The Sword of Damocles. A Story of New York Life - Anna Katharine Green - ebook

The Sword of Damocles. A Story of New York Life ebook

Anna Katharine Green

0,0

Opis

A young pianist falls in love with a rich banker’s sixteen year old daughter after she requests to meet him in mildly mysterious circumstances. Her father will only let her marry someone with lots of money and, would you know it, hates music. The pianist decides to stop tickling the ivories and become a rich banker too. One of detective fiction master Anna Katharine Green’s earlier novels, „The Sword of Damocles” combines a budding romance set against the backdrop of New York City’s hustle and bustle with a beguiling mystery. Here, the author tells the story of early 1900’s lovers facing many of the moral dilemmas from that era. Green’s best-known creation, master detective Ebenezer Gryce, makes a cameo appearance on the scene.

Ebooka przeczytasz w aplikacjach Legimi na:

Androidzie
iOS
czytnikach certyfikowanych
przez Legimi
czytnikach Kindle™
(dla wybranych pakietów)
Windows
10
Windows
Phone

Liczba stron: 698

Odsłuch ebooka (TTS) dostepny w abonamencie „ebooki+audiobooki bez limitu” w aplikacjach Legimi na:

Androidzie
iOS



Contents

BOOK I

TWO MEN

I. A WANDERER

II. A DISCUSSION

III. A MYSTERIOUS SUMMONS

IV. SEARCHINGS

V. THE RUBICON

VI. A HAND CLASP

VII. MRS. SYLVESTER

VIII. SHADOWS OF THE PAST

IX. PAULA

X. THE BARRED DOOR

XI. MISS STUYVESANT

XII. MISS BELINDA MAKES CONDITIONS

XIII. THE END OF MY LADY'S PICTURE

BOOK II

LIFE AND DEATH

XIV. MISS BELINDA HAS A QUESTION TO DECIDE

XV. AN ADVENTURE—OR SOMETHING MORE

XVI. THE SWORD OF DAMOCLES

XVII. GRAVE AND GAY

XVIII. IN THE NIGHT WATCHES

XIX. A DAY AT THE BANK

XX. THE DREGS IN THE CUP

XXI. DEPARTURE

XXII. HOPGOOD

BOOK III

THE JAPHA MYSTERY

XXIII. THE POEM

XXIV. THE JAPHA MANSION

XXV. JACQUELINE

XXVI. A MAN'S JUSTICE AND A WOMAN'S MERCY

XXVII. THE LONE WATCHER

XXVIII. SUNSHINE ON THE HILLS

XXIX. MIST IN THE VALLEY

BOOK IV

FROM A. TO Z.

XXX. MISS BELINDA PRESENTS MR. SYLVESTER WITH A CHRISTMAS GIFT

XXXI. A QUESTION

XXXII. FULL TIDE

XXXIII. TWO LETTERS

XXXIV. PAULA MAKES HER CHOICE

XXXV. THE FALLING OF THE SWORD

XXXVI. MORNING

XXXVII. THE OPINION OF A CERTAIN NOTED DETECTIVE

XXXVIII. BLUE-BEARD'S CHAMBER

XXXIX. FROM A. TO Z

XL. HALF-PAST SEVEN

BOOK V

WOMAN'S LOVE

XLI. THE WORK OF AN HOUR

XLII. PAULA RELATES A STORY SHE HAS HEARD

XLIII. DETERMINATION

XLIV. IN MR. STUYVESANT'S PARLORS

XLV. "THE HOUR OF SIX IS SACRED."

XLVI. THE MAN CUMMINS

BOOK I

TWO MEN

I

A WANDERER

“There’s no such word.”–BULWER.

A wind was blowing through the city. Not a gentle and balmy zephyr, stirring the locks on gentle ladies’ foreheads and rustling the curtains in elegant boudoirs, but a chill and bitter gale that rushed with a swoop through narrow alleys and forsaken courtyards, biting the cheeks of the few solitary wanderers that still lingered abroad in the darkened streets.

In front of a cathedral that reared its lofty steeple in the midst of the squalid houses and worse than squalid saloons of one of the dreariest portions of the East Side, stood the form of a woman. She had paused in her rush down the narrow street to listen to the music, perhaps, or to catch a glimpse of the light that now and then burst from the widely swinging doors as they opened and shut upon some tardy worshipper.

