Mr. Gwynn was a spectacle of gravity when posed in a chair. He established himself on the edge of that piece of furniture, and for all the employment he gave its back it might as well have been a stool. Mr. Gwynn maintained himself bolt-upright, chin pointed high, with a general rigidity of attitude that made one fear he had swallowed the poker as a preliminary to the interview, and was bearing himself in accordance with the unyielding fact. The result was highly effective, and gave Mr. Gwynn a kingly air not likely to be wasted on impressionable ones such as the President and General Attorney. When the four were seated, Richard, using the potential name of Mr. Gwynn, proceeded to speak, while Mr. Gwynn at measured intervals creaked concurrence.
It had been decided by Mr. Gwynn, so Richard laid bare, that the future of the Anaconda would be advanced by the nomination of Senator Hanway for the Presidency. It would pleasure Mr. Gwynn were he to hear that the President and General Attorney shared this conclusion. If such were the flattering case, Mr. Gwynn would be delighted to have the President and General Attorney call upon Senator Hanway, and consider what might be done towards the practical furtherance of his hopes. In short, the situation, word and argument, was precisely the same as when the visitors came on in the affair of Speaker Frost. Incidentally, Mr. Gwynn was to give a dinner in honor of Senator Hanway. It was understood that certain of that statesman's friends would take advantage of the occasion to announce his candidacy. The President and General Attorney were to be invited to the dinner. Mr. Gwynn would esteem it an honor if they found it convenient to be present and lend countenance to the movement in Senator Hanway's favor.
Throughout this setting forth, the President and General Attorney took advantage of pauses and periods to bow and murmur agreement with Mr. Gwynn's opinions and desires as Richard reeled them off; the murmurs and nods were as "Amens," and must have been gratifying to Mr. Gwynn. Nothing could give the President and General Attorney so much satisfaction as the elevation of Senator Hanway to the White House. They were a unit with Mr. Gwynn; they believed that not alone the future of the Anaconda but the prosperity of the nation, not to say the round advantage of the world at large, would be subserved thereby. They would confer with Senator Hanway as Mr. Gwynn suggested.
So hot were they that the President and General Attorney, with Richard, at once sought Senator Hanway; since it was no later than eleven in the morning they caught that great statesman before he started for the Senate. He greeted them with dignified warmth, and, aided by Richard, who conversationally went ahead to break the ice, the trio quickly came to an understanding.
Senator Hanway talked with a freedom that was of itself a compliment, when one remembers how it had ever been his common strategy in this business of President-catching to appear both ignorant and indifferent. Senator Hanway explained that the thing just then was the nomination. It would be necessary to control the coming National Convention. Governor Obstinate was a formidable figure; he was popular with the people; and, although Governor Obstinate was a man who would prove most perilous if armed with those thunderbolts of veto and patronage wherewith the position of chief executive would clothe his hand, Senator Hanway was sorry to say there were many among the leading spirits of party who cared so little for the public welfare and so much for their own that they would push Governor Obstinate's fortunes as a method of making personal capital in their home regions with the ignorant herd. Senator Hanway would not go into the details of what in his opinion might be accomplished by the President and General Attorney and the great railway system they controlled. It would be wiser, and perhaps in better taste,—here Senator Hanway smiled with becoming modesty,—if others were permitted to do that. If his good friends of the Anaconda who had come so far in his honor—a mark of regard which he, Senator Hanway, could never forget nor underestimate—gave him their company to the Capitol, he would be proud to make them acquainted with Senators Gruff and Loot and Toot and Drink and Dice and others of his friends, and those gentlemen would go more deeply into the affair. The President and General Attorney, he was sure, could so exert the Anaconda influence that the delegations from those States through which it ran might be selected and controlled.
Senator Hanway and the President and General Attorney departed in high good feeling to meet with those statesmen named, while Richard sought Bess to hear word of his Dorothy and receive that letter which was already the particular ray of sunshine in days which were cloudy and dark.
It would do mankind no service to break in at this place with wideflung descriptions of Mr. Gwynn's dinner. It is among things strange that the world in the matter of proposing a candidate for public favor or celebrating a victory has made little or no advance from earliest ages. It has been immemorial custom when one had a candidate on his hands and desired to obtain for him the countenance of men, to give a dinner for those who were reckoned leaders of sentiment and, first filling them with meat and wine, make them stirring speeches to bring them to the candidate's support. From the initial dinner sub-dinners would radiate, and others be born of these, until a whole population might be considered fed and filled with food and speeches, and the candidate dined, not to say dinned, into the popular heart, or, what is the same thing, the popular stomach—in either case the popular regard. In celebrations the procedure was equally archaic. Did some admiral win a sea fight or some general a land fight or some candidate a ballot fight, instantly one-half the population marched in the middle of the street while the other half banked the curbs in screaming, kerchief-waving lines of admiration. And thus has it ever been since that far-distant morning of Eternity, when Time with his scythe let down the bars and went upon his mowing of the meadows of men's existences. Mr. Gwynn, you may be sure, has nothing novel to propose; wherefore at this crisis he gives a dinner, as doubtless did Nero and Moses and Noah and Adam and others of the mighty dead on similar occasions in their day.
Mr. Gwynn's dinner began with Senator Gruff. This wise man, with the sanction of Senator Hanway, intimated to Richard the uses of such a festival. Mr. Gwynn was not in politics; his dinner table would be neutral ground. When therefore some fiery orator, carefully primed and cocked, suddenly exploded into eloquent demands that Senator Hanway offer himself for the White House, subject of course, as the phrase is, to the action of his party's convention thereafter to assemble, it would have a look of spontaneity that was of prime importance. No other could do this so well as Mr. Gwynn; no other table would so escape that charge of personal interest which the friends of Governor Obstinate might be expected to make. The very fact of Mr. Gwynn being an Englishman would defend it. Mr. Gwynn, at the word of Richard, was willing to serve the views of Senator Gruff, and the dinner was arranged.
There were full sixty present, including Speaker Frost and those high officials of the Anaconda. Mr. Gwynn had also dispatched an invitation to Mr. Bayard, and Richard inclosed therewith a personal note which had for its result the bringing of that astrologer of stocks, albeit dinners political were not precisely his habit.
"Who is your friend Gwynn?" asked Mr. Bayard, the afternoon before the dinner.
"I'll explain Mr. Gwynn later," replied Richard. "He is quite devoted to my interests, I assure you, and to nothing else."
"I can well believe so," returned Mr. Bayard, who had already half solved the enigma of Mr. Gwynn. "I begin to fear that you are a quixotic, not to say an eccentric, not to add a most egotistical young man. At that I'm not prepared to say you are wrong. One is justified in extreme concealments to avoid those animals the snobs."
Mr. Gwynn, the picture of all that was imperial, sat at the table's head, with Senator Hanway on his right. At the foot was Senator Gruff, who, if not the founder, might be called the architect of the feast, since, with the exception of Mr. Bayard, he had pricked off the list of guests. Mr. Harley, sad and worn with thoughts of Storri, sat next to Senator Gruff, while Mr. Bayard and Richard occupied inconspicuous places midway of the board.
When in the procession of courses the dinner attained to birds, a famous editor of the Middle West, who had been consuming wine with diligence to the end that he be fluent, addressed the table's head. He recited the public interests; then, paying a tribute to their party as the guardian of those interests, he wound up in words of fire with the declaration that Senator Hanway must be the next standard-bearer of that party. The cheering was tremendous, considering the small numbers to furnish it.
When the joyful sounds subsided, Senator Hanway, in a few placid, gentle sentences, explained his flattered amazement, and how helplessly he was in the hands of his friends, who would do with him as they deemed best for party welfare and for public good. He had not sought this honor, he did not look for the nomination; his own small estimate of his powers and importance, an estimate which gentlemen who heard him must be aware of, was proof of it. But no man might set his inclinations against a popular demand. Private preferences must yield, private plans must be abandoned. The country was entitled to the services of every citizen, the party was at liberty to command the name of every member. Believing these things, and owing what he did to both public and party, Senator Hanway must acquiesce. He thanked his friends for thus distinguishing him; he gave himself passively to their will. There was a second tempest of approbation when Senator Hanway was through.
Senator Gruff proposed the health of the President of the Anaconda. That potentate of railways made a short, jerky oration. He gave his hearty concurrence to the proposal of Senator Hanway to be President. He did this as a patriot and not as the head of a great railway. The Anaconda would take no part in politics; it never did. The Anaconda was a business, not a political, concern; it would do nothing unbecoming a corporation of discretion and repute. However, he, the President, was more or less acquainted with sentiment in those regions threaded by the Anaconda. He made no doubt, nay, he could squarely promise, that the delegations from those States, as he knew and read their people's feeling, would go to the next convention instructed for Senator Hanway. More applause, and a buzz of congratulatory whispers. The powerful Anaconda, that political dictator of a region so vast that it was washed by two oceans, was to champion Senator Hanway.
Senator Coot, whose home-State was shaky beneath his Senate feet, and who was therefore anxiously afraid lest he himself be committed to a position on the perilous subject of finance that might provoke his destruction, now addressed the table. He yielded to no one in his admiration for Senator Hanway. In view of what had been proposed, however, he, Senator Coot, would like to ask Senator Hanway to define his position in that controversy of Silver versus Gold.
