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inches of her dress, when daring and nerve at last thrilled through
Barbara, and returned her muscles into the keeping of her mind. She
darted backward and to one side. In that instant the legless man
overreached himself and fell heavily. Here seemed an inestimable
advantage for Barbara, and yet the great body, shaken with curses and
already rising to its stumps, was between her and the door.


For once the legless man had been deserted by the power of cool
reasoning. And his fury was of a kind that could not wait for
satisfaction. He was more like a mad dog than a man. And this, although
it added to the horror of Barbara's situation, proved her salvation.

Occupying a point from which he could head off her escape by either of
the studio doors, he abandoned this, and attempted to match the stumps
of his legs against her swift young feet. And must have overcome the
disparity, but that in the lightning instinct of self-preservation she
overturned a table between them, and during the moments thus gained
dashed into her dressing-room and locked the door behind her.

Blizzard vented his rage upon the locked door, splintering its panels
with bleeding fists; but in the meanwhile his quarry had escaped him,
and was already in the street walking swiftly toward Washington Square.
He leaned at last from a window, and saw her going. And in his heart
shame gradually took the place of fury. Why, when she laughed at him,
had he not been able to dissemble his emotions for a few seconds? to
mask his dreadfulness? For then, surely, he must have got her in his
power. He should have hung his head when she laughed, begged her to
forgive him for daring to lift his thoughts to her; and begged her as a
token of forgiveness to shake hands with him. Her hand once clasped
in his -

[Illustration: Barbara ... dashed into her dressing-room and locked the
door behind her.]

Well, he had made a fool of himself. Perhaps he had frightened her
utterly beyond the reach even of his long arm. Fear would carry her out
of the city, out of the State, out of the country, perhaps. To prevent
the least of these contingencies he must act swiftly and with
daring wisdom.

He passed into the studio, glanced upward at the bust of himself,
stopped, and looked about for something heavy with which to destroy it.
Later he would tell her that he had done so, and let that knowledge be
the beginning of her torment.

But the thing that he planned to destroy looked him in the eye, smiling.
The thing smiled in the full knowledge of good and evil, the fact that
it had chosen evil, the fact that it was lost forever. It was no
contagious smile, but a smile aloof and dreadful. So a man, impaled, may
smile, when agony has passed beyond the usual human passions - and even
so the legless man smiled upward at the smiling bust of himself. And he
found that he could not destroy the bust: for the act would have about
it too ominous a flavor of self-destruction.

He caught up his crutches, his little hand-organ, and hurried from the
studio. By now Barbara must be well on her way uptown. He entered a
public telephone station and gave the number of her house. He asked to
speak with Miss Marion O'Brien, and when after an interval he heard the
voice of Barbara's maid in his ear, he said: "She's been frightened. Let
me know what she's going to do as soon as you know. Don't use the house
'phone. Slip out to a pay station. I must know when she's going and
where, and if she says for how long." He hung up the receiver, and
hurried off.

An hour later Barbara's maid telephoned him the required news, but all
of it that mattered was that Barbara was not going out of town until the
next day. There was a whole afternoon and night in which to act.

The legless man sank at once into deep and swift thought. And ten
minutes later he had abandoned all idea of kidnapping Barbara for the
present. Certain dangers of so doing seemed insurmountable. He must
possess his soul in patience, and in the meanwhile discount, if
possible, the fright that he had given her. To this end he wrote the
following letter:

"It wasn't your fault that I lifted my eyes to you, and hoped that you
would lower yours to me. But now I know what a fool I have been. I
forgive you for laughing at me, though at the time it made me mad like a
dog, and I only wanted to hurt the woman I love. I won't trouble you any
more, ever. Indeed I am too ashamed and humbled ever to wish to see you
again. Only please don't hate me. If I had any good sides, please
remember them. Some time you will hear of me again; but never again from
me. I have work to do, but I have given my time to dreaming.

"When your father comes back will you ask him to let me know if he will
see me? You thought he could do something for me - or hold out some hope.
I would risk my life itself to be whole, even if I could never be very
active. And science is so wonderful; and I know your father would like
to help me if he could.

