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A Poor Wise Man
by Mary Roberts Rinehart
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"Ah, you believe in reform?"

"We are not doing very well as we are, sir."

"I should like extremely to know how you feel about things," said Howard, gravely.

"Only this: So long as one party is, or is considered, the representative of capital, the vested interests, and the other of labor, the great mass of the people who are neither the one nor the other cannot be adequately represented."

"And the solution?"

"Perhaps a new party. Or better still, a liberalizing of the Republican."

"Before long," said Lily suddenly, "there will be no state. There will be enough for everybody, and nobody will have too much."

Howard smiled at her indulgently.

"How do you expect to accomplish this ideal condition?"

"That's the difficulty about it," said Lily, thoughtfully. "It means a revolution. It would be peaceful, though. The thing to do is to convince people that it is simple justice, and then they will divide what they have."

"Why, Lily!" Grace's voice was anxious. "That's Socialism."

But Howard only smiled tolerantly, and changed the subject. Every one had these attacks of idealism in youth. They were the exaggerated altruism of adolescence; a part of its dreams and aspirations. He changed the subject.

"I like the boy," he said to Grace, later, over the cribbage board in the morning room. "He has character, and a queer sort of magnetism. It mightn't be a bad thing—"

Grace was counting.

"I forgot to tell you; I think she refused Pink Denslow the other day."

"I rather gathered, from the way she spoke of young Cameron, that she isn't interested there either."

"Not a bit," said Grace, complacently. "You needn't worry about him."

Howard smiled. He was often conscious that after all the years of their common life, his wife's mind and his traveled along parallel lines that never met.

Willy Cameron was extremely happy. He had brought his pipe along, although without much hope, but the moment they were settled by the library fire Lily had suggested it.

"You know you can't talk unless you have it in your hand to wave around," she said. "And I want to know such a lot of things. Where you live, and all that."

"I live in a boarding house. More house than board, really. And the work's all right. I'm going to study metallurgy some day. There are night courses at the college, only I haven't many nights."

He had lighted his pipe, and kept his eyes on it mostly, or on the fire. He was afraid to look at Lily, because there was something he could not keep out of his eyes, but must keep from her. It had been both better and worse than he had anticipated, seeing her in her home. Lily herself had not changed. She was her wonderful self, in spite of her frock and her surroundings. But the house, her people, with their ease of wealth and position, Grace's slight condescension, the elaborate simplicity of dining, the matter-of-course-ness of the service. It was not that Lily was above him. That was ridiculous. But she was far removed from him.

"There is something wrong with you, Willy," she said unexpectedly. "You are not happy, or you are not well. Which is it? You are awfully thin, for one thing."

"I'm all right," he said, evading her eyes.

"Are you lonely? I don't mean now, of course."

"Well, I've got a dog. That helps. He's a helpless sort of mutt. I carry his meat home from the shop in my pocket, and I feel like a butcher's wagon, sometimes. But he's taken a queer sort of liking to me, and he is something to talk to."

"Why didn't you bring him along?"

Dogs were forbidden in the Cardew house, by old Anthony's order, as were pipes, especially old and beloved ones, but Lily was entirely reckless.

"He did follow me. He's probably sitting on the doorstep now. I tried to send him back, but he's an obstinate little beast."

Lily got up.

"I am going to bring him in," she said. "And if you'll ring that bell we'll get him some dinner."

"I'll get him, while you ring."

Half an hour later Anthony Cardew entered his house. He had spent a miserable evening. Some young whipper snapper who employed a handful of men had undertaken to show him where he, Anthony Cardew, was a clog in the wheel of progress. Not in so many words, but he had said: "Tempora mutantur, Mr. Cardew. And the wise employer meets those changes half-way."

"You young fools want to go all the way."

"Not at all. We'll meet them half-way, and stop."

"Bah!" said Anthony Cardew, and had left the club in a temper. The club was going to the dogs, along with the rest of the world. There was only a handful of straight-thinking men like himself left in it. Lot of young cravens, letting their men dominate them and intimidate them.

So he slammed into his house, threw off his coat and hat, and—sniffed. A pungent, acrid odor was floating through a partly closed door. Anthony Cardew flung open the door and entered.

Before the fire, on a deep velvet couch, sat his granddaughter. Beside her was a thin young man in a gray suit, and the thin young man was waving an old pipe about, and saying:

"Tempora mutantur, Lily. The wise employer—"

"I am afraid, sir," said Anthony, in a terrible voice, "that you are not acquainted with the rules of my house. I object to pipes. There are cigars in the humidor behind you."

"Very sorry, Mr. Cardew," Willy Cameron explained. "I didn't know. I'll put it away, sir."

But Anthony was not listening. His eyes had traveled from an empty platter on the hearth-rug to a deep chair where Jinx, both warm and fed at the same time, and extremely distended with meat, lay sleeping. Anthony put out a hand and pressed the bell beside him.

"I want you to meet Mr. Cameron, grandfather." Lily was rather pale, but she had the Cardew poise. "He was in the camp when I was."

Grayson entered on that, however, and Anthony pointed to Jinx.

"Put that dog out," he said, and left the room, his figure rigid and uncompromising.

"Grayson," Lily said, white to the lips, "that dog is to remain here. He's perfectly quiet. And, will you find Ellen and ask her to come here?"

"Haven't I made enough trouble?" asked Willy Cameron, unhappily. "I can see her again, you know."

"She's crazy to see you, Willy. And besides—"

Grayson had gone, after a moment's hesitation.

"Don't you see?" she said. "The others have always submitted. I did, too. But I can't keep it up, Willy. I can't live here and let him treat me like that. Or my friends. I know what will happen. I'll run away, like Aunt Elinor."

"You must not do that, Lily." He was very grave.

"Why not? They think she is unhappy. She isn't. She ran away and married a man she cared about. I may call you up some day and ask you to marry me!" she added, less tensely. "You would be an awfully good husband, you know."

She looked up at him, still angry, but rather amused with this new conceit.

"Don't!"

She was startled by the look on his face.

"You see," he said painfully, "what only amuses you in that idea is—well, it doesn't amuse me, Lily."

"I only meant—" she was very uncomfortable. "You are so real and dependable and kind, and I—"

"I know what you mean. Like Jinx, there. I'm sorry! I didn't mean that. But you must not talk about marrying me unless you mean it. You see, I happen to care."

"Willy!"

"It won't hurt you to know, although I hadn't meant to tell you. And of course, you know, I am not asking you to marry me. Only I'd like you to feel that you can count on me, always. The one person a woman can count on is the man who loves her."

And after a little silence:

"You see, I know you are not in love with me. I cared from the beginning, but I always knew that."

"I wish I did." She was rather close to tears. She had not felt at all like that with Pink. But, although she knew he was suffering, his quietness deceived her. She had the theory of youth about love, that it was a violent thing, tempestuous and passionate. She thought that love demanded, not knowing that love gives first, and then asks. She could not know how he felt about his love for her, that it lay in a sort of cathedral shrine in his heart. There were holy days when saints left their niches and were shown in city streets, but until that holy day came they remained in the church.

"You will remember that, won't you?"

"I'll remember, Willy."

"I won't be a nuisance, you know. I've never had any hope, so I won't make you unhappy. And don't be unhappy about me, Lily. I would rather love you, even knowing I can't have you, than be loved by anybody else."

Perhaps, had he shown more hurt, he would have made it seem more real to her. But he was frightfully anxious not to cause her pain.

"I'm really very happy, loving you," he added, and smiled down at her reassuringly. But he had for all that a wild primitive impulse which almost overcame him for a moment, to pick her up in his arms and carry her out the door and away with him. Somewhere, anywhere. Away from that grim old house, and that despotic little man, to liberty and happiness and—William Wallace Cameron.

Ellen came in, divided between uneasiness and delight, and inquired painstakingly about his mother, and his uncle in California, and the Presbyterian minister. But she was uncomfortable and uneasy and refused to sit down, and Willy watched her furtively slipping out again with a slight frown. It was not right, somehow, this dividing of the world into classes, those who served and those who were served. But he had an idea that it was those below who made the distinction, nowadays. It was the masses who insisted on isolating the classes. They made kings, perhaps that they might some day reach up and pull them off their thrones. At the top of the stairs Ellen found Mademoiselle, who fixed her with cold eyes.

"What were you doing down there," she demanded.

"Miss Lily sent for me, to see that young man I told you about."

"How dare you go down? And into the library?"

"I've just told you," said Ellen, her face setting. "She sent for me."

"Why didn't you say you were in bed?"

"I'm no liar, Mademoiselle. Besides, I guess it's no crime to see a boy I've known all his life, and his mother and me like sisters."

"You are a fool," said Mademoiselle, and turning clumped back in her bedroom slippers to her room.

Ellen went up to her room. Heretofore she had given her allegiance to Mademoiselle and Mrs. Cardew, and in a more remote fashion, to Howard. But Ellen, crying angry tears in her small white bed that night, sensed a new division in the family, with Mademoiselle and Anthony and Howard and Grace on one side, and Lily standing alone, fighting valiantly for the right to live her own life, to receive her own friends, and the friends of her friends, even though one of these latter might be a servant in her own house.

