The Intrusion of Jimmy/Chapter 3
AT about the time when Jimmy's meditations finally merged themselves in dreams, a certain Mr. John McEachern, Captain of Police, was seated in the parlor of his up-town villa, reading. He was a man built on a large scale. Everything about him was large—his hands, his feet, his shoulders, his chest, and particularly his jaw, which even in his moments of calm was aggressive, and which stood out, when anything happened to ruffle him, like the ram of a battle-ship. In his patrolman days, which had been passed mainly on the East side, this jaw of his had acquired a reputation from Park Row to Fourteenth Street. No gang-fight, however absorbing, could retain the undivided attention of the young blood of the Bowery when Mr. McEachern's jaw hove in sight with the rest of his massive person in close attendance. He was a man who knew no fear, and he had gone through disorderly mobs like an east wind.
But there was another side to his character. In fact, that other side was so large that the rest of him, his readiness in combat and his zeal in breaking up public disturbances, might be said to have been only an off-shoot. For his ambition was as large as his fist and as aggressive as his jaw. He had entered the force with the single idea of becoming rich, and had set about achieving his object with a strenuous vigor that was as irresistible as his mighty locust-stick. Some policemen are born |grafters, some achieve graft, and some have graft thrust upon them. Mr. McEachern had begun by being the first, had risen to the second, and for some years now had been a prominent member of the small and hugely prosperous third class, the class that does not go out seeking graft, but sits at home and lets graft come to it.
In his search for wealth, he had been content to abide his time. He did not want the trifling sum that every New York policeman acquires. His object was something bigger, and he was prepared to wait for it. He knew that small beginnings were an annoying but unavoidable preliminary to all great fortunes. Probably, Captain Kidd had started in a small way. Certainly, Mr. Rockefeller had. He was content to follow in the footsteps of the masters.
A patrolman's opportunities of amassing wealth are not great. Mr. McEachern had made the best of a bad job. He had not disdained the dollars that came as single spies rather than in battalions. Until the time should arrive when he might angle for whales, he was prepared to catch sprats.
Much may be done, even on a small scale, by perseverance. In those early days, Mr. McEachern's observant eye had not failed to notice certain peddlers who obstructed the traffic, divers tradesmen who did the same by the side-walk, and of restaurant keepers not a few with a distaste for closing at one o'clock in the morning. His researches in this field were not unprofitable. In a reasonably short space of time, he had put by the three thousand dollars that were the price of his promotion to detective-sergeant. He did not like paying three thousand dollars for promotion, but there must be sinking of capital if an investment is to prosper. Mr. McEachern "came across," and climbed one more step up the ladder.
As detective-sergeant, he found his horizon enlarged. There was more scope for a man of parts. Things moved more rapidly. The world seemed full of philanthropists, anxious to "dress his front" and do him other little kindnesses. Mr. McEachern was no churl. He let them dress his front. He accepted the little kindnesses. Presently, he found that he had fifteen thousand dollars to spare for any small flutter that might take his fancy. Singularly enough, this was the precise sum necessary to make him a captain.
He became a captain. And it was then that he discovered that El Dorado was no mere poet's dream, and that Tom Tiddler's Ground, where one might stand picking up gold and silver, was as definite a locality as Brooklyn or the Bronx. At last, after years of patient waiting, he stood like Moses on the mountain, looking down into the Promised Land, He had come to where the Big Money was.
The captain was now reading the little note-book wherein he kept a record of his investments, which were numerous and varied. That the contents were satisfactory was obvious at a glance. The smile on his face and the reposeful position of his jaw were proof enough of that. There were notes relating to house-property, railroad shares, and a dozen other profitable things. He was a rich man.
This was a fact that was entirely unsuspected by his neighbors, with whom he maintained somewhat distant relations, accepting no invitations and giving none. For Mr. McEachern was playing a big game. Other eminent buccaneers in his walk of life had been content to be rich men in a community where moderate means were the rule. But about Mr. McEachern there was a touch of the Napoleonic. He meant to get into society—and the society he had selected was that of England. Other people have noted the fact—which had impressed itself very firmly on the policeman's mind—that between England and the United States there are three thousand miles of deep water. In the United States, he would be a retired police-captain; in England, an American gentleman of large and independent means with a beautiful daughter.
That was the ruling impulse in his life—his daughter Molly. Though, if he had been a bachelor, he certainly would not have been satisfied to pursue a humble career aloof from graft, on the other hand, if it had not been for Molly, he would not have felt, as he gathered in his dishonest wealth, that he was conducting a sort of holy war. Ever since his wife had died, in his detective-sergeant days, leaving him with a year-old daughter, his ambitions had been inseparably connected with Molly.
All his thoughts were on the future. This New York life was only a preparation for the splendors to come. He spent not a dollar unnecessarily. When Molly was home from school, they lived together simply and quietly in the small house which Molly's taste made so comfortable. The neighbors, knowing his profession and seeing the modest scale on which he lived, told one another, that here at any rate was a policeman whose hands were clean of graft. They did not know of the stream that poured week by week and year by year into his bank, to be diverted at intervals into the most profitable channels. Until the time should come for the great change, economy was his motto. The expenses of his home were kept within the bounds of his official salary. All extras went to swell his savings.
He closed his book with a contented sigh, and lighted another cigar. Cigars were his only personal luxury. He drank nothing, ate the simplest food, and made a suit of clothes last for quite an unusual length of time; but no passion for economy could make him deny himself smoke.
He sat on, thinking. It was very late, but he did not feel ready for bed. A great moment had arrived in his affairs. For days, Wall Street had been undergoing one of its periodical fits of jumpiness. There had been rumors and counter-rumors, until finally from the confusion there had soared up like a rocket the one particular stock in which he was most largely interested. He had unloaded that morning, and the result had left him slightly dizzy. The main point to which his mind clung was that the time had come at last. He could make the great change now at any moment that suited him.
He was blowing clouds of smoke and gloating over this fact when the door opened, admitting a bull-terrier, a bull-dog, and in the wake of the procession a girl in a kimono and red slippers.