"If every community in this country gets right down to business and stops the teapot tempests by good sense in handling them when they start, we'll be able to prevent a general tornado that may sweep us all to Tophet, Senator Corson."
"Legislation on broad lines will remedy our troubles. We are busy in Washington on such matters."
"Good luck to the cure-all, sir! But in the mean time we need specific doses, right at home, in every community, early and often. That's what we ought to be tending to to-night, here in Marion. If every city and town does the same thing, the country at large won't have to worry."
Senator Corson kept his anxious gaze on the private door. "Well, let's have it, Morrison! You seem to be bossing matters, just as you threatened to do. What's your dose in this case?"
"I wasn't threatening! I was promising."
"That the people would get a square deal in this legislative matter."
"You don't underrate your abilities, I note!"
"Oh, I was not promising to do it myself. I have no power in state politics. I was promising that Governor North and his Executive Councilors who canvassed the election returns would give the folks a square deal."
In his rage the Governor, defying such presumptuous interference, was not fortunate in phrasing his declaration that Morrison had no right to promise any such thing.
The big millman surveyed His Excellency with a whimsical expression of distress. "Why, I supposed I had the right to promise that much on behalf of our Chief Executive. You aren't going to deny 'em a square deal—you don't mean that, do you, sir?"
"Confound your impudence, you have no right to twist my meaning. I'm going by the law—strictly by the statutes! The question will be put up to the court."
"Certainly!" affirmed Senator Corson. "It must go to the court."
Just then Rellihan slammed the private door with a sort of official violence.
Mac Tavish had entered. He marched straight to Morrison with the stiff jerkiness of an automaton. He carried a sealed telegram and held it as far in front of himself as possible. Stewart seized upon it and tore the envelope. "I'm glad to hear you say that about the court, gentlemen. I have taken a liberty this evening. Will you please wait a moment while I glance at this?"
It was plainly, so his manner indicated, something that had a bearing on the issue. They leaned forward and attended eagerly on him when he began to read aloud:
"My opinion hastily given for use if emergency is such as you mention is that mere technicalities, clerical errors that can be shown to be such or minor irregularities should not be allowed to negative will of voter when same has been shown beyond reasonable doubt. Signed, Davenport, Judge Supreme Judicial Court."
Morrison waited a few moments, gazing from face to face. Then he leaned across the table and gave the telegram into the hands of Miss Bunker. "Make it a part of the record, please," he directed.
"Well, I'll be eternally condemned!" roared the Governor. "You're a rank outsider. You don't know what you're talking about. How do you dare to involve the judges? They don't know what they're talking about, either, on a point of law, in this case."
"Perhaps Judge Davenport isn't talking law, wholly, in that telegram. He may be saying a word as an honest man who doesn't want to see his state disgraced by riot and bloodshed to-night." The mayor addressed Mac Tavish with eager emphasis. "What do you find down below, Andy?"
"Nae pairticular pother withindoors. Muckle powwow wi'out," reported the old man, tersely.
"Then you got a look outside?"
"Aye! When I took the message frae the telegraph laddie at the door."
"Was Joe Lanigan in sight?"
"It's all right so far, gentlemen," the mayor assured his involuntary conferees. "Joe is on the job with his American Legion boys, as he promised me he'd be. Now I'm going to be perfectly frank and inform you that I have made a promise of my own in this case. I haven't meant to be presumptuous. I don't want you to feel that I've got a swelled head. I'm merely trying to keep my word and carry out a contract on a business oasis. It's only a matter of starting right; then everything can be kept right."
He whirled on Mac Tavish. "Trot down again, Andy. I'm expecting more messages. And keep us posted on happenings!"
"Are such humble persons as North and I are entitled to be let in on any details of your contract, Mister Boss-in-Chief?" inquired the Senator.
"I think the main contract is your own, sir—yours and the Governor's. I don't like to seem too forward in suggesting what it is."
"Nothing you can say or do from now on will seem forward, Morrison. Even if you should order that Hereford steer, there, at the door, to bang us over our heads with his shillalah, it would seem merely like an anticlimax, matched with the rest of your cheek! What's the contract?"
"You and North stated the terms of it, yourselves, when you were campaigning last election. You said that if you were elected you'd be the servants of the people."
"What in the devil do you claim we are now?"
"I make no assertion. But when I was down with the bunch this evening I was able to get into the spirit of the crowd. I found myself, feeling, just as they said they felt, that it's a queer state of affairs when servants barricade themselves in a master's castle and use other paid servants to threaten with rifles and machine-guns when the master demands entry."
"I'd be carrying out my contract, would I, by disbanding that militia and opening this State House to the mob?" demanded North.
"This is a peculiar emergency, sir," Morrison insisted. "Outside are massing all the elements of a know-nothing, rough-house mle. Even the Legion boys don't know just where they're at till there's a showdown. I can depend on 'em right now while they're waiting for that showdown. They'll fight their finger-nails off to hold the plain rowdies in line. Such boys have been showing their mettle in one city in this country, haven't they? But a mere licking, no matter which side wins, doesn't last long enough for any general good unless the licking is based on principle and the principle is thereby established as right! Now let me tell you, Governor North. You can't fool those Legion boys outside. They have come home with new conceptions of what is a square deal. They're plumb on to the old-fashioned tricks in cheap politics. They're not letting officeholders play checkers with 'em any longer.
"Governor—and you, Senator Corson—this is now a question of to-night—an emergency—an exigency! I have told those boys that they will be shown! You've got to show 'em. Show 'em that this State House is always open to decent citizens. Show 'em that you, as officeholders, don't need machine-guns to back you up in your stand." He emphasized each declaration by a resounding thump of his fist on the table. "Show 'em that it's a square deal, and that your cuffs are rolled up when you deal! Show 'ern that you're not bluffing honestly elected members of this incoming legislature out of their seats by closing the doors on 'em to-morrow. That's your contract! Are you going to keep it?"
Mac Tavish returned. He brought another telegram.
Morrison ripped the inclosure from the envelope.
"It's of the same purport as the other," he reported. "Signed, 'Madigan, Justice Supreme Judicial Court.' Back to the door, Mac Tavish. Here, Miss Bunker, insert this in the record."
"This is simply preposterous!" exploded the Senator.
"Rather irregular, certainly," Stewart confessed. "But I didn't ask 'em for red tape! I asked 'em for quick action to prevent bloodshed!"
Senator Corson's fresh fury did not allow him to reason with himself or argue with this interloper, this lunatic who was flailing about in that sanctuary of vested authority, knocking down hallowed procedure, sacred precedents—all the gods of the fane!
"Morrison, no such an outrage as this was ever perpetrated in American politics!"
"It surely does seem to be a new wrinkle, Senator! I'll confess that I don't know much about politics. It's all new to me. I apologize for the mistakes I'm making. Probably I'll know more when I've been in politics a little longer."
"You will, sir!"
Governor North agreed with that dictum, heartily, irefully.
"I do seem to be finding out new things every minute or so," went on Stewart, making the agreement unanimous. "Taking your opinion as experts, perhaps I may qualify as an expert, too, before the evening is over."
"Where is this infernal folly of yours heading you?" Corson permitted his wrath to dominate him still farther. He shook his fist under Morrison's nose.
"Straight toward a Bright Light, Senator! I'm putting no name on it. But I'm keeping my eyes on it. And I can't stop to notice what I'm knocking down or whose feet I'm treading on."
The Senator went to Governor North and struck his fist down on His Excellency's shoulder. "I've been having some doubts about your methods, sir, but now I'm with you, shoulder to shoulder, to save this situation. Pay no attention to those telegrams. There's no telling what that idiot has wired to the justices. This man has not an atom of authority. You cannot legally share your authority with him. To defer to one of his demands will be breaking your oath to preserve order and protect state property."
"Exactly! I don't need that advice, Corson, but I do need your support. I shall go ahead strictly according to the constitution and the statutes."
"I am glad to hear you say that, Governor," stated Morrison.
"Did you expect that I was going to join you and your mob of lawbreakers?"
"Your explicit statement pleases me, I say. Shall you follow the constitution absolutely, in every detail?"
"Absolutely! In every detail."
"Right down to the last technical letter of it?"
"Good gad! what do you mean by asking me such fool questions?"
"I'm getting a direct statement from you on the point. For the record!" He pointed to the stenographer.
"I shall observe the constitution of this state to the last letter of it, absolutely, undeviatingly. And now, as Governor of this state, I shall proceed to exert my authority. Put that statement in the record! I order you to leave the State House immediately. Record that, too! Otherwise I shall prefer charges before the courts that will put you in state prison, Morrison!"
"Do you know exactly the provisions of the constitution relating to your office, sir?"
"Don't you realize that, according to the technical stand you take, you have no more official right in this Capitol than I have, just now?"
His Excellency's silence, his stupefaction, suggested that his convictions as to Morrison's lunacy were finally clinched.
"The constitution, that you have invoked, expressly provides that a Governor's term of office expires at midnight, on the day preceding the assembling of the first session of the legislature. You will be Governor in the morning at ten-thirty o'clock, when you take your oath before the joint session. But by your own clock up there you ceased to be Governor of this state five minutes ago!" Morrison drawled that statement in a very placid manner. His forefinger pointed to the clock on the wall of the Executive Chamber.
Governor North did know the constitution, even if he did not know the time o' night until his attention had been drawn to it. He was disconcerted only for a moment; then he snorted his disgust, roused by this attempt of a tyro to read him a lesson in law.
