The district attorney looked at his watch again and betrayed signs of uneasiness.
"Pardon me, Mr. Harlow, but would you not rather lose a dinner than send an innocent man to his death?"
"You still have ten minutes," was the district attorney's reply, "But, I cannot see the connection between what you are relating and your idea that Robert Wood is not guilty."
Mary continued her narration.
"I asked Mr. Sawyer to examine the tools and implements in the mill workshop and he found a pickaxe, one point of which had been subjected to rather rough treatment. I naturally connected that pickaxe with the ledge of rock that had been found in the pond.
"An examination of the night watchman's quarters followed. Mr. Sawyer could discover nothing until he came to a small cupboard which was locked. Locks, however, do not keep detectives, or criminals either, from making further investigations. In the cupboard, he found a coil of rope. There was a certain peculiarity about that rope of which I will speak later.
"After that Mr. Sawyer loafed around the mill quite a good deal in the evenings and became acquainted with Mr. Pinchot the night watchman. He is a French Canadian. He told Mr. Sawyer that his parents lived in a small town near Montreal, that they were both quite old and he was their only living son, although he had five sisters, all working in the States.
"He had saved some money, and as his parents had a farm, and needed his assistance, he had resigned his position and the day following the murder was to have been the last one at the mill. He had withdrawn his resignation when told that the law would require him as a witness, and has continued in service.
"Mr. Sawyer then made a trip to Boston and found that Mr. Pinchot had not intended to go to Canada but had been making inquiries as to when a steamer would sail for France. He had been told he would have to go to New York. Am I taking up too much of your time, Mr. Harlow?"
"It makes no difference now. I am too late for the dinner. Pray proceed."
"While in the city Mr. Sawyer called upon the architects who drew the plans for the Ellicott Mills. I mean the original plan, for many changes have been made in the interior. He procured a copy of this, and we found that when the mill was first constructed, the part used by the treasurer at the time of the murder had been the receiving room for raw materials. I next made an excuse for us to visit the mills one Sunday and we investigated the second story of the mill. The floor was covered with grease and dirt and was black with age. I got upon my hands and knees and, with my magnifying glass, examined every foot of the floor.
"For a long time, my search was not rewarded, but, finally, I found a white place in the wood. A splinter had been detached. With a knife, I scraped the dirt from the floor. My search was rewarded. I had found a trap door! Its former use was apparent. On the wall, above the trap door, was a stout hook. Upon this hook the tackle had been put and goods lifted from the receiving room to the story above."
"Well what does all this lead up to?" asked the district attorney.
"I will show you very soon, now, Mr. Harlow. If you remember, the safe at the mill was found open the morning after the murder but had been closed and locked by the superintendent. This was a very foolish thing to do, as the combination had been known only to the treasurer, and it was several days before it was opened by an expert sent by the manufacturers. It was then found that the money drawn by Mr. Ellicott for the payroll, some three thousand dollars, had disappeared."
"Yes, I remember," said the district attorney, "the thief was never found, and with the more important matter of the murder on our hands little attention was paid to the loss of the money. It was clear from the start that Robert Wood had nothing to do with it, because revenge, not robbery was his motive. But, what does all this mean that you are telling me?"
"I forgot to state, or, rather postponed saying it, that the coil of rope that was found in the cupboard had a noose in one end of it, and that in Mr. Ellicott's wound I found small particles of stone. I summed up the case thus: Pinchot plotted to steal the money drawn for payday and to kill Mr. Ellicott if it became necessary. He lifted the trap door, having thrown the noose in the rope over the hook in the wall. Mr. Ellicott was quite deaf and did not notice the opening of the trap door or the man's descent by means of the rope. He used the stone because he could throw it away and no weapon could be found. The murderer saw the oaken staff. He knew that Mr. Ellicott had a visitor that evening so he used the staff to complete his deadly work and left it behind as a witness against an innocent man. He took the money from the safe, drew himself up by the rope, closed the trap door, locked up the rope and threw the stone into the pond. In France he would be safe to spend the proceeds of his crime. A nice bit of circumstantial evidence, is it not?"
"Then you believe in circumstantial evidence, Miss Dana?"
"In certain cases. But I think it would render the community just as safe, and be more just to the accused if, in cases of circumstantial evidence where there is the least doubt, the sentence should be imprisonment for life with a provision in the law that there should be no pardon unless the innocence of the life convict was conclusively proven. When a murderer is taken red-handed, I would not abate one jot or tittle of the old Mosaic law—an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a life for a life. But you know that many murderers of whose premeditated guilt there could be no doubt have been much more leniently dealt with by our judges and juries than those caught in the coils of circumstantial evidence."
"Where is the watchman now?" asked the district attorney.
"Here in Cottonton, but he is intending to leave to-night for New York, I found out this morning. Of course, he was not able to leave before this as he had to stay in the vicinity, being a witness at the trial, but his leaving so soon now simply seemed to confirm my suspicions, and I thought it time to bring the matter to your attention."
"Miss Dana," said the district attorney, rising, and holding out his hand to her. "I have done the best I could to convict Robert Wood of the murder of Samuel Ellicott, because I really believed him guilty, and my oath of office bound me to do my duty; but, if he is innocent, I believe it as much my duty to right the wrong done him. You have built up a careful case, and I myself shall ask for a stay of sentence until after this new evidence can be presented to the Grand Jury. I believe you have saved an innocent man, and I feel your future as a great detective is assured."
It was unnecessary for Mr. Harlow to apply for stay of sentence in the case of The Commonwealth of Massachusetts vs. Robert Wood. Within an hour after Mary Dana had left the district attorney's office, Gustave Pinchot was under arrest, and, sitting in the same chair which Mary had occupied, was confessing his crime.
The day that Robert Wood was discharged, with no stain upon his name, Quincy and Mary took her father to Cottonton. At the prison they met Robert's father who had come to take his son home. He was profuse in his thanks to Mr. Dana, for to him he considered his son's escape from death was due.
"You are wrong, Mr. Wood," said Mr. Dana. "Your son owes his life not so much to me as to my daughter here, and to Mr. Sawyer. She practically worked up the case herself; I made but few suggestions, and it was at her request that Mr. Sawyer made certain investigations that fitted in with her own ideas and made success possible."
"Miss Dana," said young Robert, "a year ago I insulted you, and was properly treated for my words and actions by Mr. Sawyer. I owe you both an apology which I now make and ask your forgiveness. But for you, and Mr. Sawyer, I should have died a felon. You have, indeed, heaped coals of fire on my head."
Mary answered, "That was forgiven long ago, but if you wish my forgiveness you have it freely. How does Miss Ellicott feel now that you are declared innocent?"
"She came to see me this morning and we are to be married as soon as possible, and I am to become the treasurer of the mill. She will own three-quarters of the stock."
When Mr. Strout learned that Robert's release was due to the exertions of Mary and Quincy he sniffed and exclaimed:
"Folks in love will do all sorts of things. She's gone on that young Sawyer, and she only started in on the thing so she could have a chance to traipse around the country with him. He'll come back here for her some day, and her market'll be made. All I hope is that he'll take her to Boston, or some other foreign place to live an' we shall see and hear the last of 'em."
The newspapers gave much space to the near approach to miscarriage of justice in the Wood's case, and many editorials were written on the fallacy of allowing circumstantial evidence to carry as much weight as it did. But what was spoken of most was the clever detective work of Mary Dana. She was the recipient of congratulatory letters for her work from all parts of the country, and the press could not say too much in her praise.
Mary received a most flattering offer to join the Isburn Detective Bureau in Boston. Mr. Irving Isburn, the proprietor of the world-wide known agency, had for more than fifty years been engaged in solving mysteries and apprehending offenders against the law. His success had been phenomenal, and if his agency had been called "The Scotland Yard of America" it would have been a derogation rather than a compliment. He had surrounded himself with the most expert men and women in the profession, and in a letter to Mr. Dana he said he considered Miss Dana would be a most important and valuable acquisition to his staff. Mr. Dana, however, decided that Mary was too young to start business life, so she was sent to Boston to boarding school for a year. At the expiration of that time she joined Mr. Is burn's staff, and soon that gentleman wrote her father that in certain lines of investigation she was unexcelled.
With the coming of autumn, after Bob Wood's release, Quincy and Tom started in on their four years at Harvard. They had passed their entrance examinations without conditions, so the few days in the last of September, spent so anxiously by many of the freshman class in trying to make up conditions given them the spring before, allowed Quincy and Tom to live in Arcady until the portals of the temple of learning were ajar. Rooms were engaged at Beck Hall, and the young men began their inspection of the classic city on the Charles.
"This city is on the square," remarked Tom. "Lafayette, Central, Putnam, Harvard, Brattle, and some more on the East side I suppose."
"The college is on the square too," said Quincy, "as long as Dr. Eliot is Prexie."
College life has been depicted many times in books, and Quincy and Tom's four years probably contained few events that had not had their counterparts in the lives of other young Harvard men. They joined many clubs and societies the initiation ceremonies being, in reality, a mild form of hazing.
Quincy and his chum were not goody-goody boys, but they had mutually pledged each other that they would lead temperate lives and refrain from all dissipation that would prejudice their standing as students. Quincy saw Mary frequently, and, after she was employed by Mr. Isburn, they talked over some of the most interesting of Mary's cases.
In their college life, Tom and Quincy were unsuspecting, and became the butt of many good-natured and some unkind jokes. On one occasion they were invited to join a theatre party. It was a variety or vaudeville show and ended with a pantomime, the closing scene in which was a skating carnival.
When the skaters came on, the members of the theatre party rose in their seats and pelted the performers with paper snowballs made hard by the liberal use of paste. The police were called in. Quincy and Tom had taken no part in the snowballing but, as examination showed their pockets were full of the substitutes for the natural product, they were adjudged as guilty as the others.
