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Wolcott Balestier - Benefits Forgot (1892)

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

This story, completed the year before its writer's death, and published the year following this event, appearing first serially in the Century Magazine, was the result of Mr. Balestier's study of Leadville, Colorado, visited by him in 1885. Two years earlier he had made a brief sojourn in this portion of Colorado, which had profoundly impressed his imagination; at this time the air in this vicinity proved too bracing for him, and he made but a short stay. His second trip, made in the company of his sister, lasted many months, and the glimpses of the strange life of the West remained, to the end of this author's career, the most vivid and exciting which his memory contained. At this time Mr. Balestier was more than ever inspired with the desire to write earnestly, and it was in Colorado that the first crude sketch was made for a book, which was afterward rewritten as Benefits Forgot. This novel, born in the mining-camps of Colorado, was completed in the congenial atmosphere of the Old World, where the writer spent his final years.

JAMES DEED'S wedding-day dawned, and as his eyes measured the crisp and sparkling Colorado morning he had the pleasant feeling that the sun was shining especially for him. In a few hours he was to marry Margaret Derwenter, the woman of his choice, and his heart was over-flowing with joy and happiness. Up to this time his life had been one of many vicissitudes, and he looked forward to his coming marriage with unspeakable joy and satisfaction.

Ten years earlier, he had left New York with his two motherless boys, broken-hearted at the death of his wife, whom he had devotedly loved, and shattered in health. He had felt no incentive to live when he was forced to leave his home and seek a new and strange habitation in the West; but gradually the lethargy of sorrow and ill health fell from him and he became himself again. He resumed his practise of law in the town of Maverick, and also entered into the mining interests of the new country, which eventually brought him satisfactory returns. Deed was an indulgent father to his boys, and endeavored to make up to them by his affection for the loss they had sustained. He was kind and generous to a fault, but had a quick temper, which, when aroused, would carry him beyond reason or justice. Upon reaching manhood, jasper, the elder of Deed's two sons, who had always shown much sagacity and business ability, was placed by his father in charge of his large ranch, valued at one hundred and fifty thousand dollars. This he managed with most gratifying results, much to the pride and satisfaction of his father, who took him into partnership and for the term of five years put into his hands his brother Philip's share of the ranch. Jasper suggested the making of a written deed of the property to himself, to which his father, who had full confidence in him, willingly consented, feeling sure that his brother's interests would be to him as his own. However, when Deed was on the point of remarrying, he felt it best to have his sons equally provided for, and wrote to Jasper, who was temporarily absent, asking him to make over to Philip his share of the property.

To his horror and amazement, upon the morning of his marriage he received a letter from jasper refusing to relinquish what he had unfairly gained, and Deed's eyes were opened to the perfidy of his son's real character.

Filled with rage and disappointment, his one desire was to avenge this wrong, no matter what the cost might be. He determined to sell the ranch for the paltry sum of twenty-five thousand dollars in order to ruin Jasper, not stopping to consider how the transaction would affect either Philip or himself.

He went to Margaret Derwenter, while in this vengeful mood, and told her what he intended to do. She tried in every way to set the matter before him in its true light and endeavored to turn him from his purpose, but he was so full of wrath that he would not listen to reason.

" James! James!" begged Margaret, "consider the life of remorse you are condemning yourself to. Distrust the false passion and pride that tells you you axe right now. You are wrong! Listen to me, who have nothing to gain by telling you so. You are wrong."

"Have I not the right to make him suffer as I suffer?" he asked coldly. "The thing's done, I tell you."

He was about to leave the room, but she called—" James!"


"You must not." She caught her breath, and sat hastily upon the sofa.

" Pshaw I"

"I tell you, you must not. I will not have it. I have my rights, as well as you; my rights as your wife to be. I will not have your property—my property—thrown away for a whim."

He came toward her quickly. She shrank involuntarily. Her face was white; she set her teeth.

"Do you mean that?"

She nodded painfully.

