VIEW THE MOBILE VERSION of Informational Site Network Informational
   Home - Science Fiction Stories - Western Stories

Harry Lossing

From: Stories Of A Western Town

THE note-book of Mr. Horatio Armorer, president of our street railways,
contained a page of interest to some people in our town, on the occasion
of his last visit.

He wrote it while the train creaked over the river, and the porter of
his Pullman car was brushing all the dust that had been distributed on
the passengers' clothing, into the main aisle.

If you had seen him writing it (with a stubby little pencil that he
occasionally brightened with the tip of his tongue), you would not have
dreamed him to be more profoundly disturbed than he had been in years.
Nor would the page itself have much enlightened you.

"See abt road M-- D-- See L
See E & M tea-set
See abt L."

Translated into long-hand, this reads: "See about the street-car road,
Marston (the superintendent) and Dane (the lawyer). See Lossing, see
Esther and Maggie, and remember about tea-set. See about Lossing."

His memoranda written, he slipped the book in his pocket, reflecting
cynically, "There's habit! I've no need of writing that. It's not
pleasant enough to forget!"

Thirty odd years ago, Horatio Armorer--they called him 'Raish, then--had
left the town to seek his fortune in Chicago. It was his daydream to
wrestle a hundred thousand dollars out of the world's tight fists, and
return to live in pomp on Brady Street hill! He should drive a buggy
with two horses, and his wife should keep two girls. Long ago, the
hundred thousand limit had been reached and passed, next the million;
and still he did not return. His father, the Presbyterian minister, left
his parish, or, to be exact, was gently propelled out of his parish by
the disaffected; the family had a new home; and the son, struggling to
help them out of his scanty resources, went to the new parish and not
to the old. He grew rich, he established his brothers and sisters in
prosperity, he erected costly monuments and a memorial church to his
parents (they were beyond any other gifts from him); he married, and
lavished his money on three daughters; but the home of his youth neither
saw him nor his money until Margaret Ellis bought a house on Brady
Street, far up town, where she could have all the grass that she wanted.
Mrs. Ellis was a widow and rich. Not a millionaire like her brother, but
the possessor of a handsome property.

She was the best-natured woman in the world, and never guessed how hard
her neighbors found it to forgive her for always calling their town of
thirty thousand souls, "the country." She said that she had pined for
years to live in the country, and have horses, and a Jersey cow and
chickens, and "a neat pig." All of which modest cravings she gratified
on her little estate; and the gardener was often seen with a scowl and
the garden hose, keeping the pig neat.

It was later that Mr. Armorer had bought the street railways, they
having had a troublous history and being for sale cheap. Nobody that
knows Armorer as a business man would back his sentiment by so much
as an old shoe; yet it was sentiment, and not a good bargain, that had
enticed the financier. Once engaged, the instincts of a shrewd trader
prompted him to turn it into a good bargain, anyhow. His fancy was
pleased by a vision of a return to the home of his childhood and his
struggling youth, as a greater personage than his hopes had ever dared

But, in the event, there was little enough gratification for his vanity.
Not since his wife's death had he been so harassed and anxious; for he
came not in order to view his new property, but because his sister
had written him her suspicions that Harry Lossing wanted to marry his
youngest daughter.

Armorer arrived in the early dawn. Early as it was, a handsome victoria,
with horses sleeker of skin and harness heavier and brighter than one
is used to meet outside the great cities, had been in waiting for twenty
minutes; while for that space of time a pretty girl had paced up and
down the platform. The keenest observer among the crowd, airing its meek
impatience on the platform, did not detect any sign of anxiety in her
behavior. She walked erect, with a step that left a clean-cut footprint
in the dust, as girls are trained to walk nowadays. Her tailor-made
gown of fine blue serge had not a wrinkle. It was so simple that only
a fashionable woman could guess anywhere near the awful sum total which
that plain skirt, that short jacket, and that severe waistcoat had once
made on a ruled sheet of paper. When she turned her face toward the low,
red station-house and the people, it looked gentle, and the least in the
world sad. She had one of those clear olive skins that easily grow pale;
it was pale to-day. Her black hair was fine as spun silk; the coil under
her hat-brim shone as she moved. The fine hair, the soft, transparent
skin, and the beautiful marking of her brows were responsible for an air
of fragile daintiness in her person, just as her almond-shaped,
liquid dark eyes and unsmiling mouth made her look sad. It was a most
attractive face, in all its moods; sometimes it was a beautiful face;
yet it did not have a single perfect feature except the mouth, which--at
least so Harry Lossing told his mother--might have been stolen from the
Venus of Milo. Even the mouth, some critics called too small for her
nose; but it is as easy to call her nose too large for her mouth.

The instant she turned her back on the bustle of the station, all the
lines in her face seemed to waver and the eyes to brighten. Finally,
when the train rolled up to the platform and a young-looking elderly man
swung himself nimbly off the steps, the color flared up in her cheeks,
only to sink as suddenly; like a candle flame in a gust of wind.

Mr. Armorer put his two arms and his umbrella and travelling-bag about
the charming shape in blue, at the same time exclaiming, "You're a good
girl to come out so early, Essie! How's Aunt Meg?"

"Oh, very well. She would have come too, but she hasn't come back from


"Yes, dear, she has a regular trainer, like John L. Sullivan, you know.
She drives out to the park with Eliza and me, and walks and runs races,
and does gymnastics. She has lost ten pounds."

