Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

The king's highway. [microform] online

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the tie was broken for ever.

So she returned to New York with her
mother, and the closed house was reopened
and Dr. Anson notified of their arrival. He
called on them at once, and in accord with
Mrs. Lloyd s pathetic entreaties, promised to
see her husband and urge upon him the abso
lute necessity of relinquishing affairs which he


could only bring to confusion and ruin. He
had frequently had a similar duty to perform,
but custom had not robbed it of its sad and
awful circumstance, and it was always a piti
fully conscientious act. He made several little
delays on the way to Mr. Lloyd s office, but the
inevitable arrives, and at last he was admitted
to the rich man s presence. Mr. Lloyd had a
letter from Lord Medway s lawyer in his hand,
and his passion over its contents was extreme.
" The man professes to be doubtful about the
securities I offer him," he said, and the tremor
of his tongue and lips hardly permitted him to

" Mr. Lloyd," said the physician, laying his
hand firmly on the millionaire s shaking form,
" Mr. Lloyd, you must stop business altogether.
I have come here especially to tell you to do so.
Listen to me, for I am in earnest, and I am go
ing to tell you a great truth. You are a dying
man. If you had a weak, cowardly soul I
would not tell you the truth, but you are no
poltroon, so I say plainly to you, settle your
affairs with this world. Make your will if it is
yet to make, and then prepare to meet your

These words were spoken with the utmost
solemnity, and the miserable man to whom
they were addressed listened perforce to them.


Hitherto he had refused all attempts at warn
ing, but this morning his condition made him
passively silent, as the fateful words smote and
smote upon his brain and entered and pierced
his ears like a dart. He tried to protest to
entreat but his tongue failed, and he buried
his head in his hands and wept like a child.

When he was able to draw his scattered
forces together, and to uncover his face, he
found himself alone. The physician had de
livered his message and left him to digest it in
solitude. He went to a little closet and took
out of it a mirror and looked at himself. Then
he rang a bell sharply, and sent the clerk who
answered it for his lawyer. And whatever of
misery a money-maker and a money-lover can
feel in the prospect of resigning his occupation
for ever, Nicholas Lloyd then felt. He looked
round his familiar office as men look farewell
on a scene beloved. Its solid splendour, its air
of riches, its big chair, from which he had
issued financial edicts, were these things no
longer his? He opened his private safe and
took out a canvas bag, and let the gold slip and
slide through his fingers, and laughed aloud as
he did so. He gathered in one swoop securi
ties of the first value, and fingered them back
ward and forward, and assured himself that he
was yet their lawful owner.



He was comforting himself in this manner
when the summoned lawyer arrived. " Phil
lips," he said, with an excitement which shivered
his words to pieces as they fell from his lips,
"Phillips, have I not made my will? If not I
am to make it this morning. Dr. Anson has
just given me the order. Sit down, sir. What
are you gazing at? Confound you."

" Mr. Lloyd, in Heaven s name what is the
matter with you?"

" I have received my death warrant that
is all. Get to work, sir. Give me a minute or
two and I will be calm and clear enough hard
lines though hard lines." He sat perfectly
still, grasping the arms of his chair, and Mr.
Phillips, though very sceptical about the validity
of any will made under such evident aberration
of normal conditions, prepared to obey what
ever the sick man desired.

" Go on, Phillips."

After a short pause the lawyer said, as he
followed the transcribing pen : " I give and be
queath," then he looked into the face of his
client for instructions. A very powerful ex
pression of dissent was on it, and he raised his
hand and brought it down with a frantic force
as he said passionately :

"I I can t ! I won t give and bequeath
what is my own my very own I won t give


it! I won t bequeath it! It is mine. Mine
only. I must keep it ; yes, even in the grave, I
must keep it. How can I keep it? If you are
a lawyer worth your salt, Phillips, tell me

" Lend it, Mr. Lloyd, lend it to whoever you
like. Lend it for good interest, and devise the
interest for any purpose you choose. You are
used to lending money; you can bear that."

