Wednesday, October 17, 2007


Tom Grogan by F. Hopkinson Smith

Tom Grogan by F. Hopkinson Smith
Something worried Babcock. One could see that from the impatient
gesture with which he turned away from the ferry window on
learning he had half an hour to wait. He paced the slip with
hands deep in his pockets, his head on his chest. Every now and
then he stopped, snapped open his watch and shut it again quickly,
as if to hurry the lagging minutes.
For the first time in years Tom Grogan, who had always unloaded
his boats, had failed him. A scow loaded with stone for the
sea-wall that Babcock was building for the Lighthouse Department
had lain three days at the government dock without a bucket having
been swung across her decks. His foreman had just reported that
there was not enough material to last the concrete-mixers two
hours. If Grogan did not begin work at once, the divers must come
Heretofore to turn over to Grogan the unloading of material for
any submarine work had been like feeding grist to a mill--so many
tons of concrete stone loaded on the scows by the stone crushing
company had meant that exact amount delivered by Grogan on
Babcock's mixing-platforms twenty-four hours after arrival, ready
for the divers below. This was the way Grogan had worked, and he
had required no watching.
Babcock's impatience did not cease even when he took his seat on
the upper deck of the ferry-boat and caught the welcome sound of
the paddles sweeping back to the landing at St. George. He
thought of his men standing idle, and of the heavy penalties which
would be inflicted by the Government if the winter caught him
before the section of wall was complete. It was no way to serve a
man, he kept repeating to himself, leaving his gangs idle, now
when the good weather might soon be over and a full day's work
could never be counted upon. Earlier in the season Grogan's delay
would not have been so serious.
But one northeaster as yet had struck the work. This had carried
away some of the upper planking--the false work of the coffer-dam;
but this had been repaired in a few hours without delay or serious
damage. After that the Indian summer had set in--soft, dreamy
days when the winds dozed by the hour, the waves nibbled along the
shores, and the swelling breast of the ocean rose and fell as if
in gentle slumber.
But would this good weather last? Babcock rose hurriedly, as this
anxiety again took possession of him, and leaned over the
deck-rail, scanning the sky. He did not like the drift of the low
clouds off to the west; southeasters began that way. It looked as
though the wind might change.
Some men would not have worried over these possibilities. Babcock
did. He was that kind of man.
When the boat touched the shore, he sprang over the chains, and
hurried through the ferry-slip.
"Keep an eye out, sir," the bridge-tender called after him,--he
had been directing him to Grogan's house,--"perhaps Tom may be on
the road."
Then it suddenly occurred to Babcock that, so far as he could
remember, he had never seen Mr. Thomas Grogan, his stevedore. He
knew Grogan's name, of course, and would have recognized his
signature affixed to the little cramped notes with which his
orders were always acknowledged, but the man himself might have
passed unnoticed within three feet of him. This is not unusual
where the work of a contractor lies in scattered places, and he
must often depend on strangers in the several localities.
As he hurried over the road he recalled the face of Grogan's
foreman, a big blond Swede, and that of Grogan's daughter, a
slender fair-haired girl, who once came to the office for her
father's pay; but all efforts at reviving the lineaments of Grogan
With this fact clear in his mind, he felt a tinge of
disappointment. It would have relieved his temper to unload a
portion of it upon the offending stevedore. Nothing cools a man's
wrath so quickly as not knowing the size of the head he intends to
As he approached near enough to the sea-wall to distinguish the
swinging booms and the puffs of white steam from the
hoisting-engines, he saw that the main derrick was at work
lowering the buckets of mixed concrete to the divers. Instantly
his spirits rose. The delay on his contract might not be so
serious. Perhaps, after all, Grogan had started work.
When he reached the temporary wooden fence built by the
Government, shutting off the view of the depot yard, with its
coal-docks and machine-shops, and neared the small door cut
through its planking, a voice rang out clear and strong above the
din of the mixers:--
"Hold on, ye wall-eyed macaroni! Do ye want that fall cut? Turn
that snatch-block, Cully, and tighten up the watch-tackle. Here,
cap'n; lend a hand. Lively now, lively, before I straighten out
the hull gang of ye!"
The voice had a ring of unquestioned authority. It was not
quarrelsome or abusive or bullying--only earnest and forceful.
"Ease away on that guy! Ease away, I tell ye!" it continued,
rising in intensity. "So--all gone! Now, haul out, Cully, and
let that other team back up."
Babcock pushed open the door in the fence and stepped in. A
loaded scow lay close beside the string-piece of the government
wharf. Alongside its forward hatch was rigged a derrick with a
swinging gaff. The "fall" led through a snatch-block in the
planking of the dock, and operated an iron bucket that was hoisted
by a big gray horse driven by a boy. A gang of men were filling
these buckets, and a number of teams being loaded with their
dumped contents. The captain of the scow was on the dock, holding
the guy.
At the foot of the derrick, within ten feet of Babcock, stood a
woman perhaps thirty-five years of age, with large, clear gray
eyes, made all the more luminous by the deep, rich color of her
sunburnt skin. Her teeth were snow-white, and her light brown
hair was neatly parted over a wide forehead. She wore a long
ulster half concealing her well-rounded, muscular figure, and a
black silk hood rolled back from her face, the strings falling
over her broad shoulders, revealing a red silk scarf loosely wound
about her throat, the two ends tucked in her bosom. Her feet were
shod in thick-soled shoes laced around her well-turned ankles, and
her hands were covered by buckskin gauntlets creased with wear.
From the outside breast-pocket of her ulster protruded a
time-book, from which dangled a pencil fastened to a hempen
string. Every movement indicated great physical strength, perfect
health, and a thorough control of herself and her surroundings.
Coupled with this was a dignity and repose unmistakable to those
who have watched the handling of large bodies of workingmen by
some one leading spirit, master in every tone of the voice and
every gesture of the body. The woman gave Babcock a quick glance
of interrogation as he entered, and, receiving no answer, forgot
him instantly.
"Come, now, ye blatherin' Dagos,"--this time to two Italian
shovelers filling the buckets,--" shall I throw one of ye
overboard to wake ye up, or will I take a hand meself? Another
shovel there--that bucket's not half full"--drawing one hand from
her side pocket and pointing with an authoritative gesture,
breaking as suddenly into a good-humored laugh over the
awkwardness of their movements.
Babcock, with all his curiosity aroused, watched her for a moment,
forgetting for the time his own anxieties. He liked a skilled
hand, and he liked push and grit. This woman seemed to possess
all three. He was amazed at the way in which she handled her men.
He wished somebody as clearheaded and as capable were unloading
his boat. He began to wonder who she might be. There was no
mistaking her nationality. Slight as was her accent, her direct
descent from the land of the shamrock and the shilla-lah was not
to be doubted. The very tones of her voice seemed saturated with
its national spirit--"a flower for you when you agree with me, and
a broken head when you don't." But underneath all these outward
indications of dominant power and great physical strength he
detected in the lines of the mouth and eyes a certain refinement
of nature. There was, too, a fresh, rosy wholesomeness, a sweet
cleanliness, about the woman. These, added to the noble lines of
her figure, would have appealed to one as beauty, and only that
had it not been that the firm mouth, well-set chin, and deep,
penetrating glance of the eye overpowered all other impressions.
Babcock moved down beside her.
"Can you tell me, madam, where I can find Thomas Grogan?"
"Right in front of ye," she answered, turning quickly, with a toss
of her head like that of a great hound baffled in hunt. "I'm Tom
Grogan. What can I do for ye?"
"Not Grogan the stevedore?" Babcock asked in astonishment.
"Yes, Grogan the stevedore. Come! Make it short,--what can I do
for ye?"
"Then this must be my boat. I came down"--
"Ye're not the boss?"--looking him over slowly from his feet up, a
good-natured smile irradiating her face, her eyes beaming, every
tooth glistening. "There's me hand, I'm glad to see ye. I've
worked for ye off and on for four years, and niver laid eyes on ye
till this minute. Don't say a word. I know it. I've kept the
concrete gangs back half a day, but I couldn't help it. I've had
four horses down with the 'zooty, and two men laid up with
dip'thery. The Big Gray Cully's drivin' over there--the one
that's a-hoistin'--ain't fit to be out of the stables. If ye
weren't behind in the work, he'd have two blankets on him this
minute. But I'm here meself now, and I'll have her out to-night
if I work till daylight. Here, cap'n, pull yerself together.
This is the boss."
Then catching sight of the boy turning a handspring behind the
horse, she called out again:--
"Now, look here, Cully, none of your skylarkin'. There's the
dinner whistle. Unhitch the Big Gray; he's as dry as a bone."
The boy loosened the traces and led the horse to water, and
Babcock, after a word with the Captain, and an encouraging smile
to Tom, turned away. He meant to go to the engineer's office
before his return to town, now that his affairs with Grogan were
settled. As he swung back the door in the board fence, he
stumbled over a mere scrap of humanity carrying a dinner-pail.
The mite was peering through the crack and calling to Cully at the
horse-trough. He proved to be a boy of perhaps seven or eight
years of age, but with the face of an old man--pinched, weary, and
scarred all over with suffering and pain. He wore a white
tennis-cap pulled over his eyes, and a short gray jacket that
reached to his waist. Under one arm was a wooden crutch. His
left leg was bent at the knee, and swung clear when he jerked his
little body along the ground. The other, though unhurt, was thin
and bony, the yarn stocking wrinkling over the shrunken calf.
Beside him stood a big billy-goat, harnessed to a two-wheeled cart
made of a soap-box.
As Babcock stepped aside to let the boy pass he heard Cully
shouting in answer to the little cripple's cries. "Cheese it,
Patsy. Here's Pete Lathers comin' down de yard. Look out fer
Stumpy. He'll have his dog on him."
Patsy laid down the pail and crept through the door again, drawing
the crutch after him. The yardmaster passed with a bulldog at his
heels, and touching his hat to the contractor, turned the corner
of the coal-shed.
"What is your name?" said Babcock gently. A cripple always
appealed to him, especially a child.
"My name's Patsy, sir," looking straight up into Babcock's eyes,
the goat nibbling at his thin hand.
"And who are you looking for?"
"I come down with mother's dinner, sir. She's here working on the
dock. There she is now."
"I thought ye were niver comin' wid that dinner, darlint," came a
woman's voice. "What kept ye? Stumpy was tired, was he? Well,
niver mind."
The woman lifted the little fellow in her arms, pushed back his
cap and smoothed his hair with her fingers, her whole face beaming
with tenderness.
"Gimme the crutch, darlint, and hold on to me tight, and we'll get
under the shed out of the sun till I see what Jennie's sent me."
At this instant she caught Babcock's eye.
"Oh, it's the boss. Sure, I thought ye'd gone back. Pull the hat
off ye, me boy; it's the boss we're workin' for, the man that's
buildin' the wall. Ye see, sir, when I'm driv' like I am to-day,
I can't go home to dinner, and me Jennie sends
me--big--man--Patsy--down"--rounding out each word in a pompous
tone, as she slipped her hand under the boy's chin and kissed him
on the cheek.
After she had propped him between two big spars, she lifted the
cover of the tin pail.
"Pigs' feet, as I'm alive, and hot cabbage, and the coffee
a-b'ilin' too!" she said, turning to the boy and pulling out a tin
flask with a screw top, the whole embedded in the smoking cabbage.
"There, we'll be after puttin' it where Stumpy can't be rubbin'
his nose in it"--setting the pail, as she spoke, on a rough
Here the goat moved up, rubbing his head in the boy's face, and
then reaching around for the pail.
"Look at him, Patsy! Git out, ye imp, or I'll hurt ye! Leave
that kiver alone!" She laughed as she struck at the goat with her
empty gauntlet, and shrank back out of the way of his horns.
There was no embarrassment over her informal dinner, eaten as she
sat squat in a fence-corner, an anchor-stone for a table, and a
pile of spars for a chair. She talked to Babcock in an unabashed,
self-possessed way, pouring out the smoking coffee in the flask
cup, chewing away on the pigs' feet, and throwing the bones to the
goat, who sniffed them contemptuously. "Yes, he's the youngest of
our children, sir. He and Jennie--that's home, and 'most as tall
as meself--are all that's left. The other two went to heaven when
they was little ones."
"Can't the little fellow's leg be straightened?" asked Babcock, in
a tone which plainly showed his sympathy for the boy's suffering.
"No, not now; so Dr. Mason says. There was a time when it might
have been, but I couldn't take him. I had him over to Quarantine
again two years ago, but it was too late; it'd growed fast, they
said. When he was four years old he would be under the horses'
heels all the time, and a-climbin' over them in the stable, and
one day the Big Gray fetched him a crack, and broke his hip. He
didn't mean it, for he's as dacint a horse as I've got; but the
boys had been a-worritin' him, and he let drive, thinkin', most
likely, it was them. He's been a-hoistin' all the mornin'."
Then, catching sight of Cully leading the horse back to work, she
rose to her feet, all the fire and energy renewed in her face.
"Shake the men up, Cully! I can't give 'em but half an hour
to-day. We're behind time now. And tell the cap'n to pull them
macaronis out of the hold, and start two of 'em to trimmin' some
of that stone to starboard. She was a-listin' when we knocked off
for dinner. Come, lively!"
The work on the sea-wall progressed. The coffer-dam which had
been built by driving into the mud of the bottom a double row of
heavy tongued and grooved planking in two parallel rows, and
bulkheading each end with heavy boards, had been filled with
concrete to low-water mark, consuming not only the contents of the
delayed scow, but two subsequent cargoes, both of which had been
unloaded by Tom Grogan.
To keep out the leakage, steam-pumps were kept going night and
By dint of hard work the upper masonry of the wall had been laid
to the top course, ready for the coping, and there was now every
prospect that the last stone would be lowered into place before
the winter storms set in.
The shanty--a temporary structure, good only for the life of the
work--rested on a set of stringers laid on extra piles driven
outside of the working-platform. When the submarine work lies
miles from shore, a shanty is the only shelter for the men, its
interior being arranged with sleeping-bunks, with one end
partitioned off for a kitchen and a storage-room. This last is
filled with perishable property, extra blocks, Manila rope,
portable forges, tools, shovels, and barrows.
For this present sea-wall--an amphibious sort of structure, with
one foot on land and the other in the water--the shanty was of
light pine boards, roofed over, and made water-tight by tarred
paper. The bunks had been omitted, for most of the men boarded in
the village. In this way increased space for the storage of tools
was gained, besides room for a desk containing the government
working drawings and specifications, pay- rolls, etc. In addition
to its door, fastened at night with a padlock, and its one glass
window, secured by a ten-penny nail, the shanty had a flap-window,
hinged at the bottom. When this was propped up with a barrel
stave it made a counter from which to pay the men, the paymaster
standing inside.
Babcock was sitting on a keg of dock spikes inside this working
shanty some days after he had discovered Tom's identity, watching
his bookkeeper preparing the pay-roll, when a face was thrust
through the square of the window. It was not a prepossessing
face, rather pudgy and sleek, with uncertain, drooping mouth, and
eyes that always looked over one's head when he talked. It was
the property of Mr. Peter Lathers, the yardmaster of the depot.
"When you're done payin' off maybe you'll step outside, sir," he
said, in a confiding tone. "I got a friend of mine who wants to
know you. He's a stevedore, and does the work to the fort. He's
never done nothin' for you, but I told him next time you come down
I'd fetch him over. Say, Dan!" beckoning with his head over his
shoulder; then, turning to Babcock,--"I make you acquainted, sir,
with Mr. Daniel McGaw."
Two faces now filled the window--Lathers's and that of a
red-headed man in a straw hat.
"All right. I'll attend to you in a moment. Glad to see you, Mr.
McGaw," said Babcock, rising from the keg, and looking over his
bookkeeper's shoulder.
Lathers's friend proved to be a short, big-boned,
square-shouldered Irishman, about forty years of age, dressed in a
once black broadcloth suit with frayed buttonholes, the lapels and
vest covered with grease-spots. Around his collar, which had done
service for several days, was twisted a red tie decorated with a
glass pin. His face was spattered with blue powder-marks, as if
from some quarry explosion. A lump of a mustache dyed dark brown
concealed his upper lip, making all the more conspicuous the
bushy, sandy-colored eyebrows that shaded a pair of treacherous
eyes. His mouth was coarse and filled with teeth half worn off,
like those of an old horse. When he smiled these opened slowly
like a vise. Whatever of humor played about this opening lost its
life instantly when these jaws clicked together again.
The hands were big and strong, wrinkled and seamed, their rough
backs spotted like a toad's, the wrists covered with long spidery
Babcock noticed particularly his low, flat forehead when he
removed his hat, and the dry, red hair growing close to the
"I wuz a-sp'akin' to me fri'nd Mister Lathers about doin' yer
wurruk," began McGaw, resting one foot on a pile of barrow-planks,
his elbow on his knee. "I does all the haulin' to the foort.
Surgint Duffy knows me. I wuz along here las' week, an' see ye
wuz put back fer stone. If I'd had the job, I'd had her unloaded
two days befoore."
"You're dead right, Dan," said Lathers, with an expression of
disgust. "This woman business ain't no good, nohow. She ought to
be over her tubs."
"She does her work, though," Babcock said, beginning to see the
drift of things.
"Oh, I don't be sayin' she don't. She's a dacint woman, anough;
but thim b'ys as is a-runnin' her carts is raisin' h--ll all the
"And then look at the teams," chimed in Lathers, with a jerk of
his thumb toward the dock--"a lot of staggering horse-car wrecks
you couldn't sell to a glue-factory. That big gray she had
a-hoistin' is blind of an eye and sprung so forrard he can't
hardly stand."
At this moment the refrain of a song from somewhere near the board
fence came wafting through the air,--
"And he wiped up the floor wid McGeechy."
McGaw turned his head in search of the singer, and not finding
him, resumed his position.
"What are your rates per ton?" asked Babcock.
"We're a-chargin' forty cints," said McGaw, deferring to Lathers,
as if for confirmation.
"Who's 'we'?"
"The Stevedores' Union."
"But Mrs. Grogan is doing it for thirty," said Babcock, looking
straight into McGaw's eyes, and speaking slowly and deliberately.
"Yis, I heared she wuz a-cuttin' rates; but she can't live at it.
If I does it, it'll be done roight, an' no throuble."
"I'll think it over," said Babcock quietly, turning on his heel.
The meanness of the whole affair offended him--two big, strong men
vilifying a woman with no protector but her two hands. McGaw
should never lift a shovel for him.
Again the song floated out; this time it seemed nearer,--
". . . wid McGeechy--
McGeechy of the Fourth."
"Dan McGaw's giv'n it to you straight," said Lathers, stopping for
a last word, his face thrust through the window again. "He's
rigged for this business, and Grogan ain't in it with him. If she
wants her work done right, she ought to send down something with a
Here the song subsided in a prolonged chuckle. McGaw turned, and
caught sight of a boy's head, with its mop of black hair thrust
through a crownless hat, leaning over a water cask. Lathers
turned, too, and instantly lowered his voice. The head ducked out
of sight. In the flash glance Babcock caught of the face, he
recognized the boy Cully, Patsy's friend, and the driver of the
Big Gray. It was evident to Babcock that Cully at that moment was
bubbling over with fun. Indeed, this waif of the streets,
sometimes called James Finnegan, was seldom known to be otherwise.
"Thet's the wurrst rat in the stables," said McGaw, his face
reddening with anger. "What kin ye do whin ye're a-buckin' ag'in'
a lot uv divils loike him?"--speaking through the window to
Babcock. "Come out uv thet," he called to Cully, "or I'll bu'st
yer jaw, ye sneakin' rat!"
Cully came out, but not in obedience to McGaw or Lathers. Indeed,
he paid no more attention to either of those distinguished
diplomats than if they had been two cement-barrels standing on
end. His face, too, had lost its irradiating smile; not a wrinkle
or a pucker ruffled its calm surface. His clay-soiled hat was in
his hand--a very dirty hand, by the way, with the torn cuff of his
shirt hanging loosely over it. His trousers bagged everywhere--at
knees, seat, and waist. On his stockingless feet were a pair of
sun-baked, brick-colored shoes. His ankles were as dark as
mahogany. His throat and chest were bare, the skin tanned to
leather wherever the sun could work its way through the holes in
his garments. From out of this combination of dust and rags shone
a pair of piercing black eyes, snapping with fun.
"I come up fer de mont's pay," he said coolly to Babcock, the
corner of his eye glued to Lathers. "De ole woman said ye'd hev
it ready."
"Mrs. Grogan's?" asked the bookkeeper, shuffling over his
"Yep. Tom Grogan."
"Can you sign the pay-roll?"
"You bet"--with an eye still out for Lathers.
"Where did you learn to write--at school?" asked Babcock, noting
the boy's independence with undisguised pleasure.
"Naw. Patsy an' me studies nights. Pop Mullins teaches us--he's
de ole woman's farder what she brung out from Ireland. He's
a-livin' up ter de shebang; dey're all a-livin' dere--Jinnie an'
de ole woman an' Patsy--all 'cept me an' Carl. I bunks in wid de
Big Gray. Say, mister, ye'd oughter git onter Patsy--he's de
little kid wid de crutch. He's a corker, he is; reads po'try an'
everythin'. Where'll I sign? Oh, I see; in dis'ere square hole
right along-side de ole woman's name"--spreading his elbows, pen
in hand, and affixing "James Finnegan" to the collection of
autographs. The next moment he was running along the dock, the
money envelope tight in his hand, sticking out his tongue at
McGaw, and calling to Lathers as he disappeared through the door
in the fence, "Somp'n wid a mustache, somp'n wid a mustache," like
a news-boy calling an extra. Then a stone grazed Lathers's ear.
Lathers sprang through the gate, but the boy was half way through
the yard. It was this flea-like alertness that always saved Mr.
Finnegan's scalp.
Once out of Lathers's reach, Cully bounded up the road like a
careering letter X, with arms and legs in air. If there was any
one thing that delighted the boy's soul, it was, to quote from his
own picturesque vocabulary, "to set up a job on de ole woman."
Here was his chance. Before he reached the stable he had planned
the whole scene, even to the exact intonation of Lathers's voice
when he referred to the dearth of mustaches in the Grogan
household. Within a few minutes of his arrival the details of the
whole occurrence, word for word, with such picturesque additions
as his own fertile imagination could invent, were common talk
about the yard.
Lathers meanwhile had been called upon to direct a gang of
laborers who were moving an enormous iron buoy-float down the
cinder-covered path to the dock. Two of the men walked beside the
buoy, steadying it with their hands. Lathers was leaning against
the board fence of the shop whittling a stick, while the others
Suddenly there was an angry cry for Lathers, and every man stood
still. So did the buoy and the moving truck.
With head up, eyes blazing, her silk hood pushed back from her
face, as if to give her air, her gray ulster open to her waist,
her right hand bare of a glove, came Tom Grogan, brushing the men
out of her way.
"I knew I'd find you, Pete Lathers," she said, facing him
squarely; "why do ye want to be takin' the bread out of me
children's mouths?"
The stick dropped from Lathers's hand: "Well, who said I did?
What have I got to do with your"--
"You've got enough to do with 'em, you and your friend McGaw, to
want 'em to starve. Have I ever hurt ye that ye should try an'
sneak me business away from me? Ye know very well the fight I've
made, standin' out on this dock, many a day an' night, in the cold
an' wet, with nothin' between Tom's children an' the street but
these two hands--an' yet ye'd slink in like a dog to get me"--
"Here, now, I ain't a-goin' to have no row," said Lathers,
twitching his shoulders. "It's against orders, an' I'll call the
yard-watch, and throw you out if you make any fuss."
