Eben Holden a Tale of the North Country, Chapter 31

Chapter 31

Hope was not at breakfast with us.

'The child is worn out,'said Mrs Fuller. 'I shall keep her in bed a day or two.

'Couldn't I see her a moment?'I enquired.

'Dear! no!'said she. 'The poor thing is in bed with a headache.'If Hope had been ill at home I should have felt free to go and sit by her as I had done more than once. It seemed a little severe to be shut away from her now but Mrs Fuller's manner had fore-answered any appeal and I held my peace. Having no children of her own she had assumed a sort of proprietorship over Hope that was evident - that probably was why the girl had ceased to love me and to write to me as of old. A troop of mysteries came clear to me that morning. Through many gifts and favours she had got my sweetheart in a sort of bondage and would make a marriage of her own choosing if possible.

'Is there anything you would like particularly for your breakfast? Mrs Fuller enquired.

'Hain't no way pertic lar,'said Uncle Eb. 'I gen rally eat buckwheat pancakes an'maple sugar with a good strong cup o'tea.

Mrs Fuller left the room a moment.

'Dunno but I ll go out if the barn a minnit 'n take a look at the hosses,'he said when she came back.

'The stable is a mile away,'she replied smiling.

'Gran'good team ye druv us out with las'night,'he said. 'Hed a chance t'look 'em over a leetle there at the door. The off hoss is puffed some for ard but if ye r husband ll put on a cold bandage ev ry night it ll make them legs smoother n a hound's tooth.

She thanked him and invited us to look in at the conservatory.

'Where's yer husband?'Uncle Eb enquired.

'He's not up yet,'said she, 'I fear he did not sleep well.

'Now Mis Fuller,'said Uncle Eb, as we sat waiting, 'if there s anything I can do t'help jes'le'me know what 'tis.

She said there was nothing. Presently Uncle Eb sneezed so powerfully that it rattled the crystals on the chandelier and rang in the brass medallions.

The first and second butlers came running in with a frightened look. There was also a startled movement from somebody above stairs.

'I do sneeze powerful, sometimes,'said Uncle Eb from under his red bandanna.''S enough if scare anybody.

They brought in our breakfast then - a great array of tempting dishes. 'Jest hey four pancakes 'n a biled egg,'said Uncle Eb as he sipped his tea. 'Grand tea!'he added, 'strong enough if float a silver dollar too.

'Mrs Fuller,'I said rising, when we had finished, 'I thank you for your hospitality, but as I shall have to work nights, probably, I must find lodgings near the office.

'You must come and see us again,'she answered cordially. 'On Saturday I shall take Hope away for a bit of rest to Saratoga probably - and from there I shall take her to Hillsborough myself for a day or two.

'Thought she was goin'home with me,'said Uncle Eb.

'O dear no!'said Mrs Fuller, 'she cannot go now. The girl is ill and it's such a long journey.

The postman came then with a letter for Uncle Eb.

It was from David Brower. He would have to be gone a week or so buying cattle and thought Uncle Eb had better come home as soon as convenient.

'They re lonesome,'he said, thoughtfully, after going over the letter again. "Tain't no wonder - they re gittin'old.

Uncle Eb was older than either of them but he had not thought of that.

'Le's see; 's about eight o clock,'said he, presently. 'I've got t'go an ten'to some business o'my own. I ll be back here sometime if day Mis Fuller an'I ll hey if see thet girl. Ye musm t never try if keep me 'way from her. She's sot on my knee too many year fer that' altogether too many.

We arranged to meet there at four. Then a servant brought us our hats. I heard Hope calling as we passed the stairway:

'Won't you come up a minute, Uncle Eb? I want to see you very much.

Then Uncle Eb hurried upstairs and I came away.

I read the advertisements of board and lodging - a perplexing task for one so ignorant of the town. After many calls I found a place to my liking on Monkey Hill, near Printing House Square. Monkey Hill was the east end of William Street, and not in the least fashionable. There were some neat and cleanly looking houses on it of wood, and brick, and brown stone inhabited by small tradesmen; a few shops, a big stable and the chalet sitting on a broad, flat roof that covered a portion of the stableyard. The yard itself was the summit of Monkey Hill. It lay between two brick buildings and up the hill, from the walk, one looked into the gloomy cavern of the stable and under the low roof, on one side7 there were dump carts and old coaches in varying stages of infirmity. There was an old iron shop, that stood flush with the sidewalk, flanking the stableyard. A lantern and a mammoth key were suspended above the door and hanging upon the side of the shop was a wooden stair ascending to the chalet The latter had a sheathing of weather-worn clapboards. It stood on the rear end of the brick building, communicating with the front rooms above the shop. A little stair of five steps ascended from the landing to its red door that overlooked an ample yard of roofing, adorned with potted plants. The main room of the chalet where we ate our meals and sat and talked, of an evening, had the look of a ship's cabin. There were stationary seats along the wall covered with leathern cushions. There were port and starboard lanterns and a big one of polished brass that overhung the table. A ship's clock that had a noisy and cheerful tick, was set in the wall. A narrow passage led to the room in front and the latter had slanting sides. A big window of little panes, in its further end, let in the light of William Street Here I found a home for myself'humble but quaint and cleanly. A thrifty German who, having long followed the sea, had married and thrown out his anchor for good and all, now dwelt in the chalet with his wife and two boarders - both newspaper men. The old shopkeeper in front, once a sailor himself, had put the place in shipshape and leased itto them.

