Read CHAPTER VIII. of A Tame Surrender‚ A Story of The Chicago Strike , free online book, by Charles King, on

There was a month or more during the late winter in which Mr. Elmendorf, cold-shouldered out of official society at department head-quarters, became quite the managing director of the Allison mansion.  John Allison, with a party of fellow-magnates, was on a long tour of inspection over the southernmost of the transcontinental lines, and, finding home life a trifle uncongenial just now, owing to some discussions with Aunt Lawrence, finding, too, that the wives and daughters of other magnates were to accompany them on the trip, sojourning days at a time in many of the charming resorts among the mountains or along the Pacific seaboard, Miss Allison eagerly accepted their invitation to be one of the party.  Mrs. Lawrence was to remain in charge at home, and was permitted to send for and receive under her wing her own graceless duckling, with the distinct understanding that he was in no wise to be allowed to interfere with Cary’s studies or duties.  Allison “had no use,” as he expressed it, for his nephew Lawrence.  He had helped pull the cub through many a scrape, but had tired of it, and having secured him a place in an Eastern office where he had enough to live on and little to do, desired to wash his hands of him in future; but mother-love watches over even the renegades from the home circle, and Mrs. Lawrence persuaded Brother John that Herbert’s health was failing and that he sorely needed change and rest and coddling.  The brother growled out something cynical about Chicago as a winter resort, but told her to go ahead.  The party left in early February, and about the last thing before going Allison had another conference with Elmendorf.  The latter had received warning that, unless he gave more time to the instruction of his pupil and less to that of the populace, the engagement would terminate.  Elmendorf argued, and Allison cut him short.  “I have listened to this for over eight months, and am further from conviction than ever, Mr. Elmendorf,” said he.  “So waste no more eloquence on me.  Take your choice between serving me on salary or writing ‘screamers’ and speeches for nothing.  You’ve done no great harm outside as yet, but there is a growing tendency to disorder that such counsels as yours will only serve to stimulate.”  A blunt man was Allison, and furnished excellent text for Elmendorf’s article on The Brutality of Capital, which presently appeared, but over a very different nom de plume, in the columns of the socialistic press.  Elmendorf agreed that of course, as his employer took such extreme views of the case, he must perforce acquiesce in the decision.  He agreed not to appear on the platform or write any more leaders so long as he should remain in John Allison’s employ, and then, when Allison was well beyond range, interpreted the agreement to suit himself.

As a means of increasing his influence over the mother, Elmendorf made himself useful and agreeable to young Lawrence when he came.  The lessons went on with fair regularity, Cary and his tutor occupying their study each day until luncheon-time, and again, occasionally, later in the afternoon or evening.  But, while he no longer appeared on the stage or rostrum as one of the leading speakers of the evening, the eloquent gentleman was pretty sure to be heard from the body of the house or the midst of the audience at the various meetings held from time to time in what were referred to as “the disturbed districts.”  There was a familiar ring about many of the articles that appeared in the papers, but they were no longer fulminated over his name or initials.  For several weeks no more dinner-parties were given at the Allisons’, and few officers called there.  Then the general commanding went off on a tour of inspection, taking a brace of aides with him, and these were Forrest’s friends and associates and the men who least liked the tutor.  But while Elmendorf had ceased to spend some time each afternoon in the offices adjoining the general’s sanctum, picking up all stray items of military news and haranguing such men as would listen, his was by no means an unfamiliar figure about the great building.  True to his policy, he had made acquaintance among the clerks, messengers, etc., first appearing among them as an associate and friend of their superior officers, thereby commanding, as it were, their respectful attention, and then, after studying their personal characteristics, little by little establishing confidential relations.  Simple-minded, straightforward fellows, as a rule, were these soldier clerks, men who lived in a groove and knew little of the wiles of the outer world.  A few there were of the decayed gentleman stamp, and other few of the bibulous.  Through their hands passed much of the correspondence, in their keeping were many of the secrets, of the official life of the far-spreading department, and Elmendorf saw his opportunity.  It was no difficult matter to assert in his confidential chats, conducted only when and where their superiors could get no wind of them, that he had been told by his friend the adjutant-general or by Captain and Aide-de-Camp So-and-so all about the matter in question, and all he asked was some little item of corroborative detail.  Now, there were days, as the winter wore away, when sundry things had happened within the limits of the general’s command which the news-gatherers of the Chicago press, always sensational, were eager to exploit, not so much, perhaps, as they actually occurred, but as the management and direction of each paper desired to make it appear they had.  The reporters sounded many a possible source of information without avail, for the chief of staff had cautioned his clerks and subordinates.  Great were his surprise and disgust, therefore, to find the columns suddenly blossoming out with glowing particulars of matters he had supposed discreetly hidden.  The reports were by no means truthful, ­they were even more than customarily colored and exaggerated, ­but there was the foundation of fact in more than one.  Next it began to be noted that Elmendorf, hitherto a contributor only to papers of the socialistic stamp, was frequently to be seen hobnobbing with the reporters of the prominent journals.  Now, these gentlemen, as a rule, are shrewd judges of human nature and quick to determine between the gold and the glitter, between the actual possessor of important news and the mere pretender; but there was another period of a month or six weeks in which Elmendorf was sought and followed almost as eagerly as the adjutant-general himself.  Never, perhaps, in his varied life had the graduate of Jena rolled in sweeter clover than during the months of the late winter and early spring of ’94.  An oracle at the table in a luxurious home, with no one to dispute his sway and no one actually to disapprove, unless it were his much disgusted but helpless pupil, with access to public offices and public libraries, with occasional touch with officials who might and did dislike but could not actually snub him, with occasional driblets of information to supply foundation and a vivid imagination to do the rest, he found himself an object of interest to the men of all others whom he most desired to influence, ­the reporters of the daily press.  Elmendorf was never in higher feather.  He was even able to neglect for a time the clamors of his erstwhile hearers, his suffering brethren among the sons of toil.

And he had been managing matters at home with rare diplomacy, too.  Mrs. Lawrence was mad to find out just exactly what peccadillo had brought about Mr. Floyd Forrest’s sudden relief from duty at Chicago and orders to proceed to the frontier; but this was a subject on which the tutor was now decidedly coy.  He had given Mrs. Lawrence to understand that because of some scandal and to prevent further talk the officer had been summarily sent away.  Finding that none of the officers knew what had brought about the order, he worked among the clerks, ­who knew nothing at all.  One of these latter lived not far from the Lambert Library, was a tippler at times, and had a grievance.  Forrest had twice come upon him when he was boisterously drunk, and, recognizing him, had given him warning, Forrest was only a “casual” at head-quarters, said the clerk, and when a fellow was off duty what he did “was none of Forrest’s damned business.”  Elmendorf found he didn’t know what had brought about Forrest’s relief, and so proceeded to ask him if he’d ever heard this and that, ­which the man had not, but was glad to hear now.  Later, Elmendorf made him acquainted, one cold evening, at a comfortable groggery not too far from the Allison house, with a young fellow who could and did tell how he had followed a girl whom he suspected and saw her go to Forrest’s lodgings.  That he made no mention of certain concomitant facts, such as his being kicked into the gutter by the lieutenant and the girl’s being a total stranger to that officer at that time, was due perhaps to native modesty and possibly to Elmendorf’s editorial skill.  What Elmendorf wanted to create at head-quarters was the belief that it was for some such indiscretion that Forrest was exiled, well reasoning that then the entire establishment would suddenly bethink itself of all manner of suspicious circumstances that it had thought nothing of before.

He planned equally well at home.  Miss Allison knew only that Forrest was ordered away on duty for an indefinite time, and speedily went away herself on the jaunt to the Pacific.  Mrs. Lawrence, who longed to say something to her niece upon the subject, was cautioned by Elmendorf to say nothing at all until he could place her in possession of all the facts, which he promised shortly to do.  He felt somehow that if Allison ever consulted Forrest as to the propriety of further employing him, the days of tutorship and ease were ended; but Forrest was gone, with a stab in the back, and gone probably not to return.  Allison’s stay promised to be prolonged until mid-April, possibly May.  Miss Wallen, bending over her task at the Lambert Library, mutely avoided, and Wells openly scowled at, Elmendorf whenever he sauntered into the rooms where once he was welcome.  So again he took an interest in Mart and his meanderings.  Mart had steadied a bit, had a job over among the lumber-yards on the north branch, and had been keeping away from the meetings on the west side; but it wasn’t a fortnight before Mart was staying out late at night again and coming home without his wits or wages Sunday mornings and denouncing his employers as scoundrels and some new men as scabs.  The next thing poor Jenny knew, Mart’s unpaid bills were coming to her again, and the brother had lost his situation a third time.  There was no extra work now to add to her earnings, no strong, manly, courteous, thoughtful fellow to help her into her cloak and out of her troubles.  The days lengthened, and so did the faces at home; so would the bills have done had she ever yielded to the importunities of her Mrs.-Nickleby-like mother or Mart’s weakling of a wife; but Jenny was Spartan in self-denial; what she couldn’t pay for on the spot she wouldn’t have.

More and more, however, she recognized in Elmendorf the evil genius of the family, and implored Mart to have no more to do with him, whereat Mart laughed wildly.  “Just you wait a bit, missy,” he declaimed.  “The day is coming when capitalists and corporations will bow down to him as they have to the Goulds and Vanderbilts in the past.  I tell you, in less than two months, if they don’t come to our terms, if they refuse to listen to our dictation not one wheel will turn from one end of this country to the other.  We’ll tie up the business of the whole United States, by God!  That’s what’ll happen to capital.”

“And then what will happen to us, Mart, ­to you, your wife and babies, ­to your mother and to me?  Where will the money come from?”

“Oh, there’s money enough ­more than enough ­millions more than enough ­to feed and clothe and keep us all in luxury ­tied up in the coffers of those bond-holders, and when the men whose hands have made it get their hands once more on it ­”

“Mart, Mart, your head is crazed with whiskey,” laughed Jenny, sadly.  “No wonder capital is being withdrawn from us; no wonder the gold is going back to Europe.  People who have it dare not invest in communities where the employees are allowed to talk as they are here.  If I had a million to invest, do you think I’d venture it where the workmen openly threatened they’d stop every wheel throughout the land?  You are killing your own prospects, Mart, simply to cripple theirs.”

“I don’t care.  What do you know of such things, anyhow?  I don’t mean to stand by and see my brothers starving and swindled day by day down there at Pullman.”

“Who have the greater claims, Mart, those whom you call your brothers down there at Pullman, or your wife and children here at home?  I feel for those people just as much as you do, ­more probably, ­but your duty lies here.”

“Oh, that’s right.  Stand by your swell friends, and toss it into my teeth that I and mine are sponging on you for a living, and you want your money.  Make a man more desperate than he is by your nagging and fault-finding.  Drive a fellow to striking one minute and then torment him with accusations the next.  I tell you if it comes to riot and bloodshed here, it’s ­it’s just women like you ­that’ll ­that’ll have brought it all about.”

But this was a statement so absurd that Jenny turned away in speechless indignation.  What was the use of logic or argument with one of her brother’s mental make-up?  Leaving Mart to go on with his harangue and confirm the mother and his wife in their view of her utter lack of appreciation of her brother’s noble nature, the girl walked wearily away to her desk at the library.  It was barely eight o’clock, and her duties began only at nine, but she was an early bird, this New World Little Dorrit, and loved to be promptly at her work, and the janitor and scrub-women often listened to her cheery song as she plied the duster among the shelves and desks of the sanctum.  Wells, perhaps, never noticed how much neater everything looked since Miss Wallen took charge, but she was a dainty creature, in whose eyes dusty books and littered desks were abominations.  Mrs. Wells, however, was not so blind.

“That girl’s worth two of Miss Stockton,” was the lady’s verdict, and then, noting with self-comforting criticism the inexpensive material of Jenny’s gown, the absence of all attempt at ornamentation, as well, alas! as of her predecessor’s brilliancy of color and clearness of skin, she added conclusively, “and she isn’t pretty.”

And these raw blustering days of late winter and early spring ­or something ­had left their mark upon poor Jenny’s grave and gentle face.  The circles seemed purpler and deeper under the soft dark eyes.  There was even less of color in the pallid skin.  There was something languid, almost droopy, in her carriage now.  She had fought her fight without repining or complaint all the long months through, and knew, alas! that she was only losing ground.  A year agone she looked forward with joy to this position, and now she was loaded with even heavier cares and burdens.  She had found some outside work, but everything she made was rapidly swallowed up by her home cormorants.  “It would be just the same, perhaps, if I had five hundred dollars a month,” said Jenny.  She was blue, disheartened, and discouraged, ­perhaps a little weak, ­as she walked rapidly on.  She thought a sight of the foam-crested waves might stir her sluggish blood, and so sped eastward a block or two and out upon the lake front.  Passing the Allison homestead south of the Park, she saw the family carriage just rolling away, ­not the open barouche that had once so nearly run her down, but the heavy, closed carriage.  She knew the coachman and the handsome bays at a glance.  A few blocks farther south she again turned westward to resume her way to the library, and came suddenly upon two men standing in close conversation.  One was haranguing the other, speaking in nasal, querulous, unmistakable tones and the speaker’s back was towards her.  Overcome by a sudden sense of repulsion, she hesitated, stopped, and was about to turn back and cross the street, when the listening party glanced up, saw the girl as she halted and seemed to be watching them, and, all in an instant, turned and sneaked, or rather lurched, up the street.  Miss Wallen knew that gait in an instant.  There was the ruffian who had chased her and seized her that never-to-be-forgotten night.

And here, turning about now and facing her, was Elmendorf.

For an instant the tutor’s aplomb was gone.  He stammered as he raised his hat and bade her good-morning.  “I was just giving some advice to a poor devil who accosted me for alms, Miss Wallen,” he said, lamely, “but I seem to have driven him off.  My speeches are not universally well received, as you probably know.”  But Jennie was in no mood for conversation.  With but scant recognition, she pushed rapidly on, and Elmendorf followed.

“There is a matter I much desire to speak about,” said he, placing himself at her side.  “I’m aware I have not the good fortune to stand well in Miss Wallen’s opinion,” he added, with a half-sneer, “and a man more vindictive and less devoted to principle would have felt like resenting the ­the slights you have seen fit to put upon me.  I shall observe your prohibition with regard to the ­alleged officer and gentleman of whom I had occasion to speak to you, since his superiors have taken that responsibility off my hands by summarily sending him away, and as it is not likely that he will ever cross your path in this neighborhood again, ­a matter in which I find sincere cause for rejoicing, for of all men I have ever met he seemed to me the least worthy of such confidence as you placed in him ­”

“Is this observing my prohibition, Mr. Elmendorf?” said Jenny, stopping and facing him.

“Oh, well, possibly not.”

“Then you will kindly say at once what your business is.  I have told you I will not listen to anything you say about Mr. Forrest.”

“I am detaining you here,” he said, evasively.  “Let us walk on.”

“No, I will not walk on.  Mr. Elmendorf, I have learned to look upon you as anything but a friend to me or mine, and I mean to be perfectly frank with you here and now.  You have slandered my friend, you have tricked and misled my brother, you have deceived my mother, and I know well you have sought to injure me with my employer ­”

“Oh, only so far as was justifiable in the protection of my own name.  As your recommender and endorser for the position you hold, I had a right, when you showed yourself heedless of my counsel and defiant of my injunctions, to say to your immediate superior that he should be cautious about allowing your intimacy with Mr. Forrest to be prosecuted within the shelter of his sanctum and practically under his own nose.  I ­”

“That’s quite enough, Mr. Elmendorf.  You have added insult to injury.  Once and for all, let there be an end of this.  I decline any and all communication with you from this time on.”  And with cheeks that lacked no color now, and eyes all ablaze with wrath, Miss Wallen turned and left him.  But Elmendorf pursued.  He had one arrow left, and meant to send it home.

“At least I may accompany you to the corner, only twenty yards away, and there, as you suggest, our paths shall separate.  You decline to believe my estimate of Mr. Forrest, and hold him up as something knightly and chivalric, forsooth.  My deluded friend, all the time he was making you the object of those charming little attentions he was pressing his suit under my own eyes at home, and, in spite of all her father, her aunt, or her friends could do, I regret to say that Miss Florence Allison became so infatuated as to follow that young man to his exile, and should he ever return here it will doubtless be as her husband.  Good-morning, Miss Wallen.”

She had turned from him in renewed anger and disgust as they reached the corner, had hastened along with flaming eyes and cheeks and loudly throbbing heart.  She was furious at him for daring to speak of such things, daring to couple Forrest’s name with hers, with ­anybody’s.  She was ready to cry out against the man for such malignity ­mendacity; and then her cooler judgment and common sense began to reassert themselves.  Why shouldn’t it be true?  Why shouldn’t he seek the hand of one so ­so lovely and wealthy as Miss Allison?  What more natural than that Miss Allison should learn to love him?  Why shouldn’t she ­she, Jenny Wallen ­rejoice with her whole heart that her friend and protector could look forward to such happiness?  He had never been anything but kind, thoughtful, courteous, to her.  Other men had taken advantage of her defenceless post to accost her with low gallantries, with bourgeois flattery, with ridiculous attempts at flirtation or love-making, and she had laughed or stormed them off; but Forrest had shown her from the first the high-bred courtesy he would have accorded the proudest lady in the land, had never presumed upon a look, a word, a touch, that was not marked by respect and deference.  He was a gentleman, she said; any girl might be proud of such a lover; and if it was true that he and Florence Allison were engaged, she would congratulate him and her with all her heart and rejoice with them and for them, and pray that their lives might be happy, ­happy as her own was desolate, ­and then the day became dark and dull and hopeless despite a brilliant sun, for just as the Lambert towers loomed in sight, the Allison carriage came spinning up the avenue, a radiant, happy, lovely face beaming upon her from the window, then turning to look up into the dark, soldierly features of the man at her side.  Florence Allison was home, then, from her wanderings, bringing her beloved with her.