"It would have been simpler to say so in the beginning not to say honester," he said, with slow bitterness. "You might have spared me the pain of knowing that you could promise to give it all up, when you thought yourself secure from being held to your word, You might have saved your sermons."

It was like the agony of death to hear these things from him; but she shut her lips, and bore it. If she spoke now, she knew that her tone must belie her words,

"A moment ago you said," he went on coldly, "that you had nothing to gain, Pardon me if I say that you seem to have had much. It may make you sleep easier to-night, if I tell you that you have gained it,"

He put his hands to his head in bewilderment, caught up his hat, and, without a glance at her, left the room not to return.

Margaret, who was a woman of noble character, knew that this frenzied condition was caused by grief and disappointment; and, though deserted upon her wedding-day, she remained true to the man she loved.

Philip, meanwhile, who was ignorant of the state of affairs, set out from an adjacent town, where he had been engaged in working two mines which belonged to Jasper and himself, in order to be present at his father's wedding. He was accompanied on this trip by his friend Lenox Cutter, a New York man of rich and influential antecedents, who had sought the West in order to try to forget the girl whom he had loved for years and who had refused him.

The line of travel, which the men took on horseback, included a mountain-pass, and while in this dangerous locality they were overtaken by a heavy snow-storm which made their progress almost impossible. They came up with another party, caught in the same predicament, which included a young girl who was already overcome by cold and exhaustion. Deed and Cutter aided in restoring her to consciousness, and led the way to a cave, with the location of which they were familiar, and which afforded them protection from the storm. The members of the rescued party were the Reverend Mr. Maurice, an Episcopal clergyman, his daughter Dorothy, a beautiful girl, and Richard Messiter, a friend and admirer of the young woman. Their journey proved to have been a compulsory one, as Mr. Maurice, who had made himself unpopular as a pastor by refusing to read the burial service for two miners who had died of smallpox, had been run out of the town where he had been living. Dorothy, who was in ignorance of the cause of their sudden departure, maintained great admiration and respect for her father, who had a pleasant personality in spite of his weak character. In course of time the snow-bound party were able to continue their journey, and they reached their destination, Maverick, where Philip was greeted with the news regarding his father's postponed marriage.

He at once sought out his father, with whom he had a stormy interview, as the latter failed to understand his son's sympathetic attitude, and saw in his remarks only veiled resentment for the wrong that had been done him.

"Say it, Phil! Say it!" he cried hoarsely. "Don't sit there dumb. I know what you think. You're right. I sold you out. I signed away your rights. I did you out of your future with a foolish, amiable stroke of the pen. I trusted a scoundrel, and you've to pay for it. I wanted to do the handsome thing by Jasper, and I did it at your expense. It's been your treat all along, Phil," he said with a miserable smile, "though you didn't know it."

Philip leaped up. "Great heaven, father ! you haven't been thinking that I was shouting around about my miserable little share in that business? Surely you don't think that I could name it beside your trouble, much less be fooling with the poor question of blame? I should think Jasper was enough to blame for half a dozen."

His father smiled sadly. "What Jasper has done cannot excuse me. He couldn't have done it if I hadn't thrown the way open to him—if I hadn't trusted him."

"Wouldn't a father trust his own son, I should like to know? Is it a thing he must answer for?"

"My God, Phil! hasn't he answered for it isn't he answering for it, will he ever get to the end of answering for it?" He covered his eyes.

"I know, father," said Philip, taking a turn across the room. "Ingratitude is like that. It hurts it keeps on hurting." "Yes," owned Deed grimly, "it hurts."

"Surely it's enough, then. Pray don't bother about me. You would have done it for me in the same situation. Do you think I don't know that I never gave you the chance? I've not been doing the approved thing. I never have. When I do, it will be time enough for me to trot out my grievance."

"Oh, Phil, I've not been fair to you!" It was the expression of his sense of his whole course toward him from boyhood; but Philip took it to refer to the contract. "Pshaw, father! I shall rub along for the few years left of the partnership. What difference can it make? I shall be the better for having to make my own way for a while."

