Part 3 out of 6
long while they stood there under the clouds and stars, as he held her
close. There was no eloquence of leave-taking, no professions of
undying love, for these two hearts were inarticulate and dizzily
clinging to a wilderness code of self-repression--and they had reached
a point where speech would have swept them both away to a break-down.
But as they stood, their arms gripping each other, each heart pounding
on the other's breast, it was with a pulsing that spoke in the torrent
their lips dammed, and between the two even in this farewell embrace
was the rifle which stood emblematical of the man's life and mission
and heredity. Its cold metal lay in a line between their warm breasts,
separating, yet uniting them, and they clung to each other across its
rigid barrel, as a man and woman may cling with the child between them
which belongs to both, and makes them one. As yet, she had shed no
tears. Then, he mounted and was swallowed in the dark. It was not until
the thud of his mule's hoofs were lost in the distance that the girl
climbed back to the top of the stile, and dropped down. Then, she
lifted the gun and pressed it close to her bosom, and sat silently
sobbing for a long while.
"He's done gone away," she moaned, "an' he won't never come back no
more--but ef he does come"--she raised her eyes to the stars as though
calling them to witness--"ef he does come, I'll shore be a-waitin'.
Lord God, make him come back!"
The boy from Misery rode slowly toward Hixon. At times, the moon
struggled out and made the shadows black along the way. At other times,
it was like riding in a huge caldron of pitch. When he passed into that
stretch of country at whose heart Jesse Purvy dwelt, he raised his
voice in song. His singing was very bad, and the ballad lacked tune,
but it served its purpose of saving him from the suspicion of
furtiveness. Though the front of the house was blank, behind its heavy
shutters he knew that his coming might be noted, and night-riding at
this particular spot might be misconstrued in the absence of frank
The correctness of his inference brought a brief smile to his lips
when he crossed the creek that skirted the orchard, and heard a stable
door creak softly behind him. He was to be followed again--and watched,
but he did not look back or pause to listen for the hoofbeats of his
unsolicited escort. On the soft mud of the road, he would hardly have
heard them, had he bent his ear and drawn rein. He rode at a walk, for
his train would not leave until five o'clock in the morning. There was
time in plenty.
It was cold and depressing as he trudged the empty streets from the
livery stable to the railroad station, carrying his saddlebags over his
arm. His last farewell had been taken when he left the old mule behind
in the rickety livery stable. It had been unemotional, too, but the
ragged creature had raised its stubborn head, and rubbed its soft nose
against his shoulder as though in realization of the parting--and
unwilling realization. He had roughly laid his hand for a moment on the
muzzle, and turned on his heel.
He was all unconscious that he presented a figure which would seem
ludicrous in the great world to which he had looked with such
eagerness. The lamps burned murkily about the railroad station, and a
heavy fog cloaked the hills. At last he heard the whistle and saw the
blazing headlight, and a minute later he had pushed his way into the
smoking-car and dropped his saddlebags on the seat beside him. Then,
for the first time, he saw and recognized his watchers. Purvy meant to
have Samson shadowed as far as Lexington, and his movements from that
point definitely reported. Jim Asberry and Aaron Hollis were the chosen
spies. He did not speak to the two enemies who took seats across the
car, but his face hardened, and his brows came together in a black scowl.
"When I gits back," he promised himself, "you'll be one of the fust
folks I'll look fer, Jim Asberry, damn ye! All I hopes is thet nobody
else don't git ye fust. Ye b'longs ter me."
He was not quite certain yet that Jim Asberry had murdered his father,
but he knew that Asberry was one of the coterie of "killers" who took
their blood hire from Purvy, and he knew that Asberry had sworn to
"git" him. To sit in the same car with these men and to force himself
to withhold his hand, was a hard bullet for Samson South to chew, but
he had bided his time thus far, and he would bide it to the end. When
that end came, it would also be the end for Purvy and Asberry. He
disliked Hollis, too, but with a less definite and intense hatred.
Samson wished that one of the henchmen would make a move toward attack.
He made no concealment of his own readiness. He removed both overcoat
and coat, leaving exposed to view the heavy revolver which was strapped
under his left arm. He even unbuttoned the leather flap of the holster,
and then being cleared for action, sat glowering across the aisle, with
his eyes not on the faces but upon the hands of the two Purvy spies.
The wrench of partings, the long raw ride and dis-spiriting gloom of
the darkness before dawn had taken out of the boy's mind all the
sparkle of anticipation and left only melancholy and hate. He felt for
the moment that, had these men attacked him and thrown him back into
the life he was leaving, back into the war without fault on his part,
he would be glad. The fierce activity of fighting would be welcome to
his mood. He longed for the appeasement of a thoroughly satisfied
vengeance. But the two watchers across the car were not ordered to
fight and so they made no move. They did not seem to see Samson. They
did not appear to have noticed his inviting readiness for combat. They
did not remove their coats. At Lexington, where he had several hours to
wait, Samson bought a "snack" at a restaurant near the station and then
strolled about the adjacent streets, still carrying his saddlebags, for
he knew nothing of the workings of check-rooms. When he returned to the
depot with his open wallet in his hand, and asked for a ticket to New
York, the agent looked up and his lips unguardedly broke into a smile
of amusement. It was a good-humored smile, but Samson saw that it was
inspired by some sort of joke, and he divined that the joke was--himself!
"What's the matter?" he inquired very quietly, though his chin
stiffened. "Don't ye sell tickets ter New York?"
The man behind the grilled wicket read a spirit as swift to resent
ridicule as that of d'Artagnan had been when he rode his orange-colored
nag into the streets of Paris. His face sobered, and his manner became
attentive. He was wondering what complications lay ahead of this raw
creature whose crudity of appearance was so at odds with the compelling
quality of his eyes.
"Do you want a Pullman reservation?" he asked.
"What's thet?" The boy put the question with a steadiness of gaze that
seemed to defy the agent to entertain even a subconsciously critical
thought as to his ignorance.
The ticket man explained sleeping- and dining-cars. He had rather
expected the boy to choose the day coach, but Samson merely said:
"I wants the best thar is." He counted out the additional money, and
turned gravely from the window. The sleeping-car to which he was
assigned was almost empty, but he felt upon him the interested gaze of
those few eyes that were turned toward his entrance. He engaged every
pair with a pair very clear and steady and undropping, until somehow
each lip that had started to twist in amusement straightened, and the
twinkle that rose at first glance sobered at second. He did not know
why an old gentleman in a plaid traveling cap, who looked up from a
magazine, turned his gaze out of the window with an expression of grave
thoughtfulness. To himself, the old gentleman was irrelevantly quoting
a line or two of verse:
"' ... Unmade, unhandled, unmeet--
Ye pushed them raw to the battle, as ye picked them
raw from the street--'"
"Only," added the old gentleman under his breath, "this one hasn't
even the training of the streets--but with those eyes he'll get
The porter paused and asked to see Samson's ticket. Mentally, he
"Po' white trash!" Then, he looked again, for the boy's eyes were
discomfortingly on his fat, black face, and the porter straightway
decided to be polite. Yet, for all his specious seeming of unconcern,
Samson was waking to the fact that he was a scarecrow, and his
sensitive pride made him cut his meals short in the dining-car, where
he was kept busy beating down inquisitive eyes with his defiant gaze.
He resolved after some thought upon a definite policy. It was a very
old policy, but to him new--and a discovery. He would change nothing in
himself that involved a surrender of code or conviction. But, wherever
it could be done with honor, he would concede to custom. He had come to
learn, not to give an exhibition of stubbornness. Whatever the outside
world could offer with a recommendation to his good sense, that thing
he would adopt and make his own.
It was late in the second afternoon when he stepped from the train at
Jersey City, to be engulfed in an unimagined roar and congestion. Here,
it was impossible to hold his own against the unconcealed laughter of
the many, and he stood for an instant glaring about like a caged tiger,
while three currents of humanity separated and flowed toward the three
ferry exits. It was a moment of longing for the quiet of his ancient
hills, where nothing more formidable than blood enemies existed to
disquiet and perplex a man's philosophy. Those were things he
understood--and even enemies at home did not laugh at a man's
peculiarities. For the first time in his life, Samson felt a tremor of
something like terror, terror of a great, vague thing, too vast and
intangible to combat, and possessed of the measureless power of many
hurricanes. Then, he saw the smiling face of Lescott, and Lescott's
extended hand. Even Lescott, immaculately garbed and fur-coated, seemed
almost a stranger, and the boy's feeling of intimacy froze to inward
constraint and diffidence. But Lescott knew nothing of that. The stoic
in Samson held true, masking his emotions.
"So you came," said the New Yorker, heartily, grasping the boy's hand.
"Where's your luggage? We'll just pick that up, and make a dash for the
"Hyar hit is," replied Samson, who still carried his saddlebags. The
painter's eyes twinkled, but the mirth was so frank and friendly that
the boy, instead of glaring in defiance, grinned responsively.
"Right, oh!" laughed Lescott. "I thought maybe you'd brought a trunk,
but it's the wise man who travels light."
"I reckon I'm pretty green," acknowledged the youth somewhat ruefully.
"But I hain't been studyin' on what I looked like. I reckon thet don't
make much difference."
"Not much," affirmed the other, with conviction. "Let the men with
little souls spend their thought on that."
The artist watched his protege narrowly as they took their places
against the forward rail of the ferry-deck, and the boat stood out into
the crashing water traffic of North River. What Samson saw must be
absolutely bewildering. Ears attuned to hear a breaking twig must ache
to this hoarse shrieking of whistles. To the west, in the evening's
fading color, the sky-line of lower Manhattan bit the sky with its
serried line of fangs.
Yet, Samson leaned on the rail without comment, and his face told
nothing. Lescott waited for some expression, and, when none came, he
"Samson, that is considered rather an impressive panorama over there.
What do you think of it?"
"Ef somebody was ter ask ye ter describe the shape of a rainstorm,
what would ye say?" countered the boy.
"I guess I wouldn't try to say."
"I reckon," replied the mountaineer, "I won't try, neither."
"Do you find it anything like the thing expected?" No New Yorker can
allow a stranger to be unimpressed with that sky-line.
"I didn't have no notion what to expect." Samson's voice was matter-of-
fact. "I 'lowed I'd jest wait and see."
