Part 4 out of 7
"You have always been fooled, you say, when you have elected men to
office. Haven't you any men in this state whom you can elect to high
office, knowing for sure that they'll stay straight?"
"No," returned Citizen Drew.
"I'm a stranger--I don't know your big men--you do know them, and I
suppose I ought to take your word. But I don't believe you, Citizen
"But I told you the truth. We have big men who are honest men. But
they won't go into politics. They feel too far above the game.
Therefore, how can we elect them to office? I say I told you the
truth. The men who go out and hunt for office are the ones who work
the thing for their own profit--and that means they stand in with the
bunch and the head boss."
It was the same old lament which is everlastingly on the lips of the
voters of America! Citizen Drew had again epitomized the average
politics of the great Republic!
Walker Farr smiled--and he could express in a smile more than most men
can express in speech.
"An original idea has just occurred to me, Citizen Drew," he said,
with humorous drawl in his tones. "I'm sure nothing like it has ever
been thought of before. There ought to be a new party formed in this
country--a party outside all the others. No, not a party, exactly!
What should I call it? You see, the idea has just come to me, and I'm
floundering a little." His tone was still jocular. "You're right about
most of the able and big men staying out of politics except when the
highest offices are passed around. Now, how's this for a scheme?
Organize a loyal band and call it--well, say the Purified Political
Privateers, the Sanctified Kidnappers, the People's Progressive and
Public-spirited Press Gang. Go around and grab the Great and the Good
who insist on minding their private business and who are letting the
country be gobbled up--just go and grab 'em right up by the scruff of
the neck and fling them into politics head over heels. They would
sputter and froth and flop for a little while--and then they'd strike
out and swim. They couldn't help swimming! They'd know that the folks
were looking on. And then a lot of the sinking and drowning poor
devils, like you and me and the folks in the tenements, could grab
onto the Great and the Good and ask 'em to tow us safely ashore; and
by that time their pride and their dander would be up and they'd swim
all the harder--with the other folks looking on. Hah! An idea, eh? You
see, I feel rather imaginative and on the high pressure and in a mood
for adventure this evening! Probably because the nice old ladies
called me a knight-errant."
Citizen Drew was not ready with comment on this amazing suggestion. He
clawed his hand into his sparse hair and wrinkled his forehead in
attempt to decide whether or not he ought to resent this playful
retort to his lament. The next moment he dealt Farr a swift jab in the
ribs with his elbow.
"Take a good look at this man coming," he mumbled.
The oncomer was close upon them, and in spite of the dusk Farr's sharp
gaze took him all in.
In garb and mien he was a fine type of the American gentleman who is
marked by a touch of the old school. There was a clean-cut crispness
about him; the white mustache and the hair which matched it looked as
if they would crackle if rubbed. His eyes were steely blue, and he
held himself very erect as he walked, and he tapped the pavement
briskly with his cane.
He passed them, marched up the steps of a large building, and
disappeared through a door which a boy in club uniform held open for
"That man," explained Citizen Drew, complacently displaying his
boasted knowledge of public men in minute detail, "is the Honorable
Archer Converse, whose father was General Aaron Converse, the war
governor of this state. Lawyer, old bach, rich, just as crisp in talk
as he is in looks, just as straight in his manners and morals and
honesty as he is in his back, arrives every night at the Mellicite
Club for his dinner on the dot of eight"--Citizen Drew waved his hand
at the illuminated circle of the First National clock--"leaves the
club exactly at nine for a walk through the park, then marches home,
plays three games of solitaire, and goes to bed."
"I know him!" stated Farr.
Citizen Drew's air betrayed a bit of a showman's disappointment.
"I never saw him before--never heard of him. But I mean I know him now
after your description--know his nature, his thoughts. You have a fine
touch in your size-ups, Citizen Drew."
"I've studied 'em all."
"What has he done in politics?"
"Never a thing. He is one of the kind I was complaining about. Too
"But, ho, how a man like that would swim if he were once thrown in!"
"He never even tended out on a caucus."
"I know the style when I see it," pursued Farr. He did not look at
Citizen Drew. He was talking as much to himself as to his companion.
"Spirit of a crusader harnessed by every-day habit! Righteousness in a
rut! Achievement timed to the tick of the clock. But, once in, how he
"Think how our affairs would swing along with a man like that at the
head of the state!"
"Why hasn't he been put at the head?"
"I have been in delegations that have gone to him"--he waved his hand
--"he said he couldn't think of being mixed into political messes."
"He looked on you wallowing in muddy water and you invited him in. I
don't blame him for not jumping."
"He's a good man," insisted Citizen Drew. "He gives more money to the
poor than any other man in town. The only way I found that out is by
having a natural nose for finding out things. He doesn't say anything
"How he would swim!" repeated Farr. "Steady and strong and straight
toward the shore, Citizen Drew, and he wouldn't kick away the poor
drowning devils, either."
"He probably thinks he has paid his debt to the world when he hands
out his money," stated Drew. "When he looks around and sees so many
other men holding the poor chaps upside down and shaking the dollars
out of their pockets he must think he is doing a mighty sight more
than is required of him. But sticking plasters of dollar bills onto
sore places in this state ain't curing anything." He stopped. "I've
walked with you farther than I intended to, Mr. Farr. But somehow I
wanted to talk with you. There's a meeting of the Square Deal Club
this evening at Union Hall. I didn't know but in some way we might--
It was thought you might be going to run for office."
"The registration-office will prove that I'm not. Pass that word!"
"I'll go back--to the meeting. It doesn't seem to be much use in
holding the meetings," said the man. "We hear one another talk--we
know we are talking the truth. But nobody listens who can help us poor
folks. Well, I'll admit that the politicians come in and listen and
promise to help us and we give our votes; but that's all: they give
nothing back to us."
Farr broke out with a remark which seemed to have no bearing on what
Citizen Drew was saying.
"He comes out at nine o'clock, eh?"
"The Honorable Archer Converse. Leaves that clubhouse then, does he?"
"Regular to the tick of the clock."
"Citizen Drew, hold your club in session until half past nine or a
little later. My experience with those meetings is that you always
have troubles enough to keep you talking for at least two hours."
Citizen Drew glanced at the face of Farr and then at the big door of
the Mellicite Club.
"You don't mean to say--"
"I don't say anything. I seem to be in a queer state of mind to-night,
Citizen Drew." Again there was an odd note of raillery in his voice.
"A lot of odd ideas keep coming to me. Another one had just popped
into my head. That's all! Keep your boys at the hall."
He swung off up the street.
He turned after a few steps and saw the elderly man standing where he
had left him. Drew was a rather pathetic figure there in the
brilliantly lighted main thoroughfare, a poor, plain man from the
Eleventh Ward of the tenement-houses--this man who had been striving
and struggling, reading and studying, endeavoring to find some way out
for the poor people; some relief--something that would help. Farr knew
what sort of men were waiting in the little hall. He had attended
their meetings. It was the only resource they understood--a public
meeting. They knew that the important folks up-town held public
meetings of various sorts, and the poor folks had decided that there
must be virtue in assemblages. But nothing had seemed to come out of
their efforts in the tenement districts.
Farr stepped back to where Citizen Drew stood.
"I think I will say something to you, after all. Tell the boys in
Union Hall to be patient and I'll bring the Honorable Archer Converse
around this evening."
He smiled into the stare of blank amazement on the man's face, flung
up a hand to check the stammering questions, and went off up the
"A decent man's conscience will make him keep a promise he has made to
a child or to the simple or to the helpless," Farr told himself. "I
have undertaken a big contract, I reckon, but now that I have put
myself on record I've got to go ahead and deliver the goods. At any
rate, I feel on my mettle." Then he smiled at what seemed to be his
sudden folly. "I think I'll have to lay it all to those nice old
ladies who were foolish enough to put that knight-errant idea into my
head," he said.
THE MADNESS OF A MIDSUMMER NIGHT
Farr glanced again at the big clock in the First National block.
He had less than one hour to wait, according to the schedule Citizen
Drew had promulgated in regard to the unvarying movements of the
Honorable Archer Converse. As to how this first coup in the operations
of that nascent organization, the Public-spirited Press Gang, was to
be managed Farr had little idea at that moment.
He decided to devote that hour to devising a plan, deciding to attempt
nothing until he saw the honorable gentleman march down the club
steps. A club must be sanctuary--but the streets belonged to the
Therefore, Farr took a walk. He went back into that quarter of the
city from which he had emerged during his stroll with Citizen Drew; he
felt his courage deserting him in those more imposing surroundings of
up-town; he went back to the purlieus of the poor, hoping for contact
that might charge him afresh with determination. He realized that he
needed all the dynamics of courage in the preposterous task he had set
He knew he would find old Etienne sitting on the stoop of Mother
Maillet's house where the old man posted himself on pleasant summer
evenings and whittled whirligigs for the crowding children--just as
his peasant ancestors whittled the same sort of toys in old Normandy.