Senator Corson expressed himself. "Don't bother us with such nonsense! Such a ridiculous point has never been raised."
"But this is a night of new wrinkles, as we have already agreed," insisted the mayor of Marion. "I'm right along with the Governor, neck and neck, in his observance of the letter of the law."
"Well, then, we'll stick to the letter," snapped His Excellency. "I have declared this State House under martial law. The adjutant-general, here, is in command of the troops and the situation."
"I'm glad to know that. I'll talk with General Totten in a moment!"
Again Mac Tavish came trotting past Rellihan.
Morrison snatched away the telegram that his agent proffered; but the master demanded news before proceeding to open the missive.
"There's summat in the air," reported Andrew. "Much blust'ring; the square is crowded! Whilst I was signing the laddie's book Lanigan cried me the word for ye to look sharp and keep the promise, else he wouldna answer for a'!"
"Gentlemen, I'll let you construe your own contracts according to your consciences. I have one of my own to carry out. Mac Tavish has just handed me a jolt on it!
"Governor North, seeing that your contract with the state is temporarily suspended, I suppose we'll have to excuse you to some extent, after all! Mac Tavish, step here, close to me!"
The old man obeyed; the two stood in the full glare of the chandelier.
Stewart held up his right hand. "You're a notary public, Andrew. Administer an oath! Like that one you administered to me when I was sworn in as mayor of Marion. You can remember the gist of it."
"In what capaceety do you serve, Master Morrison?" inquired Mac Tavish, stolidly.
Stewart hesitated a moment, taking thought. "I'm going to volunteer as a sort of an Executive, gentlemen," he explained, deferentially. "The exigency seems to need one. I have heard that a good Executive is one who acts quickly and is right—part of the time! I'm indebted to Senator Corson for a suggestion he made a little while ago. I think, Mac Tavish, you'd better swear me in as Boss of the Job."
THE CITY OF MARION SEEKS ITS MAYOR
Gaiety's glaring brilliancy on Corson Hill had been effectually snuffed by the onslaught of the mob. The mansion hid its lights behind shades and shutters. The men of the orchestra had packed their instruments; the dismayed guests put on their wraps and called for their carriages.
In the place of lilting violins and merry tongues, hammers clattered and saws rasped; the servants were boarding up the broken windows.
Lana Corson, closeted with Mrs. Stanton, found the discord below-stairs peculiarly hateful; it suggested so much, replacing the music.
The rude hand of circumstance had been laid so suddenly on the melody of life!
"And I'll say again—" pursued Mrs. Stanton, breaking a silence that had lain between the two.
"Don't say it again! Don't! Don't!" It was indignant expostulation instead of supplication and the matron instantly exhibited relief.
"Thank goodness, Lana! Your symptoms are fine! You're past the crisis and are on the mend. Get angrier! Stay angry! It's a healthy sign in any woman recovering from such a relapse as has been threatening you since you came back home."
"Will you not drop the topic?" demanded Miss Corson, with as much menace as a maiden could display by tone and demeanor.
"As your nurse in this period of convalescence," insisted the imperturbable lady, "I find your temperature encouraging. The higher the better, in a case like this! But I'd like to register on your chart a hard-and-fast declaration from you that you'll never again expose yourself to infection from the same quarter!"
Lana did not make that declaration; she did not reply to her friend.
The two were in the Senator's study. Lana had led the retreat to that apartment; its wainscoted walls and heavy door shut out in some measure the racket of hammers and saws.
She walked to the window and pulled aside the curtain and looked out into the night.
Between Corson Hill and Capitol Hill, in the broad bowl of a valley, most of the structures of the city of Marion were nested. The State House loomed darkly against the radiance of the winter sky.
She was still wondering what that blood-stained intruder had meant when he declaimed about the job waiting on Capitol Hill, and she found disquieting suggestiveness in the gloom which wrapped the distant State House. Even the calm in the neighborhood of the Corson mansion troubled her; the scene of the drama, whatever it was all about, had been shifted; the talk of men had been of prospective happenings at the State House, and that talk was ominous. Her father was there. She was fighting an impulse to hasten to the Capitol and she assured herself that the impulse was wholly concerned with her father.
"I'll admit that the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts, just as that poet has said they are," Mrs. Stanton went on, one topic engrossing her. "But I'm assuming that there's an end to 'em, just as there is to the much-talked-of long lane. In poems there's a lot of nonsense about marrying one's own first love—and I suppose the thing is done, sometimes. Yes, I'm quite sure of it, because it's written up so often in the divorce cases. If I had married any one of the first five fellows I was engaged to, probably my own case would have been on record in the newspapers before this. Lana dear, why don't you come here and sit down and confide in a friend and assure her that you're safe and sane from now on?"
Miss Corson, as if suddenly made aware that somebody in the room was talking, snapped herself 'bout face.
"Doris, what are you saying to me?"
"I'm giving you a little soothing dissertation on love—the right kind of love—the sensible kind—"
"How do you dare to annoy me with such silliness in a time like this?"
"Why, because this is just the right moment for you to tell me that you are forever done with the silly kind of love. Mushy boy-and-girl love is wholly made up of illusions. This Morrison man isn't leaving you any illusions in regard to himself, is he?"
Miss Corson came away from the window with a rush; her cheeks were danger-flags. "You seem to be absolutely determined to drive me to say something dreadful to you, Doris! I've been trying so hard to remember that you're my guest."
"Your friend, you mean!"
"You listen to me! I'm making my own declarations to myself about the men in this world—the ones I know. If I should say out loud what I think of them—or if I should say what I think of friends who meddle and maunder on about love—love—I'd be ashamed if I were overheard. Now not another word, Doris Stanton!" She stamped her foot and beat her hand hard on the table in a manner that smacked considerably of the Senator's violence when his emotions were stirred. "I'm ashamed of myself for acting like this. I hate such displays! But I mean to protect myself. And now keep quiet, if you please. I have something of real importance to attend to, even if you haven't."
She went to a niche in the wall and pulled out the private telephone instrument; the pressure of a button was required to put in a call. After the prolonged wait, Senator Corson's voice sounded, high-pitched, urgent. His appeal was broken short off.
Lana stared at Mrs. Stanton while making futile efforts to get a reply to frantic questions; fear paled the girl's face and widened her eyes.
"What has happened, Lana?"
"It's father! He asked for help! It's something—some danger—something dreadful." She clung to the telephone for several minutes, demanding, listening, hoping for further words—the completion of his orders to her.
Then, abandoning her efforts, she made haste to call the sheriff of the county, using the study extension of the regular telephone.
The customary rattle informed her that the line was in use, after she had called for the number, looking it up in the directory. When she finally did succeed in getting the ear of the sheriff she was informed in placatory orotund by that official that all her fears were groundless. "I have been talking with the State House just before you called me, Miss Corson. I am assured on the best of authority that everything is all right, there." He was plainly indulging what he accepted as the vagaries of hysteria—having been apprised by the matter-of-fact Mac Tavish that some nonsensical news might come through an excited female. "I think you must have misconstrued what your father said. My informant is known to me as reliable. Oh no, Miss Corson, I cannot give you his name. It's a rule of the sheriff's office that individuals who give information have their identities respected. If the Senator is at the State House you can undoubtedly reach him by 'phone in the Executive Chamber." He placidly bade her good night.
But Miss Corson was unable to communicate with the Executive Chamber.
After many delays she was informed that central had tried repeatedly and directly through the State House exchange, as was the custom after the departure of the exchange operators for the night; central officially reported, "Line out of order."
During her efforts to communicate, Coventry Daunt hastened into the study; he had tapped and he obeyed his sister's admonition, "Come in!"
"I tell you something terrible is the matter," Lana declared, giving up her efforts to get news over the wire. "Coventry, your looks tell me that you have heard bad news of some sort!"
"I don't want to be an alarmist," admitted young Daunt, "but all sorts of whip-whap stuff" seem to be in the air all of a sudden. I just took a run down to the foot of the hill. The bees are buzzing a little livelier there than they are in the neighborhood of the house. Up here some soldier boys are waving their bayonets and fat cops are swinging clubs. We're all right, ladies, but there are all sorts of stories about what's likely to happen up at the State House. I've come to tell you that if you can do without me I think I'll take a swing over to Capitol Hill. I don't want to miss anything good, and I'll bring back straight news."
"I can't endure to wait here for news, Coventry," Lana said. "Order the car; I'll go along with you."
"It's absolute folly!" declared Mrs. Stanton, aghast, "Haven't you had enough experience with mobs for one evening?"
"I am going to my father, mobs or no mobs! I know his voice and I know he's in trouble, no matter what that idiot of a sheriff tells me." She hurried to the door. "Order the car, I say! I'll get my wraps."
Mrs. Stanton divided rueful gaze between her own evening gown and Lana's. "Are you going with that dress on?"
"I certainly am!" Lana called from the corridor, running toward her apartments.
"Well," Mrs. Stanton informed her brother, "this gown has served me all evening during the political rally that somebody tried to pass off as a reception. Probably it will do very well for the mob-affair. I'll go for my furs."
"That's a brick!" was her brother's indorsement. "She needs us both. But don't be frightened, sis! It's only a political flurry, and such fusses are usually more fizz than fight. I'll have the car around to the door in a jab of a jiffy!"
By the time the limousine swung under the porte-cochre Lana was down and waiting; Mrs. Stanton came hurrying after, ready to defy a January midnight in a cocoon of kolinsky.
Coventry had ridden from the garage with the chauffeur. "I have been talking with Wallace. He thinks he'd better drive to the State House by detour through the parkway."
