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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Inside Of The Cup - Volume 4 - Chapter 13. Winterbourne
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The Inside Of The Cup - Volume 4 - Chapter 13. Winterbourne Post by :solidarity Category :Long Stories Author :Winston Churchill Date :May 2012 Read :841

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The Inside Of The Cup - Volume 4 - Chapter 13. Winterbourne



Hodder fell asleep from sheer exhaustion, awaking during the night at occasional intervals to recall chimerical dreams in which the events of the day before were reflected, but caricatured and distorted. Alison Parr was talking to the woman in the flat, and both were changed, and yet he identified both: and on another occasion he saw a familiar figure surrounded by romping, ragged children--a figure which turned out to be Eldon Parr's!

Finally he was aroused by what seemed a summons from the unknown--the prolonged morning whistle of the shoe factory. For a while he lay as one benumbed, and the gradual realization that ensued might be likened to the straining of stiffened wounds. Little by little he reconstructed, until the process became unbearable, and then rose from his bed with one object in mind,--to go to Horace Bentley. At first--he seized upon the excuse that Mr. Bentley would wish to hear the verdict of Dr. Jarvis, but immediately abandoned it as dishonest, acknowledging the true reason, that in all the--world the presence of this one man alone might assuage in some degree the terror in his soul. For the first time in his life, since childhood, he knew a sense of utter dependence upon another human being. He felt no shame, would make no explanation for his early visit.

He turned up Tower, deliberately avoiding Dalton Street in its lower part, reached Mr. Bentley's door. The wrinkled, hospitable old darky actually seemed to radiate something of the personality with which he had so long been associated, and Hodder was conscious of a surge of relief, a return of confidence at sight of him. Yes, Mr. Bentley was at home, in the dining room. The rector said he would wait, and not disturb him.

"He done tole me to bring you out, sah, if you come," said Sam.

"He expects me?" exclaimed Hodder, with a shock of surprise.

"That's what he done tole me, sah, to ax you kindly for to step out when you come."

The sun was beginning to penetrate into the little back yard, where the flowers were still glistening with the drops of their morning bath; and Mr. Bentley sat by the window reading his newspaper, his spectacles on his nose, and a great grey cat rubbing herself against his legs. He rose with alacrity.

"Good morning, sir," he said, and his welcome implied that early morning visits were the most common and natural of occurrences. "Sam, a plate for Mr. Hodder. I was just hoping you would come and tell me what Dr. Jarvis had said about the case."

But Hodder was not deceived. He believed that Mr. Bentley understood perfectly why he had come, and the knowledge of the old gentleman's comprehension curiously added to his sense of refuge. He found himself seated once more at the mahogany table, permitting Sam to fill his cup with coffee.

"Jarvis has given a favourable report, and he is coming this morning himself, in an automobile, to take the boy out to the hospital."

"That is like Jarvis," was Mr. Bentley's comment. "We will go there, together, after breakfast, if convenient for you," he added.

"I hoped you would," replied the rector. "And I was going to ask you a favour. I have a check, given me by a young lady to use at my discretion, and it occurred to me that Garvin might be willing to accept some proposal from you." He thought of Nan Ferguson, and of the hope he lead expressed of finding some one in Dalton Street.

"I have been considering the matter," Mr. Bentley said. "I have a friend who lives on the trolley line a little beyond the hospital, a widow. It is like the country there, you know, and I think Mrs. Bledsoe could be induced to take the Garvins. And then something can be arranged for him. I will find an opportunity to speak to him this morning."

Hodder sipped his coffee, and looked out at the morning-glories opening to the sun.

"Mrs. Garvin was alone last night. He had gone out shortly after we left, and had not waited for the doctor. She was greatly worried."

Hodder found himself discussing these matters on which, an hour before, he had feared to permit his mind to dwell. And presently, not without feeling, but in a manner eliminating all account of his personal emotions, he was relating that climactic episode of the woman at the piano. The old gentleman listened intently, and in silence.

"Yes," he said, when the rector had finished, "that is my observation. Most of them are driven to the life, and held in it, of course, by a remorseless civilization. Individuals may be culpable, Mr. Hodder--are culpable. But we cannot put the whole responsibility on individuals."

