Schulers Books Online
books - games - software - wallpaper - everything
- Without a Home - 20/94 -
through life without suspecting the truth; but if they fall under the influence of an evil habit--if they pass under this mightiest and darkest of all spells, opium hunger--they may learn their weakness in despair.
Mr. Jocelyn, however, had no thought of despair; he was only surprised, humiliated, and somewhat alarmed; he was satisfied that he must drift no longer, and in perfect sincerity resolved to make the most of his brief separation from his family, hoping that with a physician's advice he could speedily overcome his morbid craving and distressing need. He left the farmhouse with the resolution that he would never touch the drug again, believing that before a week expired the horrible depression, both mental and physical, would so far pass away as to excite no further suspicion.
For an hour he rode at Roger's side, rigid, taciturn, and pale; for except when heated by exercise his wonted ruddy color was passing away from the effects of the poison. Roger drove around to the large hotel, which was not much out of their way, and said, "Mr. Jocelyn, will you please take the lines a few moments? I have an errand here, but it won't keep me long."
Having transacted his business he stood in the office door watching a young man who sauntered toward him. The stranger was almost as tall as himself, but much slighter. While his carriage was easy and graceful, it was marked by an air of lassitude and weariness, and his step lacked firmness. A heavy mustache relieved his face from effeminacy, but his large, dark eyes were dull and apathetic. Suddenly they lighted up with recognition; he hesitated, and then hastily advanced toward Mr. Jocelyn, but his steps were speedily checked, for the moment the gentleman recognized him he bowed very coldly and turned haughtily away. The young man flushed deeply, stood still a moment in irresolution, and then with a swift glance into Roger's interested face turned and quickly disappeared. Before Roger could resume his place in the wagon the proprietor of the hotel came out and called him back; something had been forgotten.
This interruption was fatal to Mr. Jocelyn's good resolutions. Vinton Arnold, who had won his daughter's affection, but who seemingly had not the manhood to be faithful in her adversity, was the one whom he had repulsed, and the thought of his wealth and luxury, while he was on his way to seek a home in a tenement for his beautiful child, so maddened him that he drove recklessly to an adjacent shed, which shielded him from observation, snatched out his fatal syringe, and in a moment the poison was diffusing itself through all his system. He had returned again before Roger, who had been detained some moments, reappeared, but now his heavy eyes were bright and fiery, and his tongue unloosed.
"Did you see that young man to whom I refused to speak?" he asked as they drove away.
"Well, he's a white-livered scoundrel. He's a type of your Northern gentlemen. A Southern man would starve rather than act so pusillanimously. Of course I'm not going to talk of family secrets, or say anything not befitting a high-toned gentleman, but I taught that snob how a man of honor regards his cowardice and cold-bloodedness. He was one of our fair-weather friends, who promptly disappeared when the sky clouded. Here he is, dawdling around a high-priced hotel, while I'm on my way to seek rooms in a tenement for those to whom he is not worthy to speak; but the time shall come, and speedily, too, when even on the base plane of money--the sole claim of his proud family for consideration--we shall meet him and scorn him as his superiors. I have plans, business prospects--"and he launched forth into such a vague, wild statement of his projects that Eoger looked at him in silent amazement, half doubting his sanity.
In his haste Mr. Jocelyn had not carefully gauged his syringe, and the over-amount of morphia thrown into his system so stimulated him that his words appeared exceedingly irrational to the young man, whose judgment was based on unusual shrewdness and common-sense. He was greatly puzzled by the sudden change in his companion. It was evident that he had not been drinking, for his breath was untainted and his utterance was natural. But his face was flushed, and he seemed possessed by a strange, unbalanced mental exaltation which led him to speak as no sensible man ought in any circumstances, and certainly not to a stranger. Roger therefore interrupted him saying, "I shall respect your confidence, Mr. Jocelyn, and will never repeat what you have said. Please let me suggest, however, that it would be wise not to speak so frankly to others, since they might take advantage of you."
"Please let me assure YOU," resumed Mr. Jocelyn, with the most impressive dignity, "that I am a man of the world, and that I have seen a great deal of the world. I can read men as you would read a book. If you were not trustworthy I should know it at a glance. Did you not see how I treated that young jackanapes? His wealth and elegance did not impose upon me in the least. You are trustworthy. You have a large, aspiring mind, and yet you know your station; you would not dream of presuming. What does it signify that we are poor for the moment? True Southern blood is in our veins, and I have a dozen plans for securing large wealth. When that day comes I shall remember those who basely turned their backs on us in our brief obscurity;" and thus he rambled on, while Roger listened coldly and in silence.
