"Snow is the only picture part of winter," said Carey. "Do you remember the story of the Snow Princess?"
"You must have a wonderful memory!" he exclaimed. "You were only six years old when I told you that story."
"I have a very vivid memory," she replied. "Sometimes it almost frightens me."
"Do you know," he said, "that I think people that have dreams and fancies do look backward farther than matter-of-fact people, who let things out of sight go out of mind?"
"You were full of dreams then, but I don't believe you are now. Of course, politicians have no time or inclination for dreams."
"No; they usually have a dread of dreams. Would you rather have found me still a dreamer?" he asked, looking down into her dark eyes, which drooped beneath the intensity of his gaze.
Then her delicate face, misty with sweetness, turned toward him again.
"No; dreams are for children and for old people, whose memories, like their eyes, are for things far off. This is your time to do things, not to dream them. And you have done things. I heard Major Braden telling father about you at dinner—your success in law, your getting some bill killed in the legislature, and your having been to South America. Father says you have had a wonderful career for a young man. I used to think when I was a little girl that when you were a grown-up prince you would kill dragons and bring home golden fleeces."
He smiled with a sudden deep throb of pleasure. Her voice stirred him with a sense of magic.
"This is the Braden home," she said, stopping before a big house that seemed to be all pillars and porches. "You'll come in for a little while, won't you?"
"I'll come in, if I may, and help you to recall some more of Maplewood days."
A trim little maid opened the door and led the way into a long library where in the fireplace a pine backlog, crisscrossed by sturdy forelogs of birch and maple, awaited the touch of a match. It was given, and the room was filled with a flaring light that made the soft lamplight seem pale and feeble.
"This is a genuine Brumble fire," he exclaimed, as they sat down before the ruddy glow. "It carries me back to farm life."
"How many phases of life you have seen," mused Carey. "Country, college, city, tropical, and now this political life. Which one have you really enjoyed the most?"
"My life in the Land of Dreams—that beautiful Isle of Everywhere," he replied.
Her eyes grew radiant with understanding.
"You are not so very much changed since your days of dreaming," she said, smiling. "To be sure, you have lost your freckles and you don't kick at the ground when you walk, and—"
"And," he reminded, as she paused.
"You are no longer twice my age."
"Did Janey tell you?"
"Yes; the last summer I was at Maplewood—the summer you were graduated. You say you don't dream any more, but it wasn't so very long ago that you did, else how could you have written that wonderful book?"
"Then you read it?" he asked eagerly.
"Of course I read it."
"All of it?"
"Could any one begin it and not finish it? I've read some parts of it many times."
"Did you," he asked slowly, holding her eyes in spite of her desire to lower them, "read the dedication?"
And by their subtle confession he knew that this was one of the parts she had read "many times."
"Yes," she replied, trying to speak lightly, but breathing quickly, "and I wondered who T. L. P. might be."
"And so you didn't know," in slow, disappointed tones, "that they stood for the name I gave you when I first met you—the name by which I always think of you? It was with your perfect understanding of my old fancies in mind that I wrote the book. And so I dedicated it to you, thinking if you read it you would know even without the inscription. Some one suggested—"
"It was Fletcher," she began.
"Oh, you know Wilder?"
"Yes, I've known him always. He has told me of your days in South America together and how he told you to dedicate it. And he wondered who T. L. P. might be."
"And you never guessed?"
Her face, bent over the firelight, looked small and white; her beautiful eyes were fixed and grave. Then suddenly she lifted them to his with the artlessness of a child.
"I did know," she confessed. "At least, I hoped—I claimed it as my book, anyway, but I thought your memory of those summers at the farm might not have been as keen as mine."
"It is keen," he replied. "I have always thought of you as a little princess who only lived in my dreams, but, hereafter, you are not only in my past dreams, but I hope, in my future."
"When we come back—"
"Will you be gone long?" he asked wistfully. "Is your father—"
"Father can't go, but he may join us."
After a moment's hesitation she continued, with a slight blush:
"Fletcher is going with us."
"Oh," he said, wondering at his tinge of disappointment.
"Carey," he said wistfully, as he was leaving, "don't you think when a man dedicates a book to a girl, and they both have a joint claim on a territory known as the Land of Dreams, that she might call him, as she did when they were boy and girl, by his first name?"
"Yes, David," she replied with a light little laugh.
The music of the soft "a" rang entrancingly in his ears as he walked back to the hotel.
There was but one important measure to deal with in this session of the legislature, but David's penetration into a thorough understanding of each bill, and the patience and sagacity he displayed in settling all disputes, won the approbation of even doubtful and divided factions. He flashed a new fire of life into the ebbing enthusiasm of his followers, whom he had led to victory on the Griggs Bill. At the close of the session, early in May, he was presented with a set of embossed resolutions commending his fulfillment of his duties.
That same night, in his room at the hotel, as he was packing his belongings, he was waited upon by a delegation composed alike of horny-handed tillers of the soil and distinguished statesmen.
"We come, David," said the spokesman, who had been chairman of the county convention, "to say that you are our choice for the next governor of this state, and in saying this we know we are echoing the sentiment of the Republican party. In fact, we are looking to you as the only man who can bring that party to victory."
He said many more things, flattering and echoed by his followers. It made the blood tingle in David's veins to know that these men of plain, honest, country stock, like himself, believed in him and in his honor. In kaleidoscopic quickness there passed in review his life,—the days when he and his mother had struggled with a wretched poverty that the neighbors had only half suspected, the first turning point in his life, when he was taken unto the hearth and home of strong-hearted people, his years at college, the plodding days in pursuit of the law, his hotly waged fight in the legislature, and his short literary career, and he felt a surging of boyish pride at the knowledge that he was now approaching his goal.
