THE FIREMAN’S DAUGHTER.
[Written Expressly for the Firrman’t Journal.]
JACK AND EMILY.
WE have seen that Emily Loring evinced absolute pleasure at the coming of Jack Armitage, immediately following that somewhat peculiar interview with her father. And we have seen that Jack Armitage himself seemed to be entering the apartment accompanied by the young lady, with every evidence of being rather glad to meet her than the reverse. Perhaps he would simply have been a brute not to be glad to meet a pretty and amiable young girl, whatever his cardinal sentiments towards her, looking in the direction of marriage; but the fact is that we of America, emancipated from some of the other bonds confining the nations of the Old World, have emancipated ourselves from some of the society restraints to which they submit so willingly, and say what we mean on Murray Hill, with a readiness that would be shocking in Belgravia or the Faubourg St. Honore. This was to be exemplified very shortly, in the meeting of the two oddities of different sexes that morning thrown together.
Well, Jack ! I am really glad to see you ! ” said Emily, when the remainder of Jack’s wrappings had been at last removed (the young girl playing servant for that office), and when the two had dropped into chairs near the table where the Berlin wools and the perforated cardboard now lay in quiet neglect.
“It goes without saying that I am glad to see you, or I should not have come,” said the young man, looking “confoundedly handsome, as Emily Loring took note, as he caught up some of the wools and tied them into twenty fanciful knots in as many seconds, attracted by the color and the combinations into which they could be brought.
“Yes, 1 suppose so,” was the reply; then, after a moment. “And yet 1 am not always too sure of that, Jack, do you know ? ”
“ Not too sure of what ?—that I am always glad to see you ? ”
“ No, not quite that; but not too sure that you might not some time come to see me, wiihout any absolute pleasure in the visit; might come for a reason, say ! ”
” Why, good heavens ! ” and Jack Armitage, though he did not spring from his chair at the words, certainly made a movement to do so, and his face changed a little. “ Is it possible ?—does my face ?— what the deuce do you mean, Emily ? ”
“Oh, so I was right, and you did not come to see me to-day; you have something else than the attraction of my personal presence—don’t deny it, sir ! ” holding up a threatening finger. “ Do you dare deny it ?”
“ Well, probably not, that is— ” and here the young man, sometimes so ready of speech, hesitated, and came very near to stammering.
“ Well, don’t deny it,” pursued Emily Loring. ” Say that you wished to see me on business, and then speak it out like a good fellow ; especially as I wished to see you, on business, and—”
“ And without any special desire for my personal presence, except as a means of transacting that business!” Jack Armitage interrupted. “ Yes, I see.” He did not seem to be very angry, or very much mortified, meanwhile, in making this humiliating discovery; and perhaps something in his face encouraged, or even induced, the young lady to pursue the extraordinary course which she immediately thereafter adopted.
“Jack,” she said, her ruddy face undeniably flushing a little more deeply than under ordinary circumstances, “ I wish to ask you a plain question. Do you promise me that you will answer it candidly, for the sake of—for the sake of—the old friendship that has existed between us for so long Stop—don’t answer me yet, please ; for there is something else to go with it. Do you promise that whatever that question may be, you will not misunderstand it or think me unwomanly, even for one moment ? ”
” Emily Loring,” said Jack, returning pretty steadily the very frank glance which the young girl threw into his eyes, “ I believe that I like you well enough, and respect you sufficiently, not to be likely to consider any action of yours unwomanly.”
” Not even if it was unwomanly ? ” persisted the questioner.
“Well, of course, that—no, I promise you that I will not think it so, even if it is. Will that content you ? I believe nothing less than that point of reasoning ever contents a woman.”
“ And by parity of reasoning, then,” the young girl went on, “ having at the moment proved that I am really and truly a woman, I cannot be unwomanly, can I ? ”
“Of course not! ” very properly assented the victim of this irrefragible reasoning.
TWO DECLARATIONS—A GAUCHE.
