It was

[Turns as toward EUGENE.] Ah, my son! my only child! I would rather be as I am, forsaken and destitute. But, no, no! If I were rich I should see them. They have hearts of stoneboth, both! I loved them too well; they gave me no love in return. A father should always be rich; he should curb his children like vicious horses !

If you knew the tender care they took of me the first year of their marriage! [Clasps head and rocks to and fro.] I had just

] given eight hundred thousand francs to each, and neither they nor their husbands could be rude to me. They welcomed me. "My good papa," "My dear papa.” I dined with their husbands; I was treated with respect. Why? Because a man who gives away a million and a half must have something left to leave. So they paid me attentions—but it was for my money.

[Leans forward as though whispering.] Fashionable people whispered to my sons-in-law. "Who is that, Monsieur ?” “The papa with the money-bags.” Ah, they looked at me with the respect due to wealth. My head, my head! I suffer, Eugene !

. ! I suffer ! It is my death-struggle. [Waving EUGENE to one side. But it is nothing, nothing compared to the first look Anastasie gave me, to make me feel I had said an ignorant thing which mortified her. That look! It bled me from every vein. I was ignorant; yes, but one thing I knew too well—there was no place for me among the living. The next day I went to Delphine to console me; and there I did an awkward thing which made her angry. I went nearly out of my mind. I was beside myself, not knowing what to do: I was afraid to go and see them, lest they should speak their minds to me. And so I was turned from their doors.

[Looks up; clasps hands.] My God! Why dost Thou let me suffer so horribly? Have I not expiated the crime of loving them too well? Ah, fathers are fools ! I loved them so well that I went back like a gambler to his play. My daughters wanted laces and jewels—and I gave that I might buy welcome. But they let me see they were ashamed of me.

The doctors ! where are they? If they would split my head with an axe, I should suffer less. [Madly.] Send for them, send for my daughters—Anastasie, Delphine! I must see them! Use force! [Staggers to his feet.] Justice is on my side; all is on my side-nature, laws! The nation will perish if fathers are trodden under foot; society, the world—all rest on fatherhood. Oh, to see them! to hear them! no matter what they say to me; their voices would calm me.

[Sinks back.] Ah, my friend, do you know what it is to see the golden glance of love change to leaden gray? I have lived only to be insulted and humiliated. I have given them all my life; they will not give me one hour to-day. I thirst, I burn; they will not come to ease my death—I am dying ! [Voice sinks. Pause. Then sternly.]

There is a God in heaven; He will avenge us. Oh, they will come! [Once more stretches out arms tenderly.] Come, my darlings! a kiss, a last kiss. I go to God, and I will tell Him that you have been good to me; I will plead for you—for you are innocent; yes, innocent. I am justly punished; my children were good, and I have spoiled them. I alone am guilty ; but guilty through love. Their voices would still my heart. [Listens.] I hear them; they come!

[Motions with his hands. Write to them that I have millions to bequeath. Avarice will bring them. I want my daughters; they are mine. If they do not come, I shall be dead! [Weeps.] I feel it coming. Had they asked me to tear out my eyes, I should liave answered, “Take them !" They thought all fathers were like me. But their own children will avenge me.

Tell them to think of their own death-beds. [Rises on arm. Points toward door.] Go, go! tell them to come. Call out! call out, as I do, "Here, Nasie! Here, Delphine! Come to your father, who has been so good to you, and who is dying."

[Falls back.] Are they coming ? No? Am I to die like a dog-abandoned, forsaken? They are wicked, they are criminal ! I hate them! I curse them! [Half rises, but struggles vainly to sit up.] I will rise from my coffin to curse them again! Oh, what am I saying? Is Delphine there? Delphine is good; but Nasie is so unhappy! And their money! Oh, let me die ! I suffer so! My head! my head! Cut it off, but leave me my heart ! I love them; I adore them. I shall recover if I see them. My sons-in-law have killed my daughters. I lost them when they

I married. Fathers ! petition for a law against marriage. [In a voice of inspiration.] No more marriages! They take our children from us, and we die desolate. [Half staggers to his feet.] Vengeance! It is my sons-in-law who keep them away from me! They assassinate me! Death, or my daughters. [Falls back.] Ah, it is finished! I die without them! I die without them! [Yearningly.]