He followed Lescott out to the foot of Twenty-third Street, and
stepped with him into the tonneau of the painter's waiting car. Lescott
lived with his family up-town, for it happened that, had his canvases
possessed no value whatever, he would still have been in a position to
drive his motor, and follow his impulses about the world. Lescott
himself had found it necessary to overcome family opposition when he
had determined to follow the career of painting. His people had been in
finance, and they had expected him to take the position to which he
logically fell heir in activities that center about Wall Street. He,
too, had at first been regarded as recreant to traditions. For that
reason, he felt a full sympathy with Samson. The painter's place in the
social world--although he preferred his other world of Art--was so
secure that he was free from any petty embarrassment in standing
sponsor for a wild man from the hills. If he did not take the boy to
his home, it was because he understood that a life which must be not
only full of early embarrassment, but positively revolutionary, should
be approached by easy stages. Consequently, the car turned down Fifth
Avenue, passed under the arch, and drew up before a door just off
Washington Square, where the landscape painter had a studio suite.
There were sleeping-rooms and such accessories as seemed to the boy
unheard-of luxury, though Lescott regarded the place as a makeshift
annex to his home establishment.
"You'd better take your time in selecting permanent quarters," was his
careless fashion of explaining to Samson. "It's just as well not to
hurry. You are to stay here with me, as long as you will."
"I'm obleeged ter ye," replied the boy, to whose training in open-
doored hospitality the invitation seemed only natural. The evening meal
was brought in from a neighboring hotel, and the two men dined before
an open fire, Samson eating in mountain silence, while his host chatted
and asked questions. The place was quiet for New York, but to Samson it
seemed an insufferable pandemonium. He found himself longing for the
velvet-soft quiet of the nightfalls he had known.
"Samson," suggested the painter, when the dinner things had been
carried out and they were alone, "you are here for two purposes: first
to study painting; second, to educate and equip yourself for coming
conditions. It's going to take work, more work, and then some more work."
"I hain't skeered of work."
"I believe that. Also, you must keep out of trouble. You've got to
ride your fighting instinct with a strong curb."
"I don't 'low to let nobody run over me." The statement was not
argumentative; only an announcement of a principle which was not
subject to modification.
"All right, but until you learn the ropes, let me advise you."
The boy gazed into the fire for a few moments of silence.
"I gives ye my hand on thet," he promised.
At eleven o'clock the painter, having shown his guest over the
premises, said good-night, and went up-town to his own house. Samson
lay a long while awake, with many disquieting reflections. Before his
closed eyes rose insistently the picture of a smoky cabin with a
puncheon floor and of a girl upon whose cheeks and temples flickered
orange and vermilion lights. To his ears came the roar of elevated
trains, and, since a fog had risen over the Hudson, the endless night-
splitting screams of brazen-throated ferry whistles. He tossed on a
mattress which seemed hard and comfortless, and longed for a feather-bed.
"Good-night, Sally," he almost groaned. "I wisht I was back thar whar
I belongs." ... And Sally, more than a thousand miles away, was
shivering on the top of a stile with a white, grief-torn little face,
wishing that, too.
Meanwhile Lescott, letting himself into a house overlooking the Park,
was hailed by a chorus of voices from the dining-room. He turned and
went in to join a gay group just back from the opera. As he
thoughtfully mixed himself a highball, they bombarded him with questions.
"Why didn't you bring your barbarian with you?" demanded a dark-eyed
girl, who looked very much as Lescott himself might have looked had he
been a girl--and very young and lovely. The painter always thought of
his sister as the family's _edition de luxe_. Now, she flashed on
him an affectionate smile, and added: "We have been waiting to see him.
Must we go to bed disappointed?"
George stood looking down on them, and tinkled the ice in his glass.
"He wasn't brought on for purposes of exhibition, Drennie," he smiled.
"I was afraid, if he came in here in the fashion of his arrival--carrying
his saddlebags--you ultra-civilized folk might have laughed."
A roar of laughter at the picture vindicated Lescott's assumption.
"No! Now, actually with saddlebags?" echoed a young fellow with a
likeable face which was for the moment incredulously amused. "That goes
Dick Whittington one better. You do make some rare discoveries, George.
We celebrate you."
"Thanks, Horton," commented the painter, dryly. "When you New Yorkers
have learned what these barbarians already know, the control of your
over-sensitized risibles and a courtesy deeper than your shirt-fronts
--maybe I'll let you have a look. Meantime, I'm much too fond of all of
you to risk letting you laugh at my barbarian."
The first peep of daylight through the studio skylight found the
mountain boy awake. Before the daylight came he had seen the stars
through its panes. Lescott's servant, temporarily assigned to the
studio, was still sleeping when Samson dressed and went out. As he put
on his clothes, he followed his custom of strapping the pistol-holster
under his left armpit outside his shirt. He did it with no particular
thought and from force of habit. His steps carried him first into
Washington Square, at this cheerless hour empty except for a shivering
and huddled figure on a bench and a rattling milk-cart. The boy
wandered aimlessly until, an hour later, he found himself on Bleecker
Street, as that thoroughfare began to awaken and take up its day's
activity. The smaller shops that lie in the shadow of the elevated
trestle were opening their doors. Samson had been reflecting on the
amused glances he had inspired yesterday and, when he came to a store
with a tawdry window display of haberdashery and ready-made clothing,
he decided to go in and investigate.
Evidently, the garments he now wore gave him an appearance of poverty
and meanness, which did not comport with the dignity of a South. Had
any one else criticized his appearance his resentment would have
blazed, but he could make voluntary admissions. The shopkeeper's
curiosity was somewhat piqued by a manner of speech and appearance
which, were, to him, new, and which he could not classify. His first
impression of the boy in the stained suit, slouch hat, and patched
overcoat, was much the same as that which the Pullman porter had
mentally summed up as, "Po' white trash"; but the Yiddish shopman could
not place his prospective customer under any head or type with which he
was familiar. He was neither "kike," "wop," "rough-neck," nor beggar,
and, as the proprietor laid out his wares with unctuous solicitude, he
was, also, studying his unresponsive and early visitor. When Samson,
for the purpose of trying on a coat and vest, took off his own outer
garments, and displayed, without apology or explanation, a huge and
murderous-looking revolver, the merchant became nervously excited. Had
Samson made gratifying purchases, he might have seen nothing, but it
occurred to the mountaineer, just as he was counting money from a
stuffed purse, that it would perhaps be wiser to wait and consult
Lescott in matters of sartorial selection. So, with incisive bluntness,
he countermanded his order--and made an enemy. The shopkeeper, standing
at the door of his basement establishment, combed his beard with his
fingers, and thought regretfully of the fat wallet; and, a minute
after, when two policemen came by, walking together, he awoke suddenly
to his responsibilities as a citizen. He pointed to the figure now half
a block away.
"Dat feller," he said, "chust vent out off my blace. He's got a young
cannon strapped to his vish-bone. I don't know if he's chust a rube, or
if maybe he's bad. Anyway, he's a gun-toter."
The two patrolmen only nodded, and sauntered on. They did not hurry,
but neither did Samson. Pausing to gaze into a window filled with
Italian sweetmeats, he felt a hand on his shoulder, and turned to find
himself looking into two pairs of accusing eyes.
"What's your game?" shortly demanded one of the officers.
"What's ther matter?" countered Samson, as tartly as he had been
"Don't you know better than to tote a gun around this town?"
"I reckon thet's my business, hain't hit?"
The boy stepped back, and shook the offending hand from his shoulder.
His gorge was rising, but he controlled it, and turned on his heel,
with the manner of one saying the final word.
"I reckon ye're a-barkin' up ther wrong tree."
"Not by a damned sight, we ain't!" One of the patrolmen seized and
pinioned his arms, while the second threateningly lifted his club.
"Don't try to start anything, young feller," he warned. The street was
awake now and the ever-curious crowd began to gather. The big officer
at Samson's back held his arms locked and gave curt directions to his
partner. "Go through him, Quinn."
Samson recognized that he was in the hands of the law, and a different
sort of law from that which he had known on Misery. He made no effort
to struggle, but looked very straight and unblinkingly into the eyes of
"Don't ye hit me with thet thing," he said, quietly. "I warns ye."
The officer laughed as he ran his left hand over Samson's hips and
chest, and brought out the offending weapon.
"I guess that's about all. We'll let you explain the rest of it to the
judge. It's a trick on the Island for yours."
The Island meant nothing to Samson South, but the derisive laughter of
the crowd, and the roughness with which the two bluecoats swung him
around, and ordered him to march, set on edge every defiant nerve.
Still, he gazed directly into the faces of his captors, and inquired
with a cruelly forced calm:
"Does ye 'low ter take me ter the jail-house?"
"Can that rube stuff. Get along, get along!" And the officers started
him on his journey with a shove that sent him lurching and stumbling
forward. Then, the curb of control slipped. The prisoner wheeled, his
face distorted with passion, and lashed out with his fist to the face
of the biggest patrolman. It was a foolish and hopeless attack, as the
boy realized, but in his code it was necessary. One must resent
gratuitous insult whatever the odds, and he fought with such
concentrated fury and swiftness, after his rude hill method of "fist
and skull," driving in terrific blows with hands and head, that the
crowd breathed deep with the delicious excitement of the combat--and
regretted its brevity.
The amazed officers, for an instant handicapped by their surprise,
since they were expecting to monopolize the brutality of the occasion,
came to their senses, and had instant recourse to the comforting
reinforcement of their locust clubs. The boy went down under a rat-tat
of night sticks, which left him as groggy and easy to handle as a
"You got ter hand it ter dat guy," commented a sweater-clad onlooker,
as they dragged Samson into a doorway to await the wagon. "He was goin'
some while he lasted."
The boy was conscious again, though still faint, when the desk
sergeant wrote on the station-house blotter:
"Carrying a deadly weapon, and resisting an officer."
The lieutenant had strolled in, and was contemplatively turning over
in his hand the heavy forty-five-calibre Colt.
"Some rod that!" he announced. "We don't get many like it here. Where
did you breeze in from, young fellow?"
"Thet's my business," growled Samson. Then, he added: "I'll be
obleeged if ye'll send word ter Mr. George Lescott ter come an' bail me
"You seem to know the procedure," remarked the desk sergeant, with a
smile. "Who is Mr. George Lescott, and where's his hang-out?"
One of the arresting officers looked up from wiping with his
handkerchief the sweat-band of his helmet.
"George Lescott?" he repeated. "I know him. He's got one of them
studios just off Washington Square. He drives down-town in a car the
size of the Olympic. I don't know how he'd get acquainted with a boob
"Oh, well!" the desk sergeant yawned. "Stick him in the cage. We'll
call up this Lescott party later on. I guess he's still in the hay, and
it might make him peevish to wake him up."
