His Trial Balance
Thomas Jackson in Collier s Weekly
OF COURSE, they were fashionable, at least Mrs. Chadwick was, and that was sufficient. Mr. Chadwick was satisfied to resign all such things to his wife, and when he left his luxurious home of a morning to go to his business office, he left all thoughts of trying to be fashionable far behind him, and only concerned himself about making the wherewithal to keep things going.
It was a very dififerent sort of place from his home, that dingy building, where Mr. Chadwick spent so much of his life. On the first floor were rows and piles of red and blue barrels full of oils that smelled, and great tin cans full of varnish that smelled, and the floor was black with dried oil and varnish that helped each other to smell. In fact, the whole place was pregnant with oil and varnish, and it was quite proper that it should be, for it was an oil and varnish business that was carried on there.
It was to this place that Mr. Chadwick came, as he had come every morning, Sundays and legal holidays excepted, with perhaps a few vacation days in summer, for the past thirty years. On this particular day his mood, evidently, was not a bright one, and as he read his morning’s mail he looked gloomier still. When he had passed to the book-keeper such communications as belonged to that clerk’s department, Mr. Chadwick fell to thinking, brooding, it might better be called. Presently he took up a scrap of paper and commenced figuring upon it : for an hour or more he went through elaborate calculations which could not have turned out to his
liking, for, at length, he threw down the pencil and leaned back in his chair with a sigh, clasped his hands over his head, and stared blankly at the ceiling. He was interrupted by a clerk who put his head in at the door and said that Mrs. Chadwick was downstairs and would like to see her husband.
“Well, ask her to come up,” was the reply.
“She’s waiting in a carriage,” the clerk added.
“Can’t she get out of the carriage?” Mr. Chadwick questioned. “Tell her I’m very busy and show her up.”
The clerk vanished. Soon after the sound of mingled voices on the stairs announced the approach of more than one visitor, and, the office door opening, two ladies entered.
“My Dear George,” said the first, as she sank gasping upon a chair and loosened the sealskin wrap which enveloped her from neck to heels : “My dear George, those stairs are terrible; it’s like climbing a ladder. Why don’t you have an elevator, and why do you stay in such a dirty place? The smell here is something frightful—it’s stifling Mrs. Harris, too.”
Mr. Chadwick was engaged in greeting the other lady, and did not reply to his wife’s remarks. She, therefore, proceeded to deodorize her nostrils from the smell of varnish with the fumes from an exquisite vinaigrette which would have been a prize for a museum. As she smelled, first on one side of her nose, and then on the other, she listened to lier husband while he talked to Mrs. Harris, with an expression as of
watching for a chance. In a pause in the conversation, Mrs. Harris sighed, upon which her friend exclaimed with concern :
“Why, you are just tired out, Annie; George, you must be fined heavily for making two ladies come to such a place as this.”
“I didn’t make you come, pardon me,” her husband answered.
“You sent for us to come upstairs, when you could 'have gone down to the door without any trouble,” Mrs. Chadwick replied.
“I did not know there was any one with you,” Mr. Chadwick began, “or—”
“Why, I’m surprised at you, Mr. Chadwick,” Mrs. Harris exclaimed, tapping the gentleman on the arm with a pocket book which was capable of holding bank bills without folding them.
“Well, I apologize,” he said with a rueful laugh. “I was busy when you came, and told the clerk to show you up, without thinking.”
“Then pay your fine and we’ll forgive you,” his wife declared playftdly, but she held out her hand with a decided look.
“Am I not to be pardoned?” he asked, appealing to Mrs. Harris.
She shook her head, laughing.
“Evidently not till the fine is settled.”
“Well, fix the sum,” he said, grimly as he drew out his wallet.
“Five hundred,” his wife answered promptly. Mr. Chadwick started. Looking at his wife, he saw that she was quite in earnest; the talk of a fine was to hide a deeper meaning.
Laying down his wallet, he simply said : “Oh ! at that rate you’ll have to take my I.O.U.”
“No, indeed, sir, a fine must be paid on the spot. Besides, George, I really want some money. Jessica’s birthday fete comes off on Monday, and there are lots of things to be got.”