Philip, like Margaret, failed to make Deed see what moral injury he was doing himself by repaying one wrong with another, the father persistently remaining blind and obdurate.

"Phil!" he cried miserably, "you're not going back on me!"

"Going back on you, father?" Philip snatched the hand hanging by his side. "I'm trying to save you. You're letting yourself in for a lifetime of remorse. You'll kick yourself for this thing before you are a week older. Think, father! Can you afford to do a wrong like this to jasper? Where will there ever be an end to it ? 'Twill make you unhappy, father. That's what I'm thinking of. And the unhappiest part of the whole business will be when you see that after all it wasn't fair."

"Fair!" cried his father hoarsely. "Fair! Oh, the devil!" He sat down, clenching his hands. The blood rose in his face.

"Did you wish to be unfair?"

"Yes!" shouted Deed. "Yes! I wish to be all that you imply! I wish to be unfair to both of you."

"Both of us!" exclaimed Philip, turning pale.

" Oh, I know what you think; I wish to be unfair to Jasper, and to do it I must be doubly unfair to you, and I didn't care. You don't say it. You talk of Jasper."

"Father, can you think—"

" Yes, more than you say."

Philip grew white about the nostrils. "I have said all that I mean. I say it's shabby to freeze Jasper out in his absence; I say that you are free to use whatever share I may claim in the range as you like. But not for that. I won't be a party to it. I won't stand by and see you do such a wrong to yourself."

"Say what you mean," cried his father, with an implication in his voice which maddened Philip beyond control.

"Father!" he cried warningly.

Deed thrust his hands into his pockets, and, facing him with deliberate bitterness, looked into his eyes. "I will pay you every penny of your damned fifty thousand dollars before you are twenty-four hours older."

For a moment Philip stared at his father in speechless anger. Then. with a cry of rage he burst from the room.

In leaving the hotel Philip came face to face with Margaret, whom he saw for the first time, and who was on her way to seek the man that had treated her so cruelly.

Since Deed's desertion of her on her wedding-day, Margaret had endured much suffering, both mental and physical, and had been administered to by her friends Mr. and Mrs. Ventner, with whom she was staying, and by Dr. Ernfield, who was deeply in love with her, although he realized the hopelessness of his suit.

Ernfield was a consumptive and a forced exile from his home in the East, where he had been doing brilliant work in his profession until obliged to seek another climate in search of health.

Margaret was utterly unaware of Ernfield's feelings toward her, which he endeavored to hide as much as possible. On one occasion, however, during a horseback ride, Ernfield told Margaret of his love, and this declaration was such a shock to her that it made her long for Deed's protection.

She realized that her recreant lover could not return to her under the circumstances, and accordingly she decided that she would go to him. This was a tremendous decision for one of Margaret's retiring nature and New England traditions, but when the matter was once settled in her own mind she did not falter. She quietly packed her belongings and went to the man who needed her so sorely.

She found Deed plunged in misery as the result of the course he had taken, and crushed with sorrow at the thought that both sons were lost to him, and Margaret as well. Deed was overwhelmed by Margaret's generous behavior, and he and she were married immediately and went away at once, leaving their whereabouts unknown.

Before departing Deed had placed the $50,000 to Philip's credit in the bank, and in order to do this had drawn upon some trust funds that were in his keeping. He felt justified in doing this, as he planned to sell the Lady Bountiful mine to some men in Burro Peak City, who had offered him $60,000 for it. In order to reach these purchasers he must take a four days' horseback journey, as they were beyond the reach of railway or telegraph, so Deed's wedding-trip was taken in that direction.

After his father's departure Philip discovered what he had done, and immediately drew the money and deposited it to his father's account.

Jasper meanwhile had returned home, and was overcome with rage when he was informed by Snell, the new owner of the ranch, that the property was no longer his.