“ I WANT to ask you this, Jack, seriously and solemnly—what some other persons in my place might be afraid to ask if they did not object to doing it—Do you want to marry met”
Jack Armitage, man on the verge of thirty, and well accustomed to most of the adventures and many of the sensations of ordinary life, had known what it was to be placed in an embarrassing position more than once during his career. lie had been, not to mince words, ” stumped,” more than once, also. But it is sure, that never in all his life had he known anything approaching to the awkwardness of that moment. What had he done, and what had he not done, to place himself in so anomalous a position ? Had he indeed been trifling with the affections of this poor (rich) girl, in visits and in polite attentions, until her feelings were irrevocably engaged ? And had his late comparative coolness, and the late infrequency of his visits, produced the effect of inducing her to believe that her life’s happiness was at last being wrecked, and that even the fragments of it could only be secured by this course, certainly so remarkable for a woman ? What could he say, thus circumstanced ? He who had come to that house with the thought in mind of discovering whether any serious damage had really been done, and whether (a sort of blind and miserable hope, this!) whether something, not unbecoming a man, could not yet be done to prevent an unpleasant complication ? To prevent his being obliged to despise himself as well as bear the wrath of his outraged mother, in attemp ingto keep faith with his own better nature, and make that declaration of love to the Fireman’s Daughter, which he knew that his own heart dictated, and which he hoped and believed that the heart of the Fireman’s Daughter would reciprocate ?
A strange complication, certainly! Who would not have felt seriously embarrassed under corresponding circumstances ? Who would not have sat silent for a certain space, too honorable to lie, and too pitiful to speak the bitter truth ? Over whose face would not have followed one and another of expressions—one a flush, one a pallor— contradictory as possible, and yet by no means so contradictory as the tumult of sensations at the moment crowding and jostling within? At all events, such was the position of Jack Armitage; and it was on such developments of countenance that the young girl looked, as, though dropping her eyes sufficiently to encourage the mistake which she had occasioned, she now and again raised them and fixed their limpid clearness full on those so troubled before her.
How long did this anomaly in situations last ? Neither of the two, afterwards questioned on this subject, could have told, for their lives, within many minutes, the measure of a space which probably did not extend beyond sixty seconds, or at most twice that number. It was long enough to make Jack Armitage very miserable, and it was long enough to make Emily Loting wish that there had never been created a horrid wretch, wearing pantaloons and boots, and gifted with the power to sway woman’s destiny at will. All this, and then Jack Armitage, so to speak, “shook himself together.” He dropped his eyes and spoke in a very low voice, as he said:
“ Emily, 1 like and respect you very much—too much to tell you a falsehood. I know that ir. saying what I am about to say, I am probably throwing away the best thing that has come into my life—no, not that, but the best chance of my life. But—I do not wish to marry you.”
” Thank you, Jack, 1 thought that you did not, and I am very glad to have you tell me the truth,” was the reply of the young girl, coming very soon after the other plain statement had been made.
“ I have pained you, I suppose, Emily,” Jack went on. “But how could I help it ? I know that my mother is very anxious for our marriage. You probahly know as much. I have had reason to believe that your father entertains the same wish. I have never been man enough, I suppose, to ascertain whether you would yourself have been pleased to become my wife—.”
“ Oh, stop there ! ” said Emily Loring, very quickly, ” I have no doubt pained you, quite as much as you have pained me. But do not continue in any mistaken idea on that subject. I might have become your wife, possibly, if you had asked me to do so, some time ago.”
“ Some time ago! ” Jack Armitage echoed the words in something approaching a scream of delight. “Some time ago? Not now? Say that you mean ‘ not now ’ ? ”
” I do mean that, Jack,” was the reply, very calmly uttered, but with the eyes unmistakably cast down and quite an added flush on the fresh face.
“ Oh ! ” Jack uttered the word as if it contained a volume ; then he paused a moment; and then he continued : “ Am I to believe—”
” You are to believe nothing, sir 1 ” said the red lips, almost sharply. “ At least you are not to believe—” and here there was a faltering for words on the part of the lady.
” You told me to stop there, a moment ago,” said the lover who would not be one. “ Now, I ask you to stop, while I say something. Honest confession, they say, is good for the soul. I should before this time have asked you to marry me, Emily Loring, believing you to be one of the best little women in the world, and also believing that you were large enough of soul not to believe me a fortune hunter—”
“ I know you too well for that, Jack!” the young girl interrupted. Then Jack went on with the more difficult part of his confession.
“ I should have asked you to marry me, but for the fact that—that I am in love with another woman.”
