Part 5 out of 7
touching his chair-back.
Physically they represented extremes; mentally, morally, and in
political ethics they were as divergent as their physical attributes.
"I'm sorry that you were able to take those Danburg men into camp,"
said Mr. Converse, couching his lance promptly and in plain sight like
an honorable antagonist. "I had been retained and proposed to expose
conditions in the management of water systems."
"I don't know what you mean," replied the colonel, following his own
code of combat and mentally fumbling at a net to throw over this
"Yes, you do," retorted Mr. Converse. "You know better than I do
because you own the water systems of this state. But if you need to be
reminded, Colonel, I'll say that you are making great profits. You can
afford to tap lakes--spend money for mains even if you do have to go
fifteen or twenty miles into the hills around the cities and towns."
"Whom do you represent, sir?"
"Colonel Dodd, I think--really--that I'm representing /you/ when I
give you mighty good advice and do not charge for it."
"I've got my own lawyers, Mr. Converse."
Both men were employing politeness that was grim, and they were
swapping glances as duelists slowly chafe swords, awaiting an opening.
Sullen anger was taking possession of the colonel, thus bearded.
Righteous indignation, born from his bitterness of the past few days,
made Converse's eyes flash.
"You are one of the richest men in this state, Colonel Dodd, and your
money has come to you from the pockets of the people--tolls from
thousands of them. Remember that!"
"Huh!" snorted the colonel, looking up at a bouquet.
It is not often given to men to place proper estimate on their own
limitations. Otherwise, the Honorable Archer Converse would never have
gone in person to prevail upon Colonel Symonds Dodd. In temperament
and ethics they were so far asunder that conference between them on a
common topic was as hopeless an undertaking as would be argument
between a tiger and a lion over the carcass of a sheep.
Mr. Converse rose, unfolding himself with dignified angularity.
"I must remind you, sir, that I belong to the political party of which
you assume to be boss. If you refuse to give common justice to the
people, then you are using that party to cover iniquity."
Colonel Dodd worked himself out of his chair and stood up. "I am
taking no advice from you, sir, as to how I shall manage business or
"Perhaps, sir, in regard to your business I can only exhort you to be
honest, but as regards the party which my honored father led to
victory in this state I have something to say, by gad! sir, when I see
it being led to destruction."
"Well, sir, what have you to say?"
"I will not stand by and allow it to be ruined by men who are using it
to protect their methods in business dealings."
"What ice do you think you cut in the politics of this state?"
inquired the colonel, dropping into the vernacular of the politician,
too angry to deal in any more grim politeness.
"Not the kind you are cutting, sir--your political ice is like the ice
you cut from the poisoned rivers."
"It seems to be still popular for cranks to come here and threaten
me," sneered the colonel. "It was started a while ago by a shock-
headed idiot from the Eleventh Ward."
The Honorable Archer Converse displayed prompt interest which
surprised the colonel. "A young man from the Eleventh Ward? Was he
tall and rather distinguished-looking?"
Colonel Dodd snorted his disgust. "Distinguished-looking! He
threatened me, and I had him followed. He's a ward heeler. Better look
him up!" His choler was driving him to extremes. He was pricked by his
caller's high-bred stare of disdain. "He seems to be another apostle
of the people who wants to tell me how to run my own business. Yes,
you better look him up, Converse."
"Very well, sir! If he came in here and tried to tell you the truth
about yourself he's worth knowing. Furthermore, I think I do know
"Ah, one of those you train with, eh? Do you like him?"
It was biting sarcasm, but to the colonel's disappointment it did not
appear to affect his caller in the least. Converse even smiled--a most
peculiar sort of smile.
"I must say, sir, that I have been hating him cordially."
The colonel grunted approbation.
"But from now on, sir, for reasons best known to myself, I'm going to
make that young man my close and particular friend. You'll hear from
He bowed stiffly and went out, leaving Colonel Dodd staring after him
with his square face twisted into an expression of utter astonishment,
his little eyes goggling, his tuft of whisker sticking up like an
"The first appropriation the next legislature makes," he soliloquized,
"will have to be money enough to build a new wing on the insane-
hospital. They're all going crazy in this state, from aristocrats to
ENLISTING A KNIGHT-ERRANT
On his way down the stairs to the street the Honorable Archer
Converse, moving more rapidly than was his wont, overtook and passed
Kate Kilgour. He was too absorbed to notice even a pretty girl. She
had finished her work for the day and was on her way home.
When she reached the street she observed something which interested
her immensely: Mr. Converse suddenly flourished his cane to attract
the attention of a man on the opposite side of the street. Then Mr.
Converse called to him from the curb with the utmost friendliness in
his tones. The girl passed near him and heard what he said. It was not
a mere hail to an inferior. The eminent lawyer very politely and
solicitously asked the tall young man across the way if he could not
spare time to come to the Converse office.
She cast a look over her shoulder. The young man came across the
street promptly. He was the man who had served her in her time of
She went on, but turned again. An uncontrollable impulse prompted her.
They were entering the door of the office-building, and the
aristocratic hand of the Honorable Archer Converse was patting the
shoulder of this stranger. Her cheeks flushed and she turned away
hastily, for the young man caught her backward glance and returned an
"Who is he?" she asked herself, knowing well the chill reserve of Mr.
Converse in the matter of mankind.
"Who are you?" demanded Mr. Converse, planting himself in front of the
young man when they were in the private office.
The other met the lawyer's searching look with his rare smile. "The
same man I was last time we met--Walker Farr."
"I have no right to pry into your private affairs, sir, but I have
special reasons for wanting you to volunteer plenty of information
For reply the young man spread his palms and silently, by his smile,
invited inspection of himself.
"Yes, I see you. But the outside of you doesn't tell me what I want to
"It will have to speak for me."
"Look here, I have let myself be tied up most devilishly by a train of
circumstances that you started, young man. I was minding my own
private business until a little while ago."
"So was I, Mr. Converse."
"You're a moderately humble citizen, judged from outside looks just
now. How did I allow myself to be pulled in as I've been?"
The young man's smile departed. "I asked myself that question a little
while ago, sir, after I was pulled in, for I am a stranger--not even a
"Well, did you decide how it was?"
"I was led in by the hand of a helpless child--a poor little orphan
girl whom I carried to the cemetery on my knees--a martyr--poisoned by
that Consolidated water."
The lawyer was stirred by the intensity of feeling which the man's
"And it was borne in upon me afresh, Mr. Converse, that the philosophy
of the causes by which God moves this world of ours will never be
understood by man."
"See here," snapped the son of the war governor, "take off your mask,
Walker Farr! There's something behind it I want to see. You are an
educated gentleman! What are you? Where did you come from?"
Again Farr spread out his palms and was silent.
"You are right about causes. You are one in my case. There may be some
fatalism in me--but I'm impelled to use you in a great fight that I
feel honor-bound to take up. Now be frank!"
"For all use you can make of me, Mr. Converse, my life starts from the
minute I picked that little girl up from the floor of a tenement-house
in this city. For what I was /before/ is so different from what I am
/now/ that I cannot mix that identity with my affairs."
"But I cannot take a man into a matter like this unless I know all
Farr rose and bowed. "I'm sorry you can't accept me at face value,
sir. I'm very sorry, because I'd like to serve under such a commander
as you. However, I understand your position. I don't blame you. The
rule of the world is pretty binding: know a man before you associate
with him. But I am as I am. There's nothing more to be said."
"You sit down," commanded Converse. "This is a case where rules of the
world can be suspended. For I need the kind of man who dares to face
even Symonds Dodd in his office and tell him what he is. Oh, I have
just come from there," he explained in reply to Farr's stare. "He told
"I went merely as a voice, sir."
"But you seem to have been more than that in getting the confidence of
the men in your ward. I know an organizer when I see him. I watched
the faces of those men when you stepped before them. They have faith
in you. That's a rare quality--the ability to inspire faith in the
humble. First, faith--and then they'll follow. The movement I'm going
to start needs followers, Mr. Farr! Can you do with other men what you
have done with men in the Eleventh?"
"I believe I can, sir."
"Ah, you have led men in the past, have you?" Mr. Converse fired the
question at him. But he did not jump Walker Farr from his equipoise.
The young man took refuge behind that inscrutable smile.
"Well," sighed the lawyer, after a pause, "it's the dictum that one
must be as wise as a serpent in politics, therefore I am picking out a
man who will probably give a good account of himself. But it's a crazy
performance of mine--going into this thing--and I may as well plunge
to the extent of lunacy. Mr. Farr, the rebellious unrest in this state
must be organized. We need a house-cleaning. We need the humbler
voters! The men with interests are too well taken care of by the
Machine to be interested. I want you to go out and hunt for sore spots
and get to the voters just as you have in your ward. Find the right
men in each town and city to help you. You must know many on account
of your work for your water association. The fight will be financed--
you need have no worry about that. Perhaps you have organized
political revolts before," pursued Converse, still craftily probing.
"Then you'll tell me what honorarium you expect."
"My expenses--nothing more, sir. If I had any money laid by I would
pay my own way."
