From the Life/Sir Watson Tyler
FROM THE LIFE
Sir Watson Tyler
SIR WATSON TYLER
TYLER, Sir Watson, K.C.B., b. Coulton, Ont., May 24, 1870; ed. pub. schools, Univ. of Toronto, grad. 1891; m. Alicia Janes, 1893. Pres. Coulton Street Ry. Co., Coulton Gas and Electric Co., Farmers' Trust Co., Mechanics' Bank of Canada, Janes Electric Auto Co., etc. Donor Coulton Conservatory of Music, Mozart Hall, etc. Founder Coulton Symphony Orchestra, Beethoven Choir, etc. Conservative leader. Senate, 1911. Privy Council, Minister without portfolio, 1912. Knighted 1915 for services to the Empire.—Canada's Men of Mark.
THE stairs that Wat descended—
(He had been christened "Wat," not "Watson." He made it "Watson" later. I am writing of the fall of 1892, when he was twenty-odd years old.)
The stairs that Wat descended on that crucial Sunday morning had been designed by an architect who had aspired to conceal the fact that they were, after all, stairs. He had disguised them with cushioned corner-seats and stained-glass windows, with arches of fretwork and screens of spindles, with niches and turns and exaggerated landings, until they were almost wholly ornamental and honorific. They remained, however, stairs—just as the whole house remained a house, in spite of everything that had been done to make it what The Coulton Advertiser called a "prominent residence." And to Wat, that morning, those stairs were painfully nothing but stairs, leading him directly from a bedroom which he had been reluctant to leave down to a dining-room which he was loath to enter. In the bedroom, since daylight, he had been making up his mind to tell his family something that must soon be told to them. He had decided to tell them at the breakfast-table; and he could have forgiven the architect if the stairs had been a longer respite than they were.
In a dining-room that had been made as peevish with decoration as the stairs he found his father, his mother, and his two sisters already busy with breakfast and a Sunday paper, which, in those early days of Coulton, was imported across the border from Buffalo. His sisters were both younger than he and both pertly independent of their elders, and they did not look up from the illustrated sections of fashion and the drama which they were reading, aside, as they ate. His father seemed always to seize on his hours of family leisure to let his managerial brain lounge and be at rest in the comfortable corpulence of his body; he was stirring his coffee in a humorous reflectiveness that was wholly self-absorbed. Mrs. Tyler smiled apprehensively at her son, but she did not speak. She did not care to disturb the harmony of the domestic silence. Both the harmony and the silence were rare and pleasant to her
Wat sat down, and humped himself over his fruit, and began to eat with an evident lack of zest. The dining-room maid came and went rustling. Mrs. Tyler brushed at a persistent crumb among the ribbons on the ample bosom of her morning wrapper, and regarded Wat from time to time with maternal solicitude.
He had once been a delicate, fat boy—before he took a four years' college course in athletics—and she had never been quite convinced of the permanency of his conversion to health. He had come home late the previous night, and he looked pale to her. His lack of appetite was unusual enough to be alarming. He did not begin his customary Sunday morning dispute with his sisters about "hogging" the picture pages of the newspaper.
She broke out at last: "What is it, Wat? Aren't you well?"
"N-no," he stammered, taken by surprise. "I'm all right."
His sisters glanced at him. He was unthinkingly afraid that they might see his secret in his eyes. They had all the devilish penetration of the young female. And he looked down his nose into his coffee-cup with an ostentatious indifference to them as he drank.
Naturally they accepted his manner as a challenge to them. Millie remarked to Ollie that he seemed thin—which was far from true. Ollie replied, with her eyes in her newspaper, that he was probably going into a "decline." He pretended to pay no attention to them; but his mother interfered, as they had expected her to.
"You've no business, now, making fun of Wat about his health," she said. "You know he isn't strong. He's big—but he's soft."
"Soft!" the girls screamed. "Paw, maw says Wat's soft!"
It is incredible, but—at that day, to everybody in the household except his mother—Sir Watson Tyler was a joke. And it is incredible, but—in spite of all the honorable traditions of convention to the contrary—these were the family relations in the Tyler home.
Mr. Tyler turned an amused eye on his wife, and she appealed to him with her usual helpless indignation. "Well, I think you ought to speak to the girls, Tom. I don't think it's very nice of them to make fun of their mother."
"But, maw!" Millie laughed. "You say such funny things we can't help it."
'I don't. You twist everything I say. Wat isn't strong. You ought to be ashamed of yourselves."
