One day she had picked up his heavy gray gloves from the table and tightened the buttons, listening all the while to an absorbing account of a counter-move he was planning for the next day's editorial, and then had been delightfully confused and distressed by his gratitude. The little scene had sent him to the bare fields to fight for hours.
The major fairly gloried in her knowledge of the arrangement of his library and delighted her with quick requests for his books during the most absorbing moments of their discussions.
And again the observation that the spell was not being woven for him alone went far to the undoing of Andrew Sevier. Her interest in the affairs of David Kildare disturbed him not at all, but her sympathetic and absorbed attention to a bad-luck tale with which Hobson Capers reported to the major one morning when she sat with them, had sent him home in a most depressed state of mind, and the picture of her troubled eyes raised to Hobson's as he recounted the details of the wrenched shoulder of his favorite horse, followed him through the day with tormenting displeasure, though the offer of a cut-glass bottle full of a delightfully scented lotion for the amelioration of the suffering animal brought the semblance of a grin. And Hob, the brute, had gone away with it in his pocket, accompanied by explicit directions as to its application by means of a soft bit of flannel the size of a pocket handkerchief, also provided. Andrew Sevier had a vision of the bottle and the rag being installed in the most holy of holies in the apartments of Hobson Capers and experienced a sweeping smashing rage thereat.
A day or two later a scene he had witnessed in the kitchen, in which Caroline and Tempie hung anxiously over a simmering pan of lemon juice, sugar, rye whisky and peppermint which, when it arrived at the proper sirupy condition, was to be administered as a soothing potion to the hoarse throat of Peyton Kendrick, who perched croaking on a chair close by, drove him to seeking comfort from Phoebe much to her apparent amusement but secret perturbation, for Phoebe both comprehended and feared the situation.
And thus there is also much of the primitive left in the heart of the modern man on which the elemental forces work.
Then the day for the election came nearer and nearer by what seemed fleeting hours. The whole city was thoroughly aroused and fighting hard under one banner or the other. As the last week drew to a close and left only the few days of the following week for a round-up of the forces before the Wednesday election, the men all became absorbed to the point of oblivion to everything save the speculation as to how the race would go. But it was not in the nature of David Kildare to be held against the grindstone of serious endeavor too long at a time, and in the midst of the turmoil he proceeded to plot for a brief and exciting relaxation for himself and his strenuous friends, and he chose Saturday for the accomplishment thereof.
The morning dawned in a fluff of gray fog that hung low down over the avenue, though the sun showed signs of soon piercing the gloom. The clash and clatter of the city was fast approaching a noonday roar but still Phoebe slept in the room which adjoined that of Caroline Darrah Brown.
Caroline cautiously opened the door and stole in gently to the side of the bed, then paused and looked down with delight. Phoebe, asleep, was a thing calculated to bring delight to any beholder. The brilliant, casual, insouciant, worldly Phoebe had gone out on a dream-hunt and a delicious curled-up flower lay in her place, with turned lashes dipping against soft tinted cheeks. Her head rested on one bare white arm and one hand curled under her daintily molded chin. Caroline caught her breath—this was a pathetic Phoebe when one thought of the most times Phoebe, cool, self-reliant—perforce!
"The darling," she whispered to herself as she slipped to her knees by the low bed, "I can't bear to wake her, but I'm afraid not to; it's an hour late already. Dear!" She slipped her arm under the glossy head and pressed a little kiss on the dimple over the northeast corner of the warm lips.
Phoebe's gray eyes smiled themselves open for a fraction of a second, then she nestled to Caroline's shoulder and calmly drifted off again in pursuit of the dream.
"Dearie," Caroline begged, "it's after ten!"
Phoebe sighed, nestled closer and drifted again. Caroline settled herself against the pillows and pressed her cheek against the thick black braid that curled across the sleeper's bare shoulder. She was incapable of another combat with the sleep-god and decided to wait. Besides, the awake Phoebe was busy—and elusive—not given to bestowing or receiving aught save the most fleeting caresses. So for a few moments Caroline Darrah's arms held her hungrily.
"Be-autiful," came in a sleepy voice from against her arm, "is the water cold?"
"Awful this morning," answered Caroline tightening her arms. "Just a little hot, Phoebe, please! I'll tell Annette."
"No," answered Phoebe, as with a whirl of the covers she sat up and took her knees into her embrace. "No, sweetie, in I go! The colder the better after I'm in. How grand and Burne-Jonesy you look in that linen pinafore—indulging in the life domestic? I think I catch a whiff of your culinary atmosphere—and, oh, I—am so—hungry."
"Tempie has a dear little plump bird for you and some waffles and an omelet. Let me have Annette bring them to you here! Please, Phoebe, please!"
"Caroline Darrah Brown," said Phoebe in a tragic voice, "do you know I gained a pound and a quarter last week and that makes me three and a half pounds past the danger-mark? Two raw eggs and an orange is all I can have this morning. I'm going to cry, I think!"
"No," answered Caroline Darrah positively, "you are going to eat that bird and the omelet. You may substitute dry toast for the waffle if Tempie will let you. She's angry, and I'm in trouble. She won't use that recipe I got from your Mammy Kitty to make the cake I promised David Kildare for tea. She says she and her family have been making Buchanan cake ever since there was any cake and she is not going to begin now making Donelson mixtures. I think I hurt her feelings. What must I do?"
"Let her alone, she has the right of it and the cake is sure to be just as good," laughed Phoebe.
"But I promised him it should be just like the one you gave us the other afternoon, only with the icing and nuts thicker than the cake," answered Caroline in real distress. "He says that Mr. Sevier likes it that way, too," she added ingenuously.
"Caroline Darrah, you spoil those men to the most outrageous extent. It's like David to want his icing and nuts thicker than the cake; he always does—and gets it, but it isn't good for him." As Phoebe spoke she smiled at Caroline Darrah indulgently.
"I can't help it, Phoebe," she answered with the rose wave mounting under her eyes. "I'm stupid—I don't know how to manage them. I'm just—fond of them."
For a second Phoebe regarded her from under veiled eyes, then said guardedly, "Doesn't that give them rather the advantage to start with—if you let them find it out?"
"Yes," answered Caroline as she pressed her cheek against Phoebe's arm, "I know it does but I can't help it. I have to trust to them to understand."
For a moment Phoebe was silent and across her mind there flashed David's description of a man who sat into the gray dawn fighting his battle—his own and hers—a man who wouldn't run!
"Perhaps that's the best way after all, dearie," she said as she prepared to slip out of bed. "Only it takes the exceptional woman to get results from your method. It ought to work with David; others don't seem to!"
"Phoebe, Phoebe—why—why?" and Caroline caught and held Phoebe for a few seconds. "Don't you care at all?"
"Yes, child—a lot! Having admitted which I will betake myself to the plunge—leaving you to finish the cake for the precious thing." In a second Phoebe smiled back from the door:
"Just one little waffle, tell Tempie," she said. "And I'm due to make a lightning toilet if I get to that Woman's Guild meeting at eleven-thirty. Call the office for me and tell them not to send Freckles until one-thirty to-day. And, dearie, please call Polly and tell her to be sure and go to that meeting of the Daughters of the Colonies so she can tell me what happens. Tell her to get it all straight—names and all and I will phone her. And not to let them office or committee me just because I'm not there! You are a dear!"
Caroline smiled happily as she went back to the mixing of the confection of affection to be administered to David with his tea as by request, and she laughed as she heard Phoebe's mighty splash.
And a half-hour later, during the discussion of the plump bird and the one crisp waffle, David Kildare whirled in, beaming with joy over his plans. In fact he failed to manage anything in the way of a formal greeting.
"Girls!" he exclaimed from the doorway, "the hunt is on for to-night! Everybody hurry up! Caroline, Mrs. Matilda wants you to motor out with her to the Forks to see about having Jeff and Tempie get ready for the supper cooking—barbecue, birdies and the hot potato! Milly and Billy Bob are going and Polly and that Boston lad of yours, Caroline—yours if you can hold him, which I don't think you can. And Mrs. Matilda says—"
"Stop," demanded Phoebe, "and tell us what you are talking about, David."
"I'm surprised at you, Phoebe, for being so dense," answered David with a delighted grin at having created a flurry. "Didn't you hear me tell Caroline Darrah Brown at least a week ago that possums and persimmons are ripe and that the first night after a rain and a fog we would all turn out and show her how to shake down a few? The whole glad push is going. Mrs. Matilda and I decided it an hour ago while you were still asleep. I've telephoned everybody—possums and persimmons wait for no man."
"How perfectly delightful," said Caroline with eyes agleam with enthusiasm. "Can everybody go?" David had failed to mention Andrew Sevier in his enumeration, an omission that she had instantly caught.
"Yes," answered David, "everybody that had engagements we asked the engagement to go, too. Even Andy is going to cut the poems for the lark! Thuse up a little, Phoebe, please—give us the smile! I'm backing you to shake down ten possums against anybody's possible five."
"I don't think that I can go," answered Phoebe quietly. "Mrs. Cherry has the president of the Federation of Women's Clubs staying with her and I'm going to dine there to-night to discuss the suffrage platform." There was a cool note in Phoebe's voice and a sudden seriousness had come into her expression.
"Now, Phoebe," answered David, looking down at her with the quickly concealed tenderness that always flashed up in his eyes when he spoke directly to her, "do you suppose for one minute that I hadn't fixed all that the first thing? Mrs. Cherry held back a bit but I rabbit-footed the old lady into being wild to go and then wheedled the correct hostess some; and there you are! Caroline is to send them out in her motor and I'm going to make Hob and Tom chase the possum in company of the merry widow and Mrs. Big Bug. Now give me a glad word!"
