Part 6 out of 6
Callahan thought once of the child mothered by the Sisters of Loretto in
the convent at the capital, shut his eyes to that and to all things
extraneous, and sent the 1010 about her business. At the first reversed
curve he hung out of his window for a backward look. Tischer's headlight
had disappeared and his protection was gone.
On the rear platform of the private car four men watched the threatening
second section fade into the night.
"Our man has thought better of it," said the governor, marking the
increased speed and the disappearance of the menacing headlight.
Guilford's sigh of relief was almost a groan.
"My God!" he said; "it makes me cold to think what might happen if he
should pull us over into the other State!"
But Halkett was still smarting from the indignities put upon him, and his
comment was a vindictive threat.
"I'll send that damned Irishman over the road for this, if it is the last
thing I ever do!" he declared; and he confirmed it with an oath.
But Callahan was getting his punishment as he went along. He had scarcely
settled the 1010 into her gait for the final run against the failing water
supply when another station came in sight. It was a small cattle town, and
in addition to the swinging red lights and a huge bonfire to illuminate
the yards, the obstructionists had torn down the loading corral and were
piling the lumber on the track.
Once again Callahan's nerve flickered, and he shut off the steam. But
before it was too late he reflected that the barrier was meant only to
scare him into stopping. One minute later the air was full of flying
splinters, and that danger was passed. But one of the broken planks came
through the cab window, missing the engineer by no more than a
hand's-breadth. And the shower of splinters, sucked in by the whirl of the
train, broke glass in the private car and sprinkled the quartet on the
platform with split kindling and wreckage.
"What was that?" gasped the receiver.
Halkett pointed to the bonfire, receding like a fading star in the
"Our friends are beginning to throw stones, since clods won't stop him."
Bucks shook his head.
"If that is the case, we'll have to be doing something on our own account.
The next obstruction may derail us."
Halkett stepped into the car and pulled the cord of the automatic air.
"No good," he muttered. "The Irishman bled our tank before he started.
Help me set the hand brakes, a couple of you."
Danforth and the governor took hold of the brake wheel with him, and for a
minute or two the terrible speed slackened a little. Then some part of the
disused hand-gear gave way under the three-man strain and that hope was
"There's one thing left," said the superintendent, indomitable to the
last. "We'll uncouple and let him drop us behind."
The space in the forward vestibule was narrow and cramped, and with the
strain of the dragging car to make the pin stick, it took two of them
lying flat, waiting for the back-surging moment and wiggling it for slack,
to pull it. The coupling dropped out of the hook and the engine shot ahead
to the length of the safety-chains; thus far, but no farther.
Halkett stood up.
"It's up to you, Danforth," he said, raising his voice to be heard above
the pounding roar of the wheels. "You're the youngest and lightest: get
down on the 1010's brake-beam and unhook those chains."
The secretary looked once into the trap with the dodging jaws and the
backward-flying bottom and declined the honor.
"I can't get down there," he cried. "And I shouldn't know what to do if I
Once more the superintendent exhibited his nerve. He had nothing at stake
save a desire to defeat Callahan; but he had the persistent courage of the
bull-terrier. With Bucks and the secretary to steady him he lowered
himself in the gap till he could stand upon the brake-beam of the 1010's
tender and grope with one free hand for the hook of the nearest
safety-chain. Death nipped at him every time the engine gave or took up
the slack of the loose coupling, but he dodged and hung on until he had
"It's no good," he announced, when they had dragged him by main strength
back to a footing in the narrow vestibule. "The hooks are bent into the
links. We're due to go wherever that damned Irishman is taking us."
Shovel was firing, and the trailing smoke and cinders quickly made the
forward vestibule untenable. When they were driven in, Bucks and the
receiver went through to the rear platform, where they were presently
joined by Halkett and Danforth.
"I've been trying the air again," said the superintendent, "but it's no
go. What's next?"
The governor gave the word.
"Wait," he said; and the four of them clung to the hand-rails, swaying and
bending to the bounding lurches of the flying car.
* * * * *
Mile after mile reels from beneath the relentless wheels, and still the
speed increases. Station Donerail is passed, and now the pace is so
furious that the watchers on the railed platform can not make out the
signals in the volleying wake of dust. Station Schofield is passed, and
again the signals, if any there be, are swiftly drowned in the gray
dust-smother. From Schofield to Agua Caliente is but a scant ten miles;
and as the flying train rushes on toward the State boundary, two faces in
the quartet of watchers show tense and drawn under the yellow light of the
Pintsch platform lamp.