"The yard-watch!" said Tom, with a look of supreme contempt. "I
can handle any two of 'em, an' ye too, an' ye know it." Her
cheeks were aflame. She crowded Lathers so closely his slinking
figure hugged the fence.
By this time the gang had abandoned the buoy, and were standing
aghast, watching the fury of the Amazon.
"Now, see here, don't make a muss; the commandant'll be down here
in a minute."
"Let him come; he's the one I want to see. If he knew he had a
man in his pay that would do as dirty a trick to a woman as ye've
done to me, his name would be Dinnis. I'll see him meself this
very day, and"--
Here Lathers interrupted with an angry gesture.
"Don't ye lift yer arm at me," she blazes out, "or I'll break it
at the wrist!"
Lathers's hand dropped. All the color was out of his face, his
lip quivering.
"Whoever said I said a word against you, Mrs. Grogan, is a--liar."
It was the last resort of a cowardly nature.
"Stop lyin' to me, Pete Lathers! If there's anythin' in this
world I hate, it's a liar. Ye said it, and ye know ye said it.
Ye want that drunken loafer Dan McGaw to get me work. Ye've been
at it all summer, an' ye think I haven't watched ye; but I have.
And ye say I don't pay full wages, and have got a lot of boys to
do men's work, an' oughter be over me tubs. Now let me tell
ye"--Lathers shrank back, cowering before her--"if ever I hear ye
openin' yer head about me, or me teams, or me work, I'll make ye
swallow every tooth in yer head. Send down somethin' with a
mustache, will I? There's not a man in the yard that's a match
for me, an' ye know it. Let one of 'em try that."
Her uplifted fist, tight-clenched, shot past Lathers's ear. A
quick blow, a plank knocked clear of its fastenings, and a flood
of daylight broke in behind Lathers's head!
"Now, the next time I come, Pete Lathers," she said firmly, "I'll
miss the plank and take yer face."
Then she turned, and stalked out of the yard.
The bad weather so long expected finally arrived. An afternoon of
soft, warm autumn skies, aglow with the radiance of the setting
sun, and brilliant in violet and gold, had been followed by a
cold, gray morning. Of a sudden a cloud the size of a hand had
mounted clear of the horizon, and called together its fellows. An
unseen herald in the east blew a blast, and winds and sea awoke.
By nine o'clock a gale was blowing. By ten Babcock's men were
bracing the outer sheathing of the coffer-dam, strengthening the
derrick-guys, tightening the anchor-lines, and clearing the
working-platforms of sand, cement, and other damageable property.
The course-masonry, fortunately, was above the water-line, but the
coping was still unset and the rubble backing of much of the wall
unfinished. Two weeks of constant work were necessary before that
part of the structure contained in the first section of the
contract would be entirely safe for the coming winter. Babcock
doubled his gangs, and utilized every hour of low water to the
utmost, even when the men stood waist-deep. It was his only hope
for completing the first section that season. After that would
come the cold, freezing the mortar, and ending everything.
Tom Grogan performed wonders. Not only did she work her teams far
into the night, but during all this bad weather she stood
throughout the day on the unprotected dock, a man's sou'wester
covering her head, a rubber waterproof reaching to her feet. She
directed every boat-load herself, and rushed the materials to the
shovelers, who stood soaking wet in the driving rain.
Lathers avoided her; so did McGaw. Everybody else watched her in
admiration. Even the commandant, a bluff, gray-bearded naval
officer,--a hero of Hampton Roads and Memphis,--passed her on his
morning inspection with a kindly look in his face and an aside to
Babcock: "Hire some more like her. She is worth a dozen men."
Not until the final cargo required for the completion of the wall
had been dumped on the platforms did she relax her vigilance.
Then she shook the water from her oilskins and started for home.
During all these hours of constant strain there was no outbreak of
bravado, no spell of ill humor. She made no boasts or promises.
With a certain buoyant pluck she stood by the derricks day after
day, firing volleys of criticism or encouragement, as best suited
the exigencies of the moment, now she sprang forward to catch a
sagging bucket, now tended a guy to relieve a man, or handled the
teams herself when the line of carts was blocked or stalled.
Every hour she worked increased Babcock's confidence and
admiration. He began to feel a certain pride in her, and to a
certain extent to rely upon her. Such capacity, endurance, and
loyalty were new in his experience. If she owed him anything for
her delay on that first cargo, the debt had been amply paid. Yet
he saw that no such sense of obligation had influenced her. To
her this extra work had been a duty: he was behind-hand with the
wall, and anxious; she would help him out. As to the weather, she
reveled in it. The dash of the spray and the driving rain only
added to her enjoyment. The clatter of rattling buckets and the
rhythmic movement of the shovelers keeping time to her orders made
a music as dear to her as that of the steady tramp of men and the
sound of arms to a division commander.
Owing to the continued bad weather and the difficulty of shipping
small quantities of fuel, the pumping-engines ran out of coal, and
a complaint from Babcock's office brought the agent of the coal
company to the sea-wall. In times like these Babcock rarely left
his work. Once let the Old Man of the Sea, as he knew, get his
finger in between the cracks of a coffer-dam, and he would smash
the whole into wreckage.
"I was on my way to see Tom Grogan," said the agent. "I heard you
were here, so I stopped to tell you about the coal. There will be
a load down in the morning. I am Mr. Crane, of Crane & Co.,
"You know Mrs. Grogan, then?" asked Babcock, after the delay in
the delivery of the coal had been explained. He had been waiting
for some such opportunity to discover more about his stevedore.
He never discussed personalities with his men.
"Well, I should say so--known her for years. Best woman on top of
Staten Island. Does she work for you?"
"Yes, and has for some years; but I must confess I never knew
Grogan was a woman until I found her on the dock a few weeks ago,
handling a cargo. She works like a machine. How long has she
been a widow?"
"Well, come to think of it, I don't know that she is a widow.
There's some mystery about the old man, but I never knew what.
But that don't count; she's good enough as she is, and a hustler,
Crane was something of a hustler himself--one of those busy
Americans who opens his daily life with an office-key and closes
it with a letter for the late mail. He was a restless, wiry,
black-eyed little man, never still for a moment, and perpetually
in chase of another eluding dollar,--which half the time he
Then, laying his hand on Babcock's arm: "And she's square as a
brick, too. Sometimes when a chunker captain, waiting to unload,
shoves a few tons aboard a sneak-boat at night, Tom will spot him
every time. They try to fool her into indorsing their bills of
lading in full, but it don't work for a cent."
"You call her Tom Grogan?" Babcock asked, with a certain tone in
his voice. He resented, somehow, Crane's familiarity.
"Certainly. Everybody calls her Tom Grogan. It's her husband's
name. Call her anything else, and she don't answer. She seems to
glory in it, and after you know her a while you don't want to call
her anything else yourself. It comes kind of natural--like your
calling a man 'colonel' or 'judge."
Babcock could not but admit that Crane might be right. All the
names which could apply to a woman who had been sweetheart, wife,
and mother seemed out of place when he thought of this undaunted
spirit who had defied Lathers, and with one blow of her fist sent
the splinters of a fence flying about his head.
"We've got the year's contract for coal at the fort," continued
Crane. "The quarter-master-sergeant who inspects it--Sergeant
Duffy--has a friend named McGaw who wants to do the unloading into
the government bins. There's a low price on the coal, and there's
no margin for anybody; and if Duffy should kick about the quality
of the coal,--and you can't please these fellows if they want to
be ugly,--Crane & Co. will be in a hole, and lose money on the
contract. I hate to go back on Tom Grogan, but there's no help
for it. The ten cents a ton I'd save if she hauls the coal
instead of McGaw would be eaten up in Duffy's short weights and
rejections. I sent Sergeant Duffy's letter to her, so she can
tell how the land lies, and I'm going up now to her house to see
her, on my way to the fort. I don't know what Duffy will get out
of it; perhaps he gets a few dollars out of the hauling. The coal
is shipped, by the way, and ought to be here any minute."
"Wait; I'll go with you," said Babcock, handing him an order for
more coal. "She hasn't sent down the tally-sheet for my last
scow." There was not the slightest necessity, of course, for
Babcock to go to Grogan's house for this document.
As they walked on, Crane talked of everything except what was
uppermost in Babcock's mind. Babcock tried to lead the
conversation back to Tom, but Crane's thoughts were on something
When they reached the top of the hill, the noble harbor lay spread
out beneath them, from the purple line of the great cities to the
silver sheen of the sea inside the narrows. The clearing wind had
hauled to the northwest. The sky was heaped with soft clouds
floating in the blue. At the base of the hill nestled the
buildings and wharves of the Lighthouse Depot, with the unfinished
sea-wall running out from the shore, fringed with platforms and
bristling with swinging booms--the rings of white steam twirling
from the exhaust-pipes.
On either side of the vast basin lay two grim, silent forts,
crouched on grassy slopes like great beasts with claws concealed.
Near by, big lazy steamers, sullen and dull, rested motionless at
Quarantine, awaiting inspection; while beyond, white-winged
graceful yachts curved tufts of foam from their bows. In the
open, elevators rose high as church steeples; long lines of
canal-boats stretched themselves out like huge water-snakes, with
hissing tugs for heads; enormous floats groaned under whole trains
of cars; big, burly lighters drifted slowly with widespread
oil-stained sails; monster derricks towered aloft, derricks that
pick up a hundred-ton gun as easily as an ant does a grain of
sand--each floating craft made necessary by some special industry
peculiar to the port of New York, and each unlike any other craft
in the harbor of any other city of the world.
Grogan's house and stables lay just over the brow of this hill, in
a little hollow. The house was a plain, square frame dwelling,
with front and rear verandas, protected by the arching branches of
a big sycamore- tree, and surrounded by a small garden filled with
flaming dahlias and chrysanthemums. Everything about the place
was scrupulously neat and clean.
The stables--there were two--stood on the lower end of the lot.
They looked new, or were newly painted in a dark red, and appeared
to have accommodations for a number of horses. The stable-yard
lay below the house. In its open square were a pump and a
horse-trough, at which two horses were drinking. One, the Big
Gray, had his collar off, showing where the sweat had discolored
the skin, the traces crossed loosely over his back. He was
drinking eagerly, and had evidently just come in from work.
About, under the sheds, were dirt-carts tilted forward on their
shafts, and dust-begrimed harnesses hanging on wooden pegs.
A strapping young fellow in a red shirt came out of the stable
door leading two other horses to the trough. Babcock looked about
him in surprise at the extent of the establishment. He had
supposed that his stevedore had a small outfit and needed all the
work she could get. If, as McGaw had said, only boys did Grogan's
work, they at least did it well.
Crane mounted the porch first and knocked. Babcock followed.
"No, Mr. Crane," said a young girl, opening the door, "she's not
at home. I'm expecting her every minute. Mother went to work
early this morning. She'll be sorry to miss you, sir. She ought
to be home now, for she's been up 'most all night at the fort.
She's just sent Carl up for two more horses. Won't you come in
and wait?"
"No; I'll keep on to the fort," answered Crane. "I may meet her
on the road."
"May I come in?" Babcock asked, explaining his business in a few
"Oh, yes, sir. Mother won't be long now. You've not forgotten
me, Mr. Babcock? I'm her daughter Jennie. I was to your office
once. Gran'pop, this is the gentleman mother works for."
An old man rose with some difficulty from an armchair, and bowed
in a kindly, deferential way. He had been reading near the
window. He was in his shirt-sleeves, his collar open at the
throat. He seemed rather feeble. His legs shook as if he were
weak from some recent illness. About the eyes was a certain
kindliness that did not escape Babcock's quick glance; they were
clear and honest, and looked straight into his--the kind he liked.
The old man's most striking features were his silver-white hair,
parted over his forehead and falling to his shoulders, and his
thin, straight, transparent nose, indicating both ill health and a
certain refinement and sensitiveness of nature. Had it not been
for his dress, he might have passed for an English curate on half
"Me name's Richard, sor--Richard Mullins," said the old man. "I'm
Mary's father. She won't be long gone now. She promised me she'd
be home for dinner." He placed a chair for Babcock, and remained
"I will wait until she returns," said Babcock. He had come to
discover something more definite about this woman who worked like
a steam-engine, crooned over a cripple, and broke a plank with her
fist, and he did not intend to leave until he knew. "Your
daughter must have had great experience. I have never seen any
one man handle work better," he continued, extending his hand.
Then, noticing that Mullins was still standing, "Don't let me take
your seat."
Mullins hesitated, glanced at Jennie, and, moving another chair
from the window, drew it nearer, and settled slowly beside
The room was as clean as bare arms and scrubbing-brushes could
make it. Near the fireplace was a cast-iron stove, and opposite
this stood a parlor organ, its top littered with photographs. A
few chromos hung on the walls. There were also a big plush sofa
and two haircloth rocking-chairs, of walnut, covered with cotton
tidies. The carpet on the floor was new, and in the window, where
the old man had been sitting, some pots of nasturtiums were
blooming, their tendrils reaching up both sides of the sash.
Opening from this room was the kitchen, resplendent in bright pans
and a shining copper wash-boiler. The girl passed constantly in
and out the open door, spreading the cloth and bringing dishes for
the table.
Her girlish figure was clothed in a blue calico frock and white
apron, the sleeves rolled up to the elbows, showing some faint
traces of flour clinging to her wrists, as if she had been
suddenly summoned from the bread-bowl. She was fresh and sweet,
strong and healthy, with a certain grace of manner about her that
pleased Babcock instantly. He saw now that she had her mother's
eyes and color, but not her air of fearlessness and
self-reliance--that kind of self-reliance which comes only of many
nights of anxiety and many days of success. He noticed, too, that
when she spoke to the old man her voice was tempered with a
peculiar tenderness, as if his infirmities were more to be pitied
than complained of. This pleased him most of all.
"You live with your daughter, Mrs. Grogan?" Babcock asked in a
friendly way, turning to the old man.
"Yis, sor. Whin Tom got sick, she sint fer me to come over an'
hilp her. I feeds the horses whin Oi'm able, an' looks after the
garden, but Oi'm not much good."
"Is Mr. Thomas Grogan living?" asked Babcock cautiously, and with
a certain tone of respect, hoping to get closer to the facts, and
yet not to seem intrusive.
"Oh, yis, sor: an' moight be dead fer all the good he does. He's
in New Yorruk some'er's, on a farm"--lowering his voice to a
whisper and looking anxiously toward Jennie--"belongin' to the
State, I think, sor. He's hurted pretty bad, an' p'haps he's a
leetle off--I dunno. Mary has niver tould me."
Before Babcock could pursue the inquiry further there was a firm
tread on the porch steps, and the old man rose from the chair, his
face brightening.
"Here she is, Gran'pop," said Jennie, laying down her dish and
springing to the door.
"Hold tight, darlint," came a voice from the outside, and the next
instant Tom Grogan strode in, her face aglow with laughter, her
hood awry, her eyes beaming. Patsy was perched on her shoulder,
his little crutch fast in one hand, the other tightly wound about
her neck. "Let go, darlint; ye're a-chokin' the wind out of me."
"Oh, it's ye a-waitin', Mr. Babcock--me man Carl thought ye'd
gone. Mr. Crane I met outside told me you'd been here. Jennie'll
get the tally- sheet of the last load for ye. I've been to the
fort since daylight, and pretty much all night, to tell ye God's
truth. Oh, Gran'pop, but I smashed 'em!" she exclaimed as she
gently removed Patsy's arm and laid him in the old man's lap. She
had picked the little cripple up at the garden gate, where he
always waited for her. "That's the last job that sneakin' Duffy
and Dan McGaw'll ever put up on me. Oh, but ye should'a' minded
the face on him, Gran'pop!"--untying her hood and breaking into a
laugh so contagious in its mirth that even Babcock joined in
without knowing what it was all about.
As she spoke, Tom stood facing her father, hood and ulster off,
the light of the windows silhouetting the splendid lines of her
well-rounded figure, with its deep chest, firm bust, broad back,
and full throat, her arms swinging loose and free.
"Ye see," she said, turning to Babcock, "that man Duffy tried to
do me,--he's the sergeant at the fort--and Dan McGaw--ye know
him--he's the divil that wanted to work for ye. Ye know I always
had the hauling of the coal at the fort, an' I want to hold on to
it, for it comes every year. I've been a-watchin' for this coal
for a month. Every October there's a new contractor, and this
time it was me friend Mr. Crane I've worked for before. So I sees
Duffy about it the other day, an' he says, 'Well, I think ye
better talk to the quartermaster, who's away, but who'll be home
next week.' An' that night when I got home, there lay a letter
from Mr. Crane, wid another letter inside it Sergeant Duffy had
sent to Mr. Crane, sayin' he'd recommend Dan McGaw to do the
stevedorin'--the sneakin' villain--an' sayin' that he--Duffy--was
a-goin' to inspect the coal himself, an' if his friend Dan McGaw
hauled it, the quality would be all right. Think of that! I tell
ye, Mr. Babcock, they're divils. Then Mr. Crane put down at the
bottom of his letter to me that he was sorry not to give me the
job, but that he must give it to Duffy's friend McGaw, or Duffy
might reject the coal. Wait till I wash me hands and I'll tell ye
how I fixed him," she added suddenly, as with a glance at her
fingers she disappeared into the kitchen, reappearing a moment
later with her bare arms as fresh and as rosy as her cheeks, from
their friction with a clean crash towel.
"Well!" she continued, "I jumps into me bonnet yisterday, and over
I goes to the fort; an' I up an' says to Duffy, 'I can't wait for
the quartermaster. When's that coal a-comin'?' An' he says, 'In
a couple of weeks.' An' I turned onto him and says: 'Ye're a
pretty loafer to take the bread out of Tom Grogan's children's
mouths! An' ye want Dan McGaw to do the haulin', do ye? An' the
quality of the coal'll be all right if he gits it! An' there's
sure to be twenty-five dollars for ye, won't there? If I hear a
word more out of ye I'll see Colonel Howard sure, an' hand him
this letter.' An' Duffy turned white as a load of lime, and says,
'Don't do it, for God's sake! It'll cost me m' place.' While I
was a-talkin' I see a chunker-boat with the very coal on it round
into the dock with a tug; an' I ran to the string-piece and
catched the line, and has her fast to a spile before the tug lost
head-way. Then I started for home on the run, to get me derricks
and stuff. I got home, hooked up by twelve o'clock last night,
an' before daylight I had me rig up an' the fall set and the
buckets over her hatches. At six o'clock this mornin' I took the
teams and was a-runnin' the coal out of the chunker, when down
comes Mr.--Daniel--McGaw with a gang and his big derrick on a
cart." She repeated this in a mocking tone, swinging her big
shoulders exactly as her rival would have done.
"'That's me rig,' I says to him, p'intin' up to the gaff, 'an' me
coal, an' I'll throw the fust man overboard who lays hands on it!'
An' then the sergeant come out and took McGaw one side an' said
somethin' to him, with his back to me; an' when McGaw turned he
was white too, an' without sayin' a word he turned the team and
druv off. An' just now I met Mr. Crane walkin' down, lookin' like
he had lost a horse. 'Tom Grogan,' he says,'I hate to disappoint
ye, an' wouldn't, for ye've always done me work well; but I'm
stuck on the coal contract, an' the sergeant can put me in a hole
if ye do the haulin'.' An' I says, 'Brace up, Mr. Crane, there's
a hole, but ye ain't in it, an' the sergeant is. I'll unload
every pound of that coal, if I do it for nothin', and if that
sneak in striped trousers bothers me or you, I'll pull him apart
an' stamp on him!'"
Through all her talk there was a triumphant good humor, a
joyousness, a glow and breeziness, which completely fascinated
Babcock. Although she had been up half the night, she was as
sweet and fresh and rosy as a child. Her vitality, her strength,
her indomitable energy, impressed him as no woman's had ever done
When she had finished her story she suddenly caught Patsy out of
her father's arms and dropped with him into a chair, all the
mother-hunger in her still unsatisfied. She smothered him with
kisses and hugged him to her breast, holding his pinched face
against her ruddy cheek. Then she smoothed his forehead with her
well-shaped hand, and rocked him back and forth. By and by she
told him of the stone that the Big Gray had got in his hoof down
at the fort that morning, and how lame he had been, and how Cully
had taken it out with--a--great--big--spike!--dwelling on the last
words as if they belonged to some wonderful fairy-tale. The
little fellow sat up in her lap and laughed as he patted her
breast joyously with his thin hand. "Cully could do it," he
shouted in high glee; "Cully can do anything." Babcock,
apparently, made no more difference to her than if he had been an
extra chair.
As she moved about her rooms afterward, calling to her men from
the open door, consulting with Jennie, her arms about her neck, or
stopping at intervals to croon over her child, she seemed to him
to lose all identity with the woman on the dock. The spirit that
enveloped her belonged rather to that of some royal dame of heroic
times, than to that of a working woman of to-day. The room
somehow became her castle, the rough stablemen her knights.
On his return to his work she walked back with him part of the
way. Babcock, still bewildered, and still consumed with curiosity
to learn something of her past, led the talk to her life along the
docks, expressing his great surprise at discovering her so capable
and willing to do a man's work, asking who had taught her, and
whether her husband in his time had been equally efficient and
Instantly she grew reticent. She did not even answer his
question. He waited a moment, and, realizing his mistake, turned
the conversation in another direction.
"And how about those rough fellows around the wharves--those who
don't know you--are they never coarse and brutal to you?"
"Not when I look 'em in the face," she answered slowly and
deliberately. "No man ever opens his head, nor dar'sn't. When
they see me a-comin' they stops talkin', if it's what they
wouldn't want their daughters to hear; an' there ain't no dirty
back talk, neither. An' I make me own men civil, too, with a
dacint tongue in their heads. I had a young strip of a lad once
who would be a-swearin' round the stables. I told him to mend his
manners or I'd wash his mouth out, an' that I wouldn't have nobody
hit me horses on the head. He kep' along, an' I see it was a bad
example for the other drivers (this was only a year ago, an' I had
three of 'em); so when he hit the Big Gray ag'in, I hauled off and
give him a crack that laid him out. I was scared solid for two
hours, though they never knew it."
Then, with an almost piteous look in her face, and with a sudden
burst of confidence, born, doubtless, of a dawning faith in the
man's evident sincerity and esteem, she said in a faltering
"God help me! what can I do? I've no man to stand by me, an'
somebody's got to be boss."
McGaw's failure to undermine Tom's business with Babcock, and his
complete discomfiture over Crane's coal contract at the fort, only
intensified his hatred of the woman.
Finding that he could make no headway against her alone, he called
upon the Union to assist him, claiming that she was employing
non-union labor, and had thus been able to cut down the
discharging rates to starvation prices.
A meeting was accordingly called by the executive committee of the
Knights, and a resolution passed condemning certain persons in the
village of Rockville as traitors to the cause of the workingman.
Only one copy of this edict was issued and mailed. This found its
way into Tom Grogan's letter-box. Five minutes after she had
broken the seal, her men discovered the document pasted upside
down on her stable door.