"No," Hodder assented, "I can see that now." He paused a moment, and as his mind dwelt upon the scene and he saw again the woman standing before him in bravado, the whole terrible meaning of her life and end flashed through him as one poignant sensation. Her dauntless determination to accept the consequence of her acts, her willingness to look her future in the face, cried out to him in challenge.

"She refused unconditionally," he said.

Mr. Bentley seemed to read his thought, divine his appeal.

"We must wait," he answered.

"Do you think?--" Hodder began, and stopped abruptly.

"I remember another case, somewhat similar," said Mr. Bentley. "This woman, too, had the spirit you describe--we could do nothing with her. We kept an eye on her--or rather Sally Grover did--she deserves credit--and finally an occasion presented itself."

"And the woman you speak of was--rehabilitated?" Hodder asked. He avoided the word "saved."

"Yes, sir. It was one of the fortunate cases. There are others which are not so fortunate."

Hodder nodded.

"We are beginning to recognize that we are dealing, in, many instances, with a disease," Mr. Bentley went on. "I am far from saying that it cannot be cured, but sometimes we are forced to admit that the cure is not within our power, Mr. Hodder."

Two thoughts struck the rector simultaneously, the revelation of what might be called a modern enlightenment in one of Mr. Bentley's age, an indication of uninterrupted growth, of the sense of continued youth which had impressed him from the beginning; and, secondly, an intimation from the use of the plural pronoun we, of an association of workers (informal, undoubtedly) behind Mr. Bentley. While he was engaged in these speculations the door opened.

"Heah's Miss Sally, Marse Ho'ace," said Sam.

"Good morning, Sally," said Mr. Bentley, rising from the table with his customary courtesy, "I'm glad you came in. Let me introduce Mr. Hodder, of St. John's."

Miss Grover had capability written all over her. She was a young woman of thirty, slim to spareness, simply dressed in a shirtwaist and a dark blue skirt; alert, so distinctly American in type as to give a suggestion of the Indian. Her quick, deep-set eyes searched Hodder's face as she jerked his hand; but her greeting was cordial, and, matter-of-fact. She stimulated curiosity.

"Well, Sally, what's the news?" Mr. Bentley asked.

"Gratz, the cabinet-maker, was on the rampage again, Mr. Bentley. His wife was here yesterday when I got home from work, and I went over with her. He was in a beastly state, and all the niggers and children in the neighbourhood, including his own, around the shop. Fusel oil, labelled whiskey," she explained, succinctly.

"What did you do?"

"Took the bottle away from him," said Miss Grower. The simplicity of this method, Holder thought, was undeniable. "Stayed there until he came to. Then I reckon I scared him some."

"How?" Mr. Bentley smiled.

"I told him he'd have to see you. He'd rather serve three months than do that--said so. I reckon he would, too," she declared grimly. "He's better than he was last year, I think." She thrust her hand in the pocket of her skirt and produced some bills and silver, which she counted. "Here's three thirty-five from Sue Brady. I told her she hadn't any business bothering you, but she swears she'd spend it."

"That was wrong, Sally."

Miss Grower tossed her head.

"Oh, she knew I'd take it, well enough."

"I imagine she did," Mr. Bentley replied, and his eyes twinkled. He rose and led the way into the library, where he opened his desk, produced a ledger, and wrote down the amount in a fine hand.

"Susan Brady, three dollars and thirty-five cents. I'll put it in the savings bank to-day. That makes twenty-two dollars and forty cents for Sue. She's growing rich."

"Some man'll get it," said Sally.

"Sally," said Mr. Bentley, turning in his chair, "Mr. Holder's been telling me about a rather unusual woman in that apartment house just above Fourteenth Street, on the south side of Dalton."

"I think I know her--by sight," Sally corrected herself. She appealed. to Holder. "Red hair, and lots of it--I suppose a man would call it auburn. She must have been something of a beauty, once."

The rector assented, in some astonishment.

"Couldn't do anything with her, could you? I reckoned not. I've noticed her up and down Dalton Street at night."

Holder was no longer deceived by her matter-of-fact tone.

"I'll tell you what, Mr. Holder," she went on, energetically, "there's not a particle of use running after those people, and the sooner you find it out the less worry and trouble you give yourself."

"Mr. Holder didn't run after her, Sally," said Mr. Bentley, in gentle reproof.

Holder smiled.

