Fowler tapped his foot softly on the rug, but did not reply. Enoch went on. "I don't want to quarrel with you, Fowler. I'm a sincere admirer of yours. But I'm going to tell you frankly, that I don't like Brown and that Brown must keep his tongue off of me. And I'm deeply disappointed in you. You did not need Brown to add to your prestige in America."
"I don't know what the idea is, Fowler," said the President suddenly, "but I do know that the aplomb and finesse with which you conduct your official business are entirely lacking in this affair. It looks to me as if you had a personal grievance here. Come, Fowler, old man, you are too brilliant, too valuable—"
The Secretary of State interrupted by bowing once more. "I very much appreciate my scolding, Mr. President. With your permission, I'll withdraw until you feel more kindly toward me."
The President and Enoch did not speak for several minutes after Fowler had left. Then the President said, "Enoch, how are you going to handle Brown?"
"I haven't fully made up my mind," replied Enoch.
"The bitterest pill you could make him swallow would be to put yourself in the White House at the next election."
"I'm afraid Brown would look on that as less a punishment than a misfortune." Enoch smiled, as he rose and said-good night.
Nearly a month passed before Enoch heard from Cheney. During that time neither from Fowler nor from the Brown papers was there any intimation of consciousness of Enoch's existence. He believed that as long as he chose to remain silent on the Mexican situation that they would continue to ignore him. There could be little doubt that both Brown and the public looked on Enoch's sudden silence following the Luigi statement as complete rout. Enoch knew this and writhed under the knowledge as he bided his time.
On a morning early in January, Charley Abbott answered a telephone call which interrupted him while was taking the Secretary's dictation.
"It's Mr. Cheney!" he said, "He's very anxious to see you for ten minutes, Mr. Secretary."
"Crowd him in, Abbott," replied Enoch.
Abbott nodded, and in less than half an hour the director of the Survey came in.
"Mr. Secretary," he began without preliminaries, "I took your advice and began investigating the trouble spots. Among other steps I took, I detached two men temporarily from a Colorado River expedition and sent them into Texas to discover if possible what the ordinary oil prospectors felt toward the Survey."
Enoch's face brightened. "That was an interesting move!" he exclaimed. "Were these experienced oil men?"
"One of them, Harden, knew something of drilling. Well, they struck up some sort of a pseudo partnership with a man, a miner, name Field, and the three of them undertook to locate some wells in southern Texas. They were near the Mexican border and were heckled constantly by bands of Mexicans. Finally, as the man Field, Curly, Harden calls him in his report, was standing guard over the horses one night, he was shot through the abdomen. Three days later, he died."
"Died!" exclaimed Enoch. "Are you sure of that?"
"So Harden reports. Field knew that his wound was fatal. He was perfectly cool and conscious to the last, and he spent the greater part of the period before his death, dictating to Harden a long story about Hancock Brown's early activities in Mexico. He swore Harden to absolute secrecy as to details and made him promise to send the story to some lawyer here in Washington, who seems to have taken a small portion of the Canyon trip with the expedition and who had prospected with Field."
"And Curly Field is dead!" repeated Enoch.
"Yes, poor fellow! Now then, here's the point, both Harden and Forrester, the other Survey man, are morally certain that there is a well-organized gang whose business is to make oil prospecting on the border unhealthy. They have several lists of names they want investigated, and they suggest that Secret Service men be put on the job, at once. There was a small item in Texas papers about the killing and a New York paper was after me this morning for the story. That's why I hurried to you."
"Did you gather that Field's story had anything to do with the present trouble with Mexico?" asked Enoch.
The Director shook his head. "No, Mr. Secretary. I merely brought that detail in because Brown is known to be your enemy and—"
He hesitated as he saw the grim lines deepening around Enoch's mouth. The Secretary tapped the desk thoughtfully with his pencil, then said:
"Keep it all out of the papers, Mr. Cheney, if you please. Or, rather if you are willing, let the publicity end be handled from this office. Send the newspaper men to Mr. Abbott."
"That will be a relief!" exclaimed Cheney. "Shall I go ahead on the lines indicated?"
"Yes, and bring me your next budget of news!"
As Cheney went out, Enoch rang for Jonas. "Jonas, I wish you'd go home and see if there is any mail there for Judge Smith. If there is, lock it in the desk in my room," tossing Jonas the key.
"Yes, Mr. Secretary," exclaimed Jonas, disappearing out the door. He returned shortly to report that mail had arrived for Judge Smith, and that it was safely locked away.
Enoch had no engagement that evening. When he had finished his solitary dinner he went to his room and took out of the desk drawer a large document envelope and a letter. The letter he opened.
"My dear Judge: Forrester and I have just completed a sad bit of work, the taking of poor Curly's body back to Arizona for burial. Soon after you left, we took Milton over to Wilson's ranch and left Ag to look out for him. He's coming along fine, by the way. We wired our dilemma to our Chief in Washington and he told us to go into southern Texas and investigate some conditions there for him. To our surprise, Curly wanted to go along, as soon as he found we were later going into Mexico to an old stamping ground of his. Well, we had a great time on the Border. It wasn't so bad until the hombres began to get nasty, and as you may recall, neither Curly nor my now good pal Forr stand well under sniping. It got so finally that we had to stand watch over our outfit at night, and Curly got a bullet in his bladder. He bled so we couldn't move him and Forr went out, thirty miles, after a doctor. While we waited, Curly got me to set down the stuff I am sending you under separate cover. He also made his will and left you his mining claims, all merely prospects so far. He says you know how he came to feel as he does about Brown and Fowler. However that may be, it certainly is the dirtiest story I ever heard one man tell on others and, dying though he was, I begged Curly to let me tear the paper up and let the story go into the grave with him. But he held me to my promise, so I'm sending it to you, with this apology for contaminating either of us with the dope. Poor old Curly! He was a man who'd been a little embittered by some early trouble, but he was a good scout, for all that.
"We all missed you and Jonas,—don't forget Jonas!—very much, after you left. Milton said half a dozen times that when he gets in shape to go on with the work in the spring, he was going to try to persuade you to finish the trip with us. So say we all! With best wishes, sincerely yours, C. L. Harden."
After Enoch had finished Harden's letter he replaced it in its envelope slowly and dropped it into the desk drawer. Next, as slowly, he picked up the bulkier envelope and placed it on edge on the mantel under the Moran painting. Then he began to walk the floor.
He knew that, in that dingy envelope, lay the whip by which he could drive Brown to public apology. As far as fearing any publicity with which Brown could retaliate, Enoch felt immune. He believed that he had sounded the uttermost depths of humiliation. And at first he gloated over the thought that now Brown could be made to suffer as he had suffered. He would give the story to the newspapers, exactly as it had come to him. And what a setting! Curly shot from ambush, by creatures, it was highly probable, who were ignorantly actuated by Brown's own crooked Mexican policy. Curly flinging, with his dying hands, the boomerang that was to strike Brown down. That incidentally it would pull Fowler down, moved Enoch little. Fowler too would be hoist by his own petard.
For a long hour Enoch paced the floor. Then he came to a sudden pause before the mantel and turned on the light above the painting of Bright Angel trail. Outside the room sounded the clatter of Washington's streets. Enoch did not hear it. Once more a passionate, sullen boy, he was clinging to his mule on the twisting trail. Once more swept over him the horror of the Canyon and of human beings that had tortured the soul of the boy, Enoch, on that first visit into the Canyon's depths. The sweat started to his forehead and, as he stared, he grasped the mantel with both hands. Then he picked up the envelope. His hand shook as he inserted a finger under the flap, lifting his eyes as he did so, once more to the painting.
