Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

The king's highway. [microform] online

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vour, and he did not perceive the opening of the
parlour door until his father came slowly out
into the hall. They met at the foot of the
stairs, and Steve said in the cheerful voice of
one who has a heart at ease,
"Good-morning, father."
" You ! Where have you come from ? "
" From the Baltic and the Mediterranean."
"From Jupiter and dreamland! Tut, sir!
And pray where are you going to now ? "
" I am going to stay in New York."
" Tired of roaming at last ? "
" Yes. I am going to be married."
" Tip-top folly ! How are you going to sup-
ii 161


port a wife ? Whoever the girl may be I am
sorry for her. You must know that she mar
ries you because you are my son. She thinks
you will have plenty of money."

" She does not know I am your son. She is
marrying me because she loves me."

" I hope you are going to make her a decent

"I hope so."

" Very well, then, go down to the office with
me this morning. I have to hire a stranger to
do the work you ought to be glad to do for me.
What are you hesitating about ? "

"The old trouble, father. You know all
about it. Why should we open that question
again? There are so many things we can talk
pleasantly about."

"There is only one question between you
and me. We must settle that question first.
Come, Steve, I have never let any one sit at
your old desk. I always thought you would
come back to it."

" I can never go back to my old desk, father.
I wish you would put it out of your sight and
your memory. Besides, I have at present some
other work, which will take up the whole of my
time for I know not how long. Father, forgive me
that I cannot be what you would like me to be."

"Then whatever did you come here for?"


And a torrent of passionate words fell from his
trembling lips, after this question, words that
shocked and shamed, and that fell like stones
on Steve s heart. He was confounded by the
anger he had raised, and as he opened his
mouth to try to soothe the wrathful man,
Alice appeared. She stood between her father
and Steve, though it was with some displeasure
she asked her brother " why he came home, if he
had nothing but disagreeable news to tell, and
nothing to do but put his sick father in a passion. "
So quickly does trouble tread on the heels
of joy ! So quickly does disappointment shadow
the glory of hope ! Steve had to suffer both,
for when he reached home, he found that Jessie
had unexpectedly received a visit from an old
friend whose home was in Princeton, and had
gone back with her for a couple of days. There
was a loving little note for Steve, but the writ
ten words did not atone for the delicious expec
tations that had lost their first grace in anger
and delay. However, Steve accepted the cir
cumstances which he could not alter as cheer
fully as possible, for many experiences had
taught him how often

All earthly pleasures vanish thus :
So little hold of them have we,

That we from them, or they from us,
May in a moment ravished be.


It was well that he had his mother s com
missions to attend to. They occupied him all
the afternoon, and in the evening he looked
forward to John s society. He intended then
to reveal his real name and position, and prove
that he had deserved the confidence and friend^
ship that had been so freely given him. But
John did not return to dinner, and Steve, re
membering his father s anger, concluded that
the business and correspondence of the day had
been delayed by it. If it had not been for the
ring and the check in his pocket, he might have
doubted the hopes of the morning, so quickly
and absolutely had they been dashed by disap
pointments. He even fancied that Mr. and
Mrs. McAslin were less friendly than usual;
so much so, that he had not the heart to tell
them anything, and was glad to recollect a
trades meeting in whose affairs John had ex
pressed an interest. It was not unlikely he had
gone there directly from Mr. Lloyd s, and
pretty certain that he would visit the men
some time during the evening.

In some respects these suppositions were
correct. John had been detained. Mr. Lloyd
had found it impossible to attend to business
with his usual devotion. In spite of himself,
his interview with Steve troubled him. He
could not forget his son s happy face and cor-


dial gladness of manner, nor yet his own brutal
interruption of their discussion. A vague feel
ing that he was " not master of himself " at the
time made him tremble with apprehension.
He clung to John and talked to him of many
things apart from their ordinary affairs; and
when John finally rose to leave, Mr. Lloyd
said "he would walk down the avenue with

A newsboy passed them immediately, calling
" Extra ! The Great Strike ! Extra ! " and Mr.
Lloyd stopped and bought a paper. " What
folly!" he said. "The mice might as well
rise against the cats as labour against capital.
These men are only consuming their savings
and the funds of their union. "

"It will be a long strike," said John,

"All the worse for the strikers then,"
answered Mr. Lloyd. "Their strength lies in
the beginning of a fight and is exhausted as it
proceeds. The employer dreads most the
breaking up of contracts and the suspension of
work ; but as soon as the first shock is over, he
makes new arrangements, and the strike s con
tinuance does not trouble him. He has suf
fered the worst and can bide his time. You
know what biding their time means to the
strikers? "


" It means hunger, and sickness, and trouble
of every kind," said John.