One evening Quincy and Tom went to the theatre together. During a pathetic speech by the heroine the clang of a big cow bell was heard. The audience vented its displeasure in hisses. Again came the clangour and all eyes were turned towards the unconscious youths, Quincy and Tom. Again were the policemen called in. Two young men who sat behind Quincy and his friend were accused of causing the disturbance. They indignantly denied any knowledge of it and left the theatre threatening a suit for damages. Further investigation by the minions of the law discovered the bell fastened to the hat-holder beneath Quincy's seat, while the string that served as a bell pull was under Tom's foot. Denial of such strong circumstantial evidence was useless and Quincy and Tom promised to cause no further annoyance. On their way home in the car they discussed the situation.
"It's Dupont and Kidder that put that up on us, and we must get even," said Tom.
"But how?" was the question.
A week later Tom purchased tickets for a whole row of seats at one of the principal theatres, explaining that they were for a large theatre party. Dupont and Kidder had been recipients of complimentary tickets which entitled them to seats in the middle of the row. They expected that Quincy and Tom and other students would complete the party. Not so, as events proved. Dupont and Kidder, immaculately dressed, had for companions two waitresses at a well-known Cambridge cafe, two Harvard Square hairdressers, and a number of individuals whose dress and general appearance indicated physical strength rather than mental powers. Dupont and Kidder went out at the end of the first act and did not return.
The next time that Tom met Fred Dupont he asked,
"Do you believe in the Declaration of Independence?"
"My great-grandfather signed it," said Dupont proudly.
"How does it read?" asked Tom—"something about men being born free and equal—a barber's as good as a millionaire's son—isn't it?"
"It's all right," replied Dupont, "Kidder and I only took one bell to the theatre, but you kindly supplied us with two. Nothing's too good for us at that cafe now, and we've invited Kitty and May to go to the theatre with us to-morrow night."
"It's no use, Quincy," said Tom. "Dupont and Kidder took their medicine as patiently as we did, and they liked it so well they're going to have more of it."
Then he told Quincy what Dupont had said.
"The victory's ours," cried Quincy. "That shows that Americans, rich or poor, are democratic at heart. All that keeps them apart is the foolish idea that the possession of money lifts them above their fellows. Put them on a money equality, and only the very exclusive ones will care about the colour of their blood. It was a good lesson for Dupont and Kidder whose fathers are wealthy men, and they have wisely profited by it."
"Then you don't believe in social castes?" said Tom.
"Why should I? My father married a poor girl and I don't expect to find my wife on Beacon Street or Commonwealth Avenue."
After Tom had asked his question the thought came to him that if Quincy had believed in social distinctions on account of wealth he would not have chosen the son of a cotton weaver as his boon companion, but it was too late to take back the question, and Quincy had answered it.
The four years of study were at an end. Quincy was loaded with scholastic honours while Tom's prowess has been most effectually shown on the ball team and in the 'Varsity Eight, which came near winning a trophy for the Crimson.
Just before Class Day, Quincy went into the office of Sawyer, Crowninshield, Lawrence & Merry to see Harry Merry about some matters connected with his income.
"Quincy, I am glad to see you," exclaimed Mr. Merry. "I was on the point of sending a messenger out to Cambridge to have you come right in. Something very strange has happened this morning and it may be a question which even your friend Miss Dana may find worthy of her skill in attempting to solve."
"What is it, Uncle Harry? There is nothing I love like a mystery, and Miss Dana often talks her cases over with me."
"This is a mystery in which you and your mother in England may be greatly concerned; but before letting her know anything about it I think it better to find out what it really means. For you to understand the matter clearly, I will have to go back a number of years. In your father's will your grandfather and Dr. Paul Culver were named as executors. After a while the doctor wished to resign, and as you know I was appointed in his place."
"Yes, and you have always done more than your duty, and I am truly grateful. But, pardon me for interrupting you. Please go on."
"To make myself thoroughly familiar with all the details of my trust, I went over all the old accounts. When your father and mother started on that unfortunate trip to Europe, your father took with him some English gold, some bank notes, and, to last him for his further expenses while abroad, five bills of exchange, each for two hundred pounds, Sterling, a total of about five thousand dollars. These bills of exchange were drawn by his bank here in Boston, and in favour of the bank's agents in London. About six years ago I changed the deposits of your trust account to another bank. Until then I had always kept that five thousand still intact, as it was drawing fair interest, and as, you may not know, your mother has always had an idea that your father was not drowned. But, when I changed the account, it seemed foolish to leave that money still there, and as the bills of exchange had never been presented for payment, I had no trouble in having them cancelled, and receiving the money.
"But, and here is where the important part of the matter comes in for you, one of those bills of exchange, drawn over twenty-three years ago, has to-day been returned to the bank here in Boston from the London agents."
"Why, Uncle Harry," cried Quincy, "what can it mean? Is it possible that my father is still alive? I can't understand it, I am bewildered," and strong man as he was he was unnerved.
"Calm yourself, Quincy," said Harry Merry, "I am afraid that would be entirely too good news to be true, but at least it must mean that your father's body was found some time or other, and probably the bill of exchange got into the hands of some dishonest person who has cashed it."
"Have you got it here?"
"Yes," and Mr. Merry handed a paper to him.
"Is the signature that of my father?" asked Quincy turning the bill over, and looking at the various endorsements on the back.
"I am not sure. If I were, there would be one great question solved, for he would never have put his name to it, of course, until he was ready to cash it. In a way it looks a little like his writing, but it may be, and I think it is, a rather bungling forgery. It is more than likely that in the wallet in which he kept the bills of exchange he may have had some papers to which he had signed his name, and the signature was copied from that."
"I want to show this to Miss Dana," said Quincy, "perhaps she can help me solve the problem. Have you got any paper with my father's signature to it?"
"Wait a few minutes, and I will see if I can find any in the old files."
After a good quarter of an hour, which to Quincy seemed as though it would never end, Mr. Merry came back, covered with dust, but with the required paper in his hand.
"A lawyer should never destroy a paper," said Mr. Merry, "and I am glad to say this firm never does. Here is a letter your father wrote to your grandfather nearly thirty years ago, and is dated from Mason's Corner. Take it, and the bill of exchange with you. I hope you can solve the mystery, and let's pray it will turn out to mean that you are Quincy Adams Sawyer, Junior; but, my boy," and Harry put his hand on Quincy's shoulder, "do not build too many air castles on it. If you do, I am afraid you have a bitter disappointment before you."
Quincy immediately called on Mary Dana, and had a long talk with her about the matter. He told her all his conversation with Harry Merry and showed her the bill of exchange, and the signature of his father's which he knew to be genuine. After examining them both Mary said,
"In many ways, this looks like a very clever forgery. The characters are all made the same as in the signature to the letter,—notice the peculiar little twist to the S in the word Adams, but your father wrote a very firm, strong hand, and the writing on the bill of exchange is weaker and a little shaky. That is undoubtedly due partly to the fact that the signature on the bill of exchange is written with a very fine steel pen, while that in the letter was written with a quill. But, what makes me doubt the genuineness of the signature is this,—although the characters are practically the same on the two pieces of paper, your father's name in the letter is the writing of an educated man, that on the bill of exchange looks like the efforts of a man unaccustomed to write, probably through ignorance, but perhaps due to the fact that he has not held a pen for a long time."
"But, Mary," asked Quincy, "how are we going to find out about it, how can we learn who did sign it?"
"There are the endorsements on the back. They are the only clues. Below your father's name appears that of Jonathan Drake; then that of Agostino Tombini, and, below that, Macquay Hooker. There is also the stamp of the London bank. Where the bill of exchange was cashed does not appear. It is evident, however, that the last person who signed it before it reached the bank in London was Macquay Hooker. We will cable London now, and in the morning will have an answer. Be in to see me early, but, if I were you, I would hold myself in readiness to leave for Europe at a moment's notice. Is your work all finished at Cambridge?"
"Yes, I had my last examination yesterday, and I should leave for the summer in a few days. Class Day is all that keeps me now, but I am perfectly willing to recall the invitations I have sent out, and can leave at any time."
On his return to his rooms Quincy told Tom what had happened.
"I had been intending to speak about our going abroad anyway this summer," said Quincy. "It's the style for college boys after being graduated to go to Europe. I want to see my mother and aunt, too. To be sure, I have had nice long, loving letters from them, and I've kept them fully posted as to my doings, but that doesn't quite come up to seeing them. Now, with this mystery on my hands, with all it may mean to me, I must go anyway. Will you come along with me?"
"If dad don't mind, I'll go."
"We'll run down to Fernborough for a day or two to say good-bye, if there is time, and you can see your father about it."
At ten o'clock the next morning, Quincy entered the office of the Isburn Detective Bureau.
"I have good news for you, Quincy," said Mary. "I have found out from London that Macquay Hooker is a banker in Rome, and I have cabled him, asking who the other two endorsers are. We should receive a reply by noon at the latest."
A good half hour before noon a messenger boy came in and handed Mary an envelope. She scanned the cablegram quickly, and handed it over to Quincy. It read, "Tombini banker, Drake American consul, Palermo, Sicily."
"You see," said Mary, with a smile, "matters are simplifying themselves considerably. I shall cable now to Drake at Palermo, and find out what I can about the original signer of the bill of exchange. This is Wednesday. The Gallia sails from here to England on Saturday. You had better engage passage, and make arrangements to go then. Come back late this afternoon, and I will tell you what has developed in the meantime."
After engaging a stateroom for Saturday, Quincy returned to Cambridge, packed what things he needed for a couple of days, and with Tom came back to Boston, intending to go to Fernborough on the late train in the evening.
"The answer has just come," said Mary, when Quincy saw her later in the day, "but, I am sorry it is not as satisfactory as I could wish. Mr. Drake is away from Palermo at present, and beyond the fact that a Quincy Adams Sawyer had registered at the consulate about a month ago and has since left the town, they seem to know nothing about the matter."
"Well," said Quincy, "we have a starting point anyway, and more than we had in Bob Wood's case in the beginning. I shall go directly to Fernborough Hall to see my mother for a day or so, but I think I will not mention the real reason for my trip abroad until I have found out more. I will tell her that Tom and I are anxious to get to the continent as soon as possible, and that we will return to England later on. Then we will go down through Italy to Sicily, and start in there tracing the signer of that bill of exchange."