"Go straight down through the city," commanded the mistress. "I'm not afraid of my hometown folks. Besides, I have an errand. Stop at the Marion Monitor office, Wallace!"
The city certainly offered no cause for alarm when they traversed the streets of the business district. Nobody was in sight; they did not see even a patrolman.
"The bees seem to have hived all of a sudden," remarked young Daunt. "All fizz, as I told you, and now the fizz has fizzled."
When the car stopped in front of the newspaper office Lana asked her guests to wait in the automobile. "That is, if you don't mind!" Then Miss Corson revealed a bit of nerve strain; she allowed herself to copy some of the sarcasm that was characteristic of Doris Stanton. "One of those old friends whom we have been discussing so pleasantly this evening, Doris, is the city editor of the Monitor. Gossipy, of course, from the nature of his business. But I'm sure that he'll gossip more at his ease if there are no strangers present."
Coventry had opened the door of the car. Lana hastened past him and disappeared in the building.
"Dorrie, I'm afraid you are overtraining Lana," the brother complained. "I have never heard her speak like that before."
"I'm giving her special training for a special occasion which will present itself very soon, I hope. When she talks to a certain man I want to feel that my efforts haven't been thrown away."
"Oh, Morrison has botched everything for himself—all around!"
"Thank you! I'm glad to hear you admit that a caveman can be too much of a good thing with his stone hatchet or club or whatever he uses to bang and whack all heads with!"
Mrs. Stanton impatiently invited Coventry to step in and shut the door and make sure that the electric heater was doing business.
City Editor Tasper had a pompadour like a penwiper, round eyes, and a wide smile. He trotted out to Lana in the reception-room and gave her comradely greeting. "Any other night but this, Lana Corson, and I'd have been up to your house to pat Juba on the side-lines even if I couldn't squeeze in one assignment on your dance order. But as a Marionite you know what we're up against in this office the night before an inauguration. Afraid the reception-spread will be squeezed? Don't worry. It's a big night, but I'm giving you a first-page send-off just the same."
"Billy, I'm not here to talk about that reception. I don't care if there isn't a word about it."
"Oh, I get you! Don't worry about that fracas, either! I'm killing all mention of it. We're not advertising that Marion has Bolshevists. Hurts!"
"But I'm not trying to tell you your business about the paper!" the girl protested. "I'm here after news. What is the trouble at the State House?"
"I don't know," he confessed. "That is to say, I'm not on to the real inside of the proposition. We can't get our boys in and we can't get any news out! Those soldiers won't even admit the telephone crew to restore connection with the Executive Chamber."
"My father is there! He's there with the Governor."
"Well, I should say for a guess that the Senator is in the safest place in the city, judging from the way Danny Sweetsir and his warriors are on their jobs at those doors."
"Billy, who else is there with the Governor?" she questioned, anxiously, harrowed by that memory of her father's tone when he shouted the word "lunatic!"
"No know! No can tell!" returned Tasper. "But why all the excitement? There's a crowd outside the State House, but all my reports say that it's still orderly. It's only the old 'state steal' stuff warmed over by the sore-heads. But we're printing a statement from Governor North in the morning. The whole matter is going up to the full bench in the usual way. If the opposition starts any rough-stuff to-night, the gang hasn't got a Pekingese's chance in a bulldog convention. There are three machine-guns in that State House!"
A young chap who was trying hard to be professionally blas bolted into the reception-room in search of his chief. "Excuse me! But four truck-loads of men from the Agawam quarries just went through toward the State House. They had crowbars and sledge-hammers!"
"So? Warson is making a demonstration, is he? I'll be back there in a minute, Jack!" Tasper turned to Lana again. "Warson was turned down by North on the state-prison-wing stone contract. If Warson is setting up stone-cutters to be shot as rowdies, Warson and his party will be the ones who'll get hurt."
"But our state will be hurt most of all, Billy," the girl declared, with passionate earnestness. "We'll be ashamed and disgraced from one end of the country to the other. Just think of our own good state making a hideous exhibition when we're all trying so hard to get back to peace!"
"Must have law and order," Tasper insisted.
"Will Governor North tell those soldiers to shoot and kill?"
"Sure thing! His oath of office obliges him to protect state property. I've just been reading proof of an interview he gave us this afternoon."
Lana walked up and down the room, beating her hands together.
"I'll explain to you, Lana. There's quite a story goes with it. You haven't been in touch with conditions here at home. The election statutes provide that the Governor and his Council—"
"I haven't any time to listen to explanations! My father is in that State House! In the name of Heaven, Billy Tasper, isn't there some man in this state big enough, broad enough, honest enough to get between the fools who are threatening this thing?"
"He doesn't seem to be in sight—at any rate, just now."
She paused in her walk, hesitated, and then blurted, "What part is Stewart Morrison playing in all this?"
"I see you have some news about him, too!" Mr. Tasper fenced, eying her with some curiosity.
"Dealing in news is your business, not mine," she said, tartly. "But I did hear him declare in public to-night that he would give the people a square deal—or that he would see to it that it is done—or—or something!" She showed the embarrassment of a person who was dealing with affairs in the details of which she was not well informed.
"All right, I'll give you news as we get it in the office, here. Morrison has gone nuts over this People thing. He is bucking the corporations in this water-power dream of his. Playing to the people! I think it's bosh. Holds capital out of the state! But I see you're in a hurry! He made a speech to a hit-or-miss gang down-town to-night. It was snapped as a surprise and we didn't have our men there. But from what we gather he incited feeling against the State House crowd. Told his merry men he'd grab in and fix it for 'em. Bad foozle, Lana! Bad! When a mayor of a city talks like that he's putting a fool notion into the heads of unthinking irresponsibles, making 'em believe that there is really something to be fixed. He ought to have told 'em that everything was all right and to go home and go to bed. Your father would have told 'em that. That's good politics. But you and I know Stewart from the ground up! He is about as much a politician as I am parson—and I'd wreck a well-established parish in less than five minutes by the clock. He's taking a little more time as a wrecker in his line—but he's making a thorough job of it!"
When Tasper mentioned "job" he suggested a natural question to Miss Corson. "Where is he right now?"
This time the stare that the city editor gave the girl was distinctly peculiar. "According to what we can get in the way of reports, Lana, the last time Morrison was seen in public he was talking with you. If he has talked with anybody since then the folks he has talked with are keeping mighty mum about it. Perhaps he has told you where he was going."
Miss Corson exhibited an emotion that was more profound than mere embarrassment.
"Pardon me! But I'd like to know, Lana! It's mighty important to me in the line of my business right now."
"What? Can't you find the mayor of the city in a time like this?"
"He's not at home! He's not at City Hall. The chief of police won't say a word. And he's not in the crowd outside the State House."
Lana did not disclose the fact that she had suggested to the mayor, in a way, the rabble as Morrison's probable destination, and that he had agreed with her.
"And a fine chance he has of being let inside the State House," Tasper went on, with conviction, "after the attitude he has taken in regard to the administration!"
"He may be there, nevertheless!" Whether hope that he was there or fear that he might be there prompted Lana's suggestion was not clear from her manner.
"You'll sooner find a rat down the back of my neck than find Stewart Morrison inside that State House after the brags he has been making around this city in the past few hours," declared Tasper, with the breezy freedom of long friendship with the caller. "He is A Number One in the list of those who can't get in!"
"But Captain Sweetsir is his mill-student!"
"Captain Sweetsir, in this new importance of his, is leaning so far backward, in trying to stand straight, that he's scratching the back of his head on his heels. His own brother is one of our reporters and what Dan did to Dave when Dave made a holler at the door is a matter of record on the emergency-hospital blotter. That's straight! Inch of sword-blade. Not dangerous, but painful!"
All through this interview Lana had maintained the demeanor of one who was poised on tiptoes, ready to run. She gathered her coat's broad collar more tightly in its clasp of her throat, and started for the door. But she whirled and ran back to Tasper.
"You say that Stewart Morrison is no politician! But I noticed the queer flash in your eyes, Billy Tasper! Do you think he is a coward and has run away?"
"Tut, tut! Not so strong!" The newspaper man put up a protesting palm. "I simply state that His Honor the Mayor is under-somewhere! I never saw any signs of his being a coward—but a lot of us have never been tested by a real crisis, you know!"
"You say he has no power in politics! Could he do anything in a case like this?"
Tasper clawed his hand over his head and the crest of his pompadour bristled more horrently. "He could at least try to undo some of the trouble he has caused by his tongue. He could be at City Hall, where he belongs. The fact that he isn't there—that he can't be found—speaks a whole lot to the people of this city, Lana Corson! Why, there isn't a policeman to be seen on the streets of Marion to-night! We can't get any explanation from police headquarters. A devil of a mayor, say I!"
She turned and fled to the door.
"Lana!" called the editor. "He has made promises that he can't back up—and he has ducked. That's the story We're going to say so in the Monitor. We can't say anything else!"
She made no reply.
She did not wait for the elevator to take her down the single flight of stairs; she ran, holding her wrap about her.
Coventry Daunt, on the watch for her, opened the limousine's door and she plunged in. "Wallace! To the State House! Quick!" she commanded.
When Tasper returned to the city-room he was told that somebody was waiting on the telephone. It was one of the men assigned to the matter on Capitol Hill; he was calling from a drug-store booth in that neighborhood.
"Boss, it looks as if they're going to mix it. The tough mutts are ready to grab any excuse and they won't listen to men like Commander Lanigan of the Legion."
