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- A Knight Of The Nineteenth Century - 30/79 -
eyes, he gave himself up to bitter thoughts. With mental imprecations he cursed himself that he had not better understood the young girl who once had been his companion. Never before had she seemed so beautiful as to-day, and she had revealed a forming character as lovely as her person. She _was_ like Mrs. Arnot--the woman who seemed to him perfect--and what more could he say in her praise? And yet his folly had placed between them an impassable gulf. He was not misled by her kindness, for he remembered her words, and now believed them, "If I ever love a man he will be one that I can look up to and respect." If he could only have recognized her noble tendencies he might have resolutely set about becoming such a man. If his character had been pleasing to her, his social position would have given him the right to have aspired to her hand. Why had he not had sufficient sense to have realized that she was young--much too young to understand his rash, hasty passion? Why could he not have learned from her pure, delicate face that she might possibly be won by patient and manly devotion, but would be forever repelled from the man who wooed her like a Turk?
In the light of experience he saw his mistakes. From his present depth he looked up, and saw the inestimable vantage ground which he once possessed. In his deep despondency he feared he never would regain it, and that his hopes of literary success would prove delusive.
Regret like a cold, November wind, swept through all his thoughts and memories, and there seemed nothing before him but a chill winter of blight and failure that would have no spring.
But he was not left to indulge his miserable mood very long, for his mousing landlord--having finally learned who Haldane was, and all the unfavorable facts and comments with which the press had abounded--now concluded that he could pounce upon him in such a way that something would be left in his claws before the victim could escape.
That very morning Haldane had paid for his board to date, but had thoughtlessly neglected to have a witness or take a receipt. The grizzled grimalkin who kept the den, and thrived as much by his small filchings as from his small profits, had purred to himself, "Very goot, very goot," on learning that Haldane's word would not be worth much with the public or in court; and no yellow-eyed cat ever waited and watched for his prey with a quieter and cooler deliberation than did Weitzel Shrumpf, the host of the dingy little hotel.
After Haldane appeared he delayed until a few cronies whom he could depend upon had dropped in, and then, in an off-hand way, stepped up to the despondent youth, and said:
"I zay, mister, you been here zwei week; I want you bay me now."
"What do you mean?" asked Haldane, looking up with an uncomprehending stare.
"Dis is vot I mean; you buts me off long nuff. I vants zwei weeks' bort."
"I paid you for everything up to this morning, and I have had nothing since."
"O, you have baid me--strange I did not know. Vill you bays now ven I does know?"
"I tell you I have paid you!" said Haldane, starting up.
"Vel, vell, show me der receipt, an I says not von vort against him."
"You did not give me a receipt."
"No, I thinks not--not my vay to give him till I gits de moneys."
"You are an unmitigated scoundrel. I won't pay you another cent."
"Lock dat door, Carl," said the landlord, coolly, to one of his satellites. "Now, Mister Haldane, you bays, or you goes to jail. You has been dare vonce, and I'll but you dare dis night if you no bays me."
"Gentlemen, I appeal to you to prevent this downright villany," cried Haldane.
"I sees no villany," said one of the lookers-on, stolidly. "You shows your receipt, and he no touch you."
"I neglected to take a receipt. I did not know I was dealing with a thief."
"Ho, ho, ho!" laughed the landlord; "he tinks I vas honest like himself, who vas jus' out of jail!"
"I won't pay you twice," said Haldane doggedly.
"Carl, call de policeman, den."
"Wait a moment; your rascality will do you no good, and may get you into trouble. I have very little money left."
"Den you can leave your vatch till you brings de money."
"Ah, thank Heaven! that is safe, and beyond your clutches."
"In a pawnshop? or vas he stolen, like de tousand dollar, and you been made give him up?"