"I'll see," answered Phoebe. "I can let you know by two o'clock whether I can go," and as she spoke she gathered up her gloves and bag and settled her trim hat by a glance at the long mirror across the room.
"What—what did you say?" demanded David aghast in a second. "If you think for one minute that I'm going to stand for—"
"But you must remember that my business engagements must always be settled before I can make social ones—at two o'clock then! Good-by, Caroline, dear, such a comfy night under your care! I'm going to stop in the library to speak to the major and then on to the guild if any one calls. Here's to you both!" and she coolly tipped them a kiss from the ends of her fingers.
"Caroline," remarked David, "I reckon I must have giggled too loud in my cradle, and the Lord turned around and made Phoebe to settle my glee, don't you think?"
And as Caroline saw him depart with his usual smile and jest she little realized that a jagged wound ran across his blithe heart.
The David within was awakening and developing a highly sensitized nature, which caught Phoebe's note of disapproval, divined its reason and winced under the humiliation of its distrust. The old David would have laughed, chaffed her and gone his way rejoicing—the new David suffered, for a deeply-loved woman can inflict a wound on the inner man that throbs to the depths.
Across the hall Phoebe found the major at his table and, as usual, buried in his books. He was reading one and holding another open in his hand while his pen balanced itself over a page for a note. Phoebe hesitated on the threshold, loath to disturb his feast. But before she could retreat he glanced up and his smile flashed a welcome and an invitation to her, while his books fell together as he rose and held out his hands.
"My dear," he said, "I was just reading what Bob Browning says about a 'pearl and a girl'—and thinking of you when up I look to behold you."
"Thank you, and good morning, Major," returned Phoebe as a slow smile spread over her grave face. "I won't disturb you, for I've only a moment! This hunt to-night—it—it troubles me. Has David forgotten that he is to make a speech on the cutting of the conduit over in the sixteenth ward at half-past seven o'clock? It is one of his most important appointments and—"
"Phoebe," answered the major as he balanced his pen on one long lean finger, "do you suppose that women will ever learn that men could dispense with them entirely after their second year—if it wasn't for the loneliness? I see David Kildare failed to make a sufficiently full apron-string report to you this morning of his intentions for the day."
"Sometimes, Major, you are completely horrid," answered Phoebe with both a smile and a spark in her eyes, "but I do care—that is, I'm interested, and—"
"It seems to me," the major filled in the pause, "that you are a trifle short on a woman's long suit—patience. Now in the case of David Kildare, you don't want to give him one moment of tortoise speed but must keep him pacing with the hare entirely. Remember the result of that race?"
"But I want him to win—he must! I think—"
"Did you hear that speech he made to the motley and their friends last Monday night? That was as fine an interpretation of the ethics involved in the enforcement of law as I have ever heard or read—delivered to simple minds unversed in the science ethical. He landed hot shot into the very stronghold of the enemy and his audience saw his points. I find the mind of David Kildare rather well provisioned with the diverse ammunition needed in political warfare. The whisky ring is making a stand and fighting the inches of retreat. I believe it to be retreat!"
"But can it be, Major? Andrew says that money is pouring into the city, even from other states. They intend to buy the election, come what will. How can a gentleman fight such a thing with 'not a dollar spent' announcement?"
"Phoebe," said the major with the quick illumination of one of his challenging smiles, "you can generally depend on the Almighty to back the right man when he's fighting the right fight. Suppose you put up a little faith on the event—be something of a sporting character and back David to win. Backing thoughts help in the winnings they tell us these days."
"I have, Major—I am—I do, but this hunt to-night positively—positively frightens me. It seemed so—so regardless of consequences—so trivial and—and inconsequent that—" Phoebe paused and the major was astonished to see that she was veiling tears with her thick black lashes.
"Phoebe, child," he said as he bent over quickly and laid his hand on hers, "I ought to have answered you sooner. He is prepared to make the speech of his life tonight at seven-thirty, but at ten he joins his friends to hunt. Didn't you draw your conclusions hurriedly—and against David?"
In a second the tightness in Phoebe's throat relaxed and the tears flowed back to their source, only one little splash jeweled her cheek that had flamed into a blush of joy and contrition.
"Ah," she said softly as she drew a deep breath, "I am so glad—glad!... I must hurry, for I'm an hour late already. Good-by!"
"Good-by, and remember that faith is one of the by-products of affection. And I might add that the right kind of faith finds tactful ways of—of admission. Do you see?" And the major held her hand long enough to make Phoebe look into his kind eyes.
And from the ten minutes in the library of Major Buchanan the disciplining of the heart of Phoebe Donelson began and was carried on with utter relentlessness. The first castigation occurred when David failed to phone her at two o'clock, and a half-hour later Caroline Darrah called anxiously to know her decision and impart the information that David had arranged that she and Phoebe go out to the fork in her car with Mrs. Buchanan. Phoebe, to her own surprise, found that she intensely desired another arrangement that involved David and his small electric, but she received the blow with astonishing meekness and delighted Caroline with her enthusiastic acquiescence in the plans for the evening.
And so through the busy afternoon while David Kildare met committees, sent in reports and talked over plans, he also managed to sandwich in the settling of numerous little details that went to make good the night's sport. And it was all done in apparent high spirits but with an indignant pain in his usually glad heart.
Meanwhile Caroline Darrah, in a whirl of domestic excitement incident to the preparing of a hamper for the midnight lunch out on the ridge, which she had entreated Mrs. Matilda to leave entirely to her newly-acquired housewifery, stepped into the middle of the pool political and never knew it, in the innocence of her old-fashioned woman's heart.
"Miss Ca'line," ventured Jeff as he assisted her in packing the huge hamper that occupied the center of the dining-room table, "is Mister Dave sure 'pinted to be jedge of the criminal court—he ain't a-joking is he?"
"Why, no, indeed, Jeff," answered Caroline Darrah as she rolled sandwiches in oiled paper before putting them into a box. "What made you think that?"
"Well, it's a kinder poor white folksy job fer him, fooling with crap-shooting niggers and whisky soaks, but if he wants it he's got ter have it, hear me! And Miss Ca'line, some of us colored set has made up our minds that it's time fer us ter git out and dust ter help him. You see this here is a independent race and it's who gits the votes, no 'Publican er Dimocrat to it. That jest naterally turns the colored vote loose at the polls. And fer the most of the black fools it's who bids the mostes, I'm sorry ter say, as is the fact."
"But you know Mr. David has said from the first that he will not buy a vote. Will he have to lose—how many of the colored people are there—oh, Jeff, will he have to be beaten?" Caroline Darrah clasped a sandwich to the death in her hands and questioned the negro with the same faith that she would have used in questioning Major Buchanan.
"No, ma'am, he ain't going ter git nigger-beat if we can help it—us society colored set, you understand, Miss Ca'line." Jeff's manner was an interesting mixture of pomposity and deference.
"I don't quite understand, Jeff; you explain to me," answered Caroline Darrah in the kind and respectful voice that she always used to these family servants, which they understood perfectly and in which they took a huge delight.
"Well, it's jest this way, Miss Ca'line, they is sets in the colored folks jest like they is in the white folks. We is the it set, me and Tempie and Eph and all the fust family people. We's got our lawyers and dentists and a university and a ice-cream parlor with the swellest kinder soda fount in front. You heard how Mister David got that Country Club for us, didn't you? Well, he backed the rent notes of the soda fount, too—and he's jest naterly the fust set candidate fer anything he wants ter be."
"Isn't he just the kindest best man, Jeff?" asked Caroline Darrah, in her enthusiasm sacrificing a frosted muffin cake between her clasped hands.
"Yes'm, he am that fer a fact, and they can't no low-down whisky bum beat him fer jedge, neither—'specially ef they count on using niggers to do it with. You see the race am so mighty close, that all the booze bosses is a telling the niggers that they is got the 'ballunce uf power' as they calls it and it's up ter them ter elect a jedge fer whisky, the friend 'at'll let 'em drink it down. Why, they's got out a bottle of whisky as has on the label 'Your Colored Friend', and it's put up in clear glass and at the bottom you can see five new dimes a-shining. A nigger gits the bottle and the fifty cents ef he votes with them. Old Booze is flinging money right and left, fer if Mister David gits in he'll shore have ter git out."
"That is perfectly awful, Jeff!" exclaimed Caroline with horror-stricken eyes. "The poor people made to sell themselves that way—and the whole city to lose David, a good judge, because they can't know what they do. It is horrible and nobody can help it!"
"I ain't so sure about that, Miss Ca'line! Me and Tempie and Doctor Pike Johnson and the dentist and Bud Simms, the man what runs the Palms, have thought up a scheme ef we kin work it. You see they ain't a nigger from Black Bottom to Mount Nebo as wouldn't sell his soul ter git ter the Country Club and say he's been invited there. Now, we thought as how it would be a good plan ter give it out that we was going to have er David Kildare jedge celebration out there and have invertation tickets printed. Then we could go ter the polls and fight down any dollar bottle of whisky ever put up with one of them invites—every man ter bring a lady, and dancing down in a corner of the card. We'd scotch them by saying no 'lection, no dance, so they'll vote straight. Ain't that the swell scheme? It'll work if we can make it go."
"Jeff," she exclaimed, "that is a perfectly splendid idea! You must do it, for offering them fun will be no bribery like whisky and money—it will do them good." Sometimes it is just as well that a woman be not too well versed in the science logical.
"Yes'm, and I believe it will work—ef we jest had a barbecue to put down in the other corner opposite the dancing I know it would draw 'em, but ice-cream will be about all we can git fer the subscription money, and cold as it is ice-cream won't be no drawing card."