She was tall and fearful looking; her face, when the light struck it, was seared and desperate; gloom and desolation were written on all the lines of her rigid but wasted form, and when she shuddered under the gale, it was with that force and abandon to which passion lends its aid, and in which the soul proclaims its doom.

Suddenly the doors before her swung wide and the preacher’s voice was heard: “Love God and you will love your fellow-men. Love your fellow-men and you best show your love to God.”

She heard, started, and the charm was broken. “Love!” she echoed with a horrible laugh; “there is no love in heaven or on earth!”

And she swept by, and the winds followed and the darkness swallowed her up like a gulf.

II

A DISCUSSION

“Young men think old men fools, and old men know young men to be so.”–Ray’s Proverbs.

“And you are actually in earnest?”

“I am.”

The first speaker, a fine-looking gentleman of some forty years of age, drummed with his fingers on the table before him and eyed the face of the young man who had repeated this assent so emphatically, with a certain close scrutiny indicative of surprise.

“It is an unlooked-for move for you to make,” he remarked at length. “Your success as a pianist has been so decided, I confess I do not understand why you should desire to abandon a profession that in five years’ time has procured you both competence and a very enviable reputation–for the doubtful prospects of Wall Street, too!” he added with a deep and thoughtful frown that gave still further impressiveness to his strongly marked features.

The young man with a sweep of his eye over the luxurious apartment in which they sat, shrugged his shoulders with that fine and nonchalant grace which was one of his chief characteristics.

“With such a pilot as yourself, I ought to be able to steer clear of the shoals,” said he, a frank smile illumining a face that was rather interesting than handsome.

The elder gentleman did not return the smile. Instead of that he remained gazing at the ample coal-fire that burned in the grate before him with a look that to the young musician was simply inexplicable. “You see the ship in haven,” he murmured at last; “but do not consider what storms it has weathered or what perils escaped. It is a voyage I would encourage no son of mine to undertake.”

“Yet you are not the man to shrink from danger or to hesitate in a course you had marked out for yourself, because of the struggle it involved or the difficulties it presented!” the young man exclaimed almost involuntarily as his glance lingered with a certain sort of fascination on the powerful brow and steady if somewhat melancholy eye of his companion.

“No; but danger and difficulty should not be sought, only subdued when encountered. If you were driven into this path, I should say, ‘God pity you!’ and hold you out my hand to steady you along its precipices and above its sudden quicksands. But you are not driven to it. Your profession offers you the means of an ample livelihood while your good heart and fair talents insure you ultimate and honorable success, both in the social and artistic world. For a man of twenty-five such prospects are not common and he must be difficult to please not to be satisfied with them.”

“Yes,” said the other rising with a fitful movement but instantly sitting again; “I have nothing to complain of as the world goes, only–Sir,” he exclaimed with a sudden determination that lent a force to his features they had hitherto lacked, “you speak of being driven into a certain course; what do you mean by that?”

“I mean,” returned the other; “forced by circumstances to enter a line of business to which many others, if not all others are preferable.”

“You speak strongly, speculation evidently has none of your sympathy, notwithstanding the favorable results which have accrued to you from it. But excuse me, by circumstances you mean poverty, I suppose, and the lack of every other opening to wealth and position. You would not consider the desire to make a large fortune in a short space of time a circumstance of a sufficiently determining nature to reconcile you to my entering Wall Street speculation?”

The elder gentleman rose, not as the other had done with a restless impulse quickly subsiding at the first excuse, but forcibly and with a feverish impatience that to appearance was somewhat out of proportion to the occasion. “A large fortune in a short space of time!” he reiterated, pausing where he had risen with an eagle glance at his companion and a ringing tone in his voice that bespoke a deep but hitherto suppressed agitation. “It is the alluring inscription above the pitfall into which many a noble youth has fallen; the battle-cry to a struggle that has led many a strong man the way of ruin; the guide-post to a life whose feverish days and sleepless nights offer but poor compensation for the sudden splendors and as sudden reverses attached to it. I had rather you had accounted for this sudden freak of yours by the strongest aspiration after power than by this cry of the merely mercenary man who in his desire to enjoy wealth, prefers to win it by a stroke of luck rather than conquer it by a life of endeavor.” He stopped. “I am aware that this tirade against the ladder by which I myself have risen so rapidly, must strike you as in ill-taste. But Bertram, I am interested in your welfare and am willing to incur some slight charge of inconsistency in order to insure it,” and here he turned upon his companion with that expression of extreme gentleness which lent such a peculiar charm to his countenance and explained perhaps the almost unlimited power he held over the hearts and minds of those who came within the circle of his influence.

