Charles Frederick Holder.

The Californian (Volume 4) online

. (page 81 of 120)
Online LibraryCharles Frederick HolderThe Californian (Volume 4) → online text (page 81 of 120)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


blazing eyes, cried out, ' ' Let me pass
— do not dare to weaken me by tender-
ness. Betwixt you and I there lies
but one path ; that path I alone may
follow. To me this is death itself.
How could you understand what it all
means to me ? — you who are so calm,
so perfect. Did you ever know what
it means to spend the hours in bitter
repentance ? In all this you say
you have no faith. Well, I have.
I know." And she sank down
upon the floor with a low moan,
as if the whole burden of her past sor-
row had fallen upon her anew and
overpowered her. "Oh," she cried.
u the agony of those who feel them-
selves lost, the harshness of a fate
which demands the heritage of a life-
long agony for one false step ! Now,
at least, you can understand why I
was cold and why I could picture sor-
row. I have felt it — have known it for
long bitter years. Whilst you, ab-
sorbed in your own self-respect, never
even suspected the long dreary way
over which I have come. I only
learned by actual suffering how easy
it is to fall into the pit from whence
you say there is no return. The sting
of remorse, of conscious failure, taught
me a new language, gave to my voice
strange notes, fraught with gentleness
and love towards the erring. Happi-
ness such as your love I shall never
know again, but I can bring solace and
comfort to others. Therein lies my
work. Yes, more than that, my re-
demption. Through one grave error
I have learned the first essential truth,
self-knowledge. I was arrogant, un-
yielding, unforgiving. I saw no ex-
cuse for such a fault in others, and
went my way rejoicing in my virtue,
my strength. Alas, for human pride
— human certainty. I, the imperious
creature who scorned a weakness in
others — was crushed, humbled, shaken
to the very centre of my being. And
by whom ? A false lover, whose
speech had the soft glamour of deceit :



/MARGARET.



609



who won me first by a glittering
array of sentiments, so fraught with
the power of destruction and deception,
that before I conceived of his power,
he had so absorbed my faith and re-
spect that when his plan of weakening
all my prejudices began, I never even
suspected him of it. After two years of
close companionship, in which we re-
veled in the fields of art, literature
and the study of the finer subtleties of
the soul's powers, we became as one
being.

tl Shall I recount to you the mortal
agony, when awakening to the full
sense of a misguided soul — the hatred
and disgust of self, the tortured hours
of sleeplessness ? Ah, no. There are
no words for all these agonies ; only
those who have had the experience
know them, for they alone can feel. I
recall now that face, and the eyes so
deeply earnest, into which I once looked
with calm trust and said, ' I, at least,
have found a perfect man.' Imagine,
if you can, after I had gained full
consciousness of our mistake, when I
made an appeal to him in the name of
that virtue and honor which he had
before upheld so firmly — he, the one
human heart in all the world whom I
believed would understand and sorrow
with me — O, when I now look back it
seems the last blow was the heaviest,
for bitter and miserable as were my
thoughts, I still held to the hope of
recovering our former state. He, who
to me had appeared so God-like in his
strength, with trembling lips confessed
his inability to overcome, and I, try-
ing to believe my own ears, stood
aghast. What? he would not even
try f The answer rings in my ears
still. ' It is impossible.' Stung with
remorse, cowering with fear, I shrieked
out reproaches upon him, which
seemed to rend his very being, for he
rocked to and fro like one about to fall
under a deadly blow. Once he held
out his long white hands as if for
mercy, and — oh I had so loved him !
But who would show me mercy ? Not
he. There he stood, self-convicted, a
criminal in his own words. Where



then was strength, where was aid ? It
was then I read within my own soul
the answer, 4 A11 power lies within
ourselves.'

"Hardened by his weakness, de-
termined to conquer self, 1 turned and
fled, vowing never more to look upon
him. Letters of entreaty, of despair
were sent me, in vain. I remained
cold and firm. True, there follow
moments when to recall the Under
words, the gentle care which had b
his to bestow, my poor heart frenzied
almost to madness, and at such timed
there raged the fierce battle
mastery. I came here, art attracted
me — you know the result. Five years
have passed away since I last saw that
man. In those years I have known
what death, bitterness, repression of
all that is human in my heart means,
but never have I forgotten that I have
a stern duty before me, the determina-
tion to rise from my fall purified !»\
the fierce flames of a nature whose
over- powering strength had been my
downfall. This it is which makes me
love all women, impels me to h
over them, as it were, leading them
away from the dangerous paths wl
pitfalls I know too well.