"I think," stated Mr. Converse, warming with the spirit of combat,
glancing up at the portrait of the war governor, "that we'll be able
to surprise some of the fat toads of politicians in this state,
sitting so comfortably under their cabbage-leaves. You're a stranger,
young man, and as you go about your work the regular politicians will
simply blink at you and will not understand, I hope, provided you go
softly. It is very silly of me to be in this affair, sir. But a man of
my age must have peace of mind, and that infernal meeting in your ward
awoke me. Furthermore," he added, displaying the acrimony that even a
good man requires to spur him to honest fighting, "a cheap politician
only lately flipped my card insolently and referred in slighting tones
to my honored father." He rose and gave Farr his hand. "I'll have
assembled here in my office at ten o'clock to-morrow morning some
gentlemen who will stand for decency in public affairs as soon as they
have been waked up. You will please attend that conference, Mr. Farr.
We have only a short month before the state convention, and we must
bring there at least a respectable number of delegates whom Symonds
Dodd cannot bribe or browbeat."
"Most extraordinary--most extraordinary!" mused the Honorable Archer
Converse, when he was alone. "From that meeting--to an investigation--
from Dodd--to this young man--I have been leaping from crag to crag
like a mountain-goat, never stopping to take breath. And here I
haven't even been able to find out just who he is--and they do say I'm
the best cross-examiner in this state! However, I'll show Symonds Dodd
that I'm not to be sneered at, even if I have to hire Patagonians in
Even chivalry must needs be spiced with a little strictly personal
animosity to achieve its best results!
Colonel Symonds Dodd, laboriously climbing into his limousine in front
of the First National block, scowled at a young man because the man
grinned at him so broadly as he passed along. In his general
indifference and contempt for the humble the colonel did not search
his memory and did not recognize this person as the young man who had
appealed to him in his office. The face seemed familiar and had some
sort of an unpleasant recollection connected with it; therefore the
colonel scowled. He was far from realizing that this person carried on
his palm the warmth from a hand-clasp which, just a moment before, had
ratified an agreement to dynamite the Dodd political throne.
If some seer had risen beside his chariot to predict disaster the
colonel would have shriveled him with a contemptuous look. For the
Consolidated Water Company had that day been intrenched more firmly
than ever in its autocracy by a decision handed down from the Supreme
Court. A city had hired the best of lawyers and had fought desperately
for the right to have pure water. But the law, as expounded by the
judges, had held as inexorable the provision that no city or town in
the state could extend its debt limit above the legal five percent of
its valuation, no matter for what purpose. The city sought for some
avenue, some plan, some evasion, even, so that it might take over the
water system and give its people crystal water from the lakes instead
of the polluted river-water. The city pointed to typhoid cases, to
slothful torpor on the part of the water syndicate. But the court
could only, in the last analysis, point to the law--and that law in
regard to debt limit was rooted in the constitution of the state--and
a law fortified by the constitution is seldom dislodged.
Backed by law, bulwarked by political power, owning men and money-
bags, Colonel Dodd rode home with great serenity. He had even
forgotten his rather tempestuous half-hour with the Honorable Archer
Converse. As a matter of fact, gentlemen of the aristocracy of the
state who prided themselves on their ancestry were considered by
Colonel Dodd to be impracticable cranks; he despised the poor and
hated the proud--and called himself a self-made man. And Colonel Dodd
was firmly convinced that nobody could /unmake/ him.
He strolled among his flower-beds that evening.
Walker Farr sat in his narrow chamber and pored over interlined
manuscripts. At last he shook the papers above his head, not gaily,
but with grim bitterness.
"That plan will stand law, and no other lawyer ever thought of it!" he
cried, aloud. "You've got an iron clutch on those cities and towns,
Colonel Dodd, but I've got something that will pry your fingers
loose!" He threw the papers from him and set his face in his hands.
"And they ask me who I am and I can't tell them," he sobbed.
THE PROPHET WHO WAS UNDERRATED
The first sniffer to catch the trail of Walker Farr was the veteran,
Daniel Breed, an old political hound who always traveled with muffled
paws and nose close to the ground. But when he went to the meeting of
the state committee and the Big Boys with his news their reception of
him hinted that they suspected he was making up a political bugaboo in
order to get a job. He was even told that his services as field man
would not be needed in that campaign. And it may be imagined what
effect that news had on old Daniel Breed, who had been a trusted
pussy-footer and caucus manipulator for a quarter of a century.
"You don't mean to tell me that you're trying to slam me onto the
scrap-heap, do you?" he demanded. "I'll scrap before I'll be
"Look here, Dan, it's the colonel's orders," explained the chairman.
"It has been decided to play politics a little more smoothly. There is
too much jaw-gab going among the cranks. If there is any outside work
done at all it will be put over by new chaps who are not so well
advertised as you old bucks. We want to hide the machinery this year."
"That's a jobeefed nice thing to say to me, a man that would go up in
a balloon and troll for hen-hawks, asking no questions, provided the
state committee told me it would help in carrying a caucus."
"But we're taking care of the old boys all right, Dan. Vose is in the
pension-office; Ambrose and Sturdivant are in the adjutant-general's
office patching up the Civil War rolls, with orders to take their time
about it. And you'll be used well."
"I want to be in the field," insisted Breed, 'sipping' his lips
importantly. "Those fellows are old fuddy-duddies. I'm a natural
He was an interesting figure, this Honorable Daniel Breed. He was
entitled to the "Honorable." He had been a state senator from his
county. With his slow, side-wheel gait, head too little for his body,
nose like a beak, sunken mouth, cavernous eyes, and a light hat
perched on the back of his narrow head he suggested a languid, tame,
bald-headed eagle. And his voice was a dry, nasal, querulous squawk--a
sound more avian than human.
"I tell ye there's yeast a-stirring," he told the state committee.
"There's a fellow come up out of the Eleventh Ward in Marion that's
some punkins in organizing. He pretends to be a law student in Arch
Converse's law-office. He ain't a native. I don't know where he hails
from. He ain't a registered voter as yet. But he's a man who needs to
"Squire Converse isn't in politics, Dan. You're getting notional in
your old age," said the committeeman from Breed's county.
"But good gad! there ain't any statute to keep him out. Something has
happened to make him good and mad. Some of these fancy jumping-jacks
can make awful leaps when the box is opened, gents! Better take
warning from what I tell you!"
The committeemen exchanged smiles.
"We are going to steal a little of the kid-gloved chaps' thunder,"
explained the chairman. "They have been howling about machine politics
and interlocking interests and air-tight methods until the people are
growling about the close corporation they say we've got. So we're
going to show 'em a thing or two. Nothing like frankness and open
"Gor-ram it, you ain't even square with me--after I have worked
politics with you for twenty-five years!" He marched up to the table
and rapped his hard little knuckles on it. "It's this way, gents," he
said, "and I'll be short and sweet. What's the matter with politics
when a man like I've always been gets pi-oogled out of the councils?"
"We don't need workers like you any more," stated the chairman.
"But there's politics to play, just the same."
"But in a different way, Breed. There are the new ideas, and new men
can operate more efficiently. They won't attract attention."
"Old Maid Orne down in my town came into church late and crawled up
the aisle on her hands and knees so as not to attract attention. And
she broke up the meeting!"
"We've got to fall in with the new ways, Dan," said the attorney-
general. "These are touchy times. We must be careful of the party."
"I 'ain't never disgraced it, have I?"
"Uncle Dan, we want you to take a good, comfortable position and
settle down," affirmed Governor Alonzo Harwood, an unctuous, rubicund
gentleman who had been listening, smiling his everlasting smile.
"I prefer to hold myself in readiness for a call to the field,"
squalled Breed. "I'm better'n three of these young snydingles. They
don't know how to organize!"
"There isn't much chance for organizing," said a Congressman,
placatingly. "The primaries take care of themselves pretty well."
"Yes," sneered old Dan, "a fellow thinks well of himself, or else his
neighbors tell him he can save the nation, and he puts a piece in the
paper saying how good he is and sets pictures of himself up in store
winders like a cussed play-actor, keeps a cash account, and thinks
that's politics. I don't care if there ain't ever no more caucuses.
This thing ain't going to last. I want to keep in the field. I'll see
chances to heave trigs into the spokes of these hallelujah chariots
they're rolling to political glory in!"
The mighty ones exchanged glances--deprecating glances--apprehensive
"You don't think I'm dangerous, do you, after I've been in politics as
long as I have?"
"No, but we feel that the old war-horses are entitled to run to
pasture with their shoes off," coaxed the chairman.
"It seems to me more like tying me up to a stanchion in a stall. I
ain't ungrateful, gents. I know this younger element doesn't believe
in setting hens in politics any more. It's the incubator nowadays--
wholesale job of it. But, by dadder! my settings have always cracked
the shells, twelve to the dozen! Then you don't want me, eh?"
"That job in the state land-office--we thought it would just about fit
you," suggested the chairman.
"I'd just as soon be sent to state prison--solitary confinement. The
state hasn't got any land any more. It has all been peddled out to the
grabbers. I've messed and mingled with men all my life. Nobody ever
comes into the land-office. You ain't afraid of me to that extent, be
"What do you want?" asked the governor.
"Settled, is it, you don't want me in politics?"
"There isn't anything for you to do," declared his Excellency, and he
showed a little impatience, though his smile did not fade.
"Well, then make me state liberian," said old Dan, with an air of
There was deep and horrified silence.