And there was no doubt that Jeff unfolded his plan to Caroline Darrah from pure love of sympathy and excitement and for no ulterior purpose, although it served to further his schemes as well as if he had been of a most wily turn of mind.
"Jeff," exclaimed Caroline Darrah excitedly, "how much would it take to have a barbecue and ice-cream and everything good to go with it and a big band of music and fireworks and—"
"Golly, Miss Ca'line, they will be most five hundred of 'em and the 'scription ain't but a little over fifty dollars. I'm counting on the dancing and the gitting-there ter draw 'em."
"We can't risk it," said Caroline. "I will give you two hundred and fifty dollars and you can let it be known that no such celebration ever was as the one his colored friends are going to give in honor of the election of Judge David Kildare—his united colored friends, Jeff, high and low."
"Miss Ca'line, I'm a-skeered to take it! Mister David, he's jest naterly—"
"Mr. David need never know about it. It is a subscription and you have collected it—advertise that fact. I'm one of his friends and I can subscribe even if I am white. You must take it, and get to work about it. Only four more days, remember, and we all must work for Mr. David; and too, Jeff, for those poor ignorant people who would commit the crime of letting themselves sell their votes." There was real concern for the endangered souls of the coons in Caroline's voice, and Jeff was duly impressed.
They both fell to work on the packing of the basket as Temple's voice was heard in the distance, for they knew she would express herself in no uncertain terms if she found the amount of work done unsatisfactory.
But when he departed, Jeff carried in his pocket a slip of paper about which it nearly scared him to death to think, and one of the money-bags of the late Peters Brown was eased by the extraction of a quarter thousand. Caroline was happy from a clear conscience and a virtuous feeling of having saved a crisis for a dependent and ignorant people. Which goes to show that a woman can put her finger into a political pie and draw it out without even a stain, while to touch that same confection ever so lightly would dye a man's hand blood red.
PURSUING THE POSSUM
And as if in sympathy with the heart of the pursued possum, the thermometer began to fall in the afternoon and by night had established a clear, cold, windless condition of weather. The start for the Cliffs was to be made from the fork of the River Road, where cars, horses, traps and hampers were to be left with the servants, who by half past nine were already in an excited group around a blazing, dry oak fire, over which two score plump birds were ready to be roasted, attended by the autocratic Tempie. Jeff piled high with brush a huge log whose heart was being burned out for the baking of sundry potatoes, while the aroma from the barbecue pit was maddening to even a ten o'clock appetite, and no estimate could be made of what damage would be done after the midnight return from the trail of the wily tree fruit.
David Kildare as usual was M.F.H. and his voice rang out as clearly against the tall pines, while he welcomed the cars and traps full of excited hunters, as if he had not been speaking in a crowded hall for an hour or two.
Mrs. Cherry Lawrence arrived early, accompanied by the distinguished suffragist, who was as alert for sensations new as if she had been one of an exploration party into the heart of darkest Africa. They were attended by Tom and also the suave Hobson, who was all attentions but whose maneuvers in the direction of Caroline Darrah were pitiably fruitless. He was seconded in his attentions to the stranger by David with his most fascinating manner, and Mrs. Cherry sparkled and glowed at him with subdued witchery, while Tom sulked close at her side.
Polly and young Boston had trailed Mrs. Buchanan's car on horses and Phoebe was intent on pinning up the dbutante's habit skirt to a comfortable scramble length. Billy Bob fairly bubbled over with glee and Milly, who had come to assist Mrs. Matilda in overlooking the preparations for the feast for the returned hunters, was already busy assembling hampers and cases on a flat rock over behind the largest fire. Her anxious heart was at rest about her nestlings, for Caroline's maid, Annette, had gone French mad over the babies and had begged the privilege of keeping Mammy Betty company in her watch beside the cots.
"Come here, Caroline, child," called David from behind the farthest fire, "let me look at you! Seems to me you are in for a good freezing." And he drew her into the light of the blaze.
She was kilted and booted and coated and belted in the most beautiful and wholly correct attire for the hunt that could possibly have been contrived; that is, for a sedate cross-country bird stalk or a decorous trap shooting, but for a long night scramble over the frozen ground she was insufficiently clad. The other girls all wore heavy golf skirts and coats and were muffled to their eyes; even the big-bug lady wore a knitted comforter high round her throat. Without doubt Caroline would have been in for a cold deal, if David had not been more than equal to any occasion.
"Here, Andy, skin out of that sweater and get into that extra buckskin in my electric," he said, and forthwith began without ceremony to assist Andrew Sevier in peeling off a soft, white, high-collared sweater he wore, and in less time than it took to think it he had slipped it over Caroline's protesting head, pulled it down around her slim hips almost to where her kilts met her boots and rolled the collar up under her eyes. Then he immediately turned his attention to the arrival of the mongrel sleuths, each accompanied by a white-toothed negro of renowned coon-fighting, possum-catching proclivities, whom he had assembled from the Old Harpeth to lead the hunt, thus leaving Caroline and Andrew alone for the moment on the far side of the fire.
"Indeed, I'm not going to have your sweater!" she protested, beginning to divest herself of the borrowed garment, but not knowing exactly how to crawl out of its soft embrace.
"Please, oh, please do!" he exclaimed quickly, and as he spoke he caught her hand away, that had begun to tug at the collar.
"I wouldn't keep it for the world—and have you cold, but—I can't get out," she answered with a laugh. "Please show me or call for help."
And as she pleaded Andrew Sevier towered beside her, tall and slender, while the cold breeze with its pine-laden breath ruffled his white shirt-sleeves across his arms. Caroline Darrah in the embrace of his clinging apparel was a sight that sent the blood through his veins at a rate that warred with the winds, and his eyes drank deeply. The color mounted under her eyes and with the unconsciousness of a child she nestled her chin in the woolly folds about the neck as she turned her face from the firelight.
"Well, then, get David's coat from the car," she pleaded.
"Will you stand back in the shadow of that tree until I do?" he asked.
He had caught across the fire a glimpse of the restive Hobson and a sudden mad desire prompted him to snatch this one joy from Fate, come what would—just a few hours with her under the winter stars, when life seemed to offer so little in the count of the years.
"Why, yes, of course! Did you think I'd dare go out in the dark alone, without you?" and her joyous ingenuous casting of herself upon his protection was positively poignant. "Hurry, please, because I—don't want anybody to find me before you come!" After which request it took him very little time to run across the lot and vault the fence into the road where the electric stood.
"It's so uncertain how things arrange themselves sometimes, some places," she remarked to herself as she caught sight of the movements of the foiled Hobson, whose search had now become an open maneuver.
Suddenly she laid her cheek against the arm of the sweater and sniffed it with her delicate nose—yes, there was the undeniable fragrance of the major's Seven Oaks heart-leaf. "He steals the tobacco, too," she again remarked to herself as she caught sight of him skirting the fires as he returned.
Just at this moment a pandemonium of yelps, barks, bays and yells broke forth up the ravine and declared the hunt on.
"Everybody follow the dogs and keep within hearing distance! We'll wait for the trailers to come up when we tree before we shake down!" shouted David as with one accord the whole company plunged into the woods.
Away from the fire, the starlight, which was beginning to be reinforced by the glow from a late old moon, was bright enough to keep the rush up the ravine, over log and boulder, through tangle and across open, a not too dangerous foray.
The first hurdle was a six-rail fence that snaked its way between a frozen meadow and a woods lot. David stationed himself on the far side of the lowest and strongest panel and proceeded to swing down the girls whom Hob and Tom persuaded to the top rail.
The champion for the rights of women took long and much assistance for the mount and entrusted her somewhat bulky self to the strong arms of David Kildare with a feminine dependence that almost succeeded in cracking those stalwart supports.
Polly climbed two rails, put her hand on the top and vaulted like a boy almost into the embrace of young Massachusetts and together they raced after the dogs, who were adding tumult to the hitherto pandemonium of the hot trail.
Tom Cantrell managed Mrs. Cherry most deftly and seemed anxious to direct David in the landing though she was most willing to trust it entirely to him. After hurrying Phoebe to the top rail he vaulted lightly to the side of David and departed in haste, taking the reluctant widow with him by main force.
Phoebe perched herself on the top of the fence, which brought her head somewhat above the level of David's, and seemed in no hurry to descend in order to be at the shake-down, which from the shouts and yelps seemed imminent.
"Ready, or want to rest a minute?" asked David gently; but his eyes looked past hers and there was the shadow of reserve in his voice.
"No," answered Phoebe, "but you must be tired so I'll just slip down," and she essayed to cheat him with the utmost treachery. David neither spoke nor looked at her directly but took her quietly in his arms and swung her to the ground beside him.
Now this was not the first pursuit of the possum that had been attended by Phoebe in the company of David Kildare, and she was prepared for the audacious hint of a squeeze, with which he usually took his toll and which she always ignored utterly with reproving intent; the more reproving on the one or two occasions when she had been tempted into yielding to the caress for the remotest fraction of a second. But for every snub in the fence events that had been pulled off between them in the past years, David was fully revenged by the impassive landing of Phoebe on the dry and frozen grass at his side. Revenged—and there was something over that was cutting into her adamant heart like a two-edge marble saw.
But Phoebe had been born a thoroughbred and it was head up and run as she saw in a second, so she smiled up at him and said in a perfectly friendly tone:
"I really don't think we'd better wait for Caroline and Andrew. Do let's hurry, for they've treed, and I think those dogs will go mad in a moment!" And together they disappeared in the woodland.
Around a tall tree that stood on the slope of the hill they found a scene that was uproar rampant. Five maddened dogs gazed aloft into the gnarled branches of the persimmon king and danced and jumped to the accompaniment of one another's insane yelps. A half-dozen negro boys were in the same attitude and state of mind, and the tension was immense.