“You are very good, sir,” murmured his young friend, who to explain matters at once was in reality the nephew of this Wall Street magnate, though from the fact of his having taken another name on entering the musical profession, was not generally known as such. “No one, not even my father himself, could have been more considerate and kind; but I do not think you understand me, or rather I should say I do not think I have made myself perfectly intelligible to you. It is not for the sake of wealth itself or the eclat attending its possession that I desire an immediate fortune, but that by means of it I may attain another object dearer than wealth, and more precious than my career.”

The elder gentleman turned quickly, evidently much surprised, and cast a sudden inquiring glance at his nephew, who blushed with a modest ingenuousness pleasing to see in one so well accustomed to the critical gaze of his fellow-men.

“Yes,” said he, as if in answer to that look, “I am in love.”

A deep silence for a moment pervaded the apartment, a sombre silence almost startling to young Mandeville, who had expected some audible expression to follow this announcement if only the good-natured “Pooh! pooh!” of the matured man of the world in the presence of ardent youthful enthusiasm. What could it mean? Looking up he encountered his uncle’s eye fixed upon him with the last expression he could have anticipated seeing there, namely that of actual and unmistakable alarm.

“You are displeased,” Mandeville exclaimed. “You have thought me proof against such a passion, or perhaps you do not believe in the passion itself!” Then with a sudden remembrance of the notable if somewhat indolent loveliness of his uncle’s wife, blushed again at his unusual want of tact, while his eye with an involuntary impulse sought the large panel at their right where, in the full bloom of her first youth, the lady of the house smiled upon all beholders.

“I do not believe in that passion influencing a man’s career,” his uncle replied with no apparent attention to the other’s embarrassment. “A woman needs be possessed of uncommon excellences to justify a man in leaving a path where success is certain, for one where it is not only doubtful but if attained must bring many a regret and heart-ache in its train. Beauty is not sufficient,” he went on with sterner and sterner significance, “though it were of an angelic order. There must be worth.” And here his mind’s eye if not that of his bodily sense, certainly followed the glance of his companion.

“I believe there is worth,” the young man replied; “certainly, it is not her beauty that charms me. I do not even know if she is beautiful,” he continued.

“And you believe you love!” the elder exclaimed after another short pause.

There was so much of bitterness in the tone in which this was uttered, that Mandeville forgot its incredulity. “I think I must,” returned he with a certain masculine naïveté not out of keeping with his general style of face and manner, “else I should not be here. Three weeks ago I was satisfied with my profession, if not enthusiastic over it; to-day I ask nothing but to be allowed to enter upon some business that in three years’ time at least will place me where I can be the fit mate of any woman in this land, that is not worth her millions.”

“The woman for whom you have conceived this violent attachment is, then, above you in social position?”

“Yes, sir, or so considered, which amounts to the same thing, as far as I am concerned.”

“Bertram, I have lived longer than you and have seen much of both social and domestic life, and I tell you no woman is worth such a sacrifice on the part of a man as you propose. No woman of to-day, I should say; our mothers were different. The very fact that this young lady of whom you speak, obliges you to change your whole course of life in order to obtain her, ought to be sufficient to prove to you–“ He stopped suddenly, arrested by the young man’s lifted hand. “She does not oblige you, then?”

“Not on her own account, sir. This lily,” lifting a vase of blossoms at his elbow, “could not be more innocent of the necessities that govern the social circle it adorns, than the pure, single-minded girl to whom I have dedicated what is best and noblest in my manhood. It is her father–”

“Ah, her father!”