Left alone in the police-station cell, the boy began to think. First
of all, he was puzzled. He had fared forth peaceably, and spoken to no
one except the storekeeper. To force a man into peace by denying him
his gun, seemed as unreasonable as to prevent fisticuffs by cutting off
hands. But, also, a deep sense of shame swept over him, and scalded
him. Getting into trouble here was, somehow, different from getting
into trouble at home--and, in some strange way, bitterly humiliating.
Lescott had risen early, meaning to go down to the studio, and have
breakfast with Samson. His mother and sister were leaving for Bermuda
by a nine o'clock sailing. Consequently, eight o'clock found the
household gathered in the breakfast-room, supplemented by Mr. Wilfred
Horton, whose orchids Adrienne Lescott was wearing, and whose luggage
was already at the wharf.
"Since Wilfred is in the party to take care of things, and look after
you," suggested Lescott, as he came into the room a trifle late, "I
think I'll say good-by here, and run along to the studio. Samson is
probably feeling like a new boy in school this morning. You'll find the
usual litter of flowers and fiction in your staterooms to attest my
filial and brotherly devotion."
"Was the brotherly sentiment addressed to me?" inquired Wilfred, with
an unsmiling and brazen gravity that brought to the girl's eyes and
lips a half-mocking and wholly decorative twinkle of amusement.
"Just because I try to be a sister to you, Wilfred," she calmly
reproved, "I can't undertake to make my brother do it, too. Besides, he
couldn't be a sister to you."
"But by dropping that attitude--which is entirely gratuitous--you will
compel him to assume it. My sentiment as regards brotherly love is
brief and terse, 'Let George do it!'" Mr. Horton was complacently
consuming his breakfast with an excellent appetite, to which the
prospect of six weeks among Bermuda lilies with Adrienne lent a fillip.
"So, brother-to-be," he continued, "you have my permission to run
along down-town, and feed your savage."
"Beg pardon, sir!" The Lescott butler leaned close to the painter's
ear, and spoke with a note of apology as though deploring the necessity
of broaching such a subject. "But will you kindly speak with the
Macdougal Street Police Station?"
"With the what?" Lescott turned in surprise, while Horton surrendered
himself to unrestrained and boisterous laughter.
"The barbarian!" he exclaimed. "I call that snappy work. Twelve hours
in New York, and a run-in with the police! I've noticed," he added, as
the painter hurriedly quitted the room, "that, when you take the bad
man out of his own cock-pit, he rarely lasts as far as the second round."
"It occurs to me, Wilfred," suggested Adrienne, with the hint of
warning in her voice, "that you may be just a trifle overdoing your
attitude of amusement as to this barbarian. George is fond of him, and
believes in him, and George is quite often right in his judgment."
"George," added Mrs. Lescott, "had a broken arm down there in the
mountains, and these people were kind to him in many ways. I wish I
could see Mr. South, and thank him."
Lescott's manner over the telephone was indicating to a surprised desk
sergeant a decidedly greater interest than had been anticipated, and,
after a brief and pointed conversation in that quarter, he called
another number. It was a private number, not included in the telephone
book and communicated with the residence of an attorney who would not
have permitted the generality of clients to disturb him in advance of
A realization that the "gun-lugger" had friends "higher up" percolated
at the station-house in another hour, when a limousine halted at the
door, and a legal celebrity, whose ways were not the ways of police
stations or magistrates' courts, stepped to the curb.
"I am waiting to meet Mr. Lescott," announced the Honorable Mr.
When a continuance of the case had been secured, and bond given, the
famous lawyer and Samson lunched together at the studio as Lescott's
guests, and, after the legal luminary had thawed the boy's native
reserve and wrung from him his story, he was interested enough to use
all his eloquence and logic in his efforts to show the mountaineer what
inherent necessities of justice lay back of seemingly restrictive laws.
"You simply 'got in bad' through your failure to understand conditions
here," laughed the lawyer. "I guess we can pull you through, but in
future you'll have to submit to some guidance, my boy."
And Samson, rather to Lescott's surprise, nodded his head with only a
ghost of resentment. From friends, he was willing to learn.
Lescott had been afraid that this initial experience would have an
extinguishing effect on Samson's ambitions. He half-expected to hear
the dogged announcement, "I reckon I'll go back home. I don't b'long
hyar nohow." But no such remark came.
One night, they sat in the cafe of an old French hostelry where, in
the polyglot chatter of three languages, one hears much shop talk of
art and literature. Between the mirrored walls, Samson was for the
first time glimpsing the shallow sparkle of Bohemia. The orchestra was
playing an appealing waltz. Among the diners were women gowned as he
had never seen women gowned before. They sat with men, and met the
challenge of ardent glances with dreamy eyes. They hummed an
accompaniment to the air, and sometimes loudly and publicly quarreled.
But Samson looked on as taciturn and unmoved as though he had never
dined elsewhere. And yet, his eyes were busy, for suddenly he laid down
his knife, and picked up his fork.
"Hit 'pears like I've got a passel of things ter l'arn," he said,
earnestly. "I reckon I mout as well begin by l'arnin' how ter eat." He
had heretofore regarded a fork only as a skewer with which to hold meat
in the cutting.
"Most rules of social usage," he explained, "go back to the test of
efficiency. It is considered good form to eat with the fork,
principally because it is more efficient,"
The boy nodded.
"All right," he acquiesced. "You l'arn me all them things, an' I'll be
obleeged ter ye. Things is diff'rent in diff'rent places. I reckon the
Souths hes a right ter behave es good es anybody."
When a man, whose youth and courage are at their zenith, and whose
brain is tuned to concert pitch, is thrown neck and crop out of squalid
isolation into the melting pot of Manhattan, puzzling problems of
readjustment must follow. Samson's half-starved mind was reaching out
squid-like tentacles in every direction. He was saying little, seeing
much, not yet coordinating or tabulating, but grimly bolting every
morsel of enlightenment. Later, he would digest; now, he only gorged.
Before he could hope to benefit by the advanced instruction of the life
-classes, he must toil and sweat over the primer stages of drawing.
Several months were spent laboring with charcoal and paper over plaster
casts in Lescott's studio, and Lescott himself played instructor. When
the skylight darkened with the coming of evening, the boy whose
mountain nature cried out for exercise went for long tramps that
carried him over many miles of city pavements, and after that, when the
gas was lit, he turned, still insatiably hungry, to volumes of history,
and algebra, and facts. So gluttonous was his protege's application
that the painter felt called on to remonstrate against the danger of
overwork. But Samson only laughed; that was one of the things he had
learned to do since he left the mountains.
"I reckon," he drawled, "that as long as I'm at work, I kin keep out
of trouble. Seems like that's the only way I kin do it."
* * * * *
A sloop-rigged boat with a crew of two was dancing before a brisk
breeze through blue Bermuda waters. Off to the right, Hamilton rose
sheer and colorful from the bay. At the tiller sat the white-clad
figure of Adrienne Lescott. Puffs of wind that whipped the tautly
bellying sheets lashed her dark hair about her face. Her lips, vividly
red like poppy-petals, were just now curved into an amused smile, which
made them even more than ordinarily kissable and tantalizing. Her
companion was neglecting his nominal duty of tending the sheet to watch
"Wilfred," she teased, "your contrast is quite startling--and, in a
way, effective. From head to foot, you are spotless white--but your
scowl is absolutely 'the blackest black that our eyes endure.' And,"
she added, in an injured voice, "I'm sure I've been very nice to you."
"I have not yet begun to scowl," he assured her, and proceeded to show
what superlatives of saturnine expression he held in reserve. "See
here, Drennie, I know perfectly well that I'm a sheer imbecile to
reveal the fact that you've made me mad. It pleases you too perfectly.
It makes you happier than is good for you, but----"
"It's a terrible thing to make me happy, isn't it?" she inquired,
"Unspeakably so, when you derive happiness from the torture of your
"My brother-man," she amiably corrected him.
"Good Lord!" he groaned in desperation. "I ought to turn cave man, and
seize you by the hair--and drag you to the nearest minister--or
prophet, or whoever could marry us. Then, after the ceremony, I ought
to drag you to my own grotto, and beat you."
"Would I have to wear my wedding ring in my nose?" She put the
question with the manner of one much interested in acquiring useful
"Drennie, for the nine-hundred-thousandth time; simply, in the
interests of harmony and to break the deadlock, will you marry me?"
"Not this afternoon," she smiled. "Watch for the boom! I'm going to
bring her round."
The young man promptly ducked his head, and played out the line, as
the boat dipped her masthead waterward, and came about on the other
tack. When the sails were again drumming under the fingers of the wind,
"Besides, I'm not sure that harmony is what I want."
"You know you'll have to marry me in the end. Why not now?" he
persisted, doggedly. "We are simply wasting our youth, dear."
His tone had become so calamitous that the girl could not restrain a
peal of very musical laughter.
"Am I so very funny?" he inquired, with dignity.
"You are, when you are so very tragic," she assured him.
He realized that his temper was merely a challenge to her teasing, and
he wisely fell back into his customary attitude of unruffled insouciance.
"Drennie, you have held me off since we were children. I believe I
first announced my intention of marrying you when you were twelve. That
intention remains unaltered. More: it is unalterable and inevitable. My
reasons for wanting to needn't be rehearsed. It would take too long. I
regard you as possessed of an alert and remarkable mind--one worthy of
companionship with my own." Despite the frivolous badinage of his words
and the humorous smile of his lips, his eyes hinted at an underlying
intensity. "With no desire to flatter or spoil you, I find your
personal aspect pleasing enough to satisfy me. And then, while a man
should avoid emotionalism, I am in love with you." He moved over to a
place in the sternsheets, and his face became intensely earnest. He
dropped his hand over hers as it lay on the tiller shaft. "God knows,
dear," he exclaimed, "how much I love you!"
Her eyes, after holding his for a moment, fell to the hand which still
imprisoned her own. She shook her head, not in anger, but with a manner
of gentle denial, until he released her fingers and stepped back.
"You are a dear, Wilfred," she comforted, "and I couldn't manage to
get on without you, but you aren't marriageable--at least, not yet."
"Why not?" he argued. "I've stood back and twirled my thumbs all
through your _debut_ winter. I've been Patience without the
comfort of a pedestal. Now, will you give me three minutes to show you
that you are not acting fairly, or nicely at all?"
