Peter forgot his worry in the opening of a box in the dining-room and the taking out of the flowers. He placed the bunches at the different places, raising one of the bouquets of violets to his lips, before he laid it down. Then he took the cut flowers, and smilax, and spread them loosely in the centre of the little table, which otherwise had nothing on it, except the furnishings placed at each seat. After that he again kissed a bunch of violets. History doesn't state whether it was the same bunch. Peter must have been very fond of flowers!
"Peter," called a voice.
"Is that you, Le Grand? Go right into my room."
"I've done that already. You see I feel at home. How are you?" he continued, as Peter joined him in the study.
"I thought I would run in early, so as to have a bit of you before the rest. Peter, here's a letter from Muller. He's got that 'Descent' in its first state, in the most brilliant condition. You had better get it, and trash your present impression. It has always looked cheap beside the rest."
"Very well. Will you attend to it?"
Just then came the sound of voices and the rustle of draperies in the little hall.
"Hello! Ladies?" said Le Grand. "This is to be one of what Lispenard calls your 'often, frequently, only once' affairs, is it?"
"I'm afraid we are early," said Mrs. D'Alloi. "We did not know how much time to allow."
"No. Such old friends cannot come too soon."
"And as it is, I'm really starved," said another personage, shaking hands with Peter as if she had not seen him for a twelve-month instead of parting with him but two hours before. "What an appetite riding in the Park does give one! Especially when afterwards you drive, and drive, and drive, over New York stones."
"Ah," cried Madame. "C'est tres bien!"
"Isn't it jolly?" responded Leonore.
"But it is not American. It is Parisian."
"Oh, no, it isn't! It's all American. Isn't it, Peter?"
But Peter was telling Jenifer to hasten the serving of dinner. So Leonore had to fight her country's battles by herself.
"What's all this to-day's papers are saying, Peter?" asked Watts, as soon as they were seated.
"That's rather a large subject even for a slow dinner."
"I mean about the row in the Democratic organization over the nomination for governor?"
"The papers seem to know more about it than I do," said Peter calmly.
Le Grand laughed. "Miss De Voe, Ogden, Rivington—all of us, have tried to get Peter, first and last, to talk politics, but not a fact do we get. They say it's his ability to hold his tongue which made Costell trust him and push him, and that that was the reason he was chosen to fill Costells place."
"I don't fill his place," said Peter. "No one can do that. I merely succeeded him. And Miss D'Alloi will tell you that the papers calling me 'Taciturnity Junior' is a libel. Am I not a talker, Miss D'Alloi?"
"I really can't find out," responded Leonore, with a puzzled look. "People say you are not."
"I didn't think you would fail me after the other night."
"Ah," said madame. "The quiet men are the great men. Look at the French."
"Oh, madame!" exclaimed Leonore.
"You are joking" cried Mrs. D'Alloi.
"That's delicious," laughed Watts.
"Whew," said Le Grand, under his breath.
"Ah! Why do you cry out? Mr. Stirling, am I not right?" Madame appealed to the one face on which no amusement or skepticism was shown.
"I think it is rather dangerous to ascribe any particular trait to any nationality. It is usually misleading. But most men who think much, talk little, and the French have many thinkers"
"I always liked Von Moltke, just for it being said of him that he could be silent in seven languages," said Le Grand.
"Yes," said Leonore. "It's so restful. We crossed on the steamer with a French Marquis who can speak six languages, and can't say one thing worth listening to in any."
Peter thought the soup all Jenifer had cracked it up to be.
"Peter," said Leonore, turning to him, "Mr. Le Grand said that you never will talk politics with anybody. That doesn't include me, of course?"
"No," said Peter promptly.
"I thought it didn't," said Leonore, her eyes dancing with pleasure, however, at the reply. "We had Mr. Pell to lunch to-day and I spoke to him as to what you said about the bosses, and he told me that bosses could never be really good, unless the better element were allowed to vote, and not the saloon-keepers and roughs. I could see he was right, at once."
"From his point of view. Or rather the view of his class."
"Don't you think so?"
"Broadly speaking, all persons of sound mind are entitled to vote on the men and the laws which are to govern them. Aside from this, every ounce of brain or experience you can add to the ballot, makes it more certain. Suppose you say that half the people are too ignorant to vote sensibly. Don't you see that there is an even chance, at least, that they'll vote rightly, and if the wrong half carries the election, it is because more intelligent people have voted wrongly, have not voted, or have not taken the trouble to try and show the people the right way, but have left them to the mercies of the demagogue. If we grant that every man who takes care of himself has some brain, and some experience, his vote is of some value, even if not a high one. Suppose we have an eagle, and a thousand pennies. Are we any better off by tossing away the coppers, because each is worth so little. That is why I have always advocated giving the franchise to women. If we can add ten million voters to an election, we have added just so much knowledge to it, and made it just so much the harder to mislead or buy enough votes to change results."
"You evidently believe," said Watts, "in the saying, 'Everybody knows more than anybody?'"
Peter had forgotten all about his company in his interest over—over the franchise. So he started slightly at this question, and looked up from—from his subject.
"Yes," said Le Grand. "We've been listening and longing to ask questions. When we see such a fit of loquacity, we want to seize the opportunity."
"No," said Leonore, "I haven't finished. Tell me. Can't you make the men do what you want, so as to have them choose only the best men?"
"If I had the actual power I would not," said Peter.
"Because I would not dare to become responsible for so much, and because a government of the 'best' men is not an American government."
"That is the aristocratic idea. That the better element, so called, shall compel the masses to be good, whether they wish it or no. Just as one makes a child behave without regard to its own desires. With grown men, such a system only results in widening the distance between the classes and masses, making the latter more dependent and unthinking. Whereas, if we make every man vote he must think a little for himself, because different people advise him contrarily, and thus we bring him nearer to the more educated. He even educates himself by his own mistakes; for every bad man elected, and every bad law passed, make him suffer the results, and he can only blame himself. Of course we don't get as good a government or laws, but then we have other offsetting advantages."
"What are those?"
"We get men and laws which are the wish of the majority. Such are almost self-supporting and self-administering. It is not a mere combination of words, printing-ink, and white paper which makes a law. It is the popular sentiment back of it which enforces it, and unless a law is the wish of a majority of the people who are to be governed by it, it is either a dead letter, or must be enforced by elaborate police systems, supported oftentimes with great armies. Even then it does not succeed, if the people choose to resist. Look at the attempt to govern Ireland by force, in the face of popular sentiment. Then, too, we get a stability almost unknown in governments which do not conform to the people. This country has altered its system of government less than any other great country in the last hundred years. And there is less socialistic legislation and propaganda here than anywhere else. That is, less discontent."
"But, Peter, if the American people are as sensible as you think, how do you account for the kind of men who exercise control?" said Le Grand.
"By better men not trying."
"But we have reform movements all the time, led by good men. Why aren't these men elected?"
"Who are as absolutely inexperienced and blind as to the way to influence votes, as well can be. Look at it, as a contest, without regard to the merit of the cause. On one side we have bosses, who know and understand the men in their wards, have usually made themselves popular, are in politics for a living, have made it a life-study, and by dear experience have learned that they must surrender their own opinions in order to produce harmony and a solid vote. The reformer, on the contrary, is usually a man who has other occupations, and, if I may say so, has usually met with only partial success in them. By that I mean that the really successful merchant, or banker, or professional man cannot take time to work in politics, and so only the less successful try. Each reformer, too, is sure that he himself is right, and as his bread and butter is not in the issue, he quarrels to his heart's content with his associates, so that they rarely can unite all their force. Most of the reform movements in this city have been attempted in a way that is simply laughable. What should we say if a hundred busy men were to get together to-morrow, and decide that they would open a great bank, to fight the clearing-house banks of New York? Yet this, in effect, is what the reformers have done over and over again in politics. They say to the men who have been kept in power for years by the people, 'You are scoundrels. The people who elected you are ignorant We know how to do it better. Now we'll turn you out.' In short, they tell the majority they are fools, but ask their votes. The average reformer endorses thoroughly the theory 'that every man is as good as another, and a little better.' And he himself always is the better man. The people won't stand that. The 'holier than thou' will defeat a man quicker in this country than will any rascality he may have done."
"But don't you think the reformer is right in principle?"
"In nine cases out of ten. But politics does not consist in being right. It's in making other people think you are. Men don't like to be told that they are ignorant and wrong, and this assumption is the basis of most of the so-called educational campaigns. To give impetus to a new movement takes immense experience, shrewdness, tact, and many other qualities. The people are obstructive—that is conservative—in most things, and need plenty of time."
"Unless you tell them what they are to do," laughed Watts. "Then they know quick enough."
"Well, that has taken them fifteen years to learn. Don't you see how absurd it is to suppose that the people are going to take the opinions of the better element off-hand? At the end of a three months' campaign? Men have come into my ward and spoken to empty halls; they've flooded it with campaign literature, which has served to light fires; their papers have argued, and nobody read them. But the ward knows me. There's hardly a voter who doesn't. They've tested me. Most of them like me. I've lived among them for years. I've gone on their summer excursions. I've talked with them all over the district. I have helped them in their troubles. I have said a kind word over their dead. I'm godfather to many. With others I've stood shoulder to shoulder when the bullets were flying. Why, the voters who were children when I first came here, with whom I use to sit in the angle, are almost numerous enough now to carry an election as I advise. Do you suppose, because speakers, unknown to them, say I'm wrong, and because the three-cent papers, which they never see, abuse me, that they are going to turn from me unless I make them? That is the true secret of the failure of reformers. A logical argument is all right in a court of appeals, but when it comes to swaying five thousand votes, give me five thousand loving hearts rather than five thousand logical reasons."
"Yet you have carried reforms."