"I think that is the best plan," said Mary. "In the meantime I will keep in close touch with Mr. Merry here, and if another one of those bills of exchange comes in I will cable you, care of your bankers in London, the names of the endorsers."
"Mary," said Quincy as he took her hand at parting, and held it perhaps a little longer than was really necessary, "I can't thank you for all you have done for me. I am truly grateful, and wish there were some way in which I could show you my true appreciation."
"Your thanks are all I want. Besides, you may be the means of bringing a very clever criminal to justice," and the smile left her face as she said it, "for I am afraid that is all you will find. You must not hope too much for what seems the impossible."
On their way to Fernborough that evening, Quincy and Tom decided it would be best not to mention the real object of their going to Europe, so Mr. Chripp thought it was only a pleasure trip. He did not object to his son going,—but he made one condition, that Tom should visit the village in old England in which he was born and bring him back a picture of the little thatched cottage in which Mr. Chripp had lived until the tales of high wages and better prospects in America had drawn him from his native land.
Quincy had said good-bye to all his relatives, friends, and acquaintances except Mr. Obadiah Strout. That gentleman should have no reason to say he had been snubbed.
When Quincy entered the store Mr. Strout was weighing some butter. Quincy noticed that the wooden plate and a sheet of thick paper were put on the scales before the butter was cut from the tub.
"Well, what can I do for you, Master Sawyer?" said Strout when the customer who had paid thirty cents a pound for butter including wood and paper had departed.
"I came to say good-bye. I am going to Europe."
"I s'pose you'll like England with its 'ristocrats and kings so well that you won't come back to these ordinary United States."
Quincy knew that Mr. Strout wished he would stay in England, so he replied,
"Oh, no. I'm coming back sure. I know a little about weighing groceries and I've decided to come back and go into business."
"What good will your book larnin' do you then?"
"For one thing, they teach something besides dead languages in colleges nowadays. I studied moral philosophy, which points out the difference between right and wrong, between honesty and dishonesty, between fifteen ounces of butter and one ounce of wood and paper, and sixteen ounces of butter to the pound."
With this parting shot, Quincy joined Tom in front of the store and they started for Boston, from which port the Gallia was to sail two days later.
"Do you believe in dreams, Aunt Ella?"
"No, Alice, I do not."
"Not if they come true?"
"Only a coincidence. If they don't come true are you willing to acknowledge that all are unreliable? Or, if some prove true do you consider them all reliable? You can have either horn of the dilemma."
"What causes dreams, Aunt Ella?"
"Usually what's on your mind. Your brain doesn't wake up all at once and dreams flit through it until it gets full control."
"What if a person dreams the same thing three nights in succession?"
"That proves nothing. When my first husband died I dreamed for a month or more that he was still alive and that I must wake him at a certain time because the morning he died he was to take a train at an early hour. You make your own dreams."
"But supposing you see something in your dreams that you never saw before—that you never knew existed until you viewed it when asleep?"
"What have you been dreaming, Alice?"
"You won't laugh at me?"
"I promise not to laugh, but I won't promise to believe."
"If my husband is dead," said Alice, "he is dead and I shall never see him again in this world; if he is still living, he is somewhere in this world, and it's my duty to find him."
"I will agree to that," assented her hearer, "but you know that I have no faith that he is alive. Just think, twenty-three years have passed away and you have had no word from him. Out of deference to your feelings, Alice, I had put off making my will since Sir Stuart died until yesterday. It is now signed and in my lawyer's hands. It is no secret, I have left all I possess to your son Quincy."
"Why did you do that?"
"I promised his father that he should have it, but as I think he will never come to claim it, I gave it to his son, as he or you would do if it was yours. Now, your dreams have put some idea into your head. Where do you think your husband is?"
"I don't know what country it is, but, in my dreams, thrice repeated, I have seen him standing in a grove of trees filled with fruit— lemons and oranges they appeared to be."
"Did he speak to you or you to him?"
"He looked at me but gave no sign of recognition. I called his name, but he did not answer me."
"That proves what I said. You are always thinking about him, and your mind made up your dream."
"Where do lemons and oranges grow?"
"In so many countries that you would have to go round the world to visit them all." She thought to herself, "they don't grow in the ocean."
"You speak of twenty-three years having passed. That's not so long. I have read of sailors being away longer than that and finally returning home. Men have stayed in prison longer than that and have come out into the world again. Why, Quincy is only fifty-three now."
"And I'm seventy—an old woman some think me, and others call me so, but if I were sure that by living I could see Quincy again, I'd manage some way to keep alive until he came."
"You are just lovely, Aunt Ella, and I love you more than ever for those words. I believe that Quincy wants me to come to him—and I am going!"
"My dear Alice, I'm sure the only way you will ever see Quincy is by going to him, for he can never come to you."
The next day Alice spent in studying the cyclopedias and maps. She estimated the cost of a six months' trip to the citron groves of Europe and America. For a week she pondered over the matter.
Then something occurred that led her to make up her mind definitely. She had the same dream for the fourth time. She awoke screaming, and shaking with terror. Her aunt was awakened and ran to her room.
"What is it, Alice? Dreaming again?"
"Yes, the same and yet different. I saw a big man raise a club and strike Quincy on the head. He fell and I awoke."
Aunt Ella grew cynical. "Why didn't you wait long enough to see the effect of the blow?"
"Oh, Auntie," and Alice burst into tears. "What shall I do?"
"I know what I'm going to do. I shall send for Dr. Parshefield and have him give you a sleeping potion."
The next day Alice began making preparations for her journey. Aunt Ella's arguments and appeals were in vain.
"I must go," said Alice. "Where, I do not know, but God will direct me."
"God won't do anything of the kind," exclaimed Aunt Ella.
Her patience was exhausted. Then her manner changed. She accepted the inevitable, and did all she could to help her niece. One thing she insisted upon, and that was that Alice should have a companion. One who could speak French and German was found and Alice started upon her quest into, to her, unknown lands.
"BY THE BEAUTIFUL BLUE DANUBE"
Alice did not tell Aunt Ella where she was going. To have done so would have led her aunt to say that it was foolish to go there, for although she aided Alice in getting ready for her journey she was decidedly opposed to it. In fact, in her own mind she called it "a wild goose chase." But she had learned that Alice had an indomitable will and she fully realized that further argument and opposition were useless.
Alice went on board the boat at Dover with some foreboding. She had read and had been told of the rigours of the Channel passage and her experience was equal to the descriptions. Had it not been for the presence of Babette, the maid so wisely provided by her aunt, her journey might have ended at Calais, or even before. She had a horror of the water and it was with a sense of great mental and physical satisfaction that her feet touched solid ground again.
They went to Paris, but spent no time in the gay city. Their objective point was the south of Italy, and then the island of Sicily. Did not the guide books say that Sicily was the home of the orange and the lemon?
They would stop a short time in each important town. Carriages were taken from day to day and inquiry was made at the principal groves in the near vicinity of the towns. Then trips were made into the country, but everywhere Alice's questions were answered in the negative. She was allowed to talk to the labourers, by the aid of an interpreter, but none had any remembrance or had heard of any such man as she described.
At only one grove, near Palermo, was she refused admittance. The proprietor, Silvio Matrosa, said he had no authority to admit strangers. Besides, two of the men had been fighting and one was so seriously injured by a blow upon his head by a club, that he had been sent to the hospital and it was thought he would die. Under the circumstances "Would the ladies excuse him?" and Alice was obliged to give up her search in that direction.
She had been so impressed with the reality of her dreams that she had thought she could easily recognize her husband's surroundings, but she confessed to Babette, who was sympathetic and engaged eagerly in the search, that she had seen no place that resembled the scene of her dreams.
More weary wandering without result followed, and so intent was she on the object of her search that the beauties of "Sunny Italy" were lost upon her. The weather was hot and enervating and Babette suggested that her mistress should go to Switzerland and rest before continuing her search. Alice consented, but when they reached Vienna she was too ill to proceed farther. Babette was at home in Vienna for she could speak German, and she soon learned that the Hospital of St. Stephen's would give her mistress the rest and medical treatment that her condition required—for she was on the verge of nervous prostration. The discomfort of travelling was not the cause of her physical break-down for Aunt Ella had told her "that nothing was too good for a traveller" and every comfort and convenience that money could supply had been hers. Her mental disquietude had produced the physical relapse. She had been so confident of the truth of her dreams, and that some power, she knew not what, but which she trusted implicitly, would lead her to her husband, that her disappointment was more than her strained nervous system could bear.
After a week's rest, although unable to rise, she called Babette to her bedside. "I wish to send word to my aunt in England but I do not feel able to sit up and write. I will dictate, you can write, and I will sign it."
Then Babette wrote:
"MY DEAR AUNT ELLA: Confession, they say, is good for the soul. My body is weak to-day and so Babette is writing my confession. I have been to Sicily and all over the southern part of Italy, but no success has come to me. If Quincy had been in one of those orange or lemon groves he could not have lived there for so many years; the work is too hard, and he was never used to manual labour. So, as soon as I am able, I am coming home. I will never trouble you with any more dreams. I believe, as you do, that they are products of imagination. I am not sick, only tired out, and naturally, at first, very much disheartened. I shall be with you very soon, never more to leave you." ALICE.
"P. S. As soon as I am able to take a drive I am going to view the attractions of this city—which Babette says is even more beautiful than Paris. I must see 'The Beautiful Blue Danube,' and I must hear Johann Strauss's orchestra. They will be the only happy memories of my fruitless journey."
Nothing marred the pleasure of the trip on the Gallia and young Quincy and Tom could not have been happier than they were when the great steamer made its way up the Mersey towards its Liverpool pier.
A few hours only in the great bustling city and then they were off to find the house in which Tom's father was born and lived. It was near Chester, that modernized reminder of the old Roman days, and on their way to Fernborough Hall.
They found it uninhabited. The thatched roof was full of holes and the interior showed the devastation that wind and water had worked. Tall weeds filled the little garden and the general effect was dismal indeed.