" You are stupefied, and no wonder.
If my frankness seems brutal to you.
think it is but another manifestation
of my great love for you. Never
could I tear myself away from you
had I not deadened your love by my
confession. I could not bear to inflict
upon you the sorrow which will now
be mine alone. I have been kind to
you, oh so kind. And to my>elf— ' ' she
paused here, almost overcome
to myself I have been true."

She sat sobbing quietly. IK
garded her helplessly. He could not
realize that the ugly tale was aught
but a madness seething through his
brain. She a frail woman? () no!
Had he not looked up to her, had he
not tested her in every way ? Impos-
sible ! This thing she told him
a fancied emanation of an over
wrought brain. She had worked
too hard, poor thing. Why had he



6io



MARGARET.



not cautioned her ? My God ! was
she then going mad under the strain ?
Her choice of subjects too, flashed con-
firmation on his mind.

Why, when he had directed her in
the study head of ' ' Silent Sorrow, ' '
and had spoken of the necessity of the
deep lines furrowing around the
mouth, the compression of the lips,
accentuating the expression, had she
answered with such strange convic-
tion : " I know ? " Ah, she did know
then ? But this thing she had told
him just now could not be true.

Do not false women betray them-
selves, and would he be apt to love a
woman unworthy of it ? Never ! But
she was now tearing off her apron in
excited jerks. She cast a damp cloth
over the bust on which she had
worked so many hopeful hours, and
was evidently preparing to leave the
studio.

He, still benumbed by the unex-
pected disclosure, seemed totally un-
able to rouse himself to action. Thus
she succeeded in her preparations with-
out protest from him, and was about
to turn towards the door when there
burst from him a sudden appeal.

' ' Margaret, you are certainly not
going to leave me now and thus ? "

She had grown calm now, fixed,
determined, and her voice sank so low
it was but a faint moan when she said:
"And why not? There is nothing
else to be done. Once more must I
take up the weary burden of my crime,
so painfully regretted, so wretchedly
worked out. Again it rises before me
like the Nemesis that it is, casting
me out once more with no shade of
comfort save the knowledge of my
own strength to dare the right. How
could I stay where daily my eyes were
tortured with the look of questioning
pity yours would bestow ? Ah, I am
strong and brave, but not brave
enough for that. Never ! you will
forget me some day. but I trust you
will never cease to regard with grati-
tude the woman who spared you the
agony of knowing that your life had
been more closely knit with that of a



woman who had fallen too low even
for your charity. Good bye." For a
moment there stole over her face the
radiance of a tender love, which
quickly changed to the agony of a
determination to close her eyes on all
that won or charmed her hungered
heart.

* ' You will not leave me, ' ' he cried
"Wait ! Let me think. Oh, I shall
go mad— I cannot conceive of all this
horrid thing being true. No ! You
must not leave me yet." Then he
paused, as visions of his old traditional
ideas of women rose before him, be-
wildering his senses, weakening
momentarily his love. With the
quickened perception of the suffering,
she read the thought that flashed
through his mind ; with a gasp she
replied: "It must be so, farewell."
At one bound she was out and
away. He dared not pursue her, she
had shown such bravery. It would
be too weak in him after her un-
daunted courage.

Flying like one possessed, she
reached her room and cast herself upon
her bed in abject misery. Again and
again her weary brain seethed with
the pictures of that past, which stood
before her bristling with cruel darts
of remorse.

After the relief of tears, reason
assumed command. Yes, there was
but one thing now. Fly ? Where ?
Ah, how many times had she asked
that question before. Out into the
great unknown. Where was home or
shelter? And the voice of intuition
answered: "Away, far away from
this scene of bitterness. The human
heart-cry still goes up for aid, human-
ity still yearns for tender pity. You
can give it. Go ! "

This calmed her. Rising now with
steady motion, she gathered her
effects, packed her small belongings,
and, telling her landlady she was
called suddenly away, slipped out into
the night, dry-eyed, stricken and sad,
but determined. At times on her
journey, thoughts welled up which
seemed to question her action.