Mother Maillet's house had a yard. It was narrow and dusty, because
the feet of the children had worn away all the grass. Some of the
palings were off the fence, and through the spaces the little folks
came and went as they liked. It was not much of a yard to boast of,
but there were few open spaces in that part of the city where the big
land corporation hogged all the available feet of earth in order to
stick the tenement-houses closely together. Therefore, because Mother
Maillet was kind, the yard was a godsend so far as the little folks
were concerned. The high fence kept children off the greensward where
the canal flowed. Householders who had managed to save their yards
down that way were, in most cases, fussy old people who were hanging
on to the ancient cottage homes in spite of the city's growth, and
they shooed the children out of their yards where the flower-beds
struggled under the coal-dust from the high chimneys.
But Mother Maillet did not mind because she had no flower-beds and
because the palings were off and the youngsters made merry in her
yard. She had two geraniums and a begonia and a rubber-plant on the
window-sill in order to give the canary-bird a comfortable sense of
arboreal surroundings; so why have homesick flowers out in a front
yard where they must all the time keep begging the breeze to come and
dust the grime off their petals? It should be understood that Mother
Maillet had known what /real/ flower-beds were when she was a girl in
the Tadousac country.
Furthermore, Etienne Provancher always came to the yard o' fine
evenings and it served as his little realm; and the door-step of the
good woman's house was his throne where he sat in state among his
little subjects. However, on second thought, this metaphor is not
happy description; old Etienne did not rule--he obeyed.
He did not resent familiarity--he welcomed the comradeship of the
children. When they called him "Pickaroon" it seemed to him that they
were making a play-fellow of him.
He sat and whittled toys for them out of the pine-wood scraps which
the yard foreman gave him. There were grotesque heads for rag dolls,
and the good woman seemed to have unlimited rags and an excellent
taste in doll-dressmaking; there were chunky automobiles with spools
for wheels; there were funny little wooden men who jumped in most
amusing fashion at the end of wires which were stuck into their backs.
Old Etienne was always ready to sit and whittle until the evening
settled down and he could see no longer, even though he held the wood
and busy knife close to his eyes.
So on that evening he whittled as usual.
Walker Farr came to the yard and sat beside the old man on the door-
step and was plainly thinking no agreeable thoughts while he listened
to the chatter of the children.
After the darkness had come and the larger boys and girls, custodians
of their tiny kin, had dragged away the protesting and whimpering
little folks because it was bedtime, Zelie Dionne laid down her
needlework over which she had been straining her eyes. The good woman
protested often because the girl toiled so steadily with her needle
after her day at the mill was ended. And on that summer evening she
voiced complaint again.
"You have so many pretty gowns already! You wear one last evening--you
wear anodder this evening--and still you make some more! When a young
girl nigh kill herself so as to make a picture-book of her dresses I
think it is time to look for some young man who seems to like the
"Mother Angelique, I do not relish jokes which are silly," protested
the girl. "You know how the girls of our country are taught! We cannot
sit with hands in our laps without being very unhappy."
She went out and sat upon the door-step where old Etienne made way for
"At first I did not think I would come out, Mr. Farr," she said. "But
I have made bold to come."
"I do not think it needs boldness to come where I am," he returned. "I
hope you are not going to make a stranger of me because I have not
been very neighborly of late. I have been busy and I have been away.
The boys have paid my fare up-country, and so I ran about to carry the
gospel of the free water. The truckmen have volunteered in half a
dozen places. We are doing a great work."
"And yet I am afraid," she confessed. "You are fighting men who can do
you much harm. I have been asking questions so as to know more about
those men. For they have threatened poor Father Etienne. I wanted to
know about them. I cannot help. But can you not help, Mr. Farr? I
think you are much more than you seem to be," she added, naively.
"They have threatened Etienne?" demanded Farr, a sharp note in his
"Ah, m'sieu', I have said nottin's to you. I am only poor old man. No
"Why didn't you say something to me?"
"It's because you might feel bad, m'sieu'. P'raps not, for I'm only
poor man and don't count."
"What have they said to you?"
"It's nottin's," said Etienne, stubbornly. "You shall not think you
got me into trouble. You did not. I would have done it maself as soon
as I thought of it."
"I command you to tell me what has been said to you, Etienne."
"They say that I shall be discharge from the rack. They say I have
talk too much to my compatriots about the poison water. But I shall
"Who says so?"
"The yard boss say to me that. Oh, there's no mistake. He have the
power, M'sieu' Farr. The super tell the yard boss, the mill agent tell
the super, the alderman tell the mill agent, the mayor he tell the
"And probably Colonel Symonds Dodd told the mayor," growled Farr.
"It's a great system, Etienne. Nobody too small--nobody too big!"
"But I do not care. I shall talk some more--yes, I shall talk in the
/hotel de ville/ when you shall tell me to talk. I was scare at first
and I tol' you I would not talk; but now I have found out I can talk--
and I am not scare any more, and I will talk." Pride and determination
were in the old man's tones. Since that most wonderful evening in all
his life when he had heard his voice as if it were the voice of
another man ringing forth denunciation of those in high places, the
old rack-tender had referred to that new manifestation of himself as
if he were discussing another man whom he had discovered. The memory
of his feat was ever fresh within him. And his meek pride was filled
with much wonderment that such a being should have been hidden all the
years in Etienne Provancher. Many men had called around to shake his
hand and increase his wonderment as to his own ability.
"We will wait awhile," counseled Farr, understanding the pride and
treating it gently. "Stay at your work and be very quiet, Etienne, and
they will not trouble you. You need your money, and I will call on you
when you can help again."
"Then I will come. I shall be sorry to see somebody have my rake and
pole, but I shall come."
A moment of silence fell between them, and during that moment a young
woman passed rapidly along the sidewalk. Walker Farr shut his eyes
suddenly, as a man tries to wink away what he considers an illusion,
and then opened his eyes and made sure that she was what she seemed;
there was no mistaking that face--it was Kate Kilgour.
He stared after her. She halted on the next corner, peered up at the
dingy street light to make sure of the sign legend on its globe and
then turned down an alley.
"Ba gar!" commented old Etienne, putting Farr's thoughts into words,
"that be queer t'ing for such a fine, pretty lady to go down into Rose
Alley, because Rose Alley ain't so sweet as what it sounds."
Then two men came hurrying past without paying any attention to the
denizens of the neighborhood who were sitting in the gloom on the
stoop. The street light revealed the faces of the men as it had shown
to them the girl's features. One was Richard Dodd. Unmistakably, they
were following the girl. Farr heard Dodd say: "Slow up! Give her time
to get there. She's headed all right."
And Farr stared after those men, more than ever amazed.
One of them was obtrusively a clergyman--that is to say, he was cased
in a frock-coat that flapped against his calves, wore a white necktie,
and carried a book under his arm.
Dodd was attired immaculately in gray, and as he walked he whipped a
thin cane nervously. They began to stroll soon after they had hurried
past the stoop, and were sauntering leisurely when they turned into
"I now say two ba gars!" exploded Etienne. "Because I been see the
jailbird, Dennis Burke, all dress up like minister, go past here with
the nephew of Colonel Dodd. And they go 'long after la belle
"He smart, bad man, that Dennis Burke. But he was hire by the big man
to do something with the votes on election-time--so to cheat--and he
get caught and so he been in the state prison. But he seem to be out
all free now and convert to religion in some funny way. Eh?"
"Etienne, are you sure of what you are talking about?" demanded Farr.
His voice trembled. The visit of that handsome girl to that quarter of
the city--those men so patently pursuing her--there was a sinister
look to the affair.
"Oh, we all know that Burke. He hire many votes in this ward for many
years. He known in Marion just so well as the steeple on the /hotel de
ville/. And that odder--that young mans, we know him, for his oncle is
Colonel Dodd. Oh yes!"
"Good night, Etienne--and to you Miss Zelie!" said Farr, curtly,
walking off toward the entrance of Rose Alley. He did not ask the old
man to go with him. He was drawn in two directions by his emotions and
stopped after he had taken a few steps. This seemed like espionage in
a matter which was none of his concern. It was entirely possible that
the confidential secretary of Colonel Dodd and the nephew of that
gentleman might have common business even in Rose Alley and at that
time of evening.
But the matter of that masquerading ballot-falsifier, just out of
state prison, overcame Farr's scruples about meddling in the affairs
of Kate Kilgour.
He turned the corner into the alley in season to see the two men far
ahead of him; they passed out of the radiance shed by a dim light and
he saw no more of them. He walked the length of the alley and was not
able to locate any of the party. At its lower end the alley was closed
in by houses, and it was plain that the people he sought had not
passed out into another thoroughfare. He marched back, scrutinizing
the outside of buildings, trying to conjecture what business the
handsome girl and the two men could have in that section at that hour,
and where they had entered to prosecute that business.
"I must continue to blame it all on the nice old ladies," he told
himself, smiling at the shamed zest he was finding in this hunt. "But
I hope this knight-errantry will not grow to be a habit with me. I
mustn't forget that I have another job on hand for nine o'clock--also
He paused under the dim light where his men had disappeared and looked
at his cheap watch.
Twenty-five minutes of nine!