No one was looking for this, no such baleful curiosity had been anticipated. It was Senator Gruff that came to the rescue, and Richard, to whom the scene was new and full of interest, could not admire too deeply the dexterity wherewith he held the shield of his humor between Senator Hanway and the shaft of that interrogatory.
Senator Gruff thought the question premature. The convention was months away; sentiment had been known to shift in a day like the bed of a river and seek new channels with its currents. Senator Gruff distrusted the wisdom of binding anybody at that time to a hard and fast declaration whether for silver or gold or both. He was sure that on soberer thought his friend Senator Coot would see the impropriety of his question.
Senator Coot declined to see the impropriety to which Senator Gruff had adverted. To commit himself to any gentleman's canvass was to commit himself to that gentleman's opinions. Those opinions might not be consistent with ones held by his, Senator Coot's, constituents, to whom he must in all things adhere. He, Senator Coot, was no one to buy pigs in pokes—if Senator Hanway would forgive a homely expression which was not intended as personal to himself. Senator Coot must insist upon his question.
Senator Gruff still came forward in defense. He said he had heard that Senator Coot's native State of Indiana was originally settled by people who had started for the West but lost their nerve. In view of the timidity and weak irresolution of his Senate brother, he, Senator Gruff, was inclined to credit the tradition. He must protest against question-asking at this time. Senator Gruff must even warn his friend Senator Coot that to ask a question now might result in later disaster to himself.
On that point of question-putting, might he, Senator Gruff, impart a word of counsel? A question was often a trap to catch the questioner. One should step warily with a question. A man who puts a question should never fail to know the answer in advance. When he pulls the trigger of a question, as when he pulls the trigger of a gun, he must look out for the kick. Many a perfect situation had been destroyed by the wrong question asked in the dark. Senator Gruff begged permission to tell a story.
"Once a good and optimistic dominie," said Senator Gruff, "was being shown through Sing Sing Prison. In his company went a pessimist who took darkling views of humanity in the lump, and particularly what fractions of the lump had gotten themselves locked up. The pessimist could see no good in them.
"'But you are wrong,' argued the dominie. 'There's good in the worst among them all. Stay; I'll prove it.' Then, turning to the guard: 'Sir, please bring us to the very worst character who is prisoner here.' On their way to the abandoned one, the dominie observed to the pessimist: 'I'll guarantee, by a few adroit questions, to so develop the good side of this fallen creature that you will be driven to confess its existence.'
"They traveled the corridors, and finally the guard threw open a cell wherein was a man whose face was so utterly brutal that its softest expression was a breach of the peace. The man, who was in for life, had committed an atrocious murder.
"The only thing in the cell besides the man was a rat, which—wheel within wheel—was confined in a little cage. This rat was the prisoner's darling; the guard said that he would draw blood from his arm to feed it. The good dominie—who knew his business—instantly seized upon the rat for his cue.
"'And you love the rat?' he said to the prisoner.
"'I love it better than my life!' cried the prisoner. 'There isn't anything I wouldn't sacrifice for that rat.'
"'There,' said the good dominie, wheeling on the pessimist, who was visibly subdued by the poor prisoner's love for his humble pet, 'there, you see! Here is a captive wretch whose estate is hopeless. He wears the brand of a felon and is doomed to stone-caged solitude throughout his life. And yet, without friends or light or liberty, with everything to sour and harden and promote the worst that's in him, he finds it in his heart to love! From those white seed which were planted by Providence in the beginning that beautiful love springs up to blossom in a dreary prison, and, for want of a nobler object, waste its tender fragrance on a rat. It touches me to the heart!' and the good dominie watered the floor of the cell with his tears.
"The pessimist had no more to say; he murmured his contrition and declared that he had received a lesson. He would never again distrust or contradict the existence of that spark of divine goodness which, at the bottom of every nature like a diamond at the bottom of a pit, would live quenchless through the ages to save the soul at last.
"The good dominie and the reformed pessimist were retiring, when the dominie paused, like Senator Coot, to ask one question—the only one he couldn't have answered in advance.
"'Why, my poor man, do you love that rat?'
"The prisoner's face became more brutal with the light of a diabolical joy.
"'Why do I love him?' he cried. Then, with a chuckle of fiendish exultation: 'Because he bit the warden.'"
The adroit Senator Gruff might have found it hard to show the application of his story. That, however, was not going to worry the sagacious Senator Gruff. He reckoned only upon raising a laugh at the anxious Senator Coot's expense which would silence that question-asking personage, who was more afraid of present ridicule, being sensitive, than of future condemnation by his constituents. The yarn succeeded in winning peals of laughter, and without giving Senator Coot a chance to reply or repeat his poking about to discover the position of Senator Hanway upon the issue of finance, Senator Gruff proposed the health of Mr. Bayard.
"And perhaps," remarked Senator Gruff, "that eminent authority on markets, and therefore upon finance, will favor us with his views on money. I do not hesitate," concluded Senator Gruff, turning to Mr. Bayard, "to cast you into the breach, because, of all who are here, you are the one best qualified and, I might add, least afraid to be heard. You have no constituents to be either shocked at your opinions or to punish their expression."
Senator Coot's curiosity touching Senator Hanway's money position, a fatal curiosity that had it not been smothered might have spread, was overwhelmed in a general desire to hear Mr. Bayard. The great speculator was known to every statesman about the table, and the whisper of conversation became hushed.
"As said the gentleman who has so honored me,"—here Mr. Bayard bowed to Senator Gruff, who complimented him by lifting his glass,—"there are no reasons why I should not give you my beliefs of money. I will tell you what I would and would not do for a currency, if I were business manager of a country. I would not coin silver money, because the low intrinsic value of such currency would make it a cumbrous one. I would not coin both silver and gold, because of the impossibility of maintaining an equality of values between the two coins. I would coin gold and nothing but gold, because it offers those qualities, important above others in a money metal, of high value and high durability."
"But is there gold enough to furnish all the money required?" asked Senator Coot, who was nervously interested.
"For centuries," replied Mr. Bayard, who began to feel a warmer interest than he had in any situation or any topic for over thirty years, "for centuries production has been filling the annual lap of the world with millions upon millions of gold. No part of it has been lost, none destroyed. For every possible appropriation there exists a plenty, even a plethora, of gold. And let me say this: there is a deal of claptrap talked and written and printed and practiced concerning this business of a currency, a subject which when given a right survey presents no difficulty. Mankind has been taught that in the essence of things fiscal your question of currency is as intricate and involved as was the labyrinth of Minos. And then, to add ill-doing to ill-teaching, our own crazy-patch system of finance has been in every one of its patches cut and basted and stitched with an interest of politics or of private gain to guide the shears and needle of what money-tailor was at work. A country, if it would, could have a circulating medium, and all coined yellow gold, of two hundred dollars, or five hundred dollars, or one thousand dollars per capita for population, and, beyond the expense of the mint, without costing that country a shilling. One, being business manager of the nation, as fast as the mints would work could pour forth an unbroken stream of gold money, half-eagles, eagles, and double eagles, to what breadth and depth for a whole circulation one would, and never spend a shilling beyond the working of the mints.
"Observe, now; as a nation we have a business manager. He holds in his fingers five twenty-dollar gold pieces. He buys one hundred dollars' worth of gold bullion with them. The public, if it would, might buy gold as freely as does any private individual. Our business manager gets the bullion, while the other, a gold miner perhaps, takes the gold coin. Then our business manager stamps the bullion he has bought—one hundred dollars' worth—into five new twenty-dollar gold pieces.
"With these in his palm he is ready for another bargain with the gold miner. Again the miner gets the gold pieces, and again our business manager gets one hundred dollars' worth of yellow bullion. This he coins; and being thereby re-equipped with five more new twenty-dollar pieces he returns to the experiment.
"This barter and this coinage might go on while a grain of the world's gold remained uncoined. At the finish, our business manager would have only one hundred yellow dollars in his fist; but there would be billions coined and stamped and in circulation. And the country would be neither in nor out a dollar. I am talking of coinage, not taxation, remember.
"Once in circulation the law would protect the money from being clipped or mutilated or melted down. Once money, always money, and he who alters its money status we lock up as a felon. There is no legal reason and no moral reason and no market reason to militate against what I have outlined as a policy. Finance as a science is simpler than the science of soap-boiling, although the money-changers in the temple for their own selfish advantage prefer you to think otherwise."
"Your wholesale consumption of gold," interrupted Senator Coot, "would raise the price of gold beyond measure."
"Wherein would lie the harm? So that it did not disturb the comparative prices of soap and pork and sugar and flour and lumber and on through the list of a world's commodities—and it would not—no one would experience either jolt or squeeze. With wheat at a dollar a bushel, a reduction to ten cents a bushel would work no injury if at the same time every other commodity in its price fell ninety per cent. To merely multiply the 'price' of gold, a metal which when it isn't money is jewelry, would cut no more important figure in the economy of life than would the making of one thousand marks upon a thermometer where now we make one hundred. Suppose, instead of one hundred degrees, we scratched off one thousand degrees on a thermometer in the same space: would it make the weather any hotter? I grant you a cautious business manager would not walk in among the gold-sellers and purchase ten billion dollars' worth of gold in a day; and for the same reason that a cautious cowboy wouldn't ride in among a bunch of cattle and flap a blanket. Not because there lurks inherent peril in so doing, but for that in the timid ignorance of the herd it would produce a stampede."
