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My daughter Elinor. A novel online

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resources, but for the past year, while appar-
ently on the highest pinnacle of its splendor
and security, Pluto's pagoda had been troubTed
by underground rumblings and premonitions of
an earthquake. He had grown daring from
the very fullness of good luck ; he had only
needed to touch a scheme to make it brighten
into a glorious fruition, until he could enter-
tain no fears. It had been a year of wild spec-
ulation ; during the past weeks the reaction had
begun : houses crumbling about him ; men of
unblemished reputation detected in gigantic
frauds: this bank crashing under its load;
that telegraph company a . failure ; projected
railways falling in hopeless confusion ; a chaos
of misfortune which swept Pluto along ; two
colossal defalcations on the part of men whom
he had trusted added, until ruin seemed inevi-
table, till witli the new hope he saw how other
matters might be arranged, and knew that if he
could pass this danger, destiny would once more
be in his own hands. The peril was over ; he



23G



MY DAUGHTER ELINOR.



beheld his course clear now. It was over, and
Iiis dazzling triumph would not have a shadow.
He sat in his room, rubbing his forehead with a
dusty silk handkerchief and indulging in a feel-
ing of exultation such as he had not known in
a long time. A newsboy under the window
calling out an Extra Herald — adding scraps of
news by way of attracting attention — " Extry
I ley Id! European war — great victory of the — "
The voice died away to rise in new sharpness
with, "Bill passed the Senate!" The sharp,
boyish voice came up into the room where Pluto
sat, and made him start to the window and listen
breathlessly. Again it came — " Bill passed the
Senate!" He got to the bell, pulled it wildly,
and ordered the servant to bring him the Exti-a.
He was in the room again alone — in his chair —
glaring at the leaded column — reading the words
over and over. In the distance came back the
echo of the newsboy's voice — "Bill passed the
Senate — bill passed!" The paper fell slowly
from Pluto's hand — he understood at last.
There had been an error ; he knew that he was
ruined.

The Idol listened to the letter, and amid her
sobs cried — "I can not believe it! I should soon-
er have expected the end of the world ! Ruin-
ed? Why, he was worth millions! Mr. Grev,
Mr. Grey ! Where is Mr. Grey ?"

" Oh, what has happened to him? Tell me !"
demanded Elinor.

" Where is Mr. Grey ?"

"Gone ; he would not let me follow — gone
to read his letter. What was it?"

"I know not; my heart will break! I fear
lie is involved — I know so little of the business !

Miss Grev, it can't be — we're not ruined — oh,
oh!"

Elinor had made her drink some water and
opened a window to give her air. " I must go,
Mrs. Hackett," she said; "I must find my
father."

"Yes, yes ; I must go too," said the Idol, try-
ing to recover herself and proving by the effort
that she was a woman of sense under all her
follies. " I can not believe it — ruin for us — for
you — for so many !"

"Was my father engaged in those specula-
tions?" Elinor asked.

"I fear it — I know so little! Oh, forgive
us, Miss Grey! Don't blame my husband —
promise that."

"You know I should not, whatever came.
But I can think of nothing only my father now.

1 must go."

"Yes, I won't keep you. Tell him — I do
not know what I say ! It must pass — it must be
a temporary trouble. I want a carriage. I
must get back — I must start for town."

" There is a train in an hour," Elinor said.
She went out and ordered Henry to' send for a
carriage, came back and helped Mrs. Hackett to
get on her bonnet and cloak.

"I must be mad," moaned the poor Idol;
"we must all be mad — dreaming. It is not us
— we did not read it ! Oh, the letter ! " and at



the sight of it lying at her feet on the carpet she
jumped back as if it had been a snake.

Elinor had few words ; she tried to comfort
her, to say it was perhaps not so black as Mr.
Hackett feared; but could see nothing, think
of nothing except her father's white face and the
sound of that unnatural voice.

"It can not be, it can not be!" the Idol
moaned one instant, and sobbed piteously the
next — "Get me a carriage — let me go — ruined,
ruined!" The carriage drove up; she flung
herself upon Elinor in a convulsive embrace,
uttering broken words which sounded like no
human language Avhatever, but were pitiful to
hear.