"Well," said Miss Grower, "I've had my eye on her. She has a history--most of 'em have. But this one's out of the common. When they're brazen like that, and have had good looks, you can nearly always tell. You've got to wait for something to happen, and trust to luck to be on the spot, or near it. It's a toss-up, of course. One thing is sure, you can't make friends with that kind if they get a notion you're up to anything."

"Sally, you must remember--" Mr. Bentley began.

Her tone became modified. Mr. Bentley was apparently the only human of whom she stood in awe.

"All I meant was," she said, addressing the rector, "that you've got to run across 'em in some natural way."

"I understood perfectly, and I agree with you," Holder replied. "I have come, quite recently, to the same conclusion myself."

She gave him a penetrating glance, and he had to admit, inwardly, that a certain satisfaction followed Miss Grower's approval.

"Mercy, I have to be going," she exclaimed, glancing at the black marble clock on the mantel. "We've got a lot of invoices to put through to-day. See you again, Mr. Holder." She jerked his hand once more. "Good morning, Mr. Bentley."

"Good morning, Sally."

Mr. Bentley rose, and took his hat and gold-headed stick from the rack in the hall.

"You mustn't mind Sally," he said, when they had reached the sidewalk. "Sometimes her brusque manner is not understood. But she is a very extraordinary woman."

"I can see that," the rector assented quickly, and with a heartiness that dispelled all doubt of his liking for Miss Grower. Once more many questions rose to his lips, which he suppressed, since Mr. Bentley volunteered no information. Hodder became, in fact, so lost in speculation concerning Mr. Bentley's establishment as to forget the errand on which--they were bound. And Sally Grower's words, apropos of the woman in the flat, seemed but an energetic driving home of the severe lessons of his recent experiences. And how blind he had been, he reflected, not to have seen the thing for himself! Not to have realized the essential artificiality of his former method of approach! And then it struck him that Sally Grower herself must have had a history.

Mr. Bentley, too, was preoccupied.

Presently, in the midst of these thoughts, Hodder's eyes were arrested by a crowd barring the sidewalk on the block ahead; no unusual sight in that neighbourhood, and yet one which aroused in him sensations of weakness and nausea. Thus were the hidden vice and suffering of these sinister places occasionally brought to light, exposed to the curious and morbid stares of those whose own turn might come on the morrow. It was only by degrees he comprehended that the people were gathered in front of the house to which they were bound. An ambulance was seen to drive away: it turned into the aide street in front of them.

"A city ambulance!" the rector exclaimed.

Mr. Bentley did not reply.

The murmuring group which overflowed the uneven brick pavement to the asphalt was characteristic: women in calico, drudges, women in wrappers, with sleepy, awestricken faces; idlers, men and boys who had run out of the saloons, whose comments were more audible and caustic, and a fringe of children ceaselessly moving on the outskirts. The crowd parted at their approach, and they reached the gate, where a burly policeman, his helmet in his hand, was standing in the morning sunlight mopping his face with a red handkerchief. He greeted Mr. Bentley respectfully, by name, and made way for them to pass in.

"What is the trouble, Ryan?" Mr. Bentley asked.

"Suicide, sir," the policeman replied. "Jumped off the bridge this morning. A tug picked him up, but he never came to--the strength wasn't in him. Sure it's all wore out he was. There was a letter on him, with the home number, so they knew where to fetch him. It's a sad case, sir, with the woman in there, and the child gone to the hospital not an hour ago."

"You mean Garvin?" Mr. Bentley demanded.

"It's him I mean, sir."

"We'd like to go in," said Mr. Bentley. "We came to see them."

"You're welcome, air, and the minister too. It's only them I'm holdin' back," and the policeman shook his stick at the people.

Mr. Bentley walked up the steps, and took off his hat as he went through the battered doorway. Hodder followed, with a sense of curious faces staring at them from the thresholds as they passed; they reached the upper passage, and the room, and paused: the shutters were closed, the little couch where the child had been was empty. On the bed lay a form--covered with a sheet, and beside it a woman kneeling, shaken by sobs, ceaselessly calling a name....

A stout figure, hitherto unperceived, rose from a corner and came silently toward them--Mrs. Breitmann. She beckoned to them, and they followed her into a room on the same floor, where she told them what she knew, heedless of the tears coursing ceaselessly down her cheeks.