The next morning David went to Lafferton in order to discuss the road to the ruling of the people.
"Whom would you suggest for manager of my campaign, Uncle Barnabas?" he asked.
"Knowles came to me and offered his services. Couldn't have a slicker man, Dave."
"None better in the state. I shouldn't have ventured to ask him."
Janey was home for the summer, and on the first evening of his return she and David sat together on the porch.
"Oh, Davey," she said with a little sob, "Jud has come home again, and they say he isn't just wild any more, but thoroughly bad."
The tears in her eyes and the tremor in her tone stirred all his old protective instinct for her.
"Poor Jud! I'll see if I can't awaken some ambition in him for a different life."
"You've been very patient, Davey, but do try again. Every one is down on him now but father and you and me. Aunt M'ri has let the Judge prejudice her; Joe hasn't a particle of patience with him, and he can't understand how I can have any, but you do, Davey. You understand everything."
They sat in silence, watching the stars pierce vividly through the blackness of the sky, and presently his thoughts strayed from Jud and from his fair young sister. In fancy he saw the queenly carriage of an imperious little head, the mystery lurking in a pair of purple eyes, and heard the cadence in an exquisite voice.
The next morning he began the fight, and there was an incessant cannonade from start to finish against the upstart boy nominee, who proved to be an adversary of unremitting activity, the tact and experience of Knowles making a fortified intrenchment for him. All of David's friends rallied strongly to his support. Hume came from Washington, Joe from the ranch, and Wilder from the East, his father having a branch concern in the state.
Through the long, hot summer the warfare waged, and by mid-autumn it seemed a neck and neck contest—a contest so susceptible that the merest breath might turn the tide at any moment. The week before the election found David still resolute, grim, and determined. Instead of being discouraged by adverse attacks he had gained new vigor from each downthrow. All forces rendezvoused at the largest city in the state for the final engagement.
Three days before election he received a note in a handwriting that had become familiar to him during the past year. With a rush of surprise and pleasure he noted the city postmark. The note was very brief, merely mentioning the hotel at which they were stopping and asking him to call if he could spare a few moments from his campaign work.
In an incredibly short time after the receipt of this note he was at the hotel, awaiting an answer to his card. He was shown to the sitting room of the suite, and Carey opened the door to admit him. This was not the little princess of his dreams, nor the charming young girl who had talked so ingenuously with him before the Braden fireside. This was a woman, stately yet gracious, vigorous yet exquisite.
"I am glad we came home in time to see you elected," she said. "It is a great honor, David, to be the governor of your state."
There was a shade of deference in her manner to him which he realized was due to the awe with which she regarded the dignity of his elective office. This amused while it appealed to him.
"We are on our way to California to spend the winter," she replied, in answer to his eager question, "and father proposed stopping here until after election."
"You come in and out of my life like a comet," he complained wistfully.
Mrs. Winthrop came in, smiling and charming as ever. She was very cordial to David, and interested in his campaign, but it seemed to him that she was a little too gracious, as if she wished to impress him with the fact that it was a concession to meet him on an equal social footing. For Mrs. Winthrop was inclined to be of the world, worldly.
"You have arrived at an auspicious time," he assured her. "To-night the Democrats will have the biggest parade ever scheduled for this city. Joe calls it the round-up."
"Oh, is Joe here?" asked Carey eagerly.
"Yes; and another friend of yours, Fletcher Wilder."
"I knew that he was here," she said, with an odd little smile.
"We had expected to see him in New York, and were surprised to learn he was out here," said Mrs. Winthrop.
"He came to help me in my campaign," informed David.
"Fletcher interested in politics! How strange!"
"His interest is purely personal. We were together in South America, you know."
"I am glad that you have a friend in him," said Mrs. Winthrop affably. "The parade will pass here, and Fletcher is coming up, of course. Why not come up, too, if you can spare the time?"
"This is not my night," laughed David. "It's purely and simply a Democratic night. I shall be pleased to come."
"Bring Joe, too," reminded Carey.
When Mr. Winthrop came in David had no doubt as to the welcome he received from the head of the family.
"A man's measure of a man," thought David, "is easily taken, and by natural laws, but oh, for an understanding of the scales by which women weigh! And yet it is they who hold the balance."
"Fletcher and David and Joe are coming to-night to watch the parade from here," said Carey.
"You shall all dine with us," said Mr. Winthrop.
"Thank you," replied David, "but—"
"Oh, but you must," insisted Mrs. Winthrop, who always warmly seconded any proffer of hospitality made by her husband. "Fletcher will dine with us, of course. We can have a little dinner served here in our rooms. Write a note to Mr. Forbes, Carey."
The marked difference in type of her three guests as they entered the sitting room that night struck Mrs. Winthrop forcibly. Joe, lean and brown, with laughing eyes, was the typical frontiersman; Fletcher, quiet and substantial looking, with his air of culture and ease and his modulated voice, was the type of a city man; David—"What a man he is!" she was forced to admit as he stood, head uplifted in the white glare under the chandelier, the brilliant light shining upon his dark hair, and his eyes glowing like stars. His lithe figure, perfect in poise and balance, of virile strength that was toil-proof, wore the look of the outdoor life. His smile banished everything that was ordinary from his face and transmuted it into a glowing personality. His eyes, serious with that insight of the observer who knows what is going on without and within, were clear and steady.
The table was laid for six in the sitting room, the flowers and candles giving it a homelike look.
As Mrs. Winthrop listened to the conversation between her husband and David she was forced to admit that the young candidate for governor was a man of mark.
