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- The Lion and the Mouse - 20/50 -


"Yes, dear, it's not bad," he said. "There's not much room, though."

"There's quite enough," she insisted. "Let me see." She began to count on her fingers. "Upstairs--three rooms, eh? and above that three more--"

"No," smiled the judge, "then comes the roof?"

"Of course," she laughed, "how stupid of me--a nice gable roof, a sloping roof that the rain runs off beautifully. Oh, I can see that this is going to be awfully jolly--just like camping out. You know how I love camping out. And you have a piano, too."

She went over to the corner where stood one of those homely instruments which hardly deserve to be dignified by the name piano, with a cheap, gaudily painted case outside and a tin pan effect inside, and which are usually to be found in the poorer class of country boarding houses. Shirley sat down and ran her fingers over the keys, determined to like everything.

"It's a little old," was her comment, "but I like these zither effects. It's just like the sixteenth-century spinet. I can see you and mother dancing a stately minuet," she smiled.

"What's that about mother dancing?" demanded Mrs. Rossmore, who at that instant entered the room. Shirley arose and appealed to her:

"Isn't it absurd, mother, when you come to think of it, that anybody should accuse father of being corrupt and of having forfeited the right to be judge? Isn't it still more absurd that we should be helpless and dejected and unhappy because we are on Long Island instead of Madison Avenue? Why should Manhattan Island be a happier spot than Long Island? Why shouldn't we be happy anywhere; we have each other. And we do need each other. We never knew how much till to-day, did we? We must stand by each other now. Father is going to clear his name of this preposterous charge and we're going to help him, aren't we, mother? We're not helpless just because we are women. We're going to work, mother and I."

"Work?" echoed Mrs. Rossmore, somewhat scandalized.

"Work," repeated Shirley very decisively.

The judge interfered. He would not hear of it.

"You work, Shirley? Impossible!"

"Why not? My book has been selling well while I was abroad. I shall probably write others. Then I shall write, too, for the newspapers and magazines. It will add to our income."

"Your book--'The American Octopus,' is selling well?" inquired the judge, interested.

"So well," replied Shirley, "that the publishers wrote me in Paris that the fourth edition was now on the press. That means good royalties. I shall soon be a fashionable author. The publishers will be after me for more books and we'll have all the money we want. Oh, it is so delightful, this novel sensation of a literary success!" she exclaimed with glee. "Aren't you proud of me, dad?"

The judge smiled indulgently. Of course he was glad and proud. He always knew his Shirley was a clever girl. But by what strange fatality, he thought to himself, had his daughter in this book of hers assailed the very man who had encompassed his own ruin? It seemed like the retribution of heaven. Neither his daughter nor the financier was conscious of the fact that each was indirectly connected with the impeachment proceedings. Ryder could not dream that "Shirley Green", the author of the book which flayed him so mercilessly, was the daughter of the man he was trying to crush. Shirley, on the other hand, was still unaware of the fact that it was Ryder who had lured her father to his ruin.

Mrs. Rossmore now insisted on Shirley going to her room to rest. She must be tired and dusty. After changing her travelling dress she would feel refreshed and more comfortable. When she was ready to come down again luncheon would be served. So leaving the judge to his papers, mother and daughter went upstairs together, and with due maternal pride Mrs. Rossmore pointed out to Shirley all the little arrangements she had made for her comfort. Then she left her daughter to herself while she hurried downstairs to look after Eudoxia and luncheon.

When, at last, she could lock herself in her room where no eye could see her, Shirley threw herself down on the bed and burst into a torrent of tears. She had kept up appearances as long as it was possible, but now the reaction had set in. She gave way freely to her pent up feelings, she felt that unless she could relieve herself in this way her heart would break. She had been brave until now, she had been strong to hear everything and see everything, but she could not keep it up forever. Stott's words to her on the dock had in part prepared her for the worst, he had told her what to expect at home, but the realization was so much more vivid. While hundreds of miles of ocean still lay between, it had all seemed less real, almost attractive as a romance in modern life, but now she was face to face with the grim reality--this shabby cottage, cheap neighbourhood and commonplace surroundings, her mother's air of resignation to the inevitable, her father's pale, drawn face telling so eloquently of the keen mental anguish through which he had passed. She compared this pitiful spectacle with what they had been when she left for Europe, the fine mansion on Madison Avenue with its rich furnishings and well-trained servants, and her father's proud aristocratic face illumined with the consciousness of his high rank in the community, and the attention he attracted every time he appeared on the street or in public places as one of the most brilliant and most respected judges on the bench. Then to have come to this all in the brief space of a few months! It was incredible, terrible, heart rending! And what of the future? What was to be done to save her father from this impeachment which she knew well would hurry him to his grave? He could not survive that humiliation, that degradation. He must be saved in the Senate, but how--how?