"And when you have talked till you are
tired, the last meaning of it all is that to
attack capital is to diminish wages; right or
wrong, that is the end of it."

"I don t think so," was John s reply to Mr.
Lloyd. " It is an old theory that wages are
paid out of capital, and that to increase wages
you must increase capital. I don t think in
any dispute between masters and men, the
question as to whether the capital sunk is suffi
cient to increase wages is ever raised, the
dispute is whether prices will allow of the in
crease. The men then look to production, not
to capital, as the fund out of which wages are
to be paid. That, however, is not the ques
tion now. I do not see what this strike will
accomplish. There is no necessity for it.
Work is plentiful and wages are not bad. They
will have no public sympathy. It is the wrong
time," said John, with an air of worry.

"That is just it. When other people have
a good market before them, they set themselves
to make the best of it. Working-men, driven
by their unions, choose that lucky period for
strikes and idleness. But they can t coerce
customers as they do employers; and by all
that s fair and just, there is a point when even
1 66


employers will abandon work that does not pay

" Is it not right that working-men should do
what they think best for themselves ? "

" A conspiracy against free labour is not good
for any one, John McAslin. Why do you stand
still ? "

"To say good-night, sir. I turn eastward

" Are you going home ? "

"No; I am going to a Socialist meeting."

" I should like to go with you."

"You may hear some unpleasant truths, sir."

"Still, I would like to go if you have no

John said he had none, and the two men
walked across the city together. " I want to
know what your Socialism means, John," said
Mr. Lloyd. " Of course, I know that it looks
to an entire change of society."

" If Socialism meant only a change of society
without a change of its heart, it would mean no
change at all, except on the surface. Socialism
means a changed conception of human life, a
higher conception of human dignity."

" Is humanity not dignified enough ? "

"No. We want a dignity that will scorn to
claim what it has not earned, a dignity that
will not feel itself degraded by any kind of


honest labour. Socialism means the simplify
ing of life as much as possible. It means the
defence of all weak members of the great human
family; it means courage to live by our per
sonal convictions; it means charity for the
failings of others; in short, it means the appli
cation of the Christianity of the first century
to the daily life of the nineteenth century."

As well as the noise and confusion of the
streets would permit, this argument was con
tinued until they reached their destination. A
group of men stood before it, smoking; John
said a few words to them in an undertone, and
then assisted Mr. Lloyd up the narrow, dimly
lighted stairway. He was quite excited by his
adventure, and he said to himself and meant
it "this is far better than sitting alone plan
ning and worrying."

The room, a fairly large one, was well filled,
even to the door. Nothing could be less in
viting than its general appearance. The seats
were of unpainted wood, and the solitary iron
gas-burners protruded at intervals from the
bare, plastered walls, and yet the humanity
filling it gave to these meagre appointments a
visible and unquestionable dignity and inter
est. John appeared to be well known and well
liked. Men made way cheerfully for him, and
a youth rose and gave Mr. Lloyd his seat. It
1 68


was a voluntary mark of respect for age; noth
ing was known of his wealth or influence.

Then John was aware of some strong feeling
agitating the whole assembly, a feeling of
anger and dissent, and lifting his eyes to the
platform, he saw Steve standing aggressively
in front of the audience, his hands in his
pockets, his head thrown forward a little, his
lips tight set, his eyes flashing with that elec
tric spark that distinguishes the modern eye.