Armorer wagged his head with a grin: "I dare say. I thought so when you
began. Meg is always moaning and groaning because she isn't a sylph!
She will make her cook's life a burden for about two months and lose ten
pounds, and then she will revel in ice-cream! Last time, she was raving
about Dr. Salisbury and living on beefsteak sausages, spending a fortune
starving herself."

"She had Dr. Salisbury's pamphlet; but Cardigan told her it was a long
way out; so she said she hated to have it do no one any good, and she
gave it to Maria, one of the maids, who is always fretting because she
is so thin."

"But the thing was to cure fat people!"

"Precisely." Esther laughed a little low laugh, at which her father's
eyes shone; "but you see she told Maria to exactly reverse the advice
and eat everything that was injurious to stout people, and it would be
just right for her."

"I perceive," said Armorer, dryly; "very ingenious and feminine scheme.
But who is Cardigan?"

"Shuey Cardigan? He is the trainer. He is a fireman in a furniture shop,
now; but he used to be the boxing teacher for some Harvard men; and he
was a distinguished pugilist, once. He said to me, modestly, 'I don't
suppose you will have seen my name in the Police Gazette, miss?' But
he really is a very sober, decent man, notwithstanding."

"Your Aunt Meg always was picking up queer birds! Pray, who introduced
this decent pugilist?"

Esther was getting into the carriage; her face was turned from him, but
he could see the pink deepen in her ear and the oval of her cheek. She
answered that it was a friend of theirs, Mr. Lossing. As if the name had
struck them both dumb, neither spoke for a few moments. Armorer bit a
sigh in two. "Essie," said he, "I guess it is no use to side-track the
subject. You know why I came here, don't you?"

"Aunt Meg told me what she wrote to you."

"I knew she would. She had compunctions of conscience letting him hang
round you, until she told me; and then she had awful gripes because she
had told, and had to confess to YOU!"

He continued in a different tone: "Essie, I have missed your mother
a long while, and nobody knows how that kind of missing hurts; but it
seems to me I never missed her as I do to-day. I need her to advise me
about you, Essie. It is like this: I don't want to be a stern parent
any more than you want to elope on a rope ladder. We have got to look
at this thing together, my dear little girl, and try to--to trust each

"Don't you think, papa," said Esther, smiling rather tremulously, "that
we would better wait, before we have all these solemn preparations,
until we know surely whether Mr. Lossing wants me?"

"Don't you know surely?"

"He has never said anything of--of that--kind."

"Oh, he is in love with you fast enough," growled Armorer; but a smile
of intense relief brightened his face. "Now, you see, my dear, all I
know about this young man, except that he wants my daughter--which you
will admit is not likely to prejudice me in his favor--is that he is
mayor of this town and has a furniture store----"

"A manufactory; it is a very large business!"

"All right, manufactory, then; all the same he is not a brilliant match
for my daughter, not such a husband as your sisters have." Esther's lip
quivered and her color rose again; but she did not speak. "Still I will
say that I think a fellow who can make his own fortune is better than
a man with twice that fortune made for him. My dear, if Lossing has the
right stuff in him and he is a real good fellow, I shan't make you go
into a decline by objecting; but you see it is a big shock to me, and
you must let me get used to it, and let me size the young man up in my
own way. There is another thing, Esther; I am going to Europe Thursday,
that will give me just a day in Chicago if I go to-morrow, and I wish
you would come with me. Will you mind?"

Either she changed her seat or she started at the proposal. But how
could she say that she wanted to stay in America with a man who had not
said a formal word of love to her? "I can get ready, I think, papa,"
said Esther.

They drove on. He felt a crawling pain in his heart, for he loved his
daughter Esther as he had loved no other child of his; and he knew that
he had hurt her. Naturally, he grew the more angry at the impertinent
young man who was the cause of the flitting; for the whole European plan
had been cooked up since the receipt of Mrs. Ellis's letter. They were
on the very street down which he used to walk (for it takes the line of
the hills) when he was a poor boy, a struggling, ferociously ambitious
young man. He looked at the changed rows of buildings, and other
thoughts came uppermost for a moment. "It was here father's church used
to stand; it's gone, now," he said. "It was a wood church, painted a
kind of gray; mother had a bonnet the same color, and she used to say
she matched the church. I bought it with the very first money I earned.
Part of it came from weeding, and the weather was warm, and I can feel
the way my back would sting and creak, now! I would want to stop, often,
but I thought of mother in church with that bonnet, and I kept on!
There's the place where Seeds, the grocer that used to trust us, had
his store; it was his children had the scarlet fever, and mother went
to nurse them. My! but how dismal it was at home! We always got more
whippings when mother was away. Your grandfather was a good man, too
honest for this world, and he loved every one of his seven children;
but he brought us up to fear him and the Lord. We feared him the most,
because the Lord couldn't whip us! He never whipped us when we did
anything, but waited until next day, that he might not punish in anger;
so we had all the night to anticipate it. Did I ever tell you of the
time he caught me in a lie? I was lame for a week after it. He never
caught me in another lie."

"I think he was cruel; I can't help it, papa," cried Esther, with whom
this was an old argument, "still it did good, that time!"