McGaw heard of her action that night, and started another line of
attack. It was managed so skillfully that that which until then
had been only a general dissatisfaction on the part of the members
of the Union and their sympathizers over Tom's business methods
now developed into an avowed determination to crush her. They
discussed several plans by which she could be compelled either to
restore rates for unloading, or be forced out of the business
altogether. As one result of these deliberations a committee
called upon the priest, Father McCluskey, and informed him of the
delicate position in which the Union had been placed by her having
hidden her husband away, thus forcing them to fight the woman
herself. She was making trouble, they urged, with her low wages
and her unloading rates. "Perhaps his Riverence c'u'd straighten
her out." Father McCluskey's interview with Tom took place in the
priest's room one morning after early mass. It had gone abroad,
somehow, that his Reverence intended to discipline the
"high-flyer," and a considerable number of the "tenement-house
gang," as Tom called them, had loitered behind to watch the effect
of the good father's remonstrances.
What Tom told the priest no one ever knew: such conferences are
part of the regime of the church, and go no farther. It was
noticed, however, as she came down the aisle, that her eyes were
red, as if from weeping, and that she never raised them from the
floor as she passed between her enemies on her way to the church
door. Once outside, she put her arm around Jennie, who was
waiting, and the two strolled slowly across the lots to her house.
When the priest came out, his own eyes were tinged with moisture.
He called Dennis Quigg, McGaw's right-hand man, and in a voice
loud enough to be heard by those nearest him expressed his
indignation that any dissension should have arisen among his
people over a woman's work, and said that he would hear no more of
this unchristian and unmanly interference with one whose only
support came from the labor of her hands.
McGaw and his friends were not discouraged. They were only
determined upon some more definite stroke. It was therefore
ordered that a committee be appointed to waylay her men going to
work, and inform them of their duty to their fellow-laborers.
Accordingly, this same Quigg--smooth-shaven, smirking, and
hollow-eyed, with a diamond pin, half a yard of watch-chain, and a
fancy shirt--ex-village clerk with his accounts short, ex-deputy
sheriff with his accounts of cruelty and blackmail long, and at
present walking delegate of the Union--was appointed a committee
of one for that duty.
Quigg began by begging a ride in one of Tom's return carts, and
taking this opportunity to lay before the driver the enormity of
working for Grogan for thirty dollars a month and board, when
there were a number of his brethren out of work and starving who
would not work for less than two dollars a day if it were offered
them. It was plainly the driver's duty, Quigg urged, to give up
his job until Tom Grogan could be compelled to hire him back at
advanced wages. During this enforced idleness the Union would pay
the driver fifty cents a day. Here Quigg pounded his chest,
clenched his fists, and said solemnly, "If capital once downs the
lab'rin' man, we'll all be slaves."
The driver was Carl Nilsson, a Swede, a big, blue-eyed,
light-haired young fellow of twenty-two, a sailor from boyhood,
who three years before, on a public highway, had been picked up
penniless and hungry by Tom Grogan, after the keeper of a sailors'
boarding-house had robbed him of his year's savings. The change
from cracking ice from a ship's deck with a marlinespike, to
currying and feeding something alive and warm and comfortable, was
so delightful to the Swede that he had given up the sea for a
while. He had felt that he could ship again at anytime, the water
was so near. As the months went by, however, he, too, gradually
fell under the spell of Tom's influence. She reminded him of the
great Norse women he had read about in his boyhood. Besides all
this, he was loyal and true to the woman who had befriended him,
and who had so far appreciated his devotion to her interests as to
promote him from hostler and driver to foreman of the stables.
Nilsson knew Quigg by sight, for he had seen him walking home with
Jennie from church. His knowledge of English was slight, but it
was enough to enable him to comprehend Quigg's purpose as he
talked beside him on the cart. After some questions about how
long the enforced idleness would continue, he asked suddenly:--
"Who da horse clean when I go 'way?"
"D--n her! let her clean it herself," Quigg answered angrily.
This ended the question for Nilsson, and it very nearly ended the
delegate. Jumping from the cart, Carl picked up the shovel and
sprang toward Quigg, who dodged out of his way, and then took to
his heels.
When Nilsson, still white with anger, reached the dock, he related
the incident to Cully, who, on his return home, retailed it to
Jennie with such variety of gesture and intonation that that young
lady blushed scarlet, but whether from sympathy for Quigg or
admiration for Nilsson, Cully was unable to decide.
Quigg's failure to coax away one of Tom's men ended active
operations against Tom, so far as the Union was concerned. It
continued to listen to McGaw's protests, but, with an eye open for
its own interests, replied that if Grogan's men would not be
enticed away it could at present take no further action. His
trouble with Tom was an individual matter, and a little patience
on McGaw's part was advised. The season's work was over, and
nothing of importance could be done until the opening of the
spring business. If Tom's men struck now, she would be glad to
get rid of them. It would, therefore, be wiser to wait until she
could not do without them, when they might all be forced out in a
body. In the interim McGaw should direct his efforts to harassing
his enemy. Perhaps a word with Slattery, the blacksmith, might
induce that worthy brother Knight to refuse to do her shoeing some
morning when she was stalled for want of a horse; or he might let
a nail slip in a tender hoof. No one could tell what might happen
in the coming months. At the moment the funds of the Union were
too low for aggressive measures. Were McGaw, however, to make a
contribution of two hundred dollars to the bank account in order
to meet possible emergencies, something might be done. All this
was duly inscribed in the books of the committee,--that is, the
last part of it,--and upon McGaw's promising to do what he could
toward improving the funds. It was thereupon subsequently
resolved that before resorting to harsher measures the Union
should do all in its power toward winning over the enemy. Brother
Knight Dennis Quigg was thereupon deputed to call upon Mrs. Grogan
and invite her into the Union.
On brother Knight Dennis Quigg's declining for private reasons the
honorable mission intrusted to him by the honorable board (Mr.
Quigg's exact words of refusal, whispered in the chairman's ear,
were, "I'm a-jollyin' one of her kittens; send somebody else after
the old cat"), another walking delegate, brother Knight Crimmins
by name, was selected to carry out the gracious action of the
Crimmins had begun life as a plumber's helper, had been iceman,
night- watchman, heeler, and full-fledged plumber; and having been
out of work himself for months at a time, was admirably qualified
to speak of the advantages of idleness to any other candidate for
like honors.
He was a small man with a big nose, grizzled chin-whiskers, and
rum-and-watery eyes, and wore constantly a pair of patched blue
overalls as a badge of his laborship. The seat of these outside
trousers showed more wear than his hands.
Immediately upon his appointment, Crimmins went to McGaw's house
to talk over the line of attack. The conference was held in the
sitting-room and behind closed doors--so tightly closed that young
Billy McGaw, with one eye in mourning from the effect of a recent
street fight, was unable, even by the aid of the undamaged eye and
the keyhole, to get the slightest inkling of what was going on
When the door was finally opened and McGaw and Crimmins came out,
they brought with them an aroma the pungency of which was
explained by two empty glasses and a black bottle decorating one
end of the only table in the room.
As Crimmins stepped down from the broken stoop, with its rusty
rain-spout and rotting floor-planks, Billy overheard this parting
remark from his father: "Thry the ile furst, Crimmy, an' see what
she'll do; thin give her the vinegar; and thin," with an oath, "ef
that don't fetch'er, come back here to me and we'll give 'er the
red pepper."
Brother Knight Crimmins waved his hand to the speaker. "Just
leave'er to me, Dan," he said, and started for Tom's house.
Crimmins was delighted with his mission. He felt sure of bringing
back her application within an hour. Nothing ever pleased him so
much as to work a poor woman into an agony of fright with threats
of the Union. Wives and daughters had often followed him out into
the street, begging him to let the men alone for another week
until they could pay the rent. Sometimes, when he relented, the
more grateful would bless him for his magnanimity. This increased
his self-respect.
Tom met him at the door. She had been sitting up with a sick
child of Dick Todd, foreman at the brewery, and had just come
home. Hardly a week passed without some one in distress sending
for her. She had never seen Crimmins before, and thought he had
come to mend the roof. His first words, however, betrayed him:--
"The Knights sent me up to have a word wid ye."
Tom made a movement as if to shut the door in his face; then she
paused for an instant, and said curtly, "Come inside."
Crimmins crushed his slouch-hat in his hand, and slunk into a
chair by the window. Tom remained standing.
"I see ye like flowers, Mrs. Grogan," he began, in his gentlest
voice. "Them geraniums is the finest I iver see"--peering under
the leaves of the plants. "Guess it's 'cause ye water 'em so
Tom made no reply.
Crimmins fidgeted on his chair a little, and tried another tack.
"I s'pose ye ain't doin' much just now, weather's so bad. The
road's awful goin' down to the fort."
Tom's hands were in the side pockets of her ulster. Her face was
aglow with her brisk walk from the tenements. She never took her
eyes from his face, and never moved a muscle of her body. She was
slowly revolving in her mind whether any information she could get
out of him would be worth the waiting for.
Crimmins relapsed into silence, and began patting the floor with
his foot. The prolonged stillness was becoming uncomfortable.
"I was tellin' ye about the meetin' we had to the Union last
night. We was goin' over the list of members, an' we didn't find
yer name. The board thought maybe ye'd like to come in wid us.
The dues is only two dollars a month. We're a-regulatin' the
prices for next year, stevedorin' an' haulin', an' the rates'll be
sent out next week." The stopper was now out of the oil-bottle.
"How many members have ye got?" she asked quietly.
"Hundred an' seventy-three in our branch of the Knights."
"All pay two dollars a month?"
"That's about the size of it," said Crimmins.
"What do we git when we jine?"
"Well, we all pull together--that's one thing. One man's strike's
every man's strike. The capitalists been tryin' to down us, an'
the laborin'-man's got to stand together. Did ye hear about the
Fertilizer Company's layin' off two of our men las' Friday just
fer bein' off a day or so without leave, and their gittin' a
couple of scabs from Hoboken to"--
"What else do we git?" said Tom, in a quick, imperious tone,
ignoring the digression. She had moved a step closer.
Crimmins looked slyly up into her eyes. Until this moment he had
been addressing his remarks to the brass ornament on the extreme
top of the cast-iron stove. Tom's expression of face did not
reassure him; in fact, the steady gaze of her clear gray eye was
as uncomfortable as the focused light of a sun lens.
"Well--we help each other," he blurted out.
"Do you do any helpin'?"
"Yis;" stiffening a little. "I'm the walkin' delegate of our
"Oh, ye're the walkin' delegate! You don't pay no two dollars,
then, do ye!"
"No. There's got to be somebody a-goin' round all the time, an'
Dinnis Quigg and me's confidential agents of the branch, an' what
we says goes"--slapping his overalls decisively with his fist.
McGaw's suggested stopper was being loosened on the vinegar.
Tom's fingers closed tightly. Her collar began to feel small.
"An' I s'pose if ye said I should pay me men double wages, and put
up the price o' haulin' so high that me customers couldn't pay it,
so that some of yer dirty loafers could cut in an' git it, I'd
have to do it, whether I wanted to or not; or maybe ye think I'd
oughter chuck some o' me own boys into the road because they don't
belong to yer branch, as ye call it, and git a lot o' dead beats
to work in their places who don't know a horse from a coal-bucket.
An' ye'll help me, will ye? Come out here on the front porch, Mr.
Crimmins"--opening the door with a jerk. "Do ye see that stable
over there! Well, it covers seven horses; an' the shed has six
carts with all the harness. Back of it--perhaps if ye stand on
yer toes even a little feller like you can see the top of another
shed. That one has me derricks an' tools."
Crimmins tried to interrupt long enough to free McGaw's red
pepper, but her words poured out in a torrent.
"Now ye can go back an' tell Dan McGaw an' the balance of yer
two-dollar loafers that there ain't a dollar owin' on any horse in
my stable, an' that I've earned everything I've got without a man
round to help 'cept those I pays wages to. An' ye can tell 'em,
too, that I'll hire who I please, an' pay 'em what they oughter
git; an' I'll do me own haulin' an' unloadin' fer nothin' if it
suits me. When ye said ye were a walkin' delegate ye spoke God's
truth. Ye'd be a ridin' delegate if ye could; but there's one
thing ye'll niver be, an' that's a workin' delegate, as long as ye
kin find fools to pay ye wages fer bummin' round day 'n' night.
If I had me way, ye would walk, but it would be on yer uppers, wid
yer bare feet to the road."
Crimmins again attempted to speak, but she raised her arm
threateningly: "Now, if it's walkin' ye are, ye can begin right
away. Let me see ye earn yer wages down that garden an' into the
road. Come, lively now, before I disgrace meself a-layin' hands
on the likes of ye!"
One morning Patsy came up the garden path limping on his crutch;
the little fellow's eyes were full of tears. He had been out with
his goat when some children from the tenements surrounded his
cart, pitched it into the ditch, and followed him half way home,
calling "Scab! scab!" at the top of their voices. Cully heard
his cries, and ran through the yard to meet him, his anger rising
at every step. To lay hands on Patsy was, to Cully, the
unpardonable sin. Ever since the day, five years before, when Tom
had taken him into her employ, a homeless waif of the
streets,--his father had been drowned from a canal-boat she was
unloading,--and had set him down beside Patsy's crib to watch
while she was at her work, Jennie being at school, Cully had loved
the little cripple with the devotion of a dog to its master.
Lawless, rough, often cruel, and sometimes vindictive as Cully was
to others, a word from Patsy humbled and softened him.
And Patsy loved Cully. His big, broad chest, stout, straight
legs, strong arms and hands, were his admiration and constant
pride. Cully was his champion and his ideal. The waif's
recklessness and audacity were to him only evidences of so much
brains and energy.
This love between the lads grew stronger after Tom had sent to
Dublin for her old father, that she might have "a man about the
house." Then a new blessing came, not only into the lives of both
the lads, but into the whole household as well. Mullins, in his
later years, had been a dependent about Trinity College, and
constant association with books and students had given him a taste
for knowledge denied his daughter. Tom had left home when a girl.
In the long winter nights during the slack season, after the
stalls were bedded and the horses were fed and watered and locked
up for the night, the old man would draw up his chair to the big
kerosene lamp on the table, and tell the boys stories--they
listening with wide-open eyes, Cully interrupting the narrative
every now and then by such asides as "No flies on them fellers,
wuz ther', Patsy? They wuz daisies, they wuz. Go on, Pop; it's
better'n a circus;" while Patsy would cheer aloud at the downfall
of the vanquished, with their "three thousand lance-bearers put to
death by the sword," waving his crutch over his head in his
Jennie would come in too, and sit by her mother; and after
Nilsson's encounter with Quigg--an incident which greatly advanced
him in Tom's estimation--Cully would be sent to bring him in from
his room over the stable and give him a chair with the others,
that he might learn the language easier. At these times it was
delightful to watch the expression of pride and happiness that
would come over Tom's face as she listened to her father's talk.
"But ye have a great head, Gran'pop," she would say. "Cully, ye
blatherin' idiot, why don't ye brace up an' git some knowledge in
yer head? Sure, Gran'pop, Father McCluskey ain't in it wid ye a
minute. Ye could down the whole gang of 'em." And the old man
would smile faintly and say he had heard the young gentlemen at
the college recite the stories so many times he could never forget
In this way the boys grew closer together, Patsy cramming himself
from books during the day in order to tell Cully at night all
about the Forty Thieves boiled in oil, or Ali Baba and his donkey,
or poor man Friday to whom Robinson Crusoe was so kind; and Cully
relating in return how Jimmie Finn smashed Pat Gilsey's face
because he threw stones at his sister, ending with a full account
of a dog-fight which a "snoozer of a cop" stopped with his club.
So when Patsy came limping up the garden path this morning,
rubbing his eyes, his voice choking, and the tears streaming, and,
burying his little face in Cully's jacket, poured out his tale of
insult and suffering, that valiant defender of the right pulled
his cap tight over his eyes and began a still-hunt through the
tenements. There, as he afterwards expressed it, he "mopped up
the floor" with one after another of the ringleaders, beginning
with young Billy McGaw, Dan's eldest son and Cully's senior.
Tom was dumfounded at the attack on Patsy. This was a blow upon
which she had not counted. To strike her Patsy, her cripple, her
baby! The cowardice of it incensed her, She knew instantly that
her affairs must have been common talk about the tenements to have
produced so great an effect upon the children. She felt sure that
their fathers and mothers had encouraged them in it.
In emergencies like this it was never to the old father that she
turned. He was too feeble, too much a thing of the past. While
to a certain extent he influenced her life, standing always for
the right and always for the kindest thing she could do, yet when
it came to times of action and danger she felt the need of a
younger and more vigorous mind. It was on Jennie, really more her
companion than her daughter, that she depended for counsel and
sympathy at these times.
Tom did not underestimate the gravity of the situation. Up to
that point in her career she had fought only the cold, the heat,
the many weary hours of labor far into the night, and now and then
some man like McGaw. But this stab from out the dark was a danger
to which she was unused. She saw in this last move of McGaw's,
aided as he was by the Union, not only a determination to ruin
her, but a plan to divide her business among a set of men who
hated her as much on account of her success as for anything else.
A few more horses and carts and another barn or two, and she
herself would become a hated capitalist. That she had stood out
in the wet and cold herself, hours at a time, like any man among
them; that she had, in her husband's early days, helped him feed
and bed their one horse, often currying him herself; that when she
and her Tom had moved to Rockville with their savings and there
were three horses to care for and her husband needed more help
than he could hire, she had brought her little baby Patsy to the
stable while she worked there like a man; that during all this
time she had cooked and washed and kept the house tidy for four
people; that she had done all these things she felt would not
count now with the Union, though each member of it was a
bread-winner like herself.
She knew what power it wielded. There had been the Martin family,
honest, hardworking people, who had come down from Haverstraw--the
man and wife and their three children--and moved into the new
tenement with all their nice furniture and new carpets. Tom had
helped them unload these things from the brick-sloop that brought
them. A few weeks after, poor Martin, still almost a stranger,
had been brought home from the gas-house with his head laid open,
because he had taken the place of a Union man discharged for
drunkenness, and lingered for weeks until he died. Then the
widow, with her children about her, had been put aboard another
sloop that was going back to her old home. Tom remembered, as if
it were yesterday, the heap of furniture and little pile of
kitchen things sold under the red flag outside the store near the
She had seen, too, the suffering and misery of her neighbors
during the long strike at the brewery two years before, and the
moving in and out from house to tenement and tenement to shanty,
with never a day's work afterward for any man who left his job.
She had helped many of the men who, three years before, had been
driven out of work by the majority vote of the Carpenters' Union,
and who dared not go back and face the terrible excommunication,
the social boycott, with all its insults and cruelties. She
shuddered as she thought again of her suspicions years ago when
the bucket had fallen that crushed in her husband's chest, and
sent him to bed for months, only to leave it a wrecked man. The
rope that held the bucket had been burned by acid, Dr. Mason said.
Some grudge of the Union, she had always felt, was paid off then.
She knew what the present trouble meant, now that it was started,
and she knew in what it might end. But her courage never wavered.
She ran over in her mind the names of the several men who were
fighting her--McGaw, for whom she had a contempt; Dempsey and
Jimmie Brown, of the executive committee, both liquor-dealers;
Paterson, foreman of the gas-house; and the rest--dangerous
enemies, she knew.
That night she sent for Nilsson to come to the house; heard from
him, word for word, of Quigg's effort to corrupt him; questioned
Patsy closely, getting the names of the children who had abused
him; then calling Jennie into her bedroom, she locked the door
behind them.
When they reentered the sitting-room, an hour later, Jennie's lips
were quivering. Tom's mouth was firmly set. Her mind was made
She would fight it out to the bitter end.
That invincible spirit which dwelt in Tom's breast--that spirit
which had dared Lathers, outwitted Duffy, cowed Crimmins, and
braved the Union, did not, strange to say, dominate all the
members of her own household. One defied her. This was no other
than that despoiler of new-washed clothes, old harness,
wagon-grease, time-books, and spring flowers, that Arab of the
open lot, Stumpy the goat.
This supremacy of the goat had lasted since the eventful morning
when, only a kid of tender days, he had come into the stable-yard
and wobbled about on his uncertain legs, nestling down near the
door where Patsy lay. During all these years he had ruled over
Tom. At first because his fuzzy white back and soft, silky legs
had been so precious to the little cripple, and later because of
his inexhaustible energy, his aggressiveness, and his marvelous
activity. Brave spirits have fainted at the sight of spiders,
others have turned pale at lizards, and some have shivered when
cats crossed their paths. The only thing Tom feared on any number
of legs, from centipedes to men, was Stumpy.
"Git out, ye imp of Satan!" she would say, raising her hand when
he wandered too near; "or I'll smash ye!" The next instant she
would be dodging behind the cart out of the way of Stumpy's
lowered horns, with a scream as natural and as uncontrollable as
that of a schoolgirl over a mouse. When he stood in the path
cleared of snow from house to stable door, with head down,
prepared to dispute every inch of the way with her, she would
tramp yards around him, up to her knees in the drift, rather than
face his obstinate front.
The basest of ingratitude actuated the goat. When the accident
occurred that gained him his sobriquet and lost him his tail, it
was Tom's quickness of hand alone that saved the remainder of his
kidship from disappearing as his tail had done. Indeed, she not
only choked the dog who attacked him, until he loosened his hold
from want of breath, but she threw him over the stable-yard fence
as an additional mark of her displeasure.
In spite of her fear of him, Tom never dispossessed Stumpy. That
her Patsy loved him insured him his place for life.
So Stumpy roamed through yard, kitchen, and stable, stalking over
bleaching sheets, burglarizing the garden gate, and grazing
wherever he chose.
The goat inspired no fear in anybody else. Jennie would chase him
out of her way a dozen times a day, and Cully would play bullfight
with him, and Carl and the other men would accord him his proper
place, spanking him with the flat of a shovel whenever he
interfered with their daily duties, or shying a corn-cob after him
when his alertness carried him out of their reach.
This afternoon Jennie had missed her blue-checked apron. It had
been drying on the line outside the kitchen door five minutes
before. There was no one at home but herself, and she had seen
nobody pass the door. Perhaps the apron had blown over into the
stable-yard. If it had, Carl would be sure to have seen it. She
knew Carl had come home; she had been watching for him through the
window. Then she ran in for her shawl.
Carl was rubbing down the Big Gray. He had been hauling ice all
the morning for the brewery. The Gray was under the cart-shed, a
flood of winter sunlight silvering his shaggy mane and restless
ears. The Swede was scraping his sides with the currycomb, and
the Big Gray, accustomed to Cully's gentler touch, was resenting
the familiarity by biting at the tippet wound about the neck of
the young man.
Suddenly Carl raised his head--he had caught a glimpse of a flying
apron whipping round the stable door. He knew the pattern. It
always gave him a lump in his throat, and some little creepings
down his back when he saw it. Then he laid down the currycomb.
The next instant there came a sound as of a barrel-head knocked in
by a mixing-shovel, and Stumpy flew through the door, followed by
Carl on the run. The familiar bit of calico was Jennie's lost
apron. One half was inside the goat, the other half was in the
hand of the Swede.
Carl hesitated for a moment, looked cautiously about the yard, and
walked slowly toward the house, his eyes on the fragments. He
never went to the house except when he was invited, either to hear
Pop read or to take his dinner with the other men. At this
instant Jennie came running out, the shawl about her head.
"Oh, Carl, did you find my apron? It blew away, and I thought it
might have gone into the yard."
