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THE WORKS OF E. P. ROE

VOLUME THREE

A KNIGHT OF THE NINETEENTH CENTURY




[Illustration: "WOULD HE NEVER LOOK UP?"
Knight XIX Century _Frontispiece_]




THIS BOOK IS REVERENTLY
DEDICATED TO THE MEMORY
OF MY HONORED FATHER




PREFACE

He best deserves a knightly crest,
Who slays the evils that infest
His soul within. If victor here,
He soon will find a wider sphere.
The world is cold to him who pleads;
The world bows low to knightly deeds.

CORNWALL ON THE HUDSON, N.Y.




CONTENTS

CHAPTER I
BAD TRAINING FOR A KNIGHT

CHAPTER II
BOTH APOLOGIZE

CHAPTER III
CHAINED TO AN ICEBERG

CHAPTER IV
IMMATURE

CHAPTER V
PASSION'S CLAMOR

CHAPTER VI
"GLOOMY GRANDEUR"

CHAPTER VII
BIRDS OF PREY

CHAPTER VIII
THEIR VICTIM

CHAPTER IX
PAT AND THE PRESS

CHAPTER X
RETURNING CONSCIOUSNESS

CHAPTER XI
HALDANE IS ARRESTED

CHAPTER XII
A MEMORABLE MEETING

CHAPTER XIII
OUR KNIGHT IN JAIL

CHAPTER XIV
MR. ARNOT'S SYSTEM WORKS BADLY

CHAPTER XV
HALDANE'S RESOLVE

CHAPTER XVI
THE IMPULSES OF WOUNDED PRIDE

CHAPTER XVII
AT ODDS WITH THE WORLD

CHAPTER XVIII
THE WORLD'S VERDICT - OUR KNIGHT A CRIMINAL

CHAPTER XIX
THE WORLD'S BEST OFFER - A PRISON

CHAPTER XX
MAIDEN AND WOOD-SAWYER

CHAPTER XXI
MAGNANIMOUS MR. SHRUMPF

CHAPTER XXII
A MAN WHO HATED HIMSELF

CHAPTER XXIII
MR. GROWTHER BECOMES GIGANTIC

CHAPTER XXIV
HOW PUBLIC OPINION IS OFTEN MADE

CHAPTER XXV
A PAPER PONIARD

CHAPTER XXVI
A SORRY KNIGHT

CHAPTER XXVII
GOD SENT HIS ANGEL

CHAPTER XXVIII
FACING THE CONSEQUENCES

CHAPTER XXIX
HOW EVIL ISOLATES

CHAPTER XXX
IDEAL KNIGHTHOOD

CHAPTER XXXI
THE LOW STARTING-POINT

CHAPTER XXXII
A SACRED REFRIGERATOR

CHAPTER XXXIII
A DOUBTFUL BATTLE IN PROSPECT

CHAPTER XXXIV
A FOOT-HOLD

CHAPTER XXXV
THAT SERMON WAS A BOMB-SHELL

CHAPTER XXXVI
MR. GROWTHER FEEDS AN ANCIENT GRUDGE

CHAPTER XXXVII
HOPING FOR A MIRACLE

CHAPTER XXXVIII
THE MIRACLE TAKES PLACE

CHAPTER XXXIX
VOTARIES OF THE WORLD

CHAPTER XL
HUMAN NATURE

CHAPTER XLI
MRS. ARNOT'S CREED

CHAPTER XLII
THE LEVER THAT MOVES THE WORLD

CHAPTER XLIII
MR. GROWTHER "STUMPED"

CHAPTER XLIV
GROWTH

CHAPTER XLV
LAURA ROMEYN

CHAPTER XLVI
MISJUDGED

CHAPTER XLVII
LAURA CHOOSES HER KNIGHT

CHAPTER XLVIII
MRS. ARNOT'S KNIGHT

CHAPTER XLIX
A KNIGHTLY DEED

CHAPTER L
"O DREADED DEATH!"

CHAPTER LI
"O PRICELESS LIFE!"

CHAPTER LII
A MAN VERSUS A CONNOISSEUR

CHAPTER LIII
EXIT OF LAURA'S FIRST KNIGHT

CHAPTER LIV
ANOTHER KNIGHT APPEARS




A KNIGHT OF THE NINETEENTH CENTURY




CHAPTER I

BAD TRAINING FOR A KNIGHT


Egbert Haldane had an enemy who loved him very dearly, and he sincerely
returned her affection, as he was in duty bound, since she was his
mother. If, inspired by hate and malice, Mrs. Haldane had brooded over
but one question at the cradle of her child, How can I most surely
destroy this boy? she could scarcely have set about the task more
skilfully and successfully.