"I'm developing literary instinks," explained Breed. "I've got a son
who owns a printing-office, and my granddaughter can take down
anything in shorthand and write it off. I'm going to write a book.
She'll take it down and he'll print it."
"I can't appoint you state librarian," said the governor, getting
control of his emotions. "It's already tied up, that appointment. Keep
it under your hat, but I have selected Reverend Doctor Fletcher, of
Cornish, and have notified him."
"Giving a plum like that to a parson who never controlled but one
vote, and that's his own--and then voted the way the deacon told him
to? I reckon it's about as you say--there are new times in politics.
All right! I'll go and climb a sumach-bush. You needn't bother about
any job for me, gents. I'll settle down to my literary work."
"What is the book?" asked the chairman.
"I have your word for it that the old days in politics have all gone
by," said Breed. "All the old things dead and buried! Very well.
That's going to make my book valuable and interesting. No harm in
putting it out in these times. I shall entitle it 'Breed's Handbook of
Political Deviltry.' I shall tell the story of how it was done when
politics was really politics."
"Going to tell all you know?" inquired the governor.
"Of course. Truth, and not poetry, will be my motto. And just for a
test of how popular it will be, I'd like to ask you gents how many of
you will subscribe for a volume?"
"I think this committee will take the whole edition," said the
"Look here, Dan," blurted the attorney-general, "you must be joking."
"I don't know what ever gave you the impression that I'm a humorist,"
returned Breed. "If there ain't going to be anything more like the old
times, then what's the matter with having the story of how it was
done? That book will sell like hot cakes. I'll go out and sell it--it
will give me a chance to keep on mixing and messing with men."
"Dan, if it wasn't you talking--knowing you well--I'd say this is a
piece of blackmail," declared the attorney-general. "Of course you
can't put out a book of that kind in this state."
Mr. Breed blinked angrily.
"I'll take all the cases of libel against you and won't charge my
clients a cent."
"Fill everybody else's little tin dipper, eh? Passing everybody else a
bottle and a rubber nipple! Everybody getting his, and me left out!
All right. If that's political gratitude in these new times, go on
with you medinkculum! And last year I snapped the six up-country
caucuses that gave you your plurality in joint convention!"
"We appreciate all your past services, Dan. If we didn't we wouldn't
be trying so hard to place you," said the governor. "We're taking care
of all the old boys. You mustn't embarrass us. In these days it's for
the good of the party to put in each office the man who is especially
fitted for it. We mustn't invite criticism. A librarian needs peculiar
"Well, old Jaquish was liberian, wasn't he? And he wouldn't even go
vote unless you went and dragged him to the polls by the scruff of his
neck. What did he ever do for the party? And look at old Tomdoozle as
"Jaquish was a bookman, and our state treasurer--but no matter. Now
listen! I'm going to put you at the head of a new department in the
State House where you won't be lonesome. More people will come there
than to the library. You'll have the title of curator."
"What's that?" asked Breed, suspiciously. "And what is the department,
"The museum of natural history in the fish-and-game rooms. We're going
to make it complete--mounted specimens of all our animals. You'll be
curator--you see, you will get a title that sounds well!"
"I'm of a restless and inquiring disposition, and my special forty is
politics," stated Breed, sulking. "I don't believe I'm going to relish
being ringmaster of a lot of stuffed animals, no matter what kind of a
title I get. How much pay goes with the job?"
"Fifteen hundred," said the governor.
"Well," sighed Breed, "it will give me a chance to be around the State
House during the session, and I'll take it. Then if I don't like it I
can resign after the legislature adjourns."
The Big Ones understood his frame of mind and overlooked his
"And so I'll bid you good day, gents," he said, and straddled out with
his hands under his coat-tails.
"So we've got /him/ side-tracked and out of mischief," averred the
governor. "That takes care of all of 'em, and I'm relieved. It isn't
stylish any more to come to town with a lot of old hounds trotting
under the tail of the political cart."
But before the end of that week the governor was obliged to call Uncle
Dan to a private conference in the Executive Chamber.
"You must remember that you're a state officer," warned his
Excellency. "You're a part of the administration. But you are out
talking politics all the time. I want you to stay in your department.
Just remember that you're curator of our museum."
"I don't like that blamed job," complained Breed. "I don't care what
my title is, it only means that I have to dust off that old stuffed
loon, keep moths out of that loosivee, and fleas or some kind of
insecks off'n that bull moose. It ain't no job for a politician. And
there's a steady stream through there asking me all kinds of questions
about animals. I don't know nothing about animals. I don't know
whether a live moose eats hay or chopped liver. Those questions keep
me all hestered up. It puts me in a wrong position before the public.
I can't tell 'em which or what, and they think I'm losing my mind."
"Post up! It will keep you busy. Get books out of the library and
read. Inform yourself and have a story for the folks!"
A few days later the chairman of the state committee had an indignant
report to make to the governor regarding Uncle Dan's natural-history
"He has turned that museum into a circus show, your Excellency. He has
named every one of those stuffed animals for somebody in politics he
doesn't like, and leads a snickering mob of sight-seers around the
room and lectures. When a state officer names a saucer-eyed Canadian
lynx for me and then folks come up from that basement and grin at me,
it's time a halt was called."
His Excellency called for Breed and called a halt, using forceful
"I resign," declared old Dan, nipping his little bunghole of a mouth
under the hook of his nose. "Those animals are getting onto my nerves.
The whole pack and caboodle are chasing me in a nightmare every time I
go to sleep. Their condemned glass eyes are boring me worse than
gimlets. I'm going on with that book of mine. I've got a new idea for
it. I'm going to put in pictures of animals and name 'em for those
tin-horn flukedubbles who could never get an office if it wasn't for
"Look here, Breed, you're an old man and you've done a lot of good
work in your day, and we're all trying to do something for you. But I
have pretty nigh reached the limit of my patience. Politics isn't what
it used to be. Different manners, different men. I'm the head of our
party and I command you to eliminate yourself. You go back to your
job, use common sense, and keep out of things! You are silly--you're
"You have taken me out of where I belong and have put me in where I
don't belong and now you're blaming me because I can't learn a lot of
new tricks at my age. I resign, I say!"
"If you give up that job you'll never get another one."
Uncle Dan put his hands under his coat-tails and marched out, his beak
in the air.
"The trouble is," he confided to old Sturdivant in the adjutant-
general's office, "this younger element that's coming along thinks men
like you and I have lost all our ability and influence. They're sally-
lavering all over us, telling us how they want us to have an easy job.
But it's all a damnation insult--that's what it amounts to."
"All I have to do is lap sticking-paper and gum up the places where
these rolls are torn," said old Sturdivant. "I'm perfectly contented."
"Then stay were you're put and swaller the insult," retorted Breed,
with disgust. "I thought you had more get-up-and-get. There's a
stuffed rabbit in that museum. He'll make a good chum for you in your
off hour. Go and sit down with him." He went over to old Ambrose's
desk. Ambrose was numbering dog's-eared pages with a rubber stamp and
would not admit that he had been insulted by the state committee.
"There's nobody got the right to ask me to stop being active and
influential in this state," insisted Breed. "They haven't taken my
pride into account. I ain't naturally a kicker. I've always obeyed
orders. If I've got to go out alone and show 'em that the old guard
can't be insulted, then I'll do it."
This time he took the trail of Walker Farr once more and followed that
energetic young man until he cornered him.
Farr harkened with interest to the story of the scrapping of the
Honorable Daniel Breed as related by that gentleman himself.
"And the moral of the tale is," added Mr. Breed, "when a gang does you
dirt turn around and plaster a few gobs onto the dirt-slingers. That
ain't the rule in religion, but it's the natural and correct policy in
politics. I have been hurt in my tender feelings. If them animals had
been alive and savage enough I would have taken 'em up to the state
committee-room and ste' boyed 'em onto the ungrateful cusses who have
tried to make my last days unhappy. I know every sore spot in this
state. You don't know 'em unless you have got second sight. I can take
you to every man who has got a political bruise on him. Good gad! I
have been poulticing those sore spots for twenty-five years. You need
a man like I am."
"I'll admit that I do need such a man. I am a stranger in the state.
But I'm going to be perfectly frank with you, Mr. Breed. How do I know
but you're a spy who wants to attach himself to me for the benefit of
"You don't know," returned Mr. Breed, serenely. "You have to take
chances in politics. I'm taking chances when I join in with you. Just
who are you and how do you happen to be mixed up in our politics?"
"I am mixing into politics because the men, women, and children are
being poisoned by the Consolidated water. That's platform enough,
"Well, I reckon it is, knowing what I know of general conditions. You
have got a pretty good head for politics, even if you ain't sincere on
the water question," said Breed, with a politician's ready suspicion
of motives. "You've got a come-all-ye hoorah there that will make
"As to my personality, that has nothing to do with the matter. I am
only an agent. Will you come with me and allow Mr. Converse to ask you
"Sure thing!" agreed the Honorable Daniel, with great heartiness. "In
politics the first thing to do before you get real busy is to have a
nice heart-to-heart talk with the gent who says 'How much?' and laps
his forefinger and begins to count. You understand, young man, that I
have been in politics a long time. And I ain't an animal-trainer--I'm
a field worker and I can earn my pay."