"If you don't think I am being punished for threatening you, and going
crazy, you don't know anything about the unhappiest beast in this world.
But it is terrible for a cripple when the one person he looks up to
laughs at him. I have a thick skin; but that burnt through it
like acid."

The messenger who carried the letter to Barbara brought him her answer:

"I will give your message to my father. You are quite wrong about the
laughing. I didn't laugh at you or anything about you. I laughed because
I was nervous and frightened. But it can't matter much one way or the
other. I am sorry that you have been hurt twice by my family. But the
second hurt is not our fault. And I do not see that there is anything to
be done about it. As for the first, my father would end his days in
peace if he could make you whole. I shall hope to hear nothing but good
of you in the future."

The shame and remorse to which Blizzard pretended, Barbara actually
felt. All her friendships with men had been pursued by disasters of
some sort or other. But her most disastrous experiment in friendship had
been with Blizzard. She had been bluntly told by truth-speaking persons
that he was not a fit acquaintance for her. His own face had warned her.
But she had persisted in meeting him without precautions, in treating
him like an equal, in overcoming her natural and just repugnance to him,
and in calling him her friend. It was humiliating for her to realize and
acknowledge that she had made a fool of herself. It was worse to
remember the look in his face, during those last awful moments in the
studio. Even if the bust she had made of him was a great work of art,
she had paid too high for the privilege of making it.


Dr. Ferris was delighted to learn that Barbara had left town. Her
meetings with Blizzard had been horribly on his mind and conscience. He
had dreaded some vague calamity - some intangible darkening of his
darling's soul.

A few days in the country had worked wonders for her. Her skin had
browned a little, and her cheeks were crimson. But dearer to the
paternal heart than these evidences of good health was the fact that she
seemed unusually glad to see him. She seemed to him to have lost a world
of independence and self-reliance, to be inclined to accept his
judgments without dispute. She seemed more womanly and more daughterly,
more normal and more beautiful.

For a man with a heavy weight always upon his conscience, the excellent
surgeon found himself wonderfully at peace with the world and its
institutions. There was no doubt that the hand which he had come from
grafting was going to live and be of some use to its new owner. His mail
was heavy with approbation. And it seemed to him that the path which he
had discovered had no ending.

"In a hundred years, Barbara," he said, "it will be possible to replace
anything that the body has lost, or that has become diseased and useless
or a menace - not the heart, perhaps, nor the brain - but anything else.
What I have done clumsily others will do to perfection."

"What are the chances for Blizzard?"

"Even," said the surgeon. "They would be more favorable if he had not
lost his legs so long ago. At the worst the experiment wouldn't kill
him. He would merely have undergone a useless operation. At the best he
would be able to walk, run perhaps, and look like a whole man. If
anything is to be done for him, the time has come. He has only to tell
me to go ahead."

"I think he'll do that," said Barbara. "But there's one thing I don't
understand," and she smiled; "who is to supply the spare legs?"

"That's the least of all the difficulties," said her father, "now that
ways of keeping tissues alive have been discovered and proved. In time
there will be storages from which any part of the human body may be
obtained on short notice and in perfect condition for grafting. Just now
the idea is horrible to ignorant people, but the faith will spread. Only
wait till we have made a few old people young - for that will come, too,
with the new surgery."

"You will be glad," said Barbara, "to hear that I have severed friendly
relations with Mr. Blizzard. He behaved in the end pretty much as you
all feared he would."

And she told her father, briefly, and somewhat shamefacedly, all that
had happened in the studio.

"He thought I was laughing at him," she said. "Of course I wasn't. And
he came at me. Do you remember when poor old Rose went mad, and tried to
get at us through the bars of the kennel? Blizzard looked like
that - like a mad dog." She shuddered.

The surgeon's high spirits were dashed as with cold water.

"He ought not to be helped," said Barbara; "he ought to be shot, as Rose

But Dr. Ferris shook his head gravely. "If he is that sort of a man," he
said, "who made him so? Who took the joy of life from him? Barbara, my
dear, there is nothing that man could do that I couldn't forgive."