"Oh, no, he wasn't cruel, my dear," said Armorer, with a queer smile
that seemed to take only one-half of his face, not answering the last
words; "he was too sure of his interpretation of the Scripture, that was
all. Why, that man just slaved to educate us children; he'd have gone
to the stake rejoicing to have made sure that we should be saved. And of
the whole seven only one is a church member. Is that the road?"

They could see a car swinging past, on a parallel street, its bent pole
hitching along the trolley-wire.

"Pretty scrubby-looking cars," commented Armorer; "but get our new
ordinance through the council, we can save enough to afford some fine
new cars. Has Lossing said anything to you about the ordinance and our
petition to be allowed to leave off the conductors?"

"He hasn't said anything, but I read about it in the papers. Is it so
very important that it should be passed?"

"Saving money is always important, my dear," said Armorer, seriously.

The horses turned again. They were now opposite a fair lawn and a
house of wood and stone built after the old colonial pattern, as modern
architects see it. Esther pointed, saying:

"Aunt Meg's, papa; isn't it pretty?"

"Very handsome, very fine," said the financier, who knew nothing about
architecture, except its exceeding expense. "Esther, I've a notion; if
that young man of yours has brains and is fond of you he ought to be
able to get my ordinance through his little eight by ten city council.
There is our chance to see what stuff he is made of!"

"Oh, he has a great deal of influence," said Esther; "he can do it,
unless--unless he thinks the ordinance would be bad for the city, you

"Confound the modern way of educating girls!" thought Armorer. "Now, it
would have been enough for Esther's mother to know that anything was for
my interests; it wouldn't have to help all out-doors, too!"

But instead of enlarging on this point, he went into a sketch of the
improvements the road could make with the money saved by the change,
and was waxing eloquent when a lady of a pleasant and comely face, and a
trig though not slender figure, advanced to greet them.

It was after breakfast (and the scene was the neat pig's pen, where
Armorer was displaying his ignorance of swine) that he found his first
chance to talk with his sister alone. "Oh, first, Sis," said he, "about
your birthday, to-day; I telegraphed to Tiffany's for that silver
service, you know, that you liked, so you needn't think there's a
mistake when it comes."

"Oh, 'Raish, that gorgeous thing! I must kiss you, if Daniel does see

"Oh, that's all right," said Armorer, hastily, and began to talk of
the pig. Suddenly, without looking up, he dropped into the pig-pen the
remark: "I'm very much obliged to you for writing me, Meg."

"I don't know whether to feel more like a virtuous sister or a villanous
aunt," sighed Mrs. Ellis; "things seemed to be getting on so rapidly
that it didn't seem right, Esther visiting me and all, not to give you a
hint; still, I am sure that nothing has been said, and it is horrid for
Esther, perfectly HORRID, discussing her proposals that haven't been

"I don't want them ever to be proposed," said Armorer, gloomily.

"I know you always said you didn't want Esther to marry; but I thought
if she fell in love with the right man--we know that marriage is a very
happy estate, sometimes, Horatio!" She sighed again. In her case it
was only the memory of happiness, for Colonel Ellis had been dead these
twelve years; but his widow mourned him still.

"If you marry the right one, maybe," answered Armorer, grudgingly;
"but see here, Meg, Esther is different from the other girls; they got
married when Jenny was alive to look after them, and I knew the men, and
they were both big matches, you know. Then, too, I was so busy making
money while the other girls grew up that I hadn't time to get real well
acquainted with them. I don't think they ever kissed me, except when I
gave them a check. But Esther and I----" he drummed with his fingers on
the boards, his thin, keen face wearing a look that would have amazed
his business acquaintances--"you remember when her mother died, Meg?
Only fifteen, and how she took hold of things! And we have been together
ever since, and she makes me think of her grandmother and her mother
both. She's never had a wish I knew that I haven't granted--why, d----
it! I've bought my clothes to please her----"

"That's why you are become so well-dressed, Horatio; I wondered how you
came to spruce up so!" interrupted Mrs. Ellis.

"It has been so blamed lonesome whenever she went to visit you, but yet
I wouldn't say a word because I knew what a good time she had; but if I
had known that there was a confounded, long-legged, sniffy young idiot
all that while trying to steal my daughter away from me!" In an access
of wrath at the idea Armorer wrenched off the picket that he clutched,
at which he laughed and stuck his hands in his pockets.

"Why, Meg, the papers and magazines are always howling that women won't
marry," cried he, with a fresh sense of grievance; "now, two of my girls
have married, that's enough; there was no reason for me to expect any
more of them would! There isn't one d---- bit of need for Esther to

"But if she loves the young fellow and he loves her, won't you let them
be happy?"

"He won't make her happy."

"He is a very good fellow, truly and really, 'Raish. And he comes of a
good family----"

"I don't care for his family; and as to his being moral and all that, I
know several young fellows that could skin him alive in a bargain
that are moral as you please. I have been a moral man, myself. But the
trouble with this Lossing (I told Esther I didn't know anything about
him, but I do), the trouble with him is that he is chock full of all
kinds of principles! Just as father was. Don't you remember how he lost
parish after parish because he couldn't smooth over the big men in them?
Lossing is every bit as pig-headed. I am not going to have my daughter
lead the kind of life my mother did. I want a son-in-law who ain't going
to think himself so much better than I am, and be rowing me for my way
of doing business. If Esther MUST marry I'd like her to marry a man with
a head on him that I can take into business, and who will be willing to
live with the old man. This Lossing has got his notions of making a sort
of Highland chief affair of the labor question, and we should get along
about as well as the Kilkenny cats!"

