CHAPTER I A HERO, BUT NOT HEROIC
"Shall I ever be strong in mind or body again?" said Walter Gregory, with irritation, as he entered a crowded Broadway omnibus.
The person thus querying so despairingly with himself was a man not far from thirty years of age, but the lines of care were furrowed so deeply on his handsome face, that dismal, lowering morning, the first of October, that he seemed much older. Having wedged himself in between two burly forms that suggested thrift down town and good cheer on the avenue, he appears meagre and shrunken in contrast. He is tall and thin. His face is white and drawn, instead of being ruddy with health's rich, warm blood. There is scarcely anything remaining to remind one of the period of youth, so recently vanished; neither is there the dignity, nor the consciousness of strength, that should come with maturer years. His heavy, light-colored mustache and pallid face gave him the aspect of a blase man of the world who had exhausted himself and life at an age when wisely directed manhood should be just entering on its richest pleasures.
And such an opinion of him, with some hopeful exceptions and indications, would be correct. The expression of irritation and self- disgust still remaining on his face as the stage rumbles down town is a hopeful sign. His soul at least is not surrounded by a Chinese wall of conceit. However perverted his nature may be, it is not a shallow one, and he evidently has a painful sense of the wrongs committed against it. Though his square jaw and the curve of his lip indicate firmness, one could not look upon his contracted brow and half- despairing expression, as he sits oblivious of all surroundings, without thinking of a ship drifting helplessly and in distress. There are encouraging possibilities in the fact that from those windows of the soul, his eyes, a troubled rather than an evil spirit looks out. A close observer would see at a glance that he was not a good man, but he might also note that he was not content with being a bad one. There was little of the rigid pride and sinister hardness or the conceit often seen on the faces of men of the world who have spent years in spoiling their manhood; and the sensual phase of coarse dissipation was quite wanting.
You will find in artificial metropolitan society many men so emasculated that they are quite vain of being blase—fools that with conscious superiority smile disdainfully at those still possessing simple, wholesome tastes for things which they in their indescribable accent characterize as a "bore."
But Walter Gregory looked like one who had early found the dregs of evil life very bitter, and his face was like that of nature when smitten with untimely frosts.
He reached his office at last, and wearily sat down to the routine work at his desk. Instead of the intent and interested look with which a young and healthy man would naturally enter on his business, he showed rather a dogged resolution to work whether he felt like it or not, and with harsh disregard of his physical weakness....