"And I think that your conscience is sick," said Barbara. "I used to
think as you think. But if you had seen his face that day!... The one
great mistake you have made has ruined not his life, but yours. If he
had had the right stuff in him, calamity would not have broken him! It
would have _made_ him. Give him a new pair of legs, if you can; and
forget about him, as I shall. When you first told me about him, I
thought we owed him anything he chose to ask. At one time I thought that
if he wished it, it would be right for me to marry him."


"Yes, I did - I thought it strongly. Shows what a fool a girl who's
naturally foolish can make of herself! Why, father, what if he has
suffered through your mistake? That mistake turned your thoughts to the
new surgery - and for the one miserable man that you have hurt you will
have given the wonder of hope to the whole of mankind."

She slid her hand under her father's arm.

"Let's potter 'round the gardens," she said, "and forget our troubles.
It's bully to have you back. There's not much doing in the floral line.
The summer sun in Westchester doesn't vary from year to year. But there
are lots of green things that smell good, and the asters and dahlias are
making the most extraordinary promises of what they are going to do
by and by."

They passed out of the house and by marble steps into the first and most
formal of their many gardens, and so down through the other gardens,
terrace below terrace, to the lake.

The water was so still as to suggest a solid rather than a liquid; to
the west shadowy mountains of cloud charged with thunder swelled toward
the zenith. The long midsummer drought was coming to an end, and all
birds and insects were silent, as if tired of complaining. Across the
lake one maple, turned prematurely scarlet, brought out the soft greens
of the woods with an astounding accent. Directly in front of this
flaming tree, a snow-white heron stood motionless upon a gray rock.

[Illustration: They passed out of the house and by marble steps into the
first and most formal of their many gardens]

To Barbara it seemed on that day that "Clovelly" was the loveliest place
in all the world, and her father, who had fashioned it out of rough farm
lands, one of the world's most charming artists. "Why paint with
oils, when you can draw with trees and flowers and grass and water?" she
asked herself.

"In the time it took me to do Blizzard's bust," she said, "I could have
planted millions of flowers and seen them bloom."

"At least," said her father, "you can finish a bust, but a garden that
is finished isn't a garden. What are you going to do with it?"

"The bust? Why, sometimes I think I'll just leave it in the studio, and
let it survive or perish. Sometimes I want to take a hammer and smash it
to pieces."

"It didn't come out as well as you hoped?"

"Of course not. Does anything ever? But it's the best that I can do. And
I shall never do anything better."


"I shall never even try. I want to recover all the things I've thrown
away, and put them back in my head and heart where they belong, and
just live."

"Well," said her father, smiling, "if you feel that way, why that's a
good way to feel. But I'm afraid art is stronger in you than you think.
Just now you're tired and disillusionized. In a month you'll be making
sketches for some monumental opus."

"If I do," said Barbara, "it will be executed here at Clovelly. I never
want to leave Clovelly. I feel safe here, safe from myself and other
people. I think," and she smiled whimsically, "that I should almost
like to settle down and make you a good daughter."

"A good daughter," said the surgeon, "marries; and her father builds a
beautiful house for her, just over the hill from his own - remember the
little valley where we found all the fringed gentian one year? - and the
shortest cut between the two houses is worn bare and packed hard by the
feet of grandchildren. Good Lord, my dear, what's the good of art,
what's the good of science? I would rather have watched you grow up than
have made the Winged Victory, or discovered the circulation of the
blood. Come now? Barbs, tell me, who's the young man?"

For the first time in her life she told him of the wild impulsiveness
and the shocking brevity of her affections for various members of his
sex; naming no names she explained to him with much self-abasement (and
a little amusement) that she was no good, "A nice wife I'd make!" she

But her father only laughed. "The only abnormal thing about you," he
said, "is that you tell the truth. The average girl shows men more
attentions than men show her. I don't mean that she demonstrates her
attentions; but that she feels them in her heart. To be absolutely the
first in a woman's heart a man must catch her when she's about three
months old."

"But a girl," said Barbara, "who thinks she's sure and then finds she
isn't, hurts the people she's fondest of. In extreme eases she breaks
hearts and spoils lives."

[Illustration: "What is Wilmot doing with himself these days?" "He
went away," said Barbara, her eyes troubled.]

