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finely turned sentences in which it is apparent more labor has been
expended on the vehicle than on what it contains. The questions of this
eager age are, What has he to say? Does it interest us? As an author, I
have felt that my only chance of gaining and keeping the attention of
men and women was to know, to understand them, to feel with and for
them in what constituted their life. Failing to do this, why should a
line of my books be read? Who reads a modern novel from sense of duty?
There are classics which all must read and pretend to enjoy whether
capable of doing so or not. No critic has ever been so daft as to call
any of my books a classic. Better books are unread because the writer
is not en rapport with the reader. The time has passed when either the
theologian, the politician, or the critic can take the American citizen
metaphorically by the shoulder and send him along the path in which
they think he should go. He has become the most independent being in
the world, good-humoredly tolerant of the beliefs and fancies of
others, while reserving, as a matter of course, the right to think for
himself.

In appealing to the intelligent American public, choosing for itself
among the multitude of books now offered, it is my creed that an author
should maintain completely and thoroughly his own individuality, and
take the consequences. He cannot conjure strongly by imitating any one,
or by representing any school or fashion. He must do his work
conscientiously, for his readers know by instinct whether or not they
are treated seriously and with respect. Above all, he must understand
men and women sufficiently to interest them; for all the "powers that
be" cannot compel them to read a book they do not like.

My early experience in respect to my books in the British Dominions has
been similar to that of many others. My first stories were taken by one
or more publishers without saying "by your leave," and no returns made
of any kind. As time passed, Messrs. Ward, Locke & Co., more than any
other house, showed a disposition to treat me fairly. Increasing sums
were given for successive books. Recently Mr. George Locke visited me,
and offered liberal compensation for each new novel. He also agreed to
give me five per cent copyright on all my old books published by him,
no matter how obtained, in some instances revoking agreements which
precluded the making of any such request on my part. In the case of
many of these books he has no protection, for they are published by
others; but he takes the simple ground that he will not sell any of my
books without giving me a share in the profit. Such honorable action
should tend to make piracy more odious than ever, on both sides of the
sea. Other English firms have offered me the usual royalty, and I now
believe that in spite of our House of Mis-Representatives at
Washington, the majority of the British publishers are disposed to deal
justly and honorably by American writers. In my opinion, the LOWER
House in Congress has libelled and slandered the American people by
acting as if their constituents, with thievish instincts, chuckled over
pennies saved when buying pirated books. This great, rich, prosperous
nation has been made a "fence," a receiver of stolen goods, and
shamelessly committed to the crime for which poor wretches are sent to
jail. Truly, when history is written, and it is learned that the whole
power and statesmanship of the government were enlisted in behalf of
the pork interest, while the literature of the country and the literary
class were contemptuously ignored, it may be that the present period
will become known as the Pork Era of the Republic. It is a strange fact
that English publishers are recognizing our rights in advance of our
own lawmakers.

In relating his experience in the pages of this magazine, Mr. Julian
Hawthorne said in effect that one of the best rewards of the literary
life was the friends it enabled the writer to make. When giving me his
friendship, he proved how true this is. In my experience the literary
class make good, genial, honest friends, while their keen, alert minds
and knowledge of life in many of its most interesting aspects give an
unfailing charm to their society. One can maintain the most cordial and
intimate relations with editors of magazines and journals if he will
recognize that such relations should have no influence whatever in the
acceptance or declination of manuscripts. I am constantly receiving
letters from literary aspirants who appear to think that if I will use
a little influence their stories or papers would be taken and paid for.
I have no such influence, nor do I wish any, in regard to my own work.
The conscientious editor's first duty is to his periodical and its
constituents, and he would and should be more scrupulous in accepting a
manuscript from a friend than from a stranger. To show resentment
because a manuscript is returned is absurd, however great may be our
disappointment.

