Her Chance by S. W. Kellogg
Mary Trigillgus tucked the money away in her purse. It was a very small
sum, but it was the utmost that could be spared for the evening outfit:
she and her mother had talked it all over, and such was the decision.
"Now, Mary," said her mother, "don't get a tarletan, or anything
exclusively for evening wear: you so seldom go to parties that you can't
afford such a dress. I would try to get a nice silk. Something that's a
little out of style by being made up fashionably might answer very
Mary gave a sigh and turned her face toward the shops, feeling how
difficult it would be to purchase a fashionable outfit with the scanty
sum in her purse. And she sighed many another time that afternoon as she
went from shop to shop. The goods were too expensive for her slender
purse, or they were poor or old-fashioned. Twilight was settling down on
the gay streets; window after window was flashing into light, revealing
misty laces with gay ribbons and silks streaming like banners; the
lamplighters on every hand were building their walls of flame; and yet
Mary wandered from store to store, each moment more bewildered and
undecided as to the best investment for her money.
She approached a brilliant store, passed it with lingering step, then
paused, turned back, and stood looking down the glittering aisle. The
large mirror at the farther end seemed scarcely broader than the little
cracked bureau-glass in her humble room before which she dressed her
hair in the mornings. The clerks were hurrying to and fro, eager and
business-like, while fine ladies were coming and going, jostling her as
she stood just outside the door. Among the hurrying forms her eye sought
one familiar and loved: not a woman's, I need scarcely say, else why
does she stand in the shadow there, with her veil half drawn over her
face, trembling and frightened? Why else does her cheek glow with shame?
Poor Mary! You feel like a guilty thing in thus seeking a man who has
never declared his love; but let me whisper a word in your ear: True
love is woman's blue ribbon of honor: without it her nature is the rose
tree without the rose—the dead egg among the cliffs: quickened by the
grand passion, it is the eagle soaring to the stars. Your heart is a
grander thing now than ever before. Next to loving God, the best thing
for woman is to love a good man. Take the comfort of this thought, and
leave the humiliation to the heart too hard or too light for loving.
Were I looking into your eyes, my reader, telling my story by word of
mouth, I can fancy we might hold something like this dialogue: "Whom was
Mary Trigillgus, this keeper of a small day-school—whom was she seeking
in this brilliant store? One of the underclerks, perhaps?" "No." "The
bookkeeper?" "No." "The confidential clerk?" "You must guess again."
"The junior partner?" "No, it was Christian Van Pelt, the sole
proprietor of that fine establishment, one of the merchant princes of
the city." "But what right had Mary Trigillgus, this obscure
school-teacher, to love this man of fortune? How did she ever come to
his acquaintance?" And then I should tell you a very long story, and a
tedious one perhaps, of two Hollanders, close friends, who settled in
New Amsterdam; of how fortune had prospered the one until Christian Van
Pelt, his lineal descendant, was among the leaders in the dry-goods
trade of New York City; of how various disasters had befallen the family
of the other, until the daughter of the house, and its only lineal
descendant, Mary Trigillgus's mother, had married an intemperate
spendthrift, who had at his death left her penniless, though the
grandchild, Mary Trigillgus, had inherited the small house in which
mother and daughter found a home.
In the back parlor Mary kept a school for small children: the front
chamber was let to a quiet man, who went down town at eight and returned
at five, and whom they seldom saw except when he rapped at the
sitting-room door on the first day of every month to hand in the three
five-dollar bills which covered his rent. Besides these sources of
revenue there were a few day-boarders, who sometimes paid for their
keeping and sometimes did not.
An intercourse and a show of friendship had all along been maintained
between the families of these Hollanders; and now Mrs. Van Pelt, the
young merchant's mother, was to give a large party. Mary Trigillgus had
been invited, and her mother had insisted on an acceptance of the
"They are quite friendly to you, Mary, and you can't afford to throw
away such friends," the mother said.
