his enemy is!"
"Stop—stop—not another word," he cried impatiently, "you have
diagnosed the disease. What of the remedy? Are you prepared to
reconstruct human nature?"
Confronting each other, their eyes met and he regarded her without
resentment, almost with tenderness. He felt strangely drawn towards
this woman who had defied and accused him, and made him see the world
in a new light.
"I don't deny," he admitted reluctantly, "that things seem to be as you
describe them, but it is part of the process of evolution."
"No," she protested, "it is the work of God!"
"It is evolution!" he insisted.
"Ah, that's it," she retorted, "you evolve new ideas, new schemes, new
tricks—you all worship different gods—gods of your own making!"
He was about to reply when there was a commotion at the door and
Theresa entered, followed by a man servant to carry down the trunk.
"The cab is downstairs, Miss," said the maid.
Ryder waved them away imperiously. He had something further to say
which he did not care for servants to hear. Theresa and the man
precipitately withdrew, not understanding, but obeying with alacrity a
master who never brooked delay in the execution of his orders. Shirley,
indignant, looked to him for an explanation.
"You don't need them," he exclaimed with a quiet smile in which was a
shade of embarrassment. "I—I came here to tell you that I—" He
stopped as if unable to find words, while Shirley gazed at him in utter
astonishment. "Ah," he went on finally, "you have made it very hard for
me to speak." Again he paused and then with an effort he said slowly:
"An hour ago I had Senator Roberts on the long distance telephone, and
I'm going to Washington. It's all right about your father. The matter
will be dropped. You've beaten me. I acknowledge it. You're the first
living soul who ever has beaten John Burkett Ryder."
Shirley started forward with a cry of mingled joy and surprise. Could
she believe her ears? Was it possible that the dreaded Colossus had
capitulated and that she had saved her father? Had the forces of right
and justice prevailed, after all? Her face transfigured, radiant she
"What, Mr. Ryder, you mean that you are going to help my father?"
"Not for his sake—for yours," he answered frankly.
Shirley hung her head. In her moment of triumph, she was sorry for all
the hard things she had said to this man. She held out her hand to him.
"Forgive me," she said gently, "it was for my father. I had no faith. I
thought your heart was of stone."
Impulsively Ryder drew her to him, he clasped her two hands in his and
looking down at her kindly he said, awkwardly:
"So it was—so it was! You accomplished the miracle. It's the first
time I've acted on pure sentiment. Let me tell you something. Good
sentiment is bad business and good business is bad sentiment—that's
why a rich man is generally supposed to have such a hard time getting
into the Kingdom of Heaven." He laughed and went on, "I've given ten
millions apiece to three universities. Do you think I'm fool enough to
suppose I can buy my way? But that's another matter. I'm going to
Washington on behalf of your father because I—want you to marry my
son. Yes, I want you in the family, close to us. I want your respect,
my girl. I want your love. I want to earn it. I know I can't buy it.
There's a weak spot in every man's armour and this is mine—I always
want what I can't get and I can't get your love unless I earn it."
Shirley remained pensive. Her thoughts were out on Long Island, at
Massapequa. She was thinking of their joy when they heard the news—her
father, her mother and Stott. She was thinking of the future, bright
and glorious with promise again, now that the dark clouds were passing
away. She thought of Jefferson and a soft light came into her eyes as
she foresaw a happy wifehood shared with him.
"Why so sober," demanded Ryder, "you've gained your point, your father
is to be restored to you, you'll marry the man you love?"
"I'm so happy!" murmured Shirley. "I don't deserve it. I had no faith."
Ryder released her and took out his watch.
"I leave in fifteen minutes for Washington," he said. "Will you trust
me to go alone?"
"I trust you gladly," she answered smiling at him. "I shall always be
grateful to you for letting me convert you."
"You won me over last night," he rejoined, "when you put up that fight
for your father. I made up my mind that a girl so loyal to her father
would be loyal to her husband. You think," he went on, "that I do not
love my son—you are mistaken. I do love him and I want him to be
happy. I am capable of more affection than people think. It is Wall
Street," he added bitterly, "that has crushed all sentiment out of me."
Shirley laughed nervously, almost hysterically.
"I want to laugh and I feel like crying," she cried. "What will
Jefferson say—how happy he will be!"
"How are you going to tell him?" inquired Ryder uneasily.
"I shall tell him that his dear, good father has relented and—"
"No, my dear," he interrupted, "you will say nothing of the sort. I
draw the line at the dear, good father act. I don't want him to think
that it comes from me at all."
"But," said Shirley puzzled, "I shall have to tell him that you—"
"What?" exclaimed Ryder, "acknowledge to my son that I was in the
wrong, that I've seen the error of my ways and wish to repent? Excuse
me," he added grimly, "it's got to come from him. He must see the error
of HIS ways."
"But the error of his way," laughed the girl, "was falling in love with
me. I can never prove to him that that was wrong!"
The financier refused to be convinced. He shook his head and said
"Well, he must be put in the wrong somehow or other! Why, my dear
child," he went on, "that boy has been waiting all his life for an
opportunity to say to me: 'Father, I knew I was in the right, and I
knew you were wrong.' Can't you see," he asked, "what a false position
it places me in? Just picture his triumph!"
"He'll be too happy to triumph," objected Shirley.
Feeling a little ashamed of his attitude, he said:
"I suppose you think I'm very obstinate." Then, as she made no reply,
he added: "I wish I didn't care what you thought."
Shirley looked at him gravely for a moment and then she replied
"Mr. Ryder, you're a great man—you're a genius—your life is full of
action, energy, achievement. But it appears to be only the good, the
noble and the true that you are ashamed of. When your money triumphs
over principle, when your political power defeats the ends of justice,
you glory in your victory. But when you do a kindly, generous, fatherly
act, when you win a grand and noble victory over yourself, you are
ashamed of it. It was a kind, generous impulse that has prompted you to
save my father and take your son and myself to your heart. Why are you
ashamed to let him see it? Are you afraid he will love you? Are you
afraid I shall love you? Open your heart wide to us—let us love you."
Ryder, completely vanquished, opened his arms and Shirley sprang
forward and embraced him as she would have embraced her own father. A
solitary tear coursed down the financier's cheek. In thirty years he
had not felt, or been touched by, the emotion of human affection.
The door suddenly opened and Jefferson entered. He started on seeing
Shirley in his father's arms.
"Jeff, my boy," said the financier, releasing Shirley and putting her
hand in his son's, "I've done something you couldn't do—I've convinced
Miss Green—I mean Miss Rossmore—that we are not so bad after all!"
Jefferson, beaming, grasped his father's hand.
"Father!" he exclaimed.
"That's what I say—father!" echoed Shirley.
They both embraced the financier until, overcome with emotion, Ryder,
Sr., struggled to free himself and made his escape from the room crying:
"Good-bye, children—I'm off for Washington!"