" That will do ! that will do ! Yes, I can bear
to lend it. But to whom? "

" That is the question. Your daughter is
provided for? "

" Yes. She has taken more than enough to
that greedy foreigner, millions and millions,
and a silver mine, and a southern plantation,
and a Western ranch, and a vineyard in Cali
fornia, and other trifles "

" What are you talking about, Mr. Lloyd ? I
would n t have such fancies, if I were you. You
know better. Don t give me any Aladdin s
lamp nonsense. I am here for business, you

"To be sure. Miss Lloyd is is is all
right. Lend the rest of my estate to my son,
Stephen. The boy is a fool, but he might as
well have the spending of the dollars as the
lawyers. I am sensible enough now, Phillips.
I want a will made that a lawyer cannot pick.


They pick wills as other scamps pick pockets
that is about the truth of it."

" I think we had better delay the subject, sir.
I doubt whether you are in a legal condition."

" Hang the condition ! Lend Steve the
money, eight per cent., the interest to be in
vested in lighting or water companies ; principal
to be loaned to Steve s children and grand
children. Great Scott ! What an idea ! I shall
own the gold, if I am dust. The land and the
houses will be in my name for generations. The
gold will grow beyond counting ; the land will
become gold. It is a great scheme ! A tre
mendous scheme ! And I can think it all out,
though Anson does talk as if my brain was
degenerate. That is the word, is n t it? Thanks
to that doctor who taught us such a convenient
term it is a little more respectful than saying
a man is mad, but it means the same thing, I

" Mr. Lloyd, let me call a carriage and take
you home. Then I will make the will as you
wish it made."

" All secure a loan, mind nothing but a
loan and eight per cent. Lend it to Steve
he is a fool but a good boy stood up for
his father, and spoke out like a man at that
beggarly meeting. He did n t howl with the
wolves, not he ! Lend the gold to my son,
15 225


Stephen Lloyd, and his heirs. Make all tight
and secure."

" Lloyd, you know me ; tight as a trivet.
Come, I want to go to your house ; you may as
well go with me."

And thus the rich man went that morning out
of his money-making den for ever. The place
that had known him so potent and so worldly-
wise was to know him no more. But at the
last moment he did not think of this possibility.
He called a clerk, gave him some orders, locked
his desk, and with his mind full of this new idea
of loaning his wealth to his descendants, shut
the door of his office against himself, and went
away without turning one glance backward. He
never more entered the room where he had
ruled so absolutely; for, as he left its threshold,
he put his feet into those waste dominions of
the blasted intellect where men sit brooding on
their unprofitable gold, in the hell of their own
making. For greed of gold as surely ruins the
mental powers as sensuality ruins the moral

As they rode homeward, the sick man began
to realise his condition. He felt as if he had
suddenly been cut off from the busy, happy
world around him. The physician s words re
turned, as if newly spoken, and his heart was
sick with terror. A dismal, sullen stillness suc-


ceeded to his noisy excitement, and he entered
his home with a sultry thunderstorm in all his
veins. His wife met him at the door. She
opened her arms and folded him in them, and
her cool, sweet presence was like a breath of
heaven. For a moment he would not answer
her love and pity; then the thought of his
desolate condition terrified him, and he said,
" Marian ! Marian ! I am come back to you.
I am going to die. Do not send me away from
you and from my home."

" I will never leave you, Nicholas. I will stay
at your side until the very end."

" Whatever the end may be?"

" Whatever it may be. Steve will help me.
Alice will help me. You shall never be left to
strangers ; never ! " and she put his arm through
her arm and comforted him with her tender
eyes and words as they went apart together.

For the worst was now known and acknowl
edged, and she could stay by his side, and do
whatever love might do for him. He had
treated her for years with that brutality which
is always polite but which makes a woman
shudder; but at this hour she put all such mem
ories away, and only remembered that she had
once loved him and believed in his love, and
that she had vowed to stand by him in sickness
and health until death should part them.



THESE events were made known to Jessie through
the newspapers, and they added greatly to the
importance she assumed at the fashionable New
Jersey watering-place where she was " leading "
society to her heart s ambition. So much she
had obtained from Steve s love and generosity,
but on the subject of Newport he had been im
movable as a rock. In some way, the particu
lars of which she did not inquire into, he had
found the necessary funds for her elaborate
dressing and entertainment; he had seen her
established in pretty rooms facing the noble
beach, and he had then frankly told her " not
to expect any visits from him." He said " he
was going on a long solitary tramp, far from
every one he knew, and he hoped in September
they might be as glad to meet as they were
then to part."