“ Oh ! ” This time it was the lady who used the expressive exclamation, and it contained nearly as much as that of the gentleman, of a few moments before. And it was supplemented, as the other had been : “ I am very, very glad to hear that, because—”
“ Because,” said Jack, his face aglow as he caught up the word, and that glow derived from an inner light at the moment breaking on him, not a whit obscured (wonderful to say !) by any personal undervaluation that it might involve—“ because you yourself may have a fancy, to—
“ What do you mean, sir ?” This was scarcely so much a question as an exclamation, on the part of the lady ; and it checked Jack Armitage for a moment, but only a moment.
” A fancy to—to Tom Barnaby, say !”
Emily Loring sprang from her chair, with the celerity often accorded to the sky-rocket. Her round face was fairly ablaze with something very nearly approaching temper, perhaps with a trifle of womanly shame intermingled. She seemed on the point of hurling out something that might very seriously have imperilled the entente cordiale between the ” high contracting parties but she only said, as she dropped back into her seat:
” How dare you, Jack Armitage !”
“ I am sorry if I have offended you, Emily,” said the culprit, very naturally and very properly.
“You have not offended me, nor done anything more than you had a right to do, after what you have yourself said!” replied the young girl, stretching forth her hand to be taken by his. Like a lightning flash had come the recollection that Tom Barnaby had ” asked for her hand,” from her father, if not from herself, and that this shielded her from any charge of premature betrayal; and that fear removed, she was a true woman, and at her best. She would make as clean a breast of the affair, as he had done—all the more readily because she had really not been too certain, up to the moment witnessing that ebullution of spirit, whether her feelings of affection for the odd combination known as Tom Barnaby really entitled her to the hope of a life of content in his companionship. Her last words were entirely satisfactory, not only to herself but to the man whom she addressed ; and it was only a pity that Tom Barnaby himself could not have heard them.
“Well, there—I may as well tell what 1 believe to be the truth, as to go shilly-shallying about it. I am afraid that 1 do love Tom Barnaby, and that he is my fate !”
“ Do you tell me so, indeed, Emily ! How happy you make me !” cried Jack Armitage, rising from his chair to shake hands with the woman with whom he had just been indulging in that mutual game of “throwing overboard.” His grasp was cordially returned ; and with a sigh from the lips of each, of perfect satisfaction that the other was no longer in the way, they resumed the ir conversation, which has no further consequence here—only one point in it needing to be quoted : Emily Loring, who had admitted to ’Jack Armitage the direction in which her affections had unwittingly traveled, for some cause did not ask his corresponding confidence. Why ? And would he have told her if she had plainly put the question ? Who shall say ?—or who shall say what makes the mental difference between the two sexes almost as marked as the physical ? ,
FIRE AND A FIREMAN.
The night was a very cold one, with scarcely a star showing through the cloud-rifts and with the north wind sweeping pitilessly around the corners of the streets, as if the houses it lashed had some sort of human feeling to be lacerated. Mrs.’Helen Armitage, alone in her well appointed carriage, with furred coachman on the box, was rolling home from spending an evening at some squares down town from her residence. At the intersection of one of the leading lateral streets with Broadway, the glare, the noise, and the crowd of a fire became manifest. One of the handsome houses of an up-to>vn resident, not far from the main thoroughfare, was rapidly melting away in the fierce heat of the fire; the brass domes of the steamers glimmered in the blended lights of the fire and the street lamps ; the whirr and buzz of the machinery could be heard as the carnage made a momentary pause at the obstruction of a line of hose ; and within the circle of the many hundreds already gathered around the conflagration, as all humanity gathers to every scene of destruction or of slaughter, the busy, bluecoated firemen were laboring with might and main to make the ravages of the red fiend as circumscribed as possible.
Mrs. Armitage, as her carriage was thus temporarily stopped, no doubt indulged a petulant thought or two at the persistent self-will of the people who would thus block up streets when other people were going home. Possibly a thought followed, that, after all, perhaps such people were necessary, because, if they did not exist, the flames might sometimes become too powerful for comfort, ay, and for wealth ! And because-But here the lady fell into a rumination, oddly blending sadness and felicitation, and that cannot here be pursued.
