THE CRIMES OF GALAHAD.

CHAPTER XVII.

The question now becomes one of priority.

Far into the night I labored, writing and re-writing my speech to old Colonel Goode. You may believe that it is absurd to write a speech for such an occasion, but I was unwilling to leave anything to chance. I must make a persuasive argument that I, humble though my origins might be, was the best possible husband for his beloved daughter. I must exercise all the powers of rhetoric to prove that Amelia could be in no safer hands than mine. I was, after all, asking him for his whole treasure—not just his daughter, but also the millions she would inherit. Certainly I would not mention the millions, but they must be present to his mind all the same. Could he safely deposit his daughter and his fortune in my hands? That was the question he had to be able to answer affirmatively. It was true that Amelia might be persuaded to defy her father even if he should withhold his consent; but, much as I lusted after Amelia’s beauty, my rational mind recognized that her beauty was transitory, whereas the Goode millions were of permanent value.

My first attempt cost me half an hour of staring at a blank sheet, until at last I was able to bring myself to write something:

“Sir: It behooves every young man to consider carefully how——”

That was as far as I got before I tossed the sheet aside. What a perfectly ridiculous way to begin! I made it sound as though I were applying for a position in his firm. And what sort of word was “behooves” anyway? Could it possibly even be English? The more I turned it over in my mind, the more absurd it sounded. Behooves, behooves, behooves, behooves, behooves. Horses and cattle are among the behooved animals. Obviously I was very tired, but I would not rest until the thing was done. I began afresh:

“Sir: Since I first made the acquaintance of your daughter in the course of rescuing her from a fate worse than death——”

No, I must not boast. He certainly remembered the circumstances under which he met me the first time; that worked in my favor, but to remind him of it specifically would be distasteful. I began once more:

“Sir: Unworthy though I am to ask for——”

No—why should I put the notion that I was unworthy into his mind? My aim was to show him that I was worthy. I must not begin by confusing the argument. That sheet joined the rest in the waste-basket. So did the next one, which touched on the Christian duty of marriage, and the one after that, which began, “I am reminded of the story of the Irishman and his sister.”

At last, as the clock was striking two, I finished an oration that I thought would be wonderfully persuasive. I spent another half-hour committing it to memory, and then at last settled in bed to dream of my beautiful Amelia.

The next day, my brother-in-law Bradley was quite surprised to learn that his wages had risen to two dollars a day. I told him that he had proved himself and deserved the additional half-dollar; I did not tell him that Amelia disapproved of low wages, since no one else but Viola knew that I had anything to do with Amelia. You may note that I made this decision without consulting my father. I informed him of it later (and he expressed his approval), but I had decided to regard the responsibility as mine. My father had already been made wealthy beyond his poor imagination by my management of the business, so he wisely refrained from questioning me in most of these affairs.

Immediately after supper I excused myself, left the house, and walked briskly to the Goode mansion. I was not looking forward to what I had to do, but I had some confidence in my persuasive abilities. Besides, there was Amelia. Any effort would be worth my while for such a prize. I recalled the soft warmth of her lips on mine, the tender caresses that turned my lapel under, and her eagerness to offer still greater liberties—Oh! what a delicious thought! It carried me all the way through the dark and chilly evening until I reached the front door of the Goode mansion and pulled the bell.

The same young man who had been my messenger on Sunday answered the door, and without waiting for me to present my card, told me, “Miss Goode has been expecting you, sir.”

I was about to say that I had come to call on her father, but then it occurred to me that Amelia might have some good reason for intercepting me. It would be wise (as well as pleasant) to see her before confronting her father. I followed the boy into the ballroom and through the double doors into the back parlor, where I found Amelia sitting—and her father in the chair opposite her.

The time had come—and suddenly I had forgotten every word of the speech I had so carefully composed. In a single moment, I went through a thousand agonies; my face flushed; I swallowed; and, at last, forgetting even a polite greeting, I began to stammer out the only words that came to me:

“Sir:—It behooves every young——”

“My son!” The old man fairly leaped out of his chair with his right hand extended. “No need to make a fool of yourself with some silly speech—my little girl has told me everything, and I’m delighted, my boy, delighted! I couldn’t hope for anything better.” He grasped my hand, and at the same time clapped me on the shoulder—which was something of a reach for him, since I was taller by a head.

“Well,” I replied,—and at the moment I could think of nothing else to say.

“Darling,” Amelia said from behind him, “I hope you won’t be angry with me, but you see I’ve anticipated you.”

“She told me that you were going to ask for her hand, and that I was to say yes,” the Colonel said with what I suppose was his heartiest laugh—a sort of contralto piping that seemed to emanate from somewhere behind his nose. “She’s made her mind up. She does that, my boy—you’ll find that out soon enough. But I was more than happy to oblige her—more than happy. Why, a fine young man like you is exactly what I had been hoping for. She won’t have me forever, you know.”

“Well, of course——” I started out rather uncertainly, but I soon found my footing again. “Of course I shall always take care of her as—as my greatest treasure.”

“I know you will, my boy. A man who would risk life and limb for a stranger would certainly take good care of a wife, wouldn’t he? —And you have a head for business as well, which is more necessary than most people think. Marriage is a business partnership: two persons combine their assets in hopes of making a profitable venture, just as——”

“Now, Father, don’t start talking business with him already,” Amelia said with a bright smile; then to me, “If you let him get started you’ll never hear the end of it.” This provoked another round of piping from the Colonel.

So our conversation turned to other matters: Amelia’s dear mother, carried off by a fever when the poor girl was but an infant—my own mother, whose memory my father professed to revere, although I doubt whether he really thought about her very much at all—and my father, to whom Colonel Goode had taken an inexplicable liking. I was told at last that I should consider myself already part of the family; and then Colonel Goode left us, saying, “Now I’m sure you young folks have things to talk about that you don’t need me to hear,” and telling Amelia she could show me out when she was through with me.

For a few moments after he was gone, we were both silent;—then Amelia threw herself into my arms and pressed her lips to mine. Then she drew back just enough to talk to me.

“Galahad, my valiant knight, tell me—are you happy that you have achieved your quest?”

“I don’t think there’s a happier man in Pennsylvania,” I replied, and I certainly meant it.

“I knew my father would like you right away. He’s seen so many fortune-hunters and besotted old widowers try their luck with me that an honest, brave, loyal young man like my Galahad was bound to please him.”

Well, I was not about to correct her impression of me. “I’ll always try to live up to his expectations.”

She smiled. “You’d do better to think of living up to mine, darling. I’m going to expect quite a lot from you as soon as I have a right to expect it.” She kissed me again.

Our conversation was more physical than verbal for some time after that; but at last we began to speak of the wedding itself.

“It must be as soon as it can be done decently,” Amelia insisted, and I was certainly not about to disagree with her. “April, perhaps—when the daffodils are blooming. I’ll speak to Father about the date, but I think the first Sunday after Easter might do.”

“The sooner the better,” I agreed.

“It will be the social event of the season, of course,” she continued. “It can’t be helped: Father’s position will make it so. In the mean time, there’s so much to do! Father will want to give a ball to announce our engagement, and I’m sure your father will want to have us for dinner, and we must decide on our living arrangements after the wedding—not to mention the wedding itself. It will be splendid, but—darling—I almost wish it did not have to be done, that we could be united to-night and never parted again!”

“Believe me, dearest, I wish it could be so. The wait will be difficult,—but patience will have its reward.”

“I know it will,” Amelia said with a soft smile. “But, in the mean time, you are now my acknowledged husband to be. I think that position permits you a few pardonable liberties beyond what you might have considered proper before.”

Since I could find no flaw in her reasoning, I agreed; and when I parted from her that evening, I was a considerably more educated man. I walked briskly back through the dark and quiet streets feeling as though nothing could possibly be wrong anywhere in the world. I also felt a positive need to proclaim my triumph, though the only possible audience for my proclamation would be my father and my sister. They would have to be told sometime, at any rate, and it might just as well happen immediately.

I entered the hall, left my hat and stick in the rack, and carefully hung my coat in the closet—reflecting, as I did so, that I should soon have servants to take care of those inconsequential tasks. Entering the front parlor, I found my sister sitting straight in a side chair reading one of her appalling novels, and my father slumped in an armchair with a book of sentimental poetry open on his face.

“I’m glad I found you both together,” I began with no other greeting. ”I have something important to tell you both.”

My father awoke with a start and brushed the book off his face; I saw Viola’s expression darken a little, and she said without looking up at me, “If you’ve sold your Graded Stationery to some department store in the Indian Territory, we can hear all about it in the morning,—or never, if that’s more convenient.” Viola liked to profess a violent distaste for hearing me talk about the firm at all, though she was very happy to spend the money I provided for her.

“Nothing to do with the firm,” I replied. “It’s a more personal kind of business. I’m going to marry Amelia Goode.”

At this Viola did look up, with her jaw gaping in a most unattractive fashion. My father, on the other hand, leaped out of his chair.

“You mean Hiram Goode’s daughter?” he asked—quite unnecessarily, since there cannot have been great numbers of Amelia Goodes wandering the streets of Allegheny.

“Yes, that Amelia Goode,” I answered cheerfully—for I was in such good spirits that I could not bring myself to be annoyed even by my father’s thickheadedness. “She has done me the honor of consenting to be my wife, and her father has given us his blessing.”

“Oh! this is marvelous, Galahad!” my father exclaimed. “Hiram and I were hoping the two of you might make a match of it—we thought you might have made an impression on the girl—but we never expected it to happen so quickly! Have you set a date yet?”

“Nothing firm,” I answered, while my mind was still trying to grasp the implications of what my father had just told me. Did he really say “Hiram and I”? —“Nothing firm,” I repeated, since my first attempt had come out as more of a squeak than a statement. “We had talked of a wedding in April, the first Sunday after Easter. We do want it to be soon, for reasons that—well, that I think should be obvious.”

“Of course, Galahad!” My father attempted a sly wink, which was really quite hideous. “No need to elaborate on that, my boy. Well, my heartiest congratulations to you both. I think she’s ideally suited to you, Galahad, and I know you’ll be an ideal husband to her. —Won’t they make a perfect pair, Viola?”

My father and I both looked toward the side chair, but there was no Viola in it. Instead, from the hall, we heard the sound of heels stamping noisily upstairs, and then a door ostentatiously slammed.

Viola refused to speak to me all the next day, which in ordinary circumstances would have suited me admirably; but in this case her blank refusal to be impressed by my greatest triumph irked me. My father, however, did unfortunately deign to speak, and during a brief lull at the store he explained the reason for Viola’s petulance. “She had planned her own wedding for June, you know. She seems to think that your wedding will detract from hers somehow.”

Well, of course it would. What kind of public glory did she expect for marrying the clerk in the lampseller’s store? I was marrying the belle of Allegheny. Nevertheless, I tried to think of something more conciliatory to say to my father.

“I should think that, by having her wedding after ours, she would have the last word, so to speak. Hers would be the wedding everyone would remember.” This was nothing but a lie, of course, and a clumsy one. I was not yet very far advanced in my pursuit of evil, and I had not yet learned to avoid all but the most necessary lies. It is greatly to one’s advantage to have a reputation for veracity; the rational or evil man must in fact be uncommonly truthful.

“Your sister won’t see it that way,” my father replied, displaying more knowledge of the nature of sisters than I might have expected of him.

“Well, I can’t be held responsible for my sister’s unreasonable attitude,” I said,—knowing at the same time that I would be held responsible for it, because Viola would see to it that I was. But at that moment a patron walked through the door, which put an end to our conversation.

I told Amelia about Viola’s unabated petulance a few days later. It was an unseasonably warm and sunny day, and Amelia and I were actually strolling in the park. We should ordinarily have taken the carriage, which afforded us more privacy; but Henry, on whose discretion Amelia and I relied, was off that day, and it really was delightful to walk in the warm sun after so much chilly weather. A good number of other young couples had come to the same conclusion, so the park was quite lively that day.

“It’s such a pity your sister should be so cross,” Amelia responded when I told her how my sister—who in fact still remained mute when I was present—was behaving. “I had hoped we should be great friends.”

Was not Amelia the best-natured girl in the world? Imagine meeting Viola and hoping one could be great friends with her! “I’m sure you will be,” I assured her, though not really believing anything of the sort. “Viola will forget all about it shortly.” In fact Viola had never forgiven me for being born, so I suppose twenty-two years might be a good estimate of the length of one of her grudges.

Amelia was about to reply, but just then a familiar voice hailed me, and I looked up to see Gertrude Snyder, her brother, and a moustache behind which lurked that Hoffman fellow. They were all strolling toward us.

“How do you do, Mr. Bousted?” Gertrude greeted me.

“Miss Snyder! How delightful to see you. I believe you know Miss Goode.”

“How do you do, Miss Goode?”

Amelia replied with a mumbled greeting, which was very uncharacteristic of her.

“And this,” I continued, taking up the burden of introductions, “is Mr. Magnus Hoffman”—I indicated the ambulatory moustache on Ger­trude’s right,—“and Miss Snyder’s brother, Mr. Edward Snyder.”

“Mr. Snyder and I are already acquainted,” Amelia said quietly. She was gripping my arm; I felt that same unsettling rigidity in her frame that I had felt that night in the carriage when I rejected her amorous advances. I reflected that she must often have seen me walking with Gertrude; I should probably have to reveal the extent of my acquaintance with Gertrude when I talked to Amelia later. But I might at least make that conversation easier by emphasizing Ger­trude’s current attachment to the moustache whose arm she was holding.

“And how have you and Mr. Hoffman been getting on?” I asked with my pleasantest smile.

Gertrude also smiled—one of those very rare bright smiles of hers that indicated genuine happiness. “We’re to be married this spring,” she answered.

“What wonderful news!” I exclaimed—quite sincerely, since it would certainly persuade Amelia that there was no lingering attachment between Gertrude and me. “Miss Goode and I will also be married this spring.”

“Oh, how splendid, Mr. Bousted! I had no idea you and Miss Goode were even acquainted.” There was no accusation in her tone; either it did not occur to her to wonder whether I had already had designs on Amelia when I was courting her, or she did not choose to wonder. For my part, I did not answer the implied question.

“And you, Snyder,” I said as cheerily as I could,—“you must be happy to see your sister so well matched.”

“H’m? Oh, yes indeed,” he answered distractedly. He did not look happy, which was not at all surprising when I considered his stated opinion of the Hoffman fellow.

Clearly we had exhausted the possibilities of pleasant conversation, if neither Snyder nor Amelia was ready to be pleasant. “Well, it was very good to see you,” I concluded, “and my best wishes to the happy pair.”

Gertrude returned my compliments, still smiling, and then continued on her way with her brother and the moustache. Amelia and I also resumed our walk, but I could still sense that strange hardness in her arm.

Finally, after a thoroughly uncharacteristic silence, Amelia spoke in a rather quiet monotone. “Is Mr.—Mr. Snyder” (she pronounced it as if it were a foreign name and she was not quite sure if she had it right) “a good friend of yours?”

Something in her tone suggested that there was more to the question than what was conveyed by mere words. She was probably looking for information about Gertrude, and I decided that it was time to tell her as much as it suited me to tell her about my abortive pursuit of Miss Snyder.

“More of a business acquaintance really,” I told her. “I know the sister a good bit better than the brother. Gertrude and——”

“Galahad, that was the man,” she said suddenly.

I stopped in my tracks. “The man?”