It seemed that Mrs. Garvin had had a premonition which she had not wholly confided to the rector. She had believed her husband never would come back; and early in the morning, in spite of all that Mrs. Breitmann could do, had insisted at intervals upon running downstairs and scanning the street. At half past seven Dr. Jarvis had come and himself carried down the child and put him in the back of his automobile. The doctor had had a nurse with him, and had begged the mother to accompany them to the hospital, saying that he would send her back. But she would not be persuaded to leave the house. The doctor could not wait, and had finally gone off with little. Dicky, leaving a powder with Mrs. Breitmann for the mother. Then she had become uncontrollable.

"Ach, it was terrible!" said the kind woman. "She was crazy, yes--she was not in her mind. I make a little coffee, but she will not touch it. All those things about her home she would talk of, and how good he was, and how she loved him more again than the child.

"Und then the wheels in the street, and she makes a cry and runs to see--I cannot hold her...."

"It would be well not to disturb her for a while," said Mr. Bentley, seating himself on one of the dilapidated chairs which formed apart of the German woman's meagre furniture. "I will remain here if you, Mr. Hodder, will make the necessary arrangements for the funeral. Have you any objections, sir?"

"Not at all," replied the rector, and left the house, the occupants of which had already returned to the daily round of their lives: the rattle of dishes and the noise of voices were heard in the 'ci devant' parlour, and on the steps he met the little waif with the pitcher of beer; in the street the boys who had gathered around the ambulance were playing baseball. Hodder glanced up, involuntarily, at the window of the woman he had visited the night before, but it was empty. He hurried along the littered sidewalks to the drug store, where he telephoned an undertaker; and then, as an afterthought, telephoned the hospital. The boy had arrived, and was seemingly no worse for the journey.

All this Hodder performed mechanically. Not until he was returning--not, indeed, until he entered the house did the whiff of its degrading, heated odours bring home to him the tragedy which it held, and he grasped the banister on the stairs. The thought that shook him now was of the cumulative misery of the city, of the world, of which this history on which he had stumbled was but one insignificant incident. But he went on into Mrs. Breitmann's room, and saw Mr. Bentley still seated where he had left him. The old gentleman looked up at him.

"Mrs. Breitmann and I are agreed, Mr. Hodder, that Mrs. Garvin ought not to remain in there. What do you think?"

"By all means, no," said the rector.

The German woman burst into a soliloquy of sympathy that became incoherent.

"She will not leave him,--nein--she will not come...."

They went, the three of them, to the doorway of the death chamber and stood gazing at the huddled figure of the woman by the bedside. She had ceased to cry out: she was as one grown numb under torture; occasionally a convulsive shudder shook her. But when Mrs. Breitmann touched her, spoke to her, her grief awoke again in all its violence, and it was more by force than persuasion that she was finally removed. Mrs. Breitmann held one arm, Mr. Bentley another, and between them they fairly carried her out, for she was frail indeed.

As for Hodder, something held him back--some dread that he could not at once define. And while he groped for it, he stood staring at the man on the bed, for the hand of love had drawn back the sheet from the face. The battle was over of this poor weakling against the world; the torments of haunting fear and hate, of drink and despair had triumphed. The sight of the little group of toys brought up the image of the home in Alder Street as the wife had pictured it. Was it possible that this man, who had gone alone to the bridge in the night, had once been happy, content with life, grateful for it, possessed of a simple trust in his fellow-men--in Eldon Parr? Once more, unsummoned, came the memory of that evening of rain and thunder in the boy's room at the top of the great horse in Park Street. He had pitied Eldon Parr then. Did he now?

He crossed the room, on tiptoe, as though he feared to wake once more this poor wretch to his misery and hate, Gently he covered again the face with the sheet.

Suddenly he knew the reason of his dread,--he had to face the woman! He was a minister of Christ, it was his duty to speak to her, as he had spoken to others in the hour of sorrow and death, of the justice and goodness of the God to whom she had prayed in the church. What should he say, now? In an agony of spirit, he sat down on the little couch beside the window and buried his face in his hands. The sight of poor Garvin's white and wasted features, the terrible contrast between this miserable tenement and the palace with its unseen pictures and porcelains and tapestries, brought home to him with indescribable poignancy his own predicament. He was going to ask this woman to be comforted by faith and trust in the God of the man who had driven her husband to death! He beheld Eldon Parr in his pew complacently worshipping that God, who had rewarded him with riches and success--beheld himself as another man in his white surplice acquiescing in that God, preaching vainly....