“Why not draw a check to vour-
self on vour own bank?” Mr. Chad-
wick asked dryly. The play was beginning to tire him.
“Oh my bank has suspended, I’m bankrupt, my dear, till my stipend comes in. Now, do hurry up, that’s a good man. Mrs. Harris has an engagement this afternoon, and she is to help me select the decorations for Monday night.”
The merchant rose wearily from his seat and left the office. From the hall he called with sudden recollection : “Oh, Bertha!”
Mrs. Chadwick responded in person and stood half within, half without the door, while her husband asked in a loud voice, that could be heard in the office : “How do you want the money—all large bills?” This he accompanied with gestures, in obedience to which Mrs. Chadwick went quite into the hall and permitted the spring door of the office to close behind her.
“Bertha,” Mr. Chadwick said then in a low voice, “you must not spend anything like this money. I can’t afford it. I haven’t got it to give you.”
His earnest manner and stern voice startled her a little, but she had been through so many similar scenes that she quickly rallied from the momentary fear that what he said was true.
“Nonsense, George ; the idea! a man with your credit and standing.”
“Credit and standing are all I have to go on now, and I shall not have them long.” He looked gloomilv at the floor.
“But what can I do? T wouldn’t make a failure Monday for the world. It would break Jessica’s heart, and besides it would ruin her to make a poor appearance upon her debut.”
“Then it’s a choice between ruining her and ruining me ; that’s all.”
“Do vou mean to sav that five hundred dollars will ruin you?” Mrs. Chadwick exclaimed with fine scorn.
“Not that alone, but all coming^ together. T heard from your dressmaker this morning.”
Mrs. Chadwick quailed a little.
“Well,” she sighed, “never mind then. I’ll tell Mrs. Harris that we are ruined, and I’ll recall the invitations for Monday. Poor Jessica; the child will cry her eyes out.”
“Don’t make a fool of yourself, Bertha, by blabbing all you know and bringing the house down on us. Go back in there; I’ll see what I can do.”
She left him, and he went into an adjoining office, where his bookkeeper was at work.
“Mr. Reid,” he said, “have you got five hundred dollars on hand?”
“No,” the clerk answered; “shall I send for it, sir?”
“Well, I want to make a note at the bank this afternoon,” Mr. Chadwick replied nervously. “I shall go up to see them myself about it. I don’t want to draw anything out before then, and—by the way, have you got that much yourself that you could let me have till this afternoon ?”
Now the book-keeper had to his own credit in bank just five hundred and five dollars which he did not wish to draw upon, but a request from his wealthy employer for a loan was such an honor that he hastened, with gratified pride, to draw a check, which he sent to the bank to be cashed.
A very good reason, besides the one Mr. Chadwick assigned for his not wishing to draw his own check for the amount might have been found on the stub of his check book. The balance shown there to his credit was in precisely two figures.
The messenger despatched by the book-keeper returned from the bank bringing Mr. Reid’s whole fortune in ten crisp new'bank notes that made up the sum total of the “fine” which the ladies’ visit cost Mr. Chadwick, and as he saw them stowed away in his wife’s pocket book he felt in his heart somewhat as one may feel when watching the blood drip from a stanchless wound.
He accompanied the ladies to the carriage and they drove away with
smiles and nods. Then he returned to his dingy office, to his piles of heavy ledgers, to his black, timeworn desk, where he sat idly fingering the stubs of his check-book, thinking, thinking, thinking.. By and by he roused himself from his meditations, and went again to the little office where the book-keeper was poring over long columns of accounts.
“Mr. Reid,” he said, “make out a memorandum of what paper will be due on the first, and let me have it before you go to lunch ; or, perhaps, you had better give me a statement of bills receivable and payable. I shall have to make a note until that Gresham & Coots matter comes in, and I want to see how we stand.”
The memorandum which his clerk handed to Mr. Chadwick a little later was not a reassuring document. The merchant twisted his under lip with his fingers as he sat poring over it, and his forehead wrinkled with an anxious frown. He laid down the paper and sat gazing at a cobweb in the corner of the ceiling.