The obstructing hose was about being removed, and in a moment more the cartiage would be released. But in that moment the door of the fire-box of one of the engines working near was thrown open, and the fierce light fell full upon the faces of some of the firemen. Could she believe her eyes ? Within six feet of the carriage window, wearing a fireman’s cap and coat, was her son, Jack Armitage, if ever the face of that young man of thirty had been visible to her maternal eyes ! He did not see her, of course; it was not probable that he paid any attention to the identity of the carriage ; he was busy with something else, and something at that moment of much more consequence.
The hose was at length removed, and the carriage rolled on. The crowd, noise and glare of the fire gradually lei! behind, and at last disappeared altogether. But as she pursued her route, Mrs. Helen Arm itage, there sitting alone, muSed upon the spectacle which she had accidentally encountered, and indulged in some reflections that were the reverse of pleasant. Jack Armitage working as a fireman, at a fire ! What next ? and could anything be lower? And what hope that upon this man of thirty, who did not object to soiling his hands and burning his face at actual fires—not to mention the terrible personal associations thus encountered—upon this man, what hope was there that she could ever produce the effect she desired, mould him to her own will, induce him to think of the fashion to which he had been born, and the society which might be said to belong to him as a birth-right ?
“John,” she said to him, as he entered her sitting-room some two hours later, dressed as usual, and with no mark or appearance of fire service—”John, am I right in supposing that I saw you at the fire down town a while ago ? ”
“ I could not say, mother, whether you saw me,” answered Jack, very calmly. “ Your seeing me would have been a matter of your being there yourself. I was there, however ; so much I know.”
” You were working with one of the engines, were you not ? ”
” Of course I was ! Good old One Hundred and Thirty-Eight! I should be sorry to stand idle, when there was something to do with her.”
” Well, I should be ashamed, I think, at your age, to become a fireboy—isn’t that what they call it ? ” and the lips of the mother were very proud and hard as they flung out the words.
” Fire-boy ? Yes, that is what they call firemen sometimes. Ashamed? would you be, mother? I think that I would scarcely be ashamed of a fireman, mother, remembering what we owe to some of the men who call themselves by that name !”
“We have had enough of that John, if you please,” said the mother, very seriously. “ I wonder if that sermon of what we owe to the fireman will ever stop being preached.”
” Not while you have a conscience, mother, 1 think ” was the reply.
“And ashamed to be bothered this way, eh? Opinions differ about those matters, I fancy. Some of them would probably tell you, if you made the enquiry, that I took out one of the servant girls from the basement where she was smothering, and that but for me she would have been bid out in the Morgue to-morrow morning. Ashamed, mother ? I think not much, of doing anything belonging to the work of God and humanity!”
Mrs. Helen Armitage looked up, then she dropped her eyes and was silent. She saw as she looked up, the duck that did not belong to any chicken-brood of hers, just as many another mother has seen the same object, very often. Of course she voted him incorrigible ; but she made a slight sacrifice to what she considered the proprieties, even if the intention went no deeper, as she said:
” Well, Jack, perhaps I ought not to say that; you do nothing of which you ought to be ashamed, of course. But I do wish that you would find other amusements than among the smoke and dirt of a fire, when you wish to fill up your leisure.”
“ Amusements, mother ! ” and the face of Jack Armitage had more of the parental “ set,” as he spoke. “Did it ever strike you, mother, that there might be ‘amusements,’so called, that were really duties”
FEMALE ROW AND RECONCILIATION.
IT was only two days later than the visit of Jack Armitage to Emily Loring, which we have been privileged to witness. Emily was again alone, in the same apartment in which we have seen her in company with her father and then with her recent lover. A servant came up from below, to say :
” The young woman to see about making the cloak, Miss Loring.”
“ I will come down to her; no, let her come up here.”
A moment later, and Emily started at the entrance of the “young woman to see about making the cloak.” She had expected possibly a dowdy, and possibly a mere nobody; but what she saw—not by any means ! The well-dressed girl, with the lithe and yet well-rounded figure, the cheerful face with its cherry lips and expression of goodnatured self-reliance, and the atmosphere of the lady, whatever the present class or condition, which seemed to radiate out from her—all this was impressive, not to say imposing, to Miss Emily Loring, who did not remain sitting as she had intended, but rose when the young girl entered, and motioned her to a chair, as she certainly had not thought to do wi hthe expected working-girl.