"I never knew a man without good birth to have such perfect breeding," she thought. "He really appears as well as Fletcher, and, well, of course, he has more temperament. If he could have been born on a different plane," thinking of her long line of Virginia ancestors.
She had ceded a great deal to her husband's and Carey's democracy, and reserved many an unfavorable criticism of their friends and their friends' ways with a tactfulness that had blinded their eyes to her true feelings. Yet David knew instinctively her standpoint; she partly suspected that he knew, and the knowledge did not disturb her; she intuitively gauged his pride, and welcomed it, for a suitor of the Fletcher Wilder station of life was more to her liking.
Carey led David away from her father's political discourse, and encouraged him to give reminiscences of old days. Joe told a few inimitable western stories, and before the cozy little meal was finished Mrs. Winthrop, though against her will, was feeling the compelling force of David's winning sweetness. The sound of a distant band hurried them from the table to the balcony.
"They've certainly got a fair showing of floating banners and transformations," said Joe.
As the procession came nearer the face of the hardy ranchman flushed crimson and his eyes flashed dangerously. He made a quick motion as if to obstruct David's vision, but the young candidate had already seen. He stood as if at bay, his face pale, his eyes riveted on those floating banners which bore in flaming letters the inscriptions:
"The father of David Dunne died in state prison!"
"His mother was a washerwoman!"
The others were stricken into shocked silence which they were too stunned for the moment to break. It was Fletcher who recovered first, but then Fletcher was the only one present who did not know that the words had struck home.
"We mustn't wait another moment, David," he said emphatically, "to get out sweeping denials and—"
"We can't," said David wearily. "It is true."
"Oh," responded Fletcher lamely.
There was another silence. Something in David's voice and manner had made the silence still more constrained.
"I'll go down and smash their banners!" muttered Joe, who had not dared to look in David's direction.
Mr. Winthrop restrained him.
"The matter will take care of itself," he counseled.
It is mercifully granted that the intensity of present suffering is not realized. Only in looking back comes the pang, and the wonder at the seemingly passive endurance.
Again David's memory was bridging the past to unveil that vivid picture of the patient-eyed woman bending over the tub, and the pity for her was hurting him more than the cruel banner which was flaunting the fact before a jeering, applauding crowd.
Mrs. Winthrop gave him a covert glance. She had great pride in her lineage, and her well-laid plans for her daughter's future did not include David Dunne in their scope, but she was ever responsive to distress.
Before the look in his eyes every sensation save that of sympathy left her, and she went to him as she would have gone to a child of her own that had been hurt.
"David," she said tenderly, laying her hand on his arm, "any woman in the world might be glad to take in washing to bring up a boy to be such a man as you are!"
Deeply moved and surprised, he looked into her brimming eyes and met there the look he had sometimes seen in the eyes of his mother, of M'ri, and once in the eyes of Janey. Moved by an irresistible impulse, he stooped and kissed her.
The situation was relieved of its tenseness.
"I think, Joe," said David, speaking collectedly, "we had better go to headquarters. Knowles will be looking for me."
"Sure," assented Joe, eager to get into action.
"Carey," said David in a low voice, as he was leaving.
As she turned to him, an impetuous rush of new life leaped torrent-like in his heart. Her eyes met his slowly, and for a moment he felt a pleasure acute with the exquisiteness of pain. Such sensations are usually transient, and in another moment he had himself well in hand.
"I want to say good night," he said quietly, "and—"
"Will you come here to-morrow at eleven?" she asked hurriedly. "There is something I want to say to you."
"I know that you are sorry for me."
"That isn't what I mean to say."
A wistful but imperious message was flashed to him from her eyes.
"I will come," he replied gravely.
When he reached headquarters he found the committee dismayed and distracted. Like Wilder, they counseled a sweeping denial, but David was firm.
"It is true," he reiterated.
"It will cost us the vote of a certain element," predicted the chairman, "and we haven't one to spare."
David listened to a series of similar sentiments until Knowles—a new Knowles—came in. The usual blank placidity of his face was rippled by radiant exultation.
"David," he announced, "before that parade started to-night I had made out another conservative estimate, and thought I could pull you through by a slight majority. Now, it's different. While you may lose some votes from the 'near-silk stocking' class, yet for every vote so lost hundreds will rally to you. That all men are created equal is still a truth held to be self-evident. The spark of the spirit that prompted the Declaration of Independence is always ready to be fanned to a flame, and the Democrats have furnished us the fans in their flying pennants."
David found no balm in this argument. All the wounds in his heart were aching, and he could not bring his thoughts to majorities. He passed a night of nerve-racking strain. The jeopardy of election did not concern him. That night at the dinner party he had realized that he had a formidable rival in Fletcher, who had a place firmly fixed in the Winthrop household. Still, against odds, he had determined to woo and win Carey.
He had thought to tell her of his father's imprisonment under softening influences. To have it flashed ruthlessly upon her in such a way, and at such a time, made him shrink from asking her to link her fate with his, and he decided to put her resolutely out of his life.
Unwillingly, he went to keep his appointment with her the next morning. He also dreaded an encounter with Mrs. Winthrop. He felt that the reaction from her moment of womanly pity would strand her still farther on the rocks of her worldliness. He was detained on his way to the hotel so that it was nearly twelve when he arrived. It was a relief to find Carey alone. There was an appealing look in her eyes; but David felt that he could bear no expression of sympathy, and he trusted she would obey the subtle message flashed from his own.
With keen insight she read his unspoken appeal, but a high courage dwelt in the spirit of the little Puritan of colonial ancestry, and she summoned its full strength.