"It won't do to take Dad a picture of this old shanty," said Tom.
"Perhaps we can find a house that looks like it," Quincy suggested.
They had no difficulty in doing that, for the same architectural plan, if the design be worthy the name, had plainly been followed in the construction of many cottages. They found one with the roof covered with moss and a garden full of old-fashioned flowers, and several views were taken with Quincy's camera.
"It's cheating in one way," said Tom, "but it would break Dad's heart to see a picture of his old home as it really is—so we'll show him one as it ought to be."
"And as it shall be," said Quincy. "It won't cost much to fix it up, all but the moss, and that will come on it in time. You get a man, Tom, find out the cost of renovating the house, and I'll pay the bill. So will the sense of untruthfulness be removed from our sensitive feelings." This was quickly arranged, for work, with the pay in advance, was a delectable possession in those parts.
When they reached Fernborough Hall, and Quincy was told of the search on which his mother had started out, he pretended to agree with his aunt that it was useless, and the height of folly, but from that moment hope sprang up within him, that, by some miracle, his father was still alive. He did not confide his hopes to Aunt Ella, and gave her no inkling of the real reason for his trip to Europe.
"It would make me very happy to know that my father was living," he said, "but after so long a time it seems foolish to think it, does it not? When do you expect mother home, Aunt Ella?"
"The letter was written a month ago from Vienna, but, unfortunately, she did not give her address. If she were well, she should have been here before this. I have an idea that she may have gone to Switzerland on her way home, and charmed by its scenery, or forced by her weak condition, has remained there. Stay here for a week with your friend, and perhaps some word will come."
"No, Auntie," said Quincy, "Tom and I will run over to Vienna, and if we don't find her we will push on to William Tell's republic. We will write you often—Tom one day and I the next."
"I have often wondered," said Quincy to Tom two days later as they were on the cars speeding to Vienna—"I have often wondered," he repeated, "how my mother could let me go away and stay away from her for fourteen long years. That she loves me, her letters show plainly. She says often that I am all she has in the world, but she never sent for me to come and see her nor did she ever come to see me. How do you explain it, Tom?"
"Very easily. That disaster at sea and the loss of your father has given her a horror of the ocean which she cannot overcome. She fears to trust herself or one she loves to its mercies again. Perhaps we can't understand her feelings, but you must respect them."
"I do," replied Quincy. "I have never doubted her love for me, and your theory, perhaps, explains her failure to manifest her love more forcibly."
On the train they made a most agreeable acquaintance and regretted their inability to accept his invitation to visit him. His name was Louis Wallingford. He was an American, born in Missouri. He had been a reporter, then editor. His passion was music and he had forsaken a literary life for that of a musician. He had joined an orchestra much in demand at private parties given by the wealthy residents of St. Louis. At one of these, he had become infatuated with the daughter of a railroad magnate who counted his wealth by millions. A poor violinist, he knew it was useless to ask her father for his daughter's hand. The young lady's mother was dead. The father died suddenly of apoplexy, and Miss Edith Winser came into possession of the millions. Then he had spoken and been accepted. Conscious that her husband, talented as he was, would not be accepted, without a hard struggle, by the upper class, they decided to live in Europe.
He had found a deserted chateau on the borders of Lake Maggiore. Money bought it, and money had transformed it into an earthly Paradise. The building, of white marble, was adapted for classic treatment, and Greek and Roman art were symbolized therein.
The chateau contained a large music room and a miniature theatre in which Mr. Wallingford's musical compositions and operas were performed.
"I have just come from Paris," said Mr. Wallingford, "where I have made arrangements for six concerts by my orchestra which will play many of my own pieces. Can you not be in Paris in a month and hear them?"
"Tell him your story," whispered Tom to Quincy, and he did so.
Mr. Wallingford was deeply interested.
"If you find both your father and mother, they deserve another honeymoon. Bring them to Vertano and in the joys of the present we will make them forget the sorrows of the past."
"I am afraid," said Quincy, "that such good fortune would be more than miraculous."
"Come with your mother and friend then," said Mr. Wallingford as he left them to change cars.
They went to the Hotel Metropole in Vienna. Quincy consulted his guide book.
"Everybody lives in apartment houses in Vienna, so this book says. The question is, in which one shall we find my mother and her maid?"
"All we can do," said Tom, "is to plug away every day. Keep a-going, keep asking questions, keep our eyes and ears open, and keep up our courage."
"Your plan is certainly 'for keeps,' as we children used to say. Come along. Your plan is adopted. Have you written Lady Fernborough? 'Tis your turn."
Many days of fruitless travel and the young men began to despair of success. Quincy was debating with himself whether it would not be better to give up the search for his mother, and follow up the clue about his father. He felt that every day was precious.
"I have an idea, Quincy," Tom said one morning. "Perhaps your mother is quite sick and has gone to a public hospital or a private one of some kind."
"That's a fine idea, Tom. We'll begin on them after breakfast."
The sharp reports of gun shots and the softer cracking of pistols were heard.
"What's that?" cried Quincy.
"Some men are on a strike. They had trouble with the police last night and this morning's paper says the strikers have thrown up barricades. Probably the police and soldiers are trying to dislodge them."
The firing continued, and from their windows the soldiers and people could be seen moving towards the scene of disturbance.
"Let's go out and see what is going on," said Quincy.
"Let's stay in and keep out of trouble," was Tom's reply. "It is the innocent bystander who always gets shot."
"I'm going down to the office to find out about it," and Quincy took his hat and left the room.
Tom was suspicious of his intentions and followed him. Quincy had left the hotel and was walking rapidly towards the scene of disturbance. Tom ran after him, and kept him in sight, but did not speak to him. At first he felt offended that Quincy had not asked him to go with him. Then he reflected: "I virtually told him in advance that I wouldn't go. He's his own master."
They were nearing a street from which came the sounds of conflict— loud cries, curses, and the reports of firearms. Tom ram forward to prevent Quincy from turning into the street. He was too late—Quincy had turned the corner. Tom, regardless of danger, followed him. He started back with a cry of horror. Quincy had been shot and was lying upon the sidewalk, the blood streaming from a gun-shot wound in his right arm. Tom took him up in his arms, as though he had been a child, and returned to the safety of the unexposed street.
As he lay Quincy upon the sidewalk and took out his handkerchief to make a tourniquet with which to stanch the flow of blood, he cried: "Oh, Quincy, why did you walk right into danger?"
As he uttered the words, a man who was standing nearby, whose dress and swarthy face proclaimed him to be a foreigner, stepped forward and grasped Tom roughly by the arm.
"What did you call that young man," asked the stranger, his voice trembling, perceptibly.
"I called him by his name—Quincy."
"Quincy what? Pardon me, but I have a reason for asking."
"His name is no secret," said Tom, as he twisted the handkerchief tightly above the wound. "I can't understand your interest in him, but his name is Quincy Adams Sawyer."
"Thank Heaven," exclaimed the man. "And thank you," he added, grasping Tom's hand—"Is he English?"
"No, we're both Yankees, from Fernborough, Massachusetts."
The man knelt beside Quincy and gazed at him earnestly. He looked up at Tom.
"I could bless the man who fired that shot. My name is Quincy Adams Sawyer and this young man is my son!"
Tom's surmise had been correct. Alice did not improve and a long stay at the Hospital became necessary before the return to England would be possible.
"What's that noise, Babette?" asked Alice.
"There must be a riot somewhere," was the reply. "The soldiers are marching past. They are fighting in a street nearby."
Alice said no more. What had she to do with fighting and bloodshed? Her suffering was greater than any bullet could inflict. She fell into a doze from which she was awakened by a loud cry from Babette.
"Oh, Madame, a carriage has just stopped here, and they are bringing a wounded man into the Hospital. There are two men with him—one looks like an Englishman or American."
"Go down, Babette, and see if you can find out who they are. I should be glad if I could be of help to one of my own countrymen."
It seemed a very long time before the maid returned. When she did, the usually self-confident Babette seemed dazed. She did not speak until her mistress asked:
"Did you find out anything?"
"They are all Americans, Madame. A young man and his friend; the older man is the father."
"No, the young man's."
"Did you learn their names or where they are from?"
Babette sank upon her knees by the bedside.
"Oh, Madame, I am so happy."
Alice regarded her with astonishment.
"Happy! Happy because a young man has been shot. You must have a bloodthirsty nature, Babette."
"It isn't the shooting, Madame. It's the name."
"The name? What name? You are nervous, Babette. You must lie down and rest. I keep you up too late nights reading and writing."
"Oh, Madame, how can I say it? Can you bear it?"
"I have borne suspense for twenty-three years. I can bear much. What is it you would tell me?"
"You know, Madame, I said the older man was the young man's father. They both have the same name."
"That's not uncommon, especially in America. The young man is called Junior. Sometimes when they are very proud of a family name they number them. Supposing my husband were living, and my son had a son, named after himself, the little boy would be Quincy Adams Sawyer 3rd."
"Madame, I must tell you. The father and the son bear the name of Quincy Adams Sawyer!"
Alice regarded her as if affrighted. Then she leaped from the bed and cried: "Bring me my clothes, Babette. My husband and son! We three, brought together by the hand of God once more."
The revulsion was too great. The pent-up agony of twenty-three years dissolved in a moment. Alice fainted and fell into Babette's arms.
A PERIOD OF TWENTY-THREE YEARS
It took hours for the overjoyed wife and mother and the long-lost husband and father to tell their stories. Alice's was told first, and was followed by young Quincy's recital of his life at Fernborough, his four years at Harvard, and the story of the returned bill of exchange leading him to Europe, and his search for his mother in Vienna which ended with such happiness for all. Finally, the father began:
"On the night of the collision, after seeing you safely started in the life-boat with the last of the passengers, Captain Hawkins thought of a small boat on the upper deck which had been overlooked in the general scramble to get away from the doomed Altonia. Shouting to me to follow him, the Captain rushed up the ladder to the railing, and together we started to lower the boat. It was raised about three feet above the deck, being held in position by two supports shaped like a letter X. I had already loosened the ropes on my side, and then tried to kick out the support nearest me. It stuck, and finally I got down on my hands and knees thinking I could force it out better in that position. The water was steadily pouring in at the ship's side, and it was only a question of a few minutes before the Altonia would founder. Finally I gave one mighty push, the support gave away, the boat came down upon me like a ton weight,—and that was the last I knew until I awoke in a large room full of single beds, and a kindly faced old priest told me I was in the Hospital of San Marco, Palermo, Sicily.
