rising shrilly. She could hear only fragments. Once she heard the client cry, almost scream: “By God! Joe, I thought Claudine had chased him around there to DO me!” And, instantly, followed Louden’s voice:
“STEADY, HAPPY, STEADY!”
The name “Claudine” startled her; and although she had had no comprehension of the argot of Happy Fear, the sense of a mysterious catastrophe oppressed her; she was sure that something horrible had happened. She went to the window;
touched the shade, which disappeared upward immediately, and lifted the sash. The front of a square building in the Court-house Square was bright with lights; and figures were passing in and out of the Main Street doors. She remembered that this was the jail.
“Claudine!” The voice of the husband of Claudine was like the voice of one lamenting over Jerusalem.
“STEADY, HAPPY, STEADY!”
“But, Joe, if they git me, what’ll she do? She can’t hold her job no longer–not after this. . . .”
The door opened, and the two men came out, Joe with his hand on the other’s shoulder. The splotches had gone from Happy’s face, leaving it an even, deathly white. He did not glance toward Ariel; he gazed far beyond all that was about him; and suddenly she was aware of a great tragedy. The little man’s chin trembled and he swallowed painfully; nevertheless he bore himself upright and dauntlessly as the two walked slowly to the door, like men taking part in some fateful ceremony. Joe stopped upon the landing at the head of the stairs, but Happy Fear went on, clumping heavily down the steps.
“It’s all right, Happy,” said Joe. “It’s better for you to go alone. Don’t you worry. I’ll see you through. It will be all right.”
“Just as YOU say, Joe,” a breaking voice came back from the foot of the steps,–“just as YOU say!”
The lawyer turned from the landing and went rapidly to the window beside Ariel. Together they watched the shabby little figure cross the street below; and she felt an infinite pathos gathering about it as it paused for a moment, hesitating, underneath the arc-lamp at the corner. They saw the white face lifted as Happy Fear gave one last look about him; then he set his shoulders sturdily, and steadfastly entered the door of the jail.
Joe took a deep breath. “Now we’ll go,” he said. “I must be quick.”
“What was it?” she asked, tremulously, as they reached the street. “Can you tell me?”
“Nothing–just an old story.”
He had not offered her his arm, but walked on hurriedly, a pace ahead of her, though she came as rapidly as she could. She put her hand rather timidly on his sleeve, and without need of more words from her he understood her insistence.
“That was the husband of the woman who told you her story,” he said. “Perhaps it would shock you less if I tell you now than if you heard it to- morrow, as you will. He’s just shot the other man.”
“Killed him!” she gasped.
“Yes,” he answered. “He wanted to run away, but I wouldn’t let him. He has my word that I’ll clear him, and I made him give himself up.”
THE TWO CANAANS
When Joe left Ariel at Judge Pike’s
gate she lingered there, her elbows upon the uppermost cross-bar, like
a village girl at twilight, watching his thin figure vanish into the heavy
shadow of the maples, then emerge momentarily, ghost-gray and rapid, at the lighted crossing down the street, to disappear again under the trees beyond, followed a second later by a brownish streak as the mongrel heeled after him. When they had passed the second corner she could no longer be certain of them, although the street was straight, with flat, draughtsmanlike Western directness: both figures and Joe’s quick footsteps merging with the night. Still she did not turn to go; did not alter her position, nor cease to gaze down the dim street. Few lights shone; almost all the windows of the houses were darkened, and, save for the summer murmurs, the faint creak of upper branches, and the infinitesimal voices of insects in the grass, there was silence: the pleasant and somnolent hush, swathed in which that part of Canaan crosses to the far side of the eleventh hour.
But Ariel, not soothed by this balm, sought beyond it, to see that unquiet Canaan whither her old friend bent his steps and found his labor and his dwelling: that other Canaan where peace did not fall comfortably with the coming of night; a place as alien in habit, in thought, and almost in speech as if it had been upon another continent. And yet–so strange is the duality of towns–it lay but a few blocks distant.