So it was for Christian Van Pelt's broad, square figure that Mary's
eager eyes were seeking; but in vain they sought: it was nowhere to be
seen. A choking feeling of disappointment rose in her heart—a
disappointment very unequal to the occasion, since she had meant nothing
more than to get a sight of the loved figure and then to go on her way.
Having satisfied herself that he was not in the store, a yearning desire
possessed her to enter the place where he every day walked—a place to
her invested with romance, haunted by his presence—a place to which her
thoughts often wandered as some stupid child stood by her side in the
little school-room spelling out his reading-lesson. She had not for
months entered the store—not since that evening when, in her poor
parlor, Christian Van Pelt, the rich young merchant, had looked into her
eyes with a look that thrilled her for many a day, and spoken some
nothings in tones that set her heart throbbing. Indeed, since that day
she had avoided passing the store, lest she might seem, even to herself,
to be seeking him. And yet her poor eyes and heart were ever seeking
him in the countless throngs that passed up and down the busy streets.
"I'll get my dress from his store," she said mentally. "I shall wear it
with the greater pleasure that he has handled it. My patronage will be
to him but as the drop to the ocean," she said with a little bitterness,
"but it will be a sweet thought to me that I have contributed even one
drop to the flood of his prosperity."
So she entered Christian Van Pelt's trade-palace, and said, in answer to
the smart clerk's look of inquiry, "I am looking for a silk that will do
for the evening and also for the street—something a little out of
style, perhaps, might answer."
"We have some bargains in such silks—elegant dress-patterns at a third
of what they cost us in Paris. Step this way;" and Mary found herself
going back and back through the spacious building, with her image
advancing to meet her.
In a few seconds the counter was strewn with silks at most enticing
figures, and the clerk showed them off to such advantage, gathering them
so dexterously into elegant folds, shifting them so skillfully in the
brilliant gas-light, persuading the lady, in the mean while, in such a
clever, lawyer-like way: "These cost us in Paris three times the money I
am offering them for, and they are but very little passé; there is an
extraordinary demand for them; they are going like wildfire; country
merchants are ordering them by the score; we sent eighty pieces to
Chicago, to one house, yesterday, and fifty patterns to Omaha this
morning; one hundred and ten we last week shipped to the South; the
whole lot will perhaps be sold by to-morrow," etc.—that poor Mary felt
like a speculator on the verge of a great chance. So she decided on a
light-green brocade, and could not gainsay the smooth-tongued clerk as
he assured her, while tying the bundle, that she had secured a very
handsome and elegant dress at a great bargain.
The next day Mary and her mother spent in studying and discussing the
latest fashion-plates, but the elaborate descriptions of expensive
costumes plunged the girl into another state of bewilderment and slough
of despond. She heartily regretted having accepted the invitation. She
began to dread the party as an execution—to shrink from exhibiting
herself to Christian with the fine ladies and gentlemen who would form
the company at Mrs. Van Pelt's. However, the dress was cut and made, and
in this there was a fair degree of success, for necessity had taught
these women considerable skill in the use of the scissors and needle.
The dress was trimmed with some handsome old lace that had been in the
mother's family for years. Mrs. Trigillgus pronounced the dress very
handsome as she spread it on the bed and stepped off to survey it, and
even the despondent Mary took heart, and as she surveyed her image in
the mirror at the conclusion of her toilet for the important evening,
she felt a degree of complacency toward herself—a feeling of admiration
"You look like a snowdrop, dear," said the mother fondly; and the
comparison was not inapt, for the young girl's Saxon complexion and fair
hair were in pretty contrast with the lace-decked silk of delicate green
falling about her.
As she had no attendant, she went early to Mrs. Van Pelt's, feeling at
liberty to be unceremonious; and she thought, with a beating heart, that
Christian would be her escort home. Mrs. Van Pelt was not in the parlor
when Mary entered, but Christian received her kindly, though with a
slight embarrassment that embarrassed her. She tried to keep the
love-flicker from her eyes and the love-tremor from her voice as she sat
there alone with the man she loved, trying to reply indifferently to his
indifferent remarks, and wondering if he could not hear the beating of
her heart. She was greatly relieved at the entrance of Mrs. Van Pelt.