"There is method is his madness," he said to himself; "he is not so daft but that he hints broadly I must keep my station and not be 'presuming.' His proud daughter hints as much still more plainly. Well, we'll see whose dreams find the larger fulfilment--his or mine."
By the time they reached the landing the sun was low in the west, and his companion had become comparatively silent, dreamy, and abstracted. Half an hour later Roger went on board of the boat with some solicitude to see how he was faring. Mr. Jocelyn started out of what appeared a deep reverie as Roger addressed him, and said, after a moment's thought, "Please say to my family that you left me well, and safely on my way," and with a quiet and rather distant bow he resumed his absorbing thoughts.
The steamer moved away, but instead of returning directly home Roger went back to the hotel. Even amid the hallucinations of opium the father had too much instinctive delicacy to mention Mildred's name or to make any reference to Arnold's intentions; but the quick-witted fellow gained the impression that the elegant young stranger had been a welcome and favored suitor in the past better days, and he had a consuming wish to see and study the kind of man that he surmised had been pleasing to Mildred. As he rode along, pity for the girl took the place of resentment. "Not our plain little farmhouse, but the fashionable hotel, is the place where she would feel the most at home," he thought. "And yet she is going to a tenement-house! There, too, she'll stay, I fear, for all that her father will ever do for her. If he's not off his balance, I never saw a man that was."
A SCENE BENEATH THE HEMLOCKS
Roger sat out on the dusky piazza of the hotel, looking into the large parlor through open windows which came to the floor, bent on making the most of such glimpses as he could obtain of the world to which he felt that Mildred belonged by right. He saw clearly that she would appear well and at home amid such surroundings. A young and elegantly dressed woman crossed the wide apartment, and he muttered, "Your carriage is very fine and fashionable, no doubt, but Miss Jocelyn would have added grace and nature to your regulation gait." He watched the groups at the card-tables with a curious interest, and the bobbing heads of gossiping dowagers and matrons; he compared the remarkable "make up," as he phrased it, of some of them with the unredeemed plainness of his mother's Sunday gown. "Neither the one nor the other is in good taste," he thought. "Mrs. Jocelyn dresses as I intend my mother shall some day." He coolly criticised a score or more of young men and women who were chatting, promenading, flitting through the open windows out upon the piazza and back again into the light, as a small stringed orchestra struck into a lively galop or the latest waltz. He saw a general mustering of the younger guests, even down to the boys and girls, for the lancers, and followed one and another that caught his eye through the mazy intricacies, making little gestures of disgust at those who seemed outre and peculiar in manner and appearance, and regarding with the closest observation such as exhibited a happy mean between a certain rusticity and awkwardness with which he was well acquainted, and a conventional artificiality which was to him all the more unnatural and absurd because his perception was not dulled by familiarity with society's passing whims.
The young stranger whom Mr. Jocelyn had repulsed, and who was the real object of his quest, did not appear among the pleasure-seekers, nor could he discover him on the piazza, in the billiard-room, or in other places of resort. At last in much disappointment he returned to his seat, from which he commanded a view of the parlor; and scarcely had he done so before the one he sought mounted the steps near him as if returning from a stroll in the hotel grounds, threw away his cigar, and entered an open window with the same graceful, listless saunter witnessed in the afternoon. He crossed the wide apartment with as much ease and nonchalance as if it had been empty, and sat down on a sofa by a somewhat stout and very elegantly apparelled gentlewoman.
Roger never thought of accounting for the intensity of his interest in this stranger--the young rarely analyze their feelings--but, obedient to an impulse to learn this man's power to win the favor of one so unapproachable by himself, he scanned with keenest scrutiny everything in his appearance and manner, and sought eagerly to gauge his character.
He felt instinctively that the "cold-blooded snob," as Mr. Jocelyn had characterized him, was of the very opposite type to his own. His graceful saunter, which, nevertheless, possessed a certain quiet dignity, suggested a burdensome leisure and an utter lack of purpose to go anywhere or do anything. He dropped on the sofa rather than sat down. The lady at his side spoke rather decidedly to him, and he answered briefly without even looking at her. By and by she spoke again, more energetically; he then slowly arose, approached a young woman sitting near, who in response to something he said sprang up with alacrity, and they glided away in the waltz with an ease and grace scarcely equalled by the others upon the floor. After a few moments they circled around very near Roger's post of observation, and he was able to scan both the features and expression of the man whom he felt inclined to hate. But he was disarmed and perplexed, for the stranger showed no more pleasure or
Previous Page Next Page
1 10 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 94
Schulers Books Online
books - games - software - wallpaper - everything