He immediately sought an interview with Philip, who was at work in his mine, and a stormy scene ensued, in the course of which Jasper exclaimed:

"You thought I wouldn't see through this thing—you and father—did you? You must have taken me for a bat. Why, you'd see through it yourself—yes, even you, my helpless, pottering brother, who don't know as much of business in a year as I could guess before breakfast any morning. Yes! You who never turned an honest dollar in all your life, and who have managed to lose a pretty number, even you would see through it. I do see the point, and I won't be quieted. There's going to be a row about this thing before we're done with it, let me tell you."

"Do you find yourself safe in always judging other men by yourself ?" asked Philip after a pause. " Do I look like a fellow who could stoop to your notions of what a man may let himself do? Was I ever a sneak?"

Jasper clenched his hands. "Yes," he cried hoarsely, "yes. When were you ever anything else? Your life has been one long slinking out of every sort of duty, responsibility, and hard work. Your father has fed you since you were a man; he has kept you in amusement and helped you in every fool scheme for dodging disagreeable things that your ingenuity could invent."

These hot words were soon followed by blows, and a fracas ensued in which Jasper was worsted and knocked unconscious by Philip.

Besides their financial difficulties, the brothers found them-selves involved in an affair of the heart, as Dorothy Maurice, for whom Philip had conceived a deep attachment, proved to be an old flame of Jasper's, whom he still hoped to win in spite of her previous rejections of his suit.

At this crisis in Philip's affairs, he received a telegram telling him that ore had been discovered in his mine named the Little Cipher, and that consequently he was rich. This, instead of being joyful news to Philip, was quite the reverse, because of the two mines that he had been managing, the Little Cipher he had worked for Jasper and the other, named the Pay Ore, for himself. This fact was known only to Philip, however, and it was entirely a matter of conscience with him, as he had made the division in his own mind, and nobody else was aware of the arrangement.

He battled with his conscience, which told him to give to his brother the mine which he had worked in his interest, while on the other hand he was tempted to take for himself what he had exclusively earned.

He went to see Dorothy, who wished to know the cause of the estrangement between himself and Jasper, and when he declined to tell her she declined to accede to his proposal of marriage. Philip had an interview with Mr. Maurice, who confessed that he was under an obligation to Jasper, of whom he had borrowed five thousand dollars, and who he feared would make things most unpleasant for him.

Philip, in his desire to serve Dorothy, yielded to temptation and decided to take possession of the Little Cipher mine; he told Mr. Maurice, who inclined toward a rich son-in-law, that he would give him the money with which to settle with Jasper.

Dorothy, learning of Jasper's perfidy toward his father and brother, found her heart turned completely against him and drawn toward Philip. These two soon came to an understanding, and an engagement followed. Philip was full of joy at having won Dorothy, the only damper to his happiness being the consciousness of his. action regarding the mine, but he reassured himself on this point by the convincing argument that it was not wrong if done for Dorothy's sake.

During this time Deed's whereabouts had been unknown, but this mysterious absence, which was considered intentional by his friends, was due in reality to an accidental happening. He and Margaret had been snow-bound in a place named Mineral Springs, and had been completely shut off from travel or communication with the outer world. This enforced delay had fretted Deed greatly, as it had prevented his selling the mine and restoring the trust-fund that he had borrowed. Jasper discovered his father's whereabouts, managed to force a passage through the snow, and had an interview with him regarding his transactions.

Deed refused to capitulate in any way, and, though Jasper threatened to bring suit against him, he told him he would fight to the end. Jasper on his return trip was lost in the snow, and was finally rescued in the last stages of exhaustion. This experience was followed by a severe illness from which he barely recovered. He was visited professionally at their home by Dr. Ernfield, who was prostrated by his exertions and finally succumbed to a severe attack of his fatal malady. He was carefully tended by Mrs. Ventner, and he received a visit from Margaret which caused him mingled pleasure and pain. He wished to be sure that Margaret was really happy with Deed, and when she convinced him that this was the case he was satisfied.

