MoboReader > Literature > Elizabeth Hobart at Exeter Hall

   Chapter 15 VICTORY.

Elizabeth Hobart at Exeter Hall By Jean K. Baird Characters: 23377

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


The country roads were almost ankle deep with mud. The soft drizzling rain had resolved itself into a steady downpour. The carriage seemed swallowed up in the darkness. It was well that Jefferies knew the way and the horses he was driving. He chirruped and called them by name and they went plunging on through the mire.

No sooner were the girls seated in the conveyance, the storm-robes being drawn about them, than Elizabeth turned to her companion with eager questioning. She was quivering with suppressed excitement.

Nora, on the contrary, was quite calm. She had made her plans, and now saw her way clear to carry them out. Her self-confidence spared her unnecessary alarm. However, appreciating Elizabeth's state of mind, she at once explained the condition of affairs at Bitumen. She was sufficiently tactful to tell her only that which was necessary for her to know. She also warned her to be careful what she said should anyone stop them on the road.

"If we meet the strikers, they will help us along because I am the daughter of Dennis O'Day. But they must not know who you are. On the other hand, if we meet anyone else, you are to impress them with the fact that you are Superintendent Hobart's only child, and that you must reach Bitumen to-night."

Turning to Jefferies, she urged him to keep the horses moving. "I know the carriage will be ruined, and the horses laid up with stiff joints for a week or more; but I'll pay for that. Get us to Bitumen before daylight, and Mr. McCantey may make the bill what he chooses."

Although they were moving as fast as it was possible it seemed but a snail's pace to Elizabeth. She could realize nothing but that her father was in danger. After hearing Nora's reasons for this sudden journey, she spoke no word but sat rigid, her hands clasped tightly in her lap. She was leaning forward, trying to pierce the darkness of the road before them. The rain beat into her face. Her cap and veil were drenched but she heeded them not.

Determined to make the journey a trifle less strenuous for Elizabeth, Nora kept up a continuous flow of talk. It mattered little about what; only that there was no silence, but Elizabeth might as well have been a wooden girl so far as listening to her companion was concerned. They left the flat country roads, and began ascending the mountain. The road was so narrow that heavy logs had been placed for safety along the outer side.

For the first time since the beginning of their journey Jefferies spoke: "We should make better time here. The roads are well enough trained, and we would if I could see a yard ahead of me. I'll let the horses go their own gait-they're sure-footed enough. All we've got to do is to trust in Providence. I'll get you there or kill the horses in trying."

At last, at the opening of a small ravine, the road broadened. The horses sprang forward.

Suddenly Elizabeth, still looking eagerly ahead, exclaimed, "I see a light! It looks like a lantern."

The click of the horses' hoofs upon the stones rang loud and clear. Jefferies drew them up. He leaned over sidewise to peer about. "I was trying to see just where we are. Oh, we're all right. That light hain't no lantern. That's where Ketchomunoski lives. We'll go on. He may come out if he hears us go by. I'll go slow and whip up just as we reach his shanty."

"Is he a miner?" It was Nora who asked the question.

"Yes."

"Draw down your veil, Elizabeth, and don't say a word to him. I'll do the talking."

Scarcely had she spoken when the flickering light moved out into the road, directly in their way. Ketchomunoski, lantern in hand, barred their way.

Jefferies could have urged the horses on, letting the big Polander run the risk of getting beneath their hoofs. But Jefferies was a peaceful man, so long as peace served his purpose. If strategy served, he preferred it to war; if not, then he was ready for the last. At the flourish of the lantern, he drew rein, calling out in friendly tone: "That you, John?" By that name every foreigner was known. "Come here, I want to speak to you."

The Pole came to the side of the carriage. "We've got to get to Bitumen, John, and get there to-night. How's the road?"

"No one go to there to-night," he replied, in his broken English. He was to watch the road. Men were above. He would fire his gun if any one suspicious passed. They could not go on. This was the purport of his speech.

Leaning forward, Nora touched the man's arm. "Don't you know me?" she said. "I'm Dennis O'Day's daughter. Listen! I must reach my father at once. At once, do you understand? I have a message to give him which will affect the strike. But I must give it to him. Fire your gun, and let the miners meet us. I want them to take me to my father."

She kept her hand on the man's arm as she was speaking. She looked him directly in the eye, as though by force of her own will she would compel him to do her bidding. Her words threw a new light upon the case. Yet in times like this, one can trust the words of no one.

"Where have I seen you?" he asked, scrutinizing her closely.

Her face flushed, but she answered bravely. "Do you remember two years ago, you came to my father for help? One of your people was in jail-someone had been hurt, killed, perhaps. An Italian named De Angelo. And my father went to court with you to tell that Gerani, I think that was his name, was not present when the Italian was hurt. I was at home when you came."

The man nodded. There was no question now in his mind. She was Dennis O'Day's daughter, the daughter of the man, who, although himself not a miner, stood shoulder to shoulder with them when they needed a friend. She saw him hesitate.

"If you are afraid to allow us to pass, fire your gun, and let the miners know we're coming. I am not afraid of them. They will befriend me."

He stepped aside. At that instant Jefferies brought down his whip upon the backs of the horses, and they started forward.

"We're rid of him," exclaimed Nora. "I'm not afraid of anyone else. I'll reach Bitumen and see my father before daylight."

"And save mine," said Elizabeth.

"Elizabeth Hobart, your father is perfectly safe. No doubt, he's home warm and comfortable in bed, while we, poor mortals, are out in the night, drenched and forlorn."

They had not gone up the mountain road more than a mile, when the sharp report of a gun was heard. There was a moment's silence, followed by a second report.

"Ketchomunoski is sending word of our coming," said Nora. "I begin to feel that I am of some importance. This is the first time my appearance has been heralded." Then more seriously, "I would like to know what two shots mean. Why wasn't one sufficient? Do you know, Jefferies?"

But Jefferies knew nothing. He would not even express an opinion on the subject. He had no time to give to mere surmises. His work was to keep the horses moving. This he did, encouraging them with chirrups, or touching them lightly with the whip.

Though on the mountain road there was no mud, for the steep ascent was well-drained, it was hard traveling even for strong and swift horses. Jefferies' heart smote him as he urged them on. He knew the horses he was driving would be useless for weeks, but if a man's life hung in the balance, the horses must travel their best, though they drop dead at the end of the journey.

The road from the foot to the top of the mountain was between three and four miles long. It had been cut along the side of the hill, and was so narrow that teams could not pass except at certain places, widened sufficiently to give 'turning-out' room.

Jefferies had stopped at one of these places to rest his horses. Upon the instant they reared and would have plunged the carriage backward over the side, had not their driver retained his presence of mind to speak to them, leaning over to pat their sweating flanks. After quieting them, he called out: "Now you fellows attempt to seize the bridle again, and I'll let you see how close I can shoot to the mark. The horses won't stand strangers fooling about them. If you've anything to say, come alongside and say it. But bear in mind, we'll not put up with any funny business. Are you coming? If you don't, I'll drive on."

"Have you a revolver?" whispered Elizabeth.

"You don't think I would take a drive like this without one, do you?" was the reply.

At his invitation, dark forms emerged from the bushes and from behind the trees. As they advanced, it seemed as though the road was filled with men. They came close, swinging their lanterns high to see the occupants of the carriage. They were a sorry-looking set. The winter had been hard upon them, though the fault was their own. They had had little to eat; they had grown thin and haggard; their eyes were sunken; their features pinched. They jabbered in their own tongue, turning from one to another. Elizabeth noticed with alarm that some bore firearms, while others carried clubs and even stones. She was so frightened that she could not have spoken a word had her life depended upon it. Fortunately Nora was different. Elizabeth crouched back in her seat. Nora leaned forward, and with a manner indicative of her ability to protect herself, and her confidence in them, she addressed them.

"I'm glad we met you," she exclaimed. "You are miners? Then you can tell me how to reach Mr. Dennis O'Day. I must reach him to-night-within a few hours. I have a message for him."

They talked among themselves.

"What's the message?" one asked in broken English.

"It's not to be told to every one," she replied. "If you will tell me who your leader is, I'll whisper it to him."

"Ivan," they cried, pushing a Slav forward, and retreating into the shadows.

Bending over, Nora mentioned "Militia." The word was magic. Then she grew impatient. "Why do you try to keep us here?" she exclaimed. "Didn't Ketchomunoski fire two guns? Wasn't that to let you know we would come this road and that you should let us pass? We are wasting time. I must reach my father with this message. Good night! Jefferies, drive on."

The men made no effort to detain them as the carriage started. It was past one o'clock when they reached the top of the mountain and came to the outskirts of the town. "The Miners' Rest" was less than a mile distant. But the horses were tired out. Jefferies could not get them out of a slow walk.

"We'll go at once to 'The Miners' Rest,'" said Miss O'Day. "I'll see my father there. If the miners are planning any trouble, they'll be there, too."

Driving into a little wood, Jefferies drew rein. Climbing down from his place, he took out a strap and tied the horses to a tree.

"They wouldn't let us drive through town," he explained. "The streets will be filled with the strikers. We'll walk, keeping in the shadows. It's a blessed good thing for us that it rains."

He helped the girls to alight, then strode on ahead, skirting the edge of the wood.

"If you see me stop, then you stop," he said. "Don't come on until I say so. If you hear me talk to anyone, wait and don't speak."

Clasping hands, the girls slowly followed. The side of the road was filled with clods. The road itself was mud to the shoe tops. Many times they stumbled and almost fell. Only at intervals could they see the form of their guide.

When they reached the main street, Jefferies paused. It was filled with miners, each with his lantern. These lights helped Jefferies to determine his next move. He saw in which direction the crowd tended. The murmur of many voices could be heard; but there was no uproar.

"The women will either be out in the stre

et with the men, or home asleep," he said at last. "Either way, we're safe. We'll cross here and get behind this row of houses and keep on until we're close to 'The Miners' Rest.' They'll see us then. But no matter."

Slowly they pushed their way through backyards. Fortunately there were no division fences. The winter's crop of ashes and tin cans was beneath their feet. They stumbled, ran into barrels and boxes, waded through mud holes, yet Nora's spirits never flagged.

As they came to the last of the houses, Jefferies again paused until Nora and Elizabeth came up to him.

"There at the corner is 'The Miners' Rest,'" he said, pointing to a low, wooden building.

"That ramshackle affair!" cried Nora. "Somehow I had the impression it was a big hotel."

"They don't need that kind among miners," was the reply. "This is just a drinking-place, nothing more. Every miner in Bitumen is there. Look at those women. They're worse than the men."

A group of women with hair hanging, dressed in dirty wrappers, and shawls about their shoulders, stood together under the flickering corner lamp. To judge from their gesticulations, they were much excited. They were all talking at once and shaking their clenched fists in defiance.

"Are you afraid to go through that mob?" asked Jefferies.

"No; we dare not be afraid of anything now. Push ahead, Jefferies, straight to the door, and on through until I find my father. Don't stop. We'll keep at your heels. Draw down your veil, Elizabeth, and put up your collar. Don't speak or tell who you are. Remember the miners know you."

Following her suggestion, Jefferies crossed the street, pushing his way through the throng, as though he was expected. The girls kept close to him, so close that Nora could have reached forth and touched his arm. The mob of men scarcely noticed him. Indeed, few knew that the two girls had slipped through the crowd. They were talking in half a dozen different tongues and dialects. The effect was like a pack of dogs snarling. No attempt was made to stop the three. They reached the door and Jefferies entered, followed by the girls. Nora's cheeks were crimson with embarrassment. She was trembling. Her nerves had been so wrought upon that she was ready to cry. But that would spoil all. She must control herself.

Behind the bar was a room devoted to conferences of the leaders of the strike. Toward the door leading to this Jefferies made his way. The men in the bar-room stopped talking to look at the girls. It was unusual to see women in this place.

Nora, feeling herself conspicuous, with a desire both to justify her presence there, and to protect herself and companion, exclaimed, "My father is in that room, Mr. Jefferies. Ask for Mr. O'Day. Tell him his daughter has come with an important message."

The men stepped aside, leaving her way clear. Her words had carried into the inner room. The door was flung open from within, and Dennis O'Day stood there.

"You!" he exclaimed. "Good heavens, Nora, how did you get here at such a time? Come here," and he drew the girls into the inner room. He dismissed at once the half dozen men gathered there. "In half an hour," he said significantly as they passed out. "Not a minute before that. I must see what has brought my daughter here."

Elizabeth, drenched and with draggled skirts, sank into a chair. She had not raised her veil. Dennis O'Day did not recognize her as the little girl whom he had seen many times playing about the superintendent's yard. She was so nearly exhausted that she could not stand. She let her head fall over upon the table.

Dennis O'Day glanced from the drooping figure back to his daughter as though asking an explanation. "My dearest friend at Exeter, father," was the reply to the unspoken question. "No one else in the world, except yourself, has been so kind to me." She came closer to Dennis O'Day, touching his sleeve with her finger-tips. His little world had always trembled in fear of him. His daughter alone stood fearless in his presence. She was the only being in the world he loved. For an instant he looked into her face. Her perfect features and rich coloring delighted him. He was glad that she was beautiful.

"Well, Nora, what is it that has brought you to Bitumen at this of all times?" he asked, putting his arm about her and drawing her close to him.

"The strike."

"The strike! It is just the reason that you shouldn't be here. I've a notion to cart-whip Jefferies for bringing you. You might have been shot by the miners."

"So I might. But Jefferies wasn't asked anything about it, daddy. I told him he had to bring me here before morning, and if he killed the horses by hard driving, you'd pay for them."

Dennis O'Day laughed. He liked her audacity. "But suppose I wouldn't?"

"But you would. You have never failed me yet, daddy, and you never will. It doesn't matter much what happens, you'll stand by me. That is why I felt so sure about coming. Dr. Morgan did not wish me to. She said it would be useless. But she yielded when I insisted that you would do what was right. And you must do it now, daddy." She drew down his head to kiss him. "You must keep the miners from attacking the mines to-night."

"I? I'm no miner! What have I to do with the strike? If the men attack that miserable little sneak of a superintendent, what have I to say?"

"Everything. You are not a miner, but they do as you say. They do not know it is so, but you do. I want you to go out there; tell them-tell them anything, only so they do not make the attack to-night."

"Nonsense. Even if they should do as I say, what's the odds? I've no love for that man Hobart. He's been fighting me for years. He'll get no more than he deserves. No, no, Nora. Girls mustn't meddle."

"You won't go?"

"No; ask me anything else than that."

"Then I'll tell you what I'll do. The National Guards are on their way now. When they come, I'll give them all the information they wish. I know who urged this on. I know who killed the Italian. Oh, I know lots of things that I've kept to myself because my telling would harm you. But-" She was excited. Whether she pretended this high state of emotion, or whether it was real, was difficult to tell. She had flung open her coat. The vivid coloring of her gown, her crimson cheeks and flashing eyes made a brilliant bit of coloring in the dark room lighted by a solitary, smoking oil-lamp. Her tones were clear and decisive.

"Why, Nora, listen to reason. How-"

"No, I will not listen to anything but your promise to go and stop that mob. Listen to them yelling like a pack of hyenas. I'm not through yet. You must choose and choose quickly. Stand by the miners or me. If you forsake me, I'll never see you again. I'll never let you do anything for me. I'll be as though you never had a daughter. Then what will be the good of all your money and your saving? There'll be no one to waste it on; no one to care about you. You know that mother left me enough to live on. Besides, I can work. Will you go?" She fairly blazed her words at him. She stamped her foot until the chairs and tables shook.

Dennis O'Day had been her slave since babyhood. She had always had her way, and had done as she had threatened. He knew, too, that she was the only one who had a bit of tenderness for him. The men outside cared little for him. Fear of the consequences was the sole reason that many a miner had not quietly assisted him into the next world.

Nora came up to him again. She rested her head against his shoulder. "Listen, daddy, to what I tell you," she said gently, her anger disappearing. In a few words she told him of her isolation at school, and how Elizabeth Hobart had befriended her. Her eyes filled as she talked. Her hearer, too, was moved. When she had finished, she kissed him again. "I'll be to you the best daughter a man ever had. Go now," pushing him toward the door. "And tell them that I have brought you news which changes the program. I'll go with you, daddy. If they harm you, I'll bear the blows too."

He told her to stay, but she followed close after him. He had no fear of bodily harm. There would be growls and snarls, and perhaps threats, but the trouble would end there. Gerani, Colowski, Raffelo, Sickerenza, were the bell-sheep. He could control them.

Pushing his way to the front of the saloon, he stood in the doorway and shouted with the full force of his lungs. He spoke Slavic, and they listened. There were mutterings and growls as might have been expected. He gave no reason for the delay of the attack, but his words suggested much.

Gerani, in the background, in low tones was urging a group of Slavs to answer O'Day, and declare that they would go on. O'Day's eyes were on the big Slav. He understood the conditions. Nothing would please Gerani better than to have the miners rush upon the speaker and kill him.

O'Day understood. He called out, "Take my word for it, Gerani. We won't get into this to-night. They've filled the cars on the incline with dynamite. The moment we set foot there, down comes the car. Do you want your men blown to pieces? Besides, my daughter," he drew her against him, "brings news of the militia close at hand. Go back to your homes, men-back to bed. Let the National Guards find you all asleep, and their work for nothing. If they see all quiet, they'll leave. Then will come our time. While I think of it, Gerani, Father O'Brady still keeps safe in the church those papers you know of.

"Sickerenza, you haven't forgotten, have you, about the breakers being burnt up at Wilkes-Barre? Seeing you, put me in mind of them.

"Colowski, I know a man who's looking for Sobieski."

The three men thus addressed swore beneath their breath. Thus O'Day forever kept the noose about their necks. They slunk from sight.

"Speak to the men, you curs," commanded O'Day in English which but a few understood. "Tell them to go back home, Gerani."

Thus admonished, the man cried out in Slavic, ordering the men home, to meet the following night. The other two leading spirits followed his example. There was a movement toward dispersion. The flickering lights in their caps moved slowly away in groups of threes and fours.

The distance grew greater until to Nora O'Day they looked like fire-flies. The light from the open door was upon her. The vivid orange of her evening dress gleamed in the shadows. She had stood there fearless, erect, looking straight into the eyes of the mob, until one by one they had disappeared in the darkness.

Then she turned and leaned heavily against her father.

"I'm tired, daddy dear, but I'm happy. I have my father, and Elizabeth will have hers. Come, take me to her. We must tell her the good news."

THE END.

* * *

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VERSES BY ELIZABETH MAY

ILLUSTRATIONS BY IDA MAY ROCKWELL

One Hundred Flowers Shown in Their

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WHAT OTHERS THINK

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The Saalfield Publishing Co., Akron, Ohio

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