At last he got to his feet, went out of the room, reached the doorway of that other room and looked in. Mr. Bentley sat there; and the woman, whose tears had ceased to flow, was looking up into his face.


"The office ensuing," says the Book of Common Prayer, meaning the Burial of the Dead, "is not to be used for any Unbaptized adult, any who die excommunicate, or who have laid violent hands on themselves."

Hodder had bought, with a part of Nan Ferguson's money, a tiny plot in a remote corner of Winterbourne Cemetery. And thither, the next morning, the body of Richard Garvin was taken.

A few mourners had stolen into the house and up the threadbare stairs into the miserable little back room, somehow dignified as it had never been before, and laid their gifts upon the coffin. An odd and pitiful assortment they were--mourners and gifts: men and women whose only bond with the man in life had been the bond of misery; who had seen him as he had fared forth morning after morning in the hopeless search for work, and slunk home night after night bitter and dejected; many of whom had listened, jeeringly perhaps, to his grievance against the world, though it were in some sort their own. Death, for them, had ennobled him. The little girl whom Hodder had met with the pitcher of beer came tiptoeing with a wilted bunch of pansies, picked heaven knows where; stolen, maybe, from one of the gardens of the West End. Carnations, lilies of the valley, geraniums even--such were the offerings scattered loosely on the lid until a woman came with a mass of white roses that filled the room with their fragrance,--a woman with burnished red hair. Hodder started as he recognized her; her gaze was a strange mixture of effrontery and--something else; sorrow did not quite express it. The very lavishness of her gift brought to him irresistibly the reminder of another offering. .... She was speaking.

"I don't blame him for what he done--I'd have done it, too, if I'd been him. But say, I felt kind of bad when I heard it, knowing about the kid, and all. I had to bring something--"

Instinctively Hodder surmised that she was in doubt as to the acceptance of her flowers. He took them from her hand, and laid them at the foot of the coffin.

"Thank you," he said, simply.

She stared at him a moment with the perplexity she had shown at times on the night he visited her, and went out...

Funerals, if they might be dignified by this name, were not infrequent occurrences in Dalton Street, and why this one should have been looked upon as of sufficient importance to collect a group of onlookers at the gate it is difficult to say. Perhaps it was because of the seeming interest in it of the higher powers--for suicide and consequent widows and orphans were not unknown there. This widow and this orphan were to be miraculously rescued, were to know Dalton Street no more. The rector of a fashionable church, of all beings, was the agent in the miracle. Thus the occasion was tinged with awe. As for Mr. Bentley, his was a familiar figure, and had been remarked in Dalton Street funerals before.

They started, the three mourners, on the long drive to the cemetery, through unfrequented streets lined with mediocre dwellings, interspersed with groceries and saloons--short cuts known only to hearse drivers: they traversed, for some distance, that very Wilderness road where Mr. Bentley's old-fashioned mansion once had stood on its long green slope, framed by ancient trees; the Wilderness road, now paved with hot blocks of granite over which the carriage rattled; spread with car tracks, bordered by heterogeneous buildings of all characters and descriptions, bakeries and breweries, slaughter houses and markets, tumble-down shanties, weedy corner lots and "refreshment-houses" that announced "Lager Beer, Wines and Liquors." At last they came to a region which was neither country nor city, where the road-houses were still in evidence, where the glass roofs of greenhouses caught the burning rays of the sun, where yards filled with marble blocks and half-finished tombstones appeared, and then they turned into the gates of Winterbourne.

Like the city itself, there was a fashionable district in Winterbourne: unlike the city, this district remained stationary. There was no soot here, and if there had been, the dead would not have minded it. They passed the Prestons and the Parrs; the lots grew smaller, the tombstones less pretentious; and finally they came to an open grave on a slope where the trees were still young, and where three men of the cemetery force lifted the coffin from the hearse--Richard Garvin's pallbearers.

John Hodder might not read the service, but there was none to tell him that the Gospel of John was not written for this man. He stood an the grass beside the grave, and a breeze from across the great river near by stirred the maple leaves above his head. "I am the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord; he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live." Nor was there any canon to forbid the words of Paul: "It is sown in corruption; it is raised in in corruption; it is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body."

They laid the flowers on the fresh earth, even the white roses, and then they drove back to the city.

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