But so far from having any such malign and unnatural intention, Mrs.
Haldane idolized her son. To make the paradox more striking, she was
actually seeking to give him a Christian training and character. As he
leaned against her knee Bible tales were told him, not merely for the
sake of the marvellous interest which they ever have for children, but
in the hope, also, that the moral they carry with them might remain as
germinating seed. At an early age the mother had commenced taking him to
church, and often gave him an admonitory nudge as his restless eyes
wandered from the venerable face in the pulpit. In brief, the apparent
influences of his early life were similar to those existing in
multitudes of Christian homes. On general principles, it might be hoped
that the boy's future would be all that his friends could desire; nor
did he himself in early youth promise so badly to superficial observers;
and the son of the wealthy Mrs. Haldane was, on the part of the world,
more the object of envy than of censure. But a close observer, who
judged of characteristic tendencies and their results by the light of
experience, might justly fear that the mother had unwittingly done her
child irreparable wrong.

She had made him a tyrant and a relentless task-master even in his
infancy. As his baby-will developed he found it supreme. His nurse was
obliged to be a slave who must patiently humor every whim. He was petted
and coaxed out of his frequent fits of passion, and beguiled from his
obstinate and sulky moods by bribes. He was the eldest child and only
son, and his little sisters were taught to yield to him, right or wrong,
he lording it over them with the capricious lawlessness of an Eastern
despot. Chivalric deference to woman, and a disposition to protect and
honor her, is a necessary element of a manly character in our Western
civilization; but young Haldane was as truly an Oriental as if he had
been permitted to bluster around a Turkish harem; and those whom he
should have learned to wait upon with delicacy and tact became
subservient to his varying moods, developing that essential brutality
which mars the nature of every man who looks upon woman as an inferior
and a servant. He loved his mother, but he did not reverence and honor
her. The thought ever uppermost in his mind was, "What ought she to do
for me?" not, "What ought I to do for her?" and any effort to curb or
guide on her part was met and thwarted by passionate or obstinate
opposition from him. He loved his sisters after a fashion, because they
were his sisters; but so far from learning to think of them as those
whom it would be his natural task to cherish and protect, they were, in
his estimation, "nothing but girls," and of no account whatever where
his interests were concerned.

In the most receptive period of life the poison of selfishness and
self-love was steadily instilled into his nature. Before he had left the
nursery he had formed the habit of disregarding the wills and wishes of
others, even when his childish conscience told him that he was decidedly
in the wrong. When he snatched his sisters' playthings they cried in
vain, and found no redress. The mother made peace by smoothing over
matters, and promising the little girls something else.

Of course, the boy sought to carry into his school life the same
tendencies and habits which he had learned at home, and he ever found a
faithful ally in his blind, fond mother. She took his side against his
teachers; she could not believe in his oppressions of his younger
playmates; she was absurdly indignant and resentful when some sturdy boy
stood up for his own rights, or championed another's, and sent the
incipient bully back to her, crying, and with a bloody nose. When the
pampered youth was a little indisposed, or imagined himself so, he was
coddled at home, and had bonbons and fairy tales in the place of
lessons.

Judicious friends shook their heads ominously, and some even ventured to
counsel the mother to a wiser course; but she ever resented such advice.
The son was the image of his lost father, and her one impulse was to
lavish upon him everything that his heart craved.

As if all this were not enough, she placed in the boy's way another
snare, which seldom fails of proving fatal. He had only to ask for money
to obtain it, no knowledge of its value being imparted to him. Even when
he took it from his mother's drawer without asking, her chidings were
feeble and irresolute. He would silence and half satisfy her by saying:

"You can take anything of mine that you want. It's all in the family;
what difference does it make?"

Thus every avenue of temptation in the city which could be entered by
money was open to him, and he was not slow in choosing those naturally
attractive to a boy.

But while his mother was blind to the evil traits and tendencies which
she was fostering with such ominous success, there were certain overt
acts naturally growing out of her indulgences which would shock her
inexpressibly, and evoke even from her the strongest expressions of
indignation and rebuke. She was pre-eminently respectable, and fond of
respect. She was a member "in good and regular standing" not only of her
church, but also of the best society in the small inland city where she
resided, and few greater misfortunes in her estimation could occur than
to lose this status. She never hesitated to humor any of her son's whims
and wishes which did not threaten their respectability, but the
quick-witted boy was not long in discovering that she would not tolerate
any of those vices and associations which society condemns.