Jessie vowed such words were cruel and un
just, and she did her best in the last hours they
were together to draw tighter the bonds that
Steve seemed so glad to break away from.


And the man still loved her. It was easy yet
for her to make him forget all but her beauty
and brightness, for the strange strong mystery
which binds man and wife together is not easily
broken. He left her finally with an ache in his
heart and tears in his eyes; she watched his
tall figure and long swinging stride until he had
passed out of her sight.

Then she turned to the new delights sur
rounding her. She was resolved to taste them
in all the fulness which had been her dream
during those years when she had been tor
mented with large desires and means that did
not go half their length. Her toilets were
in themselves commanding; besides, she had
" the air " which carries a good toilet beyond
itself. In a few days she became the undis
puted leader of the small but fashionable colony
of women filling the closet-like rooms of the
great hotel and making its broad piazzas aflame
with moving colour and brilliant life.

It was to Mrs. Stephen Lloyd that all ques
tions pertaining to the frivolous life in which she
moved were referred. The host consulted her
about entertainments, the ladies about dress
and social matters, and her fiat was felt to be
final and satisfactory. With this power she
put on a more radiant beauty and that kind of
amiability which is the result of fulfilled wishes.


Also, she developed a reckless extravagance in
costumes, and all the pretty addendas to

" Steve will scold, and then find the money
to pay for them," she reflected, " and I can
afford to buy the summer s 6clat with a morn
ing s ill temper at the end of it." So foolishly
did this selfish woman rate love a few weeks
glitter and show and flattery to be paid for by
the wounding and wronging of the good heart
that trusted in her.

The sudden departure of the Lloyds from
Newport had to be accounted for, and as soon
as Mr. Lloyd s collapse was known every re
porter understood the consequences to Miss
Lloyd and Lord Medway. Each and all com
mented on it in their own way, and where lead
ing facts were unknown, did not scruple to
invent them. Jessie was equally unprincipled.

She pitied " poor Alice " with sighs and
shrugs, and intimated that this result was pre
cisely what she had always expected. She had
met Lord Medway at the beginning of the affair,
and well, it was better to say nothing about
it. But the soft, dreamy smile on her face and
the irrepressible sigh suggested any amount of
friendship between Medway and herself that
her listeners chose to imagine. And of course
there were imaginations vivid enough to weave


numberless pretty romances out of the un
spoken materials, so that the general impres
sion was that Jessie ought to have been Lady
Medway, and would have been but for her
sister-in-law s superior financial attractions.

All this personal and relative gossip gave her
additional influence, and she increased it by a
run up to New York City to " see poor Alice."
This visit happened to be on a morning when it
was particularly unwelcome. Mr. Lloyd had
just suffered an attack of paralysis, and the
house was so full of gloomy despair that Jessie s
bright gown and fluttering ribbons appeared to
mock in its atmosphere. Alice received her,
however, with the most perfect courtesy. She
excused her mother and asked when Jessie had
last heard from Steve. " We are very anxious
for his presence," she said sadly. " He is much
needed now, and we fully expected he would
have been at his father s side ere this."

" Indeed," answered Jessie with a little laugh,
" I don t suppose Steve has an idea of his
father s serious illness. He is off to the moun
tains, but I have not the slightest notion what
mountains. After bidding me good-bye, he
said he did not intend to read a newspaper or
write a letter, or even accept a letter until he
came back in September. Of course it is very
disagreeable for me."



" I should think so. Are you not very
anxious? "

" No. Steve can take care of himself, but it
is annoying when you are in a large hotel to
know that people are wondering if you have a
husband, and if so, where on the earth he

" Yes," answered Alice, and then there was
silence, and Alice s eyes looked afar off, as if
seeking her brother; and after a pause she
sighed and said softly, " Poor Steve !"

" I came to ask if there is anything I can do,"
said Jessie. " If you would like me to look
after the house affairs, or write letters, or see
inquirers, you know there are a score of un
usual obligations in a time of this kind."