Then he heard a woman's protesting voice. She cried "No, /no/, NO!" in
He gazed at the house from which the voice seemed to come. It was near
at hand, a shabby little cottage with a thin slice of yard closed in
by a dilapidated picket fence. He perceived no observers in the alley,
and he stepped into the yard. The front windows were open, for the
evening was warm, but no lights were visible in the house.
He heard the protesting cry again. It was more earnest.
He head the rumble of a man's voice, but could not catch the words.
Whatever was happening was taking place in some rear room.
"No, I say, no! Unlock that door," cried the voice, passionately.
Farr troubled his mind no longer with quixotic considerations about
intrusion. He hoisted himself over the window-sill into the darkened
front room, passed down a short corridor and, when he heard the voice
once again on the inside of a door which he found locked, he
immediately kicked the door open. He appeared to those in the room,
heralded by an amazing crash and flying splinters.
First of all, he was astonished to find two women there; one was Miss
Kilgour and the other was her mother. And there were the two men whom
he had followed.
Farr swept off his hat and addressed the girl.
"I happened to be passing and heard your voice," he said. "If you
are--" He hesitated, a bit confused, realizing all at once that
knight-errantry in modern days is not quite as free and easy a matter
as it used to be when damsels were in distress in the ruder times of
yore. "I am at your service," he added, a bit curtly.
But she did not reply. Her attitude was tense, her cheeks were
flaming, her eyes were like glowing coals.
"You lunatic, you have come slamming in here, disturbing a private
wedding," announced the man in the white tie, slapping his palm upon
the book he carried.
"Get out of here!" shouted Dodd. He had dodged into a corner of the
room, his face whitening, when Farr had burst in. He remained in the
corner now, brandishing his cane.
The uninvited guest surveyed the young man with more composure than he
had been able to command when he looked at the girl.
Etienne Provancher had fortified him with some valuable information.
"Mr. Richard Dodd, I'll apologize and walk out of here after you have
explained to me why you have faked up into a parson one Dennis Burke,
late of the state prison, to officiate at weddings."
Upon the silence that followed the girl thrust an "Oh!" into which she
put grief, protest, anger, consternation.
"Mother!" she cried. "Did you know? How could you allow--how did you
come to do such a terrible thing?"
Her mother put her hands to her face and sat down and began to sob
with hysterical display of emotion. Farr scowled a bit as he looked at
her. She was overdressed. There was an artificial air about her whole
appearance--even her hysterics seemed artificial.
The girl turned from her with a gesture of angry despair as if she
realized, from experience, that she could expect, at that juncture,
only emotion without explanation.
"Hold on here," cried Dodd, "hold on here, everybody! This is all
right. You just let me inform you, Mr. Butter-in, that Mr. Burke has
full authority to solemnize a marriage. He is a notary and was
commissioned at the last meeting of the governor and council. And I
know that," he added, attempting a bit of a swagger, "for I secured
the commission for him myself." He came out of his corner and shook
his cane at Farr. "I want you to understand that I have political
power in this state!"
"I wouldn't brag about that kind of political power, when you can use
it to make notaries out of jailbirds. That must be a nice bunch you
have up at your State House!"
"On your way!" Again the cane swished in front of Farr's face.
"I beg your pardon, madam," apologized Farr, bowing to the girl. "You
seem to be the only one in this room entitled to that courtesy," he
added, with a touch of his cynicism. "Am I intruding on your personal
"You are not," she answered, her eyes flashing. "I am glad you came in
here. I could have stopped the wretched folly myself, but you have
helped me, and I thank you." She delivered that little speech with
"Kate!" pleaded Dodd. "This isn't fair. I meant it all right. Here's
your mother here! You wouldn't be reasonable the other way. We had to
do something. For the love of Heaven, be good. You know I--"
She had turned her back on him. Now she whirled and spat furious words
at him, commanding him to be silent.
"Do you want to spread all this miserable business before this
gentleman?" she demanded. "I am ashamed--ashamed! My mother to consent
to such a thing!"
She turned her back on him again and walked to and fro, beating her
hands together in her passion. And now ire boiled in Dodd. He directed
it all at the man who had interfered.
"This is no business of yours, you loafer. I don't know who you are,
Farr grabbed the switching cane as he would have swept into his palm
an annoying insect. He broke it into many pieces between his sinewy
fingers and tossed the bits into Dodd's convulsed face.
"You'll know me better later on--you and your uncle, too. Ask him what
I advised him to do about having his weapon loose on his hip--take the
same advice for yourself."
Then his expression altered suddenly. A disquieting jog of memory
prompted him to yank out the cheap watch.
Twelve minutes to nine.
It was a long way to the foot of the steps of the Mellicite Club! And
Union Hall was filled with men who were patiently waiting for him to
keep his pledged word!
"I hope you'll be all right now," he said to the girl, haste in his
tones. "I'm sorry--I must go--I have an important engagement."
Her eyes met his in level gaze, turned scornful glance at the others
in the room, and then came back to his.
"Are you going in the direction of the Boulevard?" she asked him.
"Will you bother with me as far as the Boulevard?"
"If you are a good walker," he informed her. There was strict business
in her tone and cool civility in his.
"I'm going along with this gentleman, mother."
Farr ushered her ahead of him through the shattered door.
"But I want to walk home with you, my child," wailed the sobbing
"You'd better ask Mr. Dodd to escort you. And I trust that the talk
you and he will have will bring both of you to your senses."
She hurried away up the alley with Farr, after he had unlocked the
front door, finding the key on the inside.
"I am sorry I must hurry you," he apologized, "and if you cannot keep
up I must desert you when we get to a well-lighted street."
She drove a sharp side glance at him and did not reply. Probably for
the first time in her life she heard a young man declare with
determination that he was in a hurry to leave her. Even a sensible
young woman who is pretty must feel some sort of momentary pique
because a young man can have engagements so summary and so engrossing.
He offered her his arm that they might walk faster. Her touch thrilled
him. He was far from feeling the outward calm that he displayed to
They did not speak as they hurried.
Both were nearly breathless when they came out on the Boulevard. He
saw the big clock--its hands were nearly at the right angle.
"Good night!" she gasped, and she put out her hand to him. "I thank
"It was nothing," he assured her.
When their palms met they looked into each other's eyes. It was a
momentary flash which they exchanged, but in that instant both of them
were thrilled with the strange, sweet knowledge that no human soul may
analyze: it is the mystic conviction which makes this man or that
woman different from all the rest of humankind to the one whose heart
She gave him a smile. "Are you a knight-errant?"
She hurried away before he could reply--and, though all his yearning
nature strove against his man's resolution to do his duty, it could
not prevail: he did not follow her as he wanted to--running after her,
crying his love. But duty won out by a mere hazard of a margin because
her face, as she had shown it to him at the moment of parting,
possessed not merely the wonderful beauty which had so impressed him
when he had first seen her--it shone with a sudden flash of emotion
that glorified it.
He turned away and hurried to the foot of the steps of the Mellicite
He had no time to ponder on the nature of that mystery which he had
uncovered in the shabby cottage in Rose Alley nor to wonder what sort
of persecution it was that could enlist a mother's aid in that
grotesque fashion against her own daughter.
He had not time even to frame a plan of campaign against the man whom
the patient waiters in Union Hall were expecting him to capture.
The bell in the tower was booming its nine strokes and the Honorable
Archer Converse was coming down the steps from his club, erect, crisp,
immaculate, dignified--tapping his cane against the stones.
CORRALING A CONVERT
Mr. Converse bestowed only a careless glance at the stranger who was
waiting at the foot of the club-house steps.
The young man accosted him, not obsequiously, but frankly.
"I know you always take a turn in the park at this hour, Mr. Converse.
I beg your pardon, but may I walk for a few steps with you?"
"Why do you want to walk with me?"
"It's a matter--"
"I never discuss business on the street, sir. Come to my office
He marched on and Farr went along behind him.
"You heard?" demanded the attorney.
"I heard." Farr replied very respectfully, but he kept on.
He had rushed away from the girl and had come face to face with Mr.
Converse, his mind utterly barren of plan or resource. That interim on
which he had counted as a time in which he might devise ways and means
had been so crowded with happenings that all consideration of plans in
regard to Archer Converse had been swept from his mind.
At all events, he had rendered a service in that time; he had made
good use of that forty-five minutes--that reflection comforted him
even while he dizzily wondered what he was to do now.
That service had demanded sacrifice from him--why not demand something
from that service? An idea, sudden, brazen, undefendable, even
outrageous, popped into his head. He had no time for sensible
planning. Mr. Converse was glancing about with the air of a citizen
who would like to catch the eye of a policeman.
"I know all about you, Mr. Converse, even if you know nothing about
me. I'm making a curious appeal--it's to your chivalry!"
That was appeal sufficiently novel, so the demeanor of Mr. Converse
announced, to arrest even the attention of a gentleman who usually
refused to allow the routine of his life to be interrupted by anything
less than an earthquake. He halted and fronted this stranger.
"A man who wears that," proceeded Farr, indicating the rosette of the
Military Order of the Loyal Legion in the lapel of Mr. Converse's
coat, "and wears it because it came to him by inheritance from General
Aaron Converse is bound to listen to that appeal."