MARGARET.



6n



Why had she not taken that great
love ? He was unsuspecting, and per-
haps the devotion of years would have
wiped out the error. Then there
arose before her visions of a life of
deceit. No, never had she harbored
such thoughts, much less lived them.
It was best as it was. And he ? Left
in the utter misery of so sudden a
collapse to all his dreams, what could
he do but go over again all the sad
scene, word for word, gesture and
expression, and still he could not
solve the dark mystery of his mistake.

After a while he rose and gently
placed the bust on a pedestal in a cor-
ner, where it stood for so many years
after, and the sad lines traced there by
agony itself seemed ever to deepen as
his misery sank down in that heart so
suddenly becalmed by the shadow of
another's life.

Turning in despond from the scene
of so much suffering, he wandered
along, his thoughts replete with this
problem of life so rudely thrust upon
him. Searching through the inner
chambers of his heart, he began to
question self. Was he right to have
entertained such views — and w r hy had
he ever held them if they were not
right? What did he know of such
questions other than he had learned
from those who know ? Did they
know ? Were they right ? Perhaps.
Ah, that perhaps. All that he did
know was that he loved her, cried out
for her, needed her, and now she was
gone. She would never return, that
he knew from her firmness of charac-
ter. And how brave and noble she had
been. " To save him ! Merciful
God ! and /should have shielded her."
His warm heart forgave her every-
thing. Had she not proven herself
worthy, and was a wrong never to be
forgiven ? Oh, cursed prejudice that
eats up and blunts the very instincts
of humanity. Does not the same God
rule over man as over woman, and are
not men daily transgressors of the very
law they hold so relentlessly over
those they term the ' ' weaker sex ? ' '
Where then is justice ? Surely not in



the human laws which now sway men
and women. But purity is a necessity
in woman. Tine, but arc not all be!
tendencies towards it, and if she fail
does she do so wilfully ? Not alw
-—far from that. And shall all in-
judged and punished tor tlu- k\\ } God
forbid ! If man was endowed with
stronger character and physical sup
ority, was it not that he should shelter
the weak ? For what reason had he
been given the power if not by strength
and tender pity to win back the err:
Again and again he came back to the
old truth. Prejudice — prejudice. The
growth of an error ancient and
barotlS plucked from the very tree of
man's selfish pruning, handed down
from father to son to an unthinking
people and grounded into the instil
of the unborn, that woman's hen
was the bondage of inequality.

Man, in his assumption of superi-
ority, holds out one hand, enticingly
displaying the golden apple of d
sion which voices the sweet sentiment
of "protection," and in the other he
holds an iron mallet with which to
crush woman to the earth if she dare
be the weak dependent his philosophy
has made her. Now the whole truth
burst upon him because it touched
himself, forcing him irresistibly t« i
the workings of a law which has dual
aspects. There was no escape from the
rule that crushed out life and hope from
the erring— he must suffer, too. Kvery
phase of the case flew like darting
flame through heart and brain, result-
ing in untold misery to him, lessening
hope, weakening his power to
Where was comfort ? Nowhere. Into
that dark and misty future thert
spread before him naught but confu-
sion, nay, almost despair.

Without her he began to realize the
futility of attempting to bring his best
efforts to fruition, and so time wore it-
self out in useless regrets, through long
vears of unsatisfied longing and bitter
retrospect, souring his genial nature,
causing him to doubt and question all
other truths which had formed the
basis of his moral training. Art lost



6l2



MARGARET.



its glamour and life took on such som-
ber shades that the spark of genius
that had glowed and brightened in the
younger days, now smouldered, black-
ened and died.

Thus time found him years after,
with broken purpose, his hand stayed,
as it were, in the very act of consum-
mation, when the dreams of crowning
greatness resolved themselves into a
hideous nightmare, only too real in
its destructive pow T er. He still taught
his classes, .still filled the ordinary
roles of life, but there never more
quickened within that brain the fire
of conception.

Thus the crime of one man checked
the ebb and flow of another's life and
its fruition.

