Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

The Grafters by Francis Lynde

Part 2 out of 6

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.6 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

'solans'. The member from Caliente read the article and the word stuck in
his mind. In an unhappy hour he asked Colonel Mack's boy--Harry, the
irrepressible, you know--to look it up for him. Harry did it, and of
course took the most public occasion he could find to hand in his answer.
'It's geese, Mr. Hackett!' he announced triumphantly; and after we were
all through laughing at him the member from the warm place turned it just
as neatly as a veteran. 'Well, I'm Hackett,' he said."

David Kent laughed, as he was in duty bound, but he still had Ormsby on
his mind.

"I see you have Mrs. Brentwood and her daughters here: can you tell me
where I can find Mr. Brookes Ormsby?"

"I suppose I could if I should try. But you mustn't hurry me. There is a
vacant corner in that davenport beyond the piano: please put me there and
fetch me an ice. I'll wait for you."

He did as he was bidden, and when she was served he stood over her,
wondering, as other men had wondered, what was the precise secret of her
charm. Loring had told him Miss Van Brock's story. She was southern born,
the only child of a somewhat ill-considered match between a young
California lawyer, wire-pulling in the national capital in the interest of
the Central Pacific Railroad, and a Virginia belle tasting the delights of
her first winter in Washington.

Later, the young lawyer's state, or his employers, had sent him to
Congress; and Portia, left motherless in her middle childhood, had grown
up in an atmosphere of statecraft, or what passes for such, in an era of
frank commercialism. Inheriting her mother's rare beauty of face and form,
and uniting with it a sympathetic gift in grasp of detail, political and
other, she soon became her father's confidante and loyal partizan, taking
the place, as a daughter might, of the ambitious young wife and mother,
who had set her heart on seeing the Van Brock name on the roll of the
United States Senate.

Rensselaer Van Brock had died before the senatorial dream could be
realized, but not before he had made a sufficient number of lucky
investments to leave his daughter the arbitress of her own future. What
that future should be, not even Loring could guess. Since her father's
death Miss Van Brock had been a citizen of the world. With a widowed aunt
for the shadowiest of chaperons, she had drifted with the tide of
inclination, coming finally to rest in the western capital for no better
reason, perhaps, than that some portion of her interest-bearing securities
were emblazoned with the great seal of this particular western State.

Kent was thinking of Loring's recountal as he stood looking down on her.
Other women were younger--and with features more conventionally beautiful;
Kent could find a round dozen within easy eye-reach, to say nothing of the
calm-eyed, queenly _improvisatrice_ at the piano--his constant standard of
all womanly charm and grace. Unconsciously he fell to comparing the two,
his hostess and his love, and was brought back to things present by a
sharp reminder from Portia.

"Stop looking at Miss Brentwood that way, Mr. David. She is not for you;
and you are keeping me waiting."

He smiled down on her.

"It is the law of compensation. I fancy you have kept many a man
waiting--and will keep many another."

There was a little tang of bitterness in her laugh.

"You remind me of the time when I went home from school--oh, years and
years ago. Old Chloe--she was my black mammy, you know--had a grown
daughter of her own, and her effort to dispose of her 'M'randy' was a
standing joke in the family. In answer to my stereotyped question she
stood back and folded her arms. 'Naw, honey; dat M'randy ain't ma'ied yit.
She gwine be des lak you; look pretty, an' say, _Howdy! Misteh Jawnson_,
an' go 'long by awn turrer side de road.'"

"A very pretty little fable," said Kent. "And the moral?"

"Is that I amuse myself with you--all of you; and in your turn you make
use of me--or you think you do. Of what use can _I_ be to Mr. David Kent
this evening?"

"See how you misjudge me!" he protested. "My errand here to-night is
purely charitable. Which brings me back to Ormsby: did you say you could
tell me where to look for him?"

"He is in the smoking-room with five or six other tobacco misanthropes.
What do you want of him?"

"I want to say two words in his ear; after which I shall vanish and make
room for my betters."

Miss Van Brock was gazing steadfastly at the impassioned face lighted by
the piano candles.

"Is it about Miss Brentwood?" she asked abruptly.

"In a way--yes," he confessed.

She rose and stood beside him--a bewitching figure of a woman who knew her
part in the human comedy and played it well.

"Is it wise, David?" she asked softly. "I am not denying the
possibilities: you might come between them if you should try--I'm rather
afraid you could. But you mustn't, you know; it's too late. You've marred
her, between you; or rather that convention, which makes a woman deaf,
blind and dumb until a man has fairly committed himself, has marred her.
For your sake she can never be quite all she ought to be to him: for his
sake she could never be quite the same to you."

He drew apart from her, frowning.

"If I should say that I don't fully understand what you mean?" he

"I should retort by saying something extremely uncomplimentary about your
lack of perspicacity," she cut in maliciously.

"I beg pardon," he said, a little stiffly. "You are laboring under an
entirely wrong impression. What I have to say to Mr. Brookes Ormsby does
not remotely concern the matter you touch upon. It's an affair of the
Stock Exchange."

"As if I didn't know!" she countered. "You merely reminded me of the other
thing. But if it is only a business secret you may as well tell me all
about it at first hands. Some one is sure to tell me sooner or later."

Now David Kent was growing impatient. Down in the inner depths of him he
was persuaded that Ormsby might have difficulty in inducing Mrs. Brentwood
to sell her Western Pacific stock even at an advance; might require time,
at least. And time, with a Bucks majority tinkering with corporate rights
in the Assembly, might well be precious.

"Forgive me if I tell Ormsby first," he pleaded. "Afterward, if you care
to know, you shall."

Miss Van Brock let him go at that, but now the way to the smoking-den on
the floor above was hedged up. He did battle with the polite requirements,
as a man must; shaking hands or exchanging a word with one and another of
the obstructors only as he had to. None the less, when he had finally
wrought his way to the smoking-room Ormsby had eluded him again.

He went back to the parlors, wondering how he had missed the club-man. In
the middle room of the suite he found Portia chatting with Marston, the
lieutenant-governor; and a young woman in the smartest of reception gowns
had succeeded to Elinor's place at the piano.

"You found him?" queried the hostess, excusing herself to the tall,
saturnine man who had shared the honors at the head of the People's Party
ticket with Jasper G. Bucks.

"No," said Kent. "Have you seen him?"

"Why, yes; they all came to take leave just a few moments after you left
me. I thought of telling Mr. Ormsby you were looking for him, but you shut
me off so snippily----"

"Miss Van Brock! What have you done? I must go at once."

"Really? I am complimented. But if you must, you must, I suppose. I had
something to tell you--something of importance; but I can't remember what
it was now. I never can remember things in the hurry of leave-takings."

As we have intimated, Kent had hitherto found Miss Portia's confidences
exceedingly helpful in a business way, and he hesitated. "Tell me," he

"No, I can't remember it: I doubt if I shall ever remember it unless you
can remind me by telling me why you are so desperately anxious to find Mr.

"I wonder if you hold everybody up like this," he laughed. "But I don't
mind telling you. Western Pacific preferred has gone to fifty-eight and a

"And Mr. Ormsby has some to sell? I wish I had. Do you know what I'd do?"
She drew closer and laid a hand on his arm. "I'd sell--by wire--to-night;
at least, I'd make sure that my telegram would be the first thing my
broker would lay his hands on in the morning."

"On general principles, I suppose: so should I, and for the same reason.
But have I succeeded in reminding you of that thing you were going to tell

"Not wholly; only partly. You said this matter of Mr. Ormsby's concerned
Miss Brentwood--in a way--didn't you?"

"You will have your pound of flesh entire, won't you? The stock is hers,
and her mother's and sister's. I want Ormsby to persuade them to sell.
They'll listen to him. That is all; all the all."

"Of course!" she said airily. "How simple of me not to have been able to
add it up without your help. I saw the quotation in the evening paper; and
I know, better, perhaps, than you do, the need for haste. Must you go
now?" She had taken his arm and was edging him through the press in the
parlors toward the entrance hall.

"_You_ haven't paid me yet," he objected.

"No; I'm trying to remember. Oh, yes; I have it now. Wasn't some one
telling me that you are interested in House Bill Twenty-nine?"

They had reached the dimly lighted front vestibule, and her hand was still
on his arm.

"I was interested in it," he admitted, correcting the present to the past

"But after it went to the House committee on judiciary you left it to more
skilful, or perhaps we'd better say, to less scrupulous hands?"

"I believe you are a witch. Is there anything you don't know?"

"Plenty of things. For example, I don't know exactly how much it cost our
good friends of the 'vested interests' to have that bill mislaid in the
committee room. But I do know they made a very foolish bargain."

"Beyond all doubt a most demoralizing bargain, which, to say the best of
it, was only a choice between two evils. But why foolish?"

"Because--well, because mislaid things have a way of turning up
unexpectedly, you know, and--"

He stopped her in a sudden gust of feverish excitement.

"Tell me what you mean in one word, Miss Van Brock. Don't those fellows
intend to stay bought?"

She smiled pityingly.

"You are very young, Mr. David--or very honest. Supposing those 'fellows',
as you dub the honorable members of the committee on judiciary, had a
little plan of their own; a plan suggested by the readiness of certain of
their opponents to rush into print with statements which might derange

"I am supposing it with all my might."

"That is right; we are only supposing, you must remember. We may suppose
their idea was to let the excitement about the amended bill die down; to
let people generally, and one fiercely honest young corporation attorney
in particular, have time to forget that there was such a thing as House
Bill Twenty-nine. And in such a suppositional case, how much they would be
surprised, and how they would laugh in their sleeves, if some one came
along and paid them handsomely for doing precisely what they meant to do."

David Kent's smile was almost ferocious.