Yet Ellen, with the true snobbishness of the servants' hall, disapproved of Lily's course while she admired it.

"But they're all against her," Ellen reflected. "The poor thing! And just because of Willy Cameron. Well, I'll stand by her, if they throw me out for it."

In her romantic head there formed strange, delightful visions. Lily eloping with Willy Cameron, assisted by herself. Lily in the little Cameron house, astounding the neighborhood with her clothes and her charm, and being sponsored by Ellen. The excitement of the village, and the visits to Ellen to learn what to wear for a first call, and were cards necessary?

Into Ellen's not very hard-working but monotonous life had comes its first dream of romance.



CHAPTER XIII

For three weeks Lily did not see Louis Akers, nor did she go back to the house on Cardew Way. She hated doing clandestine or forbidden things, and she was, too, determined to add nothing to the tenseness she began to realize existed at home. She went through her days, struggling to fit herself again into the old environment, reading to her mother, lending herself with assumed enthusiasm to such small gayeties as Lent permitted, and doing penance in a dozen ways for that stolen afternoon with Louis Akers.

She had been forbidden to see him again. It had come about by Grace's confession to Howard as to Lily's visit to the Doyles. He had not objected to that.

"Unless Doyle talks his rubbish to her," he said. "She said something the other night that didn't sound like her. Was any one else there?"

"An attorney named Akers," she said.

And at that Howard had scowled.

"She'd better keep away altogether," he observed, curtly. "She oughtn't to meet men like that."

"Shall I tell her?"

"I'll tell her," he said. And tell her he did, not too tactfully, and man-like shielding her by not telling her his reasons.

"He's not the sort of man I want you to know," he finished. "That ought to be sufficient. Have you seen him since?"

Lily flushed, but she did not like to lie.

"I had tea with him one afternoon. I often have tea with men, father. You know that."

"You knew I wouldn't approve, or you would have mentioned it."

Because he felt that he had been rather ruthless with her, he stopped in at the jeweler's the next morning and sent her a tiny jeweled watch. Lily was touched and repentant. She made up her mind not to see Louis Akers again, and found a certain relief in the decision. She was conscious that he had a peculiar attraction for her, a purely emotional appeal. He made her feel alive. Even when she disapproved of him, she was conscious of him. She put him resolutely out of her mind, to have him reappear in her dreams, not as a lover, but as some one dominant and insistent, commanding her to do absurd, inconsequential things.

Now and then she saw Willy Cameron, and they had gone back, apparently, to the old friendly relationship. They walked together, and once they went to the moving pictures, to Grace's horror. But there were no peanuts to eat, and instead of the jingling camp piano there was an orchestra, and it was all strangely different. Even Willy Cameron was different. He was very silent, and on the way home he did not once speak of the plain people.

Louis Akers had both written and telephoned her, but she made excuses, and did not see him, and the last time he had hung up the receiver abruptly. She felt an odd mixture of relief and regret.

Then, about the middle of April, she saw him again.

Spring was well on by that time. Before the Doyle house on Cardew Way the two horse-chestnuts were showing great red-brown buds, ready to fall into leaf with the first warm day, and Elinor, assisted by Jennie, the elderly maid, was finishing her spring house-cleaning. The Cardew mansion showed window-boxes at each window, filled by the florist with spring flowers, to be replaced later by summer ones. A potted primrose sat behind the plate glass of the Eagle Pharmacy, among packets of flower seeds and spring tonics, its leaves occasionally nibbled by the pharmacy cat, out of some atavistic craving survived through long generations of city streets.

The children's playground near the Lily furnace was ready; Howard Cardew himself had overseen the locations of the swings and chute-the-chutes. And at Friendship an army of workers was sprinkling and tamping the turf of the polo field. After two years of war, there was to be polo again that spring and early summer. The Cherry Hill Hunt team was still intact, although some of the visiting outfits had been badly shot to pieces by the war. But the war was over. It lay behind, a nightmare to be forgotten as soon as possible. It had left its train of misery and debt, but—spring had come.

On a pleasant Monday, Lily motored out to the field with Pink Denslow. It had touched her that he still wanted her, and it had offered an escape from her own worries. She was fighting a sense of failure that day. It seemed impossible to reconcile the warring elements at home. Old Anthony and his son were quarreling over the strike, and Anthony was jibing constantly at Howard over the playground. It was not so much her grandfather's irritability that depressed her as his tyranny over the household, and his attitude toward her mother roused her to bitter resentment.

The night before she had left the table after one of his scourging speeches, only to have what amounted to a scene with her mother afterward.

"But I cannot sit by while he insults you, mother."

"It is just his way. I don't mind, really. Oh, Lily, don't destroy what I have built up so carefully. It hurts your father so."

"Sometimes," Lily said slowly, "he makes me think Aunt Elinor's husband was right. He believes a lot of things—"

"What things?" Grace had asked, suspiciously.

Lily hesitated.

"Well, a sort of Socialism, for one thing, only it isn't exactly that. It's individualism, really, or I think so; the sort of thing that this house stifles." Grace was too horrified for speech. "I don't want to hurt you, mother, but don't you see? He tyrannizes over all of us, and it's bad for our souls. Why should he bellow at the servants? Or talk to you the way he did to-night?" She smiled faintly. "We're all drowning, and I want to swim, that's all. Mr. Doyle—"

"You are talking nonsense," said Grace sharply. "You have got a lot of ideas from that wretched house, and now you think they are your own. Lily, I warn you, if you insist on going back to the Doyles I shall take you abroad."

Lily turned and walked out of the room, and there was something suggestive of old Anthony in the pitch of her shoulders. Her anger did not last long, but her uneasiness persisted. Already she knew that she was older in many ways than Grace; she had matured in the past year more than her mother in twenty, and she felt rather like a woman obeying the mandates of a child.

But on that pleasant Monday she was determined to be happy.

"Old world begins to look pretty, doesn't it?" said Pink, breaking in on her thoughts.

"Lovely."

"It's not a bad place to live in, after all," said Pink, trying to cheer his own rather unhappy humor. "There is always spring to expect, when we get low in winter. And there are horses and dogs, and—and blossoms on the trees, and all that." What he meant was, "If there isn't love."

"You are perfectly satisfied with things just as they are, aren't you?" Lily asked, half enviously.

"Well, I'd change some things." He stopped. He wasn't going to go round sighing like a furnace. "But it's a pretty good sort of place. I'm for it."

"Have you sent your ponies out?"

"Only two. I want to show you one I bought from the Government almost for nothing. Remount man piped me off. Light in flesh, rather, but fast. Handy, light mouth—all he needs is a bit of training."

They had been in the open country for some time, but now they were approaching the Cardew's Friendship plant. The furnaces had covered the fields with a thin deposit of reddish ore dust. Such blighted grass as grew had already lost its fresh green, and the trees showed stunted blossoms. The one oasis of freshness was the polo field itself, carefully irrigated by underground pipes. The field, with its stables and grandstand, had been the gift of Anthony Cardew, thereby promoting much discussion with his son. For Howard had wanted the land for certain purposes of his own, to build a clubhouse for the men at the plant, with a baseball field. Finding his father obdurate in that, he had urged that the field be thrown open to the men and their families, save immediately preceding and during the polo season. But he had failed there, too. Anthony Cardew had insisted, and with some reason, that to use the grounds for band concerts and baseball games, for picnics and playgrounds, would ruin the turf for its legitimate purpose.

Howard had subsequently found other land, and out of his own private means had carried out his plans, but the location was less desirable. And he knew what his father refused to believe, that the polo ground, taking up space badly needed for other purposes, was a continual grievance.

Suddenly Pink stared ahead.

"I say," he said, "have they changed the rule about that sort of thing?"

He pointed to the field. A diamond had been roughly outlined on it with bags of sand, and a ball-game was in progress, boys playing, but a long line of men watching from the side lines.

"I don't know, but it doesn't hurt anything."

"Ruins the turf, that's all." He stopped the car and got out. "Look at this sign. It says 'ball-playing or any trespassing forbidden on these grounds.' I'll clear them off."

"I wouldn't, Pink. They may be ugly."

But he only smiled at her reassuringly, and went off. She watched him go with many misgivings, his sturdy young figure, his careful dress, his air of the young aristocrat, easy, domineering, unconsciously insolent. They would resent him, she knew, those men and boys. And after all, why should they not use the field? There was injustice in that sign.

Yet her liking and real sympathy were with Pink.

"Pink!" she called, "Come back here. Let them alone."

He turned toward her a face slightly flushed with indignation and set with purpose.

"Sorry. Can't do it, Lily. This sort of thing's got to be stopped."

She felt, rather hopelessly, that he was wrong, but that he was right, too. The grounds were private property. She sat back and watched.

