Dodd hesitated, put his hand in his pocket—then withdrew it empty.
"No, Mullaney. What's the good? He says Farr isn't dangerous, and has turned down the whole thing flat. I may as well keep my money. If you want to sit on the platform, come along with me. I can find a place for you."
Detective Mullaney followed willingly, for he knew that people were fairly piling over one another in an attempt to get into the hall by the main entrance.
He sat down in one of the square chairs on the platform and searched with his sharp little eyes until he found the face of Walker Farr in the terraced rows of humanity. It was not difficult to locate him, for his physique made him loom among other men and he was posted under the banner which marked the location of Moosac County.
The detective found the eyes of the young man directed toward the gallery with such intentness and for so long a time that he endeavored to trace that earnest scrutiny to its object. The detective was not exactly certain, but he finally picked out a very handsome young lady who occupied a front chair in the balcony; she seemed to be returning the young man's intent regard.
"You have the reputation of knowing all the pretty girls in the state," whispered Mullaney, drawing Dodd's attention with a nudge. "Who is that up there in the gallery, front row, fifth from the aisle; blue feather, and so handsome she hurts my eyes?"
To have his attention drawn thus rudely to the one girl in all the world gave Dodd a sensation which he did not relish—and his face showed his astonished resentment.
"That is Miss Kilgour, who used to be my uncle's secretary. Why do you want to know who she is?"
"Because there seems to be something very especial on between her and the man we thought was worth five hundred dollars to us."
"That young lady, Mr. Mullaney, is engaged to me," stated Dodd, acridly. "You'd better drop the topic."
But he did not display either the joy or the pride of the accepted suitor as he looked up at her.
"I'll simply say that you're a mighty lucky chap and I congratulate you," returned Mr. Mullaney, hiding his confusion by getting very busy with newspaper clippings and papers which he drew from his breast pocket.
The detective was wholly unconscious of the irony of that remark. But it brought a flush of shame to Dodd's cheek, for the sorrow and sting and ignominy of that part which he had played had not departed from his soul nor did even the fervor of his passion for her help him forgive himself; he stared at her guiltily as the thief gloats over his loot and is conscious of his degradation without feeling sufficient contrition to give up the object he has stolen.
For he remembered with fresh and poignant recollection the circumstances under which that girl had given her promise to him so recently: she had stood over a mother who had abased herself before them, had cast herself down and had writhed and screamed and implored her to consent; and the mother was driven to do this by the lash of his threats. He had stood there and demanded, and the woman on the floor had confessed her frailty, owned to her misdeeds, acknowledged her debt, and had frantically begged her daughter to sacrifice herself.
The girl had given her "Yes," paying the debt with herself; but her eyes had been wide and dry and her face was white and set and she had looked past the man to whom she promised herself when she had murmured that promise.
Dodd swept cold sweat from his forehead as he remembered; he found almost the same expression now on her face as she gazed down on Walker Farr, who stared back at her anxiously, perceiving a grief that he could not understand.
In that vast assemblage those three, thus wordlessly, no one marking them, fought a tragic battle of hopeless love with their eyes.
Detective Mullaney pored over his papers. "By gad," he mused, "I haven't kept my books all this time for nothing. I know my card. I've got him right—it's dead open and shut. But I swear he doesn't look the part he played, even if the description does fit him. Well, law is law! If I can't sell him to Symonds Dodd, I'll find out how much those will pay who do want him."
The routine of the great convention had been proceeding.
"And the gentleman from Danton, Mr. Gray, moves that we do now proceed with the nomination of a candidate for governor," intoned the chairman in sing-song tones.
THE MAN WHO WAS NOT AFRAID
One after the other, dignified and decorous, three men of the Big Machine, representing three of the large counties of the state, came upon the platform and put in nomination the name of Governor Harwood to succeed himself.
These speakers had been carefully selected. They were elderly gentlemen whose reputations, tones, and demeanor bespoke safe and sane conservatism. They took occasion to rebuke the new spirit of unrest in the old party, and their tremolo notes of protest were extremely effective. While these men talked, a listener was compelled to feel that rebellion against the established order of things could only be rank sedition; for many years have these arts of oratory been employed to appeal to the average man's party loyalty; voters have listened and have been ashamed to revolt—as a son dutifully bows his head under a father's reprimand and responds to a father's appeal—for, after all, in matters where appeal is made to loyalty the human emotions are not so very complex.
The elderly gentlemen put great stress on the fact that not in twenty years had a faithful governor been refused the honor of renomination for a second term. Would their convention deny that compliment to Governor Harwood? It was the same appeal that had been made for twoscore years in order to perpetuate the dynasty of gubernatorial figureheads who had obeyed the ring's orders.
Walker Farr heard sotto voce murmurings of men in his vicinity. They were men who had joined the new revolt and had stood bravely enough for a change in county political managers. But these men revealed that they were timorous about altering long party custom. They said, one to another, that it would be going too far to refuse renomination to Governor Harwood. It might split their party so widely that the rival political party would be able to carry the state—and that would never do.
Farr was in no wise surprised to hear these murmurings.
He had sounded men before that convention as he had traveled about the state.
He had found them ready to begin house-cleaning in the smaller affairs of county management, and by assault on the little wheels of the gear of the machine which had so long ground political grist; but they were unwilling to temp fate by venturing on such a general overturn as putting up for governor a man who had not been selected and groomed for high office during the accustomed term of apprenticeship—legislature, senate, and council.
He realized how well the great ring had intrenched itself in absolute power by appealing to conservatism in matters of safe men for high office. Safe men meant those who protected the big interests and saw that no raids were made on capital—no matter how many abuses capital might be fostering.
Mumble and grumble all about him, and men's faces showing that they were agreeing with the tremolo appeals of the elderly orators!
Even the Honorable Archer Converse, his legal cautiousness governing his opinion, knowing the temper of conditions in his state, had emphatically discouraged Farr when the young man had timidly questioned him in regard to the advisability of securing a candidate for governor outside the ring's dynasty.
Mr. Converse's discouragement of such hopes would have been even more emphatic had he ever dreamed that this apostle whom he had sent out into the field was coddling the audacious hope that Mr. Converse himself by some miracle might be put into the governor's chair.
The orators proceeded, one after the other. They were applauded. They retired.
Walker Farr was oppressed by the lugubrious conviction that he was the only man in that great assemblage who felt enough of the zealot's fire to be willing to put all his hopes to the test.
He looked at the faces on the platform. There sat Colonel Dodd, wearing his expression assumed for that day and date—smug political hypocrisy.
His henchmen winged out to right and left of him. They represented finance and respectability.
Sometimes political rebels will gallantly and audaciously venture when they rail behind the backs of their leaders; but when those leaders appear and fill the foreground with their personalities the rebels subside; they are impressed by the men whom they behold. They defer, even when they are stung by knowledge of their leaders' principles.
Colonel Dodd and those with him were the accredited leaders.
Delegates glared, but were cowed and silent.
Farr pondered. Perhaps the advice of Mr. Converse was best:
"Take what we can get in our first skirmish. Keep it for the nucleus of what we hope to get later. If we put all to the test in our first fight against forces that have been in power for all the years and lose, then the cause gets a setback which may discourage our men for ever."
And Mr. Converse, having so declared, had remained away from the convention that day, feeling that no more was to be gained.
"And I move you, Mr. Chairman," called a voice, "that the nominations for governor do now close."
This had been the custom in the past.
It was not in the minds of that convention that another candidate would be put forward. Governor Harwood was waiting in an anteroom, thumbing the leaves of his speech, and all the delegates knew it. All desired to expedite matters, nominate by acclamation, hear the inevitable speech, and go home.
"One moment before that motion is seconded!"
The voice was so loud, so clear, so dominant, so ringing, that the effect on the convention was as galvanically intense as if somebody had blown upon a bugle.
Walker Farr had risen to his feet.
Colonel Dodd set his curved palm at his mouth and from behind the chairman shot a few words at the presiding officer as one might shoot pellets from a bean-shooter. The chairman scowled impatiently at Farr, and a delegate among those who watched eagerly for signals from the throne rose half-way to his feet and bellowed, "Question!" The cry was taken up by other delegates, just as the unthinking mob follows a cheer-master.
Farr climbed upon a settee. He stood there, silent and waiting, and his expression, poise, and mien wrought for him more effectively than speech.
He towered over all the heads. He was markedly not one of those New-Englanders there assembled. His mass of dark-brown hair, his garb, the very set of his head on his shoulders, differed from the physical attributes of all others in the hall. And, as the delegates continued to shout for the question to be put, he turned slowly so that his expression of dignified and mild protest and appeal was visible to all. And as he turned he gave the girl in the gallery a long look.
The chairman pounded with his gavel.
"I second the motion," called a delegate, taking advantage of the first moment of silence.
There was another roaring chorus of, "Question!"
But Walker Farr remained standing on the settee, waiting patiently. He showed no confusion. There was added dignity as well as appeal in his attitude and expression.
"Before that vote is taken I want to say one word as a man to men," shouted a delegate. "It's plain to be seen that that man standing there is a gentleman. We are sent here to attend a meeting for the good of our party. If, as delegates, we refuse to listen to a gentleman because we're in too much of a hurry, we'd ought to be ashamed of ourselves. If, on the other hand, we're afraid to listen to him, whatever it is he wants to say, then God save this party of ours!"
That was a sentiment which promptly struck fire in that assemblage.
There before their eyes stood the subject of that challenge, stalwart, modest, appealing silently—the sort of appeal which won.
The galleries broke into applause first. Then the delegates took up the demonstration in behalf of fair play. They beat their hands and pounded their feet. The applause from the galleries had more or less of rebuke in it, because it began while the challenger's voice still echoed in the great hall.
The chairman's gavel thumped ferociously.
Colonel Dodd cursed under his breath. He had been on the trail of that convention, its movements, its progress, as a hound dog would follow the trail of a fox. He had seen it safely headed for the corner where it would be run to earth. He detected sudden peril in this threat of a detour.