When this lady had kissed her guest, she stepped off a few paces and
looked the girl over.
"Your dress is very becoming, my dear," she said, "but why did you get a
brocade? Don't you know that brocades are out of style? Nobody wears
brocades; and they are not trimming with lace at all. I wish you had
advised with me."
The blood rushed to Mary's face. Though she did not turn her eyes to
Christian's, she knew that they were looking at her—that he was noting
her confusion and comprehending its cause. "He knows why I have bought
this brocade," was her thought, "and he knows that I am humiliated in
having my poverty held up to his view. Of course Christian knows that I
am poor, and he must know, as a consequence, that I wear poor clothes. I
can endure that he should know this in a general way, while I shrink
from having the details of my poverty revealed to him. I would not wish
my patched gaiters and darned stockings held up for his inspection."
Mary hesitated a moment before replying to Mrs. Van Pelt's criticism.
Then, with a feeling that it was better to acknowledge a poverty of
which both her companions were cognizant than an ignorance of style, she
said, with a slight kindling of the eye, "I decided on this dress from
economical considerations, and the lace is some which my mother's
great-grandmother brought from Holland.—I have reminded them, at least,
that I had a grandfather," she thought.
As she finished speaking she lifted her eyes to Christian's. She could
not understand the expression she saw there. But the poor girl's
satisfaction in her dress was all gone. She was ready to reproach her
mother for the reassuring words that had helped to generate it. "What if
it is pretty? it is old-fashioned. No matter that the lace is rich, when
nobody wears it. I must look as though I were dressed in my
grandmother's clothes. I wish I was back in my poor home. There I am at
least sheltered from criticism. I am a fool in daring to face fashion: I
am the silly moth in the candle."
If these were Mary's thoughts as she sat there with her two friends,
what must they have become as the regally-dressed ladies, one after
another, were announced? There were the majestic sweep of velvet, the
floating of cloudlike gossamer, the flashing diamond, the starry pearl,
the flaming ruby, the blazing carbuncle. There were marvelous toilets
where contrast and harmony and picturesqueness—the effect of every
color and ornament—had been patiently studied as the artist studies
each shade and line on his canvas. And when the laugh and the jest and
the wit were sounding all about her, and the intoxicating music came
sweeping in from the dancing-room, there came over Mary a lost feeling
amid the strange faces and voices—a bewildered, dizzy feeling, such as
the semi-conscious opium-eater might have, half real, half dreaming. It
was all so strange, so separate from her, as though, herself invisible,
she was watching a festival among a different order of beings. Everybody
was coming and going, continually varying his pastime, while she sat as
unobserved as though invisible. Occasionally an eye-glass was leveled at
her, or some lady accidentally placed beside her superciliously
inspected the lace and green brocade.
Mrs. Van Pelt found her in the course of the evening, and insisted that
she should go to the dancing-room and see the dancing. Mary begged to
remain seated where she was. She dreaded any move that would render her
more conspicuous, and dreaded especially being recalled to Christian's
mind. But the hostess insisted, so the wretched girl crept out of her
retreat, and with a dizzy step traversed the parlors and halls to the
dancing-rooms. The band was playing a delicious waltz, and graceful
ladies and elegant gentlemen were moving to its measures. Mary's eyes
soon discovered Christian waltzing with a young girl in a rose-colored
silk. She was not a marked beauty, but the face was refined and pretty,
and was uplifted to Christian's with a look of listening interest. A
pang of jealousy shot through Mary's heart as she saw this and noted the
close embrace in which Christian held his partner, with his face bent
down to hers. Soon they came whirling by.
"There is Christian with Miss Jerome," said Mrs. Van Pelt. "Her father
is said to be worth four millions."
The next moment Mrs. Van Pelt was called away, and Mary was again left
to her isolation. With a dread of having Christian see her there,
old-fashioned and neglected, a stranger to every individual in the
assemblage of wealth and fashion, she slipped quietly away into the
library, where some elderly people were playing whist. She would have
gone home, but she lived in an obscure street some distance away. With a
sense of suffocation she now remembered that she would have to recall
herself to Christian's mind, for she must depend upon him to see her
home. "He has not thought of me once this evening," she said bitterly.