" I would go with you," Elinor said, " to the
house, but I can't leave my father — "

"Go to him, go to him! You shall hear
from me — forgive me ! Oh, my poor husband
— I am afraid I have been too worldly ! All
that wealth — it can not be gone — oh, it must be
some frightful dream ! "

She was out of the house at last, and Elinor
went up stairs in search of her father. She
found him in his dressing-room, his chair close
to the fire, and he lying back with his eyes
closed, a look in his face, a stillness in every
limb so like death that Elinor softly opening the
door and catching sight of him, called in terror
— "Father! father!" At the sound of her
voice a quiver passed through his whole frame ;
he put up his hands, as if to keep her back —
not in pain, not in trouble alone — with a gesture
of absolute fear, and groaned aloud. Elinor
was on her knees beside him ; clasping his
hands and exclaiming — " Father, father, look
up — it is Elinor!" He only shrunk back in his
chair and groaned again. "Have you lost by
this, father ? If you have, it is only money.
Father, look up — speak to me."

" Only money ?" he repeated in the same un-
natural voice which had so frightened her be-
fore, a voice that did not seem to be his, that
spoke without any volition on his part. "It is
honor— life ! Go away — go away — I can not
look in your face."

She tried to think. He had not injured her
personally ; he had no control whatever over
her fortune, it was not in anyway in his hands.
"What is it ?" she cried. " O father, tell me !
You used to say there was no secret between us !
Do you want money, father dear? There is
mine — all, all ; only tell me what it is !"

His wild eyes glanced over the table at his
side ; his hands clutched Mr. Hackett's letter —
not that — snatched at another — a letter Henry
was receiving at the door as he passed through
the hall and had given him. He pointed to
the sheet — he tried to speak — there was only a
faint discordant murmur in his throat.

"You want me to read it?" asked Elinor.
" I saw hers ; I know what it is, father, I know.''

" Not that," he gasped ; "the other.

She saw the letter at which his shaking finger
pointed, seized it, looked at Rossitur's name at
the end, and read the page. A brief, civil let-



MY DAUGI1TEK ELINOK.



237



ter, with an undercurrent of doubt that was very
insulting. It said that he was about to sail for
Europe ; by the terms of the will left by his
wife's father, her fortune must be at once trans-
ferred from Mr. Grey's hands. He desired to
hear from Mr. Grey immediately ; the lawyers
would wait upon him. His haste must excuse
the brief notice ; he knew of course that, with
Mr. Grey's rigid integrity, the delivering up of
the seals of guardianship would be the merest
form in the world, but it mnst be distinctly un-
derstood that not even twenty-four hours' delay
could be permitted ; important affairs made it
necessary for himself and wife to depart at once.
"Let him have what he asks on the instant,
father, " said Elinor, and as the words left her
lips a new fear started up in her heart at the
sight of his face.

Mr. Grey did not speak ; he had put one hand
between his face and hers ; the strange attitude,
the same gesture of shrinking and entreaty
which had so bewildered her before. All her
life long this man had been her idol — a doubt
in regard to him had been as impossible as a
doubt of her religion — but now, in spite of her-
self, as she read that letter and looked at him,
a perception of what he had done crept over
her. An instant's whirl in her brain ; she was
beside him again, her arms about him, strain-
ing him to her in a wild gush of tenderness ;
not like the love and veneration for the father
she had so loved, but such pity and tenderness
as she might have felt had their positions been
reversed and she the parent first made cogni-
zant of her child's error. " Don't shrink away,
father," she pleaded ; " let me whisper! If it
was hers — if you needed hers — tell me, father."
She heard the broken murmur — " It was
hers!"

"But my fortune is safe; we can pay it.
Try to tell me. Don't think of any thing only
that it is a trouble we must share together.
We must act at once, you know ; only tell me
how much and what we must do."

The numbness and deadness was creeping
closer and closer to his vitals like the chill of
death ; he could only say with a great effort —
"In that safe — the papers."

She understood ; she was to read the papers
therein. She kissed his forehead and ran to
the safe. It was locked. "The key — I want
the key, father."