"Good Jericho!" gasped a committeeman near him. "The chairman ain't letting this convention get away from him, is he?"
It was natural alarm in the case of a man who feared to allow any expression in a convention except such as had been arranged for previously and had been passed upon by those in power.
"This isn't the kind of convention that will get away!" hissed the colonel in reply, bolstering his own convictions that all was safely harnessed. "But I don't want any fooling."
He caught the eye of his nephew and summoned him with an impatient jerk of the head.
Richard Dodd hastened across the platform and bent his ear close to his uncle's mouth—the colonel pulling him down.
"If your man can stop that fool now—quick—for five hundred dollars, I'll pay."
Young Dodd gulped. He needed five thousand dollars!
"He won't consider less than I told you."
"Well, let the idiot talk to us—he can't do any harm."
The colonel pushed his nephew away. In spite of that applause he still half expected that the convention would close the nominations. What else was there to do?
"The vote is upon the motion to close the nominations for governor," stated the chairman. "Those in favor will say 'Aye!'"
Every delegate in that hall was looking at Farr. They were staring at him with curiosity and interest. But even curiosity does not always prompt politicians to open a convention to a person who may prove to be a bomb that will upset plans and precedent.
Then Farr gave them that wonderful smile!
The "Ayes" were scattered and sporadic! Men did not relish shutting off a chap who stood there and smiled upon them in that fashion.
At the call for the "Noes" a bellow of voices shook the hall.
The convention had given this stranger permission to speak by that refusal to subscribe to the cut-and-dried plans. Colonel Dodd was no longer smug. He scowled ferociously.
"Gentlemen of the convention, I am grateful," cried Walker Farr. "And I will not abuse your patience."
"Platform—take the platform!" called many of the delegates.
He smiled and shook his head. "Let me talk to you standing here where I can look into your eyes, gentlemen. I feel pretty much alone in this convention. I am alone! I represent no faction, no interest except the cause of the humble who have asked for help from the masters who have been set over them. Perhaps I ought to have remained silent here to-day. My cowardice has been prompting me to keep still. It is no easy matter for me to stand up here and disturb the order of events which had been arranged by the gentlemen who have managed your public affairs for you so many years. But it would be much more difficult for some of the others here to speak, because the gentlemen who manage politics have methods by which they can discredit a man in his profession, ruin him in his business, stop his credit at banks and in other ways make him pay dearly for his boldness in speech. I have no money in banks, no business which can be ruined."
"I rise to a point of order!" shouted a delegate, obeying a nod from the stage. "The business in hand is the nomination of a governor."
"That is my business," stated Farr, calmly.
With political scent sharpened by his apprehension, Colonel Dodd narrowed his eyes, sat straight in his chair, and desperately endeavored to fathom the intentions of this rank outsider.
In spite of his bluster to the state committee he was worried. He had not felt comfortable since his conference with Judge Ambrose Warren. He did not like the "feel" of political conditions. There was some indefinable slipperiness about matters.
He could not bring himself to consider the impossible idea that the convention would bolt—would run amuck, no matter who addressed it—no matter what contingency arose. But to have the convention even tolerate this brazen interloper troubled his sense of mastery; the convention had been too ready to permit the stranger to speak. It wasn't politics as the colonel had been accustomed to play the game. And this—this man from nowhere—it was preposterous!
He snapped his head around and found his nephew close behind him.
"You young whelp," gritted Colonel Dodd, visiting his anger on the nearest object, "where's your political loyalty? This isn't any time to drive bargains. If you can stop that fellow hustle and do it."
"It's another man's secret, I tell you. I've got to buy it."
"I'll make it a thousand."
Young Dodd's face was white, but he knew how desperate his case was and how vitally necessary it was to play his cards as he held them.
"I gave you final figures," he whispered.
"Where is that man? Let me deal with him."
"It must be done through me."
"If you wasn't my nephew I'd think this was blackmail."
Young Dodd stepped back to avoid the glare in his uncle's eyes.
The colonel turned away and listened. Farr's voice was raised now in solemn appeal.
"The idea of my letting myself get rattled by a crack-brained demagogue," muttered the colonel. He had been fondling the outside of his coat furtively, locating his check-book. Now he took his hand away.
"It is well to respect service and to show courtesy, gentlemen. I have listened with interest to the eulogies which have been given Governor Harwood. He is, without doubt, an amiable gentleman. But let me tell you that the next legislature is going to be asked to pass a law which will be a club with which the people will rap the knuckles of Greed till that unholy clutch on the water systems of this state will be loosened for ever."
The delegates stared at him for a few seconds when he paused, and then a tumult of applause greeted his utterance.
"I ask you, gentlemen, whether Governor Harwood—and you know him well and how he has been chosen—will ever sign a bill that will take profit from the hands of his political makers even to give that profit to the people who are the rightful owners?"
This time men were silent, but he knew what they thought from the manner in which they looked at him.
"I do not need to tell you that the veto of a bill by a governor means, in most cases, its death. Gentlemen, it would be polite and kind and gracious of you to bow low here to-day and hand up the nomination to the amiable Governor Harwood. But with the conditions as they are in this state are you going to be polite, merely, while the hearses are rumbling down your streets? I have no way of knowing how many of you into whose eyes I am looking have seen death enter your own homes from the taps of this much-promising, little-accomplishing water syndicate. But if you have seen death touch your loved ones, or if you go home from here and behold fever ravaging your community, it will be poor consolation to your soul to remember that at least you were polite to an amiable man who desired the honor of a renomination."
The faces of the convention showed that this blunt yet shrewd appeal to the individual antagonism of men had produced profound effect.
"But that is only one feature of what this state demands and needs, gentlemen," was Farr's ringing declaration. "This struggle for pure water has opened a broad avenue. The towns and cities of this state must take back into their own hands the properties and franchises which have been mismanaged by the men to whose hands unwise gift by the people has intrusted the people's own. We need a man in the Big Chair of State who will stand with the people in this crusade!"
This amazing declaration in open convention produced as much consternation on the platform as if Farr had dropped a bomb there.
He uttered something which was worse than mere political rebellion: he was proposing to take for the people properties which constituted the backbone of the oligarchy's power in state affairs.
Colonel Dodd had been growling behind the chairman, angrily endeavoring to get the ear of that gentleman. But the chairman seemed to be as wholly absorbed by this astonishing arraignment as were the delegates.
The head of the state machine, for the first time in his career, was compelled to come into the open instead of through the mouth of a lieutenant. He could not wait to give orders.
He rose and stamped to the front of the platform. His voice rang hoarse and loud.
"There can be no more of this unparliamentary and irregular nonsense. What has got into this convention? Don't you understand that no speaker is allowed to break the rules and attack a man under guise of nominating another? Mr. Chairman, I demand that this slanderer be removed from the hall and that we proceed to the nomination of a governor."
There was a hush during which Farr and Colonel Dodd looked at each other, crossing their stares like long rapiers over the terraced heads.
"I fear I was wrong," confessed Farr, gently. "But we poor folks down in the ranks don't know much about the rules, and when we are struggling to save the ones we love we are apt to forget and talk to the heart of things. I am not trying to show that I am a skilful orator, gentlemen of the convention." He held up his arms. "I am crying for Justice!"
The delegates broke into applause once more.
And Walker Farr sent a queer look straight into the eyes of the colonel.
Conviction slapped Colonel Symonds Dodd in his mental face with a violence that made him blink!
This man was no amateur in understanding how to sway an audience. To be sure, he had transgressed parliamentary usage, but in those words he had driven home facts that all knew to be truths—truths which others had been afraid to voice, but which, once put into words in public, tied the hideous stamp of ring favoritism upon Governor Harwood, made him a candidate who could not be trusted.
The colonel understood, and he also saw plainly that the most of the audience had accepted the apology, and held no prejudice against the speaker.
"Now that I understand what the rules governing nominations are I will not break them again," declared Farr.
But like a shrewd and not over-scrupulous lawyer he had jabbed into the proceedings a stinging truth which, though excluded by the rules, nevertheless served vitally the big purpose of his efforts; the colonel understood that, too, and turned back to his chair fairly livid with rage.
"There is a man in this state who knows true law," continued the speaker, "and that you may be assured that he will sign a bill which is passed for the good of the people, let me tell you a little about his character."
Colonel Dodd cursed without trying to moderate his tones very much.
"There's no telling what tack that renegade will take next. This infernal convention is getting to be a nightmare. Those fools out there are listening as if they expected that cheap demagogue to bring 'em a new Messiah," he told the committeemen near him.
"There's a funny noise going on out there among 'em," ventured "Whispering Saunders." "Round-up fellows say they hear something like it when a herd is getting ready to stampede. It's the same thing in a political convention sometimes. The reason for it is: the crowd is ripe and the head steer gives the right bellow—and off they go!"
Colonel Dodd grabbed his nephew by the elbow and rushed him off the stage and into an anteroom.
"Is that matter on the hair-trigger, Richard?" he demanded.
"It's ready to be snapped any minute."
The colonel whipped out his check-book and began to write. "It's as old Saunders said," he muttered as he wrote. "And we've got to rope, throw, and tie that one steer."
The check was for five thousand dollars!
Young Dodd seized it, and when his uncle hurried back upon the stage the nephew, through the door which was left open, beckoned to Mullaney. The detective came, hurrying past Colonel Dodd, who stared until the door had closed behind young Dodd and the officer.
"But he's my own nephew!" he assured himself, as if he were replying to an accusation laid against Richard Dodd. He shook his head and sat down in his chair. "I wonder how long it has been since old Bob Mullaney put a price of that size on his secrets! I'm afraid Richard hasn't the Dodd ability to drive a sharp trade."
But Richard was showing considerable ability in that line behind the door of the anteroom.