"My argument is as good now as it was in the beginning: they have yet to
reckon with the man who will dare to expose them."

She turned from him and spoke to the footman at the door.

"Thomas, fetch Mr. Kent's coat and hat from the dressing-room." And then
to Kent, in the tone she might have used in telling him of the latest
breeziness of the member from the Rio Blanco: "I remember now what it was
that I wanted to tell you. While you have been trying to find Mr. Ormsby,
the committee on judiciary has been reporting the long-lost House Bill
Twenty-nine. If you hurry you may be in time to see it passed--it will
doubtless go through without any tiresome debate. But you will hardly have
time to obstruct it by arousing public sentiment through the newspapers."

David Kent shook the light touch of her hand from his arm and set his
teeth hard upon a word hot from the furnace of righteous indignation. For
a moment he fully believed she was in league with the junto; that she had
been purposely holding him in talk while the very seconds were priceless.

She saw the scornful wrath in his eyes and turned it aside with a swift

"No, David; I didn't do that," she said, speaking to his inmost thought.
"If there had been anything you could do--the smallest shadow of a chance
for you--I should have sent you flying at the first word. But there
wasn't; it was all too well arranged--"

But he had snatched coat and hat from the waiting Thomas and was running
like a madman for the nearest cab-stand.



Kent's time from Alameda Square to the capitol was the quickest a flogged
cab-horse could make, but he might have spared the horse and saved the
double fee. On the broad steps of the south portico he, uprushing three at
a bound, met the advance guard of the gallery contingent, down-coming. The
House had adjourned.

"One minute, Harnwicke!" he gasped, falling upon the first member of the
corporations' lobby he could identify in the throng. "What's been done?"

"They've taken a fall out of us," was the brusk reply. "House Bill
Twenty-nine was reported by the committee on judiciary and rushed through
after you left. Somebody engineered it to the paring of a fingernail: bare
quorum to act; members who might have filibustered weeded out, on one
pretext or another, to a man; pages all excused, and nobody here with the
privilege of the floor. It was as neat a piece of gag-work as I ever hope
to see if I live to be a hundred."

Kent faced about and joined the townward dispersal with his informant.

"Well, I suppose that settles it definitely; at least, until we can test
its constitutionality in the courts," he said.

Harnwicke thought not, being of the opinion that the vested interests
would never say die until they were quite dead. As assistant counsel for
the Overland Short Line, he was in some sense the dean of the corps of
observation, and could speak with authority.

"There is one chance left for us this side of the courts," he went on;
"and now I think of it, you are the man to say how much of a chance it is.
The bill still lacks the governor's signature."

Kent shook his head.

"It is his own measure. I have proof positive that he and Meigs and
Hendricks drafted it. And all this fine-haired engineering to-night was
his, or Meigs'."

"Of course; we all know that. But we don't know the particular object yet.
Do they need the new law in their business as a source of revenue? Or do
they want to be hired to kill it? In other words, does Bucks want a lump
sum for a veto? You know the man better than any of us."

"By Jove!" said Kent. "Do you mean to say you would buy the governor of a

Harnwicke turned a cold eye on his companion as they strode along. He was
of the square-set, plain-spoken, aggressive type--a finished product of
the modern school of business lawyers.

"I don't understand that you are raising the question of ethics at this
stage of the game, do I?" he remarked.

Kent fired up a little.

"And if I am?" he retorted.

"I should say you had missed your calling. It is baldly a question of
business--or rather of self-preservation. We needn't mince matters among
ourselves. If Bucks is for sale, we buy him."

Kent shrugged.

"There isn't any doubt about his purchasability. But I confess I don't
quite see how you will go about it."

"Never mind that part of it; just leave the ways and means with those of
us who have riper experience--and fewer hamperings, perhaps--than you
have. Your share in it is to tell us how big a bid we must make. As I say,
you know the man."

David Kent was silent for the striding of half a square. The New England
conscience dies hard, and while it lives it is given to drawing sharp
lines on all the boundaries of culpability. Kent ended by taking the
matter in debate violently out of the domain of ethics and standing it
upon the ground of expediency.

"It will cost too much. You would have to bid high--not to overcome his
scruples, for he has none; but to satisfy his greed--which is abnormal.
And, besides, he has his pose to defend. If he can see his way clear to a
harvest of extortions under the law, he will probably turn you down--and
will make it hot for you later on in the name of outraged virtue."

Harnwicke's laugh was cynical.

"He and his little clique don't own the earth in fee simple. Perhaps we
shall be able to make them grasp that idea before we are through with
them. We have had this fight on in other states. Would ten thousand be
likely to satisfy him?"

"No," said Kent. "If you add another cipher, it might."

"A hundred thousand is a pot of money. I take it for granted the Western
Pacific will stand its pro-rate?"

The New England conscience bucked again, and Kent made his first open
protest against the methods of the demoralizers.

"I am not in a position to say: I should advise against it. Unofficially,
I think I can speak for Loring and the Boston people. We are not more
saintly than other folk, perhaps; and we are not in the railroad business
for health or pleasure. But I fancy the Advisory Board would draw the line
at bribing a governor--at any rate, I hope it would."

"Rot!" said Harnwicke. And then: "You'll reap the benefits with other
interstate interests; you'll have to come in."

Kent hesitated, but not now on the ground of the principle to be defended.

"That brings in a question which I am not competent to decide. Loring is
your man. You will call a conference of the 'powers,' I take it?"

"It is already called. I sent Atherton out to notify everybody as soon as
the trap was sprung in the House. We meet in the ordinary at the Camelot.
You'll be there?"

"A little later--if Loring wants me. I have some telephoning to do before
this thing gets on the wires."

They parted at the entrance to the Camelot Club, and Kent went two squares
farther on to the Wellington. Ormsby had not yet returned, and Kent went
to the telephone and called up the Brentwood apartments. It was Penelope
that answered.

"Well, I think you owe it," she began, as soon as he had given his name.
"What did I do at Miss Van Brock's to make you cut me dead?"

"Why, nothing at all, I'm sure. I--I was looking for Mr. Ormsby, and----"

"Not when I saw you," she broke in flippantly. "You were handing Miss
Portia an ice. Are you still looking for Mr. Ormsby?"

"I am--just that. Is he with you?"

"No; he left here about twenty minutes ago. Is it anything serious?"

"Serious enough to make me want to find him as soon as I can. Did he say
he was coming down to the Wellington?"

"Of course, he didn't," laughed Penelope. And then: "Whatever is the
matter with you this evening, Mr. Kent?"

"I guess I'm a little excited," said Kent. "Something has
happened--something I can't talk about over the wires. It concerns you and
your mother and sister. You'll know all about it as soon as I can find
Ormsby and send him out to you."

Penelope's "Oh!" was long-drawn and gasping.

"Is any one dead?" she faltered.

"No, no; it's nothing of that kind. I'll send Ormsby out, and he will tell
you all about it."

"Can't you come yourself?"

"I may have to if I can't find Ormsby. Please don't let your mother go to
bed until you have heard from one or the other of us. Did you get that?"

"Ye-es; but I should like to know more--a great deal more."

"I know; and I'd like to tell you. But I am using the public telephone
here at the Wellington, and--Oh, damn!" Central had cut him out, and it
was some minutes before the connection was switched in again. "Is that
you, Miss Penelope? All right; I wasn't quite through. When Ormsby comes,
you must do as he tells you to, and you and Miss Elinor must help him
convince your mother. Do you understand?"

"No, I don't understand anything. For goodness' sake, find Mr. Ormsby and
make him run! This is perfectly dreadful!"

"Isn't it? And I'm awfully sorry. Good-by."

Kent hung up the receiver, and when he was asking a second time at the
clerk's desk for the missing man, Ormsby came in to answer for himself.
Whereupon the crisis was outlined to him in brief phrase, and he rose to
the occasion, though not without a grimace.

"I'm not sure just how well you know Mrs. Hepzibah Brentwood," he
demurred; "but it will be quite like her to balk. Don't you think you'd
better go along? You are the company's attorney, and your opinion ought to
carry some weight."

David Kent thought not; but a cautious diplomatist, having got the idea
well into the back part of his head, was not to be denied.

"Of course, you'll come. You are just the man I'll need to back me up. I
shan't shirk; I'll take the mother into the library and break the ice,
while you are squaring things with the young women. Penelope won't care
the snap of her finger either way; but Elinor has some notion's that you
are fitter to cope with than I am. After, if you can give me a lift with
Mrs. Hepzibah, I'll call you in. Come on; it's getting pretty late to go

Kent yielded reluctantly, and they took a car for the sake of speed. It
was Penelope who opened the door for them at 124 Tejon Avenue; and Ormsby
made it easy for his coadjutor, as he had promised.

"I want to see your mother in the library for a few minutes," he began.
"Will you arrange it, and take care of Mr. Kent until I come for him?"

Penelope "arranged" it, not without another added pang of curiosity,
whereupon David Kent found himself the rather embarrassed third of a
silent trio gathered about the embers of the sitting-room fire.

"Is it to be a Quaker meeting?" asked Penelope, sweetly, when the silence
had grown awe-inspiring.

Kent laughed for pure joy at the breaking of the spell.

"One would think we had come to drag you all off to jail, Ormsby and I,"
he said; and then he went on to explain. "It's about your Western Pacific
stock, you know. To-day's quotations put it a point and a half above your
purchase price, and we've come to persuade you to unload, _pronto_, as the
member from the Rio Blanco would say."

"Is that all?" said Penelope, stifling a yawn. "Then I'm not in it: I'm an
infant." And she rose and went to the piano.

"You haven't told us all of it: what has happened?" queried Elinor,
speaking for the first time since her greeting of Kent.