The governor swings himself unsteadily to the right-hand railing and the
long look ahead brings the twinkling arc-star of the tower light on
Breezeland Inn into view. He turns to Guilford, who has fallen limp into
one of the platform chairs.
"In five minutes more we shall pass Agua Caliente," he says. "Will you
kill the Irishman, or shall I?" Guilford's lips move, but there is no
audible reply; and Bucks takes Danforth's weapon and passes quickly and
alone to the forward vestibule.
The station of Agua Caliente swings into the field of 1010's electric
headlight. Callahan's tank has been bone dry for twenty minutes, and he is
watching the glass water-gage where the water shows now only when the
engine lurches heavily to the left. He knows that the crown-sheet of the
fire-box is bare, and that any moment it may give down and the end will
come. Yet his gauntleted hand never falls from the throttle-bar to the
air-cock, and his eyes never leave the bubble appearing and disappearing
at longer intervals in the heel of the water-glass.
Shovel has stopped firing, and is hanging out of his window for the
straining look ahead. Suddenly he drops to the footplate to grip
"See!" he says. "They have set the switch to throw us in on the siding!"
In one motion the flutter of the exhaust ceases, and the huge ten-wheeler
buckles to the sudden setting of the brakes. The man standing in the
forward vestibule of the Naught-seven lowers his weapon. Apparently it is
not going to be necessary to kill the engineer, after all.
But Callahan's nerve has failed him only for the moment. There is one
chance in ten thousand that the circumambulating side track is empty; one
and one only, and no way to make sure of it. Beyond the station, as
Callahan well knows, the siding comes again into the main line, and the
switch is a straight-rail "safety." Once again the thought of his
motherless child flickers into the engineer's brain; then he releases the
air and throws his weight backward upon the throttle-bar. Two gasps and a
heart-beat decide it; and before the man in the vestibule can level his
weapon and fire, the one-car train has shot around the station, heaving
and lurching over the uneven rails of the siding, and grinding shrilly
over the points of the safety switch to race on the down grade to Megilp.
At the mining-camp the station is in darkness save for the goggle eyes of
an automobile drawn up beside the platform, and deep silence reigns but
for the muffled, irregular thud of the auto-car's motor. But the beam of
the 1010's headlight shows the small station building massed by men, a
score of them poising for a spring to the platforms of the private car
when the slackening speed shall permit. A bullet tears into the woodwork
at Callahan's elbow, and another breaks the glass of the window beside
him, but he makes the stop as steadily as if death were not snapping at
him from behind and roaring in his ears from the belly of the burned
"Be doomping yer fire lively, now, Jimmy, b'y," he says, dropping from his
box to help. And while they wrestle with the dumping-bar, these two, the
poising figures have swarmed upon the Naught-seven, and a voice is lifted
above the Babel of others in sharp protest.
"Put away that rope, boys! There's law here, and by God, we're going to
At this a man pushes his way out of the thick of the crowd and climbs to a
seat beside the chauffeur in the waiting automobile.
"They've got him," he says shortly. "To the hotel for all you're worth,
Hudgins; our part is to get this on the wires before one o'clock. Full
speed; and never mind the ruts."
The dawn of a new day was graying over the capital city, and the newsboys
were crying lustily in the streets, when David Kent felt his way up the
dark staircases of the Kittleton Building to knock at the door of Judge
Oliver Marston's rooms on the top floor. He was the bearer of tidings, and
he made no more than a formal excuse for the unseemly hour when the door
was opened by the lieutenant-governor.
"I am sorry to disturb you, Judge Marston," he began, when he had the
closed door at his back and was facing the tall thin figure in flannel
dressing gown and slippers, "but I imagine I'm only a few minutes ahead of
the crowd. Have you heard the news of the night?"
The judge pressed the button of the drop-light and waved his visitor to a
"I have heard nothing, Mr. Kent. Have a cigar?"--passing the box of
"Thank you; not before breakfast," was the hasty reply. Then, without
another word of preface: "Judge Marston, for the time being you are the
governor of the State, and I have come to----"
"One moment," interrupted his listener. "There are some stories that read
better for a foreword, however brief. What has happened?"