"But don't you see," objected Senator Coot, who was learned in the cant of currency and believed it, "don't you see that what you propose, by putting up the price of gold and putting down the price of everything else, would multiply riches in the hands of the creditor class? Wouldn't it work injustice to the debtors of the land?"
"Without pausing to guess," said Mr. Bayard, "for that is all one might do, whether the extravagant coinage of gold would promote its 'price,' I will submit that such contention should be disregarded. It is too general, and too incessant. If such were permitted the rank of argument, it would trip up every tariff, every appropriation, every governmental thing.
"Also, one must not put a too narrow limit upon the term 'creditor class.' Every man with a dollar in his pocket, or who owns a farm or a horse or a bolt of cloth or one hundred bushels of wheat, belongs to the extent of that dollar or farm or horse or bolt of cloth or one hundred bushels of wheat to the creditor class. The world is his debtor, and he has it in pawn and pledge to him for the value of that dollar or farm or horse or cloth or wheat. Now, a tariff law can be and frequently is framed so as to lift or lower the 'prices' of all or any of these. If your argument be good it should be just as potent to prevent a tariff law that augments riches in one hand or detracts from riches in another, as to prevent a coinage law that does the same.
"Properly speaking, there can be no separation of mankind into creditor and debtor classes, since, as we have seen, every man with a dollar's worth of property is in the creditor class to the extent of that dollar, while the world is in the debtor class and owes him therefor. There can be but two classes: those who own something, and those who don't. There lies the sole natural division; and not a law is framed, whether it be for a tariff or an appropriation or an army or a navy or a coinage or a bond issue or what you will, that does not, in lesser or greater degree, add to or take from the riches of some man or men. No government can go its clumsy necessary way without stepping on somebody's toes, and if one cannot have a currency because to have it will help this individual or hurt that one, by the same token one cannot have a government at all.
"However," concluded Mr. Bayard, "I think your talked-of advance in a gold 'price' born of coined billions might prove in the test to be imaginary rather than real. There has been ever a gold-ghost to frighten folk. There was once a time when men talked of resuming specie payment, and the public hung away from it, fearful and trembling, like an elephant about to cross a bridge. Horace Greeley cried, 'The way to resume is to resume!' and every dollar-dullard called him crazy. And yet, as the simple sequel demonstrated, the elephant need not have shivered, the bridge was wholly safe, and Horace Greeley was right."
Senator Gruff, whom Mr. Gwynn had privately requested to assume control so far as speeches and toasts and sentiments to be expressed were involved, now held forth in terms of flowery compliment concerning Mr. Bayard. He thanked that able gentleman for his theory of finance. Senator Gruff would not discuss its soundness; this was not the time nor yet the place. He would say, however, that it was unique and interesting.
Referring to what Mr. Bayard had called our "crazy-patch" system of currency, he, Senator Gruff, was willing to make this statement. The greenbacks, as all knew, were exempt from taxation. To discover how far greenbacks and their exemption had been made to affect the whole taxes of the several States, he, Senator Gruff, the year before had addressed a letter to every county tax-gatherer in the country. He had asked each to state the amount of greenbacks returned that year for his particular county as exempt.
"I received a reply," said Senator Gruff, "from every county auditor between Eastport and San Diego, Vancouver's and the Florida Keys. The aggregate of greenbacks returned exempt for that one year was over thirteen billions of dollars, while, as we know, the entire amount of greenbacks extant in the country is but a shadow above two hundred and forty millions. I shall make no comment on the miracle, and cite it only as an incidental expression of one element of our money system."
Senator Gruff, continuing, recurred to the pushing forward of Senator Hanway as a Presidential candidate. It was, while unexpected by him, a movement so full of righteous politics that he confessed heartfelt gratification thereat. Senator Gruff would suggest that one and only one gentleman among those present be selected to furnish the story to the press.
"In that way," explained Senator Gruff, "we will escape the confusion sure to be the consequence should a half-dozen of us answer inquiries."
Senator Gruff, by common acclaim, was pitched upon as the one to deal with the papers.
"Why, then," returned Senator Gruff, with a quizzical eye, "I foresaw this honorable occasion and prepared for it. I shall give what we have done to the Daily Tory, whose intelligent representative is with us as a guest." And thereupon Senator Gruff, while a smile went round at this evidence of fullest preparation for the unexpected, a smile which he met with a merry face, drew from his pocket a document and passed it over to Richard. In another moment a messenger was called; the story went on the wire, and the candidacy of Senator Hanway was formally declared.
Senator Hanway, as the dinner neared its close, proposed the health of Mr. Gwynn. In response, that remarkable man filled a goblet to the brim, arose, and bowed with gravity and condescension to Senator Hanway. Everybody stood up, and Mr. Gwynn's health was drunk with proper solemnity.
The highbred conduct of Mr. Gwynn from the beginning had been worthy of him as an old-school English gentleman. He said nothing; but he took wine with a decorous persistency that was almost pious and seemed like a religious rite. It should be observed that while he drank twice as much as did any other gentleman, not excepting Mr. Harley himself, it in no whit altered the stony propriety of his visage. There came no color to his cheek; nor did the piscatorial eye blaze up, but abode as pikelike as before. Also, with every bumper Mr. Gwynn became more rigid, and more rigid still, as though instead of wine he quaffed libations of starch. Of those who experienced Mr. Gwynn's kingly hospitality that night there departed none who failed to carry with him a multiplied respect for his host—a respect which with the President and General Attorney of the Anaconda fair mounted to veneration. Altogether, from the standpoint of everyone except the alarmed Senator Coot, the affair was not a dinner, but a victory.
It was ten o'clock the morning after, and Richard had just reached the street. From across the way came a gentleman who apparently had been waiting for him to appear. It was none other than Mr. Sands, that warlike printer whom Richard rescued from the Africans and set to work. Richard had not had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Sands since bestowing those benefits upon him.
"There was nothing to come for," explained Mr. Sands when Richard mentioned that deprivation. "I wouldn't bother you now, only, being in the business, I've naturally a nose for news. I thought I might put you onto a scoop for the Daily Tory. Would a complete copy, verbatim, of the coming report of Senator Hanway's committee on Northern Consolidated be of any service to you?"
HOW RICHARD MET INSPECTOR VAL
When, prior to the hour of Mr. Gwynn's dinner, Richard talked with Mr. Bayard, the burden of their conversation was Northern Consolidated, and what manner of report might be expected from Senator Hanway's committee. Mr. Bayard was sure the members of the osprey pool designed a "bear" campaign. For all that, he could not overstate the importance of getting possession of the Hanway report the moment it was prepared. Mr. Bayard's belief in a "bear" movement to occur was only a deduction; it was not information—he did not know. There was no such thing as being positive until the written report was in Mr. Bayard's hands. He would then have absolute knowledge of the pool's intentions. Once clear in that behalf, he would be able to meet and defeat them.
"Our start," quoth Mr. Bayard, "will be the Hanway report. Nor can we come by that report too soon. It may lie buried for weeks before Senator Hanway produces it in open Senate. Its production will take place the day before the pool's activities begin. It will be deferred until the market in its strength or weakness favors their aims. Wherefore, my young friend," concluded Mr. Bayard, clapping a slim hand on Richard's shoulder, "to work! That report is the key. Every day we have it in our hands before it is read in the Senate means a million dollars."
Mr. Bayard forced upon Richard the mighty propriety of getting hold of Senator Hanway's report; and Richard—to whom the report meant Dorothy the peerless, not paltry millions—was carried to the impolite length of bringing up the topic of Northern Consolidated at Mr. Gwynn's dinner. Richard asked Senator Hanway the plump question of the committee's labors, and what time its report would appear.
"The sessions," said Senator Hanway, who, being about his departure, was getting into his Inverness at the time, "are still in progress. It will be several weeks before the close of the hearings. Then there must be time for deliberation; and finally a day or more for writing the report. You may be sure, however," concluded Senator Hanway, "that the Daily Tory shall have it before the other papers. It shall be an exclusive story; I promise you that."
And the next day comes the veracious Mr. Sands asking whether a verbatim copy of that report would be of service to him!
No marvel Richard stared.
"Because," observed Mr. Sands, puffing an extremely repulsive cigar, "I've got it here."
"Do you mean the report of Senator Hanway's committee that is investigating Northern Consolidated?" cried Richard.
Mr. Sands tilted his derby over a confident left eye, blew a devastating cloud, and said he did.
"It was only last night," observed Richard, still bitten of doubt, "that Senator Hanway told me the committee had not ended its hearings."
Mr. Sands of the malignant cigar was not discouraged. Senator Hanway had lied. All Senators lied, according to Mr. Sands. No man could be a Senator unless he were a liar any more than a man could be a runner without first being able to walk. The committee was through with the inquiry; the report had come into the Government printing office the day before in the handwriting of the truthless Senator Hanway himself. It was now set up in types, and the forethoughtful Mr. Sands had abstracted a copy.