She scolded them in a voice that was unconvincing, and they replied to her as if she were an incompetent governess for whom they had an affectionate disrespect.
Wat began to fortify himself with food for the announcement which he had to make. He ate nervously—determinedly—even, at last, doggedly. His mother retired into silence. His sisters continued to read.
When they got to discussing some of the society news he saw an opportunity of leading up to his subject; and when they were talking of a girl whom they had met during the summer, at the lake shore, he put in, "Did you ever meet Miss Janes there?"
They turned their heads without moving their shoulders. "Lizzie Janes?"
The tone was not enthusiastic. He cleared his throat before he answered, "Yes."
Millie said, superbly casual: "Uh-huh. Isn't she a freak!"
His face showed the effort he made to get that remark down, though he swallowed it in silence. His mother came to his rescue. "Who is she, Wat?"
"A girl I met this summer. I went over there with Jack Webb."
His sisters found his manner strained. They eyed him with suspicion. His mother asked, "What is she like?"
"Well," Millie put in, "she has about as much style—!"
Wat reddened. "She hasn't your style, anyway. She doesn't look as if her clothes—"
He was unable to find words to describe how his sisters looked. They looked as if their limp garments had been poured cold over their shoulders and hung dripping down to their bone-thin ankles.
"I'm glad you like her," Millie said. "She's a sight."
He had determined to be politic. It was essential that he should be politic. Yet he, the future leader of a conservative party, retorted: "It 'd do you good to know a few girls like her. The silly crowd you go with!"
"Lizzie Janes! That frump!"
He appealed to his mother. "I certainly think you ought to call on them, mother. They've been mighty good to me this summer while you were away."
"Well, Wat," she said, "if you wish it—"
"You'll do no such thing!" Millie cried.
The squabble that followed did not end in victory for Wat. It was Millie's contention that they were not bound to receive every "freak" that he might "pick up"; and Mrs. Tyler—who, in social matters, was usually glad to remain in the quiet background of the family—put herself forward inadequately in Wat's behalf. She succumbed to her husband's decision that she "had better leave it to the girls"; he ended the dispute indifferently by leaving the table; and Wat realized, with desperation, that he had failed in his diplomatic attempt to engage the family interest for Miss Janes by introducing mention of her and her virtues into the table talk.
He went back up-stairs to his bedroom and locked himself in with his chagrin and his sentimental secret. It was a secret that showed in a sort of gloomy wistfulness as he stood gazing out the glass door that opened, from one angle of his room, upon a little balcony—an ornamental balcony whose turret top adorned a corner of the Tyler roof with an aristocratically useless excrescence. You will notice it in the picture of "Sir Watson Tyler's Boyhood Home" in The Canadian Magazine's article about him. From the door of this balcony, looking over the autumn maples of the street, through a gap between the opposite houses, Wat could see the chimney of the Janes house.
It was a remarkable pile of bricks, that chimney. All around it were houses that existed only as neighbors to that one supreme house. And around those were still others, less and less important, containing the undistinguished mass of lives that made up the city of Coulton in which she lived. The heart of interest in Coulton had once been his own home—as, for example, when he came back to it from college for his holidays. Now, when he returned in the evenings from his father's office he found himself on the circumference of a circle of which Miss Janes's home was the vital center. He saw his own room merely as a window looking toward hers. And this amazing displacement had been achieved so imperceptibly that he had only just become acutely conscious of it himself.
His mother and his sisters had spent the summer on the clay-lipped lake shore that gave the name of "Surfholm" to the Tyler cottage in the society news of The Coulton Advertiser; and Wat and his father had remained in town, from Mondays to Saturdays, to attend to the real-estate and investment business that supplied the Tyler income. (They also owned the Coulton horse-car line, but it supplied no income for them.) On a memorable Tuesday evening Wat had "stopped in" at the Janeses' on his way down-town with his friend Webb, to let Webb return to Miss Janes some music that he had borrowed. And, by a determining accident of fate, as they approached the lamplit veranda of the Janes cottage, Alicia Janes was sitting behind the vine-hung lattice, reading a magazine, while her mother played the piano.
Observe: There was no veranda on the Tyler "residence"; no one ever sat outdoors there; and no one ever played anything but dance-music on the Tyler piano. Alicia Janes looked romantic under the yellow light, in the odor of flowers, with the background of green leaves about her. Her mother had more than a local reputation as a teacher of music, and the melody that poured out of the open French windows of the parlor was eloquent, impassioned, uplifting. The introductions were made in a low voice, so as not to disturb the music, and it was in silence that Alicia put out a frank hand to Wat and welcomed him with the strong grasp of a violinist's fingers.
