Part 2 out of 4
"Yes, considerable. Otherwise he couldn't have secured the nomination
when he pretended to run against Hopkins--for it was only a pretense.
You see, he's a well known Republican, and when he sides for Hopkins
he's bound to carry many Republicans with him."
But there were other important people whom Mr. Andrews thought might be
influenced, and he gave Patsy a list of their names. He seemed much
amused at the earnestness of this girlish champion of the Republican
"I do not think we can win," he said, as she left him; "but we ought to
make a good showing for your cousin, and I'll do my very best to help
As she rode home with Uncle John in the afternoon, after a day of really
hard work, Patsy sized up the situation and declared that she was
satisfied that she had made progress. She told Mr. Merrick of the
mortgage held over Thompson by Mr. Hopkins, and the little man made a
mental note of the fact. He also was satisfied with his day's work, and
agreed to ride over to Fairview the next day with her and carry the war
into this, the largest village in Kenneth's district.
Meantime Louise and Mr. Watson were having some interesting interviews
with the farmers' wives along the Marville road. The old lawyer knew
nearly everyone in this part of the country, for he had lived here all
his life. But he let Louise do the talking and was much pleased at the
tact and good nature she displayed in dealing with the widely different
types of character she encountered.
Her method was quite simple, and for that reason doubly effective. She
sat down in Mrs. Simmons's kitchen, where the good woman was ironing,
"I'm a cousin of Mr. Forbes, up at Elmhurst, you know. He's running for
a political office, so as to do some good for his county and district,
and I've come to see if you'll help me get votes for him."
"Law sakes, child!" exclaimed Mrs. Simmons, "I ain't got nuthin' to do
"No; but you've got a lot to do with Mr. Simmons, and that's where we
need your help. You see, Mr. Forbes thinks Mr. Simmons is one of the
most important men in this district, and he's very anxious to win his
"Why don't you see Dan, then? He's out'n the rye field," replied the
"It's because I'm only a girl, and he wouldn't listen to me," replied
Louise, sweetly. "But he takes your advice about everything, I hear--"
"He don't take it as often as he orter, don't Dan," interrupted Mrs.
Simmons, pausing to feel whether her iron was hot.
"Perhaps not," agreed Louise; "but in important things, such as this,
he's sure to listen to you; and we women must stick together if we want
to win this election."
"But I don't know nothin' about it," protested Mrs. Simmons; "an' I
don't believe Dan does."
"You don't need to know much, Mrs. Simmons," replied the girl. "What a
pretty baby that is! All you need do is to tell Dan he must vote for Mr.
Forbes, and see that he agrees to do so."
"Why?" was the pointed query.
"Well, there are several reasons. One is that Mr. Hopkins--Mr. Erastus
Hopkins, you know, is the other candidate, and a person must vote for
either one or the other of them."
"Dan's a friend o' 'Rastus," said the woman, thoughtfully. "I seen 'em
talkin' together the other day."
"But this isn't a matter of friendship; it's business, and Mr. Forbes is
very anxious to have your husband with him. If Mr. Forbes is elected it
means lighter taxes, better roads and good schools. If Mr. Hopkins is
elected it does not mean anything good except for Mr. Hopkins."
"I guess you're right about that," laughed the woman. "'Rast don't let
much get away from him."
"You're very clever, Mrs. Simmons. You have discovered the fact without
"Oh, I know 'Rast Hopkins, an' so does Dan."
"Then I can depend on you to help us?" asked the girl, patting the
tousled head of a little girl who stood by staring at "the pretty lady."
"I'll talk to him, but I dunno what good it'll do," said Mrs. Simmons,
"I know. He won't refuse to do what you ask him, for a man always
listens to his wife when he knows she's right. You'll win, Mrs. Simmons,
and I want to thank you for saving the election for us. If we get Mr.
Simmons on our side I believe we'll be sure to defeat Hopkins."
"Oh, I'll do what I kin," was the ready promise, and after a few more
remarks about the children and the neatness of the house, Louise took
"Will she win him over?" asked the girl of Mr. Watson, when they were
jogging on to the next homestead.
"I really can't say, my dear," replied the old lawyer, thoughtfully;
"but I imagine she'll try to, and if Dan doesn't give in Mrs. Simmons
will probably make his life miserable for a time. You flattered them
both outrageously; but that will do no harm."
And so it went on throughout the day. Sometimes the farmer himself was
around the house, and then they held a sort of conference; Louise asked
his advice about the best way to win votes, and said she depended a
great deal upon his judgment. She never asked a man which side he
favored, but took it for granted that he was anxious to support Mr.
Forbes; and this subtle flattery was so acceptable that not one declared
outright that he was for Hopkins, whatever his private views might have
When evening came and they had arrived at Elmhurst again, Louise was
enthusiastic over her work of the day, and had many amusing tales to
tell of her experiences.
"How many votes did you win?" asked Uncle John, smiling at her.
"I can't say," she replied; "but I didn't lose any. If one sows plenty
of seed, some of it is bound to sprout."
"We can tell better after election," said Mr. Watson. "But I'm satisfied
that this is the right sort of work, Mr. Merrick, to get results."
"So am I," returned Uncle John heartily. "Are you willing to keep it up,
"Of course!" she exclaimed. "We start again bright and early tomorrow
THE HONORABLE ERASTUS IS ASTONISHED
The Honorable Erastus Hopkins had been absent at the state capital for
several days, looking after various matters of business; for he was a
thrifty man, and watched his investments carefully.
Whenever his acquaintances asked about his chances for re-election, the
Honorable Erastus Hopkins winked, laughed and declared, "it's a regular
"Who is opposing you?" once asked a gray-haired Senator of much
political experience, who had met Mr. Hopkins at luncheon.
"Young feller named Forbes--a boy, sir--with no notion about the game at
all. He was pledged to an unpopular issue, so I was mighty glad to have
him run against me."
"What issue is he pledged to?" asked the Senator.
"Oh, he's agin putting advertising signs on fences and barns, and wants
to have them prohibited, like the infernal fool he is."
"Indeed. Then he's a progressive fellow. And you say his issue is
"That's what it is. It'll kill his chances--if he ever had any."
"Strange," mused the Senator. "That issue has been a winning one
"What do you mean?" asked the astonished Hopkins.
"Why, the anti-sign fight has won in several places throughout the
country, and local laws have been passed prohibiting them. Didn't you
"No!" said Hopkins.
"Well, it's true. Of course I do not know the temper of your people, but
in a country district such as yours I would think an issue of that sort
very hard to combat."
"Nonsense!" exclaimed the Honorable Erastus. "Ev'ry man Jack's agin the
"Then perhaps the people don't understand it."
"Forbes has given up already," continued Hopkins, laughing at the
recollection. "He's gone back into his shell like a turtle, an' won't
come out to fight. I tell you, Senator, he's the worst licked candidate
that ever ran for office."
Nevertheless, the suggestion that the anti-sign issue had been
successful in other localities made Mr. Hopkins a trifle uneasy, and he
decided to return home and keep the fight going until after election,
whether young Forbes came out of his shell or not.
He arrived at Hilldale on the early morning train and went to his house
for breakfast. To his amazement he found two great banners strung across
the village streets bearing the words: "_Vote for Forbes--the People's
"Who in thunder could 'a' done that?" murmured Mr. Hopkins, staring
open-mouthed at the great banners. Then he scratched his head with a
puzzled air and went home.
Mrs. Hopkins, a tired-looking woman in a bedraggled morning wrapper, was
getting the breakfast. She did not participate largely in the prosperity
of her husband, and often declared she was "worked to death," although
there were no children to care for.
"When did those Forbes banners go up?" asked Mr. Hopkins, irritably.
"I dunno, 'Rast. I don't keep track o' such things. But all the town was
out to the girls' meetin' last night, an' I went along to watch the
"What girls' meeting?"
"The girls thet air workin' fer to elect Mr. Forbes. It was in the town
hall, an' all three of the girls made speeches."
"About Mr. Forbes, and how he orter be elected. He wants to beautify the
farm places by doin' away with signs, an' he wants better roads, an'
three new school-houses, 'cause the ones we've got now ain't big enough.
"You blamed idiot! What are you talking about?" roared the exasperated
"Oh, you needn't rave at me, 'Rast Hopkins, just 'cause you're gettin'
licked. I thought your goose was cooked the minnit these girls got to
Mr. Hopkins stared at her with a dazed expression.
"Be sensible, Mary, and tell me who these girls are. I haven't heard of
"Why, they're cousins o' Kenneth Forbes, it seems, an' come from New
York to git him elected."
"What are they like?"
"They're swell dressers, 'Rast, an' nice appearin' girls, and mighty
sharp with their tongues. They had a good meetin' last night and
there'll be another at the town hall next week."
"Pah! Girls! Forbes oughter be ashamed of himself, to send a bunch o'
girls out electioneerin'. I never heard of such an irregular thing. What
do the boys say?"
"Folks don't say much to me, 'Rast. They wouldn't, you know. But I guess
your game is up."
He made no reply. Here, indeed, was information of a startling
character. And it came upon him like thunder out of a clear sky. Yet the
thing might not be so important as Mrs. Hopkins feared.