"If there's a fight pulled off all we can do is to see that we have a good story. What else?"
"I think I've located the mayor. I can't get anything at all out of those tin Napoleons at the doors, but Lanigan says that Morrison is in the State House—'on his job,' so Lanigan puts it."
"Lanigan is a liar!" the city editor yelped. "He has been a two-legged Hurrah-for-Morrison ever since his high-school days. I like a good lie when it's told to help a friend! This one isn't good enough! Stewart Morrison is in that State House like tissue-paper napkins are in Tophet."
"But sha'n't I send in what Lanigan says?" "We won't have any room for the joke column in the morning," returned the city editor, hanging up.
THE CAPITOL IN SHADOW
Capitol Square was choked with men. The gathering was characteristically a mob made up of diverse elements. It was not swayed by a set purpose and a common motive. It was not welded by coherence of intent. Its eddies rushed here or filtered there, according as arguments or protests gained attention by sharp clamor above the continuous diapason of voices. One who was versed in the natures and the moods of mobs would have found that mass particularly menacing by reason of the lack of unanimity. Too many men of the component elements did not know what it was all about! The arguments pro and con were developing animosities that were new, fresh, of the moment, creating factions, collecting groups that were ready to jump into an affray that would enable them to avoid embarrassing explanations of why they were there.
A mob of that sort is easily stampeded!
Some men who captained the factions did know why they were there! A few of them harangued; others went about, whispering and muttering, inciting malice by their counsel.
The scum of that yeasty gallimaufry was on the outskirts.
When the Corson limousine rolled into the square and sought to part its way through that scum somebody in the crowd made a proposition that was promptly favored as far as the votes by voices went: "Tip the lapdog kennel upside down!"
Chauffeur Wallace met the emergency with quick tactics. He reversed and drove the car backward. The fingers of the attackers slipped from the smooth varnish and the wheels threatened those who tried to grab the running-boards. Men who seized the fender-bar were dragged off their feet.
When Coventry Daunt showed a praiseworthy inclination to jump out and whip a few hundred of them, so he declared in his ire, he was pushed back into a corner by his sister.
The chauffeur made a long drive in reverse, circling, and then put the car ahead with a rush and they escaped into a side-street.
"Wallace, get us home as quick as the good Lord will let you!" Mrs. Stanton's command was hysterically shrill.
"Wallace, take the first turn to the left," countermanded the mistress. "Then around the State House to the west portico."
"You crazy girl, what—after that—why—what are you trying to do?" demanded Mrs. Stanton, fear making her furious.
"I'm trying to get into that building—and I'm going to get in!"
"You can't get in! They won't let you in! Lana Corson, you sha'n't endanger our lives again!"
"Here, Wallace! This turn!"
The driver obeyed.
Doris set rude hands upon Lana and shook her. "There's nothing sensible you can do if you do get in!"
"Perhaps not! But my father is there; he has asked me to help and I'm going to explain to him how I did my best. Doris, I must tell him, so that he won't get into worse danger by waiting and depending on that idiot of a sheriff."
"You are the idiot!"
"I may be. But I'm going in there!'
"Coventry, you are sitting like a prune glac! Help me to prevail on this girl to use some common sense!"
"You'll help me very much if you'll do some prevailing with your sister, Coventry," affirmed Miss Corson, resentfully, trying to unclasp the chaperon's vigorous hands.
"After what has been happening, I don't think Lana needs any more shaking, Dorrie," the brother remonstrated. "Everything having been well shaken, it's time to do a little taking. Won't you take some advice, Lana?"
"If it's advice about going home and deserting my father I'll not take it."
"I was afraid you wouldn't. But do you really think you can get into the State House?"
The girl did not disclose the discouraging information given to her by Editor Tasper on the subject of effecting an entrance. "I'm going to try! And I warn you, Doris, that I'm about at the end of my endurance."
Mrs. Stanton sat back and gritted her teeth.
The car traversed a boulevard; the arc-lights showed that it was deserted. A narrow street, empty of humankind, led to the west portico. That entrance, so Lana knew, was used almost wholly by the State House employees. The door was closed; nobody was in sight.
"If you insist on the venture, I'll go with you, of course," offered the young man. When the car stopped he stepped out.
"I'm afraid you'll only make it harder for me, Coventry. I know the captain of the guard. But it will never do for me to bring a stranger."
She hurried into the shadow of the portico. "Get back into the car! You must! Wallace, drive Mrs. Stanton and Mr. Daunt to the house."
When Coventry protested indignantly she broke in: "I haven't any time to argue with you. We may be watched. Wait at the corner yonder with the car. If you see me go in, take Doris home and send the car back. Wallace, I'll find you down there at the fountain!" She designated with a toss of her hand the statuary, gleaming in the starlight, and when the car moved on she ran up the steps of the State House.
The big door had neither bell nor knocker. She turned her back on it and kicked with the heel of her slipper.
The voice that inquired "Who's there?" revealed that the warder was not wholly sure of his nerves.
"I am Senator Corson's daughter!"
She received no reply.
"I tell you I am Senator Corson's daughter! I want to come in. My father is there!"
She was answered by a different voice; she recognized it. It was the unmistakable drawl and nasal twang of Perley Wyman. Her girlhood memories of Perley's voice had been freshened very recently because he had been assigned to the Corson mansion by Thompson the florist as her chief aide in decorating for the reception. "Wal, I should say he was here—and then some! This was the door he came in through."
"Open it! Open it at once, Perley Wyman!"
"I dunno about that, Miss Corson! We've got orders about politicians and mobbers—"
"I'm neither. I command you to open this door."
"Who else is there?"
Soldier Wyman pulled the bolts and opened. "I ain't feeling like taking any more chances with the Corson family this evening," he admitted, with a grin that set his long jaw awry. "Your father nigh cuffed my head up to a peak when I tried to tell him what my orders were."
Miss Corson was not interested in the troubles of Guard Wyman. He was talking through a narrow crack; she set her hands against the door and pushed her way in. "Where is my father? What trouble is he in?"
"I reckon it can't be any kind of trouble but what he'll be capable of taking care of himself in it all right," opined the guard, fondling his cheek with the back of his hand. "But there ain't any trouble in here, Miss Corson. It's all serene as a canned sardine that was canned for the siege of Troy, as it said in the opery the High School Cadets put on that year you was in the—"
"There's a mob in front of the State House!"
"It'll stay there," stated Wyman, remaining as serene as the comestible he had mentioned. "The St. Ronan's Rifles can't be backed down by any mob. We have been ordered to shoot, and that kind of a gang in this city might as well learn its lesson to-night as any other night. It's getting time to do a lot of law-and-order shooting in this country."
The girl, harrowed by her apprehensions, was not in the mood to discuss affairs with this amateur belligerent. But his complacency in his bloodthirsty attitude was peculiarly exasperating in her case. He seemed to typify that unreasonable spirit of slaughter that disdained to employ the facilities of good sense first of all. This florist's clerk, whom she had last seen on a step-ladder with his mouth full of tacks, was talking of shooting down his fellow-civilians as if there were no other alternative.
"My father may be in danger in this State House, but I'm glad he is here. He is not condoning this! He is not allowing this shame! Who is the lunatic who is threatening my father and bringing disgrace on this state?" She remembered the Senator's assertion over the telephone and, in her eagerness for news, she was willing to start with the humble Soldier Wyman.
She realized suddenly that her spirit of fiery protest was provoking her into an argument that might seem rather ridiculous if somebody in real authority should overhear her talking to Wyman and his mate. The portico door opened into a remote corridor.
"The only lunatic, up to date, Miss Corson, has been a Canuck who had a knock-down and drag-out with a settee and—"
Lana was not finding Wyman's statement especially convincing in the way of establishing faith in his sanity. "I thank you for letting me in! I must find my father."
The interior of the Capitol building was familiar ground to her.
It occurred to her sense of discretion that it might be well to avoid Captain Sweetsir in his new exaltation as a military martinet. She found a narrow, curving stairway which served employees.
On the second floor, hastening along the dimly lighted corridors, turning several corners, she reached the spacious hall outside the Senate lobby. She paused for a moment. From the hall she could look down the broad, main stairway which conducted to the rotunda. The rumble of trucks had attracted her attention. Soldiers were moving a machine-gun; they lined it up with two others that were already facing the great doors of the main entrance. She had half hoped that her father was in the rotunda, using his influence and his wisdom, now that the mob was threatening the building outside those great doors. She did not understand just how the Senator would be able to operate, she admitted to herself, but she felt that his manly advice could prevail in keeping his fellow-citizens from murdering one another!
In the gloom below her she saw only soldiers and uniformed Capitol watchmen.
Across from her in the upper hall where she waited there was the entrance to the wing which contained the Executive Chambers. Two men, one of whom was talking earnestly, came along the corridor from the direction of the chambers. Still mindful of what Tasper had said about the State House rules of that evening, she did not want to take chances with others who might be less amenable than Florist-Clerk Wyman. There were high-backed chairs in the corners of the hall; she hid herself behind the nearest chair. Her dark fur coat and the twilight concealed her effectually.
"General Totten, if you don't fully comprehend your plain duty in this crisis, you'd better stop right here with me until you do. We can't afford to have those soldiers overhear. Are you going to order them to march out of this State House?" This peremptory gentleman was Stewart Morrison!
Lana choked back what threatened to be an exclamation.
"I refuse to take that responsibility on myself."
"You must! Such a command to state troops must come from you, the adjutant-general."
"This is a political exigency, Mister Mayor!"
"It seems like that to me!"