Perhaps one of the most perplexing and often painful experiences of an
author comes from the appeals of those who hope through him to obtain
immediate recognition as writers. One is asked to read manuscripts and
commend them to publishers, or at least to give an opinion in regard to
them, often to revise or even to rewrite certain portions. I remember
that during one month I was asked to do work on the manuscripts of
strangers that would require about a year of my time. The maker of such
request does not realize that he or she is but one among many, and that
the poor author would have to abandon all hope of supporting his family
if he tried to comply. The majority who thus appeal to one know next to
nothing of the literary life or the conditions of success. They write
to the author in perfect good faith, often relating circumstances which
touch his sympathies; yet if you tell them the truth about their
manuscript, or say you have not time to read it, adding that you have
no influence with editors or publishers beyond securing a careful
examination of what is written, you feel that you are often set down as
a churl, and your inability to comply with their wishes is regarded as
the selfishness and arrogance of success. The worried author has also
his own compunctions, for while he has tried so often and vainly to
secure the recognition requested, till he is in despair of such effort,
he still is haunted by the fear that he may overlook some genius whom
it would be a delight to guide through what seems a thorny jungle to
the inexperienced.

In recalling the past, one remembers when he stood in such sore need of
friends that he dislikes even the appearance of passing by on the other
side. There are no riches in the world like stanch friends who prove
themselves to be such in your need, your adversity, or your weakness. I
have some treasured letters received after it had been telegraphed
throughout the land that I was a bankrupt and had found myself many
thousands of dollars worse off than nothing. The kindly words and
looks, the cordial grasp of the hand, and the temporary loan
occasionally, of those who stood by me when scarcely sane from
overwork, trouble, and, worse than all, from insomnia, can never be
forgotten while a trace of memory is left. Soon after my insolvency
there came a date when all my interests in my books then published must
be sold to the highest bidder. It seemed in a sense like putting my
children up at auction; and yet I was powerless, since my interests
under contracts were a part of my assets. These rights had been well
advertised in the New York and county papers, as the statute required,
and the popularity of the books was well known. Any one in the land
could have purchased these books from me forever. A friend made the
highest bid and secured the property. My rights in my first nine novels
became his, legally and absolutely. There was even no verbal agreement
between us - nothing but his kind, honest eyes to reassure me. He not
only paid the sum he had bidden, but then and there wrote a check for a
sum which, with my other assets, immediately liquidated my personal
debts, principal and interest. The children of my fancy are again my
children, for they speedily earned enough to repay my friend and to
enable him to compromise with the holders of indorsed notes in a way
satisfactory to them. It so happened that most of these creditors
resided in my immediate neighborhood. I determined to fight out the
battle in their midst and under their daily observation, and to treat
all alike, without regard to their legal claims. Only one creditor
tried to make life a burden; but he did his level best. The others
permitted me to meet my obligations in my own time and way, and I am
grateful for their consideration. When all had received the sum
mutually agreed upon, and I had shaken hands with them, I went to the
quaint and quiet little city of Santa Barbara, on the Pacific coast,
for a change and partial rest. While there, however, I wrote my
Charleston story, "The Earth Trembled." In September, 1887, I returned
to my home at Cornwall-on-the-Hudson, and resumed my work in a region
made dear by the memories of a lifetime. Just now I am completing a
Southern story entitled "Miss Lou."