"Yas, mees; an' da goat see it too--luke!" extending the tattered
fragments, anger and sorrow struggling for the mastery in his
"Well, I never! Carl, it was a bran'-new one. Now just see, all
the strings torn off and the top gone! I'm just going to give
Stumpy a good beating."
Carl suggested that he run after the goat and bring him back; but
Jennie thought he was down the road by this time, and Carl had
been working all the morning and must be tired. Besides, she must
get some wood.
Carl instantly forgot the goat. He had forgotten everything,
indeed, except the trim little body who stood before him looking
into his eyes. He glowed all over with inward warmth and delight.
Nobody had ever cared before whether he was tired. When he was a
little fellow at home at Memlo his mother would sometimes worry
about his lifting the big baskets of fish all day, but he could
not remember that anybody else had ever given his feelings a
thought. All this flashed through his mind as he returned
Jennie's look.
"No, no! I not tire--I brang da wood." And then Jennie said she
never meant it, and Carl knew she didn't, of course; and then she
said she had never thought of such a thing, and he agreed to that;
and they talked so long over it, standing out in the radiance of
the noonday sun, the color coming and going in both their
faces,--Carl playing aimlessly with his tippet tassel, and Jennie
plaiting and pinching up the ruined apron,--that the fire in the
kitchen stove went out, and the Big Gray grew hungry and craned
his long neck around the shed and whinnied for Carl, and even
Stumpy the goat forgot his hair-breadth escape, and returned near
enough to the scene of the robbery to look down at it from the
hill above.
There is no telling how long the Big Gray would have waited if
Cully had not come home to dinner, bringing another horse with
Patsy perched on his back. The brewery was only a short distance,
and Tom always gave her men a hot meal at the house whenever it
was possible. Had any other horse been neglected, Cully would not
have cared; but the Big Gray which he had driven ever since the
day Tom brought him home,--"Old Blowhard," as he would often call
him (the Gray was a bit wheezy),--the Big Gray without his dinner!
"Hully gee! Look at de bloke a-jollying Jinnie, an' de Blowhard
a-starvin'. Say, Patsy,"--lifting him down,--"hold de line till I
git de Big Gray a bite. Git on ter Carl, will ye! I'm
a-goin'--ter--tell--de--boss,"--with a threatening air, weighing
each word--"jes soon as she gits back. Ef I don't I'm a chump."
At sight of the boys, Jennie darted into the house, and Carl
started for the stable, his head in the clouds, his feet on air.
"No; I feed da horse, Cully,"--jerking at his halter to get him
away from Cully.
"A hell ov 'er lot ye will! I'll feed him meself. He's been home
an hour now, an' he ain't half rubbed down."
Carl made a grab for Cully, who dodged and ran under the cart.
Then a lump of ice whizzed past Carl's ear.
"Here, stop that!" said Tom, entering the gate. She had been in
the city all the morning--"to look after her poor Tom," Pop said.
"Don't ye be throwing things round here, or I'll land on top of
"Well, why don't he feed de Gray, den? He started afore me, and
dey wants de Gray down ter de brewery, and he up ter de house
a-buzzin' Jinnie."
"I go brang Mees Jan's apron; da goat eat it oop."
"Ye did, did ye! What ye givin' us? Didn't I see ye a-chinnin'
'er whin I come over de hill--she a-leanin' up ag'in' de fence,
an' youse a-talkin' ter 'er, an' ole Blowhard cryin' like his
heart was broke?"
"Eat up what apron?" said Tom, thoroughly mystified over the
"Stumpy eat da apron--I brang back--da half ta Mees Jan."
"An' it took ye all the mornin' to give it to her?" said Tom
thoughtfully, looking Carl straight in the eye, a new vista
opening before her.
That night when the circle gathered about the lamp to hear Pop
read, Carl was missing. Tom had not sent for him.
When Walking Delegate Crimmins had recovered from his amazement,
after his humiliating defeat at Tom's hands, he stood irresolute
for a moment outside her garden gate, indulged at some length in a
form of profanity peculiar to his class, and then walked direct to
McGaw's house.
That worthy Knight met him at the door. He had been waiting for
Young Billy McGaw also saw Crimmins enter the gate, and promptly
hid himself under the broken-down steps. He hoped to overhear
what was going on when the two went out again. Young Billy's
inordinate curiosity was quite natural. He had heard enough of
the current talk about the tenements and open lots to know that
something of a revengeful and retaliatory nature against the
Grogans was in the air; but as nobody who knew the exact details
had confided them to him, he had determined upon an investigation
of his own. He not only hated Cully, but the whole Grogan
household, for the pounding he had received at his hands, so he
was anxious to get even in some way.
After McGaw had locked both doors, shutting out his wife and
little Jack, their youngest, he took a bottle from the shelf,
filled two half-tumblers, and squaring himself in his chair,
"Did ye see her, Crimmy?"
"I did," replied Crimmins, swallowing the whiskey at a gulp.
"An' she'll come in wid us, will she?"
"She will, will she? She'll come in nothin'. I jollied her about
her flowers, and thought I had her dead ter rights, when she up
an' asked me what we was a-goin' to do for her if she jined, an'
afore I could tell her she opens the front door and gives me the
dead cold."
"Fired ye?" exclaimed McGaw incredulously.
"I'm givin' it to ye straight, Dan; an' she pulled a gun on me,
too,"--telling the lie with perfect composure. "That woman's no
slouch, or I don't know 'em. One thing ye can bet yer bottom
dollar on--all h--- can't scare her. We've got to try some other
It was the peculiarly fertile quality of Crimmins's imagination
that made him so valuable to some of his friends.
When the conspirators reached the door, neither Crimmins nor his
father was in a talkative mood, and Billy heard nothing. They
lingered a moment on the sill, within a foot of his head as he lay
in a cramped position below, and then they sauntered out, his
father bareheaded, to the stable-yard. There McGaw leaned upon a
cart-wheel, listening dejectedly to Crimmins, who seemed to be
outlining a plan of some kind, which at intervals lightened the
gloom of McGaw's despair, judging from the expression of his
father's face. Then he turned hurriedly to the house, cursed his
wife because he could not find his big fur cap, and started across
to the village. Billy followed, keeping a safe distance behind.
Tom after Patsy's sad experience forbade him the streets, and
never allowed him out of her sight unless Cully or her father were
with him. She knew a storm was gathering, and she was watching
the clouds and waiting for the first patter of rain. When it came
she intended that every one of her people should be under cover.
She had sent for Carl and her two stablemen, and told them that if
they were dissatisfied in any way she wanted to know it at once.
If the wages she was paying were not enough, she was willing to
raise them, but she wanted them distinctly to understand that as
she had built up the business herself, she was the only one who
had a right to manage it, adding that she would rather clean and
drive the horses herself than be dictated to by any person
outside. She said that she saw trouble brewing, and knew that her
men would feel it first. They must look out for themselves coming
home late at night. At the brewery strike, two years before,
hardly a day passed that some of the non-union men were not beaten
into insensibility.
That night Carl came back again to the porch door, and in his
quiet, earnest way said: "We have t'ink 'bout da Union. Da men
not go--not laik da union man. We not 'fraid"--tapping his
hip-pocket, where, sailor-like, he always carried his knife
sheathed in a leather case.
Tom's eyes kindled as she looked into his manly face. She loved
pluck and grit. She knew the color of the blood running in this
young fellow's veins.
Week after week passed, and though now and then she caught the
mutterings of distant thunder, as Cully or some of the others
overheard a remark on the ferry-boat or about the post-office, no
other signs of the threatened storm were visible.
Then it broke.
One morning an important-looking envelope lay in her letter-box.
It was long and puffy, and was stamped in the upper corner with a
picture of a brewery in full operation. One end bore an
inscription addressed to the postmaster, stating that in case Mr.
Thomas Grogan was not found within ten days, it should be returned
to Schwartz & Co., Brewers.
The village post-office had several other letter-boxes, faced with
glass, so that the contents of each could be seen from the
outside. Two of these contained similar envelopes, looking
equally important, one being addressed to McGaw.
When he had called for his mail, the close resemblance between the
two envelopes seen in the letter-boxes set McGaw to thinking.
Actual scrutiny through the glass revealed the picture of the
brewery on each. He knew then that Tom had been asked to bid for
the brewery hauling. That night a special meeting of the Union
was called at eight o'clock. Quigg, Crimmins, and McGaw signed
the call.
"Hully gee, what a wad!" said Cully, when the postmaster passed
Tom's big letter out to him. One of Cully's duties was to go for
the mail.
When Pop broke the seal in Tom's presence,--one of Pop's duties
was to open what Cully brought,--out dropped a type-written sheet
notifying Mr. Thomas Grogan that sealed proposals would be
received up to March 1st for "unloading, hauling, and delivering
to the bins of the Eagle Brewery" so many tons of coal and malt,
together with such supplies, etc. There were also blank forms in
duplicate to be duly filled up with the price and signature of the
bidder. This contract was given out once a year. Twice before it
had been awarded to Thomas Grogan. The year before a man from
Stapleton had bid lowest, and had done the work. McGaw and his
friends complained that it took the bread out of Rockville's
mouth; but as the bidder belonged to the Union, no protest could
be made.
The morning after the meeting of the Union, McGaw went to New York
by the early boat. He carried a letter from Pete Lathers, the
yardmaster, to Crane & Co., of so potent a character that the
coal-dealers agreed to lend McGaw five hundred dollars on his
three-months' note, taking a chattel mortgage on his teams and
carts as security, the money to be paid McGaw as soon as the
papers were drawn. McGaw, in return, was to use his "pull" to get
a permit from the village trustees for the free use of the village
dock by Crane & Co. for discharging their Rockville coal. This
would save Crane half a mile to haul. It was this promise made by
McGaw which really turned the scale in his favor. To hustle
successfully it was often necessary for Crane to cut some sharp
This dock, as McGaw knew perfectly well, had been leased to
another party--the Fertilizing Company--for two years, and could
not possibly be placed at Crane's disposal. But he said nothing
of this to Crane.
When the day of payment to McGaw arrived, Dempsey of the executive
committee and Walking Delegate Quigg met McGaw at the ferry on his
return from New York. McGaw had Crane's money in his pocket.
That night he paid two hundred dollars into the Union, two hundred
to his feed-man on an account long overdue, and the balance to
Quigg in a poker game in the back room over O'Leary's bar.
Tom also had an interview with Mr. Crane shortly after his
interview with McGaw. Something she said about the dock having
been leased to the Fertilizing Company caused Crane to leave his
chair in a hurry, and ask his clerk in an angry voice if McGaw had
yet been paid the money on his chattel mortgage. When his cashier
showed him the stub of the check, dated two days before, Crane
slammed the door behind him, his teeth set tight, little puffs of
profanity escaping between the openings. As he walked with Tom to
the door, he said:--
"Send your papers up, Tom, I'll go bond any day in the year for
you, and for any amount; but I'll get even with McGaw for that lie
he told me about the dock, if it takes my bank account."
The annual hauling contract for the brewery, which had become an
important one in Rockville, its business having nearly doubled in
the last few years, was of special value to Tom at this time, and
she determined to make every effort to secure it.
Pop filled up the proposal in his round, clear hand, and Tom
signed it, "Thomas Grogan, Rockville, Staten Island." Then Pop
witnessed it, and Mr. Crane, a few days later, duly inscribed the
firm's name under the clause reserved for bondsmen. After that
Tom brought the bid home, and laid it on the shelf over her bed.
Everything was now ready for the fight.
The bids were to be opened at noon in the office of the brewery.
By eleven o'clock the hangers-on and idlers began to lounge into
the big yard paved with cobblestones. At half past eleven McGaw
got out of a buggy, accompanied by Quigg. At a quarter to twelve
Tom, in her hood and ulster, walked rapidly through the gate, and,
without as much as a look at the men gathered about the office
door, pushed her way into the room. Then she picked up a chair
and, placing it against the wall, sat down. Sticking out of the
breast pocket of her ulster was the big envelope containing her
Five minutes before the hour the men began filing in one by one,
awkwardly uncovering their heads, and standing in one another's
way. Some, using their hats as screens, looked over the rims.
When the bids were being gathered up by the clerk, Dennis Quigg
handed over McGaw's. The ease with which Dan had raised the money
on his notes had invested that gentleman with some of the dignity
and attributes of a capitalist; the hired buggy and the obsequious
Quigg indicated this. His new position was strengthened by the
liberal way in which he had portioned out his possessions to the
workingman. It was further sustained by the hope that he might
perhaps repeat his generosities in the near future.
At twelve o'clock precisely Mr. Schwartz, a round, bullet-headed
German, entered the room, turned his revolving-chair, and began to
cut the six envelopes heaped up before him on his desk, reading
the prices aloud as he opened them in succession, the clerk
recording. The first four were from parties in outside villages.
Then came McGaw's:--
"Forty-nine cents for coal, etc."
So far he was lowest. Quigg twisted his hat nervously, and
McGaw's coarse face grew red and white by turns.
Tom's bid was the last.
"Thomas Grogan, Rockville, S.I., thirty-eight cents for coal,
"Gentlemen," said Mr. Schwartz, quietly, "Thomas Grogan gets the
Almost every man and woman in the tenement district knew Oscar
Schwartz, and had felt the power of his obstinate hand during the
long strike of two years before, when, the Union having declared
war, Schwartz had closed the brewery for several months rather
than submit to its dictation. The news, therefore, that the Union
had called a meeting and appointed a committee to wait on Mr.
Schwartz, to protest against his giving work to a non-union woman
filled them with alarm. The women remembered the privations and
suffering of that winter, and the three dollars a week doled out
to them by the Central Branch, while their husbands, who had been
earning two and three dollars a day, were drinking at O'Leary's
bar, playing cards, or listening to the encouraging talk of the
delegates who came from New York to keep up their spirits. The
brewery employed a larger number of men than any other concern in
Rockville, so trouble with its employees meant serious trouble for
half the village if Schwartz defied the Union and selected a
non-union woman to do the work.
They knew, too, something of the indomitable pluck and endurance
of Tom Grogan. If she were lowest on the bids, she would fight
for the contract, they felt sure, if it took her last dollar.
McGaw was a fool, they said, to bid so high; he might have known
she would cut his throat, and bring them no end of trouble.
Having nursed their resentment, and needing a common object for
their wrath, the women broke out against Tom. Many of them had
disliked her ever since the day, years ago, when she had been seen
carrying her injured husband away at night to the hospital, after
months of nursing at home. And the most envious had always
maintained that she meant at the time to put him away forever
where no one could find him, so that she might play the man
"Why should she be a-comin' in an' a-robbin' us of our pay?"
muttered a coarse, red-faced virago, her hair in a frowse about
her head, her slatternly dress open at the throat. "Oi'll be one
to go an' pull her off the dock and jump on her. What's she
a-doin', any-how, puttin' down prices! Ef her ole man had a leg
to walk on, instid of his lyin' to-day a cripple in the hospital,
he'd be back and be a-runnin' things."
"She's doin' what she's a right to do," broke out Mrs. Todd
indignantly. Mrs. Todd was the wife of the foreman at the
brewery, and an old friend of Tom's. Tom had sat up with her
child only the week before. Indeed, there were few women in the
tenements, for all their outcry, who did not know how quick had
been her hand to help when illness came, or the landlord
threatened the sidewalk, or the undertaker insisted on his money
in advance.
"It's not Tom Grogan that's crooked," Mrs. Todd continued, "an' ye
all know it. It's that loafer, Dennis Quigg, and that old sneak,
Crimmins. They never lifted their hands on a decent job in their
lives, an' don't want to. When my man Jack was out of work for
four months last winter, and there wasn't a pail of coal in the
house, wasn't Quigg gittin' his four dollars a day for shootin'
off his mouth every night at O'Leary's, an' fillin' the men's
heads full of capital and rights? An' Dan McGaw's no better. If
ye're out for jumpin' on people, Mrs. Moriarty, begin with Quigg
an' some of the bummers as is runnin' the Union, an' as gits paid
whether the men works or not."
"Bedad, ye're roight," said half a dozen women, the tide turning
suddenly, while the excitement grew and spread, and other women
came in from the several smaller tenements.
"Is the trouble at the brewery?" asked a shrunken-looking woman,
opening a door on the corridor, a faded shawl over her head. She
was a new-comer, and had been in the tenement only a week or
so--not long enough to have the run of the house or to know her
"Yes; at Schwartz's," said Mrs. Todd, stopping opposite her door
on the way to her own rooms. "Your man's got a job there, ain't
"He has, mum; he's gateman--the fust job in six months. Ye don't
think they'll make him throw it up, do ye, mum?"
"Yes; an' break his head if he don't. Thet's what they did to my
man three years gone, till he had to come in with the gang and pay
'em two dollars a month," replied Mrs. Todd.
"But my man's jined, mum, a month ago; they wouldn't let him work
till he did. Won't ye come in an' set down? It's a poor place we
have--we've been so long without work, an' my girl's laid off with
a cough. She's been a-workin' at the box-factory. If the Union
give notice again, I don't know what'll become of us. Can't we do
somethin'? Maybe Mrs. Grogan might give up the work if she knew
how it was wid us. She seems like a dacent woman; she was in to
look at me girl last week, hearin' as how we were strangers an'
she very bad."
"Oh, ye don't know her. Ye can save yer wind and shoe-leather.
She's on ter McGaw red hot; that's the worst of it. He better
look out; she'll down him yet," said Mrs. Todd.
As the two entered the stuffy, close room for further discussion,
a young girl left her seat by the window, and moved into the
adjoining apartment. She had that yellow, waxy skin, hollow,
burning eyes, and hectic flush which tell the fatal story so
While the women of the tenements were cursing or wringing their
hands, the men were devoting themselves to more vigorous measures.
A meeting was called for nine o'clock at Lion Hall.
It was held behind closed doors. Two walking delegates from
Brooklyn were present, having been summoned by telegram the night
before, and who were expected to coax or bully the weak-kneed,
were the ultimatum sent to Schwartz refused and an order for a
sympathetic strike issued.
At the brewery all was quiet. Schwartz had read the notice left
on his desk by the committee the night before, and had already
begun his arrangements to supply the places of the men if a strike
were ordered. When pressed by Quigg for a reply, he said
"The price for hauling will be Grogan's bid. If she wants it, it
is hers."
Tom talked the matter over with Pop, and had determined to buy
another horse and hire two extra carts. At her price there was a
margin of at least ten cents a ton profit, and as the work lasted
through the year, she could adjust the hauling of her other
business without much extra expense. She discussed the situation
with no one outside her house. If Schwartz wanted her to carry on
the work, she would do it, Union or no Union. Mr. Crane was on
her bond. That in itself was a bracing factor. Strong and
self-reliant as she was, the helping hand which this man held out
to her was like an anchor in a storm.
That Sunday night they were all gathered round the kerosene
lamp,--Pop reading, Cully and Patsy on the floor, Jennie listening
absent-mindedly, her thoughts far away,--when there came a knock
at the kitchen door. Jennie flew to open it.
Outside stood two women. One was Mrs. Todd, the other the
haggard, pinched, careworn woman who had spoken to her that
morning at her room-door in the tenement.
"They want to see you, mother," said Jennie, all the light gone
out of her eyes. What could be the matter with Carl, she thought.
It had been this way for a week.
"Well, bring 'em in. Hold on, I'll go meself."
"She would come, Tom," said Mrs. Todd, unwinding her shawl from
her head and shoulders; "an' ye mustn't blame me, fer it's none of
my doin's. Walk in, mum; ye can speak to her yerself. Why, where
is she?"--looking out of the door into the darkness. "Oh, here ye
are; I thought ye'd skipped."
"Do ye remember me?" said the woman, stepping into the room, her
gaunt face looking more wretched under the flickering light of the
candle than it had done in the morning. "I'm the new-comer in the
tenements. Ye were in to see my girl th'other night. We're in
great trouble."
"She's not dead?" said Tom, sinking into a chair.
"No, thank God; we've got her still wid us; but me man's come home
to-night nigh crazy. He's a-walkin' the floor this minute, an' so
I goes to Mrs. Todd, an' she come wid me. If he loses the job
now, we're in the street. Only two weeks' work since las' fall,
an' the girl gettin' worse every day, and every cint in the bank
gone, an' hardly a chair lef' in the place. An' I says to him,
'I'll go meself. She come in to see Katie th' other night; she'll
listen to me.' We lived in Newark, mum, an' had four rooms and a
mahogany sofa and two carpets, till the strike come in the
clock-factory, an' me man had to quit; an' then all winter--oh,
we're not used to the likes of this!"--covering her face with her
shawl and bursting into tears.
Tom had risen to her feet, her face expressing the deepest
sympathy for the woman, though she was at a loss to understand the
cause of her visitor's distress.
"Is yer man fired?" she asked.
"No, an' wouldn't be if they'd let him alone. He's sober an'
steady, an' never tastes a drop, and brings his money home to me
every Saturday night, and always done; an' now they"--
"Well, what's the matter, then?" Tom could not stand much beating
about the bush.
"Why, don't ye know they've give notice?" she said in
astonishment; then, as a misgiving entered her mind, "Maybe I'm
wrong; but me man an' all of 'em tells me ye're a-buckin' ag'in'
Mr. McGaw, an' that ye has the haulin' job at the brewery."
"No," said Tom, with emphasis, "ye're not wrong; ye're dead right.
But who's give notice?"
"The committee's give notice, an' the boss at the brewery says
he'll give ye the job if he has to shut up the brewery; an' the
committee's decided to-day that if he does they'll call out the
men. My man is a member, and so I come over"--And she rested her
head wearily against the door, the tears streaming down her face.
Tom looked at her wonderingly, and then, putting her strong arms
about her, half carried her across the kitchen to a chair by the
stove. Mrs. Todd leaned against the table, watching the sobbing
For a moment no one spoke. It was a new experience for Tom.
Heretofore the fight had been her own and for her own. She had
never supposed before that she filled so important a place in the
neighborhood, and for a moment there flashed across her mind a
certain justifiable pride in the situation. But this feeling was
momentary. Here was a suffering woman. For the first time she
realized that one weaker than herself might suffer in the
struggle. What could she do to help her? This thought was
uppermost in her mind.
"Don't ye worry," she said tenderly. "Schwartz won't fire yer
"No; but the sluggers will. There was five men 'p'inted to-day to
do up the scabs an' the kickers who won't go out. They near
killed him once in Newark for kickin'. It was that time, you
know, when Katie was first took bad."
"Do ye know their names?" said Tom, her eyes flashing.
"No, an' me man don't. He's new, an' they dar'sn't trust him. It
was in the back room, he says, they picked 'em out."
Tom stood for some moments in deep thought, gazing at the fire,
her arms akimbo. Then, wheeling suddenly, she opened the door of
the sitting-room, and said in a firm, resolute voice:--
"Gran'pop, come here; I want ye."
The old man laid down his book, and stood in the kitchen doorway.
He was in his shirt-sleeves, his spectacles on his forehead.
"Come inside the kitchen, an' shut that door behind ye. Here's me
friend Jane Todd an' a friend of hers from the tenement. That
thief of a McGaw has stirred up the Union over the haulin' bid,
and they've sent notice to Schwartz that I don't belong to the
Union, an' if he don't throw me over an' give the job to McGaw
they'll call out the men. If they do, there's a hundred women and
three times that many children that'll go hungry. This woman
here's got a girl herself that hasn't drawed a well breath for six
months, an' her man's been idle all winter, an' only just now got
a job at Schwartz's, tending gate. Now, what'll I do? Shall I
chuck up the job or stick?"