“Grind, grind, grind,” he muttered. “Thirty years with my nose on the grindstone, and turning the crank myself.”
Again he looked over the memorandum, and again he fell to thinking, his eyes on the cobweb. The spider up in the corner crawled to the edge of its web, lost its baltnce, and tumpled to the floor. But it had left a silken clew behind, and immediately commenced to follow the thread. It reached the ceiling, and again it fell, and still again, when it lay in a little ball on the floor, as if completely discouraged. Mr. Chadwick watched the insect until it unrolled itself a,nd commenced to climb once more. “Fool,” ho muttered, “what do you try for? You will tumble out again. Stay on the floor till some one steps on you, and you yill have done with that everlasting spinning and climbing.”
lie rose impulsively, and, striking the spider to the lloor, crushed it with his foot.
“There,” he cried, “I’ll be merciful to you.”
He moved excitedly about the room as though the tension of his thoughts required physical exercise. All at once he dropped into his chair, and took some strips of paper from a pigeonhole in his desk. They were printed on one side, with a blank at the top for the date, after the words “New York”; then followed a space on the next line, and the words “After date I promise to pay to the order ofdollars for value received at-” with
a dollar sign in the lower left-hand corner. One of these he filled in with the words “Thirty days,” “Myself,” “Ten thousand,” and “Tenth National Bank.” Then he signed it at the bottom and endorsed it on the other side.
This done, he went to a big safe in the room, from which he took a bundle of papers. He selected one from among the others and unfolded it. At the top of the paper was a figure of Time with a scythe and hour-glass, and beneath it the motto: “In the midst of Life we are in Death.”
It was a policy of insurance upon the life of George Chadwick in favor of Bertha Chadwick, his wife, for twenty thousand dollars. For some minutes Mr. Chadwick carefully studied the conditions of the policy, set forth in many clauses and fine print in the body of the instrument. Refolding the paper, he placed it in his breast pocket, and putting on his hat and overcoat, went down into the street.
It was January. A piercing wind was blowing, and men and horses bowed their heads to the gale and breathed white clouds from their mouths and nostrils. Mr. Chadwick shivered as he buttoned up his coat and started on a rapid walk in the direction of Wall Street. He was going to find some one to endorse his note. He would sec Bent-
ley, he thought, and get his signature, and attend to the other business afterward.
But Bentley was not at his office. “Down with pneumonia,” a clerk told him, and after a few words of inquiry Mr. Chadwick turned his steps toward the office of another business acquaintance. This time he was more fortunate. Mr. Simpkins was in, and quickly obliged his friend with the desired endorsement.
“By the way,” said Mr. Chadwick, as he rose to go, “I hear that Bentlev is down with pneumonia.”
“Yes,” returned the other, “he’s very bad. I’m afraid he will make a die of it.”
“Sorry to hear that,” Mr. Chadwick replied, “Bentley is a good fellow.”
“There’s a great deal of pneumonia about,” said Simpkins. “My doctor tells me he never knew such a year for it. My little boy is just getting over an attack; I thought we were going to lose him.”
“Indeed!” said Chadwick. “I never had a case of it in my family —don’t know much about it.”
“Well, take care of yourself. This is just the weather to catch it—high, cold winds, overheated rooms, exposure to drafts, sudden chills—almost sure to bring on an attack.”
The friends parted, and soon after Mr. Chadwick, having negotiated his note at the bank, had at his disposal some ten thousand dollars. He dropped into a dairy after leaving the bank, and over a bowl of crackers and milk fell to thinking hard again, while his wife at about the same hour was eating deviled lobster, with Mrs. Harris, at Sherry’s.
That afternoon Mr. Chadwick visited in succession several insurance offices, at each of which he filled out an application and submitted to a medical examination. When his ordeal was over he was in a rather hilarious humor. He met several acquaintances on the street, and talked with them so gaily and
appeared altogether so happy that each remarked to himself as he turned away: “Chadwick is in great spirits; must have done a good stroke of business—lucky dog.”