There could scarcely have been any other result save that which
followed. She had never taught him self-restraint; his own inclinations
furnished the laws of his action, and the wish to curb his desires
because they were wrong scarcely ever crossed his mind. To avoid trouble
with his mother, therefore, he began slyly and secretly to taste the
forbidden fruits which her lavish supplies of money always kept within
his reach. In this manner that most hopeless and vitiating of elements,
deceitfulness, entered into his character. He denied to his mother, and
sought to conceal from her, the truth that while still in his teens he
was learning the gambler's infatuation and forming the inebriate's
appetite. He tried to prevent her from knowing that many of his most
intimate associates were such as he would not introduce to her or to his
sisters.

He had received, however, a few counter-balancing advantages in his
early life. With all her weaknesses, his mother was a lady, and order,
refinement, and elegance characterized his home. Though not a gentleman
at heart, on approaching manhood he habitually maintained the outward
bearing that society demands. The report that he was a little fast was
more than neutralized by the fact of his wealth. Indeed, society
concluded that it had much more occasion to smile than to frown upon
him, and his increasing fondness for society and its approval in some
degree curbed his tendencies to dissipation.

It might also prove to his advantage that so much Christian and ethical
truth had been lodged in his memory during early years. His mother had
really taken pains to acquaint him with the Divine Man who "pleased not
himself," even while she was practically teaching him to reverse this
trait in his own character. Thus, while the youth's heart was sadly
erratic, his head was tolerably orthodox, and he knew theoreticaly the
chief principles of right action. Though his conscience had never been
truly awakened, it often told him that his action was unmanly, to say
the least; and that was as far as any self-censure could reach at this
time. But it might prove a fortunate thing that although thorns and
thistles had been planted chiefly, some good seed had been scattered
also, and that he had received some idea of a life the reverse of that
which he was leading.

But thus far it might be said with almost literal truth, that young
Haldane's acquaintance with Christian ethics had had no more practical
effect upon his habitual action and thought than his knowledge of
algebra. When his mother permitted him to snatch his sisters' playthings
and keep them, when she took him from the school where he had received
well-merited punishment, when she enslaved herself and her household to
him instead of teaching considerate and loyal devotion to her, she
nullified all the Christian instruction that she or any one else had
given.

The boy had one very marked trait, which might promise well for the
future, or otherwise, according to circumstances, and that was a certain
wilful persistence, which often degenerated into downright obstinacy.
Frequently, when his mother thought that she had coaxed or wheedled him
into giving up something of which she did not approve, he would quietly
approach his object in some other way, and gain his point, or sulk till
he did. When he set his heart upon anything he was not as "unstable as
water." While but an indifferent and superficial student, who had
habitually escaped lessons and skipped difficulties, he occasionally
became nettled by a perplexing problem or task, and would work at it
with a sort of vindictive, unrelenting earnestness, as if he were
subduing an enemy. Having put his foot on the obstacle, and mastered the
difficulty that piqued him, he would cast the book aside, indifferent to
the study or science of which it formed but a small fraction.

After all, perhaps the best that could be said of him was that he
possessed fair abilities, and was still subject to the good and generous
impulses of youth. His traits and tendencies were, in the main, all
wrong; but he had not as yet become confirmed and hardened in them.
Contact with the world, which sooner or later tells a man the truth
about himself, however unwelcome, might dissipate the illusion, gained
from his mother's idolatry, that in some indefinite way he was
remarkable in himself, and that he was destined to great things from a
vague and innate superiority, which it had never occurred to him to
analyze.

But as the young man approached his majority his growing habits of
dissipation became so pronounced that even his willingly blind mother
was compelled to recognize them. Rumor of his fast and foolish behavior
took such definite shape as to penetrate the widow's aristocratic
retirement, and to pass the barriers created by the reserve which she
ever maintained in regard to personal and family matters. More than once
her son came home in a condition so nearly resembling intoxication that
she was compelled to recognize the cause, and she was greatly shocked
and alarmed. Again and again she said to herself:

"I cannot understand how a boy brought up in the careful Christian
manner that he has been can show such unnatural depravity. It is a dark,
mysterious providence, to which I feel I cannot submit."