"This: last night it was the purpose of Governor Bucks and Receiver
Guilford to go to Gaston by special train. In some manner, which has not
yet been fully explained, there was a confusion of orders. Instead of
proceeding eastward, the special was switched to the tracks of the Western
Division; was made the first section of the fast mail, which had orders to
run through without stop. You can imagine the result."
Marston got upon his feet slowly and began pacing the length of the long
room. Kent waited, and the shrill cries of the newsboys floated up and in
through the open windows. When the judge finally came back to his chair
the saturnine face was gray and haggard.
"I hope it was an accident that can be clearly proved," he said; and a
moment later: "You spoke of Bucks and Guilford; were there others in the
"Two others; Halkett, and the governor's private secretary."
"And were they all killed?"
A great light broke in upon Kent when he saw how Marston had
misapprehended. Also, he saw how much it would simplify matters if he
should be happy enough to catch the ball in the reactionary rebound.
"They are all alive and uninjured, to the best of my knowledge and belief;
though I understand that one of them narrowly escaped lynching at the
hands of an excited mob."
The long lean figure erected itself in the chair, and the weight of years
seemed to slip from its shoulders.
"But I understood you to say that the duties of the executive had devolved
upon me, Mr. Kent. You also said I could imagine the result of this
singular mistaking of train-orders, and I fancied I could. What was the
"A conclusion not quite as sanguinary as that you had in mind, though it
is likely to prove serious enough for one member of the party in the
private car. The special train was chased all the way across the State by
the fast mail. It finally outran the pursuing section and was stopped at
Megilp. A sheriff's posse was in waiting, and an arrest was made."
"Go on," said the lieutenant-governor.
"I must first go back a little. Some weeks ago there was a shooting affray
in the mining-camp, arising out of a dispute over a 'salted' mine, and a
man was killed. The murderer escaped across the State line. Since the
authorities of the State in which the crime was committed had every reason
to believe that a governor's requisition for this particular criminal
would not be honored, two courses were open to them: to publish the facts
and let the moral sentiment of the neighboring commonwealth punish the
criminal as it could, or would; or, suppressing the facts, to bide their
chance of catching their man beyond the boundaries of the State which gave
him an asylum. They chose the latter."
A second time Marston left his chair and began to pace the floor. After a
little he paused to say:
"This murderer is James Guilford, I take it; and the governor--"
"No," said Kent, gravely. "The murderer is--Jasper G. Bucks." He handed
the judge a copy of the _Argus_. "You will find it all in the press
despatches; all I have told you, and a great deal more."
The lieutenant-governor read the newspaper story as he walked, lighting
the electric chandelier to enable him to do so. When it was finished he
sat down again.
"What a hideous cesspool it is!" was his comment. "But we shall clean it,
Mr. Kent; we shall clean it if it shall leave the People's Party without a
vote in the State. Now what can I do for you? You didn't come here at this
hour in the morning merely to bring me the news."
"No, I didn't, Judge Marston. I want my railroad."
"You shall have it," was the prompt response. "What have you done since
our last discussion of the subject?"
"I tried to 'obliterate' Judge MacFarlane, as you suggested. But I failed
in the first step. Bucks and Meigs refused to approve the _quo warranto_."
The judge knitted his brows thoughtfully.
"That way is open to you now; but it is long and devious, and delays are
always dangerous. You spoke of the receivership as being part of a plan by
which your road was to be turned over to an eastern monopoly. How nearly
has that plan succeeded?"
Kent hesitated, not because he was afraid to trust the man Oliver Marston,
but because there were some things which the governor of the State might
feel called upon to investigate if the knowledge of them were thrust upon
him. But in the end he took counsel of utter frankness.
"So nearly that if Bucks and the receiver had reached Gaston last night,
our road would now be in the hands of the Plantagoulds under a
The merest ghost of a smile flitted over the lieutenant-governor's face
when he said, with his nearest approach to sarcasm:
"How extremely opportune the confusion of train-orders becomes as we go
along! But answer one more question if you please--it will not involve
these singularly heedless railway employees of yours: is Judge MacFarlane
in Gaston now?"
"He is. He was to have met the others on the arrival of the special
There were footsteps on the stair and in the corridor, and Marston rose.