"I have tried, but always in a practical way. That is, by not antagonizing the popular men in politics, but by becoming one of them and making them help me. I have gained political power by recognizing that I could only have my own way by making it suit the voters. You see there are a great many methods of doing about the same thing. And the boss who does the most things that the people want, can do the most things that the people don't want. Every time I have surrendered my own wishes, and done about what the people desire, I have added to my power, and so have been able to do something that the people or politicians do not care about or did not like."
"And as a result you are called all sorts of names."
"Yes. The papers call me a boss. If the voters didn't agree with me, they would call me a reformer."
"But, Peter," said Le Grand, "would you not like to see such a type of man as George William Curtis in office?"
"Mr. Curtis probably stood for the noblest political ideas this country has ever produced. But he held a beacon only to a small class. A man who writes from an easy-chair, will only sway easy-chair people. And easy-chair people never carried an election in this country, and never will. This country cannot have a government of the best. It will always be a government of the average. Mr. Curtis was only a leader to his own grade, just as Tim Sullivan is the leader of his. Mr. Curtis, in his editorials, spoke the feelings of one element in America. Sullivan, in Germania Hall, voices another. Each is representative, the one of five per cent. of New York; the other of ninety-five per cent. If the American people have decided one thing, it is that they will not be taken care of, nor coercively ruled, by their better element, or minorities."
"Yet you will acknowledge that Curtis ought to rule, rather than Sullivan?"
"Not if our government is to be representative. I need not say that I wish such a type as Mr. Curtis was representative."
"I suppose if he had tried to be a boss he would have failed?"
"I think so. For it requires as unusual a combination of qualities to be a successful boss, as to be a successful merchant or banker. Yet one cannot tell. I myself have never been able to say what elements make a boss, except that he must be in sympathy with the men whom he tries to guide, and that he must be meeting them. Mr. Curtis had a broad, loving nature and sympathies, and if the people had discovered them, they would have liked him. But the reserve which comes with culture makes one largely conceal one's true feelings. Super-refinement puts a man out of sympathy with much that is basic in humanity, and it needs a great love, or a great sacrifice of feeling, to condone it. It is hard work for what Watts calls a tough, and such a man, to understand and admire one another."
"But don't you think," said Mrs. D'Alloi, "that the people of our class are better and finer?"
"The expression 'noblesse oblige' shows that," said madame.
"My experience has led me to think otherwise," said Peter. "Of course there is a difference of standards, of ideals, and of education, in people, and therefore there are differences in conduct. But for their knowledge of what is right and wrong, I do not think the so-called better classes, which should, in truth, be called the prosperous classes, live up to their own standards of right any more than do the poor."
"Oh, I say, draw it mild. At least exclude the criminal classes," cried Watts. "They know better."
"We all know better. But we don't live up to our knowledge. I crossed on one of the big Atlantic liners lately, with five hundred other saloon passengers. They were naturally people of intelligence, and presumably of easy circumstances. Yet at least half of those people were plotting to rob our government of money by contriving plans to avoid paying duties truly owed. To do this all of them had to break our laws, and in most cases had, in addition, to lie deliberately. Many of them were planning to accomplish this theft by the bribery of the custom-house inspectors, thus not merely making thieves of themselves, but bribing other men to do wrong. In this city I can show you blocks so densely inhabited that they are election districts in themselves. Blocks in which twenty people live and sleep in a single room, year after year; where the birth of a little life into the world means that all must eat less and be less warm; where man and woman, old and young, must shiver in winter, and stifle in summer; where there is not room to bury the people who live in the block within the ground on which they dwell. But I cannot find you, in the poorest and vilest parts of this city, any block where the percentage of liars and thieves and bribe-givers is as large as was that among the first-class passengers of that floating palace. Each condition of society has its own mis-doings, and I believe varies little in the percentage of wrong-doers to the whole."
"To hear Peter talk you would think the whole of us ought to be sentenced to life terms," laughed Watts. "I believe it's only an attempt on his part to increase the practice of lawyers."
"Do you really think people are so bad, Peter?" asked Leonore, sadly.
"No. I have not, ten times in my life, met a man whom I should now call bad. I have met men whom I thought so, but when I knew them better I found the good in them more than balancing the evil. Our mistake is in supposing that some men are 'good' and others 'bad,' and that a sharp line can be drawn between them. The truth is, that every man has both qualities in him and in very few does the evil overbalance the good. I marvel at the goodness I find in humanity, when I see the temptation and opportunity there is to do wrong."
"Some men are really depraved, though," said Mrs. D'Alloi.
"Yes," said madame. "Think of those strikers!"
Peter felt a thrill of pleasure pass through him, but he did not show it. "Let me tell you something in connection with that. A high light in place of a dark shadow. There was an attempt to convict some of the strikers, but it failed, for want of positive evidence. The moral proof, however, against a fellow named Connelly was so strong that there could be no doubt that he was guilty. Two years later that man started out in charge of a long express, up a seven-mile grade, where one of our railroads crosses the Alleghanies. By the lay of the land every inch of that seven miles of track can be seen throughout its entire length, and when he had pulled half way up, he saw a section of a freight train coming down the grade at a tremendous speed. A coupling had broken, and this part of the train was without a man to put on the brakes. To go on was death. To stand still was the same. No speed which he could give his train by backing would enable it to escape those uncontrolled cars. He sent his fireman back to the first car, with orders to uncouple the engine. He whistled 'on brakes' to his train, so that it should be held on the grade safely. And he, and the engine alone, went on up that grade, and met that flying mass of freight. He saved two hundred people's lives. Yet that man, two years before, had tried to burn alive forty of his fellow-men. Was that man good or bad?"
"Really, chum, if you ask it as a conundrum, I give it up. But there are thoroughly and wholly good things in this world, and one of them is this stuffing. Would it be possible for a fellow to have a second help?"
Peter smiled. "Jenifer always makes the portions according to what is to follow, and I don't believe he'll think you had better. Jenifer, can Mr. D'Alloi have some more stuffing?"
"Yissah," said Jenifer, grinning the true darkey grin, "if de gentmun want't sell his ap'tite foh a mess ob potash."
"Never mind," said Watts. "I'm not a dyspeptic, and so don't need potash. But you might wrap the rest up in a piece of newspaper, and I'll take it home."
"Peter, you must have met a great many men in politics whom you knew to be dishonest?" said Mrs. D'Alloi.
"No. I have known few men whom I could call dishonest. But then I make a great distinction between the doer of a dishonest act and a dishonest man."
"That is what the English call 'a fine-spun' distinction, I think," said madame.
"I hope not. A dishonest man I hold to be one who works steadily and persistently with bad means and motives. But there are many men whose lives tell far more for good than for evil in the whole, yet who are not above doing wrong at moments or under certain circumstances. This man will lie under given conditions of temptations. Another will bribe, if the inducement is strong enough. A third will merely trick. Almost every man has a weak spot somewhere. Yet why let this one weakness—a partial moral obliquity or imperfection—make us cast him aside as useless and evil. As soon say that man physically is spoiled, because he is near-sighted, lame or stupid. If we had our choice between a new, bright, keen tool, or a worn, dull one, of poor material, we should not hesitate which to use. But if we only have the latter, how foolish to refuse to employ it as we may, because we know there are in the world a few better ones."
"Is not condoning a man's sins, by failing to blame him, direct encouragement to them?" said Mrs. D'Alloi.
"One need not condone the sin. My rule has been, in politics, or elsewhere, to fight dishonesty wherever I found it. But I try to fight the act, not the man. And if I find the evil doer beyond hope of correction, I do not antagonize the doer of it. More can be done by amity and forbearance than by embittering and alienating. Man is not bettered by being told that he is bad. I had an alderman in here three or four days ago who was up to mischief. I could have called him a scoundrel, without telling him untruth. But I didn't. I told him what I thought was right, in a friendly way, and succeeded in straightening him out, so that he dropped his intention, yet went away my friend. If I had quarrelled with him, we should have parted company, he would have done the wrong, I should have fought him when election time came—and defeated him. But he, and probably fifty of his adherents in the ward would have become my bitter enemies, and opposed everything I tried in the future. If I quarrelled with enough such men, I should in time entirely lose my influence in the ward, or have it generally lessened. But by dealing as a friend with him, I actually prevented his doing what he intended, and we shall continue to work together. Of course a man can be so bad that this course is impossible, but they are as few in politics as they are elsewhere."
"Taciturnity Stirling in his great circus feat of riding a whole ward at once," said Watts.
"I don't claim that I'm right," said Peter. "I once thought very differently. I started out very hotly as a reformer when I began life. But I have learned that humanity is not reformed with a club, and that if most people gave the energy they spend in reforming the world, or their friends, to reforming themselves, there would be no need of reformers."
"The old English saying that 'people who can't mind their own business invariably mind some one's else,' seems applicable," said Watts.
"But is it not very humiliating to you to have to be friends with such men?" said Mrs. D'Alloi.
"You know Mr. Drewitt?" asked Peter.
"Yes," said all but madame.
"Do you take pleasure in knowing him?"
"Of course," said Watts. "He's very amusing and a regular parlor pet."
"That is the reason I took him. For ten years that man was notoriously one of the worst influences in New York State politics. At Albany, in the interest of a great corporation, he was responsible for every job and bit of lobbying done in its behalf. I don't mean to say that he really bribed men himself, for he had lieutenants for the actual dirty work, but every dollar spent passed through his hands, and he knew for what purpose it was used. At the end of that time, so well had he done his work, that he was made president of the corporation. Because of that position, and because he is clever, New York society swallowed him and has ever since delighted to fete him. I find it no harder to shake hands and associate with the men he bribed, than you do to shake hands and associate with the man who gave the bribe."
"Even supposing the great breweries, and railroads, and other interests to be chiefly responsible for bribery, that makes it all the more necessary to elect men above the possibility of being bribed," said Le Grand. "Why not do as they do in Parliament? Elect only men of such high character and wealth, that money has no temptation for them."