The old man looked into the desolate, weary face of the woman and
then at Tom. Then he said slowly:--
"Well, child, ye kin do widout it, an' maybe t' others can't."
"Ye've got it straight," said Tom; "that's just what I think
meself." Then, turning to the stranger:--
"Go home and tell yer man to go to bed. I'll touch nothin'
that'll break the heart of any woman. The job's McGaw's. I'll
throw up me bid."
Ever since the eventful morning when Carl had neglected the Big
Gray for a stolen hour with Jennie, Cully had busied himself in
devising ways of making the Swede's life miserable. With a boy's
keen insight, he had discovered enough to convince him that Carl
was "dead mashed on Jennie," as he put it, but whether "for keeps"
or not he had not yet determined. He had already enriched his
songs with certain tender allusions to their present frame of mind
and their future state of happiness. "Where was Moses when the
light went out!" and "Little Annie Rooney" had undergone so subtle
a change when sung at the top of Mr. James Finnegan's voice that
while the original warp and woof of those very popular melodies
were entirely unrecognizable to any but the persons interested, to
them they were as gall and wormwood. This was Cully's invariable
way of expressing his opinions on current affairs. He would sit
on the front-board of his cart,--the Big Gray stumbling over the
stones as he walked, the reins lying loose,--and fill the air with
details of events passing in the village, with all the gusto of a
variety actor. The impending strike at the brewery had been made
the basis of a paraphrase of "Johnnie, get your gun;" and even
McGaw's red head had come in for its share of abuse to the air of
"Fire, boys, fire!" So for a time this new development of
tenderness on the part of Carl for Jennie served to ring the
changes on "Moses" and "Annie Rooney."
Carl's budding hopes had been slightly nipped by the cold look in
Tom's eye when she asked him if it took an hour to give Jennie a
tattered apron. With some disappointment he noticed that except
at rare intervals, and only when Tom was at home, he was no longer
invited to the house. He had always been a timid, shrinking
fellow where a woman was concerned, having followed the sea and
lived among men since he was sixteen years old. During these
earlier years he had made two voyages in the Pacific, and another
to the whaling-ground in the Arctic seas. On this last voyage, in
a gale of wind, he had saved all the lives aboard a brig, the crew
helpless from scurvy. When the lifeboat reached the lee of her
stern, Carl at the risk of his life climbed aboard, caught a line,
and lowered the men, one by one, into the rescuing yawl. He could
with perfect equanimity have faced another storm and rescued a
second crew any hour of the day or night, but he could not face a
woman's displeasure. Moreover, what Tom wanted done was law to
Carl. She had taken him out of the streets and given him a home.
He would serve her in whatever way she wished as long as he lived.
He and Gran'pop were fast friends. On rainy days, or when work
was dull in the winter months, the old man would often come into
Carl's little chamber, next the harness-room in the stable, and
sit on his bed by the hour. And Carl would tell him about his
people at home, and show him the pictures tacked over his bed,
those of his old mother with her white cap, and of the young
sister who was soon to be married.
On Sundays Carl followed Tom and her family to church, waiting
until they had left the house. He always sat far back near the
door, so that he could see them come out. Then he would overtake
Pop with Patsy, whenever the little fellow could go. This was not
often, for now there were many days when the boy had to lie all
day on the lounge in the sitting-room, poring over his books or
playing with Stumpy, brought into the kitchen to amuse him.
Since the day of Tom's warning look, Carl rarely joined her
daughter. Jennie would loiter by the way, speaking to the girls,
but he would hang back. He felt that Tom did not want them
One spring morning, however, a new complication arose. It was a
morning when the sky was a delicate violet-blue, when the sunlight
came tempered through a tender land haze and a filmy mist from the
still sea, when all the air was redolent with sweet smells of
coming spring, and all the girls were gay in new attire. Dennis
Quigg had been lounging outside the church door, his silk hat and
green satin necktie glistening in the sun. When Jennie tripped
out Quigg started forward. The look on his face, as with swinging
shoulders he slouched beside her, sent a thrill of indignation
through Carl. He could give her up, perhaps, if Tom insisted, but
never to a man like Quigg. Before the walking delegate had
"passed the time of day," the young sailor was close beside
Jennie, within touch of her hand.
There was no love lost between the two men. Carl had not
forgotten the proposition Quigg had made to him to leave Tom's
employ, nor had Quigg forgotten the uplifted shovel with which his
proposal had been greeted. Yet there was no well-defined jealousy
between them. Mr. Walking Delegate Dennis Quigg, confidential
agent of Branch No. 3, Knights of Labor, had too good an opinion
of himself ever to look upon that "tow-headed duffer of a
stable-boy" in the light of a rival. Nor could Carl for a moment
think of that narrow-chested, red-faced, flashily dressed Knight
as being able to make the slightest impression on "Mees Jan."
Quigg, however, was more than welcome to Jennie to-day. A little
sense of wounded pride sent the hot color to her cheeks when she
thought of Carl's apparent neglect. He had hardly spoken to her
in weeks. What had she done that he should treat her so? She
would show him that there were just as good fellows about as Mr.
Carl Nilsson.
But all this faded out when Carl joined her--Carl, so straight,
clear-skinned, brown, and ruddy; his teeth so white; his eyes so
blue! She could see out of the corner of her eye how the hair
curled in tiny rings on his temples.
Still it was to Quigg she talked. And more than that, she gave
him her prayer-book to carry until she fixed her glove--the glove
that needed no fixing at all. And she chattered on about the
dance at the boat club, and the picnic which was to come off when
the weather grew warmer.
And Carl walked silent beside her, with his head up and his heart
down, and the tears very near his eyes.
When they reached the outer gate of the stable-yard, and Quigg had
slouched off without even raising his hat,--the absence of all
courtesy stands in a certain class for a mark of higher
respect,--Carl swung back the gate, and held it open for her to
pass in. Jennie loitered for a moment. There was a look in
Carl's face she had not seen before. She had not meant to hurt
him, she said to herself.
"What mak' you no lak me anna more, Mees Jan? I big annough to
carry da buke," said Carl.
"Why, how you talk, Carl! I never said such a word," said Jennie,
leaning over the fence, her heart fluttering.
The air was soft as a caress. Opal-tinted clouds with violet
shadows sailed above the low hills. In the shade of the fence
dandelions had burst into bloom. From a bush near by a
song-sparrow flung a note of spring across the meadow.
"Well, you nev' cam' to stable anna more, Mees Jan," Carl said
slowly, in a tender, pleading tone, his gaze on her face.
The girl reached through the fence for the golden flower. She
dared not trust herself to look. She knew what was in her lover's
"I get ta flower," said Carl, vaulting the fence with one hand.
"No; please don't trouble. Oh, Carl!" she exclaimed suddenly.
"The horrid brier! My hand's all scratched! "
"Ah, Mees Jan, I so sorry! Let Carl see it," he said, his voice
melting. "I tak' ta brier out," pushing back the tangled vines of
last year to bring himself nearer.
The clouds sailed on. The sparrow stood, on its tallest toes and
twisted its little neck.
"Oh, please do, Carl, it hurts so!" she said, laying her little
round hand in the big, strong, horny palm that had held the
life-line the night of the wreck.
The song-sparrow clung to the swaying top of a mullein-stalk near
by, and poured out a strong, swelling, joyous song that well-nigh
split its throat.
When Tom called Jennie, half an hour later, she and Carl were
still talking across the fence.
About this time the labor element in the village and vicinity was
startled by an advertisement in the Rockville "Daily News," signed
by the clerk of the Board of Village Trustees, notifying
contractors that thirty days thereafter, closing at nine P.M.
precisely, separate sealed proposals would be received at the
meeting-room of the board, over the post-office, for the hauling
of twenty thousand cubic yards of fine crushed stone for use on
the public highways; bidders would be obliged to give suitable
bonds, etc.; certified check for five hundred dollars to accompany
each bid as guaranty, etc.
The news was a grateful surprise to the workingmen. The hauling
and placing of so large an amount of material as soon as spring
opened meant plenty of work for many shovelers and pickers. The
local politicians, of course, had known all about it for weeks;
especially those who owned property fronting on the streets to be
improved: they had helped the appropriation through the finance
committee. McGaw, too, had known about it from the first day of
its discussion before the board. Those who were inside the ring
had decided then that he would be the best man to haul the stone.
The "steal," they knew, could best be arranged in the tally of the
carts--the final check on the scow measurement. They knew that
McGaw's accounts could be controlled, and the total result easily
"fixed." The stone itself had been purchased of the manufacturers
the year before, but there were not funds enough to put it on the
roads at that time.
Here, then, was McGaw's chance. His triumph at obtaining the
brewery contract was but short-lived. Schwartz had given him the
work, but at Tom's price, not at his own. McGaw had accepted it,
hoping for profits that would help him with his chattel mortgage.
After he had been at work for a month, however, he found that he
ran behind. He began to see that, in spite of its boastings, the
Union had really done nothing for him, except indirectly with its
threatened strike. The Union, on the other hand, insisted that it
had been McGaw's business to arrange his own terms with Schwartz.
What it had done was to kill Grogan as a competitor, and knock her
non-union men out of the job. This ended its duty.
While they said this much to McGaw; so far as outsiders could
know, the Union claimed that they had scored a brilliant victory.
The Brooklyn and New York branches duly paraded it as another
triumph over capital, and their bank accounts were accordingly
increased with new dues and collections.
With this new contract in his possession, McGaw felt certain he
could cancel his debt with Crane and get even with the world. He
began his arrangements at once. Police-Justice Rowan, the
prospective candidate for the Assembly, who had acquired some
landed property by the purchase of expired tax titles, agreed to
furnish the certified check for five hundred dollars and to sign
McGaw's bond for a consideration to be subsequently agreed upon.
A brother of Rowan's, a contractor, who was finishing some grading
at Quarantine Landing, had also consented, for a consideration, to
loan McGaw what extra teams he required.
The size of the contract was so great, and the deposit check and
bond were so large, that McGaw concluded at once that the
competition would be narrowed down between himself and Rowan's
brother, with Justice Rowan as backer, and perhaps one other firm
from across the island, near New Brighton. His own advantage over
other bidders was in his living on the spot, with his stables and
teams near at hand.
Tom, he felt assured, was out of the way. Not only was the
contract very much too large for her, requiring twice as many
carts as she possessed, but now that the spring work was about to
begin, and Babcock's sea-wall work to be resumed, she had all the
stevedoring she could do for her own customers, without going
outside for additional business.
Moreover, she had apparently given up the fight, for she had bid
on no work of any kind since the morning she had called upon
Schwartz and told him, in her blunt, frank way, "Give the work to
McGaw at me price. It's enough and fair."
Tom, meanwhile, made frequent visits to New York, returning late
at night. One day she brought home a circular with cuts of
several improved kinds of hoisting-engines with automatic
dumping-buckets. She showed them to Pop under the kerosene lamp
at night, explaining to him their advantages in handling small
material like coal or broken stone. Once she so far relaxed her
rules in regard to Jennie's lover as to send for Carl to come to
the house after supper, questioning him closely about the upper
rigging of a new derrick she had seen. Carl's experience as a
sailor was especially valuable in matters of this kind. He could
not only splice a broken "fall," and repair the sheaves and
friction-rollers in a hoisting-block, but whenever the rigging got
tangled aloft he could spring up the derrick like a cat and
unreeve the rope in an instant. She also wrote to Babcock, asking
him to stop at her house some morning on his way to the Quarantine
Landing, where he was building a retaining-wall; and when he
arrived, she took him out to the shed where she kept her heavy
derricks. That more experienced contractor at once became deeply
interested, and made a series of sketches for her, on the back of
an envelope, of an improved pintle and revolving-cap which he
claimed would greatly improve the working of her derricks. These
sketches she took to the village blacksmith next day, and by that
night had an estimate of their cost. She was also seen one
morning, when the new trolley company got rid of its old stock, at
a sale of car-horses, watching the prices closely, and examining
the condition of the animals sold. She asked the superintendent
to drop her a postal when the next sale occurred. To her
neighbors, however, and even to her own men, she said nothing.
The only man in the village to whom she had spoken regarding the
new work was the clerk of the board, and then only casually as to
the exact time when the bids would be received.
The day before the eventful night when the proposals were to be
opened, Mr. Crane, in his buggy, stopped at her house on his way
back from the fort, and they drove together to the ferry. When
she returned she called Pop into the kitchen, shut the door, and
showed him the bid duly signed and a slip of pink paper. This was
a check of Crane & Co.'s to be deposited with the bid. Then she
went down to the stable and had a long conference with Cully.
The village Board of Trustees consisted of nine men, representing
a fair average of the intelligence and honesty of the people. The
president was a reputable hardware merchant, a very good citizen,
who kept a store largely patronized by local contractors. The
other members were two lawyers,--young men working up in practice
with the assistance of a political pull,--a veterinary surgeon,
and five gentlemen of leisure, whose only visible means of support
were derived from pool-rooms and ward meetings. Every man on the
board, except the surgeon and the president, had some particular
axe to grind. One wished to be sheriff; another, county clerk.
The five gentlemen of leisure wished to stay where they were.
When a pie was cut, these five held the knife. It was their
fault, they said, when they went hungry.
In the side of this body politic the surgeon was a thorn as sharp
as any one of his scalpels. He was a hard-headed, sober-minded
Scotchman, who had been elected to represent a group of his
countrymen living in the eastern part of the village, and whose
profession, the five supposed, indicated without doubt his entire
willingness to see through a cart-wheel, especially when the hub
was silver-plated. At the first meeting of the board they learned
their mistake, but it did not worry them much. They had seven
votes to two.
The council-chamber of the board was a hall--large for
Rockville--situated over the post-office, and only two doors from
O'Leary's barroom It was the ordinary village hall, used for
everything from a Christmas festival to a prize-fight. In summer
it answered for a skating-rink.
Once a month the board occupied it. On these occasions a sort of
rostrum was brought in for the president, besides a square table
and a dozen chairs. These were placed at one end, and were
partitioned off by a wooden rail to form an inclosure, outside of
which always stood the citizens. On the wall hung a big eight-day
clock. Over the table, about which were placed chairs, a kerosene
lamp swung on a brass chain. Opposite each seat lay a square of
blotting-paper and some cheap pens and paper. Down the middle of
the table were three inkstands, standing in china plates.
The board always met in the evening, as the business hours of the
members prevented their giving the day to their deliberations.
Upon the night of the letting of the contract the first man to
arrive was McGaw. He ran up the stairs hurriedly, found no one he
was looking for, and returned to O'Leary's, where he was joined by
Justice Rowan and his brother John, the contractor, Quigg,
Crimmins, and two friends of the Union. During the last week the
Union was outspoken in its aid of McGaw, and its men had quietly
passed the word of "Hands off this job!" about in the
neighborhood. If McGaw got the work--and there was now not the
slightest doubt of it--he would, of course, employ all Union men.
If anybody else got it--well, they would attend to him later.
"One thing was certain: no 'scab' from New Brighton should come
over and take it." They'd do up anybody who tried that game.
When McGaw, surrounded by his friends entered the board-room
again, the place was full. Outside the rail stood a solid mass of
people. Inside every seat was occupied. It was too important a
meeting for any trustee to miss.
McGaw stood on his toes and looked over the heads. To his
delight, Tom was not in the room, and no one representing her. If
he had had any lingering suspicion of her bidding, her
non-appearance allayed it. He knew now that she was out of the
race. Moreover, no New Brighton people had come. He whispered
this information to Justice Rowan's brother behind his big,
speckled hand covered with its red, spidery hair. Then the two
forced their way out again, reentered the post-office, and
borrowed a pen. Once there, McGaw took from his side pocket two
large envelopes, the contents of which he spread out under the
"I'm dead roight," said McGaw. "I'll put up the price of this
other bid. There ain't a man round here that dares show his head.
The Union's fixed 'em."
"Will the woman bid?" asked his companion.
"The woman! What'd she be a-doin' wid a bid loike that? She
c'u'dn't handle the half of it. I'll wait till a few minutes to
nine o'clock. Ye kin fix up both these bids an' hold 'em in yer
pocket. Thin we kin see what bids is laid on the table. Ours'll
go in last. If there's nothin' else we'll give'em the high one.
I'll git inside the rail, so's to be near the table."
When the two squeezed back through the throng again into the
board-room, even the staircase was packed. McGaw pulled off his
fur cap and struggled past the rail, bowing to the president. The
justice's brother stood outside, within reach of McGaw's hand.
McGaw glanced at the clock and winked complacently at his
prospective partner--not a single bid had been handed in. Then he
thrust out his long arm, took from Rowan's brother the big
envelope containing the higher bid, and dropped it on the table.
Just then there was a commotion at the door. Somebody was trying
to force a passage in. The president rose from his chair, and
looked over the crowd. McGaw started from his chair, looked
anxiously at the clock, then at his partner. The body of a boy
struggling like an eel worked its way through the mass, dodged
under the wooden bar, and threw an envelope on the table.
"Dat's Tom Grogan's bid," he said, looking at the president.
"Hully gee! but dat was a close shave! She telled me not ter
dump it till one minute o' nine, an' de bloke at de door come near
sp'ilin' de game till I give him one in de mug."
At this instant the clock struck nine, and the president's gavel
"Time's up," said the Scotchman.
The excitement over the outcome of the bidding was intense. The
barroom at O'Leary's was filled with a motley crowd of men, most
of whom belonged to the Union, and all of whom had hoped to profit
in some way had the contract fallen into the hands of the
political ring who were dominating the affairs of the village.
The more hot-headed and outspoken swore vengeance; not only
against the horse-doctor, who had refused to permit McGaw to
smuggle in the second bid, but against Crane & Co. and everybody
else who had helped to defeat their schemes. They meant to
boycott Crane before tomorrow night. He should not unload or
freight another cargo of coal until they allowed it. The village
powers, they admitted, could not be boycotted, but they would do
everything they could to make it uncomfortable for the board if it
awarded the contract to Grogan. Neither would they forget the
trustees at the next election. As to that "smart Alec" of a
horse-doctor, they knew how to fix him. Suppose it had struck
nine and the polls had closed, what right had he to keep McGaw
from handing in his other bid? (Both were higher than Tom's.
This fact, however, McGaw had never mentioned.)
Around the tenements the interest was no less marked. Mr.
Moriarty had sent the news of Tom's success ringing through
O'Leary's, and Mrs. Moriarty, waiting outside the barroom door for
the pitcher her husband had filled for her inside, had spread its
details through every hallway in the tenement.
"Ah, but Tom's a keener," said that gossip. "Think of that little
divil Cully jammed behind the door with her bid in his hand,
a-waitin' for the clock to get round to two minutes o' nine, an'
that big stuff Dan McGaw sittin' inside wid two bids up his
sleeve! Oh, but she's cunnin', she is! Dan's clean beat. He'll
niver haul a shovel o' that stone."
"How'll she be a-doin' a job like that?" came from a woman
listening over the banisters.
"Be doin'?" rejoined a red-headed virago. "Wouldn't ye be doin'
it yerself if ye had that big coal-dealer behind ye?"
"Oh, we hear enough. Who says they're in it?" rejoined a third
"Pete Lathers says so--the yard boss. He was a-tellin' me man
On consulting Justice Rowan the next morning, McGaw and his
friends found but little comfort. The law was explicit, the
justice said. The contract must be given to the lowest
responsible bidder. Tom had deposited her certified check of five
hundred dollars with the bid, and there was no informality in her
proposal. He was sorry for McGaw, but if Mrs. Grogan signed the
contract there was no hope for him. The horse-doctor's action was
right. If McGaw's second bid had been received, it would simply
have invalidated both of his, the law forbidding two from the same
Rowan's opinion sustaining Tom's right was a blow he did not
expect. Furthermore, the justice offered no hope for the future.
The law gave Tom the award, and nothing could prevent her hauling
the stone if she signed the contract. These words rang in McGaw's
ears--if she signed the contract. On this if hung his only hope.
Rowan was too shrewd a politician, now that McGaw's chances were
gone, to advise any departure, even by a hair-line, from the
strict letter of the law. He was, moreover, too upright as a
justice to advise any member of the defeated party to an overt act
which might look like unfairness to any bidder concerned. He had
had a talk, besides, with his brother over night, and they had
accordingly determined to watch events. Should a way be found of
rejecting on legal grounds Tom's bid, making a new advertisement
necessary, Rowan meant to ignore McGaw altogether, and have his
brother bid in his own name. This determination was strengthened
when McGaw, in a burst of confidence, told Rowan of his present
financial straits.
From Rowan's the complaining trio adjourned to O'Leary's barroom.
Crimmins and McGaw entered first. Quigg arrived later. He closed
one eye meaningly as he entered, and O'Leary handed a brass key to
him over the bar with the remark, "Stamp on the floor three
toimes, Dinny, an' I'll send yez up what ye want to drink." Then
Crimmins opened a door concealed by a wooden screen, and the three
disappeared upstairs. Crimmins reappeared within an hour, and
hurried out the front door. In a few moments he returned with
Justice Rowan, who had adjourned court. Immediately after the
justice's arrival there came three raps from the floor above, and
O'Leary swung back the door, and disappeared with an assortment of
drinkables on a tray.
The conference lasted until noon. Then the men separated outside
the barroom. From the expression on the face of each one as he
emerged from the door it was evident that the meeting had not
produced any very cheering or conclusive results. McGaw had that
vindictive, ugly, bulldog look about the eyes and mouth which
always made his wife tremble when he came home. The result of the
present struggle over the contract was a matter of life or death
to him. His notes, secured by the chattel mortgage on his live
stock, would be due in a few days. Crane had already notified him
that they must be paid, and he knew enough of his moneylender, and
of the anger which he had roused, to know that no extension would
be granted him. Losing this contract, he had lost his only hope
of paying them. Had it been awarded him, he could have found a
dozen men who would have loaned him the money to take up these
notes and so to pay Crane. He had comforted himself the night
before with the thought that Justice Rowan could find some way to
help him out of his dilemma; that the board would vote as the
justice advised, and then, of course, Tom's bid would be
invalidated. Now even this hope had failed him. "Whoever heard
of a woman's doing a job for a city?" he kept repeating
mechanically to himself.
Tom knew of none of these conspiracies. Had she done so they
would not have caused her a moment's anxiety. Here was a fight in
which no one would suffer except the head that got in her way, and
she determined to hit that with all her might the moment it rose
into view. This was no brewery contract, she argued with Pop,
where five hundred men might be thrown out of employment, with all
the attendant suffering to women and children. The village was a
power nobody could boycott. Moreover, the law protected her in
her rights under the award. She would therefore quietly wait
until the day for signing the papers arrived, furnish her bond,
and begin a work she could superintend herself. In the meantime
she would continue her preparations. One thing she was resolved
upon--she would have nothing to do with the Union. Carl could lay
his hand on a dozen of his countrymen who would be glad to get
employment with her. If they were all like him she need have no
fear in any emergency.
She bought two horses--great strong ones,--at the trolley sale,
and ordered two new carts from a manufacturer in Newark, to be
sent to her on the first of the coming month.
Her friends took her good fortune less calmly. Their genuine
satisfaction expressed itself in a variety of ways. Crane sent
her this characteristic telegram:--
"Bully for you!"