He briefed the story of House Bill Twenty-nine for her, pointing out the

"Of course, no one can tell what the precise effect will be," he
qualified. "But in my opinion it is very likely to be destructive of
dividends. Skipping the dry details, the new law, which is equitable
enough on its face, can be made an engine of extortion in the hands of
those who administer it. In fact, I happen to know that it was designed
and carried through for that very purpose."

She smiled.

"I have understood you were in the opposition. Are you speaking

"I am stating the plain fact," said Kent, nettled a little by her
coolness. "Decadent Rome never lifted a baser set of demagogues into
office than we have here in this State at the present moment."

He spoke warmly, and she liked him best when he put her on the footing of
an equal antagonist.

"I can't agree with your inference," she objected. "As a people we are
neither obsequious nor stupid."

"Perhaps not. But it is one of the failures of a popular government that
an honest majority may be controlled and directed by a small minority of
shrewd rascals. That is exactly what has happened in the passage of this
bill. I venture to say that not one man in ten who voted for it had the
faintest suspicion that it was a 'graft'."

"If that be true, what chances there are for men with the gift of true
leadership and a love of pure justice in their hearts!" she said
half-absently; and he started forward and said: "I beg pardon?"

She let the blue-gray eyes meet his and there was a passing shadow of
disappointment in them.

"I ought to beg yours. I'm afraid I was thinking aloud. But it is one of
my dreams. If I were a man I should go into politics."

"To purify them?"

"To do my part in trying. The great heart of the people is honest and
well-meaning: I think we all admit that. And there is intelligence, too.
But human nature is the same as it used to be when they set up a man who
_could_ and called him a king. Gentle or simple, it must be led."

"There is no lack of leadership, such as it is," he hazarded.

"No; but there seems to be a pitiful lack of the right kind: men who will
put self-seeking and unworthy ambition aside and lift the standard of
justice and right-doing for its own sake. Are there any such men

"I don't know," he rejoined gravely. "Sometimes I'm tempted to doubt it.
It is a frantic scramble for place and power for the most part. The kind
of man you have in mind isn't in it; shuns it as he would a plague spot."

She contradicted him firmly.

"No, the kind of man I have in mind wouldn't shun it; he would take hold
with his hands and try to make things better; he would put the selfish
temptations under foot and give the people a leader worth following--be
the real mind and hand of the well-meaning majority."

Kent shook his head slowly.

"Not unless we admit a motive stronger than the abstraction which we call

"I don't understand," she said; meaning, rather, that she refused to

"I mean that such a man, however exalted his views might be, would have to
have an object more personal to him than the mere dutiful promptings of
patriotism to make him do his best."

"But that would be self-seeking again."

"Not necessarily in the narrow sense. The old knightly chivalry was a
beautiful thing in its way, and it gave an uplift to an age which would
have been frankly brutal without it: yet it had its well-spring in what
appeals to us now as being a rather fantastic sentiment."

"And we are not sentimentalists?" she suggested.

"No; and it's the worse for us in some respects. You will not find your
ideal politician until you find a man with somewhat of the old knightly
spirit in him. And I'll go further and say that when you do find him he
will be at heart the champion of the woman he loves rather than that of a
political constituency."

She became silent at that, and for a time the low sweet harmonies of the
nocturne Penelope was playing filled the gap.

Kent left his chair and began to wish honestly for Ormsby's return. He was
searing the wound again, and the process was more than commonly painful.
They had been speaking in figures, as a man and a woman will; yet he made
sure the mask of metaphor was transparent, no less to her than to him. As
many times before, his heart was crying out to her; but now behind the cry
there was an upsurging tidal wave of emotion new and strange; a toppling
down of barriers and a sweeping inrush of passionate rebellion.

Why had she put it out of her power to make him her champion in the Field
of the Lust of Mastery? Instantly, and like a revealing lightning flash,
it dawned upon him that this was his awakening. Something of himself she
had shown him in the former time: how he was rusting inactive in the small
field when he should be doing a man's work, the work for which his
training had fitted him, in the larger. But the glamour of sentiment had
been over it all in those days, and to the passion-warped the high call is
transmitted in terms of self-seeking.

He turned upon her suddenly.

"Did you mean to reproach me?" he asked abruptly.

"How absurd!"

"No, it isn't. You are responsible for me, in a certain sense. You sent me
out into the world, and somehow I feel as if I had disappointed you."

"'But what went ye out for to see?'" she quoted softly.

"I know," he nodded, sitting down again. "You thought you were arousing a
worthy ambition, but it was only avarice that was quickened. I've been
trying to be a money-getter."

"You can be something vastly better."

"No, I am afraid not; it is too late."

Again the piano-mellowed silence supervened, and Kent put his elbows on
his knees and his face in his hands, being very miserable. He believed now
what he had been slow to credit before: that he had it in him to hew his
way to the end of the line if only the motive were strong enough to call
out all the reserves of battle-might and courage. That motive she alone,
of all the women in the world, might have supplied, he told himself in
keen self-pity. With her love to arm him, her clear-eyed faith to inspire
him.... He sat up straight and pushed the cup of bitter herbs aside. There
would be time enough to drain it farther on.

"Coming back to the stock market and the present crisis," he said,
breaking the silence in sheer self-defense; "Ormsby and I----"

She put the resurrected topic back into its grave with a little gesture of
apathetic impatience she used now and then with Ormsby.

"I suppose I ought to be interested, but I am not," she confessed. "Mother
will do as she thinks best, and we shall calmly acquiesce, as we always

David Kent was not sorry to be relieved in so many words of the persuasive
responsibility, and the talk drifted into reminiscence, with the Croydon
summer for a background.

It was a dangerous pastime for Kent; perilous, and subversive of many
things. One of his meliorating comforts had been the thought that however
bitter his own disappointment was, Elinor at least was happy. But in this
new-old field of talk a change came over her and he was no longer sure she
was entirely happy. She was saying things with a flavor akin to cynicism
in them, as thus:

"Do you remember how we used to go into raptures of pious indignation over
the make-believe sentiment of the summer man and the summer girl? I
recollect your saying once that it was wicked; a desecration of things
which ought to be held sacred. It isn't so very long ago, but I think we
were both very young that summer--years younger than we can ever be again.
Don't you?"

"Doubtless," said David Kent. He was at a pass in which he would have
agreed with her if she had asserted that black was white. It was not
weakness; it was merely that he was absorbed in a groping search for the
word which would fit her changed mood.

"We have learned to be more charitable since," she went on; "more
charitable and less sentimental, perhaps. And yet we prided ourselves on
our sincerity in that young time, don't you think?"

"I, at least, was sincere," he rejoined bluntly. He had found the
mood-word at last: it was resentment; though, being a man, he could see no
good reason why the memories of the Croydon summer should make her

She was not looking at him when she said: "No; sincerity is always just.
And you were not quite just, I think."

"To you?" he demanded.

"Oh, no; to yourself."

Portia Van Brock's accusation was hammering itself into his brain. _You
have marred her between you.... For your sake she can never be quite all
she ought to be to him; for his sake she could never be quite the same to
you_. A cold wave of apprehension submerged him. In seeking to do the most
unselfish thing that offered, had he succeeded only in making her despise

The question was still hanging answerless when there came the sound of a
door opening and closing, and Ormsby stood looking in upon them.

"We needn't keep these sleepy young persons out of bed any longer," he
announced briefly; and the coadjutor said good-night and joined him at

"What luck?" was David Kent's anxious query when they were free of the
house and had turned their faces townward.

"Just as much as we might have expected. Mrs. Hepzibah refuses point-blank
to sell her stock--won't talk about it. 'The idea of parting with it now,
when it is actually worth more than it was when we bought it!'" he quoted,
mimicking the thin-lipped, acidulous protest. "Later, in an evil minute, I
tried to drag you in, and she let you have it square on the point of the
jaw--intimated that it was a deal in which some of you inside people
needed her block of stock to make you whole. She did, by Jove!"

Kent's laugh was mirthless.

"I was never down in her good books," he said, by way of accounting for
the accusation.

If Ormsby thought he knew the reason why, he was magnanimous enough to
steer clear of that shoal.

"It's a mess," he growled. "I don't fancy you had any better luck with

"She seemed not to care much about it either way. She said her mother
would have the casting vote."

"I know. What I don't know is, what remains to be done."

"More waiting," said Kent, definitively. "The fight is fairly on now--as
between the Bucks crowd and the corporations, I mean--but there will
probably be ups and downs enough to scare Mrs. Brentwood into letting go.
We must be ready to strike when the iron is hot; that's all."

The New Yorker tramped a full square in thoughtful silence before he said:
"Candidly, Kent, Mrs. Hepzibah's little stake in Western Pacific isn't
altogether a matter of life and death to me, don't you know? If it comes
to the worst, I can have my broker play the part of the god in the car.
Happily, or unhappily, whichever way you like to put it, I sha'n't miss
what he may have to put up to make good on her three thousand shares."

David Kent stopped short and wheeled suddenly upon his companion.

"Ormsby, that's a thing I've been afraid of, all along; and it's the one
thing you must never do."

"Why not?" demanded the straightforward Ormsby.

Kent knew he was skating on the thinnest of ice, but his love for Elinor
made him fearless of consequences.

"If you don't know without being told, it proves that your money has
spoiled you to that extent. It is because you have no right to entrap Miss
Brentwood into an obligation that would make her your debtor for the very
food she eats and the clothes she wears. You will say she need never know:
be very sure she would find out, one way or another; and she would never
forgive you."

"Um," said Ormsby, turning visibly grim. "You are frank enough--to draw it
mildly. Another man in my place might suggest that it isn't Mr. David
Kent's affair."

Kent turned about and caught step again.