"The rich man is no better than the poor man, except that in place of being bribed by other men's money, he allows his own money to bribe him. Look at the course of the House of Lords on the corn-laws. The slave-holders' course on secession. The millionaire silver senators' course on silver. The one was willing to make every poor man in England pay a half more for his bread than need be, in order that land might rent for higher prices. The slave-owner was willing to destroy his own country, rather than see justice done. The last are willing to force a great commercial panic, ruining hundreds and throwing thousands out of employment, if they can only get a few cents more per ounce for their silver. Were they voting honestly in the interest of their fellow-men? Or were their votes bribed?"
Mrs. D'Alloi rose, saying, "Peter. We came early and we must go early. I'm afraid we've disgraced ourselves both ways."
Peter went down with them to their carriage. He said to Leonore in the descent, "I'm afraid the politics were rather dull to you. I lectured because I wanted to make some things clear to you."
"Why?" questioned Leonore.
"Because, in the next few months you'll see a great deal about bosses in the papers, and I don't want you to think so badly of us as many do."
"I shan't think badly of you, Peter," said Leonore, in the nicest tone.
"Thank you," said Peter. "And if you see things said of me that trouble you, will you ask me about them?"
"Yes. But I thought you wouldn't talk politics?"
"I will talk with you, because, you know, friends must tell each other everything."
When Leonore had settled back in the carriage for the long drive, she cogitated: "Mr. Le Grand said that he and Miss De Voe, and Mr. Ogden had all tried to get Peter to talk about politics, but that he never would. Yet, he's known them for years, and is great friends with them. It's very puzzling!"
Probably Leonore was thinking of American politics.
Leonore's puzzle went on increasing in complexity, but there is a limit to all intricacy, and after a time Leonore began to get an inkling of the secret. She first noticed that Peter seemed to spend an undue amount of time with her. He not merely turned up in the Park daily, but they were constantly meeting elsewhere. Leonore went to a gallery. There was Peter! She went to a concert. Ditto, Peter! She visited the flower-show. So did Peter! She came out of church. Behold Peter! In each case with nothing better to do than to see her home. At first Leonore merely thought these meetings were coincidences, but their frequency soon ended this theory, and then Leonore noticed that Peter had a habit of questioning her about her plans beforehand, and of evidently shaping his accordingly.
Nor was this all. Peter seemed to be constantly trying to get her to spend time with him. Though the real summer was fast coming, he had another dinner. He had a box at the theatre. He borrowed a drag from Mr. Pell, and took them all up for a lunch at Mrs. Costell's in Westchester. Then nothing would do but to have another drive, ending in a dinner at the Country Club.
Flowers, too, seemed as frequent as their meetings. Peter had always smiled inwardly at bribing a girl's love with flowers and bon-bons, but he had now discovered that flowers are just the thing to send a girl, if you love her, and that there is no bribing about it. So none could be too beautiful and costly for his purse. Then Leonore wanted a dog—a mastiff. The legal practice of the great firm and the politics of the city nearly stopped till the finest of its kind had been obtained for her.
Another incriminating fact came to her through Dorothy.
"I had a great surprise to-day," she told Leonore. "One that fills me with delight, and that will please you."
"What is that?"
"Peter asked me at dinner, if we weren't to have Anneke's house at Newport for the summer, and when I said 'yes,' he told me that if I would save a room for him, he would come down Friday nights and stay over Sunday, right through the summer. He has been a simply impossible man hitherto to entice into a visit. Ray and I felt like giving three cheers."
"He seemed glad enough to be invited to visit Grey-Court," thought Leonore.
But even without all this, Peter carried the answer to the puzzle about with him in his own person. Leonore could not but feel the difference in the way he treated, and talked, and looked at her, as compared to all about her. It is true he was no more demonstrative, than with others; his face held its quiet, passive look, and he spoke in much the usual, quiet, even tone of voice. Yet Leonore was at first dimly conscious, and later certain, that there was a shade of eagerness in his manner, a tenderness in his voice, and a look in his eye, when he was with her, that was there in the presence of no one else.
So Leonore ceased to puzzle over the problem at a given point, having found the answer. But the solving did not bring her much apparent pleasure.
"Oh, dear!" she remarked to herself. "I thought we were going to be such good friends! That we could tell each other everything. And now he's gone and spoiled it. Probably, too, he'll be bothering me later, and then he'll be disappointed, and cross, and we shan't be good friends any more. Oh, dear! Why do men have to behave so? Why can't they just be friends?"
It is a question which many women have asked. The query indicates a degree of modesty which should make the average masculine blush at his own self-love. The best answer to the problem we can recommend to the average woman is a careful and long study of a mirror.
As a result of this cogitation Leonore decided that she would nip Peter's troublesomeness in the bud, that she would put up a sign, "Trespassing forbidden;" by which he might take warning. Many women have done the same thing to would-be lovers, and have saved the lovers much trouble and needless expense. But Leonore, after planning out a dialogue in her room, rather messed it when she came to put it into actual public performance. Few girls of eighteen are cool over a love-affair. And so it occurred thusly:
Leonore said to Peter one day, when he had dropped in for a cup of afternoon tea after his ride with her:
"If I ask you a question, I wonder if you will tell me what you think, without misunderstanding why I tell you something?"
"I will try."
"Well," said Leonore, "there is a very nice Englishman whom I knew in London, who has followed me over here, and is troubling me. He's dreadfully poor, and papa says he thinks he is after my money. Do you think that can be so?"
So far the public performance could not have gone better if it had been rehearsed. But at this point, the whole programme went to pieces. Peter's cup of tea fell to the floor with a crash, and he was leaning back in his chair, with a look of suffering on his face.
"Peter," cried Leonore, "what is it?"
"Excuse me," said Peter, rallying a little. "Ever since an operation on my eyes they sometimes misbehave themselves. It's neuralgia of the optic nerve. Sometimes it pains me badly. Don't mind me. It will be all right in a minute if I'm quiet."
"Can't I do anything?"
"No. I have an eye-wash which I used to carry with me, but it is so long since I have had a return of my trouble that I have stopped carrying it."
"What causes it?"
"Usually a shock. It's purely nervous."
"But there was no shock now, was there?" said Leonore, feeling so guilty that she felt it necessary to pretend innocence.
Peter pulled himself together instantly and, leaning over, began deliberately to gather up the fragments of the cup. Then he laid the pieces on the tea-table and said: "I was dreadfully frightened when I felt the cup slipping. It was very stupid in me. Will you try to forgive me for breaking one of your pretty set?"
"That's nothing," said Leonore. To herself that young lady remarked, "Oh, dear! It's much worse than I thought. I shan't dare say it to him, after all"
But she did, for Peter helped her, by going back to her original question, saying bravely: "I don't know enough about Mr. Max —— the Englishman, to speak of him, but I think I would not suspect men of that, even if they are poor."
"Because it would be much easier, to most men, to love you than to love your money."
"You think so?"
"I'm so glad. I felt so worried over it. Not about this case, for I don't care for him, a bit. But I wondered if I had to suspect every man who came near me."
Peter's eyes ceased to burn, and his second cup of tea, which a moment before was well-nigh choking him, suddenly became nectar for the gods.
Then at last Leonore made the remark towards which she had been working. At twenty-five Leonore would have been able to say it without so dangerous a preamble.
"I don't want to be bothered by men, and wish they would let me alone," she said. "I haven't the slightest intention of marrying for at least five years, and shall say no to whomever asks me before then,"'
Five years! Peter sipped his tea quietly, but with a hopeless feeling. He would like to claim that bit of womanhood as his own that moment, and she could talk of five years! It was the clearest possible indication to Peter that Leonore was heart-whole. "No one, who is in love," he thought, "could possibly talk of five years, or five months even." When Peter got back to his chambers that afternoon, he was as near being despairing as he had been since—since—a long time ago. Even the obvious fact, that, if Leonore was not in love with him, she was also not in love with any one else, did not cheer him. There is a flag in the navy known as the Blue-Peter. That evening, Peter could have supplied our whole marine, with considerable bunting to spare.
But even worse was in store for him on the morrow. When he joined Leonore in the Park that day, she proved to him that woman has as much absolute brutality as the lowest of prize-fighters. Women get the reputation of being less brutal, because of their dread of blood-letting. Yet when it comes to torturing the opposite sex in its feelings, they are brutes compared with their sufferers.
"Do you know," said Leonore, "that this is almost our last ride together?"
"Don't jerk the reins needlessly, Peter," said Mutineer, crossly.
"I hope not," said Peter.
"We have changed our plans. Instead of going to Newport next week, I have at last persuaded papa to travel a little, so that I can see something of my own country, and not be so shamefully ignorant. We are going to Washington on Saturday, and from there to California, and then through the Yellowstone, and back by Niagara. We shan't be in Newport till the middle of August"
Peter did not die at once. He caught at a life-preserver of a most delightful description. "That will be a very enjoyable trip," he said. "I should like to go myself."
"There is no one I would rather have than you," said Leonore, laying her little hand softly on the wound she had herself just made, in a way which women have. Then she stabbed again. "But we think it pleasanter to have it just a party of four."
"How long shall you be in Washington?" asked Peter, catching wildly at a straw this time.
"For a week. Why?"
"The President has been wanting to see me, and I thought I might run down next week,"
'"Dear me," thought Leonore. "How very persistent he is!"
"Where will you put up?" said Peter.
"We haven't decided. Where shall you stay?" she had the brutality to ask.
"The President wants me with him, but I may go to a hotel. It leaves one so much freer." Peter was a lawyer, and saw no need of committing himself. "If I am there when you are, I can perhaps help you enjoy yourself. I think I can get you a lunch at the White House, and, as I know most of the officials, I have an open sesame to some other nice things." Poor Peter! He was trying to tempt Leonore to tolerate his company by offering attractions in connection therewith. A chromo with the pound of tea. And this from the man who had thought flowers and bon-bons bribery!
"Why does the President want to see you?"
"To talk politics."
"About the governorship?"
"Yes. Though we don't say so."
"Is it true, Peter, that you can decide who it is to be as the papers say?"