" No, thank you. You are very thoughtful,
but all such obligations are provided for."

" I am so sorry about the interruption to
your marriage. It was fixed for October, was
it not?"

" There is no time fixed now. How could
I think of marriage with my father dying up

" I did not suppose it possible. Still, you
must feel the disappointment."

" I am not different from other women."

"Will Lord Medway remain in America?"

" He will doubtless be governed by circum-


stances. We all are. Will you take lunch? I
see it is ready."

" Thanks. I am hungry. Have you seen
my brother John lately?"

" No. His engagement with Mr. Lloyd ter
minated some weeks ago."

" I am sure I don t know what is the matter
with John. He hardly ever comes to see me
now. He goes to see Flora. Flora has a baby
girl, and "


" My sister Flora."

" Oh ! "

Then there was a cool silence and a very dull
lunch. Alice was naturally depressed, and
Jessie was tempted to make remarks about her
position which were more foolish than really
unkind. " I shall have to hurry back," she said
with a consequential air. "There is an enter
tainment to-night, and every one looks to me in
some way or other. But I am sure I shall not
feel equal to much dressing to-night. And yet
dressing is expected of one. Still, when I think
of Mr. Lloyd and you "

" Pray do not permit our sorrows to interfere.
If there are entertainments there must be toilets,
of course. I do wish you knew anything about
my brother Steve."

" Steve is having what he calls a good time.


He is awfully selfish about it, I must say. He
can t bear any one to know where he is. It is
peculiarly embarrassing to me."

" And to us at present. Father has asked for
him several times lately. He ought to be here."

Beyond this point neither woman seemed
able to get. Attempts to eat and attempts to
talk all fell flat and hopeless, and Jessie finally
rose, shook out her fluttering skirts impatiently,
and said she must go, as she had a train to
catch. She was not asked to repeat her visit,
and she thought of that omission as she rode
back to the hotel, and mentally vowed that if
Steve went home at this time she would go also.

" That is certain," she said decidedly. " I don t
mean to be put down by Alice s cool ways.
Any other girl would have talked about her
marriage. She is as peculiar as Steve; a queer
lot altogether." Then she remembered her own
family, and felt sorry for a moment that she had
not visited them. "Mother would have been so
glad to see me," she thought. " I wish she
lived higher up-town. St. Mark s Place is out
of the world now."

That night Jessie considered it decorous to
dress with a dark splendour that was very be
coming to her. She declined to dance, and her
face wore the expression of one who has seen a
great sorrow and is full of the sympathetic re-


membrance of it. All these circumstances gave
a certain Mr. Belton a good excuse for linger
ing at her side, in order to give her what com
fort he could by talking over the sad family
events. He had known Nicholas Lloyd well,
and he was not averse to speaking his mind
plainly about the financier.

" I see that his affairs are in the hands of
Phillips & Co. for settlement, and that they have
advertised for your husband, madam. Upon
my word, a strange thing ! An incomprehensi
ble thing ! "

" But why? I think it very natural."

" First, that he should ever be able to leave
your side. Second, that you at least should not
know where he has gone to."

She was a little offended at this doubt of her
influence over Steve, and she answered sharply:
" If I had insisted on knowing, my husband
would have told me. But I am quite aware
that his chief desire is to get free of every human
claim. My husband is not like other men ; his
nature is too large to respond all the time to
mere humanity. He wants the companionship
of the sea and the woods. I see you do not

" Do you? "

" Not always. I only feel that Stephen Lloyd
is somehow far better than I am."


" There is no one better, or cleverer, or lovelier
than yourself in the wild world, and the man is
a fool who cannot see that."

He said these words with the force and intent
of a man with an object before him, and Jessie
knew well what it was. She did not say a word
in answer, but with eyes downcast sat still as
death for a moment or two. Then she rose, and
with an air of offence went to a party of ladies
at the other end of the room.

