This 1912 film was adapted into a short story for the People's Popular Monthly in December 1915
But Father, I have set my heart on marrying Hugh Martin. If anything should ever come between us I should be unhappy all the rest of my life." Alice Wells made this declaration without a trace of defiance and quietly awaited her father's response
"I appreciate your feeling," he said, "and I know that when a woman sets her heart on a man it is folly to oppose her. Although I detest the sight of Martin and all his kin, ever since his father tricked me out of the presidency of the club, I am not going to oppose your wishes and force you to run away in the dead of knight like some criminal. Marry him if you must, but don't ask me to attend the wedding."
Alice left her seat and went to his side.
"And you wouldn't come to see you little girl in the happiest moment of her life?" she purred, slipping an arm around his neck.
"That's asking too much, dear. I am trying to be reasonable, but--"
A light tap at the door cut off the remainder of his sentence. At his invitation the maid entered and announced that Mr. Stephen Crosby had called to see Mr. Wells. Alice returned to her seat as the maid left the room to escort Mr. Crosby in.
Mr. Crosby was not a stranger to her, for on several occasions he had shown an interest for her society, but she had never offered him any encouragement to continue, she was unable to see how his call had any connection with her. His business was real estate and very likely he had some dealings with her father.
Crosby's entrance checked additional conjectures. e was a tall, good-looking man about thirty-five, and appeared to be fully aware of his personal charms. The maid had scarcely closed the door behind her when he said:
"Mr. Wells, I suppose you know that the mortgage on your house is several weeks overdue."
Caption left: He gazed at her for a moment. Caption top center: Alice stared at him unable to move or speak. Caption bottom center: Neither appeared to be overjoyed at the meeting. Caption right: In painful suspense she awaited the arrival of Crosby.
Wells nodded, studied the rug at his feet for a second, then raised his eyes to Alice. The announcement was a shock to her, for it was her first inkling that their home had been mortgaged.
"Are you prepared to settle?" Crosby queried in a cold, business-like tone.
"I'm afraid not," Wells answered. "I don't know where I can get hold of the money."
"Then you know there is nothing for me to do but foreclose. And I regret to say that I must begin action tomorrow."
Wells gripped the edge of the table and stared at Crosby.
"My, but you are in a terrible hurry? Why can't you wait a few weeks longer?"
"Business is business. I feel sorry for your plight, as I would for anybody. But once we let sympathy interfere, business goes to smash. You should have prepared for this months ahead." Then the real estate man gained his feet and started for the door. "As I said, I'm sorry, but you'll have to face the consequences."
Wells bit his lip and said nothing. Alice for a moment was too amazed to utter a sound. Why had her father mortgaged their home, and why had he not told her? She realized that she must not allow Crosby to go without her trying to obtain an extension of time. Later she could take up the matter with her father.
I'll be back in a few minutes, father," she said, as she started after Crosby.
On reaching the adjoining room she asked Crosby to be seated. She took a seat opposite him.
"This is a painful surprise to me," she remarked. "Had I known the house was mortgaged I might have been able to find a way to meet the note. Can't you postpone the foreclosure for, say a week or two?"
"I fear not. I took it for granted that you were aware of the deal; and if your father kept you in the dark I cannot be held responsible. As I told your father, business is business, much as I dislike to see you dispossessed."
"Dispossessed!" she exclaimed, putting her palm to her forehead.
"But, Mr. Crosby, you surely are not going to dispossess us at a moment's notice.
"I'm sorry; but I fear I shall have to do so, unless you can see your way clear to met the note within the next two days."
"How much is it? You see I haven't the slightest idea about the whole transaction.
"Ten thousand dollars."
Her face became a picture of despair as she gazed about the room. She hurriedly thought of friends who might possibly come to her assistance, but was forced to admit to herself that there was none who could advance the necessary amount. Something suggested Hugh Martin; but on second thought she knew that pride would prevent any such course.
"Perhaps I could suggest a way, but my plan might not appeal to you," Crosby remarked quietly.
"But why should you be interested in helping me out when you refuse an extension on time?" she inquired, wondering at his sudden change.
"With your father it was strictly business. With you it might be different. I've always thought a great deal of you; in fact, I think more of you than any--"
"Please Mr. Crosby," she interrupted, raising he hand, "if that is the only kind of assistance you can render I'd rather you wouldn't say any more."
"Very well," he bowed. "I apologize." Then he turned and made for the door.
Alice watched him, feeling that her last opportunity was slipping away. After all it might be wiser to hear him through. She might be able to secure some sort of a reprieve. And for her father's sake she must not hesitate as sacrifices.