Very thoughtfully he unfolded the morning paper, and the next moment
uttered a roar of wrath and vexation. Briggs was one of his stand-bys,
and the _Herald_ heretofore had always supported him; yet here across
the first page were big black letters saying: _"Vote for Forbes!"_ And
the columns were full of articles and paragraphs praising Forbes and
declaring that he could and would do more for the district than Hopkins.
"I must see Briggs," muttered the Honorable Erastus. "He's tryin' to
make me put up that hundred--an' I guess I'll have to do it."
He looked over the other newspapers which were heaped upon his desk in
the sitting-room, and was disgusted to find all but one of the seven
papers in the district supporting Forbes. Really, the thing began to
look serious. And he had only been absent a week!
He had not much appetite for breakfast when Mrs. Hopkins set it before
him. But the Honorable Erastus was a born fighter, and his discovery had
only dismayed him for a brief time. Already he was revolving ways of
contesting this new activity in the enemy's camp, and decided that he
must talk with "the boys" at once.
So he hurried away from the breakfast table and walked down-town. Latham
was first on his route and he entered the drug store.
"Good morning, Mr. Hopkins. Anything I can do for you?" asked the polite
"Yes, a lot. Tell me what these fool girls are up to, that are plugging
for Forbes. I've been away for a week, you know."
"Can't say, Mr. Hopkins, I'm sure. Business is pretty lively these days,
and it keeps me hustling. I've no time for politics."
"But we've got to wake up, Jim, we Democrats, or they'll give us a run
for our money."
"Oh, this is a Republican district, sir. We can't hope to win it often,
and especially in a case like this."
"Looks to me as if you'd bungled things, Hopkins. But I'm not interested
in this campaign. Excuse me; if there's nothing you want, I've got a
prescription to fill."
Mr. Hopkins walked out moodily. It was very evident that Latham had
changed front. But they had never been very staunch friends; and he
could find a way to even scores with the little druggist later.
Thompson was behind his desk at the general store when Hopkins walked
"Look here," said the Honorable Representative, angrily, "what's been
going on in Elmwood? What's all this plugging for Forbes mean?"
Thompson gave him a sour look over the top of his desk.
"Addressin' them remarks to me, 'Rast?"
"Yes--to you! You've been loafing on your job, old man, and it won't
do--it won't do at all. You should have put a stop to these things. What
right have these girls to interfere in a game like this?"
"Oh, shut up, 'Rast."
"Thompson! By crickey, I won't stand this from you. Goin' back on me,
"I'm a Republication, 'Rast."
"So you are," said Mr. Hopkins slowly, his temper at white heat "And
that mortgage is two months overdue."
"Go over to the bank and get your money, then. It's waiting for you,
Hopkins--interest and all. Go and get it and let me alone. I'm busy."
Perhaps the politician had never been so surprised in his life. Anger
gave way to sudden fear, and he scrutinized the averted countenance of
"Where'd you raise the money, Thompson?"
"None of your business. I raised it."
"Forbes, eh? Forbes has bought you up, I see. Grateful fellow, ain't
you--when I loaned you money to keep you from bankruptcy!"
"You did, Hopkins. You made me your slave, and threatened me every
minute, unless I did all your dirty work. Grateful? You've led me a
dog's life. But I'm through with you now--for good and all."
Hopkins turned and walked out without another word. In the dentist's
office Dr. Squiers was sharpening and polishing his instruments.
"Hello, 'Rast. 'Bout time you was getting back, old man. We're having a
big fight on our hands, I can tell you."
"Tell me more," said Mr. Hopkins, taking a chair with a sigh of relief
at finding one faithful friend. "What's up, Archie?"
"An invasion of girls, mostly. They took us by surprise, the other day,
and started a campaign worthy of old political war-horses. There's some
shrewd politician behind them, I know, or they wouldn't have nailed us
up in our coffins with such business-like celerity."
"Talk sense, Archie. What have they done? What _can_ they do? Pah!
"Don't make a mistake, 'Rast. That's what I did, before I understood.
When I heard that three girls were electioneering for Forbes I just
laughed. Then I made a discovery. They're young and rich, and evidently
ladies. They're pretty, too, and the men give in at the first attack.
They don't try to roast you. That's their cleverness. They tell what
Forbes can do, with all his money, if he's Representative, and they
swear he'll do it."
"Never mind," said Hopkins, easily. "We'll win the men back again."
"But these girls are riding all over the country, talking to farmers'
wives, and they're organizing a woman's political club. The club is to
meet at Elmhurst and to be fed on the fat of the land; so every woman
wants to belong. They've got two expensive automobiles down from the
city, with men to make them go, and they're spending money right and
"That's bad," said Hopkins, shifting uneasily, "for I haven't much to
spend, myself. But most money is fooled away in politics. When I spend a
cent it counts, I can tell you."
"You'll have to spend some, 'Rast, to keep your end up. I'm glad you're
back, for we Democrats have been getting demoralized. Some of the boys
are out for Forbes already."
Hopkins nodded, busy with his thoughts.
"I've talked with Latham. But he didn't count. And they've bought up
Thompson. What else they've done I can't tell yet. But one thing's
certain, Doc; we'll win out in a canter. I'm too old a rat to be caught
in a trap like this. I've got resources they don't suspect."
"I believe you, 'Rast. They've caught on to the outside fakes to win
votes; but they don't know the inside deals yet."
"You're right. But I must make a bluff to offset their daylight
campaign, so as not to lose ground with the farmers. They're the ones
that count, after all; not the town people. See here, Doc, I had an idea
something might happen, and so I arranged with my breakfast food company
to let me paint a hundred signs in this neighborhood. A hundred, mind
you! and that means a big laugh on Forbes, and the good will of the
farmers who sell their spaces, and not a cent out of my pocket. How's
that for a checkmate?"
"That's fine," replied Dr. Squiers. "There's been considerable talk
about this sign business, and I'm told that at the meeting last night
one of the girls made a speech about it, and said the farmers were being
converted, and were now standing out for clean fences and barns."
"That's all humbug!"
"I think so, myself. These people are like a flock of sheep. Get them
started a certain way and you can't head them off," observed the
"Then we must start them our way," declared Hopkins. "I've got the order
for these signs in my pocket, and I'll have 'em painted all over the
district in a week. Keep your eyes open, Doc. If we've got to fight we
won't shirk it; but I don't look for much trouble from a parcel of
Mr. Hopkins was quite cheerful by this time, for he had thought out the
situation and his "fighting blood was up," as he expressed it.
He walked away whistling softly to himself and decided that he would go
over to the livery stable, get a horse and buggy, drive out into the
country, and spend the day talking with the farmers.
But when he turned the corner into the side street where the livery was
located he was astonished to find a row of horses and wagons lining each
side of the street, and in each vehicle two men in white jumpers and
overalls. The men were in charge of huge cans of paints, assorted
brushes, ladders, scaffolds and other paraphernalia.
There must have been twenty vehicles, altogether, and some of the rigs
were already starting out and driving briskly away in different
Mr. Hopkins was puzzled. He approached one of the white-overalled men
who was loading cans of paint into a wagon and inquired:
"Who are you fellows?"
"Sign painters," answered the man, with an amused look.
"Who do you work for?"
"The Carson Advertising Sign Company of Cleveland."
"Oh, I see," replied Hopkins. "Got a big job in this neighborhood?"
"Pretty big, sir."
"Who's your foreman?"
"Smith. He's in the livery office."
Then the man climbed into his wagon and drove away, and Hopkins turned
into the livery office. A thin-faced man with sharp eyes was Talking
with the proprietor.
"Is this Mr. Smith?" asked Hopkins.
"Of the Carson Advertising Sign Company?"
"Well, I've got a big job for you. My name's Hopkins. I want a hundred
big signs painted mighty quick."
"Sorry, sir; we've got all we can handle here for two or three weeks."
"It's got to be done quick or not at all. Can't you send for more men?"
"We've got thirty-eight on this job, and can't get any more for love or
money. Had to send to Chicago for some of these."
"Yes, sir. You'll have to excuse me. I've got to get started. This is
only our second day and we're pretty busy."
"Wait a minute," called the bewildered Hopkins, following Smith to his
buggy. "What concern is your firm doing all this painting for?"
"A man named Merrick."
Then the foreman drove away, and Mr. Hopkins was left greatly puzzled.
"Merrick--Merrick!" he repeated. "I don't remember any big advertiser by
that name. It must be some new concern. Anyhow, it all helps in my fight
He again returned to the livery office and asked for a rig.
"Everything out, Mr. Hopkins. I've hired everything to be had in town
for this sign-painting gang."
But Mr. Hopkins was not to be balked. As long as these sign-painters
were doing missionary work for his cause among the farmers, he decided
to drive over to Fairview and see the party leaders in that important
town. So he went back to Dr. Squiers's house and borrowed the Doctor's
horse and buggy.
He drove along the turnpike for a time in silence. Then it struck him
that there was a peculiar air of neatness about the places he passed.
The barns and fences all seemed newly painted, and he remembered that he
hadn't seen an advertising sign since he left town.