It so happens in my experience that I have discovered one who appears
willing to stick closer to me than a brother, and even to pass as my
"double," or else he is so helplessly in the hands of his publishers as
to be an object of pity. A certain "Edward R. Roe" is also an author,
and is suffering cruelly in reputation because his publishers so manage
that he is identified with me. By strange coincidence, they hit upon a
cover for his book which is almost a facsimile of the cover of my
pamphlet novel, "An Original Belle," previously issued. The R in the
name of this unfortunate man has been furnished with such a diminutive
tail that it passes for a P, and even my friends supposed that the
book, offered everywhere for sale, was mine. In many instances I have
asked at news stands, "Whose book is that?" The prompt and invariable
answer has been, "E. P. Roe's." I have seen book notices in which the
volume was ascribed to me in anything but flattering terms. A
distinguished judge, in a carefully written opinion, is so uncharitable
as to characterize the coincidence in cover as a "fraud," and to say,
"No one can look at the covers of the two publications and fail to see
evidence of a design to deceive the public and to infringe upon the
rights of the publisher and author" - that is, the rights of Messrs.
Dodd, Mead would be well, as a rule, for other writers to begin with
reputable, honorable publishers and to remain with them. A publisher
can do more and better with a line of books than with isolated volumes.
When an author's books are scattered, there is not sufficient
inducement for any one to push them strongly, nor, as in the case above
related, to protect a writer against a "double," should one appear.
Authors often know little about business, and should deal with a
publisher who will look after their interests as truly as his own.
Unbusinesslike habits and methods are certainly not traits to be
cultivated, for we often suffer grievously from their existence; yet as
far as possible the author should be free from distracting cares. The
novelist does his best work when abstracted from the actual world and
living in its ideal counterpart which for the time he is imagining.
When his creative work is completed, he should live very close to the
real world, or else he will be imagining a state of things which
neither God nor man had any hand in bringing about.






TAKEN ALIVE AND OTHER STORIES




TAKEN ALIVE




CHAPTER I

SOMETHING BEFORE UNKNOWN


Clara Heyward was dressed in deep mourning, and it was evident that the
emblems of bereavement were not worn merely in compliance with a social
custom. Her face was pallid from grief, and her dark beautiful eyes
were dim from much weeping. She sat in the little parlor of a cottage
located in a large Californian city, and listened with apathetic
expression as a young man pleaded for the greatest and most sacred gift
that a woman can bestow. Ralph Brandt was a fine type of young vigorous
manhood; and we might easily fancy that his strong, resolute face, now
eloquent with deep feeling, was not one upon which a girl could look
with indifference. Clara's words, however, revealed the apparent
hopelessness of his suit.

"It's of no use, Ralph," she said; "I'm in no mood for such thoughts."

"You don't believe in me; you don't trust me," he resumed sadly. "You
think that because I was once wild, and even worse, that I'll not be
true to my promises and live an honest life. Have I not been honest
when I knew that being so might cost me dear? Have I not told you of my
past life and future purposes when I might have concealed almost
everything?"

"It's not that, Ralph. I do believe you are sincere; and if the
dreadful thing which has broken me down with sorrow had not happened,
all might have been as you wish. I should have quite as much confidence
in a young man who, like you, has seen evil and turned resolutely away
from it, as in one who didn't know much about the world or himself
either. What's more, father - "

At the word "father" her listless manner vanished, and she gave way to
passionate sobs. "His foul murder is always before me," she wailed.
"Oh, we were so happy! he was so kind, and made me his companion! I
don't see how I can live without him. I can't think of love and
marriage when I remember how he died, and that the villain who killed
him is at large and unpunished. What right have I to forget this great
wrong and to try to be happy? No, no! the knife that killed him pierced
my heart; and it's bleeding all the time. I'm not fit to be any man's
wife; and I will not bring my great sorrow into any man's home."

Brandt sprang up and paced the room for a few moments, his brow
contracted in deep thought. Then, apparently coming to a decision, he
sat down by his companion and took her cold, unresisting hand.

"My poor little girl," he said, kindly, "you don't half understand me
yet. I love you all the more because you are heart-broken and pale with
grief. That is the reason I have spoken so earnestly to-night. You will
grieve yourself to death if left alone; and what good would your death
do any one? It would spoil my life. Believe me, I would welcome you to
my home with all your sorrow - all the more because of your sorrow; and
I'd be so kind and patient that you'd begin to smile again some day.
That's what your father would wish if he could speak to you, and not
that you should grieve away your life for what can't be helped now. But
I have a plan. It's right in my line to capture such scoundrels as the
man who murdered your father; and what's more, I know the man, or
rather I used to in old times. I've played many a game of euchre with
him in which he cheated me out of money that I'd be glad to have now;
and I'm satisfied that he does not know of any change in me. I was away
on distant detective duty, you know, when your father was killed. I
won't ask you to go over the painful circumstances; I can learn them at
the prison. I shall try to get permission to search out Bute, desperate
and dangerous as he is - "

"Oh, Ralph, Ralph," cried the girl, springing up, her eyes flashing
through her tears, "if you will bring my father's murderer to justice,
if you will prevent him from destroying other lives, as he surely will,
you will find that I can refuse you nothing."