Soon supper was announced. Gentlemen and ladies began to pair off, not
one mindful of her. She was hesitating between remaining there in the
library and going unattended to the refreshment-room, when a
white-haired gentleman entered from the parlor. He glanced at Mary, and
was passing on when he paused and looked again. A moment of hesitation
ensued while the young girl and the old gentleman gazed at each other.
"Miss Trigillgus, I believe?" he said, finally. "My name is Ten Eyck. I
knew your mother when she was a girl, and I knew her father. Allow me
the pleasure of escorting you to supper."
Mary took the proffered arm with the feeling of one who unexpectedly
encounters a friend in a foreign land.
As he reseated her in the library after supper he said, "Present me
kindly to your mother: if ever I can serve her, I should be glad to do
At length the party was ended. Every guest had gone except Miss
"I'm afraid I shall have to trouble you to see me home, Mr. Van Pelt,"
she said to Christian with a burning at her heart.
"Allow me the pleasure, you mean to say," replied Christian with a bow.
This was but a passing pleasantry, and Mary should not have allowed it
to bring the color to her cheek, and that peculiar, half-disdainful look
to her eye and lip.
"I fear you haven't had a pleasant evening," said Mrs. Van Pelt as Mary
took leave of her hostess.
"It was not to be expected that I should, being an entire stranger."
"Well, dear, come and spend a quiet evening with me soon; and give my
love to your mother."
Mary went up to the dressing-room, and soon reappeared, looking demure
and nun-like in her white hood and black-and-white plaid shawl. How she
dreaded the ride home with Christian! and yet for a whole week she had
been longing for this very thing. The thought of the party had always
brought the throbbing anticipation of the ride with Christian after the
party. How near he had seemed then, and ever since the memorable evening
when they had sat together over that book of engravings! How happy she
had been then! how hopeful of his love! But now, what a gulf there
seemed between them! What had she to do with this atmosphere of wealth
and luxury and fashion where Christian dwelt? He had been pleased to
amuse himself for a brief space with looking into her eyes, with making
some silly speeches, which he had straightway forgotten, but which
she—poor fool!—had laid away in her heart.
Thus she was thinking as Christian handed her into the carriage. She
wondered what he would talk about. For a time there was a constrained
and painful silence, and Mary tried to think of something to say, that
she might hide her aching heart from his merciless gaze. Finally she
remarked that the streets were quiet, and he that the night was fine;
and in such commonplaces the ride was passed.
Mary found her mother up, eager to learn her impressions of the first
large party she had ever attended.
"I am very tired, mother," she said, determined to end the torturing
inquisition, "and am aching to get to bed. I'll tell you about the party
to-morrow. Don't call me early: let me have a good sleep."
With a feeling of sickening disgust she laid off the silk and lace and
flowers which a few hours before had so pleased her. The pale face
which met her as she stood before her mirror was very unlike the happy,
expectant face she had seen there in the early evening. Turning from the
piteous image, she hurriedly put the mean dress away, longing to have
the sheltering darkness about her. Soon she had laid her head on the
pillow, where, with eyes staring into the darkness, it throbbed for a
weary while. "What am I to Christian Van Pelt?" This was the question
the poor heart argued and re-argued. One sweet delicious evening stood
over against this last, so full of heartache.
The next morning Mary felt weary with all the world. Her home seemed
poorer and meaner than ever; the boarders disgusted her with their
coarseness; teaching was unrelieved drudgery; everything was
distasteful. To her mother's renewed inquiries about the party she
replied wearily, "My dress was poor and mean, mother; and had I spent
our year's income on my toilet, it would have still been poor, compared
with those I saw last night. For such as I there is nothing in
fashionable life but heart-burning and humiliation."