While these events were taking place, Dorothy and Philip had been reveling in their newly found happiness, from which, however, they soon had a rude awakening. While taking a horseback expedition together, to visit a neighboring mine, conversation drifted around to Philip's experience with the Little Cipher, and he, not wishing longer to withhold the truth from Dorothy, explained the situation to her. Dorothy was horrified, She pressed her cheeks rapidly and repeatedly with her handkerchief. When she looked at him again it was with streaming eyes. "Say you were not in your right mind, that you did it in error! Say anything rather than leave me to believe what I must! It wasn't you! Oh, Philip! Was not the man I have known you for, too proud? Would he not have seen how the very security with which he might take it, and keep silence, forced him to hold his hand ? Oh, say you did not do it!"

"I can't! I can't!" he cried. "It's true!"

She gazed at him with eyes of unspeakable reproach; and he dropped the eyes he had fixed upon her while she spoke with the fascination of a criminal who hears his sentence. She checked her horse and held out her hand.

"Good-by, then,"

"Good-by?" he exclaimed, stupefied.

"Did you think we could go on?" she asked sadly. "Did you think it could all be as it was? No; it is ended for us. Good-by," she repeated. The tears fell from her eyes in a rain, but there was no relenting in her face. " Give me my ring," she said dully.

He stared, "Dorothy," he burst out, "you can't! you won't!"

"I must."

"I have wronged Jasper. I confess it. Nothing that he has done excuses it. It makes it worse. I own it. But I can right that. I will. Dorothy, surely this need not touch us."

" Oh, what do I care for Jasper ?" she cried in misery. "It is for you I care, and you have lost yourself, to me, to all that has been. Oh, is it for me to show you such a thing? You have murdered our love. All the atonements in the world can't change that."

Philip tried to prevail upon Dorothy to change her decision, but at last, realizing that what she said was final, he tore the ring from his finger and left her, heart-broken.

Meanwhile his father had returned home and had learned, to his astonishment, of Philip's kindness and generosity to himself, which had saved his good name and proved how mistaken he was in regard to his son's character.

Deed at once heard of Philip's broken engagement and flight, and, feeling himself the cause of all this trouble, went immediately to Dorothy to intercede in his son's behalf. He told her of Philip's noble conduct toward himself and tried to make her overlook his fault, and at last Dorothy relented and professed her willingness to see him again.

Dorothy begged her father to take her away from Maverick, and he, feeling that his usefulness there was over, gladly acceded to her wish. They went to an adjacent town temporarily, and while there Dorothy was visited by Jasper, who had discovered her hiding-place.

He tried to persuade ner to listen again to his suit, and told her that since his illness he had become a changed man. He also said he was ready to make restitution to his brother and restore to him his share of the ranch, and Dorothy was quite impressed by his apparent goodness.

But when Jasper found that his protestations would not win the day, he changed his tactics and began to defame the character of his brother, who he realized was his rival. He finally let out the secret that Philip had borrowed five thousand dollars on the Little Cipher mine, with which to settle Mr. Maurice's debt to himself, and Dorothy was horror-stricken at the part her father had taken in the transaction. She ordered Jasper to leave her at once, and immediately had an interview with her father which changed her previous attitude toward him to one akin to loathing, when she realized that he had been willing to barter her happiness for money.

Dorothy passed a sleepless night and went for an early morning walk to try to decide what she had better do, when she was greatly surprised to meet Philip, who had come in search of her.

Philip's discovery of Dorothy had been brought about by his father, who had gone in search of him in order to deliver personally the message that Dorothy was willing to see him again.

Deed's efforts were rewarded by the reconciliation of the lovers, and he had the satisfaction of feeling that he had partially repaid Philip for his goodness to him.

The marriage of Philip and Dorothy soon followed.

Deed decided to buy back the ranch and return it to Jasper on the original terms of partnership; and Philip sold his Pay Ore mine and paid back the money that he had borrowed on the credit of the Little Cipher.

Mr. Maurice left Colorado and returned to New York to be assistant rector in a fashionable parish, where it was hoped that his social gifts would atone for the absence of stronger qualities.

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