And inside of a week Walker Farr, who had been previously struggling
hard against lack of acquaintance in the state, found that Mr. Breed
had spoken the truth. The two made a team which excited the full
approval--the wondering admiration--of the Honorable Archer Converse.
Farr's power to control and interest men achieved astonishing results
with Daniel Breed's exact knowledge of persons and conditions.
But they were rather humble citizens. There was no fanfare about their
work. If Colonel Symonds Dodd knew anything at all about the fires
they were setting, he made no move to turn on the Consolidated hose.
THE STAR CHAMBER IN THE OLD NATIONAL
They did not come furtively, yet they came unobtrusively--these men
who drifted into the National Hotel in Marion that day.
At one side of the big rotunda of the National stood Walker Farr, his
keen gaze noting the men who came dribbling in, singly, by twos and
threes. They were not men of Marion city. A newspaper reporter,
happening in at the National, noted that fact. He stood for a time and
watched the filtering arrivals. There were some who were plainly men
of affairs, others were solid men who bore the stamp of the rural
sections. They went to the desk, wrote their names, and were shown up-
stairs by bellhops. Most of them, as they crossed the office, nodded
greeting to the tall young man who wore a frock coat and a broad-
brimmed hat and stood almost motionless at one side of the rotunda.
The National was state Mecca for all kinds of conventions. The
reporter studied his date-book. No convention was scheduled for that
day. He managed to get a peep at the hotel register. The men who had
been signing their names hailed from all portions of the state, but
the reporter did not find identities which suggested political
activities. It was plainly not a gathering of politicians--none of the
old war-horses were in evidence.
The reporter questioned a few of the arrivals, chasing beside them.
They all gave the same answer--they had come to Marion on business.
The reply was safe, succinct, and stopped further questions. The
reporter did venture to pick out a little man and inquire what kind of
business called him to Marion, and the little man informed him with
sarcasm that he was a baker from Banbury and had come down to purchase
The reporter thereupon dodged into the bar to escape the grins of some
of the office crew, and his haste was such that he nearly beat the
baize doors into the face of Richard Dodd, who was coming out.
"You're the first real politician I've seen in this bunch," affirmed
the reporter. "What's it all about?"
"What's what about?"
"This convention that's assembling here."
"I know nothing about it," stated Mr. Dodd, with dignity. "It's
nothing of a political nature, I can assure you of that."
The reporter noted that young Mr. Dodd's eyes were red and that his
step wavered, and that he exhaled the peculiar odor which emanates
from gentlemen who have been prolonging for some time what is known
vulgarly as a "toot." In fact, the reporter remembered then the rumor
in newspaper circles that the chief clerk of the state treasury had
been attending to stimulants instead of to business for almost two
"I assure you that I know all that's to be known about politics,"
insisted Mr. Dodd. "If there's a convention here, who's running it?"
They had returned from the bar into the main office.
"I don't know--can't find out. That tall fellow over there seems to
know everybody who had been coming in--all the bunch of outsiders. But
I never saw him before."
Mr. Dodd closed one eye in order to focus his attention on this
unknown across the office.
A deep glow of antipathy and distrust came into the eye which located
and identified Walker Farr.
Mr. Dodd cursed without using names, verbs, or information.
"Oh, you know him, do you?"
"No, I don't know him." Mr. Dodd hung to his vengeful secret doggedly.
He left the reporter and went and sat down in a chair and continued to
stare at Farr, who remained oblivious to this inspection.
The reporter went across the office. There seemed to be more or less
mystery about this man who had provoked all those curses from the
secretive chief clerk of the treasury.
"Can you give me any information about these men who are meeting here
"Meeting of the Independent Corn-Growers' Association." The reporter's
gaze was frankly skeptical, but Farr met it without a flicker of the
"I never heard of any such association."
"You have now, sir."
"Is it open to the newspapers?"
"Closed doors--absolutely private."
"Who'll give out the statement?"
Farr put his hand on the reporter's shoulder and gave him a smile.
"You see, it's to fight the packers' union and so we are not giving
away our ammunition to the enemy. Keep it quiet and when the thing
breaks I'll give you our side."
"All right, sir. If it's to be an exclusive for me I'll steer away the
other newspaper men. But do you know just why Richard Dodd--that man
over there--is damning you into shoe-strings?"
Even at that distance Farr's keen gaze detected the filmy eyes and the
"Perhaps it's because the Corn-Growers propose to put their corn into
johnny-bread instead of using it for whisky?"
The newspaper man, his suspicions dulled by Farr's radiant good nature
and wholesome frankness, went away about his business, but he halted
long enough beside Dodd's chair to repeat "the corn-grower's" joke
regarding the young man who had been glowering on him.
Dodd got up with as much alacrity as he could command and went across
to Farr. Sober, the nephew of Colonel Dodd had treated this person
with rather lofty contempt; drunk, he was not so finical in matters of
caste--and, besides, this man now wore the garb of a gentleman, and
young Mr. Dodd always placed much emphasis on clothes.
"Look here, my fellow, now that I have you where I don't need to
consider the presence of ladies, I want to ask you how you dared to
mess into my private business?"
Farr, towering above him, beamed down on him with tolerant
indifference and did not answer.
"That Lochinvar business may sound good in a poem, but it doesn't go
here in Marion--not when it's my business and my girl."
Dodd raised his voice. He seemed about to become a bit hysterical.
Farr set slow, gripping, commanding clutch about the young man's
"If your business with me can possibly be any talk about a lady," he
advised, "you'd better come along into the reading-room."
"It is about a lady," persisted Dodd when they had swung in behind a
newspaper-rack. The room was apparently empty. "You understand what
you came butting in upon, don't you?"
"I took it to be a rehearsal of a melodrama, crudely conceived and
very poorly played."
"Say, you use pretty big words for a low-lived iceman."
"State your business with me if you have any," Farr reminded him. "I
have something else to do besides swap talk with a drunken man--and
your breath is very offensive."
Dodd began to tap a finger on Farr's breast.
"I want you to understand that I've got a full line on you; you have
been chumming with a Canuck rack-tender, you deserted a woman, and she
committed suicide, and you took the brat--"
Farr's big hand released the elbow and set itself around Mr. Dodd's
neck. Thumb and forefinger bored under the jaw and Mr. Dodd's
epiglottis ceased vibrating.
"I don't like to assault a man, but talk doesn't seem to fit your case
and I can't stop long enough to talk, anyway. This choking is my
comment on your lies." He pushed Mr. Dodd relentlessly down into the
nearest chair and spanked his face slowly and deliberately with the
flat of his hand. "And this will indicate to you just how much I care
for your threats. You'll remember it longer than you will recollect
He finished and went away, leaving his victim getting his breath in
the chair. Dodd, peering under the rack, saw him hasten and join the
Honorable Archer Converse in the hotel lobby and they went up the
broad stairs together.
The chief clerk of the state treasury sat there and smoothed his
smarting face with trembling hands and worked his jaws to dislodge the
grinding ache in his neck. But the stinging, malevolent rancor within
him burned hotter and hotter. He started to get up out of the chair
and sat back again, much disturbed.
A man who had been hidden by an adjoining rack of newspapers was now
leaning forward, jutting his head past the ambuscade. He was an
elderly man with an up-cocked gray mustache, and there was a queer
little smile in his shrewd blue eyes. Dodd knew him; he was one
Mullaney, a state detective.
"What are you doing here--practicing your sneak work?" demanded the
young man. As a state official he did not entertain a high opinion of
the free-lance organization to which Mullaney belonged.
"I'm here reading a paper--supposed it's what the room is for,"
returned Detective Mullaney. "But excuse me--I'll get out. Room seems
to be reserved for prize-fighters."
"You keep your mouth shut about that--that insult."
"I never talk--it would hurt my business."
"I don't fight in a public place. I'm a gentleman. I want you to
remember what you saw, Mullaney! I'll get to that cheap bum in a way
he won't forget."
"Do you mind telling me who your friend is?" asked the detective.
Dodd shot him a sour side-glance and muttered profanity.
"I couldn't help wondering what particular kind of business you and he
could have, seeing how it was transacted," pursued the detective.
Dodd glowered at the floor. "Look here, Mullaney! There's a whole lot
about that man I want to know, if you can help me and keep your mouth
closed. I haven't got much confidence in the work you fellows do--they
tell me you can't detect mud on your own boots."
Mr. Mullaney pulled his chair out from behind the papers and leaned
back in it and crossed his hands over his stomach and smiled without a
trace of resentment.
"I might tell you something right now about that tall friend of yours
that would jump you, Mr. Dodd--I'm that much of a detective!"
"Tell me, then."
"Just as it stands it's guesswork--considerable guesswork."
"What does that amount to?"
"A great deal in my business. Take this city of one hundred thousand!
I'm the only man in it who is making guesswork about strangers his
special line of work. The rest of the citizens rub elbows with all
passers and don't give a hoot. There are a good many thousand men in
this country whom the law wants and whom the law can't find. That
fellow may be one of them, for all I know. I guess he is, for
instance. Then I make it my business to prove guesswork."
"You must be doing a devil of a rushing business!" sneered Dodd.
"I manage to make a good living. I don't talk about my business, for
if I should blow it I wouldn't have any. I say, I /guess/! Then I
spend my spare time hunting through my books of pointers. For ten
years I have read every newspaper I could get hold of. I come in here
and study papers from all over. Every crime that has been committed,
every man wanted, every chap who has got away, I write down all I can
find out about him. Then, if anything comes up to make me guess about
a man I begin to hunt my books through."