Though young Haldane was aware of his mother's intolerance of
disreputable vices and follies, he was not prepared for her strong and
even bitter condemnation of his action. Having never been taught to
endure from her nor from any one the language of rebuke, he retorted as
a son never should do in any circumstances, and stormy scenes followed.

Thus the mother was at last rudely awakened to the fact that her son was
not a model youth, and that something must be done speedily, or else he
might go to destruction, and in the meantime disgrace both himself and
her - an event almost equally to be dreaded.

In her distress and perplexity she summoned her pastor, and took counsel
with him. At her request the venerable man readily agreed to "talk to"
the wayward subject, and thought that his folly and its consequences
could be placed before the young man in such a strong and logical
statement that it would convince him at once that he must "repent and
walk in the ways of righteousness." If Haldane's errors had been those
of doctrine, Dr. Marks would have been an admirable guide; but the
trouble was that, while the good doctor was familiar with all the
readings of obscure Greek and Hebrew texts, and all the shades of
opinions resulting, he was unacquainted with even the alphabet of human
nature. In approaching "a sinner," he had one formal and unvarying
method, and he chose his course not from the bearing of the subject
himself, but from certain general theological truths which he believed
applied to the "unrenewed heart of man as a fallen race." He rather
prided himself upon calling a sinner a sinner, and all things else by
their right names; and thus it is evident that he often had but little
of the Pauline guile, which enabled the great apostle to entangle the
wayward feet of Jew, Greek and Roman, bond and free, in heavenly snares.

The youth whom he was to convince and convert by a single broadside of
truth, as it were, moved in such an eccentric orbit, that the doctor
could never bring his heavy artillery to bear upon him. Neither coaxing
nor scolding on the part of the mother could bring about the formal
interview. At last, however, it was secured by an accident, and his
mother felt thereafter, with a certain sense of consolation, that "all
had been done that could be done."

Entering the parlor unexpectedly one afternoon, Haldane stumbled
directly upon Dr. Marks, who opened fire at once, by saying:

"My young friend, this is quite providential, as I have long been
wishing for an interview. Please be seated, for I have certain things to
say which relate to your spiritual and temporal well-being, although the
latter is a very secondary matter."

Haldane was too well bred to break rudely and abruptly away, and yet it
must be admitted that he complied with very much the feeling and grace
with which he would take a dentist's chair.

"My young friend, if you ever wish to be a saint you must first have a
profound conviction that you are a sinner. I hope that you realize that
you are a sinner."

"I am quite content to be a gentleman," was the brusque reply.

"But as long as you remain an impenitent sinner you can never be even a
true gentleman," responded the clergyman somewhat warmly.

Haldane had caught a shocked and warning look from his mother, and so
did not reply. He saw that he was "in for it," as he would express
himself, and surmised that the less he said the sooner the ordeal would
be over. He therefore took refuge in a silence that was both sullen and
resentful. He was too young and uncurbed to maintain a cold and
impassive face, and his dark eyes occasionally shot vindictive gleams at
both his mother and her ally, who had so unexpectedly caged him against
his will. Fortunately the doctor was content, after he had got under
way, to talk at, instead of to, his listener, and thus was saved the
mortification of asking questions of one who would not have answered.

After the last sonorous period had been rounded, the youth arose, bowed
stiffly, and withdrew, but with a heart overflowing with a malicious
desire to retaliate. At the angle of the house stood the clergyman's
steady-going mare, and his low, old-fashioned buggy. It was but the work
of a moment to slip part of the shuck of a horse-chestnut, with its
sharp spines, under the collar, so that when the traces drew upon it the
spines would be driven into the poor beast's neck. Then, going down to
the main street of the town, through which he knew the doctor must pass
on his way home, he took his post of observation.




CHAPTER II

BOTH APOLOGIZE


Haldane's hopes were realized beyond his anticipations, for the doctor's
old mare - at first surprised and restless from the wounds made by the
sharp spines - speedily became indignant and fractious, and at last, half
frantic with pain, started on a gallop down the street, setting all the
town agog with excitement and alarm.

With grim satisfaction Haldane saw the doctor's immaculate silk hat fly
into the mud, his wig, blown comically awry, fall over his eyes, and his
spectacles joggle down until they sat astride the tip of a rather
prominent nose.