"Hearts," said her father, "that can be broken are very weak. Lives
that can be spoiled by disappointment and injured pride aren't worth
preserving. If you have nothing more serious on your conscience than
having, in all good faith, encouraged a few young men, found that you
were wrong, and sent them away with bees in their bonnets, I'm sure I
envy you."

Barbara simply shook her head.

"When you do find the right man, Barbara, you'll make up to him with
showers of blessings for whatever cold rains you've shed on others....
What is Wilmot doing with himself these days?"

"He went away," said Barbara, and she sat looking steadily across the
lake, her chin on her hand, her eyes troubled.


In many ways the life which Barbara led at Clovelly was calculated to
rest her mind. She developed a passion for exercise, and when night came
was too full of tired good health to read or talk. Since the estate was
to be hers one day, she found the wish to know her way intimately about
it, and since there were three thousand acres, for the most part thick
forests spread over rocky hills, she could contemplate weeks of
delightful explorations. To discover ponds, brooks, and caves that
belong to other people has its delights, but to go daily up and down a
lovely country discovering lovely things that belong to yourself is
perhaps the most delightful way of passing time that has been vouchsafed
to any one.

On these explorations Barbara's chosen companion was Bubbles. He was no
longer a mere Buttons: her interest and belief in the child had passed
beyond the wish to see him develop into a good servant. She wished to
make something better of him - or if there is nothing better than a good
servant, something more showy and ornamental.

He was sharp as a needle; and he was honest. He was not too old to be
moulded by good influences, schools, and associations into a man with
proper manners, and an upper-class command of the English language. He
should go to one of the New England church schools, later to college,
then he should choose a career for himself and be helped into harness.
So she planned his future. In the meanwhile she wished to see the thin,
spindly body catch up with the big, intelligent head. Although his
muscles were tough and wiry he had a delicate look which troubled her,
and a cough which to her inexperienced and anxious ears suggested a
consumptive tendency.

Dr. Ferris laughed at this, but to satisfy her he gave the boy a
thorough questioning and a thorough looking over. "Any of your family
consumptives, Bubbles?"

"Don't think so, sir."

"Well, you're not. Heart and lungs are sound."

"Miss Barbara says she doesn't like my cough."

"Yes," said the surgeon, "it worries her quite a good deal. And I advise
you to stop it."

"But my throat gets tickling, and - "

"Your throat gets tickling because you are an inveterate cigarette
smoker. And that's the reason why you are undersized and
under-nourished. How long have you smoked?"

"I don't remember when I didn't."

"Can't you stop?"

"I stopped once for two days, and then I took a pack of smokers that
wasn't mine. That was about the only thing I ever stole."

"But if you gave me your word not to smoke any more till you're
twenty-one, couldn't you keep that promise?"

"I could try," said Bubbles, evincing very little confidence,

"Will you try?" said the surgeon. "Hello, what's this?"

The boy in lifting his left arm had disclosed a dark-brown birthmark
shaped like the new moon. All amusement had gone out of Dr. Ferris's
eyes; and he had that look of tragic memories that so often put an end
to his smiling and optimistic moods.

"Do you remember your father?"

"No, sir."

"Mother living?"

Bubbles hesitated. "She's in an asylum. She's crazy."

"What was your father's name?"

Bubbles shook his head.

The surgeon considered for a moment. "Well," he said, at length, and
once more smiling, "put your clothes on, and then go to Miss Ferris and
promise her that you won't smoke any more. What asylum did you say your
mother was in?"


"Do you ever see her?"

"No, sir. She don't like to see me."

"What is her name, Bubbles?"

"Jenny Ward."

Dr. Ferris ordered a car, and in less than two hours he was talking
with the superintendent of Ottawan about the patient, Jenny Ward.

"The boy," he was saying, "is a protégé of my daughter's. She means to
educate him, and we are naturally interested in his antecedents. I
wonder if she has any lucid recollection of the father?"

"When she first came she seemed to have lucid moments. Even now she
never makes trouble for any one, except that sometimes she wakes in the
night screaming. She has been very pretty."

"H'm!" said Dr. Ferris. "You think she couldn't tell me anything about
the boy's father?"

"I know she couldn't. When she was examined after being committed, it
was found that her tongue had been cut out."

