“I merely predict New York—it’s inevitable,” she replied. “Grant Avenue, yes; he wants me to help him choose a lot. He gave me ten thousand dollars for our Orphans’ Home, but on the whole I think I prefer Hilda even if she doesn’t approve of me.”
Nancy rose. The Scherers were going. While Mr. Scherer pressed my hand in a manner that convinced me of his gratitude, Hilda was bidding an affectionate good night to Maude. A few moments later she bore her husband and daughters away, and we heard the tap-tap of her cane on the walk outside....
The remembrance of that dinner when with my connivance the Scherers made their social debut is associated in my mind with the coming of the fulness of that era, mad and brief, when gold rained down like manna from our sooty skies. Even the church was prosperous; the Rev. Carey Heddon, our new minister, was well abreast of the times, typical of the new and efficient Christianity that has finally buried the hatchet with enlightened self-interest. He looked like a young and prosperous man of business, and indeed he was one.
The fame of our city spread even across the Atlantic, reaching obscure hamlets in Europe, where villagers gathered up their lares and penates, mortgaged their homes, and bought steamship tickets from philanthropists,—philanthropists in diamonds. Our Huns began to arrive, their Attilas unrecognized among them: to drive our honest Americans and Irish and Germans out of the mills by “lowering the standard of living.” Still—according to the learned economists in our universities, enlightened self-interest triumphed. Had not the honest Americans and Germans become foremen and even presidents of corporations? What greater vindication for their philosophy could be desired?
The very aspect of the city changed like magic. New buildings sprang high in the air; the Reliance Trust (Mr. Grierson’s), the Scherer Building, the Hambleton Building; a stew hotel, the Ashuela, took proper care of our visitors from the East,—a massive, grey stone, thousand-awninged affair on Boyne Street, with a grill where it became the fashion to go for supper after the play, and a head waiter who knew in a few weeks everyone worth knowing.
To return for a moment to the Huns. Maude had expressed a desire to see a mill, and we went, one afternoon, in Mr. Scherer’s carriage to Steelville, with Mr. Scherer himself,—a bewildering, educative, almost terrifying experience amidst fumes and flames, gigantic forces and titanic weights. It seemed a marvel that we escaped being crushed or burned alive in those huge steel buildings reverberating with sound. They appeared a very bedlam of chaos, instead of the triumph of order, organization and human skill. Mr. Scherer was very proud of it all, and ours was a sort of triumphal procession, accompanied by superintendents, managers and other factotums. I thought of my childhood image of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and our progress through the flames seemed no less remarkable and miraculous.