Amelia looked around nervously, but there was no one within earshot. “I told you that there was a man who—who took my innocence. That was the man—the man you called Snyder.”

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THE CRIMES OF GALAHAD.

CHAPTER XVI.

A consummation devoutly to be wished.

Amelia was a perfect hostess for the rest of the evening, which meant that I saw very little of her except from a distance. She took special care of Viola, so that she always had a dance partner; I suppose she thought it would please me. And so it did, but only because it showed Amelia herself in such an attractive light. Otherwise, nothing would have pleased me more than to see Viola perfectly miserable. I danced with a number of fine ladies, not one of whom made the slightest impression upon me, although I was told later that my good humor and scrupulous courtesy made quite an impression upon them. To Amelia I spoke only once more, briefly, as we were departing, and with her father beside me, she could not communicate anything particular to me other than a secret glimmer in her eye;—but that was enough to make my heart beat faster and my breath come shorter.

The brief carriage-ride home afforded Viola the opportunity of a monologue on her great success as a member of proper society. I remember nothing of it except a few of her remarks about Amelia herself. Viola thought that “she was very charming, to be sure. But that gown!” (Here she looked rather pointedly at me, probably recalling what she had read in Amelia’s letter.) “I suppose even a fortune like the Goodes’ is no guarantee of correct taste. No bustle at all! And the—well, I won’t say it was indecent, but my word! I wouldn’t be seen in public that way.” Although I had a very different opinion of the gown in question, I was in such good spirits that I could not even bring myself to feel offended by Viola’s malicious babbling. After all, whatever else might be said about the relative merits of one style or another, there could be no question that a gown with Amelia in it was worth a great deal more than a gown with Viola in it. I sat and smiled the whole time Viola was babbling, and even though she did not shut her flapping jaw until we arrived at our house on Beech-street, for probably the first time in my life I was not annoyed by my sister’s incessant chatter. Even the considerable effort required to extract her from the carriage did not put me out of temper; and when my father paid the coachman, I added a considerable gratuity from my own pocket—not, I hasten to explain, from foolish notions of generosity, but because I thought it behooved us, as a family worthy to mix with such as the Goodes, to keep up the appearance of prosperity.

It was absolutely necessary for my purposes that I should keep the flame of love burning bright in Amelia’s breast. In spite of the late hour, therefore, I sat at my desk to compose a love-letter before retiring, so that it should be ready to go out with the morning post. I put some considerable effort into this composition, although it was by no means an unwelcome labor. Under the influence of the lingering memory of Amelia’s lips, her touch, her gown—all things that are even now so fresh in my memory that hardly a day seems to have passed between then and now—the words poured out of my pen. Nevertheless, I wrote three drafts before I was satisfied with the result. In particular, I wavered over the greeting, before deciding at last that Amelia’s conduct had given me ample license to dare all.

When I had finished the letter, I took care to copy it in a rapid but elegant hand, so that it should appear to be a work of haste rather than deliberation, an outpouring of my passion rather than a carefully considered essay. Since I took that precaution, I have the original here before me now, which does not differ in more than two or three words from the letter that Amelia read:

Ma chère Belle Anglaise,——

I cannot sleep. The memory of your touch, of your lips on mine, will give me no rest. I did not know that it was possible for love to grasp a man’s whole being and leave no room even for thoughts of sleep, but I find that it is so. And to know that my love is returned with equal intensity is almost more than my heart can bear! I close my eyes and feel the impression of your lips on mine, and my heart beats so wildly that I imagine it must wake the whole household. I know that you have heard your beauty praised often enough, if indeed perfection can ever be praised often enough; but beauty alone could never have left such a mark upon my heart. It is, after all, the soul in which beauty resides;—and yet I must confess that I find myself wishing that Boucher were alive today to paint you. What a masterpiece he would create! He could never capture the essence of your true beauty,—but I should very much like to see what he could capture.

And now, my dearest, my love, my own Amelia, one question consumes me:—When shall I see you again? To you, perhaps, it is merely a question of the clock or the calendar; but to me it is life or death. I live if I see you; I die if I do not. Remember, then, when you reply, that you hold my life in your hands, and be merciful to

Your devoted servant,

Galahad.

I signed the letter with that ridiculous name my father had given me because Amelia seemed to enjoy thinking of me as her Galahad, her invincible knight and protector; and I was not such a fool as to allow my distaste for the name to stand in the way of my winning the greatest prize I had ever fought for.

I copied the letter, as I mentioned before, and I do recall making at least one change: I changed “wishing that Boucher were alive today” to “wishing that Boucher were here today,” because I could not say with absolute conviction that I knew Boucher to be dead. Then I sealed the letter, confident that it was as perfect as I could have made it. How assiduously I applied myself to my work in those days! To-day I have a secretary to attend to my correspondence, and a messenger-boy waiting to carry it off if it is urgent; but in those days I had only myself—slender enough resources, it seems to me.

The next day was Sunday, but I was not willing to allow the superstitious indolence of the postal service to delay my letter to Amelia. I went straight out after church and took the letter over to the Goodes’ house myself, handing it to the boy who answered the door along with a very fresh-looking dollar, and giving him strict instructions to deliver the letter only to Miss Goode. The magical gleam of silver made him my eager co-conspirator; and it was not more than two hours later that the same boy appeared at our door with a note for me, which Viola peevishly but wordlessly delivered, since Mrs. Ott took Sundays off. I wish I could describe to you the delightful expression of haughty disapproval on my dear sister’s face as she handed me that letter: her eyebrows rose to such a peak that I thought they might fly off her forehead. Yet she still said nothing, dropping the letter into my lap as if it were some particularly unpleasant insect and turning with a slight snort to leave me alone in the parlor.

Of course I did not delay a moment after her departure: recognizing Amelia’s hasty but tidy hand, I broke the seal at once. Here is the letter itself in the box with the rest of them, and what sweet joy it is even now to read it!

My valiant knight,——

It is not possible to express the joy I felt last night when we were able to snatch a few precious moments in the gallery; but I too am consumed with the longing to see you again. A day has not yet passed, but an hour apart is too long—oh, that you were with me now! I must be content for the moment with your letter. But if you will come to-morrow evening to the meeting of the Workingmen’s Improvement Society, I am speaking there, and I shall certainly find a way to spend a few moments alone with you afterward. —Oh, Galahad, how I wish we never had to part again! But I know I shall dream of you to-night; and we shall not truly be apart if you will also dream of me, perhaps even as

Your passionately devoted

Belle Anglaise.

With this letter, which I read over three times, she had enclosed a program for the meeting of the Workingmen’s Improvement Society, which was to be held at the parish hall of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, and at which the principal event was a speech by Miss Amelia Goode on the Condition of the Working Poor in the Cities of Pittsburgh and Allegheny. Now, the Working Poor had ceased to hold any interest for me the moment I ceased to be one of their number; but merely for the opportunity of gazing on Amelia I was willing to endure any number of pious platitudes about the duty of Christian charity toward our most useless citizens. I would certainly attend the meeting.

In the evening I retired with my thoughts of Amelia. I lay awake for quite some time after I had turned down the gas, forming lovely images of Amelia as Boucher might have painted her. I remember hearing the hideous clock in the front parlor striking eleven, and then half past. I did not, however, dream of Amelia. For some reason I dreamt of legions of shopkeepers’ wives filling the store on Wood-street.

My dream was not far from the reality. The next day was an extraordinarily busy one, and but for the invaluable assistance of Bradley, I think I might have given in to despair. I took the trouble to congratulate Bradley on his performance, because I had good reason to hope that a few words of praise might serve as an inducement to even more dedicated work on future occasions. I did not, however, make use of the word “invaluable,” since I feared that it might provoke him to ask why, if he was truly so invaluable, we persisted in valuing him at only a dollar and a half per diem.

I had no time for proper supper in the evening. I informed my father that I had an appointment; he asked no questions, and Viola implied by her supercilious silence that she knew all the answers. A crust of bread from the kitchen was sustenance enough—that and a quarter of an apple pie.

Marching through the chilly darkness, I found my way to the hall where Amelia would be speaking. This was the old St. Andrew’s, not the much more elaborate Gothic edifice that has since replaced it; but it was even then a good step above the humble Methodist meeting-house my father had attended since we removed to Allegheny. Crowds were gathering already, though I was early by a quarter-hour. They were crowds of the sort of people I had seen at the Goodes’ ball—indeed, quite probably many of the same people. No workingmen were to be seen: clearly they were not expected, and I wonder what reception one of them might have met had he wandered in fresh from the mill, with his face black and his coat reeking of coal-smoke. Indeed, I almost felt out of place myself. I had to remind myself that my newfound prosperity had elevated my social position to a level that placed me on an equal footing with many of the other gentlemen in attendance. And how many of them had kissed the divine Amelia Goode?

I dropped a dollar into the donation box at the door, for which I seemed to be regarded as a prodigy of generosity; but I considered it well worth the expense to establish my credentials as a man to whom money was of no importance. Exchanging a few polite greetings with random strangers, I found myself a seat in the hall about a third of the way from the front to the back—close enough, I reasoned, for Amelia to see me there, but not conspicuously close. I spent the remaining few minutes examining the program, which promised a positively excruciating evening to everyone who was not fortunate enough to have one of the speakers in love with him. Invocation by the Rev’d Egbert Wheeze—Preliminary Remarks by the General Secretary, Mrs. Henry W. Prattle—Report on the Moral Questions Raised by Public Bathhouses by Mrs. E. F. Prigge (if you expected something a bit sensational from this report, you were very much mistaken). Then, at last, The Condition of the Working Poor, by Miss Amelia Goode. I sat through all the edifying preliminaries with a fixed expression of rapt attention, though I am sure I could not have repeated a single word from any of those speeches five minutes later. But at last Amelia appeared, and then my attention was no longer feigned.

She wore blue, which suited her very well; she was modestly and decorously attired, but there was no concealing the beauty of her form. What did she say? You may be surprised to know that I listened as well as looked. She spoke of the duty of employers to provide a living wage, and told some very affecting tales of the difficulties faced by those of the laboring classes whose wages did not permit them even the bare subsistence that was their natural right. And even the clerks in stores—why, many of them earned no more than a dollar and a half a day! It was enough for the needs of a single man, perhaps, but hardly sufficient for a family. How can we expect to suppress vice in the poorer neighborhoods if we make the state of marriage positively prohibitive for the ordinary workingman? Nay more, the inability of even the most diligent hired hand—and she laid especial stress upon the diligence, for she would not have us think that she spoke of idlers and wastrels—his inability to provide for his family is productive of a veritable cascade of evils, a cataract of vices. The sons turn to crime, and the daughters to infamy; the mother wastes away heartbroken, and the father finds his only consolation in drink. Oh, the affecting pictures she painted of gloom and ruin among the poor! It was enough to bring a tear of sympathy to every eye in the hall—for when Amelia speaks, she is invariably persuasive, and even I could almost find pity in my heart for the imaginary families her words conjured up so vividly before us. Yet though she warmed to her subject and gave it her all, when her gaze, wandering over the audience, rested on me, her eyes lit up with a secret joy, invisible perhaps to everyone else, but filling me with a warmth and ardor that made every word she spoke a golden treasure. This Amelia was the object of every man’s longing, of every female’s envy—and I possessed her heart! Oh, what rewards evil has in store for the patient!

When Amelia had concluded her oration and received much applause, the meeting was ended, as if it were impossible that anyone should command any attention after the divine Miss Goode had left the podium. I made my way forthwith to the front of the hall, where Amelia received me with decent and friendly warmth, introducing me to certain other members of the Society as “Mr. Bousted, of Bousted’s stationery,” and allowing me the infinite satisfaction of discovering that the Bousted name was by now well-nigh universally known among the better class of citizens in Allegheny. We made some inconsequential conversation on the subject of the workingman, and how fortunate he was to have such friends as we were; the others drifted away one by one, but I stayed, until at last it was impossible to stay any longer without inconveniencing the man who was waiting to lock up the hall. Then there was no one but the coachman to take note of my leaving the hall in Amelia’s carriage.

It was a closed winter carriage, and it was a dark night, and as soon as the thing began to move, Amelia’s lips were pressed to mine; nor do I believe she disengaged them for at least a quarter-mile.

“Galahad!” she sighed at last when her lips were free for sighing; and that sufficed for another quarter-mile’s conversation. Her head resting on my shoulder told me more than a volume of extemporaneous remarks might have done.

At last she spoke again. “I told Henry to take the long way, because I have—things to say to you, Galahad. But first, I must tell you that I love you, with burning passion, and—and whatever else I tell you, please hear it in the light of this——”

She kissed me again, and there was another quarter-mile gone.

“I love you, Amelia,” I said at last, “more than I thought it was possible to love. Nothing you say will change my love. If your father is an obstacle, let me prove myself to him—let him give me twelve labors, dragons to slay—what do I care, if you love me?”

“Oh, Galahad, I believe you, and I do love you. If you were any other sort of man, I’d never tell you what I feel I must tell you—but if you were any other sort of man, I shouldn’t love you as I do, for I feel instinctively that you love honesty above all, and to a man like you I cannot lie.”

She was silent for a moment, and of course my mind worked like a locomotive, trying to imagine what this revelation would be. It was only a moment, however; when she spoke again, it was in a lower voice, tinged with something that sounded like shame.

“Galahad,” she said haltingly, “I am not worthy of you. A valiant knight’s fair lady should be pure as snow, but—oh, Galahad, I am not pure!”

“Pure?” I repeated idiotically.

“I am not—not—unspotted,” she explained. “You are a—a man of the world, I am sure. You know that there are men—men not at all like you—who seduce young ladies with false promises. I knew such a man,—I knew him, and—and—he took from me what can never be returned.”

Well, that at least explained how she knew so much more about kissing than I did. That was my first thought. Almost at once, however, it was followed by the realization that Amelia expected me to be thinking something else. She feared rejection; she hoped for forgiveness; but she was certainly not expecting me to say, “Well, if he taught you to kiss like that, then bully for him!”

“Darling Amelia,” I began in my softest and most love-besotted voice, “do you really suppose that any past indiscretion could diminish my love for you? I own that I should be very angry if I met the cad who dared to deceive you;—but angry for the pain he caused you, my love, for I can never bear to see you hurt. But, Amelia, do not class me with him! It is your heart I love, and I am sure there is no purer heart in the world.”

“Oh, Galahad!” I had evidently said the right thing, because we lost another quarter-mile. I am not altogether sure that Henry did not take us by way of Beaver Falls; the man certainly took his business seriously when you told him to go the long way.

“Galahad,” Amelia said when at last her lips were free to speak, “you’re the only man I’ve ever known whom I could trust completely. And how I love you for believing that my heart is pure! But, nevertheless, I’m—I am a woman of the world now. I have lost my girlish innocence, and I can never get it back, and so—so I think perhaps it is not necessary for us to be over-scrupulous.” She kissed me again, and then spoke just above a whisper. “My father has retired for the evening, as he always does promptly at half past nine; his bedroom is at the opposite end of the house from mine; and Henry is discreet to a fault.”

I suppose it was quite obvious what she meant me to infer; but my mind was so entirely unwilling to believe my good fortune that I actually asked her, “What are you saying, Amelia?”

Again she pressed her lips to mine for a moment, and then she continued in an even lower voice, her lips almost touching my ear, “I mean that there is nothing to prevent you from spending to-night in my bed.”