Mrs. Ellis knew more than Esther about Armorer's business methods,
having the advantage of her husband's point of view; and Colonel Ellis
had kept the army standard of honor as well as the army ignorance of
business. To counterbalance, she knew more than anyone alive what a good
son and brother Horatio had always been. But she could not restrain a
smile at the picture of the partnership.

"Precisely, you see yourself," said Armorer. "Meg"--hesitating--"you
don't suppose it would be any use to offer Esther a cool hundred
thousand to promise to bounce this young fellow?"

"Horatio, NO!" cried Mrs. Ellis, tossing her pretty gray head
indignantly; "you'd insult her!"

"Take it the same way, eh? Well, perhaps; Essie has high-toned notions.
That's all right, it is the thing for women. Mother had them too. Look
here, Meg, I'll tell you, I want to see if this young fellow has ANY
sense! We have an ordinance that we want passed. If he will get his
council to pass it, that will show he can put his grand theories into
his pockets sometimes; and I will give him a show with Esther. If he
doesn't care enough for my girl to oblige her father, even if he doesn't
please a lot of carping roosters that want the earth for their town and
would like a street railway to be run to accommodate them and lose money
for the stockholders, well, then, you can't blame me if I don't want
him! Now, will you do one thing for me, Meg, to help me out? I don't
want Lossing to persuade Esther to commit herself; you know how, when
she was a little mite, if Esther gave her word she kept it. I want
you to promise me you won't let Esther be alone one second with young
Lossing. She is going to-morrow, but there's your whist-party to-night;
I suppose he's coming? And I want you to promise you won't let him have
our address. If he treats me square, he won't need to ask you for it.

He buttoned up his coat and folded his arms, waiting.

Mrs. Ellis's sympathy had gone out to the young people as naturally as
water runs down hill; for she is of a romantic temperament, though she
doesn't dare to be weighed. But she remembered the silver service, the
coffee-pot, the tea-pot, the tray for spoons, the creamer, the hot-water
kettle, the sugar-bowl, all on a rich salver, splendid, dazzling; what
rank ingratitude it would be to oppose her generous brother! Rather
sadly she answered, but she did answer: "I'll do that much for you,
'Raish, but I feel we're risking Esther's happiness, and I can only keep
the letter of my promise."

"That's all I ask, my dear," said Armorer, taking out a little shabby
note-book from his breast-pocket, and scratching out a line. The line
effaced read:

"See E & M tea-set."

"The silver service was a good muzzle," he thought. He went away for
an interview with the corporation lawyer and the superintendent of the
road, leaving Mrs. Ellis in a distraction of conscience that made her
the wonder of her servants that morning, during all the preparations for
the whist-party. She might have felt more remorseful had she guessed
her brother's real plan. He knew enough of Lossing to be assured that
he would not yield about the ordinance, which he firmly believed to be
a dangerous one for the city. He expected, he counted on the mayor's
refusing his proffers. He hoped that Esther would feel the sympathy
which women give, without question generally, to the business plans of
those near and dear to them, taking it for granted that the plans are
right because they will advantage those so near and dear. That was the
beautiful and proper way that Jenny had always reasoned; why should
Jenny's daughter do otherwise? When Harry Lossing should oppose
her father and refuse to please him and to win her, mustn't any
high-spirited woman feel hurt? Certainly she must; and he would take
care to whisk her off to Europe before the young man had a chance to
make his peace! "Yes, sir," says Armorer, to his only confidant, "you
never were a domestic conspirator before, Horatio, but you have got it
down fine! You would do for Gaboriau"--Gaboriau's novels being the only
fiction that ever Armorer read. Nevertheless, his conscience pricked
him almost as sharply as his sister's pricked her. Consciences are queer
things; like certain crustaceans, they grow shells in spots; and, proof
against moral artillery in one part, they may be soft as a baby's cheek
in another. Armorer's conscience had two sides, business and domestic;
people abused him for a business buccaneer, at the same time his private
life was pure, and he was a most tender husband and father. He had never
deceived Esther before in her life. Once he had ridden all night in a
freight-car to keep a promise that he had made the child. It hurt him to
be hoodwinking her now. But he was too angry and too frightened to cry

The interview with the lawyer did not take any long time, but he spent
two hours with the superintendent of the road, who pronounced him "a
little nice fellow with no airs about him. Asked a power of questions
about Harry Lossing; guess there is something in that story about
Lossing going to marry his daughter!"

Marston drove him to Lossing's office and left him there.

He was on the ground, and Marston lifting the whip to touch the horse,
when he asked: "Say, before you go--is there any danger in leaving off
the conductors?"

Marston was raised on mules, and he could not overcome a vehement
distrust of electricity. "Well," said he, "I guess you want the cold
facts. The children are almighty thick down on Third Street, and
children are always trying to see how near they can come to being
killed, you know, sir; and then, the old women like to come and stand on
the track and ask questions of the motorneer on the other track, so that
the car coming down has a chance to catch 'em. The two together keep the
conductors on the jump!"

"Is that so?" said Armorer, musingly; "well, I guess you'd better close
with that insurance man and get the papers made out before we run the
new way."

