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treated according to the revelations so made. There was one man who had
loaned him quite a large sum, and this was the oldest debt of all,
incurred when George Henry first saw the faint signs of approaching
calamity, but understood them not. This man, a friend, recognizing the
nature of George Henry's struggle, had never sought payment - had, in
fact, when the debtor had gone to him, apologetically and explaining,
objected to the intrusion and objurgated the caller in violent language
of the lovingly profane sort. He would have no talk of payment, as
things stood. This claim, not only the oldest but the least annoying,
should, George Henry decided, have the honor of being "No. 1" - that is,
it should be paid first of all. So the list was extended, a careful
analysis being made of the mental and moral qualities of each creditor
as exposed in his monetary relations with George Henry Harrison. There
were some who had been generous and thoughtful, some who had been
vicious and insulting; and in his examination George Henry made the
discovery that those who had probably least needed the money due them
had been by no means the most considerate. It seemed almost as if the
reverse rule had obtained. There was one man in particular, who had
practically forced a small loan upon him when George Henry was still
thought to be well-to-do, who had developed an ingenuity and insolence
in dunning which gave him easy altitude for meanness and harshness among
the lot. He went down as "No. 120," the last on the list.

There were others. There were the petty tradesmen who in former years
had prospered through George Henry's patronage, whose large bills had
been paid with unquestioning promptness until came the slip of his cog
in the money-distributing machine. They had not hesitated a moment. As
the peccaries of Mexico and Central America pursue blindly their prey,
so these small yelpers, Tray, Blanche and Sweetheart, of the trade
world, had bitten at his heels persistently from the beginning of his
weakness up to the present moment. Toward these he had no malice. He
counted them but as he had counted his hunting dogs in better days. They
were narrow, but they were reckoned as men; they transacted business and
married the females of their kind, and bred children - prodigally - and
after all, against them he had no particular grievance. They were as
they were made and must be. He gathered a bunch of their bills
together, and decided that they should be classed together, not quite at
the end of the list.

The grade of each individual creditor fixed, the list was carefully
divided into five parts, twenty in each, of which twenty should receive
their letters and checks one day, twenty the next, and so on. Then the
literature of the occasion began.

The thoughtful debtor who has had somewhat continuous relations with a
creditor can, supposing he has even a moderate gift, write a very neat,
compact and thought-compelling little letter to that creditor when he
finally settles with him, if, as in the case of George Henry, the debtor
will have balance enough left after all settlements to make him easy and
independent. George Henry felt the strength of this proposition as he
wrote. In casual, easily written conversation with his meanest creditors
he rather excelled himself. Of course he sent abundant interest to
everybody, though apologizing to the gentlemen among the lot for doing
so, but telling them frankly that it would relieve him if they accepted
the proper sum for the use of the money, saying nothing about it; while
of the mean ones he demanded prompt receipts in full. That was the
general tenor of the notes, but there were certain moderate
extravagances in either direction, if there be such a thing as a
"moderate extravagance."

To the worst, the most irritating of his creditors, George Henry
indicted his masterpiece. He admitted his obligation, he expressed his
satisfaction at paying an interest which made it a good investment for
the creditor, and then he entered into a little disquisition as to the
creditor's manner and scale of thought and existence, followed by
certain mild suggestions as to improvements which might be made in the
character under observation. He pledged himself to return at any time
the favor extended him, and promised also never to mention it after it
had been extended. He apologized for the lack of further and more
adequate treatment of the subject, expressing his conviction that the
more delicate shades of meaning which might be employed after a more
extended study would not be comprehended by the person addressed.

George Henry - it is with regret that it is admitted - had a wild hope
that this creditor would become enraged to the point of making a
personal assault on him from this simple summing up of affairs, because
he had an imbedded desire to lick, or anyway try to lick, this
particular person, could he be provoked into an encounter. It is as well
to say here that his dream was never gratified. The nagging man is never
a fighting man.

And so the Feast of the Paying of Bills went on to its conclusion. It
was a season of intense enjoyment for George Henry. When it was ended,
having money, having also a notable gift as a shot, he fled to the
northern woods, where grouse and deer fell plentifully before him, and
then after a month he returned to enjoy life at ease.