A mile farther on he came upon a gang of the sign painters, who with
their huge brushes were rapidly painting the entire length of a
weather-worn fence with white paint.
Mr. Hopkins reined in and watched them for a few moments.
"You sign-painters don't seem to be getting any signs started," he
"No," replied one of the men, laughing. "This is a peculiar job for our
firm to tackle. We've made a contract to paint out every sign in the
"Paint 'em out!"
"Yes, cover them up with new paint, and get rid of them."
"But how about the advertisers? Don't they own the spaces now?"
"They did; but they've all been bought up. John Merrick owns the spaces
now, and we're working for John Merrick."
"Some friend of Mr. Forbes, up at Elmhurst."
Mr. Hopkins was not a profane man, but he said a naughty word. And then
he cut his horse so fiercely with the whip that the poor beast gave a
neigh of terror, and started down the road at a gallop.
OL' WILL ROGERS
Beth had her folding table out in the rose garden where Kenneth was
working at his easel, and while the boy painted she wrote her campaign
letters and "editorials."
At first Ken had resented the management of his campaign by his three
girl friends; but soon he was grateful for their assistance and proud of
their talents. It was at their own request that he refrained from any
active work himself, merely appearing at the meetings they planned,
where he made his speeches and impressed his hearers with his
earnestness. He was really an excellent speaker, and his youth and
enthusiasm counted much in his favor.
He protested mildly when Louise invited the Women's Political Club to
meet at Elmhurst on Thursday afternoon, but Mr. Watson assured him that
this was an important play for popularity, so he promised to meet them.
Tables were to be spread upon the lawn, for the late October weather was
mild and delightful, and Louise planned to feed the women in a way that
they would long remember.
Patsy had charge of the towns and Louise of the country districts, but
Beth often aided Louise, who had a great deal of territory to cover.
The automobiles Uncle John had ordered sent down were a great assistance
to the girls, and enabled them to cover twice as much territory in a day
as would have been done with horses.
But, although they worked so tirelessly and earnestly, it was not all
plain sailing with the girl campaigners. Yet though they met with many
rebuffs, they met very little downright impertinence. Twice Louise was
asked to leave a house where she had attempted to make a proselyte, and
once a dog was set upon Beth by an irate farmer, who resented her
automobile as much as he did her mission. As for Patsy, she was often
told in the towns that "a young girl ought to be in better business than
mixing up in politics," and she was sensitive enough once or twice to
cry over these reproaches when alone in her chamber. But she maintained
a cheerful front; and, in truth, all the girls enjoyed their work
While Beth and Kenneth were in the garden this sunny afternoon James
came to say that a man wanted to see "one of the politics young ladies."
"Shall we send him about his business, Beth?" asked the boy.
"Oh, no; we can't afford to lose a single vote. Bring him here, James,
please," said the girl.
So presently a wizened little man in worn and threadbare garments, his
hat in his hand, came slowly into the garden. His sunken cheeks were
covered with stubby gray whiskers, his shoulders were stooped and bent
from hard work, and his hands bore evidences of a life of toil. Yet the
eyes he turned upon Beth, as she faced him had a wistful and pleading
look that affected her strangely.
"Afternoon, miss," he said, in a hesitating voice. "I--I'm Rogers, miss;
ol' Will Rogers. I--I s'pose you hain't heerd o' me before."
"I'm glad to meet you, Mr. Rogers," replied the girl in her pleasant
voice. "Have you come to see me about the election?"
"It's--it's sump'n 'bout the 'lection, an' then agin it ain't. But I run
the chanct o' seein' ye, because we're in desprit straits, an' Nell
advised that I hev a talk with ye. 'Frank an' outright,' says Nell.
'Don't beat about the bush,' says she. 'Go right to th' point an'
they'll say yes or no."
Beth laughed merrily, and the boy smiled as he wielded his brush with
"Ye mustn't mind me, miss," said Will Rogers, in a deprecating tone.
"I'm--I'm sommut broke up an' discouraged, an' ain't th' man I used to
be. Nell knows that, an' she orter came herself; but it jes' made her
cry to think o' it, an' so I says I'll come an' do the best I kin."
Beth was really interested now.
"Sit down on this bench, Mr. Rogers," she said, "and I'll listen to
whatever you have to say."
He sat down willingly, bent forward as he rested upon the garden bench,
and twirled his hat slowly in his hands.
"'Taint easy, ye know, miss, to say some things, an' this is one o' the
hardest," he began.
"Go on," said Beth, encouragingly, for old Will had suddenly stopped
short and seemed unable to proceed.
"They say, miss, as you folks is a-spendin' uv a lot o' money on this
election, a-gittin' votes, an' sich like," he said, in an altered tone.
"It costs a little to run a political campaign," acknowledged Beth.
"They say money's bein' poured out liken water--to git votes," he
"Well, Mr. Rogers?"
"Well, thet's how it started, ye see. We're so agonizin' poor, Nell
thought we orter git some o' the money while it's goin'."
The girl was much amused. Such frankness was both unusual and
"Have you a vote to sell?" she asked.
He did not answer at once, but sat slowly twirling his hat.
"That's jet' what Nell thought ye'd ask," he said, finally, "an' she
knew if ye did it was all up with our plan. Guess I'll be goin', miss."
He rose slowly from his seat, but the girl did not intend to lose any of
the fun this queer individual might yet furnish.
"Sit down, Mr. Rogers," she said, "and tell me why you can't answer my
"I guess I'll hev to speak out an' tell all," said he, his voice
trembling a little, "although I thought fer a minnit I could see my way
without. I can't sell my vote, miss, 'cause I've been plannin' t'vote
fer Mr. Forbes anyhow. But we wanted some uv th' money that's being
wasted, an' we wanted it mighty bad."
"Thet's the hard part uv it, miss; but I'm goin' to tell you. Did ye
ever hear o' Lucy?"
"No, Mr. Rogers."
"Lucy's our girl--the on'y chick er child we ever had. She's a pretty
girl, is Lucy; a good deal liken her mother; wi' the same high spirits
my Nell had afore she broke down. Mostly Nell cries, nowadays."
"Yes. Go on."
"Lucy had a schoolin', an' we worked hard to give it her, fer my land
ain't much account, nohow. An' when she grew up she had more boys comin'
to see her than any gal this side o' Fairview, an' one o' 'em caught
Lucy's fancy. But she was too young to marry, an' she wanted to be
earnin' money; so she got a job workin' fer Doc Squiers, over to
Elmwood. He's the dentist there, an' Lucy helped with the housework an'
kept the office slicked up, an' earned ev'ry penny she got."
He stopped here, and looked vacantly around.
Beth tried to help the old man.
"And then?" she asked, softly.
"Then come the trouble, miss. One day ol' Mis' Squiers, the Doc's
mother, missed a di'mon' ring. She laid it on the mantel an' it was
gone, an' she said as Lucy took it. Lucy didn't take it, an' after
they'd tried to make my gal confess as she was a thief they give 'er
three days to hand up the ring or the money it was worth, or else they'd
hev her arrested and sent t' jail. Lucy didn't take it, ye know. She
jes' _couldn't_ do sech a thing, natcherly."
"I know," said Beth, sympathetically.
"So she comes home, heartbroken, an' told us about it, an' we didn't hev
th' money nuther. It were sixty dollars they wanted, or th' ring; an' we
didn't hev neither of 'em."
"Of course not."
"Well, Tom come over thet night to see Lucy, hearin' she was home,
"Who is Tom?"
"Thet's Tom Gates, him thet--but I'm comin' to thet, miss. Tom always
loved Lucy, an' wanted to marry her; but his folks is as poor as we are,
so the young 'uns had to wait. Tom worked at the mill over t'
Fairview--the big saw-mill where they make the lumber an' things."
"He was the bookkeeper, fer Tom had schoolin', too; an' he took private
lessons in bookkeepin' from ol' Cheeseman. So he had got hired at the
mill, an' had a likely job, an' was doin' well. An' when Tom heerd about
Lucy's trouble, an' thet she had only two days left before goin' to
jail, he up an' says: 'I'll get the money, Lucy: don' you worry a bit.'
'Oh, Tom!' says she, 'hev you got sixty dollars saved already?' 'I've
got it, Lucy,' says he, 'an' I'll go over tomorrow an' pay Doc Squiers.
Don' you worry any more. Forget all about it.' Well o' course, miss,
that helped a lot. Nell an' Lucy both felt the disgrace of the thing,
but it wouldn't be a public disgrace, like goin' to jail; so we was all
mighty glad Tom had that sixty dollars."
"It was very fortunate," said Beth, filling in another pause.
"The nex' day Tom were as good as his word. He paid Doc Squiers an' got
a receipt an' giv it to Lucy. Then we thought th' trouble was over, but
it had on'y just begun. Monday mornin' Tom was arrested over t' the mill
fer passin' a forged check an' gettin' sixty dollars on it. Lucy was
near frantic with grief. She walked all the way to Fairview, an' they
let her see Tom in the jail. He tol' her it was true he forged th'
check, but he did it to save her. He was a man an' it wouldn't hurt fer
him to go to jail so much as it would a girl. He said he was glad he did
it, an' didn't mind servin' a sentence in prison. I think, miss, as Tom
meant thet--ev'ry word uv it. But Lucy broke down under the thing an'
raved an' cried, an' nuther Nell ner I could do anything with her. She
said she'd ruined Tom's life an' all thet, an' she didn't want to live
herself. Then she took sick, an' Nell an' I nursed her as careful as we
could. How'n the wurld she ever got away we can't make out, nohow."