Some time afterward there ap-
peared in an art journal a sketch of a
woman's career in the far West. vShe
had devoted her entire life to the
cause of woman. She had opened a
class in sculpture, to which she ad-
mitted and taught women who were
desirous of learning but had no means.
Her home was likewise an asylum for
frail creatures, whose motives for re-
covering a life of rectitude she
strengthened. She was described as
never smiling, save in tenderness upon
these sorrowing sisters. Nothing was
known of her former history and none
cared to question, so effective had
been her work and so beloved had she
made herself by her unselfish devotion
to so rare a charity.

He, reading these lines, felt instinc-
tively that in that description he had
found the one woman who was all in
all to him. He would go to her and



at once, and show her he had learned to
see justice in its broadest sense, and he
would lay at her feet the crown of vic-
tory which her life so richly merited.
Yes, he would go now without hesita-
tion, and impatient to be off he was
arranging his studio towards that end
when a letter reached him. It was the
dear familiar handwriting. It
seemed too good to hear from her just
when he was flying to her. But wait.
Tearing open the letter he recognized
the same characters, but how labor-
iously written — words far between and
with many quivering lines. Dying !
O God ! It could not be ; was he not
going to her to right all this terrible
wrong, and would God permit her to
die unrewarded for all her goodness
and sacrifice ? True — too true ! There
was no hope, she must even now have
passed beyond the solace of human
love, human retribution. And she wrote
to tell him that she had loved him
truly, unselfishly, and in dying thus
alone she had been true to herself, her
womanhood and him.

With terrible apprehensions in his
heart he hastened to her. " Is she
still living? " burst from his livid lips
as he entered the house. For answer
he was ushered into the darkened
chamber where she lay — not dead yet,
thank God. " You must live, you
must live, dear brave soul, and take
the love that shall crown your life —
my wife ! " She seemed to revive at
the sound of his whispered words.
The poor wasted hands clasped about
his neck, a smile calm and peaceful
stole over her white face, and she
sunk into a quiet slumber.




Z^g^




~i~



*«=



■»(i?



m>



$fr Questions * *
43f4f & t>ati



THE PREVALENT RATE WARS.

RECENTLY there have been greater fluc-
tuations in rates on the trans-conti-
nental railroads west of Chicago than for
many years. They are reminders of the
days when railroads recognized the princi-
ple of competition and reduced rates to se-
cure patronage. Eastward of Chicago there
is no apparent conflict between the great
lines that lead to New York, Philadelphia,
Baltimore and other points on the Atlantic
Coast, and rates are comparatively
steady. Railroads early discovered that
rate wars are destructive to . their in-
terests, and traffic associations and
agreements were invented to avoid them.
But it soon transpired that roads in various
ways broke their agreements, and surrepti-
tiously cut rates. Pooling was rerorted to,
which practically is purchasing good faith,
and so long as percentages granted to the
several members of the coalition were satis-
factory, traffic contracts were generally kept
with a fair degree of fidelity. The inter-
state commerce law makes pooling unlaw-
ful in inter-state traffic, which yields more
than a moiety of the revenue of the Western
trans-continental lines. In such traffic,
therefore, the roads must rely on good faith
in adhering to rate schedules, but it seems
next to impossible to preserve stability of
rates through naked traffic agreements; a
consideration is necessary to secure good
faith.

It is perhaps fair to presume that roads
will not put rates so low that loss will be the
result, and when they make reductions the
country will think at the higher rates they
have been making undue profit. One thing
is certain, and it is that lower rates will in-
crease the volume of business, and may



result in greater earnings, for the increase
of the expenses of operating is not in
portion to the increase of business. Cheaper
rates tend to larger productions, which also
means more consumption, for it is a well-
known fact that the greatest producing is
the greatest consuming nation.

It is unfortunate that railroads will not
put rates at the lowest figure consistent with
earning a fair profit, and keep them there.
Fluctuations are hurtful to all classes of the
people. It was the intention of Congress,
in enacting the inter-state commerce la
assure stability of rates. Merchants never
know when to have their goods shipped
when rates are unsteady, and the sau.
true of dealers. No one is able to m. ike
calculations forthe future when a rate M
liable to break out at any moment Rail-
roads understand the evils of Auctuatfo I,
and they seek to provide against them. To
avoid them is a reason why consolidation is
constantly taking place. Already the bulk
of the roads of the country are in about
twenty systems, and universal consolidation
may be the best solution of the railroad
problem. Consolidation would save a
large expenditure in operation. The roads
terminating in Chicago have already con-
solidated the business of receiving and
livering freights, which enables then
make a large reduction of force and of ex-
penses.

