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THE COLOSSUS


A NOVEL
BY
OPIE READ


Author of "The Carpetbagger," "Old Ebenezer," "The Jucklins," "My
Young Master," "On The Suwanee River," "A Kentucky Colonel," "Emmett
Bonlore," "A Tennessee Judge," "The Wives of the Prophet," "Len
Gansett," "The Tear in the Cup and Other Stories".


CHICAGO
LAIRD & LEE, PUBLISHERS
1893.


[Illustration]


CONTENTS.


Chapter.

I. LOOKING BACK AT EARLY LIFE
II. A SLEEPY VILLAGE AND A FUSSY OLD MAN
III. ALL WAS DARKNESS
IV. A STRANGE REQUEST
V. DISSECTING A MOTIVE
VI. WAITING AT THE STATION
VII. A MOTHER'S AFFECTION
VIII. THE DOMAIN OF A GREAT MERCHANT
IX. THE INTERVIEWERS
X. ROMPED WITH THE GIRL
XI. ACKNOWLEDGED BY SOCIETY
XII. A DEMOCRACY
XIII. BUTTING AGAINST A WALL
XIV. A DIFFERENT HANDWRITING
XV. TOLD HIM HER STORY
XVI. AN AROUSER OF THE SLEEPY
XVII. AN OLD MAN WOULD INVEST
XVIII. THE INVESTMENT
XIX. ARRESTED EVERYWHERE
XX. CRIED A SENSATION
XXI. A HELPLESS OLD WOMAN
XXII. TO GO ON A VISIT
XXIII. HENRY'S INCONSISTENCY
XXIV. WORE A ROSE ON HIS COAT
XXV. IMPATIENTLY WAITING
XXVI. TOLD IT ALL
XXVII. POINTS OUT HER BROTHER'S DUTY
XXVIII. THE VERDICT
XXIX. A DAY OF REST
XXX. A MOTHER'S REQUEST
XXXI. A MOMENT OF ARROGANCE
XXXII. A MOST PECULIAR FELLOW
XXXIII. THE TIME WAS DRAWING NEAR
XXXIV. TOLD HIM A STORY
XXXV. CONCLUSION




CHAPTER I.

LOOKING BACK AT EARLY LIFE.


When the slow years of youth were gone and the hastening time of
manhood had come, the first thing that Henry DeGolyer, looking back,
could call from a mysterious darkness into the dawn of memory was that
he awoke one night in the cold arms of his dead mother. That was in
New Orleans. The boy's father had aspired to put the face of man upon
lasting canvas, but appetite invited whisky to mix with his art, and
so upon dead walls he painted the trade-mark bull, and in front of
museums he exaggerated the distortion of the human freak.

After the death of his mother, the boy was taken to the Foundlings'
Home, where he was scolded by women and occasionally knocked down by a
vagabond older than himself. Here he remembered to have seen his
father but once. It was a Sunday when he came, years after the gentle
creature, holding her child in her arms, had died at midnight. The
painter laughed and cried and begged an old woman for a drink of
brandy. He went away, and after an age had seemed to pass the matron
of the place took the boy on her lap and told him that his father was
dead, and then, putting him down, she added: "Run along, now, and be
good."

The boy was taken by an old Italian woman. In after years he could not
determine the length of time that he had lived in her wretched home,
but with vivid brightness dwelled in his memory the morning when he
ran away and found a free if not an easy life in the newsboys'
lodging-house. He sold newspapers, he went to a night school, and as
he grew older he picked up "river items" for an afternoon newspaper.
His hope was that he might become a "professional journalist," as
certain young men termed themselves; and study, which in an
ill-lighted room, tuned to drowsiness by the buzzing of youthful
mumblers, might have been a chafing task to one who felt not the rowel
of a spurring ambition, was to him a pleasure full of thrilling
promises. To him the reporter stood at the high-water mark of
ambition's "freshet." But when years had passed and he had scrambled
to that place he looked down and saw that his height was not a dizzy
one. And instead of viewing a conquered province, he saw, falling from
above, the shadows of trials yet to be endured. He worked faithfully,
and at one time held the place of city editor, but a change in the
management of the paper not only reduced him to the ranks, but, as the
saying went, set him on the sidewalk. Then he wrote "specials." His
work was bright, original and strong, and was reproduced throughout
the country, but as it was not signed, the paper alone received the
credit. Year after year he lived in this unsettled way--reading in the
public library, musing at his own fireside, catching glimpses of an
important work which the future seemed to hold, and waiting for the
outlines of that work to become more distinct; but the months went by
and the plan of the work remained in the shadow of the coming years.