But she had listened. The words, veiled
as they were, had sunk into her heart, and
Belton smiled as he watched her departure. "I
shall get the word divorce out some day
soon," he thought. " And by my soul, that
woman ought to have a husband that knows
how to value her myself, for example a
scamp like Steve Lloyd ought to be easily got
rid of I wonder if she loves him. Some one
told me she was a poor girl married him for
money likely if so, she will unmarry for more
money;" and he strolled into the moonlit
grounds, lit a cigar, and thought it all over and

Jessie, in her way, acted very much like him.
She chatted a few minutes with her acquain
tances, complained of feeling sad and weary, and
declared the whole day had been so trying she
could not endure the noise and light of company


any longer. She thought she had fully covered
her retreat by these words, and could go to her
room without exciting any feeling but one of
admiration for her sympathetic heart. And yet
these were the remarks that at a discreet dis
tance followed her exit.

" Mr. Belton was at her side all the evening."

" I saw him there."

" He has just gone into the grounds."

" She has gone to her room."

" Has there been a quarrel? Or "

" She is much too prudent."

" Who knows? She is so vain."

" And so undeniably beautiful. I never saw
her look so handsome."

For a moment or two Jessie had the same
thought. She turned the lights fully on and
looked steadily at herself ere she removed a
single ornament. As she did so she recalled
the almost angry admiration of Mr. Belton, and
a crimson blush rushed over her fair neck and
reddened the alluring pallor of her white cheeks
and brow. " Why did I listen? " she asked her
self. " I have given him no right to speak to
me in such terms I will certainly have no
more to say to him yet his admiration gives
me eclat and I mean no wrong; I wouldn t
wrong Steve by a single thought ; Steve ought
to be notified of his father s condition ; I dare


say Mr. Belton will understand the best way to
trace him, and I may as well use the man. If
I drop him altogether, women are so ill-natured
they will be sure to suppose this and that and
the other ; and it is a fact that a man has come
too near a good woman when he dares to say
what she ought not to listen to. I cannot give
a crowd of gossipers such an opportunity; no, I
can t do it for Steve s sake as well as my own.
As for Paul Belton, I rather think I can keep
him in his proper place."

If a moth reasons about a candle flame it is
probably in much the same manner ; and if an
original basis of clamouring selfishness be al
lowed, almost any disguise, even that of extreme
virtue, will be assumed to compass its ends. Yet
Jessie had been too well brought up not to know
that she was on dangerous ground. Two things
had happened that day which she could not
misunderstand Alice s refusal to accept her
offer of assistance, and Mr. Belton s avowal of
undisguised admiration. In her heart she felt
the one to be as condemnatory as the other.
She knew as well as Alice knew that she was
incapable of leaving the gay attractions of her
hotel life for the gloomy surroundings of a house
in which Death sat watching a dying man.
And she knew as well as Alice knew that there
must be something wrong in the conditions


between Steve and herself, or he could not have
so completely severed the tie between them,
though it was only for a few weeks.

But the conviction of her faults brought no
regret with it. If her conscience troubled her,
she virtually said to it, " Let my sins alone. I
am not disposed to repent of them at present."
She had no desire to change the gay piazza for
the death-room, no special wish even for Steve s
presence at that time, since his return would
mean her own return to the narrow bounds of
the despised flat, which had once been so beau
tiful in her eyes. Alas ! the very sweetest and
truest of mortal love is insufficient to lift the
earthy woman above earth. It needs the fire
of Almighty God to warm the cold, selfish
instincts of a worldly nature into the glow of
sacrifice and the ideality of love.

In the mean time, nothing could be more lonely
and sorrowful than the Lloyd mansion on the
avenue. The outside of a house has often as
much expression as a human face, and there was
a positive air of trouble about it. For humanity
does impress itself on mere wood and stone, does
impregnate the rooms of a house with its own
spiritual emanations, and there are undoubtedly
dwellings so tainted by the sins and sorrows
which they have witnessed, that they are vir
tually haunted by presences created in them.


Yea, there are rooms in houses which we should
tremble to enter, if we knew the tragedies that
still cling to their walls and frequent their void

In the large upper chambers of this splendid
dwelling such a mortal tragedy was being lived
out as could not be confined within its walls.
Its mournful effluences drifted down the great
stairways and filled the beautiful parlours and
looked out of the half-closed windows, compell

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