"No, I would give twenty-five thousand dollars to-day if I could name the Democratic nominee."
"Would you mind my not telling you?"
"Yes. I want to know. And you are to tell me," said her majesty, calmly.
"I will tell you, though it is a secret, if you will tell me a secret of yours which I want to know."
"No," said Leonore. "I don't think that's necessary. You are to tell me without making me promise anything." Leonore might deprecate a man's falling in love with her, but she had no objection to the power and perquisites it involved.
"Then I shan't tell you," said Peter, making a tremendous rally.
Leonore looked out from under her lashes to see just how much of Peter's sudden firmness was real and how much pretence. Then she became unconscious of his presence.
Peter said something.
Peter said something else.
"Are you really so anxious to know?" he asked, surrendering without terms.
He had a glorious look at those glorious eyes. "Yes," said the dearest of all mouths.
"The great panic," said Peter, "has led to the formation of a so-called Labor party, and, from present indications, they are going to nominate a bad man. Now, there is a great attempt on foot to get the Democratic convention to endorse whomever the Labor party nominates."
"Who will that be?'"
"A Stephen Maguire."
"And you don't want him?"
"No. I have never crossed his path without finding him engaged in something discreditable. But he's truckled himself into a kind of popularity and power, and, having always been 'a Democrat,' he hopes to get the party to endorse him."
"Can't you order the convention not to do it?"
Peter smiled down into the eyes. "We don't order men in this country with any success."
"But can't you prevent them?"
"I hope so. But it looks now as if I should have to do it in a way very disagreeable to myself."
"This is a great secret, you understand?"
"Yes," said Leonore, all interest and eagerness. "I can keep a secret splendidly."
"You are sure?" asked Peter.
"So can I," said Peter.
Leonore perfectly bristled with indignation. "I won't be treated so," she said. "Are you going to tell me?" She put on her severest manner.
"No," said Peter.
"He is obstinate," thought Leonore to herself. Then aloud she said: "Then I shan't be friends any more?"
"That is very nice," said Peter, soberly.
"What?" said Leonore, looking at him in surprise.
"I have come to the conclusion," said Peter, "that there is no use in our trying to be friends. So we had better give up at once. Don't you think so?"
"What a pretty horse Miss Winthrop has?" said Leonore. And she never obtained an answer to her question, nor answered Peter's.
After Peter's return from Washington, there was a settled gloom about him positively appalling. He could not be wooed, on any plea, by his closest friends, to journey up-town into the social world. He failed entirely to avail himself of the room in the Rivington's Newport villa, though Dorothy wrote appealingly, and cited his own words to him. Even to his partners he became almost silent, except on law matters. Jenifer found that no delicacy, however rare or however well cooked and served, seemed to be noticed any more than if it was mess-pork. The only moments that this atmosphere seemed to yield at all was when Peter took a very miscellaneous collection of rubbish out of a little sachet, meant for handkerchiefs, which he now carried in his breast-pocket, and touched the various articles to his lips. Then for a time he would look a little less suicidal.
But it was astonishing the amount of work he did, the amount of reading he got through, the amount of politics he bossed, and the cigars he smoked, between the first of June, and the middle of August The party-leaders had come to the conclusion that Peter did not intend to take a hand in this campaign, but, after his return from Washington, they decided otherwise. "The President must have asked him to interfere," was their whispered conclusion, "but it's too late now. It's all cut and dried."
Peter found, as this remark suggested, that his two months' devotion to the dearest of eyes and sweetest of lips, had had serious results. As with Mutineer once, he had dropped his bridle, but there was no use in uttering, as he had, then, the trisyllable which had reduced the horse to order. He had a very different kind of a creature with which to deal, than a Kentucky gentleman of lengthy lineage, a creature called sometimes a "tiger." Yet curiously enough, the same firm voice, and the same firm manner, and a "mutineer," though this time a man instead of a horse, was effective here. All New York knew that something had been done, and wanted to know what. There was not a newspaper in the city that would have refused to give five thousand dollars for an authentic stenographic report of what actually was said in a space of time not longer than three hours in all. Indeed, so intensely were people interested, that several papers felt called upon to fabricate and print most absurd versions of what did occur, all the accounts reaching conclusions as absolutely different as the press portraits of celebrities. From three of them it is a temptation to quote the display headlines or "scare-heads," which ushered these reports to the world. The first read:
"THE BOSSES AT WAR!"
* * * * *
"HOT WORDS AND LOOKS."
* * * * *
"BUT THEY'LL CRAWL LATER."
"There's beauty in the bellow of the blast, There's grandeur in the growling of the gale; But there's eloquence-appalling, when Stirling is aroaring, And the Tiger's getting modest with his tail"
That was a Republican account. The second was:
"MAGUIRE ON TOP!"
* * * * *
"The Old Man is Friendly. A Peace-making Dinner at the Manhattan Club. Friends in Council. Labor and Democracy Shoulder to Shoulder. A United Front to the Enemy."
The third, printed in an insignificant little penny paper, never read and almost unknown by reading people, yet which had more city advertising than all the other papers put together, and a circulation to match the largest, announced:
* * * * *
"ONCE MORE AT THE BAT!"
* * * * *
"NO MORE NONSENSE."
* * * * *
"HE PUTS MAGUIRE OUT ON THIRD BASE."
* * * * *
"NOW PLAY BALL!"
And unintelligible as this latter sounds, it was near enough the truth to suggest inspiration. But there is no need to reprint the article that followed, for now it is possible, for the first time, to tell what actually occurred; and this contribution should alone permit this work to rank, as no doubt it is otherwise fully qualified to, in the dullest class of all books, that of the historical novel.
The facts are, that Peter alighted from a hansom one evening, in the middle of July, and went into the Manhattan Club. He exchanged greetings with a number of men in the halls, and with more who came in while he was reading the evening papers. A man came up to him while he still read, and said:
"Well, Stirling. Reading about your own iniquity?"
"No," said Peter, rising and shaking hands. "I gave up reading about that ten years ago. Life is too short."
"Pelton and Webber were checking their respectability in the coat-room, as I came up. I suppose they are in the cafe."
Peter said nothing, but turned, and the two entered that room. Peter shook hands with three men who were there, and they all drew up round one of the little tables. A good many men who saw that group, nudged each other, and whispered remarks.
"A reporter from the Sun is in the strangers' room. Mr. Stirling, and asks to see you," said a servant.
"I cannot see him," said Peter, quietly. "But say to him that I may possibly have something to tell him about eleven o'clock."
The four men at the table exchanged glances.
"I can't imagine a newspaper getting an interview out of you, Stirling," laughed one of them a little nervously.
Peter smiled. "Very few of us are absolutely consistent. I can't imagine any of you, for instance, making a political mistake but perhaps you may some day."
A pause of a curious kind came after this, which was only interrupted by the arrival of three more men. They all shook hands, and Peter rang a bell.
"What shall it be?" he asked.
There was a moment's hesitation, and then one said. "Order for us. You're host. Just what you like."
Peter smiled. "Thomas," he said, "bring us eight Apollinaris cocktails."
The men all laughed, and Thomas said, "Beg pardon, Mr. Stirling?" in a bewildered way. Thomas had served the club many years, but he had never heard of that cocktail.
"Well, Thomas," said Peter, "if you don't have that in stock, make it seven Blackthorns."
Then presently eight men packed themselves into the elevator, and a moment later were sitting in one of the private dining-rooms. For an hour and a half they chatted over the meal, very much as if it were nothing more than a social dinner. But the moment the servant had passed the cigars and light, and had withdrawn, the chat suddenly ceased, and a silence came for a moment Then a man said:
"It's a pity it can't please all, but the majority's got to rule."
"Yes," promptly said another, "this is really a Maguire ratification meeting."
"There's nothing else to do," affirmed a third.
But a fourth said: "Then what are we here for?"
No one seemed to find an answer. After a moment's silence, the original speaker said:
"It's the only way we can be sure of winning."
"He gives us every pledge," echoed the second.
"And we've agreed, anyways, so we are bound," continued the first speaker.
Peter took his cigar out of his mouth. "Who are bound?" he asked, quietly.
"Why, the organization is—the party," said Number Two, with a "deny-it-if-you-dare" in his voice.
"I don't see how we can back out now, Stirling," said Number One.
"Who wants to?" said another. "The Labor party promises to support us on our local nominations, and Maguire is not merely a Democrat, but he gives us every pledge."
"There's no good of talking of anything else anyhow," said Number One, "for there will be a clean majority for Maguire in the convention."
"And no other candidate can poll fifty votes on the first ballot," said Number Two.
Then they all looked at Peter, and became silent. Peter puffed his cigar thoughtfully.
"What do you say?" said Number One.
Peter merely shook his head.
"But I tell you it's done," cried one of the men, a little excitedly. "It's too late to backslide! We want to please you, Stirling, but we can't this time. We must do what's right for the party."
"I'm not letting my own feeling decide it," said Peter. "I'm thinking of the party. For every vote the Labor people give Maguire, the support of that party will lose us a Democratic vote."
"But we can't win with a triangular fight. The Republicans will simply walk over the course."
If Peter had been a hot-headed reformer, he would have said: "Better that than that such a scoundrel shall win." But Peter was a politician, and so saw no need of saying the unpleasantest thing that occurred to him, even if he felt it. Instead, he said: "The Labor party will get as many votes from the Republicans as from us, and, for every vote the Labor party takes from us, we shall get a Republican vote, if we put up the right kind of a man."
"Nonsense," cried Number One.
"How do you figure that?" asked another.
"In these panic times, the nomination of such a man as Maguire, with his truckling to the lowest passions and his socialistic speeches, will frighten conservative men enough to make them break party lines, and unite on the most certain candidate. That will be ours."
"But why risk it, when, with Maguire, it's certain?"