He fumbled in his pockets and produced a
small key ; she took it and unlocked the minia-
ture safe, such as is sometimes used for jewels
and valuables of small compass. She would
not look toward him again; she sat down on
the floor and turned her back that he might
have a little time, and pulled out the files of
papers until she came upon what was needed to
make the matter clear. She understood what
he had done: he had used the shares of stock
and Government bonds invested for MissLaid-
ley to the amount of almost four hundred thou-
sand dollars. She sat still for a few moments
— not thinking of the blow — not remembering



that a few paces from her sat her shattered idol
in the dust of his discovered criminality — only
trying to collect her senses, to see how to act.
Her fortune would exactly cover the amount.
Nearly half of it was already invested in the
same bonds, the other was in a condition so that
it could be transferred at the briefest possible
notice. She rose from the floor, put the papers
in the safe again and locked it, doing it all with
a strange methodical quiet as if there had been
something dead in the room and she was afraid
of disturbing it. She went back to her father;
he had not moved, he was lying in the chair
still with his eyes closed.

"Listen, father," she said. "It is only to
write a letter — I will send at once to Mr. Gresh-
am — by the time they can get to New York your
lawyers will have every thing in readiness."
He moved his head a little, but did not open his
eyes. " Did you hear, father ? Oh, look at me,
please. Father, you frighten me ! It is all
over — never to be thought of again. See, I am
going to write now ; I can send it by one of
Mrs. Hackett's men. Only look up — only say
you love me and we will have no more trouble."
He rested his two hands hard on the arms of
his chair to steady himself and sat upright, not
looking at her, and speaking thickly in a broken
voice. "I loved you so — I was drawn on and
on. I could not bear to ask your help — I need-
ed your love more than the world's esteem. Look
at me now — my daughter Elinor — my daughter
Elinor!"

The familiar name she had heard uttered in
pride, in exultation, in tenderness ! To hear it
now in that abject supplication — to see him
shrinking and quailing before her! She put
her arms close about him again — she soothed
him with loving words. " You were ill, father,
before this came. I will finish the letter, then
you shall go to sleep and forget it. I love you
so, father ! We have been so much toeach other
all my life, but I never loved you as I do now —
father, dear father !"

There was a faint dew in his glazed eyes as
they turned heavily toward her, but the numb-
ing pain was growing so acute that it was diffi-
cult for him to move. "I have ruined you,"
he said; "every thing I had is gone too."

"It doesn't matter. Father, we have each
other, and we have something left. Listen : the
amounts I had laid by out of all those dividends
— I meant to use them for the hospital — they
will be for us, father; a great deal — quite
enough." He could not answer ; he could only
let her lay his heavy head back against the
chair and kiss him, as she said — "I am going
to write my letter now ; rest, father."

She thought; him stunned by the sudden
shock ; perhaps to know the letter written and
sent would help him more than any thing else.
She sat down at his writing-table and wrote her
clear, imperative wishes. When the epistle
was finished and sealed she looked at her father
again ; he was watching her with a regard so pit-
eous that it rent her very heart. She kissed his



238



MY DAUGHTER ELINOR.



forehead softly, saying — " I will send the letter
at once. I'll be back in a minute."

He held fast to her hand and tried to say
something ; the muscles of his face worked con-
vulsively, his breath was labored and heavy ;
she began to fear for the physical effects of this
terrible blow and to remember the signs of ill-
ness she had for days dreaded. She went out
and found Henry ; bade him take the letter him-
self, and be certain that some one among Mrs.
Hackett's people whom he could trust took
charge of it. On the way back he was to call
for a physician ; she could not bear the responsi-
bility any longer. When she returned to the
dressing-room her father was lying on the sofa ;
he opened his eyes as she entered "and begged
her to give him a glass of wine. After drink-
ing it he appeared revived, but with renewed
strength came added capability of realizing
what had befallen him, and where he had fallen
before the eyes of the daughter he adored. El-
inor comprehended his emotions ; she could not
be certain what to say or do, lest in her very de-
sire to be of comfort she might hurt him, so she
sat holding her cheek against his, hoping that
lie would fall asleep. Presently he turned his
face a little and said abruptly — " That villain has
done it on purpose." She knew that he meant
Rossitur. Then came to her mind that men-
ace he had uttered on the night of the ball, so
haughtily rejected then, but since the experience
of the past hour grown into a possibility which
tore at the very springs of her life, yet which
must be mentioned lest some other blow should
strike her father in the dark.

"The other night he was in a great rage,"
she said ; "at Mrs. Hackett's ball ; and he said
something which angered me, but I would not
mention it. Has he any hold over you — any
paper?" It was very difficult to put the question,
but it must be done, and she could only use the
plainest, briefest words.