"Well, if I'm any good on a guess," snorted Dodd, "that renegade who
just insulted me is down in your books, somewhere. You'd better hunt."
"It's slow work and eats up time," sighed Mr. Mullaney.
Dodd looked at him for a time and then began to pull crumpled bills
from his waistcoat pocket. He straightened five ten-dollar bills,
creased them into a trough, and stuck the end toward the detective.
"Follow his trail back. I never heard of your book scheme before. Take
this money for a starter. If you can't find him in your books, pick
out half a dozen of the worst crimes any man can commit and hitch 'em
on to him somehow," urged Dodd, with fury. "Go after him. And when we
get him good and proper I want to do some gloating through the bars.
He's the first man who ever smacked my face for me--and I'll see that
he gets his."
He left Mr. Mullaney stowing the money away in a big wallet which was
stuffed with newspaper clippings. He hurried in to the bar, gulped
down a drink, and then went to the office desk and examined the hotel
register. Anger and zest for revenge were stimulating in him a lively
interest in that meeting which Farr seemed to be promoting. Mr. Dodd
did not care especially what kind of meeting it was. He had set forth
to camp on Walker Farr's trail and do him what hurt he could.
Dodd was a well-posted political worker. The names of the men were not
names especially prominent in state politics, but his suspicions were
stirred when he saw that all counties in the state were represented.
And no more were arriving. He decided that the conference must be in
Dodd avoided the elevator. He tramped up the broad stairs to the floor
above the office. The doors of the large parlor were closed. He turned
the knob cautiously; the doors were locked. He heard within the dull
mumble of many voices--men in conversation. It was evident that the
formal meeting, whatever it might be, had not begun its session. He
tiptoed away from the door and climbed another flight of stairs.
There were no nooks and corners of the old National Hotel which
Richard Dodd did not understand in all their intricacies. As his
uncle's political scout it had been his business to know them.
He hunted along the corridor until he found a maid.
"Is there anybody in Number 29?" he asked.
"Two of that new crowd that just came in have it, Mr. Dodd. But they
have gone down-stairs again."
He wadded a bill in his palm and jammed it into her hand. "Let me in
with your pass-key, that's a good girl. It's all right. I won't
disturb their stuff. I only want to listen. You understand! There's a
political game on. I want to get to that ventilator in the closet--you
"Oh, if it's only politics, Mr. Dodd!" she sniffed, with the scorn of
a girl who has seen many conventions come and go, knew the little
tricks, and had developed for the whole herd of politicians lofty
disdain; she knew them merely as loud-talking men who had little
consideration for hotel maids, men who littered their rooms with cigar
stubs and whisky-bottles. She started for the door, swinging the pass-
key on its cord. "If it's just politics, sure you can go in. Many a
buck I've let in to listen to their old palaver down in that parlor."
Dodd bolted the door behind him.
He felt entirely safe, for he understood that the rightful tenants of
that room were locked into the parlor below. He climbed upon a chair
in the closet and put his ear to the grating of the ventilator.
He heard only one man's voice. He recognized its crisp tones--it was
the Honorable Archer Converse.
"I repeat, gentlemen, that this interest of yours would amaze me if I
had not been prepared by reports from our agents who have been so well
captained by Mr. Walker Farr. Remember that this is simply a
conference, prior to organization. Every man of you is a chief in it.
Let us be calm, discreet, sensible, and silent.
"I'm not going over the details of the unrest in this state. The fact
that so many of you are present here from all sections is sufficient
commentary on that unrest. We understand perfectly well that a certain
clique of self-seekers has arrogated to itself supreme control of the
party. A party must be controlled, I admit. If that control were in
the hands of honest and patriotic men we would not be here today.
"I'm not going to bother you with details of what has been going on in
departments in our State House. The employees are the tools of the
ring and they have misused their power. I'm afraid of what may be
uncovered there when the house-cleaning begins. But the honor of our
party demands such a house-cleaning."
Richard Dodd's hands trembled as he clung to the ventilator bars.
"However, we are faced by something in the way of an issue that's
bigger than graft."
Now his earnestness impressed more than ever the listener at the
"Gentlemen, to a certain extent graft is bound to be fostered and
protected by any party; but when a party is used to protect and
aggrandize those who monopolize the people's franchise rights it's
time for the honest men in that party to be /men/ instead of
partisans. Don't you allow those monopolists to hold you in line by
whining about party loyalty. And don't let them whip you into line by
their threats, either. I refuse, for one, as much as I love my party,
to have its tag tied into my ear if that tag isn't clean!"
The assemblage applauded that sentiment.
"I'm going to call names, gentlemen. Colonel Symonds Dodd has this
state by its throat. With Colonel Dodd stand all the financial
interests--the railroads, the corporations, even the savings-banks. He
is intrenched behind that law which limits the indebtedness of our
cities and towns. Municipalities cannot own their own plants under
present conditions. Those men are even using the people's own money
against them! They scare depositors by threats of financial havoc if
present conditions and the big interest are bothered by any
"I must warn you, gentlemen, that it's a long and difficult road ahead
of us. But we must start. I have not intended to discourage you by
stating the obstacles to be overcome.
"I have explained them so that, if we make slow progress at first, we
shall not be discouraged.
"We will organize prevailing unrest and the innate honesty in this
state. We will establish a branch of the Square Deal Club in every
town and city. It must be done carefully, conservatively, and as
secretly as possible." The lawyer's cautious fear of too much haste
now displayed itself. "The most we can hope to do is send to the state
convention some men who will leaven that lump of ring politics. Party
usage and tradition are so strong that we must renominate Governor
Harwood, I suppose, for a complimentary second term."
"I think we can do better," cried a voice.
"Possibly," returned Mr. Converse, dryly, "but we must do that
'better' carefully and slowly. In politics, gentlemen, we cannot
transform the ogre into the saint merely by waving the magic wand and
expecting the charm to operate instantly. Possibly we can control the
next legislature. I do not know just what legislation we may be able
to devise and pass, but I hope for inspiration.
"I will say now that I am with you. My purse is open. Command my
services for all questions of law. I will establish myself at the
capital for the legislative session.
"But there is one thing I will not do under any circumstances--I will
not accept political office."
"You bet you won't," muttered young Dodd, at the grating. "You
wouldn't be elected a pound-keeper in the town of Bean Center."
But if Mr. Dodd could have seen through that grating as well as hear
he would have been greatly interested just then in the expression on
the face of Walker Farr. The face was not exactly the face of a
prophet, but it had a large amount of resolution written over it.
"I don't want to be the first one to throw any cold water on our
prospects," declared a voice, after Mr. Converse had announced that
the meeting was open for general discussion; "it really does seem to
me that we stand a good show of getting control of the next
legislature. But after we do get control what prospect is there of
passing any legislation that will help us? Wherever there is a water
system in this state the municipality has been so loaded down with
debts our machine politics have plastered into it that the legal debt
limit has been reached. The only way this water question can be
cleared up is by taking the systems away from those monopolists--
making them the property of towns and cities. But if towns and cities
can't borrow any more money, just how is this to be done? Mr. Converse
hasn't told us! We can clean up politics, perhaps, but it seems to me
that we'll never be able to clean up the dirtiest and most dangerous
On the silence that followed broke a voice which made Dodd, his ear to
the grating, grate his teeth. His hatred recognized this speaker. It
was Walker Farr.
"I apologize for venturing to speak in this meeting," he said. "But if
that gentleman's question isn't answered here and now in some way I'm
afraid men will go away discouraged. I have heard the same question,
Mr. Converse, as I have traveled about the state lately. I have
thought about this matter constantly, in my poor fashion. And because
I went into that job of pondering with an open mind is the reason,
perhaps, why a strange idea has come to me. You know they say that
strange notions are born out of ignorance. The better way would have
been, possibly, to submit the plan first of all to your legal mind,
Mr. Converse. I will keep silence now and confer with you, sir, if you
think best." His tone was wistful.
"Talk it out in open meeting," cried the cordial voice of Mr.
Converse. "Free speech and all of us taken into confidence--that's the
spirit of this movement of ours!"
"Has it ever occurred to anybody to form a new municipality for water
purposes only? I have studied your state constitution, and the
language in which the debt limit of five percent is provided I find
applies strictly to towns and cities. Suppose the citizens of Marion,
together with the adjoining towns of Weston and Turner, all of them
now served by the Consolidated, should unite simply as individuals for
the common purpose of owning and operating their own water-plant--
form, say a water district?"
"An independent body politic and corporate?" It was Converse's voice
and it betrayed quick interest and some astonishment.
"I suppose that would be the legal name, sir. Wouldn't it be possible
to organize such a combination of the people, distinct from other
municipal responsibilities? Then if we can elect the right men to our
legislature we can go to the State House and ask for some legislation
that will enable us to take over systems by the right of eminent
domain, provide a plan of fair appraisal, give us a law which will
make water-district bonds a legal investment for savings-banks. In
short, gentlemen, I repeat, this plan is nothing more than an
organization of the desired territory and people into a new, distinct,
and separate municipality for water purposes only, leaving all other
forms of municipal government to pursue their accustomed functions
precisely as though the district had not been organized. That's the
idea as best I can state it in few words."