Peter wanted to say: "Maguire shall not be endorsed, and that ends it." Instead, he said: "We can win with our own man, and don't need to trade with or endorse the Labor party. We can elect Maguire by the aid of the worst votes in this city, or we can elect our own man by the aid of the best. The one weakens our party in the future; the other strengthens it."
"You think that possible?" asked the man who had sought information as to what they "were here for."
"Yes. The Labor party makes a stir, but it wouldn't give us the oyster and be content with the shells if it really felt strong. See what it offers us. All the local and State ticket except six assemblymen, two senators, and a governor, tied hand and foot to us, whose proudest claim for years has been that he's a Democrat."
"But all this leaves out of sight the fact that the thing's done," said Number One.
Peter puffed his cigar.
"Yes. It's too late. The polls are closed," said another.
Peter stopped puffing. "The convention hasn't met," he remarked, quietly.
That remark, however, seemed to have a sting in it, for Number Two cried:
"Come. We've decided. Now, put up or shut up. No more beating about the bush."
Peter puffed his cigar.
"Tell us what you intend, Stirling," said Number One. "We are committed beyond retreat. Come in with us, or stay outside the breastworks."
"Perhaps," said Peter, "since you've taken your own position, without consulting me, you will allow me the same privilege."
"Go to—where you please," said Number Six, crossly.
Peter puffed his cigar.
"Well, what do you intend to do?" asked Number One.
Peter knocked the ash off his cigar. "You consider yourselves pledged to support Maguire?"
"Yes. We are pledged," said four voices in unison.
"So am I," said Peter.
"To oppose him," said Peter.
"But I tell you the majority of the convention is for him," said Number One. "Don't you believe me?"
"Then what good will your opposition do?"
"It will defeat Maguire."
"No power on earth can do that."
Peter puffed his cigar.
"You can't beat him in the convention, Stirling. The delegates pledged to him, and those we can give him elect him on the first ballot."
"How about November fourth?" asked Peter.
Number One sprang to his feet. "You don't mean?" he cried.
"Never!" said Number Three.
Peter puffed his cigar.
"Come, Stirling, say what you intend!"
"I intend," said Peter, "if the Democratic convention endorses Stephen Maguire, to speak against him in every ward of this city, and ask every man in it, whom I can influence, to vote for the Republican candidate."
Dead silence reigned.
Peter puffed his cigar.
"You'll go back on the party?" finally said one, in awe-struck tones.
"You'll be a traitor?" cried another.
"I'd have believed anything but that you would be a dashed Mugwump!" groaned the third.
Peter puffed his cigar.
"Say you are fooling?" begged Number Seven.
"No," said Peter, "Nor am I more a traitor to my party than you. You insist on supporting the Labor candidate and I shall support the Republican candidate. We are both breaking our party."
"We'll win," said Number One.
Peter puffed his cigar.
"I'm not so sure," said the gentleman of the previous questions. "How many votes can you hurt us, Stirling?"
"I don't know," Peter looked very contented.
"You can't expect to beat us single?"
Peter smiled quietly. "I haven't had time to see many men. But—I'm not single. Bohlmann says the brewers will back me, Hummel says he'll be guided by me, and the President won't interfere."
"You might as well give up," continued the previous questioner. "The Sixth is a sure thirty-five hundred to the bad, and between Stirling's friends, and the Hummel crowd, and Bohlmann's people, you'll lose twenty-five thousand in the rest of the city, besides the Democrats you'll frighten off by the Labor party. You can't put it less than thirty-five thousand, to say nothing of the hole in the campaign fund."
The beauty about a practical politician is that votes count for more than his own wishes. Number One said:
"Well, that's ended. You've smashed our slate. What have you got in its place?"
"Porter?" suggested Peter.
"No," said three voices.
"We can't stand any more of him," said Number One.
"He's an honest, square man," said Peter.
"Can't help that. One dose of a man who's got as little gumption as he, is all we can stand. He may have education, but I'll be hanged if he has intellect. Why don't you ask us to choose a college professor, and have done with it."
"Come, Stirling," said the previous questioner, "the thing's been messed so that we've got to go into convention with just the right man to rally the delegates. There's only one man we can do it with, and you know it."
Peter rose, and dropped his cigar-stump into the ash-receiver. "I don't see anything else," he said, gloomily. "Do any of you?"
A moment's silence, and then Number One said: "No."
"Well," said Peter, "I'll take the nomination if necessary, but keep it back for a time, till we see if something better can't be hit upon."
"No danger," said Number One, holding out his hand, gleefully.
"There's more ways of killing a pig than choking it with butter," said Number Three, laughing and doing the same.
"It's a pity Costell isn't here," added the previous questioner. "After you're not yielding to him, he'd never believe we had forced you to take it."
And that was what actually took place at that very-much-talked-about dinner.
Peter went downstairs with a very serious look on his face. At the door, the keeper of it said: "There are six reporters in the strangers' room, Mr. Stirling, who wish to see you."
A man who had just come in said: "I'm sorry for you, Peter."
Peter smiled quietly. "Tell them our wishes are not mutual." Then he turned to the newcomer. "It's all right," he said, "so far as the party is concerned, Hummel. But I'm to foot the bill to do it."
"The devil! You don't mean—?"
Peter nodded his head.
"I'll give twenty-five thousand to the fund," said Hummel, gleefully. "See if I don't."
"Excuse me, Mr. Stirling," said a man who had just come in.
"Certainly," said Peter promptly, "But I must ask the same favor of you, as I am going down town at once." Peter had the brutality to pass out of the front door instantly, leaving the reporter with a disappointed look on his face.
"If he only would have said something?" groaned the reporter to himself. "Anything that could be spun into a column. He needn't have told me what he didn't care to tell, yet he could have helped me to pay my month's rent as easily as could be."
As for Peter, he fell into a long stride, and his face nearly equalled his stride in length. After he reached his quarters he sat and smoked, with the same serious look. He did not look cross. He did not have the gloom in his face which had been so fixed an expression for the last month. But he looked as a man might look who knew he had but a few hours to live, yet to whom death had no terror.
"I am giving up," Peter thought, "everything that has been my true life till now. My profession, my friends, my chance to help others, my books, and my quiet. I shall be misunderstood, reviled and hated. Everything I do will be distorted for partisan purposes. Friends will misjudge. Enemies will become the more bitter. I give up fifty thousand dollars a year in order to become a slave, with toadies, trappers, lobbyists and favor-seekers as my daily quota of humanity. I even sacrifice the larger part of my power."
So ran Peter's thoughts, and they were the thoughts of a man who had not worked seventeen years in politics for nothing. He saw alienation of friends, income, peace, and independence, and the only return a mere title, which to him meant a loss, rather than a gain of power. Yet this was one of the dozen prizes thought the best worth striving for in our politics. Is it a wonder that our government and office-holding is left to the foreign element? That the native American should prefer any other work, rather than run the gauntlet of public opinion and press, with loss of income and peace, that he may hold some difficult office for a brief term?
But finally Peter rose. "Perhaps she'll like it," he said aloud, and presumably, since no woman is allowed a voice in American politics, he was thinking of Miss Columbia. Then he looked at some photographs, a scrap of ribbon, a gold coin (Peter clearly was becoming a money worshipper), three letters, a card, a small piece of blotting-paper, a handkerchief (which Leonore and Peter had spent nearly ten minutes in trying to find one day), a glove, and some dried rose-leaves and violets. Yet this was the man who had grappled an angry tiger but two hours before and had brought it to lick his hand.
He went to bed very happy.
But a month later he was far happier, for one morning towards the end of August, his mail brought him a letter from Watts, announcing that they had been four days installed in their Newport home, and that Peter would now be welcome any time. "I have purposely not filled Grey-Court this summer, so that you should have every chance. Between you and me and the post, I think there have been moments when mademoiselle missed 'her friend' far more than she confessed."
"Dat's stronory," thought Jenifer. "He dun eat mo' dis yar hot mo'nin' dan he dun in two mumfs."
Then Jenifer was sent out with a telegram, which merely said: "May I come to-day by Shore line limited? P.S."
"When you get back, Jenifer," said Peter, "you may pack my trunk and your own. We may start for Newport at two." Evidently Peter did not intend to run any risks of missing the train, in case the answer should be favorable.
Peter passed into his office, and set to work to put the loose ends in such shape that nothing should go wrong during his absence. He had not worked long, when one of the boys told him that:
"Mr. Cassius Curlew wants to see you, Mr. Stirling."
Peter stopped his writing, looking up quickly: "Did he say on what business?"
"Ask him, please." And Peter went on writing till the boy returned.
"He says it's about the convention."
"Tell him he must be more specific."
The boy returned in a moment with a folded scrap of paper.
"He said that would tell you, Mr. Stirling."
Peter unfolded the scrap, and read upon it: "A message from Maguire."
"Show him in." Peter touched a little knob on his desk on which was stamped "Chief Clerk." A moment later a man opened a door. "Samuels," said Peter, "I wish you would stay here for a moment. I want you to listen to what's said."
The next moment a man crossed the threshold of another door. "Good-morning, Mr. Stirling," he said.
"Mr. Curlew," said Peter, without rising and with a cold inclination of his head.
"I have a message for you, Mr. Stirling," said the man, pulling a chair into a position that suited him, and sitting, "but it's private."
Peter said nothing, but began to write.
"Do you understand? I want a word with you private," said the man after a pause.
"Mr. Samuels is my confidential clerk. You can speak with perfect freedom before him." Peter spoke without raising his eyes from his writing.
"But I don't want any one round. It's just between you and me."
"When I got your message," said Peter, still writing, "I sent for Mr. Samuels. If you have anything to say, say it now. Otherwise leave it unsaid."
"Well, then," said the man, "your party's been tricking us, and we won't stand it."
Peter wrote diligently.
"And we know who's back of it. It was all pie down to that dinner of yours."
"Is that Maguire's message?" asked Peter, though with no cessation of his labors.