She dried her eyes and began to think. Surely her woman's wit would find some way. She thought of Jefferson. Would he come to Massapequa? It was hardly probable. He would certainly learn of the change in their circumstances and his sense of delicacy would naturally keep him away for some time even if other considerations, less unselfish, did not. Perhaps he would be attracted to some other girl he would like as well and who was not burdened with a tragedy in her family. Her tears began to flow afresh until she hated herself for being so weak while there was work to be done to save her father. She loved Jefferson. Yes, she had never felt so sure of it as now. She felt that if she had him there at that moment she would throw herself in his arms crying: "Take me, Jefferson, take me away, where you will, for I love you! I love you!" But Jefferson was not there and the rickety chairs in the tiny bedroom and the cheap prints on the walls seemed to jibe at her in her misery. If he were there, she thought as she looked into a cracked mirror, he would think her very ugly with her eyes all red from crying. He would not marry her now in any case. No self-respecting man would. She was glad that she had spoken to him as she had in regard to marriage, for while a stain remained upon her father's name marriage was out of the question. She might have yielded on the question of the literary career, but she would never allow a man to taunt her afterwards with the disgrace of her own flesh and blood. No, henceforth her place was at her father's side until his character was cleared. If the trial in the Senate were to go against him, then she could never see Jefferson again. She would give up all idea of him and everything else. Her literary career would be ended, her life would be a blank. They would have to go abroad, where they were not known, and try and live down their shame, for no matter how innocent her father might be the world would believe him guilty. Once condemned by the Senate, nothing could remove the stigma. She would have to teach in order to contribute towards the support, they would manage somehow. But what a future, how unnecessary, how unjust!

Suddenly she thought of Jefferson's promise to interest his father in their case and she clutched at the hope this promise held out as a drowning man clutches at a drifting straw. Jefferson would not forget his promise and he would come to Massapequa to tell her of what he had done. She was sure of that. Perhaps, after all, there was where their hope lay. Why had she not told her father at once? It might have relieved his mind. John Burkett Ryder, the Colossus, the man of unlimited power! He could save her father and he would. And the more she thought about it, the more cheerful and more hopeful she became, and she started to dress quickly so that she might hurry down to tell her father the good news. She was actually sorry now that she had said so many hard things of Mr. Ryder in her book and she was worrying over the thought that her father's case might be seriously prejudiced if the identity of the author were ever revealed, when there came a knock at her door. It was Eudoxia.

"Please, miss, will you come down to lunch?"

CHAPTER VIII

A whirling maelstrom of human activity and dynamic energy--the city which above all others is characteristic of the genius and virility of the American people--New York, with its congested polyglot population and teeming millions, is assuredly one of the busiest, as it is one of the most strenuous and most noisy places on earth. Yet, despite its swarming streets and crowded shops, ceaselessly thronged with men and women eagerly hurrying here and there in the pursuit of business or elusive pleasure, all chattering, laughing, shouting amid the deafening, multisonous roar of traffic incidental to Gotham's daily life, there is one part of the great metropolis where there is no bustle, no noise, no crowd, where the streets are empty even in daytime, where a passer-by is a curiosity and a child a phenomenon. This deserted village in the very heart of the big town is the millionaires' district, the boundaries of which are marked by Carnegie hill on the north, Fiftieth Street on the south, and by Fifth and Madison Avenues respectively on the west and east. There is nothing more mournful than the outward aspect of these princely residences which, abandoned and empty for three-quarters of the year, stand in stately loneliness, as if ashamed of their isolation and utter uselessness. Their blinds drawn, affording no hint of life within, enveloped the greater part of the time in the stillness and silence of the tomb, they appear to be under the spell of some baneful curse. No merry-voiced children romp in their carefully railed off gardens, no sounds of conversation or laughter come from their hermetically closed windows, not a soul goes in or out,


The Lion and the Mouse - 20/50

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