Mine host bore the name of Opper and was widely known as 'All Right'Opper, from his habit of cheery approval. Everything and everybody were 'all right'to him so far as I could observe. If he were blessed or damned he said 'all right . To be sure he took exceptions, on occasions, but even then the affair ended with his inevitable verdict of 'all right . Every suggestion I made as to terms of payment and arrangement of furniture was promptly stamped with this seal of approval.

I was comfortably settled and hard at work on my article by noon. At four I went to meet Uncle Eb. Hope was still sick in bed and we came away in a frame of mind that could hardly have been more miserable. I tried to induce him to stay a night with me in my new quarters.

'I mus n t,'he said cheerfully.''Fore long I m comin'down ag in but I can't fool 'round no longer now. I ll jes'go n git my new clothes and put fer the steamboat. Want ye t'go n see Hope tomorrow. She's comm up with Mis Fuller next week. I m goin't find out what's the matter uv her then. Somethin's wrong somewhere. Dunno what 'tis. She's all upsot.

Poor girl! it had been almost as heavy a trial to her as to me' cutting me off as she had done. Remembrances of my tender devotion to her, in all the years between then and childhood, must have made her sore with pity. I had already determined what I should do, and after Uncle Eb had gone that evening I wrote her a long letter and asked her if I might not still have some hope of her loving me. I begged her to let me know when I might come and talk with her alone. With what eloquence I could bring to bear I told her how my love had grown and laid hold of my life.

I finished my article that night and, in the morning, took it to Mr Greeley. He was at his desk writing and at the same time giving orders in a querulous tone to some workman who sat beside him. He did not look up as he spoke. He wrote rapidly, his nose down so close to the straggling, wet lines that I felt a fear of its touching them. I stood by, waiting my opportunity. A full-bearded man in his shirt-sleeves came hurriedly out of another room.

'Mr Greeley,'he said, halting at the elbow of the great editor.

'Yes, what is it?'the editor demanded nervously, his hand wobbling over the white page, as rapidly as before, his eyes upon his work.

'Another man garrotted this morning on South Street.

'Better write a paragraph,'he said, his voice snapping with impatience as he brushed the full page aside and began sowing his thoughts on another. 'Warn our readers. Tell 'em to wear brass collars with spikes in 'em till we get a new mayor.

The man went away laughing.

Mr Greeley threw down his pen, gathered his copy and handed itto the workman who sat beside him.

'Proof ready at five!'he shouted as the man was going out of the room.

'Hello! Brower,'he said bending to his work again. 'Thought you d blown out the gas somewhere.

'Waiting until you reject this article,'I said.

He sent a boy for Mr Ottarson, the city editor. Meanwhile he had begun to drive his pen across the broadsheets with tremendous energy.

Somehow it reminded me of a man ploughing black furrows behind a fast walking team in a snow flurry. His mind was 'straddle the furrow'when Mr Ottarson came in. There was a moment of silence in which the latter stood scanning a page of the Herald he had brought with him.

'Ottarson!'said Mr Greeley, never slacking the pace of his busy hand, as he held my manuscript in the other, 'read this. Tell me what you think of it. If good, give him a show.

'The staff is full, Mr Greeley,'said the man of the city desk. His words cut me with disappointment.

The editor of the Tribune halted his hand an instant, read the last lines, scratching a word and underscoring another.

'Don't care!'he shrilled, as he went on writing. 'Used to slide downhill with his father. If he's got brains we ll pay him eight dollars a-week.

The city editor beckoned to me and I followed him into another room.

'If you will leave your address,'he said, 'I will let you hear from me when we have read the article.

With the hasty confidence of youth I began to discount my future that very day'ordering a full dress suit, of the best tailor, hat and shoes to match and a complement of neck wear that would have done credit to Beau Brummel. It gave me a start when I saw the bill would empty my pocket of more than half its cash. But I had a stiff pace to fullow, and every reason to look my best.