"As I said," explained that enterprising printer, "I've got a nose for news. I thought it might do for a scoop, d'ye see, so I swiped it for you."
"Let me look at it," said Richard, whose pulses were beginning to beat a quickstep. He was remembering the value of the report as explained by Mr. Bayard. "Let me see it, please."
Mr. Sands took from his pocket two strips of paper. Richard looked at one and then the other; they were white as snow, guiltless of mark or sign of ink.
"There's nothing here," said Richard, the thing beginning to be mysterious.
For a moment Richard feared that Mr. Sands might be again immersed in his cups. That follower of Franklin reassured him.
"The report is there all right," he observed, "only we can't read it out here in the light. Now if we could find a dark room, one with a window, I'd show you what I mean."
Richard returned to Mr. Gwynn's. Before they entered he gave Mr. Sands a perfecto. The latter, who knew a good cigar from smoking many bad ones, threw away the devastator and lighted Richard's. He rolled it from one corner of his mouth to the other, sucked it tentatively, then passed the fire end beneath his nose after the manner of a connoisseur. His experiments exhausted, he pronounced it a "corker."
Richard conveyed Mr. Sands to his own apartments. The front window was what Mr. Sands required. He pinned the slips to the top of the lower sash. As the depended slips were brought with their backs to the light, Mr. Sands showed Richard how they were in the nature of stencils, the white light showing through in printed words. Richard was dumb; it was a kind of prodigy. He read the stencils, beginning at the top of the one which Mr. Sands said was the "lead."
"The report is set in minion," explained Mr. Sands, "and with this light you can read it plain as ink."
Richard discovered the truth of what Mr. Sands averred; here indeed was Senator Hanway's Northern Consolidated report, and as readily made out as though printed in a book.
"This is the idea," vouchsafed Mr. Sands, who saw that Richard was warm for explanations. "The boss gave out the report in little 'takes' of about fifty words each. That was because it must be kept secret. Fifty printers set it up; then the boss locked the galleys in the strong room. No one except the boss himself had had a glimpse of it. Of course, that made me the more eager to nail it; anything a fellow wants to hide is bound to be big news, d'ye see. Now I'm the man who takes the proofs, and this morning the boss tells me that Senator Hanway wants a copy—one proof, no more. The boss goes to the strong room and brings the galleys to the proof-press. I'm ready for him; I've dampened two sheets of proof-paper and pasted them together. I spread both of them on the types. After I've sent the roller over them, I peel the sheets apart and throw the white one, the one that was on top, on the floor. The bottom one that has the ink-impression on it I pass to the boss. He sees me peel the top sheet off, and it rouses his suspicions.
"'What's that for?' he asks.
"I'm filling my pipe as calm as duck-ponds, and explain that the proof-press in which the galley lies is too deep. It takes two thicknesses to force the sheet down on the face of the types and get a good impression. The boss is only a politician, not a printer, so this explanation does him. While he's locking up the galleys again, I get away with these. You see, with two thicknesses of paper, the types cut through; it makes a stencil of it. With a little light behind, the stencil shows up as well as a regular proof. After I'd got organized, I took a day off, clapped a 'sub' on my stool, and headed for you. As I've said, it struck me like a big piece of news."
"It's bigger than you know, Mr. Sands," observed Richard, giving that worthy's hand a squeeze that made him flinch. "If you don't mind, I'll not use it as news. You will not mention the fact, but there's a deal on in Wall Street; I can do better with it there. I cannot thank you too much for what you've done."
Mr. Sands was pleased, and departed for the nearest rum counter, his face expressing complacency. He had partly evened up, he said, for what Richard did the night that he, Mr. Sands, became entangled with the Hottentots. He, Mr. Sands, would lie in ambush for further scoops; he could promise Richard everything in the Government printing office which any statesman was trying to conceal.
Richard drew his desk before the window and, reading the stencils line by line, made a perfect copy. As his pen swept across the paper he reflected on the deceitfulness of Senator Hanway, who, with the report written out in full, was for having him think that the committee would not conclude its labors for weeks.
"What a mendacious ingrate it is!" thought Richard.
Mr. Bayard had taken the ten-o'clock limited for New York that identical morning. Richard caught a train a trifle after one, wiring Mr. Bayard to meet him at the hotel. They would have dinner together. To make sure of Mr. Bayard, Richard's message read:
"I have that report. You were right."
Mr. Bayard pored over the Hanway findings, and the further he read the more his satisfaction stood on tiptoe. Conceive a gallery hung round with paintings that would baffle a Rubens and set a Murillo to biting the nail of envy! Have an orchestra polished to the last touch of execution, discoursing the divinest work of some highest priest of music. Sentinel the scene with marbles that would have doubled the fame of a Praxiteles. Now, with your stage set, invite to its sumptuous midst some amateur of all the arts whose senses were born for the beautiful. Do what you will to endow your artist with contentment in perfection. Fill his pockets with gold, give him wine of his fancy, have the woman he loves by his side, so surround him that the eye, the ear, the stomach, the heart, the pocket, or whatever is the soul of his soul may be appealed to and enthralled—this artist, with whom love is a religion, wine a cult, music a passion, and pictures are as dreams! When you have him thus fortunately established, this artist of yours—for you are not to forget he is none of mine—peruse his face. You should find it expressing ecstasy in sublimation—you should discover it wearing the twin to that look which mounted the brow of Mr. Bayard as he devoured the Hanway report.
"Beautiful!" he whispered when he had finished.
Then he fell silent, prisoner to himself, walled in with his own thoughts. A moment passed and the clouds rolled away; the delight faded, and this artist among gamblers for whom speculation possessed harmony and color and form, and whose life had been an Odyssey of Stocks, recovered the practical.
"It is as I surmised," he said, with a sigh of content. "They will fall upon Northern Consolidated bear-fashion—all claw and tooth. This report finds the road to be a thief for millions; and a debtor for millions upon that. The Attorney General must collect. The road must be taken by a receiver until the public is repaid—the public indeed! Then those priceless grants are to be repealed. Northern Consolidated is to be stabbed with a score of knives at once. Beautiful! What a trap they have set for themselves!"
Richard, not knowing what reply might be expected, smiled to fetch his countenance into sympathy with Mr. Bayard's, and retreated to his usual refuge of a cigar.
"Now," went on Mr. Bayard briskly, "I can give you the rougher outlines of what will occur. This report, as I told you, may be weeks in finding its way into the Senate. Stocks opened the year very strong; the markets are upon an upgrade. While the boom continues, the pool will do nothing. The moment prices show a weakness our friends will act. Given three days of falling prices, this report will come out. The Senate will be invoked to an attack upon Northern Consolidated. The pool will spring upon the market, right and left, selling thousands upon thousands of shares. They will try for a stampede. They look to drop Northern Consolidated twenty-five points, as woodmen fell a tree."
"And what is to be our course?" asked Richard.
"We shall buy every share of Northern Consolidated as fast as it is offered; go with them to the end. They will find themselves in their own net.
"Since our first talk," Mr. Bayard continued, "I have been gathering information. Of the one million shares which form the stock of Northern Consolidated, over six hundred thousand are held in England, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Denmark, and even a bundle or two in Sweden. I shall keep the cables warm to-morrow. The day following, our agents will be quietly buying those European shares at private sale in London, Paris, Brussels, Berlin, Copenhagen, Hamburg, Stockholm, wherever they are to be found. Should they give us a week, we shall have so narrowed the field of operations for our 'bears' that their first day's sales will land them in a corner. Once we have them penned, we may take our time. They will be as helpless as so many caged animals."
When Storri on that jealous evening left the San Reve, his nerves were somewhat tossed and shaken. It was not over-late; he would stroll to the club by roundabout paths, the walk and cold night air might steady him.
That roundabout route led Storri past the Treasury Building, and, as he slowly paced the pavement bordering one side of the massive structure, he was brought to sudden stop by a heavy timber platform six feet square and lifted a foot and a half from the ground, which cumbered the sidewalk nearest the curb. Storri surveyed the platform in a lack-luster way. It had, from its appearance, been there years; it was strange he had never noticed it before.
An old man, one of the night guards of the Treasury, buttoned to the chin, was standing in a narrowish basement door-way of the great building not fifteen feet away. The old man took his pipe out of his mouth, and seeing Storri survey the obstructing platform, observed:
"If I had a sack or two of the billions of gold that's been dumped on that platform, I wouldn't be smokin' my pipe 'round here to-night."
Gold as a term never failed to attract the Storri ear. He opened converse with the old man of the pipe. It was to this heavy platform the treasure-wagons backed up when they brought bullion to the Treasury. Storri learned another thing that gave him the sort of thrill that setters feel when in the near vicinity of a covey of grouse. The vault that held the gold reserve was within sixty feet of him as he stood in the street. Just inside those thick, hopeless walls they lay—millions of piled-up yellow treasure. Storri stared hard at the impassive granite and licked his lips. The nearness of those millions pleased him like music.
"Sixty feet!" exclaimed Storri unctuously. "That doesn't sound far, but before a robber pierced such a wall as that he would fancy it far enough."