Polly gasped and giggled and the suffrage lady almost became entangled with the waltzing dogs in her endeavor to sight the quarry.
"Dar he am!" exclaimed the blackest satyr, and he pointed to one of the lower limbs from which there hung by the tail the most pathetic little bunch of bristles imaginable. "Le'me shake him down, Mister David, I foun' him!"
"All right, shin up, but mind the limbs," answered David. "And you, Jake, get the dogs in hand! We want to take home possums, not full dogs!"
And like an agile ape the darky swung himself up and out on the low limb. "Here he come!" he shouted, and ducked to give a jerk that shook the whole limb.
The dogs danced and Polly squealed, while the rotund lady managed to step on young Back Bay's toes and almost forgot to "beg pardon," but Mr. Possum hung on by his long rat-tail with the greatest serenity.
"Buck up thar, nigger, shake dat whole tree; dis here ain't no cake-walk," one of his confrres yelled, and the sally was caught with a loud guffaw.
Thus urged the darky braced himself and succeeded in putting the whole tree into a commotion, at the height of which there was a crash and a scramble from the top limb and in a second a ball of gray fur descended on his woolly head, knocked him off his perch and crashed with him to the ground. Then there ensued a raging battle in which were involved five dogs, a long darky and a ring-tailed streak of coon lightning, which whirled and bit and scratched itself free and plunged into the darkness before the astonished hunters could get more than a glimpse of the mle.
"Coon, coon!" yelled the negroes, and scattered into the woods at the heels of the discountenanced dogs. Mr. Possum, saved by the stiff fight put up by his ring-tailed woods-brother, had taken this opportunity of unhanging himself and departing into parts unknown, perhaps a still more wily citizen after his threatened extinction.
In a few minutes from up the hill came another tumult, and Jake raised a long shout of "two possums," which served to hasten the scramble of the rest of the party through the underbrush to a breathless pace.
Another gray ball hung to another limb and this time the derisive Jake succeeded in the shake-down and the bagging amid the most breathless excitement. It was a sight to see the sophisticated little animal lie like dead and be picked up and handled in a state of seeming lifeless rigidity—a display of self-control that seemed to argue a superiority of instinct over reason.
After this opening event the hunt swept on with a rapidly mounting count and a heavier and heavier bag.
And, too, it was just as well that no one in particular, save the defrauded Hobson, who was obliged to conceal his chagrin, was especially mindful of the whereabouts of Caroline and the poet. In fact, it would have been difficult for them to have located themselves in answer to a wireless inquiry.
Andrew had started out from the hiding tree with the intention of cutting across the trail of the hunters at right angles a little up the ravine, and he had trusted to a six-year-old remembrance of the lay of the land as he led the way across the frosty meadow and up the ridge at a brisk pace. Caroline swung lithely along beside him and in the matter of fences took Polly's policy of a hand up and then a high vault, which made for practically no delay. They skirted the tangle of buck bushes and came out on the edge of the cliff just as the hunt swept by at their feet and on up the creek bed. They were both breathless and tingling with the exertion of their climb.
"There they go—left behind—no catching them!" exclaimed Andrew. "No possum for you, and this is your hunt! I'm most awfully sorry!"
"Don't you suppose they will save me one?" asked Caroline composedly, and as she spoke she walked to the edge of the bluff and looked down into the dark ravine interestedly.
"You don't want the possum, child, you want to see it caught. The negroes get the little beasts; it's the bagging that's the excitement!" Andrew regarded her with amused interest.
"I don't seem to care to see things caught," she answered. "I'm always sorry for them. I would let them all go if I got the chance—all caught things." A little crackle in the bushes at her side made her move nearer to him.
"I believe you would—release any 'caught thing'—if you could," he said with a note of bitterness in his voice that she failed to detect. A cold wind swept across the meadow and he swung around so his broad shoulders screened her from its tingle. Her eyes gazed out over the valley at their feet.
"This is the edge of the world," she said softly. "Do you remember your little verses about the death of the stars?" She turned and raised her eyes to his. "We are holding a death-watch beside them now as the moon comes up over the ridge there. When I read the poem I felt breathless to get out somewhere high up and away from things—and watch."
"I was 'high up' when I wrote them," answered Andrew with a laugh. "Look over there on the hill—see those two old locusts? They are fern palms and those scrub oaks are palmettos. The white frost makes the meadow a lagoon and this rock is the pier of my bridge where I came out to watch one night to test the force of a freshet. Over there the light from Mrs. Matilda's fires is the construction camp and beyond that hill is my bungalow. That's the same old moon that's rising relentlessly to murder the stars again. Do you want to stay and watch the tragedy—or hunt?"
Without a word Caroline sank down on the dried leaves that lay in a drift on the edge of the bluff. Andrew crouched close beside her to the windward. And the ruthless old moon that was putting the stars out of business by the second was not in the least abashed to find them gazing at her as she blustered up over the ridge, round and red with exertion.
"Were you alone on that pier?" asked Caroline with the utmost navet, as she snuggled down deeper into the collar of the sweater.
"I'm generally alone—in most ways," answered Andrew, the suspicion of a laugh covering the sadness in his tone. "I seem to see myself going through life alone unless something happens—quick!" The bitter note sounded plainly this time and cut with an ache into her consciousness.
"I've been a little lonely, too—always, until just lately and now I don't feel that way at all;" she looked at him thoughtfully with moonlit eyes that were deep like sapphires. "I wonder why?"
Andrew Sevier's heart stopped dead still for a second and then began to pound in his breast as if entrapped. For the moment his voice was utterly useless and he prayed helplessly for a meed of self-control that might aid him to gain a sane footing.
Then just at that moment the old genie of the forests, who gloats through the seasons over myriads of wooings that are carried on in the fastnesses of his green woods, sounded a long, low, guttural groan that rose to a blood-curdling shriek, from the branches just above the head of the moon-mad man and girl. For an instrument he used the throat of an enraged old hoot-owl, perturbed by the intrusion of the noise of the distant hunt and the low-voiced conversation on his wonted privacy.
And the experienced ancient succeeded in precipitating the crisis of the situation with magical promptness, for Caroline sprang to her feet, turned with a shudder and buried her head in Andrew's hunting coat somewhere near the left string for cartridge loops. She clung to him in abject terror.
"Sweetheart!" he exclaimed, giving her a little shake, "it's only a cross old owl—don't be frightened," and he raised her cheek against his own and drew her nearer. But Caroline trembled and clung and seemed unable to face the situation. Andrew essayed further reassurance by turning his head until his lips pressed a tentative kiss against the curve of her chin.
"He can't get you," he entreated and managed a still closer embrace.
"Is he still there?" came in a muffled voice from against his neck where Caroline had again buried her head at a slight crackling from the dark branches overhead.
"I think he is, bless him!" answered Andrew, and this time the kiss managed a landing on the warm lips under the eyes raised to his.
And then ensued several breathless moments while the world reeled around and the vital elemental force that is sometimes cruel, sometimes kind, turned the wheel of their universe.
"I'm not frightened any more," Caroline at last managed to say as she prepared to withdraw, not too decisively, from her strong-armed refuge.
"He's still there," warned Andrew Sevier with a happy laugh, and Caroline yielded again for a second, then drew his arms aside.
"Thank you—I'm not afraid any more—of anything," she said, laughing into his eyes, "and I really think we had better try to get back to camp and supper, for I don't hear the dogs any longer. We don't want to be lost like the 'babes in the woods' and left to die out here, do we?"
"Are you sure we haven't gone and stumbled into heaven, anyway?" demanded Andrew.
He then proceeded to roll the collar of her sweater higher about her ears and to pull the long sleeves down over her hands. He even bent to stretch the garment an inch or two nearer the tops of her boots.
"Are you cold?" he demanded anxiously, for a stiff wind had risen and blew upon them with icy breath.
"Not a single bit," she answered, submitting herself to his anxious ministrations with her most engaging six-going-on-seven manner. Then she caught one of his fumbling hands in hers and pressed it to her cheek for a moment.
"Now," she said, "we can never be lonely any more, can we? I'm going to race you down the hill, across the meadow and over three fences to supper!" And before he could stay her she had flitted through the bushes and was running on before him, slim and fleet.
He caught her in time to swing her over the first fence and capture an elusive caress. The second barrier she vaulted and eluded him entirely, but from the top of the last she bent and gave him his kiss as he lifted her down. In another moment they had joined the circle around the crackling fire, where they were greeted with the wildest hilarity and overwhelmed with food and banter.
"Did you people ever hear of the man who bought a fifty-dollar coon dog, took him out to hunt the first night, almost cried because he thought he had lost him down a sink hole, hunted all night for him, came home in the daylight and found pup asleep under the kitchen stove?" demanded David as he filled two long glasses with a simmering decoction, from which arose the aroma of baked apples, spices, and some of the major's eighty-six corn heart. "Caroline is my point to my little story. Have you two been sitting in Mrs. Matilda's car or mine, or did you roost for a time on the fence over there in the dark?"
"Please, David, please hush and give me a bird and a biscuit—I'm hungry," answered Caroline as she sank on a cushion beside Mrs. Buchanan.
"According to the ink slingers of all times you ought not to be; but Andy has already got outside of two sandwiches, so I suppose you are due one small bird. That cake is grand, beautiful. I've put it away to eat all by myself to-morrow. Andrew Sevier doesn't need any. He wouldn't know cake from corn-pone—he's moonstruck."
Just at this point a well-aimed pine-cone glanced off David's collar and he settled down to the business in hand, which was the disposal of a bursting and perfectly hot potato, handed fresh from the coals by the attentive Jeff.