At half-past five Mr. Chadwick started uptown on the elevated road. By this time his gay mood had changed to one of gloom. He looked at every man of his own age in the car; wondered to himself how much each was worth ; wondered where was his home, what his family, even speculated on the amount of cash each had about him. As he glanced to the end of the car, its number drew his attention—260—two hundred and sixty dollars, he remembered, was what he had received the first year he was in business. If he had twice two hundred and sixty dollars a week now it would be insufficient. A sign hanging near the door caught his eye : “Six hundred thousand passengers ride daily on the cars of the elevated roads.” Six hundred thousand! If each passenger would give him one cent that would be six thousand dollars, more than half the amount of his last note, and no one would feel it. Other combinations occurred to him ; each chance group of figures that caught his eye suggested a calculation of what so much money in such a time would amount to.
When he left the cars and proceeded along the street he was still pursued by figures. He fell to counting the flagstones, mentally converting them into cash, wondering if one of them were solid gold how much it would be worth. He made an elaborate mental calculation upon the probable weight of the stone, how many gold dollars would an ounce make, how many a pound, and how many the stone would balance. Then his eyes fell upon the gilt numbers on the houses and he added them together as he went along until they amounted to twenty-two thousand, when he found himself in front of his own home.
Jessica met him in the hall, put
her arms around his neck, and kissed him, helped him to take off his overcoat, and led him gaily to the fire in the library.
“Aren’t you nearly frozen, papa?” she said, as she wheeled forward a big chair, into which the tired man sank, while his daughter perched on the cushioned arm.
“Not so very, my dear,” he answered, caressing her soft cheeks. “Is your mother at home?”
“She has just come in and is dressing now,” Jessica answered. “She and Mrs. Harris have been out all day, and I just know she has been getting something for me, but she won’t tell me what. I suppose I’ll know all about it on Monday.”
“Do you expect to be very happy on Monday, Jessica?” her father asked, looking at her with a curious smile.
“Why, of course, papa; it’s my birthday, and I’m going to have the loveliest dress.”
“And that you think will make you very happy?”
“N—no; not that particularly, but everything, and—are you going to give me something pretty, papa? I always like what you give me best of all.”
“I’m afraid, my little girl, that you will be disappointed this time,” the man answered. “My dear Jessica,” he went on, “you ought to know that I am not as rich as I was. Things have not gone well with me lately. But whatever I give you, will you prize it and know that I love you just as well as if it were something great?”
“Yes, of course,” she answered; but she looked at him with a puzzled expression on her face, as if she were in doubt of his meaning. NTr. Chadwick silently regarded her for some minutes.
“Jessica,” he said at length, “what would you do if you had to make your own clothes and had fewer of them ? If you had to walk where you now ride, and if you couldn’t
travel and visit or be visited so often, would you be unhappy?”
“Why, papa!” the girl answered, “what is the matter with you tonight? Of course, I shouldn’t like that.”
“But there are a great many girls who have much less than you, Jessica, and who are happy, and make the men they marry happy on a very little. No one can tell, child, what he may have to go through before he gets to the end of life. Suppose you should become poor, and marry a poor man, don’t you think if you loved him you could be happy with what he was able to give you?”
“Ye-es; perhaps,” she answered. “But I shouldn’t like to marry any one that was dreadfully poor.”
“I hope, my dear,” said the father, “that whoever wins your heart may be not only worthy of your love, but may always be able to surround you with comfort and plenty, if not with luxury. But I want you to remember what I tell you now, Jessica, remember it long after I am here to repeat it to you—some time, you know, I shall have to leave you alone. Whomever you marry, whether a rich or a poor man, try to sympathize with him, try to understand what he tells you about his affairs, try to help him to keep a respected name; and, oh! my child, try to appreciate a little the anxiety and toil and distraction which every man in business, however successful he is, has to bear. Be a companion to your husband as well as a wife, a helpmate, Jessica, helping him forward, not dragging him back.”
Air. Chadwick dropped his face in his hands, pressing his temples tightly. Jessica, who had never before heard him speak so gravely to her, gazed at him in astonishment.