DeGolyer had now reached that time of life when a wise man begins
strongly to suspect that the past is but a future stripped of its
delusions. He was a man of more than ordinary appearance; indeed,
people who knew him, and who believed that size grants the same
advantages to all vocations, wondered why he was not more successful.
He was tall and strong, and in his bearing there was an ease which, to
one who recognizes not a sleeping nerve force, would have suggested
the idea of laziness. His complexion was rather dark, his eyes were
black, and his hair was a dark brown. He was not handsome, but his sad
face was impressive, and his smile, a mere melancholy recognition that
something had been said, did not soon fade from memory.

One afternoon DeGolyer called at the office of a morning newspaper,
and was told that the managing editor wanted to see him. When he was
shown in he found an aspiring politician laughing with forced
heartiness at something which the editor had said. To the Southern
politician the humor of an influential editor is full of a delirious
mellowness.

When the politician went out the editor invited DeGolyer to take a
seat. "Mr. DeGolyer, a number of your sketches have been well
received."

"Yes, sir; they have made me a few encouraging enemies."

The editor smiled. "And you regard enemies as an encouragement, eh?"

"Yes, as a proof of success. Our friends mark out a course for us, and
if we depart from it and do something better than their
specifications call for, they become our enemies."

"I don't know but you are right." After a short silence the editor
continued: "Mr. DeGolyer, we have been thinking of sending a man down
into Costa Rica. Our merchants believe that if we were to pay more
attention to that country we might thereby improve our trade. What we
want is a number of letters intended to familiarize us with those
people--want to show, you understand, that we are interested in them."

They talked during an hour. The nest day DeGolyer was on board a
steamer bound for Punta Arenas. On the vessel he met a young man who
said that his name was Henry Sawyer; and this young man was so blithe
and light-hearted that DeGolyer, yielding to the persuasion of
contrast, was drawn toward him. Young Sawyer was accompanied by his
uncle, a short, fat, and at times a crusty old fellow. DeGolyer did
not think that the uncle was wholly sound of mind. One evening, just
before reaching port, and while the two young men were standing on
deck, looking landward, young Sawyer said:

"Do you know, I think more of you than of any fellow I ever met?"

"I don't know it," DeGolyer answered, "but I am tempted to hope so."

"Good. I do, and that's a fact. You see, I've led a most peculiar sort
of life. I never had any home--that is, any real home. I don't
remember a thing about my father and mother. They died when I was very
young, and then my uncle took me. Uncle never married and never was
particularly attached to any one place. We have traveled a good deal;
have lived quite a while in New Orleans, but for the past two years we
have lived in a little bit of a place called Ulmata, in central Costa
Rica. Uncle's got an interest in some mines not far from there. Say,
why wouldn't it be a good idea for you to go to Ulmata and write your
letters from there? Ain't any railroad, but there's a mule line
running to the coast. How does it strike you?"

"I'd like to, but I'm afraid that it would take my letters too long to
reach New Orleans; still, I don't know what difference that would
make, as I'm not going to write news. After all," he added, as though
he were arguing with himself, "I should think that the interior is
more interesting than the coast, for people don't hang their
characteristics over the coast line."

"There, you've hit the nail the very first lick. You go out there with
us, and I'll bet we have a magnificent time."

"But your uncle might object."

"How can he? It ain't any of his business where you go."

"Of course not."

"Well, then, that settles it. But really, he'd like to have you.
You'll like him; little peculiar at times, but you'll find him all
right. You'll get a good deal of money for those letters, won't you?"

"No; a hired mail on a newspaper doesn't get much money."

"But it must take a good deal of brains to do your work."

"Presumably, but there stands a long row of brains ready to take the
engagement--to take it, in fact, at a cut rate. The market is full of
brains."

"How old did you say you were?"

"I am nearly thirty," DeGolyer answered.

"I'm only twenty-five, but that don't make any difference; we'll have
a splendid time all the same. You read a good deal, I notice. Uncle's
got a whole raft of books, and you can read to me when you get tired
of reading to yourself. I've gone to school a good deal, but I'm not
much of a hand with a book; but I tell you what I believe--I believe I
could run a business to the queen's taste if I had a chance, and I'm
going to try it one of these days. Uncle tells me that after awhile I
may be worth some money, and if I am I'll get rich as sure as you're
born. Business was born in me, but I've never had a chance to do
anything, I have traded around a little, and I've made some money,
too, but the trouble is that I've never been settled down long enough
to do much of anything, I've scarcely any chance at all out at Ulmata.
What would you rather be than anything else?"

"I don't know. It doesn't seem that nature has exerted herself in
fitting me for anything, and I am a strong believer in natural
fitness.



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