And it was more than an hour later that the tired hunters wended their way back to the city. Polly was so sleepy that she could hardly sit her horse and was in a subdued and utterly fascinating mood, with which she did an irreparable amount of damage to the stranger within her gates as she rode along the moonlit pike, and for which she had later to make answer. The woman's champion dozed in the tonneau and only David had the spirit to sing as they whirled along.
Hadn't Phoebe stirred the sugar into his cup of coffee and then in an absolutely absent-minded manner tasted it before she had come around the fire to hand it to him? It had been a standing argument between them for years as to a man's right to this small attention, which they both teased Mrs. Matilda for bestowing upon the major. It was an insignificant, inconsequent little ceremony in itself but it fired a train in David's mind, made for healing the wound in his heart and brought its consequences. Another reconstruction campaign began to shape its policy in the mind of David Kildare which had to do with the molding of the destiny of the high-headed young woman of his affections, rather than with the amelioration of conditions in his native city. So, high and clear he sang the call of the mocking-bird with its ecstasies and its minors.
But late as it was, after he had landed his guests at their doors, he had a long talk over the phone with the clerk of his headquarters and sent a half-dozen telegrams before he turned into his room. When he switched on his lights he saw that Andrew stood by the window looking out into the night. His face was so drawn and white as he turned that David started and reached out to lay a hand on his shoulder.
"Dave," he said, "I'm a blackguard and a coward—don't touch me!"
"What is it, Andrew?" asked David as he laid his arm across the tense shoulders.
"I thought I was strong and dared to stay—now I know I'm a coward and couldn't go. I'll have to sneak away and leave her—hurt!" His voice was low and toned with an unspeakable scorn of himself.
"Andy," asked David, as he swung him around to face him, "was Caroline Darrah too much for you—and the moon?"
"There's nothing to say about it, David, nothing! I have only made it hard for her: and killed myself for myself forever. She's a child and she'll forget. You'll see to her, won't you?"
"What are you going to do now?" asked David sternly.
"Cut and run—cowards always do," answered Andrew bitterly. "I am going to stay and see you through this election, for it's too late to turn the press matters over to any one else—and I'm going to pray to find some way to make it easier for her before I leave her. I'm afraid some day she'll find out—and not understand why I went."
"Why do you go, Andrew?" asked David as he faced this friend with compelling eyes. "If it's pride that takes you, better give it up! It's deadly for you both, for she's more of a woman than you think—she'll suffer."
"David, do you think she would have me if she knew what I put aside to take her—and his millions? Could Peters Brown's heiress ever have anything but contempt for me? When it comes to her she must understand—and not think I held it against her!"
"Tell her, Andrew; let her decide! It's her right now!"
"Never," answered Andrew passionately. "She is just beginning to lose some of her sensitiveness among us and this is the worst of all the things she has felt were between her and her people. It is the only thing he covered and hid from her. I'll never tell her—I'll go—and she will forget!" In his voice there was the note of finality that is unmistakable from man to man. He turned toward his room as he finished speaking.
"Then, boy," said David as he held him back for a second in the bend of his arm, a tenderness in voice and clasp, "go if you must; but we've three days yet. The gods can get mighty busy in that many hours if they pull on a woman's side—which they always do. Good night!"
LOVE'S HOME AND ANDREW SEVIER
And the Sabbath quiet which had descended on the frost-jeweled city the morning after the hunt found the Buchanan household still deep in close-shuttered sleep. Their fatigue demanded and was having its way in the processes of recuperation and they all slept on serenely.
Only Caroline Darrah was astir with the first deep notes of the early morning bells. Her awaking had come with a rush of pure, bubbling, unalloyed joy which turned her cheeks the hue of the rose, starred her eyes and melted her lips into heavenly curves. In her exquisite innocence it never dawned upon her that the moments spent in Andrew's arms under the winter moon were any but those of rapturous betrothal and her love had flowered in confident happiness. It was well that she caught across the distance no hint of the battle that was being waged in the heart of Andrew Sevier, for the man in him fought (for her) with what he deemed his honor, almost to the death—but not quite, for some men hold as honor that which is strong sinewed with self-control, red blooded with courage, infiltrated with pride and ruthlessly cruel.
And so Caroline hummed David's little serenade to herself as she dressed without Annette's assistance and smiled at her own radiance reflected at her from her mirrors. She had just completed a most ravishing church toilet when she heard the major's door close softly and she knew that now she would find him before his logs awaiting breakfast.
She blushed another tone more rosy and her eyes grew shy at the very thought of meeting his keen eyes that always quizzed her with such delight after one of her initiations into the sports or gaieties of this new country. But assuming her courage with her prayer-book, she softly descended the stairs, crossed the hall and stood beside his chair with a laugh of greeting.
"Well," he demanded delightedly though in a guarded tone with a glance up as if at Mrs. Matilda's and Phoebe's closed doors, "did you catch your possum?"
"Yes—that is—no! I didn't, but somebody did I think," she answered with delicious confusion in both tone and appearance.
"Caroline Darrah," demanded the major, "do you mean to tell me that there is no certainty of anybody's having got a result from a foray of the magnitude of that last night? Didn't you even see a possum?"
"No, I didn't; but I know they caught some—David said so," answered Caroline in a reassuring voice.
"Caroline," again demanded the major relentlessly, having already had his suspicions aroused by her confusion and blushes, "where were you when David Kildare caught those beasts that you didn't see one?"
"I was—was lost," she answered, and it surprised him that she didn't put one rosy finger-tip into her mouth, so very young was her further confusion.
"Alone?" The major made his demand without mercy.
"No, sir, with Mr. Sevier—why, aren't you going to have breakfast, Major, it is almost church time?" and Caroline rallied her domestic dignity to her support as she escaped toward Temple's domain.
And the flush of joy that had flamed in her cheeks had lighted a glow in the major's weather-tanned old face and his eyes fairly snapped with light. Could it be that the boy had reached out for his atonement? Could it be—he heard the front door close as the first church bell struck a deep note and at that moment Jeff announced his breakfast as ready in a voice of the deepest exhaustion.
And when Caroline emerged from the still darkened house into the crisp air she found Andrew Sevier standing on the front steps waiting to walk into church with her.
Her smile of shy joy as she held out her hand to him warmed his somber eyes for the moment.
"They are all asleep," she whispered as if even from the street there was danger of awakening the tired hunting party. "The major is keeping it quiet for them."
"And you ought to be asleep, too," he answered as they started off at a brisk pace down the avenue.
"You weren't," she laughed up at him, and then dropped her eyes shyly. "I always go to church," she added demurely.
"And I suppose I counted on your habit," he said, utterly unable to control the tenderness in voice or glance.
"I wanted you to go with me to-day—I hoped you would though you never have," she answered him with a divine seriousness in her lifted eyes. "They are all coming to dinner and then you'll go to the office, so I hoped about this morning." She was utterly lovely in her gentleness and a strange peace fell into the troubled heart of the man at her side.
And it followed him into the dim church and made the hour he sat at her side one of holy healing. Once as they knelt together during the service she slipped her gloved hand into his for an instant and from its warmth there flowed a strength of which he stood in dire need and from which he drew courage to go on for the few days remaining before his exile. Just to protect her, he prayed, and leave her unhurt, and he failed to see that the humility and blindness of a great love were leading him into the perpetration of a great cruelty, to the undoing of them both.
Then in the long days that followed so hunted was he by his love of her that that one hour of peace in the Sunday morning was all he dared give himself with her. And in her gentle trustfulness it was not hard to make his excuses, for the Monday morning brought the strenuosity in the career of David Kildare to a state of absolute acuteness.
To the candidate the three days were as ten years crowded into as many hours. Down at his headquarters in the Gray Picket rooms he stood firm and met wave after wave of fluctuating excitement that surged around him with his head up, a ring in his laugh and an almost superhuman tact.
As late as Wednesday noon there appeared before him three excited Anti-Saloon League matrons with plans to put committees of ladies at all the polls to hand out lemonade and entreaties—perhaps threats—to the voters as they exercised their civic function. They had planned banners with "Shall The Saloon Have My Boy?" in large letters thereon inscribed and they were morally certain that without the carrying out of their plan the day would be lost. It took David Kildare one hour and a quarter to persuade them that it would be better to have a temperance rally at the theater on Wednesday night at which each of the three should make most convincing speeches to the assembled women of the city, thereby furnishing arguments to their sisters with which to start the men to the polls next day.
He promised to come and make a short opening speech and they left him with their plans changed but their enthusiasm augmented. David sank into a chair and mopped his shining brow. The major had been witness to the encounter from the editorial desk and Cap Cantrell was bent double with laughter behind a pile of papers he was searching for data for Andrew.
"I'm all in, Major," said David faintly. "Just pick up the pieces in a basket."
"David, sir," said the major, "your conduct of that onslaught was masterly! If the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world why not the hand that flips the batter-cake rock the ballot-box—cradle out of date? That's a little mixed but pertinent. I'm for letting them have the try. They're only crying because they think we don't want 'em to have it—maybe they'll go back to the cradle and rock all the better for being free citizens!"
"And not a cussed one of those three old lady cats has ever shown a kitten!" exploded Cap from behind his pile of papers.
"Anyway, the worst is over now—must be!" answered David as he began to read over some bulletins and telegrams. But he had troubles yet to come. In the next two hours he had a conference with the head of the chamber of commerce which heated his blood to the boiling-point and brought forth an ultimatum, delivered in no uncertain terms but with such perfect courtesy and clean-sightedness that the gentleman departed in haste to look into certain matters which he now suspected to have been cooked to lead him astray.