Then she paused, shook her head sadly, and withdrew the hand she had
given him. "No," she resumed, "I shouldn't ask this; I don't ask it. As
you say, he is desperate and dangerous; and he would take your life the
moment he dreamed of your purpose. I should only have another cause for
sorrow."

Brandt now smiled as if he were master of the situation. "Why, Clara,"
he exclaimed, "don't you know that running down and capturing
desperadoes is now part of my business?"

"Yes; but you can get plenty of work that isn't so dangerous."

"I should be a nice fellow to ask you to be my wife and yet show I was
afraid to arrest your father's murderer. You needn't ask me to do this;
you are not going to be responsible for my course in the least. I shall
begin operations this very night, and have no doubt that I can get a
chance to work on the case. Now don't burden your heart with any
thoughts about my danger. I myself owe Bute as big a grudge as I can
have against any human being. He cheated me and led me into deviltry
years ago, and then I lost sight of him until he was brought to the
prison of which your father was one of the keepers. I've been absent
for the last three months, you know; but I didn't forget you or your
father a day, and you remember I wrote you as soon as I heard of your
trouble. I think your father sort of believed in me; he never made me
feel I wasn't fit to see you or to be with you, and I'd do more for him
living or dead than for any other man."

"He did believe in you, Ralph, and he always spoke well of you. Oh, you
can't know how much I lost in him! After mother died he did not leave
me to the care of strangers, but gave me most of his time when off
duty. He sent me to the best schools, bought me books to read, and took
me out evenings instead of going off by himself, as so many men do. He
was so kind and so brave; oh, oh! you know he lost his life by trying
to do his duty when another man would have given up. Bute and two
others broke jail. Father saw one of his assistants stabbed, and he was
knocked down himself. He might have remained quiet and escaped with a
few bruises; but he caught Bute's foot, and then the wretch turned and
stabbed him. He told me all with his poor pale lips before he died. Oh,
oh! when shall I forget?"

"You can never forget, dear; I don't ask anything contrary to nature.
You were a good daughter, and so I believe you will be a good wife. But
if I bring the murderer to justice, you will feel that a great wrong
has been righted - that all has been done that can be done. Then you'll
begin to think that your father wouldn't wish you to grieve yourself to
death, and that as he tried to make you happy while he was living, so
he will wish you to be happy now he's gone."

"It isn't a question of happiness. I don't feel as if I could ever be
happy again; and so I don't see how I can make you or any one else
happy."

"That's my lookout, Clara. I'd be only too glad to take you as you are.
Come, now, this is December. If I bring Bute in by Christmas, what will
you give me?"

She silently and eloquently gave him her hand; but her lips quivered so
she could not speak. He kissed her hand as gallantly as any olden-time
knight, then added a little brusquely:

"See here, little girl, I'm not going to bind you by anything that
looks like a bargain. I shall attempt all I've said; and then on
Christmas, or whenever I get back, I'll speak my heart to you again
just as I have spoken now."

"When a man acts as you do, Ralph, any girl would find it hard to keep
free. I shall follow you night and day with my thoughts and prayers."

"Well, I'm superstitious enough to believe that I shall be safer and
more successful on account of them. Clara, look me in the eyes before I
go."

She looked up to his clear gray eyes as requested.

"I don't ask you to forget one who is dead; but don't you see how much
you are to one who is living? Don't you see that in spite of all your
sorrow you can still give happiness? Now, be as generous and kind as
you can. Don't grieve hopelessly while I'm gone. That's what is killing
you; and the thought of it fills me with dread. Try to think that you
still have something and some one to live for. Perhaps you can learn to
love me a little if you try, and then everything won't look so black.
If you find you can't love me, I won't blame you - , and if I lose you
as my wife, you won't lose a true, honest friend."