"Just a moment, Mr. Crosby," she said, with a catch in her voice. "Perhaps I was a trifle hasty."
He swung about and faced her, apparently indifferent to her pain and anxiety.
"Can I take it for granted that you are willing to hear me through?" he asked.
She had no alternative but to nod.
"I was about to tell you that I think more of you than any other woman I have ever met. In other words, I love you, in spite of the fact that you have never displayed any liking for my company. And although you are wrapped up in Hugh Martin, I believe in time I could teach you to love me."
"And what has that to do with your plan of assisting me?"
"If you would promise to marry me I should make you a present of the mortgage and see that your father is well taken care of for the rest of his life."
"But don't you realize that it would be next to impossible for me ever to care for you. Bartered love never made any one happy. And in the end you would be more dissatisfied than ever."
"I'm not so sure of that," he smiled. "True love begets love. Had you never met Martin you surely would have loved another.
"But it was my fate to meet him."
"Well, I am willing to take the chance that I can teach you to love me."
"And is that the only condition on which I can hope for assistance or an extension of time?"
"It's the only way in which I would become interested in your future. It seems rather selfish to you, no doubt, but we are all more or less selfish."
"I'm not so much interested in myself at present as I am in my father. And even with his happiness at stake I couldn't give you an immediate answer."
"I'll wait until tomorrow afternoon for your answer," he said.
There was nothing else for her to do, and she agreed to consider the matter and give him a reply on the following afternoon.
As soon as he had gone she returned to her father and plied him with questions concerning the mortgage. To her surprise she learned that he had lost a large sum in stocks that had been entrusted to his care, and later on had mortgaged the house to make good his losses. To scold or upbraid him would have been of no avail. She must bend all her energies to saving their home, if such a thing were possible. And after a great deal of painful meditation she came to the conclusion that she would have to appeal to Martin for advice. It was a blow to her pride, but pride had to be sacrificed.
Early the following morning she set out for Martin's farm, and when she came in sight of the white-painted fence that surrounded his place she was tempted to turn back. However, she managed to keep up her courage until she reached his door. When the housekeeper opened the door and saw Alice she immediately called to Martin.
"Something's wrong--horribly wrong," he said, leading her into his studio, where he spent some of his leisure time painting. "Come take a seat, dear, and tell me all about it."
Alice unburdened her heart of her troubles, and told him of Crosby's offer. When she had finished, Martin kissed away her tears and said:
"You did right in coming to me. Of course, his offer of help is that of a cad, but we won't discuss it. I would rather be dead than see you married to him!" He gazed at her for a moment as she toyed with a ring on his hand. "Tomorrow morning," he went on, "I'll go down to the bank and borrow ten thousand on this place. It is easily worth thirty-five thousand. And we will soon get rid of Mr. Crosby."
Alice released his hand and looked up in alarm.
"No, no, I couldn't think of having you fall into debt on my account. And you know, dear, I did not come over with that idea in my mind. There must be some other way."
"There is no other way that I can see. And if I'm not entitled to help you out, who is? All I possess will be yours someday--and in the near future I hope--and why shouldn't you make use of part of it now? All the money in the world would mean nothing to me without you!"
"But it would be an injustice to you."
"It would be an injustice if I didn't see you through. Don't offer objections. Let the matter rest in my hands until tomorrow and I'll see that everything comes out all right. Now promise me you will let me handle this matter for you."
She said nothing to her father relative to her talk with martin, as the latter thought it best to wait until the deal had been closed. When she met him at the evening meal she told him that she had been to see a friend and had hopes of saving the home. Wells appeared to be somewhat melancholy over the matter, and in no mood for talk, so she left him to his own thoughts.
Crosby called the next afternoon while her father was away. And as she had not mentioned Crosby's offer to her father, she was glad of his absence. On entering the reception room she became seated and immediately opened up the conversation.
"I am sorry to say I shall not be able to give you my answer this afternoon," she said. "Of course, you understand that if I can avoid a marriage I shall do so. I would appreciate your generosity if you would give me two days more. Then I expect to be able to meet the note.
Her announcement robbed Crosby of his composure. The possibility of her obtaining the money did not appear to please him.
"And from whom do you expect to get the money?" he asked.
"What difference does it make to you, as long as I get it?"
"Ordinarily it would not. But in this instance my heart is involved. And besides, I shouldn't like to see you make any foolish sacrifices."
"I don't believe that a sacrifice will be necessary."
"But to raise ten thousand in this town is not an easy task--and without good security. Besides it would become known later. Why can't you tell me now?"
Alice felt like informing him that it was none of his business, but was afraid of the consequences.
"I have my own private reasons," she replied.