A few days after this there came from Mrs. Van Pelt to Miss Trigillgus
an invitation to tea. She at once longed and dreaded to meet Christian;
so the invitation was declined on the plea of indisposition. It was
renewed two evenings, later, and she was obliged to accept it. Mary
never looked better than on that evening. She wore a blue empress-cloth,
which heightened the fairness of her complexion and of her bright hair.
After tea she and Mrs. Van Pelt were looking at some old pictures. They
were discussing an ambrotype of herself, taken when she was thirteen,
when a servant announced guests in the parlor.
"You were a pretty child, my dear," said Mrs. Van Pelt, rising to go to
the parlor, "and you are a handsome woman—a beautiful woman, I may
say—your beauty ought to be a fortune to you—but you lack style. I
must take you in hand," she continued, talking all the way to the door.
"I shall need some amusement after Christian's marriage, to keep me
from being jealous of his little wife;" and she disappeared through the
door, little dreaming of the arrow she had sent to the poor heart.
Mary caught her breath, and Christian saw her stagger at the shot. Taken
by surprise, completely off his guard, he opened his arms and received
the stricken girl in his bosom, and pressed his lips to hers. But Mary
had not lost her consciousness. Quickly recovering, she disengaged
herself and reached a chair. She was more self-possessed than he. He sat
down beside her, quivering in every fibre.
"Mary! Mary!" he cried in passionate beseechment, "I never meant to win
your love to betray it. We have both been surprised into a confession of
our love for each other, and now let me lay open my heart to you. I do
love you, as you must have seen, for I have not been always able to keep
the love out of my eyes and voice. You will recall one evening—I know
you must remember it—when I was near declaring my love and asking you
to be my wife. I don't know why I did not—why I left my story but half
told. I sometimes wish that I had declared myself fully, and that we
were now pledged to each other. But the very next morning I sustained
heavy losses in my business, and others soon followed, and to-day I am
threatened with utter ruin. If I cannot raise a hundred thousand dollars
this week, and as much in another week, I am a bankrupt. And now you
will understand why in two days I am to marry Miss Jerome."
Mary started again. Was the execution, then, so near? She drew a long
breath, as though gathering her strength for a hard struggle.
"Christian," she said in a low tone that trembled with the energy
underlying it, "my poor Christian, you are bewildered. These troubles
have shut the light away from your path, and you have lost your way in
the darkness. If this is true which you have told me, do you not see
that when you have delivered yourself from this threatened bankruptcy,
you are yet a bankrupt—a bankrupt in heart and happiness? How can you
weigh wealth and position against the best good than can ever come to
either of us? I am not afraid of poverty, for I have known nothing else;
and surely you do not dread it for yourself. This love is the one good
thing which God has permitted in my pitiless destiny. Am I unwomanly? If
I plead for my life, who can blame me? And shall that which is more than
life go from me without a word? Oh, I cannot smile and look cold as
though I was not hurt: I am pierced and torn. Yet, Christian, for your
sake, rather than for mine, I entreat. You would bring desolation into
both our lives. I might endure it, but how could you bear through the
years the memory of your deed? You are trampling on your manhood. You
are giving to this woman's hungry heart a stone: you are buying with a
lie the holiest thing in her womanhood."
"For four generations my house has withstood every financial storm. The
honorable name which my ancestors bequeathed to me I will maintain at
every hazard," Christian replied with gloomy energy.
"And you will marry Miss Jerome?"
"Yes: it is my only hope."
"Then God help you, Christian. Your lot is harder than mine. At the
worst, my life shall be true: I shall hide no lie in my heart, to fester
there." Her words, begun in tenderness, ended in a tone of scorn. "And
now I must ask you to see me home."
She left the room, and soon returned cloaked and hooded, to find
Christian waiting in overcoat and gloves and with hat in hand. With her
arm in his they walked in perfect silence through the gay, bustling
streets, passing God knows how many other spirits as sad as their own.
When they came to the humble little house which was Mary's home,
Christian stopped on the step as though he would say something, but Mary
said "Good-night," and passed into the hall.