He jammed two hundred and fifty dollars in crumpled bills into the detective's hands, cleaning out his pockets for the purpose. He had slipped the check into his deepest pocket the moment his uncle had handed it to him.
"It was hard work to screw him up, Mullaney. You have seen how I worked him. This is all he gave me—two hundred and fifty. Take it and spring your trap."
"You don't look honest," grumbled the detective. "If I'm any kind of a guesser you're holding out on me."
"That's your price. You agreed. There isn't any time to argue this. Give me back the money." He grabbed the bills from Mullaney's clutch. It was magnificent bluff. "I'll hand it to my uncle. He isn't very keen on the thing, anyway."
"I'll take it—give it back. I'll apologize," pleaded Mullaney.
"Will you swear to keep all this under your hat—the whole thing? Uncle says if you dare to speak to him about it—hint to him or anybody that he paid money for anything on Farr—he'll deny the story and have your license taken away."
"I promise—swear it," Mullaney agreed.
Dodd returned the money, and the detective started out on the trot.
"You come, too, and I'll tell you on the way. Time is short. You'd better help me," he advised Dodd. They hurried away together, rushed out into the alley and around to the front of the hall, the detective pouring certain information into Dodd's ear as they made their way to the big door and into the main corridor.
Then they bored through the crowds.
The detective led the way and showed his badge to compel the people to give them a lane.
They entered the rear of the auditorium.
"You take the left side and I'll take the right," commanded Mullaney. "We need to paralyze him first. That's all there's time for just now—I've had short notice. But get that name to every man of your crowd you can, and when the howl is started tell 'em all to join in."
Dodd had had scant time to digest the knowledge which the detective had imparted on the run. But his eyes gleamed wickedly as he began to whisper to men among the delegates. And as he moved about he noticed that the girl in the gallery had marked his activity, even to the extent of turning her gaze from Walker Farr, whose voice was ringing through the spacious hall.
Walker Farr, towering over their heads, talked to the men in whose midst he stood.
Mere eloquence no longer avails in these days of cynical disbelief in the motives of political orators. But this young man who stood there was sincerity incarnate. The wonderful and mystic magnetic quality which wins men and inspires confidence radiated from him. And every now and then, as he glanced up at one face in the gallery his voice took on new tones of appeal and pathos. He was one crying from the depths to those in authority! By the marvel of his language he made the men who sat there as delegates understand that theirs was the power to make or mar—to save or sacrifice their state in the crisis which was upon them. He made them feel their responsibility after he made them understand their power.
And he also made their duty plain.
The crux of the situation rested on such a man as they should place in the highest office in the state.
In other times, under other conditions, some pliant and amiable figurehead might serve them well.
He told them, with outstretched finger and vibrant voice, what must be the masterful qualifications of the man who should assume the cross of public service and carry it up the steeps where he would be lashed at every step of his weary way by the thongs in the hands of privileged capital.
Colonel Symonds Dodd had come back to the platform, cursing himself for a fool. The moment the check had left his hands he was angry because he had allowed circumstances to stampede him.
He wondered what was getting into him and into politics.
Was he afraid of mere talk from a demagogue!
But after he had sat there for a few moments and listened, and had watched the faces of the delegates, he decided that if five thousand dollars would stop the mouth of that man he had spent money wisely. It was borne in upon him that he had spent greater sums many times for lesser service.
He saw Richard Dodd and Mullaney circulating among the delegates. He restrained with difficulty an impulse to rise and shout to them to hurry. He felt that danger to his program and his political structure was imminent. Because once again were true eloquence and masterly appeal winning men.
All the listeners in the vast hall were as still as death. All eyes were on this speaker who seemed to be clothing with effective speech all the hidden convictions of the delegates themselves who had nursed protest without being able to put it into force.
Colonel Dodd had seen conventions in similar mood in the old days before the saddle of party had been as securely cinched as it had been in late years.
The chairman of the state committee uttered the colonel's rising fears. The chairman had lost his sneer and his bumptious confidence. His face was red, he was sweating, he was staring out over the convention and snapping his fingers impatiently.
"Good gad!" he informed those in hearing on the platform, "what kind of a turn is this thing taking? We have let this convention get away from us. That chap has got the whole crowd marching to the mourners' bench. He can wind up by nominating a yellow dog and they'll rise and howl him into office by acclamation!"
Farr paused for a moment to give effect to his next words.
"Such in character, in honest impulse, in honor, in ability, in devotion, and in God-given nobility must be the man who will lead you. Has God given such a man to this state? He has!"
"Yes and the devil has given us Nelson Sinkler to speak for that man!"
The voice was shrill and agitated and it came from a section of the hall where the rabid adherents of the machine were massed; it was an amazing and shocking interruption.
"I said Nelson Sinkler—that's you!" screamed the voice.
And on that, from here and there in the hall, like snipers posted in ambush, men shouted the name "Nelson Sinkler"—the words popping like rifles.
There was uproar. Part of it was protest, part hysterical demonstration of excitement in an assemblage which did not in the least understand.
Then after a time came quiet, for the object of the attack stood in his elevated position, unruffled, stern, turning bold front to right and left as men barked at him.
"I am here where all may look on me," he said. "Let one or all of those who are attacking me stand forth in view, too."
No one stood up.
"It's a cowardly man who will not put his name to a letter or show his face when he makes an accusation," cried Farr.
"How about a man who doesn't dare to use his own name?" This questioner remained in ambush.
"Your right name isn't Walker Farr and you know it isn't," bellowed a voice on the opposite side of the hall.
Other voices pot-shotted at him with the words, "Nelson Sinkler."
"Will one man in this convention stand up and show himself so that I can talk to him face to face?" shouted the man at bay.
Detective Mullaney and Richard Dodd could not find seats. The others were sitting, and the two were marked men.
"Well, Dodd, you have been whispering. What have you to say aloud?" demanded the man they were baiting.
"I say your name is not Walker Farr."
"You!" The tall young man darted a finger at Mullaney.
"I say you're Nelson Sinkler."
"And what of him?"
"He is wanted by the state of Nebraska for murder."
A sound that was mingled sigh and groan ran and throbbed from galleries to floor; it filled the great hall and seemed to vibrate back and forth over the assemblage. And for the long minute that the dreadful sound continued until it had breathed itself out into horrified silence the man who stood on the settee looked straight into the white face of the girl in the gallery.
But those of the throng who devoured him with eager stares could not discern one trace of confession on his countenance.
Then he did a strange thing.
He held his arms out toward Detective Mullaney and crossed them, wrist over wrist, and he smiled.
"If you are certain enough of your man to dare to arrest me, sir, I stand here waiting for the handcuffs."
The detective hesitated, visibly embarrassed. He had been looking for confusion, confession by manner, even collapse.
"This is a put-up political job," declared a delegate. "That's no murderer—that man."
"I am waiting," repeated Farr.
Detective Mullaney flushed. There were murmurs of hostility in the throng about him. He ran over swiftly in his mind the contents of his note-book and fortified his courage.
"I haven't secured a warrant yet—but I'll take your dare," he announced. He started to come down the aisle.
"Just one moment," called a stentorian voice in the gallery. "You're wrong, my man, down there. I don't want to see an innocent person disgraced in public nor an officer get himself into a scrape. That man is not Nelson Sinkler."
"What are we running here—a state convention or a police court?" Colonel Dodd demanded, leaping up and grabbing the arm of the presiding officer. "Order all those men ejected from the hall."
But at that moment the convention was not in the control of the chairman. Irregular as it all was, human nature demanded to be shown there and then.
Delegates arose, shouting, and surrounded Farr, making effectual bulwarks against Mullaney with their bodies. Voices asked the stranger in the gallery for information, and he motioned the vociferous mob into silence.
"I am a United States post-office inspector, and I can easily prove my identity, gentlemen. I'm here in this convention merely as a spectator, killing time till my train leaves. But I know Nelson Sinkler because I arrested him a month or so ago after he had been a fugitive for two years. He killed a mail clerk. He is now awaiting trial. If that man down there is arrested as being Nelson Sinkler it will mean a lot of trouble for somebody." He sat down.
"Who are you?" yelled a chorus of the ring's henchmen. They pressed as near to Farr as his body-guard would permit and shook their fists at him.
"I am a man and not a spirit," he said in the first silence—and silence came quickly, for they were eager to hear. "You can see that for yourselves. But just now I am less a man than a Voice." He shouted that last word. "The Voice calls you to rebuke the kind of politics that has just been attempted here. You have seen, you have heard! Will you indorse it by your votes? Will you keep in power that gang that has attempted it in the desperation of defeat?"
"No," the voices of men tumultuously replied.
Reckless and unjust attack had never tossed a more golden opportunity into a man's hands.
"Then come over to the side of decency, my men. Nominate a champion who will be spotless and unafraid. There is war in this commonwealth instead of politics. Through one war the great patriot of this state led his people with high chivalry. For the next governor of this state, in these trying times, I nominate the son of that patriot—the Honorable Archer Converse of this city—God bless him!"
"We're licked," gasped Colonel Dodd, trying to make the state chairman hear him, for the roar that rocked the great hall was deafening. "A boomerang has come back and mowed us flatter than an oven door in tophet."
In the rout, in the retreat—horse, foot and dragoons—crisp orders were issued and obeyed. The friends of Governor Harwood had only one resource—it was to save that gentleman's face. His nomination was withdrawn.
That convention had run amuck, it was a mass of wild men who were feeling liberty from oppression for the first time and gloried in their new and sudden freedom from ring rule.
Then the delegates who came upon their feet roared the unanimous nomination of Archer Converse.
In the gale of that acclaim the opposition uttered no protest; the delegates who still remained loyal to the machine scowled and kept their seats.