" Hold — paper ?" he repeated, pressing his
hand to his forehead.

Elinor took his nerveless fingers in one of her
hands and laid the other lightly on his head.
" Try to think, father,'' she said softly.

"There can't be any thing," he answered
with an effort, " unless about the Falcon party ;
did he mean that ?"

" What is it, father ?" she asked.

" Oh, you don't know ; that was another se-
cret. Child, child, I can't think — I can't act
— you must do both."

" Tell me what you mean, father ; don't try
to explain much — I shall understand. The
Falcon people wanted you to do something ?"

With the numbness always increasing, sink-
ing nearer his heart, rising higher and high-
er in his brain, it was not much trouble to
confess. He could not realize indeed that it
had been so completely a secret ; he only knew
that she must be told ; she must act — he was
done. Not that he thought he was near death
— he had no defined feeling — only he had noth-
ing more to do ; Elinor must act



" They wanted to oppose the President — I
was to be at the head of the party. It was only
to go against his measures," he continued ram-
blingly ; " somebody said it would be like Bru-
tus ; who said that ?"

Elinor understood; he had been tempted to
desert his friend in the storm ; she saw what
means had been employed. " Does the Presi-
dent know, father ?"

' ' No. He heard I wavered — we talked yes-
terday. It will have to be decided to-night. I
must go with him or side wholly against him —
is it time to go ?"

"To-night?"

" Yes, yes ; the meeting, you know — I must
be there. I am very tired — let me go to sleep —
it isn't time to go."

Oh, this last was not to be borne ! How was
she to appeal to him — how be cruel enough to
rouse him from that slumber ? But his honor !
To-night — and he looked so ill ! If he should
have a long sickness and those men compromise
him while he was helpless !

" Father," she said, " father !"

He rousedhimself at her call. " My daugh-
ter Elinor ! " Oh the pitiful, child-like pleading
in the voice.

" Father, you will not desert the President,
no matter what is offered ; he is right."

" The head of the party," he said brokenly ;
" I should be certain of election. What did Ros-
situr say about Cataline ? He meant Brutus."

Filled with alarm at this change, this wan-
dering — mad with the thought what use might
be made of his name while he lay powerless in
his sick-chamber, Elinor was forced to rouse
him again. Useless to argue ; whatever it was
that ailed him, it was that which would not per-
mit him to reason ; she could only hope to gain
his consent to her line of action. She had to
speak several times before he opened his eyes.
He only roused up at the tender repetition —
' ' Father, dear father ! " He smiled faintly, and
looked at her with some show of understand-
ing. "You won't desert your friend," she
said ; "you will have me write and tell him so ;
say that for a little you may have been in doubt,
but that you are convinced he is right — what-
ever comes, you are by his side ; that you are
too ill to be at the meeting, but you send this
answer for him, for his Cabinet, for the whole
world." The fire flashed into her eyes for an
instant, the animated ring strengthened her
voice and seemed to animate him.

" Write, write," he said, with sudden eager-
ness ; " I will sign it. For the whole world —
yes — quick, quick !" He raised himself feebly,
but she gently laid his head back on the cush-
ions.

"Lie quite still," she said; "when I have
the letter ready you shall sign it ; you can sleep
after that."

He made a gesture of entreaty and lay
watching her as she sat down at the table and
wrote ; something of the animation roused by
her voice kept the stupor back for a little. Elinor



MY DAUGHTEE ELINOR.



239



wrote very rapidly, glancing now and then at him,
resolutely keeping back every fear, every feel-
ing except the present duty ; conscious only that
whatever came there was her whole life in which
to mourn, but that the one proof she could give
of her love was to act now. It was a noble letter,
written in Mr. Grey's best style, only with less or-
nament than he employed, but it was no place
for that. It said frankly that he had for a sea-
son hesitated, that while believing the President
right he had thought it might be better to tem-
porize, but he was convinced that he had been
in error. No matter how fiercely factions
might rage, no matter how much for a period
even the verdict of the people, blinded by the in-
sidious eloquence of partisan leaders, might be
against him, time must prove that the President
had been dictated in his course by the purest,
the most patriotic motives. Through all, in all,
he should find Mr. Grey by his side ; if it came
to pass that for a season they two stood wholly
alone to battle the tempest, they would trust to
the future and to God to make their actions
clear. He was still lying with his eyes fixed
upon her when she finished ; she sat down by
him again and read the letter.