There was a long period of silence.
Dodd, listening to the mutterings of a revolt which threatened the
whole political fabric which protected him, his interest clearing his
brain of the liquor fog, could imagine the scene below. That
assemblage was staring wide-eyed at Archer Converse, the law's best-
grounded man in the state.
"It is very modest to call that suggestion an idea," stated Mr.
Converse, at last. "Mr. Farr, if I can find the necessary law in our
statutes to back it up, it's an inspiration."
There was the ring of conviction in his tones.
Mr. Dodd left the grating and escaped from the hotel.
He fairly cantered to headquarters in the First National block; he
felt a politician's frightened conviction that he had something mighty
important to tell his uncle.
A GIRL AND A MATTER OF HONOR
It had been a protracted session.
Judge Ambrose Warren, corporation counsel for the Consolidated, leaned
back in his chair and gazed at the ceiling over the peak of the
skeleton structure he had erected in front of his nose with his
Colonel Dodd squinted first at his nephew and then at the bouquet on
The nephew had been attempting by all the methods known to the
appealing male to win only one return glance from Kate Kilgour; but
the young lady held her eyes on her note-book, poised her pencil above
the page, and waited for more of that conversation and statement of
which she had been the silent recorder.
"You think you have given us all the main points of what you
overheard, do you, Mr. Dodd?" inquired the judge, turning sharp gaze
on the young man.
"I can't remember any more."
"You think you recognized voices sufficiently well to be sure that
this person named Farr made that novel suggestion in regard to what
was called a 'water district'?"
"There was no mistaking his voice," said Dodd, with the malevolence of
Another prolonged silence. Then the judge asked, his eyes again on the
ceiling, "Just who is this Walker Farr?"
Richard Dodd, keeping jealous espionage on all the girl's emotions and
movements saw a flush suffuse her cheeks; her hands trembled. She
raised her eyes in a quick glance and he detected eager inquiry.
"I don't know who he is," growled the colonel.
"You'd better find out," advised the corporation counsel.
"Of course this thing has been put up to me very suddenly. I can give
you only a snap judgment. But that scheme has possibilities."
"As a lawyer you don't mean to tell me that a crazy idea like that can
be put through in this state against the combination we control?"
"It will not be a case of combination and money and politics, Colonel,
when it gets to the high court. It will be /law/. And I'm sorry you
can't tell me any more about the man who has devised the plan. I'd
like to know how he dug it out."
"But a gang of pirates can't organize like that and confiscate our
property! We're going to tap the lakes. We're going ahead right away.
But can that fool's scheme scoop in the Consolidated Water Company?"
"That's to be found out. I am going to tell you now that I believe an
organization of citizens into an independent water district can be
made legally and be independent of other debts. Colonel Dodd, if that
opposition gets control of the next legislature you can depend upon it
that the necessary legislation will be passed. We may as well look
facts in the face: they're getting mighty restive in this state; the
people have been penned in by the Machine very effectually to date--
but show 'em a place now where they can jump the fence and they're
going to do it."
"But what's the good of paying you twenty-five thousand dollars a year
for law if you can't keep the bars up?" The tone was that of the
"You'll please remember that this thing is likely to go to the United
States court. When you go in there you've got to leave your side-arms
of politics--pull and pocket-book--at the door. I will say this: the
Federal Constitution guarantees protection against any irregular,
illegal, or confiscatory action under state authority. That is, no
states shall pass any law impairing the obligation of contracts nor
shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property
without due process of law nor deny to any person within its
jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. Now, of course, a
corporation is a person in the meaning of the law, and therefore we
can carry the matter to the United States Supreme Court, but I want to
tell you that if the next legislature enacts law permitting water
districts, and the state authorities proceed to condemn your plants,
you may as well get ready to step out from under. You are a shrewd man
and you understand the spirit of these times in regard to giving to
the people their full rights in public utilities. I say again, you'd
better get a line on this Walker Farr, because it's either a case of
ignorance inspired or else he's a deep one. He has started with a plan
that can be defended by law--and the judges in these days are handing
the people's rights and property back to them when there is a legal
"Why, this Farr is a nothing--nobody. Dug in our trenches for a while
until he was discharged. Briggs looked him up for me. The only man in
this city he has been at all intimate with is an old Canuck named
Provancher who tends the rack down at Gamonic Mill. You can judge him
by the company he keeps."
"Well, he seems to be fraternizing with better men just now," drawled
the judge. "Archer Converse, for instance!"
"The thing to do," suggested young Dodd, still watching the girl, "is
get something on that hobo and boot him out of town or put him in
jail. It ought to be easy enough."
"And it will be attended to," declared the colonel, with venom. "We'll
kill that one crow and hang him up in full view of the rest of those
croakers! I'll put something over on that fellow and have all the
papers in the state print it--and high-and-mighty Converse will be so
disgusted that he'll quit and the rest of the crowd will be ashamed to
keep on. Disgrace a reformer! That's the surest play in politics! We
must get Farr!"
He turned his scowling gaze away from the flowers and found Miss
Kilgour looking at him with an expression in her eyes he had never
seen there before. Reproach and scorn seemed to mingle in the stare
she gave him. He blinked, and when he looked again she was examining
the point of her pencil; he decided that his eyesight had played him a
"By the way, Miss Kilgour," he informed her, "you need not remain.
Make two typewritten copies--the judge will need one."
Richard Dodd arose when she left her chair, but she did not glance at
him. He began to speak before she had reached the door, unable to
restrain his jealous temper longer.
"Uncle Symonds, pass the word to that old Provancher, through the
superintendent of the Gamonic, that unless he comes across with all
the stuff he knows about that Farr he'll be fired. And I've got a
hunter out on my own account. It will be easy enough to catch the
skunk and strip off his pelt."
Miss Kilgour closed the door behind her with a sharper click than she
had ever given its latch before. She hurried to her typewriter in her
little room and began to work with all her energy.
She was so busy and her machine clattered so viciously that she did
not hear Richard Dodd when he entered. He leaned over her.
"Have you talked with your mother yet? Has she given you some advice?"
he asked. His jealousy still fired him and his tone was not
The contempt in the glance she flung upward at him roused him to
passion. In the state of mind in which he then was he made no
allowances for her ignorance of conditions in her mother's case. He
knew what he had done for Mrs. Kilgour's sake, and this attitude on
the daughter's part pricked him like wilful ingratitude.
He put his hands on the keyboard of the typewriter and stopped her
work. "I love you, Kate, and you have known it for a long time. I
tried to show you how much I loved you. I know I did a foolish thing.
But I loved you." He almost sobbed the protestation. "I've been in
hell's torment since it happened. I've been a fool all the way
through, but I won't be a fool any more if you'll take pity on me."
She did not speak. Her silent, utter contempt stung more deeply and
surely than words.
"If you insist on being so high above, I'm going to bring you down a
little," he sneered. "I hate to do it, but you've got to be shown
where your real friends are. I have given your mother a chance to say
something to you, and say it right. But she hasn't done it, and I
don't propose to be made the goat." In his anger he was not choice in
his language. "You go home and ask her whether or not she owes me five
thousand dollars. Oh, you needn't open your eyes at me in that style!
It's time we all got down to cases in this thing, Kate. I've waited
for her long enough. She has simply fluffed me along. Now she has got
to do her part."
"Have you lost your mind?" she demanded.
"No! But I lost five thousand dollars when I loaned it to your mother.
Kate, she told me she had a stock deal on--that she would be able to
pay it back. Listen! I may as well go the limit with you. I took money
that wasn't mine so that I could help your mother out--it was because
I loved you. Now you realize how much I have loved you. I protected
your mother. And now, by the gods, if you and she don't come to the
scratch in this thing and do right by me I'll show up why she had to
be protected, and after that you'll never draw a happy breath again in
your life. I advised you to talk with your mother once before. This
time you'd better to it."
She leaned back in her chair, white and trembling, for his tones
"I have hated to open this thing up, Kate. I have waited a long time,
hoping you'd understand that I would make a good husband--that I
deserved to have you. I'm only speaking out now so that you'll wake
up. You've got to stand by the man who has stood by you. Go talk with
After he had hurried out she went back to her work, but her fingers
could only fumble at the keys. By effort of will persons of strong
character can compose themselves after disaster has been confirmed;
but impending disaster that is hinted at--guessed at--is a menace
which paralyzes. She was endeavoring to write down what Richard Dodd
had revealed of the plans of Walker Farr. She understood that the
mighty power of the state machine was now doubling its fist over the
head of the stranger who had come into her life in such peculiar
fashion. At the same moment she was cowering under the threat of
something she did not fully understand.
And from the Dodds--uncle and nephew--came the menace which loomed
over both of them.
Then to her came Peter Briggs, who had been summoned to a conference
in the inner office; by direction of his chief he had been reading to
Judge Warren certain entries penciled in the note-book which he
guarded with the elastic band.
"The governor wants you to add these items to the record, so that the
judge can have a copy," said Mr. Briggs to the confidential secretary.
"The subject isn't a very genteel one, Miss Kilgour, but orders are
orders, and you'll have to excuse me."
And Mr. Briggs kept snapping the elastic band nervously while he
dictated, carefully looking away from the young woman.