"You have nothing to fear, sir," said John
to his companion, for he saw Mr. Lloyd s face
pale, and a visible tremor pass down his large
body. "I know that speaker. It is his delight
to see how far he can stir these men up. He
has been defying them now about something or
other. I know he has. Look at him ! "

It was easy to look at the handsome, disdain
ful youth, for he seemed to stand alone, and to
thoroughly enjoy the storm he had raised. It
was the more remarkable because of its silence.
Hisses and groans would have been less dis
maying to most men than the still wrath of that
voiceless crowd. Evidently he was waiting for
the words which no one had the courage or the
ability to give him.

"Nothing to say!" he ejaculated. "Of
course you have nothing to say. Then I will
tell you once more that it is all muddish non-


sense, our clamouring about our rights. We
don t know how to use the rights we have.
Talk about shorter hours! Hadn t we better
give up working altogether? Most of us have
already found out how little work we can do in
our present hours. Who ever sees a good day s
work done in these times ? We should be far
more ashamed of it than of doing real bad work.
I ll tell you what! We are a lot of dishonour
able idlers, who take money for work we do
not do."

"It s a lie! A lie as big as the United
States ! " shouted a man from the audience.

"It s the solid truth," retorted Steve.
"Denying truth doesn t make truth a lie. I
know it s the truth, for I m in with you.
There is not a bigger idler anywhere than I am.
But I like justice, it is a sixth sense with me;
I like justice for every man, I don t care
whether he is rich or poor. And I say that
just as long as we take money for work we do
not do, we can hold our tongues about rich
men living on interest and dividends. We
are birds of the same feather. Sweep the cob
webs out of your brains, and give rich and poor
alike fair play."

" Do you mean to say, Steve Morrison, that
a poor, badly paid working-man, taking his
work as easy as he can, is as big a thief as


well, say, old Nicholas Lloyd, gormandising
and drinking and sleeping, while a lot of poor
souls are sweating and worrying to make his
interests and dividends? "

"Six of one and half a dozen of the other,"
answered Steve, with a complaisant smile. "I
happen to have done something for the rich
man you name. He isn t a worse sort than
the crowd of us in this room. He does riot
gormandise; his servants eat far richer food
than others, and twenty times more of it. Sup
pose he does drink, are all of us strictly
temperate? As for poor men sweating and
worrying about their work, I don t know any
that do it; but I do happen to know that Nich
olas Lloyd can t sleep of nights for worrying
about his investments. Do any of us want to
join the dividend dance of the present day? I
should say not ! Do we want to welter down
to idiocy? Do we want the shadow of paresis
following us to a premature grave? You
imagine these kings of the stock market build
palaces. No, they build private asylums. We
may as well let the rich man and his troubles
alone; he has plenty of them."

"He has that," said Mr. Lloyd, thumping
his stick on the floor and drawing on himself
the curious gaze of many eyes.

"He does not know what freedom is," con-


tinued Steve. "He is the prisoner of society;
he is the prisoner of his very servants. He
can t whistle or sing on the street or shout
across it to a friend; it would not be respec
table. He can t put a bundle on a stick and
take a long tramp with nature. We can. The
rich man has to wear particular clothes at par
ticular times, and in particular ways. Which
of us would do that ? Their trusteeships and
their bonds and scrip, and their lawyer s visits
and their dyspepsia, and gout, and biliousness,
and nervous prostration, ought to make us fear
the sight of gold, but it does n t. We are as
mad after it as they are. We are a lot of
frauds altogether one as bad as the other
and Socialism won t save us; no, not by the
whole circumference of the world."

He poured out these words with such passion
and fluency that no one interrupted, though
many rose to their feet to do so. As soon as
he stopped there was an angry clamour, a shout,
the forward movement of disputing men, the
muttering wrath of those that remained behind.
Mr. Lloyd was greatly excited ; he rose to his
feet, he called out loudly, " Steve ! Steve !
John McAslin, let me go to Steve ! I want to
tell these born idiots the truth for once. "

" Sit down, sir ! Sit down, sir ! We are
going to have trouble, I fear." The next


moment he called to a man in front of him,
" Franz Fontaine, sing these noisy men quiet,
or there will be more than the music to pay."