"Nop," said the man. "That's the introduction. Now, we know what it means. You needn't deny it. You're squinting at the governorship yourself. And you've made the rest go back on Maguire, and work for you on the quiet. Oh, we know what's going on."
"Tell me when you begin on the message," said Peter, still writing.
"Maguire's sent me to you, to tell you to back water. To stop bucking."
"Tell Mr. Maguire I have received his message."
"Oh, that isn't all, and don't you forget it! Maguire's in this for fur and feathers, and if you go before the convention as a candidate, we'll fill the air with them."
"Is that part of the message?" asked Peter.
"By that we mean that half an hour after you accept the nomination, we'll have a force of detectives at work on your past life, and we'll hunt down and expose every discreditable thing you've ever done."
Peter rose, and the man did the same instantly, putting one of his hands on his hip-pocket. But even before he did it, Peter had begun speaking, in a quiet, self-contained voice: "That sounds so like Mr. Maguire, that I think we have the message at last. Go to him, and say that I have received his message. That I know him, and I know his methods. That I understand his hopes of driving me, as he has some, from his path, by threats of private scandal. That, judging others by himself, he believes no man's life can bear probing. Tell him that he has misjudged for once. Tell him that he has himself decided me in my determination to accept the nomination. That rather than see him the nominee of the Democratic party, I will take it myself. Tell him to set on his blood-hounds. They are welcome to all they can unearth in my life."
Peter turned towards his door, intending to leave the room, for he was not quite sure that he could sustain this altitude, if he saw more of the man. But as his hand was on the knob, Curlew spoke again.
"One moment," he called. "We've got something more to say to you. We have proof already."
Peter turned, with an amused look on his face. "I was wondering," he said, "if Maguire really expected to drive me with such vague threats."
"No siree," said Curlew with a self-assured manner, but at the same time putting Peter's desk between the clerk and himself, so that his flank could not be turned. "We've got some evidence that won't be sweet reading for you, and we're going to print it, if you take the nomination."
"Tell Mr. Maguire he had better put his evidence in print at once. That I shall take the nomination."
"And disgrace one of your best friends?" asked Curlew.
Peter started slightly, and looked sharply at the man.
"Ho, ho," said Curlew. "That bites, eh? Well, it will bite worse before it's through with."
Peter stood silent for a moment, but his hands trembled slightly, and any one who understood anatomy could have recognized that every muscle in his body was at full tension. But all he said was: "Well?"
"It's about that trip of yours on the 'Majestic.'"
Peter looked bewildered.
"We've got sworn affidavits of two stewards," Curlew continued, "about yours and some one else's goings on. I guess Mr. and Mrs. Rivington won't thank you for having them printed."
Instantly came a cry of fright, and the crack of a revolver, which brought Peter's partners and the clerks crowding into the room. It was to find Curlew lying back on the desk, held there by Peter with one hand, while his other, clasping the heavy glass inkstand, was swung aloft. There was a look on Peter's face that did not become it. An insurance company would not have considered Curlew's life at that moment a fair risk.
But when Peter's arm descended it did so gently, put the inkstand back on the desk, and taking a pocket-handkerchief wiped a splash of ink from the hand that had a moment before been throttling Curlew. That worthy struggled up from his back-breaking attitude and the few parts of his face not drenched with ink, were very white, while his hands trembled more than had Peter's a moment before.
"Peter!" cried Ogden. "What is it?"
"I lost my temper for a moment," said Peter.
"But who fired that shot?"
Peter turned to the clerks. "Leave the room," he said, "all of you. And keep this to yourselves. I don't think the other floors could have heard anything through the fire-proof brick, but if any one comes, refer them to me." As the office cleared, Peter turned to his partners and said: "Mr. Curlew came here with a message which he thought needed the protection of a revolver. He judged rightly, it seems."
"Are you hit?"
"I felt something strike." Peter put his hand to his side. He unbuttoned his coat and felt again. Then he pulled out a little sachet from his breast-pocket, and as e did so, a flattened bullet dropped to the floor. Peter looked into the sachet anxiously. The bullet had only gone through the lower corner of the four photographs and the glove! Peter laughed happily. "I had a gold coin in my pocket, and the bullet struck that. Who says that a luck-piece is nothing but a superstition?"
"But, Peter, shan't we call the police?" demanded Ogden, still looking stunned.
Curlew moved towards the door.
"One moment," said Peter, and Curlew stopped.
"Ray," Peter continued, "I am faced with a terrible question. I want your advice?"
"A man is trying to force me to stand aside and permit a political wrong. To do this, he threatens to publish lying affidavits of worthless scoundrels, to prove a shameful intimacy between a married woman and me."
"Bosh," laughed Ray. "He can publish a thousand and no one would believe them of you."
"He knows that. But he knows, too, that no matter how untrue, it would connect her name with a subject shameful to the purest woman that ever lived. He knows that the scavengers of gossip will repeat it, and gloat over it. That the filthy society papers will harp on it for years. That in the heat of a political contest, the partisans will be only too glad to believe it and repeat it. That no criminal prosecution, no court vindication, will ever quite kill the story as regards her. And so he hopes that, rather than entail this on a woman whom I love, and on her husband and family, I will refuse a nomination. I know of such a case in Massachusetts, where, rather than expose a woman to such a danger, the man withdrew. What should I do?"
"Do? Fight him. Tell him to do his worst."
Peter put his hand on Ray's shoulder.
"Even if—if—it is one dear to us both?"
"Yes. Do you remember your being called home in our Spanish trip, unexpectedly? You left me to bring Miss De Voe, and—Well. They've bribed, or forged affidavits of two of the stewards of the 'Majestic.'"
Ray tried to spring forward towards Curlew. But Peter's hand still rested on his shoulder, and held him back, "I started to kill him," Peter said quietly, "but I remembered he was nothing but the miserable go-between."
"My God, Peter! What can I say?"
"Ray! The stepping aside is nothing to me. It was an office which I was ready to take, but only as a sacrifice and a duty. It is to prevent wrong that I interfered. So do not think it means a loss to me to retire."
"Peter, do what you intended to do. We must not compromise with wrong even for her sake."
The two shook hands, "I do not think they will ever use it, Ray," said Peter. "But I may be mistaken, and cannot involve you in the possibility, without your consent."
"Of course they'll use it," cried Ogden. "Scoundrels who could think of such a thing, will use it without hesitation."
"No," said Peter. "A man who uses a coward's weapons, is a coward at heart. We can prevent it, I think." Then he turned to Curlew. "Tell Mr. Maguire about this interview. Tell him that I spared you, because you are not the principal. But tell him from me, that if a word is breathed against Mrs. Rivington, I swear that I'll search for him till I find him, and when I find him I'll kill him with as little compunction as I would a rattlesnake." Peter turned and going to his dressing-room, washed away the ink from his hands.
Curlew shuffled out of the room, and, black as he was, went straight to the Labor headquarters and told his story.
"And he'll do it too, Mr. Maguire," he said. "You should have seen his look as he said it, and as he stood over me. I feel it yet."
"Do you think he means it?" said Ray to Ogden, when they were back in Ray's room.
"I wouldn't think so if I hadn't seen his face as he stood over that skunk. But if ever a man looked murder he did at that moment. And quiet old Peter of all men!"
"We must talk to him. Do tell him that—"
"Do you dare do it?"
"I don't. Unless he speaks I shall—"
"Ray and Ogden," said a quiet voice, "I wish you would write out what you have just seen and heard. It may be needed in the future."
"Peter, let me speak," cried Ray. "You mustn't do what you said. Think of such an end to your life. No matter what that scoundrel does, don't end your life on a gallows. It—"
Peter held up his hand. "You don't know the American people, Ray. If Maguire uses that lying story, I can kill him, and there isn't a jury in the country which, when the truth was told, wouldn't acquit me. Maguire knows it, too. We have heard the last of that threat, I'm sure."
Peter went back to his office. "I don't wonder," he thought, as he stood looking at the ink-stains on his desk and floor, "that people think politics nothing but trickery and scoundrelism. Yet such vile weapons and slanders would not be used if there were not people vile and mean enough at heart to let such things influence them. The fault is not in politics. It is in humanity."
But just as Peter was about to continue this rather unsatisfactory train of thought, his eye caught sight of a flattened bullet lying on the floor. He picked it up, with a smile. "I knew she was my good luck," he said. Then he took out the sachet again, and kissed the dented and bent coin. Then he examined the photographs. "Not even the dress is cut through," he said gleefully, looking at the full length. "It couldn't have hit in a better place." When he came to the glove, however, he grieved a little over it. Even this ceased to trouble him the next moment, for a telegram was laid on his desk. It merely said, "Come by all means. W.C.D'A." Yet that was enough to make Peter drop thoughts, work, and everything for a time. He sat at his desk, gazing at a blank wall, and thinking of a pair of slate-colored eyes. But his expression bore no resemblance to the one formerly assumed when that particular practice had been habitual.
Nor was this expression the only difference in this day, to mark the change from Peter past to Peter present. For instead of manoeuvring to make Watts sit on the back seat, when he was met by the trap late that afternoon, at Newport, he took possession of that seat in the coolest possible manner, leaving the one by the driver to Watts. Nor did Peter look away from the girl on that back seat. Quite the contrary. It did not seem to him that a thousand eyes would have been any too much. Peter's three months of gloom vanished, and became merely a contrast to heighten his present joy. A sort of "shadow-box."
He had had the nicest kind of welcome from his "friend." If the manner had not been quite so absolutely frank as of yore, yet there was no doubt as to her pleasure in seeing Peter. "It's very nice to see you again," she had said while shaking hands. "I hoped you would come quickly." Peter was too happy to say anything in reply. He merely took possession of that vacant seat, and rested his eyes in silence till Watts, after climbing into place, asked him how the journey to Newport had been.
"Lovelier than ever," said Peter, abstractedly. "I didn't think it was possible."
"Eh?" said Watts, turning with surprise on his face.
But Leonore did not look surprised. She only looked the other way, and the corners of her mouth were curving upwards.