"Our privacy is about to be invaded, Mr. Kent. This is a miserable
business; miserable for everybody, but most of all for the deceived and
hoodwinked people of an unhappy State. God knows, I did not seek this
office; but since it has fallen on me, I shall do my duty as I see it, and
my hand shall be heaviest upon that man who makes a mockery of the justice
he is sworn to administer. Come to the capitol a little later in the day,
prepared to go at once to Gaston. I think I can promise you your hearing
on the merits without further delay."
"Thank you," said Kent, simply, grasping the hand of leave-taking. Then he
tried to find other and larger words. "I wish I could do something to show
my appreciation of your--"
But the lieutenant-governor was pushing him toward the door.
"You have done something, Mr. Kent, and you can do more. Head those people
off at the door and say that for the present I refuse positively to be
seen or interviewed. They will find me at the capitol during office
It was seven o'clock in the evening of the fiercest working day Kent had
ever fought through when the special train--his own private special, sent
to Gaston and brought back again over the strike-paralyzed road by the
express permission and command of the strikers themselves--set him down in
the Union Station at the capital.
Looking back to the gray of the morning when he had shaken hands with
Governor Marston at the door of the room on the top floor of the Kittleton
Building, the crowding events made the interval seem more like a week; and
now the events themselves were beginning to take on dream-like
incongruities in the haze of utter weariness.
"_Evening Argus_! all about the p'liminary trial of Governor Bucks.
_Argus_, sir?" piped a small boy at the station exit; but Kent shook his
head, found a cab and had himself conveyed quickly through streets still
rife with excitement to the Clarendon Hotel.
In the lobby was the same bee-buzzing crowd with which he had been
contending all day, and he edged his way through it to the elevator,
praying that he might go unrecognized--as he did. Once safe in his rooms
he sent for Loring, stretching himself on the bed in a very ecstasy of
relaxation until the ex-manager came up. Then he emptied his mind as an
overladen ass spills its panniers.
"I'm done, Grantham," he said; "and that is more different kinds of truth
than you have heard in a week. Go and reorganize your management, and
M'Tosh is the man to put in Halkett's place. The strike will be declared
off at the mere mention of your name and his. That's all. Now go away and
let me sleep."
"Oh, hold on!" was the good-natured protest; "I'm not more curious than I
have to be, but I'd like to know how it was done."
"I don't know, myself; and that's the plain fact. But I suspect Marston
fell upon Judge MacFarlane: gave him a wire hint of what was due to arrive
if he didn't give us a clean bill of health. I had my preliminary
interview with the governor at daybreak this morning; and I was with him
again between nine and ten. He went over the original papers with me, and
about all he said was, 'Be in Gaston by two o'clock this afternoon, and
MacFarlane will give you the hearing in chambers.' I went on my knees to
the Federative Council to get a train."
"You shouldn't have had any trouble there."
"I didn't have, after the men understood what was in the wind. Jarl Oleson
took me down and brought me back. The council did it handsomely, dipping
into its treasury and paying the mileage on a Pullman car."
"And MacFarlane reversed his own order?"
"Without a question. It was the merest formality. Jennison, Hawk's former
law partner, stood for the other side; but he made no argument."
"Good!" said Loring. "That will do for the day's work. But now I'd like to
know how last night's job was managed."
"I'm afraid you want to know more than is good for you. What do the papers
say? I haven't looked at one all day."
"They say there was a misunderstanding of orders. That will answer for the
public, perhaps, but it won't do for me."
"I guess it will have to do for you, too, Grantham," said Kent, yawning
shamelessly. "Five men, besides myself--six of us in all--know the true
inwardness of last night's round-up. There will never be a seventh."
Loring's eye-glasses fell from his nose, and he was smiling shrewdly when
he replaced them.
"There is one small consequence that doesn't please you, I'm sure. You'll
have to bury the hatchet with MacFarlane."
"Shall I?" flashed Kent, sitting up as if he had been struck with a whip.
"Let me tell you: Marston is going to call an extra session of the
Assembly. There is a death vacancy in this district, and I shall be a
candidate in the special election. If there is no other way to get at
MacFarlane, he shall be impeached!"
"H'm: so you're going into politics?"