Babcock came all the way down to her home to offer her his
congratulations, and to tender her what assistance she needed in
tools or money.
The Union, in their deliberations, insisted that it was the
"raised bid" which had ruined the business with McGaw and for
them. It was therefore McGaw's duty to spare no effort to prevent
her signing the contract. They had stuck by him in times gone by;
he must now stick by them. One point was positively insisted
upon: Union men must be employed on the work, whoever got it.
McGaw, however, was desperate. He denounced Tom in a vocabulary
peculiar to himself and full of innuendoes and oaths, but without
offering any suggestion as to how his threats against her might be
carried out.
With his usual slyness, Quigg said very little openly. He had not
yet despaired of winning Jennie's favor, and until that hope was
abandoned he could hardly make up his mind which side of the fence
he was on. Crimmins was even more indifferent in regard to the
outcome--his pay as walking delegate went on, whichever side won;
he could wait.
In this emergency McGaw again sought Crimmins's assistance. He
urged the importance of his getting the contract, and he promised
to make Crimmins foreman on the street, and to give him a share in
the profits, if he would help him in some way to get the work now.
The first step, he argued, was the necessity of crushing Tom.
Everything else would be easy after that. Such a task, he felt,
would not be altogether uncongenial to Crimmins, still smarting
under Tom's contemptuous treatment of him the day he called upon
her in his capacity of walking delegate.
McGaw's tempting promise made a deep impression upon Crimmins. He
determined then and there to inflict some blow on Tom Grogan from
which she could never recover. He was equally determined on one
other thing--not to be caught.
Early the next morning Crimmins stationed himself outside
O'Leary's where he could get an uninterrupted view of two streets.
He stood hunched up against the jamb of O'Leary's door in the
attitude of a corner loafer, with three parts of his body touching
the wood--hip, shoulder, and cheek. For some time no one appeared
in sight either useful or inimical to his plans, until Mr. James
Finnegan, who was filling the morning air with one of his
characteristic songs, brightened the horizon up the street to his
Cully's unexpected appearance at that moment produced so
uncomfortable an effect upon Mr. Crimmins that that gentleman fell
instantly back through the barroom door.
The boy's quick eye caught the movement, and it also caught a
moment later, Mr. Crimmins's nose and watery eye peering out again
when their owner had assured himself that his escape had been
unseen. Cully slackened his pace to see what new move Crimmins
would make--but without the slightest sign of recognition on his
face--and again broke into song. He was on his way to get the
mail, and had passed McGaw's house but a few moments before, in
the hope that that worthy Knight might be either leaning over the
fence or seated on the broken-down porch. He was anxious McGaw
should hear a few improvised stanzas of a new ballad he had
composed to that delightful old negro melody, "Massa's in de cold,
cold ground," in which the much-beloved Southern planter and the
thoroughly hated McGaw changed places in the cemetery.
That valiant Knight was still in bed, exhausted by the labors of
the previous evening. Young Billy, however, was about the
stables, and so Mr. James Finnegan took occasion to tarry long
enough in the road for the eldest son of his enemy to get the
stanza by heart, in the hope that he might retail it to his father
when he appeared.
Billy dropped his manure-fork as soon as Cully had moved on again,
and dodging behind the fence, followed him toward the post-office,
hoping to hit the singer with a stone.
When the slinking body of McGaw's eldest son became visible to Mr.
Crimmins, his face broke into creases so nearly imitative of a
smile that his best friend would not have known him. He slapped
the patched knees of his overalls gayly, bent over in a subdued
chuckle, and disported himself in a merry and much satisfied way.
His rum-and-watery eyes gleamed with delight, and even his
chin-whisker took on a new vibration. Next he laid one finger
along his nose, looked about him cautiously, and said to himself,
in an undertone:--
"The very boy! It'll fix McGaw dead to rights, an' ther' won't be
no squealin' after it's done."
Here he peered around the edge of one of O'Leary's drawn
window-shades, and waited until Cully had passed the barroom,
secured his mail, and started for home, his uninterrupted song
filling the air. Then he opened the blind very cautiously, and
beckoned to Billy.
Cully's eye caught the new movement as he turned the corner. His
song ceased. When Mr. Finnegan had anything very serious on his
mind he never sang.
When, some time after, Billy emerged from O'Leary's door, he had a
two-dollar bill tightly squeezed in his right hand. Part of this
he spent on his way home for a box of cigarettes; the balance he
invested in a mysterious-looking tin can. The can was narrow and
long and had a screw nozzle at one end. This can Cully saw him
hide in a corner of his father's stable.
Ever since the night Cully, with the news of the hair-breadth
escape of the bid, had dashed back to Tom, waiting around the
corner, he had been the hero of the hour. As she listened to his
description of McGaw when her bid dropped on the table--"Lookin'
like he'd eat sumpin' he couldn't swaller--see?" her face was
radiant, and her sides shook with laughter. She had counted upon
McGaw falling into her trap, and she was delighted over the
success of her experiment. Tom had once before caught him raising
a bid when he discovered that but one had been offered.
In recognition of these valuable services Tom had given Cully two
tickets for a circus which was then charming the inhabitants of
New Brighton, a mile or more away, and he and Carl were going the
following night. Mr. Finnegan was to wear a black sack-coat, a
derby hat, and a white shirt which Jennie, in the goodness of her
heart, had ironed for him herself. She had also ironed a scarf of
Carl's, and had laid it on the window-sill of the outer kitchen,
where Cully might find it as he passed by.
The walks home from church were now about the only chance the
lovers had of being together. Almost every day Carl was off with
the teams. When he did come home in working hours he would take
his dinner with the men and boys in the outer kitchen. Jennie
sometimes waited on them, but he rarely spoke to her as she passed
in and out, except with his eyes.
When Cully handed him the scarf, Carl had already dressed himself
in his best clothes, producing so marked a change in the outward
appearance of the young Swede that Cully in his admiration
pronounced him "out o' sight."
Cully's metamorphosis was even more complete than Carl's. Now
that the warm spring days were approaching, Mr. Finnegan had
decided that his superabundant locks were unseasonable, and had
therefore had his hair cropped close to his scalp, showing here
and there a white scar, the record of some former scrimmage.
Reaching to the edge of each ear was a collar as stiff as
pasteboard. His derby was tilted over his left eyebrow, shading a
face brimming over with fun and expectancy. Below this was a
vermilion-colored necktie and a black coat and trousers. His
shoes sported three coats of blacking, which only partly concealed
the dust-marks of his profession.
"Hully gee, Carl! but de circus's a-goin' ter be a dandy," he
called out in delight, as he patted a double shuffle with his
feet. "I see de picters on de fence when I come from de ferry.
Dere's a chariot-race out o' sight, an' a' elephant what stands on
'is head. Hold on till I see ef de Big Gray 's got enough beddin'
under him. He wuz awful stiff dis mornin' when I helped him up."
Cully never went to bed without seeing the Gray first made
comfortable for the night.
The two young fellows saw all the sights, and after filling their
pockets with peanuts and themselves with pink lemonade, took their
seats at last under the canvas roof, where they waited impatiently
for the performance to begin.
The only departure from the ordinary routine was Cully's instant
acceptance of the clown's challenge to ride the trick mule, and
his winning the wager amid the plaudits of the audience, after a
rough-and-tumble scramble in the sawdust, sticking so tight to his
back that a bystander remarked that the only way to get the boy
off would be to "peel the mule."
When they returned it was nearly midnight. Cully had taken off
his "choker," as he called it, and had curled it outside his hat,
They had walked over from the show, and the tight clutch of the
collar greatly interfered with Cully's discussion of the wonderful
things he had seen. Besides, the mule had ruined it completely
for a second use.
It was a warm night for early spring, and Carl had his coat over
his arm. When they reached the outer stable fence--the one
nearest the village--Cully's keen nose scented a peculiar odor.
"Who's been a breakin' de lamp round here, Carl?" he asked,
sniffing close to the ground. "Holy smoke! Look at de light in
de stable--sumpin' mus' be de matter wid de Big Gray, or de ole
woman wouldn't be out dis time o' night wid a lamp. What would
she be a-doin' out here, anyway?" he exclaimed in a sudden
anxious tone. "Dis ain't de road from de house. Hully gee! Look
out for yer coat! De rails is a-soakin' wid ker'sene!"
At this moment a little flame shot out of the window over the Big
Gray's head and licked its way up the siding, followed by a column
of smoke which burst through the door in the hay-loft above the
stalls of the three horses next the bedroom of Carl and Cully. A
window was hastily opened in Tom's house and a frightened shriek
broke the stillness of the night. It was Jennie's voice, and it
had a tone of something besides alarm.
What the sight of the fire had paralyzed in Carl, the voice awoke.
"No, no! I here--I safe, Jan!" he cried, clearing the fence with
a bound.
Cully did not hear Jennie. He saw only the curling flames over
the Big Gray's head. As he dashed down the slope he kept
muttering the old horse's pet names, catching his breath, and
calling to Carl, "Save de Gray--save Ole Blowhard!"
Cully reached the stable first, smashed the padlock with a shovel,
and rushed into the Gray's stall. Carl seized a horse-bucket, and
began sousing the window-sills of the harness-room, where the fire
was hottest.
By this time the whole house was aroused. Tom, dazed by the
sudden awakening, with her ulster thrown about her shoulders,
stood barefooted on the porch. Jennie was still at the window,
sobbing as if her heart would break, now that Carl was safe.
Patsy had crawled out of his low crib by his mother's bed, and was
stumbling downstairs, one foot at a time. Twice had Cully tried
to drag the old horse clear of his stall, and twice had he fallen
back for fresh air. Then came a smothered cry from inside the
blinding smoke, a burst of flame lighting up the stable, and the
Big Gray was pushed out, his head wrapped in Carl's coat, the
Swede pressing behind, Cully coaxing him on, his arms around the
horse's neck.
Hardly had the Big Gray cleared the stable when the roof of the
small extension fell, and a great burst of flame shot up into the
night air. All hope of rescuing the other two horses was now
Tom did not stand long dazed and bewildered. In a twinkling she
had drawn on a pair of men's boots over her bare feet, buckled her
ulster over her night-dress, and rushed back upstairs to drag the
blankets from the beds. Laden with these she sprang down the
steps, called to Jennie to follow, soaked the bedding in the
water-trough, and, picking up the dripping mass, carried it to
Carl and Cully, who, now that the Gray was safely tied to the
kitchen porch, were on the roof of the tool-house, fighting the
sparks that fell on the shingles.
By this time the neighbors began to arrive from the tenements.
Tom took charge of every man as soon as he got his breath,
stationed two at the pump-handle, and formed a line of
bucket-passers from the water-trough to Carl and Cully, who were
spreading the blankets on the roof. The heat now was terrific;
Carl had to shield his face with his sleeve as he threw the water.
Cully lay flat on the shingles, holding to the steaming blankets,
and directing Carl's buckets with his outstretched finger when
some greater spark lodged and gained headway. If they could keep
these burning brands under until the heat had spent itself, they
could perhaps save the tool-house and the larger stable.
All this time Patsy had stood on the porch where Tom had left him
hanging over the railing wrapped in Jennie's shawl. He was not to
move until she came for him: she wanted him out of the way of
trampling feet. Now and then she would turn anxiously, catch
sight of his wizened face dazed with fright, wave her hand to him
encouragingly, and work on.
Suddenly the little fellow gave a cry of terror and slid from the
porch, trailing the shawl after him, his crutch jerking over the
ground, his sobs almost choking him.
"Mammy! Cully! Stumpy's tied in the loft! Oh, somebody help me!
He's in the loft! Oh, please, please!"
In the roar of the flames nobody heard him. The noise of axes
beating down the burning fences drowned all other sounds. At this
moment Tom was standing on a cart, passing up the buckets to Carl.
Cully had crawled to the ridge-pole of the tool-house to watch
both sides of the threatened roof.
The little cripple made his way slowly into the crowd nearest the
sheltered side of the tool-house, pulling at the men's coats,
pleading with them to save his goat, his Stumpy.
On this side was a door opening into a room where the chains were
kept. From it rose a short flight of six or seven steps leading
to the loft. This loft had two big doors--one closed, nearest the
fire, and the other wide open, fronting the house. When the roof
of the burning stable fell, the wisps of straw in the cracks of
the closed door burst into flame.
Within three feet of this blazing mass, shivering with fear,
tugging at his rope, his eyes bursting from his head, stood
Stumpy, his piteous bleatings unheard in the surrounding roar. A
child's head appeared above the floor, followed by a cry of joy as
the boy flung himself upon the straining rope. The next instant a
half-frenzied goat sprang through the open door and landed in the
yard below in the midst of the startled men and women.
Tom was on the cart when she saw this streak of light flash out of
the darkness of the loft door and disappear. Her eyes
instinctively turned to look at Patsy in his place on the porch.
Then a cry of horror burst from the crowd, silenced instantly as a
piercing shriek filled the air.
"My God! It's me Patsy!"
Bareheaded in the open doorway of the now blazing loft, a
silhouette against the flame, his little white gown reaching to
his knees, his crutch gone, the stifling smoke rolling out in
great whirls above his head, stood the cripple!
Tom hurled herself into the crowd, knocking the men out of her
way, and ran towards the chain room door. At this instant a man
in his shirt-sleeves dropped from the smoking roof, sprang in
front of her, and caught her in his arms.
"No, not you go; Carl go!" he said in a firm voice, holding her
Before she could speak he snatched a handkerchief from a woman's
neck, plunged it into the water of the horse-trough, bound it
about his head, dashed up the short flight of steps, and crawled
toward the terror-stricken child. There was a quick clutch, a
bound back, and the smoke rolled over them, shutting man and child
from view.
The crowd held their breath as it waited. A man with his hair
singed and his shirt on fire staggered from the side door. In his
arms he carried the almost lifeless boy, his face covered by the
A woman rushed up, caught the boy in her arms, and sank on her
knees. The man reeled and fell.
. . . . . . .
When Carl regained consciousness, Jennie was bending over him,
chafing his hands and bathing his face. Patsy was on the sofa,
wrapped in Jennie's shawl. Pop was fanning him. Carl's wet
handkerchief, the old man said, had kept the boy from suffocating.
The crowd had begun to disperse. The neighbors and strangers had
gone their several ways. The tenement-house mob were on the road
to their beds. Many friends had stopped to sympathize, and even
the bitterest of Tom's enemies said they were glad it was no
When the last of them had left the yard, Tom, tired out with
anxiety and hard work, threw herself down on the porch. The
morning was already breaking, the gray streaks of dawn brightening
the east. From her seat she could hear through the open door the
soothing tones of Jennie's voice as she talked to her lover, and
the hoarse whispers of Carl in reply. He had recovered his breath
again, and was but little worse for his scorching, except in his
speech. Jennie was in the kitchen making some coffee for the
exhausted workers, and he was helping her.
Tom realized fully all that had happened. She knew who had saved
Patsy's life. She remembered how he laid her boy in her arms, and
she still saw the deathly pallor in his face as he staggered and
fell. What had he not done for her and her household since he
entered her service? If he loved Jennie, and she him, was it his
fault? Why did she rebel, and refuse this man a place in her
home? Then she thought of her own Tom no longer with her, and of
her fight alone and without him. What would he have thought of
it? How would he have advised her to act? He had always hoped
such great things for Jennie. Would he now be willing to give her
to this stranger? If she could only talk to her Tom about it all!
As she sat, her head in her hand, the smoking stable, the eager
wild-eyed crowd, the dead horses, faded away and became to her as
a dream. She heard nothing but the voice of Jennie and her lover,
saw only the white face of her boy. A sickening sense of utter
loneliness swept over her. She rose and moved away.
During all this time Cully was watching the dying embers, and when
all danger was over,--only the small stable with its two horses
had been destroyed,--he led the Big Gray back to the pump, washed
his head, sponging his eyes and mouth, and housed him in the big
stable. Then he vanished.
Immediately on leaving the Big Gray, Cully had dodged behind the
stable, run rapidly up the hill, keeping close to the fence, and
had come out behind a group of scattering spectators. There he
began a series of complicated manoeuvres, mostly on his toes,
lifting his head over those of the crowd, and ending in a sudden
dart forward and as sudden a halt, within a few inches of young
Billy McGaw's coat-collar.
Billy turned pale, but held his ground. He felt sure Cully would
not dare attack him with so many others about. Then, again, the
glow of the smouldering cinders had a fascination for him that
held him to the spot.
Cully also seemed spellbound. The only view of the smoking ruins
that satisfied him seemed to be the one he caught over young
McGaw's shoulder. He moved closer and closer, sniffing about
cautiously, as a dog would on a trail. Indeed, the closer he got
to Billy's coat the more absorbed he seemed to be in the view
Here an extraordinary thing happened. There was a dipping of
Cully's head between Billy's legs, a raising of both arms,
grabbing Billy around the waist, and in a flash the hope of the
house of McGaw was swept off his feet, Cully beneath him, and in
full run toward Tom's house. The bystanders laughed; they thought
it only a boyish trick. Billy kicked and struggled, but Cully
held on. When they were clear of the crowd, Cully shook him to
the ground and grabbed him by the coat-collar.
"Say, young feller, where wuz ye when de fire started?"
At this Billy broke into a howl, and one of the crowd, some
distance off, looked up. Cully clapped his hand over his mouth.
"None o' that, or I'll mash yer mug--see?" standing over him with
clenched fist.
"I warn't nowheres," stammered Billy. "Say, take yer hands off'n
me--ye ain't"--
"T'ell I ain't! Ye answer me straight--see?--or I'll punch yer
face in," tightening his grasp. "What wuz ye a-doin' when de
circus come out--an', anoder t'ing, what's dis cologne yer got on
yer coat? Maybe next time ye climb a fence ye'll keep from
spillin' it, see? Oh, I'm onter ye. Ye set de stable afire.
Dat's what's de matter."
"I hope I may die--I wuz a-carryin' de can er ker'sene home, an'
when de roof fell in I wuz up on de fence so I c'u'd see de fire,
an' de can slipped"--
"What fence?" said Cully, shaking him as a terrier would a rat.
"Why dat fence on de hill."
That was enough for Cully. He had his man. The lie had betrayed
him. Without a word he jerked the cowardly boy from the ground,
and marched him straight into the kitchen:--
"Say, Carl, I got de fire-bug. Ye kin smell der ker'sene on his
McGaw had watched the fire from his upper window with mingled joy
and fear--joy that Tom's property was on fire, and fear that it
would be put out before she would be ruined. He had been waiting
all the evening for Crimmins, who had failed to arrive. Billy had
not been at home since supper, so he could get no details as to
the amount of the damage from that source. In this emergency he
sent next morning for Quigg to make a reconnaissance in the
vicinity of the enemy's camp, ascertain how badly Tom had been
crippled, and learn whether her loss would prevent her signing the
contract the following night. Mr. Quigg accepted the mission, the
more willingly because he wanted to settle certain affairs of his
own. Jennie had avoided him lately,--why he could not tell,--and
he determined, before communicating to his employer the results of
his inquiries about Tom, to know exactly what his own chances were
with the girl. He could slip over to the house while Tom was in
the city, and leave before she returned.
On his way, the next day, he robbed a garden fence of a mass of
lilacs, breaking off the leaves as he walked. When he reached the
door of the big stable he stopped for a moment, glanced cautiously
in to see if he could find any preparations for the new work, and
then, making a mental note of the surroundings, followed the path
to the porch.
Pop opened the door. He knew Quigg only by sight--an unpleasant
sight, he thought, as he looked into his hesitating, wavering
"It's a bad fire ye had, Mr. Mullins," said Quigg, seating himself
in the rocker, the blossoms half strangled in his grasp.
"Yis, purty bad, but small loss, thank God," said Pop quietly.
"That lets her out of the contract, don't it?" said Quigg.
"She'll be short of horses now."
Pop made no answer. He did not intend to give Mr. Quigg any
information that might comfort him.
"Were ye insured?" asked Quigg, in a cautious tone, his eyes on
the lilacs.
"Oh, yis, ivery pinny on what was burned, so Mary tells me."
Quigg caught his breath; the rumor in the village was the other
way. Why didn't Crimmins make a clean sweep of it and burn 'em
all at once, he said to himself.
"I brought some flowers over for Miss Jennie," said Quigg,
regaining his composure. "Is she in?"
"Yis; I'll call her." Gentle and apparently harmless as Gran'pop
was, men like Quigg somehow never looked him steadily in the eye.
"I was tellin' Mr. Mullins I brought ye over some flowers," said
Quigg, turning to Jennie as she entered, and handing her the bunch
without leaving his seat, as if it had been a pair of shoes.
"You're very kind, Mr. Quigg," said the girl, laying them on the
table, and still standing.
"I hear'd your brother Patsy was near smothered till Dutchy got
him out. Was ye there?"
Jennie bit her lip and her heart quickened. Carl's sobriquet in
the village, coming from such lips, sent the hot blood to her
"Yes, Mr. Nilsson saved his life," she answered slowly, with
girlish dignity, a backward rush filling her heart as she
remembered Carl staggering out of the burning stable, Patsy held
close to his breast.
"The fellers in Rockville say ye think it was set afire. I see
Justice Rowan turned Billy McGaw loose. Do ye suspect anybody
else? Some says a tramp crawled in and upset his pipe."
This lie was coined on the spot and issued immediately to see if
it would pass.
"Mother says she knows who did it, and it'll all come out in time.
Cully found the can this morning," said Jennie, leaning against
the table.
Quigg's jaw fell and his brow knit as Jennie spoke. That was just
like the fool, he said to himself. Why didn't he get the stuff in
a bottle and then break it?
But the subject was too dangerous to linger over, so he began
talking of the dance down at the Town Hall, and the meeting last
Sunday after church. He asked her if she would go with him to the
"sociable" they were going to have at No. 4 Truck-house; and when
she said she couldn't,--that her mother didn't want her to go out,
etc.,--Quigg moved his chair closer, with the remark that the old
woman was always putting her oar in and spoiling things; the way
she was going on with the Union would ruin her; she'd better join
in with the boys, and be friendly; they'd "down her yet if she
"I hope nothing will happen to mother, Mr. Quigg," said Jennie, in
an anxious tone, as she sank into a chair.
Quigg misunderstood the movement, and moved his own closer.
"There won't nothin' happen any more, Jennie, if you'll do as I
It was the first time he had ever called her by her name. She
could not understand how he dared. She wished Carl would come in.
"Will you do it?" asked Quigg eagerly, his cunning face and mean
eyes turned toward her.
Jennie never raised her head. Her cheeks were burning. Quigg
went on,--
"I've been keepin' company with ye, Jennie, all winter, and the
fellers is guyin' me about it. You know I'm solid with the Union
and can help yer mother, and if ye'll let me speak to Father
McCluskey next Sunday"--
The girl sprang from her chair.
"I won't have you talk that way to me, Dennis Quigg! I never said
a word to you, and you know it." Her mother's spirit was now
flashing in her eyes. "You ought to be ashamed of yourself to
come here--and"--
Then she broke down.
Another woman would have managed it differently, perhaps,--by a
laugh, a smile of contempt, or a frigid refusal. This mere child,
stung to the quick by Quigg's insult, had only her tears in
defense. The Walking Delegate turned his head and looked out of
the window. Then he caught up his hat and without a word to the
sobbing girl hastily left the room.
Tom was just entering the lower gate. Quigg saw her and tried to
dodge behind the tool-house, but it was too late, so he faced her.