"If we ever do run!" muttered the superintendent to himself as he drove

Armorer ran his sharp eye over the buildings of the Lossing Art
Furniture Manufacturing Company, from the ugly square brick box that was
the nucleus--the egg, so to speak--from which the great concern had been
hatched, to the handsome new structures with their great arched windows
and red mortar. "Pretty property, very pretty property," thought
Armorer; "wonder if that story Marston tells is true!" The story was to
the effect that a few weeks before his last sickness the older Lossing
had taken his son to look at the buildings, and said, "Harry, this will
all be yours before long. It is a comfort to me to think that every
workman I have is the better, not the worse, off for my owning it;
there's no blood or dirt on my money; and I leave it to you to keep it
clean and to take care of the men as well as the business."

"Now, wasn't he a d---- fool!" said Armorer, cheerfully, taking out his
note-book to mark.

"See abt road M--D--"

And he went in. Harry greeted him with exceeding cordiality and a fine
blush. Armorer explained that he had come to speak to him about the
proposed street-car ordinances; he (Armorer) always liked to deal with
principals and without formality; now, couldn't they come, representing
the city and the company, to some satisfactory compromise? Thereupon
he plunged into the statistics of the earnings and expenses of the road
(with the aid of his note-book), and made the absolute necessity of
retrenchment plain. Meanwhile, as he talked he studied the attentive
listener before him; and Harry, on his part, made quite as good use of
his eyes. Armorer saw a tall, athletic, fair young man, very carefully,
almost foppishly dressed, with bright, steady blue eyes and a firm chin,
but a smile under his mustache like a child's; it was so sunny and so
quick. Harry saw a neat little figure in a perfectly fitting gray
check travelling suit, with a rose in the buttonhole of the coat lapel.
Armorer wore no jewellery except a gold ring on the little finger of his
right hand, from which he had taken the glove the better to write. Harry
knew that it was his dead wife's wedding-ring; and noticed it with
a little moving of the heart. The face that he saw was pale but not
sickly, delicate and keen. A silky brown mustache shot with gray and
a Van-dyke beard hid either the strength or the weakness of mouth and
chin. He looked at Harry with almond-shaped, pensive dark eyes, so like
the eyes that had shone on Harry's waking and sleeping dreams for months
that the young fellow felt his heart rise again. Armorer ended by asking
Harry (in his most winning manner) to help him pull the ordinance out of
the fire. "It would be," he said, impressively, "a favor he should not

"And you must know, Mr. Armorer," said Harry, in a dismal tone at which
the president chuckled within, "that there is no man whose favor I would
do so much to win!"

"Well, here's your chance!" said Armorer.

Harry swung round in his chair, his clinched fists on his knee. He was
frowning with eagerness, and his eyes were like blue steel.

"See here, Mr. Armorer," said he, "I am frank with you. I want to please
you, because I want to ask you to let me marry your daughter. But I
CAN'T please you, because I am mayor of this town, and I don't dare to
let you dismiss the conductors. I don't DARE, that's the point. We have
had four children killed on this road since electricity was put in."

"We have had forty killed on one street railway I know; what of it? Do
you want to give up electricity because it kills children?"

"No, but look here! the conductors lessen the risk. A lady I know,
only yesterday, had a little boy going from the kindergarten home, nice
little fellow only five years old----"

"She ought to have sent a nurse with a child five years old, a baby!"
cried Armorer, warmly.

"That lady," answered Harry, quietly, "goes without any servant at all
in order to keep her two children at the kindergarten; and the boy's
elder sister was ill at home. The boy got on the car, and when he got
off at the crossing above his house, he started to run across; the other
train-car was coming, the little fellow didn't notice, and ran to cross;
he stumbled and fell right in the path of the coming car!"

"Where was the conductor? He didn't seem much good!"

"They had left off the conductor on that line."

"Well, did they run over the boy? Why haven't I been informed of the

"There was no accident. A man on the front platform saw the boy fall,
made a flying leap off the moving car, fell, but scrambled up and pulled
the boy off the track. It was sickening; I thought we were both gone!"

"Oh, you were the man?"

"I was the man; and don't you see, Mr. Armorer, why I feel strongly on
the subject? If the conductor had been on, there wouldn't have been any
occasion for any accident."

"Well, sir, you may be assured that we will take precautions against
any such accidents. It is more for our interest than anyone's to guard
against them. And I have explained to you the necessity of cutting down
our expense list."

"That is just it, you think you have to risk our lives to cut down
expenses; but we get all the risk and none of the benefits. I can't see
my way clear to helping you, sir; I wish I could."

"Then there is nothing more to say, Mr. Lossing," said Armorer, coldly.
"I'm sorry a mere sentiment that has no real foundation should stand in
the way of our arranging a deal that would be for the advantage of both
the city and our road." He rose.

Harry rose also, but lifted his hand to arrest the financier. "Pardon
me, there is something else; I wouldn't mention it, but I hear you
are going to leave to-morrow and go abroad with--Miss Armorer. I am
conscious I haven't introduced myself very favorably, by refusing you a
favor when I want to ask the greatest one possible; but I hope, sir, you
will not think the less of a man because he is not willing to sacrifice
the interests of the people who trust him, to please ANYONE. I--I hope
you will not object to my asking Miss Armorer to marry me," concluded
Harry, very hot and shaky, and forgetting the beginning of his sentences
before he came to the end.