Ducking under the tossing arms of men who flung aloft their hats and cheered with the frenzy of delight that the amazing victory inspired, Richard Dodd escaped to the rear of the hall and jammed himself into the press of the spectators. He hid behind a hedge of bodies and then dared to look at Colonel Dodd's face. The mighty passion which flamed on the uncle's countenance was revealed to the nephew's gaze even at that distance. The colonel was at the edge of the platform and was beckoning imperiously to some one. Young Dodd saw Detective Mullaney work his way out of the throng which surrounded Walker Farr; the officer was obviously obeying the summons of Colonel Dodd and marched to the platform and climbed on a chair in order to converse with the angry man who had beckoned.
And when Richard Dodd saw that conference begin overwhelming fear swept out of his soul all other emotions. He no longer had eyes for that girl in the gallery. Not even love and the promise she had made availed to stay him. Panic allowed him no time for planning an excuse or framing a lie. In playing for the stakes he had exacted he had felt that his uncle would hold no autopsy on the price of success. But five thousand dollars plucked from the Dodd pocket by a falsehood for which no excuse could be offered! And on top of that a crushing defeat which had been made definite and final by the work which Colonel Dodd had paid for!
The nephew saw Mullaney shake his head and throw up his hands in appeal and protest.
That spectacle made Richard Dodd a fugitive who thought only of saving himself. He fought his way through the crowd and ran out of the hall. The thought of facing Symonds Dodd in that crisis or of waiting to be dragged before the furious tyrant—that thought lashed the traitor into mad flight.
He glanced up at the clock in the First National tower. He had three minutes before the bank's closing time. He controlled his emotions as best he could and presented the check at the paying-teller's grill. The money was counted out to him without question, and when he held the thick packet in his hand he realized still more acutely in what position he stood in his affairs with Symonds Dodd.
He rushed to a garage, secured his car, and fled.
"I tell you I gave my nephew a check for five thousand dollars," insisted the colonel. "And the Dodds don't lie to each other!"
"Then they have begun to do it," declared Mullaney. "He has double-crossed the two of us. There was never any talk between us of more than five hundred for the job."
Colonel Dodd hurried into the anteroom and called the bank on the telephone. "Almighty Herod!" he yelped, when he was informed that the check had been cashed. He banged the receiver upon its hook. "Even my own nephew has joined the pack of those damnation wolves!"
Then with the air of a man recovering from a blow and wondering dizzily what had struck him, he left the convention hall by a rear door and went to his office.
Those whom he passed on his way out made no attempt to stop him, did not urge him to remain. That convention seemed to be doing very well without calling upon Colonel Symonds Dodd for help or suggestions.
A GIRL'S IMPULSE
Herald unofficial, avant courier, Mr. Daniel Breed squeezed himself through the pack of people while they were still cheering the name of the Honorable Archer Converse.
"Giving candy to youngsters and good news to grown folks never made anybody specially unpopular," Mr. Breed assured himself with politician's sagacity.
Therefore, he jog-trotted down to the Converse law-offices and shot himself into the presence of the estimable gentleman who had remained aloof from the distracting business of a convention.
"He's done it," proclaimed Mr. Breed, making his sentences short and his message to the point because he was out of breath.
"Who has done what?" demanded Mr. Converse, with equal crispness.
"Farr. You're nominated for governor. Acclamation! He's a wiz with his tongue." Mr. Breed pursed his little mouth and "sipped" with gusto. "Some talker! Don't ever tell me that good talk doesn't win when the right man makes it at the right time."
Mr. Converse rose and stood—a rigid statue of consternation and protest. "Do you mean to come in here and tell me that I have been nominated by that state convention? Without my sanction? Without my consent?"
"Sure thing! Easy work! Played all the tricks. Made believe he was green. Poked rights and lefts to Harwood's jaw. Had himself paged as a murderer—at least, I reckon it was his own get-up. It cinched the thing, anyway. He understands human nature."
But Mr. Converse did not in the least understand this talk. "Look here, Breed, you haven't gone crazy yourself, along with the rest, have you?"
"Nobody's crazy. People have simply woke up."
"I'll be eternally condemned if I—"
"That's right! You will be if you don't button up your coat and go over to the hall along with that notification committee that's probably on the way, give the folks your best bow, and say you'll take the job. We're some little team when we get started."
"You're an infernal steer team, and you have dragged me into a mess of trouble," declared Mr. Converse, with venom.
"Glad you're in," retorted the imperturbable Breed. "A man needs more or less trouble so as to round himself out; I've been having some troubles of my own. Whatever job you give me after you're elected, don't put me back with them stuffed animals. Harwood made his mistake right there!"
"It has begun already, has it?" asked Converse, indignantly. "Office-seekers at it?"
"Sure thing!" responded Mr. Breed, amiably. "When you cool down you'll remember that I got to you first with the good news."
Five minutes later the Honorable Archer Converse, muttering, but more calm, was marching toward the convention hall in the company of a proud committee of notification.
He walked out upon the platform and waited for the wild tumult of greeting to subside, and while he waited he searched the assemblage with stern scrutiny to find the face of Walker Farr.
But that young worker of miracles was not in evidence.
He had risen with the others when the band began to blare the music which signaled the approach of the nominee.
Once more he turned his gaze toward the girl in the gallery.
There was nothing in his demeanor to suggest that he had been a victor. His face was white, and after his eyes had held hers for a long time he gave her a wistful little smile which expressed regret, sorrow, renunciation, rather than pride. She no longer wondered at the interest she felt in this man; she knew that she loved him. She was able to own that truth to herself, and to view it calmly because she had made her promise to Richard Dodd and was resolved to keep it. That determination made of this love a precious possession that she could put away for ever out of the sight of all the world. Such a poor, meager, little story of love it was! A few meetings—a hand-touch—a word or two.
There in that packed forum had been their only real love-making. Over the heads of angry men they had told each other with their eyes. There was no misunderstanding on the part of either. Both knew the truth.
And yet, after he had told her, this enigma of a man bowed his head and edged his way to the door, moving unobtrusively through the press of humanity, taking advantage of the confusion which marked the entrance of Archer Converse.
Impulse goaded Kate Kilgour at that moment. She did not reason or reflect. Something in the air of this man told her that sorrow instead of triumph was dominating him; his whole demeanor had said "Farewell" when he had turned from her. The instinct of the woman who loves and longs to comfort the object of that affection drove her out of the hall, and she followed him—ashamed, marveling at herself, searching her soul for words with which to excuse her madness, should he turn and behold her.
But the autumn dusk was early and she was grateful because it shrouded her.
Farr, leaving the din of the convention, going forth alone, looked more like the vanquished than the victor. He walked slowly, his head was lowered, and he turned off the Boulevard at once, seeking deserted streets which led him down toward the big mills.
Their myriad lights shone from dusty windows, row upon row, and the staccato chatter of the looms sounded ceaselessly.
Farr climbed the fence where old Etienne was everlastingly raking. The young man had not seen much of the old rack-tender for some weeks, and now he greeted Etienne rather curtly as he passed on his way to the tree. But Etienne seemed to understand.
"Ah, I will not talk, m'sieu'. I will not bodder you. I hear how much you have work and run about, and you must be very tire."
There was a crackle of autumn chill in the air, but Farr took off his hat and sat down and leaned his head against the tree. He closed his eyes. One might have thought that he wished to sleep.
When the rack-tender made his next turn toward the street he saw a woman at the fence, and as he peered she beckoned to him. He went close and saw it was the pretty lady to whom he had told the story of Rosemarie. She trembled as she clutched the top of the high fence, and when she spoke to him he understood that she was very near to tears.
"Is there not some way—some gate by which I may come in?" she pleaded.
"That is not allow, ma'm'selle. It is trespass."
"But I want to speak—to—tell him—We can talk over there beside the tree and will not be heard. It is to Mr. Farr I wish to speak. I saw him when he climbed the fence." She hurried her appeal with pitiful eagerness.
"Ah yes, I have one little gate for maself—for my frien'—for hees frien', ma'm'selle. I will break the rule. You shall come in."
She went softly and stood before Farr for some minutes before he opened his eyes.
Then he looked up and saw her and he did not speak. He seemed to accept her presence as a natural matter. She was clasping her hands tightly to steady herself. His calm demeanor helped her.
"I don't know why I came here," she murmured.
"I know. It's because you are sorry for me."
"But I followed you. I dared to do that. I don't know why. I haven't the words—I can't explain."
"I understand. You wondered why I came away from the convention. You want to ask me why."
"Yes, that's it. I am interested in the fight. I have left the office where so many bad things were planned."
"I know. It was good of you to warn me."
"And now I am afraid you are in trouble."
"But you have many good friends now, sir."
"I fear they cannot help me. When I left that hall I tried to tell you with my eyes that I was going away."
"I—I think I understood," she stammered. "It was wrong—it was folly—but I followed you without knowing why I did so."
"I am glad you did. I can say farewell to you here."
"But you must not go away, Mr. Farr. You are needed."
"I am going because I can best help the work in that way. If I stay here I may be the cause of great harm."
"I cannot understand."
"I do not want you to understand."
"It is a matter which concerns others besides myself."
"Does Mr. Converse know that you are going away?"
"I shall tell him to-night before I leave town."
"He will not allow you to do."
"Yes—he will," the young man returned, quietly.
There was a long silence.
"Coming here—following you—it was a mad thing for me to do," said the girl, still striving to find explanation for her act. "But I have had so much trouble in my own life—I am sorry for others who are in trouble. I want to tell you that I am sorry."
"I understand," he repeated.
Another period of silence followed.
"That is all," said the girl. "I only wanted to tell you what a grand battle you won to-day—and then I saw your face there in the hall and I knew that you did not want praise—you wanted somebody to say to you, 'I'm sorry.'" She dwelt upon the word which expressed her sympathy, putting all her heart into her voice. "And now I'll be going," she said, "and I hope you understand and will forgive me."
Farr had been sitting with head against the trunk of the tree. When he had started to rise she requested him to remain seated. Now he stood up so quickly that she gasped. She was plainly still less at ease when he stood and came close to her.