"Duck!" warned the girl, and once more they fell silent in the sheer
physical delight of two healthy young animals, clean-blooded and sport-
loving, as the tall jib swept down; the "high side" swept up, and the
boat hung for an exhilarating moment on the verge of capsizing. As it
righted itself again, like the craft of a daring airman banking the
pylons, the girl gave him a bright nod. "Now, go ahead," she acceded,
"you have three minutes to put yourself in nomination as the exemplar
of your age and times."
The young man settled back, and stuffed tobacco into a battered pipe.
Then, with a lightness of tone which was assumed as a defense against
her mischievous teasing, he began:
"Very well, Drennie. When you were twelve, which is at best an
unimpressive age for the female of the species, I was eighteen, and all
the world knows that at eighteen a man is very mature and important.
You wore pigtails then, and it took a prophet's eye to foresee how
wonderfully you were going to emerge from your chrysalis."
The idolatry of his eyes told how wonderful she seemed to him now.
"Yet, I fell in love with you, and I said to myself, 'I'll wait for
her.' However, I didn't want to wait eternally. For eight years, I have
danced willing attendance--following you through nursery, younger-set
and _debutante_ stages. In short, with no wish to trumpet too
loudly my own virtues, I've been your _Fidus Achates_." His voice
dropped from its pitch of antic whimsey, and became for a moment grave,
as he added: "And, because of my love for you, I've lived a life almost
as clean as your own."
"One's _Fidus Achates_, if I remember anything of my Latin, which
I don't"--the girl spoke in that voice which the man loved best,
because it had left off bantering, and become grave with such softness
and depth of timbre as might have trembled in the reed pipes of a
Sylvan Pan--"is one's really-truly friend. Everything that you claim
for yourself is admitted--and many other things that you haven't
claimed. Now, suppose you give me three minutes to make an accusation
on other charges. They're not very grave faults, perhaps, by the
standards of your world and mine, but to me, personally, they seem
Wilfred nodded, and said, gravely:
"I am waiting."
"In the first place, you are one of those men whose fortunes are
listed in the top schedule--the swollen fortunes. Socialists would put
you in the predatory class."
"Drennie," he groaned, "do you keep your heaven locked behind a gate
of the Needle's Eye? It's not my fault that I'm rich. It was wished on
me. If you are serious, I'm willing to become poor as Job's turkey.
Show me the way to strip myself, and I'll stand shortly before you
"To what end?" she questioned. "Poverty would be quite inconvenient. I
shouldn't care for it. But hasn't it ever occurred to you that the man
who wears the strongest and brightest mail, and who by his own
confession is possessed of an alert brain, ought occasionally to be
seen in the lists?"
"In short, your charge is that I am a shirker--and, since it's the
same thing, a coward?"
Adrienne did not at once answer him, but she straightened out for an
uninterrupted run before the wind, and by the tiny moss-green flecks,
which moments of great seriousness brought to the depths of her eyes,
he knew that she meant to speak the unveiled truth.
"Besides your own holdings in a lot of railways and things, you handle
your mother's and sisters' property, don't you?"
"In a fashion, I do. I sign the necessary papers when the lawyers call
me up, and ask me to come down-town."
"You are a director in the Metropole Trust Company?"
"In the Consolidated Seacoast?"
"I believe so."
"In a half-dozen other things equally important?"
"Good Lord, Drennie, how can I answer all those questions off-hand? I
don't carry a note-book in my yachting flannels."
Her voice was so serious that he wondered if it were not, also, a
"Do you have to consult a note-book to answer those questions?"
"Those directorate jobs are purely honorary," he defended. "If I
butted in with fool suggestions, they'd quite properly kick me out."
"With your friends, who are also share-holders, you could assume
control of the _Morning Intelligence_, couldn't you?"
"I guess I could assume control, but what would I do with it?"
"Do you know the reputation of that newspaper?"
"I guess it's all right. It's conservative and newsy. I read it every
morning when I'm in town. It fits in very nicely between the grapefruit
and the bacon-and-eggs."
"It is, also, powerful," she added, "and is said to be absolutely
servile to corporate interests."
"Drennie, you talk like an anarchist. You are rich yourself, you know."
"And, against each of those other concerns, various charges have been
"Well, what do you want me to do?"
"It's not what I want you to do," she informed him; "it's what I'd
like to see you want to do."
"Name it! I'll want to do it forthwith."
"I think, when you are one of a handful of the richest men in New
York; when, for instance, you could dictate the policy of a great
newspaper, yet know it only as the course that follows your grapefruit,
you are a shirker and a drone, and are not playing the game." Her hand
tightened on the tiller. "I think, if I were a man riding on to the
polo field, I'd either try like the devil to drive the ball down
between the posts, or I'd come inside, and take off my boots and
colors. I wouldn't hover in lady-like futility around the edge of the
She knew that to Horton, who played polo like a fiend incarnate, the
figure would be effective, and she whipped out her words with something
very close to scorn.
"Duck your head!" she commanded shortly. "I'm coming about."
Possibly, she had thrown more of herself into her philippic than she
had realized. Possibly, some of her emphasis imparted itself to her
touch on the tiller, and jerked the sloop too violently into a sudden
puff as it careened. At all events, the boat swung sidewise, trembled
for an instant like a wounded gull, and then slapped its spread of
canvas prone upon the water with a vicious report.
"Jump!" yelled the man, and, as he shouted, the girl disappeared over-
side, perilously near the sheet. He knew the danger of coming up under
a wet sail, and, diving from the high side, he swam with racing strokes
toward the point where she had gone down. When Adrienne's head did not
reappear, his alarm grew, and he plunged under water where the shadow
of the overturned boat made everything cloudy and obscure to his wide-
open eyes. He stroked his way back and forth through the purple fog
that he found down there, until his lungs seemed on the point of
bursting. Then, he paused at the surface, shaking the water from his
face, and gazing anxiously about. The dark head was not visible, and
once more, with a fury of growing terror, he plunged downward, and
began searching the shadows. This time, he remained until his chest was
aching with an absolute torture. If she had swallowed water under that
canvas barrier this attempt would be the last that could avail. Then,
just as it seemed that he was spending the last fraction of the last
ounce of endurance, his aching eyes made out a vague shape, also
swimming, and his hand touched another hand. She was safe, and together
they came out of the opaqueness into water as translucent as sapphires,
and rose to the surface.
"Where were you?" she inquired.
"I was looking for you--under the sail," he panted.
"I'm quite all right," she assured him. "I came up under the boat at
first, but I got out easily enough, and went back to look for you."
They swam together to the capsized hull, and the girl thrust up one
strong, slender hand to the stem, while with the other she wiped the
water from her smiling eyes. The man also laid hold on the support, and
hung there, filling his cramped lungs. Then, for just an instant, his
hand closed over hers.
"There's my hand on it, Drennie," he said. "We start back to New York
to-morrow, don't we? Well, when I get there, I put on overalls, and go
to work. When I propose next, I'll have something to show."
A motor-boat had seen their plight, and was racing madly to their
rescue, with a yard-high swirl of water thrown up from its nose and a
fusillade of explosions trailing in its wake.
* * * * *
Christmas came to Misery wrapped in a drab mantle of desolation. The
mountains were like gigantic cones of raw and sticky chocolate, except
where the snow lay patched upon their cheerless slopes. The skies were
low and leaden, and across their gray stretches a spirit of squalid
melancholy rode with the tarnished sun. Windowless cabins, with tight-
closed doors, became cavernous dens untouched by the cleansing power of
daylight. In their vitiated atmosphere, their humanity grew stolidly
sullen. Nowhere was a hint of the season's cheer. The mountains knew
only of such celebration as snuggling close to the jug of moonshine,
and drinking out the day. Mountain children, who had never heard of
Kris Kingle, knew of an ancient tradition that at Christmas midnight
the cattle in the barns and fields knelt down, as they had knelt around
the manger, and that along the ragged slopes of the hills the elder
bushes ceased to rattle dead stalks, and burst into white sprays of
Christmas itself was a week distant, and, at the cabin of the Widow
Miller, Sally was sitting alone before the logs. She laid down the
slate and spelling-book, over which her forehead had been strenuously
puckered, and gazed somewhat mournfully into the blaze. Sally had a
secret. It was a secret which she based on a faint hope. If Samson
should come back to Misery, he would come back full of new notions. No
man had ever yet returned from that outside world unaltered. No man
ever would. A terrible premonition said he would not come at all, but,
if he did--if he did--she must know how to read and write. Maybe, when
she had learned a little more, she might even go to school for a term
or two. She had not confided her secret. The widow would not have
understood. The book and slate came out of their dusty cranny in the
logs beside the fireplace only when the widow had withdrawn to her bed,
and the freckled boy was dreaming of being old enough to kill Hollmans.
The cramped and distorted chirography on the slate was discouraging.
It was all proving very hard work. The girl gazed for a time at
something she saw in the embers, and then a faint smile came to her
lips. By next Christmas, she would surprise Samson with a letter. It
should be well written, and every "hain't" should be an "isn't." Of
course, until then Samson would not write to her, because he would not
know that she could read the letter--indeed, as yet the deciphering of
"hand-write" was beyond her abilities.
She rose and replaced the slate and primer. Then, she took tenderly
from its corner the rifle, which the boy had confided to her keeping,
and unwrapped its greasy covering. She drew the cartridges from chamber
and magazine, oiled the rifling, polished the lock, and reloaded the
"Thar now," she said, softly, "I reckon ther old rifle-gun's ready."
As she sat there alone in the shuck-bottomed chair, the corners of the
room wavered in huge shadows, and the smoke-blackened cavern of the
fireplace, glaring like a volcano pit, threw her face into relief. She
made a very lovely and pathetic picture. Her slender knees were drawn
close together, and from her slim waist she bent forward, nursing the
inanimate thing which she valued and tended, because Samson valued it.
Her violet eyes held the heart-touching wistfulness of utter
loneliness, and her lips drooped. This small girl, dreaming her dreams
of hope against hope, with the vast isolation of the hills about her,
was a little monument of unflinching loyalty and simple courage, and,
as she sat, she patted the rifle with as soft a touch as though she had
been dandling Samson's child--and her own--on her knee. There was no
speck of rust in the unused muzzle, no hitch in the easily sliding
mechanism of the breechblock. The hero's weapon was in readiness to his
hand, as the bow of Ulysses awaited the coming of the wanderer.