“ No, thank you,” was the reply to this invitation, given with the air of one who so refuses simply because she lacks time for acceptance* “ The servant probably told you I came to see about the making of a cloak that I understood you wished to have made in the house.”
” Yes, Miss? —” and Emily Loring paused for the name.
“ Miss Kate Morgan, of -street, was the reply. “ Of course it was not I whom you expected, but Miss Miller. She is ill, and I take her work until her recovery. I can give you several names, as to my capacity for fine work, if you require them, Miss Loring.”
“ No, there is no occasion for any references. Your appearance is quite sufficient to satisfy me of your standing and capacity.”
“ Thank you ! ”
” Now you will sit, Miss Morgan,” and she drew forward a chair, which the visitor took. “ I have some material that I wish you to examine, and will need a few minutes to lay my hand on it. There are some books on the table, if you care to read.”
Emily Loring was not much in this habit, let it be said, of offering the books on her table to the reading of dress-makers and sewing-girls ; but the truth must be told, that from the moment of the com ng of the Fireman’s Daughter, she was not quite herself—she knew, without at all understanding why, that something new, and something as surely rare, had come into her atmosphere, and she acted accordingly. She left the room, and Kate Morgan approached the table and took up first one and then another of the handsome books that it held. She opened and looked through two or three listlessly ; then a fourth, and out of it fell a card, face downward. It was evidently a visiting-card, and she turned it over in replacing it. In an instant after the pretty face was one flame of blushes. “ Mr. John Armitage.”
She could no more have resisted putting that card to her lips that day, than she could have found wings to fly ! Why, we shall know in a moment. At all events, the sweet red lips touched that piece of senseless paper in a close and clinging kiss, at the moment when Emily Loring, her quick foot-fall deadened on the thick carpet by the length of its math, entered behind her by the other door of the apartment.
Emily was quick-eyed; we have before been made aware of the fact. She took in the act at once ; that card was being kissed ; whose ? Kate Morgan, her face now literally aflame, knew that her movement must have been noticed. She tried to replace the card in the book, but for once her fingers failed her, and as the book shut it fell on the table, face-upward. Emily Loring, her face nearly as much aflame as that of the other, distinctly saw the name ; and the thought of cloaks went out of her mind at once.
“You know that gentleman, Miss—ah, Morgan?” she asked, in a voice far less amiable than her usual speech.
“ I—that is—yes,” was the faltering answer, far less like the usual speech of Kate Morgan, than Emily’s was like her own.
“ So I should think ! ” was the comment, in a voice that (the painful truth must be told) approached the tone of a sneer.
“ I beg your pardon, Miss Loring, for having seen what was probably not intended for my eyes ; and I think—yes, I shall scarcely have time to attend to the cloak,” said the Fireman’s Daughter, in a voice that trembled a little and was the reverse of amiable.
“ You will do as you please, Miss—ah, Morgan. But I cannot allow you to misunderstand me. There was no objection to your seeing the card. Mr. John Armitage is an old friend of my family, and of mine. But you will excuse me if I do not quite see the necessity of your kissing the cards of my visitors ! Do you know that gentleman ? ”
For an instant Kate Morgan looked at the heiress with eyes that might have pained her, had they possessed physical power as they held mental and moral. Then she answered in three words :
“ Yes, Miss Loring.”
“ So it would seem ! Do you know him very well ? ”
“Yes, Miss Loring.”
“ I am sorry to hear it, Miss—ah, Morgan. That will do, I think. No, we need not say anything more about the cloak.”
Kate Morgan made a movement to leave the room, without another word. Then a second and curious impulse took possession of her.
“ No, Miss Loring,” she said, pausing, “ I will not leave your house with the impression remaining on your mind, which I know is there at present, that my knowledge of Mr. John Armitage, is anything discreditable to him, or to myself. He has visited my mother and myself, very often, for months. You think that, because I am a working woman and he is heir of a wealthy family, he has probably said words of dishonorable love tome. You are mistaken ; he has never named love to me until last night, though I hope and believe that we have loved each other from the first. Since last night, I have been his betrothed wife, that is all; and now I will say good morning, with an apology for coming where I evidently had no business.”