Pink was angry. She could hear his voice, see his gestures. He was shooing them off like a lot of chickens, and they were laughing. The game had stopped, and the side lines were pressing forward. There was a moment's debate, with raised voices, a sullen muttering from the crowd, and the line closing into a circle. The last thing she saw before it closed was a man lunging at Pink, and his counter-feint. Then some one was down. If it was Pink he was not out, for there was fighting still going on. The laborers working on the grounds were running.

Lily stood up in the car, pale and sickened. She was only vaguely conscious of a car that suddenly left the road, and dashed recklessly across the priceless turf, but she did see, and recognize, Louis Akers as he leaped from it and flinging men this way and that disappeared into the storm center. She could hear his voice, too, loud and angry, and see the quick dispersal of the crowd. Some of the men, foreigners, passed quite near to her, and eyed her either sullenly or with mocking smiles. She was quite oblivious of them. She got out and ran with shaking knees across to where Pink lay on the grass, his profile white and sharply chiseled, with two or three men bending over him.

Pink was dead. Those brutes had killed him. Pink.

He was not dead. He was moving his arms.

Louis Akers straightened when he saw her and took off his hat.

"Nothing to worry about, Miss Cardew," he said. "But what sort of idiocy—! Hello, old man, all right now?"

Pink sat up, then rose stiffly and awkwardly. He had a cut over one eye, and he felt for his handkerchief.

"Fouled me," he said. "Filthy lot, anyhow. Wonder they didn't walk on me when I was down." He turned to the grounds-keeper, who had come up. "You ought to know better than to let those fellows cut up this turf," he said angrily. "What're you here for anyhow?"

But he was suddenly very sick. He looked at Lily, his face drawn and blanched.

"Got me right," he muttered. "I—"

"Get into my car," said Akers, not too amiably. "I'll drive you to the stables. I'll be back, Miss Cardew."

Lily went back to the car and sat down. She was shocked and startled, but she was strangely excited. The crowd had beaten Pink, but it had obeyed Louis Akers like a master. He was a man. He was a strong man. He must be built of iron. Mentally she saw him again, driving recklessly over the turf, throwing the men to right and left, hoarse with anger, tall, dominant, powerful.

It was more important that a man be a man than that he be a gentleman.

After a little he drove back across the field, sending the car forward again at reckless speed. Some vision of her grandfather, watching the machine careening over the still soft and spongy turf and leaving deep tracks behind it, made her smile. Akers leaped out.

"No need to worry about our young friend," he said cheerfully. "He is alternately being very sick at his stomach and cursing the poor working man. But I think I'd better drive you back. He'll be poor company, I'll say that."

He looked at her, his bold eyes challenging, belying the amiable gentleness of his smile.

"I'd better let him know."

"I told him. He isn't strong for me. Always hate the fellow who saves you, you know. But he didn't object."

Lily moved into his car obediently. She felt a strange inclination to do what this man wanted. Rather, it was an inability to oppose him. He went on, big, strong, and imperious. And he carried one along. It was easy and queer. But she did, unconsciously, what she had never done with Pink or any other man; she sat as far away from him on the wide seat as she could.

He noticed that, and smiled ahead, over the wheel. He had been infuriated over her avoidance of him, but if she was afraid of him—

"Bully engine in this car. Never have to change a gear."

"You certainly made a road through the field."

"They'll fix that, all right. Are you warm enough?"

"Yes, thank you."

"You have been treating me very badly, you know, Miss Cardew."

"I have been frightfully busy."

"That's not true, and you know it. You've been forbidden to see me, haven't you?"

"I have been forbidden to go back to Cardew Way."

"They don't know about me, then?"

"There isn't very much to know, is there?"

"I wish you wouldn't fence with me," he said impatiently. "I told you once I was frank. I want you to answer one question. If this thing rested with you, would you see me again?"

"I think I would, Mr. Akers," she said honestly.

Had she ever known a man like the one beside her, she would not have given him that opportunity. He glanced sharply around, and then suddenly stopped the car and turned toward her.

"I'm crazy about you, and you know it," he said. And roughly, violently, he caught her to him and kissed her again and again. Her arms were pinned to her sides, and she was helpless. After a brief struggle to free herself she merely shut her eyes and waited for him to stop.

"I'm mad about you," he whispered.

Then he freed her. Lily wanted to feel angry, but she felt only humiliated and rather soiled. There were men like that, then, men who gave way to violent impulses, who lost control of themselves and had to apologize afterwards. She hated him, but she was sorry for him, too. He would have to be so humble. She was staring ahead, white and waiting for his explanation, when he released the brake and started the car forward slowly.

"Well?" he said, with a faint smile.

"You will have to apologize for that, Mr. Akers."

"I'm damned if I will. That man back there, Denslow—he's the sort who would kiss a girl and then crawl about it afterwards. I won't. I'm not sorry. A strong man can digest his own sins. I kissed you because I wanted to. It wasn't an impulse. I meant to when we started. And you're only doing the conventional thing and pretending to be angry. You're not angry. Good God, girl, be yourself once in a while."

"I'm afraid I don't understand you." Her voice was haughty. "And I must ask you to stop the car and let me get out."

"I'll do nothing of the sort, of course. Now get this straight, Miss Cardew. I haven't done you any harm. I may have a brutal way of showing that I'm crazy about you, but it's my way. I'm a man, and I'm no hand kisser."

And when she said nothing:

"You think I'm unrestrained, and I am, in a way. But if I did what I really want to do, I'd not take you home at all. I'd steal you. You've done something to me, God knows what."

"Then I can only say I'm sorry," Lily said slowly.

She felt strangely helpless and rather maternal. With all his strength this sort of man needed to be protected from himself. She felt no answering thrill whatever to his passion, but as though, having told her he loved her, he had placed a considerable responsibility in her hands.

"I'll be good now," he said. "Mind, I'm not sorry. But I don't want to worry you."

He made no further overtures to her during the ride, but he was neither sulky nor sheepish. He feigned an anxiety as to the threatened strike, and related at great length and with extreme cleverness of invention his own efforts to prevent it.

"I've a good bit of influence with the A.F.L.," he said. "Doyle's in bad with them, but I'm still solid. But it's coming, sure as shooting. And they'll win, too."

He knew women well, and he saw that she was forgiving him. But she would not forget. He had a cynical doctrine, to the effect that a woman's first kiss of passion left an ineradicable mark on her, and he was quite certain that Lily had never been so kissed before.

Driving through the park he turned to her:

"Please forgive me," he said, his mellow voice contrite and supplicating. "You've been so fine about it that you make me ashamed."

"I would like to feel that it wouldn't happen again: That's all."

"That means you intend to see me again. But never is a long word. I'm afraid to promise. You go to my head, Lily Cardew." They were halted by the traffic, and it gave him a chance to say something he had been ingeniously formulating in his mind. "I've known lots of girls. I'm no saint. But you are different. You're a good woman. You could do anything you wanted with me, if you cared to."

And because she was young and lovely, and because he was always the slave of youth and beauty, he meant what he said. It was a lie, but he was lying to himself also, and his voice held unmistakable sincerity. But even then he was watching her, weighing the effect of his words on her. He saw that she was touched.

He was very well pleased with himself on his way home. He left the car at the public garage, and walked, whistling blithely, to his small bachelor apartment. He was a self-indulgent man, and his rooms were comfortable to the point of luxury. In the sitting room was a desk, as clean and orderly as Doyle's was untidy. Having put on his dressing gown he went to it, and with a sheet of paper before him sat for some time thinking.

He found his work irksome at times. True, it had its interest. He was the liaison between organized labor, which was conservative in the main, and the radical element, both in and out of the organization. He played a double game, and his work was always the same, to fan the discontent latently smoldering in every man's soul into a flame. And to do this he had not Doyle's fanaticism. Personally, Louis Akers found the world a pretty good place. He hated the rich because they had more than he had, but he scorned the poor because they had less. And he liked the feeling of power he had when, on the platform, men swayed to his words like wheat to a wind.

Personal ambition was his fetish, as power was Anthony Cardew's. Sometimes he walked past the exclusive city clubs, and he dreamed of a time when he, too, would have the entree to them. But time was passing. He was thirty-three years old when Jim Doyle crossed his path, and the clubs were as far away as ever. It was Doyle who found the weak place in his armor, and who taught him that when one could not rise it was possible to pull others down.

But it was Woslosky, the Americanized Pole; who had put the thing in a more appealing form.

"Our friend Doyle to the contrary," he said cynically, "we cannot hope to contend against the inevitable. The few will always govern the many, in the end. It will be the old cycle, autocracy, anarchy, and then democracy; but out of this last comes always the one man who crowns himself or is crowned. One of the people. You, or myself, it may be."

The Pole had smiled and shrugged his shoulders.

Akers did not go to work immediately. He sat for some time, a cigarette in his hand, his eyes slightly narrowed. He believed that he could marry Lily Cardew. It would take time and all his skill, but he believed he could do it. His mind wandered to Lily herself, her youth and charm, her soft red mouth, the feel of her warm young body in his arms. He brought himself up sharply. Where would such a marriage take him?