“Why, papa,” she said, “you talk so strangely; you must be ill. Does your head ache? I suppose you do get awfully tired, but I thought men always liked going to business
every day. Alamina says they do. She says you love business better than you do her. Come, now, cheer up ; that’s a good papa, I want to tell you something. Alinnie—you
remember her, Minnie?—she’s coming to spend a week with me, and I want to give her a splendid time ; but oh ! papa, I’ve been awfully extravagant this month—I don’t know how it happened—I’m going to be real economical after Minnie goes, but—can’t I have a hundred, papa, just to give Alinnie a good time?”
Mr. Chadwick sat up, studied his daughter’s face a moment, and then, without comment, took out his pocket book and gave her the money. Perhaps he asked himself what was the use to remonstrate with her; perhaps he realized that he might have trained her to a better sense of values, moral and material ; perhaps, in the midst of all that hung over him, it seemed idle for him to try to think any more about life’s struggles, about work or debt or economy ; perhaps he felt as one about to start on a long voyage, when, leaving an old home forever behind him, he throws into the heap of rubbish, to be disposed of to the junk man, things which he has long cherished, but which he can no longer care for or cumber himself with.
“Now, papa,” said Jessica, springing up, when she had obtained what she wanted, “I must go and dress, and so must you—it’s late.”
Airs. Chadwick had apprehended that she would receive another lecture from her husband that evening on the subject of money matters. She had braced herself for the ordeal and felt able to win the day, as she always had done. But, contrary to her expectation. Air. Chadwick said nothing whatever on tlie subject of finances until late in the evening. Then he laid aside the book he had been reading, and, contemplating the fire, said without looking at her :
“Bertha, you have often seemed to imagine when I have told you
about my difficulties that I exaggerated them, and that there is no real trouble ahead for us. I do not wish to reproach you. It has been my fault partly for not being firmer. But we need not talk of what has been done now. All I want to say is, that in the event of your being left alone, remember my urgent wish that our children should learn habits of economy and usefulness. Let them understand the true value of money, and that life is not all a holiday, to be spent like their money in frivolity.”
“Why, George,” cried Mrs. Chadwick, “you distress me dreadfully. It can’t be that things are so bad. I’m sure you can’t be well. You look tired. It’s enough to make any one sick to stay all dav in that horribly smelling place. I wish you had given up business, as I urged you to do long ago. Don’t sit up any later. Go to bed and get a good night’s rest and you will be all right in the morning.
The morrow found Mr. Chadwick at his desk as usual examining the morning’s mail. There were some letters and drafts which he turned over to the book-keeper, the rest were bills for all sorts of things, merchandise, livery, flowers, plumbing work, upholstery, cooperage, painting, millinery, stationery, laces,J jewelry, coal. A few days before he would have examined each of these bills carefully, with fretful exclamations and objections to sundry items. Now he looked at them carelessly, with a slight smile, and laid them aside, as matters that did not concern him. The last envelope he opened was from the authorities of his son’s college. He read this with more interest, and his brow darkened as he learned from it that the youth had been expelled for repeated infractions of rules, and for conduct tending to subvert the authority of the college with his fellow students. It was only one more blow he thought, and he recalled with a grim smile the saying of the Irishman that “single misfortunes never come alone.”
All that day and the next Mr. Chadwick went about his business in a mechanical way, leaving nearly everything to his book-keeper, and often sitting alone in his office unoccupied, save with his own thoughts. Those everlasting figures still haunted him. Numbers, numbers, numbers, ringing in his ears perpetually. The clock struck and he counted off the strokes, squared them and cubed them and made all sorts of combinations with them. So much a minute would be so much an hour, a day, a year, and the interest would be so much. He heard an organ grinding in the street, and tried to count the times that the crank was turned, and then the different notes, till the music of “Sweet Violets” ran off into numbers, and he began to count the blossoms that he could see in a great bed of violets down near the brook which ran through his father’s farm when he was a boy.
On Monday he received from time to time during the day several big documents sealed with great red seals. They were life insurance policies which he had taken out, and upon which the first premiums were paid with the money he borrowed from his friend Simpkins. One of them was in favor of that gentleman for the amount of the loan. One was in his wife’s name, a third in his daughter’s ánd the fourth, for a small sum, was written in the name of his son. The premiums on these policies still Dft him with a balance from the ten thousand. He had repaid the money loaned to him by Mr. Reid, and upon the remainder drew checks for sundry bills which he selected from the pile on his desk. He gave a check to the book-keeper, telling him to cash it and pay the salaries of the employes, and keep the balance on hand for the next week’s expenses.