"Oh, a robber wouldn't try the wall," said the old man, turning to look at it. "I've often wondered though that no one ever thought of the sewer out there;" and the old man marked a line in the air with his pipe-stem as though tracing the direction of the great street drain that ran beneath the pavement.
Storri kept on his journey to the club, but the notion of those millions, almost within hand's touch of the open street, continued to haunt him pleasantly. The sewer, too! Would a tunnel reach this treasure? The question used to come back upon Storri. Also he got into the habit, as he went about the streets, of walking by the Treasury. This was not offspring of any purpose; Storri had none. It was only that he took an instinctive satisfaction in the nearness of that heaped-up gold. He could feel its close neighborhood, and the feeling was as wine to his imagination.
Storri was not permitted respite by the San Reve concerning the Harleys. The jealous one of the green-gray eyes insisted upon seeing Storri often; and he, putting on a best face, pretended that he loved the San Reve the better for her jealousy. To keep the peace, he was wont to drop round to Grant Place three or four times a week.
These concessions to the San Reve and her rather too fervid love would not get in the way of Storri's dinners at the Harleys'. For a time he should go there but once a week. When despair had chilled Dorothy to tameness he would go oftener. Just then he must give her terrors opportunity to do their freezing work.
Storri could not have told whether he loved or hated Dorothy; he was only conscious of a fire-fed passion that consumed him. He must possess her; or, if not that, then he must grind her into the earth. He would torture her as he was tortured; he would blacken her by blackening Mr. Harley; with her pride in the dirt, with disgrace upon her, where then was that man who would wed her? The daughter of a forger—she would stain the name of wife! Richard might have her then; Storri would give her to him for a revenge! These were the mutterings of Storri as he went preyed upon by love and hate at once.
"If you do not love Miss Harley," said the flushed but logical San Reve, "why do you go there? You say, 'Once a week!' Why once a week? Why once a month? Why at any time? Storri, you do love her! And you come to me with lies!" This was on the evening following the scene that gave Storri such disquiet.
Storri, being spurred, and resolute to silence the San Reve, took that pertinacious beauty into his confidence, lying wherever it was inconvenient to tell the truth, and bragging always like a Cheyenne. Storri strode about the San Reve's rooms and told his tale grandly. His San Reve must listen; he would show her how a Russian gentleman avenged himself. He, Storri, hated the Harleys. Mr. Harley had cheated him; Dorothy had laughed at him; her lover, that Richard, bah! he had even threatened Storri. Chastise him? Could a nobleman chastise a toad—a reptile? No; there was a debt due his caste.
Mrs. Hanway-Harley?—a vapid fool! Storri despised her. He despised them all and hated them all. They had affronted him. And for those injuries done his pride he would punish and spare not. He, Storri, would bring sorrow and shame to them; he would mark their lives with black.
Being launched, Storri drew great joy from the rehearsal of what griefs he had devised against the Harleys. To prove his own superior cleverness, Storri told the San Reve how he trapped Mr. Harley into forging his name to the French shares.
"There is my weapon!" cried the triumphant Storri. "With that I may smite them when I choose! To-morrow, within the hour, I could have this scoundrel Harley in a criminal's cell! Some day I shall do that. Meanwhile, he knows; the proud girl knows. It is for vengeance I go to the Harleys', my San Reve, not love. I sit at their table, I eat their food, I drink their wine; and I laugh and I gloat over them—these little people! Yes, my San Reve, the hand of the coward Harley shakes as he lifts his glass; the fair, proud Dorothy shows me my triumph in her whitened cheek and frightened eye. And best of all, the empty chatter of the magpie Mrs. Hanway-Harley—who knows nothing, being a fool! It is that magpie chatter to be poison in the ears of the others! Oh, you should behold them, my San Reve! You should witness how they writhe and how they tremble in the presence of your Storri!"
The San Reve listened, but the gloom hung low on her brow. She did not believe her Storri who said he ate a weekly dinner for revenge. Yes, he had obtained a mastery over Mr. Harley; he had forced his way into the company of Dorothy and shut the door on Richard! The San Reve shook her jealous head; that was not vengeance, that was love.
And Storri would succeed, too! This Dorothy would come to love him as she, the San Reve, loved. Dorothy was a woman; and what woman could resist Storri? This Dorothy loved him even now; her coldness was an attitude, a fiction. It was meant to be a lure to Storri and whet his eagerness!
These were the thoughts like living coals which the San Reve hid in her heart. But while her head whirled, and her sight was blurred, and her pulses set a-throb with the jealous storms that swept her, it was wonderful to note how the San Reve's office-trained mind seized upon and registered those French shares. It was those shares that constituted Storri's hold upon the Harleys. Could she break the hold? Those shares were the locks of her Samson. Oh, if she might but shear the locks! Then she would have her Storri again—in his weakness she would have him. The San Reve knitted her brows.
* * * * *
These days of separation were more easily borne by Richard than by Dorothy. Richard was rich in a dogged fortitude common enough with men. Moreover, he had his work, and he went into it more deeply than before. Eleven o'clock still found him in the study with Senator Hanway, albeit Dorothy was no longer there to make a lovely third. Perhaps for that reason more politics and news of legislation were discussed by Richard and Senator Hanway.
The latter gentleman, these days, was in the best of tempers. Nothing could be more smoothly hopeful than the outlook for that nomination. Senator Gruff, who was indefatigable for Senator Hanway, told him that Speaker Frost reported his own State delegation as already in line. Also the President of the Anaconda, from whom Senator Gruff had letters every week, described the Hanway sentiment in Anaconda regions as invincible. The National Convention, in the interests of Senator Hanway and over the objection of the friends of Governor Obstinate, had been fixed for the last of May. This was a help; Senator Hanway's forces were organized and Governor Obstinate's were not. The less space permitted that candidate and his henchmen, the better for Senator Hanway. As Senator Gruff and Richard sat together in Senator Hanway's study one morning, the Senator pointed out on the map a sufficient number of States, and each certain to send a Hanway delegation, to carry the nomination.
"If the convention were held to-morrow," observed Senator Gruff, "we would win. The effort now must be to head off encroachments by Governor Obstinate."
The above came on an occasion when Senator Gruff was in a confidential mood. Commonly, as a chief Hanway manager, he lay as blandly close and noncommittal as a clam.
There was the issue of finance, Senator Gruff explained, and that was a growing source of trouble to Senator Hanway. The latter gentleman's endeavor had always been to say nothing upon finance, but silence was becoming difficult. Governor Obstinate was openly and offensively for gold in a sod-pawing, horn-lowering, threatening way, and just as a buffalo bull might have been for gold. This settled the standing of Governor Obstinate in silver communities; they would have none of him. Those same silver people, however, demanded all the more that Senator Hanway define his position in the money war. They gave tongue to those pig-and-poke objections voiced by Senator Coot. It was clamors such as these, so Senator Gruff told Richard, that made silence a work of weariness.
"Now I thought," observed Richard, "that Mr. Bayard talked wisely upon silver and gold the evening of the dinner. Why wouldn't it be well to talk to the people in the same manner even if one did not adopt the theories expressed? Let Senator Hanway clearly announce his views and give his reasons. The latter should defend him with thinking men."
"Thinking men," retorted Senator Gruff with an experienced smile, "are in a hopeless minority. Talk reason to the public? One might as well talk reason to the winds. Politics, as a science, is not addressed to the intelligence but to the ignorance of men."
Senator Hanway, after sundry conferences with Senator Gruff and others, offered the resolution asking for a committee to meet with the Ottawa government on the matter of that Georgian Bay-Ontario Canal. The majority opinion of those consulted was that the resolution ought to strengthen Senator Hanway. Certain railways might object; there were influences infinitely larger, however, that would applaud. Besides, the resolution had a big look and sounded like statesmanship. It could not do otherwise than dignify Senator Hanway in public estimation. Senator Hanway gave Richard for the Daily Tory an interview of depth and power in which he urged the international value of such a waterway America and Canada should dig and own it together; it would be a bond to unite them. It would promote friendship, and what was better than friendship between countries? Senator Hanway said nothing about Credit Magellan, nor did he intimate any relationship between his Georgian Bay-Ontario Canal and the investigation of Northern Consolidated.
* * * * *
Storri had become very fond of the company of Mr. Harley. He would find him in the Marble Room in the rear of the Senate Chamber, or he might cross his path at Chamberlin's. Washington is a small town; there it is not difficult to keep a man in sight. Storri kept Mr. Harley excessively in sight; and it wore visibly on Mr. Harley, whose health was breaking down. Storri liked the pain his presence gave Mr. Harley; and besides, he argued that to see him frequently strengthened his hold upon that unhappy man. When they were together, Storri's manner was hideously cheerful; he would talk Credit Magellan and consider Northern Consolidated as though nothing were awry. This was the refinement of cruelty, as when a cat pretends to let the mouse escape.
One day, when Storri and Mr. Harley were together, the former's face was purposely dark. Mr. Harley grew uneasy; his courage had all slipped from him by now, and he waited in terror upon the looks of Storri.