He paused. Unearthly calm, drifting mists, colors too ephemeral, too subtle for words—drawn in the Canyon!
The lift of the Ida under his knees, the eager welter of the whirlpool, the sting of the icy Colorado dragging him under, the flash of Diana's face and his winning fight with death.
The chaos of the river and two tiny figures staggering hour after hour over the hopeless, impossible chasms and buttes; Harden going to the rescue of Forrester.
Starlight on the desert. Diana's touch on his forehead, her tender, gentle fingers smoothing his hair as they gazed together at the mysterious shadowy depth beyond which flowed the Colorado; that tender touch on his hair and forehead and the desert stars thrilling near, infinitely remote.
Suddenly Enoch, resting his arm on the mantel, dropped his forehead upon it and stood so, the wonderful glowing colors of the painting seeming to shimmer on his bronze hair. At last, at the sound of Jonas's footstep in the hall, he lifted his head, turned off the light above the painting, crossed to his desk and, dropping the still unopened envelope into a secret drawer, locked it and put the key in his pocket.
The following morning Senator Havisham came to see Enoch. He was one of the leading members of Enoch's party, a virile, progressive man, very little older than the Secretary himself. After shaking hands with Enoch and taking one of his cigars, he sat staring at him as if he scarcely knew how to begin.
Enoch smiled half sadly. "Go ahead, Senator," he said. "You and I have known each other a long time."
The Senator smiled in return. "Yes, we have, Huntingdon, and I'm proud of the fact. That is why I was asked to undertake this errand which has an unpleasant as well as a pleasant side. We want you to run as our presidential nominee. But before we pass the word around, we want you to issue a denial of the Brown canard that will settle that kind of mud slinging at you for good and all."
Enoch's face was a cold mask. "I can't deny it, Havisham. The facts stated are true. The inferences drawn as to my character are false. The bringing of Miss Allen into the story was a blasphemy. All things considered, as far as publicity goes, utter silence is my only recourse. As for my private retaliation on Brown, that's another and a personal matter."
Senator Havisham looked at Enoch through half-shut eyes.
"Huntingdon, let me issue that statement, exactly as you have made it."
"No," replied Enoch flatly. "The less reference made by us to the Brown canard, the better chance of its being forgotten."
The Senator puffed silently, then said, "Why does Brown hate you?"
"I have fought his Mexican policy."
"Yes, I know, but is that the only reason?"
"As far as my knowledge goes," replied Enoch. "Of course, now that he's openly committed to Fowler, he has an added grievance."
"There is nothing personal between you?"
"I never laid eyes on the man in my life. I never did him an intentional injury. I am merely in his way. I always have despised his papers and now I despise him. Understand, Senator, that, without regard to diplomacy, Brown and I must have it out."
Havisham shook his head. "You'd better let him alone, Huntingdon. He has an awful weapon in his papers and he can smear you in the public mind no matter how obviously false his stories may be."
Enoch's lips tightened. "I'm not afraid of Brown. But all things considered, Havisham, you'd better leave me out of your list of presidential possibilities."
"There is no list! Or, at least, you're the list!" The Senator's laugh was a little rueful.
"And," Enoch went on, "strange as it may seem, I'm not sure that I want the Presidency. It seems to me that I might be far more useful in the Capitol than in the White House."
"Not to the party!" exclaimed Havisham quickly.
"No, to the country!"
"Perhaps, but it's a debatable matter, which I don't intend to debate. You are our man. If you won't deny the Brown canard, then we must go ahead without the denial."
Enoch looked thoughtfully from the window, then turned back to the Senator. "There is no great hurry, is there? Give me a month to get matters clear in my own mind."
"There is no hurry, except that the Brown papers work while others sleep, and Fowler is Brown's nominee. However, take your month, old man. I don't doubt that you have troubles of your own!"
Enoch nodded. Havisham shook hands heartily and departed, and the Secretary turned to his loaded desk. The Alaskan situation was causing him keen anxiety. The old war between private ownership, with all its greed and unfairness to the common citizen, and government control, with all its cumbersome and often inefficient methods, had reached acute proportions in the great northern province. Enoch was faced with the necessity of deciding between the two. It must be a long distance decision and any verdict he rendered was predestined to have in it elements of injustice. For days Enoch thrust, as far as possible, his personal problem into the background while he struggled with this greater one. It was only at night that the thought of Diana overwhelmed all else to torture him and yet to fill him with the joy of perfect memories.
It was on the morning after he had given his Alaskan decision that Charley Abbott, eyebrows raised, laid a Brown paper before the Secretary, with the comment:
"Either Cheney or some one in Cheney's office has leaked."
It was a twisted story of Curly's death. Curly, according to this version, had been doing his utmost to keep two Survey men, Harden and Forrester, from hogging for obscure government purposes, certain oil lands, belonging to Curly. In the ill feeling that had resulted, Curly had been shot. Before his death, however, he had been able to write a statement of the affair which had been sent to a well-known lawyer in Washington. He also had left sufficient property to the lawyer to enable him to expose the workings of the Geological Survey to its bones.
Enoch's face reddened. "I don't know what there is about a piece of work like this that gets under my skin so intolerably!" he exclaimed. "Whether it's the cruelty of it, or the dishonesty or the brute selfishness, I don't know. But we are going to answer this, Abbott."
"How shall we go about it, sir? We might find out if Cheney knows these men personally and have him make a statement."
"Have him tell of their previous records," said Enoch. "Let the world know the heroism and the self-sacrifice of those men. And at the end let him give the lie direct to the Brown papers. Tell him I'll sign it for him."
"That will give Brown just the opening he's looking for, Mr. Secretary, I'm afraid," said Abbott, doubtfully. "I mean, your signature."
"I'm ready for Brown," replied Enoch shortly.
Still Charley hesitated. "What is it, Abbott?" asked the Secretary.
"It's Miss Allen I'm thinking about," blurted out the younger man. "You've gone through the worst that they can hand to a man, so you've nothing more to fear. But if they bring her into it again, Mr. Secretary, I'll go crazy!"
The veins stood up on Enoch's forehead, and he said, with a cold vehemence that made Abbott recoil, "If Miss Allen's name is brought up with mine in that manner again, I shall kill Brown."
Charley moistened his lips. "Well, but after all, Mr. Huntingdon, Harden and Forrester are just a couple of unknown chaps. Is your championing them worth the risk to Miss Allen?"
"Miss Allen would be the last person to desire that kind of shielding. I've reached my limit, Abbott, as far as the Brown papers are concerned. They've got to keep their foul pens off the Department of the Interior. I'd a little rather kill Brown than not. Why should decent citizens live in fear of his dirty newsmongers? Life is not so sweet to me, Abbott, nor the future so full of promise that I greatly mind sacrificing either."
"It's just—it's just that I care so much about Miss Allen," reiterated Charley, miserably and doggedly.
Enoch drew a quick breath. The two men stared at each other, pain and hopelessness in both faces. Enoch recovered himself quickly.
"I'm sorry, my boy," he said gently, "but life, particularly public life, is full of bitter situations like this. Brown must be stopped somewhere by somebody. Let's not count the cost. Get in touch with Cheney and have that statement ready for the morning paper."
He turned back to his letters and Abbott left the room. Before he went home that night, Enoch had signed the very readable account of some of Harden's and Forrester's exploits in the Survey and had added, before signing, a line to the effect that the slurs and insinuations regarding the two men which had appeared in the morning papers were entirely untrue.
For several days there was no reply from the Brown camp. Enoch's friends commented to him freely on his temerity in deliberately drawing Brown on, but Enoch only smiled and shrugged his shoulders, while Curly's statement lay unopened in his drawer. But underneath his calm, the still raw wound of Brown's earlier attack tingled as it awaited the rubbing in of the salt.