"It requires martial law."
"But not civil war."
"This building is threatened by a mob."
"That's because you have put it in a state of siege against citizens."
"There's no telling what those men will do if they are allowed to enter."
"They'll do worse if they are kept out by guns."
"It means wreck and rampage if they are permitted to come through those doors."
"Look here, Totten, this State House has stood here for a good many years, with the citizens coming and going in it at will. I don't see any dents!"
"This is an exigency, and it's different, sir. The state must assert its authority."
"I'll not argue against the state and authority with you, Totten, for you're right and there's no time for argument. But when you said political exigency you said a whole lot—and we'll let this particular skunk cabbage go under that name. Don't try that law-and-order and state-authority bluff with me in such a case as this is. You're right in with the bunch and you know just as well as I do what the game is this time. Probably those folks outside there don't know what they want, but they do know that something is wrong! Something is almighty wrong when elected servants are obliged to get behind closed doors to transact public affairs. I'm putting this on a business basis because business is my strong point. These red-tape fellows go to war and use the people for the goats to settle a matter that could be settled peaceably by hard-headed every-day men in five minutes. Now with these few words, and admitting that I'm all that you want to tell me I am—and confessing to a whole lot more that I personally know about my unadulterated brass cheek in the whole thing—we'll close debate. Order those militia boys to march out!"
Morrison held a little sheaf of papers in his hand. He flapped the papers violently under General Totten's nose. "Do you dare to ignore these telegrams—the opinions of the justices of the supreme judicial court of this state?"
The papers flicked the end of the general's nose and he shuffled slowly backward. "Do you dare, I say?"
"That's the name we've agreed on—for a dirty political trick without an atom of principle behind it. These telegrams will make great reading on the same page with the list of names in the hospitals and the morgue!" General Totten was retreating more rapidly, but the vibrating papers inexorably kept pace with his nose.
"But to leave this State House unguarded—"
"I have already shown you what I can do with one single cop! I gave you a little lecture on cops in general back yonder. You fully understand how one cop handled the adjutant-general of a state. I'll answer for the guarding of this State House. Send away your militia!"
"I'm afraid to do it!" wailed Totten.
"Then you're afraid of a shadow, sir! But I'll tell you what you may well be afraid of. I'm giving you your chance to save your face and your dignity. Order away those boys or I'll go and stand on the main stairway and tell 'em just how they're being used as tools by political tricksters. And then even your tricksters will land on your back and blame you for forcing an exposure. I'll tell the boys! I swear I'll do it! And I'll bet you gold-dust against sawdust that they'll refuse to commit murder. Totten, this exigency is now working under a full head of steam. You can hear that mob now! This thing is getting down to minutes, I'll give you just one of those minutes to tramp down into that rotunda and issue your orders."
"But what—" The general's tone unmistakably indicated surrender; the Governor had already shifted the onus; Totten knew his brother-in-law's nature; the Governor would just as soon shift the odium after such an explosion as this wild Scotchman threatened.
"You needn't bother about the what, sir. You give the order. And as soon as the thing is on a business basis I'll tend to it."
Stewart took the liberty of hooking his arm inside the general's. The officer seemed to be experiencing some difficulty in getting his feet started. The two hurried along and trudged down the middle of the main stairway.
Lana followed. She halted at the gallery rail and surveyed the scene below.
Even in her absorption in the affair between Stewart and the adjutant-general she had been aware of the rising tumult outside.
The bellow of voices had settled into a sort of chant of, "Time's up—time's up!"
Captain Sweetsir had deployed his men across the rotunda behind the machine-guns.
When he beheld the mayor and the general on the stairs he saluted nervously. "They're getting ready to use sledge-hammers, sir. Shall I hand 'em the rifle-fire first or let loose with the machine-guns?"
Stewart still held to the general's arm.
Totten hesitated. His face was white and his lips quivered.
Morrison's gaze was set straight ahead, but a twist of his face indicated that he said something through the corner of his mouth.
The general made his plunge.
"Captain Sweetsir, instruct your men to empty their magazines, assemble accoutrements, and stand at ease in marching order."
The captain came onto his tiptoes in order to elongate himself as a human interrogation-point.
"Captain Sweetsir, order your bugler to sound retreat!"
The officer forced an amazed croak out of his throat by way of a command, and on the hush within the rotunda the clarion of the bugle rang out. It echoed in the high arches. Its sharp notes cut into the clamor outdoors.
Morrison recognized a voice that was keyed to a pitch almost as high as the bugle's strains. "Hold your yawp! Don't you hear that?" Lanigan screamed. "Don't you know the difference between that and a fish-peddler's horn? That's the tune we fellers heard the Huns play just before Armistice Day. That's retreat! Come on, Legion!" he urged, frantically. "Ram back those sledgehammers!"
Morrison grinned and released the general's arm.
"You hear that, do you, sir? When you can convince fair men that you're on the right slant, the fair men will proceed to show rough-necks where they get off if they go to trying on the wrong thing!"
"There's going to be the devil to pay!" insisted the adjutant-general. "You're going to let that mob into the State House, and they'll fight all over the place."
"We'll see what they'll do after the showdown, sir! And you can't make much of a showdown in the dark."
He left General Totten on the stairs, leaped down the remaining steps, and ran to a group of watchmen and night employees of the State House who were bulwarking the soldiers.
"I'm beginning to see that it's some advantage, after all, to be the mayor of this city," Stewart informed himself. One of Marion's aldermen was chief electrician of the Capitol building and was in the group, very much on duty on a night like that. "Torrey has always backed me in the city government meetings, at any rate!"
The alderman came out of the ranks, obeying the mayor's gesture.
"Alderman, I'm in the minority here, right now, but I hope you're going to vote with me for more light on the subject."
Torrey did not understand what this quick shift in all plans signified, and said so, showing deference to the mayor at the same time.
"If we've got to fight that gang we need these soldiers, Mayor Morrison!"
"Our kind of men, Alderman, fight best in the light; the cowards like the dark so that they can get in their dirty work. Do you get me? Yes! Thanks! Excuse me for hurrying you. But get to that switchboard! We need quick action. You and I represent the city of Marion right now. Must keep her name clean! I'll explain later. But give 'er the juice! Jam on every switch. Dome to cellar! Lots of it! Put their night-beetle eyes out with it."
He was hustling along with Torrey toward the electrician's room. He was clapping his hand on the alderman's shoulder.
"I'm going outside there, Torrey! Touch up the old dome and give me all the front lights. If the bricks begin to whiz I want to see who's throwing 'em!"
THE CAPITOL ALIGHT
First of all, within the State House, there was burgeoning of the separate lights of the wall brackets and then the great chandeliers burst into bloom.
Electrician Torrey possessed a quick understanding and was in the habit of doing a thorough job whenever he tackled anything. He threw in the switches as rapidly as he could operate them.
Story by story the great building was flooded with glory that mounted to the upper windows and overflowed into the night with a veritable cascade of brilliancy when the thousand bulbs of the dome's circlet flashed their splendor against the sky. The lamps of the broad front portico and its approaches added the final, dazzling touch to the general illumination.
From a sullen, gloomy hulk of a building, with its few lights showing like glowering eyes in ambush, the State House was transformed into a temple of glory, thrust into the heavens from the top of Capitol Hill, a torch that signaled comforting candor, a reassuring beacon.
The surprise of the happening stilled the uproar.
Neither Morrison, inside, nor the mob, outside, was bothering with the mental analysis of the psychology of the thing!
Something had happened! There was The Light! It threw into sharp relief every upturned face in the massed throng. Their voices remained hushed.
Commander Lanigan, standing above them on a marble rail, his figure outlined against a pergola column, did his best to put some of his emotions into speech. He shouted, "Some night-blooming cereus, I'll tell the world!"
The great doors swung open slowly. They remained open.
Now curiosity replaced astonishment and held the rioters in their tracks; their mouths were wide, the voices mute.
The mayor of Marion walked into view.
The columns of the porte-cochre were supported on a broad base, and he climbed up and was elevated in the radiance high above their heads.
He smiled hospitably. "Boys, it's open house, and the house is yours. Hope you like its looks! But what's the big idea of the surprise party?"
No one took it on himself to reply. He waited tolerantly.
"Well, out with it!" he suggested.
Somebody with a raucous voice ventured. "You probably know what they've been trying to hide away from the people inside there. Suppose you do the talking."
"I'm not here to make a speech."
"Well, answer a question, then!" This was a shrill voice. "What about those soldiers and those machine-guns in there?"
"Not a word!"
With yells, oaths, and catcalls the crowd offered comment on that declaration.
His demeanor as a statue of patience was more effective than remonstrance in quieting them.
"Any other gentlemen wish to offer more remarks? Get it all out of you!"
He utilized the hush. "Boys, I'm going to give you something better than words. Hearing can't always be trusted. But seeing is believing!"
He pulled a police whistle from his pocket and shrilled a signal.
For a time there was no answer or demonstration of any sort.
Then the tramp of marching feet was heard on the pavement of the square.
It was Marion's police force, issuing from some point of mobilization near at hand; it was the force in full strength, led by the chief; he was in dress-parade garb and the radiance of the square was reflected in imposing high-lights by his gold braid.
The crowd was shaken by eddies and was convulsed by quickly formed vortices. Morrison was studying that mob with his keen gaze, watching the movements as they sufficed to reveal an expression of emotions.
"Hold on, boys! Don't run away!" he counseled. "Wait for the big show! No arrests intended! Only cowards and guilty men will run!"