Here, about Ariel, as she stood at the gate of the Pike Mansion, the houses of the good (secure of salvation and daily bread) were closed and quiet, as safely shut and sound asleep as the churches; but deeper in the town there was light and life and merry, evil industry,–screened, but strong to last until morning; there were haunts of haggard merriment in plenty: surreptitious chambers where roulette-wheels swam beneath dizzied eyes; ill- favored bars, reached by devious ways, where quavering voices offered song and were harshly checked; and through the burdened air of this Canaan wandered heavy smells of musk like that upon Happy Fear’s wife, who must now be so pale beneath her rouge. And above all this, and for all this, and because of all this, was that one re- sort to which Joe now made his way; that haven whose lights burn all night long, whose doors are never closed, but are open from dawn until dawn –the jail.
There, in that desolate refuge, lay Happy Fear, surrendered sturdily by himself at Joe’s word. The picture of the little man was clear and fresh in Ariel’s eyes, and though she had seen him when he was newly come from a thing so terrible that she could not realize it as a fact, she felt only an overwhelming pity for him. She was not even horror-stricken, though she had shuddered. The pathos of the shabby little figure crossing the street toward the lighted doors had touched her. Something about him had appealed to her, for he had not seemed wicked; his face was not cruel, though it was desperate. Perhaps it was partly his very desperation which had moved her. She had understood Joe, when he told her, that this man was his friend; and comprehended his great fear when he said: “I’ve got to clear him! I promised him.”
Over and over Joe had reiterated: “I’ve got to save him! I’ve got to!” She had answered gently, “Yes, Joe,” hurrying to keep up with him. “He’s a good man,” he said. “I’ve known few better, given his chances. And none of this would have happened except for his old-time friendship for me. It was his loyalty–oh, the rarest and absurdest loyalty!–that made the first trouble between him and the man he shot. I’ve got to clear him!”
“Will it be hard?”
“They may make it so. I can only see part of it surely. When his wife left the office, she met Cory on the street. You saw what a pitiful kind of fool she was, irresponsible and helpless and feather- brained. There are thousands of women like that everywhere–some of them are `Court Beauties,’ I dare say–and they always mix things up; but they are most dangerous when they’re like Claudine, because then they live among men of action like Cory and Fear. Cory was artful: he spent the day about town telling people that he had always liked Happy; that his ill feeling of yesterday was all gone; he wanted to find him and shake his hand, bury past troubles and be friends. I think he told Claudine the same thing when they met, and convinced the tiny brainlet of his sincerity. Cory was a man who `had a way with him,’ and I can see Claudine flattered at the idea of being peace- maker between `two such nice gen’lemen as Mr. Cory and Mr. Fear.’ Her commonest asseveration– quite genuine, too–is that she doesn’t like to have the gen’lemen making trouble about her! So the poor imbecile led him to where her husband was waiting. All that Happy knew of this was in her cry afterwards. He was sitting alone, when Cory threw open the door and said, `I’ve got you this time, Happy!’ His pistol was raised but never fired. He waited too long, meaning to establish his case of `self-defence,’ and Fear is the quickest man I know. Cory fell just inside the door. Claudine stumbled upon him as she came running after him, crying out to her husband that she `never meant no trouble,’ that Cory had sworn to her that he only wanted to shake hands and `make up.’ Other people heard the shot and broke into the room, but they did not try to stop Fear; he warned them off and walked out without hindrance, and came to me. I’ve got to clear him.”
Ariel knew what he meant: she realized the actual thing as it was, and, though possessed by a strange feeling that it must all be medieval and not possibly of to-day, understood that he would have to fight to keep his friend from being killed; that the unhappy creature who had run into the office out of the dark stood in high danger of having his neck broken, unless Joe could help him. He made it clear to her that the State would kill Happy if it could; that it would be a point of pride with certain deliberate men holding office to take the life of the little man; that if they did secure his death it would be set down to their efficiency, and was even competent as campaign material. “I wish to point out,” Joe had heard a candidate for re-election vehemently orate, `that in addition to the other successful convictions I have named, I and my assistants have achieved the sending of three men to the gallows during my term of office!”