"David," she asked, "did you think I was ignorant of your early life until I read those banners last night?"
"I thought," he said, flushing and taken by surprise, "that you might have long ago heard something, but to have it recalled in so sensational a way when you were entertaining me at dinner—"
"David, the first day I met you, when I was six years old, Mrs. Randall told us of your father. I didn't know just what a prison was, but I supposed it something very grand, and it widened the halo of romance that my childish eyes had cast about you. The morning after you had nominated Mr. Hume I saw your aunt at the hotel, and she told me, for she said some day I might hear it from strangers and not understand. When I saw those banners it was not so much sympathy for you that distressed me; I was thinking of your mother, and regretting that she could not be alive to hear you speak, and see what her bravery had done for you."
David had to summon all his control and his recollection of her Virginia ancestors to refrain from telling her what was in his heart. Mrs. Winthrop helped him by her entrance at this crucial point.
"Good morning, David," she said suavely. "Carey, Fletcher is waiting for you at the elevator. Your father stopped him. I told him you would be out directly."
"I had an engagement to drive with him," explained Carey. "I thought you would come earlier."
"I am due at a committee meeting," he said, in a courteous but aloof manner.
"We start in the morning, you know," she reminded him. "Won't you dine here with us to-night?"
"I am sorry," he refused. "It will be impossible."
"Arthur is going to a club for luncheon," said Mrs. Winthrop, when Carey had gone into the adjoining room, "and I shall be alone unless you will take pity on my loneliness. I won't detain you a moment after luncheon."
"Thank you," he replied abstractedly.
She smiled at the reluctance in his eyes.
"David is going to stay to luncheon with me," she announced to Carey as she came into the sitting room.
David winced at the huge bunch of violets fastened to her muff. He remembered with a pang that Fletcher had left him that morning to go to a florist's. After she had gone Mrs. Winthrop turned suddenly toward him, as he was gazing wistfully at the closed door.
"David," she asked directly, "why did you refuse our invitation to dine to-night?"
"Why—you see—Mrs. Winthrop—with so many engagements—there is a factory meeting at five—"
"David, you are floundering! That is not like the frankly spoken boy we used to know at Maplewood. I kept you to luncheon to tell you some news that even Carey doesn't know yet. Mrs. Randall has written insisting that we spend a week at Maplewood before we go West. As we are in no special haste, I shall accept her hospitality."
David made no reply, and she continued:
"You are going home the day before election?"
"Yes, Mrs. Winthrop," he replied.
"We will go down with you, and I hope you will be neighborly while we are in the country."
The bewildered look in his eyes deepened, and then a heartrending solution of her graciousness came to him. Fletcher and Carey were doubtless engaged, and this fact made Mrs. Winthrop feel secure in extending hospitality to him.
"Thank you, Mrs. Winthrop," he said, a little bitterly. "You are very kind."
"David," she asked, giving him a searching look. "What is the matter? I thought you would be pleased at the thought of our spending a week among you all."
He made a quick, desperate decision.
"Mrs. Winthrop," he asked earnestly, "may I speak to you quite openly and honestly?"
"David Dunne, you couldn't speak any other way," she asserted, with a gay little laugh.
"I love Carey!"
This information seemingly conveyed no startling intelligence.
"Well," replied Mrs. Winthrop, evidently awaiting a further statement.
"I haven't tried to win her love, nor have I told her that I love her, because I knew that in your plans for her future you had never included me. I know what you think about family, and I don't want to make ill return for the courtesy and kindness you and Mr. Winthrop have always shown me."
"David, you have one rare trait—gratitude. I did have plans for Carey—plans built on the basis of 'family'; but I have learned from you that there are other things, like the trait I mentioned, for instance, that count more than lineage. Before we went abroad I knew Carey was interested in you, with the first flutter of a young girl's fancy, and I was secretly antagonistic to that feeling. But last night, David, I came to feel differently. I envied your mother when I read those banners. If I had a son like you, I'd feel honored to take in washing or anything else for him."
At the look of ineffable sadness in his eyes her tears came.
"David," she said gently, after a pause, "if you can win Carey's love, I shall gladly give my consent."
He thanked her incoherently, and was seized with an uncontrollable longing to get away—to be alone with this great, unbelievable happiness. In realization of his mood, she left him under pretext of ordering the luncheon. On her return she found him exuberant, in a flow of spirits and pleasantry.
"Mrs. Winthrop," he said earnestly, as he was taking his departure, "I am not going to tell Carey just yet that I love her."
"As you wish, David. I shall not mention our conversation."
She smiled as the door closed upon him.
"Tell her! I wonder if he doesn't know that every time he looks at her, or speaks her name, he tells her. But I suppose he has some foolish mannish pride about waiting until he is governor."
When David, in a voice vibrant with new-found gladness, finished an eloquent address to a United Band of Workmen, he found Mr. Winthrop waiting for him.
"I was sent to bring you to the hotel to dine with us, David. My wife told me of your conversation."
Noting the look of apprehension in David's eyes, he continued:
"Every time a suitor for Carey has crossed our threshold I've turned cold at the thought of relinquishing my guardianship. With you it is different; I can only quote Carey's childish remark—'with David I would have no afraidments.'"
A touch upon his shoulder prevented David's reply. He turned to find Joe and Fletcher.
"Knowles has been looking for you everywhere. He wants you to come to headquarters at once."
"Is it important?" asked David hesitatingly.
"Important! Knowles! Say, David, have you forgotten that you are running for governor?"
Winthrop laughed appreciatively.