"You've said it," said Kent, subsiding among the pillows. "Now will you
* * * * *
It took the general manager a wakeful twenty-four hours to untangle the
industrial snarl which was the receiver's legacy to his successor; and
David Kent slept through the major part of that interval, rising only in
time to dress for dinner on the day following the retrieval of the
In the grill-room of the Camelot he came face to face with Ormsby, and
learned, something to his astonishment, that the Breezeland party had
returned to the capital on the first train in from the west.
"I thought you were going to stay a month or more," he said, with his eyes
"So did I," said Ormsby. "But Mrs. Brentwood cut it short. She's a town
person, and so is Penelope." And it was not until the soup plates had been
removed that he added a question. "Are you going out to see them this
evening, David? You have my royal permission."
"Isn't it up to you to go and give them a chance to jolly you a little? I
think they are all aching to do it. Mrs. Hepzibah has seen the rising
stock quotations, and she thinks you are It."
"No; I can't go there any more," said Kent, and his voice was gruffer than
he meant it to be.
"There were good reasons before: there are better ones now."
"A seven-hundred-thousand-dollar difference?" suggested Ormsby, who had
had speech with Loring.
Kent flushed a dull red.
"I sha'n't strike you, Ormsby, no matter what you say," he said doggedly.
"Humph! There is one difference between you and Rabbi Balaam's burro,
David: it could talk sense, and you can't," was the offensive rejoinder.
Kent changed the subject abruptly.
"Say, Ormsby; I'm going into a political office-hunt. There is a death
vacancy in the House, and I mean to have the nomination and election. I
don't need money now, but I do need a friend. Are you with me?"
"Oh, sure. Miss Van Brock will answer for that."
"But I don't want you to do it on her account; I want you to do it for
"It's all one," said the club-man.
Kent looked up quickly.
"You are right; that is the truest word you've said to-night," and he went
away, leaving the dessert untouched.
The evening was still young when Kent reached the house in Alameda Square.
Within the week the weather had changed, and the first chill of the
approaching autumn was in the air. The great square house was lighted and
warmed, and the homelikeness of the place appealed to him as it never had
before. To her other gifts, which were many and diverse, Miss Van Brock
added that of home-making; and the aftermath of battle is apt to be an
acute longing for peace and quiet, for domesticity and creature comforts.
He had not seen Portia since the night when she had armed him for the
final struggle with the enemy; he told himself that he should not see her
again until the battle was fought and won. But in no part of the struggle
had he been suffered to lose sight of his obligation to her. He had seen
the chain lengthen link by link, and now the time was come for the welding
of it into a shackle to bind. He did not try to deceive himself, nor did
he allow the glamour of false sentiment to blind him. With an undying love
for Elinor Brentwood in his heart, he knew well what was before him. None
the less, Portia should have her just due.
She was waiting for him when he entered the comfortable library.
"I knew you would come to-night," she said cheerfully. "I gave you a day
to drive the nail--and, O David! you have driven it well!--another day to
clinch it, and a third to recover from the effects. Have you fully
"I hope so. I took the day for it, at all events," he laughed. "I am just
out of bed, as you might say."
"I can imagine how it took it out of you," she assented. "Not so much the
work, but the anxiety. Night before last, after Mr. Loring went away, I
sat it out with the telephone, nagging poor Mr. Hildreth for news until I
know he wanted to murder me."
"How much did you get of it?" he asked.
"He told me all he dared--or perhaps it was all he knew--and it made me
feel miserably helpless. The little I could get from the _Argus_ office
was enough to prove that all your plans had been changed at the last
"They were," he admitted; and he began at the beginning and filled in the
details for her.
She heard him through without comment other than a kindling of the brown
eyes at the climaxes of daring; but at the end she gave him praise
"You have played the man, David, as I knew you would if you could be once
fully aroused. I've had faith in you from the very first."
"It has been more than faith, Portia," he asserted soberly. "You have
taken me up and carried me when I could neither run nor walk. Do you
suppose I am so besotted as not to realize that you have been the head,
while I have been only the hand?"
"Nonsense!" she said lightly. "You are in the dumps of the reaction now.
You mustn't say things that you will be sorry for, later on."
"I am going to say one thing, nevertheless; and will remain for you to
make it a thing hard to be remembered, or the other kind. Will you take
what there is of me and make what you can of it?"
She laughed in his face.