"Wait a moment. You think that I am a very strange sort of man, do you not?"
She was silent.
"You need not answer—it doesn't need answer. You naturally must think that. You met me when I was a vagrant. You have seen me selling ice from a cart-tail. But—I will be very frank, for this is a time which demands frankness—you have seen me in other circumstances which have been a bit more creditable. You do not know who I am or what to make of me. But with all your heart and soul you know that I love you," he declared, his tones low and tense and thrilling. "That love has needed no words. It has been strange love-making. Wait! This isn't going to be what you think. If I were simply going to say I love you I would have said it to you long ago—I am not a coward—and I had seen the one mate of all the world; I knew it when I saw you in the dust of the long highway. And after you went on I picked a rose beside the way, and the ashes of that rose are in my pocket now. I called you the little sister of the rose and plodded along after you, playing with a dream. And I threw the rose away after I saw you in the woods with your lover—and understood. But I went back and hunted on my knees for your sister. I didn't intend to say any of this to you. For it is of no use."
"No; I am promised to Richard Dodd," she sobbed.
"If that was all that stood between us I'd reach now and take you in my arms," he said, with bitterness.
"It is more than a mere promise—he owns me—it was bargain and sale—it's sacrifice—for—But I must not tell you." She went to the tree and put her forehead on her crossed arms and wept with a child's pitiful abandon. He came close and put tender hand upon her shoulder.
"Sacrifice, little sister of the rose! Then there is another bond between us! Sacrifice! My God! the curse that is sometimes put upon the innocent!" He put the tip of his forefinger under her chin and lifted her face from her arms. "I haven't any right to tell you that I love you. I must march on. I cannot even explain to you why I cannot take you in my arms and plead for your love."
Her eyes told him what answer his pleading would win, and he trembled and stepped away from her.
"Since it can never be," she said, brokenly, "you may as well know that I—that I do—I couldn't help it. I am forward—I am bold—it is shameless—but I never loved anybody before." She put out both her hands, and he took them.
Old Etienne dragged doggedly at his work, his lantern lighting his toil. The looms clacked behind the dusty windows which splashed their radiance upon the gloom.
"It is a bit strange that now another wonderful but bitter experience should come into my life on this spot where we are standing," he told her. He spoke quietly, trying to calm her; striving to crowd back his own emotions. "I guess fate picked this spot as the right place for us to say farewell to each other. I stood here one day and saw old Etienne draw a dead woman to the surface of the water, and I found a letter in her breast and I took her key and went and found little Rosemarie."
She stared at him, her eyes very wide in the darkness.
"And that dead woman—she was the mother of the little girl?"
"Yes, a poor weaver that the mills had broken. And Rosemarie and I sat all night under this tree. It is too long a story for you now. No matter about that, but I—"
"I know about Rosemarie," she confessed.
"And my heart opened and something new came into it, little sister of the rose. And now on this spot I stand, and all joy and hope and love are dead for me when I give back to you these dear little hands."
She was still staring at him.
"But I must not—I dare not speak of it," he proceeded. His grasp grew tense. "See how I am trying to be calm? I will not loose my grip on myself. Our doom was written for us by other hands, dear heart. When it was summer I walked here with Rosemarie and play-mamma. Now it is autumn and—"
"Play-mamma!" she gasped.
"Yes, a dear, good girl who worked hard in the mill and who was very good to our Rosemarie; I was making poor shifts at buying a little girl's clothes, and Zelie Dionne was wise in those matters and was busy with her needle."
"I hope you been excuse me," broke in old Etienne. "I overheard the name of Zelie Dionne, but I don't mean to listen. I have some good news for you, M'sieu' Farr, what you don't hear because you ain't been on this place for long time. And it is not good news for you, ma'm'selle, for now you can't get acquaint with very nice Canadian girl. The big beau Jean have come down here from Tadousac and now he own nice farm and they will get marry and be very happy up in the habitant country."
"Thank God, there's some happiness in this world," said Farr. "She is a good girl."
There was almost joy on Kate Kilgour's face when she looked up at Farr.
Her god had been restored to his pedestal.
"Farewell," he said at the little gate through which she had stepped into the street.
"No," she cried as she turned and hurried away; "I'll not say it—not now!" And he wondered because there was joy in her tones.
THE MASK OF CYNICISM
Old Etienne came to the gate with his lantern; the big turbines were stilling their rumble and growl in the deep pits and his day's work was ended.
"P'r'aps you may walk to Mother Maillet's with me and say the good word to Jean from Tadousac and to Zelie Dionne, who is now so very glad," suggested the old man, humbly. "The good priest he marry them very soon and they will go home."
"Yes, I will go, Etienne. I can say good-by there to you and to Miss Dionne."
"So you go visit some place, eh, after your hard work? That will be very good for you, M'sieu' Farr. You shall come back much rest up and then you will show the poor folks how you will help them some more."
"I shall not come back—I am going away to stay."
"But you promise under the big light at the hotel de ville—I hear you promise that you will stay," protested the old man.
"My work is finished."
"That is not so, M'sieu' Farr. For many men come to talk to me over the fence since I stand up in the big hall. They are wiser than such a fool as I am. They say that you have just begin to do great things for the poor folks. You shall take the water-pipes away from the men who have poison them. Ah, that is what they say. I do not understand, but they say it shall be so."
"Other men can do it," said Farr, curtly.
"And yet you will come back—when?" The old man was struggling with his bewilderment and doubt.
He understood how he was hurting that old man, but bitterness and hopelessness were crowding all tender feelings out of Farr at that moment. Once more he put on the mask of cynicism. He feared to show anybody the depths of his soul.
In the good woman's little sitting-room they found Zelie Dionne.
"I have stopped in to say good-by, Miss Zelie. I am going away. I'm sorry that the grand young man from Tadousac is not here."
"He comes to sit with me in the evening. You shall wait and see him."
"No, I must hurry on."
"I have been reading about you." She tapped the newspaper in her hand. "The boy just passed, crying the news. It is very wonderful what you have done. Now you will be the great man. But I knew all the time that you were much more than you seemed to be."
"However, you don't seem to understand me just now," he declared. "I am going away from this city—from this state. I am going to stay away."
"Oui, he have say that thing to me," said old Etienne, brokenly. "And I do not understand."
"And I do not understand."
"I'm tired—put it that way."
"Ah no, that is not it."
"Well, I am more or less of a sneak and a quitter when it comes to a pinch. I don't want you two good folks to feel sorry about me. Forget me. That will be the best way. I hope you will be very happy in Tadousac, Miss Zelie."
"I hoped we were better friends," she said simply. "I am very sad to find you do not trust us."
"Oh, I'm selfish—that's it. Remember me as a selfish man who was tired and ran away."
"We have talked about you, Uncle Etienne and I, and we have never said that you are selfish."
"That shows you don't know me," said Farr, roughly.
"But we know what you have done," insisted the old man, with patient confidence. "For what you say you shall not do we do not care about that. For we have seen what you have done—ah, we know about that and care about it very much. You are wiser than we are, and if you say you must go we can only look at you very sad and bow the head. I wish I had some language so to tell you how very sorry! But the Yankee words—I know not those which tell how sorry I shall be. It is not much I can do for the poor little childs—only whittle and save pennies for the fresh air."
Another man, another tone, might have put rebuke, indirectly, into those words. But old Etienne, rasping his hard palms nervously, was merely vowing himself to sacrifice because there was no one else left to do so. Farr understood and was softened.
"And now I must go to the bed for my sleep, because the rack must be cleared before the wheel start to go roompy-roomp in the big pit asking for its water." He was showing nervousness, haste, his voice trembled; he staggered when he lifted himself out of his chair.
"You'd better say good-by to me now," said Farr, rising with the old man. "It's a good night under the stars. I shall probably be far out on the road by daylight."
"Good-bye," muttered old Etienne, fumbling his hat and bowing.
"But aren't you going to say something else to me—say you're sorry to have me go?" demanded the young man. "We have been close together in some things we shall never forget."
"I have told you. I cannot say how sorry." The old man's voice was little more than a husky whisper.
"I like you, Uncle Etienne. I want you to know it. You are an old saint." He put out his hand, but the rack-tender turned and hurried to the door. "Not take my hand?" cried Farr. "Am I as much of a traitor as all that?"
"Oh, I cannot speak! I have no word," wailed the old man from the gloom in the street. His voice rose in shrill, cracked tones. He began to weep aloud. He had been restraining his feelings with all the strength of his will since Farr had announced his intentions. His departure was flight. He began to run away down the sidewalk. "Saint Joseph, guard my tongue!" he gasped over and over. "I'll go very fast so that I not say it, for I am only old Pickaroon, and he is fine gentlemans!" He continued to weep broken-heartedly.
"Mr. Farr, he was afraid he would tell you how much he loved you—afraid that you would be insulted if he presumed to tell you of it."
"I don't think I just understand that," commented Farr, staring into the night, peering to get another glimpse of Etienne.
"I understand!" said the girl. "It would be too bad for you to go away and think that at parting he was not polite to you. I would not like to have you suppose that fault is in one from Tadousac. He has told me. If you will not follow him and frighten him by saying that you know it, I will tell you."
"I will not follow him. Probably I shall never see him again."
"It may be a bit hard for you to understand, for you do not know the French nature, perhaps. But since little Rosemarie went away for ever he has loved you. You made something more of him than the old rack-tender when you took him into partnership. When you made him your friend before all the big men at the City Hall something bloomed in him, m'sieu'—something that before had been only a withered bud! Ah, you think I am fanciful? Very well! I cannot think how to say it any other way. You are a token for him from little Rosemarie who has gone away; you are friend, you are son, you are in his eyes destined savior of these poor people."
"I am glad I am going away. I would hate to betray such childlike faith. Good-by, Miss Zelie!"
He heard her call to him when he was in the street. He turned and halted and saw her slim, white figure at the gate, and he stepped back half-way.