This event had been followed by the advent of five of the old fellows who had obtained furloughs and ridden in from the Soldiers' Home for the express purpose of assuring him of their support, as the vindicator of their honor, wringing his hand and cheering on the fight. They retired with Cap into the back room and emerged shortly, beaming and refreshed. They had no votes to cast in the city, but what matter?
On their heels, Mike O'Rourke rushed in with two budgets of false registrations which he had been able to ferret out by the aid of the drivers of his grocery wagons. He embraced David, exchanged shots with the major, and departed in high spirits. Then quiet came to the Gray Picket for a time and Kildare plunged into his papers with desperation.
"David," called the major after a very few minutes of peace, "here's a call for you on the desk. You'll recognize the number—remember, a firm hand, sir—a firm hand!" with which he collected his hat, coat, and the captain and took his departure, leaving David for the moment alone in the editorial rooms.
He sat for a few moments before the receiver and twisted the call slip around one of his fingers. In a moment the affairs of state and the destiny of the city slipped from his shoulders and his mind took up the details of another problem.
The contest for the judgeship was not the only one David Kildare had taken upon himself—the second was being waged in the secret chambers of two hearts, one proud, exacting and unconvinced, the other determined and at last thoroughly aroused. Phoebe had brought the crisis on herself and she was beginning to realize that the duel would be to the death or complete surrender.
And in the preliminaries, which had been begun on the Saturday night hunt and carried on for the last three days, David Kildare had failed to make a single false move. His natural and inevitable absorption in his race for the judgeship had served to keep him from forcing a single issue; and Phoebe had had time to do a little lonely, unpursued thinking.
He had been entirely too clever to arouse her pride against him by a suspicion of neglect in his attitude. His usual attentions were all offered and a new one or two contrived. He sent Eph to report to her with his electric every afternoon—she understood that he was unable by the exigencies of the case to come himself to take her to keep her appointments as was his custom. Her flowers were just as thoughtfully selected and sent with the gayest little notes, as like as possible to the ones that had been coming to her for years. He ordered in an unusually large basket of eggs from the farm and managed to find a complicated arrangement of rope and pulleys, the manipulation of which for an hour or more daily was warranted to add to or detract from the stature of man or woman, according to the desire of the dissatisfied individual. His note with the instrument was a scintillating skit and was answered in kind. But through it all Phoebe was undoubtedly lonely. This call, the second since Saturday and the second in the history of their joint existences, betrayed her to the now wily David more than she realized—perhaps!
He took down the receiver and got the connection.
"That you—dear?" David managed a casual voice with difficulty.
"Yes, David," came in a voice that fairly radiated across the city. "I only wanted to ask how it goes."
"Fine—with a rip! But you never can tell—about anything. I'm a Presbyterian and I'll die in doubt of my election. I'm learning not to count on—things." His voice carried a mournful note that utterly belied his radiant face. David was enjoying himself to almost the mortal limit!
"David," there was a perceptible pause—"you—there is one thing you can always count on—isn't there—me?" The voice was very gallant but also slightly palpitating. David almost lost his head but hung on tight and came up right side.
"Some," he answered, which reply, in the light of an extremely modern use of the word combined with the legitimate, was calculated to bring conclusion. Then he hurried another offering on to the wire.
"How long are you going to be at home?" he asked—another dastardly tantalization.
"I—I don't know exactly," she parried quickly. "Why?" and this from Phoebe who had always granted interviews like a queen gives jewels! David somewhere found the courage to lay a firm hand on himself. With just a few more blows the citadel was his! His own heart writhed and the uncertainty made him quake internally.
"I wish I could come over, but there are two committees waiting in the other room for me. Do you—" a clash and buzz hummed over the wire into the receiver. There was a jangle and tangle and a rough man's voice cut in with, "Working on the wires, hang up, please," and David limply hung up the receiver and collapsed in solitude, for his committees had been evoked out of thin air.
His state of mind was positively abject. His years-old tenderness welled up in his heart and flooded to his eyes—the dash and the pluck of her! He reached for his hat, then hesitated; it was election eve and in two hours he was due to address the congregation of griddle-cake discontents on how to make men vote like ladies.
A call boy hurried in by way of a fortunate distraction and handed in a budget of papers. David spread them out before him. They were from Susie Carrie of the strong brush and the Civic Improvement League, containing Sketches and specifications for the drinking fountains already pledged, and a request for an early institution of legislation on the play-ground proposition. Such a small thing as an uncertain election failed to daunt the artistic fervor of Susie Carrie's fertile brain or to deter her from making demands, however premature, on David the sympathetic.
And David Kildare dropped his head on the papers and groaned. The Vision of a life-work rose up and menaced him and the words "sweat of his brow" for the first time took on a concrete meaning. Such a good, old, care-free existence he was losing, and—he seized his hat and fled to the refreshment of bath, food and fresh raiment.
And on his way home he stopped in for a word with the major, whom he found tired and on his way to take as much as he could of his usual nap. He was seated in his chair by the table and Caroline Darrah sat near him, listening eagerly to his story of some of the events in the day's campaign. She rose as David entered and held out her hand to him with a smile.
Every time David had looked at Caroline Darrah for the few days past a sharp pain had cut into his heart and this afternoon she was so radiantly lovely with sympathy and interest that for a moment he stood looking at her with his eyes full of tenderness. Then he managed a bantering smile and backed away a step or two from her, his hands behind him.
"No, you don't, beautiful," David sometimes ventured on Phoebe's name for the girl, "you are so sweet in that frock that I'm afraid if I touch you I'll stick. Somebody ought to label such a lollypop as you dangerous. Call her off, Major!"
The major laughed at Caroline's blush and laid his fingers over her hand that rested on the corner of the table near him.
"David," he said, "girls are confections to which it is good for a man to forsake all others and cling—but not to gobble. Matilda, recount to David Kildare your plans for the night of the election. I wish to witness his joy."
"Oh, yes, I've been wanting to tell you about it for two days, David, dear," answered Mrs. Buchanan from her chair over by the window where she was busily engaged in checking names off a long list with a pencil. "We are going to have a reception at the University Club so everybody can come and congratulate you the night of the election. Mrs. Shelby and I thought it up and of course we had to speak to one of the house committee about the arrangements, and who do you think the member was—Billy Bob! I just talked on and didn't notice Mrs. Shelby and finally he was so nice and deferential to her that she talked some, too. She almost started to shake hands with him when we left. I was so glad. I feel that it is going to be a delightful success in every way. Please be thinking up a nice speech to make."
"Oh, wait," groaned David Kildare, "if I begin now I will have to think double, one for election and one for defeat. Last night I dreamed about a black cat that was minus a left eye and limped in the right hind leg. Jeff almost cried when I told him about it. He hasn't smiled since."
"I told Tempie to put less pepper in those chicken croquettes last night—I saw Phoebe's light burning until two o'clock and heard her and Caroline laughing and talking even after that. The major was so nervous that he was up and dressed at six o'clock. I must see that all of you get simpler food—your nerves will suffer. Major, suppose you don't eat much dinner—just have a little milk toast. I'll see Tempie about it now!" and Mrs. Buchanan departed after bestowing a glance, in which was a conviction of dyspepsia, upon all three of them.
"Now, David Kildare, see what you've done with your black-cat crawlings! I'll have to eat that toast—see if I don't! I've consumed it with a smile during stated periods for thirty years. Yes, girl-love is a kind of cup-custard, but wife-love is bread and butter—milk toast, for instance—bless her! But I am hungry!" The major's expression was a tragedy.
"I'm going to try and beg you off, Major, dear," said Caroline Darrah, and she hurried after Mrs. Matilda into Tempie's domain.
"Major," said David as he gazed after the girl, "when I look at her I feel cold all over, then hot-mad! He's going to-morrow night on the midnight train—and she doesn't know! I can't even talk to him about it—he looks like a dead man and works like a demon. I don't know what to do!"
"David," said the major slowly as he pressed the tips of his long lean fingers together and regarded them intently, "how love, tender wise love, love that is fed on heart's blood and lives by soul-breath, can go deaf, blind, dumb, halt, broken-winged, idiotic and mortally cruel is more than I can see. God Almighty comfort him when he finds what he has done!"
"And if she does find it out she won't understand," exclaimed David.
"No," answered the major, "she doesn't even suspect anything. She thinks it is the press of his work that keeps him away from her. The child carries about with her that aura of transport that only an acknowledgment from a lover can give a woman. I had hoped that he had seen some way—I couldn't ask! I wonder—"
"Yes, Major," interrupted David quickly, and he winced as he spoke, "it happened on the hunt Saturday evening. They climbed the bluff and watched the hunt from a distance and I saw how it was the minute they came back to the campfire. I saw it and I was just jolly happy over it even to the tune of Phoebe's sulks—I thought it was all right, and I wish you could have seen him. His head was up and his eyes danced and he gave up almost the first real laugh I ever heard from him, when I teased her about getting lost. As I looked at him I thought about the other, your glad Andrew, Major, and I was happy all in a shot for you, because I thought you were going to get back something of what you'd lost. It all seemed so good!"
"There's been joy in the boy's eyes, joy and sorrow waging a war for weeks, David, and I've had to sit by and watch, powerless to help him. Yes, his very father himself has looked out of his eyes at me for moments and I—well I had hoped. Are you sure he is going?" As the major asked the question his brows knotted themselves together as if to hide the pain in his eyes.
"Yes, he's going and he catches the next tramp steamer for Panama from Savannah. I wish she would suspect something and force it from him. It's strange she doesn't," answered David despondently.
"Caroline Darrah belongs to the order of humble women whose love feeds on a glance and can be sustained on a crumb—another class demands a banquet full spread and always ready. You'll be careful, boy, don't—don't diet Phoebe too long!" The major eyed David anxiously across the light.