"Does my daughter love you, do I understand, Mr. Lossing?"

"I don't know, sir. I wish I did."

"Well, Mr. Lossing," said Armorer, wishing that something in the young
man's confusion would not remind him of the awful moment when he asked
old Forrester for his Jenny, "I am afraid I can do nothing for you. If
you have too nice a conscience to oblige me, I am afraid it will be too
nice to let you get on in the world. Good-morning."

"Stop a minute," said Harry; "if it is only my ability to get on in the
world that is the trouble, I think------"

"It is your love for my daughter," said Armorer; "if you don't love her
enough to give up a sentimental notion for her, to win her, I don't see
but you must lose her, I bid you good-morning, sir."

"Not quite yet, sir"--Harry jumped before the door; "you give me the
alternative of being what I call dishonorable or losing the woman I
love!" He pronounced the last word with a little effort and his lips
closed sharply as his teeth shut under them. "Well, I decline the
alternative. I shall try to do my duty and get the wife I want, BOTH."

"Well, you give me fair warning, don't you?" said Armorer.

Harry held out his hand, saying, "I am sorry that I detained you. I
didn't mean to be rude." There was something boyish and simple about the
action and the tone, and Armorer laughed. As Harry attended him through
the outer office to the door, he complimented the shops.

"Miss Armorer and Mrs. Ellis have promised to give me the pleasure of
showing them to them this afternoon," said Harry; "can't I show them and
part of our city to you, also? It has changed a good deal since you left

The remark threw Armorer off his balance; for a rejected suitor this
young man certainly kept an even mind. But he had all the helplessness
of the average American with regard to his daughter's amusements. The
humor in the situation took him; and it cannot be denied that he began
to have a vivid curiosity about Harry. In less time than it takes to
read it, his mind had swung round the circle of these various points of
view, and he had blandly accepted Harry's invitation. But he mopped a
warm and furrowed brow, outside, and drew a prodigious sigh as he opened
the note-book in his hand and crossed out, "See L." "That young fellow
ain't all conscience," said he, "not by a long shot."

He found Mrs. Ellis very apologetic about the Lossing engagement. It was
made through the telephone; Esther had been anxious to have her father
meet Lossing; Lossing was to drive them there, and later show Mr.
Armorer the town.

"Mr. Lossing is a very clever young man, very," said Armorer, gravely,
as he went out to smoke his cigar after luncheon. He wished he had
stayed, however, when he returned to find that a visitor had called, and
that this visitor was the mother of the little boy that Harry Lossing
had saved from the car. The two women gave him the accident in full, and
were lavish of harrowing detail, including the mother's feelings. "So
you see, 'Raish," urged Mrs. Ellis, timidly, "there is some reason for
opposition to the ordinance."

Esther's cheeks were red and her eyes shone, but she had not spoken. Her
father put his arm around her waist and kissed her hair. "And what did
you say, Essie," he asked, gently, "to all the criticisms?"

"I told her I thought you would find some way to protect the children
even if the conductors were taken off; you didn't enjoy the slaughter of
children any more than anyone else."

"I guess we can fix it. Here is your young man."

Harry drove a pair of spirited horses. He drove well, and looked both
handsome and happy.

"Did you know that lady--the mother of the boy that wasn't run over--was
coming to see my sister?" said Armorer, on the way.

"I did," said Harry, "I sent her; I thought she could explain the reason
why I shall have to oppose the bill, better than I."

Armorer made no reply.

At the shops he kept his eye on the young man. Harry seemed to know
most of his workmen, and had a nod or a word for all the older men. He
stopped several moments to talk with one old German who complained of
everything, but looked after Harry with a smile, nodding his head. "That
man, Lieders, is our best workman; you can't get any better work in the
country," said he. "I want you to see an armoire that he has carved, it
is up in our exhibition room."

Armorer said, "You seem to get on very well with your working people,
Mr. Lossing."

"I think we generally get on well with them, and they do well
themselves, in these Western towns. For one thing, we haven't much
organization to fight, and for another thing, the individual workman has
a better chance to rise. That man Lieders, whom you saw, is worth a good
many thousand dollars; my father invested his savings for him."

"You are one of the philanthropists, aren't you, Mr. Lossing, who are
trying to elevate the laboring classes?"

"Not a bit of it, sir. I shall never try to elevate the laboring
classes; it is too big a contract. But I try as hard as I know how to
have every man who has worked for Harry Lossing the better for it. I
don't concern myself with any other laboring men."

Just then a murmur of exclamations came from Mrs. Ellis and Esther, whom
the superintendent was piloting through the shops. "Oh, no, it is too
heavy; oh, don't do it, Mr. Cardigan!" "Oh, we can see it perfectly well
from here! PLEASE don't, you will break yourself somewhere!" Mrs. Ellis
shrieked this; but the shrieks turned to a murmur of admiration as a
huge carved sideboard came bobbing and wobbling, like an intoxicated
piece of furniture in a haunted house, toward the two gentlewomen.
Immediately, a short but powerfully built man, whose red face beamed
above his dusty shoulders like a full moon with a mustache, emerged, and
waved his hand at the sideboard.

"I could tackle the two of them, begging your pardon, ladies."

"That's Cardigan," explained Harry, "Miss Armorer may have told you
about him. Oh, SHUEY!"