Wat's ordinary tongue-tied diffidence went unnoticed under these circumstances. He was able to sit down without saying anything confused or banal. The powerful music, professionally interpreted, filled him with stately emotions, to which he moved and sat with an effect of personal dignity and repose.
These may seem to be details of small importance. But life has a way of concealing its ominous beginnings and of being striking only when its conclusions are already foregone. So death is more dramatic, but less significant, than the unperceived inception of the fatal incidents that end in death. And in the seemingly trivial circumstances of Wat's introduction to the Janes veranda there were hidden the germs of vital alterations for him—alterations that were to affect the life of the whole community of Coulton, and, if the King's birthday list is to be believed, were to be important even to the British Empire.
Alicia Janes was dressed in a belted black gown, like an art student, with a starched Eton collar and cuffs. Instead of the elaborate coiffure of the day's style she wore her dark hair simply parted and coiled low on her neck in a Rossetti mode. Her long olive face would have been homely if it had not been for her eyes. They welcomed Wat with the touching smile of a sensitive independence, and he did not notice that her lips were thin and her teeth prominent. In dress and manner she was unlike any of the young women whom he had met in the circle of his sisters' friends; if she had been like them, the memory of past embarrassments would probably have inhibited every expression of his mind. Her surroundings were different from any to which he had been accustomed; and, as a simple consequence, he was quite unlike himself in his accustomed surroundings. Perhaps it was the music most of all that helped him. It carried him as a good orchestra might carry an awkward dancer, uplifted into a sudden confident grace.
When she asked him some commonplace questions in an undertone he replied naturally, forgetting himself. He listened to the music and he looked at her, seriously thrilled. When Webb asked her if she wouldn't play the violin, and she replied that she always played badly before strangers, Wat begged her in a voice of genuine anxiety not to consider him a stranger. She said, "I'll play for you the next time you come." And he was so grateful for the implied invitation to come again that his "Thank you" was sincere beyond eloquence. He even met her mother without embarrassment, although Mrs. Janes was an enigmatic-looking, dark woman with a formidable manner. She became more friendly when she understood that he was the son of the Tylers of Queen's Avenue, and he felt that he was accepted as a person of some importance, like herself. That was pleasant.
After a half-hour on the veranda he went on down-town with Webb, as calm outwardly as if he had parted from old friends, and so deeply happy in the prospect of seeing her again that he was quite unaware of what had happened to him. The following afternoon he telephoned to her eagerly. And he was back with her that night for hours in the lamplight, among the vines—without Webb—talking, smiling, and listening with profound delight while she played the violin to her mother's piano.
And there was an incredible difference between Wat on the veranda and Wat at home. Under his own roof he was a large-headed, heavy-shouldered, apparently slow-witted, shy youth, who read in his room, exercised alone in a gymnasium which he had put in his attic during a college vacation, wrote long letters to former classmates in other cities, and, going out to the post-box, mooned ponderously around the streets till all hours. He had never anything much to say. Although he never met any one if he could avoid it, and suffered horribly in a drawing-room, he was—like most shy men—particular to the point of effeminacy about his appearance. He bathed and shaved and brushed his hair and fussed over his clothes absurdly, morning and night. He was, in fact, in many ways ridiculous. On the Janes veranda he was nothing of the sort. As the son of the owner of the Coulton street-car line and the Tyler real estate, he was a young man of social importance in a home where the mother earned a living by teaching music and the daughter had only the prospect of doing the same. He was a man of the practical world, whose opinions were authoritative. He was well dressed and rather distinguished-looking, with what has since been called "a brooding forehead." He was fond of reading, and he had the solid knowledge of a slow student who assimilated what he read. Alicia deferred to him with an inspiring trust in his wisdom and his experience. She deferred even to his judgment in music—for which, it transpired, he had an acute ear and a fresh appreciation. She played to him as eagerly as a painter might show his sketches to a wealthy enthusiast who was by way of becoming a collector. Their evenings together were full of interest, of promise, of talk and laughter, of serious converse and melodic emotion.
There was in those days, in Coulton, no place of summer amusement to which a young pair could make an excuse of going in order to be together, so that Wat was never called on to make a public parade of his devotion. The best that he could do was to take Alicia to her church. But it was not his church. He was not known there. Mrs. Janes was the church organist; Alicia often added the music of her violin; and she sat always in the choir. Wat, in a back pew down-stairs, was inconspicuous and not coupled with her. It was for these reasons that his interest in Miss Janes was not at once generally known. That was entirely accidental.