Tom's keen eye caught the sly movement and the quickly altered
expression. Some new trickery was in the air, she knew; she
detected it in every line of Quigg's face. What was McGaw up to
now? she asked herself. Was he after Carl and the men, or getting
ready to burn the other stable?
"Good-morning, Mr. Quigg. Ain't ye lost?" she asked coldly.
"Oh no," said Quigg, with a forced laugh. "I come over to see if
I could help about the fire."
It was the first thing that came into his head; he had hoped to
pass with only a nod of greeting.
"Did ye?" replied Tom thoughtfully. She saw he had lied, but she
led him on. "What kind of help did ye think of givin'? The
insurance company will pay the money, the two horses is buried,
an' we begin diggin' post-holes for a new stable in the mornin'.
Perhaps ye were thinkin' of lendin' a hand yerself. If ye did, I
can put ye alongside of Carl; one shovel might do for both of ye."
Quigg colored and laughed uneasily. Somebody had told her, then,
how Carl had threatened him with uplifted shovel when he tried to
coax the Swede away.
"No, I'm not diggin' these days; but I've got a pull wid the
insurance adjuster, and might git an extra allowance for yer."
This was cut from whole cloth. He had never known an adjuster in
his life.
"What's that?" asked Tom, still looking square at him, Quigg
squirming under her glance like a worm on a pin.
"Well, the company can't tell how much feed was in the bins, and
tools, and sech like," he said, with another laugh.
A laugh is always a safe parry when a pair of clear gray
search-light eyes are cutting into one like a rapier.
"An' yer idea is for me to git paid for stuff that wasn't burned
up, is it?"
"Well, that's as how the adjuster says. Sometimes he sees it an'
sometimes he don't--that's where the pull comes in."
Tom put her arms akimbo, her favorite attitude when her anger
began to rise.
"Oh I see! The pull is in bribin' the adjuster, as ye call him,
so he can cheat the company."
Quigg shrugged his shoulders; that part of the transaction was a
mere trifle. What were companies made for but to be cheated?
Tom stood for a minute looking him all over.
"Dennis Quigg," she said slowly, weighing each word, her eyes
riveted on his face, "ye're a very sharp young man; ye're so very
sharp that I wonder ye've gone so long without cuttin' yerself,
But one thing I tell ye, an' that is, if ye keep on the way ye're
a-goin' ye'll land where you belong, and that's up the river in a
potato-bug suit of clothes. Turn yer head this way, Quigg. Did
ye niver in yer whole life think there was somethin' worth the
havin' in bein' honest an' clean an' square, an' holdin' yer head
up like a man, instead of skulkin' round like a thief? What ye're
up to this mornin' I don't know yet, but I want to tell ye it 's
the wrong time o' day for ye to make calls, and the night's not
much better, unless ye're particularly invited."
Quigg smothered a curse and turned on his heel toward the village.
When he reached O'Leary's, Dempsey of the Executive Committee met
him at the door. He and McGaw had spent the whole morning in
devising plans to keep Tom out of the board-room.
Quigg's report was not reassuring. She would be paid her
insurance money, he said, and would certainly be at the meeting
that night.
The three adjourned to the room over the bar. McGaw began pacing
the floor, his long arms hooked behind his back. He had passed a
sleepless night, and every hour now added to his anxiety. His
face was a dull gray yellow, and his eyes were sunken. Now and
then he would tug at his collar nervously. As he walked he
clutched his fingers, burying the nails in the palms, the red hair
on his wrists bristling like spiders' legs. Dempsey sat at the
table watching him calmly out of the corner of his eye.
After a pause Quigg leaned over, his lips close to Dempsey's ear.
Then he drew a plan on the back of an old wine-list. It marked
the position of the door in Tom's stable, and that of a path which
ran across lots and was concealed from her house by a low fence.
Dempsey studied it a moment, nodding at Quigg's whispered
explanations, and passed it to McGaw, repeating Quigg's words.
McGaw stopped and bent his head. A dull gleam flashed out of his
smouldering eyes. The lines of his face hardened and his jaw
tightened. For some minutes he stood irresolute, gazing vacantly
over the budding trees through the window. Then he turned
sharply, swallowed a brimming glass of raw whiskey, and left the
When the sound of his footsteps had died away, Dempsey looked at
Quigg meaningly and gave a low laugh.
It was "blossom-week," and every garden and hedge flaunted its
bloom in the soft air. All about was the perfume of flowers, the
odor of fresh grass, and that peculiar earthy smell of new-made
garden beds but lately sprinkled. Behind the hill overlooking the
harbor the sun was just sinking into the sea. Some sentinel
cedars guarding its crest stood out in clear relief against the
golden light. About their tops, in wide circles, swooped a flock
of crows.
Gran'pop and Tom sat on the front porch, their chairs touching,
his hand on hers. She had been telling him of Quigg's visit that
morning. She had changed her dress for a new one. The dress was
of brown cloth, and had been made in the village--tight where it
should be loose, and loose where it should be tight. She had put
it on, she told Pop, to make a creditable appearance before the
board that night.
Jennie was flitting in and out between the sitting-room and the
garden, her hands full of blossoms, filling the china jars on the
mantel: none of them contained Quigg's contribution. Patsy was
flat on his back on the small patch of green surrounding the
porch, playing circus-elephant with Stumpy, who stood over him
with leveled head.
Up the hill, but a few rods away, Cully was grazing the Big
Gray--the old horse munching tufts of fresh, sweet grass sprinkled
with dandelions. Cully walked beside him. Now and then he lifted
one of his legs, examining the hoof critically for possible tender
There was nothing the matter with the Gray; the old horse was
still sound: but it satisfied Cully to be assured, and it
satisfied, too, a certain yearning tenderness in his heart toward
his old chum. Once in a while he would pat the Gray's neck,
smoothing his ragged, half worn mane, addressing him all the while
in words of endearment expressed in a slang positively profane and
utterly without meaning except to these two.
Suddenly Jennie's cheek flushed as she came out on the porch.
Carl was coming up the path. The young Swede was bareheaded, the
short blond curls glistening in the light; his throat was bare
too, so that one could see the big muscles in his neck. Jennie
always liked him with his throat bare; it reminded her of a hero
she had once seen in a play, who stormed a fort and rescued all
the starving women.
"Da brown horse seek; batta come to stabble an' see him," Carl
said, going direct to the porch, where he stood in front of Tom,
resting one hand on his hip, his eyes never wandering from her
face. He knew where Jennie was, but he never looked.
"What's the matter with him?" asked Tom, her thoughts far away at
the moment.
"I don' know; he no eat da oats en da box."
"Will he drink?" said Tom, awakening to the importance of the
"Yas; 'mos' two buckets."
"It's fever he's got," she said, turning to Pop. "I thought that
yisterday noon when I sees him a-workin'. All right, Carl; I'll
be down before I go to the board meetin'. And see here, Carl;
ye'd better git ready to go wid me. I'll start in a couple o'
hours. Will it suit ye, Gran'pop, if Carl goes with me?"--patting
her father's shoulder. "If ye keep on a-worritin' I'll hev to
hire a cop to follow me round."
Carl lingered for a moment on the steps. Perhaps Tom had some
further orders; perhaps, too, Jennie would come out again.
Involuntarily his eye wandered toward the open door, and then he
turned to go. Jennie's heart sprang up in her throat. She had
seen from behind the curtains the shade of disappointment that
crossed her lover's face. She could suffer herself, but she could
not see Carl unhappy. In an instant she was beside her mother.
Anything to keep Carl--she did not care what.
"Oh, Carl, will you bring the ladder so I can reach the long
branches?" she said, her quick wit helping her with a subterfuge.
Carl turned and glanced at Tom. He felt the look in her face and
could read her thoughts.
If Tom had heard Jennie she never moved. This affair must end in
some way, she said to herself. Why had she not sent him away long
before? How could she do it now when he had risked his life to
save Patsy?
Then she answered firmly, still without turning her head, "No,
Jennie; there won't be time. Carl must get ready to"--
Pop laid his hand on hers.
"There's plinty o' toime, Mary. Ye'll git the ladder behint the
kitchen door, Carl. I hed it ther' mesilf this mornin'."
Carl found the ladder, steadied it against the tree, and guided
Jennie's little feet till they reached the topmost round, holding
on to her skirts so that she should not fall. Above their heads
the branches twined and interlaced, shedding their sweetest
blossoms over their happy upturned faces. The old man's eyes
lightened as he watched them for some moments; then, turning to
Tom, his voice full of tenderness, he said:--
"Carl's a foine lad, Mary; ye'll do no better for Jinnie."
Tom did not answer; her eyes were on the cedars where the crows
were flying, black silhouettes against the yellow sky.
"Did I shtop ye an' break yer heart whin ye wint off wid yer own
Tom? What wuz he but an honest lad thet loved ye, an' he wid not
a pinny in his pocket but the fare that brought ye both to the new
Tom's eyes filled. She could not see the cedars now. All the
hill was swimming in light.
"Oi hev watched Carl sence he fust come, Mary. It's a good mither
some'er's as has lost a foine b'y. W'u'dn't ye be lonely yersilf
ef ye'd come here wid nobody to touch yer hand? "
Tom shivered and covered her face. Who was more lonely than
she--she who had hungered for the same companionship that she was
denying Jennie; she who had longed for somebody to stand between
her and the world, some hand to touch, some arm to lean on; she
who must play the man always--the man and the mother too!
Pop went on, stroking her strong, firm hand with his stiff,
shriveled fingers. He never looked at her; his face was now too
turned toward the dying sun.
"Do ye remimber the day ye left me in the ould counthry, Mary, wid
yer own Tom; an' how I walked wid ye to the turnin' of the road?
It wuz spring thin, an' the hedges all white wid blossoms. Look
at thim two over there, Mary, wid their arms full o' flowers.
Don't be breakin' their hearts, child."
Tom turned and slipped her arm around the old man's neck, her head
sinking on his shoulder. The tears were under her eyelids; her
heart was bursting; only her pride sustained her. Then in a
half-whispered voice, like a child telling its troubles, she
"Ye don't know--ye don't know, Gran'pop. The dear God knows it's
not on account of meself. It's Tom I'm thinkin' of night an'
day--me Tom, me Tom. She's his child as well as mine. If he
could only help me! He wanted such great things for Jennie. It
ud be easier if he hadn't saved Patsy. Don't speak to me ag'in
about it, father dear; it hurts me."
The old man rose from his chair and walked slowly into the house.
All his talks with his daughter ended in this way. It was always
what Tom would have thought. Why should a poor crazy cripple like
her husband, shut up in an asylum, make trouble for Jennie?
When the light faded and the trees grew indistinct in the gloom,
Tom still sat where Pop had left her. Soon the shadows fell in
the little valley, and the hill beyond the cedars lost itself in
the deepening haze that now crept in from the tranquil sea.
Carl's voice calling to Cully to take in the Gray roused her to
consciousness. She pushed back her chair, stood for an instant
watching Carl romping with Patsy, and then walked slowly toward
the stable.
By the time she reached the water-trough her old manner had
returned. Her step became once more elastic and firm; her strong
will asserted itself. She had work to do, and at once. In two
hours the board would meet. She needed all her energies and
resources. The lovers must wait; she could not decide any
question for them now.
As she passed the stable window a man in a fur cap raised his head
cautiously above the low fence and shrank back into the shadow.
Tom threw open the door and felt along the sill for the lantern
and matches. They were not in their accustomed place. The man
crouched, ran noiselessly toward the rear entrance, and crept in
behind a stall. Tom laid her hand on the haunches of the horse
and began rolling back his blanket. The man drew himself up
slowly until his shoulders were on a level with the planking. Tom
moved a step and turned her face. The man raised his arm, whirled
a hammer high in the air, and brought it down upon her head.
When Cully led the Big Gray into his stall, a moment later, he
stepped into a pool of blood.
At the appointed hour the Board of Trustees met in the hall over
the post-office. The usual loungers filled the room--members of
the Union, and others who had counted on a piece of the highway
pie when it was cut. Dempsey, Crimmins, and Quigg sat outside the
rail, against the wall. They were waiting for McGaw, who had not
been seen since the afternoon.
The president was in his accustomed place. The five gentlemen of
leisure, the veterinary surgeon, and the other trustees occupied
their several chairs. The roll had been called, and every man had
answered to his name. The occasion being one of much importance,
a full board was required.
As the minute-hand neared the hour of nine Dempsey became uneasy.
He started every time a new-comer mounted the stairs. Where was
McGaw? No one had seen him since he swallowed the tumblerful of
whiskey and disappeared from O'Leary's, a few hours before.
The president rapped for order, and announced that the board was
ready to sign the contract with Thomas Grogan for the hauling and
delivery of the broken stone required for public highways.
There was no response.
"Is Mrs. Grogan here?" asked the president, looking over the room
and waiting for a reply.
"Is any one here who represents her?" he repeated, after a pause,
rising in his seat as he spoke.
No one answered. The only sound heard in the room was that of the
heavy step of a man mounting the stairs.
"Is there any one here who can speak for Mrs. Thomas Grogan?"
called the president again, in a louder voice.
"I can," said the man with the heavy tread, who proved to be the
foreman at the brewery. "She won't live till mornin'; one of her
horses kicked her and broke her skull, so McGaw told me."
"Broke her skull! My God! man, how do you know?" demanded the
president, his voice trembling with excitement.
Every man's face was now turned toward the new-comer; a momentary
thrill of horror ran through the assemblage.
"I heard it at the druggist's. One of her boys was over for
medicine. Dr. Mason sewed up her head. He was drivin' by, on his
way to Quarantine, when it happened."
"What Dr. Mason?" asked a trustee, eager for details.
"The man what used to be at Quarantine seven years ago. He's
app'inted ag'in."
Dempsey caught up his hat and hurriedly left the room, followed by
Quigg and Crimmins. McGaw, he said to himself, as he ran
downstairs, must be blind drunk, not to come to the meeting.
"----him! What if he gives everything away!" he added aloud.
"This news is awful," said the president. "I am very sorry for
Mrs. Grogan and her children--she was a fine woman. It is a
serious matter, too, for the village. The highway work ought to
commence at once; the roads need it. We may now have to advertise
again. That would delay everything for a month."
"Well, there's other bids," said another trustee,--one of the
gentlemen of leisure,--ignoring the president's sympathy, and
hopeful now of a possible slice on his own account. "What's the
matter with McGaw's proposal? There's not much difference in the
price. Perhaps he would come down to the Grogan figure. Is Mr.
McGaw here, or anybody who can speak for him?"
Justice Rowan sat against the wall. The overzealous trustee had
exactly expressed his own wishes and anxieties. He wanted McGaw's
chances settled at once. If they failed, there was Rowan's own
brother who might come in for the work, the justice sharing of
course in the profits.
"In the absence of me client," said Rowan, looking about the room,
and drawing in his breath with an important air, "I suppose I can
ripresint him. I think, however, that if your honorable boord
will go on with the other business before you, Mr. McGaw will be
on hand in half an hour himself. In the meantime I will hunt him
"I move," said the Scotch surgeon, in a voice that showed how
deeply he had been affected, "that the whole matter be laid on the
table for a week, until we know for certain whether poor Mrs.
Grogan is killed or not. I can hardly credit it. It is very
seldom that a horse kicks a woman."
Nobody having seconded this motion, the chair did not put it. The
fact was that every man was afraid to move. The majority of the
trustees, who favored McGaw, were in the dark as to what effect
Tom's death would have upon the bids. The law might require
readvertising and hence a new competition, and perhaps somebody
much worse for them than Tom might turn up and take the
work--somebody living outside of the village. Then none of them
would get a finger in the pie. Worse than all, the cutting of it
might have to be referred to the corporation counsel, Judge
Bowker. What his opinion would be was past finding out. He was
beyond the reach of "pulls," and followed the law to the letter.
The minority--a minority of two, the president and the veterinary
surgeon--began to distrust the spirit of McGaw's adherents. It
looked to the president as if a "deal" were in the air.
The Scotchman, practical, sober-minded, sensible man as he was,
had old- fashioned ideas of honesty and fair play. He had liked
Tom from the first time he saw her,--he had looked after her
stables professionally,--and he did not intend to see her, dead or
alive, thrown out, without making a fight for her.
"I move," said he, "that the president appoint a committee of this
board to jump into the nearest wagon, drive to Mrs. Grogan's, and
find out whether she is still alive. If she's dead, that settles
it; but if she's alive, I will protest against anything being done
about this matter for ten days. It won't take twenty minutes to
find out; meantime we can take up the unfinished business of the
last meeting."
One of the gentlemen of leisure seconded this motion; it was
carried unanimously, and this gentleman of leisure was himself
appointed courier and left the room in a hurry. He had hardly
reached the street when he was back again, followed closely by
Dempsey, Quigg, Crimmins, Justice Rowan, and, last of all,
fumbling with his fur cap, deathly pale, and entirely sober--Dan
"There's no use of my going," said the courier trustee, taking his
seat. "Grogan won't live an hour, if she ain't dead now. She had
a sick horse that wanted looking after, and she went into the
stable without a light, and he let drive, and broke her skull.
She's got a gash the length of your hand--wasn't that it, Mr.
McGaw nodded his head.
"Yes; that's about it," he said. The voice seemed to come from
his stomach, it was so hollow.
"Did you see her, Mr. McGaw?" asked the Scotchman in a positive
"How c'u'd I be a-seein' her whin I been in New Yorruk 'mos' all
day? D' ye think I'm runnin' roun' to ivery stable in the place?
I wuz a-comin' 'cross lots whin I heared it. They says the horse
had blin' staggers."
"How do you know, then?" asked the Scotchman suspiciously. "Who
told you the horse kicked her?"
"Well, I dunno; I think it wuz some un"--
Dempsey looked at him and knit his brow. McGaw stopped.
"Don't you know enough of a horse to know he couldn't kick with
blind staggers?" insisted the Scotchman.
McGaw did not answer.
"Does anybody know any of the facts connected with this dreadful
accident to Mrs. Grogan?" asked the president. "Have you heard
anything, Mr. Quigg?"
Mr. Quigg had heard absolutely nothing, and had not seen Mrs.
Grogan for months. Mr. Crimmins was equally ignorant, and so were
several other gentlemen. Here a voice came from the back of the
"I met Dr. Mason, sir, an hour ago, after he had attended Tom
Grogan. He was on his way to Quarantine in his buggy. He said he
left her insensible after dressin' the wound. He thought she
might not live till mornin'."
"May I ask your name, sir?" asked the president in a courteous
"Peter Lathers. I am yardmaster at the U. S. Lighthouse Depot."
The title, and the calm way in which Lathers spoke, convinced the
president and the room. Everybody realized that Tom's life hung
by a thread. The Scotchman still had a lingering doubt. He also
wished to clear up the blind-staggers theory.
"Did he say how she was hurt?" asked the Scotchman.
"Yes. He said he was a-drivin' by when they picked her up, and he
was dead sure that somebody had hid in the stable and knocked her
on the head with a club."
McGaw steadied himself with his hand and grasped the seat of his
chair. The sweat was rolling from his face. He seemed afraid to
look up, lest some other eye might catch his own and read his
thoughts. If he had only seen Lathers come in!
Lathers's announcement, coupled with the Scotchman's well-known
knowledge of equine diseases discrediting the blind-staggers
theory, produced a profound sensation. Heads were put together,
and low whispers were heard. Dempsey, Quigg, and Crimmins did not
move a muscle.
The Scotchman again broke the silence.
"There seems to be no question, gentlemen, that the poor woman is
badly hurt; but she is still alive, and while she breathes we have
no right to take this work from her. It's not decent to serve a
woman so; and I think, too, it's illegal. I again move that the
whole matter be laid upon the table,"
This motion was not put, nobody seconding it.
Then Justice Rowan rose. The speech of the justice was seasoned
with a brogue as delicate in flavor as the garlic in a Spanish
"Mr. Prisident and Gintlemen of the Honorable Boord of Village
Trustees," said the justice, throwing back his coat. The
elaborate opening compelled attention at once. Such courtesies
were too seldom heard in their deliberations, thought the members,
as they lay back in their chairs to listen.
"No wan can be moore pained than meself that so estimable a woman
as Mrs. Grogan--a woman who fills so honorably her every station
in life--should at this moment be stricken down either by the hand
of an assassin or the hoof of a horse. Such acts in a law-abidin'
community like Rockville bring with them the deepest detistation
and the profoundest sympathy. No wan, I am sure, is more touched
by her misforchune than me worthy friend Mr. Daniel McGaw, who by
this direct interposition of Providence is foorced into the
position of being compelled to assert his rights befoore your
honorable body, with full assurance that there is no tribunal in
the land to which he could apply which would lend a more willing
It was this sort of thing that made Rowan popular.
"But, gintlemen,"--here the justice curry-combed his front hair
with his fingers--greasy, jet-black hair, worn long, as befitted
his position,--"this is not a question of sympathy, but a question
of law. Your honorable boord advertoised some time since for
certain supplies needed for the growth and development of this
most important of the villages of Staten Island. In this call it
was most positively and clearly stated that the contract was to be
awarded to the lowest risponsible bidder who gave the proper
bonds. Two risponses were made to this call, wan by Mrs. Grogan,
acting on behalf of her husband,--well known to be a hopeless
cripple in wan of the many charitable institootions of our noble
State,--and the other by our distinguished fellow-townsman, Mr.
Daniel McGaw, whom I have the honor to ripresint. With that
strict sinse of justice which has always characterized the
decisions of this honorable boord, the contract was promptly
awarded to Thomas Grogan, he being the lowest bidder; and my
client, Daniel McGaw,--honest Daniel McGaw I should call him if
his presence did not deter me,--stood wan side in obadience to the
will of the people and the laws of the State, and accepted his
defate with that calmness which always distinguishes the
hard-workin' sons of toil, who are not only the bone and sinoo of
our land, but its honor and proide. But, gintlemen,"--running his
hand lightly through his hair, and then laying it in the bulging
lapels of his now half-buttoned coat,--"there were other
conditions accompanying these proposals; to wit, that within tin
days from said openin' the successful bidder should appear befoore
this honorable body, and then and there duly affix his signatoor
to the aforesaid contracts, already prepared by the attorney of
this boord, my honored associate, Judge Bowker. Now, gintlemen, I
ask you to look at the clock, whose calm face, like a rising moon,
presides over the deliberations of this boord, and note the
passin' hour; and then I ask you to cast your eyes over this vast
assemblage and see if Thomas Grogan, or any wan ripresinting him
or her, or who in any way is connected with him or her, is within
the confines of this noble hall, to execute the mandates of this
distinguished boord. Can it be believed for an instant that if
Mrs. Grogan, acting for her partly dismimbered husband, Mr. Thomas
Grogan, had intinded to sign this contract, she would not have
dispatched on the wings of the wind some Mercury, fleet of foot,
to infarm this boord of her desire for postponement? I demand in
the interests of justice that the contract be awarded to the
lowest risponsible bidder who is ready to sign the contract with
proper bonds, whether that bidder is Grogan, McGaw, Jones,
Robinson, or Smith."
There was a burst of applause and great stamping of feet; the tide
of sympathy had changed. Rowan had perhaps won a few more votes.
This pleased him evidently more than his hope of cutting the
contract pie. McGaw began to regain some of his color and lose
some of his nervousness. Rowan's speech had quieted him.