"Harley," cried Storri, having sufficiently enjoyed the effect of his scowls, "you John Harley, I have ever your credit at heart. Yes, Harley, I have kept a guard, what you call a spy, about your house to see if the vile Storms would enter when you were not there to repel him. He goes each day, I find, to see the honorable Senator Hanway. It does not please me, who am a Russian gentleman and a nobleman, that so low a being, although he does not personally meet her, should yet come beneath the same roof with your lovely daughter who is to become my Countess wife. You will correct this; eh, you Harley—you John Harley?"
Mr. Harley had not named Storri to Dorothy since that awful New Year's night. However, so worn to abject thinness was now his spirit on the constant wheel of fear that he carried Storri's latest word to her without apology. Richard must not visit Senator Hanway in his study. Mr. Harley could not go to Senator Hanway, he could not go to Richard; he could come only to her.
Dorothy, whose trembling concern was her father, and who felt ever more and more like some fly caught fast in a spider's web, made no reply. There was nothing to say—nothing save obedience. She wrote Richard that Storri had set a spy upon the house, and asked him to forego his calls upon Senator Hanway. The close of the letter was a hysteria of love and grief.
Richard sought Bess; he saw much of the pythoness now. Dorothy, for her part, never crossed the street lest she meet him, and bring down Storri's wrath upon her father. Richard knew what Bess would say, but he must have someone to converse with. Bess took the course anticipated: he must obey Dorothy in this as in the rest.
"It comes to little either way, the calling upon Senator Hanway," was Bess's comment.
"It comes to this," cried Richard, "that we are the slaves of Storri! I'd give ten years off my life if he and I might settle this together."
"The real settlement would be made by Mr. Harley—by Dorothy. You must not go near Storri. But isn't there a hint in this?" Bess considered. "Would it not be wise to imitate the gentleman and set a spy to dogging him? Perhaps something worth while might be discovered."
The thought found favor with Richard, who, under usual circumstances, would have been against the proposal. Yes, he would have Storri shadowed day and night. It would be a retort for that spy about the Harley house.
Richard sent a message to Mr. Bayard, reciting his determination and asking advice. He desired to do nothing that might work an interference in Mr. Bayard's arrangements concerning Northern Consolidated.
Mr. Bayard replied that he thought a better knowledge of Storri could do no harm; news of the enemy was ever a good thing. Mr. Bayard went a step beyond, and said that he would send a man to Richard whom he could trust for the work.
The morning following the receipt of Mr. Bayard's message, a foppish, slender young gentleman accosted Richard.
"Mr. Storms, I believe?" remarked the foppish stranger, lifting his hat.
"Yes, sir; Mr. Storms," said Richard.
"Mr. Bayard asked me to say that I am Inspector Val of the Central Office, New York, with two months' leave of absence at your service."
HOW RICHARD RECEIVED A LETTER
Inspector Val did not resemble the detective officer of literature. His foppishness arose from an over-elegance of costume rather than any violence of color. The famous thief-taker might have stood for what was latest in fashionable dress, with every detail of hat and glove and cravat and boot worked out. There befell no touch of vulgarity; the effect was as retiringly genteel as though the taste providing it belonged to a Howard or a Vere de Vere and based itself upon ten unstained centuries of patricianism. When he lifted his hat, one might see that the dark hair, speciously waved, was as accurately parted in the middle as though the line had been run by an engineer. The voice of Inspector Val, low and lazy, fell on the ear as plausibly soft as the ripple of a brook. His eyes wore a sleepy, intolerant expression, as if tired with much seeing and inclined to resent the infliction of further spectacles. The nose was thin and high, and jaw and cheek bones were thin and high to be in sympathy.
There were two impressions furnished the student of faces by Inspector Val. Glanced at carelessly, one would have called him not more than twenty-five; a second and a sharper survey showed him fifteen years older. Also, there came now and then a look, quiet at once and quick, which was calculated to arrest the trained attention. What one thought following that second sharp canvass was in exact opposition to what one thought after the glance earlier and more upon the casual.
Inspector Val baffled Richard's conception of the man concerning whom all who read papers had heard so much. Was this indolent individual that inveterate man-hunter who, with courage of berserk and strength of steel, had pulled down his quarry in the midst of desperate criminals, and then, victim in clutch, cleared his path through? Something of this may have glimmered in Richard's eye; if so, Inspector Val assumed to have no hint of it, and busied himself in a more precise adjustment of his boutonniere, which floral adornment had become disarranged. The longer Richard contemplated Inspector Val the more he felt his whalebone sort. The slim form and sleepy eyes began to suggest that activity and ferocious genius for pursuit which are the first qualities of a ferret.
"If we could be more private," suggested Inspector Val, casting a tired glance about the big public room at Willard's where the two had met.
"We will go to my house," replied Richard.
"And if you don't mind, we'll ride." This with the rising inflection of a request. "There are carriages at the door."
"My own," said Richard, "should be across the way. I seldom require it; but I might, and so it follows me about."
Richard and Inspector Val stepped to the Fourteenth Street door. At Richard's lifted hand an olive-tinted brougham, coachman and footman liveried to match, drawn by a pair of restless bay horses, came plunging to the curb. The footman swung down in three motions, like a soldier about some point of drill.
"Home!" said Richard.
The footman in three motions regained his perch; the whip cracked and the brougham went plunging off for Mr. Gwynn's.
Richard came to the common-sense conclusion to lay the complete story of his perplexities before Inspector Val. A detective was so much like a doctor that frankness would be worth while. One was called to cure the health, the other to cure a situation; the more one told either scientist the faster and better he could work. Acting on this thought, Richard related all there was to tell of himself, Dorothy, Mr. Harley, and Storri, being full as to his exclusion from the Harley house and the manner in which it was brought about. When he had finished, he waited for Inspector Val.
That artist of pursuit did not speak at once, and asked permission to smoke a cigarette. Richard offered no objection, although he privily condemned cigarettes as implying the effeminate. Inspector Val lighted one, and blew the smoke thoughtfully through the thin, high nose. Suddenly he threw the cigarette away half smoked; it had served the purpose of its appearance. Inspector Val had smoked himself into a conclusion.
"This is the way the thing strikes me," began Inspector Val. "Storri, as you say, has a hold on Mr. Harley—has him frightened. There are three ways to frighten a man; you can threaten him physically, or with disgrace, or with the loss of money. Storri, by your report, is a coward with not half the courage of Mr. Harley; besides, in this case, a physical threat is out of the question. So is a threat of money loss; it is preposterous to suppose that this half-baked Russian has got the upper hand in a business way of a shrewd one like Mr. Harley, or that the latter would permit him to drive him about like a dog if he had. No, Storri has caught Mr. Harley in some wrong-doing, or, what is as bad, the appearance of it—something that looks like crime. Doubtless it refers to money, as from Mr. Harley's sort it isn't likely to include a woman."
Inspector Val was here interrupted by Matzai, who said in excuse that the note he bore was marked "important."
"Open it," observed Inspector Val. "Once in one thousand times a letter marked 'important' is important."
Richard cut the envelope with a paper knife and, after silently running the missive up and down, remarked:
"This note works into our conversation as though timed to find us together. I'll read it to you. It's in French, and if you aren't familiar with that language I'll translate."
Inspector Val said that he preferred a translation, and Richard gave him the following. The address and the entire note were in typewriting:
Count Storri's hold on Mr. Harley consists in this: Mr. Harley wrote Count Storri's name on five stock certificates aggregating two hundred shares of the Company Provence of Paris, France. It was done to borrow money, but with honest intentions and at Count Storri's request. Now Count Storri, who has the shares in his possession, threatens Mr. Harley with a charge of forgery. In that way he compels him to do his bidding. The man who writes you this does not do it for your interest, but for
"This did not come through the mails," said Inspector Val. "Ask your man who handed it in."
Matzai said that the note was not handed in, but thrust beneath the door. The bell had been rung; when the door was opened no one appeared. The note was lying in the entry.
"Will you mind," said Inspector Val, "if I call a man from across the street?"
"Certainly not," replied Richard, somewhat astonished.
Inspector Val stepped to the window. Over the way a man was sauntering, for all the world like a sightseer from out of town. He was admiring the stately residences, and seemed interested particularly in Mr. Gwynn's. Inspector Val made a slight signal, and the sightseer came over and rang Mr. Gwynn's bell.
"Have him up," said Inspector Val to Richard. Then, as the sightseer was marshaled into the room by Matzai: "Mr. Storms, this is Mr. England."
Mr. England's eye was bright and quick like a bird's; with that exception he was commonplace. Inspector Val, without wasting time, began to ask questions:
"Who shoved this note under the door?"
"A colored man, sir. He sneaked up and tucked it beneath the door as though trying not to be caught at it. Then he pushed the bell and skipped. The thing looked queer, and Mr. Duff thought he'd follow him. He'll be back, Mr. Duff will, presently."
"That will do," said Inspector Val. "When Mr. Duff returns, tell him to come in."
Mr. England withdrew, and recommenced his sightseeing on the opposite side of the street.