In such manner Kate Kilgour learned of the existence of Zelie Dionne
and of the child whom Walker Farr had protected; Mr. Briggs's zeal in
the interest of his employer had made him a partisan in that affair,
with easy conscience regarding the matter of the details. The bald
record showed that Farr and the girl had cared for the child between
them, had nursed it with grief and solicitude, had borne it to the
plot of land where the little graves were crowded so closely. Mr.
Briggs complacently avoided dates and age and the minuter details. He
even pleaded the case, having caught a cue from Colonel Dodd; his
record left the impression that Walker Farr, who had come from
nowhere--nobody knew when--had lived in Marion unknown and unnoticed
at the time when he had compassed the ruin of a confiding girl.
"A scalawag, and a bad one!" commented Mr. Briggs, closing his note-
book. "And of course there's worse to come! Posing as a reformer--
that's the way such renegades work the thing. A new game for every new
And Kate Kilgour, remembering the vagrant on the broad highway, wrote
down the arraignment of this person, trying to understand her
Her own eyes had seen him garbed as a tramp, plainly a homeless nomad.
Her ears had just listened to the story of his shame.
But after a time, in spite of what she had seen and heard, that
strange instinct which dominates the feminine mind in spite of what
the mere senses affirm took possession of her.
She had known from the first that Richard Dodd's garments, his
attitude, his professions, his position did not make him what her
woman's heart desired.
But, somehow, this other man, no matter what he seemed to be from
outward appearance, stood forth for her from all the world. At times,
in her ponderings, she had disgustedly termed her mood regarding him
pure lunacy. Then she gave rein to the domination of her intuition;
the man was not what he seemed to be!
She determined to put him out of her thoughts for ever.
Just then, however, writing out the story of his turpitude, she must
needs have him in her mind.
She wondered whether he were honest in his attempts to help the poor
She had believed that he was when he had faced Colonel Dodd.
She determined that she would make some investigation of her own in
regard to the mysterious person who had taken such possession of her
thoughts since she had met him in the highway--whose personality had
so pricked her curiosity. She comforted herself by calling her
interest mere curiosity. That was it! If this man were what they
claimed he was she might help in revealing him as an enemy of the poor
And then to her came another thought.
She looked around the offices where she worked and bitter lines were
etched in her forehead and about her mouth.
The place had become hateful. She was conscious of a passionate desire
to be free from the atmosphere of that central web of the Great
She bent over her work and hurried.
What was the shadow over her home?
She realized that she was not thinking clearly in the matter. She knew
that impulse was driving her. But it was impulse which was
uncontrollable. For a long time she had understood the sinister
influence which had radiated from that office in the First National
block. But it had been rather the impersonal influence of partisan
politics and she had had little knowledge of the persons concerned.
But, now that the situation had been so sharply pointed by recent
happenings, she understood better what had gone on in the past.
This stranger, whoever he was, seemed to be fighting for the good of
the people. She had heard him declare his principles boldly; she knew
the selfishness of the men who opposed him. She resolved to know more.
It was close upon six o'clock when she finished the transcription.
She had given much thought to her own affairs while she had been
working. And now she allowed impulse to dominate. She resolved to
leave that employment which brought her into contact with Richard Dodd
and where her duties required her to prepare material for the ruin of
a man who seemed to be doing an unselfish duty, no matter what they
said. She did not try to analyze that quixotic impulse; she merely
She tied up the packet of manuscript, addressed it to Colonel Dodd,
and slipped under the string a sealed note. In that note she resigned
her position, stating that a matter of personal honor demanded that
she leave instantly. She did not qualify that statement by any
explanation. But she knew in her own heart just what it meant. For
when she left the office she did not hasten straight home as her
anxious fears prompted her; she made a detour around by Gamonic Mill
in search of one Provancher, who, she had learned, tended the rack of
The thought that dominated all other thoughts and comforted her was
the reflection that she was no longer the confidential secretary of
Colonel Symonds Dodd, and that now she might obey certain promptings
of both curiosity and conscience.
The rumble of the big turbines was stilled when she came to the fence
which surrounded the rack, and old Etienne was starting away with rake
and pike-pole. But when she called he came to her--wondering, much
abashed, for she was by far the prettiest lady he had ever seen.
"Are you the friend of Mr. Walker Farr?" she asked, and she was even
more embarrassed than he.
"I am too poor mans to be call a friend, ma'm'selle. I can just say
that he is grand mans that I love."
"Then you are the one to give him this message. Tell him that men who
are fighting him in politics intend to do him great harm and that he
must be very careful. Tell him that he will understand who these men
"/Oui/, ma'm'selle. But will he understand who tell me that thing?"
Her cheeks were crimson. "No, no! He mustn't know that."
"Then he will tell me, 'Poh, old Etienne, you know nottings what you
talk about.' He is very bold mans, and he not scare very easy."
"But he must be cautious, for these men have power. He need not be
afraid of them, but he must watch carefully. You tell him that they
want to make out bad things about him so that they can print them in
the papers and hurt the cause he is working for. Can you remember?"
"/Oui/, ma'm'selle! I never forget anything what may be for his good.
I will tell him."
She hesitated for a long time and stared wistfully at the old man. She
started to go away and then returned to the fence, plainly mustering
"Do you know whether there is anything--about him--which wicked men
can use to hurt him?" she stammered.
"I only know about him what I know, ma'm'selle," he replied, with a
gentle smile nestling in the wrinkles of his withered face.
"Could you tell me some of the things you know?" she asked, after much
effort, striving to make her voice calmly inquiring.
Old Etienne set the rake and the pike-pole against the fence. "I will
be quick in what I tell you, ma'm'selle, for I have no place to ask
you to take the seat. But I'm sure you will listen very well to this
what I say."
And he told her the story of Rosemarie.
But he did not go back as far as the pitiful figure on the canal bank,
he made no mention of the water-soaked wad of paper which bore a
mother's appeal to the world, he did not mention the key to Block Ten.
He told the story of Walker Farr's devotion to a child. He did not
dare to reveal to this stranger the identity of that child, because
the telltale letter had been hidden from the coroner, and old Etienne
stood in awe of the curt and domineering men who enforced the laws.
But with simple earnestness and in halting speech he revealed the
tenderness of Farr's nature and gave further testimony to her woman's
understanding that this man who had come into her life possessed
depths which she longed to probe.
"But the child!" she ventured, after Etienne had finished the story of
how the two of them, voices in the wilderness of careless greed, had
faced the masters of the city in the /hotel de ville/; "it seems
strange that a man--that anybody should take a child and--" She
"/Oui/, ma'm'selle, it seemed strange," agreed the old man, studying
her with sharp glance of suspicion--a gaze so strange that she shifted
her eyes uneasily.
Ah, Etienne told himself, the law sometimes sent queer emissaries to
probe for it--and he feared the law very much.
He must be very careful how he told any of the secrets which might
trouble his good friend, who was now such a friend of the mighty
folks; as for himself--well, he would willingly be a martyr if the law
demanded--but he did fear that law!
"But he loved the child very much," she hinted.
"So much that he will fight them because they have poisoned her--he
will fight them and not be scare."
"It is strange!" she repeated.
"/Oui/, ma'm'selle," he said, regarding her with still more suspicion.
"But before that morning--when you found them here under the tree! He
"He walk the street with her in his arm. I don't tell you some more
about dat t'ing what I do not know!"
But she knew that he was withholding something from her. She mustered
"Mr. Provancher, the bad men are making threats that they will print
stories about the child--and its mamma--to hurt your friend. And the
stories will make the mamma very sad."
"No stories can make her sad," said old Etienne, solemnly. But he did
not say that he had raked the mother from the canal. The law must not
"But I have heard about her," she insisted.
The old man's mouth trembled; he was frightened. "What you hear?" he
"Only good things. That she was very tender and went with you to the
"/Oui/," admitted Etienne, visibly relieved and grasping at this
opportunity. "She's sweet and good. She's play-mamma."
"And her name is Zelie Dionne?" she asked, her face growing white in
"/Oui/, ma'm'selle--she live across in the little house where there
are plant in the window--she live with the good Mother Maillet what I
told you about." He pointed to the cottage. "You go some time and talk
with her--but not now," he added, his fears flaming. He was anxious to
be the first to talk to Zelie Dionne, in order that she might help him
to protect their friend. "You shall talk with her--soon--p'raps. I
will tell her so that she will not be afraid. Yes, you shall hear the
play-mamma say good things of poor Rosemarie."
She bowed and hurried away.
And before her tear-wet eyes the words "play-mamma" danced in letters
of fire. It seemed to be only another sordid story.
But she remembered the face of Walker Farr, and in her heart she
wondered why she still refused to condemn him.
THE DRIVEN BARGAIN
The Honorable Daniel Breed, "sipping" his thin lips and propping his
coat-tails on his gaunt fingers, patrolled the lobby of the National
Hotel and his complacency was not a whit disturbed when Richard Dodd
passed in front of him and sneered in his face.
"Keep on practising making up faces," advised the old man, amiably.
"Perhaps in the course of time your uncle will give you a job making
up faces as his understudy, seeing that his physog is getting so tough
he can't manage it very well these days."
Young Dodd whirled on his heel and returned. "We've got a line on you
and your amateur angels, Breed."