Finally, one morning, Charley laid a Brown paper on Enoch's desk. The Secretary of the Interior, said the account, had denied the truth of certain statements made by the publication. A repetition of the story followed. A careful reinvestigation of the facts, the account went on, showed the case to be as originally stated. The well-known lawyer had been interviewed. He had told the reporter that the contents of Field's letter were surprising beyond words and that as soon as he had made full preparations some arrests would follow that would startle the country. The lawyer, whose name was withheld for obvious reasons, was a man whose integrity was beyond question. He had no intention of using the funds willed him by Field, for he and Field had grown up together in a little New England town. The money would be put in trust for Field's son, who would be sent to college with the lawyer's own boy. In the meantime, the Secretary of the Interior would not be beyond a most respectful and discriminating investigation himself. It was known that he had cut short an unsuccessful speaking tour for very good reasons, and had disappeared into the desert country for a month. Where had he been?
Enoch suddenly laughed as he laid the paper down. "It is so childish, so preposterous, that even a fool wouldn't swallow it!" he exclaimed.
"It's just the sort of thing that people swallow whole," returned Abbott.
"Even at that, it's absolutely unimportant," said Enoch. Again Charley disagreed with him. "Mr. Secretary, it's very important, for it's a threat. It says that if you don't keep still, they will investigate your desert trip. And you know what they could make of that!"
"Let them keep their tongues off my Department, then," said Enoch, sternly. Nevertheless when Abbott had left him alone he did not turn immediately to his work. His cigar grew cold, and the ink dried on his pen, while he sat with the look of grim determination in his eyes and lips, deepening.
He dined out that night and was tired and depressed when he returned home. Jonas was smiling when he let the Secretary in and took his coat.
"Boss, they's a nice little surprise waiting for you up on your desk."
"Who'd be surprising me, Jonas? No one on earth but you, I'm afraid."
Jonas chuckled. "You're a bad guesser, boss! A bad guesser! How come you to think I could do anything to surprise you?"
Enoch went into his brightly lighted room and stopped before his desk with a low exclamation of pleasure. A large photograph stood against the book rack. Three little naked Indian children with feathers in their hair were dancing in the foreground. Behind them lay an ancient cliff dwelling half in ruins. To the left an Indian warrior, arms folded on his broad chest stood watching the children, his face full of an inscrutable sadness. The children were extraordinarily beautiful. Diana had worked with a very rapid lens and had caught them atilt, in the full abandonment of the child to joy in motion. The shadowed, mysterious, pathetic outline of the cliff dwelling, the somber figure of the chief only enhanced the vivid sense of motion and glee in the children. The picture was intrinsically lovely even without that haunting sense of the desert's significance that made Diana's work doubly intriguing.
Enoch's depression dropped from him as if it had never been. "Oh, my dearest!" he murmured, "you did not forget, did you! It is your very self you have sent me, your own whimsical joyousness!"
Jonas tapped softly on the door.
"Come in, Jonas! Isn't it fine! How do you suppose a photograph can tell so much!"
"It's Miss Diana, it ain't the camera!" exclaimed Jonas, with a chuckle. "Na-che says she ain't never seen her when she couldn't smile. That buck looks like that fellow Wee-tah. Boss, do you remember the night he took me out to see that desert charm?"
"Tell me about it, Jonas. It will rest me more than sleep."
Enoch sank back in his chair where he could face the photograph, and Jonas established himself on the hearth rug and told his story with gusto. "I got a lot of faith in Injun charms," he said, when he had finished.
"They didn't get us our trip down Bright Angel," sighed Enoch, even as he smiled.
"We'll get it yet, see if we don't!" protested Jonas stoutly. "Na-che and I ain't give up for a minute. Don't laugh about it, boss."
"I'm not laughing," replied Enoch gravely. "I'm thinking how fortunate I am in my friends, you being among those present, Jonas."
"As I always aim to be," agreed Jonas. "Do you think you could maybe sleep now, boss?"
"Yes, I think so, Jonas," and Enoch was as good as his word.
Nearly two weeks passed before the attack on the Department of the Interior was renewed. This time it was a deliberate assault on Enoch's honesty. The Alaskan decision served as a text. This was held up as a model of corruption and an example of the type of decision to be expected from a gambling lawyer. Followed a list of half a dozen of Enoch's rulings on water power control, on forest conservation and on coal mining, each one interpreted in the light of Enoch's mania for gambling. A man, the article said in closing, may, if he wishes, take chances with his own fortune or his own reputation, but what right has he to risk the public domain?
Several days went by after the appearance of this edifying story, but Enoch made no move. Then the President summoned him to the White House.
"Enoch, shall you let that screed go unchallenged?" he demanded.
"What can I say, Mr. President?" asked Enoch. "And really, that sort of thing doesn't bother me much. It is only the usual political mud slinging. They are feeling me out. They want more than anything to get me into a newspaper controversy with them. I am going to be difficult to get."
"So I see!" retorted the President. "If you are not careful, old man, people will begin to think Brown is right and you are afraid."
Enoch laughed. "I am not afraid of him or any other skunk. But also, in spite of my red hair, I have a good deal of patience. I am waiting for our friends to trot out their whole bag of tricks."
"What do you hear from Fowler?" asked the President.
"Nothing. I am desperately sorry that he has got mixed up with Brown. He is a brilliant man and the party needs him. I hope his attitude toward me has made no break in the pleasant relationship between you and him, Mr. President."
"It did for a short time. But we got together over the Dutch Guiana matter and he's quite himself again. As you say, the party can ill afford to lose him. But a man who works with Brown I consider lost to the party, no matter if he keeps the name."
"Fowler used to like me," said Enoch, thoughtfully.
"He certainly did. But the reason that Fowler will always be a politician and not a statesman is that he is still blind to the fact that the biggest thing a man can do for himself politically is to forget himself and work for the party."
"You mean for the country, do you not?" asked Enoch.
"It should be the same thing. If Fowler can get beyond himself, he'll be a statesman. But he's fifty and characters solidify at fifty. He's been a first rate Secretary of State, because he's a first rate international lawyer, because his tact is beyond reproach and because he is forced by the nature of his work to think nationally and not personally."
"I'm sorry he's taken up with Brown," repeated Enoch. "There never was such a dearth of good men in national politics before."
"I've known him for many years," the President said thoughtfully, "and I never knew him to do a dishonest thing. He's full of horse sense. I've heard rumors that in his early days in the Far West he got in with a bad crowd, but he threw them off and any one that knew details has decently forgotten them. I've tried several times to speak to him about this new alliance but although he's never shown temper as he did that night when you were here, I get nowhere with him. His ideas for the party are sane and sound and constructive."
"You mean for the country, do you not, sir?" asked Enoch again with a smile.
The older man smiled too. "Hanged if I don't mean both!" he exclaimed.
"What do you think of Havisham as presidential material?" asked Enoch.
"Too good-natured! A splendid fellow but not quite enough chin! By the way, I understand you refused to commit yourself to him the other day."
Enoch rose with a sigh. "Life to some people seems to be a simple aye! aye! nay! nay! proposition. It never has been to me. Each problem of my life presents many facets, and the older I grow the more I realize that most of my decisions concerning myself have been made for one facet and not for all. This time I'm trying to make a multiple decision, as it were."
"I think I understand," said the Chief executive. "Good night, Enoch."
And Enoch went home to the waiting Jonas.