"I'm curious to know, but I won't try to force you by refusing the two days unless you tell. To be candid, I doubt if you'll be able to raise ten thousand in this town at the present time. Two days from today, however, you must be prepared to give me a definite answer."
Alice promised that she would, and when he left she drew a sigh of relief. Having secured the two days grace, she could do nothing else until after she had heard from Martin.
On the ensuing day she went to Martin's home, and on catching sight of his face her heart fell.
"What's the bad news, Hugh?" she said, as they entered his studio. "I can tell by your face that everything has not been a success.""
"No, dear," he sighed. "The fates seem to be in league with Crosby. I went to the bank for a loan, and much to my surprise I was refused, but I heard from a friend that Crosby was at the bottom of it. You did not mention my name to him, did you?"
"Then from what you have told me he probably surmised that I was the one you had in view, and he has succeeded in preventing the loan My friend even said that Crosby is the largest depositor the bank has, and he was able to influence the director's decision. Possibly he threatened to close his account if they granted me the loan."
All hope fled from her heart as she stared blankly at the opposite wall.
"If it were not for my father's peculiar will I should be able to raise the money elsewhere, but the will reads that if a mortgage is taken on the farm the money must be advanced by some one in this town--that is, if it is taken out before my thirty-fifth birthday. At the present time the bank is the only one in town with ten thousand to put out."
"Oh, I suppose I might as well prepare myself for the worst," she sighed.
"That is not necessary, dear. Why not let him foreclose? We can marry and bring your father to live with us here.
"But he would never come to live with us," she said. "He is not in the best of health now, and I could not stand by and see him turned adrift.
Martin gathered her in his arms and printed a kiss on her lips.
"I wouldn't give up all hope, dear," he breathed. "We still have another day, and in the meantime I may be able to raise the money on my personal security."
Alice had little or no hope that he would succeed, and when she kissed him good-by, she felt that she was kissing him for the last time.
For the remainder of the time until Crosby's arrival she lived like a person in a trance, feeling no interest in the future, and no desire to eat or sleep. Five minutes before Crosby put in an appearane her father was suddenly taken ill with appendicitis. She immediately telephoned for a doctor.
Crosby assisted her in making her father comfortable until the physician came. The latter immediately said that the sick man should be removed to the hospital for a quick operation. Alice just stared at him, unable to move or speak. While the doctor was in another room looking in his satchel, Crosby came to her side.
"Why not let me shoulder all the responsibilities?" he asked. "This is not the best time to talk of such matters, I know, but now a word will mean a great deal. Say that you will marry me and I'll attend to everything. Yes or no?".
At this moment the doctor returned.
"If you are anxious to save your father's life you will have to act quickly," he declared. "When he reaches the hospital you can engage another doctor if you wish."
Alice stood staring straight ahead, not knowing what to say. Finally she raised her eyes and saw that Crosby was still waiting for her decision. Then she nodded and dropped into a chair.
"Ring for a private ambulance!" Crosby said. "Attend to him yourself, see that he has the best of care, and send all bills to me!"
Alice knew no more until late that evening when her maid gave her the details of her father's removal. The one thing she could recall was that she had promised to marry Crosby. Before retiring for the night she wrote a farewell note to Martin, telling him that it would be unwise for them to see each other again.
As soon as the doctor was able to assure Crosby that her father would recover, her future husband urged a speedy marriage. She had said nothing of her upcoming marriage during her visits to the hospital, fearing that such news might be dangerous, as she knew that her father had no more love for Crosby than he had for Martin.
Two weeks later she sat, dressed as a bride, receiving the congratulations of friends and neighbors. In painful suspense she waited for the arrival of Crosby. He had been detained in town by some business deal. He finally came and the wedding ceremony was performed, bringing not the least bit of interest or joy to her aching heart.
For the first month of her married life her husband did his utmost to make her comfortable, but the best she could offer in return was gratitude and a forced cheerfulness. He had kept to his promise and had made her a present of the mortgage of her home, which in turn she intended to turn over to her father on his leaving the hospital.
For the sake of appearances she brought her father to meet her husband when he left the hospital, but the meeting was not a pleasant one. Neither man appeared to be overjoyed. And later in the evening when Wells found that he was free to return to his own home he did so immediately. Although her father did not make mention of her reason for marrying Crosby, after her remarks about Martin, she surmised that he had made a correct deduction. Alice experienced a certain sense of gratification in the knowledge that she had done her duty toward her parent, and knew there was no time for repenting. She now had another duty to perform for her husband.