"Go back to Knowles, David, and come to us when you can. We have no iron-clad rules as to hours. Go with him, Joe, to be sure he doesn't forget where he is going. Come with me, Fletcher."
"It's too late to call now," remonstrated Joe, when David had finally made his escape from headquarters.
David muttered that time was made for slaves, and increased his pace. When they reached the hotel Joe refused to go to the Winthrop's apartment.
David found Carey alone in the sitting room.
"David," she asked, after one glance into his eyes, "what has changed you? Good news from Mr. Knowles?"
"No, Carey," he replied, his eyes growing luminous. "It was something your mother said to me this morning."
"Oh, I am glad. What was it she said?"
"She told me," he evaded, "that you were going to visit the Randalls."
"And that is what makes you look so—cheered?" she persisted.
"No, Carey. May I tell you at two o'clock in the afternoon, the day after election?"
She laughed delightedly.
"That sounds like our childhood days. You used to put notes in the old apple tree—do you remember?—asking Janey and me to meet you two hours before sundown at the end of the picket fence."
Further confidential conversation was prevented by the entrance of the others. Joe had been captured, and Mrs. Winthrop had ordered a supper served in the rooms.
"Carey," asked her mother softly, when they were alone that night, "did David tell you what a cozy little luncheon we had?"
"He told me, mother, that you said something to him that made him very happy, but he would not tell me what it was."
Something in her mother's gaze made Carey lift her violets as a shield to her face.
"She knows!" thought Mrs. Winthrop. "But does she care?"
At two o'clock on the day after David Dunne had been elected governor by an overwhelming majority, he reined up at the open gate at the end of the maple drive. His heart beat faster at the sight of the regal little figure awaiting him. Her coat, furs, and hat were all of white.
He helped her into the carriage and seated himself beside her.
"Have you been waiting long, and are you dressed quite warmly?" he asked anxiously.
"Yes, indeed; I thought you might keep me waiting at the gate, so I put on my furs."
The drive went on through the grounds to a sloping pasture, where it became a rough roadway. The day was perfect. The sharp edges of November were tempered by a bright sun, and the crisp air was possessed of a profound quiet. When the pastoral stretches ended in the woods, David stopped suddenly.
"It must have been just about here," he said, reminiscently, as he hitched the horse to a tree and held out his hand to Carey. They walked on into the depths of the woods until they came to a fallen tree.
"Let us sit here," he suggested.
She obeyed in silence.
An early frost had snatched the glory from the trees, whose few brown and sere leaves hung disconsolately on the branches. High above them was an occasional skirmishing line of wild ducks. The deep stillness was broken only by the scattering of nuts the scurrying squirrels were harvesting, by the cry of startled wood birds, or by the wistful note of a solitary, distant quail.
"Do you remember that other—that first day we came here?" he asked.
She glanced up at him quickly.
"Is this really the place where we came and you told me stories?"
"You were only six years old," he reminded her. "It doesn't seem possible that you should remember."
"It was the first time I had ever been in any kind of woods," she explained, "and it was the first time I had ever played with a grown-up boy. For a long time afterward, when I teased mother for a story, she would tell me of 'The Day Carey Met David.'"
"And do you remember nothing more about that day?"
"Oh, yes; you made us some little chairs out of red sticks, and you drew me here in a cart."
"Can't you remember when you first laid eyes on me?"
"No—yes, I remember. You drove a funny old horse, and I saw you coming when I was waiting at the gate."
"Yes, you were at the gate," he echoed, with a caressing note in his voice. "You were dressed in white, as you are to-day, and that was my first glimpse of the little princess. And because she was the only one I had ever known, I thought of her for years as a princess of my imagination who had no real existence."
"But afterwards," she asked wistfully, "you didn't think of me as an imaginary person, did you?"
"Yes; you were hardly a reality until—"
"Until the convention?" she asked disappointedly.
"No; before that. It was in South America, when I began to write my book, that you came to life and being in my thoughts. The tropical land, the brilliant sunshine, the purple nights, the white stars, the orchids, the balconies looking down upon fountained courts, all invoked you. You answered, and crept into my book, and while we—you and I—were writing it, it came to me suddenly and overwhelmingly that the little princess was a living, breathing person, a woman who mayhap would read my book some day and feel that it belonged to her. It was so truly hers that I did not think it necessary to write the dedication page. And she did read the book and she did know—didn't she?"
He looked down into her face, which had grown paler but infinitely more lovely.
"David, I didn't dare know. I wanted to think it was so."
"Carey," his voice came deep and strong, his eyes beseeching, "we were prince and princess in that enchanted land of childish dreams. Will you make the dream a reality?"
* * * * *
"When, David," she asked him, "did you know that you loved, not the little princess, but me, Carey?"
"You make the right distinction in asking me when I knew I loved you. I loved you always, but I didn't know that I loved you, or how much I loved you, until that night we sat before the fire at the Bradens'."
"And, David, tell me what mother said that day after the parade?"
"She told me I had her consent to ask you—this!"
"And why, David, did you wait until to-day?"
"The knowledge that you were coming back here to Maplewood brought the wish to make a reality of another dream—to meet you at the place where I first saw you—to bring you here, where you clung to me for the protection that is henceforth always yours. And now, Carey, it is my turn to ask you a question. When did you first love me?"
"That first day I met you—here in the woods. My dream and my prince were always realities to me."
The governor was indulging in the unwonted luxury of solitude in his private sanctum of the executive offices. The long line of politicians, office seekers, committees, and reporters had passed, and he was supposed to have departed also, but after his exit he had made a detour and returned to his private office.