The light that was shed from the State House was pitilessly revealing; men could not hide their movements. Morrison reiterated his promise and dwelt hard on the "coward and guilty" part of his declaration.
The chief of police waved his hand and the crowd parted obediently and the officers marched up the lane, four abreast.
"Hold open that passage as you stand, fellow-citizens!" the mayor commanded. "There's more to this show! You haven't seen all of it! Hold open, I tell you!"
Men whom he recognized as Lanigan's Legion members were jumping in on the side-lines as the policemen passed. With arms extended the veterans held back those whom Morrison's commands were not restraining.
"That's good team-work, Joe," Stewart informed Lanigan when the latter hurried past to take his place as a helper.
The advent of the police had provoked a flurry; their movements after their arrival caused a genuine surprise. They gave no indication of being interested in the crowd that was packed into Capitol Square. The ears of the mob were out for orders of dispersal! Eyes watched to see the officers post themselves and operate according to the usual routine in such matters.
But the policemen marched straight into the State House, preserving their solid formation.
The bugle sounded again within.
With a promptness that indicated a good understanding of the procedure to be followed, the St. Ronan's Rifles came marching out.
Captain Sweetsir saluted smartly as he passed the place where the mayor of Marion was perched.
"How about three cheers for the boys?" Morrison shouted. "What's the matter with you down there?"
He led them off as cheer-leader. He marked the sullen groups, the voiceless malcontents as best he was able. The Legion boys were vehemently enthusiastic in their acclaim.
The guards marched briskly. The machine-guns clanged along the pavement, bringing up the rear.
"That's all!" Stewart declared, when the soldiers were well on their way. "Now you don't need any words, do you? I'll merely state that your State House is open to the people!"
"Like blazes it is," bawled somebody.
He pointed to the open doors, his reply to that challenge.
"How about those cops?" demanded somebody else.
"Your State House is open, I tell you. If you want to go in, go ahead. It's open for straight business, and it will stay open. There are no dark corners for dirty tricks or lying whispers. It's your property. If there's any whelp mean enough to damage his own property, he'll be taken care of by a policeman. That's why they're in there. That's what you're paying taxes for, to have policemen who'll take care of sneaks who can't be made decent in any other way. Some other gentleman like to ask a question?"
Morrison realized that he had not won over the elements that were determined to make trouble. His searching eyes were marking the groups of the rebels.
He directed an accusatory finger at one man, a Marion politician. "Matthewson, what's on your mind? Don't keep it all to yourself and those chaps you're buzzing with!"
Matthewson, thus singled out, was embarrassed and incensed at the same time. "What have they been trying to put over with that militia, anyway?"
"Put protection over state property because such mouths as yours have been making threats ever since election. But just as soon as it was realized that good citizens, like the most of these here, were misunderstanding the situation and were likely to be used as tools of gangsters, out went the militia! You saw it go, didn't you?"
"I'd like to know who did all that realizing you're speaking of!"
"It's not in good taste for an errand-boy of my caliber to gossip about the business of those for whom he is doing errands. I'll merely say, Matthewson, that the people of this state can always depend on the broad-gaged good sense of United States Senator Corson to suggest a solution of a political difficulty. And you may be sure that the state government will back him up. Go down-town and ask the boys of the guard who it was that gave the command for them to leave the State House. After that you'd better go home to bed. That's good advice for all of you."
A shrill voice from the center of the massed throng cut in sharply. "Go home like chickens and wait to have your necks wrung! Go home like sheep and wait for the shearer and the butcher."
The mayor leaned forward and tried to locate the agitator. "Hasn't the gentleman anything to say about goats? He's missing an excellent opportunity!" Morrison showed the alert air of a hunter trying to flush game in a covert.
The provoking query had its effect. "Yes, that's what you call us-all you rulers call us the goats!"
A brandished fist marked the man's position in the mob.
"Ah, there you are, my friend! What else have you on your mind?"
"I'll tell you what you have on your face. You have the mark of an honest man's hand there! I saw him plant that mark!"
"And what's the answer?" asked Stewart, pleasantly.
"You're a coward! You're not fit to advise real men what to do!"
"I'm afraid you have me sized up all too well!" There was something like wistful apology in Morrison's smile.
Lanigan had forced his way close to the foot of the plinth where the mayor was elevated. The commander's head was tipped back, his goggling eyes were full of anguished rebuke, and his mouth was wide open.
The man in the crowd yelped again, encouraged by his distance and by Morrison's passivity under attack. "You think you own a mill. Your honest workmen own it. You are a thief!"
"My Gawd!" Lanigan squawked, hoarsely. "Ain't it in you? Ain't a spark of it in you?"
Morrison delivered sharp retort in an undertone. "Don't you know better than to tangle my lines when I'm playing a fish? Shut up!" He tossed his hand at the individual in the crowd, inviting him to speak further.
"You're a liar, tool" responded the disturber.
"That's a tame epithet, my friend. Commonly used in debate. I'm afraid you're running out of ammunition. Haven't you anything really important to say, now that I'm giving you the floor?"
Men were beginning to remonstrate and to threaten in behalf of the mayor of the city.
"Hold on, boys!" Morrison entreated. "We must give our friend a minute more if he really has anything to say. Otherwise we'll adjourn—"
The bait had been dangled ingratiatingly; a movement had been made to jerk it away—the "fish" bit, promptly and energetically.
"I'll say it—I'll say what ought to be said—I'll shame the cowards here!"
"Let Brother What's-his-name come along, boys! Please! Please!" The mayor stretched forth his arms and urged persuasively. "Keep your hands off him! Let him come!"
"They're going over him for a gat, Mister Mayor," called Lanigan. "I've given 'em one lesson in that line this evening, already!"
The volunteers who were patting the disturber released him. The patting had not been in the way of encouragement. "Nothing on him! Let him go!" commanded one of the searchers.
The man who came forcing his way through the press, his clinched fists waving over his head, was young, pallid, typically an academic devotee of radicalism, a frenetic disciple, obsessed by furor loquendi He was calling to the mob, trying to rouse followers. "You have been standing here, freezing in the night, damning tyrants, boasting what you would do. Why don't you do it? Do you let a smirking ruler bluff all the courage of real men out of you? He's only doing the bidding of those higher up. He admits it! He's a tool, too! He's a fool, along with you, if he tries to excuse tyranny. You have your chance, now, and all the provocation that honest men need. The rulers tried to scare you with guns. But you have called the bluff. Their hired soldiers have run away. Now is your time! Take your government into your hands! Down with aristocrats! Smash 'em like we smash their windows. They hold up an idol and ask you to bow down and be slaves to it; but you're only bowing to the drivers of slaves! They hide behind that idol and work it for all it's worth. They point to it and tell you that you must empty your pockets to add to their wealth, and work your fingers off for their selfish ends."
He halted a short distance from the plinth, declaiming furiously.
Morrison broke in, snapping out his words. "Down to cases, now! What is the idol?"
"A patchwork of red, white, and blue rags!"
Morrison whirled, crouched on his hands and knees, set his fingers on the edge of the plinth, and slid down the side. He swung for an instant at the end of his arms and dropped the rest of the way to the pavement.
Lanigan had started for the man, but Stewart overtook the commander, seized him by the collar and coattail slack, and tossed him to one side.
"Here's a case at last where I don't need any help or advice from you, Joe!"
"Punch the face offn him!" adjured Lanigan, even while he was floundering among the legs of the men against whom he had been thrown.
The mayor plunged through the crowd in the direction of the vilifier.
The man did not attempt to escape. "Strike me! Strike me down. I offer myself for my cause to shame these cowards!"
But Morrison did not use his fists, though Lanigan continued to exhort.
"There are altogether too many of you would-be martyrs around this city to-night. I can't accommodate you all!" Stewart made the same tackle he had used in the case of Lanigan and Spanish-walked his captive back toward the porte-cochre.
"I reckon I do need your help, after all, Joe!" confessed Morrison, noting that Lanigan was on his feet again. "Give me your back and a boost!"
Then the captor suddenly tripped the captive and laid him sprawling at Lanigan's feet; before the fallen man was up, Morrison, using the commander's sturdy shoulders and the thrust of the willing arms of his helper, had swung himself back to the top of the plinth. He kneeled and reached down his hands. "Up with him, Joe! Toss! I won't miss him!"
Lanigan was helped by a comrade in making the toss. Morrison grasped the man and yanked him upright and held him in a firm clutch.
The mayor was receiving plenty of advice from the crowd by that time. The gist of the counsel followed Lanigan's suggestion about punching off the fellow's face. But the mob was by no means unanimous. Men were daring to voice threats against Morrison.
As it had availed before that evening, Morrison's imperturbable silence secured quiet on the part of others.
"The opinion of the meeting seems to be divided," he said. He had recovered his poise along with his breath. "But no matter! I shall not adopt the advice of either side. I shall not let this fellow go until I have finished my business with him. I shall not punch his face off him. I'll not flatter him to that extent. A good American reserves his fists for a man-fight with a real man." He shook the captive, holding him at arm's-length. "Here's a young fool who has been throwing stones at windows. Here's a fresh rowdy who has been sticking out his tongue at authority. I know exactly what he needs!"
"He insulted the flag of this country! Turn him over to the police!" somebody insisted, and a roar of indorsement hailed the demand.
"Citizens, that would be like giving a mongrel cur a court trial for sheep-killing! This perverted infant simply needs—dingbats!" He shouted the last word. He twisted the radical off his feet, stooped, and laid the victim across a knee that was as solid as a tree-trunk, and with the flat of a broad hand began to whale the culprit with all his might.