Cardigan approached and was presented. He brought both his heels
together and bowed solemnly, bending his head at the same time.

"Pleased to meet you, sir," said Shuey. Then he assumed an attitude of
military attention.

"Take us up in the elevator, will you, Shuey?" said Harry. "Step in, Mr.
Armorer, please, we will go and see the reproductions of the antique; we
have a room upstairs."

Mr. Armorer stepped in, Shuey following; and then, before Harry could
enter it, the elevator shot upward and--stuck!

"What's the matter?" cried Armorer.

Shuey was tugging at the wire rope. He called, in tones that seemed to
come from a panting chest: "Take a pull at it yourself, sir! Can you
move it?"

Armorer grasped the rope viciously; Shuey was on the seat pulling from
above. "We're stuck, sir, fast!"

"Can't you get down either?"

"Divil a bit, saving your presence, sir. Do ye think like the
water-works could be busted?"

"Can't you make somebody hear?" panted Armorer.

"Well, you see there's a deal of noise of the machinery," said Shuey,
scratching his chin with a thoughtful air, "and they expect we've gone

"Best try, anyhow. This infernal machine may take a notion to drop!"
said Armorer.

"And that's true, too," acquiesced Shuey. Forthwith he did lift up his
voice in a loud wailing: "OH--H, Jimmy! OH--H, Jimmy Ryan!"

Jimmy might have been in Chicago for any response he made; though
Armorer shouted with Shuey; and at every pause the whir of the machinery
mocked the shouters. Indescribable moans and gurgles, with a continuous
malignant hiss, floated up to them from the rebel steam below, as from
a volcano considering eruption. "They'll be bound to need the elevator
some time, if they don't need US, and that's one comfort!" said Shuey,

"Don't you think if we pulled on her we could get her up to the next
floor, by degrees? Now then!"

Armorer gave a dash and Shuey let out his muscles in a giant tug. The
elevator responded by an astonishing leap that carried them past three
or four floors!

"Stop her! stop her!" bawled Shuey; but in spite of Armorer's pulling
himself purple in the face, the elevator did not stop until it bumped
with a crash against the joists of the roof.

"Well, do you suppose we're stuck HERE?" growled Armorer.

"Well, sir, I'll try. Say, don't be exerting yourself violent. It
strikes me she's for all the world like the wimmen,--in exthremes, sir,
in exthremes! And it wouldn't be noways so pleasant to go riproaring
that gait down cellar! Slow and easy, sir, let me manage her. Hi! she's

In fact, by slow degrees and much puffing, Shuey got the erratic box to
the next floor, where, disregarding Shuey's protestations that he could
"make her mind," Mr. Armorer got out, and they left the elevator to its
fate. It was a long way, through many rooms, downstairs. Shuey would
have beguiled the way by describing the rooms, but Armorer was in a
raging hurry and urged his guide over the ground. Once they were delayed
by a bundle of stuff in front of a door; and after Shuey had laboriously
rolled the great roll away, he made a misstep and tumbled over, rolling
it back, to a tittering accompaniment from the sewing-girls in the room.
But he picked himself up in perfect good temper and kicked the roll ten
yards. "Girls is silly things," said the philosopher Shuey, "but being
born that way it ain't to be expected otherwise!"

He had the friendly freedom of his class in the West. He praised Mrs.
Ellis's gymnastics, and urged Armorer to stay over a morning train and
see a "real pretty boxing match" between Mr. Lossing and himself.

"Oh, he boxes too, does he?" said Armorer.

"And why on earth would he groan-like?" wondered Shuey to himself. "He
does that, sir," he continued aloud; "didn't Mrs. Ellis ever tell you
about the time at the circus? She was there herself, with three children
she borrowed and an unreasonable gyurl, with a terrible big screech in
her and no sense. Yes, sir, Mr. Lossing he is mighty cliver with his
hands! There come a yell of 'Lion loose! lion loose!' at that circus,
just as the folks was all crowding out at the end of it, and them that
had gone into the menagerie tent came a-tumbling and howling back, and
them that was in the circus tent waiting for the concert (which never
ain't worth waiting for, between you and me!) was a-scrambling off them
seats, making a noise like thunder; and all fighting and pushing and
bellowing to get out! I was there with my wife and making for the seats
that the fools quit, so's to get under and crawl out under the canvas,
when I see Mrs. Ellis holding two of the children, and that fool
girl let the other go and I grabbed it. 'Oh, save the baby! save one,
anyhow,' cries my wife--the woman is a tinder-hearted crechure! And just
then I seen an old lady tumble over on the benches, with her gray hair
stringing out of her black bonnet. The crowd was WILD, hitting and
screaming and not caring for anything, and I see a big jack of a man
come plunging down right spang on that old lady! His foot was right
in the air over her face! Lord, it turned me sick. I yelled. But that
minnit I seen an arm shoot out and that fellow shot off as slick! it was
Mr. Lossing. He parted that crowd, hitting right and left, and he got
up to us and hauled a child from Mrs. Ellis and put it on the seats,
all the while shouting: 'Keep your seats! it's all right! it's all over!
stand back!' I turned and floored a feller that was too pressing, and
hollered it was all right too. And some more people hollered too. You
see, there is just a minnit at such times when it is a toss up whether
folks will quiet down and begin to laugh, or get scared into wild beasts
and crush and kill each other. And Mr. Lossing he caught the minnit!
The circus folks came up and the police, and it was all over. WELL, just
look here, sir; there's our folks coming out of the elevator!"