“Yes, sir,” the young man pursued, more and more astonished at the other’s tone. “He is a man who has a right to expect both wealth and position in a son-in-law. But I see I shall have to tell you my story, sir. It is an uncommon one and I never meant that it should pass my lips, but if by its relation I can win your sympathy for a pure and noble passion, I shall consider the sacred seal of secrecy broken in a good cause. But,” said he, seeing his uncle cast a short and uneasy glance at the door, “perhaps I am interrupting you. You expect some one!”

“No,” said his uncle, “my wife is at church; I am ready to listen.”

The young man gave a hurried sigh, cast one look at his companion’s immovable face, as if to assure himself that the narrative was necessary, then leaned back and in a steady business-like tone that softened, however, as he proceeded, began to relate as follows:

III

A MYSTERIOUS SUMMONS

"Without unspotted, innocent within, She feared no danger, for she knew no sin.”–Dryden.

It was after a matinée performance at –– Hall some two weeks ago that I stopped to light a cigar in the small corridor leading to the back entrance. I was in a dissatisfied frame of mind. Something in the music I had been playing or the manner in which it had been received had touched unwonted chords in my own nature. I felt alone. I remember asking myself as I stood there, what it all amounted to? Who of all the applauding crowd would watch at my bedside through a long and harassing sickness, or lend their sympathy as they now yielded their praise, if instead of carrying off the honors of the day I had failed to do justice to my reputation. I was just smiling over the only exception I could make to this sweeping assertion, that of the pale-eyed youth you have sometimes observed dogging my steps, when Briggs came up to me.

“There is a woman here, sir, who insists on seeing you; she has been waiting through half the last piece. Shall I tell her you are coming out?”

“A woman!” exclaimed I, somewhat surprised, for my visitors are not apt to be of the gentler sex.

“Yes sir, an old one. She seems very anxious to speak to you. I could not get rid of her no how.”

I hurried forward to the muffled figure which he pointed out cowering against the wall by the door. “Well, my good woman, what do you want?” I asked, bending towards her in the hopes of catching a glimpse of the face she held partly concealed from me.

“Are you Mr. Mandeville?” she inquired in a tone shaken as much by agitation as age.

I bowed.

“The one who plays upon the piano?”

“The very same,” I declared.

“You are not deceiving me,” she went on, looking up with a marked anxiety plainly visible through her veil. “I haven’t seen you play and couldn’t contradict you, but–”

“Here!” said I calling to Briggs with a kindly look at the old woman, “help me on with my coat, will you?”

The “Certainly, Mr. Mandeville,” with which he complied seemed to reassure her, and as soon as the coat was on and he was gone, she grasped me by the arm and drew my ear down to her mouth.

“If you are Mr. Mandeville, I have a message for you. This letter,” slipping one into my hand, “is from a young lady, sir. She bade me give it to you myself. She is young and pretty,” she pursued as she saw me make a movement of distaste, “and a lady. We depend upon your honor, sir.”

I acknowledge that my first impulse was to fling her back the note and leave the building; I was in no mood for trifling, my next to burst into a laugh and politely hand her to the door, my last and best, to open the poor little note and see for myself whether the writer was a lady or not. Proceeding to the door, for it was already twilight in the dim passage way, I tore open the envelope which was dainty enough and took out a sheet of closely written paper. A certain qualm of conscience assailed me as I saw the delicate chirography it disclosed and I was tempted to thrust it back and return it unread to the old woman now trembling in the corner. But curiosity overcame my scruples, and hastily unfolding the sheet I read these lines:

“I do not know if what I do is right; I am sure aunty would not say it was; but aunty never thinks anything is right but going to church and reading the papers to papa. I am just a little girl who has heard you play, and who would think the world was too beautiful, if she could hear you say to her just once, some of the kind things you must speak every day to the persons who know you. I do not expect very much–you must have a great many friends, and you would not care for me–but the least little look, if it were all my own, would make me so happy and so proud I should not envy anybody in the world, unless it was some of those dear friends who see you always.

“I do not come and hear you play often, for aunty thinks music frivolous, but I am always hearing you no matter where I am, and it makes me feel as if I were far away from everybody, in a beautiful land all sunshine and flowers. But nurse says I must not write so much or you will not read it, so I will stop here. But if you would come it would make some one happier than even your beautiful music could do.”