An indescribable thrill passed through me from the pit of my stomach up into my chest. I kissed her passionately. Here at last was the thing I had longed for since I first saw Amelia walking past me on Federal-street, the crown of all my schemes and the fulfillment of all my desires—a night of rapture with the most beautiful girl in Allegheny. And yet—and yet—while I kissed her I was thinking furiously. When I first began my pursuit of Amelia, I could imagine nothing beyond having my way with her; but now, with her lips on mine, and the experience of the past few days in my memory, I realized that I desired infinitely more than that. I could never be content with one night in Amelia’s arms; I wanted her to have and to hold so long as I lived. I had also seen a glimpse of the wealth of the Goodes, and do not suppose that it had failed to make an impression on me. But of course the possibility of possessing Amelia and her fortune depended upon Colonel Goode’s having a high opinion of me. He thought highly of me now. Would I risk that for one night’s enjoyment?

What would Baucher do under like circumstances? Surely the truly evil thing to do, the enlightened course of action, would be to consider my own advantage in the long term, and not merely the present pleasure. It would be difficult; it would require discipline and self-control; but evil is not always easy. One must have faith that it will produce good results in the end;—and by “good,” I mean (of course) redounding to one’s own advantage.

“Amelia,” I breathed in a half-vocal whisper, “my darling, my love, there is nothing I could possibly desire more than a night in your arms,—except a thousand nights, ten thousand nights in your arms. Beloved, hear me out. I am tempted—oh! how I am tempted!—but I feel I must control my passion, not because I don’t desire you, but because I desire you infinitely more than that.” As I spoke, I was aware of a change in Amelia, a hardening, some tightening of the muscles that suggested she might push away from me; so I very suddenly decided that I must dare all at once. “What I mean is this: I know that our acquaintance has been short, but I can no longer imagine a life without you. My darling Amelia, my one true love, will you be my wife?”

For a moment that seemed like an eternity, there was a silence like death in the carriage; then there was an explosion of emotion.

“Yes!” Amelia half-sobbed, half-shouted into my ear. “Oh, Galahad, yes!—a thousand times yes!”

My joy and relief actually made me laugh. “I think one time will suffice,” I said, and Amelia laughed and sobbed at the same time and covered my face with kisses.

“I didn’t dare hope—Well, I did hope, but—Oh! Galahad, my dearest love, I’ll make you the best, most loving, most faithful wife there ever was!”

And that was the last we spoke—we were otherwise occupied—until Henry finally managed to bring the carriage into the porte cochere of the Goodes’ mansion. The stop surprised both of us; we had paid no attention at all to the world outside the carriage.

“I suppose we must say good-night now,” I said with unfeigned regret.

“I’ll have Henry take you home,” Amelia responded.

“No, I’ll walk—I’m too happy to ride. Soon we’ll never have to part again.”

“It must be very soon,” Amelia agreed. “I won’t be content until I rest in your arms…You must speak to Father to-morrow!”

Yes—her father. There was still that difficulty to get over. We agreed that I should come after dinner the next day to see Colonel Goode, and I cannot say that I was completely confident of myself. The triumph of Amelia’s acceptance counted for nothing unless I could persuade her father that I was the right man to marry his daughter. I believe Amelia might have run away with me if he had refused, but that would mean running away from the Goode millions.

As I walked back through the cold and silent streets of Allegheny, I cannot tell you how many times I reminded myself that, but for my own scruple, I might have been lying in bed at that moment with the most beautiful girl in the city. How I wished I might turn back and tell Amelia that I had changed my mind! But I must not risk anything that would turn old Colonel Goode against me. The Goode fortune was at stake! I must keep that fact constantly in mind, although my mind insisted that the only thing it wanted to think about right now was Amelia.

I left my hat, coat, and stick in the hall when I came home, and then went into the front parlor, where I found Viola sitting, reading one of her dreadful three-volume novels. She looked up at me, and her eyebrows rose considerably, while her physiognomy contorted into a scowl of disapproval. I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror above the mantel, and I was a wreck. My collar was detached and all askew; my hair looked as if it had been trying to escape my head; the left lapel of my jacket was turned under. I looked like a man who had been with a lover. How delightful it was to see my sister wallowing in indignation! I turned to face her and gave her a knowing smile—and then I winked at her. She slumped lower in her chair and buried her nose in her book.

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THE CRIMES OF GALAHAD.

VOLUME IV.

CHAPTER XV.

I am introduced to polite society, and I find that it suits me very well.

Something appalling must be in that letter. In all my life I had never seen Viola in such a state. I had seen her furious; I had seen her seething with hatred; I had seen her frightened half out of her mind by a spider; but I had never seen that look of—of what? I supposed it must be horror, because I could not imagine what else it might be.

What could be in that letter? My mind whirled through every possibility, each more frightful than the last. But the general tenor of all of them was that I had been discovered: somehow—I knew not how—Amelia must have found out the truth about my lying in wait for her in the park; she must have denounced me in that letter in terms so scathingly explicit that even my dullard sister could understand them and be horrified.

Now, at this point in the narrative, if any readers besides myself ever peruse these pages, I suppose they must be just about evenly divided into two camps. The one group asks, “But why does he not simply read the letter? It is there before him on the table where his purple-faced imbecile of a sister left it. Why does he speculate on the contents when the thing itself is there, waiting to divulge whatever secrets it holds?” So say the readers who possess no imaginative faculty, and I think I should find it unutterably wearisome to write for such readers as those. —In the other camp are the readers who already know what it is to be paralyzed by such a fear; who even now dread turning the page and making the terrible discovery along with me. To you, dear sympathetic readers, I address myself, since it is so much less laborious to write for you than for those others. You have already, without my telling you, felt the near impossibility of even lifting the letter from the table, as if it were something a thousand times heavier than lead; you know how my shifting eyes lit on every other object in the room, but shunned the letter as if it were as painfully bright as the sun itself;—because your own eyes would have done the same. You see the blackness of the future along with me; you wonder as I do how I shall continue to exist in a world in which all my hopes are dashed.

Yet I did read the letter, because I dared myself to read it. “What,” I said to myself, “are you such a coward that a few sheets of paper terrify you? What would Baucher do under like circumstances? He would read the letter, and then, no matter what doom it portended, he could contrive to turn it to his advantage.”

I therefore took the letter in hand,—and almost immediately burst into laughter: audible and doubtless very undignified laughter. The greeting alone was enough to show that I had entirely misjudged the cause of Viola’s consternation. As I read on, however, my laughter soon subsided, and by the end of the letter I believe I must have been nearly as red as Viola had been. But I need not delay you any longer, dear sympathetic reader: I have given you so much description of my mental agitation only because I desired to point a valuable moral, which is how easily irrational feelings of guilt can assault a man who is only just setting out on a course of pure evil. I have the very letter before me now, and I shall transcribe it faithfully for you, the ideal reader in my imagination.

My dearest Galahad,—

If you have any regard for my reputation, or any sense at all, then you will burn this letter—but oh! I find that I hope you have no sense, and treasure it next to your heart. It would be something for me to know that my words lie there in your bosom, where I long to lie myself. No virtuous girl would ever commit such thoughts as mine to paper, and our short acquaintance should make me doubly reserved. But I cannot write anything at all without telling you how I long for you, how I burn to feel your lips pressed to mine. Shall I say more? When I retire at night, I long for the time when you should retire with me; I long to lie in your arms and feel your gentle strength pressing against me; I long for things no proper girl has even words to name. I have dreamed of these things night after night since I first saw you. Do you see now why I say you must burn this letter?—And yet, if you have not the heart to burn it, oh, Galahad, how happy it would make me!—Then you must keep it next to your heart, and let no one ever see it; and if your father or your sister should ask what I wrote to you, you shall say with perfect truth that I asked after your health, and had forgot the name of that book we talked of when last I saw you. —How is your health, Mr. Bousted? And what was the name of that book we talked of when last I saw you? I seem to have forgot. —Now you have no need to deceive your family, for I am sure that deception is not natural to you. They need not know that I have committed to paper such thoughts as no respectable girl ought even to think; but oh! Galahad! I could not do otherwise: the thought that you might hesitate from not knowing how I might receive your addresses—— Galahad! You must not hesitate! I have placed myself at your mercy; my very life is in your hands. I will see you very soon, and then you must tell me—you must, or I shall die—that I have not been a fool. Farewell, Galahad, my valiant knight, and when you retire to-night, take me with you in your thoughts, and know that I should give almost anything to be with you in body as well; and that I long with all my heart for the time when you shall call me

Your own

Amelia.

Reader, you may be quite certain that I did take Amelia with me in my thoughts—but also Viola, who came all unbidden into my mind. The letter was my greatest triumph;—but Viola had read it. Would she blight this triumph as she did every other success of mine?

Viola said nothing about the letter the next morning. She went through the ordinary business of breakfast in the usual way, except that she avoided meeting my eyes. I avoided meeting hers as well, and I am sure we were both quite happy to be spared the trouble of looking at each other. But whether she was mortally embarrassed at having been caught reading a personal letter, or whether the contents of the letter had shocked her conventionally virtuous little mind so deeply that she could not bring herself to speak of the matter at all, or whether her own betrothal had inclined her to take a more indulgent view of her brother’s amours, she said nothing.

As for myself, I had changed my opinion of Amelia considerably, and rather for the better. Her letter had taught me something that (absurd as it may seem that I should have been so ignorant) I had not yet known: that women can have desires comparable to those of men. I wonder now what I had imagined before that letter: across the distance of so many years, it is impossible to reconstruct my ignorance. I think I believed that a woman’s love was pure and spiritual, whereas a man’s love must always be admixed with a certain quantity of physical desire. If, as it seems, I had a higher opinion of women than they deserved, it was doubtless owing to the innumerable dreadful novels I had read, most of them written by females who never permitted the least suspicion of an impure thought to cross the minds of their heroines. Even the fallen women in those novels had fallen by directing their pure and spiritual love toward the wrong sort of man; there was no suggestion that the female herself had desired the act by which she had fallen, but rather she had permitted it in the mistaken belief that it would bind the object of her love to her. But in one letter Amelia had taught me, or at least begun to teach me, that women are not such fools as they appear to be in popular novels. I suppose I ought to have learned the same thing from the classical literature of my school days; but the love of Dido and Aeneas does not make a lasting impression on a boy’s heart when it is presented in terms of ablatives of means.

Preparations for the ball and the wedding (though Viola had decided on a June wedding, which was months away) occupied Viola completely for the next few days, and I was happy to have her out of my way. I had a letter to Amelia to post; again, I kept no copy, but you may be sure that it was filled with expressions of delight at the content of her letter, and assurance that I loved her all the better for her candor. Yes, I told her that I loved her, although the words could hardly have come as a surprise to her after the sentiments we had already exchanged.

The great night came at last: the night of the ball that Viola regarded as the crowning event of her life so far, hardly to be exceeded by her own wedding. A man can dress himself tolerably well in half an hour, but I think Viola had been dressing for a solid week. The ultimate effect was splendid in a horrible way: the dress was expensive, the gloves perfect, the jewelry at least tasteful; but in the middle of it all was my odious sister, and no amount of painting could make her a lily. The bustle she had chosen was huge beyond all measure, and no end-table or hall-tree was safe when Viola was in the vicinity. I have listened to many arguments in favor of the proposition that civilization is continually improving, but the most convincing evidence I have seen of any advancement in human happiness is the disappearance of the bustle.

As for myself, I had dressed as well as I could. I believe I looked respectable if nothing else. My father, on the other hand, was dressed in a style that might have been quite respectable in the time of Andrew Jackson, for aught I know; but it was not calculated to win him any admirers in the present day. He might just as well have worn knee-breeches and a powdered wig; it could not have made him look any more embarrassingly absurd.

We had hired a carriage for the evening: it was an expense my father considered ridiculously extravagant, but Viola insisted that to arrive at such an event without a carriage would be as improper as to arrive in one’s night-clothes. How Viola knew such things she never revealed to us. She was not in the habit of arriving at millionaires’ balls, but she set herself up as an expert on the subject. Her opinion carried a certain amount of authority, because she was blessed with the ability to make life, or at least domestic tranquility, completely impossible if we did not accede to her wishes. The carriage, therefore, arrived promptly at the time specified, and then had to wait another half-hour while Viola made the final adjustments to her appearance, at the end of which she was still Viola. Then at last we ascended into the carriage: it smelt equally of must and of horse manure, and I recall wondering why the wealthy classes put up with the stench of carriages when they could walk in the open air. (The answer, of course, is that a carriage properly maintained has no disagreeable odor; at least none of mine have, and a coachman who allowed my carriage to deteriorate into such a deplorable condition would not long remain in my employ.) Viola took up most of the interior with the imposing edifice of her bustle; my father and I were forced to compress ourselves into the smallest possible dimensions. I should have been much happier walking; my father,—well, there is no telling whether any thoughts were blowing through the howling wastes of his mind, but he seemed as idiotically pleased with the world as he generally was. Viola was entirely satisfied with her choice of the carriage, and found it impossible to contain her satisfaction, expressing it in a continuous stream of blether without taking a breath the entire length of the short ride from Beech-street to the Goodes’ house on North Avenue.

And here we were, in a swirl of activity like nothing I had ever known before, with a line of carriages (none but ours the least bit musty) discharging splendid ladies and fine gentlemen into a blaze of lights, laughter, and motion. Somewhere inside the house music was already playing. And this was how I was to spend the evening—among the aristocracy of Allegheny! A sudden fear gripped me. Would I have the courage to walk through this press of humanity, to present myself as if I belonged there? Well, of course I must. I was ashamed that I had ever doubted. Truly enlightened men do not ask what belongs to them. They take what they desire, and that is the end of it. Strange—it took as much courage to enter that crowd as it had ever taken to do anything in my life, and I do not except the duel with Snyder.

By the time I had set my feet on the ground, I had worked up the courage to go in; but first we had to extract Viola and the bustle from the carriage. I worked from the front, and my father took up his position in the rear; our efforts were greatly hampered by Viola’s worry that we might somehow mar the gown, or dislodge a bow from its exactly proper place in the composition. I was ready to call for a carpenter to take the carriage apart, but Viola at last extracted herself and her bustle from the thing, and we were on our way into the house.

What a house! The walk through the grand entrance hall and into the presence of the Goodes looms in my mind like a half-remembered dream of a pilgrimage. I know that we were met by Sheridan and announced, and I know that he conducted us to the presence of Amelia and her father; but their house was so enormous, and the crowd so pressing, that the journey thither seemed as full of peril and incident as the voyages of Ulysses, and my courage was tried as sorely as if I had to face a dozen of Homer’s choicest mythical monsters. Viola was struck absolutely dumb by the spectacle, which was a great improvement in her; but my father was struck with an unquenchable loquacity. I do not remember a single thing he said, although his remarks followed one after another in a ceaseless torrent: I remember thinking only that, if there were indeed a benevolent Providence, my prayer that he would shut his mouth before we reached the Goodes would be answered. It was not answered, which was just as I ought to have expected, but which was a severe disappointment nonetheless.

And then we were before the Goodes themselves, father and daughter, and if I had not been speechless before, I should certainly have been struck dumb by the vision in front of me. I knew now that my journey had been so arduous because I had at last been admitted to the heavenly mansions, and here before me was an angel. Amelia was dressed in the latest French fashion, all classical drapery, with her shoulders bare, displaying more of her captivating flesh than I believed it was possible for a girl to show in public, and with absolutely no bustle at all. It was fortunate for me that she took it upon herself to begin the conversation, because I should not have been able to form articulate speech.