Then, with sudden interruption to her reflections, came a rattling on
the cabin door. She sat up and listened. Night visitors were rare at
the Widow Miller's. Sally waited, holding her breath, until the sound
"Who is hit?" she demanded in a low voice.
"Hit's me--Tam'rack!" came the reply, very low and cautious, and
"What does ye want?"
"Let me in, Sally," whined the kinsman, desperately. "They're atter
me. They won't think to come hyar."
Sally had not seen her cousin since Samson had forbidden his coming to
the house. Since Samson's departure, the troublesome kinsman, too, had
been somewhere "down below," holding his railroad job. But the call for
protection was imperative. She set the gun out of sight against the
mantle-shelf, and, walking over unwillingly, opened the door.
The mud-spattered man came in, glancing about him half-furtively, and
went to the fireplace. There, he held his hands to the blaze.
"Hit's cold outdoors," he said.
"What manner of deviltry hev ye been into now, Tam'rack?" inquired the
girl. "Kain't ye never keep outen trouble?"
The self-confessed refugee did not at once reply. When he did, it was
"Is the widder asleep?"
Sally saw from his blood-shot eyes that he had been drinking heavily.
She did not resume her seat, but stood holding him with her eyes. In
them, the man read contempt, and an angry flush mounted to his sallow
"I reckon ye knows," went on the girl in the same steady voice, "thet
Samson meant what he said when he warned ye ter stay away from hyar. I
reckon ye knows I wouldn't never hev opened thet door, ef hit wasn't
fer ye bein' in trouble."
The mountaineer straightened up, his eyes burning with the craftiness
of drink, and the smoldering of resentment.
"I reckon I knows thet. Thet's why I said they was atter me. I hain't
in no trouble, Sally. I jest come hyar ter see ye, thet's all."
Now, it was the girl's eyes that flashed anger. With quick steps, she
reached the door, and threw it open. Her hand trembled as she pointed
out into the night, and the gusty winter's breath caught and whipped
her calico skirts about her ankles.
"You kin go!" she ordered, passionately. "Don't ye never cross this
doorstep ag'in. Begone quick!"
But Tamarack only laughed with easy insolence.
"Sally," he drawled. "Thar's a-goin' ter be a dancin' party Christmas
night over ter the Forks. I 'lowed I'd like ter hev ye go over thar
Her voice was trembling with white-hot indignation.
"Didn't ye hear Samson say ye wasn't never ter speak ter me?"
"Ter hell with Samson!" he ripped out, furiously. "Nobody hain't
pesterin' 'bout him. I don't allow Samson, ner no other man, ter
dictate ter me who I keeps company with. I likes ye, Sally. Ye're the
purtiest gal in the mountings, an'----"
"Will ye git out, or hev I got ter drive ye?" interrupted the girl.
Her face paled, and her lips drew themselves into a taut line.
"Will ye go ter the party with me, Sally?" He came insolently over,
and stood waiting, ignoring her dismissal with the ease of braggart
effrontery. She, in turn, stood rigid, wordless, pointing his way
across the doorstep. Slowly, the drunken face lost its leering grin.
The eyes blackened into a truculent and venomous scowl. He stepped
over, and stood towering above the slight figure, which did not give
back a step before his advance. With an oath, he caught her savagely in
his arms, and crushed her to him, while his unshaven, whiskey-soaked
lips were pressed clingingly against her own indignant ones. Too
astonished for struggle, the girl felt herself grow faint in his
loathsome embrace, while to her ears came his panted words:
"I'll show ye. I wants ye, an' I'll git ye."
Adroitly, with a regained power of resistance and a lithe twist, she
slipped out of his grasp, hammering at his face futilely with her
"I--I've got a notion ter kill ye!" she cried, brokenly. "Ef Samson
was hyar, ye wouldn't dare--" What else she might have said was shut
off in stormy, breathless gasps of humiliation and anger.
"Well," replied Tamarack, with drawling confidence, "ef Samson was
hyar, I'd show him, too--damn him! But Samson hain't hyar. He won't
never be hyar no more." His voice became deeply scornful, as he added:
"He's done cut an' run. He's down thar below, consortin' with
furriners, an' he hain't thinkin' nothin' 'bout you. You hain't good
enough fer Samson, Sally. I tells ye he's done left ye fer all time."
Sally had backed away from the man, until she stood trembling near the
hearth. As he spoke, Tamarack was slowly and step by step following her
up. In his eyes glittered the same light that one sees in those of a
cat which is watching a mouse already caught and crippled.
She half-reeled, and stood leaning against the rough stones of the
fireplace. Her head was bowed, and her bosom heaving with emotion. She
felt her knees weakening under her, and feared they would no longer
support her. But, as her cousin ended, with a laugh, she turned her
back to the wall, and stood with her downstretched hands groping
against the logs. Then, she saw the evil glint in Tamarack's blood-shot
eyes. He took one slow step forward, and held out his arms.
"Will ye come ter me?" he commanded, "or shall I come an' git ye?" The
girl's fingers at that instant fell against something cooling and
metallic. It was Samson's rifle.
With a sudden cry of restored confidence and a dangerous up-leaping of
light in her eyes, she seized and cocked it.
The girl stepped forward, and held the weapon finger on trigger, close
to her cousin's chest.
"Ye lies, Tam'rack," she said, in a very low and steady voice--a voice
that could not be mistaken, a voice relentlessly resolute and purposeful.
"Ye lies like ye always lies. Yore heart's black an' dirty. Ye're a
murderer an' a coward. Samson's a-comin' back ter me.... I'm a-goin'
ter be Samson's wife." The tensity of her earnestness might have told a
subtler psychologist than Tamarack that she was endeavoring to convince
herself. "He hain't never run away. He's hyar in this room right now."
The mountaineer started, and cast an apprehensive glance about him. The
girl laughed, with a deeply bitter note, then she went on:
"Oh, you can't see him, Tam'rack. Ye mout hunt all night, but wharever
I be, Samson's thar, too. I hain't nothin' but a part of Samson--an'
I'm mighty nigh ter killin' ye this minute--he'd do hit, I reckon."
"Come on now, Sally," urged the man, ingratiatingly. He was thoroughly
cowed, seeking compromise. A fool woman with a gun: every one knew it
was a dangerous combination, and, except for himself, no South had ever
been a coward. He knew a certain glitter in their eyes. He knew it was
apt to presage death, and this girl, trembling in her knees but holding
that muzzle against his chest so unwaveringly, as steady as granite,
had it in her pupils. Her voice held an inexorable monotony suggestive
of tolling bells. She was not the Sally he had known before, but a new
Sally, acting under a quiet sort of exaltation, capable of anything. He
knew that, should she shoot him dead there in her house, no man who
knew them both would blame her. His life depended on strategy. "Come
on, Sally," he whined, as his face grew ashen. "I didn't aim ter make
ye mad. I jest lost my head, an' made love ter ye. Hit hain't no sin
ter kiss a feller's own cousin." He was edging toward the door.
"Stand where ye're at," ordered Sally, in a voice of utter loathing,
and he halted. "Hit wasn't jest kissin' me--" She broke off, and
shuddered again. "I said thet Samson was in this here room. Ef ye moves
twell I tells ye ye kin, ye'll hear him speak ter ye, an' ef he speaks
ye won't never hear nothin' more. This here is Samson's gun. I reckon
he'll tell me ter pull the trigger terectly!"
"Fer God's sake, Sally!" implored the braggart. "Fer God's sake, look
over what I done. I knows ye're Samson's gal. I----"
"Shet up!" she said, quietly; and his voice died instantly.
"Yes, I'm Samson's gal, an' I hain't a-goin' ter kill ye this time,
Tam'rack, unlessen ye makes me do hit. But, ef ever ye crosses that
stile out thar ag'in, so help me God, this gun air goin' ter shoot."
Tamarack licked his lips. They had grown dry. He had groveled before a
girl--but he was to be spared. That was the essential thing.
"I promises," he said, and turned, much sobered, to the door.
Sally stood for a while, listening until she heard the slopping hoof-
beats of his retreat, then she dropped limply into the shaky shuck-
bottomed chair, and sat staring straight ahead, with a dazed and almost
mortal hurt in her eyes. It was a trance-like attitude, and the gesture
with which she several times wiped her calico sleeve across the lips
his kisses had defiled, seemed subconscious. At last, she spoke aloud,
but in a far-away voice, shaking her head miserably.
"I reckon Tam'rack's right," she said. "Samson won't hardly come back.
Why would he come back?"
* * * * *
The normal human mind is a reservoir, which fills at a rate of speed
regulated by the number and calibre of its feed pipes. Samson's mind
had long been almost empty, and now from so many sources the waters of
new things were rushing in upon it that under their pressure it must
fill fast, or give away.
He was saved from hopeless complications of thought by a sanity which
was willing to assimilate without too much effort to analyze. That
belonged to the future. Just now, all was marvelous. What miracles
around him were wrought out of golden virtue, and what out of brazen
vice, did not as yet concern him. New worlds are not long new worlds.
The boy from Misery was presently less bizarre to the eye than many of
the unkempt bohemians he met in the life of the studios: men who
quarreled garrulously over the end and aim of Art, which they spelled
with a capital A--and, for the most part, knew nothing of. He retained,
except within a small circle of intimates, a silence that passed for
taciturnity, and a solemnity of visage that was often construed into
He still wore his hair long, and, though his conversation gradually
sloughed off much of its idiom and vulgarism, enough of the mountaineer
stood out to lend to his personality a savor of the crudely picturesque.
Meanwhile, he drew and read and studied and walked and every day's
advancement was a forced march. The things that he drew began by
degrees to resolve themselves into some faint similitude to the things
from which he drew them. The stick of charcoal no longer insisted on
leaving in the wake of its stroke smears like soot. It began to be
governable. But it was the fact that Samson saw things as they were and
insisted on trying to draw them just as he saw them, which best pleased
his sponsor. During those initial months, except for his long tramps,
occupied with thoughts of the hills and the Widow Miller's cabin, his
life lay between Lescott's studio and the cheap lodgings which he had
taken near by. Sometimes while he was bending toward his easel there
would rise before his imagination the dark unshaven countenance of Jim
Asberry. At such moments, he would lay down the charcoal, and his eyes
would cloud into implacable hatred. "I hain't fergot ye, Pap," he would
mutter, with the fervor of a renewed vow. With the speed of a clock's
minute hand, too gradual to be seen by the eye, yet so fast that it
soon circles the dial, changes were being wrought in the raw material
called Samson South. One thing did not change. In every crowd, he found
himself searching hungrily for the face of Sally, which he knew he
could not find. Always, there was the unadmitted, yet haunting, sense
of his own rawness. For life was taking off his rough edges--and there
were many--and life went about the process in workmanlike fashion, with
sandpaper. The process was not enjoyable, and, though the man's soul
was made fitter, it was also rubbed raw. Lescott, tremendously
interested in his experiment, began to fear that the boy's too great
somberness of disposition would defeat the very earnestness from which
it sprang. So, one morning, the landscape-maker went to the telephone,
and called for the number of a friend whom he rightly believed to be
the wisest man, and the greatest humorist, in New York. The call
brought no response, and the painter dried his brushes, and turned up
Fifth Avenue to an apartment hotel in a cross street, where on a
certain door he rapped with all the elaborate formula of a secret code.