He pondered the question pro and con. On the one hand the Cardews, on the other, Doyle and a revolutionary movement. A revolution would be interesting and exciting, and there was strong in him the desire to pull down. But revolution was troublesome. It was violent and bloody. Even if it succeeded it would be years before the country would be stabilized. This other, now—

He sat low in his chair, his long legs stretched out in his favorite position, and dreamed. He would not play the fool like Doyle. He would conciliate the family. In the end he would be put up at the clubs; he might even play polo. His thoughts wandered to Pink Denslow at the polo grounds, and he grinned.

"Young fool!" he reflected. "If I can't beat his time—" He ordered dinner to be sent up, and mixed himself a cocktail, using the utmost care in its preparation. Drinking it, he eyed himself complacently in the small mirror over the mantel. Yes, life was not bad. It was damned interesting. It was a game. No, it was a race where a man could so hedge his bets that he stood to gain, whoever won.

When there was a knock at the door he did not turn. "Come in," he said.

But it was not the waiter. It was Edith Boyd. He saw her through the mirror, and so addressed her.

"Hello, sweetie," he said. Then he turned. "You oughtn't to come here, Edith. I've told you about that."

"I had to see you, Lou."

"Well, take a good look, then," he said. Her coming fitted in well with the complacence of his mood. Yes, life was good, so long as it held power, and drink, and women.

He stooped to kiss her, but although she accepted the caress, she did not return it.

"Not mad at me, Miss Boyd, are you?"

"No. Lou, I'm frightened!"



CHAPTER XIV

On clear Sundays Anthony Cardew played golf all day. He kept his religious observances for bad weather, but at such times as he attended service he did it with the decorum and dignity of a Cardew, who bowed to his God but to nothing else. He made the responses properly and with a certain unction, and sat during the sermon with a vigilant eye on the choir boys, who wriggled. Now and then, however, the eye wandered to the great stained glass window which was a memorial to his wife. It said beneath: "In memoriam, Lilian Lethbridge Cardew."

He thought there was too much yellow in John the Baptist. On the Sunday afternoon following her ride into the city with Louis Akers, Lily found herself alone. Anthony was golfing and Grace and Howard had motored out of town for luncheon. In a small office near the rear of the hall the second man dozed, waiting for the doorbell. There would be people in for tea later, as always on Sunday afternoons; girls and men, walking through the park or motoring up in smart cars, the men a trifle bored because they were not golfing or riding, the girls chattering about the small inessentials which somehow they made so important.

Lily was wretchedly unhappy. For one thing, she had begun to feel that Mademoiselle was exercising over her a sort of gentle espionage, and she thought her grandfather was behind it. Out of sheer rebellion she had gone again to the house on Cardew Way, to find Elinor out and Jim Doyle writing at his desk. He had received her cordially, and had talked to her as an equal. His deferential attitude had soothed her wounded pride, and she had told him something—very little—of the situation at home.

"Then you are still forbidden to come here?"

"Yes. As if what happened years ago matters now, Mr. Doyle."

He eyed her.

"Don't let them break your spirit, Lily," he had said. "Success can make people very hard. I don't know myself what success would do to me. Plenty, probably." He smiled. "It isn't the past your people won't forgive me, Lily. It's my failure to succeed in what they call success."

"It isn't that," she had said hastily. "It is—they say you are inflammatory. Of course they don't understand. I have tried to tell them, but—"

"There are fires that purify," he had said, smilingly.

She had gone home, discontented with her family's lack of vision, and with herself.

She was in a curious frame of mind. The thought of Louis Akers repelled her, but she thought of him constantly. She analyzed him clearly enough; he was not fine and not sensitive. He was not even kind. Indeed, she felt that he could be both cruel and ruthless. And if she was the first good woman he had ever known, then he must have had a hateful past.

The thought that he had kissed her turned her hot with anger and shame at such times, but the thought recurred.

Had she had occupation perhaps she might have been saved, but she had nothing to do. The house went on with its disciplined service; Lent had made its small demands as to church services, and was over. The weather was bad, and the golf links still soggy with the spring rains. Her wardrobe was long ago replenished, and that small interest gone.

And somehow there had opened a breach between herself and the little intimate group that had been hers before the war. She wondered sometimes what they would think of Louis Akers. They would admire him, at first, for his opulent good looks, but very soon they would recognize what she knew so well—the gulf between him and the men of their own world, so hard a distinction to divine, yet so real for all that. They would know instinctively that under his veneer of good manners was something coarse and crude, as she did, and they would politely snub him. She had no name and no knowledge for the urge in the man that she vaguely recognized and resented. But she had a full knowledge of the obsession he was becoming in her mind.

"If I could see him here," she reflected, more than once, "I'd get over thinking about him. It's because they forbid me to see him. It's sheer contrariness."

But it was not, and she knew it. She had never heard of his theory about the mark on a woman.

She was hating herself very vigorously on that Sunday afternoon. Mademoiselle and she had lunched alone in Lily's sitting-room, and Mademoiselle had dozed off in her chair afterwards, a novel on her knee. Lily was wandering about downstairs when the telephone rang, and she had a quick conviction that it was Louis Akers. It was only Willy Cameron, however, asking her if she cared to go for a walk.

"I've promised Jinx one all day," he explained, "and we might as well combine, if you are not busy."

She smiled at that.

"I'd love it," she said. "In the park?"

"Wait a moment." Then: "Yes, Jinx says the park is right."

His wholesome nonsense was good for her. She drew a long breath.

"You are precisely the person I need to-day," she said. "And come soon, because I shall have to be back at five."

When he came he was very neat indeed, and most scrupulous as to his heels being polished. He was also slightly breathless.

"Had to sew a button on my coat," he explained. "Then I found I'd sewed in one of my fingers and had to start all over again."

Lily was conscious of a change in him. He looked older, she thought, and thinner. His smile, when it came, was as boyish as ever, but he did not smile so much, and seen in full daylight he was shabby. He seemed totally unconscious of his clothes, however.

"What do you do with yourself, Willy?" she asked. "I mean when you are free?"

"Read and study. I want to take up metallurgy pretty soon. There's a night course at the college."

"We use metallurgists in the mill. When you are ready I know father would be glad to have you."

He flushed at that.

"Thanks," he said. "I'd rather get in, wherever I go, by what I know, and not who I know."

She felt considerably snubbed, but she knew his curious pride. After a time, while he threw a stick into the park lake and Jinx retrieved it, he said:

"What do you do with yourself these days, Lily?"

"Nothing. I've forgotten how to work, I'm afraid. And I'm not very happy, Willy. I ought to be, but I'm just—not."

"You've learned what it is to be useful," he observed gravely, "and now it hardly seems worth while just to live, and nothing else. Is that it?"

"I suppose."

"Isn't there anything you can do?"

"They won't let me work, and I hate to study."

There was a silence. Willy Cameron sat on the bench, bent and staring ahead. Jinx brought the stick, and, receiving no attention, insinuated a dripping body between his knees. He patted the dog's head absently.

"I have been thinking about the night I went to dinner at your house," he said at last. "I had no business to say what I said then. I've got a miserable habit of saying just what comes into my mind, and I've been afraid, ever since, that it would end in your not wanting to see me again. Just try to forget it happened, won't you?"

"I knew it was an impulse, but it made me very proud, Willy."

"All right," he said quietly. "And that's that. Now about your grandfather. I've had him on my mind, too. He is an old man, and sometimes they are peculiar. I am only sorry I upset him. And you are to forget that, too."

In spite of herself she laughed, rather helplessly.

"Is there anything I am to remember?"

He smiled too, and straightened himself, like a man who has got something off his chest.

"Certainly there is, Miss Cardew. Me. Myself. I want you to know that I'm around, ready to fetch and carry like Jinx here, and about as necessary, I suppose. We are a good bit alike, Jinx and I. We're satisfied with a bone, and we give a lot of affection. You won't mind a bone now and then?"

His cheerful tone reassured the girl. There was no real hurt, then.

"That's nice of you, you know."

"Well," he said slowly, "you know there are men who prefer a dream to reality. Perhaps I'm like that. Anyhow, that's enough about me. Do you know that there is a strike coming?"

"Yes. I ought to tell you, Willy. I think the men are right."

He stared at her incredulously.

"Right?" he said. "Why, my dear child, most of them want to strike about as much as I want delirium tremens. I've talked to them, and I know."

"A slave may be satisfied if he has never known freedom."

"Oh, fudge," said Willy Cameron, rudely. "Where do you get all that? You're quoting; aren't you? The strike, any strike, is an acknowledgment of weakness. It is a resort to the physical because the collective mentality of labor isn't as strong as the other side. Or labor thinks it isn't, which amounts to the same thing. And there is a fine line between the fellow who fights for a principle and the one who knocks people down to show how strong he is."

"This is a fight for a principle, Willy."

"Fine little Cardew you are!" he scoffed. "Don't make any mistake. There have been fights by labor for a principle, and the principle won, as good always wins over evil. But this is different. It's a direct play by men who don't realize what they are doing, into the hands of a lot of—well, we'll call them anarchists. It's Germany's way of winning the war. By indirection."