"I've said my say--all of it," he rejoined stolidly. "We've been decently
modern up to now, and we won't go back to the elemental things so late in
the day. All the same, you'll not take it amiss if I say that I know Miss
Brentwood rather better than you do."

Ormsby did not say whether he would or would not, and the talk went aside
to less summary ways and means preservative of the Brentwood fortunes. But
at the archway of the Camelot Club, where Kent paused, Ormsby went back to
the debatable ground in an outspoken word.

"I know pretty well now what there is between us, Kent, and we mustn't
quarrel if we can help it," he said. "If you complain that I didn't give
you a fair show, I'll retort that I didn't dare to. Are you satisfied?"

"No," said David Kent; and with that they separated.



By the terms of its dating clause the new trust and corporation law became
effective at once, "the public welfare requiring it"; and though there was
an immediate sympathetic decline in the securities involved, there was no
panic, financial or industrial, to mark the change from the old to the

Contrary to the expectations of the alarmists and the lawyers, and
somewhat to the disappointment of the latter, the vested interests showed
no disposition to test the constitutionality of the act in the courts. So
far, indeed, from making difficulties, the various alien corporations
affected by the new law wheeled promptly into line in compliance with its
provisions, vying with one another in proving, or seeming to prove, the
time-worn aphorism that capital can never afford to be otherwise than
strictly law-abiding.

In the reorganization of the Western Pacific, David Kent developed at once
and heartily into that rare and much-sought-for quantity, a man for an
emergency. Loring, also, was a busy man in this transition period, yet he
found time to keep an appreciative eye on Kent, and, true to his implied
promise, pushed him vigorously for the first place in the legal department
of the localized company. Since the resident manager stood high in the
Boston counsels of the company, the pushing was not without results; and
while David Kent was still up to his eyes in the work of flogging the
affairs of the newly named Trans-Western into conformity with the law, his
appointment as general counsel came from the Advisory Board.

At one time, when success in his chosen vocation meant more to him than he
thought it could ever mean again, the promoted subordinate would have had
an attack of jubilance little in keeping with the grave responsibilities
of his office. As it fell out, he was too busy to celebrate, and too sore
on the sentimental side to rejoice. Hence, his recognition of the
promotion was merely a deeper plunge into the flood of legalities and the
adding of two more stenographers to his office force.

Now there is this to be said of such submersive battlings in a sea of
work: while the fierce toil of the buffeting may be good for the swimmer's
soul, it necessarily narrows his horizon, inasmuch as a man with his head
in the sea-smother lacks the view-point of the captain who fights his ship
from the conning tower.

So it befell that while the newly appointed general counsel of the
reorganized Western Pacific was bolting his meals and clipping the nights
at both ends in a strenuous endeavor to clear the decks for a possible
battle-royal at the capital, events of a minatory nature were shaping
themselves elsewhere.

To bring these events down to their focusing point in the period of
transition, it is needful to go back a little; to a term of the circuit
court held in the third year of Gaston the prosperous.

Who Mrs. Melissa Varnum was; how she came to be traveling from Midland
City to the end of the track on a scalper's ticket; and in what manner she
was given her choice of paying fare to the conductor or leaving the train
at Gaston--these are details with which we need not concern ourselves.
Suffice it to say that Kent, then local attorney for the company, mastered
them; and when Mrs. Varnum, through Hawk, her counsel, sued for five
thousand dollars damages, he was able to get a continuance, knowing from
long experience that the jury would certainly find for the plaintiff if
the case were then allowed to go to trial.

And at the succeeding term of court, which was the one that adjourned on
the day of Kent's transfer to the capital, two of the company's witnesses
had disappeared; and the one bit of company business Kent had been
successful in doing that day was to postpone for a second time the coming
to trial of the Varnum case.

It was while Kent's head was deepest in the flood of reorganization that a
letter came from one Blashfield Hunnicott, his successor in the local
attorneyship at Gaston, asking for instructions in the Varnum matter.
Judge MacFarlane's court would convene in a week. Was he, Hunnicott, to
let the case come to trial? Or should he--the witnesses still being
unproducible--move for a further continuance?

Kent took his head out of the cross-seas long enough to answer. By all
means Hunnicott was to obtain another continuance, if possible. And if,
before the case were called, there should be any new developments, he was
to wire at once to the general office, and further instructions would

It was about this time, or, to be strictly accurate, on the day preceding
the convening of Judge MacFarlane's court in Gaston, that Governor Bucks
took a short vacation--his first since the adjournment of the Assembly.

One of the mysteries of this man--the only one for which his friends could
not always account plausibly--was his habit of dropping out for a day or a
week at irregular intervals, leaving no clue by which he could be traced.
While he was merely a private citizen these disappearances figured in the
local notes of the Gaston _Clarion_ as business trips, object and
objective point unknown or at least unstated; but since his election the
newspapers were usually more definite. On this occasion, the public was
duly informed that "Governor Bucks, with one or two intimate friends, was
taking a few days' recreation with rod and gun on the headwaters of Jump
Creek"--a statement which the governor's private secretary stood ready to
corroborate to all and sundry calling at the gubernatorial rooms on the
second floor of the capitol.

Now it chanced that, like all gossip, this statement was subject to
correction as to details in favor of the exact fact. It is true that the
governor, his gigantic figure clad in sportsmanlike brown duck, might have
been seen boarding the train on the Monday evening; and in addition to the
ample hand-bag there were rod and gun cases to bear out the newspaper
notices. None the less, it was equally true that the keeper of the Gun
Club shooting-box at the terminus of the Trans-Western's Jump Creek branch
was not called upon to entertain so distinguished a guest as the State
executive. Also, it might have been remarked that the governor traveled

Late that same night, Stephen Hawk was keeping a rather discomforting
vigil with a visitor in the best suite of rooms the Mid-Continent Hotel in
Gaston afforded. The guest of honor was a brother lawyer--though he might
have refused to acknowledge the relationship with the ex-district
attorney--a keen-eyed, business-like gentleman, whose name as an organizer
of vast capitalistic ventures had traveled far, and whose present attitude
was one of undisguised and angry contempt for Gaston and all things

"How much longer have we to wait?" he demanded impatiently, when the hands
of his watch pointed to the quarter-hour after ten. "You've made me travel
two thousand miles to see this thing through: why didn't you make sure of
having your man here?"

Hawk wriggled uneasily in his chair. He was used to being bullied, not
only by the good and great, but by the little and evil as well. Yet there
was a rasp to the great man's impatience that irritated him.

"I've been trying to tell you all the evening that I'm only the hired man
in this business, Mr. Falkland. I can't compel the attendance of the other

"Well, it's damned badly managed, as far as we've gone," was the
ungracious comment. "You say the judge refuses to confer with me?"


"And the train--the last train the other man can come on; is that in yet?"

Hawk consulted his watch.

"A good half-hour ago."

"You had your clerk at the station to meet it?"

"I did."

"And he hasn't reported?"

"Not yet."

Falkland took a cigar from his case, bit the end of it like a man with a
grudge to satisfy, and began again.

"There is a very unbusinesslike mystery about all this, Mr. Hawk, and I
may as well tell you shortly that my time is too valuable to make me
tolerant of half-confidences. Get to the bottom of it. Has your man

"No; he is not of the weakening kind. And, besides, the scheme is his own
from start to finish, as you know."

"Well, what is the matter, then?"

Hawk rose.

"If you will be patient a little while longer, I'll go to the wire and try
to find out. I am as much in the dark as you are."

This last was not strictly true. Hawk had a telegram in his pocket which
was causing him more uneasiness than all the rasping criticisms of the New
York attorney, and he was re-reading it by the light of the corridor
bracket when a young man sprang from the ascending elevator and hurried to
the door of the parlor suite. Hawk collared his Mercury before he could
rap on the door.

"Well?" he queried sharply.

"It's just as you suspected--what Mr. Hendricks' telegram hinted at. I met
him at the station and couldn't do a thing with him."

"Where has he gone?"

"To the same old place."

"You followed him?"

"Sure. That is what kept me so long."

Hawk hung upon his decision for the barest fraction of a second. Then he
gave his orders concisely.

"Hunt up Doctor Macquoid and get him out to the club-house as quick as you
can. Tell him to bring his hypodermic. I'll be there with all the help
he'll need." And when the young man was gone, Hawk smote the air with a
clenched fist and called down the Black Curse of Shielygh, or its modern
equivalent, on all the fates subversive of well-laid plans.

A quarter of an hour later, on the upper floor of the club-house at the
Gentlemen's Driving Park, four men burst in upon a fifth, a huge figure in
brown duck, crouching in a corner like a wild beast at bay. A bottle and a
tumbler stood on the table under the hanging lamp; and with the crash of
breaking glass which followed the mad-bull rush of the duck-clothed giant,
the reek of French brandy filled the room.

"Hold him still, if you can, and pull up that sleeve." It was Macquoid who
spoke, and the three apparitors, breathing hard, sat upon the prostrate
man and bared his arm for the physician. When the apomorphia began to do
its work there was a struggle of another sort, out of which emerged a
pallid and somewhat stricken reincarnation of the governor.

"Falkland is waiting at the hotel, and he and MacFarlane can't get
together," said Hawk, tersely, when the patient was fit to listen.
"Otherwise we shouldn't have disturbed you. It's all day with the scheme
if you can't show up."

The governor groaned and passed his hand over his eyes.

"Get me into my clothes--Johnson has the grip--and give me all the time
you can," was the sullen rejoinder; and in due course the Honorable Jasper
G. Bucks, clothed upon and in his right mind, was enabled to keep his
appointment with the New York attorney at the Mid-Continent Hotel.