"The journey?" queried Watts.
"You mean Newport, don't you?" said Leonore helpfully, when Peter said nothing. Leonore was looking out from under her lashes—at things in general, of course.
Peter said nothing. Peter was not going to lie about what he had meant, and Leonore liked him all the better for not using the deceiving loophole she had opened.
Watts said, "Oh, of course. It improves every year. But wasn't the journey hot, old man?"
"I didn't notice," said Peter.
"Didn't notice! And this one of the hottest days of the year."
"I had something else to think about," explained Peter.
"Politics?" asked Watts.
"Oh, Peter," said Leonore, "we've been so interested in all the talk. It was just as maddening as could be, how hard it was to get New York papers way out west. I'm awfully in the dark about some things. I've asked a lot of people here about it, but nobody seems to know anything. Or if they do, they laugh at me. I met Congressman Pell yesterday at the Tennis Tournament, and thought he would tell me all about it. But he was horrid! His whole manner said: 'I can't waste real talk on a girl.' I told him I was a great friend of yours, and that you would tell me when you came, but he only laughed and said, he had no doubt you would, for you were famous for your indiscretion. I hate men who laugh at women the moment they try to talk as men do."
"I think," said Peter, "we'll have to turn Pell down. A Congressman who laughs at one of my friends won't do."
"I really wish you would. That would teach him," said Leonore, vindictively. "A man who laughs at women can't be a good Congressman."
"I tell you what we'll do," said Peter. "I don't want to retire him, because—because I like his mother. But I will tell you something for you to tell him, that will astonish him very much, and make him want to know who told you, and so you can tease him endlessly."
"Oh, Peter!" said Leonore. "You are the nicest man."
"What's that?" asked Watts.
"It's a great secret," said Peter. "I shall only tell it to Miss D'Alloi, so that if it leaks beyond Pell, I shall know whom to blame for it."
"Goody!" cried Leonore, giving a little bounce for joy.
"Is it about that famous dinner?" inquired Watts.
"Peter, I'm so curious about that. Will you tell me what you did?"
"I ate a dinner," said Peter smiling.
"Now don't be like Mr. Pell," said Leonore, reprovingly, "or I'll take back what I just said."
"Did you roar, and did the tiger put its tail between its legs?" asked Watts.
"That is the last thing our friends, the enemies, have found," said Peter.
"You will tell me about it, won't you, Peter?" said Leonore, ingratiatingly.
"Have you a mount for me, Watts, for to-morrow? Mutineer comes by boat to-night, but won't be here till noon."
"Yes. I've one chap up to your weight, I think."
"I don't like dodgers," said Leonore, the corners of her mouth drawn down.
"I was not dodging," said Peter. "I only was asking a preliminary question. If you will get up, before breakfast, and ride with me, I will tell you everything that actually occurred at that dinner. You will be the only person, I think, who wasn't there, who knows." It was shameful and open bribery, but bosses are shameful and open in their doings, so Peter was only living up to his role.
The temptation was too strong to be resisted, Leonore said, "Of coarse I will," and the corners of her mouth reversed their position. But she said to herself: "I shall have to snub you in something else to make up for it." Peter was in for a bad quarter of an hour somewhere.
Leonore had decided just how she was going to treat Peter. To begin with, she intended to accentuate that "five years" in various ways. Then she would be very frank and friendly, just as long as he, too, would keep within those limits, but if Peter even verged on anything more, she intended to leave him to himself, just long enough to show him that such remarks as his "not caring to be friends," brought instant and dire punishment. "And I shan't let him speak," Leonore decided, "no matter if he wants to. For if he does, I'll have to say 'no,' and then he'll go back to New York and sulk, and perhaps never come near me again, since he's so obstinate, while I want to stay friends." Many such campaigns have been planned by the party of the first part. But the trouble is that, usually, the party of the second part also has a plan, which entirely disconcerts the first. As the darkey remarked: "Yissah. My dog he wud a beat, if it hadn't bin foh de udder dog."
Peter found as much contrast in his evening, as compared with his morning, as there was in his own years. After dinner. Leonore said:
"I always play billiards with papa. Will you play too?"
"I don't know how," said Peter.
"Then it's time you learned. I'll take you on my side, because papa always beats me. I'll teach you."
So there was the jolliest of hours spent in this way, all of them laughing at Peter's shots, and at Leonore's attempts to show him how. "Every woman ought to play billiards," Peter thought, when it was ended. "It's the most graceful sight I've seen in years."
Leonore said, "You get the ideas very nicely, but you hit much too hard. You can't hit a ball too softly. You pound it as if you were trying to smash it."
"It's something I really must learn," said Peter, who had refused over and over again in the past.
"I'll teach you, while you are here," said Leonore.
Peter did not refuse this time.
Nor did he refuse another lesson. When they had drifted into the drawing-room, Leonore asked: "Have you been learning how to valse?"
Peter smiled at so good an American using so European a word, but said seriously, "No. I've been too busy."
"That's a shame," said Leonore, "because there are to be two dances this week, and mamma has written to get you cards."
"Is it very hard?" asked Peter.
"No," said Leonore. "It's as easy as breathing, and much nicer."
"Couldn't you teach me that, also?"
"Easily. Mamma, will you play a valse? Now see." Leonore drew her skirts back with one hand, so as to show the little feet, and said: "one, two, three, so. One, two, three, so. Now do that."
Peter had hoped that the way to learn dancing was to take the girl in one's arms. But he recognized that this would follow. So he set to work manfully to imitate that dainty little glide. It seemed easy as she did it. But it was not so easy when he tried it.
"Oh, you clumsy," said Leonore laughing. "See. One, two, three, so. One, two, three, so."
Peter forgot to notice the step, in his admiration of the little feet and the pretty figure.
"Well," said Leonore after a pause, "are you going to do that?"
So Peter tried again, and again, and again. Peter would have done it all night, with absolute contentment, so long as Leonore, after every failure, would show him the right way in her own person.
Finally she said, "Now take my hands. No. Way apart, so that I can see your feet. Now. We'll try it together. One, two, change. One, two, change."
Peter thought this much better, and was ready to go on till strength failed. But after a time, Leonore said, "Now. We'll try it the true way. Take my hand so and put your arm so. That's the way. Only never hold a girl too close. We hate it. Yes. That's it. Now, mamma. Again. One, two, three. One, two, three."
This was heavenly, Peter thought, and could have wept over the shortness, as it seemed to him, of this part of the lesson.
But it ended, and Leonore said: "If you'll practice that in your room, with a bolster, you'll get on very fast."
"I always make haste slowly," said Peter, not taking to the bolster idea at all kindly. "Probably you can find time to-morrow for another lesson, and I'll learn much quicker with you."
"And will you give me some waltzes at the dances?"
"I'll tell you what I'll do," said Leonore. "You shall have the dances the other men don't ask of me. But you don't dance well enough, in case I can get a better partner. I love valsing too much to waste one with a poor dancer."
A moment before Peter thought waltzing the most exquisite pleasure the world contained. But he suddenly changed his mind, and concluded it was odious.
"Nevertheless," he decided, "I will learn how."
THE COURSE OF TRUE LOVE.
Peter had his ride the next morning, and had a very interested listener to his account of that dinner. The listener, speaking from vast political knowledge, told him at the end. "You did just right. I thoroughly approve of you."
"That takes a great worry off my mind," said Peter soberly. "I was afraid, since we were to be such friends, and you wanted my help in the whirligig this winter, that you might not like my possibly having to live in Albany."
"Can't you live in New York?" said Leonore, looking horrified.
"Then I don't like it at all," said Leonore. "It's no good having friends if they don't live near one."
"That's what I think," said Peter. "I suppose I couldn't tempt you to come and keep house for me?"
"Now I must snub him," thought Leonore. "No," she said, "It will be bad enough to do that five years from now, for the man I love." She looked out from under her eyelashes to see if her blow had been fatal, and concluded from the glumness in Peter's face, that she really had been too cruel. So she added: "But you may give me a ball, and we'll all come up and stay a week with you."
Peter relaxed a little, but he said dolefully, "I don't know what I shall do. I shall be in such need of your advice in politics and housekeeping."
"Well," said Leonore, "if you really find that you can't get on without help, we'll make it two weeks. But you must get up toboggan parties, and other nice things."
"I wonder what the papers will say," thought Peter, "if a governor gives toboggan parties?"
After the late breakfast, Peter was taken down to see the tournament. He thought he would not mind it, since he was allowed to sit next Leonore. But he did. First he wished that she wouldn't pay so much attention to the score. Then that the men who fluttered round her would have had the good taste to keep away. It enraged Peter to see how perfectly willing she was to talk and chat about things of which he knew nothing, and how more than willing the men were. And then she laughed at what they said!
"That's fifteen-love, isn't it?" Leonore asked him presently.
"He doesn't look over fifteen," actually growled Peter. "I don't know whether he's in love or not. I suppose he thinks he is. Boys fifteen years old always do."
Leonore forgot the score, even, in her surprise. "Why," she said, "you growl just like Betise (the mastiff). Now I know what the papers mean when they say you roar."
"Well," said Peter, "it makes me cross to see a lot of boys doing nothing but hit a small ball, and a lot more looking at them and thinking that it's worth doing." Which was a misstatement. It was not that which made Peter mad.
"Haven't you ever played tennis?"
"Never. I don't even know how to score."
"Dear me," said Leonore, "You're dreadfully illiterate."
"I know it," growled Peter, "I don't belong here, and have no business to come. I'm a ward boss, and my place is in saloons. Don't hesitate to say it."
All this was very foolish, but it was real to Peter for the moment, and he looked straight ahead with lines on his face which Leonore had never seen before. He ought to have been ordered to go off by himself till he should be in better mood.