Then he sat down to face the knottiest problem that had as yet confronted him in connection with his official duties. An important act of the legislature awaited his signature or veto. Various pressing matters called for immediate action, but they were mere trifles compared to the issue pending upon an article he had read in a bi-weekly paper from one of the country districts. The article stated that a petition was being circulated to present to the governor, praying the pardon and release of Jud Brumble. Then had begun the great conflict in the mind of David Dunne, the "governor who could do no wrong." It was not a conflict between right and wrong that was being waged, for Jud had been one to the prison born.
David reviewed the series of offenses Jud had perpetrated, punishment for which had ever been evaded or shifted to accomplices. He recalled the solemn promise the offender had made him long ago when, through David's efforts, he had been acquitted—a promise swiftly broken and followed by more daring transgressions, which had culminated in one enormous crime. He had been given the full penalty—fifteen years—a sentence in which a long-suffering community had rejoiced.
Jud had made himself useful at times to a certain gang of ward heelers and petty politicians, who were the instigators of this petition, which they knew better than to present themselves. Had they done so, David's course would have been plain and easy; but the petition was to be conveyed directly and personally to the governor, so the article read, by the prisoner's father, Barnabas Brumble.
By this method of procedure the petitioners showed their cunning as well as their knowledge of David Dunne. They knew that his sense of gratitude was as strong as his sense of accurate justice, and that to Barnabas he attributed his first start in life; that he had, in fact, literally blazed the political trail that had led him from a country lawyer to the governorship of his state.
There were other ties, other reasons, of which these signers knew not, that moved David to heed a petition for release should it be presented.
Again he seemed to see his mother's imploring eyes and to hear her impressive voice. Again he felt around his neck the comforting, chubby arms of the criminal's little sister. Her youthful guilelessness and her inherent goodness had never recognized evil in her wayward brother, and she would look confidently to "Davey" for service, as she had done in the old days of country schools and meadow lanes.
On the other hand, he, David Dunne, had taken a solemn oath to do his duty, and his duty to the people, in the name of justice, was clear. He owed it to them to show no leniency to Jud Brumble.
So he hovered between base ingratitude to the man who had made him, and who had never before asked a favor, and non-fulfillment of duty to his people. It was a wage of head and heart. There had never been moral compromises in his code. There had ever been a right and a wrong—plain roads, with no middle course or diverging paths, but now in his extremity he sought some means of evading the direct issue. He looked for the convenient loophole of technicality—an irregularity in the trial—but his legal knowledge forbade this consideration after again going over the testimony and evidence of the trial. The attorney for the defense had been compelled to admit that his client had had a square deal. If only the petition might be brought in the usual way, and presented to the pardon board, it would not be allowed to reach the governor, as there was nothing in the case to warrant consideration, but that was evidently not to be the procedure. Barnabas would come to him and ask for Jud's release, assuming naturally that his request would be willingly granted.
If he pardoned Jud, all the popularity of the young governor would not screen him from the public censure. One common sentiment of outrage had been awakened by the crime, and the criminal had been universally repudiated, but it was not from public censure or public criticism that this young man with the strong under jaw shrank, but from the knowledge that he would be betraying a trust. Gratitude and duty pointed in different directions this time.
With throbbing brain and racked nerves he made his evening call upon Carey, who had come to be a clearing house for his troubles and who was visiting the Bradens. She looked at him to-night with her eyes full of the adoration a young girl gives to a man who has forged his way to fame.
He responded to her greeting abstractedly, and then said abruptly:
"Carey, I am troubled to-night!"
"I knew it before you came, David. I read the evening papers."
"What!" he exclaimed in despair. "It's true, then! I have not seen the papers to-night."
She brought him the two evening papers of opposite politics. In glowing headlines the Democratic paper told in exaggerated form the story of his early life, his humble home, his days of struggle, his start in politics, and his success, due to the father of the hardened criminal. Would the governor do his duty and see that law and order were maintained, or would he sacrifice the people to his personal obligations? David smiled grimly as he reflected that either course would be equally censured by this same paper.
He took up the other journal, the organ of his party, which stated the facts very much as the other paper had done, and added that Barnabas Brumble was en route to the capital city for the purpose of asking a pardon for his son. The editor, in another column, briefly and firmly expressed his faith in the belief that David Dunne would be stanch in his views of what was right and for the public welfare.
There was one consolation; neither paper had profaned by public mention the love of his boyhood days.
"What shall I do! What should I do!" he asked himself in desperation.
"I know what you will do," said Carey, quickly reading the unspoken words.
"You will do, as you always do—what you believe to be right. David, tell me the story of those days."
So from the background of his recollections he brought forward vividly a picture of his early life, a story she had heard only from others. He told her, too, of his boyish fancy for Janey.
There was silence when he had finished. Carey looked into the flickering light of the open fire with steady, musing eyes. It did not hurt her in the least that he had had a love of long ago. It made him but the more interesting, and appealed to her as a pretty and fitting romance in his life.
"It seems so hard, either way, David," she said looking up at him in a sympathetic way. "To follow the dictates of duty is so cold and cruel a way, yet if you follow the dictates of your heart your conscience will accuse you. But you will, when you have to act, David, do what you believe to be right, and abide by the consequences. Either way, dear, is going to bring you unhappiness."
"Which do you believe the right way, Carey?" he asked, looking searchingly into her mystic eyes.
"David," she replied helplessly, "I don't know! The more I think about it, the more complicated the decision seems."
They discussed the matter at length, and he went home comforted by the thought that there was one who understood him, and who would abide in faith by whatever decision he made.
The next day, at the breakfast table, on the street, in his office, in the curious, questioning faces of all he encountered, he read the inquiry he was constantly asking himself and to which he had no answer ready. When he finally reached his office he summoned his private secretary.
"Major, don't let in any more people than is absolutely necessary to-day. I will see no reporters. You can tell them that no petition or request for the pardon of Jud Bramble has been received, if they ask, and oh, Major!"
The secretary turned expectantly.
"If Barnabas Brumble comes, of course he is to be admitted at once."
Later in the morning the messenger to the governor stood at the window of the business office, idly looking out.
"Dollars to doughnuts," he exclaimed suddenly and confidently, "that this is Barnabas Brumble coming up the front walk!"
The secretary hastened to the window. A grizzled old man in butternut-colored, tightly buttoned overcoat, and carrying a telescope bag, was ascending the steps.
"I don't know why you think so," said the secretary resentfully to the boy. "Barnabas Brumble isn't the only farmer in the world. Sometimes," he added, pursuing a train of thought beyond the boy's knowledge, "it seems as if no one but farmers came into this capitol nowadays."
A few moments later one of the guards ushered into the executive office the old man carrying the telescope. The secretary caught the infection of the boy's belief.
"What can I do for you?" he asked courteously.
"I want to see the guvner," replied the old man in a curt tone.
"Your name?" asked the secretary.
"Barnabas Brumble," was the terse response.
He had not read the newspapers for a week past, and so he could hardly know the importance attached to his name in the ears of those assembled. The click of the typewriters ceased, the executive clerk looked quickly up from his papers, the messenger assumed a triumphant pose, and the janitor peered curiously in from an outer room.
"Come this way, Mr. Brumble," said the secretary deferentially, as he passed to the end of the room and knocked at a closed door.
David Dunne knew, when he heard the knock, to whom he would open the door, and he was glad the strain of suspense was ended. But when he looked into the familiar face a host of old memories crowded in upon his recollection, and obliterated the significance of the call.
"Uncle Barnabas!" he said, extending a cordial hand to the visitor, while his stern, strong face softened under his slow, sweet smile. Then he turned to his secretary.
"Admit no one else, Major."
David took the telescope from his guest and set it on the table, wondering if it contained the "documents in evidence."
"Take off your coat, Uncle Barnabas. They keep it pretty warm in here!"
"I callate they do—in more ways than one," chuckled Barnabas, removing his coat. "I hed to start purty early this mornin', when it was cool-like. Wal, Dave, times has changed! To think of little Dave Dunne bein' guvner! I never seemed to take it in till I come up them front steps."
The governor laughed.
"Sometimes I don't seem to take it in myself, but you ought to, Uncle Barnabas. You put me here!"
As he spoke he unlocked a little cabinet and produced a bottle and a couple of glasses.
"Wal, I do declar, ef you don't hev things as handy as a pocket in a shirt! Good stuff, Dave! More warmin' than my old coat, I reckon, but say, Dave, what do you s'pose I hev got in that air telescope?"
David winced. In olden times the old man ever came straight to the point, as he was doing now.
"Why, what is it, Uncle Barnabas?"
"Open it!" directed the old man laconically.
With the feeling that he was opening his coffin, David unstrapped the telescope and lifted the cover. A little exclamation of pleasure escaped him. The telescope held big red apples, and it held nothing more. David quickly bit into one.
"I know from just which particular tree these come," he said, "from that humped, old one in the corner of the orchard nearest the house."
"Yes," allowed Barnabas, "that's jest the one—the one under which you and her allers set and purtended you were studyin' your lessons."
David's eyes grew luminous in reminiscence.
"I haven't forgotten the tree—or her—or the old days, Uncle Barnabas."
"I knowed you hadn't, Dave!"
Again David's heart sank at the confidence in the tone which betokened the faith reposed, but he would give the old man a good time anyway before he took his destiny by the throat.
"Wouldn't you like to go through the capitol?" he asked.
"I be goin'. The feller that brung me up here sed he'd show me through."
"I'll show you through," said David decisively, and together they went through the places of interest in the building, the governor as proud as a newly domiciled man showing off his possessions. At last they came to the room where in glass cases reposed the old, unfurled battle flags. The old man stopped before one case and looked long and reverently within.
"Which was your regiment, Uncle Barnabas?"
"Forty-seventh Infantry. I kerried that air flag at the Battle of the Wilderness."
David called to a guard and obtained a key to the case. Opening it, he bade the old man take out the flag.
With trembling hands Barnabas took out the flag he had followed when his country went to war. He gazed at it in silence, and then restored it carefully to its place. As they walked away, he brushed his coat sleeve hastily across his dimmed eyes.
David consulted his watch.
"It's luncheon time, Uncle Barnabas. We'll go over to my hotel. The executive mansion is undergoing repairs."
"I want more'n a lunch, Dave! I ain't et nuthin' sence four o'clock this mornin'."
"I'll see that you get enough to eat," laughed David.
In the lobby of the hotel a reporter came quickly up to them.
"How are you, governor?" he asked, with his eyes fastened falcon-like on Barnabas.
David returned the salutation and presented his companion.
"Mr. Brumble from Lafferton?" asked the reporter, with an insinuating emphasis on the name of the town.
"Yes," replied the old man in surprise. "I don't seem to reckleck seein' you before."
"I never met you, but I have heard of you. May I ask what your business in the city is, Mr. Brumble?"
The old man gave him a keen glance from beneath his shaggy brows.
"Wal, I don't know as thar's any law agin your askin'! I came to see the guvner."
David, with a laugh of pure delight at the discomfiture of the reporter, led the way to the dining room.
"You're as foxy as ever, Uncle Barnabas. You routed that newspaper man in good shape."
"So that's what he was! I didn't know but he was one of them three-card-monty sharks. Wal, I s'pose it's his trade to ask questions."
Barnabas' loquacity always ceased entirely at meal times, so his silence throughout the luncheon was not surprising to David.
"Wal, Dave," he said as he finished, "ef this is your lunch I'd hate to hev to eat what you'd call dinner. I never et so much before at one settin'!"
"We'll go over to the club now and have a smoke," suggested David. "Then you can go back to my office with me and see what I have to undergo every afternoon."
At the club they met several of David's friends—not politicians—who met Barnabas with courtesy and composure. When they returned to David's private office Barnabas was ensconced comfortably in an armchair while David listened with patience to the long line of importuners, each receiving due consideration. The last interview was not especially interesting and Barnabas' attention was diverted. His eyes fell on a newspaper, which he picked up carelessly. It was the issue of the night before, and his own name was conspicuous in big type. He read the article through and returned the paper to its place without being observed by David, whose back was turned to him.
"Wal, Dave," he said, when the last of the line had left the room, "I used ter think I'd ruther do enything than be a skule teacher, but I swan ef you don't hev it wuss yet!"
David made no response. The excitement of his boyish pleasure in showing Uncle Barnabas about had died away as he listened to the troubles and demands of his callers, and now the recollection of the old man's errand confronted him in full force.
Barnabas looked at him keenly.
"Dave," he said slowly, "'t ain't no snap you hev got! I never knowed till to-day jest what it meant to you. I'm proud of you, Dave! I wish—I wish you hed been my son!"
The governor arose impetuously and crossed the room.
"I would have been, Uncle Barnabas, if she had not cared for Joe!"
"I know it, Dave, but you hev a sweet little gal who will make you happy."
The governor's face lighted in a look of exquisite happiness.
"I have, Uncle Barnabas. We will go to see her this evening."
"I'd like to see her, sartain. Hain't seen her sence the night you was elected. And, Dave," with a sheepish grin, "I'm a-goin' to git spliced myself."
"What? No! May I guess, Uncle Barnabas—Miss Rhody?"
"Dave, you air a knowin' one. Yes, it's her! Whenever we set down to our full table I got to thinkin' of that poor little woman a-settin' down alone, and I've never yet knowed a woman livin' alone to feed right. They allers eat bean soup or prunes, and call it a meal."
"I am more glad than I can tell you, Uncle Barnabas, and I shall insist on giving the bride away. But what will Penny think about some one stepping in?"
"Wal, Dave, I'll allow I wuz skeered to tell Penny, and it tuk a hull lot of bracin' to do it, and what do you suppose she sed? She sez, 'I've bin wantin' tew quit these six years, and now, thank the Lord, I've got the chance.'"
"Why, what in the world did she want to leave for?"
"I guess you'll be surprised when I tell you. To marry Larimy Sasser!"
"Uncle Larimy! She'll scour him out of house and home," laughed David.
"We'll hev both weddin's to the same time. Joe and Janey are a-comin', and we'll hev a grand time. I hain't much on the write, Dave, and I've allers meant to see you here in this great place. Some of the boys sez to me: 'Mebby Dave's got stuck on himself and his job by this time, and you'll hev to send in yer keerd by a nigger fust afore you kin see him,' but I sez, 'No! Not David Dunne! He ain't that kind and never will be.' So when I go back I kin tell them how you showed me all over the place, and tuk me to eat at a hotel and to that air stylish place where I wuz treated like a king by yer friends. I've never found you wantin', Dave, and I never expect to!"
"Uncle Barnabas," began David, "I—"
His voice suddenly failed him.
"See here, Dave! I didn't know nuthin' about that," pointing to the newspaper, "until a few minutes ago. I sed tew hum that I wuz a-comin' to see how Dave run things, and ef them disreptible associates of Jud's air a-gittin' up some fool paper, I don't know it! Ef they do send it in, don't you dare sign it! Why, I wouldn't hev that boy outen prison fer nuthin'. He's different from what he used to be, Dave. He got so low he would hev to reach up ter touch bottom. He's ez low ez they git, and he's dangerous. I didn't know an easy minute fer the last two years afore he wuz sent up, so keep him behind them bars fer fear he'll dew somethin' wuss when he gits out. Don't you dare sign no petition, Dave!"
Tears of relief sprang into the strong eyes of the governor.
"Why, Dave," said the old man in shocked tones, "you didn't go fer to think fer a minute I'd ask you to let him out cause he wuz my son? Even ef I hed a wanted him out, and Lord knows I don't, I'd not ask you to do somethin' wrong, no more'n I'd bring dishoner to that old flag I held this mornin'!"
David grasped his hand.
His voice broke with emotion. Then he murmured: "We'll go to see her, now."
As they passed out into the corridor a reporter hastened up to them.
"Governor," he asked, with impudent directness, "are you going to pardon Jud Bramble?"
Before David could reply, Barnabas stepped forward:
"Young feller, thar hain't no pardon ben asked fer Jud Brumble, and what's more, thar hain't a-goin' to be none asked—not by me. I come down here to pay my respecks to the guvner, and to bring him a few apples, and you kin say so ef you wanter!"
When Carey came into the library where her two callers awaited her, one glance into the divine light of David's deepening, glowing eyes told her what she wanted to know.
With a soft little cry she went to Barnabas, who was holding out his hand in welcome. Impulsively her lips were pressed against his withered cheek, and he took her in his arms as he might have taken Janey.
"Why, Carey!" he said delightedly, "Dave's little gal!"
* * * * *
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