"At the end of six months her husband began to spend more of his time away from her side. Rumor had it that he was devoting a great deal of his attention to another woman, and that he was losing heavily at the gaming table. She never reproached him for his absence, for to her his absence afforded a certain amount of relief.
On one occasion when he had remained away from home for three days she told him that people were beginning to make comments.
"What do I care for the people," was his terse reply. And after hat she kept silent.
The first anniversary witnessed quite a number of changes that had taken lace in the town. The population had increased almost one-third, and a new bank had been opened. She heard that Martin had transferred his money to the new institution, and if reports were true he had accumulated quite a sum during the year. During the first year of her married life she had never seen him, but he was seldom out of her thoughts. Occasionally she would sit before a window and gaze out at a large oak three where they had stood chatting for a full hour one afternoon.
One morning Crosby returned unexpectedly, after having been away for two days, and throwing himself into a chair, said:
"I don't suppose you know I'm in a bad fix for money."
"You have never told me any of your business affairs, so it's not likely that I would know," she replied quietly.
"I've about hit the bottom--been having some bad turns in real estate lately."
She did not believe that he had lost anything on real estate, but made no attempt to quiz him.
"I took out a mortgage some time ago," he said. "And that's gone too."
She looked at him without displaying any surprise.
"I'm in need of some more ready cash, but those fools at the bank won't have anything to do with me. I talked to Hugh Martin, but the best he would do on a second mortgage is five thousand for thirty days. That looks like suicide, but I think I'll have to take a chance on it. Something may turn up in the meantime."
He said no more that night, and she was glad that he did not. She feared that he might make some uncomplimentary remark concerning Hugh. At dinner the next evening he casually remarked that he had borrowed the money from Martin.
One month later while she was seated in her own room she was startled to hear her husband and Martin come into the adjoining room. Her door was slightly ajar and she could hear every word. Had any one else been with her husband she would have made known her presence, but to come face to face with Martin was more than she felt she could bear. She crossed over to her door and cautiously closed it enough to prevent either of them from seeing her. She could hear every word that passed between them.
"What's your idea of foreclosing on the very minute?" Crosby asked complainingly. "Can't you give me a couple of more weeks?"
"I'm afraid not," returned Martin. "Business is business, you know. I feel sorry for you, but once you let sympathy interfere, business goes to the dogs.
"That's all rot. I used to think the same, but I have outgrown such fool ideas. Be a good fellow and let me have another month."
"Can't do it," said Martin. "If you can't pay up tomorrow I'll have to foreclose."
"You don't mean to say that you will turn my poor wife out of her home, do you."
"The way you've been running around of late wouldn't convince any one that you are deeply concerned about your wife. You should have provided for her future when you had plenty."
"Looks to me as if I'm done for," muttered Crosby."
"You have just one chance to wipe out my score against you," Martin remarked in an indifferent tone."
Alice caught her breath and waited.
"I'm desperate enough to listen to any plan," Crosby shot back. Out with your plan."
"You spoke about your wife a moment ago," Martin said, "and to tell the truth I do feel sorry for her ; and about everybody in town feels the same way. From all accounts you have neglected her shamefully and she has been taking her medicine without a whimper. Of course, every one knows now why she married you. The day that you divorce her and give her back her freedom I'll make you a present of the mortgage."
For fully a moment there was a dead silence in the other room. Hugh's words had almost forced an exclamation from her lips, and she shuddered at what Crosby would think if he ever discovered her there. He would swear it was all prearranged. The silence was finally broken by some one pounding his fist against the table.
"And give you a chance to marry her, eh?" snorted her husband. "Martin, I see through your little plan. I'll get the money and I'll have it for you by ten in the morning. Now you can go, and don't ever mention her name in my presence again."
Alice listened spellbound until the two men had gone. Then she fell to weeping. They were not shed for her husband, but they were an outlet for her pent-up emotion, the only source of relief obtainable. What would happen on the morrow she had not the slightest notion, and she did not care. If the worst came she knew she could return home.
In the morning she was awakened by the maid pounding on her door. She was wanted at the telephone. As soon as she had slipped on her clothes she hurried down. On her way she looked into her husband's room and saw that he had not returned during the night.
"This is the sheriff, Mrs. Crosby," a voice said at the other end of the wire in response to her inquiry. "I have some bad news."
She had no idea what he meant unless it was the foreclosure of the mortgage. She told him to continue.
"Last night, " the sheriff went on, "a masked man tried to break into The Traders' Bank, and during the fight with the watchman he was shot and killed. When I came and took off the mask I was horrified to find that it was your husband."
Dry-eyed and motionless Alice stared into the mouthpiece for several seconds. Then she said she would be down at once and hung up the receiver. Her trial was over and she could start life again.
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