"Mr. England and Mr. Duff," explained Inspector Val, "came down with me. I shall use them to shadow Storri, as that kind of work is their specialty. It is difficult work, too, and demands a man who has talents for seeing without being seen. Also, he must be sharp to think and act, and full of enterprise. To keep at the heels of a gentleman who may take a cab, or a street-car, or enter a building by one door for the purpose of leaving it by another, is no simple task; so I brought with me the best in the business."
"How did your men come to be outside the door?" asked Richard, whose curiosity concerning metropolitan detective methods had been sensibly aroused.
"To save delay," returned Inspector Val, "which is the great rule in detective work. They were within ten feet of us when I met you; they saw us drive away, called a coupe, and followed. I should have given them a jacketing if they hadn't."
Inspector Val asked Richard to slowly translate the note, while he made a copy in English. This Richard did; at the close, being interested in the workings of the man-hunting mind, he asked Inspector Val for his theory of its truth and origin.
"Why, then," observed Inspector Val, pausing over Richard's translation as he had written it down, "this would be my surmise. The note tells the truth. It was written by a Frenchwoman who probably came from Ottawa. She is in love with Storri, and jealous of Miss Harley, whom she thinks Storri aims to marry. You said nothing about Storri seeing Miss Harley, but he does. Miss Marklin was afraid to tell you and Miss Harley was afraid to write you that feature of the situation, fearing you would pitch in rough. It shows they have sense."
This was the first time Richard had heard how Storri enjoyed the privilege of Dorothy's society while he was warned from the door. The thought was fire. He sprang to his feet, growling an oath under his breath.
"Take it easy," said Inspector Val, with a manner full of warning. "Don't spoil a game just as the cards begin to run your way. After we get our hands upon those French shares you may raise what row you like. But take it easy now; try another cigar."
The prudent sagacity of Inspector Val was not thrown away, and Richard saw the force of that gentleman's arguments.
"Tell me how you arrive at those beliefs about the note," said Richard.
"That's not so simple," returned Inspector Val. "It's like asking a pointer to tell you how he scents a partridge. My argument takes somewhat this route: I think the note tells the truth, as there's no reason why it should lie. Moreover, it is a reasonable explanation of Storri's command over Mr. Harley. I know a woman wrote it because she's at such pains to call herself a man. Another thing, a man wouldn't have marked this note 'Important!' It's important, but it gains no advantage from being labeled. A woman, who acts from feeling, marks it 'important' because she feels its importance. Now a man might feel its importance, but he acts from reason rather than feeling, and in that respect is the antithesis of a woman. It would never occur to a man to mark the note 'important,' because it would never occur to him that by so doing anything would be gained. Then a man would have sent this through the post office. A man is more cunning than a woman. The mails would have served as well, and a messenger might be recognized and followed. To send messengers is essentially a trick of the feminine. Your District Messenger Service will tell you that nine-tenths of its calls are from women."
"You have read Edgar Allan Poe, I take it," observed Richard, smiling over the processes of Inspector Val.
"I've read Poe, Gaboriau, and Conan Doyle," returned Inspector Val; "all detectives have. They are amusing if not instructive. But to resume: There is another reason why I'm certain a woman wrote this note. All the writer knows the writer got from Storri. It's a long yarn; it must cover in its transaction a dozen interviews between Storri and Mr. Harley. And they were not interviews at which a third party was present. You will see the truth of that the instant I mention it. No; Storri told the whole tale to the writer of the note. Mr. Harley wouldn't tell it for obvious reasons. Neither would he write it to you or anybody else; it is the publication of it that he fears. Storri was the only one besides Mr. Harley who knew of those French shares; or of Mr. Harley's imitation of Storri's signature and the threats of arrest for forgery which Storri made. It's as plain as the stars at night that Storri furnished the information upon which this letter is based. Now whom would he tell? Not a man; there would be nothing to gain and much to risk in that. A woman, then? Sure; this fellow has been strutting and bragging to a woman. It is the commonest weakness of the congenital criminal. It is his way of swaggering and seeming powerful. But mark you: he never takes a woman into dangerous confidences unless he thinks she loves him. Do you follow? Storri has told this to a woman in whose love he believes."
"You reason well, at any rate," observed Richard.
"Yes, sir, I reason well," returned Inspector Val. "I have reasoned like this a thousand times, and a thousand times I was right. To go on: I agree with Storri; the woman does love him. Why does she write this letter? Because she wants to break Storri's grip on Mr. Harley. On Mr. Harley's account? No, she cares nothing for Mr. Harley. In a clash between the two her sympathies would be with Storri, whom she loves. Now the woman in telling a lie—the only one in the letter—has also told an important truth. It is in her last sentence. She was thinking to throw you off as to her sex, and went out of her way to do it. She was hunting a chance to write 'man' and 'his' and at the same time not advise you of her purpose. The 'man' and the 'his' were to be by way of incident. With her mind on fooling you as to her sex, she was so wholly engaged that she told an unwitting truth; she did write this letter in her own service. One step further: The object of the lady, as I've said, is to break Storri's hold on Mr. Harley. Now how could the lady who writes you benefit by that? What could there be about Storri's ascendency over Mr. Harley to which a woman who loves Storri would object? I will tell you. That ascendency gives him not only a hold on Mr. Harley, but a hold through him on some woman whom the writer fears as a rival. And there you are; I've brought the argument to Miss Harley. Storri threatens Mr. Harley. What does he demand? That you be excluded from the Harley house. Why? Because you see Miss Harley. Why should Storri object to that? Because he desires to court the lady himself, and would do away with dangerous competition. His simple hatred of you, and nothing more, would not set Storri to talking forgery charges to Mr. Harley; that would sound too much like burning a barn to boil an egg."
Richard growled an acquiescence.
"Very well; the woman who wrote the note would have you get possession of those French shares. Storri has described you to her as Miss Harley's lover; that sets her to writing you—you who have an interest as strong as her own. Storri has never told her that he loves Miss Harley. She has guessed it and accused him of it, being jealous; and he in reply and denial has laid especial emphasis upon you as Miss Harley's lover. It's more than a chance he told her the whole story as part of a jealous row. As to the woman being French, I infer that from the note. She couldn't trust her English or she would not have written in French. That note, being in French, would narrow any search for its author; and that, too, whether the author were English or French. Certainly there are fewer people in Washington who can write French than English. You see the point?"
"But you said a Frenchwoman from Ottawa."
"The note is on paper that was made and sold in Ottawa, as you see by the raised mark in the corner. We've no trade with Canada for note-paper; besides, our stores wouldn't handle such as this. It's not of fashionable shape and size as Americans understand fashions in note-paper. It's scented, too; and that's vulgar from American standpoints. Also, it's feminine. No, my word for it, the woman who wrote that note bought the paper in Ottawa and brought it here. She did the typewriting herself, which was but natural; and she is not an adept, as anyone may tell by the clumsy, irregular way in which she begins her lines. Now take——"
Matzai came in and announced Mr. Duff.
"Bring him up," said Inspector Val, and then, turning apologetically to Richard, he added: "Pardon the liberty of giving commands in your house. I'm so eager to hear whether Mr. Duff's investigation corroborates my theory that for a moment I thought I was back in Mulberry Street. Well, Mr. Duff," as that worthy was ushered in, "what did you learn? This gentleman is Mr. Storms."
Mr. Duff seemed to know all about Richard; probably his partner sightseeing over the way had told him. He nodded blandly as Inspector Val gave his name, and then proceeded to answer that superior officer.
"The man is a laborer in the Treasury Department. He went to the Treasury Building from here, and made a straight wake for a woman who works at drawing plans and that sort of thing in the office of the Supervising Architect. He whispered something to her, and she nodded. When he got about ten feet away, he turned like a man who has overlooked a point, and said: 'I rang the bell; they'll get it right off.' Then he went away. The woman's name is San Reve—Sara San Reve. She's a Frenchwoman, and came from Ottawa. She has had her place only a short time, and was appointed on the recommendation of a member of the Senate—Senator Hanway."
"Senator Hanway!" repeated Inspector Val, looking dubiously at Richard. "He's a brother-in-law, you say, of Mr. Harley?"
"Your deductions were none the less right," returned Richard, who saw the doubts which the name of Hanway bred in the other's mind. "I'd wager my life on it. I never heard of this Miss San Reve, but she is from Ottawa, Mr. Duff says. I ought to have told you that Storri came to Washington from Ottawa."
"Oh, I see!" exclaimed Inspector Val, his brow clearing. "Storri came from Ottawa, and brought his sweetheart. Storri worked Senator Hanway through our friend Mr. Harley, and Senator Hanway found her a place."
"Yes," returned Richard, "I think you've hit it off. The next thing is to get hold of those French shares."
"Right there," said Inspector Val, "let me say a word. I'll first go and put my people on the track of Storri; they'll run him, turn and turn about, until further orders, and report each morning. That done, you and I will take the Limited, and run over and talk with Mr. Bayard. It will require his help to get those French shares. I'll meet you at the station then at four."
"I shall be there," responded Richard. "Before you go, let me give you this by way of anticipated expense," and Richard tendered Inspector Val a check for one thousand dollars.
"That wasn't necessary," said Inspector Val, as he calmly pocketed the check.