Then a bright little Frenchman stood up on
his chair, and in tones of sonorous melody
began the "Marseillaise." Some one else in
stantly started the " Star Spangled Banner," and
Steve cried out in a voice full of mockery and
command, " Stop that music ! We will not have
the Marseillaise flirting with our national
hymn. John McAslin, you know what we
want, and if you can t start it I will," and with
his bright face aglow, and smiling and stepping
to its majestic swing and music, Steve rolled
out the battle hymn of Christian Socialism :

The day of the Lord is at hand, at hand;

Its storms roll up the sky;
The nations sleep starving on heaps of gold,

The dreamers all toss and sigh.
The night is darkest before the morn,
When the pain is sorest the child is born :

And the day of the Lord is at hand !

Gather you, gather you, angels of God.

Freedom, mercy, and truth !
Come, for the earth is grown coward and old,

Come down and renew us her youth.
Wisdom, self-sacrifice, daring, and love !
Haste to the battle-field, stoop from above,

To the day of the Lord at hand !



Steve came down to his friend singing the
last line. He was having what he considered
a glorious time, and he looked radiantly tri
umphant as the fervent, confident words fell
sharply to his footsteps. Mr. Lloyd rose as he
advanced. He was full of excitement, and
hesitated, as he regarded Steve, between anger
and approbation. Steve broke the last word of
his song in two when he saw his father, but
he made no effort to escape the impending

"Steve, you did pretty well," said the old
gentleman. " I have a great mind to forgive
you. Go to the platform again, Steve, and I
will go with you. I can tell these people their
faults as well as you can, and it is only fair
some rich man had an opportunity with them."

"No, sir," answered John, quickly. "It
would not do at all. Besides, the members are
dispersing. I am sure also that you are very
much tired."

" I never enjoyed a night so much in my
life. It has been the best kind of entertain
ment. John McAslin, this is my son, Stephen

"We know each other well already, sir,"
answered Steve. "John and I are brothers. I
am engaged to marry John s sister, Jessie."

" Then you are a very lucky fellow."


But John said nothing. A sudden reserve
attacked him ; he left Mr. Lloyd in the care of
his son and went thoughtfully home. Steve s
reticence regarding his family did not please
him. Under the circumstances he thought he
ought to have been more confidential. He
would much rather have had no acquaintance
ship between Alice and Steve. He feared this
relationship would be an injury to his own
hopes. For love quickens the apprehension,
and he had long perceived that Alice had lost
much of her liking for his sister Jessie. He
therefore understood, without reasoning on the
matter, that she would be very apt to think her
brother s marriage to Jessie was "enough of
the McAslins. " And this feminine probability
so exercised his heart, that the perilous fas
cination of "knowing the worst of it" took
possession of his intellect, and he resolved, on
the first opportunity, to put to Alice the ques
tion on which his whole future happiness




IT was Jessie and Steve s wedding-day, and
they sat together in the McAslin flat, talking
over their last preparations. Their own beauti
ful home was ready for occupancy, and after
the ceremony they were going to it. Steve
had ordered the flowers for its decoration ; the
table was laid for their wedding dinner; a
capable servant was at that moment cooking it.
There was a rapture of love on Steve s hand
some face as he drew his bride toward him, and
an adorable shyness and answering tenderness
on Jessie s.

"We shall meet no more until we meet in
God s house," said Steve. "I shall take you,
darling, as from his very hand. " And then he
drew her closer to his heart, and kissed her fair
face with a fervid and solemn affection.

Affairs had gone very well with Steve after

those memorable interviews with his mother

and father. He took to the work provided for

him, and gave it a supersensitive attention.



Nor did he dislike it. There was a variety
of interest and a constant movement, which
afforded scope for his restless disposition. To
be sure, the recurrence of certain duties at cer
tain hours made him often impatient, but as
yet he had never given way to that impulse
which longed to defy whatever in life was posi
tive and periodical.