The woman, upon being visited, proved a meek, gentle, pathetic creature,
eager to please. As the superintendent reported, she had been very
pretty. She would have been pretty still, but for her utterly
vacant look.

The doctor questioned her, but she made no effort, it seemed, even to
understand the questions. Given a pencil and paper she seemed to take
pleasure in making dots, dashes, and scrawls; but she made no mark that
in any way represented a letter of the alphabet. Confronted with a
printed page, she thrust it aside.

"Very likely she never could read or write," said the superintendent;
"usually when you give 'em a pencil they make letters by an act of
muscular memory."

In the corridor outside the woman's room, they encountered one of those
nurses who are used in managing the violent insane. He was a huge
fellow, with a dark, strong, and somewhat forbidding face. He nodded to
the superintendent and passed. Dr. Ferris looked after him down the
corridor, had a sudden thought, and communicated it to his host in a
quick undertone.

"I say, Gyles! Look here a moment"

The huge nurse turned on his heel, and came towering back to them.

"Have you ever assisted in looking after the woman Jenny Ward?" and he
pointed toward the door of her room.

"No, sir."

"Dr. Ferris wishes to try an experiment."

"Yes, sir."

"He wishes you to throw open the door of her room, and to enter
quickly - upon your knees."

"On my knees?"


"All right, sir." The man shrugged his big shoulders, and, his face
sullen and annoyed, knelt at the door of Jenny Ward's room, unlocked it,
flung it open, and entered quickly.

Over his head the doctors saw an expression of fear, almost unearthly,
come over the woman's face. And she filled her room and the corridor
without with a hoarse and horrible screaming.

Instantly the big nurse rose to his feet, and came out of the room. His
face was passionately angry. And he said:

"It's a shame to frighten her like that."

The superintendent's eyes fell before the glare in those of the
employee, and he murmured something about "necessary experiment - had
to be done."


"There's no room for doubt in my mind," said Dr. Ferris. "The
coincidence of the birthmarks, most unusual in shape and texture, the
poor woman's behavior at sight of a man who at first glance appeared to
be without legs - "

"Yes," said Barbara, "but I go more on a certain expression that Bubbles
sometimes has and that makes him look like his father. You see, I've
done both their heads, and studied them closer than anybody else."

"Do you suppose the boy knows?"

She shook her head. "I think not. He's too - too decent. If he thought
that Blizzard was his father, he wouldn't say the things that I have
heard him say about him. He's the most loyal child."

"Do you suppose Blizzard knows?"

"Why, of course. A man could hardly have a son without knowing
him - especially a man who lives with his ears to the ground and his mind
in touch with everything in the city."

Dr. Ferris smiled a little. "Well," he said, "shall we tell Bubbles?"

"Why should we? I shouldn't like to be told out of a clear sky that I
had such and such a father. It doesn't seem in the least necessary."

But before the day was out Barbara thought best to tell Bubbles. He
came to her, with a slightly important air, which he did his best to
conceal, and said that he wished to go to the city for a few days,
on business.

"Sure the business isn't free untrammelled smoking?"

Bubbles was offended. "If I hadn't given you my word," he said, "you
might think that. I told you when we came that I might have to go back
any time on business. I got to go. Honest, Miss Barbara."

"Well, that settles it, Bubbles. But don't you think as long as I'm
trying to give you some of the things you've missed, that you might take
me a little more into your confidence?"

She maintained a discreet and serious countenance, although she wished
very much to laugh.

The boy studied her face gravely with grave eyes. "The ABC of my
business," he said presently, "is knowing who to trust. I know you won't
blab, Miss Barbara, 'r else I wouldn't tell you. There's a society in
New York City for putting down grafts and crimes. There's a rich man
back of it. And there's more kinds o' people working for it than you'd
guess in a year. There's even policemen workin' for it - "

"But it's their business to put down crime."

Bubbles shook his head sadly. "The chief business of the society is to
put down police graft in crime," he said. "But there's heaps o' side
businesses. Harry West, he's one of us. He's way high up. I'm way low

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Online LibraryGouverneur MorrisThe Penalty → online text (page 14 of 18)