"Did she get away?" asked the girl, noting that the old man's eyes were
full of tears and his lips trembling.
"Yes, miss. She's bin gone over ten days, now, an' we don't even know
where to look fer her; our girl--our poor Lucy. She ain't right in her
head, ye know, or she'd never a done it. She'd never a left us like this
in th' world. 'Taint like our Lucy."
Kenneth had turned around on his stool and was regarding old Will Rogers
earnestly, brush and pallet alike forgotten. Beth was trying to keep the
tears out of her own eyes, for the old man's voice was even more
pathetic than his words.
"Ten days ago!" said Kenneth. "And she hasn't been found yet?"
"We can't trace her anywhere, an' Nell has broke down at las', an' don't
do much but cry. It's hard, sir--I can't bear to see Nell cry. She'd
sich high sperrits, onct."
"Where's the boy Tom?" asked Kenneth, somewhat gruffly.
"He's in the jail yet, waitin' to be tried. Court don't set till next
week, they say."
"And where do you live, Rogers?"
"Five miles up the Fairview road. 'Taint much of a place--Nell says I've
always bin a shif'les lot, an' I guess it's true. Yesterday your hired
men painted all the front o' my fence--painted it white--not only where
th' signs was, but th' whole length of it. We didn't ask it done, but
they jes' done it. I watched 'em, an' Nell says if we on'y had th' money
thet was wasted on thet paint an' labor, we might find our Lucy. 'It's a
shame,' says Nell, 'all thet 'lection money bein' thrown away on paint
when it might save our poor crazy child.' I hope it ain't wrong, sir;
but thet's what I thought, too. So we laid plans fer me to come here
today. Ef I kin get a-hold o' any o' thet money honest, I want to do
"Have you got a horse?" asked Kenneth.
"Not now. I owned one las' year, but he died on me an' I can't get
"Did you walk here?" asked Beth.
"Yes, miss; o' course. I've walked the hull county over a-tryin' to find
Lucy. I don' mind the walking much."
There was another pause, while old Will Rogers looked anxiously at the
boy and the girl, and they looked at each other. Then Beth took out her
"I want to hire your services to help us in the election," she said,
briskly. "I'll furnish you a horse and buggy and you can drive around
and talk with people and try to find Lucy at the same time. This twenty
dollars is to help you pay expenses. You needn't account for it; just
help us as much as you can."
The old man straightened up and his eyes filled again.
"Nell said if it was a matter o' charity I mustn't take a cent," he
observed, in a low voice.
'"It isn't charity. It's business. And now that we know your story we
mean to help you find your girl. Anyone would do that, you know. Tell
me, what is Lucy like?"
"She's like Nell used to be."
"But we don't know your wife. Describe Lucy as well as you can. Is she
"Light or dark?"
"Is her hair light or dark colored?"
"Middlin'; jes' middlin', miss."
"Well, is she stout or thin?"
"I should say sorter betwixt an' between, miss."
"How old is Lucy?"
"Jes' turned eighteen, miss."
"Never mind, Beth," interrupted the boy; "you won't learn much from old
Will's description. But we'll see what can be done tomorrow. Call James
and have him sent home in the rig he's going to use. It seems to me
you're disposing rather freely of my horses and carts."
"Yes, Ken. You've nothing to say about your belongings just now. But if
you object to this plan--"
"I don't. The girl must be found, and her father is more likely to find
her than a dozen other searchers. He shall have the rig and welcome."
So it was that Will Rogers drove back to his heartbroken wife in a smart
top-buggy, with twenty dollars in his pocket and a heart full of wonder
THE FORGED CHECK
Kenneth and Beth refrained from telling the other girls or Uncle John of
old Will Rogers's visit, but they got Mr. Watson in the library and
questioned him closely about the penalty for forging a check.
It was a serious crime indeed, Mr. Watson told them, and Tom Gates bade
fair to serve a lengthy term in state's prison as a consequence of his
"But it was a generous act, too," said Beth.
"I can't see it in that light," said the old lawyer. "It was a
deliberate theft from his employers to protect a girl he loved. I do not
doubt the girl was unjustly accused. The Squierses are a selfish,
hard-fisted lot, and the old lady, especially, is a well known virago.
But they could not have proven a case against Lucy, if she was innocent,
and all their threats of arresting her were probably mere bluff. So this
boy was doubly foolish in ruining himself to get sixty dollars to pay an
"He was soft-hearted and impetuous," said Beth; "and, being in love, he
didn't stop to count the cost."
"That is no excuse, my dear," declared Mr. Watson. "Indeed there is
never an excuse for crime. The young man is guilty, and he must suffer
"Is there no way to save him?" asked Kenneth.
"If the prosecution were withdrawn and the case settled with the victim
of the forged check, then the young man would be allowed his freedom.
But under the circumstances I doubt if such an arrangement could be
"We're going to try it, anyhow," was the prompt decision.
So as soon as breakfast was over the next morning Beth and Kenneth took
one of the automobiles, the boy consenting unwillingly to this sort of
locomotion because it would save much time. Fairview was twelve miles
away, but by ten o'clock they drew up at the county jail.
They were received in the little office by a man named Markham, who was
the jailer. He was a round-faced, respectable appearing fellow, but his
mood was distinctly unsociable.
"Want to see Tom Gates, eh? Well! what for?" he demanded.
"We wish to talk with him," answered Kenneth.
"Talk! what's the good? You're no friend of Tom Gates. I can't be
bothered this way, anyhow."
"I am Kenneth Forbes, of Elmhurst. I'm running for Representative on the
Republican ticket," said Kenneth, quietly.
"Oh, say! that's different," observed Markham, altering his demeanor.
"You mustn't mind my being gruff and grumpy, Mr. Forbes. I've just
stopped smoking a few days ago, and it's got on my nerves something
"May we see Gates at once?" asked Kenneth.
"Sure-ly! I'll take you to his cell, myself. It's just shocking how such
a little thing as stoppin' smoking will rile up a fellow. Come this way,
They followed the jailer along a succession of passages.
"Smoked ever sence I was a boy, you know, an' had to stop last week
because Doc said it would kill me if I didn't," remarked the jailer,
leading the way. "Sometimes I'm that yearning for a smoke I'm nearly
crazy, an' I dunno which is worst, dyin' one way or another. This is
Gates' cell--the best in the shop."
He unlocked the door, and called:
"Here's visitors, Tom."
"Thank you, Mr. Markham," replied a quiet voice, as a young man came
forward from the dim interior of the cell. "How are you feeling, today?"
"Worse, Tom; worse 'n ever," replied the jailer, gloomily.
"Well, stick it out, old man; don't give in."
"I won't, Tom. Smokin' 'll kill me sure, an' there's a faint hope o'
livin' through this struggle to give it up. This visitor is Mr. Forbes
of Elmhurst, an' the young lady is--"
"Miss DeGraf," said Kenneth, noticing the boy's face critically, as he
stood where the light from the passage fell upon it. "Will you leave us
alone, please, Mr. Markham?"
"Sure-ly, Mr. Forbes. You've got twenty minutes according to
regulations. I'll come and get you then. Sorry we haven't any reception
room in the jail. All visits has to be made in the cells."
Then he deliberately locked Kenneth and Beth in with the forger, and
retreated along the passage.
"Sit down, please," said Gates, in a cheerful and pleasant voice.
"There's a bench here."
"We've come to inquire about your case, Gates," said Kenneth. "It seems
you have forged a check."
"Yes, sir, I plead guilty, although I've been told I ought not to
confess. But the fact is that I forged the check and got the money, and
I'm willing to stand the consequences."
"Why did you do it?" asked Beth.
He was silent and turned his face away.
A fresh, wholesome looking boy, was Tom Gates, with steady gray eyes, an
intelligent forehead, but a sensitive, rather weak mouth. He was of
sturdy, athletic build and dressed neatly in a suit that was of coarse
material but well brushed and cared for.
Beth thought his appearance pleasing and manly. Kenneth decided that he
was ill at ease and in a state of dogged self-repression.
"We have heard something of your story," said Kenneth, "and are
interested in it. But there is no doubt you have acted very foolishly."
"Do you know Lucy, sir?" asked the young man.
"Lucy is very proud. The thing was killing her, and I couldn't bear it.
I didn't stop to think whether it was foolish or not. I did it; and I'm
glad I did."
"You have made her still more unhappy," said Beth, gently.
"Yes; she'll worry about me, I know. I'm disgraced for life; but I've
saved Lucy from any disgrace, and she's young. She'll forget me before
I've served my term, and--and take up with some other young fellow."
"Would you like that?" asked Beth.
"No, indeed," he replied, frankly. "But it will be best that way. I had
to stand by Lucy--she's so sweet and gentle, and so sensitive. I don't
say I did right. I only say I'd do the same thing again."