“Miss Bousted!” Amelia greeted my sister as though she were genuinely pleased to see her, which of course was impossible. “How delightful to see you again! I hope you have been well.”

Viola murmured a few syllables in what might have been Chaldee for all we could understand of it.

“And Mr. Bousted—the elder and the younger, of course,” Amelia continued with a bright smile. My father returned her greeting with an old-fashioned bow that would have made John Quincy Adams proud; I very properly took her hand for the approved length of time and no more.

“You must remind me to show you the gallery,” Amelia said to me. “Father is very proud of his collection, and I know what an admirer you are of Boucher.” —In fact I had never heard the name Boucher before: in the noise and music, I had almost thought I heard her say Baucher, and my blood froze for an instant before I realized that Boucher must be some picture in her father’s gallery. It was still a mystery why she thought I was an admirer of Boucher;—but there was no time to think about that: more guests were arriving, and Amelia was introducing me to a pleasantly plain young lady, a Miss Weatherly or Wherewithal or some such name. And then I was talking to Miss Wherewithal, and Amelia had gone on to the next guest;—I saw out of the corner of my eye that my father was still babbling at Colonel Goode, and was evidently prepared to continue babbling until the poor old man’s ears melted into a puddle in his collar.

Then there was dancing, and for once I was glad that my father had paid the dollar and a quarter extra to have me trained in the art at school. There was also much drinking; but I avoided any alcoholic liquors, the example of Snyder being still fresh in my mind. I danced with several ladies who had already drunk a little too much. I danced with Miss Wherewithal, who, like me, had avoided spirits (or so she said), but whose giddy awkwardness was as good a replacement for drunkenness as one could wish for. At last I danced with Amelia, and if all the divines of the world could have the same privilege, they would cease to manufacture imaginary heavens and acknowledge that paradise can be found on earth.

The music came to an end, and, as Miss Wherewithal appeared to be approaching, Amelia quickly said, rather louder than necessary, “Oh, Mr. Bousted, I did promise to show you the gallery, didn’t I?” This was enough to stop Miss Wherewithal, who turned away and began searching the room for other prospects. “Father appears to be engaged”—Amelia’s eyes flitted toward her father, who (mirabile dictu!) was now talking to mine in a happy and animated fashion—“so I suppose I shall have to take on the duty myself. It’s right through this way.”

She took my arm and led me to the edge of the room, nodding and exchanging greetings with various guests along the way, until we reached a pair of sliding doors, one of which she slid open just enough to admit the two of us, and then closed again.

We were in what was evidently the back parlor. The sounds of the ball were muffled, and the gas was turned down to a dim suggestion of light; but Amelia spoke even louder than she had done before.

“I venture to say there are few finer collections in Allegheny or Pittsburgh; one or two larger perhaps, but none chosen with such good taste. I think you will be favorably impressed, especially by some of the larger works.”

She was almost shouting in my ear, and I was filled with a sense that something very odd was happening. By the time we reached the pocket door at the other end of the room—which was only a few steps, but an infinite number of mental revolutions—I had persuaded myself that, whatever our true destination might be, it was certainly no picture gallery.

Amelia had fallen silent now, and she released my arm and pushed the door back. The room beyond was even dimmer, but as Amelia turned up the gas to a great chandelier in the middle of the room, the darkness dissipated, and the place revealed itself as—a picture gallery.

The walls were crowded with pictures of every sort, from every era. Old Colonel Goode might or might not have taste in art: I was no fit judge of that. But that he had money any fool could see. I knew nothing of paintings or artists (a deficiency I have since remedied), but merely in canvas and paint this gallery had to represent a considerable expenditure.

“The Boucher is over there,” Amelia said, speaking very softly now; and she walked over toward the opposite wall, with me following her closely. She stopped in front of the largest canvas in the room.

La Belle Anglaise,” she announced, turning to face me.

It was a picture of a reclining nude, which in itself was very shocking to me at the time. Such things were not publicly exhibited in Allegheny or Pittsburgh at that remote era. I had heard of such pictures, but I knew them only by verbal descriptions. It was also more than a little embarrassing to look at the picture of a nude woman with another and far more beautiful woman judging my response. I tried not to show any of my discomfort, of course: instead, I attempted to absorb certain details that I might be able to mention from an artistic perspective. I remember especially noting the drapery: the woman was on a couch draped with abundant red velvet, and the texture of the velvet had been rendered with great skill. There at least was something I might be able to mention if called upon to render an opinion. More red was in the curtains behind her; a subtler, deeper shade of red, indicative of shadow.

“She was the mistress of a French duke,” Amelia explained. “He loved her passionately; but so, they say, did Boucher. I think from her expression you can tell which one she preferred.”

It was even stranger, and somehow deeply thrilling, to hear a woman talk of such things as the young men I knew—with the exception of Snyder, of course—mentioned only in hushed whispers.

“My father,” Amelia continued, “keeps the gallery closed off when we entertain. Some of the ladies are easily offended, and we have not seen the O’Haras for five years, because the mother and daughter both refuse to set foot in a house where such a picture exists. But you are not a prig.”

“No, of course not,” I agreed, stepping closer to the picture and examining it in detail, as if I were admiring the brushwork.

Amelia turned and stood close beside me, taking my arm. “I am not a prig either,” she said.

Suddenly I felt myself whirled around to face her, and a moment later her lips were pressed to mine with such force that I nearly stumbled backwards. My first instinct in the face of this unexpected assault was, absurdly, to raise my arms to defend myself; but in the event my arms rose only half way, and, as saner instincts took possession of me, my arms encircled Amelia, as hers did me, and we tightened our embrace. And all the while my mind was filled with the most ridiculous thoughts. Is this how kisses usually begin? Are my hands correctly positioned on her back, and should they be moving in some fashion? Are my lips what she was hoping they would be? Is my breath pleasant enough? Does a kiss normally involve quite so much of the mouth? Is it proper for me to break the contact first, or do I wait for her to move away? Will I be expected to make some appropriate remark afterward? Do I dare touch the bare flesh of her shoulder?

At last Amelia withdrew her lips from mine; but she did not break our embrace, and she rested her head on my shoulder. “Oh, Galahad—oh, dearest, dearest Galahad—I love you so madly! It’s foolish, absurd—I’ve known you such a short time—but I do love you; I loved you before I knew your name! When you wrote that you loved me, I kissed the letter a thousand times;—and then at night,—at night I laid it on my pillow, and kissed it a thousand times more. And I wished—how I wished!—that the letter might have been you. I don’t know what has made me the slave of passion, but I had to snatch this precious, fleeting moment to do what I’ve longed to do since you first passed me on Federal-street.—We must return to the ball soon—I can’t be missed—but, oh, Galahad, when you dance with Miss Weatherbee and all your other female admirers, I want you to remember
this——”

She pressed her lips to mine once more, with less violence, but with growing ardor; and I certainly cannot say that I was passive in our embrace.

When at last she withdrew, she led me by the arm back to the doorway; then, just as she was about to turn down the gas again, she turned for a moment and looked back toward the Boucher, and spoke a few words that engraved an indelible picture on my mind:

“I should like to be your Belle Anglaise.

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THE CRIMES OF GALAHAD.

CHAPTER XIV.

How I disposed of my pestilential sister Viola, and how I prevented my friend Mr. Snyder from behaving as a gentleman.

It did not take my sister Viola a long time to discover that there had been a definite break between Gertrude and me. I told her as much of the history of our parting as was suitable for her to hear: viz., that Gertrude had confessed to loving another, and that I of course had acted the noble part and refused to stand in the way of her happiness. Gertrude certainly believed that version of the story, and why should not Viola believe it as well?

She did believe it, since it fitted neatly with her prevailing assumption that her brother was of no account in the world. “My poor brother,” she said when I had related my sad tale. “Your Gertrude found a better man—one of the beggars on Liberty-street, perhaps, or a ragpicker from the Point. It is very fortunate for her, of course, that she discovered her mistake in time. But how sad for you to lose the only girl who would even look at you! You must be broken-hearted.”

Thus she alternated between congratulations to Gertrude on her fortunate escape from my clutches and the most nauseatingly saccharine and ironical expressions of sympathy for my disappointment. Viola had a way of blighting even my triumphs;—and in this case she had all the more opportunity to be a blight, since my very triumph in ridding myself so easily of Gertrude must be presented to the rest of the world as a bitter defeat.

Not for the first time I considered how much better my life might be without Viola than with her. But how to be rid of her? Murder might be simple and direct, but as an answer to my difficulties it seemed to present too many difficulties of its own. I had read in various novels of poisons that could not be detected, but as a general principle it looks odd if a young person suddenly falls dead when up to that moment she has been as healthy as an ox—an animal with which Viola shared divers other attributes as well.

No, the only means that presented itself to my attention of ridding myself of Viola was the same one by which I had eliminated Camellia. Some besotted oaf must marry her and take her away with him.

Where does one find besotted oafs? It has been my experience that there is no sister so loathsome but that some fool will think her a perfect angel. One has merely to be observant. In the case of Viola, I recalled the timid, if not positively ghostly, clerk across Wood-street from our store. Something might be made of him, though it might take a crowbar, or blasting-powder, to set him in motion.

In the mean time, something must be done about Amelia. I considered what I might do and how I might do it, when lo! I came home and discovered that it had all been done for me. Viola was waving a card almost in my face.

“An invitation!” she almost sang. “An invitation to a ball! At the home of Colonel Goode and his daughter!”

She swirled around as if she were waltzing, making me cringe when I thought of the damage she would do to her partner’s feet.

“First-rate!” my father responded with a tooth-baring smile. “I can see you’re happy about it.”

“It’s the Goodes’ ball!” she crowed as she continued to swirl through the entry. I braced the hall-tree in anticipation of a collision as she swept past it. “Only the very best families of Allegheny go to the Goodes’ ball! Oh, and you’re invited, too. I must have a new gown!”

Indeed the entire family had been honored with this invitation, but of course Viola saw it as her very own triumph, an acknowledgment, tardy but welcome, that society had at last recognized her worth. That her new position was owed entirely to me in every possible way seemed not to have occurred to her. On the contrary, it was quite apparent to her that she had achieved her elevation on her own merits;—an accomplishment made all the more admirable for having been achieved in spite of her being saddled with a brother like me.

At any rate, she was triumphant, and must have not only a new gown for the occasion, with a bustle of absurd if not positively dangerous dimensions, but also—as she thought more about it—new shoes, new gloves, and everything else she could think of to spend money on. For that reason, she rode into town with us the next morning, intending to pay visits to all the purveyors of feminine equipment on Wood-street. And when we reached our store, there was that clerk across the street staring out the window at Viola; nor did I fail to note her secret smile when she briefly met his gaze. I took the opportunity to ask Viola directly whether she knew that young clerk across the street; she answered in a very quiet voice that she did not, and blushed the most violent shade of purple.

Soon Viola set off about her business, and our own store filled up with the usual assortment of schoolmarms and shopkeepers’ wives. My own mind, though I tended to the customers with my usual assiduity, was filled with thoughts of Amelia. I imagined myself taking her aside at some opportune moment during the ball and pouring out my heart to her; and, of course, in my imagination she reciprocated my affection, and, after some reluctance, accepted a chaste kiss which promised more fervent expressions of affection to come. How my imagination differed from the reality you shall see soon enough; but it was a very pretty picture I painted for myself, and it kept the greater part of my mind occupied, while the lesser part examined one dreadful scrawl after another.

I happened to look up after sending one difficult matron on her way with a set of Grade 3 and a dozen pens to match, and by merest chance I saw a quite unexpected sight. It had been a grey day all morning, but just after noon the sun began to appear, and by about two it was shining with as much force as it could muster so late in the year on the storefronts on the opposite side of the street. In the one directly across from us a patch of sunlight made part of the interior clearly visible, and with widening eyes I beheld my own sister in earnest conference with the clerk. It was certainly not one of the stops in her expedition to conquer the purveyors of finery and frippery; this store sold lamps and lamp-oil. She could have only one reason for being there.

Now, I might simply have allowed nature to take its course, but nature had not the desperate desire that I had to see Viola married as soon as possible. At that moment I decided that I must intervene and give nature a helpful shove.

The scheme I contemplated was cruel, deceptive, and altogether wicked; but my conscience was learning to bow to my will, and the wickedness of it was now rather an attraction than otherwise. For the rest of the day, even as I tended to the customers, I formed in my mind the exact words I would use, so that, by the time we had ushered out the last schoolmarm and closed up the store, I had already played out the scene a dozen times in my imagination.

I sent my father, my sister, and Bradley off with the explanation that I had a few things I wished to arrange, and would follow them on a later car. They left, my father and Bradley both laden with bundles enough to outfit a regiment of Violas, and Viola between them carrying nothing but her umbrella. As soon as they were on the car and out of sight, I locked up the store and marched across the street, where I pushed my way through the lamp-dealer’s door just as the young clerk was about to lock it.

“I’m sorry to say we’re closed for——”

I cut him off. “I have no interest in lamp oil,” I told him. “I came to speak to you personally.”

“To me? I’m afraid I don’t——”

“Look here, man, I don’t have time to shilly-shally, nor would I if I could. I came to find out what the devil is going on between you and my sister.” Here I looked him straight in the eye, and moved close enough that he could feel my breath on his face. I had read a novel once—I have no other memory of it now—in which the hero was much intimidated by feeling the villain’s breath upon his face, and it was necessary that I should intimidate this fellow.

I believe I created the desired impression. “Your sister?” the man croaked out, looking altogether like a thief caught robbing the poor-box.

“I don’t know what your intentions are toward Viola,” I continued, “and to be quite frank with you I was ready to snap you in two.” By this time he had his back against the counter and was perilously close to knocking over three or four bottles of whale-oil. “My sister, however, seems to be fond of you,—with what reason I am sure I cannot say,—and my sister, sir, means the world to me. I cannot bear to see her unhappy.”

At this I stood up—for he had been leaning backward until his back was nearly flat on the counter, and I had been lowering over him—and stepped back a little to give him a sudden sensation of release. “So you are very fortunate,” I continued. “in that, for the sake of my sister’s happiness, I have decided not to snap you in two,—provided that your intentions are honorable.”

“Oh, of course——they——I mean to say that I——”

“And by ‘honorable,’” I added, interrupting his stammered assurances, “I mean that she must have received a proposal of marriage by no later than closing-time to-morrow. If she has not, I shall be forced to assume that you had no other intention than to trifle with a young girl’s affections.” I did my best to breathe on his face again for a moment before adding, “—which I am certain is not the case. There should, therefore, be no difficulty whatsoever about our arrangement.”

“Oh, none whatsoever,” he agreed, with a sickeningly forced smile.

“Splendid,” I said with an equally forced smile. “And one more thing: it is imperative that you say nothing to my sister of my visit here. If she supposed that your asking for her hand proceeded from any other motive than pure love for her, it would naturally break her heart.” I spoke the words “break her heart” in such a way as to remind him that I stood ready to avenge any unhappiness he might cause my sister.

“I understand perfectly,” he assured me.

“Very good.” I grasped his limp hand and shook it heartily. “Then I look forward to congratulating you both to-morrow afternoon.” And I turned and left the store.

How delightful it would be to feel as confident as I had endeavored to appear during this interview! The clerk—I have called him “young,” but in fact he was several years older than I was—was not a small man: slender, but quite tall, with a shape rather like that of a heron. If I had misjudged his character, the encounter might have gone very badly for me. Even as I left the front door of his store, I wondered whether, once the direct intimidation of my presence was removed, he might reconsider his promise. I should not know until the morrow.