It was upon his return home that George Henry Harrison, well-to-do and
content, learned something which for a time made him think this probably
the hollowest of all the worlds which swing around the sun. He came
back, vigorous and hopeful of spirit, with the strength of the woods and
of nature in him, and with open heart and hand ready to greet his
fellow-beings, glad to be one with them. The thing which smote him was
odd. It was that he found himself a stranger among the fellow-beings he
had come to meet. He found himself still a Selkirk of the world of trade
and traffic and transfer of thought and well-wishing and strong-doing
and of all social life. He was like a strange bird, like an albatross
blown into unaccustomed seas, alighting upon an island where albatrosses
were unknown.

He found his office as bright and attractive as urgently and sternly
directed servitude could make it. There were no letters upon his desk,
however, the desk so overburdened in the past. The desk spoke of
loneliness. The new carpet, without a worn white strip leading from the
doorway, said loneliness. All was loneliness. He could not understand

There was the abomination of clean and cold desolation in and all about
his belongings. He sat down in the easy-chair before his desk, and was
far, very far, from happy. He leaned back - the chair worked beautifully
upon its well-oiled springs - and wondered. He shut his eyes, and tried
to place himself in his position of a month before, and failed. Why had
there been no callers? His own branch of business was in a laggard way,
but of that he made no account. He thought of Oonalaska, and decided
that there were worse places in the world than on that shore, even with
the drawback of the howlings. He seemed to be in space.

To sum up all in an explanatory way, George Henry, having largely lost
his grip upon the world, had voluntarily, being too sensitive, severed
all connections save those he had to maintain with that portion of the
community interested in the paying of his bills. Now, since he had met
all material obligations, he thought the world would come to him again
unsought. It did not come.

Every one seemed to have gone away with the wolf. George Henry began
trying to determine what it was that was wrong. The letter-carrier, a
fine fellow, who had called upon him daily in the past, now never
crossed his threshold. Even book agents and peddlers avoided the place,
from long experience of rebuff. The bill-collectors came no more, of
course; and as George Henry looked back over the past months of
humiliation and agony he suddenly realized that to these same collectors
he had been solely indebted toward the last of his time of trial for
what human companionship had come to him. His friends, how easily they
had given him up! He thought of poor old Rip Van Winkle's plaint, "How
soon we are forgotten when we are gone!" and sarcastically amended it to
"How soon we are forgotten when we are here!" A few invitations
declined, the ordinary social calls left for some other time, and he was
apparently forgotten. He could not much blame himself that he had
voluntarily severed the ties. A man cannot dine in comfort with
comfortable friends when his heart is sore over his general
inconsequence in the real world. Play is not play when zest is not given
to it by work and duties. Even his social evenings with old and true
friends he had given up early in the struggle. He could not overcome the
bitterness of his lot sufficiently to sit easily among those he most
cared for. It is not difficult sometimes to drop out of life while yet
alive. Yet George Henry realized that possibly he had been an extended
error - had been too sensitive. He thought of his neglect of friends and
his generally stupid performances while under the spell of the wolf, but
he thought also of the excuse he had, and conscience was half appeased.

So he was alone, the same old Selkirk or Robinson Crusoe, without a man
Friday, without even a parrot and goats; alone in his once familiar
hotel and his office, in a city where he was distinctly of the native
sort, where he had seen, it seemed to him, every one of the great
"sky-scraping" buildings rise from foundation-stone to turret, where he
should be one whose passage along the street would be a series of
greetings. He yearned for companionship. His pulse quickened when he met
one of his lately persecuting bill-collectors on the street and received
from him a friendly recognition of his bow and smile. He became affable
with elevator-men and policemen. But he was lonely, very lonely.

The days drifted into long weeks, when one day the mail-carrier, once so
regular in his calls, now almost a stranger, appeared and cast upon
George Henry's desk a letter returned uncalled for. The recipient
examined it with interest. It did not require much to excite his
interest now.