We magazine-writers have no chance in the space allotted to a short
story for a quantitative analysis of emotions and situations, or for
following the processes by which marked changes come about in the human
heart. We must content ourselves with informing the reader that certain
changes or modifications ensued, trusting that he will receive the
statement without requiring reasons or the modus operandi.
For a time it seemed to Mary Trigillgus that the sun would never shine
for her again, but a certain admixture in her feeling of scorn and
contempt for Christian prevented her from sinking into a total
despondency. As she revolved day after day the strange separation of two
lives which should have flowed on together, there grew in her heart a
kind of bitterness toward the society which had demanded the separation.
And then the diffused bitterness gathered, and was concentrated on the
woman and the man who had robbed her of her happiness. Especially did
her heart rise against Christian Van Pelt. Gold had won him from her: he
had made his choice between gold and her love; and then she would chafe
against the poverty which from her earliest recollection had fettered
her tastes and aspirations, and at every step had been her humiliation.
And then she would feel a wild, unreasoning longing to win gold. What a
triumph to earn gold beyond what his wife had brought him—beyond what
they would together possess! From the time this thought first occurred
to her it never left her except for brief intervals. Day after day, hour
after hour, it recurred to her, until she became possessed with it. It
was in her dreams by night, and with the day she seized and revolved it,
until her brain whirled with delirium. A hundred wild schemes and
projects came and went in scurrying confusion. With hungry eyes she read
the daily advertisements of "Business Chances," "Partners Wanted," etc.,
and in answering some of these was led into some strange discoveries and
"I am mad! I am losing my reason! More gold than their millions! I
cannot even make a living for myself, lunatic!" she would say; and
straightway in fancy would read in the papers the announcement of a
fortune being left to Mary Trigillgus—of great and marvelous riches
coming to her—and would thrill with her triumph over Christian Van
Pelt. She would even pen these announcements to see how they looked, and
read them aloud to study their sound.
Mrs. Trigillgus grew alarmed at her daughter's unaccountable moods. A
physician was summoned, who decided that she was overworked, and advised
a few months in the country. But Mary refused to leave the city, and
continued to search for her "chance."
One day she was reading the New York Tribune, when her eye caught a
little paragraph in relation to the eclipse of the sun which was to
occur on the twentieth of August, and of the preparations that were
being made in the scientific world for its observance—of the universal
interest it was exciting, etc. etc.
Mary thought of the amount of smoked glass which would be prepared for
the day, then of the soiled fingers, then of a remedy for this, and
then—her chance flashed upon her.
For a time she sat there, with kindled eyes, with throbbing heart and
brain, revolving and shaping her thought. Then she put on her hat and
took the omnibus for Mr. Ten Eyck's office.
"Mr. Ten Eyck," she said, after the customary commonplaces, "you once
said that you would be glad to serve my mother. Are you as willing to
serve her daughter?"
"Certainly," replied Mr. Ten Eyck, growing a little uneasy; "that is, if
I can, you understand."
"I have urgent need for money."
Mr. Ten Eyck began to fidget visibly.
"I own a house and lot on Thirty-second street. How much money can you
lend me on it? It is a house of seven rooms."
"I know the house," answered Mr. Ten Eyck. "Your mother's father left it
to you. There is no encumbrance on it?"
"Allow me to suggest, Miss Trigillgus, as your mother's old friend,
that this step should be well considered before it is decided upon. The
necessity should be very urgent before you mortgage your home. As your
mother's old friend, may I inquire how you intend using this money? Do
not answer me if you have any hesitancy in giving me your confidence."
The old gentleman looked at her with such kindly, fatherly solicitude
that, after a moment of confused hesitation, she answered: "I will give
the confidence you invite, Mr. Ten Eyck. I have a plan by which I can
make a fortune in a few days. I propose to manufacture glasses for the
great eclipse—say three millions of eclipse-glasses—and distribute
them throughout the United States and the Canadas."
Mr. Ten Eyck stared at her through his golden-bowed glasses: "What kind
of glasses? Explain yourself more fully."