Having had his revenge he at once relented, and rushing out in advance
of some others who were coming to the rescue, he caught the poor beast,
and stopped her so suddenly that the doctor was nearly precipitated over
the dashboard. Then, pretending to examine the harness to see that
nothing was broken, he quietly removed the cause of irritation, and the
naturally sedate beast at once became far more composed than her master,
for, as a bystander remarked, the venerable doctor was "dreadfully shuck
up." It was quite in keeping with Haldane's disingenuous nature to
accept the old gentleman's profuse thanks for the rescue. The impulse to
carry his mischief still further was at once acted upon, and he offered
to see the doctor safely home.

His services were eagerly accepted, for the poor man was much too
unnerved to take the reins again, though, had he known it, the mare
would now have gone to the parsonage quietly, and of her own accord.

The doctor was gradually righted up and composed. His wig, which had
covered his left eye, was arranged decorously in its proper place, and
the gold-rimmed spectacles pressed back so that the good man could beam
mildly and gratefully upon his supposed preserver. The clerical hat,
however, had lost its character beyond recovery, and though its owner
was obliged to wear it home, it must be confessed that it did not at all
comport with the doctor's dignity and calling.

Young Haldane took the reins with a great show of solicitude and
vigilance, appearing to dread another display of viciousness from the
mare, that was now most sheeplike in her docility; and thus, with his
confiding victim, he jogged along through the crowded street, the object
of general approval and outspoken commendation.

"My dear young friend," began the doctor fervently, "I feel that you
have already repaid me amply for my labors in your behalf."

"Thank you," said Haldane demurely; "I think we are getting even."

"This has been a very mysterious affair," continued the doctor musingly;
"surely 'a horse is a vain thing for safety.' One is almost tempted to
believe that demoniacal possession is not wholly a thing of the past.
Indeed, I could not think of anything else while Dolly was acting so
viciously and unaccountably."

"I agree with you," responded Haldane gravely, "she certainly did come
down the street like the devil."

The doctor was a little shocked at this putting of his thoughts into
plain English, for it sounded somewhat profanely. But he was in no mood
to find fault with his companion, and they got on very well together to
the end of their brief journey. The young scapegrace was glad, indeed,
that it was brief, for his self-control was fast leaving him, and having
bowed a rather abrupt farewell to the doctor, he was not long in
reaching one of his haunts, from which during the evening, and quite
late into the night, came repeated peals of laughter, that grew more
boisterous and discordant as that synonyme of mental and moral anarchy,
the "spirit of wine," gained the mastery.

The tidings of her son's exploit in rescuing the doctor were not long in
reaching Mrs. Haldane, and she felt that the good seed sown that day had
borne immediate fruit. She longed to fold him in her arms and commend
his courage, while she poured out thanksgiving that he himself had
escaped uninjured, which immunity, she believed, must have resulted from
the goodness and piety of the deed. But when he at last appeared with
step so unsteady and utterance so thick that even she could not mistake
the cause, she was bewildered and bitterly disappointed by the apparent
contradictoriness of his action; and when he, too far gone for
dissimulation, described and acted out in pantomime the doctor's plight
and appearance, she became half hysterical from her desire to laugh, to
cry, and to give vent to her kindling indignation.

This anger was raised almost to the point of white heat on the morrow.
The cause of the old mare's behavior, and the interview which had led to
the practical joke, soon became an open secret, and while it convulsed
the town with laughter, it also gave the impression that young Haldane
was in a "bad way."

It was not long before Mrs. Haldane received a note from an indignant
fellow church-member, in which, with some disagreeable comment, her
son's conduct was plainly stated. She was also informed that the doctor
had become aware of the rude jest of which he had been the subject. Mrs.
Haldane was almost furious; but her son grew sullen and obstinate as the
storm which he had raised increased. The only thing he would say as an
apology or excuse amounted to this:

"What else could he expect from one who he so emphatically asserted was
a sinner?"

The mother wrote at once to the doctor, and was profuse in her apologies
and regrets, but was obliged to admit to him that her son was beyond her
control.

When the doctor first learned the truth his equanimity was almost as
greatly disturbed as it had been on the previous day, and his first
emotions were obviously those of wrath. But a little thought brought him
to a better mood.

He was naturally deficient in tact, and his long habit of dwelling upon
abstract and systematic truth had diminished his power of observantly
and intuitively gauging the character of the one with whom he was
dealing. He therefore often failed wofully in adaptation, and his



Online LibraryEdward Payson RoeA Knight of the Nineteenth Century → online text (page 1 of 33)