There was also a better feeling between Mr.
Lloyd and his errant son. The older man
could not forget the bold recklessness of
Steve s philippic at the socialist meeting.
He liked it. He felt a pride in his manner
and his eloquence, and he smiled involuntarily
whenever he thought of Steve s defence of him
self, and his description of rich men in general.
Then he usually permitted his mind to wander
away in speculations which ended with the ad
mission, " Steve is no such fool as one would
think. He could manage my business, with
my advice, just as well as he does his mother s
trumpery benevolences if he would if he
would if his ideas about money were not
all aslip and aslant, and if he was not as
stubborn as a mule." So that as far as his
home went, many years had passed since
Steve had been able to visit it with so much

But when it came to his actual marriage with
12 I77


Jessie, Steve did not get the sympathy that he
expected. Both Mrs. Lloyd and Alice felt as
if there were hurry and mistake. When they
had first thought of a wife for Steve it was as
a last hope for his respectability; a kind of
heroic treatment for which there now appeared
no necessity. Jessie had gone out of date.
They felt it difficult to accept her. Good
women as they were, they were not above
imagining Jessie s pride and satisfaction in
finding out that she had captured the son of a
millionaire in entertaining an unknown guest
They spoke of it to themselves with little
sighs, and Alice, who had some imagination,
pictured Jessie s excitement and pride in a
variety of ways.

In reality the girl had taken the denouement
in a very different manner to any of Alice s
suppositions. On that night when Nicholas
Lloyd so unconsciously assisted in it, Steve,
after seeing his father home, went directly to
the McAslins to finish the explanation. It
was a litle difficult for John to accept it, but
he was honest enough to realise that his own
hopes about Alice made this difficulty. Steve
then went exhaustively into the circumstances
that had made him a wanderer ; and when John
complained, and with some reason, of the con
fidence withheld from his best friends, Steve


fortified his position by a positive assurance
that his only motive had been a desire to win
Jessie s affection without a suspicion of money
influencing her. He then explained the pur
pose, and the payment of his mother s proposal,
and showed the ring she had sent Jessie and
the check given for their home-making.

So John put the little selfish ache in his heart
down below all show of feeling, and gave Steve
his hand in token of their renewed friendship
and alliance. There had evidently been an
effort of some evil influence to thwart Steve s
happiness, but his clear honesty drove away all
suspicions. And pray, how many of us are
proof against the prospect and power of money?
Mr. and Mrs. McAslin were both excited over
the circumstance, Mrs. McAslin s pride being
also strongly tinctured with a pious sentimen
tality. Considering her early relations with
Nicholas Lloyd, and his cruelty to her, she
found it easy and satisfactory to relegate the
whole affair to a just and retributive Providence.
She was so anxious for Jessie s return that she
could not sleep by night nor eat by day, and
the solemn importance of her countenance im
pressed her daughter before she had taken the
pins out of her hat.

"What is the matter, mother?" she asked
nervously. " Has anything gone wrong? Has


any one done wrong? You look as if you had
more to carry than you could bear."

" A very strange thing has happened, Jessie.
We have found out something about Steve."

" You have found out nothing wrong, I am
sure, mother. I won t believe that you have
done that. I won t ! I won t ! "

" His name is not Morrison. Morrison is
only his middle name."

" What of that? I am going to marry Steve,
right or wrong, and I do not fear any wrong
that may come through him. If his name is not
Morrison, pray what is it?"

" Lloyd ! "

" Hum ! it might be worse, and it might be
better ; that is, if names have any influence over
the people that bear them. I wonder if he is
any relative of the Nicholas Lloyds ? "

" He is the son of Nicholas Lloyd."

" Oh! the brother of Alice Lloyd, then?"

" Yes."

" I am rather glad of it. That accounts for
much and sundry!" Poor Jessie! Her face
flushed rosy, her whole attitude became suffused
with a well-controlled but haughty satisfaction.
She felt that she must be alone in order to
realise properly the good fortune that had come
to her.

When Steve came home to dinner she was
1 80


shy but gracious. She had put on her best
dress and given her appearance an air of holi
day. He took her part at once. He gave her
his mother s ring and message, and showed
her the generous check which was to prepare
their home. The interest of all this was so
wonderful and so great that dinner was half
over when they came hand in hand to the table.
Their eyes were shining with happy tears ; they
were above and beyond hunger; they had had
food to eat that God gives but rarely in life
the food of heaven the satisfying joy of per
fect love. Indeed, they could talk as little as
they could eat. They were too happy to say

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Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrThe king's highway. [microform] → online text (page 9 of 19)