"I shall buy up all the common glass in New York and Pittsburg, and in
other cities perhaps, at the lowest possible figure. Much of the refuse
glass will answer my purpose. I shall have it cut, three inches by five,
stain it, put two stained surfaces together, and bind with paper. At ten
cents apiece the gross proceeds of three millions will be three hundred
"And how will you distribute them?"
"Through the news agents," she answered promptly, "and on the same terms
at which they push the newspapers. By this great system I shall secure a
simultaneous distribution throughout the whole country."
Mr. Ten Eyck had laid off his glasses and assumed an attitude of deep
attention: "Suppose it should rain on eclipse-day?"
"I have thought of that contingency. I should anticipate it by having
the glasses in the market for two or three days preceding the eclipse.
To give the glass additional value, I should paste on it a printed slip
stating the hour when the eclipse will begin, the period of its
duration, and the moment of total obscuration." Then she started and
glowed with a sudden revelation that came flashing through her brain.
"I will make the glasses an advertising medium," she continued eagerly.
"I will make the advertisements pay all the expenses, and much more. Can
I not find a man in New York City, or somewhere in the United States,
who would pay a hundred thousand dollars to have three millions of
people reading in one moment the merits of his wares or of his remedies!
And if such a man cannot be found, one who will purchase the exclusive
right to advertise with me, I'll parcel it out. Yes, I can pay all
expenses with the advertisements; but I must have some ready money to
begin with—to initiate the enterprise. Will you lend me the money on my
house and lot?"
Mr. Ten Eyck resumed his glasses, and sat for a long time staring into a
pigeon-hole of his desk in profound meditation.
"My dear Miss Trigillgus, allow me, as your mother's old friend, to
speak plainly to you. You are planning an enterprise of such proportions
that no woman could go through with it. In the most skillful hands great
risk would attend it, even with abundance of money to back it; and let
me assure you that a woman without business education and with cramped
means could have no chance whatever in the arena of experts. Her defeat
would be inevitable. I would gladly serve you, Miss Trigillgus, and I
think, pardon me, that my surest way of doing this is to decline making
the loan you ask, and to advise you, as your mother's old friend, to
abandon this scheme."
"I shall consider your advice, Mr. Ten Eyck," said Miss Trigillgus, "and
I thank you for it, whether I act upon it or not;" and she gave a cold
bow that contradicted her words.
Mary made many other attempts to raise money, but all were unsuccessful.
A few mornings after this her advertisement appeared in the Tribune,
calling for a partner with ten thousand dollars to take a half interest
in an enterprise which was sure to net a quarter of a million within a
month. It had such an extravagant sound that it was set down as a
humbug, and few answered it. She had interviews with two young men of
such suspicious appearance that she did not dare reveal her scheme to
them. Day after day the card appeared with no satisfactory result; and
Mary perceived with a kind of frenzy the short time in which her great
work was to be accomplished growing shorter and shorter. She moved
cautiously, lest her grand idea should be appropriated, but she left no
stone unturned for raising the money. Finally, on the ninth of August,
impatient, anxious, nervous, she had six thousand dollars in hand, and
only ten days intervened before the day of the eclipse. She went
immediately to an eminent solicitor of patents, who had influence at
Washington, and made application for a patent for advertising on
eclipse-glasses. The solicitor thought there was no doubt but that the
patent could be secured, so that she might freely proceed with her
enterprise. She next contracted with a glass-factory for five thousand
dollars' worth of glass, and engaged one hundred men to cut and stain it
and put up the eclipse-glasses. Then she made several endeavors to see
the president of the news agency, and after repeated failures she opened
a correspondence by letter with him, briefly outlining her plan, and
asking him to undertake through the news agents the distribution of the
glasses. The next morning she received in response, through the
post-office, these lines:
"Miss Trigillgus: You have been anticipated in your enterprise. We are
engaged to distribute eclipse-glasses for another party."
As Mary read the cruel words that ended all her hopes, she fell lifeless
to the floor, and was thus discovered by her mother.
The following day there came a confirmatory note from the solicitor of
patents, stating that she had been anticipated also in her application
for a patent.
From this period Mary's moods became indescribable. From a state of
unrelieved despondency she issued so merry, in such exhilaration, that
her mother was glad to welcome back the shadowed mood which soon
succeeded. The sagacity of physicians, of her most familiar
acquaintances, of her mother, was all at fault. No one could decide
whether or not her mind was unhinged, whether or not Mary Trigillgus was
insane; for it must be remembered that her friends were ignorant of the
events we have been narrating—her love for Christian Van Pelt, her
disappointment, her grand scheme, the sacrifice of her home and the
failure of her enterprise.
The nineteenth of August came, the day preceding the grand event of the
century. Mary Trigillgus and her mother were lingering at the
breakfast-table. The girl seemed wild and hawk-like, startling her
mother with her unnatural merriment, commenting with weird brilliancy
and grotesqueness and sparkle on the various items as Mrs. Trigillgus
read them. At length she read a paragraph about the eclipse. "'And we
would advise every reader,'" she continued, "'to furnish himself with an
eclipse-glass, which he can procure at any of the news dépôts for the
sum of ten cents. The glass is nicely finished, and is very perfect for
the purpose intended. We understand that five millions of these glasses
have been put into the market, for which the country is indebted to the
genius and enterprise of our young fellow-citizen, Mr. Christian Van
Pelt, assisted by Mr. W. V. Ten Eyck.'"
"He has done it! he has again stabbed me!" cried Mary Trigillgus, with
the maniac's glare in her eyes. "The gold is his—his and hers! Piles of
gold! and they have cut it out of my heart, dug it out of my brain! I
have nothing left! Don't you see, mother, I am only an empty shell? Stab
me here in the heart, where he has stabbed me: it won't hurt. There's
nothing there! nothing! it's all hollow." There was no longer any doubt
that Mary Trigillgus's mind was unhinged.
During all that day men and children were crying the eclipse-glasses in
the street, selling them at every door.
"Hear them! hear them!" the poor maniac would cry. "They are selling
millions of them! they are piling the gold all about him and her! They
are to have a palace of gold, and Mary's to have only the ashes. Poor
Mary! poor Mary! All the good's for them, all the pain's for Mary!" and
then she would weep herself into a quiet mood of despondency.
The next day, the day of the eclipse, Mary demanded one of the glasses,
and would not be diverted from her desire. She read the advertisement on
the eclipse-glass: "Babcock's Fire-Extinguisher will put out any fire!
"Mother, get me one: I have a fire here;" and she pressed her hand to
her brow. She examined the glass again and again, looking it over and
over, and reading the advertisement aloud: "Babcock's Fire-Extinguisher
will put out any fire! Get one!" All day long, at short intervals, she
was running to the window and looking through the glass at the sun.
And when the grand hour arrived for the wonderful phenomenon, when the
five million glasses were raised to witness the obscuration, and the
weird twilight had settled over all nature, this young life too had
passed into a total eclipse, from which it has never for a moment
The poor lunatic never rages. She is sweet and harmless as a child. She
makes frequent visits to the glass-factories and to the news-rooms to
inquire after the progress of her enterprise, and over and over again
makes her contract to advertise the "Babcock Fire-Extinguisher," and
comes back with promises to her mother of the boundless riches which are
to flow in upon them.
As for Christian Van Pelt, his wrong to Mary had been unintentional, as
he was ignorant of her connection with the eclipse-glass scheme. Though
Mr. Ten Eyck had been honest in advising Miss Trigillgus to abandon her
plans, under the persuasion that with her limited means and want of
business training the result could not fail to be disastrous, he yet saw
that with capital and energy to push it a grand success might be
achieved. Having little loose capital, and his time being well occupied,
he unfolded the scheme to Christian Van Pelt, and together they put the
enterprise through. Mr. Ten Eyck argued that since Miss Trigillgus had
abandoned the plan, as he really supposed had been the case, he was not
wronging her by prosecuting it himself. He was one of that numerous
class who fail to perceive that ideas have commercial value.
S. W. Kellogg.