But it was not an accident that he did not make it known to his family. At first he foresaw and dreaded only the amusement of his sisters. Wat "girling"! What next! And then he shrank from the effect on Alicia Janes of getting the family point of view on him. It was almost as if he had been romanticizing about himself and knew that his family would tell her the truth. And finally, as guilty as if he were leading a double life, he confronted the problem that haunts all double lives—the problem of either keeping them apart or of uniting them in any harmony. As long as his family had been at "Surfholm" it had not been necessary that they should recognize Miss Janes, but, now that they were back in town, every day that they ignored her was an insult to her and an accusation of him.
He had to tell them. He had to put into words the beautiful secret of his feeling for her. "That freak!" He had to introduce Alicia to his home and to the shame of his belittlement hi his home, and let his contemptuous sisters disillusion her about him.
A horrible situation! Believe me or not, of a career so distinguished as Sir Watson's this was the most crucial point, the most agonized moment. It is not even hinted at in the official accounts of his career, yet never in his life afterward was he to be so racked with emotion, so terrified by the real danger of losing everything in the world that could make the world worth living in. And never afterward was he forced to choose a course that meant so much not only to himself, but to the world in which he lived.
That is why I have chosen this autumn Sunday of 1892 as the most notable day to scrutinize and chronicle in a character-study of Sir Watson Tyler. I should like to commemorate every moment of it, but, as the memoir-writers say—when their material is running short—space forbids. You will have to imagine him trying to dress in order to take Miss Janes to church: struggling through a perspiring ecstasy of irresolution in the choice of a necktie, straining into a Sunday coat that made him look round-shouldered because of the bulging muscularity of his back, cursing his tailor, hating his hands because they hung red and bloated below his cuffs, hating his face, his moon face, his round eyes, his pudding of a forehead, and all those bodily characteristics that were to mark him, to his later biographers, as a born leader among men, "physically as well as mentally dominant."
He never went to church, to his family's knowledge, so he had to wait until they had gone in order to avoid inconvenient questions. They were always late. He watched them, behind the curtains of his window, till they rounded the circular driveway and reached the street. Five minutes later he was cutting across the lawn, scowling under a high hat that always pinched his forehead, on his way to the Janeses'.
He did not arrive there. He decided that he was too late. He decided he could not arrive there without having first made up his mind what to do. And he turned aside to wander through the residential streets of Coulton, pursued by the taunts of the church-bells. He came to the weed-grown vacant lots and the withered fields of market-gardeners in a northern suburb that was yet to be nicknamed "Tylertown." He ended beside Smith's Falls, where the Coulton River drops twenty feet over a ridge into the Coulton Valley; and he sat down on a rock, in his high hat, on the site of the present power-house—his power-house—that has put the light and heat of industrial life into the whole community. He resolved to see his mother privately, tell her the truth, get her to help him with his father, and let his sisters do their worst.
But it was not easy to see Mrs. Tyler privately in her home on Sunday. They had a long and solemn noon dinner that was part of the ritual of the day, and after dinner she always sat with her husband and her daughters in the sitting-room up-stairs, indulging her domestic soul in the peace of a family reunion that seemed only possible to the Tylers on Sunday afternoon when they were gorged like a household of pythons. Wat retired to his bedroom. Every twenty minutes he wandered down-stairs, passed the door of the sitting-room slowly, and returned up the back stairs by stealth. They heard him pacing the floor overhead. Millie listened to him thoughtfully. The younger sister, Ollie, was trying to write letters on note-paper of robin's-egg blue, and she blamed him for all the difficulties of composition; it was so distracting to have him paddling around like that. Finally, when his mother heard him creaking down the stairs for the fourth time, she called out: "Wat! What is the matter with you? If you're restless, why don't you go for a walk?"
He answered, hastily, "I'm going," and continued down to the lower hall. Millie waited to hear the front door shut behind him. She had just remembered what he said at breakfast about Jack Webb taking him to see the Janes girl. She went at once to the library to telephone.
And she came flying back with the news that while they had been away Wat had been spending almost every evening with Lizzie Janes; that he had been going to see her since their return; that Jack Webb thought they were engaged. "And the first thing we know," she said, "he'll be married to her."
Mr. Tyler tilted one eyebrow. He thought he understood that there were things that were not in Wat.