Haldane had now recovered himself sufficiently to realize that he was in an ugly predicament. He was not sufficiently familiar with the law to know how much power his persecutor had, but feared, with good reason, that some kind of a charge could be trumped up which would lead to his being locked up for the night. Then would follow inevitably another series of paragraphs in the papers, deepening the dark hues in which they had already portrayed his character. He could not endure the thought that the last knowledge of him that Laura carried away with her from Hillaton should be that he was again in jail, charged with trying to steal his board and lodging from a poor and ignorant foreigner; for he foresaw that the astute Shrumpf, his German landlord, would appear in the police court in the character of an injured innocent. He pictured the disgust upon her face as she saw his name in the vile connection which this new arraignment would occasion, and he felt that he must escape it if possible. Although enraged at Shrumpf's false charge, he was cool enough to remember that he had nothing to oppose to it save his own unsupported word; and what was that worth in Hillaton? The public would even be inclined to believe the opposite of what he affirmed. Therefore, by a great effort, he regained his self-control, and said firmly and quietly:
"Shrumpf, although you know I have paid you, I am yet in a certain sense within your power, since I did not take your receipt. I have not much money left, but after I have taken out fifty cents for my supper and bed you can take all the rest. My watch is in the hands of a friend, and you can't get that, and you can't get any more than I have by procuring my arrest; so take your choice. I don't want to have trouble with you, but I won't go out penniless and spend the night in the street, and if you send for a policeman I will make you all the trouble I can, and I promise you it will not be a little."
Herr Shrumpf, conscious that he was on rather delicate ground, and remembering that he was already in bad odor with the police authorities, assumed a great show of generosity.
"I vill not be tough," he said, "ven a man's boor and does all vat he can; I knows my rights, and I stands up for him, but ven I gits him den I be like von leetle lamb. I vill leave you tree quarter dollar, and you bays der rest vat you have, and we says nothing more 'bout him."
"You are right--the least said the better about this transaction. I've been a fool, and you are a knave, and that is all there is to say. Here are seventy-five cents, which I keep, and there are four dollars, which is all I have--every cent. Now unlock your door and let me out."
"I tinks you has more."
"You can search my pockets if you wish. If you do, I call upon these men present to witness the act, for, as I have said, if you go beyond a certain point I will make you trouble, and justly, too."
"Nah, nah! vat for I do so mean a ting? You but your hand in my bocket ven you takes my dinners, my lagers, and my brandies, but I no do vat no shentlemens does. You can go, and ven you brings de full moneys for zwei weeks' bort I gives you receipt for him."
Haldane vouchsafed no reply, but hastened away, as a fly would escape from a spider's web. The episode, intensely disagreeable as it was, had the good effect of arousing him out of the paralysis of his deep despondency. Besides, he could not help congratulating himself that he had avoided another arrest and all the wretched experience which must have followed.
He concluded that there was no other resource for him that night save "No. 13," the lodging-house in the side street where "no questions were asked"; and, having stolen into another obscure restaurant, he obtained such a supper as could be had for twenty-five cents. He then sought his former miserable refuge, and, as he could not pay extra for a private room on this occasion--for he must keep a little money for his breakfast--there was nothing for him, therefore, but to obtain what rest he could in a large, stifling room, half filled with miserable waifs like himself. He managed to get a bed near a window, which he raised slightly, and fatigue soon brought oblivion.
A MAN WHO HATED HIMSELF
The light of the following day brought little hope or courage; but Haldane started out, after a meagre breakfast, to find some means of obtaining a dinner and a place to sleep. He was not as successful as usual, and noon had passed before he found anything to do.
As he was plodding wearily along through a suburb he heard some one behind a high board fence speaking so loudly and angrily that he stopped to listen, and was not a little surprised to find that the man was talking to himself. For a few moments there was a sound of a saw, and when it ceased, a harsh, querulous voice commenced again:
"A-a-h"--it would seem that the man thus given to soliloquy often began and finished his sentences with a vindictive and prolonged guttural sound like that here indicated--"Miserable hand at sawin' wood! Why don't you let some one saw it that knows how? Tryin' to save a half dollar; when you know it'll give you the rheumatiz, and cost ten in doctor bills! 'Nother thing; it's mean--mean as dirt. You know there's poor devils who need the work, and you're cheatin' 'em out of it. But
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