But first came the whipping-in of MacFarlane. Bucks went alone to the
judge's room on the floor above the parlor suite. It was now near
midnight, but MacFarlane had not gone to bed. He was a spare man, with
thin hair graying rapidly at the temples and a care-worn face; the face of
a man whose tasks or responsibilities, or both, have overmatched him. He
was walking the floor with his head down and his hands--thin, nerveless
hands they were--tightly locked behind him, when the governor entered.

For a large man the Honorable Jasper was usually able to handle his weight
admirably; but now he clung to the door-knob until he could launch himself
at a chair and be sure of hitting it.

"What's this Hawk's telling me about you, MacFarlane?" he demanded,
frowning portentously.

"I don't know what he has told you. But it is too flagrant, Bucks; I can't
do it, and that's all there is about it." The protest was feebly fierce,
and there was the snarl of a baited animal in the tone.

"It's too late to make difficulties now," was the harsh reply. "You've got
to do it."

"I tell you I can not, and I will not!"

"A late attack of conscience, eh?" sneered the governor, who was sobering
rapidly now. "Let me ask a question or two. How much was that security
debt your son-in-law let you in for?"

"It was ten thousand dollars. It is an honest debt, and I shall pay it."

"But not out of the salary of a circuit judge," Bucks interposed. "Nor yet
out of the fees you make your clerks divide with you. And that isn't all.
Have you forgotten the gerrymander business? How would you like to see the
true inwardness of that in the newspapers?"

The judge shrank as if the huge gesturing hand had struck him.

"You wouldn't dare," he began. "You were in that, too, deeper than----"

Again the governor interrupted him.

"Cut it out," he commanded. "I can reward, and I can punish. You are not
going to do anything technically illegal; but, by the gods, you are going
to walk the line laid down for you. If you don't, I shall give the
documents in the gerrymander affair to the papers the day after you fail.
Now we'll go and see Falkland."

MacFarlane made one last protest.

"For God's sake, Bucks! spare me that. It is nothing less than the foulest
collusion between the judge, the counsel for the plaintiff--and the

"Cut that out, too, and come along," said the governor, brutally; and by
the steadying help of the chair, the door-post and the wall of the
corridor, he led the way to the parlor suite on the floor below.

The conference in Falkland's rooms was chiefly a monologue with the
sharp-spoken New York lawyer in the speaking part. When it was concluded
the judge took his leave abruptly, pleading the lateness of the hour and
his duties for the morrow. When he was gone the New Yorker began again.

"You won't want to be known in this, I take it," he said, nodding at the
governor. "Mr. Hawk here will answer well enough for the legal part, but
how about the business end of it. Have you got a man you can trust?"

The governor's yellow eyebrows met in a meaning scowl.

"I've got a man I can hang, which is more to the purpose. It's Major Jim
Guilford. He lives here; want to meet him?"

"God forbid!" said Falkland, fervently. He rose and whipped himself into
his overcoat, turning to Hawk: "Have your young man get me a carriage, and
see to it that my special is ready to pull east when I give the word, will

Hawk went obediently, and the New Yorker had his final word with the
governor alone.

"I think we understand each other perfectly," he said. "You are to have
the patronage: we are to pay for all actual betterments for which vouchers
can be shown at the close of the deal. All we ask is that the stock be
depressed to the point agreed upon within the half-year."

"It's going to be done," said the governor, trying as he could to keep the
eye-image of his fellow conspirator from multiplying itself by two.

"All right. Now as to the court affair. If it is managed exactly as I have
outlined, there will be no trouble--and no recourse for the other fellows.
When I say that, I'm leaving out your Supreme Court. Under certain
conditions, if the defendant's hardship could be definitely shown, a writ
of _certiorari_ and _supersedeas_ might issue. How about that?"

The governor closed one eye slowly, the better to check the troublesome
multiplying process.

"The Supreme Court won't move in the matter. The ostensible reason will be
that the court is now two years behind its docket."

"And the real reason?"

"Of the three justices, one of them was elected on our ticket; another is
a personal friend of Judge MacFarlane. The goods will be delivered."

"That's all, then; all but one word. Your judge is a weak brother.
Notwithstanding all the pains I took to show him that his action would be
technically unassailable, he was ready to fly the track at any moment.
Have you got him safe?"

Bucks held up one huge hand with the thumb and forefinger tightly pressed

"I've got him right there," he said. "If you and Hawk have got your papers
in good shape, the thing will go through like a hog under a barbed-wire



It was two weeks after the date of the governor's fishing trip, and by
consequence Judge MacFarlane's court had been the even fortnight in
session in Gaston, when Kent's attention was recalled to the forgotten
Varnum case by another letter from the local attorney, Hunnicott.

"Varnum _vs_. Western Pacific comes up Friday of this week, and they are
going to press for trial this time, and no mistake," wrote the local
representative. "Hawk has been chasing around getting affidavits; for what
purpose I don't know, though Lesher tells me that one of them was sworn by
Houligan, the sub-contractor who tried to fight the engineer's estimates
on the Jump Creek work.

"Also, there is a story going the rounds that the suit is to be made a
blind for bigger game, though I guess this is all gossip, based on the
fact that Mr. Semple Falkland's private car stopped over here two weeks
ago, from three o'clock in the afternoon till midnight of the same day.
Jason, of the _Clarion_, interviewed the New Yorker, and Falkland told him
he had stopped over to look up the securities on a mortgage held by one of
his New York clients."

Kent read this unofficial letter thoughtfully, and later on took it in to
the general manager.

"Just to show you the kind of jackal we have to deal with in the smaller
towns," he said, by way of explanation. "Here is a case that Stephen Hawk
built up out of nothing a year ago. The woman was put off one of our
trains because she was trying to travel on a scalper's ticket. She didn't
care to fight about it; but when I had about persuaded her to compromise
for ten dollars and a pass to her destination, Hawk got hold of her and
induced her to sue for five thousand dollars."

"Well?" said Loring.

"We fought it, of course--in the only way it could be fought in the lower
court. I got a continuance, and we choked it off in the same way at the
succeeding term. The woman was tired out long ago, but Hawk will hang on
till his teeth fall out."

"Do you 'continue' again?" asked the general manager.

Kent nodded.

"I so instructed Hunnicott. Luckily, two of our most important witnesses
are missing. They have always been missing, in point of fact."

Loring was glancing over the letter.

"How about this affidavit business, and the Falkland stop-over?" he asked.

"Oh, I fancy that's gossip, pure and simple, as Hunnicott says. Hawk is
sharp enough not to let us know if he were baiting a trap. And Falkland
probably told the _Clarion_ man the simple truth."

Loring nodded in his turn. Then he broke away from the subject abruptly.
"Sit down," he said; and when Kent had found a chair: "I had a caller this
morning--Senator Duvall."

State Senator Duvall had been the father, or the ostensible father, of the
Senate amendment to House Bill Twenty-nine. He was known to the
corporations' lobby as a legislator who would sign a railroad's
death-warrant with one hand and take favors from it with the other; and
Kent laughed.

"How many did he demand passes for, this time? Or was it a special train
he wanted?"

"Neither the one nor the other, this morning, as it happened," said the
general manager. "Not to put too fine an edge upon it, he had something to
sell, and he wanted me to buy it."

"What was it?" Kent asked quickly.

Loring was rubbing his eye-glasses absently with the corner of his

"I guess I made a mistake in not turning him over to you, David. He was
too smooth for me. I couldn't find out just what it was he had for sale.
He talked vaguely about an impending crisis and a man who had some
information to dispose of; said the man had come to him because he was
known to be a firm friend of the Trans-Western, and so on."

Kent gave his opinion promptly.

"It's a capitol-gang deal of some sort to hold us up; and Duvall is
willing to sell out his fellow conspirators if the price is right."

"Have you any notion of what it is?"

Kent shook his head.

"Not the slightest. The ways have been tallowed for us, thus far, and I
don't fully understand it. I presented our charter for re-filing
yesterday, and Hendricks passed it without a word. As I was coming out of
the secretary's office I met Bucks. We were pretty nearly open enemies in
the old days in Gaston, but he went out of his way to shake hands and to
congratulate me on my appointment as general counsel."

"That was warning in itself, wasn't it?"

"I took it that way. But I can't fathom his drift; which is the more
unaccountable since I have it on pretty good authority that the ring is
cinching the other companies right and left. Some one was saying at the
Camelot last night that the Overland's reorganization of its
within-the-State lines was going to cost all kinds of money in excess of
the legal fees."

Loring's smile was a wordless sarcasm.

"It's the reward of virtue," he said ironically. "We were not in the list
of subscribers to the conditional fund for purchasing a certain veto which
didn't materialize."

"And for that very reason, if for no other, we may look out for squalls,"
Kent asserted. "Jasper G. Bucks has a long memory; and just now the fates
have given him an arm to match. I am fortifying everywhere I can, but if
the junto has it in for us, we'll be made to sweat blood before we are
through with it."

"Which brings us back to Senator Duvall. Is it worth while trying to do
anything with him?"

"Oh, I don't know. I'm opposed to the method--the bargain and sale
plan--and I know you are. Turn him over to me if he comes in again."

When Kent had dictated a letter in answer to Hunnicott's, he dismissed the
Varnum matter from his mind, having other and more important things to
think of. So, on the Friday, when the case was reached on Judge
MacFarlane's docket--but really, it is worth our while to be present in
the Gaston court-room to see and hear what befalls.

When the Varnum case was called, Hunnicott promptly moved for a third
continuance, in accordance with his instructions. The judge heard his
argument, the old and well-worn one of the absence of important witnesses,
with perfect patience; and after listening to Hawk's protest, which was
hardly more than mechanical, he granted the continuance.