The onlookers were silent for a few moments. Then there was a chorus of jeering approbation.
When the shamed, humiliated, agonized radical—thus made a mark for gibes instead of winning honor as a martyr for the cause—began to wail and plead the men who were nearest the scene of flagellation started to laugh. The laughter spread like a fire through dry brambles. It ran crackling from side to side of the great square. It mounted into higher bursts of merriment. It became hilarity that was expended by a swelling roar that split wide the night silence and came beating back in riotous echoes from the faade of the State House. That amazing method of handling anarchy had snapped the tense strain of a situation which had been holding men's emotions in leash for hours. The ludicrousness of the thing was heightened by the nervous solemnity immediately preceding. Men beat their neighbors on the back in instant comradeship of convulsed, rollicking jubilation.
"Always leave 'em laughing when you say good-by!" Morrison advised the chap whom he was manhandling. He held the fellow over the edge of the plinth by the collar and dropped him, wilted and whimpering, into the waiting arms of the appreciative Lanigan. "Dry his eyes, Joe, and wipe his nose, and see that he gets started for home all right."
Morrison stood straight and secured a hearing after a time. "Boys, those of you who are in the right mind—and I hope all of you are that way now, after a good laugh—I've given you a sample of how to handle the Bolshevist blatherskites when you come across 'em in this country. Look around and if you find any more of 'em in the crowd go ahead and dose 'em with dingbats! Fine remedy for childish folly! I reckon all of us have found out that much for ourselves in the old days. I won't keep you standing in the cold here any longer. Good night!"
He leaped down on to the porch and went into the State House.
General Totten was near the big door.
The men outside were guffawing again.
Morrison was dusting his palms with the air of a man who had finished a rather unpleasant job. "Do you hear 'em, Totten? Sounds better than howls of a crowd bored by machine-gun bullets, eh? How much chance do you think there is of starting a civil war among men who are laughing like that?"
LANA CORSON HAS HER DOUBTS
The chief of police had distributed his officers to posts of duty and was patrolling the rotunda.
He saluted the mayor when Morrison came hurrying in through the main entrance.
"All is fine, Chief! I thank you for your work. I don't look for anything out of the way, after this. But keep your men on till further orders."
At the foot of the grand stairway Stewart's self-possession left him.
Lana Corson was standing half-way up the stairs. Her furs were thrown back, revealing her festival attire. Her beauty was heightened by the flush on her cheeks and by the vivid animation in her luminous eyes.
He paused for a moment, his gaze meeting hers, and then he hastened to her.
"How did it happen—that you're here, Lana?"
"I'm here—let that be an answer for now. But this, Stewart—this what I have been seeing and hearing! Does it mean what it seems to mean?"
"I'll have to admit that I don't know exactly how it does show up from the side-lines. Suppose you say!"
"I heard you talk to General Totten. I heard you talk to that mob. I saw what you did. But I heard you give all the credit to my father." She searched Stewart's face with more earnest stare. "You have saved the state from disgracing itself, haven't you? Isn't that what you have done—you yourself?"
"Oh, nonsense! Tell me! How did you get in and who came with you?"
"I'm here alone, Stewart, and it's of no importance how I got in. The question I have asked you is the important one just now."
Her insistence was disconcerting; he had not recovered from the astonishment of the sudden meeting; he felt that he ought to lie to that daughter, in the interests of her family pride, but he was conscious of his inability to lie glibly just then.
"Where is your car?"
"Waiting for me in the little park."
"Lana, there'll be no more excitement here—not a bit. Nothing to see! Suppose you allow me to take you to the car. Come!" He put out his arm.
"Certainly not! Not till I see my father! He is in danger!"
"I assure you he is not. I left him with the Governor only a few minutes ago, and the Senator was never better in his life—nor safer!" In spite of his best endeavor to be consolatory and matter-of-fact he was not able to keep a certain significance out of his tone.
From where she stood she could look across the rotunda and down into the square. The glare of the lights made all movements visible. The crowd was melting away.
"Stewart, brains and tact have accomplished wonders here to-night. I want to know all the truth. Why shouldn't you be as candid to me as you seemed to be with those men when you were talking to them? I want to give my gratitude to somebody! The name of our good state has been kept clean. You're not fair to me if you leave me in the dark any longer."
"I did my little bit, that's all! I'm only one of the cogs!"
"I know how I'll make you tell. I propose to give you all the credit. And I never knew you to keep anything that didn't belong to you."
"Now you're not fair yourself, Lana! We just put our heads together—the whole of us—that's all! Put our heads together! You know! As men will!" His stammering eagerness did not satisfy her feminine penetration. Her daughterly interest in the Senator's political standing was stirred as she reflected.
"My father is down here to see that his fences are in good shape," she declared, with true Washington sapience. "I think it was his duty and privilege to step out there and make the speech. I'm surprised because he let such an opportunity slip. With all due respect to the mayor of Marion, you were not at all dignified, Stewart. They laughed at you—and I didn't blame them!"
"I can't blame 'em, either," he confessed. "I—I—I guess I lost my head. I'm not used to making speeches. I have made two since supper, and both of 'em have seemed to stir up a lot of trouble for me."
"I think, myself, that you're rather unfortunate as a speechmaker," she returned, dryly. "I suppose you're going back to report to father. I'll go with you." In her manner there was implied promise that she would proceed to learn more definitely in what quarters her especial gratitude ought to be expended.
"Lana," he urged, "I wish you'd go home and wait for your talk with your father when he comes. He'll be coming right along. I'll see that he does. There's nothing—not much of anything to keep him here. But I need to have a little private confab with him."
"So private that I mustn't listen? I hope that we're still old friends, Stewart, you and I, though your attitude in regard to father's affairs has made all else between us impossible."
He did not pursue the topic she had broached. There was a certain finality about her deliverance of the statement, a decisiveness that afforded no hint that she would consider any compromise or reconsideration. His face was very grave. "I have a little business—a few loose ends to take up with the Senator. Once more I beg that you will defer—"
"I will go with you to the Executive Chamber. I'll be grateful for your escort. If you don't care to have me go along with you, I can easily find my way there alone."
Her manner left no opportunity for further appeal.
He bowed. He did not offer his arm. They walked together up the stairway. With side-glances she surveyed his countenance wonderingly; in his expression true distress was mingled with apprehensiveness. He had the air of an unwilling guide detailed to conduct an unsuspecting innocent to be shocked by the revelations of a chamber of horrors; she put it that way to herself in jesting hyperbole.
The newspaper men, who had followed Mayor Morrison into the State House, had been holding aloof, politely, from a conference which seemed to have no bearing on the political situation. They hurried behind and overtook Stewart and the young lady at the head of the stairway; their spokesman asked for a statement.
"I made it! Out there a few minutes ago! Boys, you heard what I said, didn't you?"
"Well, I talked more than I intended to! Boil it down to a few lines and let it go at that!"
"We want to get the matter just right, Mister Mayor, and give credit where it's due."
"I covered the matter of credit. There's nothing more to say," replied Stewart, curtly.
The reporters surveyed him with considerable wonderment; his manner in times past had always been distinguished by frank graciousness.
"We'd like to see Senator Corson and Governor North."
That request seemed to provoke the mayor's irritability still more. "I'm not the guardian of those gentlemen or of this State House!" He turned on his heel abruptly. "Miss Corson!" She was waiting a few paces away. He rejoined her and by a gesture invited her to walk along. "I'm sorry! I did not mean to delay you!"
The newspaper men followed on as far as the door of the Executive Chamber.
Morrison faced them there. "I don't mean to interfere with you, boys, in any way. And you mustn't interfere with me. As soon as the Senator and the Governor finish with me they'll give you all the time you want, no doubt! Please wait outside!" He tapped on the door and gave his name. Rellihan opened. Morrison seized the officer's arm and pulled him outside. "Keep everybody away from the door for a few moments—till further orders."
Stewart escorted Miss Corson into the chamber with almost as much celerity as he had employed in escorting Rellihan out; and he promptly banged the door. He walked slowly across the room toward the big table, following Lana, who hastened toward her father. The Senator was standing behind the table, flanked by North and Daunt. The three of them formed a portentous battery. Morrison did not speak. His expression indicated humility. He drooped his shoulders. There was appeal in his eyes. "Here I am!" the eyes informed the glowering Senator. But a side-glance hinted: "Here is your daughter, too. Use judgment!"
Lana was manifestly perplexed by what she saw. Three distinguished gentlemen were presenting the visages of masculine Furies. She looked away from them and received a little comfort from the placid countenances of Andrew Mac Tavish and Delora Bunker, but their presence in that place and at that hour only made her mystification more complete.
She had been allowing her imagination to paint pictures before she stepped into the Executive Chamber; she had expected to find her father virtuously triumphant, serenely a successful molder of pacific plans. His scowl was so forbidding that she stopped short.
"Father, it's wonderful—perfectly wonderful, isn't it?" She tried to speak joyously, but she faltered. "I saw it all! I saw how your plan succeeded."
"Damn you, Morrison! What has happened?" The Senator did not merely demand—he exploded.
The silence which followed became oppressive. Miss Corson was too thoroughly horrified to proceed. Apparently Governor North and Daunt had selected their spokesman and had nothing to say for themselves. Morrison seemed to be especially helpless as an informant; he wagged his head and pointed to Lana.
"Answer my question, Morrison!"
"I think Miss Corson better tell you, sir. She was an impartial observer."