"Do you know a Richard Dodd who is the nephew of Colonel Dodd?"
"I do, sir. You aren't asking me to assist him, are you? I will have
nothing to do with him--no help from me!"
"Just a moment--wait one moment! Mr. Converse, do you know a man named
Dennis Burke who has been in prison for ballot frauds?"
"I helped send him there, sir. Are you reciting the rogues' roster to
"Richard Dodd has dressed Burke up as a parson and is trying to force
a young woman into a marriage. I haven't time to tell you how I
happened to know about this affair--but it is in Rose Alley and
there's no time to waste."
"A preposterous yarn."
"I have just come from that house."
"You're a young man of muscle--why didn't you stop it?"
"The girl's mother is there, backing Dodd. Mr. Converse, the cause
needs a man like you--a man of law, of standing, of influence. I
appeal to you to follow me."
"A moment--a moment! I scent a ruse. I don't know you. Are you a decoy
for blackmailers or robbers?" he inquired, bluntly.
Farr took off his hat and stood before the Honorable Archer Converse,
his strange, slow, winning smile dawning on his face.
"I beg your pardon for interrupting your stroll," he said, gently. "I
hope you'll look at me! You may see, perhaps, that you're in error.
I'll go back and kill Dodd--and come to your office to-morrow--on
business--engaging you as counsel for the defense."
"Lead the way to that house," snapped Mr. Converse. The attitude of
Farr, his forbearance, his refraining from further solicitation, his
frank demeanor, won out for him. "I'm sometimes a little hasty in my
remarks," acknowledged Mr. Converse in the tone of one who felt
chastened. "Are you a new-comer to our city?" he continued as they
hurried away. "You must be. I should certainly have remembered you if
I had ever seen you before." It was an indirect compliment--a
gentleman's careful approach to an apology.
The young man did not reply. He had conceived for this stately man a
sudden hero-worship. What Citizen Drew had told him was added to his
own instinct in matters of the understanding of a personality. He did
not dare to stop and consider to what despicable extent he was lying
to his victim. He knew if he stopped to think he would quit. Now the
whole affair seemed a crazy thing. Did even his proposed ends justify
"There's a short cut through Sanson Street," stammered Farr, the sense
of his own iniquity increasing in the same ratio in which his respect
and admiration grew. The honorable gentleman traveled along at a brisk
jog, evidently desiring to show his apologetic mood by exhibiting
confidence in his guide.
And Farr, stealing side glances at him, was more self-accusatory, more
abashed. He cherished the hope that they would be able to anticipate
the departure of Dodd and the confederates from the cottage. It was
not clear to him just how he would make the incident serve, anyway. He
was conscious that he had grasped at any opportunity which would open
the ears of the Honorable Archer Converse to a person who had accosted
him on the street. Finding somebody in the house would, at least,
stamp his story with verity even if it served no purpose in the main
intent of Farr's efforts.
But on a well-lighted street corner the young man halted suddenly.
"It's no use," he informed the astonished Mr. Converse. "Conscience
has tripped me. I can't do it."
"Do you mean to intimate that you have been tricking me, sir?"
"I mean to say, Mr. Converse, that I had proposed to take a half-hour
or so and think up some method of honestly and properly interesting
you in a matter which is very dear to me--a public matter, sir. But
here is how I spent that half-hour."
Frankly, simply, convincingly he related to his amazed listener the
full story of what he had found in the cottage in Rose Alley.
"And therefore I had no time to ponder on my business with you--I
simply turned from the young lady, and there you were, sir, coming
down the club steps. I did the very best I could on short notice--but
what I did was very crude. I apologize. I suppose, under the
circumstances, I may as well say 'Good-night'!" He raised his hat.
But there was something in all this which piqued Converse's curiosity.
"Wait one moment. This is getting to be interesting."
A rather hazy conviction began to assure Farr that possibly chance had
dealt a better stroke for him than well-considered planning. It was
surely something to know that the honorable gentleman was interested.
"If you had had time to think out a method of approaching me-- Let me
see, your name is--"
"Mr. Farr, supposing I had been amenable to your suggestions, what is
it you wanted of me?"
"I wanted you to attend a public meeting," blurted the young man.
"They are men who need help--they need--"
"That's sufficient," snapped Converse. "I am not in politics. I do not
address public meetings. Mr. Farr, you would have wasted your time
"But is there not some appeal that--"
"Useless--useless, sir." He tapped his cane, and his tones showed
irritation. He whirled on his heels. "It is decidedly evident that you
are a stranger in these parts, sir. On that account I forgive your
At that moment a jigger-wagon rumbled to a halt near them. The corner
light had revealed them to the driver.
"Mr. Farr," called the man, "it hasn't taken long for the news of what
you did at the meeting to-night to travel around among the boys. And
we ain't going to let you get ahead of us, sir."
"The more, the merrier, in a good cause," said Farr; but he was
staring regretfully at the back of Mr. Converse, who had begun his
"I want to tell you I'm on the executive committee of the State
Teamsters Union, Mr. Farr. I've been talking the matter up and I can
promise you that the union as a body will vote to lend horses and men
to carry your spring-water free gratis. And I hope that gent who's
starting up-town where the dudes are will tell 'em that there are
honest men enough left to protect the poor folks from that poison
water him and his rich friends are pumping out of the river to us."
The Honorable Archer Converse halted his departure very suddenly.
"You are not referring to me, are you, my man?"
"I am if you're tied up with that Consolidated Water Company bunch,"
stated the unterrified member of the proletariat.
Mr. Converse retraced his steps. He shook his cane at the driver.
"I want to inform you very distinctly, sir, that I am /not/ interested
in the Consolidated."
"Dawson, apologize to this gentleman," Farr admonished the driver.
"I'm sorry I said anything," muttered the man. "But all dudes look
alike to me," he told himself under his breath.
Mr. Converse appeared to be considerably disturbed by the humble
citizen's sneer in regard to the Consolidated matter. He addressed
himself to Farr.
"I have been touched on a point where I am very sensitive," he
informed the young man. "I do not condone the policies of the
Consolidated in regard to their control of franchises. Their system of
operation has introduced a bad element into our finance and politics.
I would be sorry to be misunderstood by the people of this state."
"I hope you will not be misunderstood, sir," averred Farr, with
"In order to show you my stand in the matter and so that you may
correct any misunderstanding among your friends in these quarters,"
proceeded Mr. Converse, stiffly, "I will inform you that I am taking
the case of the citizens' syndicate of Danburg on appeal up to our
highest court. We hope to prove criminal conspiracy. We hope to show
up some of the corruption in the state. That is why I have gone into
"I thank you for informing me. I have been trying to fight the
Consolidated in my own humble way."
The eminent lawyer came closer and was promptly interested.
"I am in search of information of all kinds, sir. Kindly explain."
Eliminating himself as much as possible, Farr described the operations
of the Co-operative Spring Water Association. But he could not
eliminate the man on the box-seat of the jigger-wagon. When Farr had
finished his brief explanation that loyal admirer gave in some
enthusiastic testimony in regard to the man who had devised the plan
and had sacrificed his time in efforts to extend the system. He kept
on until Farr checked him.
"I will say, Mr. Converse, before you leave, that I'd like to have you
carry away a right opinion of me. I was not trying to drag you to a
mere political gathering. There are some poor men assembled just now
in this quarter who need a sympathetic listener and a little good
advice. They are also trying to get justice from the Consolidated and
all the general oppression it represents."
"Where are those men?" asked Converse, after a pause during which he
wrinkled his brows and tapped his cane.
Farr pointed down the street. Not far away a low-hung transparency
heralded "The Square Deal Club."
Mr. Converse gazed in that direction and hesitated a few moments
"You assure me that it's not a mere political rally?"
"I do, sir!"
Then the son of General Converse gallantly extended his arm.
"I'll be glad to be escorted by you, Mr. Farr," he said. "Now that I
understand this thing a bit better, I am going to break one of my
rules." As they walked along he remarked: "A man's affairs are
sometimes directed and controlled for him in a most singular fashion.
Little things change preconceived notions very suddenly."
"They do, sir," agreed Walker Farr.
CONSCIENCE ENLISTING A RECRUIT
A man who stood at the head of the stairs, an outpost, saw them coming
and ran and opened a door ahead of them. The door admitted to a hall
which was packed with men who were ranged on settees and stood in the
aisles and at the sides of the big room.
"Make way for the Honorable Archer Converse," shrieked their /avant
"Three cheers for the Honorable Archer Converse," called a voice, and
all the men came on to their feet and yelled lustily.
The distinguished guest climbed upon the platform--Farr close at his
heels. The young man placed a chair for the lawyer and remained
standing. He raised his hand to command silence.
"This is rather unexpected, boys. But this distinguished man happened
to be passing our hall to-night and has dropped in on us in a purely
informal manner. It's a great honor, and I want to say to him for all
of us that the old Square Deal Club is mighty grateful. I ask you to
rise, gentlemen of the club."
All came to their feet again.
"Bow your heads and for thirty seconds of deep silence pay your
respect and veneration to the memory of our great war governor,
General Aaron Converse."