Very cautiously, the door opened, and revealed a stout man with a
humorous, clean-shaven face. On a table lay a scattered sheaf of rough
and yellow paper, penciled over in a cramped and interlined hand. The
stout man's thinning hair was rumpled over a perspiring forehead.
Across the carpet was a worn stretch that bespoke much midnight pacing.
The signs were those of authorship.
"Why didn't you answer your 'phone?" smiled Lescott, though he knew.
The stout man shrugged his shoulders and pointed to the wall, where
the disconnected receiver was hanging down. "Necessary precaution
against creditors," he explained. "I am out--except to you."
"Busy?" interrogated Lescott. "You seem to have a manuscript in the
"No." The stout man's face clouded with black foreboding. "I shall
never write another story. I'm played out." He turned, and restively
paced the worn carpet, pausing at the window for a despondent glance
across the roofs and chimney pots of the city. Lescott, with the
privilege of intimacy, filled his pipe from the writer's tobacco jar.
"I want your help. I want you to meet a friend of mine, and take him
under your wing in a fashion. He needs you."
The stout man's face again clouded. A few years ago, he had been
peddling his manuscripts with the heart-sickness of unsuccessful middle
age. To-day, men coupled his name with those of Kipling and De
Maupassant. One of his antipathies was meeting people who sought to
lionize him. Lescott read the expression, and, before his host had time
to object, swept into his recital.
At the end he summarized:
"The artist is much like the setter-pup. If it's in him, it's as
instinctive as a dog's nose. But to become efficient he must go a-field
with a steady veteran of his own breed."
"I know!" The great man, who was also the simple man, smiled
reminiscently. "They tried to teach me to herd sheep when my nose was
itching for bird country. Bring on your man; I want to know him."
Samson was told nothing of the benevolent conspiracy, but one evening
shortly later he found himself sitting at a cafe table with his sponsor
and a stout man, almost as silent as himself. The stout man responded
with something like churlish taciturnity to the half-dozen men and
women who came over with flatteries. But later, when the trio was left
alone, his face brightened, and he turned to the boy from Misery.
"Does Billy Conrad still keep store at Stagbone?"
Samson started, and his gaze fell in amazement. At the mention of the
name, he saw a cross-roads store, with rough mules hitched to fence
palings. It was a picture of home, and here was a man who had been
there! With glowing eyes, the boy dropped unconsciously back into the
vernacular of the hills.
"Hev ye been thar, stranger?"
The writer nodded, and sipped his whiskey.
"Not for some years, though," he confessed, as he drifted into
reminiscence, which to Samson was like water to a parched throat.
When they left the cafe, the boy felt as though he were taking leave of
an old and tried friend. By homely methods, this unerring diagnostician
of the human soul had been reading him, liking him, and making him feel
a heart-warming sympathy. The man who shrunk from lion-hunters, and who
could return the churl's answer to the advances of sycophant and
flatterer, enthusiastically poured out for the ungainly mountain boy all
the rare quality and bouquet of his seasoned personal charm. It was a
vintage distilled from experience and humanity. It had met the ancient
requirement for the mellowing and perfecting of good Madeira, that it
shall "voyage twice around the world's circumference," and it was a
thing reserved for his friends.
"It's funny," commented the boy, when he and Lescott were alone, "that
he's been to Stagbone."
"My dear Samson," Lescott assured him, "if you had spoken of Tucson,
Arizona, or Caracas or Saskatchewan, it would have been the same. He
knows them all."
It was not until much later that Samson realized how these two really
great men had adopted him as their "little brother," that he might have
their shoulder-touch to march by. And it was without his realization,
too, that they laid upon him the imprint of their own characters and
philosophy. One night at Tonelli's table-d'hote place, the latest
diners were beginning to drift out into Tenth Street. The faded
soprano, who had in better days sung before a King, was wearying as she
reeled out ragtime with a strong Neapolitan accent. Samson had been
talking to the short-story writer about his ambitions and his hatreds.
He feared he was drifting away from his destiny--and that he would in
the end become too softened. The writer leaned across the table, and
"Fighting is all right," he said; "but a man should not be just the
fighter." He mused a moment in silence, then quoted a scrap of verse:
"'Test of the man, if his worth be,
"'In accord with the ultimate plan,
"'That he be not, to his marring,
"'Always and utterly man;
"'That he bring out of the battle
"'Fitter and undefiled,
"'To woman the heart of a woman,
"'To children the heart of a child.'"
Samson South offered no criticism. He had known life from the stoic's
view-point. He had heard the seductive call of artistic yearnings. Now,
it dawned on him in an intensely personal fashion, as it had begun
already to dawn in theory, that the warrior and the artist may meet on
common and compatible ground, where the fighting spirit is touched and
knighted with the gentleness of chivalry. He seemed to be looking from
a new and higher plane, from which he could see a mellow softness on
angles that had hitherto been only stern and unrelieved.
"I have come, not to quarrel with you, but to try to dissuade you."
The Honorable Mr. Wickliffe bit savagely at his cigar, and gave a
despairing spread to his well-manicured hands. "You stand in danger of
becoming the most cordially hated man in New York--hated by the most
powerful combinations in New York."
Wilfred Horton leaned back in a swivel chair, and put his feet up on
his desk. For a while, he seemed interested in his own silk socks.
"It's very kind of you to warn me," he said, quietly.
The Honorable Mr. Wickliffe rose in exasperation, and paced the floor.
The smoke from his black cigar went before him in vicious puffs.
Finally, he stopped, and leaned glaring on the table.
"Your family has always been conservative. When you succeeded to the
fortune, you showed no symptoms of this mania. In God's name, what has
"I hope I have grown up," explained the young man, with an unruffled
smile. "One can't wear swaddling clothes forever, you know."
The attorney for an instant softened his manner as he looked into the
straight-gazing, unafraid eyes of his client.
"I've known you from your babyhood. I advised your father before you
were born. You have, by the chance of birth, come into the control of
great wealth. The world of finance is of delicate balance. Squabbles in
certain directorates may throw the Street into panic. Suddenly, you
emerge from decent quiet, and run amuck in the china-shop, bellowing
and tossing your horns. You make war on those whose interests are your
own. You seem bent on hari-kari. You have toys enough to amuse you. Why
couldn't you stay put?"
"They weren't the right things. They were, as you say, toys." The
smile faded and Horton's chin set itself for a moment, as he added:
"If you don't think I'm going to stay put--watch me."
"Why do you have to make war--to be chronically insurgent?"
"Because"--the young man, who had waked up, spoke slowly--"I am
reading a certain writing on the wall. The time is not far off when,
unless we regulate a number of matters from within, we shall be
regulated from without. Then, instead of giving the financial body a
little griping in its gold-lined tummy, which is only the salutary
effect of purging, a surgical operation will be required. It will be
something like one they performed on the body politic of France not so
long ago. Old Dr. Guillotine officiated. It was quite a successful
operation, though the patient failed to rally."
"Take for instance this newspaper war you've inaugurated on the
police," grumbled the corporation lawyer. "It's less dangerous to the
public than these financial crusades, but decidedly more so for
yourself. You are regarded as a dangerous agitator, a marplot! I tell
you, Wilfred, aside from all other considerations the thing is perilous
to yourself. You are riding for a fall. These men whom you are whipping
out of public life will turn on you."
"So I hear. Here's a letter I got this morning--unsigned. That is, I
thought it was here. Well, no matter. It warns me that I have less than
three months to live unless I call off my dogs."
The Honorable Mr. Wickliffe's face mirrored alarm.
"Let me have it," he demanded. "You shouldn't treat such matters
lightly. Men are assassinated in New York. I'll refer it to the police."
"That would be in the nature of referring back, wouldn't it? I fancy
it came from some one not so remote from police sympathy."
"What are you going to do about it?"
"I'm going to stay put. If I can convict certain corrupt members of
the department, I'm going to nail brass-buttoned hides all over the
front of the city hall."
"Have you had any other threats?"
"No, not exactly, but I've had more touching recognition than that.
I've been asked to resign from several very good clubs."
The attorney groaned.
"You will be a Pariah. So will your allies."
It is said that the new convert is ever the most extreme fanatic.
Wilfred Horton had promised to put on his working clothes, and he had
done it with reckless disregard for consequences. At first, he was
simply obeying Adrienne's orders; but soon he found himself playing the
game for the game's sake. Men at the clubs and women whom he took into
dinner chaffed him over his sudden disposition to try his wings. He was
a man riding a hobby, they said. In time, it began to dawn that he,
with others, whom he had drawn to his standards, meant serious war on
certain complacent evils in the world of finance and politics. Sleeping
dogs of custom began to stir and growl. Political overlords, assailed
as unfaithful servants, showed their teeth. From some hidden, but
unfailing, source terribly sure and direct evidence of guilt was being
gathered. For Wilfred Horton, who was demanding a day of reckoning and
spending great sums of money to get it, there was a prospect of things
Adrienne Lescott was in Europe. Soon, she would return, and Horton
meant to show that he had not buried his talent.
* * * * *
For eight months Samson's life had run in the steady ascent of gradual
climbing, but, in the four months from the first of August to the first
of December, the pace of his existence suddenly quickened. He left off
drawing from plaster casts, and went into a life class. His shyness
secretly haunted him. The nudity of the woman posing on the model
throne, the sense of his own almost as naked ignorance, and the dread
of the criticism to come, were all keen embarrassments upon him.
In this period, Samson had his first acquaintanceship with women,
except those he had known from childhood--and his first
acquaintanceship with the men who were not of his own art world. Of the
women, he saw several sorts. There were the aproned and frowsy
students, of uncertain age, who seemed to have no life except that
which existed under studio skylights. There were, also, a few younger
girls, who took their art life with less painful solemnity; and, of
course, the models in the "partially draped" and the "altogether."