"If by anarchists you mean men like my uncle—"

"I do," he said grimly. "That's a family accident and you can't help it. But I do mean Doyle. Doyle and a Pole named Woslosky, and a scoundrel of an attorney here in town, named Akers, among others."

"Mr. Akers is a friend of mine, Willy."

He stared at her.

"If they have been teaching you their dirty doctrines, Lily," he said at last, "I can only tell you this. They can disguise it in all the fine terms they want. It is treason, and they are traitors. I know. I've had a talk with the Chief of Police."

"I don't believe it."

"How well do you know Louis Akers?"

"Not very well." But there were spots of vivid color flaming in her cheeks. He drew a long breath.

"I can't retract it," he said. "I didn't know, of course. Shall we start back?"

They were very silent as they walked. Willy Cameron was pained and anxious. He knew Akers' type rather than the man himself, but he knew the type well. Every village had one, the sleek handsome animal who attracted girls by sheer impudence and good humor, who made passionate, pagan love promiscuously, and put the responsibility for the misery they caused on the Creator because He had made them as they were.

He was agonized by another train of thought. For him Lily had always been something fine, beautiful, infinitely remote. There were other girls, girls like Edith Boyd, who were touched, some more, some less, with the soil of life. Even when they kept clean they saw it all about them, and looked on it with shrewd, sophisticated eyes. But Lily was—Lily. The very thought of Louis Akers looking at her as he had seen him look at Edith Boyd made him cold with rage.

"Do you mind if I say something?"

"That sounds disagreeable. Is it?"

"Maybe, but I'm going to anyhow, Lily. I don't like to think of you seeing Akers. I don't know anything against him, and I suppose if I did I wouldn't tell you. But he is not your sort."

An impulse of honesty prevailed with her.

"I know that as well as you do. I know him better than you do. But, he stands for something, at least," she added rather hotly. "None of the other men I know stand for anything very much. Even you, Willy."

"I stand for the preservation of my country," he said gravely. "I mean, I represent a lot of people who—well, who don't believe that change always means progress, and who do intend that the changes Doyle and Akers and that lot want they won't get. I don't believe—if you say you want what they want—that you know what you are talking about."

"Perhaps I am more intelligent than you think I am."

He was, of course, utterly wretched, impressed by the futility of arguing with her.

"Do your people know that you are seeing Louis Akers!"

"You are being rather solicitous, aren't you?"

"I am being rather anxious. I wouldn't dare, of course, if we hadn't been such friends. But Akers is wrong, wrong every way, and I have to tell you that, even if it means that you will never see me again. He takes a credulous girl—"

"Thank you!"

"And talks bunk to her and possibly makes love to her—"

"Haven't we had enough of Mr. Akers?" Lily asked coldly. "If you cannot speak of anything else, please don't talk."

The result of which was a frozen silence until they reached the house.

"Good-by," she said primly. "It was very nice of you to call me up. Good-by, Jinx." She went up the steps, leaving him bare-headed and rather haggard, looking after her.

He took the dog and went out into the country on foot, tramping through the mud without noticing it, and now and then making little despairing gestures. He was helpless. He had cut himself off from her like a fool. Akers. Akers and Edith Boyd. Other women. Akers and other women. And now Lily. Good God, Lily!

Jinx was tired. He begged to be carried, planting two muddy feet on his master's shabby trouser leg, and pleading with low whines. Willy Cameron stooped and, gathering up the little animal, tucked him under his arm. When it commenced to rain he put him under his coat and plunged his head through the mud and wet toward home.

Lily had entered the house in a white fury, but a moment later she was remorseful. For one thing, her own anger bewildered her. After all, he had meant well, and it was like him to be honest, even if it cost him something he valued.

She ran to the door and looked around for him, but he had disappeared. She went in again, remorseful and unhappy. What had come over her to treat him like that? He had looked almost stricken.

"Mr. Akers is calling, Miss Cardew," said the footman. "He is in the drawing-room."

Lily went in slowly.

Louis Akers had been waiting for some time. He had lounged into the drawing-room, with an ease assumed for the servant's benefit, and had immediately lighted a cigarette. That done, and the servant departed, he had carefully appraised his surroundings. He liked the stiff formality of the room. He liked the servant in his dark maroon livery. He liked the silence and decorum. Most of all, he liked himself in these surroundings. He wandered around, touching a bowl here, a vase there, eyeing carefully the ancient altar cloth that lay on a table, the old needle-work tapestry on the chairs.

He saw himself fitted into this environment, a part of it; coming down the staircase, followed by his wife, and getting into his waiting limousine; sitting at the head of his table, while the important men of the city listened to what he had to say. It would come, as sure as God made little fishes. And Doyle was a fool. He, Louis Akers, would marry Lily Cardew and block that other game. But he would let the Cardews know who it was who had blocked it and saved their skins. They'd have to receive him after that; they would cringe to him.

Then, unexpectedly, he had one of the shocks of his life. He had gone to the window and through it he saw Lily and Willy Cameron outside. He clutched at the curtain and cursed under his breath, apprehensively. But Willy Cameron did not come in; Akers watched him up the street with calculating, slightly narrowed eyes. The fact that Lily Cardew knew the clerk at the Eagle Pharmacy was an unexpected complication. His surprise was lost in anxiety. But Lily, entering the room a moment later, rather pale and unsmiling, found him facing the door, his manner easy, his head well up, and drawn to his full and rather overwhelming height. She found her poise entirely gone, and it was he who spoke first.

"I know," he said. "You didn't ask me, but I came anyhow."

She held out her hand rather primly.

"It is very good of you to come."

"Good! I couldn't stay away."

He took her outstretched hand, smiling down at her, and suddenly made an attempt to draw her to him.

"You know that, don't you?"

"Please!"

He let her go at once. He had not played his little game so long without learning its fine points. There were times to woo a woman with a strong arm, and there were other times that required other methods.

"Right-o," he said, "I'm sorry. I've been thinking about you so much that I daresay I have got farther in our friendship than I should. Do you know that you haven't been out of my mind since that ride we had together?"

"Really? Would you like some tea?"

"Thanks, yes. Do you dislike my telling you that?"

She rang the bell, and then stood Lacing him.

"I don't mind, no. But I am trying very hard to forget that ride, and I don't want to talk about it."

"When a beautiful thing comes into a man's life he likes to remember it."

"How can you call it beautiful?"

"Isn't it rather fine when two people, a man and a woman, suddenly find a tremendous attraction that draws them together, in spite of the fact that everything else is conspiring to keep them apart?"

"I don't know," she said uncertainly. "It just seemed all wrong, somehow."

"An honest impulse is never wrong."

"I don't want to discuss it, Mr. Akers. It is over."

While he was away from her, her attraction for him loomed less than the things she promised, of power and gratified ambition. But he found her, with her gentle aloofness, exceedingly appealing, and with the tact of the man who understands women he adapted himself to her humor.

"You are making me very unhappy; Miss Lily," he said. "If you'll only promise to let me see you now and then, I'll promise to be as mild as dish-water. Will you promise?"

She was still struggling, still remembering Willy Cameron, still trying to remember all the things that Louis Akers was not.

"I think I ought not to see you at all."

"Then," he said slowly, "you are going to cut me off from the one decent influence in my life."

She was still revolving that in her mind when tea came. Akers, having shot his bolt, watched with interest the preparation for the little ceremony, the old Georgian teaspoons, the Crown Derby cups, the bell-shaped Queen Anne teapot, beautifully chased, the old pierced sugar basin. Almost his gaze was proprietary. And he watched Lily, her casual handling of those priceless treasures, her taking for granted of service and beauty, her acceptance of quality because she had never known anything else, watched her with possessive eyes.

When the servant had gone, he said:

"You are being very nice to me, in view of the fact that you did not ask me to come. And also remembering that your family does not happen to care about me."

"They are not at home."

"I knew that, or I should not have come. I don't want to make trouble for you, child." His voice was infinitely caressing. "As it happens, I know your grandfather's Sunday habits, and I met your father and mother on the road going out of town at noon. I knew they had not come back."

"How do you know that?"

He smiled down at her. "I have ways of knowing quite a lot of things. Especially when they are as vital to me as this few minutes alone with you."

He bent toward her, as he sat behind the tea table.

"You know how vital this is to me, don't you?" he said. "You're not going to cut me off, are you?"

He stood over her, big, compelling, dominant, and put his hand under her chin.

"I am insane about you," he whispered, and waited.

Slowly, irresistibly, she lifted her face to his kiss.



CHAPTER XV

On the first day of May, William Wallace Cameron moved his trunk, the framed photograph of his mother, eleven books, an alarm clock and Jinx to the Boyd house. He went for two reasons. First, after his initial call at the dreary little house, he began to realize that something had to be done in the Boyd family. The second reason was his dog.

He began to realize that something had to be done in the Boyd family as soon as he had met Mrs. Boyd.

"I don't know what's come over the children," Mrs. Boyd said, fretfully. She sat rocking persistently in the dreary little parlor. Her chair inched steadily along the dull carpet, and once or twice she brought up just as she was about to make a gradual exit from the room. "They act so queer lately."

