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- Jane Cable - 5/52 -
further her own personal interests; but not the will to endure sacrifice for the sake of another. Her sister was larger and possessed a reserve that might have been mistaken for deepness. He felt that she was hardly in sympathy with the motives of the younger, more volatile woman.
"My husband is a railroad engineer and is ten years older than I," the narrator said in the beginning. "I wasn't quite nineteen when we were married--two years ago. For some time, we got along all right; then we began to quarrel. He commenced to---"
"Mr. Bansemer is in a hurry, Fan," broke in the older sister, sharply; and then, repeating the lawyer's words: "Be as brief as possible."
There was a world of reproach in the look which greeted the speaker. Evidently, it was a grievous disappointment not to be allowed to linger over the details.
"Well," she continued half pettishly; "it all ended by his leaving home, job and everything. I had told him that I was going to apply for a divorce. For three months I never heard from him."
"Did you apply for a divorce?" asked the lawyer, stifling a yawn.
"No, sir, I did not, although he did nothing towards my support." The woman could not resist a slightly coquettish attempt to enlist Bansemer's sympathy. "I obtained work at St. Luke's Hospital for Foundlings, and after that, as a governess. But, once a week I went back to the asylum to see the little ones. One day, they brought in a beautifully dressed baby--a girl. She was found on a doorstep, and in the basket was a note asking that she be well cared for; with it, was a hundred dollar bill. The moment I saw the little thing, I fell in love with her. I made application and they gave me the child with the understanding that I was to adopt it. You see, I was lonely--I had been living alone for nine or ten months. The authorities knew nothing of my trouble with Mr. Cable--that's my husband, David Cable. The child was about a month old when I took her to his mother, whom I hadn't seen in months. I told Mrs. Cable that she was mine. The dear old lady believed me; half the battle was won." She paused out of breath, her face full of excitement.
"And then?" he asked, once more interested.
"We both wrote to David asking him to come home to his wife and baby." She looked away guiltily. For a full minute, Bansemer did not speak.
"The result?" he demanded.
"He came back last month."
"Does he know the truth?"
"No, and with God's help, he never shall! It's my only salvation!" she exclaimed emotionally. "He thinks she is his baby and--and---" The tears were on her cheeks, now. "I worship him, Mr. Bansemer! Oh, how good and sweet he has been to me since he came back! Now, don't you see why I must adopt this child, and why he must never know? If he learned that I had deceived him in this way, he would hate me to my dying day."
The infant was awake and staring at him with wide, blue eyes.
"And you want me to handle this matter so that your husband will be none the wiser?"
"Oh, Mr. Bansemer," she cried; "it means everything to me! All depends on this baby. I must adopt her, or the asylum people won't let me keep her. Can't it be done so quickly that he'll never find it out?"
"How many people know that the child is not yours?"
"My sister and the authorities at the asylum; not another soul."
"It is possible to arrange the adoption, Mrs. Cable, but I can't guarantee that Mr. Cable will not find it out. The records will show the fact, you know. There is but one way to avoid discovery."
"And that, please?"
"Leave New York and make your home in some distant city. That's the safe way. If you remain here, there is always a chance that he may find out. I see the position you're in and I'll help you. It can be done quite regularly and there is only one thing you'll have to fear--you own tongue," he concluded, pointedly.
"I hate New York, Mr. Bansemer. David likes the West and I'll go anywhere on earth, if it will keep him from finding out. Oh, if you knew how he adores her!" she cried, regret and ecstasy mingling in her voice. "I'd give my soul if she were only mine!" Bansemer's heart was too roughly calloused to be touched by the wistful longing in these words.
Before the end of the week the adoption of the foundling babe was a matter of record; and the unsuspecting David Cable was awaiting a reply from the train-master of a big Western railroad, to whom, at the earnest, even eager, solicitation of his wife, he had applied for work. Elias Droom made a note of the fee in the daybook at the office, but asked no questions. Bansemer had told him nothing of the transaction, but he was confident that the unspeakable Droom knew all about it, even though he had not been nearer than the outer office during any of the consultations.