Tony Collasso was an Italian illustrator, who lodged and painted in
studio-apartments in Washington Square, South. He had studied in the
Julian School and the Beaux Arts, and wore a shock of dark curls, a
Satanic black mustache, and an expression of Byronic melancholy. The
melancholy, he explained to Samson, sprang from the necessity of
commercializing his divine gift. His companions were various, numbering
among them a group of those pygmy celebrities of whom one has never
heard until by chance he meets them, and of whom their intimates speak
as of immortals.
To Collasso's studio, Samson was called one night by telephone. He had
sometimes gone there before to sit for an hour, chiefly as a listener,
while the man from Sorrento bewailed fate with his coterie, and
denounced all forms of government, over insipid Chianti. Sometimes, an
equally melancholy friend in soiled linen and frayed clothes took up
his violin, and, as he improvised, the noisy group would fall silent.
At such moments, Samson would ride out on the waves of melody, and see
again the velvet softness of the mountain night, with stars hanging
intimately close, and hear the ripple of Misery and a voice for which
But, to-night, he entered the door to find himself in the midst of a
gay and boisterous party. The room was already thickly fogged with
smoke, and a dozen men and women, singing snatches of current airs,
were interesting themselves over a chafing dish. The studio of Tony
Collasso was of fair size, and adorned with many unframed paintings,
chiefly his own, and a few good tapestries and bits of bric-a-brac
variously jettisoned from the sea of life in which he had drifted. The
crowd itself was typical. A few very minor writers and artists, a model
or two, and several women who had thinking parts in current Broadway
At eleven o'clock the guests of honor arrived in a taxicab. They were
Mr. William Farbish and Miss Winifred Starr. Having come, as they
explained, direct from the theater where Miss Starr danced in the first
row, they were in evening dress. Samson mentally acknowledged, though,
with instinctive disfavor for the pair, that both were, in a way,
handsome. Collasso drew him aside to whisper importantly:
"Make yourself agreeable to Farbish. He is received in the most
exclusive society, and is a connoisseur of art. He is a connoisseur in
all things," added the Italian, with a meaning glance at the girl.
"Farbish has lived everywhere," he ran on, "and, if he takes a fancy to
you, he will put you up at the best clubs. I think I shall sell him a
The girl was talking rapidly and loudly. She had at once taken the
center of the room, and her laughter rang in free and egotistical peals
above the other voices.
"Come," said the host, "I shall present you."
The boy shook hands, gazing with his usual directness into the show
-girl's large and deeply-penciled eyes. Farbish, standing at one side
with his hands in his pockets, looked on with an air of slightly bored
His dress, his mannerisms, his bearing, were all those of the man who
has overstudied his part. They were too perfect, too obviously
rehearsed through years of social climbing, but that was a defect
Samson was not yet prepared to recognize.
Some one had naively complimented Miss Starr on the leopard-skin cloak
she had just thrown from her shapely shoulders, and she turned promptly
and vivaciously to the flatterer.
"It is nice, isn't it?" she prattled. "It may look a little up-stage
for a girl who hasn't got a line to read in the piece, but these days
one must get the spot-light, or be a dead one. It reminds me of a
little run-in I had with Graddy--he's our stage-director, you know."
She paused, awaiting the invitation to proceed, and, having received
it, went gaily forward. "I was ten minutes late, one day, for
rehearsal, and Graddy came up with that sarcastic manner of his, and
said: 'Miss Starr, I don't doubt you are a perfectly nice girl, and all
that, but it rather gets my goat to figure out how, on a salary of
fifteen dollars a week, you come to rehearsals in a million dollars'
worth of clothes, riding in a limousine--_and_ ten minutes late!'"
She broke off with the eager little expression of awaiting applause,
and, having been satisfied, she added: "I was afraid that wasn't going
to get a laugh, after all."
She glanced inquiringly at Samson, who had not smiled, and who stood
"A penny for your thoughts, Mr. South, from down South," she challenged.
"I guess I'm sort of like Mr. Graddy," said the boy, slowly. "I was
just wondering how you do do it."
He spoke with perfect seriousness, and, after a moment, the girl broke
into a prolonged peal of laughter.
"Oh, you are delicious!" she exclaimed. "If I could do the
_ingenue_ like that, believe me, I'd make some hit." She came
over, and, laying a hand on each of the boy's shoulders, kissed him
lightly on the cheek. "That's for a droll boy!" she said. "That's the
best line I've heard pulled lately."
Farbish was smiling in quiet amusement. He tapped the mountaineer on
"I've heard George Lescott speak of you," he said, genially. "I've
rather a fancy for being among the discoverers of men of talent. We
must see more of each other."
Samson left the party early, and with a sense of disgust. It was, at
the time of his departure, waxing more furious in its merriment. It
seemed to him that nowhere among these people was a note of sincerity,
and his thoughts went back to the parting at the stile, and the girl
whose artlessness and courage were honest.
Several days later, Samson was alone in Lescott's studio. It was
nearing twilight, and he had laid aside a volume of De Maupassant,
whose simple power had beguiled him. The door opened, and he saw the
figure of a woman on the threshold. The boy rose somewhat shyly from
his seat, and stood looking at her. She was as richly dressed as Miss
Starr had been, but there was the same difference as between the colors
of the sunset sky and the exaggerated daubs of Collasso's landscape.
She stood lithely straight, and her furs fell back from a throat as
smooth and slenderly rounded as Sally's. Her cheeks were bright with
the soft glow of perfect health, and her lips parted over teeth that
were as sound and strong as they were decorative. This girl did not
have to speak to give the boy the conviction that she was some one whom
he must like. She stood at the door a moment, and then came forward
with her hand outstretched.
"This is Mr. South, isn't it?" she asked, with a frank friendliness in
"Yes, ma'am, that's my name."
"I'm Adrienne Lescott," said the girl. "I thought I'd find my brother
here. I stopped by to drive him up-town."
Samson had hesitatingly taken the gloved hand, and its grasp was firm
and strong despite its ridiculous smallness.
"I reckon he'll be back presently." The boy was in doubt as to the
proper procedure. This was Lescott's studio, and he was not certain
whether or not it lay in his province to invite Lescott's sister to
take possession of it. Possibly, he ought to withdraw. His ideas of
social usages were very vague.
"Then, I think I'll wait," announced the girl. She threw off her fur
coat, and took a seat before the open grate. The chair was large, and
swallowed her up.
Samson wanted to look at her, and was afraid that this would be
impolite. He realized that he had seen no real ladies, except on the
street, and now he had the opportunity. She was beautiful, and there
was something about her willowy grace of attitude that made the soft
and clinging lines of her gown fall about her in charming drapery
effects. Her small pumps and silk-stockinged ankles as she held them
out toward the fire made him say to himself:
"I reckon she never went barefoot in her life."
"I'm glad of this chance to meet you, Mr. South," said the girl with a
smile that found its way to the boy's heart. After all, there was
sincerity in "foreign" women. "George talks of you so much that I feel
as if I'd known you all the while. Don't you think I might claim
friendship with George's friends?"
Samson had no answer. He wished to say something equally cordial, but
the old instinct against effusiveness tied his tongue.
"I owe right smart to George Lescott," he told her, gravely.
"That's not answering my question," she laughed. "Do you consent to
being friends with me?"
"Miss--" began the boy. Then, realizing that in New York this form of
address is hardly complete, he hastened to add: "Miss Lescott, I've
been here over nine months now, and I'm just beginning to realize what
a rube I am. I haven't no--" Again, he broke off, and laughed at
himself. "I mean, I haven't any idea of proper manners, and so I'm, as
we would say down home, 'plumb skeered' of ladies."
As he accused himself, Samson was looking at her with unblinking
directness; and she met his glance with eyes that twinkled.
"Mr. South," she said, "I know all about manners, and you know all
about a hundred real things that I want to know. Suppose we begin
teaching each other?"
Samson's face lighted with the revolutionizing effect that a smile can
bring only to features customarily solemn.
"Miss Lescott," he said, "let's call that a trade--but you're gettin'
all the worst of it. To start with, you might give me a lesson right
now in how a feller ought to act, when he's talkin' to a lady--how I
ought to act with you!"
Her laugh made the situation as easy as an old shoe.
Ten minutes later, Lescott entered.
"Well," he said, with a smile, "shall I Introduce you people, or have
you already done it for yourselves?"
"Oh," Adrienne assured him, "Mr. South and I are old friends." As she
left the room, she turned and added: "The second lesson had better be at
my house. If I telephone you some day when we can have the school-room
to ourselves, will you come up?"
Samson grinned, and forgot to be bashful as he replied:
"I'll come a-kitin'!"
Early that year, the touch of autumn came to the air. Often, returning
at sundown from the afternoon life class, Samson felt the lure of its
melancholy sweetness, and paused on one of the Washington Square
benches, with many vague things stirring in his mind. Some of these
things were as subtly intangible as the lazy sweetness that melted the
facades of the walls into the soft colors of a dream city. He found
himself loving the Palisades of Jersey, seen through a powdery glow at
evening, and the red-gold glare of the setting sun on high-swung gilt
signs. He felt with a throb of his pulses that he was in the Bagdad of
the new world, and that every skyscraper was a minaret from which the
muezzin rang toward the Mecca of his Art. He felt with a stronger throb
the surety of young, but quickening, abilities within himself. Partly,
it was the charm of Indian summer, partly a sense of growing with the
days, but, also, though he had not as yet realized that, it was the new
friendship into which Adrienne had admitted him, and the new experience
of frank _camaraderie_ with a woman not as a member of an inferior
sex, but as an equal companion of brain and soul. He had seen her
often, and usually alone, because he shunned meetings with strangers.
Until his education had advanced further, he wished to avoid social
embarrassments. He knew that she liked him, and realized that it was
because he was a new and virile type, and for that reason a diversion
--a sort of human novelty. She liked him, too, because it was rare for a
man to offer her friendship without making love, and she was certain he
would not make love. He liked her for the same many reasons that every
one else did--because she was herself. Of late, too, he had met a
number of men at Lescott's clubs. He was modestly surprised to find
that, though his attitude on these occasions was always that of one
sitting in the background, the men seemed to like him, and, when they
said, "See you again," at parting, it was with the convincing manner of
real friendliness. Sometimes, even now, his language was ungrammatical,
but so, for the matter of that, was theirs.... The great writer smiled
with his slow, humorous lighting of the eyes as he observed to Lescott:
"We are licking our cub into shape, George, and the best of it is
that, when he learns to dance ragtime to the organ, he isn't going to
stop being a bear. He's a grizzly!"