REVENGE IS SWEET
"And then, after that day on the Colorado was ended, after the agony of toil, the wrestling with death while our little boats withstood the shock of destiny itself, oh, then, the wonder and the peace of the night's camp. Rest! Rest at last!"—Enoch's Diary.
January slipped swiftly by and February, with its alternate rain and snow came on. The splendid mental and physical poise that Enoch had brought back with him from the Canyon stood him in good stead under the pressure of office business which never had been so heavy. One morning, late in February, Cheney came to see the Secretary.
"Well, Mr. Cheney, have you made your discovery?" asked Enoch.
Cheney nodded slowly. "But I didn't make it until last night, Mr. Huntingdon. I've followed up all sorts of leads that landed me nowhere. Last night, a newspaper reporter came to my house. He's with the News now, but he used to be with Brown. He came round to learn something about our men finding gold in the Grand Canyon. He wanted the usual fool thing, an expression of opinion from me as Director. As soon as he let slip that he'd been on the Brown papers, I began to question him and I found that he'd been fired because he'd refused to go out to Arizona and follow up your vacation trip. But, he said, two weeks ago they started another fellow on the job."
Enoch did not stir by so much as an eye wink.
"I thought you ought to know this, although, personally, it may be a matter of indifference to you."
Enoch nodded. "And what are your conclusions, Mr. Cheney?"
"That Brown is determined to discredit the Department of the Interior and you, until you are ousted and a man in sympathy with his Mexican policy is put in."
"I agree with you, entirely. And what are your plans?"
"I shall stick by my Bureau until we lick him. I haven't the slightest desire to desert my Chief. When I thought it was I they were after, I felt differently."
"Thanks, Mr. Cheney! Will you give me the name of the reporter of whom you were speaking."
"James C. Capp. He's not a bad chap, I think."
Enoch nodded and Cheney took his departure. There were several important conferences after this which Enoch cleared off rapidly and with his usual efficiency. When, however, Jonas announced luncheon, Abbott asked for a little delay.
"Here is an interesting item from this morning's Brown," he said. Enoch read the clipping carefully.
"The visitor to El Tovar, the rim hotel of the Grand Canyon receives some curious impressions of our governmental prerogatives. Recently a government expedition down the Colorado was too well equipped with spirits and had some severe smash-ups. Two of the men became disgusted and quit, but nothing daunted, Milton, the leader took on two fugitives from justice in Utah and proceeded on his way. A week later, however, there was a complete smash-up both moral and material. The boats were lost and the expedition disbanded. The expensive equipment lies in the bottom of the Colorado. So much for the efficiency and morale of the U. S. Geological Survey."
Enoch laughed, but there was an unpleasant twist to his mouth as he did it.
"Abbott," he said, "will you please find out if Brown is in New York. Wherever he is, I am going to see him, immediately and I want you to go with me. No, don't be alarmed! There will be no personal violence, yet."
The locating of the newspaper publisher was a simple task. An hour after lunch, Charley reported Brown as in his New York office.
"Very well," said Enoch, "telegraph him that we will meet him at his office at nine to-night. We will take the three o'clock train and return at midnight."
It was not quite nine o'clock when Enoch and Charley entered Hancock Brown's office. The building was buzzing with newspaper activities, but the publisher's office was quiet. A sleepy office attendant was awaiting them. With considerable ceremony he ushered the two across the elaborate reception room and throwing open a door, said:
"The Secretary of the Interior, sir."
A small man, with a Van Dyke beard and gentle brown eyes crossed the room with his hand outstretched.
"Mr. Huntingdon! this is a pleasure and an honor!"
"It is neither, sir," said Enoch, giving no heed to the outstretched hand.
Brown raised his eyebrow. "Will you be seated, Mr. Huntingdon?"
"Not in your office, sir. Mr. Brown, I have endured from your hands that which no man would think to make another endure." Enoch's beautiful voice was low but its resonance filled the office. His eyes were like blue ice. "I have remained silent, for reasons of my own, under your personal attacks on me, but now I have come to tell you that the attacks on the Department of the Interior and on my personal life must cease."
Hancock Brown looked at Enoch with gentle reproach in his eyes. "Surely you don't want to muzzle the press, Mr. Huntingdon?"
"We're not speaking of the press," returned Enoch, "I have sincere admiration for the press of this country."
Brown flushed a little at this. "I shall continue on exactly the line I have laid down," he said quietly.
"If," said Enoch, clearly, "Miss Allen is brought into your publication again either directly or by implication, I shall come to your office, Mr. Brown, and shoot you. Abbott, you are the witness to what I say and to the conversation that has led to it."
"I am, Mr. Secretary," said Charley. "And if for any reason you should be unable to attend to the matter, I would do the shooting for you."
"This will make interesting copy," said Brown.
"I have within my control," Enoch went on, steadily, "the means to force you to cease to put out lies concerning the Department of the Interior and me. I seriously consider not waiting for your next move, but of making use of this in retaliation for what you have done to me. As to that, I have reached no conclusion. This is all I have to say."
Enoch turned on his heel and closely followed by Charley left the office. As they entered the taxicab, Abbott said, "Gee, that did me more good than getting my salary doubled! I thought you were going to use this morning's item as a text!"
"You'd better have Cheney prepare a reply to that, for me to sign," said Enoch and he lapsed into silence. They went directly to their train and to bed and the next morning office routine began promptly at nine as usual.
February slipped into March. One cold, rainy morning Abbott, with a broad smile on his face, came in to take dictation.
"What's happened, Abbott?" asked Enoch. "Some one left you some money?"
"Better than that!" exclaimed Charley. "I dined at the Indian Commissioner's last night and whom do you think I took out? Miss Allen!"
A slow red suffused Enoch's forehead and died out. "When did she return to Washington?" he asked, quietly.
"A day or so ago. She is studying at the Smithsonian. She says she'll be here two months."
"She is well, I hope," said Enoch.
"She looks simply glorious!"
Enoch nodded. "Instead of dictating letters, this morning, Abbott, suppose you start the visitors this way. Somehow, the thought of wading through that pile, right now, sickens me."
Charley's face showed surprise, but he rose at once. "Mr. Cheney's been waiting for an hour out there with an interesting chap from the western field. Perhaps you'd better see them before I let the committee from California in."
Cheney came first. "Mr. Secretary, one of my men is in from Arizona. He is very much worked up over Brown's last effort and he's got so much to say that I thought you'd better meet him. Incidentally, he's a very fine geologist."
"Bring him in," said Enoch.
The Director swung open the door and moving slowly on a cane, Milton came into the room.
"Mr. Secretary, Mr. Milton," said Cheney. "He—" then he stopped with his mouth open for Milton had turned white and the Secretary was laughing.
"Judge!" gasped Milton.
Enoch left his desk and crossing the room seized both Milton's hands, cane and all.
"Milton, old boy, there's no man in the world I'd rather see than you."
"Why, are you two old friends?" asked Cheney.
"Intimate friends!" exclaimed Enoch. "Cheney, I'll remember the favor all my life, if you'll leave me alone with Milton for a little while."
"Why certainly! Certainly! I didn't know Milton was trying to spring a surprise on you. I'll be just outside when I'm needed."
"Sit down, Milton," said Enoch, soberly, when they were alone. "Don't hold my deception against me. I was not spying. It was the blindest fate in the world that brought me to the Canyon and to your expedition."
Milton's freckled face was still pale. "Hold it against you! Of course not! But you've rattled me, Judge,—Mr. Secretary."
"No one but Abbott knows of my trip and he in baldest outline. Keep my secret for me, old man, as long as you possibly can. I suppose it will leak out eventually."
Milton was staring at Enoch. "Think of all we said and did!" he gasped.