THE BANSEMER CRASH
Twenty long years had passed since David and Frances Cable took their hasty departure--virtually fleeing from New York City, their migrations finally ending in that thriving Western city--Denver. Then, the grime of the engine was on Cable's hands and deep beneath his skin; the roar of iron and steel and the rush of wind was ever in his ears; the quest of danger in his eye; but there was love, pride and a new ambition in his heart. Now, in 1898, David Cable's hands were white and strong; the grime was gone; the engineer's cap had given way to the silk tile of the magnate; and the shovel was a memory.
But his case was not unique in that day and age of pluck and luck. Many another man had gone from the bottom to the top with the speed and security of the elevator car in the lofty "sky-scrapers." In the heartless revolution of a few years, he became the successor of his Western benefactor. The turn that had been kind to him, was unkind to his friend and predecessor; the path that led upward for David Cable, ran the other way for the train-master, who years afterward died in his greasy overalls and the close-fitting cap of an engineer. One night Cable read the news of the wreck with all the joy gone from his heart.
From the cheap, squalid section of town known as "railroad end," Cable's rising influence carried him to the well-earned luxury. The lines of care and toil mellowed in the face of his pretty wife, as the years rolled by; her comely figure shed the cheap raiment of "hard, old days," and took on the plumage of prosperity. Trouble, resentment, and worry disappeared as if by magic, smoothed out by the satiny touch of comfort's fingers. She went upward much faster than her husband, for her ambitions were less exacting. She longed to shine socially--he loathed the thought of it. But Cable was proud of his wife. He enjoyed the transition that lifted her up with steady strength to the plane which fitted her best--as he regarded it. She had stuck by him nobly and uncomplainingly through the vicissitudes; it delighted him to give her the pleasures.
Frances Cable was proud; but she had not been too proud to stand beside the man with the greasy overalls and to bend her fine, young strength to work in unison with his. Together, facing the task, cheerfully, they had battled and won.
There were days when it was hard to smile; but the next day always brought with it a fresh sign of hope. The rough, hard, days in the Far West culminated in his elevation to the office of General Manager of the great railroad system, whose headquarters and home were in the city of Chicago. Attaining this high place two years prior to the opening of this narrative, he was regarded now as one of the brainiest railroad men and slated to be president of the road at the next meeting.
Barely past fifty years of age, David Cable was in the prime of life and usefulness. Age and prosperity had improved him greatly. The iron grey of his hair, the keen brightness of his face, the erect, and soldierly carriage of his person made him a striking figure. His wife, ten years his junior, was one of the most attractive women in Chicago. Her girlish beauty had refined under the blasts of adversity; years had not been unkind to her. In a way, she was the leader of a certain set, but her social ambitions were not content. There was a higher altitude in fashion's realm. Money, influence and perseverance were her allies; social despotism her only adversary.
The tall, beautiful and accomplished daughter of the Cables was worshipped by her father with all the warmth and ardour of his soul. Times there were when he looked in wonder upon this arbiter of not a few manly destinies; and for his life could not help asking himself how the Creator had given him such a being for a child, commenting on the fact that she bore resemblance to neither parent.
For years, Mrs. Cable had lived in no little terror of some day being found out. As the child grew to womanhood, the fears gradually diminished and a sense of security that would not be disturbed replaced them. Then, just as she was reaching out for the chief prizes of her ambition, she came face to face with a man, whose visage she never had forgotten--Elias Droom! And Frances Cable looked again into the old and terrifying shadows!
It was late in the afternoon, and she was crossing the sidewalk to her carriage waiting near Field's, when a man brushed against her. She was conscious of a strange oppressiveness. Before she turned to look at him she knew that a pair of staring eyes were upon her face. Something seemed to have closed relentlessly upon her heart.
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