The Honorable Archer Converse looked forth over those bowed and bared
heads. The most of them were gray heads, and toil-worn hands were
clasped in front of those men. And when at last the faces were raised
to his there was an appealing earnestness in their gaze which touched
"Boys, the son of that great man is present. How will you express your
admiration and respect for him?"
They cheered again tumultuously.
Farr walked to the edge of the platform.
"It is kind and generous of Mr. Converse to consent to step in here
for a few moments this evening. I will leave the meeting in his
There was a hush for a moment. Then the guest carried his chair to the
extreme front edge of the platform.
"I don't know just what sort of meeting this is--I have not been fully
informed," he said, very crisply. "But I want it distinctly understood
that I am not here to make any speech. Your faces indicate that you
are very much in earnest in regard to the business you are met to
consider. I am assured that this is no mere political rally?"
"No," somebody replied.
"I'm glad of that. I am not in politics. The political mess grows to
be nastier every year. But what are you here for? Come, now! Come!
Let's talk it over." He was a bit brusque, but his tone was kindly.
A man who stood up in the middle of the hall was rather shabby in his
attire, but he had the deep eyes of one who thinks.
"Honored sir," he said, "I don't stand up as one presuming to speak
for all the rest. But I have talked with many men. I know what some of
us want. We don't expect that laws or leaders will make lazy men get
ahead in the world or that victuals can be legislated into the
cupboard without a man gets out and hustles for 'em. I have worked at
a bench ever since I was fourteen. I expect to work there until I drop
out. I don't want any political office. I couldn't fill one. But why
is it that the only men who get into office are the kind who turn
around and get rich selling off property which belongs to all of us--I
mean the franchises for this, that, and the other?" He sat down.
A thin man in the front row got up.
"Honorable Archer Converse, one franchise that was given away by those
men years ago was the right to furnish water to this city. A private
concern got hold of that franchise. It holds the right to-day. It
saves money by pumping its water out of the Gamonic River. Saves money
and wastes lives. The Board of Health's reports show that there were
eleven hundred cases of typhoid fever in this city last year. In my
family my mother and two of my children died. I shiver every time I
touch a tap--but spring-water that can be depended on costs us at the
grocer's a dollar for a five-gallon carboy--and my wages are only ten
dollars a week. There are lakes twenty miles from this city. Pure
water there for all of us! But every tap drips sewage from the Gamonic
River. Haven't we got any leaders who will make that water company
pump health instead of death?"
"They sent 'Tabulator' Burke up for ballot frauds," said a voter who
stood up in a far corner. "But anybody in this city understands well
enough that the judge who sent him to state prison knew who the real
chaps were, knew how much the real ones paid 'Tabulator' to take the
whole blame. And the governor knows it all and has just reappointed
The Honorable Archer Converse sat very straight in his chair and
listened to those men. He continued to sit straight and listened to
others. The men dealt in no diatribe. There was no raving, there was
no anarchistic sentiments. They arose, uttered their grievances
gloomily but without passion, and sat down.
One elderly man stood up and raised both hands.
"I came across the sea to this country, sir. I came because I could
have my little share in the government where I paid taxes and labored
--I could vote here. It's the only public privilege I have. But, O
God, give us some one to vote for!"
"I sympathize with your feelings," replied Mr. Converse. "But you are
talking to the wrong man. I'm not in politics."
"By the gods, you will be if my nerve only holds out," Farr told
Another man sprang to his feet. He spoke quietly, but his very
repression made him more effective.
"What's the good of voting till men like you do get into politics, Mr.
Converse, and give us leaders who will use their power to help the
people who voted for them? I'm sick of voting. I'm teamed up to the
polls by ward workers--and I know just why those men are in the game
and who they're working for. What do you suppose Colonel Dodd cares
which side carries this city, or which side carries the state? He and
his crowd stand to win, whatever party gets in. You can't beat 'em.
Business is business, no matter what politics may be! The city money
is wasted just the same, the policy game is let run for the benefit of
the rich men who back it, all the grafts go right on. You can't fool
me any longer. They stir us poor chaps up at election-time, we rush to
the polls and vote, and sometimes think we are accomplishing
something. But what we're doing is simply boosting out some fellow who
has made his pile and putting in another who wants office so that he
can fill his own pockets by selling our common rights out to the same
men. I say, you can't beat it!"
The Honorable Archer Converse seemed to find his position on the
platform uncomfortable. He rose suddenly and stepped down on the
floor. He went among the men. He grasped the hands that were
outstretched to him. He realized that he had scant encouragement for
these men. The meeting had given him new light. He knew considerable
about the old days, and in the old days of politics men flocked to
rallies. They harkened humbly to speeches from their leaders, and
swallowed the sugar-coated facts, and listened to bands, and joined
the torch-light parades, and voted according to party lines, and
thought they had done well; the surface of things was nicely slicked
He understood that out of the ease with which the mob could be herded,
with others doing their thinking for them, had grown politics as a
business--with the big interests dominating both parties--and no one
realized how it had all come about better than Converse. This new
spirit, however, rather surprised him, for he had been keeping aloof
from politics. These men who crowded about him were not mere dumb,
driven voters in the mass--they were individuals who were thinking,
who were demanding, who were seeking a leader that would consider them
as citizens to be served, not chattels to be sold to the highest
bidder. His keen lawyer's insight understood all this!
"I'm a butcher down in the stock-yards, Mr. Converse," said one man,
who pressed forward. "We've got trained bulls there who tole the
cattle along into the slaughter-pens. I've got tired of being a steer
in politics and following these old trained bulls."
Converse worked his way through the press to the door, Farr at his
When they were on the street the honorable gentleman turned sharply
toward the Boulevard.
"I haven't any spirit or taste to-night for moonlight in the park,
sir! A nice trick you played on me."
"I wanted you to get a first-hand notion of a state of affairs, Mr.
"But you ought to understand my temperament better--you ought to know
it's going to stick in my mind, worry me, vex me, set me to seeking
for remedies. It's just as if I'd been retained on a case. I feel
almost duty-bound to pitch in."
"It's strange how a man gets pulled into a thing sometimes--into
something he had no idea of meddling with," philosophized Farr,
blandly. "That's the way it has happened in my case."
"It has, eh?" demanded Mr. Converse, sharply. He had tacitly accepted
the young man's companionship for the walk back to the Boulevard.
"Now, look here! Just who are you?"
"My name is Farr and I'm nothing."
"You needn't bluff me--you're a politician--a candidate for
"I'm not even a voter in this state. It's men like you, sir, who ought
to be candidates for the high offices."
"My sainted father trained me to respect self-sacrifice, Mr. Farr. But
for a clean man to try to accomplish things for the people in politics
these days isn't self-sacrifice--it's martyrdom. The cheap politicians
heap the fagots, the sneering newspapers light the fire and keep
blowing it with their bellows, and the people stand around and seem to
show a sort of calm relish in watching the operation. And when it is
all over not a bit of good has been done."
"I'm afraid I have wasted an evening for you, sir. I'm sorry. I hoped
the troubles of those men, when you heard them at first hand, would
"Interest me! Confound it all, you have wrecked my peace of mind! I
knew it all before. But I'm selfish, like almost everybody else. I
kept away where I couldn't hear about these things. Now, if I sleep
soundly to-night I'll be ashamed to look up at my father's portrait
when I walk into my office to-morrow morning. Why didn't you have
better sense than to coax me into your infernal meeting?" He rapped
his cane angrily against the curbstone as he strode on. "And the
trouble with me is," continued Mr. Converse, with much bitterness, "I
know the conditions are such in this state that a meeting like that
can be assembled in every city and town--and the complaints will be
just and demand help. But there's no organization--it's only blind
kittens miauling. It's damnable!"
"But this is the kind of country where some mighty quick changes can
be made when the people do get their eyes open," suggested the young
Mr. Converse merely grunted, tapping his cane more viciously.
They were on the frontier of the Eleventh Ward now. The brighter
lights of the avenues of up-town blazed before them.
"Then you will not go into politics?" inquired Farr.
"I'd sooner sail for India with a cargo of hymn-books and give
singing-lessons to Bengal tigers."
"Good night, sir," said Farr. He halted on the street corner which
marked the boundary of the ward.
"Good night, sir!" replied Mr. Converse, striding on.
The young man watched him out of sight. He heard the angry clack of
the cane on the stones long after the Honorable Archer Converse had
turned the next corner.
"Maxim in the case of a true gentleman," mused Farr: "tap his
conscience on the shoulder, point your finger at the enemy, say
nothing, simply stand back and give conscience plenty of elbow-room--
it needs no help. There, by the grace of God, goes the next governor
of this state."
CONSIDERATION: ONE DAUGHTER
On the morning following his discomfiture Richard Dodd posted himself
in a little tobacco-shop opposite the Trelawny Apartment-house.
Lurking behind cigar-boxes in the window, he held the door of the
house under surly espionage. It was plain to the shopkeeper that "the
gent had made a night of it." Dodd's eyes were heavy, his face was
flushed, and he lighted one cigarette after another with shaky hands.