She was girlish sympathy incarnate, and his troubled, hungry, self-accusatory soul caught the radiation of that womanly solace.
"It's not what you say to me you are," she said, her breath coming fast, her tones low. "It's what I know you are! That you will be when at last you shall come to yourself. I do not care what you say. I shall not remember! To the world—to me—to poor Etienne, just now, you lied about yourself, M'sieu' Farr—about your real self. But you did not lie to a little girl when she asked you to show your true self to her. Of yourself—with little Rosemarie—that shall I remember!"
"I thank you," he said, gratefully.
"Some day some woman will love you," she continued. "And when you are sure that she does love you, then you will tell her your troubles and she will know what to say to make things right for you. For that is the mission of good women. They understand how to listen and how to help the men they love. You shall see!" She hurried into the house.
Farr was promptly admitted when he presented himself at the door of Archer Converse's residence, and he was conducted to that gentleman's library, and came face to face with his patron, whom he found sitting very erect in a high-backed chair.
"I have been waiting for you, sir," said Converse.
"I expected that you would be waiting, sir."
"I will stand, if you please. I have only a few words to say."
"Then your nature must have changed very suddenly," said the lawyer, dryly. "Or did you pump your reservoir dry of language when you put my name in nomination to-day?"
Farr bowed without reply.
"I hear that speech commended very highly. Among opportunists you deserve high rank, Mr. Farr. You have tipped a state upside down very effectively, and I am upside down along with the rest."
"I will stand here very patiently, sir, and take my punishment. As between ourselves, I had no right to do what I did to-day without consulting you. As regards conditions in the state, I had a right to seize that opportunity and give to the people a man who can be depended on. I did so. Go ahead, now, Mr. Converse!"
To the young man's surprise, the nominee arose and came to him with hand outstretched. A smile broke through the grimness of the lawyer's countenance. "I have accepted a public trust with pride, I am obeying my plain duty with satisfaction, and I shall work to be elected with all my might. Otherwise I wouldn't be the son of my father. My boy, I have had a talk with Citizen Drew to-day. He told me about your idea of kicking honest men into politics. I want you to understand that I thank you heartily because you have kicked me in. I'm going to swim!"
"'Then God's in His Heaven and the world's all right,'" declared Farr.
The lawyer's quizzical and searching gaze was rather disquieting; the young man had found Converse eyeing him with peculiar interest during their meetings in the recent past. Now Converse bestowed particularly intent scrutiny on his caller.
"I feel that I have done my work, sir," Farr hastened to say, anxious to terminate this interview. "I am going away—out of the state. I shall not return."
Mr. Converse did not break out into protest. He eyed Farr more closely. Then he reached a button and turned on the full light of the chandelier. "You have a good reason for deserting just when you are most needed, I presume, sir?"
"I have. It is a reason which especially concerns the success of the legislation which we have discussed. If I stay I shall hamper you."
"I will ask you to stand where you are for a few minutes, sir," said the lawyer, commanding rather than requesting. He went to a cabinet and drew forth a package. He brought that packet to the table and began to sort photographs.
He selected one, regarded it with careful gaze, and shifted his eyes to the young man's face.
"Um!" he commented, with judicial tone. "Now—suppose you tell me—just how your continued presence in this state will hamper me"—he paused; he drawled the next words, emphasizing them—"Mr. Bristol!"
Farr had begun nervous retreat when the lawyer had begun comparison of the living features with the photograph. It was plain that he feared rather than understood.
"Hold on, there!" shouted the investigator. "You may as well stay and settle this matter, Bristol. You look at this picture! You recognize it, do you? If you are in any doubt I'll inform you that it's a picture of your father when he and I were in law-school together."
"I deny any relationship to that man."
"Your tone and your manner convict you, my boy. I jumped you with that name purposely. I am no fool when it comes to examining a witness. When I first laid eyes on you I thought I had seen you, yourself, somewhere, and I have been puzzling my brains. Then it occurred to me that I had known in my youth a fellow who looked like you. You're the son of your father, all right. Don't stultify yourself by lying to me. You are Morgan Bristol's boy! Hah?"
"I am," confessed the young man, with resignation.
"What is your first name?"
"Sit down, Thornton!"
The visitor obeyed.
"What have you done that you're ashamed of, my boy?"
"I cannot tell you," said Bristol, firmly.
"Oh, but you're going to," insisted the lawyer, with just as much firmness. "You are now retaining me as your attorney and counsel—whether you know it or not. And when a man talks to his lawyer and tells the truth it's no betrayal of confidence. Out with it!"
"There's nothing to be done, Mr. Converse."
"There's always something which can be done when a man is in trouble. You are Morgan Bristol's son. I was in school with your father. He went West and settled. Is he alive?"
"I think so."
"How is it that you don't know?"
Mr. Converse settled himself into the tone and pose of the cross-examiner.
"I have been a vagrant, hiding myself in the highways and byways of this country, for a long time."
"What happened to drive you out like that?"
"Right there, Mr. Converse, is where I must halt. It is a family matter. I cannot go into it."
"Look here, Thornton, you are in trouble. If you are in trouble, so is your father. He has lost a boy! You can tell me now what it's all about, or I'll drop my affairs and go and hunt up Morgan Bristol and ask him about it. You may just as well save me all that time and trouble. You're a lawyer, yourself—I know it."
"And you're a good one and know our code when it comes to secrets. I am not asking you to expose a family skeleton—I'm demanding that you treat me as your attorney and trust to my discretion. You are in trouble and need a helper, and, by gad! you have got to take me into this thing."
Thornton Bristol set his elbows on his knees and clutched his shaking fingers into his hair.
"I have been meaning to keep it all to myself, sir," he stammered.
"Quite likely. You have done mighty well at it, I should judge. But you know that any man who acts as his own lawyer usually does a mighty poor job. He lacks perspective."
Bristol did not reply.
"I have been studying you a little since I have known you," the lawyer went on. "You are a very strange mixture, my boy. I much fear that in some things in this life you are too quixotic in your views. We had a case here in town—a man named Andrew Kilgour—"
"I have heard about that man, sir."
"Thornton, from what glimpses I have had of your nature, I'm going to tell you here and now that you are covering somebody else's fault. You are no coward. You would face your own delinquency just as bravely as you came here and faced me to-night. Now, what did your father do?"
"Speculated with trust funds of estates."
"Old story, eh? Too bad, Morgan. I liked you when you were young."
"But I want you to understand it," cried the son. "It is hard for me to talk about it, sir, but it isn't exactly the old story. My father was too indulgent where I was concerned. He tried to do more for me than he could afford. He didn't tell me the truth about his affairs—I supposed he was a rich man. I always had everything that money could furnish. When he found that I was interested in the law he sent me to schools at home and abroad and ordered me to take my time and go to the bottom of all."
"Well, I reckon you did," stated Converse. "If ever I saw a chap with the true legal mind you have it, polished and pointed. You came into this state and saw a solution for a problem which has blocked us for twenty-five years. It's good law! And we will have a legislature that will pass it. But when did you find out that your father had taken other folks' money?"
"I came home and insisted on going to work in the office. Then he told me. The settlement was due and had been called for. He was obliged to tell me. And he tried to convince me that he had not taken the money for my sake. He was willing to appear in my eyes a thief without excuse. But I knew. I had selfishly accepted it all without thought—and only half grateful. Young men are thoughtless, sir."
"Your father seems to have been quixotic after his own fashion, Thornton. I think I remember some of his traits when he was in school. But as old Hard-Times Brewster used to say, 'We are all poor, queer critters and some be queerer than the others!' So you were a little queerer than your father, eh, and tried to square matters by a worse piece of folly?"
"It may have been folly. Perhaps it was. But I did not stop to argue or reason. That money had been spent on me. I accepted the blame. I said nothing to my father. I wrote letters to the persons who had lost. I told them that I had taken the money as my father's agent—without his knowledge. I said I had deceived him as well as them. And then, so that I might not perjure myself on the witness-stand or have the truth gimleted out of me by lawyers, I put on rags and hid myself among the thousands who trudge the highways and ride the trusses of freight-cars. And no one has come to me and put heavy hand on my shoulder and said, 'I want you!' But some one will come if I remain here. I am going to hide myself again."
"I say it has all been a piece of folly," insisted Converse. "Dear folly! Yes, almost noble folly! But it must end, my boy. I suppose your father is back there toiling to repay those men from whom he took money."
"I suppose so, Mr. Converse. But he has not been disgraced in the eyes of the public."
"There's where your noble folly has made its mistake. You have doubled his grief, Thornton. Just sit there a moment and ponder. You will understand what I mean."
"I have understood—I have pondered—but I have not had the courage to go back. At least, they could not say to him that his son was in prison. He has escaped that grief."
"And has endured a heavier one, my boy. I'm afraid you're a poor counselor in your own affairs." He came across the room to Bristol and slapped the bowed shoulder. "Now you have found a better one. I have taken your case."
The young man looked up into the kindly features of his adviser and was only half convinced.
"Don't you realize how easy it will be for you to make money from this time on? You don't? Well, let me tell you. As soon as you can be admitted to the bar in this state I'm going to make you my law partner. Hold on! I'm doing you no especial favor—I'm putting into my office a man who had the legal acumen to devise a plan to break the unholy clutch of plunderers who have had this state by the throat for a quarter of a century. I'm simply grabbing you before somebody else gets you. I expect to be governor of this state, and I want my law business looked after by a man who is able to keep up the reputation of the firm. But first of all, my boy, you and I are going back to your home. I think you'll find me a fairly good lawyer in straightening out tangles. I'll know just how to talk to those folks out there. And then you're coming back here with me and face this state as yourself and help me fight the legislation we want put through to enactment—and be damned to 'em!" He put his arm about the young man's shoulders and drew him to his feet. "It has been a hard day for you, my boy. There are some hard things ahead of you. You must go to bed. The morning will bring comfort and good counsel."