The returned letter was one which he had sent enclosing a check to a Dr.
Hartley, to whom he had become indebted for professional services at one
time. He had never received a bill, but had sent the check at a venture.
Its return, with the postoffice comment, "Moved, left no address,"
startled him. Dr. Hartley was Her father. George Henry pondered. Was it
a dream or reality, that a few months ago, while he was almost submerged
in his sea of difficulties, he had read or heard of Dr. Hartley's death?
He had known the doctor but slightly, well as he had known his daughter
Sylvia, of the dark eyes, but it seemed impossible that in any state of
mind such a thing as Dr. Hartley's reported death should have made no
impression upon him. He was aroused now, almost for the first time, and
was really himself again. The benumbing influence of his face-to-face
fight with poverty and inactivity disappeared. Sylvia lived again,
fresh, vital and strong in her hold upon him. He was renewed by the
purpose in life which he had allowed to lapse in his desperate days of
defeat. He would find Sylvia. She might be in sorrow, in trouble; he
could not wait, but leaped out of his office and ran down the long
stairways, too hurried and restless to wait for the lagging elevator of
the great building where he had suffered so much. The search was longer
and more difficult than the seeker had anticipated. It required but
little effort to learn that Dr. Hartley had been dead for months, and
that his family had gone away from the roomy house where their home had
been for many years. To learn more was for a time impossible. He had
known little of the family kinship and connections, and it seemed as if
an adverse fate pursued his attempts to find the hidden links which bind
together the people of a great city. But George Henry persisted, and his
heart grew warm within him. He hummed an old tune as he walked quickly
along the crowded streets, smiling to himself when he found himself
singing under his breath the old, old song:

Who is Silvia? What is she
That all swains commend her?

In another quarter of the city, far removed from her former home and
neighbors, George Henry at last found Sylvia, her mother and a younger
brother, living quietly with the mother's widowed sister. During his
search for her the image of the woman he had once hoped might be his
wife had grown larger and dearer in his mind and heart. He wondered how
he had ever given her up, and how he had lived through so much
suffering, and then through relief from suffering, without the past and
present joy of his life. He wondered if he should find her changed. He
need have had no fears. He found, when at last he met her, that she had
not changed, unless, it may be, to have become even more lovable in his
eyes. In the moment when he first saw her now he knew he had found the
world again, that he was no longer a stranger in it, that he was living
in it and a part of it. A sweetheart has been a tonic since long before
knights wore the gloves of ladies on their crests. Within a week,
through Sylvia, he had almost forgotten that one can get lost, even as a
lost child, in this great, grinding world of ours, and within a year he
and Mrs. George Henry Harrison were "at home" to their friends.

After a time, when George Henry Harrison had settled down into steady
and appreciative happiness, and had begun to indulge his fancies in
matters apart from the honeymoon, there appeared upon the wall over the
fireplace in his library a picture which unfailingly attracted the
attention and curiosity of visitors to that hospitable hearth. The
scene represented was but that upon an island in the Bering Sea, and
there was in the aspect of it something more than the traditional
abomination of desolation, for there was a touch of bloodthirsty and
hungry life. Up away from the sea arose a stretch of dreary sand, and in
the far distance were hills covered with snow and dotted with stunted
pine, and bleak and forbidding, though not tenantless. In the
foreground, close to the turbid waters which washed this frozen almost
solitude, a great, gaunt wolf sat with his head uplifted to the lowering
skies, and so well had the artist caught the creature's attitude, that
looking upon it one could almost seem to hear the mournful but murderous
howl and gathering cry.

This was only a fancy which George Henry had - that the wolf should hang
above the fireplace - and perhaps it needed no such reminder to make of
him the man he proved in helping those whom he knew the wolf was
hunting. His eye was kindly keen upon his friends, and he was quick to
perceive when one among them had begun to hear the howlings which had
once tormented him so sorely; he fancied that there was upon the faces
of those who listened often to that mournful music an expression
peculiar to such suffering. And he found such ways as he could to cheer
and comfort those unfortunate during their days of trial. He was a
helpful man. It is good for a man to have had bad times.