"Heavens, I'm your reconcentrado! Major, I feel as if I'd been shut up down cellar in the cold without the breath of life for a year. It's only three days and thirteen hours and a half; but I'm all in. I go dead without her—believe I'll telephone her now!" And David reached for the receiver that stood on the major's table.
"Now, David," said the major, restraining his eager hand and smiling through his sadness, "don't try to gather your grapes over the phone! I judge they are ripe, but they still hang high—they always will! Look at the clock!"
David took one look at the staid old mahogany timepiece, which the major had had brought in from Seven Oaks and placed in the corner opposite his table, and took his departure.
And after he had gone the major retired to his room to lie down for as much of his allotted rest as he could obtain. Seeing him safely settled, Mrs. Buchanan went over for a short visit with Mrs. Shelby next door. Mrs. Matilda stuck to the irate grandmother through thick and thin and in her affectionate heart she had hopes of bringing about the much to be desired reconciliation. She was the only person in the city who dared mention Milly or the babies to the old lady and even in her unsophistication she suspected that the details she supplied with determined intrepidity fed a hunger in the lonely old heart. Her pilgrimage next door was a daily one and never neglected.
Thus left alone Caroline Darrah was partaking of a solitary cup of tea, which was being served her by Tempie in all the gorgeousness of a new white lace-trimmed and beruffled apron which Caroline had made for her as near as possible like the dainty garments affected by the French shop-clad Annette, who was Temple's special ally and admirer, when Mrs. Cherry Lawrence, in full regalia, descended upon her. Tempie walled her black eyes and departed with dignity for an extra cup.
The major was fast asleep, David Kildare in the processes of bath and toilet, Phoebe at her desk down-town and Mrs. Matilda away on her mission, and thus it happened that nobody was near to fend the blight from the flower of their anxious cherishing.
"Yes, indeed, it is a time of anxiety," Mrs. Cherry agreed with Caroline as she crushed the lemon in her tea. "I shall be glad when it is over. I feel that we all are making the utmost sacrifices for this election of David Kildare's, and he's such a boy that he probably will make a perfectly impossible judge. He never takes anything seriously enough to accomplish much. It's well for him that no one expects anything from him."
"Oh, but I'm sure he's taking this seriously," exclaimed Caroline Darrah with a little gleam of dismay in her eyes. "His race has been an exceptional one whether he wins or not. The major says so and the other day Mr. Sevier told me—" At the mention of Andrew Sevier's name Mrs. Cherry glanced around and an ugly little gleam came into her eyes.
"Oh, of course Andrew Sevier is too loyal to admit any criticism of David to a stranger," she said with a slight emphasis on the word and a cold glance at Caroline Darrah.
"But he wasn't talking to a stranger, he was talking just to me," said Caroline quickly, not even seeing the dart aimed.
"You are so sweet, dear!" purred Mrs. Cherry. "Under the circumstances it is so gracious of you not to feel yourself a stranger with us all and especially with Andrew Sevier. Of course it would have been impossible for him always to have avoided you and it was just like his generosity—"
"Miss Ca'line, honey," came in a decided voice from the doorway, "that custard you is a-making for the major's supper is actin' curisome around the aiges. Please, ma'am, come and see ter it a minute!"
"Oh, excuse me just a second," exclaimed Caroline Darrah to Mrs. Cherry as she rose with alarm in her housewifely heart and hurried past Tempie down the hall.
An instinct engendered by her love for Caroline Darrah had led Tempie to notice and resent something in Mrs. Lawrence's manner to the child on several previous occasions and to-day she had felt no scruples about remaining behind the curtains well within ear-shot of the conversations. Her knowledge of, and participation in, the Buchanan family affairs, past and present and future, was an inheritance of several generations and she never hesitated to assert her privileges.
"Lady," she said in a cool soft voice as she squared herself in the doorway and looked Mrs. Lawrence directly in the face, "you is a rich white woman and I's a poor nigger, but ef you had er secceeded in a-putting that thare devil's tale into my young mistess's head they would er been that 'twixt you and me that we never would er forgot; and there wouldn't a-been more'n a rag left of that dead-husband-bought frock what you've got on. Now 'fore I fergits myself I axes you out the front door—and I'm a-fergittin' fast."
And as she faced the domineering woman in her trappings of fashion all the humble blood in the negro's veins, which had come down to her from the forewomen who had cradled on their black breasts the mothers of such as Caroline Darrah, was turned into the jungle passion for defense of this slight white thing that was the child of her heart if not of her body. The danger of it made Mrs. Lawrence fairly quail, and, white with fright, she gathered her rich furs about her and fled just as Caroline Darrah's returning footsteps were heard in the hall.
"Why, where did Mrs. Lawrence go, Tempie?" she demanded in astonishment. Tempie had just the moment in which to rally herself but she had accomplished the feat, though her eyes still rolled ominously.
"She 'membered something what she forgot and had ter hurry. She lef' scuses fer you," and Tempie busied herself with the cups and tray.
"She was beginning to say something queer to me, Tempie, when you came in. It was about Mr. Sevier and I didn't understand. I almost felt that she was being disagreeable to me and it frightened me—about him. I—"
"Law, I spects you is mistook, chile, an' if it war anything she jest wants him herself and was a-laying out ter tell you some enflirtment she had been a-trying ter have with him. Don't pay no 'tention to it." By this time she had regained her composure and was able to reassure Caroline with her usual positiveness to which she added an amount of worldly tact in substituting a highly disturbing thought in place of the dangerous one.
"Do you really think she can be in love with—with him, Tempie?" demanded Caroline Darrah, wide-eyed with astonishment. She was entirely diverted from any desire to follow out or weigh Mrs. Lawrence's remark to her by the wiliness of the experienced Tempie.
"They ain't no telling what widder women out fer number twos will do," answered Tempie sagely. "Now, you run and let Miss Annette put that blue frock on you 'fore dinner. In times of disturbance like these here women oughter fix theyselves up so as ter 'tice the men ter eat a little at meal times. Ain't I done put on this white apron ter try and git that no 'count Jefferson jest ter take notice a little uv his vittals. Now go on, honey—it's late."
And thus the love of the old negro had taken away the only chance given Caroline Darrah to learn the facts of the grim story, from the knowledge of which she might have worked out salvation for her lover and herself.
An hour later as they were being served the soup by the absorbed and inattentive Jeff, Mrs. Matilda laid down her spoon and said to Caroline anxiously:
"I wish Phoebe had come out to-night. I asked her but she said she was too busy. She looked tired. Do you suppose she could be ill?"
"Yes," answered the major dryly, "I feel sure that Phoebe is ill. She is at present, I should judge, suffering with a malady which she has had for some time but which is about to reach the acute stage. It needs judicious ignoring so let's not mention it to her for the present."
"I understand what you mean, Major," answered his wife with delighted eyes, "and I won't say a word about it. It will be such a help to David to have a wife when he is the judge. How long will it be before he can be the governor, dear?"
"That depends on the wife, Mrs. Buchanan, to a large extent," answered the major with a delighted smile.
"Oh, Phoebe will want him to do things," said Mrs. Matilda positively.
"No doubt of that," the major replied. "I see David Kildare slated for the full life from now on—eh, Caroline?"
And the major had judged Phoebe's situation perhaps more rightly than he realized, for while David led the vote-directors' rally at the theater and later was closeted with Andrew for hours over the last editorial appeal in the morning Journal, Phoebe sat before her desk in her own little down-town home. Mammy Kitty was snoring away like a peaceful watch-dog on her cot in the dressing-room and the whole apartment was dark save for the shaded desk-light.
The time and place were fitting and Phoebe was summoning her visions—and facing her realities. Down the years came sauntering the nonchalant figure of David Kildare. He had asked her to marry him that awful, lonely, sixteenth birthday and he had asked her the same thing every year of all the succeeding ten—and a number of times in between. Phoebe squared herself to her reviewing self and admitted that she had cared for him then and ever since—cared for him, but had starved his tenderness and in the lover had left unsought the man. But she was clear-sighted enough to know that the handsome easy-going boy, who had wooed with a smile and taken rebuff with a laugh, was not the steady-eyed forceful man who now faced her. He stood at the door of a life that stretched away into long vistas, and now he would demand. Phoebe bowed her head on her hands—suppose he should not demand!
And so in the watches of the night the siege was raised and Phoebe, the dauntless, brilliant, arrogant Phoebe had capitulated. No love-lorn woman of the ages ever palpitated more thoroughly at the thought of her lover than did she as she kept vigil with David across the city.
But there were articles of capitulation yet to be signed and the ceremony of surrender to come.
ACROSS THE MANY WATERS
And the day of the election arrived next morning and brought cold clouds shot through with occasional gleams of pale sunshine, only to be followed by light but threatening flurries of snow.
All through the Sunday night David had sat over in the editorial rooms of the Journal beside Andrew Sevier, talking, writing and sometimes silent with unexpressed sympathy, for as the last sheets of his editorial work slipped through his fingers Andrew grew white and austere. Once for a half-hour they talked about his business affairs and he turned over a bundle of papers to David and discussed the investment of the money that had come from his heavy royalties for the play now running, and the thousands paid in advance for the new drama.
As David ran carefully through them to see that they were in order for him to handle, Andrew turned to his desk and wrote rapidly for some minutes, then sealed a letter and laid it aside. After he had read the last batch of proof from the composing-room he turned to David and with a quiet look handed him the letter which was directed to Caroline Darrah.
"If she ever finds out give her this letter, please. It will make her understand why I go, I hope. I can't talk to you about it but I want to ask you, man to man, to look after her. Dave, I leave her to your care—and Phoebe's." And his rich voice was composed into an utter sadness.