She turned to go, this time in earnest, But Emily Loring sprang before her and barred the way, her eyes flowing with new-sprung tears, and her cheek flushed with shame.
“ No, you will not go until I have heartily begged your pardon for my cruelty and injustice ! ” she pleaded. “ Do forgive me! f did not dream—I could not know—.” Here she broke down entirely, and merely held out a pleading hand to the sewing woman.
“ Miss Loring !—dear miss Loring!—do not think so much of it! it is all of no consequence! ” said Kate Morgan, taking the offered hand, from the clasp of which something else resulted after a moment, in the two young girls embracing each other as if they had been school-girl companions long separated and again thrown together.
The result of which was that Kate Morgan did not leave the house for more than an hour thereafter—the cloak neglected, and the subject never again to be resumed, as between the two; and Emily Loring, possessed of certain facts in the family history of the other, from which the active brain at once evolved certain speculations and resolutions of great interest to more than one !
PAIRING THEM OFF.
“ My dear Mrs. Armitage, there is no help for it, that I can see ! ” said Emily Loring, two days later, and when a part of those resolutions had been carried out. “ Kate Morgan is a Fireman’s Daughter beyond a question ; but she is a good and a noble girl, worth half my fashionable acquaintances put together. And when you remember, what she would have been too proud to tell you until the day she died—that William Morgan diedfrom the injuries received in saving those securities of your husband’s, at the fire in R–Street, when no one elsedared to go after them, without which you would seem to be likely to have had little or nothing—why, then, I do not see what else you can properly do than give your full consent to his marriage, especially as / will not have him at any price ! ”
“ What they allege is true, without a doubt,” said Mrs. Helen Armitage, in a voice somewhat softer than that in which she was accustomed to speak. “ I remember the name, now that it is recalled to my mind. We realty owe them everything, I suppose. If it must be so, it must 1 And you positively will not marry my boy, even if he should remember his duty and ask you ? ”
“ No 1 Mrs. Armitage, I am otherwise engaged.”
“And you will marry that human oddity—that droH bundle of affectations—Tom Barnaby ? ”
“ By Jove 1—should think she would—got promise, know, and settles it—sort of thing ! ” said the man of the wonderful ulster, entering at that moment, and seeming to have all his oddities intensified for that special occasion.
“ Yes ; I am going to marry him, Mrs. Armitage, just to get clear of him ! ” and the young girl held out her hand to her betrothed, who caught it, passed on, and was gone—nobody knew where, any more than whence or why he had come at all!
“ Emily, your father asked me to marry him, yesterday ! He had really asked me once before, and I had given him no answer. If there is no other mode of connecting the families, I shall say * yes ’ when I see him to-night. Will you mind ? ”
Mrs. Helen Armitage asked the question as if she was not quite sure of the answer. But she need not have had any fear. Emily Loring was equal to the occasion, and cordially (at least toSll seeming), embraced the lady whom she had declined to receive as a mother-in-law, but could not refuse as a step-mother.
There were three weddings, following very soon after. Two of them, which bound together Charles Loring and his early love, Mrs. Helen Armitage, who had been Helen Morriston, and Tom Bamaby and Emily Loring—were held at the same time, in one of the fashionable up-town churches. But the third took place in a very different scene. It was with the manly face of William Morgan looking down at their union, from the frame that had been hung up by the bridegroom on that night of winter rain, and with the white hair of Mrs. Mary Morgan only balanced by the dark tresses of his reconciled mother, who was no longer a widow,—that Jack Armitage sealed the happiness and peace of a prosperous after-life, by pledging his faith to winsome Kate Morgan, the Fireman’s Daughter.
—The Firemen’s Relief Association of Denver, Col., is doing a good work. It is an institution purely philanthropic in its nature, having no source of revenue, except voluntary contribution. The association was founded and incorporated in 1872, being endowed in the sum of $1000 by Ex-Mayor Bates, to which have been added several contributions. The fund has been carefully nurtured, and many sick and disabled Firemen have been the recipients of aid from its resources. Today the Association is in a flourishing condition, demonstrating that its trustees, who are selected from the various Companies, are men well adapted to care for the fund. Chief of Department Thomas B. Clayton is home from his visit to the East. He was welcomed back by many friends.