. Fifine! Nassie ! Fifine! come. [As though he sees them.] I bless

. them! I bless [in a voice of great joy]—my angels !”



[From "The Iron Way."]

[ocr errors]

ORTY years ago, surgery was practically untried, and Alvin

Carter, a cripple, did not dream it possible that he could be made whole. But for years he had loved Viola Bernard, and when the idea was born to him that he might have his leg broken and made straight, he never halted till he found a surgeon willing to add his skill to Alvin's money and pluck.

He came through with two straight legs, the trifling shortness of one being corrected by a high heel, and presented himself at Viola's home. Mrs. Bernard, known from Sacramento to Virginia City as Sally B., had accumulated a fortune in the rapid growth of the West, and was trying to make people forget that she had once run a hotel.

Sally B. swept into the room, paused a chilling instant, and came forward with her most imposing society manner.

"Why, Mr. Carter! This is elegant to see you! Elegant

[ocr errors]

weather, isn't it? When did you come to the Bay? Elegant time of year to visit at the Bay, now, ain't it? I read of the crack operation the doctors performed on you, Mr. Carter. I congratulate you on its bein' O. K. It's an elegant improvement. Won't you set-sit?"

She did not even look at him. Blindly he groped for a chair, his eyes burning as if she had slapped them. Had he but known, Sally B.'s keen vision had instantly approved his erect manliness, his resolute countenance. Her heart warmed to him. Yet ambition held the rein. She left him no opportunity for personal topics.

“Do tell me something about the railroad. I miss it powerful— ly.”

“I've just returned from the Front; got back yesterday.”

“Oh, go— She hesitated. He knew she was going to say "gosh!" and his self-possession flew home again.

“I'm just that hungry to hear all about things. Where'd they run the line? Across by Battle Mountain—I know that; ang where else?”

"They run a hundred lines, I guess; just kept the surveyors sticking pins into the whole American Desert till they'd picked out the best one. They were 'way by Toano when I left.”

“I know that place; come acrost there in ’54. Paw emigrated from Oregon to Salt Lake, didn't like it, an' come over to Californy–California.”

Alvin breathed freely. “My! but it's cold over there!"

“I bet it is,” she endorsed, emphatically. “How's Charley Crocker, an' Gregory, an' all the rest? Lord! I can smell the

’ ' sagebrush now !"

“Working like blazes ! Laying track by moonlight and stars! Just think of that! And big sagebrush bonfires to help out. It was the strangest sight; the men looked like goblins, and the hammer-blows sounded far away, and made you creep.”

“Gosh! They must be runnin' them U. P. folks hard."

“Not so hard as I'd like to see. The U. P.'s are coming like lightning, just a-whoopin' 'em up! They have a man for every rod for a hundred miles. Glory! I wish our folks could hurry up some of those thirty-five ironships out on the ocean, and scare up more men.”

“By jinks! It's plumb good to talk railroad once more.”

[ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]

Alvin squared about in his chair. “Mrs. Bernard, I've come for Viola. Will you let me have her peaceably, or must I make a row about it?" He was quite himself; and Sally B. knew that no glamor of luxury could frighten him now.

“She won't have you, Al. I'm sorry, but-"

“No, you ain't sorry; and that isn't the truth, anyway. It's you that won't have me; and Vi'll break her heart to please you.” He rose and stood before her.

Sally B. flinched. "See here, Al! Vi's done without you a long time. She's taken the edi-education we've give her like a thoroughbred. And she's beautiful-you hain't seen Vi lately; you don't know how handsome she is.”

“Yes, I do! I've read every scrap of the lots the papers have said of her. I've sent to the galleries for her pictures. She's a little princess.”

"Every bit, an' better! Now, Al, we've give Vi culture; an' she's took to culture like a salmon to fresh water in spawnin' time. She's got the style for culture, an' the tin to set it off. An' these big-bugs round here that's long on culture, too, they see it in Vi, an' take her right into their set. There's Freddy Bryan-you know who he is?"

Alvin nodded.

“Well, he's stuck on her, bad. An' there's that English lord, Lawrence; I don't know but he's her fyansee by now; he was here this afternoon. Maybe he ain't gone yet.”

Alvin looked at the floor and said nothing.

“Think of havin' an English lord for a son-in-law! Or at any rate, Freddy Bryan!”

“But what sort of a figure would you and Bill Bernard cut with that kind of people?”


« 上一页继续 »