The president gravely rapped for order. It was wonderful how much
backbone and dignity and self-respect the justice's very
flattering remarks had injected into the nine trustees--no, eight,
for the Scotchman fully understood and despised Rowan's oratorical
The Scotchman was on his feet in an instant.
"I have listened," he said, "to the talk that Justice Rowan has
given us. It's very fine and tonguey, but it smothers up the
facts. You can't rob this woman"--
"Question! question!" came from half a dozen throats.
"What's your pleasure, gentlemen?" asked the president, pounding
with his gavel.
"I move," said the courier member, "that the contract be awarded
to Mr. Daniel McGaw as the lowest bidder, provided he can sign the
contract to-night with proper bonds."
Four members seconded it.
"Is Mr. McGaw's bondsman present?" asked the president, rising.
Justice Rowan rose, and bowed with the air of a foreign banker
accepting a government loan.
"I have that honor, Mr. Prisident. I am willing to back Mr. McGaw
to the extent of me humble possissions, which are ample, I trust,
for the purposes of this contract"--looking around with an air of
entire confidence.
"Gentlemen, are you ready for the question?" asked the president.
At this instant there was a slight commotion at the end of the
hall. Half a dozen men nearest the door left their seats and
crowded to the top of the staircase. Then came a voice outside:
"Fall back; don't block up the door! Get back there!" The
excitement was so great that the proceedings of the board were
The throng parted, The men near the table stood still. An ominous
silence suddenly prevailed. Daniel McGaw twisted his head, turned
ghastly white, and would have fallen from his chair but for
Advancing through the door with slow, measured tread, her long
cloak reaching to her feet; erect, calm, fearless; her face like
chalk; her lips compressed, stifling the agony of every step; her
eyes deep sunken, black-rimmed, burning like coals; her brow bound
with a blood-stained handkerchief that barely hid the bandages
beneath, came Tom.
The deathly hush was unbroken. The men fell back with white,
scared faces to let her pass. McGaw cowered in his chair.
Dempsey's eyes glistened, a half-sigh of relief escaping him.
Crimmins had not moved; the apparition stunned him.
On she came, her eyes fixed on the president, till she reached the
table. Then she steadied herself for a moment, took a roll of
papers from her dress, and sank into a chair.
No one spoke. The crowd pressed closer. Those outside the rail
noiselessly mounted the benches and chairs, craning their necks.
Every eye was fixed upon her.
Slowly and carefully she unrolled the contract, spreading it out
before her, picked up a pen from the table, and without a word
wrote her name. Then she rose firmly, and walked steadily to the
Just then a man entered within the rail and took her seat. It was
her bondsman, Mr. Crane.
Two days after Tom had signed the highway contract, Babcock sat in
his private office in New York, opening his mail. In the outside
room were half a dozen employees--engineers and others--awaiting
their instructions.
The fine spring weather had come and work had been started in
every direction, including the second section of the sea-wall at
the depot, where the divers were preparing the bottom for the
layers of concrete. Tom's carts had hauled the stone.
Tucked into the pile of letters heaped before him, Babcock's quick
eye caught the corner of a telegram. It read as follows:--
Mother hurt. Wants you immediately. Please come.
For an instant he sat motionless, gazing at the yellow slip. Then
he sprang to his feet. Thrusting his unopened correspondence into
his pocket, he gave a few hurried instructions to his men and
started for the ferry. Once on the boat, he began pacing the
deck. "Tom hurt!" he repeated to himself. "Tom hurt?
How--when--what could have hurt her?" He had seen her at the
sea-wall, only three days before, rosy-cheeked, magnificent in
health and strength. What had happened? At the St. George
landing he jumped into a hack, hurrying the cabman.
Jennie was watching for him at the garden gate. She said her
mother was in the sitting-room, and Gran'pop was with her. As
they walked up the path she recounted rapidly the events of the
past two days.
Tom was on the lounge by the window, under the flowering plants,
when Babcock entered. She was apparently asleep. Across her
forehead, covering the temples, two narrow bandages bound up her
wound. At Babcock's step she opened her eyes, her bruised,
discolored face breaking into a smile. Then, noting his evident
anxiety, she threw the shawl from her shoulders and sat up.
"No, don't look so. It's nothin'; I'll be all right in a day or
two. I've been hurted before, but not so bad as this. I wouldn't
have troubled ye, but Mr. Crane has gone West. It was kind and
friendly o' ye to come; I knew ye would."
Babcock nodded to Pop, and sank into a chair. The shock of her
appearance had completely unnerved him.
"Jennie has told me about it," he said in a tender, sympathetic
tone. "Who was mean enough to serve you in this way, Tom?" He
called her Tom now, as the others did.
"Well, I won't say now. It may have been the horse, but I hardly
think it, for I saw a face. All I remember clear is a-layin' me
hand on the mare's back. When I come to I was flat on the lounge.
They had fixed me up, and Dr. Mason had gone off. Only the thick
hood saved me. Carl and Cully searched the place, but nothin'
could be found. Cully says he heard somebody a-runnin' on the
other side of the fence, but ye can't tell. Nobody keeps their
heads in times like that."
"Have you been in bed ever since?" Babcock asked.
"In bed! God rest ye! I was down to the board meetin' two hours
after, wid Mr. Crane, and signed the contract. Jennie and all of
'em wouldn't have it, and cried and went on, but I braved 'em all.
I knew I had to go if I died for it. Mr. Crane had his buggy, so
I didn't have to walk. The stairs was the worst. Once inside, I
was all right. I only had to sign, an' come out again; it didn't
take a minute. Mr. Crane stayed and fixed the bonds wid the
trustees, an' I come home wid Carl and Jennie." Then, turning to
her father, she said, "Gran'pop, will ye and Jennie go into the
kitchen for a while? I've some private business wid Mr. Babcock."
When they were gone her whole manner changed. She buried her face
for a moment in the pillow, covering her cheek with her hands;
then, turning to Babcock, she said:--
"Now, me friend, will ye lock the door?"
For some minutes she looked out of the window, through the
curtains and nasturtiums, then, in a low, broken voice, she said:
"I'm in great trouble. Will ye help me?"
"Help you, Tom? You know I will, and with anything I've got.
What is it!" he said earnestly, regaining his chair and drawing it
"Has no one iver told ye about me Tom?" she asked, looking at him
from under her eyebrows.
"No; except that he was hurt or--or--out of his mind, maybe, and
you couldn't bring him home."
"An' ye have heared nothin' more?"
"No," said Babcock, wondering at her anxious manner.
"Ye know that since he went away I've done the work meself,
standin' out as he would have done in the cold an' wet an' workin'
for the children wid nobody to help me but these two hands."
Babcock nodded. He knew how true it was.
"Ye've wondered many a time, maybe, that I niver brought him home
an' had him round wid me other poor cripple, Patsy--them two
togither." Her voice fell almost to a whisper.
"Or ye thought, maybe, it was mean and cruel in me that I kep' him
a burden on the State, when I was able to care for him meself.
Well, ye'll think so no more."
Babcock began to see now why he had been sent for. His heart went
out to her all the more.
"Tom, is your husband dead?" he asked, with a quiver in his voice.
She never took her eyes from his face. Few people were ever
tender with her; they never seemed to think she needed it. She
read this man's sincerity and sympathy in his eyes; then she
answered slowly:--
"He is, Mr. Babcock."
"When did he die! Was it last night, Tom?"
"Listen to me fust, an' then I'll tell ye. Ye must know that when
me Tom was hurted, seven years ago, we had a small place, an' only
three horses, and them warn't paid for; an' we had the haulin' at
the brewery, an' that was about all we did have. When Tom had
been sick a month--it was the time the bucket fell an' broke his
rib--the new contract at the brewery was let for the year, an'
Schwartz give it to us, a-thinkin' that Tom'd be round ag'in, an'
niver carin', so's his work was done, an' I doin' it, me bein' big
an' strong, as I always was. Me Tom got worse an' worse, an' I
saw him a-failin', an' one day Dr. Mason stopped an' said if I
brought him to Bellevue Hospital, where he had just been
appointed, he'd fix up his rib so he could breathe easier, and
maybe he'd get well. Well, I hung on an' on, thinkin' he'd get
better,--poor fellow, he didn't want to go,--but one night, about
dark, I took the Big Gray an' put him to the cart, an' bedded it
down wid straw; an' I wrapped me Tom up in two blankits an'
carried him downstairs in me own arms, an' driv slow to the
She hesitated for a moment, leaned her bruised head on her hand,
and then went on:--
"When I got to Bellevue, over by the river, it was near ten
o'clock at night. Nobody stopped me or iver looked into me bundle
of straw where me poor boy lay; an' I rung the bell, an' they came
out, an' got him up into the ward, an' laid him on the bed. Dr.
Mason was on night duty, an' come an' looked at him, an' said I
must come over the next day; an' I kissed me poor Tom an' left him
tucked in, promisin' to be back early in the mornin'. I had got
only as far as the gate on the street whin one of the men came
a-runnin' after me. I thought he had fainted, and ran back as
fast as I could, but when I got me arms under him again--he was
"And all this seven years ago, Tom?" said Babcock in astonishment,
sinking back in his chair.
Tom bowed her head. The tears were trickling through her fingers
and falling on the coarse shawl.
"Yis; seven years ago this June." She paused for a moment, as if
the scene was passing before her in every detail, and then went
on: "Whin I come home I niver said a word to anybody but Jennie.
I've niver told Pop yit. Nobody else would have cared; we was
strangers here. The next mornin' I took Jennie,--she was a child
then,--an' we wint over to the city, an' I got what money I had,
an' the doctors helped, an' we buried him; nobody but just us two,
Jennie an' me, walkin' behint the wagon, his poor body in the box.
Whin I come home I wanted to die, but I said nothin'. I was
afraid Schwartz would take the work away if he knew it was only a
woman who was a-doin' it wid no man round, an so I kep' on; an'
whin the neighbors asked about him bein' in a 'sylum an' out of
his head, an' a cripple an' all that, God forgive me, I was afraid
to tell, and I kept still and let it go at that; an' whin they
asked me how he was I'd say he was better, or more comfortable, or
easier; an' so he was, thank God! bein' in heaven."
She roused herself wearily, and wiped her eyes with the back of
her hand. Babcock sat motionless.
"Since that I've kep' the promise to me Tom that I made on me
knees beside his bed the night I lifted him in me arms to take him
downstairs--that I 'd keep his name clean, and do by it as he
would hev done himself, an' bring up the children, an' hold the
roof over their heads. An' now they say I dar'n't be called by
Tom's name, nor sign it neither, an' they're a-goin' to take me
contract away for puttin' his name at the bottom of it, just as
I've put it on ivery other bit o' paper I've touched ink to these
seven years since he left me."
"Why, Tom, this is nonsense. Who says so?" said Babcock
earnestly, glad of any change of feeling to break the current of
her thoughts.
"Dan McGaw an' Rowan says so."
"What's McGaw got to do with it? He's out of the fight."
"Oh, ye don't know some men, Mr. Babcock. McGaw'll never stop
fightin' while I live. Maybe I oughtn't tell ye,--I've niver told
anybody,--but whin my Tom lay sick upstairs, McGaw come in one
night, an' his own wife half dead with a blow he had given her,
an' sat down in this very room,--it was our kitchen then,--an' he
says,' If your man don't git well, ye'll be broke.' An' I says to
him, 'Dan McGaw, if I live twelve months, Tom Grogan'll be a
richer man than he is now.' I was a-sittin' right here when I
said it, wid a rag carpet on this floor, an' hardly any furniture
in the room. He said more things, an' tried to make love to me,
and I let drive and threw him out of me kitchen. Then all me
trouble wid him began; he's done everything to beat me since, and
now maybe, after all, he'll down me. It all come up yisterday
through McGaw meetin' Dr. Mason an' askin' him about me Tom; an'
whin the doctor told him Tom was dead seven years, McGaw runs to
Justice Rowan wid the story, an' now they say I can't sign a dead
man's name. Judge Bowker has the papers, an' it's all to be
settled to-morrow."
"But they can't take your contract away," said Babcock
indignantly, "no matter what Rowan says."
"Oh, it's not that--it's not that. That's not what hurts me. I
can git another contract. That's not what breaks me heart. But
if they take me Tom's NAME from me, an' say I can't be Tom Grogan
any more; it's like robbin' me of my life. When I work on the
docks I allus brace myself an' say' I'm doing just what Tom did
many a day for me.' When I sign his name to me checks an'
papers,--the name I've loved an' that I've worked for, the name
I've kep' clean for him--me Tom that loved me, an' never lied or
was mean--me Tom that I promised, an'--an'"--
All the woman in her overcame her now. Sinking to her knees, she
threw her arms and head on the lounge, and burst into tears.
Babcock rested his head on his hand, and looked on in silence.
Here was something, it seemed to him, too sacred for him to touch
even with his sympathy.
"Tom," he said, when she grew more quiet, his whole heart going
out to her, "what do you want me to do?"
"I don't know that ye can do anything," she said in a quivering
voice, lifting her head, her eyes still wet. "Perhaps nobody can.
But I thought maybe ye'd go wid me to Judge Bowker in the mornin'.
Rowan an' all of 'em 'll be there, an' I'm no match for these
lawyers. Perhaps ye'd speak to the judge for me."
Babcock held out his hand.
"I knew ye would, an' I thank ye," she said, drying her eyes.
"Now unlock the door, an' let 'em in. They worry so. Gran'pop
hasn't slep' a night since I was hurted, an' Jennie goes round
cryin' all the time, sayin' they 'll be a-killin' me next."
Then, rising to her feet, she called out in a cheery voice, as
Babcock opened the door, "Come in, Jennie; come in Gran'pop. It's
all over, child. Mr. Babcock's a-going wid me in the mornin'.
Niver fear; we'll down 'em all yit."
When Judge Bowker entered his office adjoining the village bank,
Justice Rowan had already arrived. So had McGaw, Dempsey,
Crimmins, Quigg, the president of the board, and one or two of the
trustees. The judge had sent for McGaw and the president, and
they had notified the others.
McGaw sat next to Dempsey. His extreme nervousness of a few days
ago--starting almost at the sound of his own footstep--had given
place to a certain air of bravado, now that everybody in the
village believed the horse had kicked Tom.
Babcock and Tom were by the window, she listless and weary, he
alert and watchful for the slightest point in her favor. She had
on her brown dress, washed clean of the blood-stains, and the silk
hood, which better concealed the bruises. All her old fire and
energy were gone. It was not from the shock of her wound,--her
splendid constitution was fast healing that,--but from this deeper
hurt, this last thrust of McGaw's which seemed to have broken her
indomitable spirit.
Babcock, although he did not betray his misgivings, was greatly
worried over the outcome of McGaw's latest scheme. He wished in
his secret heart that Tom had signed her own name to the contract.
He was afraid so punctilious a man as the judge might decide
against her. He had never seen him; he only knew that no other
judge in his district had so great a reputation for technical
When the judge entered--a small, gray-haired, keen-eyed man in a
black suit, with gold spectacles, spotless linen, and clean-shaven
face--Babcock's fears were confirmed. This man, he felt, would be
legally exact, no matter who suffered by his decision.
Rowan opened the case, the judge listening attentively, looking
over his glasses. Rowan recounted the details of the
advertisement, the opening of the bids, the award of the contract,
the signing of "Thomas Grogan" in the presence of the full board,
and the discovery by his "honored client that no such man existed,
had not existed for years, and did not now exist."
"Dead, your Honor"--throwing out his chest impressively, his voice
swelling--"dead in his grave these siven years, this Mr. Thomas
Grogan; and yet this woman has the bald and impudent effrontery
"That will do, Mr. Rowan."
Police justices--justices like Rowan--did not count much with
Judge Bowker, and then he never permitted any one to abuse a woman
in his presence.
"The point you make is that Mrs. Grogan had no right to sign her
name to a contract made out in the name of her dead husband."
"I do, your Honor," said Rowan, resuming his seat.
"Why did you sign it?" asked Judge Bowker, turning to Tom.
She looked at Babcock. He nodded assent, and then she answered:--
"I allus signed it so since he left me."
There was a pleading, tender pathos in her words that startled
Babcock. He could hardly believe the voice to be Tom's.
The judge looked at her with a quick, penetrating glance, which
broadened into an expression of kindly interest when he read her
entire honesty in her face. Then he turned to the president of
the board.
"When you awarded this contract, whom did you expect to do the
work, Mrs. Grogan or her husband.' "
"Mrs. Grogan, of course. She has done her own work for years,"
answered the president.
The judge tapped the arm of his chair with his pencil. The taps
could be heard all over the room. Most men kept quiet in Bowker's
presence, even men like Rowan. For some moments his Honor bent
over the desk and carefully examined the signed contract spread
out before him; then he pushed it back, and glanced about the
"Is Mr. Crane, the bondsman, present?"
"Mr. Crane has gone West, sir," said Babcock, rising. "I
represent Mrs. Grogan in this matter."
"Did Mr. Crane sign this bond knowing that Mrs. Grogan would haul
the stone?"
"He did; and I can add that all her checks, receipts, and
correspondence are signed in the same way, and have been for
years. She is known everywhere as Tom Grogan. She has never had
any other name--in her business."
"Who else objects to this award?" said the judge calmly.
Rowan sprang to his feet. The judge looked at him.
"Please sit down, Justice Rowan. I said 'who else.' I have heard
you." He knew Rowan.
Dempsey jumped from his chair.
"I'm opposed to it, yer Honor, an' so is all me fri'nds here.
This woman has been invited into the Union, and treats us as if we
was dogs. She"--
"Are you a bidder for this work?" asked the judge.
"No, sir; but the Union has rights, and"--
"Please take your seat; only bidders can be heard now."
"But who's to stand up for the rights of the laborin' man if"--
"You can, if you choose; but not here. This is a question of
"Who's Bowker anyhow?" said Dempsey behind his hand to Quigg.
"Ridin' 'round in his carriage and chokin' off free speech?"
After some moments of thought the judge turned to the president of
the board, and said in a measured, deliberate voice:--
"This signature, in my opinion, is a proper one. No fraud is
charged, and under the testimony none was intended. The law gives
Mrs. Grogan the right to use any title she chooses in conducting
her business--her husband's name, or any other. The contract must
stand as it is."
Here the judge arose and entered his private office, shutting the
door behind him.
Tom had listened with eyes dilating, every nerve in her body at
highest tension. Her contempt for Rowan in his abuse of her; her
anger against Dempsey at his insults; her gratitude to Babcock as
he stood up to defend her; her fears for the outcome, as she
listened to the calm, judicial voice of the judge,--each producing
a different sensation of heat and cold,--were all forgotten in the
wild rush of joy that surged through her as the judge's words fell
upon her ear. She shed no tears, as other women might have done.
Every fibre of her being seemed to be turned to steel. She was
herself again--she, Tom Grogan!--firm on her own feet, with her
big arms ready to obey her, and her head as clear as a bell,
master of herself, master of her rights, master of everything
about her. And, above all, master of the dear name of her Tom
that nothing could take from her now--not even the law!
With this tightening of her will power there quivered through her
a sense of her own wrongs--the wrongs she had endured for years,
the wrongs that had so nearly wrecked her life.
Then, forgetting the office, the still solemnity of the
place--even Babcock--she walked straight up to McGaw, blocking his
exit to the street door.
"Dan McGaw, there's a word I've got for ye before ye l'ave this
place, an' I'm a-going to say it to ye now before ivery man in
this room."
McGaw shrank back in alarm.
"You an' I have known each other since the time I nursed yer wife
when yer boy Jack was born, an' helped her through when she was
near dyin' from a kick ye give her. Ye began yer dirty work on me
one night when me Tom lay sick, an' I threw ye out o' me kitchen;
an' since that time ye've"--
"Here! I ain't a-goin' ter stand here an' listen ter yer. Git
out o' me way, or I'll"--
Tom stepped closer, her eyes flashing, every word ringing clear.
"Stand still, an' hear what I've got to say to ye, or I'll go into
that room and make a statement to the judge that'll put ye where
ye won't move for years. There was enough light for me to see.
Look at this"--drawing back her hood, and showing the bandaged
McGaw seemed to shrivel up; the crowd stood still in amazement.
"I thought ye would. Now, I'll go on. Since that night in me
kitchen ye 've tried to ruin me in ivery other way ye could.
Ye've set these dead beats Crimmins and Quigg on to me to coax
away me men; ye've stirred up the Union; ye burned me stable"--
"Ye lie! It's a tramp did it," snarled McGaw.
"Ye better keep still till I get through, Dan McGaw. I've got the
can that helt the ker'sene, an' I know where yer boy Billy bought
it, an' who set him up to it," she added, looking straight at
Crimmins. "He might'a' been a dacent boy but for him." Crimmins
turned pale and bit his lip.
The situation became intense. Even the judge, who had come out of
his private room at the attack, listened eagerly.
"Ye've been a sneak an' a coward to serve a woman so who never
harmed ye. Now I give ye fair warnin', an' I want two or three
other men in this room to listen; if this don't stop, ye'll all be
behint bars where ye belong.--I mean you, too, Mr. Dempsey. As
for you, Dan McGaw, if it warn't for yer wife Kate, who's a dacent
woman, ye'd go to-day. Now, one thing more, an' I'll let ye go.
I've bought yer chattel mortgage of Mr. Crane that's past due, an'
I can do wid it as I pl'ase. You'll send to me in the mornin' two
of yer horses to take the places of those ye burned up, an' if
they're not in my stable by siven o'clock I'll be round yer way
'bout nine with the sheriff."
Once outside in the sunlight, she became herself again. The
outburst had cleared her soul like a thunder-clap. She felt as
free as air. The secret that had weighed her down for years was
off her mind. What she had whispered to her own heart she could
now proclaim from the housetops. Even the law protected her.
Babcock walked beside her, silent and grave. She seemed to him
like some Joan with flaming sword.
When they reached the road that led to her own house, her eyes
fell upon Jennie and Carl. They had walked down behind them, and
were waiting under the trees.
"There's one thing more ye can do for me, my friend," she said,
turning to Babcock. "All the old things Tom an' I did togither I
can do by meself; but it's new things like Carl an' Jennie that
trouble me--the new things I can't ask him about. Do ye see them
two yonder! Am I free to do for 'em as I would? No; ye needn't
answer. I see it in yer face. Come here, child; I want ye. Give
me yer hand."
For an instant she stood looking into their faces, her eyes
brimming. Then she took Jennie's hand, slipped it into Carl's,
and laying her big, strong palm over the two, said slowly:
"Now go home, both o' ye, to the house that'll shelter ye, pl'ase
God, as long as ye live."
Before the highway-work was finished, McGaw was dead and Billy and
Crimmins in Sing Sing. The label on the empty can, Quigg's
volunteered testimony, and Judge Bowker's charge, convinced the
jury. Quigg had quarreled with Crimmins and the committee, and
took that way of getting even.
When Tom heard the news, she left her teams standing in the road
and went straight to McGaw's house. His widow sat on a broken
chair in an almost empty room.
"Don't cry, Katy," said Tom, bending over her. "I'm sorry for
Billy. Seems to me, ye've had a lot o' trouble since Dan was
drowned. It was not all Billy's fault. It was Crimmins that put
him up to it. But ye've one thing left, and that's yer boy Jack.
Let me take him--I'll make a man of him."
. . . . . . . . .
Jack is still with her. Tom says he is the best man in her gang.

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