Then came the after-piece. Court adjourned, and immediately Hawk asked
leave to present, "at chambers," an amended petition. Hunnicott was
waylaid by a court officer as he was leaving the room; and a moment later,
totally unprepared, he was in the judge's office, listening in some dazed
fashion while Hawk went glibly through the formalities of presenting his

Not until the papers were served upon him as the company's attorney, and
the judge was naming three o'clock of the following afternoon as the time
which he would appoint for the preliminary hearing, did the local attorney
come alive.

"But, your Honor!--a delay of only twenty-four hours in which to prepare a
rejoinder to this petition--to allegations of such astounding gravity?" he
began, shocked into action by the very ungraspable magnitude of the thing.

"What more could you ask, Mr. Hunnicott?" said the judge, mildly. "You
have already had a full measure of delay on the original petition. Yet I
am willing to extend the time if you can come to an agreement with Mr.
Hawk, here."

Hunnicott knew the hopelessness of that and did not make the attempt.
Instead, he essayed a new line of objection.

"The time would be long enough if Gaston were the headquarters of the
company, your Honor. But in such a grave and important charge as this
amended petition brings, our general counsel should appear in person,

"You are the company's attorney, Mr. Hunnicott," said the judge, dryly;
"and you have hitherto been deemed competent to conduct the case in behalf
of the defendant. I am unwilling to work a hardship to any one, but I can
not entertain your protest. The preliminary hearing will be at three
o'clock to-morrow."

Hunnicott knew when he was definitely at the string's end; and when he was
out of the judge's room and the Court House, he made a dash for his
office, dry-lipped and panting. Ten minutes sufficed for the writing of a
telegram to Kent, and he was half-way down to the station with it when it
occurred to him that it would never do to trust the incendiary thing to
the wires in plain English. There was a little-used cipher code in his
desk provided for just such emergencies, and back he went to labor
sweating over the task of securing secrecy at the expense of the precious
minutes of time. Wherefore, it was about four o'clock when he handed the
telegram to the station operator, and adjured him by all that was good and
great not to delay its sending.

It was just here he made his first and only slip, since he did not stay to
see the thing done. It chanced that the regular day operator was off on
leave of absence, and his substitute, a young man from the
train-despatcher's office, was a person who considered the company wires
an exclusive appanage of the train service department. At the moment of
Hunnicott's assault he was taking an order for Number 17; and observing
that the lawyer's cipher "rush" covered four closely written pages, he
hung it upon the sending hook with a malediction on the legal department
for burdening the wires with its mail correspondence, and so forgot it.

It was nine o'clock when the night operator came on duty; and being a
careful man, he not only looked first to his sending hook, but was
thoughtful enough to run over the accumulation of messages waiting to be
transmitted, to the end that he might give precedence to the most
important. And when he came to Hunnicott's cipher with the
thrice-underlined "RUSH" written across its face, and had marked the hour
of its handing in, he had the good sense to hang up the entire wire
business of the railroad until the thing was safely out of his office.

It was half-past nine when the all-important cipher got itself written out
in the headquarters office at the capital; and for two anxious hours the
receiving operator tried by all means in his power to find the general
counsel--tried and failed. For, to make the chain of mishaps complete in
all its links, Kent and Loring were spending the evening at Miss Portia
Van Brock's, having been bidden to meet a man they were both willing to
cultivate--Oliver Marston, the lieutenant-governor. And for this cause it
wanted but five minutes of midnight when Kent burst into Loring's bedroom
on the third floor of the Clarendon, catastrophic news in hand.

"For heaven's sake, read that!" he gasped; and Loring sat on the edge of
the bed to do it.

"So! they've sprung their mine at last: this is what Senator Duvall was
trying to sell us," he said quietly, when he had mastered the purport of
Hunnicott's war news.

Kent had caught his second wind in the moment of respite, and was settling
into the collar in a way to strain the working harness to the breaking

"It's a put-up job from away back," he gritted. "If I'd had the sense of a
pack-mule I should have been on the lookout for just such a trap as this.
Look at the date of that message!"

The general manager did look, and shook his head. "'Received, 3:45, P.M.;
Forwarded, 9:17, P.M.' That will cost somebody his job. What do we do?"

"We get busy at the drop of the hat. Luckily, we have the news, though
I'll bet high it wasn't Hawk's fault that this message came through with
no more than eight hours' delay. Get into your clothes, man! The minutes
are precious, now!"

Loring began to dress while Kent walked the floor in a hot fit of

"The mastodonic cheek of the thing!" he kept repeating, until Loring
pulled him down with another quiet remark.

"Tell me what we have to do, David. I am a little lame in law matters."

"Do? We have to appear in Judge MacFarlane's court to-morrow afternoon
prepared to show that this thing is only a hold-up with a blank cartridge.
Hawk meant to take a snap judgment. He counted on throwing the whole thing
up against Hunnicott, knowing perfectly well that a little local attorney
at a way-station couldn't begin to secure the necessary affidavits."

Loring paused with one end of his collar flying loose.

"Let me understand," he said. "Do we have to disprove these charges by

"Certainly; that is the proper rejoinder--the only one, in fact," said
Kent; then, as a great doubt laid hold of him and shook him: "You don't
mean to say there is any doubt about our ability to do it?"

"Oh, no; I suppose not, if it comes to a show-down. But I was thinking of
your man Hunnicott. Doesn't it occur to you that he is in just about as
good a fix to secure those affidavits in Gaston as we are here, David?"

"Good Lord! Do you mean that we have to send to Boston for our

"Haven't we? Don't you see how nicely the thing is timed? Ten days later
our Trans-Western reorganization would be complete, and we could swear our
own officers on the spot. These people know what they are about."

Kent was walking the floor again, but now the strength of the man was
coming uppermost.

"Never mind: we'll wire Boston, and then we'll do what we can here. Could
you get me to Gaston on a special engine in three hours?"


"Then we have till eleven o'clock to-morrow to prepare. I'll be ready by
that time."

"David, you are a brick when it comes to the in-fighting," said the
general manager; and then he finished buttoning his collar.



At ten forty-eight on the Saturday morning Kent was standing with the
general manager on the Union Station track platform beside the engine
which was to make the flying run to Gaston.

Nine hours of sharp work lay between the hurried conference in Loring's
bedroom and the drive to the station at a quarter before eleven. Boston
had been wired; divers and sundry friends of the railway company had been
interviewed; some few affidavits had been secured; and now they were
waiting to give Boston its last chance, with a clerk hanging over the
operator in the station telegraph office to catch the first word of

"If the Advisory Board doesn't send us something pretty solid, I'm going
into this thing lame," said Kent, dubiously. "Of course, what Boston can
send us will be only corroborative; unfortunately we can't wire
affidavits. But it will help. What we have secured here lacks directness."

"Necessarily," said Loring. "But I'm banking on the Board. If we don't get
the ammunition before you have to start, I can wire it to you at Gaston.
That gives us three hours more to go and come on."

"Yes; and if it comes to the worst--if the decision be unfavorable--it can
only embarrass us temporarily. This is merely the preliminary hearing, and
nothing permanent can be established until we have had a hearing on the
merits, and we can go armed to that, at all events."

The general manager was looking at his watch, and he shut the case with a

"Don't you let it come to that, as long as you have a leg to stand on,
David," he said impressively. "An interregnum of ten days might make it
exceedingly difficult for us to prove anything." Then, as the telegraph
office watcher came to the door and shook his head as a sign that Boston
was still silent: "Your time is up. Off with you, and don't let Oleson
scare you when he gets 219 in motion. He is a good runner, and you have a
clear track."

Kent clambered to the footplate of the smart eight-wheeler.

"Can you make it by two o'clock?" he asked, when the engineer, a
big-boned, blue-eyed Norwegian, dropped the reversing lever into the
corner for the start.

"Ay tank maybe so, ain'd it? Yust you climb opp dat odder box, Mester
Kent, and hol' you' hair on. Ve bane gone to maig dat time, als' ve preak
somedings, _ja_!" and he sent the light engine spinning down the yards to
a quickstep of forty miles an hour.

Kent's after-memory of that distance-devouring rush was a blurred picture
of a plunging, rocking, clamoring engine bounding over mile after mile of
the brown plain; of the endless dizzying procession of oncoming telegraph
poles hurtling like great side-flung projectiles past the cab windows; of
now and then a lonely prairie station with waving semaphore arms, sighted,
passed and left behind in a whirling sand-cloud in one and the same
heart-beat. And for the central figure in the picture, the one constant
quantity when all else was mutable and shifting and indistinct, the big,
calm-eyed Norwegian on the opposite box, hurling his huge machine doggedly
through space.

At 12:45 they stopped for water at a solitary tank in the midst of the
brown desert. Kent got down stiffly from his cramped seat on the fireman's
box and wetted his parched lips at the nozzle of the tender hose.

"Do we make it, Jarl?" he asked.

The engineer wagged his head.

"Ay tank so. Ve maig it all right iff dey haf bane got dose track clear."

"There are other trains to meet?"

"_Ja_; two bane comin' dis vay; ant Nummer Samteen ve pass opp by."

Oleson dropped off to pour a little oil into the speed-woundings while the
tank was filling; and presently the dizzying race began again. For a time
all things were propitious. The two trains to be met were found snugly
withdrawn on the sidings at Mavero and Agriculta, and the station
semaphores beckoned the flying special past at full speed. Kent checked
off the dodging mile-posts: the pace was bettering the fastest run ever
made on the Prairie Division--which was saying a good deal.

But at Juniberg, twenty-seven miles out of Gaston, there was a delay.
Train Number 17, the east-bound time freight, had left Juniberg at one
o'clock, having ample time to make Lesterville, the next station east,
before the light engine could possibly overtake it. But Lesterville had
not yet reported its arrival; for which cause the agent at Juniberg was
constrained to put out his stop signal, and Kent's special came to a stand
at the platform.