She hitched the chair into place again. Edith had gone out. It was her idea of an evening call to serve cakes and coffee, and a strong and acrid odor was seeping through the doorway. "There's Dan come home from the war, and when he gets back from the mill he just sits and stares ahead of him. He won't even talk about the war, although he's got a lot to tell."

"It takes some time for the men who were over to get settled down again, you know."

"Well, there's Edith," continued the querulous voice. "You'd think the cat had got her tongue, too. I tell you, Mr. Cameron, there are meals here when if I didn't talk there wouldn't be a word spoken."

Mr. Cameron looked up. It had occurred to him lately, not precisely that a cat had got away with Edith's tongue, but that something undeniably had got away with her cheerfulness. There were entire days in the store when she neglected to manicure her nails, and stood looking out past the fading primrose in the window to the street. But there were no longer any shrewd comments on the passers-by.

"Of course, the house isn't very cheerful," sighed Mrs. Boyd. "I'm a sick woman, Mr. Cameron. My back hurts most of the time. It just aches and aches."

"I know," said Mr. Cameron. "My mother has that, sometimes. If you like I'll mix you up some liniment, and Miss Edith can bring it to you."

"Thanks. I've tried most everything. Edith wants to rent a room, so we can keep a hired girl, but it's hard to get a girl. They want all the money on earth, and they eat something awful. That's a nice friendly dog of yours, Mr. Cameron."

It was perhaps Jinx who decided Willy Cameron. Jinx was at that moment occupying the only upholstered chair, but he had developed a strong liking for the frail little lady with the querulous voice and the shabby black dress. He had, indeed, insisted shortly after his entrance on leaping into her lap, and had thus sat for some time, completely eclipsing his hostess.

"Just let him sit," Mrs. Boyd said placidly. "I like a dog. And he can't hurt this skirt I've got on. It's on its last legs."

With which bit of unconscious humor Willy Cameron had sat down. Something warm and kindly glowed in his heart. He felt that dogs have a curious instinct for knowing what lies concealed in the human heart, and that Jinx had discovered something worth while in Edith's mother.

It was later in the evening, however, that he said, over Edith's bakery cakes and her atrocious coffee:

"If you really mean that about a roomer, I know of one." He glanced at Edith. "Very neat. Careful with matches. Hard to get up in the morning, but interesting, highly intelligent, and a clever talker. That's his one fault. When he is interested in a thing he spouts all over the place."

"Really?" said Mrs. Boyd. "Well, talk would be a change here. He sounds kind of pleasant. Who is he?"

"This paragon of beauty and intellect sits before you," said Willy Cameron.

"You'll have to excuse me. I didn't recognize you by the description," said Mrs. Boyd, unconsciously. "Well, I don't know. I'd like to have this dog around."

Even Edith laughed at that. She had been very silent all evening, sitting most of the time with her hands in her lap, and her eyes on Willy Cameron. Rather like Jinx's eyes they were, steady, unblinking, loyal, and with something else in common with Jinx which Willy Cameron never suspected.

"I wouldn't come, if I were you," she said, unexpectedly.

"Why, Edie, you've been thinking of asking him right along."

"We don't know how to keep a house," she persisted, to him. "We can't even cook—you know that's rotten coffee. I'll show you the room, if you like, but I won't feel hurt if you don't take it, I'll be worried if you do."

Mrs. Boyd watched them perplexedly as they went out, the tall young man with his uneven step, and Edith, who had changed so greatly in the last few weeks, and blew hot one minute and cold the next. Now that she had seen Willy Cameron, Mrs. Boyd wanted him to come. He would bring new life into the little house. He was cheerful. He was not glum like Dan or discontented like Edie. And the dog—She got up slowly and walked over to the chair where Jinx sat, eyes watchfully on the door.

"Nice Jinx," she said, and stroked his head with a thin and stringy hand. "Nice doggie."

She took a cake from the plate and fed it to him, bit by bit. She felt happier than she had for a long time, since her children were babies and needed her.

"I meant it," said Edith, on the stairs. "You stay away. We're a poor lot, and we're unlucky, too. Don't get mixed up with us."

"Maybe I'm going to bring you luck."

"The best luck for me would be to fall down these stairs and break my neck."

He looked at her anxiously, and any doubts he might have had, born of the dreariness, the odors of stale food and of the musty cellar below, of the shabby room she proceeded to show him, died in an impulse to somehow, some way, lift this small group of people out of the slough of despondency which seemed to be engulfing them all.

"Why, what's the matter with the room?" he said. "Just wait until I've got busy in it! I'm a paper hanger and a painter, and—"

"You're a dear, too," said Edith.

So on the first of May he moved in, and for some evenings Political Economy and History and Travel and the rest gave way to anxious cuttings and fittings of wall paper, and a pungent odor of paint. The old house took on new life and activity, the latter sometimes pernicious, as when Willy Cameron fell down the cellar stairs with a pail of paint in his hand, or Dan, digging up some bricks in the back yard for a border the seeds of which were already sprouting in a flat box in the kitchen, ran a pickaxe into his foot.

Some changes were immediate, such as the white-washing of the cellar and the unpainted fence in the yard, where Willy Cameron visualized, later on, great draperies of morning glories. He papered the parlor, and coaxed Mrs. Boyd to wash the curtains, although she protested that, with the mill smoke, it was useless labor.

But there were some changes that he knew only time would effect. Sometimes he went to his bed worn out both physically and spiritually, as though the burden of lifting three life-sodden souls was too much. Not that he thought of that, however. What he did know was that the food was poor. No servant had been found, and years of lack of system had left Mrs. Boyd's mind confused and erratic. She would spend hours concocting expensive desserts, while the vegetables boiled dry and scorched and meat turned to leather, only to bring pridefully to the table some flavorless mixture garnished according to a picture in the cook book, and totally unedible.

She would have ambitious cleaning days, too, starting late and leaving off with beds unmade to prepare the evening meal. Dan, home from the mill and newly adopting Willy Cameron's system of cleaning up for supper, would turn sullen then, and leave the moment the meal was over.

"Hell of a way to live," he said once. "I'd get married, but how can a fellow know whether a girl will make a home for him or give him this? And then there would be babies, too."

The relations between Dan and Edith were not particularly cordial. Willy Cameron found their bickering understandable enough, but he was puzzled, sometimes, to find that Dan was surreptitiously watching his sister. Edith was conscious of it, too, and one evening she broke into irritated speech.

"I wish you'd quit staring at me, Dan Boyd."

"I was wondering what has come over you," said Dan, ungraciously. "You used to be a nice kid. Now you're an angel one minute and a devil the next."

Willy spoke to him that night when they were setting out rows of seedlings, under the supervision of Jinx.

"I wouldn't worry her, Dan," he said; "it is the spring, probably. It gets into people, you know. I'm that way myself. I'd give a lot to be in the country just now."

Dan glanced at him quickly, but whatever he may have had in his mind, he said nothing just then. However, later on he volunteered:

"She's got something on her mind. I know her. But I won't have her talking back to mother."

A week or so after Willy Cameron had moved, Mr. Hendricks rang the bell of the Boyd house, and then, after his amiable custom, walked in.

"Oh, Cameron!" he bawled.

"Upstairs," came Willy Cameron's voice, somewhat thickened with carpet tacks. So Mr. Hendricks climbed part of the way, when he found his head on a level with that of the young gentleman he sought, who was nailing a rent in the carpet.

"Don't stop," said Mr. Hendricks. "Merely friendly call. And for heaven's sake don't swallow a tack, son. I'm going to need you."

"Whaffor?" inquired Willy Cameron, through his nose.

"Don't know yet. Make speeches, probably. If Howard Cardew, or any Cardew, thinks he's going to be mayor of this town, he's got to think again."

"I don't give a tinker's dam who's mayor of this town, so long as he gives it honest government."

"That's right," said Mr. Hendricks approvingly. "Old Cardew's been running it for years, and you could put all the honest government he's given us in a hollow tooth. If you'll stop that hammering, I'd like to make a proposition to you."

Willy Cameron took an admiring squint at his handiwork.

"Sorry to refuse you, Mr. Hendricks, but I don't want to be mayor."

Mr. Hendricks chuckled, as Willy Cameron led the way to his room. He wandered around the room while Cameron opened a window and slid the dog off his second chair.

"Great snakes!" he said. "Spargo's Bolshevism! Political Economy, History of—. What are you planning to be? President?"

"I haven't decided yet. It's a hard job, and mighty thankless. But I won't be your mayor, even for you."

Mr. Hendricks sat down.

"All right," he said. "Of course if you'd wanted it!" He took two large cigars from the row in his breast pocket and held one out, but Willy Cameron refused it and got his pipe.

"Well?" he said.

Mr. Hendrick's face became serious and very thoughtful. "I don't know that I have ever made it clear to you, Cameron," he said, "but I've got a peculiar feeling for this city. I like it, the way some people like their families. It's—well, it's home to me, for one thing. I like to go out in the evenings and walk around, and I say to myself: 'This is my town.' And we, it and me, are sending stuff all over the world. I like to think that somewhere, maybe in China, they are riding on our rails and fighting with guns made from our steel. Maybe you don't understand that."