Then he sat down and carefully read over the conditions of each of the policies. He had been informed by each company that its policy
was incontestable after three vears.
In replv to this he had said jocularly: “What if I should kill myself?” The answer was : “Oh, under our policy you can kill yourself after one year from its date, and your heirs will get the money all the same. But you musn’t do it before that, or the policy will be void.” Then he had laughed, and the clerk had laughed. Mr. Chadwick smiled as he read over the conditions, smiled over that clause about self-murder, smiled at the mention of the limit within which, if he sought death, the policy would be forefeited.
It was late when he put on his coat and hat to go home. Mr. Reid came in to ask about something, and as he was leaving the office Mr. Chadwick said : “By the way, I mav not be down to-morrow: I feel rather miserable to-day; so if there is anvthing needed of me you can ’phone.”
“Very well, sir,” Mr. Reid answered. “I hope you are not going to be ill.”
“Oh, no, but I thought I might not feel like coming down to-morrow.”
“All right, sir,” said the clerk. “Good night.”
“Good night,” Mr. Chadwick returned, and when the book-keeper had nearly quitted the office he added hurriedly: “Oh, and Mr. Reid.”
“Yes, sir,” said the clerk, returning.
“I just wanted to say that I appreciate the way you have performed vour duties while you have been here, and especially lately. You deserve to do well, and I hope you will. You are old enough to need no advice from me but—you are married, are you not?”
“Yes, sir,” the man answered, somewhat bewildered by his employer’s sudden praise and cordiality.
“Well,” Mr. Chadwick went on, “don’t let anything ever turn you from what you yourself know is best for your own family. 1 hope you will do well. Now I must be get40
ting uptown. Good-by,” and he held out his hand.
The clerk took it, pressing it somewhat timidly, for he had never held his employer’s hand, and when Mr. Chadwick left him he watched the merchant descend the stairs, wondering at his strange freak.
The business of the day-was over downtown, the streets were wonderfully quiet, and it seemed to Mr. Chadwick as if trade had stopped in sympathy for him. He looked at the long rows of buildings so busily peopled during the day, and thought as he walked along how many thousands within them since he had been in that part of the city had toiled and thought and worried as he had done, year in and year out, to keep above the great commercial sea that seemed to be ever striving to overwhelm the swimmers. And it seemed to him he saw all this anxiety and pain and labor rolled together into one great ball of twisting, writhing worms. At the thought he" shuddered and quickened his pace but withal he felt a kind of heart lightness as if he were bidding good-by to such scenes of strife, as if he were stepping on board a train to be carried off to the quiet country, and looking back pityingly at the poor miserables who have no country to go to.
He passed a flower-stand on the street where a girl, huddled in a corner to escape the bitter wind, watched for chance customers. She held a bunch of violets out to him, with an invitation to buy. He shook his head, passed on a few steps, then turning back, bought the proffered nosegay.
When Mr. Chadwick reached his house he found that the necromancers had been there at work. An awning led from the curbstone to the door, a carpet covered the steps and the sidewalk in front; passersbv stopped to gaze, children lingered, while a policeman lounged at the entrance and swung his club pompously, as if to signify that all this was under his management. Within
the house was a veritable bower, fit for Flora, or any other flowerloving damsel who could afford to pay for such wealth of bloom.
Mr. Chadwick met Jessica in the hall and handed her the bunch of violets.
“Here is a birthday token for you, my dear,” he said, “and though it is very little it means a great deal of love.”
She took the flowers, smiled incredulously into his kind eyes and faltered: “Thank you, papa,” then she ran away and hid in her room to cry.
Later the gorgeous apartments were a wonderful and beautiful sight to those who had not to pay for it, and the quests and the society journals said the affair was a great success. Mr. Chadwick himself helped to make it so. He was gav, he was cordial, and with courtly playfulness he kissed the hand of a young dame who placed a flower in his buttonhole. “How very well he looks,” everybody said.