"Well, what's the matter with him, then?" Millie demanded. "Why has he been hiding it, and sneaking off to see her and never saying a word about it, if he isn't ashamed of it and afraid to tell us? They've roped him in. That's what I think. Lizzie Janes is a regular old maid now. If she isn't engaged to Wat, she intends to be. No one else would ever marry her. I bet they've been working Wat for all they're worth. They're as poor—"
Her father continued incredulous.
"Well," she cried, "Jack Webb says Wat's been going to church with her twice a Sunday."
Wat's indolent aversion to church-going being well known, this was the most damning piece of evidence she could have produced against him.
Mrs. Tyler pleaded, "She can't be a bad girl if she goes to church twice a—"
"What difference does that make?" Millie demanded. "It doesn't make it any better for us, does it?"
"I'll speak to Wat," Mrs. Tyler promised, feebly.
"It's no use speaking to Wat! He has nothing to do with it. Any one can turn Wat around a little finger."
"Do you know her?" Mr. Tyler asked.
"I used to know her—before she went to—when she was at school here. She used to wear thick stockings, and woolen mitts."
Ollie added, as the final word of condemnation, "Home-made!"
Mr. Tyler may have felt that he did not appreciate the merit of these facts. He made a judicial noise in his throat and said nothing.
"She's older than any of us—than Wat, too."
"Well," he said, reaching for his newspaper, "I suppose Wat 'll do what he likes. He's not likely to do anything remarkable one way or the other."
"He's not going to marry Lizzie Janes," Millie declared. "Not if I can help it."
"Millie," her mother scolded, "you've no right interfering in Wat's affairs. He's older than you are—"
"It isn't only Wat's affair," she cried. "She isn't only going to marry Wat. We're thrown in with the bargain. I guess we have something to say."
"Tom!" Mrs. Tyler protested. "If you let her—"
"Well," he ruled, "Wat hasn't even taken the trouble to ask us what we thought about it. I don't feel called on to help him. It means more to the girls than it does to us, in any case. They'll have to put up with her for the rest of her life."
"I guess not!" Millie said, confidently.
"Now, Millie!" her mother threatened. "If you—"
"If you want Lizzie Janes and her mother in this family," Millie said, "I don't. I guess it won't be hard to let Wat and them know it, either. And if you won't," she ended, defiantly, as she turned away, "I will!"
She went out and Ollie followed. Mrs. Tyler dropped back in her chair, gazing speechlessly at her husband. He caught her eye as he turned a page of his paper. "All right, now," he said. "Wait till Wat comes."
They waited. Millie did not. She distrusted her mother's partiality for Wat, and she distrusted her father's distaste for interfering in any household troubles. She trusted herself only, assured that if Wat's ridiculous misalliance was to be prevented it must be prevented by her; and she felt that it could be easily prevented, because it was ridiculous, because Wat was ridiculous, because Lizzie Janes was absurd. W T hat was Wat's secrecy in the affair but a confession that he was ashamed of it? What was Lizzie Janes's sly silence but an evidence that she had hoped to hook Wat before his family knew what was going on?
What indeed? She asked it of Ollie, and Ollie asked it of her. They had locked themselves in Millie's bedroom to consult together—Ollie sitting, tailor-wise, cross-legged on the bed, and Millie gesticulating up and down the room—in one of those angry councils of war against their elders in which they were accustomed to face the cynical facts of life with, a frankness that would have amazed mankind.
And Wat, meantime, arrived at the door of the Janes house because it was impossible for him not to arrive there. Alicia greeted him with her usual unchanging, gentle smile. He began to explain why he had not come that morning to take her to church; that his family—
"There's some one here," she said, unheeding. "Some one who wants to meet you. My brother!" And touching him lightly on the shoulder, she turned him toward the parlor and ushered him in to meet his future in the shape of Howard Janes.
Janes was then a tall, gaunt, feverish-eyed, dark enthusiast, of an extraordinary mental and physical restlessness a man who should have been a visionary, but had become an electrical engineer. He had been working on the project to develop electrical power at Niagara Falls, and in ten minutes he was describing to Wat the whole theory and progress of the work, past, present, and future. "In ten years," he said, "Niagara power will be shot all through this district for a hundred miles around, and here's Coulton asleep, with one of the best power projects in Canada right under its nose. Where? Smith's Falls. And here you are, with a dead town, a dead street-car line, a lot of dead real estate, and the power to make the whole thing a gold-mine running to waste over that hill. Why, man, if it was an oil-field you'd be developing it like mad. Because it's electricity no one seems to see it. And in ten years it will be too late."