"Perhaps she had better tell me! You're right! After this night I wouldn't take your word as to the wetness of water. Lana, speak out!"
"I don't know what I can tell you—you have been right here all the time in the State House—"
The Senator jammed a retort between the links of her stammering speech. "Yes, I have been right here! What has happened below, I ask you?"
"Why, the troops marched out. They went away! Right through the mob! And it's all calm and quiet."
Governor North stamped his way a half-dozen paces to the rear, and whirled and marched back into line.
"Morrison, have you—have you—" Senator Corson choked. Not knowing exactly what to say, he shook his fist.
"Father, what's the matter? It was only carrying out your orders."
"Stewart Morrison, why don't you say something?" she demanded.
"I'm sure your father prefers to hear from you."
"Confound it! I do want to hear, and hear immediately!"
Lana displayed some of the paternal ire. "Stewart, I asked you to be candid with me. You're leaving me to flounder around disgracefully in this matter."
The Senator advanced on his daughter and seized her arm. "I don't want that renegade to say another word to me as long as I live—and he knows it. I'll tell you later what has been going on here. But now tell me to what orders of mine you are referring! Quick and short!"
"Mayor Morrison made a little speech to the mob and said that you thought it was best to send away the troops to prevent bad feelings and misunderstanding, and said you were backed up by the Governor."
The Senator swapped looks with the goggling North over Lana's head.
"And the mob has gone home, and the State House is thrown wide open, and the policemen are on duty, and I say again that it's wonderful," insisted the girl.
"Morrison, did you say that? Have you done that?"
Stewart was fully aware that he had allowed the men in the square to draw an inference from a compliment that he had paid to Senator Corson's sagacity, and had refrained from making a direct declaration. But he was not minded to embarrass the girl any further. He bowed. "I thank Miss Corson for giving the gist of the thing so neatly."
"I know I don't understand it all yet, father!" Lana was both frightened and wistful. The Senator had turned from her and was striding to and fro, scuffing his feet hard on the carpet. "If you're blaming Mayor Morrison for revealing confidences, I'm sorry. But you can't help being proud when it is spread abroad how your handling of the dreadful affair prevented bloodshed and shame in this state."
"Spread abroad!" Senator Corson brought down his feet more violently.
The situation, if it remained bottled up there in the Executive Chamber any longer, threatened to explode in still more damaging fashion, was Stewart's uncomfortable thought. The Senator's remark suggested a diversion in the way of topics, at any rate.
"That reminds me that the newspaper boys are waiting outside in the corridor, Senator Corson. I asked them to be patient for a few minutes. Please allow me to say that I have added no statement to what I said to the crowd in the square. I shall not add any."
"I don't see how you could add anything!" retorted the Senator with venom.
He continued his promenade.
Again the silence in the room became oppressive.
Morrison was scrutinizing Governor North with especial intentness.
His Excellency was giving unmistakable evidence that he was surcharged. He was working his elbows and was whispering to himself with a fizzling sound. He had turned his back on Lana Corson as if he were resolved to ignore the fact of her presence.
Stewart, exhibiting deference while a United States Senator was pondering, strolled leisurely across the room to North and fondled the lapel of the Governor's coat. "I beg your pardon, and I hope you'll excuse curiosity in a chap who makes cloth, Governor. But this is as fine a piece of worsted as I've seen in many a day."
North lifted his arm as if to knock the presumptuous hand away; but Stewart slowly clenched his fist, holding the fabric in his close clutch, exerting a strength that dominated the man upon whom his hold was fastened. The mayor went on in an undertone, as if anxious to show additional deference in the presence of the senatorial ponderings. "Governor, petty politics haven't been allowed to make a bad mess of what has been turned into an open proposition. Now don't allow your tongue to make a mess of this new development as it stands right now. Humor Miss Corson's notions! And let me tell you! My policemen are going to stay on the job until after the legislature assembles."
"Morrison, you're a coward!" grated North. "You brought Corson's girl here so that you can sneak behind her petticoats."
Stewart released his hold, clapped His Excellency on the shoulder, raised his voice, and cried, heartily:
"Thank you. Governor! You're right. You have an excellent idea of a piece of goods, yourself."
Senator Corson arrived at a decision which he did not confide to anybody. He spoke to Daunt and the two of them went to the divan and dragged on the overcoats which they had discarded when Rellihan's obstinacy had been found to be unassailable.
Lana, studying the faces of the men, drew her furs about her.
"The car is waiting near the west portico, father," she ventured to say.
Corson took his time about buttoning his coat. Lana had her heritage of dark eyes from her father; his wrath had settled into cold malevolence and his eyes above his white cheeks were not pleasant objects. He surveyed the various persons in the room. He took his time in that process, too!
"For the present—for now—for to-night," he said, quietly, elaborating his mention of the moment with significance, "we seem to have cleaned up all the business before us. In view of that interregnum, Governor, of which you have been so kindly reminded, I suppose you feel that you can go to your hotel and rest for the remainder of the night so as to be in good trim for the inaugural ceremonies. Allow me to offer you a lift in my car."
The Governor trudged toward, a massive wardrobe in a corner of the chamber.
"I do not presume to offer you the convenience of my car, Mayor Morrison," the Senator went on.
"I take it that your recent oath as supreme Executive during the aforesaid interregnum obliges you to stay on the job. Ah—er—do we require a countersign in order to get out of the building?"
The mayor was walking toward the private door. "No, sir!" he said, mildly.
"I hope you hear that, Governor North! I was compelled to give countersigns to your soldiers—quite emphatic countersigns. The new regime is to be complimented."
Morrison threw open the door. "That's all, Rellihan! Report to the chief!"
The newspaper men came crowding to the threshold.
"You have interviewed Mayor Morrison on the situation, haven't you?" demanded the Senator, breaking in on their questions.
"To-night—for the time being—for now," returned Corson, dwelling on the point as emphatically as he had when he spoke before, "Mayor Morrison seems to be doing very well in all that has been undertaken. I have no statement to make—absolutely no word to say!"
He stepped back and allowed the Governor to lead the retreat; His Excellency collided with two of the more persistent news-gatherers. With volleyed "No! Nothing!" he marked time for the thudding of his feet.
Apparently Lana had entered into the spirit of that armed truce which, so her father's manner informed her, was merely a rearrangement of the battle-front. She hurried out of the chamber without even a glance in Morrison's direction.
Stewart's grim countenance intimidated the reporters; they went away.
For a long time the mayor paced up and down the Executive Chamber, his hands clasped behind him.
Miss Bunker thumbed the leaves of her note-book, putting on an air of complete absorption in that matter.
Mac Tavish studied the mayor's face; Morrison was wearing that expression which indicated a mood strange for him. Mac Tavish had seen it on the master's face altogether too many times since the Morrison had come from the mill in the forenoon. It was not the look he wore when matters of business engrossed him. The old paymaster liked to see Morrison pondering on mill affairs; it was meditation that always meant solution of difficulties, and the solution was instantly followed by a laugh and good cheer.
But it was plain that Morrison had not solved anything when he turned to Mac Tavish.
"Not much like honest, real business—this, eh, Andy?"
"Naething like, sir!"
"Doesn't seem to be a polite job, either—politics—if you go in and fight the other fellow on his own ground."
"I've e'er hated the sculch and the scalawags!"
"Totten calls this a political exigency."
"I'll no name it for mysel' in the hearing o' the lass!"
"Seems to need a lot of fancy lying when a greenhorn like me starts late and is obliged to do things in a hurry. Gives business methods an awful wrench, Andy!"
"Aye!" The old Scotchman was emphatic.
"In fact, in a political exigency, according to what I've found out this evening, the quickest liar wins!" He walked to Miss Bunker's side. "You might jot that down as sort of summing the thing up and consider the record closed."
"Do ye think it's all closed and that ye're weel out of it?" inquired Mac Tavish, anxiously.
"I think, Andy," drawled the mayor, a wry smile beginning to twist at the corners of his mouth, "that I may have the militia and the people and the politicians well out of it, but considering the mess, as it concerns me, myself, I'm only beginning to be good and properly in it."
"Ye hae the record, as jotted by the lass, and I heard ye say naething but what was to your credit. And the words o' the high judges! Ye're well backed!"
"Oh, that reminds me, Andy. That boy who brought the telegrams to the door! He'll come to the mill in the morning. Pay him ten dollars. I didn't have the money in my clothes when I hired him."
"And that reminds me, too, Mr. Morrison!" said Miss Bunker. "Do you want me to keep the telegrams with the record? You remember you took them when you went out with the general."
Morrison reached into his breast pocket for the papers, tore them slowly across, and stuffed the scraps back into a side-pocket. "I reckon they won't do the record much good. It's more of the political exigency stuff, Andy! I wrote 'em myself!"
His hands had touched his pipe when he had shoved the bits of paper into his pocket. He took it out and peered into the bowl. There was tobacco there and he fumbled for a match.
"Andy, usually I like to have morning come, for there's always business waiting for me in the mornings and honest daylight helps any matter of clean business. But I'm not looking ahead to this next sunrise with a great deal of relish. Those telegrams were clinchers in the case of Totten, but I don't know what the judges will say. What I said about Senator Corson to the mob helped a lot—but I don't know what the Senator is going to say in the morning. And I don't know what Governor North proposes to say. Or what—" He checked himself and shook his head. "Well, there's considerable going to be said, at any rate! I'll run over the thing in my mind right now while I have time and everything is quiet. Mac Tavish, take Miss Bunker to the car and tell Jock to carry you and her home and to come back here for me."