Traffic agreements and pooling are chiefly,
if not altogether, for the p ur pose of inc:
ing profits. It is intended thr<
them to destroy co m p e tition, and through
them the rights and interests of the
public are disregarded. Deprived of
the support of pooling, traffic a;
mentS have been ineffectual in produc-



613



614



QUESTIONS OF THE DAY.



ing steadiness. Like trusts and combi-
nations in trade and manufacturing traffic
arrangements, that include the making of
common rates, and a stipulation to maintain
them, are immoral, an evil that should be
repressed by law. The legislature of Illi-
nois has recently passed an inhibitory stat-
ute, which is probably the beginning of a
policy that will be adopted throughout the
country. It is right that capital invested
in railroads should receive a fair remunera-
tion and no more. It is true that twenty
and twenty-five years ago it cost more to
build railroads than at the present time or
within the last few years, and the older
roads are justified in making higher charges
than those more recently constructed, but
it is also true that the general practice has
been to capitalize roads far above their
actual cost, and to make efforts to earn in-
come upon that which is fictitious.

Mr. James Hill, in building the Great
Northern, adopted a new policy. He em-
ployed no supernumerary officers, and
adopted the most economical methods in
all respects. When the road was completed
it was capitalized at just what it cost, and
it is operated with the utmost economy, no
unnecessary officers being employed, and
no extravagant salaries paid. The rati -s
upon that road can be put down very much
below those that have prevailed upon other
lines, and still pay operating expenses and
reasonable remuneration to capital. The
cut in rates is not warfare upon com-
petitors, but is based upon simple business
principles, higher rates being unneces-
sary, as there are no fictitious bonds
and stocks on which interest and
dividends are to be earned. Over-cap-
italization, supernumerary officials and em-
ployees, and extravagant salaries create the
necessity for the cost of railway transporta-
tion of which the country complains. It may
be difficult to separate the fictitious bonds
and stocks from the genuine, so as to ex-
tinguish the one and preserve the other, but
the cost of operating can be materially re-
duced by cutting down the salaries of the
high officials and removing supernumer-
aries. Then rates can be lowered, and
being based upon just premises, fluctuations
to a great extent would be avoided.



DEFEAT OF THE GERMAN ARMY BIEL.

The friends of peace and popular will
have watched the proceedings on the Army
bill in the Reichstag with profound and
anxious interest. Though the Germans are
the most schooled and intelligent of the
continental people, and possess marked
independence and individuality of character,
they have submitted to a government
as nearly absolute as any in Europe, except
that of Russia. The Prussian monarchy
was the embodiment of militarism for a cen-
tury and a half before Germany became
imperialistic. The German people have sub-
mitted patiently to heavy burdens of taxa-
tion to sustain an army seldom necessary to
the defense of a nationality, and never used
to promote and maintain popular institu-
tions. Not only have the hard earnings of
the people been taken from them, but their
industrial forces have been depleted for no
purpose but to aggrandize the Prussian
monarchy, and latterly the Imperial house
of Hohcn/.ollcrn.

The Germans are not excitable and fickle,
but sturdy and stubborn, and hence revolu-
tions have been rare. They have progressed
in science, art and learning, but not in politi-
cal institutions. No people in the world ex-
cept the Americans and possibly the English,
are better fitted for Republican government,
yet they have submitted to inexorable mili-
tary rule. Popular representation was en-
larged, Upon the establishment of the
Empire, which was necessary, as it is
composed of numerous small States,
and there was not and is not the
prevalence of the utmost harmony
among the people, forced under Imperial
rule by the bulldozing process of Bismarck.
This step toward liberalism was intended
to Prussianize the whole Germanic family.
From Conrad down, the Hohenzollerns
have been ambitious, selfish, enterprising
and successful, almost without parallel in
modern history. They came to think that
their rule rested upon Divine right, and any
restrictions upon their will and power was
in contradiction of the wishes of the Deity.
When the 1 te Emperor William ascended
the throne of Prussia, he boldly announced
that he did so by Divine right, and though,
r.s Bismarck said, he was " as fine an old



QUESTIONS OF THE DAY.



6«5



Online LibraryCharles Frederick HolderThe Californian (Volume 4) → online text (page 81 of 120)