He talked to Wat as if Wat owned the car line, the real estate, the town itself, and when Wat glanced at Alicia she was looking at him as if he owned them. The power of that look was irresistible—hypnotic. He began to listen as if he owned the car lines and the real estate, to think as if he owned them, to ask questions, and finally to reply as if he owned them. Very grave, with his eyes narrowed, silent, he became a transportation magnate considering a development scheme proposed by an industrial promoter.
They were interrupted by the telephone in the hall. Alicia answered it. "It's for you," she said to Wat, looking at him significantly. "Your sister."
He went to the 'phone, puzzled. It was Millie's voice. "You're to come home at once," she said.
Wat asked, "What's the matter?"
"You know what's the matter," she snapped, "as well as I do. You're wanted home here at once." And while the meaning of that was slowly reaching him, through the preoccupied brain of the railroad magnate, she added, "I don't wonder you were ashamed to tell us!" and slapped up the receiver.
He stood a moment at the 'phone, pale. And in that moment history was made. He went back to Alicia, face front, head up. She looked at him expectantly. "They want me to bring you to see them," he said.
It was what she had expected, he supposed. Mark it as the beginning of his great career. What she expected! There's the point. That's the secret, as I see it, of the making of Sir Watson Tyler.
After a moment's hesitation she went to put on her hat. He said to her brother: "Can you wait till we get back? We'll be only a few minutes. I want to go into this thing with you in detail." And when he was on the street with her he explained, merely: "I want you to meet mother. I don't suppose we'll see dad. He's always so busy he doesn't pay much attention to what goes on at home."
"I don't think I've ever seen any of your family," she said, "except your sisters." She was thinking of them as she used to see them in their school-days, in short dresses, giggling, and chewing candy in the street-cars.
"They're very young," Wat warned her, "and they've been spoiled. You mustn't mind if Millie— She's been allowed to do pretty much as she likes. Our life at home isn't like yours, you know. I think our house is too big. We seem to be—sort of separated in our rooms."
Strange! He appeared apologetic. She did not understand why unless it was that he was fearful of her criticism of his family. She knew that they were not socially distinguished, except by newspaper notice; but she thought she had no reverence for social position. And he could hardly be apologizing for their income.
The house, as they approached it, was pretentious, but that was probably the architect's fault. It was modestly withdrawn behind its trees, its flower-beds, and its lawns. For a moment she saw herself, in her simple costume, coming to be passed upon by the eyes of an alien wealth. Wat was silent, occupied with his own thoughts. He rang absent-mindedly.
A maid opened a door on a hall that was architecturally stuffy and not furnished in the rich simplicity that Alicia had expected. And the sight of the drawing-room was a shock. It was overcrowded with pink-upholstered shell-shaped furniture that gave her a note of overdressed bad taste. The carpet was as richly gaudy as a hand-painted satin pincushion. The bric-à-brac, of a florid costliness, cluttered the mantelpieces and the table-tops like a tradesman's display. The pictures on the walls were the family photographs and steel engravings of an earlier home. It was a room of undigested dividends, and she thought that she began to see why Wat had been apologetic. To his credit he seemed uncomfortable in it. "I'll just tell them you're here," he said.
He left her there and went out to the stairs. Millie was coming down to see who had rung. "Well," she cried from a landing above him as he ascended resolutely, "will you tell us what you think you're doing with that Lizzie Janes?"
He caught her by the arm. He said in a voice that was new to her: "I've brought her to call on mother. Tell her she's here."
"You've brought her to—! I'll do nothing of the kind. You can just take her away again. I don't want her, and they don't want her." She had begun to raise her voice, with the evident intention of letting any one hear who would. "If she thinks she can—"
"That's enough!" He stopped her angrily, with his hand over her mouth. "You ought to be—"
She struggled with him, striking his hand away. "How dare you! If you think that Lizzie Janes—"
He was afraid that Alicia might hear it. He grabbed her up roughly and began to carry her up-stairs, fighting with him, furious at the indignity—for he had caught her where he could, with no respect for her body or her clothes. No one, in years, had dared to lay hands on her, no matter what she did; the sanctity of her fastidious young person was an inviolable right to her; and Wat's assault upon it was brutal to her, degrading, atrocious. She became hysterical, in a clawed and tousled passion of shame and resentment. He carried her to her room, tossed her on to her bed, and left her, face down on her pillows, sobbing, outraged. She could have killed him—or herself.
He straightened his necktie and strode into the sitting-room.
"Why, Wat!" his mother cried. "What's the matter?"
"Miss Janes," he said, "is down-stairs. I've brought her to call on you."