Shortly before nine o'clock Kate Kilgour came out and walked down the
avenue on the way to her work. Dodd stared after her until she was out
of sight. Shame and anger and desire mingled in the steady gaze he
leveled on her; in her crisp freshness she represented both the
longed-for and the unattainable. He was conscious of a new sentiment
in regard to her. In the past his impatience had been tempered by the
comforting knowledge that she had promised herself to him--that she
was his to own, to possess after a bit of tantalizing procrastination.
Now he was not at all sure of her. He had been just a bit patronizing
in the past--his successes with women had inflated his conceit--he had
exhibited a rather careless air of proprietorship--his manner had said
to her and to others, "This is mine; look at it!" But now when he had
watched her out of sight jealousy, anger, the sour conviction that he
had forfeited her regard combined to make him desperate, and the
excesses of the night before kindled a flame which heated all his evil
He threw away his cigarette, cursed roundly aloud, and hurried across
the street into the Trelawny.
When Mrs. Kilgour admitted him to her suite she clung to the door-
casing, exhibiting much trepidation.
He stepped in, closed the door, and put his back against it.
"Have you got those hysterics out of you so that you can listen to me
and then talk sense?" he demanded, coarsely.
She went into her sitting-room and he followed, muttering:
"No wonder you ran away from me last night--no wonder you didn't have
the face to stay and take what you deserve. How in tophet I ever
allowed you to plan and manage I can't understand."
"You asked me to," she faltered.
"I didn't ask you to rig up a dirty conspiracy to queer me."
"Richard, you are not yourself. You have been drinking!" She tried to
exhibit protesting indignation and failed. "Come to me when you are
"There's no more of this to-morrow business goes with me, Mrs.
Kilgour. I'll admit that you're Kate's mother. But just now you are
something else. You have tried to do me, and nobody gets by with that
stuff--man, woman, or child. We'll have our settlement here and now."
"I did the best I could," she wailed.
"Out of what damnation novel did you get that idea?" he raged.
"It seemed to be a good plan, Richard. I swear by everything sacred I
thought it would come out all right. Don't rave at me." Her voice sunk
to an appealing whisper. She picked up a book from her table. "If you
will only listen--"
"So you did get it out of a novel! My God! what have your fool ideas
done to me?"
"How do you dare to talk to Kate's mother like that?"
"I am not talking to Kate's mother, I tell you! I'm talking to a woman
who has put me into a hell on earth. I'm talking to you, Mrs. Kilgour,
and you don't know the whole story yet."
"All my life it has been the same--only trouble and sorrow and to be
misunderstood." She began to sob.
"Is there anything in that novel about ringing in an iceman to break
up a marriage? I say it was all a conspiracy. You didn't intend to be
square. You intended to rig a scheme so that you could duck out from
under. You have always done that, Mrs. Kilgour."
"I had nothing to do with that man coming in."
"Don't try to fool me any more. You told me to come, didn't you? You
must have told some yarn to your daughter to have her come."
"I did--it was all--"
"And then you told that plug-ugly to come in, too, and break it up so
as to queer me. Why did I ever fall for such lunacy? If I hadn't been
desperate I would never have let you drag me into such a devilish
scheme. But now you have got to do your part to square me. It's going
to be straight talk from now on, Mrs. Kilgour. There must be a
settlement between us."
She looked away from him. She was plainly searching her soul for
excuses to postpone that settlement.
"That person who came in, Dicky! I swear I did not arrange any such
thing. He is only an iceman. I don't know the man. It was some
accident. If the matter hadn't been interrupted! It was going along
"What's the matter with your intellect? You know it wasn't going along
at all! You simply had us chasing shadows. Good God! I ought to have
made you tell me what you were planning. Think of it! Think of me
waltzing down there like a boob and thinking you had something real to
"But you frightened her with that jailbird. You should have brought a
"The man I brought has the power to perform marriages! I would have
made a nice spectacle towing a clergyman into that mess, wouldn't I?"
She broke in upon his further speech. She wrung her hands, paltering,
pleading, trying to explain, trying more desperately to postpone that
settlement he was demanding.
"But, honestly, it did seem to be a good plan, Dicky. I'm her mother.
I know her nature. You know how some natures have to be handled! She
is so self-centered. She has to be taken by surprise. She has to know
that she is making a sacrifice. That is why I arranged it all for Rose
Alley and borrowed that house. And I had it all planned out what to
say to her at the last moment there."
"Well, what was this great thing you were going to say?" He glared at
her, disgust and suspicion in his eyes.
She flushed. She hesitated, unable to meet his gaze.
"It's no use to tell you now, Dicky. Somehow, now that I come to think
it all over, it sounds rather tame. It all did seem so plausible, what
I was going to say when I sat down and planned out the thing. And the
romance of it--you know even self-centered girls like to feel that a
man wants them so much that he gets desperate--and she said once that
she would marry you some time--perhaps--and--"
"Oh, you--you--" He broke in and then stopped, lacking words. "What's
the use?" he muttered. "You don't even know your own daughter. She has
been enduring me because you have been keeping at her. I understand it
now. You told me you could hurry it up. You have made me look like a
melodrama villain. You have made her hate me. Now own up! Didn't she
rave to you after you got home and tell you she hated me? You have
nailed me to the cross for ever where she is concerned--now haven't
you? Own up."
"I can win her back, Dicky. Give me a little time." But she was not
able to look at him. "Don't scold me any more. I'm her mother. She
will obey her own mother in time. Don't hurt my sensitive nature any
more." She began to weep, twisting her rings on her trembling fingers.
He scowled at her, narrowing his eyes. "You haven't been playing
square with me, Mrs. Kilgour."
"Call me Mother Kilgour, Dicky, just as you always have."
"I won't stand for any more bluffing, Mrs. Kilgour. Kate has sworn to
you that she will never marry me--now hasn't she?"
"But I can talk her around--you can win her back. I'll tell her it was
my plan--I'll have courage to tell her later--"
"So you have been laying that crazy idea all to me?"
"But I'll get up courage to tell her some day--and your devotion will
win her back--devotion always wins. You can--"
"Mrs. Kilgour, I know you pretty well. I repeat, I know you have
always ducked out from under--that's your nature. But here's a thing
you can't dodge. You've got to come to time. You know how I love Kate.
There isn't any reason why she shouldn't marry me. There's no excuse
for her holding me off the way she does. You've got to fix it for me--
quick! Understand? This fluff talk about 'devotion' and 'some day'
doesn't go. I want action. Now hold on! I don't mean to threaten--I've
been square with you till now. Good gad, you don't realize what a
price I've paid!"
"And now on top of your other insults you are going to twit me again
because I have borrowed five thousand dollars from you. Oh, Dicky, I
thought you were more of a gentleman?"
"Mrs. Kilgour, I have simply got to make you understand what I have
done for you before you'll wake up and do something for me."
"I appreciate what you did, Dicky. Honestly, I do. You save me from
losing money on my stocks."
"Where are those stocks?"
She did not look at him. "I have them put away--all safe. They are all
right. Just as soon as business is better I will get your money for
you, Dicky. You shall have it, every cent."
"Where are those stocks, I say! Mrs. Kilgour, look at me. Were are
"Why are you so particular about knowing where they are?" Protecting
herself, she showed a flicker of resentment.
"Because you must sell and hand me that money--at once."
"I--I don't believe I can realize on them just now. They are--are down
just at present. They--"
"What are the stocks?"
"I don't care to reveal my private business, Richard."
"It happens to be my business, too. I'm in trouble. I must know. I
shall stay here till I find out. You may as well come across."
"As soon as I can arrange it--I will tell you. Very soon now!"
He snapped himself out of his chair and went across the room to her.
He put his hands on her shoulders and bent his face to hers.
"You haven't any stocks, Mrs. Kilgour."
"No," she whispered, his eyes dominating her.
"What did you do with that money I loaned you?"
"I paid--a debt."
"What debt? Answer! This thing must be cleared up--/now/!"
She began to weep.
"No more hysterics, Mrs. Kilgour. We are now down to cases. Something
bad will happen if you don't confide in me."
Then, cornered, with the impulse of weak natures to seek support from
stronger--to appeal to a victor who cannot be eluded--she blurted the
"They got to suspecting me when I was cashier for Dalton & Company. I
heard they were going to put experts upon my books, Dicky. I didn't
want to go to jail. I would have disgraced Kate. I knew you loved her
and would not want her mother to be arrested. I had to have that
money. I told you the story about the stocks. So I was saved from
"Oh, you were?" His eyes flamed so furiously that she turned her gaze
"And now I feel better, for I have confided in you and you're going to
be my good and true friend from now on. It will be made up to you,
"What had you done with all that money you took from Dalton &
"It costs so much to live--and keep up the position I had when Andrew
was alive! A woman needs so many things, Richard. I have always been
proud. I was obliged to--"
He swore and swung away from her. "Wasted it on dress and jewelry! You
turned the trick on one man and put him underground. And I'm the next
victim! I knew I was being played for a sucker, but, oh--"
He battered his fists against the wall in pure ecstasy of rage. Then
he sat down and put his face in his hands.