Meanwhile I had an evening to get through with my father and my sister. Without Camellia in the house, poor Viola was forced to regale her two male relations with tales of bargains in silks. I noted that she was silent with regard to the lamp-dealer’s store, and I could not resist the opportunity to watch her turn purple again.

“I wonder you didn’t remember to pick up some lamp-oil while you were running up and down Wood-street,” I said with studied diffidence. “I don’t think we have more than a week’s worth left. Perhaps if you go shopping again to-morrow——”

“I certainly can’t carry a gallon of whale-oil,” she said crossly. “It must weigh a hundred pounds. You might as well ask me to carry the whale.” But I noted with satisfaction that her face had achieved the desired purple shade.

That evening, when I retired to my own bedroom, I spent some time composing a letter to Amelia; but, after crumpling five or six sheets successively, I gave up the attempt, put out the lamp, and turned down the gas. I had been paralyzed by the idea that whatever I wrote to Amelia must be perfect of its type, and each of my attempts fell short of perfection. I mention these failed letters only to illustrate the agitated state of my mind at the time.

It does not amuse me to prolong the narration of Viola’s abbreviated courtship. It is enough to say that, the next afternoon, she appeared with her clerk beside her, who very nearly choked himself before he succeeded in asking my father for his daughter’s hand in marriage. When the question was finally posed, I saw my father hesitate for an instant; but I rushed forward to congratulate both Viola and her clerk. My father, caught up in the general good cheer, readily gave the assent I had already taken for granted, and the betrothal was accomplished.

It was certainly a happy day for me;—the more so because, when we all came home, a letter from Amelia was waiting for me. Viola was too full of her own triumph even to notice that I had received a letter, and immediately after supper she went out to confer with Camellia on the wedding plans, my father accompanying her so that she would not have to walk alone in the dark. That left me alone to read the letter from Amelia; and I had just opened and unfolded it when there came a most horrendous pounding at the door.

An ordinary knock I might have left for Mrs. Ott to answer or not, according to whether she affected to hear it, but this pummeling was so insistent, so incessant, that I felt sure it must betoken some desperate emergency. I leaped from my chair in the front parlor and strode quickly to the entry, where I flung the door open and stepped aside as my old friend Snyder fell into the room.

He did not fall flat on his face, but he avoided that catastrophe only by a wonderfully intricate series of steps that a French dancing-master would have envied. He braced himself on the settle, set down a small case he was carrying, and recovered himself for a moment. Then he whipped around to face me.

“Bousted!” he shouted, much too loud, so that he seemed to be taken aback by the sound himself. He lowered his voice, but not by very much, and tried the experiment again. “Bousted! You have traffled with my sister’s afflictions!” He stopped and thought about that for a moment, but appeared to conclude that he had made his point, and continued. “You are a scad and a coundrel—— a skid and a candle! You are also a scad. What do you have to say for yourself?”

“Now, Snyder,” I began—although it was a foolish endeavor trying to reason with a man in his state—“you know that your sister was the one who rejected——”

“She’s gone back to that Friedrich or Hiffman or what-have-you, that blasted Dutch fellow! Do you think I’m sooch a foal as to behave—I mean believe; of course I mean believe; did you think I didn’t mean believe? Of course I meant believe. But I don’t believe it. That’s the point.”

He turned away muttering.

“Believe what?” I asked at last.

“That she would pick a fat Dutchman over you!” He attempted to fix me with a steely eye, though not with a great deal of success. “Of course she told me it was her choice—she is the dearest, sweetest girl in the world, and she would rather fling hersilf from a bredge than say anything against you. But I say through her faceed!”

“I’m sure that if we sit down and talk for a little while, we can——”

“A pilpable lay!—I mean a lie; of course I mean a lie. Why do you always twist everything I say? I said it was a lay, and I meant it was a lay. I mean a lie. There you are again, twisting my words!”

“I’m sure you know that I never——”

“Are you calling me a layer? Of course you are, because you are not a generalmin.” He reached behind him and fumbled on the settle, at last finding the little case he had brought. “So I will thank you to take a walk with me down to the river.”

He opened the case to reveal a pair of pistols.

This alarming development put me in a very conciliatory mood. I had no particular wish to shoot Snyder, and I had a very particular aversion to being shot myself. “I’m certain we can come to some rational agreement,” I said in my calmest tone.

“Rational?” he sputtered. “What has raisin to do with a woman’s honor?” He snatched one of the pistols from the case and pointed it at me. “You will come with me to the river,” he said very sternly, “or I will shoot you here.”

If those were his conditions, then it seemed far the wiser course to accompany him to the river; and so I agreed.

Here I cannot forbear remarking what fools our sense of honor makes us. Here was Snyder, a man who, in his inebriated state, was far more likely to fall into a ditch than to hit anything with a bullet; yet he was challenging me—a man who had not touched a drop of spirits since that evening when I met Snyder in the saloon on Ohio-street. How did he know that I was not a crack shot? In fact I had never discharged a pistol in my life, but he had no means of knowing that.

Our walk to the river was one of the strangest experiences of my young life. It was not yet particularly late; but it was dark and chilly, and the streets through which we walked were almost deserted. We proceeded in almost complete silence, though all the way my mind was filled with the most absurd thoughts. I desperately wished to think of some way to avoid this ordeal, but my mind gave all its attention to ridiculous irrelevancies. If this was to be a proper duel, should there not be seconds? If I did kill Snyder, whom would I inform? Is there some sort of city department or private service charged with collecting the corpses of defeated duelists? I wondered all these things, yet I spoke not a word to Snyder. His threatening me with immediate annihilation had made me wonderfully silent, even though he had long since replaced the pistol in the case.

Snyder’s face maintained an expression of perfect steadiness and deadly determination. The rest of him, on the other hand, was not steady at all; and about halfway to the river, as we were passing the rope-works, he suddenly thrust the pistol-case into my hand with a garbled “Hold this,” and then fell to the ground and vomited in the gutter.

He remained for some time in the attitude of a worshiper supplicating the gutter-gods; and all at once my brain, which had hitherto been useless to me, formed a delightfully simple scheme; a very wicked scheme—perhaps too wicked. I decided to remove the bullet from one of the guns, so that I should be certain not to be hit. It would, perhaps, have been more virtuous to have removed the bullets from both, at once saving Snyder from his drunken folly and myself from all danger;—except that Snyder’s pointing a pistol at me had made a deep impression upon my imagination, and at the moment I regarded the man as my deadly enemy, whom it would be safer to kill at once than to leave alive to plot a more effective attack. What, after all, could I do if Snyder discovered my stratagem?—and was he not bound to discover it, even in his present state, when both pistols failed to fire? No, my own course might be wicked, but it was the most rational. The safest thing was to kill Snyder.

At any rate, I did remove the bullet from the lower pistol; at least I removed something from it, which I assumed must be a bullet, although it was hellishly dark, and I had only the scantiest theoretical knowledge of such weapons as these. Then I stood, the pistol case in one hand, the other hand absently twirling my moustache, until Snyder was ready to continue.

When Snyder had emptied himself sufficiently, he laboriously resumed an upright stance and rather roughly took back the pistol-case, as if his vomiting were one more fault to be added to the account of resentments he kept against me. At length we reached a deserted spot by the river, a long cobblestone plaza where the gaslight was at least sufficient to make out the outline of a man. Here, still in complete silence, Snyder opened the case, and I, after making a show of indecision, chose the upper pistol.

To this day I cannot explain what happened next. Perhaps I chose the wrong pistol, in spite of my care; perhaps I had misjudged what I was doing earlier in the dark by the rope works; perhaps any number of perhapses. When Snyder announced “Ten paces” and counted them off—he counted very slowly and counted eight twice—I turned, raised my arm, and pulled the trigger. I felt nothing in my hand, but at about the same time there was a loud report, and my hat flew off my head.

Human nature is an unaccountable thing. Certainly one of the great arguments in favor of a life of evil, which is to say of rational self-interest, is that a life devoted to good involves a man in a mass of ridiculous contradictions. No sooner had the bullet taken my hat off—leaving my head quite unharmed, I hasten to assure you, my dear trembling reader—than Snyder was running toward me, demanding to know whether I was “all right,” and protesting that he would rather die than harm a hair on my head. He fell on the ground before me and quite literally embraced my knees, doubtless to the great detriment of his trousers, and repeated something over and over, which I was eventually able to interpret as “You didn’t fire.”

“No,” I told him, making a very advantageous use of the truth, “I had removed the bullet from the gun. I did not expect that you would be able in your state to come as close as you did to hitting me; but, for my part, I am sure that death would be preferable to harming a friend to whom I owe so much, and who (moreover) is the brother and protector of a woman whom I must always hold in the highest regard, however she may have disappointed my own hopes.”

This pretty speech silenced him for half a moment; then he repeated, “You didn’t fire!” after which he decided that the phrase bore repeating a few dozen more times.

Such was the issue of my one and only duel;—for no rational man would willingly indulge in such a folly. Dueling is a poor substitute for assassination. It is an attempt to clothe our basest and most primitive resentments in a cloak of honor and virtue; but after all it is only a curiously inefficient sort of murder, with an unwelcome element of risk added to soothe the conscience of the murderer. For my part, I find a simple secret assassination, perhaps by means of poisoning, much more rational. A duel, after all, opens up the very real possibility that the wrong man may be killed. Then there is the likelihood of being found out, even if one is the successful contestant; and success in a duel, however honorable it may seem in the eyes of certain gentlemen, is still murder in the eyes of the law. Taking all these things together, can anything be more absurd than to begin the enterprise by placing every possible obstacle in the way of its success?

——This is a digression, you may say; I admit it, but I make no apology. I may choose to write what I like in my own book, and you may choose whether to read it or no. But I shall end the digression here, merely repeating that I should prefer poison as a means of ridding myself of anyone whose continued existence had become an inconvenience to me. Indeed, I have preferred poison, as the course of this narrative will show. Do you tremble, dear reader? Do you shudder and wonder what monstrous outrage I may already be plotting? Shudder as much as you like: I shall not tell you until the time comes, except to say that it will very probably be even more monstrous than you imagine.

The excitement of the duel sobered up Snyder considerably; I accompanied him on the long walk home, but he was able to remain upright without stumbling, and even to carry on a conversation of a sort. When we reached his house, his sister was waiting for him, along with a man I took to be Hoffman. Gertrude embraced her brother and expressed her inexpressible joy—so she called it, although clearly it admitted of some expression—to see us both alive, and apparently on good terms; it was obvious that she had had a clear idea of her brother’s intentions, and had spent the evening fretting herself half to death.

Hoffman watched her with an awkward concern. He was a short man, not slim and not stout, with a spherical head, his hair parted in the center with perfect symmetry and disciplined with a prodigious quantity of macassar oil. The only thing remarkable about him was the extraordinarily luxuriant moustache that weighed down his upper lip. My own moustache had achieved a respectable growth by this time, but clearly it would never equal the magnificent proportions of Hoffman’s It occurred to me that perhaps Gertrude, for all her good sense and domestic virtue, might judge a man by his moustache; and by that criterion Hoffman was clearly the better man.

While Gertrude tended to her brother, Hoffman and I introduced ourselves. His Christian name was Magnus, which I still think is just about the most absurd name ever applied to a human child, with the possible exception of my own. I did not even tell mine to him, introducing myself merely as Newman Bousted.

Apart from our respective names, we could find little to say to each other, and it was with some relief that I parted from him when Gertrude asked for a word with me in the parlor. I followed her into the little room; she slid the pocket door closed, and then turned to face me.

“Newman,” she said, “my brother has told me what you did for him tonight. I—I have no words to express my admiration for someone who would rather risk his own life than his friend’s”—here she lowered her eyes—“especially when his friend has behaved very badly.”

“Now, Gertrude,” I responded (thinking that what I said might later be repeated to Snyder), “I would not have you think that of your brother. His fault was a misapprehension, and everything he did was done from love for you. He loves you as never a brother has loved a sister; and if his conduct is at times excessive, recall the motive, and forgive him. You are his dearest treasure, and his only wish is to protect you from every harm.”

Was this not a pretty sentiment? I thought so, and Gertrude did as well. “Oh, Newman,” she replied, “at times I think you are something better than a man: for here I had made up my mind to plead with you to forgive my brother, and you are begging me to forgive him! And I do forgive him—I do, Newman, only—Oh! how I wish he wouldn’t drink so!”

At this I lowered my eyes in acknowledgment that I could not excuse her brother’s drinking quite as readily as I could excuse his dueling. Indeed I wished he would give up strong drink almost as heartily as she did, though from a somewhat more selfish motivation.

Gertrude’s admiration of me had never been higher; but it was a purely moral admiration that did not engage her passions. Hoffman was the moustache she loved. A certain competitive instinct in my heart resented his success; but my rational mind successfully overcame that resentment, reminding my heart how much easier her attraction to Hoffman made it for me to court Amelia.

Amelia! At the thought of her, I suddenly recalled the letter I had left open on the little table in the front parlor. What news did it bring? And had my sister been reading it? It would be an irresistible temptation to her if she found the thing. I was consumed simultaneously with eagerness to read the letter and dread of my sister’s having discovered it. Hoping I might get back home before Viola returned from her conference with Camellia, I made my rather hasty apologies to Gertrude, who agreed that it was quite late and saw me to the door. There she took my hand and told me very seriously, “Magnus—Mr. Hoffman—he is a good man, Newman. I hope you will come to know him.”

I have to this day no clear notion of why she said that. It was one more enigma from Gertrude, a girl from whom I had learned to expect enigmas. I expressed the hope that I would indeed come to know the man of whom she thought so highly, although in fact I could see no reason why I should desire any further acquaintance with him. Then I walked out into the chilly night.

The bracing cold was very pleasant, filling my lungs and rasping at my face as I strode briskly through the narrow streets of modest rowhouses, and then along North Avenue opposite the park, all the while turning over the events of the evening in my mind. Sometimes the duel presented itself to my imagination almost as if it were happening again; and only now, when the danger was over, did I come to realize how fearful the danger had been. In those moments I forgot about the letter from Amelia; but then the thought of it sitting there open on the table would come back to me, and I would quicken my pace again.

As soon as I reached the house, I flung my hat on the hall-tree, and I think I dropped my overcoat on the floor. Then I rushed into the parlor—and there was Viola, reading my letter from Amelia.

This was the realization of my worst fear. But the scene was not as I had imagined it. Instead of the smug self-satisfaction I had expected to see on her face, I beheld an expression of consternation I had never seen before on my sister. Her face was bright crimson, and I could hear her breathing in short gasps.

“Viola,” I began uncertainly.

Suddenly she started up—it appeared that she had not even noticed my entrance until I spoke—and dropped the letter on the little table where she had found it. She stood gaping, her eyes wide, her face turning a deeper purple with every tick of the clock. She must have stared at me open-mouthed like that for more than half a minute; then she suddenly turned and ran from the room, and I heard her shoes clattering noisily on the stairs.

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THE CRIMES OF GALAHAD.

CHAPTER XIII.

Gertrude or Amelia?

The choice that faced me was difficult, but only because so much of the knowledge I wanted for making my decision was unknowable. I had to choose between Gertrude and Amelia; and, put that way, the choice must obviously be Amelia. Gertrude was pretty and pleasant, but Amelia was both the most beautiful girl in Allegheny and the richest. In my foolish youth I found her face more attractive than her money;—but I was not insensible to the attraction of her money.

Gertrude, however, was a bird in the hand. Was it reasonable to abandon the near certainty of Gertrude for the distant possibility of Amelia? It was certainly true that Amelia had said some very encouraging things to me; but was not the difference in our position an insuperable barrier to any hope of marriage? And, now that I was definitely known to her, the alternative to marriage that I had proposed to myself was clearly impossible. It was marriage or nothing. (Here the alert reader may have noticed that I did not consider the possibility of seduction. So little did I know of the ways of women in those youthful days that I supposed what I desired would never be willingly given, and must be taken either as a duty of marriage or by force.)

Yet, as I retired that evening, visions of Amelia’s beautiful face crowded every other thought out of my mind. I tried to summon up Gertrude to give her defense in the court of my imagination, but she refused my summons. Amelia was all I saw; Amelia was my only thought. In the darkness I was certain that my choice must be Amelia; and if perhaps it could have remained dark, I might have made my choice. But daylight brought back rational thought, and rational thought brought back doubts. Or perhaps the truth was simply that I had not yet given my soul completely over to darkness.

Daylight also brought an end to my brief respite from responsibility for the store. It was bad enough to have left it momentarily in Bradley’s hands, but I was certainly not such a fool as to leave him holding the reins two days running.

But in fact my worries were groundless.

I greeted him with my usual “Good morning, Mr. Bradley,” and he greeted me with his usual glassy gaze and inarticulate grunt. But then I turned immediately to the ledger, and I discovered that the receipts from the day before were not a whit diminished. In fact, we had done better than usually.

“We did very well yesterday,” I said to Bradley.

He looked at me, and then at the ledger, and nodded, or perhaps merely twitched his head.

“I ought to say, you did very well, Mr. Brad­ley,” I added, trying to encourage him to say something. But there was no sound from him.

“Well, I’m very pleased,” I continued. “Father, look at this. The store did quite well with Bradley in charge.”

“First-rate!” my father opined, without really looking at the numbers on the page at all.

So I began to discover one more facet of this Bradley: he was very much less of a fool when I was not near by. In fact, as the day wore on, two regular patrons stopped in to tell me how well “the new man” had done in serving them yesterday. The thing puzzled me a little at first, but I suppose I had no reason to be puzzled. I had taken care that he should fear me at our first meeting. The stratagem was perfectly justified under the circumstances, but I ought not to wonder that the impression I had made on him then had lingered. At any rate, I resolved to experiment a little more with my brother-in-law. He might prove more useful than I had anticipated.

As for Gertrude, it astonishes me now to relate that I actually lost sleep over her. I even felt some remorse—I blush to recall it now, but I did—at the thought of rejecting her after having given her every indication that I intended to marry her. In extenuation I can only plead my extreme youth. I had assumed the responsibilities of a life devoted to wickedness at a time of life when the temptations to good are multifarious and incessant.

All day in the store, my mind revolved the one great question: Gertrude or Amelia? —I do not mean to say that I was negligent: none of the clerks’ wives and superannuated spinsters who came to have their writing classified would have surmised that my mind was elsewhere. I gave them the service they expected, looking directly into their eyes as I explained to them where their writing fitted on the Bousted scale. Yet still I was plagued by that dreadful indecision. Gertrude or Amelia? Amelia the perfect beauty, or Gertrude the delightful companion? Amelia the rich and far above me, or Gertrude the poor but within my grasp?

I continued my inward battle as my father and I rode the horse-car back to Allegheny, and I had nearly reached the conclusion that it must be Gertrude. In my young and inexperienced mind it seemed the more reasonable choice. Taking into account my own more and more urgent desires, a speedy union appeared to be almost a necessity; it could very probably be effected with Gertrude, but with Amelia I had only begun an acquaintance which, reason told me, could not be very likely to terminate in marriage, so insuperable did the gap between us seem.

Such were my thoughts when I returned to our house to find a letter from Amelia. I knew at once that it had come because Viola accosted me as I was still taking off my coat.

“A letter came for you,” she announced with that artificial lilt that I verily believe can be produced only by an older sister, “from your friend Miss Goode.” She pronounced the word friend as though it could carry a heavier load of innuendo than any other word in the English language.

“Probably inquiring after my health,” I replied; and I took the letter with a great show of indifference, nor did I open it until well after supper, when I was alone in my own room.

She did inquire after my health, but there was more to the letter than that. I have kept the letter, and I will insert it here at length, so that, in my own future perusal of this chapter in my life, I may feel yet again the thrill of reading Amelia’s own words.

Dear Mr. Bousted,——

In a moment of weakness, I made a confession which I ought perhaps not to have made; but since I have already laid indiscretion upon imprudence, it would be futile to pretend I had said nothing. Nor would I be showing reasonable gratitude to one to whom I owe so much—perhaps my very life—if I were at all dishonest with you.

I write to express that gratitude to you once again, but also in the hope of continuing that acquaintance which my imprudence has so happily purchased for me, though at such a painful cost to yourself.

Oh! Mr. Bousted, you must think me the most selfish creature in the world, but I am glad that such a ruffian accosted me—I dare even to say that I am glad that you were injured, if it gained for me the privilege of tending to your injuries. Of course I hope you are well now, and I could never truly wish you harm; but I struggle to express how much I hope for another visit from you. If you can find it in your heart to forgive my folly, and now my impertinence as well, I pray you write to me, and tell me that, somehow, you will see me again.

This marvelous, this astonishing letter was written on two sheets of Bousted’s Grade 8 and signed simply “Amelia Goode.” The No. 8 is a very good match for her careful, yet confident, writing, showing that the sales clerk at Boggs & Buhl (where she must have bought it, since I should certainly have remembered if she had come to my store) had indeed mastered the elements of my system.

Until I read Amelia’s letter, I had been very nearly certain that the victory must go to Gertrude; now it was quite clear that Amelia must be my choice. If she was of such a mind as to write such a letter as this, surely my battle was already half-won; the walls were breached which a moment before had seemed impregnable.

I did not hesitate, therefore, but immediately took pen in hand and dashed off a reply. I have not a copy by me, for in my haste I took no time to copy it out; but I recall telling her that I was as glad of our meeting as she was, and that I had not ceased to be astonished by the singular good fortune which had brought us together; and, having subjoined such words of flattery as came most naturally to my unskilled pen, I closed with a wish to see her at the earliest possible moment.

After that letter, I composed another, this one addressed to Gertrude Snyder. This second letter was very short: I said nothing but that I should like to see her the next evening, as I had something particular to say to her.

In these transactions it is very possible that my youth and inexperience served me well. If I were doing the same thing to-day, I should not have let go of the bird in the hand until I had definitely captured the one in the bush. I should have kept Gertrude supposing that I was within days of asking for her hand. My eagerness to pursue a connection with Amelia, however, led me to cast Gertrude aside; she was now an encumbrance of which I wished to rid myself at the earliest opportunity. How fortunate it seemed now that I had not made any definite proposal to her!

Yet it was not a pleasant prospect to me, this meeting with Gertrude. I received a note from her the next day agreeing that we must speak, and suggesting a walk in the park as suitable to that purpose; and it was, if you can credit the assertion, only as I read her note that I realized she must be expecting me to propose marriage at last! “I had something particular to say to her,” I had told her in my letter. What else could such words indicate to a young lady?

It was therefore my mission to dash Gertrude’s hopes just when I had raised them to the highest peak. That seemed very hard—very hard indeed. Only a fortifying dose of Baucher gave me the courage to keep our appointment.

It was an unseasonably warm afternoon in October, and the park was more than usually filled with strollers and promenaders. Gertrude was waiting for me at our usual meeting-place on the south end of the bridge. I could not help seeing that she was a beautiful girl; if there had been no Amelia, I might have considered myself uncommonly fortunate to have Gertrude. But there was an Amelia;—I reminded myself of that.

“It’s a very fine afternoon,” Gertrude remarked as we began strolling together.

“Very fine indeed,” I agreed.

“I think it’s uncommonly warm for so late in the season,” she added.

“It is,” I said; and then, feeling as though I ought to say something more, I added, “but it might well be the last warm day before the cold weather sets in.”

These observations are exceedingly dull to record, but the weather furnished us with the theme for our discourse over the next quarter-hour or so; and to talk about the weather with a beautiful girl on a fine October afternoon, with the colored leaves tumbling through the air all around, is as great a pleasure as any I can think of at the moment,—if only the sword of Damocles is not hanging over your conversation.

At last we came to the base of the monument, which, from its situation away from the main-traveled paths and somewhat below the bridge, afforded us a little measure of privacy; and here I had determined to make my speech, which I had prepared and rehearsed beforehand.

“Gertrude,” I began, “when I wrote to you yesterday, I said that I had——”

“Newman, please,” she said suddenly, quite uncharacteristically cutting me off. “I know already what you intend to say to me.”

“I really don’t think——”

“I do, Newman.” Her words began to pour out in a torrent; she was more animated than I had ever seen her, and there was simply no possibility of interrupting her. “Did you think I hadn’t seen you working up your courage—thinking over what you would say to me? Oh, Newman, I have seen how you look at me, and heard how your voice changes when you speak to me, and though you may think your heart has secrets, I know them all, my poor man! And I knew that this moment would come, and I struggled with myself—what would I say? how would I answer?—and, oh, how I wished, how I prayed that I could make you happy, for I never met a man more deserving, more worthy, but oh!—Newman, I cannot marry you! I ought to marry you, I ought to love you with my whole heart, but—but I love another!” At this her tears began to flow, but she went on with hardly a pause for breath. “I love another! I have been false to you all these months, hoping and praying that my heart would change, that I could give you the answer you deserve, and the answer all reason tells me I ought to give you, but no,—my heart will not obey reason, and it must love one who I am sure is infinitely less worthy, but,—but he is a good man, Newman, and I do love him!”

At this her tears overcame her completely, and she hid her face in her hands, leaving me standing at sixes and sevens for the moment, wondering what the passers-by must be thinking of me.

But on the whole the conversation had been completely satisfactory from my point of view. Instead of cruelly dashing a young girl’s hopes, I was now in a position to show grace and nobility in the face of rejection.

“My dear Gertrude,” I said gently and quietly, as though my heart were breaking but I had determined to suppress my feelings, “no man worthy of that name could ever wish anything before your happiness. I don’t deny—it would be futile to deny—my own feelings of disappointment. But that same strong regard for you which causes my disappointment compels me always to put your happiness before my own. If you are happy, I am happy; and if my happiness is admittedly imperfect, still it is genuine for all that.”

This was a very pretty speech, don’t you think? I was quite proud of it. It had its desired effect on Gertrude, who wept all the more and declared that I must be some sort of angel, and perhaps she ought to——but here I cut her off, lest she be tempted to reconsider. I told her frankly that she must follow her heart, and that, if she had any regard for my happiness as well as hers, she must not allow any mistaken sympathy for me to cloud her judgment; for surely I could never be happy in possession of a heart that could never be truly mine, and it was better for me in the long run to endure disappointment now, however it might sting, than to live a life of misery.

When at last we parted, she had recovered marvelously, and was actually smiling that rare and beautiful smile of hers, which for a moment almost made me regret that I had got rid of her so easily. She promised that she would ever be a true friend to me, and of course I promised her the same. Then she turned and left me.

I did not walk home with her as I usually did; but I did stand and watch as she walked away, calculating that it might be better to be seen gazing after her with regret if she should happen to look backward. In the event, however, she did not look backward.

Thus did I rid myself of Gertrude, and I was free to turn my attention completely to the conquest of Amelia. And so I did;—or, rather, nearly completely. I was distracted for some little time by a scheme for disposing of my elder sister.

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THE CRIMES OF GALAHAD.

CHAPTER XII.

I enjoy the fruits of my wickedness, but am confronted with a difficult choice.

It was not paradise, but it was as close to paradise as I had come in my short life. “Oh, dear sir—thank heaven!” Miss Goode exclaimed, looking intently into my eyes. I might have happily gazed into hers forever if I had been offered the opportunity. “You were hurt,” she continued after some time, having evidently decided that I was capable of understanding her now. “We brought you here—I hope you’ll forgive the presumption, but we didn’t know your name, and the alternative was the Sisters of Mercy. I owe you such an incalculable debt that I insisted we must care for you ourselves. Can you speak yet?”

I tried the experiment: “Yack,” I said. I cleared my throat and tried again: “Yes.”

“Forgive my not having introduced myself. My name is Amelia Goode.”

“Galahad Newman Bousted,” I responded, using up most of my breath. If I had not been so breathless, I should certainly have continued, “but I go by Newman Bousted,”—but I did not.

“Galahad!” she repeated. “What a wonderfully apt name! Are you a knight-errant in the service of every lady in dire distress?”

“Am I?” I asked, doubtless looking like a wandering idiot let loose from the asylum.

“You poor man!” Her voice was full of concern and compassion. “My rescue has cost you so dearly!”

Rescue! In my disoriented state, I had not yet put together what had happened to me. I had beaten off another pirate intent on seizing my prize—so much I remembered now. But in Amelia’s eyes I had rescued her from a fate worse than death! The extent of her misapprehension was so great it made my mind whirl. And even as it was whirling, my mind was telling me that here was a turn of events which must redound to my advantage.

“Any man in similar circumstances would have done the same,” I said weakly. In a manner of speaking it was true: any man who had plotted to have his way with a divine beauty, only to see the prize nearly snatched out of his hands at the very last moment, would have attacked the confounded interloper in a blind fury. I know that Miss Goode, however, took another meaning.

“Few would be so bold as to beat off a man twice their size,” Miss Goode replied. “If there is any small way—nay, any great way—I can be of any service to you, I hope you will not hesitate to make me aware of it.”

I began to sit up. “I should hate to put you to any——”

But suddenly sitting up lost its attraction, and my head fell back on the pillow.

“Pray do not exert yourself,” Miss Goode said. “Let me inform your wife that you are here, and then you really must stay with us until you have sufficiently recovered.”

“Oh, I have no wife,” I told her, and I noticed a subtle change in her physiognomy that I interpreted as a favorable omen. Then I thought of my family, and added, “But I do have a father who may be wondering where I am.”

“Tell me where he is, and Sheridan will be dispatched at once to inform him.”

I gave her our address on Beech-street, and with a promise to return shortly she went off to do her dispatching.

Meanwhile, I was left alone with my thoughts, which were beginning to order themselves in a more rational manner. First, I was growing aware of a beating pain in my skull. I cautiously felt my forehead, and discovered that a bandage was wrapped around my head; the pain inclined me to believe that the bandage was the only thing holding my skull together. As long as I was gazing on the divine face of Miss Goode, the pain had not obtruded upon my perception; but now that it had the field to itself, it made the most of its opportunity.

In order to distract myself from the pain, I made a careful examination of the room, which was nearly the size of two of the bed-rooms in our Beech-street house put together. It was furnished in the style of the antebellum age, though with concessions to the more artistic modern taste in its hangings and wallpaper. From the lack of obvious personal belongings I deduced that it must have been a guest-room; doubtless the house that could accommodate such a room as this must have a multitude of guest-rooms. I had begun to speculate on the size of the establishment when the door opened again to admit, not the radiant Miss Goode, but an old man who must, I decided at once, have been her father, old Colonel Goode of the Monongahela Glass fortune.

“Well,” he said with a surprisingly hearty voice for one who looked so fragile, “you’re with us now! You gave us a little fright, my boy, with all that blood. Amelia’s been taking good care of you, has she? Splendid. If there’s anything at all you need, don’t hesitate to ask.”

“Thank you, sir,” I replied weakly. The weakness was not altogether feigned, but I was also beginning to decide on weakness as a matter of policy. It might prolong my stay if I gave the impression that I was too weak to go, and if I had a chance of spending any more time near the divine Miss Goode, I was willing to exaggerate my weakness. I did not yet know what use I might make of this opportunity, but I did know that it was not to be squandered.

Since old Colonel Goode will have something to do with the rest of my story, I suppose I ought to describe him. Of course everyone knows something about Pittsburgh’s first millionaire;—the first of many, and perhaps the most beloved by the ordinary people of Pittsburgh and Allegheny. No scandal has ever sullied his fame, and I could honestly believe that the man’s mind had never formed an impure thought. —But these things will come later. As for what I saw from my bed in the guest-room that night, he was an unusually small man, frail in construction, but quick and lively in his movements, with an admirably straight posture. His face showed no especial intelligence; a wispy beard adorned but did not conceal his chin, and his eyes sparkled under neat brows, but sparkled only with a native vivacity, and not with any unusual perception. He had lost most of the hair on his head, and what remained was snowy white. Not a thing was out of place on him: his collar was exactly right, his jacket exactly symmetrical, his watch-chain draped with apparently unconscious precision. He was the picture of prosperous virtue.

I am sorry to sweep him off the stage so soon after introducing him, but Colonel Goode hurried off to his next duty after only a few more pleasant words of gratitude. He will return more than once in these pages, however; we shall not miss him long.

For a short time I was left alone again, but I had scarcely had time to ponder my stratagem for making use of my presence in the Goode household when Amelia reappeared and drew a side chair up to my bed.

“I have sent Sheridan to your father, Mr. Bousted,” she told me, “and now I shall not leave your side until the danger is past.”

“Danger?”

“Dr. Andick was very particular that you should not be moved for at least four hours after you regained consciousness. After that, he said, the danger would be past, and you might be permitted to walk with caution—with caution, he stressed. He thought you should not leave this house until at least to-morrow morning.”

“I do hate to be an invader, Miss Goode.” I did not hate it at all if it brought me so close to this incomparable beauty, but I believed that conventional politeness would conduce to my advantage.

“My champion will never be an invader in this household!” she replied with a radiant smile. O! reader, you may suppose that you have seen a radiant smile;—you may speak of the smiles that adorn the faces of the most celebrated beauties of your own age;—yet you have seen nothing worthy of that description, for you have not seen the smile of Amelia Goode!

For an hour or so more, Miss Goode spoke of inconsequential things—as though any word that dropped from such perfect lips could possibly be inconsequential—and I remember every word. I also remember that even then I felt a vague sense that Miss Goode was leaving something unsaid. I shall not burden you with the rest of the conversation, however; you, dear reader, who are most likely myself at a later age, would probably lose patience with me, though I confess it still gives me considerable pleasure to recall that first evening with Amelia.

It gave me no pleasure at all to have it interrupted by my own father, who burst so suddenly through the door that, had I been a man of weaker constitution, I might well have succumbed to some sort of nervous fit. He was followed closely by my sister Viola, and at only slightly less distance by old Colonel Goode. My father made the most appalling show of concern for my welfare; and Viola attempted, if possible, to outdo him, as if she really did prefer that I should live rather than die.

This ugly display of sentimentality made me wish I could slip back into that unconscious state from which I now regretted awakening—especially when old Colonel Goode very graciously introduced himself to my father, and my father, having ascertained that this was indeed the same Colonel Goode of whom all Pittsburgh and Allegheny spoke in reverent whispers, replied with the most oafish forthrightness, “You know, I’m a businessman myself.”

I must, however, confess that I felt a secret thrill when Amelia immediately asked whether he was the Bousted of Bousted’s Graded Stationery, and my father, in the full flush of his ridiculous paternal pride, told her that it had been entirely my invention. She knew my Graded Stationery—nay more, she used the Grade 8 every day, or so she said. Every day, those impossibly delicate fingers swept over the smooth, perfectly sized surface I myself had specified. It was almost as if she had been touching me for months without my knowing it. What bliss it would have been just to be a single sheet of paper!

I shall not weary myself with recounting every fatuous word that dribbled from my father’s lips. Miss Goode was very gracious to him, telling him that the father of such a son must be something of a hero himself; my father at least had the sense to blush at that remark. My sister Viola was mostly mute, which is certainly the way I prefer her; I believe she was overawed by her surroundings, since she had never before been in a building as large as the Goode house unless it was holding a temperance meeting.

My father and Viola stayed far too long, and my father was far too profuse in his gratitude to the Goodes when Amelia made it clear that she would not allow me to be moved until the morning. At last, however, my father took Viola away with him, and (old Colonel Goode having retired) I was left alone with my nurse.

By this time, but for the roaring pain in my head (which a bit of Colonel Goode’s excellent brandy had blunted somewhat), I had recovered most of my vigor, and I was far from ready to go back to sleep. Miss Goode was also invigorated by the excitement of the evening’s events. She was ready to talk, and I was more than ready to hear her voice. Yet as she spoke of this and that, I was more and more certain that there was something she wished to say beyond the inconsequential trivialities that made up our conversation. I believe that the weather has never been more thoroughly observed, catalogued, and subjected to the minutest analysis than it was during the hour after my father and hers left us alone. But at last we had exhausted even the endless conversational possibilities of temperature and precipitation, and we both fell silent for some time.

“Mr. Bousted,” Miss Goode said at last, “I believe I owe you—a confession is what perhaps I ought to call it. I feel a certain—a certain responsibility for your injuries.”

“Certainly any decent man who happened to see what I saw—an innocent woman assaulted by the basest ruffian—would have reacted the way I did. It was mere chance that I happened to be the one who——”

“But it was not mere chance,” she declared with a sudden rush of feeling. “I was responsible—more responsible than you know. It was not chance that placed you in harm’s way. It was my own—my own folly.”

I made no answer; I simply gazed at her with incomprehension.

“I was imprudent,” she continued. “I exposed myself to more danger than—than a young lady ought to be exposed to.”

“Surely a young lady has a right to take a drive through the park without molestation,” I said. How wonderfully sincere I sounded!

“But it is not prudent for her to drive after dark, except that—except that—Oh, Mr. Bou­sted, I have been such a fool! I ought to have listened to my father’s gentle admonishments, but I—but I wanted to see you.”

These last few words were spoken so softly that at first I was not at all sure I had heard them correctly. “But, Miss Goode, what could you mean by that? Until to-night——”

“Oh, doubtless you do not remember it, but you have seen me before. We passed in the street and I saw your face. Such a kind face! I remembered your face, though I saw you only a moment. And then I saw you again, and—and then I began to see you walking in the park. So then—and, oh, I know it was unpardonable folly—I came back the next evening at the same time, and you were there again. And I went back again, and again, and I began to discover your habits. You were as regular as clockwork, Mr. Bousted! I began—oh, I am sorry, Mr. Bousted!—I began to keep a note-book, and I recorded the times when I had seen you; and then I would go back at those times to see you again. So, Mr. Bousted, you would not have been exposed to danger had it not been for my folly, and I cannot expiate my sin except—except by asking you to forgive me.”

Twice in my short life up to that moment, the world had turned upside-down: the thing I had always thought was the floor had turned out to be the ceiling. And, marvelous to tell, both times had been in the same night. I had supposed myself to be an abductor, a defiler of innocence, and found myself a hero; I had supposed myself to be the hunter, and had found myself the prey. I am sure that Miss Goode had an unobstructed view of my tonsils as I recovered from the shock of her revelation. For some time, there was silence in the room; then, when she spoke again, she was on the verge of tears.

“Oh, Mr. Bousted, what have I done? I can see that——”

“Nothing could be more flattering”—I hastily interrupted her before she could say anything I might regret—“Nothing could be more flattering, or—or more gratifying, and if I hesitated to forgive you, it was because I could find nothing to forgive. How could any man with blood in his veins be displeased to find—to find that—well, I mean to say, Miss Goode, I am not displeased.”

She smiled slightly, although she would not look at me directly. I had succeeded in putting her a little more at her ease, and now it was time to turn this astonishing development to my advantage. My brain was whirling, and all thoughts of the pain in my head had vanished. Opportunity was here for the grasping.

“Indeed,” I continued, “I do recall having seen you on more than one occasion. You do yourself an injustice if you suppose you could pass by a man with eyes in his head, however briefly, and make no impression upon his memory.”

At this she did turn to face me, and her smile is impressed so deeply on my recollection that I can even now close my eyes and bring up the picture of it like a magic-lantern show.

How I should love to linger over this first encounter,—to savor each subtle change in Amelia’s expression, each musical syllable of her delightful conversation! Yet I could fill a book with this night, and still not be done with it. I must therefore reduce my narration to a brief epitome. I talked with Amelia until two in the morning, at which the striking of a little clock on the mantel reminded us both that it was very late. Bidding me good-night with a fondness that would, to an uninformed observer, have suggested a longer acquaintance, Amelia promised to see me in the morning, and turned down the gas as she left the room. In the darkness I made some attempt to order my thoughts; but sleep overcame me almost immediately, and I slept a sound and blissful sleep until just before eight in the morning.

When I woke, it took me some time to recollect where I was. Not being in the habit of paying overnight visits to millionaires, I had no previous experience of waking in such a luxurious chamber as this one, which bore a very different aspect with the morning sun streaming in through the tall windows. I began to recall the events of the night before, and the sweet face of Amelia Goode rose up in my mind’s eye. But then I was suddenly seized with an irrational terror that I must have been found out: that somehow, as I slept, the true motive for my presence in the park must have become apparent. I tried to use my reason to reassure myself, but my reason was not responding well to my commands. In fact my mind was trying to find its way through a fog of pain, the worst head-ache I had ever suffered. I could only imagine the fury of the Goodes; perhaps even now they had summoned the constabulary, or an angry mob with torches (why they should require torches in bright daylight I cannot say, but in every novel with an angry mob torches were an indispensable part of the equipment). I very nearly leaped straight up from the bed when the door to the hall swung open, and I fully expected to be either taken into custody or beaten to death with sticks.

“Good morning, sir,” said the voice from the doorway. It was not the voice of one who intended to bludgeon me. An older man, impeccably dressed, with another suit of clothing draped over his arm, was observing me benevolently. When he could see that he had my attention, he continued. “Miss Goode hopes you will pardon the liberty, but we have pressed your trousers and coat. There are one or two spots that will require the attention of your tailor, but you should be quite presentable in the mean time.”

“Thank you,” I said a bit uncertainly, as I adjusted my mind to the thought that I was not to be haled away to the gallows.

“If you feel well enough to rise, Miss Goode has held breakfast.”

“I’m certainly well enough to rise,” I said with more good cheer than I felt. No head-ache, however severe, would induce me to miss breakfast with the angel of Allegheny.

“Very good, sir,” the old man replied. He stayed there, almost but not quite smiling, and it gradually became clear to me that he intended to remain while I rose and dressed. And so he did. He was an active participant in the dressing: for the first time since I had learned to dress myself, I allowed myself to be dressed by someone else. This was what it was like to be truly rich: to have someone to attend to one’s most inconsequential needs—not even to have to dress oneself. I was even more certain now that I must have that life for my own.

Breakfast confirmed me in that opinion. The most delightful part was the presence of Amelia, of course, but I was not immune to the other pleasures of a table laden with what I then considered luxurious delicacies. Nor was I dead to the delight of being conveyed back to our little house in a carriage nearly the size of our parlor.

“Such a grand house,” Viola said a little later on, as we sat in the dining-room for luncheon. My father had left Bradley entirely in charge of the store, which was not a comforting thought; but I resolved to put off my worries for the day and enjoy, for once, the favorable attention of my sister, who insisted that she must nurse me until I had recovered.

“Yes,” I agreed, “it is an elegant place.”

“And what an impression you made on Miss Goode!” she continued. “It’s obvious she thinks the world of you.”

“She is merely grateful for what, after all, any gentleman of spirit would have done.” I suppose I hoped she would disagree and insist that I had been heroically brave: by now I had really begun to think of myself as Amelia’s rescuer, rather than the man from whom, but for the timely intervention of fate, she would have prayed to be rescued. But Viola would not give me the satisfaction of contradicting me.

“Oh, she is very grateful,” Viola continued. “The way she looked at you, I should have said she was a good bit more than grateful. Oh, dear, what will your poor Gertrude think?”

I give you my word, dear reader (though you must know by now that my word is worth nothing), that, until that moment, I had not thought of Gertrude since I set out on my fateful expedition the night before. What, indeed, would Gertrude think? And what was I going to do about her?

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ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY.

ON THIS DAY in 1971, the United States indicted the Harrisburg Seven for conspiracy to kidnap Henry Kissinger. The defendants were not convicted, however, after a defense that consisted entirely of attorney Ramsey Clark reading O. Henry’s “Ransom of the Red Chief” to the jury.

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THE CRIMES OF GALAHAD.

CHAPTER XI.

How I contemplated and plotted a monstrous crime, with the unwitting cooperation of Gertrude Snyder.

When I considered the matter rationally, it appeared to me that Gertrude Snyder must be essential to any scheme I might form for possessing Amelia Goode. Indeed, she was my only tangible link to the celebrated beauty. Furthermore, I was under no illusions as to the probability of my possessing Miss Goode permanently. —No, it would be a fleeting deed of darkness; and then, if I were successful, I should be to all appearances the same virtuous young man as before. For such a young man, Gertrude would still make a pleasant and perfectly respectable wife.

I was therefore as assiduous in cultivating my courtship of Gertrude as I was in expanding the firm of Bousted & Son, and I flattered myself that I had equal success in both endeavors. Our sales continued to grow week by week, and Gertrude continued to meet me for walks in the park and other innocent pastimes. That is to say, they were innocent in her eyes; but I had a double purpose in each of our meetings. I so contrived these visits with Gertrude that we were likely to catch at least a glimpse of Amelia Goode. I quickly discovered that Miss Goode was almost a slave to habit. If she passed a particular spot in her carriage at seven in the evening on a Tuesday, then she could be relied upon to pass that same spot at seven the next Tuesday as well. West Park was her favorite haunt, and she could be found either strolling or driving there almost every evening. I took great pains to learn the patterns of her drives, for she was often alone then, though sometimes she had a coachman for the victoria.

There were times when it was difficult to conceal my keen interest in Miss Goode’s movements from Gertrude, and I had to employ considerable art.

“Here is Miss Goode again,” Gertrude remarked on one such occasion, as we saw the familiar victoria approaching. “Oh, isn’t she splendid?”

“Why, Gertrude,” I remarked gaily, “if I didn’t know you better, I might almost suppose you were envious!”

“Perhaps not envious,” Gertrude returned as the two perfect black horses came nearer, “but who would not wish——”

Here she stopped for a moment as the carriage passed, exactly on schedule, as regular as the Pennsylvania Railroad. When the noise of hooves and wheels had receded, she resumed, still gazing at the back of the victoria.

“Oh, Newman, shall I ever ride in a carriage of my own?”

I took her hand in mine, and she turned to face me. “Gertrude,” I said, “it will always be my most cherished ambition to see that you have whatever your heart could wish for. If honest labor and intelligent investment can procure it, you shall have it.”

Gertrude blushed prettily. We walked on, and she did not relinquish my hand. At such a moment, with her delicate hand in mine, and her lovely face bathed in a golden evening light, I could almost believe that I could be happy with Gertrude alone, and that it would cost me no sorrow to give up my hopes of possessing Amelia Goode.

We walked in silence for a while; and then Gertrude said, in a low voice, “Perhaps you ought to grow a moustache.”

At the time I had no idea why she had made that suggestion, and I did not respond to it directly. But when I returned to my room that evening, I looked hard in the mirror and decided that Gertrude was right. My face, which I had kept clean-shaven, still had a certain juvenile quality; with a moustache, I might make a more impressive appearance on the world’s stage. I resolved to begin the experiment in the morning. Meanwhile, sleep called me, and I retired with pleasant thoughts of Gertrude that soon gave way to less virtuous thoughts of Amelia Goode.

The next morning was trying, and the morning after even more so. When my sisters discovered that I had left my upper lip unshaved, not through negligence, but with the deliberate intention of growing a moustache, there was no end to their raillery. “Perhaps you ought to try growing some radishes as well,” Viola suggested, which was so preternaturally witty that it caused Camellia to snort like a carthorse.

On the other hand, when I saw Gertrude three days later, she seemed pleased that I had taken her suggestion. “It will suit you, Newman,” she said with one of her enigmatic smiles.

I might as well say here that, although I have known many women in my life, not one of them could out-enigma Gertrude. It was impossible to tell what her smiles meant, and as impossible to tell what her tears meant. She was a cipher to me. It was, however, satisfying to have her approval for the moustache, which in a few more days began to look more like an ornament than like an unfortunate error in grooming.

As I write these words, I have beside me a small leather note-book in which I carefully tabulated the movements of Amelia Goode as I observed them. Each page is headed with the seven days of the week; then, if during that week I happened to see Miss Goode, I noted under the proper day the time, place, and circumstances. If she had been seen in the same place, at the same time, on the same day of a previous week, then I marked the most recent sighting with a star. In this way I learned her habits as well as she knew them herself; and, indeed, it seemed that, the more I observed her, the more regular her habits became. After two months of observation, I was able to predict with almost astronomical accuracy where she would be three evenings out of seven, which was surely all I needed for my wicked purpose.

Although, with the accumulated wisdom of my years, I can see that my scheme was rash, and liable to a thousand mishaps,—yet I still wonder whether a crime of passion had ever been plotted with such scientific rigor before. This note-book of mine gave me great pleasure during those weeks when I was plotting my enormity; it was almost as though, in possessing the knowledge of her habits, I was already in possession of some part of Miss Goode herself. The note-book was kept under my pillow, and the knowledge it contained allowed me to imagine that, in a certain sense, Amelia was my companion through the sweltering nights of July and August, when sleep was impossible until well past midnight, and my loneliness might otherwise have been insufferable. Indeed, it is a truth that I have understood only gradually, that much of the pleasure of a wicked deed lies, not in the commission of it, but in the contemplation of it beforehand.

One incident did occur during this period that complicated my efforts. I was sitting at dinner one evening when Viola, a mean-spirited smile on her face, spoke up:

“Father, were you aware that Galahad has been seeing a lady?” she asked with a voice that dripped sweet venom.

“Really?” my father responded, sounding oafishly pleased.

“Yes, Viola and I saw them in the park,” Camellia offered with the same honeyed poison in her tone. “We saw her only from the back, of course.”

“Which was fortunate for our digestions, I’m sure,” Viola added.

“Yes, do warn us next time you’re seeing her, Galahad,” Camellia said with a labored sneer, “so that we do not see her face by accident and turn to stone.” Though the girls had not seen Ger­trude’s face, they knew by deduction from first principles that any girl who associated herself with their brother must be hideous beyond description.

“I suppose she has no more than six or seven fingers on each hand,” Viola remarked after a brief silence.

At this, for some reason, my choler rose to the boiling point at last, and I actually stood up from the table. “By heaven,” I declared, “if you were a man, I’d——”

Here my father actually intervened.

“Now, girls,” he said, “you really mustn’t tease Galahad so. I’m sure he’s done nothing of the sort to you.”

This, I believe, was the only indication he ever gave me in his life that he was aware of my sisters’ mistreatment of me. He was, at least, scrupulously correct in his assertion that I had never been deliberately unkind to them,—not out of any absurd notions of decency, but simply because it was obviously wise policy never to be seen as anything other than the perfectly dutiful son and brother.

“I think it’s splendid if Galahad has a lady friend,” he continued. “First-rate.”

“Yes, perhaps she has a couple of aged uncles for you girls,” I added, and immediately regretted having spoken. But my father, having said all he could say on the subject of family harmony, said nothing more, and refused to believe that he had not restored good feeling to the table.

At any rate, I continued to see Gertrude, and now my father and my sisters were aware of it. Their awareness was rather inconsequential, I suppose, since things continued pretty much as before; but I could have done without my sisters’ relentless teasing, and certainly without my father’s congratulatory wink every time I left the house for an evening stroll with Gertrude.

I have probably never labored harder in my life than I did that summer. My first responsibility, I had decided early on, must be to the firm; and I believe I may say accurately that I discharged that responsibility in such a way that the firm had no cause for complaint. Money was beginning to come in from our canvassing agents; the department-store contracts were gratifyingly profitable; and sales at the store continued to increase. After some weeks of work, I was even able to train Bradley so effectively that he could be left to handle the female patrons by himself. I grant that it might have consumed less time and labor had I trained a Labrador retriever to do the same work; but I had no Labrador retriever, whereas I did have Bradley. The ladies, as I have already mentioned, were fond of him, especially the middle-aged middle-class matrons who made up the bulk of our patronage. But my father took a liking to him as well, so that Bradley took on much of the burden of keeping him entertained during the day. It had never occurred to me how much of my time had been wasted on entertaining my father until the arrival of Bradley relieved me of some of that responsibility.

My work for Bousted & Son in itself was a heavy labor, but I had other labors as well. I had my courtship of Gertrude to cultivate; this was by no means an unwelcome labor, but it did consume two evenings and an afternoon out of the week. Finally, my pursuit of Amelia Goode was by no means the least of my labors.

I have already intimated that I approached the matter scientifically, as it were. As summer wore on toward autumn, and my sister’s wedding preparations grew so fevered that it was advisable for me to be out of the house anyway, I began my campaign in earnest. I took to haunting some of those places where Amelia was known to appear at certain times, especially in the park. The arboretum afforded many opportunities for concealment, so it was natural that I should concentrate my efforts there. Consulting my note-book, I chose an evening when Amelia would be driving past in her carriage (not the victoria, but a wicker ladies’ summer carriage, which she always drove alone); then I simply strolled through the park myself, endeavoring to time my stroll so that I should meet Amelia just as she passed a certain dark thicket that might ultimately suit my purposes.

I must confess that I thought my first reconnaissance a poor piece of work. I arrived several minutes before Amelia passed that point, and was therefore compelled to walk back and forth in a short path; although I did my best to appear as a casual evening stroller, I seemed to attract the attention of a large man with a big stick, who eyed me suspiciously each time I passed. When at last Amelia did ride by, the man and I had to step out of her way, so that we were standing side by side, each fixing a suspicious gaze upon the other. When the carriage had passed, I vacated the area as quickly as I could, and marched back home in a foul temper. But I did not abandon my campaign.

My next expedition was more successful, in that I did not lose my nerve, and must have seemed an ordinary young gentleman out for an evening stroll of no particular consequence. Amelia passed at her scheduled time; there was no one else to see her pass but me, and I was careful not to direct my gaze directly toward her, so that she should not remember or suspect me. I might easily have accosted her at that very instant, had I not promised myself that I should only reconnoiter that evening, and not succumb to the temptation to commit my crime of passion in the heat of the moment. Any crime, to be successful, must be the product of long and careful planning, and this is never more true than with crimes of passion. Invariably the crimes of which one reads in the press, where at least the crime if not the criminal has been detected, are crimes of the moment, insufficiently thought out, and committed under the influence of a passion that clouds the judgment. I confess that I was in many ways unwise in the planning of my outrage, but I did at least possess the wisdom to see that it required planning.

I repeated my expedition the next week, and once or twice a week after that for several more weeks. Darkness fell earlier each week, but (as I had hoped) the fading light did not deter Amelia from riding at her appointed times. It would soon be quite dark when she passed my chosen thicket, which would suit my purposes admirably.

Gertrude accompanied me on some of my expeditions, quite unaware of their true purpose. “Here is Miss Goode again,” she remarked on one occasion when the 7:23 carriage passed, right on schedule. “I wonder that she still drives alone, now that it is dark.”

“Well, the gaslights are bright enough most of the way,” I said. “And would misfortune dare accost a Goode? Surely fate must have favored such an illustrious family.” I did not tell her how much I had been thinking along the same lines as she. Foolish Miss Goode! Did she not know that danger lurked in the darkness? Had she no fear of the shadows? I found myself absently twirling my moustache as I thought about it.

My next reconnaissance expedition (as I had been calling them in my own mind) to West Park went much as before, except for one disturbing observation. As I waited in the darkness for Amelia to pass, I saw once again that large man with the big stick whom I had seen on my earlier reconnaissance. He was standing in the shadows several yards down the drive. In the darkness I could see little of his face, but something in his manner convinced me that he was surveying me with deep suspicion. I stood my ground, deeming it more likely to arouse suspicion if I retreated. The large man stood his ground as well. Amelia passed on schedule; and, when I looked again for the large man, he was gone. I went on my way forming vague suspicions in my mind.

On my next stroll with Gertrude, the large man made another appearance. I did not call Gertrude’s attention to him, and I did my best to make him believe that my own attention was entirely absorbed by Gertrude. I was always careful to be modestly affectionate with Gertrude, and in this case I felt a bit more secure with her by my side as Amelia’s carriage passed. Once again, the large man vanished when the carriage had gone.

He was there again on my next venture, and now I began to entertain the most extravagant suspicions. I very nearly persuaded myself that the large man was some sort of spy in the employ of the Goode family, and that he knew, or at least suspected, my dishonorable intentions. My rational mind told me that my doubts were absurd, but I could not rid myself of the feeling that the large man’s appearances were more than coincidental. He was, at any rate, an inconvenience; he intruded on my privacy. How was I to concentrate on my evil plot if he kept popping up at the most inconvenient times?

He did not appear when I made my next expedition, and I persuaded myself that my suspicions had been groundless; but he was back the night after that, and all my fears returned with him.

In the mean time my sister and Bradley were married. We paid Bradley well enough that they were able to set themselves up in a small apartment on Resaca-street, and I was rid of one pestilential sister. Viola attempted to make herself twice as odious to make up the loss, but she could not completely succeed: there was only one of her, after all. I suppose if a woman were writing this narrative, she would fill it with details of the wedding; I have forgotten them all, except the undeniable gratitude I felt toward Bradley for ridding me of Camellia. If gratitude is a virtue, then I admit my weakness; but my life at home improved considerably with one of my sisters gone, and I resolved that, as soon as my business with Amelia was brought to a successful conclusion, I should rid myself of the other sister as well—either by marriage or by murder, whichever seemed most practicable.

You, my dear hypothetical reader of the future, must be nearly out of patience with me by now. I have been preparing my crime against the beautiful Miss Goode for more than twenty pages in manuscript, and you must be wondering whether I intend to fill the rest of the volume with this pointless dithering. I could do so; I almost have a mind to do it. But I will not. I abridge the last few weeks of my preparations by saying that I continued much as before, gradually closing my grip on Miss Goode until her habits were predictable to me down to the minute. Sometimes I went alone, and sometimes with Gertrude; sometimes I saw the large man with the big stick, and sometimes I did not. I hated that man: he was the one uncertainty in my plan, and nothing at all could be accomplished on a night when he made an appearance. Twice, after I had decided that, at last, the time for action had come, I was forced to abandon my plan when he came into view just after I arrived at my station. My frustration cannot be described to someone who has never been in a similar situation; and it is not necessary to describe it to anyone else.

But at last there came a night when I was determined to act. The sky was cloudy, so that the darkness in my chosen thicket would be complete; Miss Goode was scheduled to pass at 7:23; I knew exactly where I should be and what I should do to accomplish my object.

The day had been unseasonably warm, but now a brisk breeze had picked up; and the air was decidedly cooler, with even a slight chill. I found myself keenly aware of every aspect of my surroundings as I walked into the park. The absurd thought occurred to me that I must be feeling what a condemned man feels on his last walk to the gallows—absurd because, of course, it was Miss Goode who was condemned, not I. Every sound was louder to me; every leaf on the ground had its distinctive crunch; the odors of the mills and the grass mingled and presented themselves to my nostrils; the breeze puffed against my cheek, and I felt every puff distinctly; I heard the sound of hooves on the cobblestones in the distance, and the quiet tapping and shuffling of my own feet on the drive. My every sense was enlivened to a degree I had never felt before and have seldom felt since. It was a delightful sensation; and to my distant readers, if any such there be, I would happily recommend the commission of some enormous crime to stimulate the nerves and encourage the flow of the blood.

When at last I took my position in the little thicket I had chosen as my blind, I had great difficulty in keeping myself still and quiet. Every nerve craved action; every sinew was coiled like a watch-spring. I stood still, absently twirling my moustache, and feeling what the viper must feel before he strikes; and at last, after what seemed to be ages or aeons of waiting, I heard the distinctive sound of Miss Goode’s carriage approaching.

From my blind I could see her as she came down the drive. She was driving alone, as she always did at 7:23 on Wednesdays. It would be only a moment before I should leap into the carriage, take the reins, force the carriage into the dark alcove under the bridge, and——

———But suddenly I saw a large figure bolt from the shadows not more than ten yards from where I stood. The carriage lurched wildly, and there was a muffled scream;—I saw for an instant the outline of a large walking-stick raised against the sky;—and at that moment a blind fury, a rage such as I had never known, overcame me. That man with the big stick was attacking my Amelia! Damn him to hell! After all my months of meticulous preparation, he had the gall to try to steal my prize! Without even thinking I leaped on the carriage as it passed, my arm already swinging, my clenched fist connecting with the jaw of my opponent. He lost his balance and fell to the ground just as the carriage bumped to a stop in the grass, the horse having decided that all this activity behind was excuse enough for slacking off. Amelia was screaming; the man with the big stick was righting himself and starting to run. I leaped out after him and caught him under a gaslight, knocking his legs out from under him and throwing him to the ground. He began to fight back with some vigor. But his only encouragement was self-preservation, whereas I had months of frustration to animate me. Painful blows landed on both sides, but I hardly felt them at the time. I knew only my rage, and I pressed my advantage until my opponent fell back on the drive, striking his head on the pavement. He was still, and a quick look in the gaslight suggested that he had been rendered insensible by the blow.

I stood over him for a moment, until it occurred to me that I should feel a great deal better sitting down; so I gently lowered myself to the grass.

I heard an angel’s voice above me. “Dear sir, you are hurt,” it said, and I felt the softest hand in the world lightly touching my forehead—a touch that, soft and light as it was, still carried unexpected pain with it.

“Not very much,” I answered.

I remember nothing after that until my eyes opened in a palatial chamber I had never seen before. A moment later, the beautiful face of Miss Amelia Goode filled my vision; and for an instant I thought that perhaps I had died, and, in spite of all my evil deeds, a merciful God had admitted me to heaven.

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