They were just landing; and Mrs. Ellis wanted to know where he had gone.

"We run away from ye, shure," said Shuey, grinning; and he related the
adventure. Armorer fell back with Mrs. Ellis. "Did you stay with Esther
every minute?" said he. Mrs. Ellis nodded. She opened her lips to
speak, then closed them and walked ahead to Harry Lossing. Armorer
looked--suspicion of a dozen kinds gnawing him and insinuating that the
three all seemed agitated--from Harry to Esther, and then to Shuey. But
he kept his thoughts to himself and was very agreeable the remainder of
the afternoon.

He heard Harry tell Mrs. Ellis that the city council would meet that
evening; before, however, Armorer could feel exultant he added, "but may
I come late?"

"He is certainly the coolest beggar," Armorer snarled, "but he is sharp
as a nigger's razor, confound him!"

Naturally this remark was a confidential one to himself.

He thought it more times than one during the evening, and by consequence
played trumps with equal disregard of the laws of the noble game of
whist and his partner's feelings. He found a few, a very few, elderly
people who remembered his parent, and they will never believe ill of
Horatio Armorer, who talked so simply and with so much feeling of
old times, and who is going to give a memorial window in the new
Presbyterian church. He was beginning to think with some interest of
supper, the usual dinner of the family having been sacrificed to the
demands of state; then he saw Harry Lossing. The young mayor's blond
head was bowing before his sister's black velvet. He caught Armorer's
eye and followed him out to the lawn and the shadows and the gay
lanterns. He looked animated. Evening dress was becoming to him. "One of
my daughters married a prince, but I am hanged if he looked it like this
fellow," thought Armorer; "but then he was only an Italian. I suppose
the council did not pass the ordinance? your committee reported against
it?" he said quite amicably to Harry.

"I wish you could understand how much pain it has given me to oppose
you, Mr. Armorer," said Harry, blushing.

"I don't doubt it, under the circumstances, Mr. Lossing." Armorer spoke
with suave politeness, but there was a cynical gleam in his eye.

"But Esther understands," says Harry.

"Esther!" repeats Armorer, with an indescribable intonation. "You spoke
to her this afternoon? For a man with such high-toned ideas as you
carry, I think you took a pretty mean advantage of your guests!"

"You will remember I gave you fair warning, Mr. Armorer."

"It was while I was in the elevator, of course. I guessed it was a
put-up job; how did you manage it?"

Harry smiled outright; he is one who cannot keep either his dog or his
joke tied up. "It was Shuey did it," said he; "he pulled the opposite
way from you, and he has tremendous strength; but he says you were a
handful for him."

"You seem to have taken the town into your confidence," said Armorer,
bitterly, though he had a sneaking inclination to laugh himself; "do you
need all your workmen to help you court your girl?"

"I'd take the whole United States into my confidence rather than lose
her, sir," answered Harry, steadily.

Armorer turned on his heel abruptly; it was to conceal a smile. "How
about my sister? did you propose before her? But I don't suppose a
little thing like that would stop you."

"I had to speak; Miss Armorer goes away tomorrow. Mrs. Ellis was kind
enough to put her fingers in her ears and turn her back."

"And what did my daughter say?"

"I asked her only to give me the chance to show her how I loved her, and
she has. God bless her! I don't pretend I'm worthy of her, Mr. Armorer,
but I have lived a decent life, and I'll try hard to live a better one
for her trust in me."

"I'm glad there is one thing on which we are agreed," jeered Armorer,
"but you are more modest than you were this noon. I think it was
considerably like bragging, sending that woman to tell of your heroic

"Oh, I can brag when it is necessary," said Harry, serenely; "what would
the West be but for bragging?"

"And what do you intend to do if I take your girl to Europe?"

"Europe is not very far," said Harry.

Armorer was a quick thinker, but he had never thought more quickly in
his life. This young fellow had beaten him. There was no doubt of it. He
might have principles, but he declined to let his principles hamper him.
There was something about Harry's waving aside defeat so lightly, and
so swiftly snatching at every chance to forward his will, that accorded
with Armorer's own temperament.

"Tell me, Mr. Armorer," said Harry, suddenly; "in my place wouldn't you
have done the same thing?"

Armorer no longer checked his sense of humor. "No, Mr. Lossing," he
answered, sedately, "I should have respected the old gentleman's wishes
and voted any way he pleased." He held out his hand. "I guess Esther
thinks you are the coming young man of the century; and to be honest,
I like you a great deal better than I expected to this morning. I'm not
cut out for a cruel father, Mr. Lossing; for one thing, I haven't the
time for it; for another thing, I can't bear to have my little girl cry.
I guess I shall have to go to Europe without Esther. Shall we go in to
the ladies now?"

Harry wrung the president's hand, crying that he should never regret his

"See that Esther never regrets it, that will be better," said Armorer,
with a touch of real and deep feeling. Then, as Harry sprang up the
steps like a boy, he took out the note-book, and smiling a smile in
which many emotions were blended, he ran a black line through

"See abt L."

Next: The Ole Virginia

Previous: An Assisted Providence

Add to Add to Reddit Add to Digg Add to Add to Google Add to Twitter Add to Stumble Upon
Add to Informational Site Network

Viewed 251