But when Bristol started toward the door Converse restrained him gently and led him toward the stairs which led up from the big vestibule.
"You're home, my boy—right here—you're home here from this time on! This is your other home until your father needs you more than I do. I have been pretty lonely in this house for a good many years without realizing just what was the matter with me."
"After all, you have only my word for what I am and what I have done," expostulated Bristol.
"Oh no, I have the evidence of my eyes and ears and my own common sense."
Bristol pressed the hand stretched forth to him.
"I'm not going to talk to you any more to-night," stated the host, when they were on the upper landing. "It will all seem different in the morning. It's going to be all right after this, Thornton. I'm sorry I haven't a wife. A woman understands how to listen to troubles better than a man. Is your mother alive?"
"No, Mr. Converse."
"I might have known that. You would not have allowed a mother to suffer—your folly would never have gone so far. You would have been home long before this. Ah, well, my boy, some woman will know how to comfort you some day for all you have endured. Good night!"
The young man knew that Zelie Dionne had been right in what she said; he did not require the added opinion of the state's most eminent lawyer.
Colonel Symonds Dodd sat at his desk in the First National block and clutched helplessly at the dragging ends of events. He failed to get firm hold on anything and irefully informed Judge Warren that the whole situation was a "damnation nightmare."
"Well," affirmed the judge, who had been pricked in his legal pride by his master's tongue, "the Consolidated has eaten some pretty hearty meals. It's no wonder it is having bad dreams right now."
"You're squatting down like an old rooster in a dust-heap," raged the colonel, too angry to be choice in his language. "You, a twenty-five-thousand-dollar lawyer, come in here to me and say that you can't block the confiscatory scheme of a bounder—a nobody—a black-leg stranger in this state!"
"I'll carry on the fight if you order me to do so," said the corporation lawyer. "That's my business. We can lobby in the next legislature. We can fight the laws that Archer Converse's legislature is bound to pass, for they're after us, Colonel Dodd. We can carry the thing to the highest tribunal—and then we can fight the appraisals on every water-plant in the state, but—"
"Well, but what?"
"One by one they'll pry loose every finger we have got hooked on to our proposition. I have submitted that water-district plan to the acid test, Colonel. It was my duty to do it. A lawyer must keep cool while his bosses curse and disparage. I have the opinions of the law departments of three leading colleges on the scheme. They all say that such a plan, if properly safeguarded by constitutional law, will get by every blockade we can erect. Now if you want to spend money I'll help you spend all you care to appropriate," concluded the judge, grimly.
"We'll fight," was the dictum of the master.
"Then I take it that you have definitely decided to give up your political control, Colonel! A certain amount of popularity is needed to cinch any man in politics. You're going to be the most unpopular man in this state if you start in to fight every town and city simply for the purpose of piling up costs and clubbing them away from their own as long as you have the muscle to do it."
"I don't care about politics—politics has gone to the devil in this state already. They'll get tired of chasing fox-fires through a swamp following after such lah-de-dahs as Arch Converse, and will come back and be good. I'll wait for 'em to come back. But in the mean time I'm going to have the courts say whether our property can be confiscated. I'll take a few pelts while they're trying it on!"
Judge Warren bowed stiffly and retired from the interview.
Day after day passed and Colonel Dodd was more than ever convinced that the nightmare was continuing. Politicians agreed with him—all of them with amazement, many of them with wrath.
Because the Honorable Archer Converse and the man who had called himself Walker Farr had dropped completely out of sight, leaving no explanation of any sort.
"They didn't even tell me," confessed Daniel Breed, "and I'm their chief fugler, and here's the November election right plunk on top of us—and even the Apostle Paul would have to do at least four weeks of spry campaigning in this state to be sure of being elected if a state committee was getting ready to lay down on him like ours seems to be doing. I'm jogafferbasted. I can't express myself no other way."
Mr. Breed, in moments of especial anxiety and despondency when he reviewed the situation, darkly hinted that the grand jury ought to look into the thing. The Consolidated had done about everything up to date except assassinate and abduct, he averred, and everybody knew Colonel Dodd's present state of mind.
However, Colonel Dodd did receive Miss Kate Kilgour politely when she came to him; he had always held her in estimation next to the bouquets in his office.
"I have come to you," she explained, "because I could not get the information anywhere else. I have tried. I do not want to bother you, sir."
The girl was pitifully broken, her voice trembled.
"Well, well, what is it?" he demanded, impatiently, and yet with a touch of kindly tolerance. "You needn't be afraid of me even if you did leave me in hop-and-jump style, Miss Kilgour."
"Where is your nephew, Richard?"
And then, in spite of his assuring statement, Miss Kilgour was afraid of him.
His square face was suffused with red, he thwacked his fist on his desk and leaped out of his chair and stamped away from her, cursing viciously.
"Who sent you here to ask me that question?" he shouted, advancing on her from the window.
"It's my own business—I came on my own account," she stammered.
"How comes it to be your business, miss?"
"I gave him my promise to marry him."
"If you did you made a devil of a mistake; I can tell you that, young woman!"
"I realize it, Colonel Dodd. I want to know where he is. I want to take back that promise."
He controlled himself and stared at her. "Take my advice and consider your contract with Richard Dodd annulled—for good and sufficient reasons, Miss Kilgour. I don't want to say any more. I can't say any more. This thing touches me on a sore spot. Don't be afraid. I'm not angry at you. But just forget that fellow and go on about your own business."
"I will do so, Colonel Dodd, after I have settled certain business with him."
"I cannot tell you."
"You'll have to tell me," he insisted, roughly. "I'm now engaged in looking into my nephew's affairs. I want all the information I can get."
"I can only ask you—implore you to tell me where he is."
"I'd like to know, myself," he retorted, bluntly. "I'd give considerable to know. You needn't look at me as if you think I'm lying! Now you may as well be frank with me, Miss Kilgour. I'm going to be frank with you. I have always found you to be a young woman of prudence and caution. I'll take a chance and tell you something which I have been keeping to myself. I want you to know why you needn't feel bound to keep any promise you have made to my nephew. He has played a despicable trick on me, his own uncle, after all the help I have given him. He practically stole five thousand dollars from me and has run away, and I don't know where he is. Now, what have you to tell me?"
"I want to put this in his hands, sir." She produced a packet, at which the colonel peered with curiosity. "You will certainly find out where he is. I want you to give it to him."
"Oh, love-letters, eh?"
With shaking fingers she untied the cord and displayed the contents. The packet was money, many bills stacked neatly, and the size of the bundle made the colonel open his eyes very wide.
"We—I—we owe it to him, sir. There are five thousand dollars here."
"So that's what he did with my money, eh? Well, I'll take it."
"I don't think it is your money, Colonel Dodd. I have good reason to feel sure that it is not. I have not seen your nephew since the day of the convention, and then only at a distance. And this money—it was borrowed a long time ago."
"Borrowed by whom—by you?"
"No, sir. I cannot tell you the circumstances. I simply want you to give it back to him. I shall feel that I am released from my obligation."
"Look here, my dear young woman," said the colonel, with all his masterful firmness, "there are going to be no more riddles here. You must tell me the truth. I must have it—hear? Otherwise I shall take steps to make you tell—and that may not be as confidential as a chat here with me. I propose to know about my nephew's affairs, I inform you once again!"
"My mother borrowed this money from him. She was in trouble. He helped her."
"Your mother needs a guardian. I beg your pardon! But I thought she had had her lesson once before in her life. So my nephew loaned money to your mother! Where did he get that money?"
"I do not—"
"Hold on! Wait before you say that, Miss Kilgour. I'll not endure falsehoods from anybody just now. I have been lied to too much lately. This is a matter of my own nephew. I command you to tell me the truth."
She hesitated a long time, her countenance expressing her agony. "I haven't any right to betray him, sir."
"He did not get five thousand dollars by any honest means. The reputation of the family is in jeopardy just now, Miss Kilgour. I want to protect it for my own sake. He confessed to you, didn't he?"
"I can better understand your sense of obligation now. When a man commits a crime for a woman she gets some fool notions into her head about standing by him. I know my nephew's extravagances, Miss Kilgour. He had to steal to get five thousand dollars for your mother. There is just one handy place where he could steal. He took that money from the state treasury. He has told you so. Am I not right?"
Colonel Dodd turned his back on her and looked up at his bouquets.
Perspiration streaked his thick neck. His jowls trembled. She pitied this man, even in her own tribulation. She had never seen him moved before.
"How did you get this money, Miss Kilgour?" he asked, after a time, his voice very low.
"Must I tell you?"
"Certainly. We are going to the bottom of this thing."
"I received a little legacy from my aunt a few years ago—I had put it away in the bank. I had saved some money from the wages I got here. My mother—I am sorry to say that she has been vain and extravagant, sir—she had wasted money on jewels and dress, and now she has sold everything. We have disposed of all our furniture and have gone to board in a very cheap place. I have been able to make out the amount of the debt. Here it is!" She placed it on his desk beside the flabby hand which lay there.
He did not speak for a long time. "I am sorry for you," he said at last. "This is a wicked thing. But I know better than to tell you to keep this money."
"Thank you," she said, quietly. "I know you understand!"
"I will put it in the place where it belongs. That's all!"
And when he kept his broad back to her she went out of the office, her feet making no sound on the thick carpet.
ALL THE WORLD OUTSIDE
A good lawyer can accomplish much when men are willing to listen to reason and to accept the proffer of reparation!
"All going to show," declared the Honorable Archer Converse to his young protege, after they had parted at last from Morgan Bristol in the Western city, "that a thistle doesn't hurt much, after all, if you grab it with all your might and vim. We have found honest gentlemen here, thank God! It has been made plain to me, my boy, that they all knew you better than you knew yourself and that's why they waited so patiently. But, oh, that folly of yours!" However, he patted Thornton Bristol's shoulder when he said it. "It's a good thing for a young man to have a healthy debt when he starts out—a debt that's a joy to pay. Just look on it as an incentive, boy! You simply mortgaged your future!"