"Especially what we did! Oh, it was glorious! Glorious!" cried Enoch. "It did all for me that you thought it might, Milton. Do you remember?"
"Yes, I remember. And I remember telling you my personal ambitions! I'd rather have cut out my tongue!"
"And once you all told what you thought of Enoch Huntingdon!" The Secretary burst out laughing, and Milton joined him with a great "Ha! ha!"
"So you were the fugitive from justice, that joined my drunken crew," chuckled Milton, wiping the tears from his eyes. "And I came over to try to put myself straight as to that with the Big Boss!"
"The best part of it all is that excepting Abbott and Jonas and now you, not a living soul knew it was the Secretary of the Interior who took the trip."
"Of course, there was Miss Allen!" added Milton. "Don't forget her! But she's as safe as the Canyon itself at keeping a secret."
"How about the reporter who's said to be on my trail?" asked Enoch.
"He's prowling round on the river, running up an expense account twenty-three hours and making up lies on the twenty-fourth. Capp told Mr. Cheney that this reporter, whose name is Ames, I believe, was to write nothing until his return to New York. Mr. Secretary, can't something be done to shut him off?"
"Yes," replied Enoch, sternly. The two men were silent for a moment, then Enoch said with a sudden lighting of his blue eyes. "Where are you stopping, old man."
"I haven't located the cheapest hotel in Washington yet. When I do, that'll be where I'll stop. You remember we used to speak our minds on the salaries the Department paid."
"I remember," chuckled Enoch. "Well, Milton, the cheapest stopping place in Washington is over at Judge Smith's place. I believe you have the address. By the way, have you seen Jonas?"
"No, but I want to," replied Milton.
Enoch pressed the button, and Jonas' black head popped in at the door. As his eyes fell on Milton, they began to bulge.
"The Lord have mercy! How come you didn't tell me, boss—" he began. Then he rushed across the room and shook hands. "Mr. Milton, I'd rather see you than my own brother. Did you find any pieces of the Na-che?"
"No, Jonas, but I've got some fine pictures in my trunk of you shooting rapids in the old boat."
"No! My Lordy! Where's your trunk, Mr. Milton?"
"Jonas," said Enoch, "you get Mr. Milton's trunk check and—but he says he's going to a hotel."
Jonas looked at Milton, indignantly. "Going to a hotel! How come you to try to insult the boss' and my house, Mr. Milton? Huh! Hotel! Huh!"
He took the check and left the room, still snorting. Milton rose. "I mustn't intrude any longer, Mr. Secretary."
"Luckily I'm free, to-night," said Enoch. "We'll have a great talk. Ask Cheney to come in, please."
"Mr. Cheney," asked Enoch, when Milton had gone, "do you think you could find out whether or not that fellow Ames has returned from Arizona?"
"Yes, we can do that without much trouble. Was Milton able to straighten matters up with you, Mr. Secretary?"
"He didn't have to. I'm an ardent admirer of Milton's. He's going to stop at my house, while he's in Washington. Why don't you take him out of the field and begin to groom him for your job, Mr. Cheney? He should be ready for it in a few years."
Cheney nodded. "He's a good man. I'll think it over. And I will telephone Abbott about Ames."
It was fortunate for Enoch that Milton was with him that evening, for the knowledge that Diana was in Washington and that he could not see her was quite as agonizing as he had suspected it would be. Yet it was impossible not to enjoy Milton's continual surprise and pleasure at the change in the Judge's identity and it was a real delight to make once more the voyage to the Ferry not only for its own sake but because with the landing at the Ferry came much conversation on the part of Jonas and Milton about Diana. But Enoch did not sleep well that night and reached his office in the morning, heavy-eyed and grim.
Abbott, standing beside the Secretary's desk was even more grim. "Mr. Cheney was too slow getting us the information about Ames," he said, pointing to the newspaper that lay on the desk.
Enoch lighted a cigar very deliberately, then began to read. It was a detailed account of the vacation trip of the Secretary of the Interior. It was written with devilish ingenuity, purporting to show that Enoch in his hours of relaxation was a thorough-going good fellow. The account said that Enoch had picked up a mining outfit made up of two notorious gamblers. That the three had then annexed two Indian bucks and a squaw and had slowly made their way into the Grand Canyon, ostensibly to placer mine, actually to play cards and hunt. The story was witty, and contained some good word pictures of the Canyon country. It was subtle in its wording, but it was from first to last an unforgettable smirching of Enoch's character.
Enoch laid the paper down. "Abbott," he said slowly, "the time has come to act. I want Mr. Fowler, Mr. Brown, this fellow Ames, or whatever reporter wrote the first article about me to come to my office tomorrow afternoon at five o'clock. If it is necessary to ask the President for authority to bring them here, I shall ask for it."
Abbott's eyes glowed. "Thank God, at last!" he exclaimed. "Shall I prepare a denial of this stuff."
"No! At least they have left Miss Allen out. We may be thankful and let it stand at that. Now, start the procession in, Abbott. I'm in no mood to dictate letters."
Enoch threw himself into the day's work with burning intensity. About three o'clock, he told Abbott to deny all visitors that he might devote himself to an Alaskan report.
"Mr. Milton just rushed in. Will you let him have a moment?" asked Charley.
"Yes, but—" here Milton came in unceremoniously.
"Mr. Huntingdon," he said, "I've just finished lunching with Miss Allen. We are both nearly frantic over this morning's paper. You must let us publish the truth."
"No," thundered Enoch. "You know the Brown papers. If they discovered what Miss Allen did for us all at the Ferry, how she led me back to El Tovar, what would they do with it?"
Abbott looked from Enoch to Milton in astonishment. Milton started to speak, but Enoch interrupted, "You are, of course, thinking that I should have thought of that long before, when I asked her to let me go back to El Tovar with her. But I didn't! I had been in the Canyon long enough to have forgotten what could be made of my adventure by bad minds. I was a cursed fool, moving in a fool's paradise and I must take my punishment. If ever—"
Jonas opened the door from the outer office. "The President, Mr. Secretary," he said.
Enoch started toward the telephone, but Jonas spoke impatiently—"No! No! not that."
"The President of what, Jonas!" asked Abbott.
Jonas lifted his chest and flung the door wide. "The President of the United States of America," he announced, and the President came in.
Enoch rose. "Don't let me disturb you, Mr. Secretary. I can wait," said the chief executive.
"We were quite finished, Mr. President. May I, I wonder, introduce Mr. Milton to you, the geologist whom Brown said headed the drunken expedition down the Colorado."
The President looked keenly at Milton as they shook hands. "Mr. Huntingdon took great pains to deny that story, publicly," he said. "Can't you persuade him, Mr. Milton, to do as much for himself, to-day."
"That's exactly why I'm here, Mr. President!" exclaimed Milton. "But he's absolutely obdurate!"
Jonas came into the room and spoke to Enoch softly. "Mr. Fowler's office is on the outside wire, Mr. Secretary. I wouldn't connect in here while the President was here. Mr. Fowler wants to speak to you, hisself, before he catches a train."
"I'll go into your office to get it, Abbott," said Enoch. "May I detain you, a moment, Mr. President? Mr. Fowler wants to speak to me."
The President raised his eyebrows with a little smile. "Yes, if you tell me what's happened to Fowler."
Enoch's smile was twisted as he went out. Milton immediately began to speak.
"Mr. President, can't you make Mr. Huntingdon tell about his vacation?"
The chief executive shook his head. "Perhaps it's not best. Perhaps he did have a lapse into his boyhood habits. Not that it makes any difference to me."
"No! No! Mr. President. I know—" began Charley.