"It is as you say; he is not handsome, certainly not beautiful as
flowers and the stars and women are, but he has another sort of beauty,
I think, such a beauty as made Victor Hugo's monster, Gwynplaine,
fascinating, or gives a certain sort of charm to a banded rattlesnake.
He is not much like the dove-eyed setter over whom we shot woodcock this
afternoon, but to me he is the fairest object on the face of the earth,
this gaunt, brindled Ulm. There's such a thing as association of ideas,
you know.

"What is there about an Ulm especially attractive? Well, I don't know.
About Ulms in the abstract very little, I imagine. About an Ulm in the
concrete, particularly the brute near us, a great deal. The Ulm is a
morbid development in dog-breeding, anyhow. I remember, as doubtless you
do as well, when the animals first made their appearance in this country
a few years ago. The big, dirty-white beasts, dappled with dark blotches
and with countenances unexplainably threatening, reminded one of hyenas
with huge dog forms. Germans brought them over first, and they were
affected by saloon-keepers and their class. They called them Siberian
bloodhounds then, but the dog-fanciers got hold of them, and they
became, with their sinister obtrusiveness, a feature of the shows; the
breed was defined more clearly, and now they are known as Great Danes or
Ulms, indifferently. How they originated I never cared to learn. I
imagine it sometimes. I fancy some jilted, jaundiced descendant of the
sea-rovers, retiring to his castle, and endeavoring, by mating some ugly
bloodhound with a wild wolf, to produce a quadruped as fierce and
cowardly and treacherous as man or woman may be. He succeeded only
partially, but he did well.

"Never mind about the dog, and tell you why I've been gentleman, farmer,
sportsman and half-hermit here for the last five years - leaving
everything just as I was getting a grip on reputation in town, leaving a
pretty wife, too, after only a year of marriage? I can hardly do
that - that is, I can hardly drop the dog, because, you see, he's part of
the story. Hamlet would be left out decidedly were I to read the play
without him. Besides, I've never told the story to any one. I'll do it,
though, to-day. The whim takes me. Surely a fellow may enjoy the luxury
of being recklessly confidential once in half a decade or so, especially
with an old friend and a trusted one. No need for going far back with
the legend. You know it all up to the time I was married. You dined with
me once or twice later. You remember my wife? Certainly she was a
pretty woman, well bred, too, and wise, in a woman's way. I've seen a
good deal of the world, but I don't know that I ever saw a more tactful
entertainer, or in private a more adorable woman when she chose to be
affectionate. I was in that fool's paradise which is so big and holds so
many people, sometimes for a year and a half after marriage. Then one
day I found myself outside the wall.

"There was a beautiful set to my wife's chin, you may recollect - a
trifle strong for a woman; but I used to say to myself that, as students
know, the mother most impresses the male offspring, and that my sons
would be men of will. There was a fullness to her lips. Well, so there
is to mine. There was a delicious, languorous craft in the look of her
eyes at times. I cared not at all for that. I thought she loved me and
knew me. Love of me would give all faithfulness; knowledge of me, even
were the inclination to wrong existent, would beget a dread of
consequences. My dear boy, we don't know women. Sometimes women don't
know men. She did not know me any more than she loved me. She has become
better informed.

"What happened! Well, now come in the dog and the man. The dog was given
me by a friend who was dog-mad, and who said to me the puppy would
develop into a marvel of his kind, so long a pedigree he had. I
relegated the puppy to the servants and the basement, and forgot him.
The man came in the form of an accidental new friend, an old friend of
my wife, as subsequently developed. I invited him to my house, and he
came often. I liked to have him there. I wanted to go to Congress - you
know all about that - and wasn't often at home in the evening. He made
the evenings less lonely for my wife, and I was glad of it. I told her I
would make amends for my absence when the campaign was over. She was all
patience and sweetness.