"No, my dear David; no, no, no." And after a little pause: "How
deliciously transparent you are, to be sure!"
He would have been less than a man if his self-love had not been touched
in its most sensitive part.
"I am glad if it amuses you," he frowned. "Only I meant it in all
"No, you didn't; you only thought you did," she contradicted, and the
brown eyes were still laughing at him. "Let me tell you what you did mean.
You are pleased to think that I have helped you--that an obligation has
been incurred; and you meant to pay your debt like a man and a gentleman
in the only coin a woman is supposed to recognize."
"But if I should say that you are misinterpreting the motive?" he
"It would make your nice little speech a perjury instead of a simple
untruth, and I should say no, again, on other, and perhaps better,
"Name them," he said shortly.
"I will, David, though I am neither a stick nor a stone to do it without
wincing. You love another woman with all your heart and soul, and you know
"Well? You see I am neither admitting nor denying."
"As if you needed to!" she scoffed. "But don't interrupt me, please. You
said I might take what there is of you and make what I can of it: I might
make you anything and everything in the world, David, except that which a
woman craves most in a husband--a lover."
His eyes grew dark.
"I wish I knew how much that word means to you, Portia."
"It means just as much to me as it does to every woman who has ever drawn
the breath of life in a passionate world, David. But that isn't all.
Leaving Miss Brentwood entirely out of the question, you'd be miserably
"Why should I?"
"Because I shouldn't be able to realize a single one of your ideals. I
know what they are--what you will expect in a wife. I could make you a
rich man, a successful man, as the world measures success, and perhaps I
could even give you love: after the first flush of youth is past, the
heavenly-affinity sentiment loses its hold and a woman comes to know that
if she cares to try hard enough she can love any man who will be
thoughtful and gentle, and whose habits of life are not hopelessly at war
with her own. But that kind of love doesn't breed love. Your vanity would
pique itself for a little while, and then you would know the curse of
unsought love and murder me in your heart a thousand times a day. No,
David, I have read you to little purpose if these are the things you will
ask of the woman who takes your name and becomes the mother of your
children." She had risen and was standing beside his chair, with her hand
lightly touching his shoulder. "Will you go now? There are others coming,
He made his adieux gravely and went away half dazed and a prey to many
emotions, but strangely light-hearted withal: and as once before, he
walked when he might have ridden. But the mixed-emotion mood was not
immortal. At the Clarendon he found a committee of Civic Leaguers waiting
to ask him if he would stand as a "Good Government" candidate in the
special election to fill the House vacancy in the capital district; and in
the discussion of ways and means, and the setting of political pins which
followed there was little food for sentiment.
It was three weeks and more after Governor Marston's call summoning the
Assembly for an investigative session. Kent had fought his way
triumphantly through the special election to a seat in the House, aided
and abetted manfully by Ormsby, Hildreth, and the entire Trans-Western
influence and vote. And now men were beginning to say that without the
tireless blows of the keen-witted, sharp-tongued young corporation lawyer,
the junto might still have reasserted itself.
But the House committee, of which Kent was the youngest member and the
chairman, had proved incorruptible, and the day of the Gaston wolf-pack
was over. Hendricks resigned, to escape a worse thing; Meigs came over to
the majority with a show of heartiness that made Kent doubly watchful of
him; heads fell to the right and left, until at the last there was left
only one member of the original cabal to reckon with; the judicial tool of
the capitol ring.
Kent had hesitated when MacFarlane's name came up; and the judge never
knew that he owed his escape from the inquisitorial House committee, and
his permission to resign on the plea of broken health, to a young woman
whom he had never seen.
It was Elinor Brentwood who was his intercessor; and the occasion was the
last day of the third week of the extra session--a Saturday afternoon and
a legislative recess when Kent had borrowed Ormsby's auto-car, and had
driven Elinor and Penelope out to Pentland Place to look at a house he was
thinking of buying. For with means to indulge it, Kent's Gaston-bred mania
for plunging in real estate had returned upon him with all the acuteness
of a half-satisfied passion.
They had gone all over the house and grounds with the caretaker, and when
there was nothing more to see, Penelope had prevailed on the woman to open
the Venetians in the music-room. There was a grand piano in the place of
honor, presided over by a mechanical piano-player; and Penelope went into
ecstasies of mockery.