"I think I do."

"Well, that's the way I feel about it, anyhow. And this Bolshevist stuff gets under my skin. I've got a home and a family here. I started in to work when I was thirteen, and all I've got I've made and saved right here. It isn't much, but it's mine."

Willy Cameron was lighting his pipe. He nodded. Mr. Hendricks bent forward and pointed a finger at him.

"And to govern this city, who do you think the labor element is going to put up and probably elect? We're an industrial city, son, with a big labor vote, and if it stands together—they're being swindled into putting up as an honest candidate one of the dirtiest radicals in the country. That man Akers."

He got up and closed the door.

"I don't want Edith to hear me," he said. "He's a friend of hers. But he's a bad actor, son. He's wrong with women, for one thing, and when I think that all he's got to oppose him is Howard Cardew—" Mr. Hendricks got up, and took a nervous turn about the room.

"Maybe you know that Cardew has a daughter?"

"Yes."

"Well, I hear a good many things, one way and another, and my wife likes a bit of gossip. She knows them both by sight, and she ran into them one day in the tea room of the Saint Elmo, sitting in a corner, and the girl had her back to the room. I don't like the look of that, Cameron."

Willy Cameron got up and closed the window. He stood there, with his back to the light, for a full minute. Then:

"I think there must be some mistake about that, Mr. Hendricks. I have met her. She isn't the sort of girl who would do clandestine things."

Mr. Hendricks looked up quickly. He had made it his business to study men, and there was something in Willy Cameron's voice that caught his attention, and turned his shrewd mind to speculation.

"Maybe," he conceded. "Of course, anything a Cardew does is likely to be magnified in this town. If she's as keen as the men in her family, she'll get wise to him pretty soon." Willy Cameron came back then, but Mr. Hendricks kept his eyes on the tip of his cigar.

"We've got to lick Cardew," he said, "but I'm cursed if I want to do it with Akers."

When there was no comment, he looked up. Yes, the boy had had a blow. Mr. Hendricks was sorry. If that was the way the wind blew it was hopeless. It was more than that; it was tragic.

"Sorry I said anything, Cameron. Didn't know you knew her."

"That's all right. Of course I don't like to think she is being talked about."

"The Cardews are always being talked about. You couldn't drop her a hint, I suppose?"

"She knows what I think about Louis Akers."

He made a violent effort and pulled himself together. "So it is Akers and Howard Cardew, and one's a knave and one's a poor bet."

"Right," said Mr. Hendricks. "And one's Bolshevist, if I know anything, and the other is capital, and has about as much chance as a rich man to get through the eye of a needle."

Which was slightly mixed, owing to a repressed excitement now making itself evident in Mr. Hendricks's voice.

"Why not run an independent candidate?" Willy Cameron asked quietly. "I've been shouting about the plain people. Why shouldn't they elect a mayor? There is a lot of them."

"That's the talk," said Mr. Hendricks, letting his excitement have full sway. "They could. They could run this town and run it right, if they'd take the trouble. Now look here, son, I don't usually talk about myself, but—I'm honest. I don't say I wouldn't get off a street-car without paying my fare if the conductor didn't lift it! But I'm honest. I don't lie. I keep my word. And I live clean—which you can't say for Lou Akers. Why shouldn't I run on an independent ticket? I mightn't be elected, but I'd make a damned good try."

He stood up, and Willy Cameron rose also and held out his hand.

"I don't know that my opinion is of any value, Mr. Hendricks. But I hope you get it, and I think you have a good chance. If I can do anything—"

"Do anything! What do you suppose I came here for? You're going to elect me. You're going to make speeches and kiss babies, and tell the ordinary folks they're worth something after all. You got me started on this thing, and now you've got to help me out."

The future maker of mayors here stepped back in his amazement, and Jinx emitted a piercing howl. When peace was restored the F.M. of M. had got his breath, and he said:

"I couldn't remember my own name before an audience, Mr. Hendricks."

"You're fluent enough in that back room of yours."

"That's different."

"The people we're going after don't want oratory. They want good, straight talk, and a fellow behind it who doesn't believe the country's headed straight for perdition. We've had enough calamity bowlers. You've got the way out. The plain people. The hope of the nation. And, by God, you love your country, and not for what you can get out of it. That's a thing a fellow's got to have inside him. He can't pretend it and get it over."

In the end the F.M. of M. capitulated.

It was late when Mr. Hendricks left. He went away with all the old envelopes in his pockets covered with memoranda.

"Just wait a minute, son," he would say. "I've got to make some speeches myself. Repeat that, now. 'Sins of omission are as great, even greater than sins of commission. The lethargic citizen throws open the gates to revolution.' How do you spell 'lethargic'?"

But it was not Hendricks and his campaign that kept the F.M. of M. awake until dawn. He sat in front of his soft coal fire, and when it died to gray-white ash he still sat there, unconscious of the chill of the spring night. Mostly he thought of Lily, and of Louis Akers, big and handsome, of his insolent eyes and his self-indulgent mouth. Into that curious whirlpool that is the mind came now and then other visions: His mother asleep in her chair; the men in the War Department who had turned him down; a girl at home who had loved him, and made him feel desperately unhappy because he could not love her in return. Was love always like that? If it was what He intended, why was it so often without reciprocation?

He took to walking about the room, according to his old habit, and obediently Jinx followed him.

It was four by his alarm clock when Edith knocked at his door. She was in a wrapper flung over her nightgown, and with her hair flying loose she looked childish and very small.

"I wish you would go to bed," she said, rather petulantly. "Are you sick, or anything?"

"I was thinking, Edith. I'm sorry. I'll go at once. Why aren't you asleep?"

"I don't sleep much lately." Their voices were cautious. "I never go to sleep until you're settled down, anyhow."

"Why not? Am I noisy?"

"It's not that."

She went away, a drooping, listless figure that climbed the stairs slowly and left him in the doorway, puzzled and uncomfortable.

At six that morning Dan, tip-toeing downstairs to warm his left-over coffee and get his own breakfast, heard a voice from Willy Cameron's room, and opened the door. Willy Cameron was sitting up in bed with his eyes closed and his arms extended, and was concluding a speech to a dream audience in deep and oratorical tones.

"By God, it is time the plain people know their power."

Dan grinned, and, his ideas of humor being rather primitive, he edged his way into the room and filled the orator's sponge with icy water from the pitcher.

"All right, old top," he said, "but it is also time the plain people got up."

Then he flung the sponge and departed with extreme expedition.



CHAPTER XVI

It was not until a week had passed after Louis Akers' visit to the house that Lily's family learned of it.

Lily's state of mind during that week had been an unhappy one. She magnified the incident until her nerves were on edge, and Grace, finding her alternating between almost demonstrative affection and strange aloofness, was bewildered and hurt. Mademoiselle watched her secretly, shook her head, and set herself to work to find out what was wrong. It was, in the end, Mademoiselle who precipitated the crisis.

Lily had not intended to make a secret of the visit, but as time went on she found it increasingly difficult to tell about it. She should, she knew, have spoken at once, and it would be hard to explain why she had delayed.

She meant to go to her father with it. It was he who had forbidden her to see Akers, for one thing. And she felt nearer to her father than to her mother, always. Since her return she had developed an almost passionate admiration for Howard, founded perhaps on her grandfather's attitude toward him. She was strongly partizan, and she watched her father, day after day, fighting his eternal battles with Anthony, sometimes winning, often losing, but standing for a principle like a rock while the seas of old Anthony's wrath washed over and often engulfed him.

She was rather wistful those days, struggling with her own perplexities, and blindly reaching out for a hand to help her. But she could not bring herself to confession. She would wander into her father's dressing-room before she went to bed, and, sitting on the arm of his deep chair, would try indirectly to get him to solve the problems that were troubling her. But he was inarticulate and rather shy with her. He had difficulty, sometimes, after her long absence at school and camp, in realizing her as the little girl who had once begged for his neckties to make into doll frocks.

Once she said:

"Could you love a person you didn't entirely respect, father?"

"Love is founded on respect, Lily."

She pondered that. She felt that he was wrong.

"But it does happen, doesn't it?" she had persisted.

He had been accustomed to her searchings for interesting abstractions for years. She used to talk about religion in the same way. So he smiled and said:

"There is a sort of infatuation that is based on something quite different."

"On what?"

But he had rather floundered there. He could not discuss physical attraction with her.

"We're getting rather deep for eleven o'clock at night, aren't we?"

After a short silence:

"Do you mind speaking about Aunt Elinor, father?"

"No, dear. Although it is rather a painful subject."

"But if she is happy, why is it painful?"

"Well, because Doyle is the sort of man he is."

"You mean—because he is unfaithful to her? Or was?"

He was very uncomfortable.

"That is one reason for it, of course. There are others."

"But if he is faithful to her now, father? Don't you think, whatever a man has been, if he really cares for a woman it makes him over?"