Instead Leonore turned from the tennis, and said: "Please don't talk that way, Peter. You know I don't think that." Leonore had understood the misery which lay back of the growl. "Poor fellow," she thought, "I must cheer him up." So she stopped looking at the tennis. "See," she said, "there are Miss Winthrop and Mr. Pell. Do take me over to them and let me spring my surprise. You talk to Miss Winthrop."
"Why, Peter!" said Pell. "When did you come?"
"Last night. How do you do, Miss Winthrop?" Then for two minutes Peter talked, or rather listened, to that young lady, though sighing internally. Then, Laus Deo! up came the poor little chap, whom Peter had libelled in age and affections, only ten minutes before, and set Peter free. He turned to see how Leonore's petard was progressing, to find her and Pell deep in tennis. But just as he was going to expose his ignorance on that game, Leonore said:
"Mr. Pell, what do you think of the political outlook?"
Pell sighed internally, "You can read it in the papers," he said.
"No. I want your opinion. Especially about the great departure the Democratic Convention is going to make."
"You mean in endorsing Maguire?"
Leonore began to visibly swell in importance. "Of course not," she said, contemptuously. "Every one knows that that was decided against at the Manhattan dinner. I mean the unusual resolution about the next senator."
Pell ceased to sigh. "I don't know what you mean?" he said.
"Not really?" said Leonore incredulously, her nose cocking a little more airily. "I thought of course you would know about it. I'm so surprised!"
Pell looked at her half quizzingly, and half questioningly. "What is the resolution?"
"Naming a candidate for the vacancy for the Senate."
"Nonsense," said Pell, laughing. "The convention has nothing to do with the senators. The Legislature elects them." He thought, "Why can't women, if they will talk politics, at least learn the ABC."
"Yes," said Leonore, "but this is a new idea. The Senate has behaved so badly, that the party leaders think it will be better to make it a more popular body by having the New York convention nominate a man, and then they intend to make the legislature elect him. If the other states will only follow New York's lead, it may make the Senate respectable and open to public opinion."
Pell sniffed obviously. "In what fool paper did you read that?"
"I didn't read it," said Leonore, her eyes dancing with delight. "The papers are always behind the times. But I didn't think that you would be, since you are to be named in the resolution."
Pell looked at her blankly. "What do you mean?"
"Didn't you know that the Convention will pass a resolution, naming you for next senator?" said Leonore, with both wonder and pity in her face and voice.
"Who told you that?" said Pell, with an amount of interest blended with doubt that was a decided contrast to a moment ago.
"That's telling," said Leonore. "You know, Mr. Pell, that one mustn't tell people who are outside the party councils everything."
"I believe you are trying to stuff me," said Pell, "If it is so, or anything like it, you wouldn't know."
"Oh," said Leonore, tantalizingly, "I could tell you a great deal more than that. But of course you don't care to talk politics with a girl."
Pell weakened. "Tell me who told you about it?"
"I think we must go home to lunch," said Leonore, turning to Peter, who had enjoyed Leonore's triumph almost as much as she had.
"Peter," said Pell, "have you heard what Miss D'Alloi has been saying?"
"Part of it."
"Where can she have picked it up?
"I met Miss D'Alloi at a lunch at the White House, last June," said Peter seriously, "and she, and the President, and I, talked politics. Politically, Miss D'Alloi is rather a knowing person. I hope you haven't been saying anything indiscreet, Miss D'Alloi?"
"I'm afraid I have," laughed Leonore, triumphantly, adding, "but I won't tell anything more."
Pell looked after them as they went towards the carriage. "How extraordinary!" he said. "She couldn't have it from Peter. He tells nothing. Where the deuce did she get it, and is it so?" Then he said: "Senator Van Brunt Pell," with a roll on all the r's. "That sounds well. I wonder if there's anything in it?"
"I think," said Leonore to Peter, triumphantly "that he would like to have talked politics. But he'll get nothing but torture from me if he tries."
It began to dawn on Peter that Leonore did not, despite her frank manner, mean all she said. He turned to her, and asked:
"Are you really in earnest in saying that you'll refuse every man who asks you to marry him within five years?"
Leonore's triumph scattered to the four winds. "What an awfully impudent question," she thought, "after my saying it so often. What shall I answer?" She looked Peter in the eye with severity. "I shan't refuse," she said, "because I shan't even let him speak. If any man dares to attempt it, I'll tell him frankly I don't care to listen."
"She really means it," sighed Peter internally. "Why is it, that the best girls don't care to marry?" Peter became very cross, and, what is worse, looked it.
Nor was Leonore much better, "There," she said, "I knew just how it would be. He's getting sulky already. He isn't nice any more. The best thing will be to let him speak, for then he'll go back to New York, and won't bother me." The corners of her mouth drew away down, and life became very gray.
So "the best of friends" rode home from the Casino, without so much as looking at each other, much less speaking. Clearly Peter was right. There was no good in trying to be friends any longer.
Precedent or habit, however, was too strong to sustain this condition long. First Leonore had to be helped out of the carriage. This was rather pleasant, for she had to give Peter her hand, and so life became less unworth living to Peter. Then the footman at the door gave Peter two telegraphic envelopes of the bulkiest kind, and Leonore too began to take an interest in life again.
"What are they about?" she asked.
"The Convention. I came off so suddenly that some details were left unarranged."
"Read them out loud," she said calmly, as Peter broke the first open.
Peter smiled at her, and said: "If I do, will you give me another waltzing lesson after lunch?"
"Don't bargain," said Leonore, disapprovingly.
"Very well," said Peter, putting the telegrams in his pocket, and turning towards the stairs.
Leonore let him go up to the first landing. But as soon as she became convinced that he was really going to his room, she said, "Peter."
Peter turned and looked down at the pretty figure at the foot of the stairs. He came down again. When he had reached the bottom he said, "Well?"
Leonore was half angry, and half laughing. "You ought to want to read them to me," she said, "since we are such friends."
"I do," said Peter, "And you ought to want to teach me to waltz, since we are such friends."
"But I don't like the spirit," said Leonore.
Peter laughed. "Nor I," he said. "Still, I'll prove I'm the better, by reading them to you."
"Now I will teach him," said Leonore to herself.
Peter unfolded the many sheets. "This is very secret, of course," he said.
"Yes." Leonore looked round the hall as if she was a conspirator. "Come to the window-seat upstairs," she whispered, and led the way. When they had ensconced themselves there, and drawn the curtains, she said, "Now."
"You had better sit nearer me," said Peter, "so that I can whisper it."
"No," said Leonore. "No one can hear us." She thought, "I'd snub you for that, if I wasn't afraid you wouldn't read it."
"You understand that you are not to repeat this to anyone." Peter was smiling over something.
Leonore said, "Yes," half crossly and half eagerly.
So Peter read:
"Use Hudson knowledge counties past not belief local twenty imbecility certified of yet till yesterday noon whose Malta could accurately it at seventeen. Potomac give throw Haymarket estimated Moselle thirty-three to into fortify through jurist arrived down right—"
"I won't be treated so!" interrupted Leonore, indignantly.
"What do you mean," said Peter, still smiling. "I'm reading it to you, as you asked."
"No you are not. You are just making up."
"No," said Peter. "It's all here."
"Let me see it." Leonore shifted her seat so as to overlook Peter.
"That's only two pages," said Peter, holding them so that Leonore had to sit very close to him to see. "There are eighteen more."
Leonore looked at them. "Was it written by a lunatic?" she asked.
"No." Peter looked at the end. "It's from Green. Remember. You are not to repeat it to any one."
"Luncheon is served, Miss D'Alloi," said a footman.
"Bother luncheon," thought Peter.
"Please tell me what it means?" said Leonore, rising.
"I can't do that, till I get the key and decipher it."
"Oh!" cried Leonore, clapping her hands in delight. "It's a cipher. How tremendously interesting! We'll go at it right after lunch and decipher it together, won't we?"
"After the dancing lesson, you mean, don't you?" suggested Peter.
"How did you know I was going to do it?" asked Leonore.
"You told me."
"Never! I didn't say a word."
"You looked several," said Peter.
Leonore regarded him very seriously. "You are not 'Peter Simple' a bit," she said. "I don't like deep men." She turned and went to her room. "I really must be careful," she told the enviable sponge as it passed over her face, "he's a man who needs very special treatment. I ought to send him right back to New York. But I do so want to know about the politics. No. I'll keep friends till the campaign's finished. Then he'll have to live in Albany, and that will make it all right. Let me see. He said the governor served three years. That isn't five, but perhaps he'll have become sensible before then."
As for Peter, he actually whistled during his ablutions, which was something he had not done for many years. He could not quite say why, but it represented his mood better than did his earlier growl.
A GUARDIAN ANGEL.
Peter had as glorious an afternoon as he had had a bad morning. First he danced a little. Then the two sat at the big desk in the deserted library and worked together over those very complex dispatches till they had them translated. Then they had to discuss their import. Finally they had to draft answers and translate them into cipher. All this with their heads very close together, and an utter forgetfulness on the part of a certain personage that snubbing rather than politics was her "plan of campaign." But Leonore began to feel that she was a political power herself, and so forgot her other schemes. When they had the answering dispatches fairly transcribed, she looked up at Peter and said:
"I think we've done that very well," in the most approving voice. "Do you think they'll do as we tell them?"
Peter looked down into that dearest of faces, gazing at him so frankly and with such interest, so very near his, and wondered what deed was noble or great enough to win a kiss from those lips. Several times that afternoon, it had seemed to him that he could not keep himself from leaning over and taking one. He even went so far now as to speculate on exactly what Leonore would do if he did. Fortunately his face was not given to expressing his thoughts. Leonore never dreamed how narrow an escape she had. "If only she wouldn't be so friendly and confiding," groaned Peter, even while absolutely happy in her mood. "I can't do it, when she trusts me so."
"Well," said Leonore, "perhaps when you've done staring at me, you'll answer my question."
"I think they'll do as we tell them," smiled Peter. "But we'll get word to-morrow about Dutchess and Steuben. Then we shall know better how the land lies, and can talk plainer."