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

When the President of the United States declined to withdraw the regulars from Chicago as urged by the governor of Illinois, Mr. Elmendorf decided that it was because he had not been heard from on the subject, and so started for Washington.  This was how it happened that he abandoned his project of leading his friends and fellow-citizens in their determined assault upon the serried ranks of capital, backed though they were by “the bristling bayonets of a usurper.”  For several days his deluded disciples looked for him in vain.  The telegraphic despatches of the Associated Press told briefly of another crank demanding audience at the White House, claiming to represent the people of Chicago and persisting in his demand until, “yielding to force,” he was finally ejected.  But Elmendorf was silent upon this episode when he returned, so the story could hardly have referred to him.  Calling at Allison’s to attend to the long-deferred duty of packing his trunk, he was informed by the butler that that labor had been spared him and that he would find all his things at his former lodging-place, Mrs. Wallen’s.  Going thither to claim them, he was met at the threshold by Mart, whose face was gaunt and white and worn, and who no sooner caught sight of the once revered features of the would-be labor leader than he fell upon them with his fists and fragmentary malediction.  Mart battered and thumped, while Elmendorf backed and protested.  It was a policeman, one of that body whom ever since ’86 Elmendorf had loved to designate as “blood-hounds of the rich man’s laws,” who lifted Mart off his prostrate victim, and Mrs. McGrath who partially raised the victim to his feet.  No sooner, however, had she recognized him than she loosed her hold, flopped him back into the gutter, and, addressing the policeman, bade him “Fur the love of hivvin set him on again!” which the policeman declined to do, despite Mrs. McGrath’s magnificent and descriptive denunciation, addressed to the entire neighborhood, in which Elmendorf’s personal character and professional career came in for glowing and not altogether inaccurate portrayal.  Slowly the dishevelled scholar found his legs, Mart making one more effort to break away from the grasp of the law and renew the attack before he was led to the station-house, where, however, he had not long to languish before a major of cavalry rode up and bailed him out; but by that time, and without his luggage, the victim of his wrath had disappeared.  “There’s three weeks’ board ag’in’ it,” said Mrs. McGrath, “and the ould lady not buried three days, and the young lady sick and cryin’ her purty eyes out, and divil a cint or sup in the house for Mart’s wife and babies, barrin’ what me and Mac could spare ’em.  Och, that’s only wan of five-and-twinty families that furrin loonattic has ruined.”

At the camp of his squadron Major Cranston had been informed by his veteran, McGrath, of the reappearance of Elmendorf, and of the arrest of Mart for spoiling his beauty.  Mac also told something of the straits to which Mart’s family were reduced.  Mrs. Mac had known Mrs. Mart in the days when, as a blooming school-girl, the latter used to trip by the Cranston homestead, and had striven to aid her through the failing fortunes of the months preceding Mart’s last strike; it was her voluble account of the state of affairs that prompted this soft-hearted squadron commander to take Mart by the hand and bid him tell his troubles.  Mart broke down.  He’d been a fool and a dupe, he knew and realized it, but Elmendorf had so preached about his higher destiny and the absolute certainty of triumph and victory if they but made one grand concerted effort, that he had staked all on the result, and lost it.  He knew it was all up with the strikers when once the general government said stop, and so had gone home, to be greeted by the tidings that his mother was sick unto death.  Jenny was there, calm, brave, silent, full of resource, but, oh, so pale and wan!  She had employed the best physician to be had, but she alone would be nurse.  She never reproached, never chided him for his long absence when most needed.  Then had followed a few days of sorrow and suspense, and then the gentle, harmless, helpless, purposeless life fluttered away.  Jenny paid all the bills, the doctor, the undertaker, everything, and Mart tried vainly to get some work; but he was a marked man.  Then, the day after Jenny had settled up everything and made herself some simple mourning garb, she went to resume her duties at the library, and came back in a little while, white and ill, and she had been very ill since, ­out of her head at times, he believed, said Mart, and he had gone and got the doctor whom she had employed for her mother, a kind fellow who had been unremitting in his attentions, and who told him bluntly to shut up when he talked about not knowing where the money was to come from to pay him, and said that that little woman was worth ten times her weight in gold, which, said Mart, was God’s truth, as he himself ought to have had sense enough to know before.