"Sometimes, not always." The subject was painful to him. He did not want his daughter to know the sordid things of life. But he added, gallantly: "Of course a good woman can do almost anything she wants with a man, if he cares for her."

She lay awake almost all night, thinking that over.

On the Sunday following Louis Akers' call Mademoiselle learned of it, by the devious route of the servants' hall, and she went to Lily at once, yearning and anxious, and in her best lace collar. She needed courage, and to be dressed in her best gave her moral strength.

"It is not," she said, "that they wish to curtail your liberty, Lily. But to have that man come here, when he knows he is not wanted, to force himself on you—"

"I need not have seen him. I wanted to see him."

Mademoiselle waved her hands despairingly.

"If they find it out!" she wailed.

"They will. I intend to tell them."

But Mademoiselle made her error there. She was fearful of Grace's attitude unless she forewarned her, and Grace, frightened, immediately made it a matter of a family conclave. She had not intended to include Anthony, but he came in on an excited speech from Howard, and heard it all.

The result was that instead of Lily going to them with her confession, she was summoned, to find her family a unit for once and combined against her. She was not to see Louis Akers again, or the Doyles.

They demanded a promise, but she refused. Yet even then, standing before them, forced to a defiance she did not feel, she was puzzled as well as angry. They were wrong, and yet in some strange way they were right, too. She was Cardew enough to get their point of view. But she was Cardew enough, too, to defy them.

She did it rather gently.

"You must understand," she said, her hands folded in front of her, "that it is not so much that I care to see the people you are talking about. It is that I feel I have the right to choose my own friends."

"Friends!" sneered old Anthony. "A third-rate lawyer, a—"

"That is not the point, grandfather. I went away to school when I was a little girl. I have been away for five years. You cannot seem to realize that I am a woman now, not a child. You bring me in here like a bad child."

In the end old Anthony had slammed out of the room. There were arguments after that, tears on Grace's part, persuasion on Howard's; but Lily had frozen against what she considered their tyranny, and Howard found in her a sort of passive resistance, that drove him frantic.

"Very well," he said finally. "You have the arrogance of youth, and its cruelty, Lily. And you are making us all suffer without reason."

"Don't you think I might say that too, father?"

"Are you in love with this man?"

"I have only seen him four times. If you would give me some reasons for all this fuss—"

"There are things I cannot explain to you. You wouldn't understand."

"About his moral character?"

Howard was rather shocked. He hesitated:

"Yes."

"Will you tell me what they are?"

"Good heavens, no!" he exploded. "The man's a radical, too. That in itself ought to be enough."

"You can't condemn a man for his political opinions."

"Political opinions!"

"Besides," she said, looking at him with her direct gaze, "isn't there some reason in what the radicals believe, father? Maybe it is a dream that can't come true, but it is rather a fine dream, isn't it?"

It was then that Howard followed his father's example, and flung out of the room.

After that Lily went, very deliberately and without secrecy, to the house on Cardew Way. She found a welcome there, not so marked on her Aunt Elinor's part as on Doyle's, but a welcome. She found approval, too, where at home she had only suspicion and a solicitude based on anxiety. She found a clever little circle there, and sometimes a cultured one; underpaid, disgruntled, but brilliant professors from the college, a journalist or two, a city councilman, even prosperous merchants, and now and then strange bearded foreigners who were passing through the city and who talked brilliantly of the vision of Lenine and the future of Russia.

She learned that the true League of Nations was not a political alliance, but a union of all the leveled peoples of the world. She had no curiosity as to how this leveling was to be brought about. All she knew was that these brilliant dreamers made her welcome, and that instead of the dinner chat at home, small personalities, old Anthony's comments on his food, her father's heavy silence, here was world talk, vast in its scope, idealistic, intoxicating.

Almost always Louis Akers was there; it pleased her to see how the other men listened to him, deferred to his views, laughed at his wit. She did not know the care exercised in selecting the groups she was to meet, the restraints imposed on them. And she could not know that from her visits the Doyle establishment was gaining a prestige totally new to it, an almost respectability.

Because of those small open forums, sometimes noted in the papers, those innocuous gatherings, it was possible to hold in that very room other meetings, not open and not innocuous, where practical plans took the place of discontented yearnings, and where the talk was more often of fighting than of brotherhood.

She was, by the first of May, frankly infatuated with Louis Akers, yet with a curious knowledge that what she felt was infatuation only. She would lie wide-eyed at night and rehearse painfully the weaknesses she saw so clearly in him. But the next time she saw him she would yield to his arms, passively but without protest. She did not like his caresses, but the memory of them thrilled her.

She was following the first uncurbed impulse of her life. Guarded and more or less isolated from other youth, she had always lived a strong inner life, purely mental, largely interrogative. She had had strong childish impulses, sometimes of pure affection, occasionally of sheer contrariness, but always her impulses had been curbed.

"Do be a little lady," Mademoiselle would say.

She had got, somehow, to feel that impulse was wrong. It ranked with disobedience. It partook of the nature of sin. People who did wicked things did them on impulse, and were sorry ever after; but then it was too late.

As she grew older, she added something to that. Impulses of the mind led to impulses of the body, and impulse was wrong. Passion was an impulse of the body. Therefore it was sin. It was the one sin one could not talk about, so one was never quite clear about it. However, one thing seemed beyond dispute; it was predominatingly a masculine wickedness. Good women were beyond and above it, its victims sometimes, like those girls at the camp, or its toys, like the sodden creatures in the segregated district who hung, smiling their tragic smiles, around their doorways in the late afternoons.

But good women were not like that. If they were, then they were not good. They did not lie awake remembering the savage clasp of a man's arms, knowing all the time that this was not love, but something quite different. Or if it was love, that it was painful and certainly not beautiful.

Sometimes she thought about Willy Cameron. He had had very exalted ideas about love. He used to be rather oratorical about it.

"It's the fundamental principle of the universe," he would say, waving his pipe wildly. "But it means suffering, dear child. It feeds on martyrdom and fattens on sacrifice. And as the h.c. of l. doesn't affect either commodity, it lives forever."

"What does it do, Willy, if it hasn't any martyrdom and sacrifice to feed on? Do you mean to say that when it is returned and everybody is happy, it dies?"

"Practically," he had said. "It then becomes domestic contentment, and expresses itself in the shape of butcher's bills and roast chicken on Sundays."

But that had been in the old care-free days, before Willy had thought he loved her, and before she had met Louis.

She made a desperate effort one day to talk to her mother. She wanted, somehow, to be set right in her own eyes. But Grace could not meet her even half way; she did not know anything about different sorts of love, but she did know that love was beautiful, if you met the right man and married him. But it had to be some one who was your sort, because in the end marriage was only a sort of glorified companionship.

The moral in that, so obviously pointed at Louis Akers, invalidated the rest of it for Lily.

She was in a state of constant emotional excitement by that time, and it was only a night or two after that she quarreled with her grandfather. There had been a dinner party, a heavy, pompous affair, largely attended, for although spring was well advanced, the usual May hegira to the country or the coast had not yet commenced. Industrial conditions in and around the city were too disturbed for the large employers to get away, and following Lent there had been a sort of sporadic gayety, covering a vast uneasiness. There was to be no polo after all.

Lily, doing her best to make the dinner a success, found herself contrasting it with the gatherings at the Doyle house, and found it very dull. These men, with their rigidity of mind, invited because they held her grandfather's opinions, or because they kept their own convictions to themselves, seemed to her of a bygone time. She did not see in them a safe counterpoise to a people which in its reaction from the old order, was ready to swing to anything that was new. She saw only a dozen or so elderly gentlemen, immaculate and prosperous, peering through their glasses after a world which had passed them by.

They were very grave that night. The situation was serious. The talk turned inevitably to the approaching strike, and from that to a possible attempt on the part of the radical element toward violence. The older men pooh-poohed that, but the younger ones were uncertain. Isolated riotings, yes. But a coordinated attempt against the city, no. Labour was greedy, but it was law-abiding. Ah, but it was being fired by incendiary literature. Then what were the police doing? They were doing everything. They were doing nothing. The governor was secretly a radical. Nonsense. The governor was saying little, but was waiting and watching. A general strike was only another word for revolution. No. It would be attempted, perhaps, but only to demonstrate the solidarity of labor.

After a time Lily made a discovery. She found that even into that carefully selected gathering had crept a surprising spirit, based on the necessity for concession; a few men who shared her father's convictions, and went even further. One or two, even, who, cautiously for fear of old Anthony's ears, voiced a belief that before long invested money would be given a fixed return, all surplus profits to be divided among the workers, the owners and the government.

"What about the lean years?" some one asked.

The government's share of all business was to form a contingent fund for such emergencies, it seemed.

Lily listened attentively. Was it because they feared that if they did not voluntarily divide their profits they would be taken from them? Enough for all, and to none too much. Was that what they feared? Or was it a sense of justice, belated but real?

She remembered something Jim Doyle had said:

"Labor has learned its weakness alone, its strength united. But capital has not learned that lesson. It will not take a loss for a principle. It will not unite. It is suspicious and jealous, so it fights its individual battles alone, and loses in the end."

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