But Milton interrupted, "Mr. President, he was with me and part of the time Miss Diana Allen, a wonderful woman, was with us. And Mr. Huntingdon is afraid they'll turn their dirty tongues on her."
The President's face lighted as if he had received good news. "Really! With you!"
"Yes, with me for a week and more. And I want to tell you, sir, that for nerve and endurance and skill in a boat and as a pal and friend under life and death conditions I've never seen any one to surpass him. He scorned cards while he was with us. We had no liquor. We admired him beyond words and had no idea who he was."
"No!" cried the President, delightedly. "Why, there must be a real story in this! Go on with it, Milton! Enoch," as the Secretary came in, "I'm winning the truth out of your old cruising pal, here!"
"I can't help it, Mr. Huntingdon!" cried Milton as Enoch turned toward him indignantly. "Miss Diana said this noon that if you didn't tell the story, she would."
"There you are!" exclaimed the President. "Wouldn't you know she'd take it that way? And on second thoughts I think I'd rather hear the story from her than any one else."
"But she can't tell you about the voyage, sir," protested Milton.
"That's true," agreed the President. "I shall have to arrange one of my choice little dinners and have you and Miss Diana Allen there to pad out the Secretary's account." Then, with a sudden change of voice, he walked over to Enoch and put his hand on the younger man's shoulder. Abbott nodded to Milton and the two slipped out.
"You are a bit twisted about women, dear old man! Come, you must let Milton put out the right kind of a denial of Brown's story."
"Brown will put the denial out for himself," said Enoch sternly. "I've reached my limit. Mr. President, I have asked Mr. Fowler, Brown, and the reporter who's been maligning me to come to my office to-morrow afternoon. I think I shall be able to settle this matter. I would perhaps have done it before but I could not settle in my own mind just how I wanted to go about it. Fowler refused to come until I told him the purpose of the meeting."
"And you know now how to end this miserable affair?" asked the President, wonderingly.
"Yes," replied Enoch. "And now, Mr. President, what can I do for you?"
"Exactly what you are doing, Enoch. Clear up this disgusting matter."
"You came to see me for that, sir?"
The President smiled. "You do not seem to realize that a great many people, people who never saw you, are deeply troubled about you. You do not belong to yourself but to us, Mr. Secretary."
"Perhaps you are right, sir," said Enoch humbly. "I thank you most sincerely for coming."
"Will you come to me as soon as you have finished, to-morrow, Enoch?"
"Yes, Mr. President! Abbott, will you show the President out?" Then when Charley had returned, he said, "Abbott, the Secretary of State will be here. How about Brown?"
"He will be here," replied Charley. "I used the President's name pretty freely, but I think I finally got him curious enough and worried enough."
Enoch nodded. "Abbott, for the first time since I've been in this office, I'm going to quit early and go for a ride."
"It's what you ought to do every day," said Abbott.
"Look here, Abbott, if I get this beastly matter settled to-morrow, I want you to go away for two months' vacation."
"Well," said Charley, doubtfully, "if you get it settled!"
"Don't let that worry you," said Enoch grimly as he pulled on his overcoat and left the office. "I'll settle it."
Promptly at three o'clock, the next day, Abbott ushered three men into the Secretary's office. Enoch rose and bowed to Secretary Fowler, to Hancock Brown, and to Ames, the reporter. The last was a clear cut young fellow with a nose a little too sharp and eyes set a trifle too close together.
"If you will be seated, gentlemen, I'll tell you the object of this call upon your time. Mr. Abbott, please remain in the room.
"On the third of November, Mr. Brown, you published in one of your evening papers an article about me written under your direction by Ames. The facts in that article were in the main true. The deductions you drew from them were vilely false. It is not, Mr. Brown, a pleasant knowledge for a man to carry through life that his mother was what my mother was. I have suffered from that knowledge as it is obviously quite beyond your power to comprehend. I say obviously, because no men with decency or the most ordinary imagination would have dared to harrow a man's secret soul as you harrowed mine. Even in my many battles with Tammany, my unfortunate birth has been respected. It remained for you to write the unwriteable.
"As for my gambling, that too is true, to a certain extent. I have played cards perhaps half a dozen times in as many years. I was taught to play by the Luigi whom you interviewed. I have a gambler's instinct, but since I was fourteen I have fought as men can fight and latterly I have been winning the battle.
"Your insinuations as to my adult relationship to the underworld and to women are lies. And your dragging Miss Allen into the dirty tale was a gratuitous insult which it is fortunate for both of you, her father has not yet seen. It happened that while I was on the vacation recently in which you have taken so impertinent an interest, that I joined the camp of two miners. One of them, Curly Field, told me an interesting story. He probably would not have told me had I not been calling myself Smith and had he not discovered that I am a lawyer."
The smile suddenly disappeared from Brown's face.
"That fellow Curly always was a liar," he said.
Enoch shrugged his shoulders. "You should be a good judge of liars, Brown. Curly told me that Mr. Fowler was his brother-in-law's partner."
Fowler spoke, his face drawn. "Spare me that story, Mr. Huntingdon, I beg of you."
"Did you beg Brown to spare me?" demanded Enoch, sternly.
"Pshaw!" exclaimed Brown, "that is old stuff. It couldn't be proved that we had anything to do with it."
"No?" queried Enoch. "What would you say to my taking the fund left Judge Smith by Curly and employing a first-class lawyer and a detective to go on the trail of those mis-appropriated funds?" Brown did not answer and Enoch went on: "Curly's idea was to get even with Fowler. It was, in fact, a type of mania with him. He told me that for years he had been in possession of facts concerning certain doings of Brown and Fowler in Mexico, which if they were properly blazed across the country would utterly ruin both of them. He wanted to put me in possession of those facts."
Suddenly Fowler rose and went to stand at a window, his back to the group around the Secretary's desk. Enoch continued, clearly and firmly:
"I could scarcely believe my good fortune. Here was my chance to pay Brown in kind."
"Did Curly give you the facts?" asked Brown, who had grown a little white around the mouth.
Enoch did not heed him. "I asked Curly if the story was a reflection on these two men morally or financially. He said, morally; that it was bad beyond words. At this point I weakened and told him that I had no desire to display any man's weakness in the market place. And Curly laughed at me and asked me what mercy Fowler had shown his brother? But still I could not make up my mind to take those facts from Curly."
Mr. Brown eased back in his chair with a sneering smile. Young Ames sat sickly pale, his mouth open.
"But when I left him," the calm, rich voice went on, "I told him that he could write down the story and send it to my house in Washington. Now the chances are that having drifted so many years without telling it, he would have drifted on indefinitely. But fate intervened. Curly went to the Mexican border. Certain gentlemen have seen to it that the Mexican border is not safe. Curly was shot and he made it his death-bed duty to dictate this delectable tale to a friend. In due course of time, the document reached my house in Washington, and here it is!" He tapped the upper drawer of his desk.
There was utter silence in the room while Enoch lighted a cigarette.
"Have you told any one the er—tale?" demanded Brown, hoarsely. "I can prove that not a word of it is true!"
"Can you?" Enoch squared round on him. "Are you willing to risk having the story told with the idea of disproving it, afterward? Isn't your system of scandal mongering built on the idea that mud once slung always leaves a stain in the public mind? And Curly was an eye witness. He is dead, but I do not believe all the other eye witnesses are dead. At any rate—"
Brown suddenly leaned forward in his chair. "Mr. Huntingdon, I'll give you my check for $100,000, if you will give me that document and swear to keep your mouth shut."
"Your bribe is not large enough," Enoch answered tersely.
"Five hundred thousand! I'll agree to make a public retraction of everything I said about you and to work for you with all the power of my newspapers."
"Not enough!" repeated Enoch, watching Brown's white face, keenly.
"What do you want?" demanded the newspaper publisher.
"First," Enoch threw his cigarette away, "I want Secretary Fowler to break with you, absolutely and completely."
"Curly can't implicate me, in that Mexican affair!" cried Fowler. "Why, my whole attitude was one of disapproval and disgust. I told Brown over and over, that he was a fool and after the shooting I broke with him, absolutely, for years. I am—"
Enoch interrupted. "Brown, was Fowler in on the trouble?"
"No!" replied Brown, sullenly.
"I'm very glad to hear it," Enoch exclaimed. "Mr. Fowler, as far as I am concerned all that I learned from Field regarding you is a closed book and forgotten if you will break with Brown."
"I'd break with him, gladly, if he'd cease to blackmail me about the Field matter," said Fowler. "Good God! How many of us are there who've not committed sins that we never forgive ourselves?"
"None of us!" said Enoch. "Mr. Fowler, why did you break with me?"
"Didn't you do your best to undermine me with the President? Didn't you go to Ambassador Johns-Eaton and tell him—" Here, catching a curious flickering of young Ames' eyelids, Fowler interrupted himself to demand, "Or was that more of your dirty work, Ames?"
"Answer, Ames!" Enoch's voice was not to be ignored.
"Brown paid me for it," muttered Ames.
Fowler groaned and looked at Enoch, who was lighting a fresh cigarette.
"Will you agree, Brown, to an absolute break with Fowler and no come backs?" asked Enoch.
"Yes," said Brown eagerly. "What else?"
"You are to go out of the newspaper business."
There was another silence. Then Brown said, "I'll not do it!"
"Very well," returned Enoch, "then the Mexican affair will be published as Curly has written it with all the attendant circumstances."
Again there was silence, with all the eyes in the room focused on the pale, gentle face, opposite Enoch. The noise of street traffic beat against the windows. Telephones sounded remotely in the outer office. For ten minutes this was all. Then Brown in a husky voice said,
"Very well! Give me the document!"
"Not at all," returned Enoch, coolly. "This document goes into my safety deposit box. In case of my death, it will be left to responsible parties. When you die, it will be destroyed. I am not a rich man, Mr. Brown, but I shall devote a part of my income to having you watched; watched lest indirectly and by the underhand methods you know so well you again attempt to influence public opinion. After to-morrow, you are through."
"To-morrow! Impossible!" gasped Brown.
"Nothing is impossible except decency to a man of your capacity," said Enoch. "To-morrow you publish a complete denial of your lies about me and this Department and then you are no longer a newspaper publisher. That is all I have to say to you, Mr. Brown." He pressed a button, "Jonas, please show Mr. Brown out."
Jonas' black eyes snapped. "How come you think I'd soil my shadow letting that viper trail it, boss? I never disobeyed you before, Mr. Secretary, but that trash can show hisself out!" and Jonas withdrew to his own office, while Brown, shrugging his shoulders, opened and closed the door for himself.
Ames would have followed him, but Enoch said, "One moment, Ames! What assurance are you going to give me that you will keep your mouth shut as to what you've heard this afternoon?"
"I give you my word," began Ames, eagerly.
Enoch raised his hand. "Don't be silly, Ames. Do you know that I can make serious legal trouble for you for your part in libelling me and the Department?"
"But Brown said his lawyers—"
"Brown's lawyers? Do you think Brown's lawyers will fight for you now?"
"No, Mr. Secretary," muttered the reporter.
"Very well! Keep your mouth shut and you'll have no trouble from this, but let me trace one syllable to you and I shall have no bowels of compassion. One word more, Ames. You are clever or Brown would not have used you as he did. Get a job on a clean paper. There is no finer profession in the world than that of being a good newspaper man. Newspaper men wield a more potent influence in our American life than any other single factor. Use your talent nobly, not ignobly, Ames. And above all things never tell a vile tale about any man's mother. Don't do it, Ames!" and here Enoch's voice for the first time broke.
Ames, his hands trembling, picked up his hat. His face had turned an agonized red. Biting his lips, he made his way blindly from the room.
"And now," said Enoch, "if you'll leave Mr. Fowler and me alone for a few minutes, Abbott, I'll appreciate it." As the door closed after Charley he said, "Sit down, Fowler. I'm sorry to have put you through such an ordeal, but I knew no other way."
"I deserve it, I guess." Fowler sat down wearily. "I was an unlicked whelp in my youth, Huntingdon, but though I got into rotten company, I never did anything actually crooked."
"I believe you," Enoch nodded. "Let the guiltless throw the first stone. We both have paid in our heart's blood, I guess, for all that we wrought in boyhood."
"A thousand-fold," agreed Fowler. "Huntingdon, let me try to express my regret for—"
"Don't!" interrupted Enoch. "If you are half as eager as I am to forget it all you'll never mention it even to yourself. But I do want to talk candidly to you about our political aspirations. Mr. Fowler, I don't want to go to the White House! I have a number of reasons that I don't think would interest you particularly. But I want to go back to the Senate when I finish here. Fowler, if you were not so jealous and so personal in your ambitions I would be glad to see you get the party nomination."
Fowler's fine, tired face expressed incredulity mingled with bewilderment.
Enoch went on, "You and I are talking frankly as men rarely talk and as we probably never shall again. So perhaps you will forgive me if I make some personal comments. It seems to me that the only permanent satisfaction a man gets out of public life is the feeling that he has added in greater or less degree to the sum total of his country's progress and stability. I think your weakness is that you place yourself first and your country second."
"No!" said Fowler, eagerly. "You don't understand me, Huntingdon! My own aim in life is to make my service to my country compensate for the selfishness and foolishness of my youth. My methods may, as you say, have been open to misinterpretation. But God knows my impulses have been disinterested. And you must realize now, Huntingdon, that it has been the business of certain people to see that you and I misunderstand each other."
"That's true," said Enoch, thoughtfully. "Well, I doubt if that is possible again."
"It is absolutely impossible!" exclaimed Fowler. "I am yours to command!"
"No, you're not!" laughed Enoch. "Brown is finished and you're your own man. I look for great things from you, Fowler. I wanted to tell you that and to tell you that in me you have no rival."
"No," Fowler spoke slowly, "no, because no one can win, no one deserves to win the place in the hearts of America that you have. Huntingdon, your kindness and courtesy is the most exquisite punishment you could visit upon me."
Enoch looked quickly from the Secretary of State to the opposite wall. But he did not see the wall. He saw a crude camp in the bottom of the Canyon. He heard the epic rush of waters and the sigh of eternal winds and he saw again the picture of Harden fighting his way up the menacing walls to rescue Forrester. It seemed to Fowler that the silence had lasted five minutes before Enoch turned to him with his flashing smile.
"We are friends, Fowler, are we not?"
The older man rose and held out his hand. "Yes, Huntingdon, as long as we live," and he slowly left the room.
Enoch sank back on his chair, wearily, and opening the top drawer of his desk, took out the familiar envelope. The seal was still unbroken! He placed it in a heavy document envelope, sealed this and wrote a memorandum on it, and dropped it on the desk. Then for a long time he sat staring into the dusk. At last, as if the full realization of the loneliness of his life had swept over him he dropped his head on his desk with a groan.
"O Diana! Diana!"
He did not hear the door open softly. Abbott with Ames just behind him, stood on the threshold. The two young men looked at each other, abashed, and Abbott would have withdrawn, but Ames went doggedly into the room.
"Mr. Secretary!" he said, hesitatingly.