She rose, staring. His father looked at him, surprised, over the top of his paper. "Well," he demanded, "what's all this about Miss Janes, anyway?"
Wat gave him back his look defiantly. "She's the finest girl I've ever met. And I'm going to marry her, if I can."
"Oh," Mr. Tyler said, and returned to his news.
Ollie rushed out to find her sister.
Wat turned his amazing countenance on his mother.
"Yes, Wat," she replied to it—and went with him obediently.
Of the interview that followed in the drawing-room there were several conflicting reports made. Ollie slipped down quietly to hear the end of it—after a stupefying account from Millie of what had happened—but her report to Millie is negligible. From that night both the girls ceased to exist as factors in Wat's life; he saw them and heard them thereafter only absent-mindedly.
Mrs. Tyler's report was made in voluble excitement to her husband, who listened, frowning, over his cigar. "And, Tom, you wouldn't have known him," she said. "He wasn't like—like himself at all! It was so pretty. They're so in love with each other. She's such a sweet girl."
"Well," he grumbled, "I'll have nothing to do with it. It's in your department. If it was one of the girls it 'd be different. I suppose Wat '11 have to do his own marrying. He's old enough. I hope she'll make a man of him."
"'A man of him'! She! Why, she's as— No, indeed! You ought to see the way she defers to him. She's as proud of him! And he's as different!"
He was unconvinced. "I'm glad to hear it. You'd better go and look after Millie. She accuses him of assault and battery."
"It serves her right. I'll not go near her. And, Tom," she said, "he wants to talk to you about a plan he has for the railway—for using electric light to run it, or something like that."
"Huh! Who put that in his head?"
"Oh, he made it up himself. Her brother's an engineer, and they've been talking about it."
"I suppose!" he said. "She'll be working the whole Janes family in on us." He snorted. "I'm glad some one's put something into his head besides eating and sleeping."
"Now, Tom," she pleaded, "you've got to be fair to Wat!"
'All right, Mary," he relented. "Run along and see Millie. I've had enough for one Sunday."
As for Alicia Janes, it was late at night when she made her report to her mother in a subdued tremble of excitement. She had overheard something of Wat's scuffle with Millie on the stairway, but she did not speak of it except to say: "I'm afraid the girls are awful. The youngest, Ollie, is overdressed and silly—with the manners of a spoiled child of ten. It's her mother's fault. She's one of those helpless big women. Wat must have got his qualities from his father."
"Did you find out why they hadn't called?"
"No-o. But I can guess."
"Well, it isn't a nice thing to say, but I really think Wat's rather—as if he were ashamed of them. And I don't wonder, mother! Their front room's furnished with that— Oh, and such bric-à-brac!" She paused. She hesitated. She blushed. "Wat asked me if I'd— You know he had never really spoken before, although I knew he—"
Her mother said, softly, "Yes?"
She looked down at the worn carpet. "And I really felt so sorry for him— The family's awful, I know, but he's so— I said I would."
She had said she would. And Wat, long after midnight, lying on his back in bed, staring up at the darkness, felt as if he were afloat on a current that was carrying him away from his old life with more than the power of Niagara. His mind was full of Howard Janes's plans for harnessing Smith's Falls, of electrifying the street railway, of lighting Coulton with electricity and turning the vacant Tyler lots of the northern suburb into factory sites. He was thinking of incorporations, franchises, capitalizations, stocks, bonds, mortgages, and loans. He had been talking them over with Janes for hours on the veranda, at the supper-table, on the street. There had been no music. As Wat was leaving he had spoken to Alicia hastily in the hall—asking her to marry him, in fact—and she had said, "Oh, Wat!" clinging to his hands as he kissed her. He could still feel that tremulous, confiding grasp of her strong fingers as she surrendered her life to him, depending on him, proud of him, humble to him. He shivered. He was afraid.
And that was to be only the first of many such frightened midnights. A thousand times he was to ask himself: "What am I doing? Why have I gone into this business? It 'll kill me! It '11 worry me to death!" He had gone into it because Alicia had expected him to; but he did not know it. The maddest thing he ever did—
It was when the power scheme had been successfully floated, the street railway was putting out long radial lines along the country roads, and the gas company was willing to sell out to him in order to escape the inevitable clash of competition with his electric light. The banks suddenly began to make trouble about carrying him. He was in their debt for an appalling amount. He felt that he ought to prepare his wife for the worst. "Well, Wat," she said, reproachfully, when she understood him, "if the banks are going to bother you, I don't see why you don't get a bank of your own."