One wonderful afternoon in October, when the distances were mist-hung,
and the skies very clear, Samson sat across the table from Adrienne
Lescott at a road-house on the Sound. The sun had set through great
cloud battalions massed against the west, and the horizon was fading
into darkness through a haze like ash of roses. She had picked him up
on the Avenue, and taken him into her car for a short spin, but the
afternoon had beguiled them, luring them on a little further, and still
a little further. When they were a score of miles from Manhattan, the
car had suddenly broken down. It would, the chauffeur told them, be the
matter of an hour to effect repairs, so the girl, explaining to the boy
that this event gave the affair the aspect of adventure, turned and led
the way, on foot, to the nearest road-house.
"We will telephone that we shall be late, and then have dinner," she
laughed. "And for me to have dinner with you alone, unchaperoned at a
country inn, is by New York standards delightfully unconventional. It
borders on wickedness." Then, since their attitude toward each other
was so friendly and innocent, they both laughed. They had dined under
the trees of an old manor house, built a century ago, and now converted
into an inn, and they had enjoyed themselves because it seemed to them
pleasingly paradoxical that they should find in a place seemingly so
shabby-genteel a _cuisine_ and service of such excellence. Neither
of them had ever been there before, and neither of them knew that the
reputation of this establishment was in its own way wide--and unsavory.
They had no way of knowing that, because of several thoroughly bruited
scandals which had had origin here, it was a tabooed spot, except for
persons who preferred a semi-shady retreat; and they passed over
without suspicion the palpable surprise of the head waiter when they
elected to occupy a table on the terrace instead of a _cabinet
But the repairs did not go as smoothly as the chauffeur had expected,
and, when he had finished, he was hungry. So, eleven o'clock found them
still chatting at their table on the lighted lawn. After awhile, they
fell silent, and Adrienne noticed that her companion's face had become
deeply, almost painfully set, and that his gaze was tensely focused on
"What is it, Mr. South?" she demanded.
The young man began to speak, in a steady, self-accusing voice.
"I was sitting here, looking at you," he said, bluntly. "I was
thinking how fine you are in every way; how there is as much difference
in the texture of men and women as there is in the texture of their
clothes. From that automobile cap you wear to your slippers and
stockings, you are clad in silk. From your brain to the tone of your
voice, you are woven of human silk. I've learned lately that silk isn't
weak, but strong. They make the best balloons of it." He paused and
laughed, but his face again became sober. "I was thinking, too, of your
mother. She must be sixty, but she's a young woman. Her face is smooth
and unwrinkled, and her heart is still in bloom. At that same age,
George won't be much older than he is now."
The compliment was so obviously not intended as compliment at all that
the girl flushed with pleasure.
"Then," went on Samson, his face slowly drawing with pain, "I was
thinking of my own people. My mother was about forty when she died. She
was an old woman. My father was forty-three. He was an old man. I was
thinking how they withered under their drudgery--and of the monstrous
injustice of it all."
Adrienne Lescott nodded. Her eyes were sweetly sympathetic.
"It's the hardship of the conditions," she said, softly. "Those
conditions will change."
"But that's not all I was thinking," went on the boy.
"I was watching you lift your coffee-cup awhile ago. You did it
unconsciously, but your movement was dainty and graceful, as though an
artist had posed you. That takes generations, and, in my imagination, I
saw my people sitting around an oil-cloth on a kitchen table, pouring
coffee into their saucers."
"'There are five and twenty ways
"'Of writing tribal lays,'"
quoted the girl, smilingly,
"'And every single one of them is right.'"
"And a horrible thought came to me," continued Samson. He took out his
handkerchief, and mopped his forehead, then tossed back the long lock
that fell over it. "I wondered"--he paused, and then went on with a set
face--"I wondered if I were growing ashamed of my people."
"If I thought that," said Miss Lescott, quietly, "I wouldn't have much
use for you. But I know there's no danger."
"If I thought there was," Samson assured her, "I would go back there
to Misery, and shoot myself to death.... And, yet, the thought came to
"I'm not afraid of your being a cad," she repeated.
"And yet," he smiled, "I was trying to imagine you among my people.
What was that rhyme you used to quote to me when you began to teach me
She laughed, and fell into nonsense quotation, as she thrummed lightly
on the table-cloth with her slim fingers.
"'The goops they lick their fingers,
"'The goops eat with their knives,
"'They spill their broth on the table-cloth,
"'And lead disgusting lives.'"
"My people do all those things," announced Samson, though he said it
rather in a manner of challenge than apology, "except spilling their
broth on the table-cloth.... There are no table-cloths. What would you
do in such company?"
"I," announced Miss Lescott, promptly, "should also lick my fingers."
Samson laughed, and looked up. A man had come out onto the verandah
from the inside, and was approaching the table. He was immaculately
groomed, and came forward with the deference of approaching a throne,
yet as one accustomed to approaching thrones. His smile was that of
The mountaineer recognized Farbish, and, with a quick hardening of the
face, he recalled their last meeting. If Farbish should presume to renew
the acquaintanceship under these circumstances, Samson meant to rise
from his chair, and strike him in the face. George Lescott's sister
could not be subjected to such meetings. Yet, it was a tribute to his
advancement in good manners that he dreaded making a scene in her
presence, and, as a warning, he met Farbish's pleasant smile with a look
of blank and studied lack of recognition. The circumstances out of which
Farbish might weave unpleasant gossip did not occur to Samson. That they
were together late in the evening, unchaperoned, at a road-house whose
reputation was socially dubious, was a thing he did not realize. But
Farbish was keenly alive to the possibilities of the situation. He chose
to construe the Kentuckian's blank expression as annoyance at being
discovered, a sentiment he could readily understand. Adrienne Lescott,
following her companion's eyes, looked up, and to the boy's astonishment
nodded to the new-comer, and called him by name.
"Mr. Farbish," she laughed, with mock confusion and total innocence of
the fact that her words might have meaning, "don't tell on us."
"I never tell things, my dear lady," said the newcomer. "I have dwelt
too long in conservatories to toss pebbles. I'm afraid, Mr. South, you
have forgotten me. I'm Farbish, and I had the pleasure of meeting you"
--he paused a moment, then with a pointed glance added--"at the Manhattan
Club, was it not?"
"It was not," said Samson, promptly. Farbish looked his surprise, but
was resolved to see no offense, and, after a few moments of affable
and, it must be acknowledged, witty conversation, withdrew to his own
"Where did you meet that man?" demanded Samson, fiercely, when he and
the girl were alone again.
"Oh, at any number of dinners and dances. His sort is tolerated for
some reason." She paused, then, looking very directly at the
Kentuckian, inquired, "And where did you meet him?"
"Didn't you hear him say the Manhattan Club?"
"Yes, and I knew that he was lying."
"Yes, he was!" Samson spoke, contemptuously. "Never mind where it was.
It was a place I got out of when I found out who were there."
The chauffeur came to announce that the car was ready, and they went
out. Farbish watched them with a smile that had in it a trace of the
The career of Farbish had been an interesting one in its own peculiar
and unadmirable fashion. With no advantages of upbringing, he had
nevertheless so cultivated the niceties of social usage that his one
flaw was a too great perfection. He was letter-perfect where one to the
manor born might have slurred some detail.
He was witty, handsome in his saturnine way, and had powerful friends
in the world of fashion and finance. That he rendered services to his
plutocratic patrons, other than the repartee of his dinner talk, was a
thing vaguely hinted in club gossip, and that these services were not
to his credit had more than once been conjectured.
When Horton had begun his crusade against various abuses, he had cast
a suspicious eye on all matters through which he could trace the trail
of William Farbish, and now, when Farbish saw Horton, he eyed him with
an enigmatical expression, half-quizzical and half-malevolent.
After Adrienne and Samson had disappeared, he rejoined his companion,
a stout, middle-aged gentleman of florid complexion, whose cheviot
cutaway and reposeful waistcoat covered a liberal embonpoint. Farbish
took his cigar from his lips, and studied its ascending smoke through
lids half-closed and thoughtful.
"Singular," he mused; "very singular!"
"What's singular?" impatiently demanded his companion. "Finish, or
"That mountaineer came up here as George Lescott's protege," went on
Farbish, reflectively. "He came fresh from the feud belt, and landed
promptly in the police court. Now, in less than a year, he's pairing
off with Adrienne Lescott--who, every one supposed, meant to marry
Wilfred Horton. This little party to-night is, to put it quite mildly,
a bit unconventional."
The stout gentleman said nothing, and the other questioned, musingly:
"By the way, Bradburn, has the Kenmore Shooting Club requested Wilfred
Horton's resignation yet?"
"Not yet. We are going to. He's not congenial, since his hand is
raised against every man who owns more than two dollars." The speaker
owned several million times that sum. This meeting at an out-of-the-way
place had been arranged for the purpose of discussing ways and means of
curbing Wilfred's crusades.
"Well, don't do it."
"Why the devil shouldn't we? We don't want anarchists in the Kenmore."
After awhile, they sat silent, Farbish smiling over the plot he had
just devised, and the other man puffing with a puzzled expression at
"That's all there is to it," summarized Mr. Farbish, succinctly. "If
we can get these two men, South and Horton, together down there at the
shooting lodge, under the proper conditions, they'll do the rest
themselves, I think. I'll take care of South. Now, it's up to you to
have Horton there at the same time."
"How do you know these two men have not already met--and amicably?"
demanded Mr. Bradburn.
"I happen to know it, quite by chance. It is my business to know
things--quite by chance!"
Indian summer came again to Misery, flaunting woodland banners of
crimson and scarlet and orange, but to Sally the season brought only
heart-achy remembrances of last autumn, when Samson had softened his
stoicism as the haze had softened the horizon. He had sent her a few
brief letters--not written, but plainly printed. He selected short
words--as much like the primer as possible, for no other messages could
she read. There were times in plenty when he wished to pour out to her
torrents of feeling, and it was such feeling as would have carried
comfort to her lonely little heart. He wished to tell frankly of what a
good friend he had made, and how this friendship made him more able to
realize that other feeling--his love for Sally. There was in his mind
no suspicion--as yet--that these two girls might ever stand in conflict