"Wait till I can find the music scrolls, and I'll hypnotize you," she said
gleefully; and Kent and Elinor beat a hasty retreat to the wide entrance
"I don't quite understand it," was Elinor's comment, when they had put
distance between themselves and Penelope's joyous grinding-out of a Wagner
scroll. "It looks as if the owners had just walked out at a moment's
"They did," said Kent. "They went to Europe, I believe. And by the way; I
think I have a souvenir here somewhere. Will you go up to the first
landing of the stair and point your finger at that window?"
She did it, wondering; and when he had the line of direction he knelt in
the cushioned window-seat and began to probe with the blade of his
pen-knife in a small round hole in the woodwork.
"What is it?" she asked, coming down to stand beside him.
"This." He had cut out a flattened bullet and was holding it up for her to
see. "It was meant for me, and I've always had an idea that I heard it
strike the woodwork."
"For you? Were you ever here when the house was occupied?"
"Yes, once; it is the Senator Duvall place. This is the window where I
She nodded intelligence.
"I know now why you are going to buy it. The senator is another of those
whom you haven't forgiven."
His laugh was a ready denial.
"I have nothing against Duvall. He was one of Bucks' dupes, and he is
paying the price. The property is to be sold at a forced sale, and it is a
"Is that all it means to you? It is too fine to be hawked about as a thing
to make money with. It's a splendidly ideal home--leaving out that thing
that Penelope is quarreling with." And she made a feint of stopping her
He laughed again.
"Ormsby says I ought to buy it, and marry and settle down."
She took him seriously.
"You don't need it. Miss Van Brock has a very lovely home of her own," she
It was at his tongue's end to tell the woman he loved how the woman he did
not love had refused him, but he saved himself on the brink and said:
"Why Miss Van Brock?"
"Because she is vindictive, too, and----"
"But I am not vindictive."
"Yes, you are. Do you know anything about Judge MacFarlane's family
"A little. He has three daughters; one of them rather unhappily married, I
"Have you considered the cost to these three women if you make their
father's name a byword in the city where they were born?"
"He should have considered it," was the unmoved reply.
"David!" she said; and he looked up quickly.
"You want me to let him resign? It would be compounding a felony. He is a
Judge, and he was bribed."
She sat down beside him in the cushioned window seat and began to plead
"You must let him go," she insisted. "It is entirely in your hands as
chairman of the House committee; the governor, himself, told me so. I know
all you say about him is true; but he is old and wretched, with only a
little while to live, at best."
There was a curious little smile curling his lip when he answered her.
"He has chosen a good advocate. It is quite like a man of his stamp to try
to reach me through you."
"David!" she said again. Then: "I really shouldn't know him if I were to
"Then why----" he began; but there was a love-light in the blue-gray eyes
to set his heart afire. "You are doing this for me?" he said, trembling on
the verge of things unutterable.
"Yes. You don't know how it hurts me to see you growing hard and merciless
as you climb higher and higher in the path you have marked out for
"The path you have marked out for me," he corrected. "Do you remember our
little talk over the embers of the fire in your sitting-room at home? I
knew then that I had lost the love I might have won; but the desire to be
the kind of leader you were describing was born in me at that moment. I
haven't always been true to the ideal. I couldn't be, lacking the right to
wear your colors on my heart----"
"Don't!" she said. "I haven't been true to my ideals. I--I sold them,
She was in his arms when she said it, and the bachelor maid was quite lost
in the woman.
"I'll never believe that," he said loyally. "But if you did, we'll buy
* * * * *
Penelope was good to them. It was a full half-hour before she professed
herself satisfied with the mechanical piano-toy; and when she was through,
she helped the woman caretaker to shut the Venetians with clangings that
would have warned the most oblivious pair of lovers.
And afterward, when they were free of the house, she ran ahead to the
waiting auto-car, leaving Kent and Elinor to follow at a snail's pace down
the leaf-covered walk to the gate. There was a cedar hedge to mark the
sidewalk boundary, and while it still screened them Kent bent quickly to
the upturned face of happiness.
"One more," he pleaded; and when he had it: "Do you know now, dearest, why
I brought you here to-day?"
She nodded joyously.
"It is the sweetest old place. And, David, dear; we'll bring our
ideals--all of them; and it shall be your haven when the storms beat."