"Don't consider me an amateur, do you?" asked the old politician,
smacking his lips complacently.
"You're a has-been."
"Sure thing!" agreed Mr. Breed. "The state committee told me so, and
the state committee never made a mistake."
"We've got so much of a line on your crowd that my uncle has called
off the organizers. There's no need of our wasting money in this
campaign. You're that!" He clacked a finger smartly into his palm.
"Oh yes! You're right! Some snap to us."
"I mean you're nothing."
"Run in and take another drink, sonny," advised Breed, giving slow
cant of his head to denote the baize door through which Dodd had
emerged. "What you have had up to date seems to be making you
optimistic--and there's nothing like being optimistic in politics. I'm
always optimistic--but naturally so. Don't need torching!"
"Look here, Breed, we've got enough dope on that ex-hobo who is doing
your errand-boy work--we know enough about him to kill your whole
sorehead proposition. But I don't believe my uncle will even use it.
No need of it."
"Probably not," said Mr. Breed, without resentment. "And I wouldn't if
I were he."
"We won't descend to it. Now that we have got rid of a lot of old
battle-axes of politicians--and I'm calling no names--we can conduct a
campaign with dignity."
"So do! So do! And it will save a lot of trouble, son; that's why the
newspapers wouldn't print that stuff about Mr. Farr after your uncle
got it ready. Libel cases make a lot of trouble."
Dodd grew red and scowled. "Look here, Breed, you're licked before the
start, and as a good politician you know you are. My uncle wants you
to drop in and see him. He told me to tell you so. This is no official
order, you understand. Just drop in informally, and he'll probably
have something interesting to say to you."
"I'm terribly rushed up--shall be till after convention," averred Mr.
Breed, piercing the end of a cigar with a peg he had whittled from a
"What's the good of your being a fool any longer?"
"Always have been, so I've found out from that state committee who
never told a lie--and it's comfortable to keep on being one," he said,
with great serenity.
"You don't think for a minute that you are going to get control of the
next legislature, do you?"
"How much money have you got--your own money, I mean?" inquired Mr.
Breed, guilelessly, his eyes centered carefully on the lighted tip of
"Say--you--you-- What do you mean by that?" rasped Dodd, putting the
cracker of a good round oath on the question.
"I meant that I wanted to bet something--and I wouldn't want you to go
out and borrow money--or--or--anything else." From the cavernous
depths where his eyes were set Mr. Breed turned a slow and solemn
stare on the enraged chief clerk of the state treasury.
"What do you want to bet?"
"Any amount in reason that after the first of next January there'll be
a fresh deal in the way of state officers in every department in the
Capitol. Arguing futures don't get you anywhere, son. If you've got
money to back that opinion you just gave me it will express your
notions without any more talk. But don't go borrow--or--or anything
Dodd stared at the shrewd old political manipulator for a long time.
"You have money to bet, have you?" he asked.
Mr. Breed languidly drew forth a wallet which would make a valise for
some men and carelessly displayed a thick packet of bills.
"There it is," he said, "and I earned it myself and so I ain't poking
it down any rat-hole without being condemned sure that I'll be able to
pull it all back again with just as much more sticking to it. That
wouldn't be sooavable--and from what you know of me I'm always
Dodd looked at the bills, carefully straightened in their packet, and
giving every evidence of having been hoarded with an old man's
There was something about that money which impressed him with the
sincerity of Mr. Breed's belief in his own cause. The young man grew
visibly white around the mouth.
"I'll see you later, Breed," he gulped. "I don't believe you know what
you are talking about--but I'm not national bank on legs. I'll be
around and cover your cash."
He went back into the bar, swallowed a glass of whisky, and went out
and hailed a cab. He directed the driver to carry him to the Trelawny
Mrs. Kilgour admitted him to the vestibule of the suite.
"Is Kate at home?" he demanded.
"Yes, Richard!" She shrank away from him, for his aspect was not
reassuring. "You know--she has given up her work--she is--"
"I know all about it, Mrs. Kilgour. But I want to ask you whether she
has given up her work in order to marry me at once?"
"Why, I-- She said-- I think it will come about all right, Dicky." She
was pitifully unnerved.
"Have you told her why she must marry me?"
"It is not time to tell her--it is not right--I can't--"
He seized her arm and pulled her into the sitting-room. The daughter
rose and faced them, reproof and astonishment mingling in her
"This thing is going to be settled here and now," said the lover,
roughly. "There is going to be no more fooling. Has your mother put
this matter up to you so that you understand it, Kate?"
"She has told me that she owes you five thousand dollars," returned
the girl. Her eyes flashed her contempt. "You told me that yourself. I
repeated the statement to her and she admits it."
"But did she tell you how it happens that she owes me that money?"
"For God's sake, Richard, have some pity! This is my own daughter. I
will sell everything. I will slave. I will pay you. Kate, for my sake
--for your own sake, tell him that you will marry him."
"I will not marry this man," declared the girl. "It has been a mistake
from the beginning. As to your business with him, mother, that is not
my affair. You must settle it."
"You belong in the settlement," declared Dodd. "Hold on! Don't leave
this room, Kate."
He reached out his hands to intercept her, and Mrs. Kilgour, released,
fell upon the floor and began to grovel and cry entreaties.
But his raucous tones overrode her appeals.
"We're all together in this. I am five thousand dollars shy in the
state treasury, Kate. I took that money and loaned it to your mother
when she begged me to save her stocks. But she didn't have any
Mrs. Kilgour grasped his knees and shook him. But he kept on.
"She had embezzled from Dalton & Company. What I did saved her from
prison and you from disgrace, Kate. And now I am in the hole! Listen
here! There's hell to pay in this state just now! The soreheads are
banding together. A man has just offered to bet me big money that
there's going to be an overturn in the State House departments. I
don't know whether it will happen--but you can understand what kind of
torment I'm in. Kate, are you going to let me stand this thing all
The girl stood silent and motionless in the middle of the room.
She did not weep or faint. Her face displayed no emotion. It was as
white as marble.
"Do you want to drag my daughter down with you?" cried Mrs. Kilgour.
"You'd better not talk about dragging down," he shouted, passionately.
"I didn't steal for myself. Give me your love, Kate! Give me yourself
to encourage me, and I'll get out of the scrape somehow. I'll find
ways. But if you don't come with me I won't have the courage or the
desire to fight my way through. I'll not disgrace you if you marry me
--I swear I will not! With you to protect from everything I'll make
good. Symonds Dodd is my uncle. He won't see the family name pulled
in. But you must marry me!"
"And if I do not?" she asked.
"We'll all go to damnation together. I don't care! I'll blow it all. I
won't be disgraced alone because of something I did for your mother. I
may sound like a cur. I don't care, I say! I'm going to have you, and
I don't care how I get you!"
"We need not be so dramatic," said the girl. Some wonderful influence
seemed to be controlling her. "Mother, stop your noise and go and sit
in that chair. You demand, do you, Mr. Dodd, that to save my mother
from exposure as a woman who has stolen, I must be your wife?"
"Do you really want a wife who has been won in that fashion?"
"I want you."
"You realize, fully, don't you, the spirit in which I shall marry
"We'll take care of that matter after we are married, Kate. You have
liked me. You will care for me more when you come to your senses in
"You remember what my father did in the way of sacrifice, I suppose?
It was no secret in this state."
"Yes," he muttered, abashed under her steady gaze.
"I am like my father in many ways--in many of my thoughts. Perhaps if
he had not set me such an example in the way of sacrifice I should say
something else to you, Mr. Dodd. But as the matter stands between us,
considering the demand you make on me, I will marry you."
The concession was flung at him so suddenly--he had expected so much
more of rebellion--that he staggered where he stood. He advanced
toward her. But she waved him back.
"Sit down!" she commanded. "This matter has gone far outside romance.
It has become one of business. It is a matter of barter. I have had
some experience in business. You say that mother owes you five
thousand dollars which you took from the state treasury?"
"And your books will be examined very carefully, of course, if there
is an overturn in your office?"
"Yes. It won't be any mere legislative auditing."
"I know something about politics as well as about business, Mr. Dodd.
I cannot very well help knowing, after my experience in your uncle's
office. I suppose the next state convention will determine pretty
effectually whether there will be an overturn or not?"
"If we renominate Harwood it ought to give us a good line on the
control of the next legislature," he told her. "A hobo and a goody-
goody," he added, with scorn, "think they have stirred up a
revolution, but they have another think coming." He had been calmed by
her outwardly matter-of-fact acceptance of the situation. But he did
not perceive the fires of her soul gleaming deep in her eyes.
"If Governor Harwood is renominated and the next legislature is in the
hands of your uncle, as usual, you will be sure to remain in your
"And you can hide the discrepancy on your books from the auditing
"I am pretty sure I can."
"You appreciate fully, don't you, Mr. Dodd, why, after all my troubles
in this life up till now, I should hesitate to marry a man with state
prison hanging over him?"
"If Governor Harwood is not renominated I shall expect you to defer
our marriage until you can work out of your difficulties. There will
be danger and it is not in the bargain of my sacrifice that I shall
pass through such disgrace with you; at any rate, I do not consider
that added suffering is in the trade and will not agree to it. I
prefer to remain as I am and share the disgrace of my mother. Do you
agree to that?"