"Couldn't her parents have helped her?" inquired Kenneth.
"No. Old Will is a fine fellow, but poor and helpless since Mrs. Rogers
had her accident."
"Oh, did she have an accident?" asked Beth.
"Yes. Didn't you know? She's blind."
"Her husband didn't tell us that," said the girl.
"He was fairly prosperous before that, for Mrs. Rogers was an energetic
and sensible woman, and kept old Will hard at work. One morning she
tried to light the fire with kerosene, and lost her sight. Then Rogers
wouldn't do anything but lead her around, and wait upon her, and the
place went to rack and ruin."
"I understand now," said Beth.
"Lucy could have looked after her mother," said young Bates, "but old
Will was stubborn and wouldn't let her. So the girl saw something must
be done and went to work. That's how all the trouble came about."
He spoke simply, but paced up and down the narrow cell in front of them.
It was evident that his feelings were deeper than he cared to make
"Whose name did you sign to the check?" asked Kenneth.
"That of John E. Marshall, the manager of the mill. He is supposed to
sign all the checks of the concern. It's a stock company, and rich. I
was bookkeeper, so it was easy to get a blank check and forge the
signature. As regards my robbing the company, I'll say that I saved them
a heavy loss one day. I discovered and put out a fire that would have
destroyed the whole plant. But Marshall never even thanked me. He only
discharged the man who was responsible for the fire."
"How long ago were you arrested?" asked Beth.
"It's nearly two weeks now. But I'll have a trial in a few days, they
say. My crime is so serious that the circuit judge has to sit on the
"Do you know where Lucy is?"
"She's at home, I suppose. I haven't heard from her since the day she
came here to see me--right after my arrest."
They did not think best to enlighten him at that time. It was better for
him to think the girl unfeeling than to know the truth.
"I'm going to see Mr. Marshall," said Kenneth, "and discover what I can
do to assist you."
"Thank you, sir. It won't be much, but I'm grateful to find a friend.
I'm guilty, you know, and there's no one to blame but myself."
They left him then, for the jailer arrived to unlock the door, and
escort them to the office.
"Tom's a very decent lad," remarked the jailer, on the way. "He ain't a
natural criminal, you know; just one o' them that gives in to temptation
and is foolish enough to get caught. I've seen lots of that kind in my
day. You don't smoke, do you, Mr. Forbes?"
"No, Mr. Markham."
"Then don't begin it; or, if you do, never try to quit. It's--it's
_awful_, it is. And it ruins a man's disposition."
The mill was at the outskirts of the town. It was a busy place, perhaps
the busiest in the whole of the Eighth District, and in it were employed
a large number of men. The office was a small brick edifice, separated
from the main buildings, in which the noise of machinery was so great
that one speaking could scarcely be heard. The manager was in, Kenneth
and Beth learned, but could not see them until he had signed the letters
he had dictated for the noon mail.
So they sat on a bench until a summons came to admit them to Mr.
Marshall's private office.
He looked up rather ungraciously, but motioned them to be seated.
"Mr. Forbes, of Elmhurst?" he asked, glancing at the card Kenneth had
"I've been bothered already over your election campaign," resumed the
manager, arranging his papers in a bored manner. "Some girl has been
here twice to interview my men and I have refused to admit her. You may
as well understand, sir, that I stand for the Democratic candidate, and
have no sympathy with your side."
"That doesn't interest me, especially, sir," answered Kenneth, smiling.
"I'm not electioneering just now. I've come to talk with you about young
"Oh. Well, sir, what about him?"
"I'm interested in the boy, and want to save him from prosecution."
"He's a forger, Mr. Forbes; a deliberate criminal."
"I admit that. But he's very young, and his youth is largely responsible
for his folly."
"He stole my money."
"It is true, Mr. Marshall."
"And he deserves a term in state's prison."
"I agree to all that. Nevertheless, I should like to save him," said
Kenneth. "His trial has not yet taken place, and instead of your
devoting considerable of your valuable time appearing against him it
would be much simpler to settle the matter right here and now."
"In what way, Mr. Forbes?"
"I'll make your money loss good."
"It has cost me twice sixty dollars in annoyance."
"I can well believe it, sir. I'll pay twice sixty dollars for the
delivery to me of the forged check, and the withdrawal of the
"And the costs?"
"I'll pay all the costs besides."
"You're foolish. Why should you do all this?"
"I have my own reasons, Mr. Marshall. Please look at the matter from a
business standpoint. If you send the boy to prison you will still suffer
the loss of the money. By compromising with me you can recover your loss
and are paid for your annoyance."
"You're right. Give me a check for a hundred and fifty, and I'll turn
over to you the forged check and quash further proceedings."
Kenneth hesitated a moment. He detested the grasping disposition that
would endeavor to take advantage of his evident desire to help young
Gates. He had hoped to find Mr. Marshall a man of sympathy; but the
manager was as cold as an icicle.
Beth, uneasy at his silence, nudged him.
"Pay it, Ken," she whispered.
"Very well, Mr. Marshall," said he, "I accept your terms."
The check was written and handed over, and Marshall took the forged
check from his safe and delivered it, with the other papers in the case,
to Mr. Forbes. He also wrote a note to his lawyer directing him to
withdraw the prosecution.
Kenneth and Beth went away quite happy with their success, and the
manager stood in his little window and watched them depart. There was a
grim smile of amusement on his shrewd face.
"Of all the easy marks I ever encountered," muttered Mr. Marshall, "this
young Forbes is the easiest. Why, he's a fool, that's what he is. He
might have had that forged check for the face of it, if he'd been sharp.
You wouldn't catch 'Rast Hopkins doing such a fool stunt. Not in a
Meantime Beth was pressing Kenneth's arm as she sat beside him and
"I'm so glad, Ken--so glad! And to think we can save all that misery and
despair by the payment of a hundred and fifty dollars! And now we must
find the girl."
"Yes," replied the boy, cheerfully, "we must find Lucy."
A MYSTERIOUS DISAPPEARANCE
A woman was sitting in a low room, engaged in knitting. Her feet were
stretched out toward a small fire that smouldered in an open hearth. She
wore a simple calico gown, neat and well-fitting, and her face bore
traces of much beauty that time and care had been unable wholly to
Suddenly she paused in her work, her head turned slightly to one side to
"Come in, sir," she called in a soft but distinct voice; "come in,
So Kenneth and Beth entered at the half-open porch door and advanced
into the room.
"Is this Mrs. Rogers?" asked Beth, looking at the woman curiously. The
woman's eyes were closed, but the lashes fell in graceful dark curves
over her withered cheeks. The girl wondered how she had been able to
know her visitors' sex so accurately.
"Yes, I am Mrs. Rogers," said the sweet, sad voice. "And I think you are
one of the young ladies from Elmhurst--perhaps the one Will talked to."
"You are right, Mrs. Rogers. I am Elizabeth DeGraf."
"And your companion--is it Mr. Forbes?" the woman asked.
"Yes, madam," replied Kenneth, astonished to find Will's wife speaking
with so much refinement and gracious ease.
"You are very welcome. Will you please find seats? My affliction renders
me helpless, as you may see."
"We are very comfortable, I assure you, Mrs. Rogers," said Beth. "We
have come to ask if you have heard anything of your daughter."
"Not a word as yet, Miss DeGraf, Will is out with the horse and buggy
doing his best to get information. But Lucy has been gone so long now
that I realize it will be difficult to find her, if, indeed, the poor
girl has not--is not--"
Her voice broke.
"Oh, you don't fear _that_, do you, Mrs. Rogers?" asked Beth, quickly.
"I fear anything--everything!" wailed the poor creature, the tears
streaming from between her closed lids. "My darling was frantic with
grief, and she couldn't bear the humiliation and disgrace of her
position. Will told you, didn't he?"
"Yes, of course. But it wasn't so bad, Mrs. Rogers; it wasn't a
desperate condition, by any means."
"With poor Tom in prison for years--and just for trying to help her."
"Tom isn't in prison, you know, any more," said Beth quietly. "He has
"Last evening. His fault has been forgiven, and he is now free."
The woman sat silent for a time. Then she asked:
"You have done this, Mr. Forbes?"
"Why, Miss DeGraf and I assisted, perhaps. The young man is not really
"Tom's a fine boy!" she cried, with eagerness. "He's honest and true,
Mr. Forbes--he is, indeed!"
"I think so," said Kenneth.
"If he wasn't my Lucy would never have loved him. He had a bright future
before him, sir, and that's why my child went mad when he ruined his
life for her sake."
"Was she mad, do you think?" asked Beth, softly.
"She must have been," said the mother, sadly. "Lucy was a sensible girl,
and until this thing happened she was as bright and cheerful as the day
is long. But she is very sensitive--she inherited that from me, I
think--and Tom's action drove her distracted. At first she raved and
rambled incoherently, and Will and I feared brain fever would set in.
Then she disappeared in the night, without leaving a word or message for
us, which was unlike her--and we've never heard a word of her since.
The--the river has a strange fascination for people in that condition.
At times in my life it has almost drawn _me_ into its depths--and I am
not mad. I have never been mad."