Under the circumstances, there appeared to be nothing for it but to wait
until the delayed Number 17 was heard from; and Kent's first care was to
report to Loring, and to ask if there were anything from Boston.

The reply was encouraging. A complete denial of everything, signed by the
proper officials, had been received and repeated to Kent at Gaston--was
there now awaiting him. Kent saw in anticipation the nicely calculated
scheme of the junto crumbling into small dust in the precise moment of
fruition, and had a sharp attack of ante-triumph which he had to walk off
in turns up and down the long platform. But as the waiting grew longer,
and the dragging minutes totaled the quarter-hour and then the half, he
began to perspire again.

Half-past two came and went, and still there was no hopeful word from
Lesterville. Kent had speech with Oleson, watch in hand. Would the
engineer take the risk of a rear-end collision on a general manager's
order? Oleson would obey orders if the heavens fell; and Kent flew to the
wire again. Hunnicott, at Gaston, was besought to gain time in the hearing
by any and all means; and Loring was asked to authorize the risk of a
rear-end smash-up. He did it promptly. The light engine was to go on until
it should "pick up" the delayed train between stations.

The Juniberg man gave Oleson his release and the order to proceed with due
care while the sounder was still clicking a further communication from
headquarters. Loring was providing for the last contingency by sending
Kent the authority to requisition Number 17's engine for the completion of
the run in case the track should be blocked, with the freight engine free
beyond the obstruction.

Having his shackles stricken off, the Norwegian proceeded "with due care,"
which is to say that he sent the eight-wheeler darting down the line
toward Lesterville at the rate of a mile a minute. The mystery of the
delay was solved at a point half-way between the two stations. A broken
flange had derailed three cars of the freight, and the block was

Armed with the general manager's mandatory wire, Kent ran forward to the
engine of the freight train and was shortly on his way again. But in the
twenty-mile run to Gaston more time was lost by the lumbering freight
locomotive, and it was twenty minutes past three o'clock when the county
seat came in sight and Kent began to oscillate between two sharp-pointed
horns of a cruel dilemma.

By dropping off at the street-crossing nearest the Court House, he might
still be in time to get a hearing with such documentary backing as he had
been able to secure at the capital. By going on to the station he could
pick up the Boston wire which, while it was not strictly evidence, might
create a strong presumption in his favor; but in this case he would
probably be too late to use it. So he counted the rail-lengths, watch in
hand, with a curse to the count for his witlessness in failing to have
Loring repeat the Boston message to him during the long wait at Juniberg;
and when the time for the decision arrived he signaled the engineer to
slow down, jumped from the step at the nearest crossing and hastened up
the street toward the Court House.

In the mean time, to go back a little, during this day of hurryings to and
fro Blashfield Hunnicott had been having the exciting experiences of a
decade crowded into a corresponding number of hours. Early in the morning
he had begun besieging the headquarters wire office for news and
instructions, and, owing to Kent's good intentions to be on the ground in
person, had got little enough of either.

At length, to his unspeakable relief, he had news of the coming special;
and with the conviction that help was at hand he waited at the station
with what coolness there was in him to meet his chief. But as the time for
the hearing drew near he grew nervous again; and all the keen pains of
utter helplessness returned with renewed acuteness when the operator, who
had overheard the Juniberg-Lesterville wire talk, told him that the
special was hung up at the former station.

"O my good Lord!" he groaned. "I'm in for it with empty hands!" None the
less, he ran to the baggage-room end of the building and, capturing an
express wagon, had himself trundled out to the Court House.

The judge was at his desk when Hunnicott entered, and Hawk was on hand,
calmly reading the morning paper. The hands of the clock on the wall
opposite the judge's desk pointed to five minutes of the hour, and for
five minutes Hunnicott sat listening, hoping against hope that he should
hear the rush and roar of the incoming special.

Promptly on the stroke of three the judge tapped upon his desk with his

"Now, gentlemen, proceed with your case; and I must ask you to be as brief
as possible. I have an appointment at four which can not be postponed," he
said quietly; and Hawk threw down his paper and began at once.

Hunnicott heard his opponent's argument mechanically, having his ear
attuned for whistle signals and wheel drummings. Hawk spoke rapidly and
straight to his point, as befitted a man speaking to the facts and with no
jury present to be swayed by oratorical effort. When he came to the
summarizing of the allegations in the amended petition, he did it wholly
without heat, piling up the accusations one upon another with the careful
method of a bricklayer building a wall. The wall-building simile thrust
itself upon Hunnicott with irresistible force as he listened. If the
special engine should not dash up in time to batter down the wall----

Hawk closed as dispassionately as he had begun, and the judge bowed
gravely in Hunnicott's direction. The local attorney got upon his feet,
and as he began to speak a telegram was handed in. It was Kent's wire from
Juniberg, beseeching him to gain time at all hazards, and he settled
himself to the task. For thirty dragging minutes he rang the changes on
the various steps in the suit, knowing well that the fatal moment was
approaching when--Kent still failing him--he would be compelled to submit
his case without a scrap of an affidavit to support it.

The moment came, and still there was no encouraging whistle shriek from
the dun plain beyond the open windows. Hawk was visibly disgusted, and
Judge MacFarlane was growing justly impatient. Hunnicott began again, and
the judge reproved him mildly.

"Much of what you are saying is entirely irrelevant, Mr. Hunnicott. This
hearing is on the plaintiff's amended petition."

No one knew better than the local attorney that he was wholly at the
court's mercy; that he had been so from the moment the judge began to
consider his purely formal defense, entirely unsupported by affidavits or
evidence of any kind. None the less, he strung his denials out by every
amplification he could devise, and, having fired his last shot, sat down
in despairing breathlessness to hear the judge's summing-up and decision.

Judge MacFarlane was mercifully brief. On the part of the plaintiff there
was an amended petition fully fortified by uncontroverted affidavits. On
the part of the defendant company there was nothing but a formal denial of
the allegations. The duty of the court in the premises was clear. The
prayer of the plaintiff was granted, the temporary relief asked for was
given, and the order of the court would issue accordingly.

The judge was rising when the still, hot air of the room began to vibrate
with the tremulous thunder of the sound for which Hunnicott had been so
long straining his ears. He was the first of the three to hear it, and he
hurried out ahead of the others. At the foot of the stair he ran blindly
against Kent, dusty, travel-worn and haggard.

"You're too late!" he blurted out. "We're done up. Hawk's petition has
been granted and the road is in the hands of a receiver."

Kent dashed his fist upon the stair-rail.

"Who is the man?" he demanded.

"Major Jim Guilford," said Hunnicott. Then, as footfalls coming stairward
were heard in the upper corridor, he locked arms with Kent, faced him
about and thrust him out over the door-stone. "Let's get out of this. You
look as if you might kill somebody."



It was a mark of the later and larger development of David Kent that he
was able to keep his head in the moment of catastrophes. In boyhood his
hair had been a brick-dust red, and having the temperament which belongs
of right to the auburn-hued, his first impulse was to face about and make
a personal matter of the legal robbery with Judge MacFarlane.

Happily for all concerned, Hunnicott's better counsels prevailed, and when
the anger fit passed Kent found himself growing cool and determined.
Hunnicott was crestfallen and disposed to be apologetic; but Kent did him

"Don't blame yourself: there was nothing else you could have done. Have
you a stenographer in your office?"


"A good one?"

"It's young Perkins: you know him."

"He'll do. 'Phone him to run down to the station and get what telegrams
there are for me, and we'll talk as we go."

Once free of the Court House, Kent began a rapid-fire of questions.

"Where is Judge MacFarlane stopping?"

"At the Mid-Continent."

"Have you any idea when he intends leaving town?"

"No; but he will probably take the first train. He never stays here an
hour longer than he has to after adjournment."

"That would be the Flyer east at six o'clock. Is he going east?"

"Come to think of it, I believe he is. Somebody said he was going to Hot
Springs. He's in miserable health."

Kent saw more possibilities, and worse, and quickened his pace a little.

"I hope your young man won't let the grass grow under his feet," he said.
"The minutes between now and six o'clock are worth days to us."

"What do we do?" asked Hunnicott, willing to take a little lesson in
practice as he ran.

"The affidavits I have brought with me and the telegrams which are waiting
at the station must convince MacFarlane that he has made a mistake. We
shall prepare a motion for the discharge of the receiver and for the
vacation of the order appointing him, and ask the judge to set an early
day for the hearing on the merits of the case. He can't refuse."

Hunnicott shook his head.

"It has been all cut and dried from 'way back," he objected. "They won't
let you upset it at the last moment."

"We'll give them a run for their money," said Kent. "A good bit of it
depends upon Perkins' speed as a stenographer."

As it befell, Perkins did not prove a disappointment, and by five o'clock
Kent was in the lobby of the Mid-Continent, sending his card up to the
judge's room. Word came back that the judge was in the cafe fortifying the
inner man in preparation for his journey, and Kent did not stand upon
ceremony. From the archway of the dining-room he marked down his man at a
small table in the corner, and went to him at once, plunging promptly into
the matter in hand.

"The exigencies of the case must plead my excuse for intruding upon you
here, Judge MacFarlane," he began courteously. "But I have been told that
you were leaving town----"

The judge waved him down with a deprecatory fork.

"Court is adjourned, Mr. Kent, and I must decline to discuss the case _ex
parte_. Why did you allow it to go by default?"

"That is precisely what I am here to explain," said Kent, suavely. "The
time allowed us was very short; and a series of accidents----"

Again the judge interrupted.

"A court can hardly take cognizance of accidents, Mr. Kent. Your local
attorney was on the ground and he had the full benefit of the delay."