"My God, the shock when I found that my sleep,—for such it was to me,—had lasted over twenty-three years! What thoughts went through my mind! Had you, Alice, been saved or lost? If saved, were you still living, and my son, whom I had never seen, was he living? Were Aunt Ella and my father and mother and my sisters still alive? I was roused from my revery by the good Father Paolo.
"He told me that the week before he had been summoned to the death- bed of an old seaman, Captain Vando, who had confessed that over twenty years before, while sailing from Boston to Palermo, two days after a very bad fog, he had picked up at sea a small open boat in which were two men, both of whom at first seemed dead. One, it was Captain Hawkins, was beyond all help; he was frozen to death,—frozen to death, Alice, in an effort to save my life, for, besides my own coat, his was found tucked around me.
"After hours of work, I was brought back to life,—but a life worse than death. The Captain told Father Paolo that my mind was a blank, I could remember nothing of my past, I did not know my name. Then temptation came to Captain Vando. He took from me my belt, in which I had some English gold, a few English bank-notes, and the five bills of exchange, each for a thousand pounds. The latter he did not dare to dispose of, but the money he appropriated to his own use. He soon found I could be of no use to him on ship-board, so, on his arrival at Palermo, he sold me to a rich planter, for a hundred lire, and I was put to work in the orange groves.
"Captain Vando in his confession told Father Paolo that he still had my belt containing the bills of exchange, and before his death he delivered these over to the priest. After the Captain's death, Father Paolo went to Signor Matrosa, who, when confronted with the facts, admitted I had been sold to him, and that I was known under the name of Alessandro Nondra, but he told him that I had been mixed up in a fight, and had received such a bad wound that I had been sent to the hospital. One of his managers, an Italian, had married an English girl, and they had a daughter with light hair, and blue eyes. It seems I had been sent to his house one day with a message, and when I saw his daughter, I cried out, 'Alice, Alice,' and caught the girl in my arms. Her father was so enraged that he picked up a gun lying near at hand, and gave me such a terrific blow on the head that I was knocked senseless. I remember nothing of it, but mistaking Anita for you was, undoubtedly, my first approach to my former consciousness. That scene was probably the one which you saw in your dream, Alice, and to think that afterwards you should be so near me in Palermo, and neither of us know it!
"At the hospital the doctors found that the blow on my head had caused but a comparatively unimportant scalp wound, but, in dressing it, they found that at some earlier time my skull had been crushed. They performed the delicate operation of trepanning the skull, and when I came out from the effects of the ether, my mind was in the same state as it had been twenty-three years before.
"After that my recovery was rapid. Father Paolo made Signor Matrosa pay me thirty-three hundred lire as my wages for the many years I had worked for him, and I gave a thousand of it to the manager's daughter, to whom, in a way, I owed my return to my natural self. The rest I gave to Father Paolo for the use of his church.
"Luckily, in my belt that Captain Vando had appropriated was my passport. I went to the United States consul at Palermo, Mr. Drake, had the passport vised, and got him to cash one of the bills of exchange for me. Suddenly, one day, the thought came into my mind, had you, Alice, thinking me dead, married again? I decided to find out before the announcement of my return to the land of the living could be spread broadcast, and I persuaded Mr. Drake to keep back the information from his official report for a while, at least. This he was able to do easily, as he was on the point of going away for a vacation of a few months, and the other members of the consulate knew very little of my case.
"I decided to continue bearing the name of Alessandro Nondra for a while, at least, and I knew I could make a living in some way when my present funds were exhausted. How I regretted the cashing of that bill of exchange, because I knew it would eventually lead to my discovery; but I was so changed, with my iron-gray hair, and Van Dyke beard, that I felt I could escape detection until I knew whether my wife still waited for me or not.
"I decided to make my way north to Ostend, and would cross from there to England, where I felt sure I could find some news of you, or Aunt Ella. I stopped off here in Vienna for a day or two. When I heard my son called by name this morning I could not resist, and instead of finding my son alone, I have also found his mother, my wife."
Quincy gloried in his wife's faith and constancy. Alice, while she rejoiced in her husband's return bewailed his lost opportunities.
"Think what you have lost, Quincy. You might have been President."
"If I have escaped that I shall not regret my long imprisonment."
"Why, Quincy, would you have refused a nomination?"
"Many are called, but few are chosen. I have never cherished any such ambition. I am not in love with politics and I detest the average politician. Our country produces few statesmen and it never will until the civil service law is made applicable to legislators and to high officials. We have much to learn from China in this respect."
Telegrams had been sent to Aunt Ella and Mr. Wallingford apprising them of the happy reunion. From the latter came a message extending a hearty invitation to come to Vertano.
Young Quincy's wound though painful, and particularly uncomfortable, was not serious. Tom was his constant companion and attendant while Quincy passed nearly all his time with his wife. She improved rapidly and their departure was delayed only until young Quincy's wound was healed.
"You now have a longer name than ever," his mother said to him one day.
"How's that? It's too long now. What must be added?"
"Why, now that your father is alive, you are Quincy Adams Sawyer, Junior."
"I am more than willing to make the addition, mother, and hope it will be many years before I am obliged to shorten it."
When they reached Vertano but three days remained before the departure of Mr. Wallingford and his orchestra for Paris, but during that time there were drives through the beautiful country, boat rides upon the lake, rehearsals by the orchestra and the performance of an operetta written by Mr. Wallingford in which he, his wife, and seven children took part.
"Shall we go to Paris?" asked Alice.
"Certainly," said Quincy. "We owe Mr. Wallingford the return courtesy of our attendance at his six concerts."
The trip across the channel did not possess so many terrors for Alice with her husband and son for company, but she was glad when they stepped upon land at Dover.
"I shall never love the water," she said.
They reached London in the afternoon too late to take the train for Heathfield in which town Fernborough Hall was situated. A telegram was sent to Aunt Ella informing her of their safe arrival in London, and that they would be with her the next day.
"What can I do to amuse you this evening, Alice?"
"Sit down and let me look at you, I have so much time to make up."
"They give Martha at the opera to-night—it is my favourite—full of the sweetest melodies in which I substitute Alice for Martha. Quincy and Tom would like to go, and I have another reason which I will tell you after the first act."
Alice's curiosity was aroused and she expressed her desire to go. After the first act, Alice turned an inquisitive face to her husband.
"What was your other reason for coming here to-night?"
"Don't you think Catessa is a fine tenor?"
"He has the most beautiful voice I ever heard," Alice replied.
"I know him. He is an old friend of mine. I'm going behind the scenes to congratulate him personally."
"Did you meet him in Italy?"
"No—in Fernborough, Massachusetts."
"Why, Quincy, what do you mean? There were no Italians in Fernborough."
"He is not an Italian. He's a Yankee. Look at his name."
"That's Italian surely."
"It's only his Yankee name transposed. Aren't you good on anagrams?"
"Certainly, I'm not. Please tell me."
"Do you remember a young man in Fernborough with consumption whom I sent to a sanatorium in New York?"
"Yes, Mr. Scates."
"You've hit it. Mr. Arthur Scates, or A. Scates for short. Now look at that Italian name again."
"I am doing so, and it looks just as foreign as ever."
"Agreed, but Catessa contains just the same letters as A. Scates, only they are arranged differently."
After the second act, Quincy visited Mr. Scates in his dressing room. The tenor insisted on Quincy and his party taking supper with him at his hotel after the opera. He offered to repay the cost of his treatment with interest.
"No," said Quincy, "I do not need it, and will not take it. Use it to help some poor artist."
It was one o'clock when Quincy and his party reached their hotel.
"Did you enjoy yourself, Alice?"
"I had a delightful evening. But how happy you must feel to know that your money saved such a precious life."
"I do," said he. "Good deeds always bring their reward. See what I got—twenty-three years hard labour in an orange grove."
"Hush, Quincy. There is no possible connection between the two events."
"I disagree with you. I think I am the connection, but I don't really think one caused the other."
"I should say not. You are not often cynical."
"I am not, dear. Only when one does a good deed he must not expect to be repaid in exactly his own coin."
"Did Mr. Scates offer to repay you?"
"He did, and I told him to give it to some poor fellow who needed it."
"Quincy, I don't know which to admire most. Your good heartedness, or your ability to make one sum of money perform many good actions."
The home coming to Fernborough Hall was a sad contrast to the pleasure of the evening before. They found Aunt Ella in bed with two doctors in attendance. Though weak, and failing fast there was no diminution of her mental powers. She expressed a wish to see Quincy alone.
"Quincy, your wife's faith has made a new woman of me. I have always wished to live for ever, I had such a fear of death and uncertainty as to the future. My fears are all gone.
"The same Power that put me in this world and has given me so many blessings, with some sorrows, so that I would properly appreciate the blessings, will take care of me in the next. I have never been a wicked woman, but often a foolish one. The most foolish thing I have ever done was to doubt the faith your wife had that you were still alive. She's an angel.
"Give me a sup of that wine, Quincy," she continued, "I haven't smoked a cigarette since I promised Alice I wouldn't. Wasn't that self-denial? Now, there's a very important matter that needs attention. I told you when you married Alice that when I died you should have everything. Don't interrupt me. Believing you were dead I made a new will and left everything to your son."
She drew a paper from under the bedclothes.
"Here it is. Burn it up. The other one is in the hands of my solicitor in London."
Quincy laid the will upon the bed.
"Aunt Ella, I shall not burn the will nor destroy it. I am satisfied with the disposition of your fortune. I should have been equally well satisfied if you had possessed other heirs. But, did you leave your property to Quincy Adams Sawyer Junior?"
Aunt Ella's eyes snapped with some of their old fire.
"I've got it right. I have described my heir so carefully that there can be no mistake. Don't you imagine that there is a chance for you to break my will."
There was a smile on her face as she spoke, and Quincy smiled to show that he did not misunderstand her pleasantry. As he turned to go, Aunt Ella called:
He approached the bed again.
"Another sip of that wine. I always liked wine—but not too much of it."
She beckoned to him to come nearer. "Quincy, I want you, before you go away to have the fish cleared out of the lake. Stuart wouldn't let me do it, and since he died I have kept them as a tribute to his memory. He said to me, when the name dies out, let the fish die too. The name is near death, and the fish must go. Now, send Alice to me."
When she came, she bent over and kissed her aunt tenderly.
"Alice, I wish you were going with me. You know what I mean, dear. I hope you will have long life and great happiness to make up for what you've gone through. You have your husband back again. I am going to mine, Robert and Stuart. There is no marriage or giving in marriage there—only love. Quincy is going to look after the fish in the lake."
Aunt Ella lingered for a week, then passed quietly away while asleep. She was laid beside Sir Stuart in the family vault, and the name Fernborough lived only as that of a little country town in New England.
At the funeral Quincy met his sister Florence who looked upon him as one raised from the dead.
"I did not forget you, Quincy, for my first-born bears your name."
Linda, Countess of Sussex, came with her husband the Earl, and her daughter, the Lady Alice Hastings, a tall, statuesque blonde, in her twenty-eighth year.
"I've something wonderful to tell you," said the Countess to Quincy and his wife. "My daughter is soon to be married, but not to one of our set. Her choice has fallen upon Mr. John Langdon, an American. He's very wealthy, and is coming to England to live. Isn't that romantic—so out of the usual."
"America loses every time," said Quincy. "First our girls and their father's money, and now our men and their money. In time, England will form part of the great American nation."
"You mean," said the Countess, "the great English-speaking nation," and Quincy bowed in acceptance of the amendment.
The probating of the will, making arrangement for the sale of Fernborough Hall, and providing for the payment of the proceeds and annual income to Quincy Jr. caused a long delay, for English law moves but little faster than it did when Jarndyce brought suit against Jarndyce.
Quincy Jr. and Tom were thrown on their own resources during the long wait. London was their resort, and, to them, Scotland Yard and its detectives, the most interesting part of the city.
When the party finally embarked, by a coincidence, it was on the Gallia which had brought young Quincy and his companion to England seven months before.
No storms or heavy fogs were met upon the way, and the party was landed safely in New York.
O. STROUT. FINE GROCERIES
During the summer that the foregoing events were happening in Europe, Mr. Hiram Maxwell, in the little New England town of Fernborough had a serious accident happen to himself the effects of which were far reaching, and finally affected many people.
In unloading a barrel of sugar from a wagon, it slipped from the skid and fell upon his leg causing a compound fracture. He was taken home, but when the doctor was called he advised his immediate removal to the Isaac Pettingill Free Hospital for he was afraid an amputation would be necessary. Unfortunately, his fears proved to be true, and Hiram's right leg was amputated just below the knee.
"That Hiram's an unlucky cuss," said Mr. Strout to his hearers one evening at the grocery. "But think of me. This is our busy season and with everything piled onto me I'm just about tuckered out. What help will he be stumbling around on crutches?"
"Can't he have a wooden leg?" asked Abner Stiles.
"Yes, of course he can. An' if you lost your head and got a wooden one in its place you'd be just as well off as you are now."
This remark caused a laugh at Abner which he took good-naturedly. When Mr. Strout was out of sorts he always vented his spleen on somebody.
"Well," said Benoni Hill, "I'm awful sorry for Hiram with a wife and children to support. Of course his pay will go right on, bein' as he's a partner."
"I don't know about that," said Strout. "That's for the trustees to decide, and I've got to decide whether I'll do two men's work for one man's pay."
"He would for you," Abner blurted out.
"If you think so much of him, why don't you come in and do his work for him?" said Strout.
"When you were going to buy this store, and Mr. Sawyer got ahead of yer, yer promised me a job here as pay for some special nosin' round I'd done fer yer—but when yer got in the saddle you forgot the feller who'd boosted yer up. When a man breaks his word to me onct he don't do it a second time. That's why," and Abner went out and slammed the door after him.
Mr. Strout was angry, and when in that state of mind he was often lacking in prudence in speech.
"That comes of turning a place of business into a resort for loafers. If I owned this store outright there'd be a big sign up somewhere— 'When you've transacted your business, think of Home Sweet Home.'"
"I reckon that's a hint," said Benoni Hill, as he arose and put on his hat. "You won't be troubled with me or my trade in futur'. There are stores in Cottonton jus' as good as this, and the proprietors are gentlemen."
He left the store, and one by one the "loafers" followed him as no one had the courage to break the silence that fell upon the company after old Mr. Hill's departure.
Mr. Strout, left alone to close up the store, was more angry than ever.
"What cussed fools. I was hitting back at Abner and they thought the coat fit and put it on. They'll come round again. They won't enjoy tramping over to Cottonton for kerosene and molasses."
The store was lighted by kerosene lamps resting on brackets. It was Mr. Strout's custom to take them down, blow them out, and replace them on the brackets. One was always left burning, as Mr. Strout said "so burglars could see their way round."
Mr. Strout's anger rose higher and higher and there was no one present upon whom he could expend it. He grasped one of the lamps, but his hold on the glass handle was insecure and it fell to the floor, the lamp breaking, while the burning oil was thrown in every direction. He wished then that some of the "loafers" were present to help him put the fire out. There was no water nearer than the pump in the back yard. He grabbed a pail and started to get some water. He forgot the back-steps and fell headlong. For some minutes he was so dazed that he could do nothing. The glare of the fire lighted up the yard, or he would have had difficulty in filling the pail. When he returned, he saw that the fire was beyond his control. He could not go through the store, so he climbed the back yard fence and made his way to the front of the store crying "Fire" at the top of his voice.
It seemed an age to him, before anyone responded. He felt then the need of friends, neighbours—even "loafers" would have been acceptable.
A bucket brigade formed, but their efforts were unavailing. As the other lamps were exploded by the heat new inflammable material was thrown about. In a quarter of an hour the whole interior was in flames, and in an hour only a grim, black skeleton, lighted up by occasional flashes of flame, remained of Strout and Maxwell's grocery store.
Next morning comment was rife. Mr. Strout had told how the fire was caused but there were unbelievers.
"I think the cuss set it on fire himself," said Abner Stiles to his employer, Mr. Ezekiel Pettingill.
"Be careful, Abner," was the caution given him. "It don't do to accuse a man of anything 'less you have proof, an' your thinkin' so ain't proof." Mr. Strout went to Boston to see the trustees. The insurance was adjusted and Mr. Strout was authorized to proceed with the re-building at once. During the interim orders were filled from the Montrose store. Fortunately, the stable and wagon shed were some distance from the store, and had not been in danger.
The new store was larger than the old one, and many improvements, in Mr. Strout's opinion, were incorporated in the new structure. He ordered the new sign. When it was put up, the whole town, including the "loafers" were present. "I s'pose he fixed it with the trustees" said Benoni Hill to Abner Stiles.
"Danged if I think so," was the reply. "He's allers been meaner'n dirt to Hiram, an' has allers wanted to git him out. Burnin' up the store giv' him his chance."
"You mean the store burnin' up," corrected Benoni.
"I dunno. The Bible says God works in a mysterious way his wonders to perform, an' so do some individooals."
One noon after dinner, Mr. Strout said to his wife. "Bessie, put on your things an' come down to the new store. I want to show you somethin'."
"And leave the dishes?"
"You can bring 'em with you if you want to," her husband replied.
When they reached the store, upon which the painters were at work, he pointed to the new sign.
"See that? Read it out loud."
Mrs. Strout complied:
"O. STROUT. FINE GROCERIES."
"What did I tell yer?" was his only comment.
THE HOME COMING
Quincy desired to have his return to America unheralded by items in the newspapers of stories of his wonderful rescue, captivity, and final recovery of his reason, so when he booked for passage on the Gallia he gave the name of Mr. S. Adams, wife and son.
During the homeward voyage the father and son had an opportunity to become acquainted. The father told the story of his life at Mason's Corner; first going back to his college days. He told his son how he had opposed his father's wish that he would become a lawyer and sustain the reputation of the old firm of Sawyer, Crowninshield, and Lawrence; about his health breaking down and his visit to Mason's Corner; about the blind girl whom he had made his wife, and how he had secured medical assistance and her sight had been restored. Once again he lived over his life in the country town, and told about his friends and foes—Obadiah Strout and Bob Wood—who were enemies no longer, and honest, good-hearted 'Zeke Pettingill, and his sweet wife, little Huldah Mason. And Hiram who stammered so and Mandy who didn't. Nearly all the people mentioned in their long talks were well known to young Quincy and after his father had finished his reminiscences the young man supplied the sequel.
"What do you think of Mr. Strout?" asked the father.
"Think? I know he's a dishonest man. You say that you parted friends. He is no friend of yours or mine."
Then he told of his encounter with young Bob Wood.
"I had some trouble with his father many years ago," said Quincy. "What did he do to you?"
"Nothing to me. He insulted a young lady, and I took her part. Tom was going to help me but I arranged to handle him, in a very unscientific way though."
"It was a rough and tumble of the worst sort," interjected Tom. "I was afraid they'd bite each other before they got through."
"Quincy," said his father, "you must take boxing lessons. When occasion requires, it is the gentleman's weapon."
The mention of Mary Dana naturally led to a rehearsal of the Wood case, and all Mary had done in helping Quincy at the beginning of the search for his father.
"I think I see which way the wind blows," laughed his father, while Quincy blushed to the roots of his hair, "and I want to meet the young lady who did so much to bring us all together again."
Alice was proud of her son. He resembled her, having light hair and blue eyes; a decided contrast to his father whose skin had been darkened by Italian suns, who had dark eyes, dark hair frosted at the ends, and a heavy beard, cut in Van Dyke fashion. Few, if any, would have recognized in him the young man who more than twenty-three years before had taken passage on the Altonia, looking forward to a pleasant trip and an early return to his native land.
Alice explained to her son her apparent lack of affection for him in allowing him to be separated from her so long.
"I knew you were with your relatives and good friends, Quincy. In my nervous, depressed state I was poor company for a young, healthy boy. Then, I had such a fear of the ocean I dared not go to you and was afraid to have you come to me. Can you forgive me?"
"My darling mother," said young Quincy, "what you did turned out for the best. I have been educated as an American and that fully atones for my apparent neglect. Your beautiful letters kept you always in my mind, and I used to take great pleasure in telling my schoolmates what a pretty mother I had."
Alice, despite her years, blushed.
"Quincy, you are like your father in praising those you love."
Tom gave Quincy's father graphic descriptions of the changes in Fernborough and fully endorsed his friend's opinion of Mr. Strout.
"He's a snake in the grass," said Tom. "He'd pat you on the back with one hand and cut your throat, figuratively speaking, with the other."
"Do you think he'd recognize me?" asked Quincy.
"I think not," said Tom. "His perceptive powers are not strong. He's sub-acute rather than 'cute."
Quincy and Alice sat for hours looking out upon the wide expanse of ocean, and at the blue sky above them. It did not seem possible that so many years had passed since they were together. Memory is a great friend. It bridged the great gap in their lives. They were lovers as of yore, and would be always. They did not hesitate to talk of the cruel past—not sadly, for were they not in the happy present?
Said Alice one morning, "While you were gone I was in a terribly nervous condition. Aunt Ella said that I must have something to employ my mind—and I wrote, or tried to write. I couldn't keep my mind on one thing long enough to write a story, but I have collected the material for one, and now that I am happy once more, when we have settled down, I am going to write it."
"What's the title, or, rather, the subject?" her husband inquired.
"Oh, it opens with a ship-wreck—not a collision but a fire was the cause. Among the passengers are many children—of high and low degree—and they get mixed up—fall into wrong persons' hands,— fathers and mothers are lost and cannot claim them, and their future lives have supplied me with the strongest and most intricate and exciting plot that I have ever constructed."
"Which is the 'star' child?"
"He is the son of a Russian Grand Duke—the offspring of a morganatic marriage—his mother is driven from the country by order of the Czar. The title is The Son of Sergius."
They did not remain in New York but took the first train for Boston. They were driven to the Mount Vernon Street house.
"I knew you were coming," cried Maude, as she ran eagerly down the steps to meet them.
"Who has turned traitor? I pledged them all to secrecy," cried Quincy.
"Harry told me, and I had a cablegram from Florence."
"Did she use my name? If so, we are undone and the reporters will swarm like bees."
"You are safe," said Maude. "The message read: Brother found. Keep quiet."
Tom was prevailed upon to remain in Boston until Quincy could go to Fernborough. At supper they were introduced to Maude's family.
"Six of them," said Quincy. "I am uncle to a numerous extent. Maude, what are all their names—the girls first."
"This is Sarah, named after mother; Ella for Aunt Ella, and little Maude for her mother."
"Good! Now the boys."
"Stuart—the old gentleman was so nice to Harry and me when we were on our wedding tour—Nat for father, and Harry—"
"Thank Heaven—no Quincy. That name was becoming contagious. I am glad, Maude, that you were wise and kept the epidemic out of your family."
That evening Quincy and Mr. Merry talked about business matters. Harry told of Hiram's accident and the destruction of the store by fire.
"There's something funny about it," said Harry. "We authorized Mr. Strout to rebuild and restock at once, and we hear that he has done so, but he has not called on us for a dollar, nor has he sent up any bills for payment."
"I wish you would send a telegram to Mr. Ezekiel Pettingill the first thing to-morrow morning asking him to come to the city—say important business."
About three o'clock Ezekiel arrived at the office of Sawyer, Crowninshield, Lawrence and Merry. He was shown into what had been the late Hon. Nathaniel's private office, and came face to face with Quincy.
"I'm heartily glad to see you again," he exclaimed as he wrung Quincy's helpless hand after the first surprise of the meeting. "Huldy'll be delighted too. You must come down and tell us all about it. Just to think—more'n twenty years—but you're looking well."
Quincy assured him that his health was never better.
"What I wanted to see you about are affairs in Fernborough. What is Strout up to?"
"You've used just the right word. He's up to something. He's got up a sign—O. Strout, Fine Groceries—an' says Hiram's out of the firm, and that he owns the whole business."
Quincy smiled. "So, I've got to fight it out with him again, have I? Well it will be the final conflict. To use Mr. Strout's words, one or the other of us will have to leave town. You aren't going back to- night?"
"Oh, I must."
"Well, come up to the house first and see Alice and the boy. Well go down to-morrow."
THE FINAL CONFLICT
When Tom Chripp showed his father the photograph of the house in which he was born, he burst into tears.
"Just as pretty as ever," he exclaimed. "The roof's been mended, beent it, and just the same flowers all around it as when I was a boy. Tom, I'm glad to see you back safe and sound—but that picter— Tom, when I die, you just put that picter in the coffin with me, won't you? I want your grandfather to see that the old place was looked after when he was gone."
A dark featured, dark haired man entered Mr. Strout's store. The proprietor knew he was a stranger—perhaps just moved into town, and a prospective customer.
"What can I do for you?" he inquired blandly, for he was capable of being affable.
"I am looking for Mr. Hiram Maxwell."
"He ain't here no more."
"But he's your partner, isn't he?"
"Didn't you read my sign? There ain't no partner on it."
"There ought to be."
Mr. Strout looked at the stranger with astonishment. Then he laughed, and, with a remembrance of Mr. Richard Ricker, asked sneeringly:
"What asylum did you come from?"
"I beg your pardon," said the stranger. "I used to know Mr. Maxwell, and they told me in the city that he was a member of the firm of Strout and Maxwell."
"Who told ye?"
"The trustees of the estate of Mr. Sawyer. Mr. Quincy Adams Sawyer. Did you know him?"
"I never knew any good of him. So they told yer, did they? That shows how much attention they give to business. The old store was burned up and that busted the firm. This store's mine from cellar to chimney."
"The old firm must have paid you well."
"Pretty well—but I made my money in State Street, speculating and I'm well fixed."
"I'm glad to hear that you've prospered. I wish my friend Maxwell had been as fortunate. What became of his interest and Mr. Sawyer's in the store?"
"Went up in smoke, didn't I tell yer?"
"I beg your pardon," said the stranger again. "But doesn't your store stand on land belonging to the old firm?"
Strout squinted at the stranger. "I guess you're a lawyer lookin' for points, but you're on the wrong track. You won't get 'em."
"I'm not a lawyer, Mr. Strout. I only inquired thinking my friend Mr. Maxwell might—"
"Well, he won't," said Strout. "Mr. Quincy Adams Sawyer cheated me out of one store but he can't drive me out of this. He thought he was awful smart, but when he bought the store he didn't buy the land. It belonged to the town. I'm one of the selectmen, and one of the assessors found it out and told me, and I bought it—an' this store an' way up to the sky, and the land way down to China belongs to O. Strout."
"I am much obliged, Mr. Strout, for your courtesy—only one more question and then I'll try and find my friend Mr. Maxwell—if somebody will be kind enough to tell me where he is."
"You didn't ask where he was. If you want to know he's up to the Hospital. He's had his leg off, an'll have to walk on crutches."
"So bad as that,—I'm very sorry," said the stranger.
"I've got to put up some orders—see that sign?" and he pointed to one which read:
"When You've transacted your Business, Think of Home, Sweet Home."
"I beg your pardon, Mr. Strout, for taking so much of your valuable time. Do you know whether Mr. Quincy Adams Sawyer is in town?"
Strout laughed scornfully. "In town? That's good. Why, man, he's been dead more'n twenty years—food for fishes, if they'd eat him, which I doubt. He's left a boy, same name, that used to go to school here, but, thank Heaven, he's got lots of money, and probably won't trouble us any more. Perhaps he's the one you want."
"Are you sure the boy's father is dead? I saw him in Boston yesterday."
"I don't take any stock in any such nonsense. This ain't the days of miracles."
"I saw him in this town this morning."
"Where?" gasped Strout.
"Right here. That's my name, Quincy Adams Sawyer. Do you want me to identify myself?" He stepped back, puckered up his mouth, and began whistling "Listen to the Mocking Bird."
Strout was both startled and mad. "Just like you to come spyin' round. You allers was a meddler, an' underhanded. But now you know the truth, what are you going to do about it?"
Quincy walked to the door. "Well, Mr. Strout, I'm going to put it about as you did when I first came to Mason's Corner, Either you or I have got to leave town. This is our last fight, and I'm going to win."
He left the store quickly and made his way to where Ezekiel was waiting for him with the carryall.
"Now, 'Zeke, we'll go to the Hospital and see poor Hiram."
They found him hobbling about on crutches in the grounds of the Hospital.
"How long have you been here, Hiram?" was Quincy's first question.
"About twelve weeks. You see, besides breaking my leg I cracked my knee pan an' that's made it wuss."
"We'll fix you up very soon. I'll get you an artificial leg from New York. You'll be able to walk all right but you mustn't do any heavy lifting."
"Guess I shan't have no chance to lift anything now Strout's got the store."
"Don't worry about that, Hiram. There are towns that have two stores in them. How's Mandy?"
"Gettin' along all right. Mr. Pettingill, there, sends a man over to help her, and Mrs. Crowley is as good as two any day."
"Don't worry, Hiram. You'll come out on top yet"
"If I do, 'twill be because you'll put me there, I reckon."
As they were driving back 'Zekiel asked Quincy if he knew Mrs. Hawkins was going to sell out.
"No, why. Getting too old?"
"No, she's as spry as a cat, and she's seventy odd. That ain't the reason. Jonas is dead."
"What was the matter?"
"No, somebody stole his chickens. So he arranged a gun with a spring and he must have forgotten it."
"He didn't 'kalkilate' on its hitting him?"
"Guess not. Mrs. Hawkins says she's too old to marry agin, and she can't run the house without a man she can trust."
"Let's stop and see her."
When they entered, Mrs. Hawkins threw up her hands. "Lord a Massy! I heerd at the store all about you comin' back, but where on airth did you come from? They said you was dead an' here you are as handsome as ever. How's your wife, an' that boy o' yourn?"
"Both well, I'm happy to say. 'Zeke tells me you want to sell out."
"Yes. Now Jonas has gone there's nobody to take care of the chickens, an' a hotel 'thout chickens an' fresh eggs is no home for a hungry man."
"What will you take for the place just as it stands?"
"Well, I've figured up an' I should lose money ef I took less'n four thousand dollars, an' I ought to have five."
"I'll take the refusal of it for forty-eight hours at five thousand. Is it agreed?"
"I'd hold it a month for you, Mister Sawyer, but I want to go and help Mandy soon's I can now that Hiram's laid up for nobody knows how long."
"We'll have Hiram on his feet again very soon, Mrs. Hawkins. I'll be down again in a few days."
"Give my love to Alice," she called after them as they were driving away.
The next evening Quincy asked his son to come to the library with him.
"Quincy, I want to borrow fifty thousand dollars. Can you spare it?"
"Twice as much if you need it. I'll give it to you. It's yours anyway."
"No, I want to borrow it at six per cent."
"Are you going into business?"
"Yes." Then Quincy told him of his conversation with Mr. Strout.
"How are you going to beat him?" asked young Quincy.
"I'll tell you. I'm going to buy the Hawkins House. I shall have it lifted up and another story put underneath. There will be room for a store twice as large as Strout's, and a hotel entrance and office on the ground floor. I'll put Hiram Maxwell in charge of the store."
"Who'll run the hotel?"
"'Zeke says Sam Hill is the man for the place, and his wife Tilly will be the housekeeper, chief cook, etc."
"Do you mean to run Mr. Strout out of town?"
"That is my present intention. Not for personal vengeance but for the ultimate good of the community."
"I'd like to help, but the work isn't in my line."
"Seriously speaking, Quincy, what is your line—the law?"
"Don't know. Am thinking it over."
"Have you seen that Miss Dana yet?"
"No. Mr. Isburn told me she is out West now on an important case."
"We'll get her to find Strout after he leaves Fernborough. Give me that check to-morrow early. I'm going to Fernborough with an architect to have plans made for the alterations."
Mr. Strout could look from his window and see what was going on at the Hawkins House.
"Who's bought the hotel, Abner?"
"Well, Mr. Strout, they do say it's Mr. Quincy Adams Sawyer, an' that Sam Hill and his wife Tilly are going to run it."
"I won't sell them a darned thing."
Mr. Stiles grinned. "Can't they buy in Cottonton, or Montrose, or Eastborough? Mr. Sawyer's got stores there."
"Well they'll want things in a hurry, but they won't get them from me."
A month later Abner rushed into the store.
"Say, Strout, they're putting up a new sign on the Hawkins House. Come and see it."
Mr. Strout walked leisurely to the window and put up his hand to shade his eyes. Great white letters on a blue ground.
THE SAWYER GROCERY COMPANY
"By George, Strout, there's going to be another grocery."
Mr. Strout did not speak, but walked back behind the counter. Abner went to see the sign raising.
Mr. Strout soliloquized: "So, he's going to fight me, is he? Well, I'll spend every dollar I have, and borrow some more, before I'll give in. He'll cut prices—so will I."
Then a troubled look came into his face.
"Confound it. My commission as postmaster runs out in a month, but our Congressman is a good friend of mine."
Opening night came at the new store, Saturday being selected. Over the doorway was an electric sign—
WELCOME TO ALL
Mr. Strout's store was nearly deserted. About ten o'clock Abner came in.
"I say, Strout, it's just scrumptious. They got three times as many goods as you have. An' there's a smoking room back of the store with a sign over the door 'Exclusively for Loafers. Loaf and Enjoy Your Soul.' They say a poet feller named Whitman writ that last part. Saturday morning is to be bargain day and everything is to be sold at half price. And, say, isn't the hotel fine? Everybody was invited upstairs, an' there was a free lunch spread out."
"Abner, you've talked enough. You'd better go home."
The warfare continued for three months. At the end of the first, Hiram Maxwell, an old soldier, was appointed postmaster, vice Obadiah Strout. At the end of the second month Mr. Strout resigned his position as organist and the gentleman who led the orchestra that played during the evening at the hotel was chosen in his stead. At the end of the third month a red flag was seen hanging at the door of Mr. Strout's store and Mr. Beers the auctioneer whose once rotund voice had now become thin and quavering, sold off the remaining stock and the fixtures. Then the curtains were pulled down and the door locked. The next day Mr. and Mrs. Strout and family left town.
"What's become of Strout?" Quincy asked his son, who had just returned from Fernborough. Another month had passed since the auction sale.
"I heard he was seen on State Street a few days ago, and he said the best move he ever made was leaving that one-horse country town; that he could make more money in a day in State Street than he could in a month in the grocery business. It seems he has become what they call a curb broker or speculator."
"I am glad," said Quincy, "that Mr. Strout has found a more profitable and congenial field. It must have been very dull for him the last three months of his stay in that one-horse town."
TOM, JACK AND NED
Quincy decided to have his company incorporated. This necessitated visits to the Secretary of the Commonwealth and the Tax Commissioner. The amount paid in cash capital was $200,000. Besides the four stores doing business, sixteen more were contemplated in Boston, Cambridge, Lowell, Lawrence, Fall River, New Bedford, and other small cities and large towns.
The design was not to form a trust with a view of controlling certain food products and raising prices, but to establish a line of stores in which the best grade at the lowest cash price should be the rule. This price was to be fixed for the Boston store and was to be the same in all the stores.
"Whom shall I put in charge of the Boston store, Quincy?" his father asked. "He will have to be general manager for the whole circuit."
"I know a man," said young Quincy, "who is honest, conscientious, and a perfect tiger for work, but he knows nothing about the grocery business. He has adaptability, that valuable quality, but, while learning, he might make some costly mistakes."
"I want you to act as Treasurer for the company. It's your money, and you should handle it."
"I've no objection to drawing checks. We sha'n't have to borrow any money for there's half a million available any time. Why didn't you have a larger capital, father?"
"Because the State taxes it so heavily; but there's no tax on borrowed money. The fellow who lends pays that."
"If I loan money do I have to pay taxes on it when I haven't got it?"
"Certainly, and you pay just the same if there's no prospect of its ever being repaid."
"Funny! Why, our Massachusetts tax laws are funnier than a comic almanac, and about as sensible."
Quincy took up a pen and began writing.
"What are you writing, father?"
"I'll show you in a few minutes."
"How will that do?"
QUINCY ADAMS SAWYER, President. QUINCY ADAMS SAWYER, Jr., Treasurer. THOMAS CHRIPP, General Manager. Cash Capital, $200,000.
Cable, Vienna. 20 Stores.
THE SAWYER GROCERY COMPANY, INC.
Wholesale and Retail.
"Just the man I had in mind, father. You can depend upon him every time, and he'll keep his subordinates right up to the mark."
Upon his return to his native state Quincy had found many of his old friends still in office. The governor and higher officials were only annuals—some not very hardy at that—while the minor officials, in many cases, were hardy perennials, whom no political hot weather or cold storm could wither or destroy.
A presidential campaign was on, and speakers, for there were few orators, were in demand. Quincy's visits to so many cities inspecting the Company's stores had brought him in contact with hundreds of local politicians. One day there came a call from the State Committee to come in and see the Secretary.
"Do you want to do something for the party?" asked Mr. Thwing, the Secretary.
"I have already subscribed," said Quincy. "Do you need more?"
"Money talks," said Mr. Thwing, "and so do you. I have a score of letters from different cities asking me to add you to our list of speakers, and to be sure and let the writers hear you."
"I had no intention—" Quincy began.
"You're an ex-governor, and know all the State. Aren't you in the grocery business in a big way?"
"'Twill boom your business in great style. Better even for groceries than boots and shoes, for food is a daily consumption."
"I wouldn't go on the stump just to advertise my business."
"Of course not. You would take just what the gods provided and ask no questions, and make no comments. Shall we put you down for, say, twenty nights?"
Quincy consented, but he stipulated that he was not to be placed in any city or town where he had a store.
Mr. Thwing vehemently objected. "Why, the men who want you to come live where the stores are."
"I can't help it. Put me in the next town, and if they're so anxious to hear me they'll come."
After the campaign was over, the votes cast, and the victory won, Mr. Thwing said, "That was a good business idea of yours, Governor, about your not going into the towns where your stores were. Of course you instructed your general manager."
"I don't know what you mean," said Quincy.
"Didn't you know when you spoke in places adjoining those in which you had stores that your Mr. Chripp, I think that's the name—just flooded the towns with circulars announcing that you were to speak and that you were the President of the grocery company doing business in the adjoining city, that your goods were the best, your prices the lowest—and that your teams would deliver goods free of charge in all places within five miles?"
Mr. Thwing stopped to take breath, and Quincy nearly lost his in astonishment.
"Great business idea, Mr. Sawyer."
"I knew nothing about it. I should have stopped it had I known."
"Why so? You got a double ad. Bright man that Chripp. You'll have to raise his salary."
Quincy did not reply. The deed was done, and a public explanation would do no good. Chripp surely had his employer's interests at heart, even if he had mixed politics and business rather too openly. The next month's statement showed a great increase in trade. Mr. Chripp was not called to account, but his salary was materially increased at the suggestion of young Quincy.
The new President had been inaugurated, the Cabinet nominees confirmed, and the distribution of political "plums" began. Quincy felt that the lightning had struck in the wrong place when he was approached and sounded as to whether he would accept a foreign mission. He talked the matter over with his wife.