Late in the evening, when Mr. Chadwick found himself somewhat free from his duties as host, he retired from the throng behind the curtains of a deep window. There he stood, looking out upon the scene, upon his laughing daughter, as she whirled past him in the dance, upon his complacent wife, the centre of a group of persons of consequence: he thought of all this would cost, smiled grimly at the thought, and then slipped out and went softly upstairs.
He passed through his wife’s apartment and entered his dressing room. There was little luxury in the few necessary articles of furniture, and the only ornaments in the room where two paintings upon the wall. They were not works of art, they were not handsomely framed, they were yellow with age: one showed a round, woman’s face, with plenty of red cheek, plenty of black hair, and ample motherly bosom under her shiny silk gown. The other was a man’s face, smooth-
shaven, set in high white stock and black neckcloth, with eyes gazing defiantly out under the brow, shaded with hair of harsh abundance. Mr. Chadwick wheeled a chair in front of the pictures and sat down. With elbows resting on the chair arms, and hands clasped propping up his chin, he gazed long and thoughtfully at these works of some old-time traveling artist. No answering beam of recollection shone upon him from those painted eyes ; no glance of sympathy came from those stiff unlikenesses ; but they carried the gazer back to the old farm home, to the days when work meant labor in the field, and when a holiday was a perfect abandonment of all care, all responsibility. He thought of his father’s stern but kindly ways, of his own poverty of pence and abundance of comforts, of his mother’s sympathv and love. And as he thought the man’s soul cried dumbly: “Öh, father, mother, come back, let me lean on you once more as I used to do; just for one day let me feel the comfort, the unutterable rest of having some one to think and to act for me.”
Then suddenly he sprang up and left the room. He went up to the next floor and entered his son’s chamber, a strange look upon his face and a fierce excitement in his movements. He threw off his evening coat, and, going to a closet, searched among its contents until he brought out an old corduroy shooting jacket. This he put on, buttoning it up to the chin. Again he searched in another closet until he drew out an old overcoat; this he put on over the shooting jacket, after locking the door and passing through to the back room, where he locked the outer door there also. Then he returned to the other apartment, to a corner where there was a complicated arrangement of pulleys, and weights and short poles. It was a rowing machine used by his son, when he was at home to develop his muscles.
Mr. Chadwick seated himself on
the narrow leather-covered seat of the machine, and smiled grimly to think what a figure he must cut. Seizing the handles, he began to row. At first he pulled slowly, for he knew that if he worked violently his muscles, being unaccustomed to the exercise, would give out before his object was accomplished. Gradually he increased the stroke, only stopping to adjust the weights to heavier pulling. He worked as if he were manning a lifeboat. Presently the numbers came in his head again, and he commenced to count the strokes. One, two, three; one, two, three dollars. Four, five, six dollars. This work would pay if he could get a dollar a stroke for it. The perspiration began to form in beads on his forehead, and the heavy coats he wore hampered his movements. Three hundred and ninetyeight, three ninety-eight—four hundred ! His muscles were beginning to ache. His heart was beating fiercely, his body was bathed in perspiration ; his face seemed to be on fire. He felt as if his head would presently burst. Five hundred !
Mr. Chadwick dropped the oars and raised himself with diculty to his feet. Then he tore off his overcoat, tore off his shooting jacket, his vest, and finally his shirt, and stood with only his undershirt upon his upper body. For once, he thought, with a ghastly smile, he would have that delight of a sudden cooling from excessive heat, which doctors and wise mothers prohibit, to the torture of children. He went quickly to the window and opened it wide; then he went into the other room and opened a window there. A freezing January wind was blowing and it swept through the rooms in a biting draft. Mr. Chadwick leaned on the window sill and drank deeply of the night air, while the venomous breeze played about him, caressed him with its icy touch and whistled back and forth between the windows. Tn a few moments he was chilled through ; still he
stood there, teeth chattering, gazing at the midnight sky.
How bright the stars were! Millions of them were up there. Now if they were dollars and he could have them ! His undershirt had frozen stiff where it had been wet with perspiration. Mr. Chadwick drew in his head and closed the window. Then he resumed his ordinary garments, hung the overcoat and shooting jacket in their places, and went downstairs to bed. He was asleep when his wife retired, and she thought his heavy breathing was caused by deep slumber.
Mr. Chadwick did not go downtown the next day, nor the next. The doctor called three times every day, and two professional nurses came to attend him. Many called to inquire about him, and Mrs. Chadwick listened to accounts of cases of pneumonia that had occurred in her friends’ families for the last ten years. The doctor came and went, and the nurses watched their charge and kept a record of his pulse and temperature, and the sick man, seldom unconscious, watched their faces and speculated on the future. What mortal stabs pierced his breast with each inhalation only he knew. What awful immolation he had offered of himself for his family they, happily, could never learn.
And still the numbers sounded in his head, sounded in the striking of the clock which was ticking his life away, ticking away time for him into eternity. What was eternity? At that thought he held his breath. What lay beyond? What darkness or what light? What reward or punishment, what judgment and what beings would he meet? Long ago he had been taught and had fully believed, the dreadful stories of a material hell, a place of torment and punishment. But in these later years his belief of early days had waned. Suppose, after all, those old doctrines were true? What had he to hope for? But no, it could not be ; he had courage to face this ordeal of a lingering death, and he
would not fear that other life. It could not be worse than this, and, after a while his own fate, the present, past and future, seemed to be the fate of some one else.
At last one day he overheard the doctor say to his wife: “I really think you may begin to hope, Mrs. Chadwick. I think I see a marked improvement in him. The crisis is past, and unless he should suffer a relapse we will pull him through yet.”
They thought him asleep, but he had heard their low voices, and now it seemed to him that the doctor had some malign motive in trying to bring him back to health. “After all this pain and suffering,” he thought, “must I fail, fail, and take up the old weary burden, bring my wife and children to poverty?”
And the sick man looked with impotent rage at the two who would save him.
Mrs. Chadwick, who had been on duty at the sick bed while the day nurse was absent, accompanied the doctor downstairs, and lingered to impart the good news to visitors.
When he was left alone, the sick man raised himself slowly and painfully on one elbow and looked cautiously around him. Hearing no one about, he threw back the covers, and with great labor put his feet on the floor and sat on the side of the bed. He rose and tried to stand, but he was too weak for the effort and fell back, struggling to recover himself; again he rose to a sitting posture and essayed to stand, and again his limbs refused their office. This time he sank down upon the floor and knelt there, swaying with one hand clutching the bedclothes. At length he bent down, and placing his hands on the floor, slowly crawled along to the window. It seemed to be many minutes before he reached it, and when he took hold of the sash and tried to raise it he found it latched. By means of a chair he managed at last to raise
himself, and unfastening the window, with a desperate effort for his feeble strength, threw it open. The cold breeze, burdened with misty rain, blew in upon him, > played around his chest and chilled him to the heart. Hearing some one coming, he closed the window softly, and crept painfully back to bed.
A few hours later, when the doctor was summoned hastily, he found Mr. Chadwick dying. His family weeping round his bed, thought he was unconscious ; but > can tell what vast numbers were cast up in the tired brain as death slowly closed the ledger of the merchant’s life? Who can tell how the trial balance stood when late at night the man closed his account forever and handed it in?
“I hear,” said one man to another, downtown a few weeks later, “that Chadwick left nothing but his life insurance.”
“Yes,” said the other, “his business was all to pieces; if he had lived a little longer he would have had to make an assignment.”
“So the world goes,” said the first speaker, “vou never can tell what a man’s worth till you come to cut him up.”
“First rate fellow, though, Chadwick.”
“Oh yes, but he loved money too well.”
“Have any of his paper?”
“Nor I; we are lucky. Well, good-by; I must hurry back.”
And he hurried back. So did the other man. So do thousands of others hurry back to business, hurry on to weary brains, and sleepless nights, to anxious calculations, to borrowed money, to urgent expedients, to tormenting apprehensions, until the everlasting rest comes of its own accord to them, as it came at the call of their weary and despairing brother, unless—the balance is on the other side.