For the first time the girl became vaguely conscious of, the
possibility of an affection, a tie superseding all others; she began to
see how it was possible to give herself to this man, not from an
impulse of gratitude or because she liked him better than any one else,
but because of a feeling, new, mysterious, which gave him a sort of
divine right in her. Something in the expression of his eyes had been
more potent than his words; something subtle, swift as an electric
spark had passed from him to her, awakening a faint, strange tumult in
the heart she thought so utterly crushed. A few moments before, she
could have promised resolutely to be his wife; she could have permitted
his embrace with unresponsive apathy. Now she felt a sudden shyness. A
faint color stole into her pale face, and she longed to be alone.

"Ralph," she faltered, "you are so generous, I - I don't know what to
say."

"You needn't say anything till I come back. If possible, I will be here
by Christmas, for you shouldn't be alone that day with your grief.
Good-by."

The hand she gave him trembled, and her face was averted now.

"You will try to love me a little, won't you?"

"Yes," she whispered.




CHAPTER II

A VISITOR AT THE MINE


Ralph Brandt was admirably fitted for the task he had undertaken. With
fearlessness he united imperturbable coolness and unwearied patience in
pursuit of an object. Few knew him in his character of detective, and
no one would have singled him out as an expert in his calling. The more
difficult and dangerous the work, the more careless and indifferent his
manner, giving the impression to superficial observers of being the
very last person to be intrusted with responsible duty. But his chief
and others on the force well knew that beneath Brandt's careless
demeanor was concealed the relentless pertinacity of a bloodhound on
track of its victim. With the trait of dogged pursuit all resemblance
to the bloodthirsty animal ceased, and even the worst of criminals
found him kind-hearted and good-natured AFTER they were within his
power. Failure was an idea not to be entertained. If the man to be
caught existed, he could certainly be found, was the principle on which
our officer acted.

He readily obtained permission to attempt the capture of the escaped
prisoner, Bute; but the murderer had disappeared, leaving no clew.
Brandt learned that the slums of large cities and several mining camps
had been searched in vain, also that the trains running east had been
carefully watched. We need not try to follow his processes of thought,
nor seek to learn how he soon came to the conclusion that his man was
at some distant mining station working under an assumed name. By a kind
of instinct his mind kept reverting to one of these stations with
increasing frequency. It was not so remote in respect to mere distance;
but it was isolated, off the lines of travel, with a gap of seventy
miles between it and what might be termed civilization, and was
suspected of being a sort of refuge for hard characters and fugitives
from justice. Bute, when last seen, was making for the mountains in the
direction of this mine. Invested with ample authority to bring in the
outlaw dead or alive, Brandt followed this vague clew.

One afternoon, Mr. Alford, the superintendent of the mine, was informed
that a man wished to see him. There was ushered into his private office
an elderly gentleman who appeared as if he might be a prospecting
capitalist or one of the owners of the mine. The superintendent was
kept in doubt as to the character of the visitor for a few moments
while Brandt sought by general remarks and leading questions to learn
the disposition of the man who must, from the necessities of the case,
become to some extent his ally in securing the ends of justice.
Apparently the detective was satisfied, for he asked, suddenly:

"By the way, have you a man in your employ by the name of Bute?"

"No, sir," replied Mr. Alford, with a little surprise.

"Have you a man, then, who answers to the following description?" He
gave a brief word photograph of the criminal.

"You want this man?" Mr. Alford asked in a low voice.

"Yes."

"Well, really, sir, I would like to know your motive, indeed, I may
add, your authority, for - "

"There it is," Brand smilingly remarked, handing the superintendent a
paper.

"Oh, certainly, certainly," said Mr. Alford, after a moment. "This is
all right; and I am bound to do nothing to obstruct you in the
performance of your duty." He now carefully closed the door and added,
"What do you want this man for?"



Online LibraryEdward Payson RoeTaken Alive → online text (page 3 of 26)