"I know," was the patient rejoinder. "Technically, your order is
unassailable. None the less, a great injustice has been done, as we are
prepared to prove. I am not here to ask you to reopen the case at your
dinner-table, but if you will glance over these papers I am sure you will
set an early day for the hearing upon the merits."

Judge MacFarlane forced a gray smile.

"You vote yea and nay in the same breath, Mr. Kent. If I should examine
your papers, I should be reopening the case at my dinner-table. You shall
have your hearing in due course."

"At chambers?" said Kent. "We shall be ready at any moment; we are ready
now, in point of fact."

"I can not say as to that. My health is very precarious, and I am under a
physician's orders to take a complete rest for a time. I am sorry if the
delay shall work a hardship to the company you represent; but under the
circumstances, with not even an affidavit offered by your side, it is your
misfortune. And now I shall have to ask you to excuse me. It lacks but a
few minutes of my train time."

The hotel porter was droning out the call for the east-bound Flyer, and
Kent effaced himself while Judge MacFarlane was paying his bill and making
ready for his departure. But when the judge set out to walk to the
station, Kent walked with him. There were five squares to be measured, and
for five squares he hung at MacFarlane's elbow and the plea he made should
have won him a hearing. Yet the judge remained impassible, and at the end
of the argument turned him back in a word to his starting point.

"I can not recall the order at this time, if I would, Mr. Kent; neither
can I set a day for the hearing on the merits. What has been done was done
in open court and in the presence of your attorney, who offered no
evidence in contradiction of the allegations set forth in the plaintiff's
amended petition, although they were supported by more than a dozen
affidavits; and it can not be undone in the streets. Since you have not
improved your opportunities, you must abide the consequences. The law can
not be hurried."

They had reached the station and the east-bound train was whistling for
Gaston. Kent's patience was nearly gone, and the auburn-hued temperament
was clamoring hotly for its innings.

"This vacation of yours, Judge MacFarlane: how long is it likely to last?"
he inquired, muzzling his wrath yet another moment.

"I can not say; if I could I might be able to give you a more definite
answer as to the hearing on the merits. But my health is very miserable,
as I have said. If I am able to return shortly, I shall give you the
hearing at chambers at an early date."

"And if not?"

"If not, I am afraid it will have to go over to the next term of court."

"Six months," said Kent; and then his temper broke loose. "Judge
MacFarlane, it is my opinion, speaking as man to man, that you are a
scoundrel. I know what you have done, and why you have done it. Also, I
know why you are running away, now that it is done. So help me God, I'll
bring you to book for it if I have to make a lifetime job of it! It's all
right for your political backers; they are thieves and bushwhackers, and
they make no secret of it. But there is one thing worse than a trickster,
and that is a trickster's tool!"

For the moment while the train was hammering in over the switches they
stood facing each other fiercely, all masks flung aside, each after his
kind; the younger man flushed and battle-mad; the elder white, haggard,
tremulous. Kent did not guess, then or ever, how near he came to death.
Two years earlier a judge had been shot and maimed on a western circuit
and since then, MacFarlane had taken a coward's precaution. Here was a man
that knew, and while he lived the cup of trembling might never be put

It was the conductor's cry of "All aboard!" that broke the homicidal
spell. Judge MacFarlane started guiltily, shook off the angry eye-grip of
his accuser, and went to take his place in the Pullman. One minute later
the east-bound train was threading its way out among the switches of the
lower yard, and Kent had burst into the telegraph office to wire the
volcanic news to his chief.



Appraised at its value in the current coin of street gossip, the legal
seizure of the Trans-Western figured mainly as an example of the failure
of modern business methods when applied to the concealment of a working
corporation's true financial condition.

This unsympathetic point of view was sufficiently defined in a bit of
shop-talk between Harnwicke, the cold-blooded, and his traffic manager in
the office of the Overland Short Line the morning after the newspaper
announcement of the receivership.

"I told you they were in deep water," said the lawyer, confidently. "They
haven't been making any earnings--net earnings--since the Y.S.& F. cut
into them at Rio Verde, and the dividends were only a bluff for
stock-bracing purposes. I surmised that an empty treasury was what was the
matter when they refused to join us in the veto affair."

"That is one way of looking at it," said the traffic manager. "But some of
the papers are claiming that it was a legal hold-up, pure and simple."

"Nothing of the kind," retorted the lawyer, whose respect for the law was
as great as his contempt for the makers of the laws. "Judge MacFarlane had
no discretion in the matter. Hawk had a perfect right to file an amended
petition, and the judge was obliged to act upon it. I'm not saying it
wasn't a devilish sharp trick of Hawk's. It was. He saw a chance to smite
them under the fifth rib, and he took it."

"But how about his client: the woman who was put off the train? Is she any
better off than she was before?"

"Oh, she'll get her five thousand dollars, of course, if they don't take
the case out of court. It has served its turn. It's an ugly crusher for
the Loring management. Hawk's allegations charge all sorts of crookedness,
and neither Loring nor Kent seemed to have a word to say for themselves. I
understand Kent was in court, either in person or by attorney, when the
receivership order was made, and that he hadn't a word to say for

This view of Harnwicke's, colored perhaps by the fact that the
Trans-Western was a business competitor of the Short Line, was the
generally accepted one in railroad and financial circles at the capital.
Civilization apart, there is still a deal of the primitive in human
nature, and wolves are not the only creatures that are prone to fall upon
the disabled member of the pack and devour him.

But in the State at large the press was discussing the event from a
political point of view; one section, small but vehement, raising the cry
of trickery and judicial corruption, and prophesying the withdrawal of all
foreign capital from the State, while the other, large and complacent,
pointed eloquently to the beneficent working of the law under which the
cause of a poor woman, suing for her undoubted right, might be made the
whip to flog corporate tyranny into instant subjection.

As for the dispossessed stock-holders in the far-away East, they were slow
to take the alarm, and still slower to get concerted action. Like many of
the western roads, the Western Pacific had been capitalized largely by
popular subscription; hence there was no single holder, or group of
holders, of sufficient financial weight to enter the field against the

But when Loring and his associates had fairly got the wires hot with the
tale of what had been done, and the much more alarming tale of what was
likely to be done, the Boston inertness vanished. A pool of the stock was
formed, with the members of the Advisory Board as a nucleus; money was
subscribed, and no less a legal light than an ex-attorney-general of the
state of Massachusetts was despatched to the seat of war to advise with
the men on the ground. None the less, disaster out-travels the swiftest of
"limited" trains. Before the heavily-feed consulting attorney had crossed
the Hudson in his westward journey, Wall Street had taken notice, and
there was a momentary splash in the troubled pool of the Stock Exchange
and a vanishing circle of ripples to show where Western Pacific had gone

In the meantime Major James Guilford, somewhile president of the Apache
National Bank of Gaston, and antecedent to that the frowning autocrat of a
twenty-five-mile logging road in the North Carolina mountains, had given
bond in some sort and had taken possession of the company's property and
of the offices in the Quintard Building.

His first official act as receiver was to ask for the resignations of a
dozen heads of departments, beginning with the general manager and pausing
for the moment with the supervisor of track. That done, he filled the
vacancies with political troughsmen; and with these as assistant
decapitators the major passed rapidly down the line, striking off heads in
daily batches until the over-flow of the Bucks political following was
provided for on the railroad's pay-rolls to the wife's cousin's nephew.

This was the work of the first few administrative days or weeks, and while
it was going on, the business attitude of the road remained unchanged. But
once seated firmly in the saddle, with his awkward squad well in hand, the
major proceeded to throw a bomb of consternation into the camp of his

Kent was dining with Ormsby in the grill-room of the Camelot Club when the
waiter brought in the evening edition of the _Argus_, whose railroad
reporter had heard the preliminary fizzing of the bomb fuse. The story was
set out on the first page, first column, with appropriate headlines.



Great Excitement in Railroad Circles.
Receiver Guilford's Hold-up.

Kent ran his eye rapidly down the column and passed the paper across to

"I told you so," he said. "They didn't find the road insolvent, but they
are going to make it so in the shortest possible order. A rate war will do
it quicker than anything else on earth."

Ormsby thrust out his jaw.

"Have we got to stand by and see 'em do it?"

"The man from Massachusetts says yes, and he knows, or thinks he does. He
has been here two weeks now, and he has nosed out for himself all the
dead-walls. We can't appeal, because there is no decision to appeal from.
We can't take it out of the lower court until it is finished in the lower
court. We can't enjoin an officer of the court; and there is no authority
in the State that will set aside Judge MacFarlane's order when that order
was made under technically legal conditions."

"You could have told him all that in the first five minutes," said Ormsby.

"I did tell him, and was mildly sat upon. To-day he came around and gave
me back my opinion, clause for clause, as his own. But I have no kick
coming. Somebody will have to be here to fight the battle to a finish when
the judge returns, and our expert will advise the Bostonians to retain

"Does he stay?" Ormsby asked.

"Oh, no; he is going back with Loring to-night. Loring has an idea of his
own which may or may not be worth the powder it will take to explode it.
He is going to beseech the Boston people to enlarge the pool until it
controls a safe majority of the stock."

"What good will that do?"

"None, directly. It's merely a safe preliminary to anything that may
happen. I tell Loring he is like all the others: he knows when he has
enough and is willing to stand from under. I'm the only fool in the lot."
Ormsby's smile was heartening and good for sore nerves.

"I like your pluck, Kent; I'll be hanged if I don't. And I'll back you to
win, yet."

Kent shook his head unhopefully.

"Don't mistake me," he said. "I am fighting for the pure love of it, and
not with any great hope of saving the stock-holders. These grafters have
us by the nape of the neck. We can't make a move till MacFarlane comes
back and gives us a hearing on the merits. That may not be till the next

Book of the day: