Blizzard’s office, where he held the threads of many enterprises, became a sort of clearing-house for East Side troubles. He kept free certain hours during which, sitting for all the world like a judge, he listened to private affairs, and sympathizing, scolding, wheedling, and even bullying, he gave advice, gave money, found work, brought about reconciliations, and turned hundreds of erring feet into the straight and narrow path. He preached, and very eloquently, the gospel of common-sense. For every crisis in people’s lives, he seemed to remember a parallel. And his knowledge, especially of criminalities and the workings of crooked minds, seemed very marvellous to those who sought him out. And he was an easy man to speak truth to, for there were very few wicked things that he had not done himself. It is easier to confess theft to a thief than to a man of virtue, and the resulting advice may very well be just the same.
His energy and activity were endless. “It’s just as hard work,” he told Rose, “to do good in the world as to do evil. I haven’t changed my methods, only my conditions and ideals. You’ve got to get the confidence of the people you’re working for, and to get that you’ve got to know more about them than they know about themselves. To know that a man has murdered, gives you power over that man; to know that another man has done something fine and manly, gives you a hold on that man. Real men are ashamed of having two things found out about them—their secret bad actions, and their secret good actions. Men who do good for the sake of notoriety aren’t real men.”
“I know who’s a real man,” said Rose.
He regarded her with much tenderness and amusement. “Rose,” he said, “there’s one thing I’m keen to know.”
“Will you give an honest answer?”
“Well then, do you like me as much as you did when I used to maltreat you and bully you and threaten you? Or do you like me more, or do you like me less?”
“It’s just the same,” she said, “only that then I was unhappy all the time, and now all the time I’m happy.”
“Were you unhappy because I wasn’t kind?”
She laughed that idea to scorn. “I was unhappy because you liked somebody else more than me.”
The amusement went out of Blizzard’s face; the tenderness remained. There was one thing that he was determined to do with his life, and that was to make Rose a good husband. And he was very fond of her, and she could make him laugh, but it wasn’t going to be very easy, as long as the image of another girl persisted in haunting him.
When Wilmot Allen left Blizzard’s house, he went direct to a barber-shop, where he remained for three hundred years. During this period, he lost his beard and thereby regained his self-respect. It took him a hundred years to reach the Grand Central, and a thousand more to get from there to Clovelly.