"Let us hope for the best, Mrs. Rogers," said Beth. "Somehow, I have an
idea this trouble will all turn out well in the end."
"Have you?" asked the woman, earnestly.
"Yes. It all came about through such a little thing--merely an unjust
"The little things are the ones that ruin lives," she said. "Will you
let me tell you something of myself? You have been so kind to us, my
dear, that I feel you ought to know."
"I shall be glad to know whatever you care to tell me," said Beth,
"I am the wife of a poor farmer," began the woman, speaking softly and
with some hesitation, but gaining strength as she proceeded. "As a girl
I was considered attractive, and my father was a man of great wealth and
social standing. We lived in Baltimore. Then I fell in love with a young
man who, after obtaining my promise to marry him, found some one he
loved better and carelessly discarded me. As I have said, I have a
sensitive nature. In my girlhood I was especially susceptible to any
slight, and this young man's heartless action made it impossible for me
to remain at home and face the humiliation he had thrust upon me. My
father was a hard man, and demanded that I marry the man he had himself
chosen; but I resented this command and ran away. My mother had passed
on long before, and there was nothing to keep me at home. I came west
and secured a position to teach school in this county, and for a time I
was quite contented and succeeded in living down my disappointment. I
heard but once from my father. He had married again and disinherited me.
He forbade me to ever communicate with him again.
"At that time Will Rogers was one of the most promising and manly of the
country lads around here. He was desperately in love with me, and at
this period, when I seemed completely cut off from my old life and the
future contained no promise, I thought it best to wear out the remainder
of my existence in the seclusion of a farm-house. I put all the past
behind me, and told Will Rogers I would marry him and be a faithful
wife; but that my heart was dead. He accepted me on that condition, and
it was not until after we were married some time that my husband
realized how impossible it would ever be to arouse my affection. Then he
lost courage, and became careless and reckless. When our child came--our
Lucy--Will was devoted to her, and the baby wakened in me all the old
passionate capacity to love. Lucy drew Will and me a little closer
together, but he never recovered his youthful ambition. He was a
disappointed man, and went from bad to worse. I don't say Will hasn't
always been tender and true to me, and absolutely devoted to Lucy. But
he lost all hope of being loved as he loved me, and the disappointment
broke him down. He became an old man early in life, and his lack of
energy kept us very poor. I used to take in sewing before the accident
to my eyes, and that helped a good deal to pay expenses. But now I am
helpless, and my husband devotes all his time to me, although I beg him
to work the farm and try to earn some money.
"I wouldn't have minded the poverty; I wouldn't mind being blind, even,
if Lucy had been spared to me. I have had to bear so much in my life
that I could even bear my child's death. But to have her disappear and
not know what has become of her--whether she is living miserably or
lying at the bottom of the river--it is this that is driving me
Kenneth and Beth remained silent for a time after Mrs. Rogers had
finished her tragic story, for their hearts were full of sympathy for
the poor woman. It was hard to realize that a refined, beautiful and
educated girl had made so sad a mistake of her life and suffered so many
afflictions as a consequence. That old Will had never been a fitting
mate for his wife could readily be understood, and yet the man was still
devoted to his helpless, unresponsive spouse. The fault was not his.
The boy and the girl both perceived that there was but one way they
could assist Mrs. Rogers, and that was to discover what had become of
"Was Lucy like you, or did she resemble her father?" asked Beth.
"She is--she was very like me when I was young," replied the woman.
"There is a photograph of her on the wall there between the windows; but
it was taken five years ago, when she was a child. Now she is--she was
eighteen, and a well-developed young woman."
"I've been looking at the picture," said Kenneth.
"And you mustn't think of her as dead, Mrs. Rogers," said Beth,
pleadingly. "I'm sure she is alive, and that we shall find her. We're
going right to work, and everything possible shall be done to trace your
daughter. Don't worry, please. Be as cheerful as you can, and leave the
search to us."
The woman sighed.
"Will believes she is alive, too," she said. "He can't sleep or rest
till he finds her, for my husband loves her as well as I do. But
sometimes I feel it's wicked to hope she is alive. I know what she
suffers, for I suffered, myself; and life isn't worth living when
despair and disappointment fills it."
"I cannot see why Lucy shouldn't yet be happy," protested Beth. "Tom
Gates is now free, and can begin life anew."
"His trouble will follow him everywhere," said Mrs. Rogers, with
conviction. "Who will employ a bookkeeper, or even a clerk who has been
guilty of forgery?"
"I think I shall give him employment," replied Kenneth.
"You, Mr. Forbes!"
"Yes. I'm not afraid of a boy who became a criminal to save the girl he
"But all the world knows of his crime!" she exclaimed.
"The world forgets these things sooner than you suppose," he answered.
"I need a secretary, and in that position Tom Gates will quickly be able
to live down this unfortunate affair. And if he turns out as well as I
expect, he will soon be able to marry Lucy and give her a comfortable
home. So now nothing remains but to find your girl, and we'll try to do
that, I assure you."
Mrs. Rogers was crying softly by this time, but it was from joy and
relief. When they left her she promised to be as cheerful as possible
and to look on the bright side of life.
"I can't thank you," she said, "so I won't try. You must know how
grateful we are to you."
As Beth and Kenneth drove back to Elmhurst they were both rather silent,
for they had been strongly affected by the scene at the farm-house.
"It's so good of you, Ken, to take Tom Gates into your employ," said the
girl, pressing her cousin's arm. "And I'm sure he'll be true and
"I really need him, Beth," said the boy. "There is getting to be too
much correspondence for Mr. Watson to attend to, and I ought to relieve
him of many other details. It's a good arrangement, and I'm glad I
thought of it."
They had almost reached Elmhurst when they met the Honorable Erastus
Hopkins driving along the road. On the seat beside him was a young girl,
and as the vehicles passed each other Beth gave a start and clung to the
"Oh, Ken!" she cried, "did you see? Did you see that?"
"Yes; it's my respected adversary."
"But the girl! It's Lucy--I'm sure it's Lucy! She's the living image of
Mrs. Rogers! Stop--stop--and let's go back!"
"Nonsense, Beth," said the boy. "It can't be."
"But it is. I'm sure it is!"
"I saw the girl," he said. "She was laughing gaily and talking with the
Honorable Erastus. Is that your idea of the mad, broken-hearted Lucy
"N-no. She _was_ laughing, Ken, I noticed it."
"And she wasn't unhappy a bit. You mustn't think that every pretty girl
with dark eyes you meet is Lucy Rogers, you know. And there's another
"Any companion of Mr. Hopkins can be easily traced."
"That's true," answered the girl, thoughtfully. "I must have been
mistaken," she added, with a sigh.
BETH MEETS A REBUFF
The campaign was now growing warm. Mr. Hopkins had come to realize that
he had "the fight of his life" on his hands, and that defeat meant his
political ruin. Close-fisted and miserly as he was, no one knew so well
as the Honorable Erastus how valuable this position of Representative
was to him in a financial way, and that by winning re-election he could
find means to reimburse himself for all he had expended in the fight.
So, to the surprise of the Democratic Committee and all his friends, Mr.
Hopkins announced that he would oppose Forbes's aggressive campaign with
an equal aggressiveness, and spend as many dollars in doing so as might
He did not laugh at his opponents any longer. To himself he admitted
their shrewdness and activity and acknowledged that an experienced head
was managing their affairs.
One of Mr. Hopkins's first tasks after calling his faithful henchmen
around him was to make a careful canvass of the voters of his district,
to see what was still to be accomplished.
This canvass was quite satisfactory, for final report showed only about
a hundred majority for Forbes. The district was naturally Republican by
six hundred majority, and Hopkins had previously been elected by a
plurality of eighty-three; so that all the electioneering of the girl
politicians, and the expenditure of vast sums of money in painting
fences and barns, buying newspapers and flaunting Forbes banners in the
breezes, had not cut into the Hopkins following to any serious extent.
But, to offset this cheering condition, the Democratic agents who made
the canvass reported that there was an air of uncertainty throughout the
district, and that many of those who declared for Hopkins were lukewarm
and faint-hearted, and might easily be induced to change their votes.
This was what must be prevented. The "weak-kneed" contingency must be
strengthened and fortified, and a couple of hundred votes in one way or
another secured from the opposition.
The Democratic Committee figured out a way to do this. Monroe County,
where both Forbes and Hopkins resided, was one of the Democratic
strongholds of the State. The portions of Washington and Jefferson
Counties included in the Eighth District were as strongly Republican,
and being more populous gave to the district its natural Republican
majority. On the same ticket that was to elect a Representative to the
State Legislature was the candidate for Sheriff of Monroe County. A man
named Cummings was the Republican and Seth Reynolds, the liveryman, the
Democratic nominee. Under ordinary conditions Reynolds was sure to be
elected, but the Committee proposed to sacrifice him in order to elect
Hopkins. The Democrats would bargain with the Republicans to vote for
the Republican Sheriff if the Republicans would vote for the Democratic
Representative. This "trading votes," which was often done, was
considered by the politicians quite legitimate. The only thing necessary
was to "fix" Seth Reynolds, and this Hopkins arranged personally. The
office of Sheriff would pay about two thousand a year, and this sum
Hopkins agreed to pay the liveryman and so relieve him of all the
annoyance of earning it.