The woman clucked sobs which did not ring true.
"I wonder what Kate would say if she knew how I had come to the
scratch. She knew her father was a hero. I wonder whether she would
think I am one!" he said, after silence had continued for a long time.
"Are you going to tell her?" the mother gasped.
"I love her too much. But, see here! Do you think I picked that five
thousand off a rose-bush?"
"You told me your uncle loaned it to you."
"You think I got it easy--got it for the asking, and that's why you
have been loafing on the job," he said, with bitterness. "Ask my uncle
for money? I should say not. He never loosened for anybody yet--not
even his relatives. Mrs. Kilgour, I love your daughter so much--I was
so anxious to help you--I stole that five thousand from the state
treasury. I have been covering it in my accounts for more than a year
--hell all the time with plenty of white-hot when the legislative
committee has been over the accounts. Some day some blasted fool will
wake up enough to see that there's a hole in my figures."
He put his elbows on his knees and stared at the carpet. The woman's
face grew white.
"That's how it stands with me, Mrs. Kilgour. You know you were not
square with me at the start. You said you needed the money for only a
few weeks--you said you were pinched in a stock deal. You lied to me.
You have wasted the money on fine feathers for your back. I have kept
still. You can't pay me. I've got to struggle out of the mess as best
I can. But, by the eternal gods, there's something coming to me, and
that's your daughter. Now are you going to wake up?"
"I'll do everything I can." Her tone was not convincing, however.
He realized that this woman with the pulpy conscience and the
artificial emotions, selfish and a coward, was merely vaguely stirred
by his revelation, not spurred by the extent of his sacrifice in her
"Do what you /can/? Whine to me like that after I have stolen state's
money and am standing under my steal? What if this state tips over
politically and they investigate the treasury? I tell you, Mrs.
Kilgour, I deserve to have Kate. I'm going to have her. You have got
to fix it--and right away."
"But I can't marry off a girl of twenty as if she were a Chinese
slave." His insistence caused her to display more of her pettish
"If you can't deliver the goods, Mrs. Kilgour, I shall take a hand in
"I'll tell her the story."
"You wouldn't dare."
"She has a sense of honor and of obligation even if you haven't. She
will pay. She'll pay with herself. That's a devil of a way to get a
wife, but if that's the only way I'll take it."
"But you have just owned up that you have embezzled money. As Kate's
mother it's my duty to protect her from disgrace."
That amazing declaration fairly took away Dodd's breath.
By the manner in which the woman now looked at him it was plain that
he had sunk in her estimation.
"You know, Richard, a mother feels called on to protect a good
He got up and stamped on the floor in his passion and swore.
"I appreciate what you did for me--but, really, I didn't ask you to
steal money--and I supposed your uncle was always liberal with you.
You should not have told me falsehoods."
The maddening feature of this calm assumption of superiority was the
fact that the woman seemed really to believe for the moment exactly
what she was saying and to forget why Dodd had jeopardized his
fortunes; her manner showed her shallow estimate of the situation.
"There's another way of doing it," raged the young man, infuriated by
this repudiation of obligation. "I'll blow the whole thing about the
two of us--and she'll be glad enough to have me after it's all over."
"You haven't any right to bring all this trouble and disgrace into my
"You know one way of preventing it and you'd better get busy, Mrs.
Kilgour," he advised. "I'm going to give you another chance of keeping
your word and paying your debt to me. I want Kate--and I have waited
for her long enough."
He clapped on his hat and hurried away.
He left the mother sprawled on a couch, her ringed hands clutched into
her dyed hair. She was still clucking sobs which would not have
convinced any unprejudiced hearer that she felt real grief.
When Richard Dodd entered his uncle's offices in the First National
block a little later he was in the mood to force his affairs a bit. He
enjoyed liberties there which the ordinary caller did not have and he
walked into Kate Kilgour's little room without attracting attention or
"I know exactly how you feel about last night, Kate." He addressed her
respectfully and humbly. "I understand that this is no place to
discuss the matter. I haven't come here to do so. I apologize for the
affair. I'm going to say this to you--I took your mother's advice. She
planned the thing and trumped up the errand which called you to that
house. I'm afraid she is rather too romantic. I only say this, Kate: a
man's love can make him do foolish things. Please talk with your
mother when you go home--and take her advice. If you do, it will be
better for all of us." He trembled with the restraint he had put upon
himself. "You can see that I have been punished, Kate. I am a
different man--you ought to be able to see it. Awful trouble has come
to me. I need your love to help me through it."
She gazed at him with level, cold eyes.
"You don't understand. I can't explain, dear! But I'm telling you the
truth. Kate, if you don't forget that folly I was guilty of last night
and be to me what you have been--if you don't marry me very soon you
will be sorry."
"Are you threatening me, Richard?"
"No, I didn't mean it to sound like that. But I know that with your
appreciation of what sacrifice means you will be very unhappy if you
toss me away and then find out certain things."
"This is not the time for riddles, Richard. What do you mean?"
"I have said all I can say."
"I do not love you well enough to be your wife. I have not meant to
play the coquette. I have not known myself. You and my mother-- Oh,
why rehearse? You know the story. You have understood that my love for
you was not what you should have. We may as well end it here and now,
Richard. I will forget last night. I will forget all the rest--for it
"It cannot be ended," he retorted. "Understand! It cannot be ended. I
am trying to hold myself together, Kate. Don't provoke me. I call on
you to keep your promise. No other man shall have you." He leaned
close. "Do you love any other man?"
She looked up at him and spoke slowly and gravely. "I do not think I
He scowled at her. "You don't /think/ you do! What in the name of
Judas do you mean by a remark like that?"
"It's because I'm trying to tell the truth," she returned, with simple
"This is a sort of new mood you're in?" he persisted.
He hesitated. He started to speak and then was silent for a long time.
"Damnation! I won't insult you!" he blurted at last.
"I hope not, Richard."
"What is preposterous?" Her tone was calm.
"I saw you look at a man last evening."
"I have seen women look at me like that in my life."
"I was not conscious that I looked at any man in any especial manner."
"You couldn't see yourself. Perhaps you did not realize that you
looked at that man with any meaning in your eyes. But the women who
looked at me as you looked at him told me that they loved me. I am
talking it right out! But if I should hint that you're in love with a
tramp I should insult you. I am crazy, that's all. My troubles are
affecting my mind. Forgive me, Kate."
"You are, of course, referring to the young man who broke in on our
prospective business last evening." There was just a touch of contempt
in her demeanor; but her air was coldly business-like; sitting there
at her desk she held him, physically and mentally, at arm's-length.
Her poise was sure. It seemed perfectly natural for her to be
discussing a young man in an impersonal manner.
"I am referring to that low-lived vagrant we met on the road--that
iceman--that--well, I don't know what he is except that the devil
seems to be kicking him under my feet to trip me. Kate, Kate, it's too
ridiculous to talk about--that wretch!"
"Do you mean by that remark that I am taking any interest in that
young man outside of mere curiosity?"
"I don't know why you should have any curiosity about a tramp."
"You are not a good student of physiognomy, Richard."
"So you have been studying him, have you? You went away with him and
left me. What did he say to you? Where did he leave you? I haven't
dared to think about your going away with him. I excused it because
you were angry--so angry you'd even pick up a tramp for an escort. But
what interest do you take in that renegade?" His tones were acrid with
"I did not find him a renegade. I found him a mystery, Richard. And I
hope that some day I will know what the mystery is."
"Are you trying to drive me mad?"
"I am merely chatting along in order to keep you off a topic which is
distressing. I heard that your uncle intended to have the man
investigated after he came into the office here and made that brave
stand. I happened to hear the talk the young man made. Perhaps that
accounts for my curiosity. Did your uncle find out much about the
"I don't know what he found out," declared Dodd, rapidly losing
control of himself. "But I propose to find out for myself."
"Please do, Richard," said the girl, ingenuously and earnestly. She
seemed to be losing some of the hauteur she had shown at the first of
"I'll find out enough to put him in jail, where he probably belongs.
I'm not going to insult you, Kate, by any more talk about a tramp. You
can't shift me from the main topic. Go home and talk with your mother,
as I have told you. We are going to be married!"
"Richard, our affair is ended."
"Then who is the man?"
"There is no man."
"If you say that and mean it, then you don't know women as well as I
know them. You don't know even yourself!" he declared. "I want to say
to you, Kate, that we are all walking on mighty thin ice. The sooner
you and I take hold of hands and get safely ashore--just you and I--
the better it will be. Just let your curiosity about other men fall
asleep. I tell you again, go home and talk with your mother."
He bowed, reached his hand to touch hers, but refrained when she
turned suddenly to her desk and resumed her work.
Young Dodd hurried out of the building without attempting to see his
uncle, and cooled his head and his passion and soothed his physical
discomfort by a headlong dash in his car back to the state's capital
The girl took her courage in her hands and asked Mr. Peter Briggs, in
as matter-of-fact tone as she could muster, whether he did not want
any record copy made of his notes in regard to that person who had
bearded Colonel Dodd. But Mr. Briggs informed her that the matter was
not of sufficient importance.
"The fellow is merely a cheap, loafing sort--here to-day, there
to-morrow," said Briggs. "I investigated him thoroughly."
Until then Miss Kilgour had always had a high opinion of Peter
Briggs's acumen. She promptly revised that estimate, reflecting that
age is bound to dull a person's senses and cloud his judgment.
THE HONORABLE LION CONFERS WITH COLONEL TIGER
All his people in the offices of the Honorable Archer Converse noticed
that the chief was not amiable that day. His usual dignified composure
was wholly lacking. He gave off orders fretfully, he slapped papers
about on his desk when he worked there; every now and then he glanced
up at the portrait of his distinguished father and muttered under his
breath. He had called for more documents relating to state health
statistics, reports on water systems, and had despatched a clerk to
the capital city to secure certain additional facts, figures, and
literature. The junior members of his law firm knew that he had taken
much to heart the case of the citizens of Danburg, who had been
blocked in their honest efforts to build a water system and who now
charged various high interests with conspiracy. The litigation was
important--the issues revolutionary. But the juniors had never seen
the chief fussed up by any law case before.
Then something really did happen!
The three citizens of Danburg who had occasionally conferred with him
came into his office and lined up in front of him. Mr. Davis scratched
his chin and blinked meekly, Mr. Erskine exhibited his nervousness by
running his fingers around inside his collar, and Mr. Owen fairly
oozed unspoken apology.
"Look here, gentlemen," snapped Mr. Converse, "I'm not ready for you.
I told you not to come until next week. I have an immense mass of
material to study. You're only wasting time--mine and yours--coming
"Well, you see, your honor," stammered Davis, "we came to-day so as to
save you more trouble and work."
"Work!" echoed Mr. Converse, seizing the arms of his chair and shoving
an astonished face forward.
"Why--why--you see we've decided not to push this case any further.
And whatever is owing to you--name the sum." He did not relish the
glow which was coming into the attorney's eyes, nor the grim wrinkles
settling about the thin lips. "So that there won't be any hard
feelings, in any way," Davis hastened to say.
"What has happened to you men all of a sudden?" demanded the lawyer.
"Explain! Speak up!"
Davis's face was red, and he found much difficulty in replying.
"Well--you see--you know--if you get into law you never know when
you're going to get out. We feel that this case is bound to drag! It's
an awful big case--and they've got lots of money to fight us."
"I told you I'd take your case for bare expenses and court fees,"
stormed the lawyer. "It's a case I wanted to prosecute."
"We know--you were mighty fine about it--but we've decided different.
You see, the Consolidated--"
Mr. Converse came onto his feet and shook his finger under Davis's
nose. "Don't you dare to tell me you have sold out to the
Consolidated," he shouted in tones that rang through his offices and
brought all his force to the right about and attention.
"That wasn't it--exactly. But they'll take it off our hands--will do
the right thing, now that we have shown 'em a few things! Colonel Dodd
has seen new light. And it is too good a price for us to throw down."
"You have let those monopolists buy you off. They have paid you a big
bribe because they are getting scared. They were afraid they had
played the old game once too often. I have them where I want them! No,
my men! You've got to fight this thing, I say."
"You can't drag us into law unless we're willing to go," stated Davis,
doggedly. "We've taken their money and the papers have been passed--
and that settles it. We haven't done anything different than the
others have done in this state."
"No, and that's the trouble with this state," cried Converse, with
passion. "You came in here at first and talked like men--like honest
men who had good reason for righteous anger--and I took your case. And
now you sneak back here and give up your fight--bribed after I clubbed
them until they were willing to offer you enough money."
"We have only done what straight business men would do Mr. Converse,"
"We had a chance to go to the high court with a case that would open
up the whole rottenness in this state before we got done fighting, and
you have sold out!"
"Good day. We don't have to listen to such talk," said Erskine.
"You wait one minute." The lawyer pulled open a drawer and found his
check-book. He wrote hastily and tore out the check. "Here's that
retaining-fee you paid me. Now get out of my office."
He drove them ahead of him to the door, shouting insistent commands
that they hurry.
When they were gone he gazed about at his astonished associates, his
partners, and his clerks.
"I apologize most humbly ladies and gentlemen, for making such a
disturbance. I--I hardly seem to be myself to-day."
He went to his desk and sat down and stared up at the portrait of War-
Governor Converse for a long time. At last he thumped his fist on his
desk and shook his head.
"No," he declared, as if the portrait had been asking him a question
and pressing him for a reply, "I can't do it. I could have gone into
the courts and fought them as an attorney. I could have maintained my
self-respect. But not in politics--no--no! It's too much of a mess in
But he pushed aside the papers which related to the affairs of the big
corporations for which he was counsel and kept on studying the reports
which his clerks had secured for him--such statements on health and
financial affairs as they were able to dig up.
A day later his messenger brought a mass of data back from the State
House along with a story about insolent clerks and surly heads of
departments who offered all manner of slights and did all they dared
to hinder investigation.
"It's a pretty tough condition of affairs, Mr. Converse," complained
the clerk, "when a state's hired servants treat citizens as if they
were trespassers in the Capitol. It has got so that our State House
isn't much of anything except a branch office for Colonel Dodd."
"But you told them from what office you came--from my office?"
"Of course I did, sir."
"Well, what did they say?"
The clerk's face grew red and betrayed sudden embarrassment.
"Oh, they--they--didn't say anything special: just uppish--only--"
"What did they say?" roared Mr. Converse. "You've got a memory! Out
with it! Exact words."
Clerks were taught to obey orders in that office.
"They said," choked the man, "that simply because your father was
governor of this state once you needn't think you could tell folks in
the State House to stand around! They said you didn't cut any ice in
"That's the present code of manners, eh? Insult a citizen and salaam
to a politician!"
"Mr. Converse, I waited an hour in the Vital Statistics Bureau while
the chief smoked cigars with Alf Symmes, that ward heeler. I had sent
in our firm card, and the chief held it in his hand and flipped it and
smoked and sat where he could look out at me and grin--and when Symmes
had finished his loafing they let me in."
Mr. Converse turned to his desk and plunged again into the data.
The next day he put a clerk at the long-distance telephone to call
physicians in all parts of the state--collecting independent
information in regard to the past and present prevalence of typhoid;
he read certain official reports with puckered brow and little mutters
of disbelief, and after he had read for a long time that disbelief was
very frank. Mr. Converse had rather keen vision in matters of
prevarication, even when the lying was done adroitly with figures.
He was not a pleasant companion for his office force during those
days; his irascibility seemed to increase. He knew it himself, and he
felt a gentleman's shame because of a state of mind which he could not
seem to control.
And finally, out of the complexity of his emotions, he fully realized
that he was angry at himself and that his anger at himself was growing
more acute from the fact that he realized that the anger was
justified. For he woke to the knowledge that he had allowed himself to
grow selfish. He resented the fact that anybody should expect him to
meddle with public affairs--to get into the muddle of politics. And he
knew he ought to be ashamed of such selfishness--and, therefore, he
grew more angry at himself as he continued to harbor resentment
against any agency which threatened to drag him into public life.
He knew where the shell of that selfishness had been broken--it was
cracked in the meeting where his chivalry had received its call to
arms in behalf of the helpless. Those men had gazed at him, had told
their troubles--and had left it all to his conscience! He did not
believe those men were shrewd enough to understand so exactly in what
fashion he could be snared in their affairs.
"Confound that rascal who inveigled me there!" ran his mental anathema
of the strange young man. "He must have been the devil, wearing that
frock-coat to hide his forked tail. And here I am now, fighting for
peace of mind!"
And his struggle for his peace of mind drove him, at last, to set his
hat very straight on his head and march across the street to Colonel
Symonds Dodd's office.
The Honorable Archer Converse had made up his mind that no influence
in the world could pull or push him into politics. He held firmly
fixed convictions as to what would happen to a good man in politics.
To get office this man of principle would be obliged to fight
manipulators with their own choice of weapons. And once in office, all
his motives would be mocked and his movements assailed. Converse was a
keen man who had studied men; he was not one of those amiable
theorists who believe that the People always have sense enough in the
mass to turn to and elect the right men for rulers. He understood
perfectly well that accomplishing real things in politics is not a
game of tossing rose-petals.
He went to call on Colonel Dodd. He went with the lofty purpose of a
patriotic citizen, resolved to exhort the colonel to clean house. It
seemed to be quite the natural thing to do, now that the idea had
occurred to him. Certainly Colonel Dodd would listen to reason--would
wake up when the thing was presented to him in the right manner; he
must understand that new fashions had come to stay in these days of
Thinking it all over, considering that really the matter of this
water-supply and attendant monopoly of franchises had become an evil,
that the prospects of the party would be endangered if the party
leaders continued to nurse this evil, Mr. Converse was certain that he
and the colonel would be able to arrange for reform, by letting the
colonel do the reforming.
They faced each other. Their respective attitudes told much!
Colonel Dodd filled his chair in front of his desk, using all the
space in it, swelling into all its concavities--usurping it all.
The Honorable Archer Converse sat very straight, his shoulders not