Little by little, as they walked homeward together, Cranston’s orderly riding with the horses along the street, and dozens of people turning curiously to gaze at the cavalry officer and the late striker, it began to dawn upon Cranston that Mart’s sister, who was worth so much more than her weight in gold, was the very Miss Wallen who had been so oddly unwilling to write at his dictation the letter to Elmendorf.  Arrived at the house, he was sure of it, for there, with solemn face, was Mr. Wells.  “My wife,” said he, “is up-stairs, trying to see what she can do.  This is Martin Wallen, is it? ­Well, Martin, I regret exceedingly to hear you assaulted Mr. Elmendorf to-day ­and didn’t kill him.”

Manifestly Mr. Wells was not a proper person for the position he held, being far too impulsive in speech for a bookish man; but then Wells had been sorely tried.  He told Cranston something of it as they walked away together after loading Mart with provisions and fruit at the corner grocery.  Together they stopped to see Dr. Francis and have a brief chat with him about his patient, and then Cranston mounted and rode thoughtfully back to camp at the lake front.  Captain Davies, with his troop, had just returned from a long day’s dusty, dirty, exasperating duty at the stock-yards, and no sooner had he made his brief report than the major queried, “Do you happen to know whether Forrest is back with his regiment?”

“He was commanding his company at the yards to-day, sir.  I heard he returned four days ago.”

“H’m!” said the major, reflectively:  “I think I’ll stroll over to-night and find Kenyon.”

They were both sons of Chicago, these two field officers, and had always been close friends.  Forrest, however, was a New Yorker, many years their junior in the service.  Cranston had liked him well, yet now he felt that he should be glad to consult Kenyon, who had known him still longer, for that which he had heard from Wells as they walked to the doctor’s filled him with vague anxiety.  In common with most society people, Cranston shared the belief that, if not actually engaged to Florence Allison, Forrest certainly would be as soon as old Allison’s objections were removed; but in speaking of the probable cause of Miss Wallen’s illness Wells had used some vehement language.  Plainly the librarian told Cranston of the stormy interview between Allison and himself, in which, in presence of Mr. Waldo and “that man Elmendorf,” Allison had demanded her discharge.  Plainly he told him his own views of Miss Wallen’s character and conduct, and what his wife thought of her, ­that she was a girl to be honored and admired and respected above her kind; “but,” said he, “Mr. Forrest always treated her as though he thought so too, and it may be that she learned to care for him before she had heard about his being a suitor for the hand of Miss Allison.  I sent the girl who was temporarily occupying her place back into the library when we had our talk,” said Wells, “but I reckon she didn’t go beyond the passage-way and heard pretty much the whole thing.  Allison bellowed, like the bull he is, and perhaps I did, too.  Still, it hadn’t occurred to me to question her on the subject, though I was minded to tell her if she had heard anything she was on no account to repeat it or any part of it; but Miss Wallen came back to her desk sooner than I expected, and the moment this young minx hesitatingly told me she had been here and had gone home I suspected something, and presently pumped the whole truth out of her.  The contemptible meanness of some women passes all my descriptive powers.  There are several girls employed in the library, and it seems some of them were jealous of Miss Wallen, or rather of her superior position, and one evening that fellow Elmendorf got in there and threatened her with exposure or something of the kind and insulted her, so that she slapped his face, and two of those library girls heard it.  It happened just before Forrest came in, and he found her all quivering and unstrung.  She was to have finished some work for him that evening, and he was to have dined at Allison’s, but she was so broken up it was some time before she could go on with it.  Neither could she tell him the cause.  Well, it was one of these very girls whom, all unthinkingly, I had put in her place, and what does the little wretch do the morning that Jeannette returned but tell her all about Allison’s row with me, and his demand and reasons for her discharge!  Of course she didn’t tell of my refusal; she says she didn’t happen to hear that, which is a lie, I reckon.  However, that’s the big, big last pound that broke the heart of that poor hard-working, long-suffering girl and sent her home a sick woman.  Francis says she’ll pull through; but what do you suppose will come of it even then?” Wells told him more about poor Jenny, all the story of her long, brave struggle so far as he knew it, which was far less than the facts, and Cranston wished with all his heart that Meg, his own bonny wife, were home to help and counsel.  All the same he meant to see Kenyon, and later, perhaps, Forrest.