It was as if she thought he could buy a bank in a toy-shop. She expected it of him. Miracles! nothing but miracles! And it was the maddest thing he ever did, but he went after the moribund Farmers' Trust Company, got it with his father's assistance, reorganized it and put it on its feet, while he held up the weak-kneed power projects and Janes talked manufacturers into buying power sites. The Mechanics' Bank of Canada passed to him later, but by that time he was running, at "Tylertown," an automobile factory, a stone-crusher, a carborundum works, and the plant of Coulton's famous Eleco Breakfast Food, cooked by electricity, and the success of the whole city of Coulton was so involved with his fortunes that he simply could not be allowed to fail.
And here was the fact that made the whole thing possible: Janes had the vision and the daring necessary to attempt their undertakings, but he could not have carried them out; whereas Wat would never have gone beyond the original power-house; but with Janes talking to him and Alicia looking at him he moved ahead with a stolid, conservative caution and a painstaking care of detail that made every move as safe and deliberate as a glacial advance. He worked day and night, methodically, with a ceaseless application that would have worn out a less solid and lethargic man. It was as if, having eaten and slept—and nothing else—for twenty years, he could do as he pleased about food now, and never rest at all. He was wonderful. His mind digested everything, like his stomach, slowly, but without distress. His shyness, now deeply concealed, made him silent, unfathomable. He had no friends, because he confided in no one; he was too diffident to do it. Behind his inscrutable silence he studied and watched the men with whom he had to work, moving like a quiet engineer among the machinery which he had started, and the uproar of it. And the moment he decided that a man was wrong he took him out and dropped him clean, without feeling, without any friendly entanglement to deter him, silently.
He had to go into politics to protect his franchises, and he became the "Big Business Interests" behind the local campaign; but he never made a public appearance; he managed campaign funds, sat on executive committees, was consulted by the party leaders, and passed upon policies and candidates. The Coulton Advertiser annoyed him, and he bought it. His wife had gathered about her a number of music-lovers, and they formed a stringed orchestra that studied and played in the music-room of Wat's new home on the hill above "Tylertown." She expected him to be present, and he rarely failed. As a matter of fact, he seldom heard more than the first few bars of a composition, then, emotionalized, his brain excited, he sat planning, reviewing, advancing, and reconsidering his work. Music had that effect on him. It enlivened his lumbering mind. He became as addicted to it as if it were alcohol.
He followed his wife into a plan for the formation of a symphony orchestra, which he endowed. When there was no proper building for it he put up Mozart Hall and gave it to the city. She wanted to hear Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, so the orchestra had to be supplemented with a choir. He endowed the Coulton Conservatory of Music when she objected that she could not get voices or musicians because there was no way in Coulton to educate or train them. And in doing these things he gave Coulton its fame as a musical center. (Lamplight on the veranda, and Mrs. Janes playing the piano behind the open French windows!)
It was the campaign against reciprocity that put him in the Senate. He believed that reciprocity with the United States would ruin his factories. He headed the committee of Canadian manufacturers that raised the funds for the national campaign against the measure. The consequent defeat of the Liberal party put his friends in power. They rewarded him with a Senatorship. He was opposed to taking it, but his wife expected him to. He went into the Cabinet, as Minister without portfolio, a year later. It was inevitable. He was the financial head of the party; they had to have him at their government councils. When the war with Germany broke out he gave full pay to all of his employees that volunteered. He endowed a battery of machine-guns from Coulton. Every factory that he controlled he turned into a munition-works. He contributed lavishly to the Red Cross. And, of course, he was knighted.
It is an open secret that he will probably be made Lord Coulton when the readjustment of the colonial affairs of the Empire takes him to London. He will be influential there; he has the silent, conservative air of ponderous authority that England trusts. And Lady Tyler is a poised, gracious, and charming person who will be popular socially. She, of course, is of no importance to the Empire. She still looks at Wat worshipfully, without any suspicion that it was she who made him—not the slightest.
I do not know how much of the old Wat is left in him. His silence covers him. It is impossible to tell how greatly the quality and texture of his mind may have changed under the exercise and labor of his gigantic undertakings. I saw him when he was in New York to hear the Coulton orchestra and choir give the Ninth Symphony, to the applause of the most critical. ("The scion of a noble house," one of the papers called him.) And it certainly seemed impossible—although I swear I believe it is true—that the solid magnificences of the man and his achievements were all due to the fact that when he came back from the Janes telephone to confront the expectancy of Alicia Janes, on that Sunday night in 1892, he said, "They want me to bring you to see them," instead of saying, "They want me at home."