Reynolds saw the political necessity of this sacrifice, and consented
readily to the arrangement. Mr. Cummings, who was to profit by the deal,
was called to a private consultation and agreed to slaughter Kenneth
Forbes to secure votes for himself. It was thought that this clever
arrangement would easily win the fight for Hopkins.
But the Honorable Erastus had no intention of "taking chances," or
"monkeying with fate," as he tersely expressed it. Every scheme known to
politicians must be worked, and none knew the intricate game better than
Hopkins. This was why he held several long conferences with his friend
Marshall, the manager at the mill. And this was why Kenneth and Beth
discovered him conversing with the young woman in the buggy. Mr. Hopkins
had picked her up from the path leading from the rear gate of the
Elmhurst grounds, and she had given him accurate information concerning
the movements of the girl campaigners. The description she gave of the
coming reception to the Woman's Political League was so humorous and
diverting that they were both laughing heartily over the thing when the
young people passed them, and thus Mr. Hopkins failed to notice who the
occupants of the other vehicle were.
He talked for an hour with the girl, gave her explicit instructions,
thrust some money into her hand, and then drove her back to the bend in
the path whence she quickly made her way up to the great house.
Louise was making great preparations to entertain the Woman's Political
League, an organization she had herself founded, the members of which
were wives of farmers in the district. These women were flattered by the
attention of the young lady and had promised to assist in electing Mr.
Forbes. Louise hoped for excellent results from this organization and
wished the entertainment to be so effective in winning their good-will
that they would work earnestly for the cause in which they were
Patsy and Beth supported their cousin loyally and assisted in the
preparations. The Fairview band was engaged to discourse as much harmony
as it could produce, and the resources of the great house were taxed to
entertain the guests. Tables were spread on the lawn and a dainty but
substantial repast was to be served.
The day of the entertainment was as sunny and mild as heart could
By ten o'clock the farm wagons began to drive up, loaded with women and
children, for all were invited except the grown men. This was the first
occasion within a generation when such an entertainment had been given
at Elmhurst, and the only one within the memory of man where the
neighbors and country people had been invited guests. So all were eager
to attend and enjoy the novel event.
The gardens and grounds were gaily decorated with Chinese and Japanese
lanterns, streamers and Forbes banners. There were great tanks of
lemonade, and tables covered with candies and fruits for the children,
and maids and other servants distributed the things and looked after the
comfort of the guests. The band played briskly, and before noon the
scene was one of great animation. A speakers' stand, profusely
decorated, had been erected on the lawn, and hundreds of folding chairs
provided for seats. The attendance was unexpectedly large, and the girls
were delighted, foreseeing great success for their fete.
"We ought to have more attendants, Beth," said Louise, approaching her
cousin. "Won't you run into the house and see if Martha can't spare one
or two more maids?"
Beth went at once, and found the housekeeper in her little room. Martha
was old and somewhat feeble in body, but her mind was still active and
her long years of experience in directing the household at Elmhurst made
her a very useful and important personage. She was very fond of the
young ladies, whom she had known when Aunt Jane was the mistress here,
and Beth was her especial favorite.
So she greeted the girl cordially, and said:
"Maids? My dear, I haven't another one to give you, and my legs are too
tottering to be of any use. I counted on Eliza Parsons, the new girl I
hired for the linen room and to do mending; but Eliza said she had a
headache this morning and couldn't stand the sun, So I let her off. But
she didn't seem very sick to me."
"Perhaps she is better and will help us until after the luncheon is
served," said Beth. "Where is she, Martha? I'll go and ask her."
"I'd better show you the way, miss. She's in her own room."
The housekeeper led the way and Beth followed. When she rapped upon the
door, a sweet, quiet voice said:
The girl entered, and gave an involuntary cry of surprise. Standing
before her was the young girl she had seen riding with Mr. Hopkins--the
girl she had declared to be the missing daughter of Mrs. Rogers.
For a moment Beth stood staring, while the new maid regarded her with
composure and a slight smile upon her beautiful face. She was dressed in
the regulation costume of the maids at Elmhurst, a plain black gown with
white apron and cap.
"I--I beg your pardon," said Beth, with a slight gasp; for the likeness
to Mrs. Rogers was something amazing. "Aren't you Lucy Rogers?"
The maid raised her eyebrows with a gesture of genuine surprise. Then
she gave a little laugh, and replied:
"No, Miss Beth. I'm Elizabeth Parsons."
"But it can't be," protested the girl. "How do you know my name, and why
haven't I seen you here before?"
"I'm not a very important person at Elmhurst," replied Eliza, in a
pleasant, even tone. "I obtained the situation only a few days ago. I
attend to the household mending, you know, and care for the linen. But
one can't be here without knowing the names of the young ladies, so I
recognize you as Miss Beth, one of Mr. Forbes's cousins."
"You speak like an educated person," said Beth, wonderingly. "Where is
For the first time the maid seemed a little confused, and her gaze
wandered from the face of her visitor.
"Will you excuse my answering that question?" she asked.
"It is very simple and natural," persisted Beth. "Why cannot you answer
"Excuse me, please. I--I am not well today. I have a headache."
She sat down in a rocking chair, and clasping her hands in her lap,
rocked slowly back and forth.
"I'm sorry," said Beth. "I hoped you would be able to assist me on the
lawn. There are so many people that we can't give them proper
Eliza Parsons shook her head.
"I am not able," she declared. "I abhor crowds. They--they excite me, in
some way, and I--I can't bear them. You must excuse me."
Beth looked at the strange girl without taking the hint to retire.
Somehow, she could not rid herself of the impression that whether or not
she was mistaken in supposing Eliza to be the missing Lucy, she had
stumbled upon a sphinx whose riddle was well worth solving.
But Eliza bore the scrutiny with quiet unconcern. She even seemed mildly
amused at the attention she attracted. Beth was a beautiful girl--the
handsomest of the three cousins, by far; yet Eliza surpassed her in
natural charm, and seemed well aware of the fact. Her manner was neither
independent nor assertive, but rather one of well-bred composure and
calm reliance. Beth felt that she was intruding and knew that she ought
to go; yet some fascination held her to the spot. Her eyes wandered to
the maid's hands. However her features and form might repress any
evidence of nervousness, these hands told a different story. The thin
fingers clasped and unclasped in little spasmodic jerks and belied the
quiet smile upon the face above them.
"I wish," said Beth, slowly, "I knew you."
A sudden wave of scarlet swept over Eliza's face. She rose quickly to
her feet, with an impetuous gesture that made her visitor catch her
"I wish I knew myself," she cried, fiercely. "Why do you annoy me in
this manner? What am I to you? Will you leave me alone in my own room,
or must I go away to escape you?"
"I will go," said Beth, a little frightened at the passionate appeal.
Eliza closed the door behind her with a decided slam, and a key clicked
in the lock. The sound made Beth indignant, and she hurried back to
where her cousins were busy with the laughing, chattering throng of
The lawn fete was a tremendous success, and every farmer's wife was
proud of her satin badge bearing the monogram: "W. P. L.," and the
words: "FORBES FOR REPRESENTATIVE."
Certain edibles, such as charlotte-russe, Spanish cream, wine jellies
and mousses, to say nothing of the caviars and anchovies, were wholly
unknown to them; but they ate the dainties with a wise disregard of
their inexperience and enjoyed them immensely.
The old butler was a general in his way, and in view of the fact that
the staff of servants at Elmhurst was insufficient to cope with such a
throng, he allowed Louise to impress several farmers' daughters into
service, and was able to feed everyone without delay and in an abundant
and satisfactory manner.
After luncheon began the speech-making, interspersed with music by the
Louise made the preliminary address, and, although her voice was not
very strong, the silent attention of her hearers permitted her to be
She called attention to the fact that this campaign was important
because it promised more beautiful and attractive houses for the farmers
and townsmen alike.
"We had all grown so accustomed to advertising signs," she said, "that
we failed to notice how thick they were becoming or how bold and
overpowering. From a few scattered announcements on fence boards, they
had crowded themselves into more prominent places until the barns and
sheds and the very rocks were daubed with glaring letters asking us to
buy the medicines, soaps, tobaccos, and other wares the manufacturers
were anxious to sell. Every country road became an advertising avenue.
Scarcely a country house was free from signs of some sort. Yet the
people tamely submitted to this imposition because they knew no way to
avoid it. When Mr. Forbes began his campaign to restore the homesteads
to their former beauty and dignity, a cry was raised against him. But
this was because the farmers did not understand how much this reform
meant to them. So we gave them an object lesson. We painted out all the
signs in this section at our own expense, that you might see how much
more beautiful your homes are without them. We believe that none of you
will ever care to allow advertising signs on your property again, and
that the quiet refinement of this part of the country will induce many
other places to follow our example, until advertisers are forced to
confine themselves to newspapers, magazines and circulars, their only
legitimate channels. This much Mr. Forbes has already done for you, and
he will now tell you what else, if he is elected, he proposes to do."