"Is it what you wanted, father?"
"If it pleases you," he answered in a voice
so low that she had to bend over him to catch
the words. "It is all I can do — broken — dis-
graced. O my daughter Elinor !"

She dared not agitate him by giving way to
her emotions ; she said very quietly — " Always
my love, my pride, father! See, I am going to
wheel this little table to the sofa ; I will hold you
up while you sign the letter."

He allowed her to raise him — held the pen to
the line where she pointed and wrote his name.
" I did not desert him," he said feebly ; "I have
done something for honor — for you — I — " The
pen slipped from his hand — he fell heavily back
against her — there was a quiver through his
whole frame, then he lay like a weight of lead
in her arms, and as she shrieked for help Henry
opened the door.

" Is he dead? is he dead?" she asked in an
awful whisper, as the man laid the motionless
form on the sofa.

At a glance Henry saw what had happened —
Mr. Grey was stricken with paralysis.

" What is it, Henry ?" she asked in the same
tone.

He told her quietly ; he had sense to know it
was best.

"Won't he ever move again ?" she questioned
in that whisper which was worse to hear than a
shriek of mortal agony.

"Indeed, indeed, he may yet get well, Mad-
emoiselle — they often do. The doctor is down
stairs."

She made a motion to have him called ; she
knelt by the couch and looked into the still white
face ; she thought there was some sign of rec-
ognition, of entreaty still in the dim eyes. "It
is Elinor, father," she said, "your Elinor."
Henry came back with the physician ; his



experience had made him too well-skilled in the
human face not to know that the only kindness
he could show Elinor Grey was to spare her many
words. " I shall ask you to go down stairs,"
he said after a few questions, ' ' while we get him
in bed. You shall come back very soon — you
shall stay by him," he added, answering some-
thing in her eyes.

' ' Will he know me ?" she asked, as they reach-
ed the door. " Can he hear me ?"

"He will doubtless be able to speak in a few
hours ; it is the suddenness that makes it so ter-
rible. The sooner he is undressed and in bed
the better. You shall be called."

Mechanically obedient, Elinor turned to go —
saw the letters on the table — took them all — kept
in her hand the one she had written and went
down stairs. She was so stunned that she could
not feel acutely. The letter must be sent — must
reach the President before the meeting — but
whom could she trust ? She went into the room
where they had been sitting when Mrs. Hackctt
read her fatal news ; the associations of the place
-broke the icy spell ; she could weep and get rid
of that strange sense of oppression. As she sat
there she heard the door-bell, heard voices in the
hall, and recognized one as Clive Earnsworth's.
The letter — instantly she thought of that. She
went out. He was standing there talking to the
servant ; at sight of her in her livid pallor he
came quickly forward.

"They tell me your father is very ill," he
said, not waiting to utter words of courtesy.

"It is — it is paralysis," Elinor answered; she
was so cold and still that a stranger might have
thought her almost unmoved. How well he
knew the agony she was suffering.

" Is there any thing I can do ?" he asked.
"Yes — this letter; it is very important it
should be in the President's hands before night.
If you could — "

"I will give it to him myself; I will go at
once. You understand — I will put it in his own
hands."

" Yes ; thank you. Where is Ruth ?"
" At the hotel ; we came this morning. I
called to leave some letters the Thorntons sent.
Would you like to have my wife come — are vou
alone ?"

"Yes; all alone."

"I will take your letter and then go for
her."

"Yes — thank you," in the same difficult voice.
" It can not be made too public — let it go in all
the papers at once ; if you will say that to the
President — my father wishes it."

Clive tried to utter a few comforting words,
but it was very hard to find them, looking in
that white face on which the work of the morn-
ing, closed by its last terror and grief, had left
the worn appearance of a long illness. He hur-
ried away, and she went slowly up stairs again.
Clive Farnsworth performed his promise to the
letter, then he returned to the hotel intending
to take Ruth to Elinor, but he found her so fever-
ish and ill that he knew it would not be safe.



240



MY DAUGHTER ELINOR.



She head taken a severe cold while in New York,
and they had deferred their journey several days
on account of it, but she had seemed so much
better that they came on at her plea, for she was



Online LibraryFrank Lee] [BenedictMy daughter Elinor. A novel → online text (page 52 of 57)