But he saw the latter first.

There was a brilliant gathering at the club that night.  Matters had so quieted down in the disturbed districts that many of the regular officers had been permitted to accept invitations to be present.  Allison had not wished to go, but Florence begged.  She was looking “absolutely saffron,” said Aunt Lawrence, and if something wasn’t done to break up that child’s nervous melancholy she wouldn’t be responsible for her.  That she herself was in the faintest degree responsible for the alleged nervous melancholy Aunt Lawrence would not have admitted for a moment.  Allison was in evil humor, as is many a better man when beginning to realize that he has made an ass of himself.  Wells had been after him with a hot stick on discovering that the only authority for his accusations against Miss Wallen was “that devil’s tool Elmendorf and a creature of his own coaching.”  Allison knew, moreover, that Forrest was back, commanding a company of his regiment, for his own associates were pouring into his ears their praises for Forrest’s nerve and calm courage in facing with only twenty men a furious mob of nearly a thousand and rescuing some so-called “scabs” from their hands, poor fellows who had been pulled from the platforms of the P.Q. & R. trains.  “He’s ’way down below the stock-yards, anyhow, and won’t be there to-night,” said Allison to himself:  so, at ten o’clock, with Florence on his arm, he entered the brilliantly lighted parlor.  It was full of well-gowned women and of men in the appropriate garb of the hour and occasion, while not a few of the officers were in uniform.  The general and some of his staff were almost the first to greet them.  Presently Mr. Sloan joined the party, and the first thing he did was to begin telling of Forrest’s prediction as to the attitude of the general government in the event of trouble.  Allison shifted uncomfortably, the general and his aides looked politely interested, and somebody attempted to make some arch remark for Miss Allison’s ears, but she was plainly nervous and ill at ease.  The chief presently presumed Miss Florence had heard how admirably Forrest had behaved in the rescue of certain railway men from the mob the previous day, and Florence owned that she had heard nothing at all, ­it was the first intimation she had that Forrest was there; whereat the three officers looked astonished and embarrassed.  Evidently something was amiss.  There had perhaps been a quarrel.  “Oh,” said Captain Morris, in prompt explanation, “Forrest was away down in the depths of Oklahoma when he heard his regiment was ordered here, and he had to wait for telegraphic authority to come on.  He never even got up into town.  His company was at Grand Crossing, and he joined it there.  He hasn’t been north of the stock-yards since.”

But Allison got away as quickly as possible.  This sort of thing wasn’t helping Flo to forget, and presently Flo herself concluded she’d rather go home, and just at eleven o’clock they came forth to their carriage.  Three officers in full uniform were directly in front, chatting with two others in rough campaign rig, and the taller, slenderer of these latter, a soldierly, brown-eyed fellow with a heavy moustache and a week-old brown stubble on cheeks and chin, stepped quickly forward and whipped off his drab slouch hat.  For the first time in her life Florence Allison saw her friend the lieutenant in service dress, and knew not what to say.  All the response to his cordial “Good-evening, Miss Allison.  How are you, Mr. Allison?” was the hurried hustling past of the pair, the girl with averted head, the father reddening and embarrassed.  Florence was bundled quickly into the carriage, and then Allison turned.  “You’ll have to excuse my daughter to-night, Mr. Forrest.  She isn’t well, and ­er ­er ­I’ll hope to see you to-morrow.”  And, lifting his hat, he followed Florence.  The door was slammed, and away they went, leaving Forrest gazing after them in no pleasant frame of mind.

Major Cranston touched his arm.  “Come over to my tent, Forrest.  I can explain something of this,” he said.

And the next morning, after some sleepless hours, with permission from Colonel Kenyon to be absent from camp until noon, Mr. Forrest took a cab and drove far up town, making only one stop ­at a florist’s ­on the way.  The Allison carriage was coming forth just as he reached the well-known gates.  Mrs. Lawrence and Florence, seated therein, did not catch sight of the occupant of the cab until he raised his hat.  Florence gasped, grabbed Aunt Lawrence by the arm, called to their coachman, and glanced back.

But no, Mr. Forrest had no thought of stopping there at all.  The cab drove straight on past the Allison homestead, and something told her whither it was bound.