"I am glad that I have been called on to pay for what I wasted," declared Bristol. "And I am not sorry, Mr. Converse, that my folly led me out into the byways of this world. I'll know how to appreciate the rest of life more highly."
"Needs a hot fire to make good steel—that's so," agreed his mentor. "And speaking of fire—I reckon we're going to find it almighty hot when we get back to the place where we're expected. Now that we're leaving affairs all serene behind us, you must let me do a little careful thinking about how to meet the situation that's ahead of us."
Archer Converse reappeared in his home city as unobtrusively as he had left it and he held the polished shield of his urbane reserve over any vulnerable points which darts of questions might attack.
Mr. Breed, assuring himself that he had certain personal rights in the matter, came with a veritable lance of interrogation, and thrust tirelessly.
"It is the custom when a man has been nominated never to close an eye or leave the job for a minute. You have broke over all rules and I have been doing my best to fix up a story to account for it," stated Mr. Breed.
"Thank you," returned Mr. Converse. "No doubt you have done a very good job."
"I done the best I could without knowing what I was talking about."
"And the general comment—the run of talk was—what?"
"General talk was that you didn't seem to be worrying much about the election."
Mr. Converse turned a benignant smile on his new law partner.
"It's generally conceded, then, that I feel sure of being elected?"
"Why, they think you wouldn't have skyhooted off unless you were confident."
"Exactly! That attitude of mine takes care of the band-wagon crowd. They have climbed aboard, I'm told."
"Yes," admitted Mr. Breed. "But the state committee has taken advantage and has laid down on ye!"
"Breed, you run along and tell the chairman of that committee—from me—that unless he gets busy with his crowd in every county of this state inside of twenty-four hours I'll come out with a public statement that I have been forced to run my own campaign in behalf of the people. You don't think there'd be any doubt about my election after that statement, do you?"
"Not a bit," confessed Mr. Breed. "You're more of a politician than I had any idea of. Excuse me for any other kind of remarks. I'll go shoot a little hot lead in that chairman's left ear."
"Ordinary intelligence and common honesty," commented the Honorable Archer Converse when Mr. Breed had departed. "They are such new elements in running politics in this state that they seem to the crowd to be a brand-new variety of political astuteness, Thornton! I'm not going to be quite as frank and honest in some other statements I'm about to make, under the circumstances. I don't believe my conscience is going to trouble me a bit. We'll go over, if you please, and have a word or two with Colonel Symonds Dodd."
Mr. Converse's secretary prefaced that call by a telephoned request for an appointment, and therefore Mr. Peter Briggs led them directly into the presence of the colonel.
"This is my friend and law partner, Mr. Thornton Bristol," said Converse, apparently and blandly unconscious that he was tossing at the magnate something much in the nature of a bomb.
Colonel Dodd came forward in his chair, his hands clutching the carved mahogany of the desk in front of him.
"Oh, I beg your pardon, Colonel," purred Mr. Converse, amiably. "I forget that you are not as familiar with Mr. Bristol's identity as I am. You have known him merely as a stranger who has called himself Walker Farr."
"Yes, and he has registered himself on the voting-lists as Walker Farr," blustered Colonel Dodd. "Mr. Converse, something will drop in your camp before long—and it won't be rose-leaves!"
Mr. Converse fixed a penetrating gaze on the angry man.
"Colonel," he said, with meaning, "you are probably well aware that in politics many things are done for a certain purpose—and many of those things are a bit off color so far as the strict law is concerned. If you particularly care about digging up the past of politics in this state I will come with my own little shovel and assist with great pleasure."
"You're making an ass of me with this peek-a-boo business."
"Mr. Bristol," continued the nominee, with composure, "after long study abroad and at home has devoted himself enthusiastically to study in sociology and economics, and has preferred to gain his knowledge about conditions by first-hand observation. He came into this state in pursuit of his object, and by force of circumstances was drawn into our state upheaval."
"Much more deeply than I intended to be drawn, Colonel Dodd," stated the young man, with dignity. "I think you will remember that I said as much to you in an interview we had. I called myself a Voice, if you will recollect, and humbly begged you to attend to certain reforms. Your refusal, and the manner with which you refused, rather forced me into your affairs."
"And I give you warning right here and now," blustered the colonel, "that I'm going to force myself into your affairs. I'm going to have you investigated from puppyhood to the present, Mr. Whatever-your-name is."
"We may as well issue general warnings—all of us," said Mr. Converse. "I have prepared a statement for the newspapers regarding my friend, Mr. Bristol, and he will add a statement of his own relative to his project in regard to water districts. If you care to malign Mr. Bristol on the heels of that, Colonel, you may go ahead. But if you choose weapons of that sort in the conduct of this campaign we shall be forced to use a few cudgels of our own—for instance, we might be able to give the people considerable information as to how the state departments have been managed under your general direction. The funds of the state treasury—"
Converse was about to mention the matter of the usufruct of the state's money deposited in the colonel's banks for the benefit of the syndicate.
Colonel Dodd pulled himself out of his chair and exhibited instant and alarmed confusion. "We'd better make it a gentlemen's campaign," he broke in.
"Very well," agreed Mr. Converse, politely. "And now that we are proceeding toward such an amicable understanding, will you allow me to express the hope that the Consolidated will meet us half-way in regard to the legislation that is inevitable? I have no desire to use any of my powers as the governor of this state to embarrass your interests; let us trust that we can get to a prompt adjustment in the matter of the water-plants. As a lawyer of some experience, I have to inform you, Colonel Dodd, that the cities and towns of this state are going to own their own systems. The city of Marion proposes to fight the first test case through. You are a heavy taxpayer—I trust you will not help to run your city into debt which is needless."
"I will confer with you," admitted the colonel, his manner subdued.
"I will ask you to confer with Mr. Bristol, my partner. He will have full charge of the litigation. I am assured that the next city government meeting will attend to the matter of choosing him as counsel, with a suitable retaining fee," said Mr. Converse, with pride. "I will appreciate it personally and as chief executive if your interests will favor the matter. It will be better all around."
Colonel Dodd did not reply. But there was much significance in his bow as they retired.
"I trust I did not intimate that I was employing any sort of threats," said Mr. Converse, when he and Bristol were on their way down-stairs.
"I think he understood, sir."
"His suggestion that we have a gentlemen's campaign was very significant, coming from Colonel Symonds Dodd. The outlook is very hopeful," stated the nominee. "We'll see the state committee chairman to-morrow, Thornton. I feel quite sure that he will have our speechmaking routes laid out. Mr. Breed is very convincing—sometimes—when he discusses the political situation."
When they were at the foot of the steps of the Mellicite Club, the young man begged permission to go about some affairs of his own.
"But your own affairs must wait, my boy," insisted Converse. "The party claims you from now on."
"I will do my duty, sir," said Bristol, smiling; "but this evening I must have for myself."
"I have invited some gentlemen to dine with us. It's an important conference."
"The conference I hope to have, Mr. Converse, will be the most important one of my life."
The lawyer blinked, trying to understand.
"I will tell you to-morrow—I trust it will be the happiest news I ever told to any person—I will tell you first." He hesitated. "You have always given me good advice, sir. One night you told me that only a woman can listen with perfect sympathy and comfort a man's troubles surely."
Converse came close, put his hands on the young man's shoulders and studied him with intent regard. "My boy," he said, "go along—and God go with you!"
Bristol tore his hand from the lawyer's clasp and hurried away.
But at the Trelawny he did not find the Kilgours' name on the directory board. The elevator man, the janitor, the manager, told him the same story with the same indifference. The Kilgours had sold their possessions and had removed—they had left no address.
Bristol walked the streets and cursed the stilted folly that had made his farewell to her a parting in which he had pledged nothing, had promised nothing, had left no hopes for the future. He was not consoled by the thought that his farewell to her had been for her own sake, as he had viewed his situation. In the depths of his despair, when he had released her hand at the little gate, he had grimly sacrificed himself—had resolved to save her from himself by final and complete separation.
And thinking of that parting at the little gate, hardly realizing where his wanderings led him, he went down to the great mills which were dark and silent under the shadows of the evening.
Old Etienne had brought a lamp from Mother Maillet's kitchen and had set it on the stoop. He was whittling, and a little boy snuggled close, fixing intent regard on the work.
The evening was bland after a balmy day of Indian summer.
Bristol stopped at the fence and called greeting.
The old man peered anxiously, shielding his eyes from the light of the lamp.
"M'sieu'! M'sieu'!" He stammered, brokenly, gasping as he spoke the words. His wrinkled face worked as if he were trying to keep back the tears. His voice choked.
"You are surprised to see me back here, Etienne—is that it?"
"I am not surprised, m'sieu'. I knew you would come back. I am glad—that's why the tear come up in my eye. I cannot help that."
"You are working late, Uncle Etienne."
"Oui, the odders are gone home. But this leetle boy—I take care till his modder come from the shop. But you shall come in here, m'sieu'."
"I cannot stop, Etienne. I am—" He could not finish the sentence. He turned to go.
"I say you shall come in. You must come queeck!" The old man spoke in a shrill whisper. He put aside his knife and stick and hurried to the fence. He reached and caught Bristol's sleeve. "Ba gar!" he declared, with as much impatience as anybody had ever heard in the tone of Etienne Provancher, "even the poor habitant boy in the Tadousac country know better how to love the nice girl as what you do, M'sieu' Farr."
"My name is not Farr; it is—"
"I don't care what your name be," snapped the old man. "Tell me that some odder time. It's what you be—that's what I care! And you don't be good to nice girl."
"I don't understand."
"You go back there and rap on Modder Maillet's front door and then you understand! I'm only poor mans, m'sieu', but I shall talk to you like I spoke to the mans in the hotel de ville—and I shall not be scare when I am right."