Enoch sat erect. Abbott flashed on the light. "Mr. Ames insists on seeing you again, Mr. Huntingdon," Charley spoke hesitatingly.
"Come in, Ames," said Enoch, coldly. "Abbott, see that this envelope is put in a safe place."
Abbott left them alone. Ames advanced to the desk, where he stood, his face eager.
"Mr. Secretary, you've been so decent. You,—you—well, you're such a man! I—I want to tell you something but I don't know how you'll take it. The truth is, I believe that I could prove that Luigi's mistress was not your mother!"
Enoch clutched his desk and his face turned to stone. "Don't you think you went far enough with that matter before?" he asked sternly.
Ames stumbled on, doggedly. "This last trip out West I just thought I'd go down to Brown's early stamping grounds and see what kind of a reputation he had there. I was getting a little fed up on him and I thought it couldn't hurt me to have a little something on him against a rainy day, as it were. You see I never did know what this Curly Field stuff was, but it didn't take me long to run that story down, even if it was a generation old. Of course, I don't know what Curly told you, but certainly the official reports of the Field scandal never proved anything on either Brown or Fowler."
Enoch moved impatiently. But young Ames, standing rigidly before his desk exclaimed, "Just a moment longer, please, Mr. Secretary! Some of these facts you know unless Field was so obsessed with the thought of his brother's alleged wrongs that he did not mention them, but I'll state them anyhow. The mining and smelting property that caused the whole row was originally owned by an old timer named Post who struck it rich late in life, married and died soon after, leaving everything to his son, a little chap named Arthur. This is the child Field was supposed to have robbed. Little Arthur died a couple of years after Field's suicide but by that time there was nothing left of the property and no one paid any attention to the child's death. But in reading old Post's will, something piqued my curiosity. In the event of Arthur's death, the property was to go to old Post's baby nephew, Huntingdon Post."
Enoch knit his brows quickly but he did not speak and Ames went on, "Being, of course, in a suspicious state of mind, it struck me as an unusual coincidence that this child should have died, too. So I made some inquiries. It was difficult to trace the facts because there were no relatives. Old Post seemed to have been just a solitary prowler, coming from nowhere, like so many of the old timers. But finally, I found an old fellow in the back country who had known old Post. He told me that little Hunt Post, as he called him, had been killed with his father and mother in a railway accident. I asked where they got the child's name and he said the mother's name was Huntingdon. He knew her when she was a girl living alone with her father in the Kanab country, north of the Grand Canyon. He said her father died when she was ten or eleven and a family named Smith sort of brought her up and she was known as Mary Smith. But when she married, she named the boy after her father who was a raw boned, red headed man named Enoch Huntingdon."
Enoch gave Ames a long steady look and the younger man relaxed a little.
"Now," Ames went on, "knowing Brown as I do, I wonder if little Hunt Post, who, like his mother was red headed and blue eyed, was burned up in a railroad accident. Did Field speak of the child?"
Enoch pressed the desk button and Abbott came. "Give me the Field envelope, please, Abbott."
When the envelope was in his hands, Enoch tore the flap up and began to read the close written pages. When he had finished, he put the manuscript back with steady hands. "Most of the letter," he said quietly, "is taken up by the recital of Brown's shady moral career in Mexico. At the end he speaks of a Mexican woman with red hair and violet eyes who lived with Brown for some months. She left to act as nurse to little Hunt Post. Some time after the railroad accident, Curly was the unsuspected witness to a secret meeting between this Anita and Brown. The woman demanded money and Brown demanded proof that little Hunt was dead. The conference ended only when Anita produced a box containing the child's body. Curly did not know how much Brown paid her or where she went."
Ames gave an ugly laugh. "Hoist with his own petard! Think of him starting me after the Luigi scandal!"
"Tell Abbott what you've just told me," said Enoch.
He did not stir while Ames repeated the story. Charley's eyes blazed. When Ames finished, Charley started to speak but the young reporter interrupted.
"Mr. Secretary, I want you to let me tie up the loose ends for you. We've got to put the screws on Luigi and I'll take another trip West."
"Wait a bit!" exclaimed Charley. "Mr. Secretary, I'm going to claim that long deferred vacation. Let me spend it with Ames clearing this matter up for you."
Enoch drew a quick breath. "When could you begin, you two?"
"Now!" the two young men said together.
Enoch smiled. "Wait until to-morrow. I've more important work to-night, and I want to go over every detail with you before you start out. In the meantime, Abbott, guard this envelope as you would your life."
"What won't we do to Brown!" exclaimed Charley.
"I've punished Brown," said Enoch. "He'll never hurt me again. As soon as this thing is cleared, we'll forget him."
Again Ames laughed. "Believe me, he's going to be good the rest of his life. Think of your reading that stuff about little Hunt, Mr. Secretary, and never realizing its import!"
"God knows, I didn't want to read the story of another man's ignominy!" said Enoch, earnestly, "and I never would have, had not—" he paused, then said as if to himself, "God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform!"
The two younger men stood in silence. Then Enoch said, "Thank you, Ames, I'll see you at nine o'clock to-morrow morning. Abbott, get the White House for me and then go home to dinner."
A few minutes later Enoch was speaking to the President. "I have to report victory, Mr. President, all along the line. . . . Yes, sir, it's a long story and I want to tell it to you to-morrow, not to-night. Mr. President, I'm going to find Miss Allen and dine with her, to-night, if I have to take her from a state function. . . . Yes, you may chuckle if you wish. I thought you'd understand. . . . Thank you! Good night, Mr. President."
Enoch hung up the receiver and sat looking at the floor, his face as white as marble. For five minutes he did not stir, then he heaved a great sigh and the tense muscles of his face relaxed. He tossed back the hair from his forehead, sprang to his feet and began to pace the floor. After a short time of this, he rang for Jonas.
"Jonas, do you know where Miss Diana is stopping?"
Jonas did not seem to hear the question. He stood staring at Enoch with eyes that seemed to start from their sockets.
"My Lordy, boss, what's happened? You look like I never hoped to see you look!" Then he paused for he could not express what he saw in the Secretary's shining eyes.
"Jonas, old man, I've had the greatest news of my life, but I can't tell even you, first."
"Miss Diana!" ejaculated Jonas. "Boss, she's at the Larson; one of these boarding houses that calls themselves a name. Didn't I tell you Injun charms was strong? Tell me! Huh!"
"All right, Jonas! I won't be home to dinner. Better sit up for me though, for I'll want to talk to you."
"Did I ever not sit up for you?" demanded Jonas as he gave Enoch his coat.
Enoch paced the floor of the Larson while a slatternly maid went in search of Diana. When, a little pale and breathless, Diana appeared in the doorway, Enoch did not stir for a moment from under the chandelier. Nor did he speak. Diana gazed at him as if she never had seen him before. His eyes were blazing. His lips quivered. He was very pale.
Suddenly, tossing his hat and cane to a chair, he crossed the room. He tried to smile.
"Diana, have you seen your friend, the psychologist yet?"
"No, Enoch, but I have an appointment with him for next week."
Enoch seized her hands and held them both against his heart. "You need never see him, Diana, I have been made whole. I—" his voice broke hoarsely—"I have something to tell you. Diana, you are going to dine with me."
"Diana! Oh, how lovely you are! Diana, it's a wonderful night, with a full moon. I want you to walk with me to the Eastern Club. I have something to tell you. And while I'm telling you, no four walls must hem us in."
Diana, her great eyes shining in response to Enoch's, turned without a word and went back upstairs. She returned at once, clad for the walk. Enoch opened the street door and paused to look down into her face with a trembling smile. Then they descended the steps into the moonlight together.