That was all; there was neither name nor date. A child’s epistle, written with a woman’s circumspection. With mingled sensations of doubt and curiosity I turned back to the old woman who stood awaiting me with eager anxiety.

“Was this written by a child or woman?” I asked, meeting her eye with as much sternness as I could assume.

“Don’t ask me–don’t ask me anything. I have promised to bring you if I could, but I cannot answer any questions.”

I stepped back with an incredulous laugh. Here was evidently an adventure. “You will at least tell me where the young miss lives,” said I, “before I undertake to fulfil her request.”

She shook her head. “I have a carriage at the door, sir,” said she. “All you have got to do is to get into it with me and we shall soon be at the house.”

I looked from her face to the letter in my hand, and knew not what to think. The spirit of simplicity and ingenuousness that marked the latter was scarcely in keeping with this air of mystery. The woman observing my hesitation moved towards the door.

“Will you come, sir?” she inquired. “You will not regret it. Just a moment’s talk with a pretty young girl–surely–”

“Hush,” said I, hearing a hasty step behind me. And sure enough just then my intimate friend Selby came along and grasping me by the arm began dragging me towards the door. “You are my property,” said he. “I’ve promised, on my word of honor as a gentleman and a musician, to bring you to the Handel Club this afternoon. I was afraid you had escaped me, but–“ Here he caught sight of the small black figure halting in the door-way, and paused.

“Who’s this?” said he.

I hesitated. For one instant the scale of my whole future destiny hung trembling in the balance, then the demon of curiosity got the better of my judgment, and with the rather unworthy consideration that I might as well enjoy my youth while I could, I released myself from my friend’s detaining hand and replied, “Some one with whom I have very particular business. I cannot go to the Handel Club to-day,” and darting out without further delay, I rejoined the old woman on the sidewalk.

Without a word she drew me towards a carriage I now observed standing by the curbstone a few feet to the left. As I got in I remember pausing a moment to glance at the man on the box, but it was too dark for me to perceive anything but the fact that he was dressed in livery. More and more astonished I leaned back in my seat and endeavored to open conversation with my mysterious companion. But it did not work. Without being actually rude, she parried my questions in such a way that by the end of five minutes I found myself as far from any knowledge of the real situation of the case as when I started. I therefore desisted from any further attempts and turned to look out, when I made a discovery that for the first time awoke some vague feelings of alarm within my breast. This was, that the window was not covered by a curtain as I supposed, but by closed blinds which when I tried to raise them resisted all my efforts to do so.

“It is very close here,” I muttered, in some sort of excuse for this display of uneasiness. “Cannot you give us a little air?” But my companion remained silent, and I felt ashamed to press the matter though I took advantage of the darkness to remove to a safer place a roll of money which I had about me.

Yet I was far from being really anxious, and did not once meditate backing out of an adventure that was at once so piquant and romantic. For by this time I became conscious from the sounds about me that we had left the side street for one of the avenues and were then proceeding rapidly up town. Listening, I heard the roll of omnibuses and the jingle of car-bells, which informed me that we were in Broadway, no other avenue in the city being traversed by both these methods of conveyance. But after awhile the jingle ceased and presently the livelier sounds of constant commotion inseparable from a business thoroughfare, and we entered what I took to be Madison Avenue at Twenty-third Street.

Instantly I made up mind to notice every turn of the carriage, that I might fix to some degree the locality towards which we were tending. But it turned but once and that after a distance of steady travelling that quite overthrew any calculation I was able to make at that time of the probable number of streets we had passed since entering the avenue. Having turned, it went but about half a block to the left when it stopped. “I shall see where I am when I get out,” thought I; but in this I was mistaken.

First we had stopped in the middle of a block of houses built, as far as I could judge, all after one model. Next the fact of the front door being open, though I saw no one in the hall, somewhat disconcerted me, and I hurried across the sidewalk and up the stoop in a species of maze hardly to be expected from one of my naturally careless disposition. The next moment the door closed behind me and I found myself in a well-lighted hall whose quiet richness betokened it as belonging to a private dwelling of no mean pretensions to elegance.

This was the first surprise I received.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.