When Richard arrived at the station he found Inspector Val already there. "I've taken a drawing-room," said the latter. "It may be a weakness, but my inclination runs heavily towards concealment. I have a horror of being seen."
"I have horrors of much the same color," returned Richard.
Richard showed Mr. Bayard the note he had received, and told of its appearance, and the construction of the note as given by Inspector Val.
"And the question is," concluded Richard, "can we by any chance get hold of those French shares?"
"Can we get those French shares?" repeated Mr. Bayard, as though revolving the question in his thoughts. "I should say we might; yes, I'm quite sure. I think it will offer no more of difficulty than just finding out where this Storri negotiates his loans. I know where to go for the information and, if I ask it in person, it will be forthcoming." While Mr. Bayard spoke, his wits were working like a flashlight, displaying for his consideration every possibility presented by the situation. His confidence must have been strengthened by the survey, for he closed with emphasis, saying: "I am a false prophet if I do not place those French shares in your hands, your own property and bought with your own money, within a fortnight."
"Within a fortnight!" exclaimed Richard, his face brightening with the satisfaction the promise gave him.
There was that in Mr. Bayard's manner which invested his utterance with all the credit granted his signature at the banks. Richard felt as though the French certificates, which meant so much to Dorothy and to him, were as good as in his hands.
"When I say a fortnight," observed Mr. Bayard, "I ought to add my reasons. The source of my news is unimportant, but you may accept it as settled that Tuesday next has been secretly pitched upon by our worthy President for divers warlike declarations, founded on the Monroe Doctrine, and pointed at Germany, whose cruisers are just now nosing about on a debt-collecting errand against one of the South American states. The President will resent the nosing, call German attention to our Monroe Doctrine as the line fence between the hemispheres, and then mount guard over the sacred rails of that venerated barrier with a gun. All of which might excite but little interest were it not, as a demonstration, sure to send the market tumbling like a shot pigeon. I'm not certain that the whole affair hasn't some such commercial purpose. Be that as it may, the day following that valorous manifesto will be a time of panic, and the bottom will fall out of stocks. You remember what I told you as to the plans of our friends to 'bear' Northern Consolidated? This will bring their opportunity. When the markets begin to toss and heave and fall with those White House antics touching Germany and the Monroe Doctrine, Senator Hanway's report will be sprung in the Senate. He will give it to the press the night before, so that the morning papers may ring an alarm to the 'bulls.' This will be the procession of affairs: The President will threaten Germany on Tuesday; Senator Hanway's report will be in the papers and the Senate on Wednesday; by Wednesday night our 'bear' pool will have been clamorously selling Northern Consolidated all day. Per incident, we will have been buying Northern Consolidated all day. By Friday evening—I give them three selling days in which to work their ruin—I shall wire you that they are caught in the trap by all their feet at once. It is then I shall mail you those French shares."
"No letter will ever mean so much to me, be sure," said Richard.
"You shall receive it," returned Mr. Bayard. "By the way, we are prepared to the last detail for that raid. I've bought more than five hundred thousand shares of Northern Consolidated in Europe at an average of forty-two. In order that our raiders may have what rope they require to thoroughly hang themselves, I've brought more than two hundred thousand of those shares to this country. It is placed where they may reach it for the purpose of borrowing stock for delivery. In fact, our arrangements are perfect; they make as complete a deadfall as ever waited for its prey."
Richard and Inspector Val returned to Washington, Richard to write Dorothy a letter freighted of promise and hope and love. In it he told her that soon he would have canceled the last element of Storri's power, removed the last fear of Mr. Harley, and, in loving brief, destroyed the last bar which separated them and kept them apart.
Dorothy read the letter again and again, and then kissed it pending the advent of something more kissable. Richard's promise was like the smell of flowers to refresh her jaded, fear-wearied heart. The one regret was, since Richard had forbidden it, that she could not share the blessed promise with her father.
Richard wrote nothing of the note of warning; nor did he speak of Inspector Val and his deductions as to Storri's visits to the Harley house. His only thought had been to cheer the drooping soul of Dorothy with the glad nearness of happier days. The word of comfort came in good time, for the shameful weight of the situation was crushing Dorothy.
Mr. Harley these days walked in troubles as deep as those of Dorothy, but not the same. Mr. Harley was not borne upon by the shame of the thing; that did not depress him any more than the knowledge that he was guiltless of wrong upheld him. A man of finer nature would have been strengthened by his innocence. To such a man his self-respect would have been important; while he retained that support he could have summoned up a fortitude to bear the worst that lay in Storri's hands. But Mr. Harley was no such one of fineness, upon whom he would have looked down as a visionary and a sentimentalist. There arose the less cause why he should be, perhaps, since Mr. Harley was sure of being popular with himself in spite of any conduct that could be his. His ideals were not lofty, his moral senses not keen, and what original decent point the latter might have once possessed had long been dulled away. True, Mr. Harley was shaken of an ague of fear; but his tremblings were born of the practical. He was agitated by thoughts of what havoc, in his own and in Senator Hanway's affairs of politics and business, naming him formally as a forger would work. Such a disaster would be tangible; he could appreciate, and, appreciating, shrink from it.
One thing to feather the wing of his apprehensions and set them soaring was his uncertainty concerning Storri. He could not gauge Storri; he would have felt safer had that nobleman been an American or an Englishman. Storri was so loaded of alarming contradictions; he could so snarl and purr, threaten and promise, beam and glower, smile and frown, and all in the one moment of time! Mr. Harley could not read a spirit so perverse and in such perpetual head-on collision with itself! Nor could he, being fear-blind, see that in most, if not all of these, Storri was acting. If Mr. Harley had realized what a joy it was to Storri to frighten him, the knowledge might have made for his peace of mind. As it was, he looked upon Storri as at the best half mad, and capable, in some beckoning moment of caprice, of any lunatic move that should level the worst against him.
Mr. Harley had one hope, and that rested with Northern Consolidated. If he could stand off disaster until the raid on Northern Consolidated had been made, and the profits, namely the road, were in their hands, he might then arrange a permanent truce. In this he reckoned on Storri's rapacity, to which a million of dollars was as a mouthful. Given a foretaste of what riches should dwell therein, Storri would desire with triple intensity to push forward in his earth-girdling dream of Credit Magellan. The conquest of Northern Consolidated would teach him to look upon the rest as sure. Being in this frame, Mr. Harley argued that Storri, feeling his inability to go forward without him, might be softened to the touch of reason. Under these pleasant new conditions, with Credit Magellan hopefully launched, Storri could be treated with. Mr. Harley would then feel his way to some safe compromise; he would invent an offer for those French shares which should present both peril and profit. He would threaten to go no further with Credit Magellan unless Storri put those French shares in his hands; and he would give him twenty-fold their value if he did. Mr. Harley harbored the thought that Storri would yield; and yield all the more readily since his passion for Dorothy and his appetite for revenge against Mr. Harley would have had time to cool. Thus reasoning, and thus hoping, and, one had almost said, thus fearing, Mr. Harley gave himself to the task in two parts of keeping Storri in paths of peace, and praying for a break in the market so that the attack on Northern Consolidated might begin.
You are not to suppose those changes in Mr. Harley and Dorothy went uncounted by Mrs. Hanway-Harley; that would be claiming too much against the lady's vigilance. In her double role of wife and mother, it was her duty to observe the haggard face of Mr. Harley and the woe that settled about Dorothy's young eyes; and Mrs. Hanway-Harley, as wife and mother, observed them. And this is how that perspicacious matron read those signs. She translated Mr. Harley's haggard looks at a glance; he was losing money. Legislation, or stocks, or both, were going the wrong way; but in legislation, or stocks, or both, or the way they went, Mrs. Hanway-Harley refused to have an interest. If Mr. Harley had lost money, Mr. Harley must make some more; that was all.
In divining Dorothy's griefs, Mrs. Hanway-Harley showed even greater ingenuity. Dorothy and Richard had quarreled; Mrs. Hanway-Harley was sharp to note that now she neither saw nor heard of Richard. Also, Dorothy came to the dinner table when Storri was there, and neither fled to her room nor called Bess to her shoulder on hearing that nobleman's name announced. Mrs. Hanway-Harley saw how the land lay; Dorothy took a more lenient view of Storri when now her fancy for Richard was wearing dim. After all, it had been only a fancy; it asked just a trifle of care, and the happy denouement would be as Mrs. Hanway-Harley wished.
Mrs. Hanway-Harley began now to play her game exceeding deep. She would say nothing of Richard; to name him would serve to keep him in Dorothy's memory. She would say nothing of Storri; to speak of him would heat Dorothy's obstinacy, and Mrs. Hanway-Harley had learned not to desire that. No, she would be wisely, forbearingly diplomatic; the present arrangement was perfect for the ends in view. Storri came to the house; Richard stayed away; the conclusion was natural and solitary, and Dorothy would marry Storri. Mrs. Hanway-Harley, fully understanding the currents of events and the flowing thereof, became serenely joyful, and the charm of her manner gained accent from those clouds so visibly resting upon Mr. Harley and Dorothy. Yes, indeed; it must not be written that the sun did not shine for Mrs. Hanway-Harley, whose conversation the satirical Storri told the San Reve was as the conversation of a magpie.