"The work here and the night are both over, let's go down to headquarters," he added, and like two boys, with hands tight gripped, they passed out into the winter street.
Down at the Gray Picket they found some of David's ardent supporters still fresh and enthusiastic though they had been making a night of it. Soon waves of excitement were rising and falling all over the city and the streets were thronged with men from out through the county.
At an early hour heavy wagons moved with the measured tread of blind tigers and deposited blind tiger kittens, done up in innocent and deceptive looking crates, at numbers of discreet alley covers near the polls. At the machine headquarters rotund and blooming gentlemen grouped and dissolved and grouped again, during which process wads of greenbacks unrolled and flashed with insolent carelessness. The situation was and had been desperate and this last stand must be brought through for the whisky interest, come high as it would.
And so through the morning, delegations kept dropping in to David's headquarters to keep up the spirits of the candidate and incidentally to have their own raised. There were ugly rumors coming from the polls. The police were machine instruments and the back door of every saloon in the city was wide open, while a repeating vote was plainly indicated by crowds of floaters who drifted from ward to ward. The faces of the bosses were discreetly radiant.
"Lord, David," groaned Cap Cantrell, "they're turning loose kegs of boodle and barrels of booze—we'll never beat 'em in the world! They've got this city tied up and thrown to the dogs! What's the use of—"
"David," exclaimed the major excitedly, "we're in for a rally, and look at them!"
Down the street they came, the news kiddies, a hundred strong, led by Phoebe's freckle-faced red-headed devil whose mouth stretched from ear to ear with a grin. They carried huge poster banners and their inscriptions were in a language of their own, emblazoned in ink-pot script.
"I LOVE MY DAVE—BUT JUMP!" meant much to them but failed to elucidate the fact that they were referring to the gift of a flatboat, canvased for a swimming booth which David had had moored at the foot of the bridge during the dog days of the previous summer so that they might have a joyous dip in the river between editions. He had gone down himself occasionally for a frolic with them and "Jump!" had been the signal for the push-off of any timid diver.
He shouted with glee when he read the skit—he was taking his high dive in life.
"RUN, DAVE, RUN—TIGER'S LOOSE—NIT!" was another witticism and a crooked pole bore aloft these words, "JUDGE DAVID KILDARE SOAKS OLD BOOZE THE FIRST ROUND!"
They lined up in front of the headquarters and gave a shrill cheer that made up in enthusiasm for what it lacked in volume. They took a few words of banter from the candidate in lieu of a speech and paraded off around the city, spending much time in front of the camp of the opposition and indulging in as much of derisive vituperation as they dared.
They were followed by another picturesque visitation. A dignified old colored man brought twenty pathetic little pickaninnies from the orphans' home, to which, the men at headquarters learned for the first time, David Kildare had given the modest building that sheltered the waifs. Decidedly, murder will out, and there come times when the left and right hands of a man are forced into confession to each other about their most secret actions. A political campaign is apt to bring such a situation into the lives of the aspiring candidates. The little coons set up a musical wail that passed for a cheer and marched away munching the contents of a huge box of candy that Polly had sent down to headquarters the night before, such being her idea of a flagon with which to stay the courage of the contestants.
And through it all, the consultation of the leaders, the falling hopes of the poll scouts, the gradual depression that crept over the spirits of the major and Cap and the rest of his near supports, David was a solid tower of strength.
Then during the day the tension became tight and tighter, for how the fight was going exactly no one could tell and it seemed well-nigh impossible to stop the vote steal that was going on all over the city, protected by the organized government. Defeat seemed inevitable.
So at six o'clock the disgusted Cap picked up his hat and started home and to the astonishment of the whole headquarters David Kildare calmly rose and followed him without a word to the others, who failed to realize that he had deserted until he was entirely gone. Billy Bob looked dashed with amazement, Hobson sat down limply in the deserted chair, Tom whistled—but the major looked at them with a quizzical smile which was for a second reflected in Andrew Sevier's face.
Phoebe sat in Milly's little nursery in the failing winter light which was augmented by the glow from the fire of coals.
Little Billy Bob stood at her side within the circle of her arm, his head against her shoulder and his eyes wide with a delicious horror as he gazed upon a calico book whose pages were brilliant with the tragedy of the three bears, which she was reading very slowly and with many explanatory annotations. Crimie balanced himself against her knee and beat with a spoon against the back of the book and whooped up the situation in every bubbly way possible to his lack of classified vocabulary. Milly and Mammy Betty were absorbed in the domestic regions so Phoebe had them all to herself—all four, for the twins lay cuddled asleep in their crib near by.
And though Phoebe had herself well in hand, her mind would wander occasionally from the history of the bruins to which Mistake patiently recalled her by a clamor for, "More, Phoebe, more."
In a hurried response to one of his goads she failed to hear a step in the hall for which she had been telling herself that she had not been listening for two hours or more, and David Kildare stood in the doorway, the firelight full on his face.
It was not a triumphant David with his judiciary honors full upon him and gubernational, senatorial, ambassadorial and presidential astral shapes manifesting themselves in dim perspective; it was just old whimsical David, tender of smile and loving though bantering of eye, albeit a somewhat pale and exhausted edition.
"Phoebe," he said with a low laugh, "nobody wants Dave—for anything!"
And it was then that the fire that had been lighted in the heart of Phoebe in her night watch blazed up into her face as she held out her arms to him! And in the twinkle of a fire-spark David found himself on his knees, with Phoebe, the low chintz-covered chair and the two kiddies clasped to his heart.
For a glorious moment he held them all close and his head rested on Phoebe's shoulder just opposite that of Mistake, while Crimie squirmed between them. Then he discovered that he was gazing under her chin into the wide-open, slightly resentful orbs of Big Brother, who eyed him a moment askance, then, feeling it time to assert himself, reached up and landed a plainly proprietary and challenging kiss against the corner of his lady's mouth.
David laughed delightedly and embraced the trio with greater force as he said propitiatingly, "Good snugglings, isn't it, old man?"
But at this exact moment Crimie took the situation into his own hands, slipped his cable, grabbed the book as he went and rolled over a couple of yards with a delighted giggle. Billy Bob, seeing his treasure captured, instantly followed and there forthwith ensued a tussle that was the height of delight to the two good-natured youngsters.
And Phoebe's arms closed around David more closely as she held him embraced against her shoulder, her soft cheek on his.
"Dave," she whispered, "you know I really don't care at all, don't you?"
"What?" demanded David with alarm in his voice as he raised his head and looked at her in consternation.
"The election makes no—"
"Oh, that—I'd forgotten all about it! Don't scare me like that any more, peach-bud, please," he besought and he took her chin in the hollow of his hand as she leant to him, her eyes looking into his, level and confident but glorious with bestowal. For a long minute he gazed straight into their dawn-gray depths then he said gently, the caress suspended:
"Woman, if you are ever going to take any of this back, do it now!"
"Never," she answered and clasped her hands against his breast.
"It's still the loafer out of a job—just Dave-do-nothing," he insisted, a new dignity in his voice that stirred her pride.
"Please!" she closed her eyes as she entreated.
"It's for a long time—always." His voice was heaven-sweet with its note of warning and he laid his other strong warm hand on her throat where a controlled sob made it pulse.
"I'm being very patient," she whispered and her lips quivered with a smile as two tears jeweled her black lashes.
But David had made his last stand—he folded her in, locked his heart and threw away the key.
"Love," he whispered after a long time, "I know this is just a dream—I've had 'em for ten years—but don't let anybody wake me!"
To which plea Phoebe was making the tenderest of responses, when the door burst open and Billy Bob shot into the room.
"Hip! hip!" he yelled at the top of his voice, "six hundred and ten plurality and all from the two coon wards—count all in and verified—no difference now how the others go and—" He paused and the situation dawned upon him all in a heap as Phoebe hid her head against David's collar. "Davie," he remarked in subdued tones, "you're 'lected, but I don't s'pose you care!"
"Go away, Billy Bob, don't you see I'm busy?" answered David as he rose to his feet, keeping Phoebe still embraced as she stood beside him.
"Jerusalem the Golden! Have you cornered heaven, David?" gasped Billy Bob again rising to the surface. "Help, somebody, help!" At which exact minute Mistake succeeded in dispossessing Crimie of the last tatters of the adventures of the bears and thus bringing down upon them all a tumult of distraction.
Billy Bob caught up the roarer and threw him almost up to the ceiling. "Hurrah for Dave!" he said, and to the best of his ability Crimie "hurrahed" while Mistake joined in enthusiastically. The hubbub at last penetrated the slumbers of the twins, who added to the uproar to such an extent that Mammy Betty hurried to the scene of action and cleared the deck without further delay.
"And," continued Billy Bob to Milly and the pair of serene and only slightly attentive young people, "you should have seen Jeff, dressed in Dave's last year frock coat and high hat, whizzing around the coon haunts in Caroline's gray car handing out invitations to the Chocolate Country Club jamboree! They put the bottle and the dimes completely out of business and he voted the whole gang straight. They tried hard to fix up the returns but Hob and I were at the count and we saw it clean. Holy smoke, what a sell for the machine! Slipped a cog on the nigger vote that they have handled for years!"
"And not a dollar spent!" said David with pride. Which goes to show that at times women keep their own counsels, for Phoebe ducked her head to hide a smile.
"And now it's up to you to hurry and get to the University Club by eight-thirty. You are to address the populace and two brass bands from the northeast window at nine sharp—two extras out announcing it. Everybody has been looking for you an hour, you old moon-spooner, you!" urged Billy Bob.
"They can keep up the hunt—Phoebe and I are going—well, we are going where nobody can find us for this evening anyway," answered David with danger in his eyes.