"Meanwhile that brute of a puppy in the basement had been developing. He
had grown into a great, rangy, long-toothed monster, with a leer on his
dull face, and the servants were afraid of him. I got interested and
made a pet of the uncouth animal. I studied the Ulm character. I learned
queer things about him. Despite his size and strength, he was frequently
overcome by other dogs when he wandered into the street. He was tame
until the shadows began to gather and the sun went down. Then a change
came upon him. He ranged about the basement, and none but I dared
venture down there. He was, in short, a cur by day, at night a demon. I
supposed the early dogs of this breed had been trained to night
slaughter and savageness alone, and that it was a case of atavism, a
recurrence of hereditary instinct. It interested me vastly, and I
resolved to make him the most perfect of watchdogs. I trained him to lie
couchant, and to spring upon and tear a stuffed figure I would bring
into the basement. I noticed he always sprang at the throat. 'Hard
lines,' thought I, 'for the burglar who may venture here!'

"It was a little later than this nonsense with the dog, which was a
piece of boyishness, a degree of relaxation to the strain of my fight
with down-town conditions, that there came in what makes a man think the
affairs of this world are not adjusted rightly, and makes recurrent the
impulse which was first unfortunate for Abel - no doubt worse for Cain.
There is no need for going into details of the story, how I learned, or
when. My knowledge was all-sufficient and absolute. My wife and my
friend were sinning, riotously and fully, but discreetly - sinning
against all laws of right and honor, and against me. The mechanism of it
was simple. The grounds back of my house, you know, were large, and you
may not have forgotten the lane of tall, clipped shrubbery that led up
from the rear to a summer-house. His calls in the evening were made
early and ended early. The pinkness of all propriety was about them. The
servants suspected nothing. But, his call ended, the graceful gentleman,
friend of mine, and lover of my wife, would walk but a few hundred
paces, then turn and enter my grounds at the rear gate I have mentioned,
and pass up the arbor to the pretty summer-house. He would find time for
pleasant anticipation there as he lolled upon one of the soft divans
with which I had furnished the charming place, but his waiting would not
be long. She would soon come to him, and time passed swiftly.

"That is the prologue to my little play. Pretty prologue, isn't it? - but
commonplace. The play proper isn't! The same conditions affect men
differently. When I learned what I have told - after the first awful five
minutes - I don't like to think of them, even now! - I became the most
deliberate man on the face of this earth peopled with sinners.
Sometimes, they say, the whole substance of a man's blood may be changed
in a second by chemical action. My blood was changed, I think. The
poison had transmuted it. There was a leaden sluggishness, but my head
was clear.

"I had odd fancies. I remember I thought of a nobleman who had another
torn slowly apart by horses for proving false to him at the siege of
Calais. His cruelty had been a youthful horror to me. Now I had a
tremendous appreciation of the man. 'Good fellow, good fellow!' I went
about muttering to myself in a foolish, involuntary way. I wondered how
my wife's lover could endure the strain of four strong Clydesdales, each
started at the same moment, one north, one south, one east, one west.
His charming personal appearance recurred to me, and I thought of his
fine neck. Women like a fine-throated man, and he was one. I wondered if
my wife's fancy tended the same way. It was well this idea came to me,
for it gave me an inspiration. I thought of the dog.

"There is no harm, is there, in training a dog to pull down a stuffed
figure? There is no harm, either, if the stuffed figure be given the
simulated habiliments of some friend of yours. And what harm can there
be in training the dog in a garden arbor instead of in a basement? I
dropped into the way of being at home a little more. I told my wife she
should have alternate nights at least, and she was grateful and
delighted. And on the nights when I was at home I would spend half an
hour in the grounds with the dog, saying I was training him in new
things, and no one paid attention. I taught him to crouch in the little
lane close to the summer-house, and to rush down and leap upon the
manikin when I displayed it at the other end. Ye gods! how he learned to
tear it down and tear its imitation throat! The training over, I would
lock him in the basement as usual. But one night I had a dispatch come
to me summoning me to another city. The other man was to call that
evening, and he came. I left before nine o'clock, but just before going
I released the dog. He darted for the post in the garden, and with

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Online LibraryStanley WaterlooThe Wolf's Long Howl → online text (page 2 of 15)