Kenneth then took the platform and was welcomed with a hearty cheer. He
modestly assured them that a Representative in the State Legislature
could accomplish much good for his district if he honestly desired to do
so. That was what a Representative was for--to represent his people. It
was folly to elect any man who would forget that duty and promote only
his own interests through the position of power to which the people had
appointed him. Mr. Forbes admitted that he had undertaken this campaign
because he was opposed to offensive advertising signs; but now he had
become interested in other issues, and was anxious to be elected so that
he could carry on the work of reform. They needed more school-houses for
their children, and many other things which he hoped to provide as their
During this oration Beth happened to glance up at the house, and her
sharp eyes detected the maid, Eliza, standing shielded behind the
half-closed blind of an upper window and listening to, as well as
watching, the proceedings below. Then she remembered how the girl had
been laughing and talking with Mr. Hopkins, when she first saw her, and
with sudden dismay realized that Eliza was a spy in the service of the
Her first impulse was to denounce the maid at once, and have her
discharged; but the time was not opportune, so she waited until the
festivities were ended.
It had been a great day for the families of the neighboring farmers, and
they drove homeward in the late afternoon full of enthusiasm over the
royal manner in which they had been entertained and admiration for the
girls who had provided the fun and feasting. Indeed, there were more
kindly thoughts expressed for the inhabitants of Elmhurst than had ever
before been heard in a single day in the history of the county, and the
great and the humble seemed more closely drawn together.
When the last guest had departed Beth got her cousins and Kenneth
together and told them of her discovery of the spy.
Kenneth was at first greatly annoyed, and proposed to call Martha and
have the false maid ejected from the premises; but Patsy's wise little
head counselled caution in handling the matter.
"Now that we know her secret," she said, "the girl cannot cause us more
real harm, and there may be a way to circumvent this unscrupulous
Hopkins and turn the incident to our own advantage. Let's think it over
carefully before we act."
"There's another thing," said Beth, supporting her cousin. "I'm
interested in the mystery surrounding the girl. I now think I was wrong
in suspecting her to be the lost Lucy Rogers; but there is surely some
romance connected with her, and she is not what she seems to be. I'd
like to study her a little."
"It was absurd to connect her with Lucy Rogers," observed Kenneth, "for
there is nothing in her character to remind one of the unhappy girl."
"Except her looks," added Beth. "She's the living image of Mrs. Rogers."
"That isn't important," replied Louise. "It is probably a mere
coincidence. None of us have ever seen the real Lucy, and she may not
resemble her mother at all."
"Mrs. Rogers claims she does," said Beth. "But anyhow, I have a wish to
keep this girl at the house, where I can study her character."
"Then keep her, my dear," decided Kenneth. "I'll set a couple of men to
watch the gates, and if she goes out we'll know whom she meets. The most
she can do is to report our movements to Mr. Hopkins, and there's no
great harm in that."
So the matter was left, for the time; and as if to verify Beth's
suspicions Eliza was seen to leave the grounds after dusk and meet Mr.
Hopkins in the lane. They conversed together a few moments, and then the
maid calmly returned and went to her room.
The next day Mr. Hopkins scattered flaring hand-bills over the district
which were worded in a way designed to offset any advantage his opponent
had gained from the lawn fete of the previous day. They read: "Hopkins,
the Man of the Times, is the Champion of the Signs of the Times. Forbes,
who never earned a dollar in his life, but inherited his money, is
trying to take the dollars out of the pockets of the farmers by
depriving them of the income derived by selling spaces for advertising
signs. He is robbing the farmers while claiming he wants to beautify
their homes. The farmers can't eat beauty; they want money. Therefore
they are going to vote for the Honorable Erastus Hopkins for
Representative." Then followed an estimate of the money paid the farmers
of the district by the advertisers during the past five years, amounting
to several thousands of dollars in the aggregate. The circular ended in
this way: "Hopkins challenges Forbes to deny these facts. Hopkins is
willing to meet Forbes before the public at any time and place he may
select, to settle this argument in joint debate."
The girls accepted the challenge at once. Within two days every farmer
had received a notice that Mr. Forbes would meet Mr. Hopkins at the
Fairview Opera House on Saturday afternoon to debate the question as to
whether advertising signs brought good or evil to the community.
The campaign was now getting hot. Because of the activity of the
opposing candidates every voter in the district had become more or less
interested in the fight, and people were taking one side or the other
with unusual earnestness.
Mr. Hopkins was not greatly pleased that his challenge had been
accepted. He had imagined that the Forbes party would ignore it and
leave him the prestige of crowing over his opponent's timidity. But he
remembered how easily he had subdued Kenneth at the school-house meeting
before the nominations, and had no doubt of his ability to repeat the
He was much incensed against the girls who were working for Kenneth
Forbes, for he realized that they were proving an important factor in
the campaign. He even attributed to them more than they deserved, for
Uncle John's telling activities were so quietly conducted that he was
personally lost sight of entirely by Mr. Hopkins.
Mr. Hopkins had therefore become so enraged that, against the advice of
his friends, he issued a circular sneering at "Women in Politics." The
newspapers having been subsidized by the opposition so early in the
game, Mr. Hopkins had driven to employ the circular method of
communicating with the voters. Scarcely a day passed now that his corps
of distributors did not leave some of his literature at every dwelling
in the district.
His tirade against the girls was neither convincing nor in good taste.
He asked the voters if they were willing to submit to "petticoat
government," and permit a "lot of boarding-school girls, with more
boldness than modesty" to dictate the policies of the community. "These
frizzle-headed females," continued the circular, "are trying to make
your wives and daughters as rebellious and unreasonable as they are
themselves; but no man of sense will permit a woman to influence his
vote. It is a disgrace to this district that Mr. Forbes allows his
girlish campaign to be run by a lot of misses who should be at home
darning stockings; or, if they were not able to do that, practicing
"Good!" exclaimed shrewd Miss Patsy, when she read this circular. "If
I'm not much mistaken, Mr. Hopkins has thrown a boomerang. Every woman
who attended the fete is now linked with us as an ally, and every one of
them will resent this foolish circular."
"I'm sorry," said Kenneth, "that you girls should be forced to endure
this. I feared something like it when you insisted on taking a hand in
But they laughed at him and at Mr. Hopkins, and declared they were not
at all offended.
"One cannot touch pitch without being defiled," said Mr. Watson,
gravely, "and politics, as Mr. Hopkins knows it, is little more than
"I cannot see that there is anything my girls have done to forfeit
respect and admiration," asserted Uncle John, stoutly. "To accuse them
of boldness or immodesty is absurd. They have merely gone to work in a
business-like manner and used their wits and common-sense in educating
the voters. Really, my dears, I'm more proud of you today than I've ever
been before," he concluded.
And Uncle John was right. There had been no loss of dignity by any one
of the three, and their evident refinement, as well as their gentleness
and good humor, had until now protected them from any reproach. It had
remained for Mr. Hopkins to accuse them, and his circular had a wide
influence in determining the issue of the campaign.
Kenneth had sent word to Tom Gates, asking the young man to come to
Elmhurst, but it was not until two days after the lawn party that Tom
appeared and asked permission to see Mr. Forbes.
Beth and Louise were with Kenneth at the time, and were eager to remain
during the interview, so the young man was shown into the library.
Beth could scarcely recognize in him the calm and cheerful Tom Gates
they had visited in the county jail; for his face was drawn with care
and anxiety, eyes were bloodshot, and his former neat appearance was
changed to one careless and untidy.
Kenneth scrutinized him closely.
"What have you been up to, Tom?" he asked.
"I've been searching for Lucy, sir, night and day. I haven't slept a
wink since I heard the awful news of her sickness and escape. Where do
you think she can be, sir?"
His question was full of agonized entreaty, and his manner pitifully
"I don't know," answered Kenneth. "Where have you searched?"
"Everywhere, sir, that she might be likely to go. I've inquired in every
town, and along every road leading out of the county. She didn't take a
train, because poor Lucy hadn't any money--and I've asked at all the
stations. And--and--along the river they say no girl answering her
description has been seen."
"It's strange," remarked Kenneth, thoughtfully, while the girls regarded
the youth with silent sympathy.
"If you knew Lucy, sir, you'd realize how strange it is," went on young
Gates, earnestly. "She was such a gentle, shrinking girl, as shy and
retiring as a child. And she never did a thing that would cause anyone
the least worry or unhappiness. But she was out of her head, sir, and
didn't know what she was about. That was the reason she went away. And
from the moment she left her home all trace of her was lost."
"One would think," observed Kenneth, "that a poor, demented girl,
wandering about the country, would be noticed by scores of people. Did
she take any clothing with her?"
"Only the dress she had on, sir, and not even a hat or a shawl."
"What was her dress like?" asked Beth, quickly.
"It was a light grey in color, and plainly made. She wore a white
collar, but that is all we can be certain she had on. You see her mother
is blind, and old Will doesn't observe very closely."
"Does Lucy resemble her mother?" inquired Beth.
"Very much, miss. She was a beautiful girl, everyone acknowledged. And
it's all my fault--all my fault. I thought to save her, and drove her
"You might have known that," declared Kenneth. "A girl of her character,
sensitive to a fault, would be greatly shocked to find the man she loved
"It was for her sake."