“I can’t tell yet,” said Joe, at parting. “It may be hard. I’m so sorry you saw all this. I–“
“Oh NO!” she cried. “I want to UNDERSTAND!”
She was still there, at the gate, her elbows resting upon the cross-bar, when, a long time after Joe had gone, there came from the alley behind the big back yard the minor chordings of a quartette of those dark strollers who never seem to go to bed, who play by night and playfully pretend to work by day:
“You know my soul is a-full o’ them-a-trub-bils, Ev-ry mawn!
I cain’ a-walk withouten I stum-bils! Then le’ss go on–
Keep walkin’ on!
These times is sow’owful, an’ I am pow’owful Sick an’ fo’lawn!”
She heard a step upon the path behind her, and, turning, saw a white-wrapped figure coming toward her.
“Mamie?” she called.
“Hush!” Mamie lifted a warning hand. “The windows are open,” she whispered. “They might hear you!”
“Why haven’t you gone to bed?”
“Oh, don’t you see?” Mamie answered, in deep distress,–“I’ve been sitting up for you. We all thought you were writing letters in your room, but after papa and mamma had gone to bed I went in to tell you good night, and you weren’t there, nor anywhere else; so I knew you must have gone out. I’ve been sitting by the front window, waiting to let you in, but I went to sleep until a little while ago, when the telephone-bell rang and he got up and answered it. He kept talking a long time; it was something about the Tocsin, and I’m afraid there’s been a murder down-town. When he went back to bed I fell asleep again, and then those darkies woke me up. How on earth did you expect to get in? Don’t you know he always locks up the house?”
“I could have rung,” said Ariel.
“Oh–oh!” gasped Miss Pike; and, after she had recovered somewhat, asked: “Do you mind telling me where you’ve been? I won’t tell him–nor mamma, either. I think, after all, I was wrong yesterday to follow Eugene’s advice. He meant for the best, but I–“
“Don’t think that. You weren’t wrong.” Ariel put her arm round the other’s waist. “I went to talk over some things with Mr. Louden.”
“I think,” whispered Mamie, trembling, “that you are the bravest girl I ever knew–and–and–I could almost believe there’s some good in him, since you like him so. I know there is. And I–I think he’s had a hard time. I want you to know I won’t even tell Eugene!”
“You can tell everybody in the world,” said Ariel, and kissed her.
MR. SHEEHAN’S HINTS
“Never,” said the Tocsin on the morrow, “has this community been stirred
to deeper indignation than by the
cold-blooded and unmitigated brutality of the deliberate murder committed
almost under the very shadow of the Court- house cupola last night. The victim was not a man of good repute, it is true, but at the moment of his death he was in the act of performing a noble and generous action which showed that he might have become, if he lived, a good and law-fearing citizen. In brief, he went to forgive his enemy and was stretching forth the hand of fellowship when that enemy shot him down. Not half an hour before his death, Cory had repeated within the hearing of a dozen men what he had been saying all day, as many can testify: `I want to find my old friend Fear and shake hands with him. I want to tell him that I forgive him and that I am ashamed of whatever has been my part in the trouble between us.’ He went with that intention to his death. The wife of the murderer has confessed that this was the substance of what he said to her, and that she was convinced of his peaceful intentions. When they reached the room where her husband was waiting for her, Cory entered first. The woman claims now that as they neared the vicinity he hastened forward at a pace which she could not equal. Naturally, her testimony on all points favoring her husband is practically worthless. She followed and heard the murdered man speak, though what his words were she declares she does not know, and of course the murderer, after consultation with his lawyer, claims that their nature was threatening. Such a statement, in determining the truth, is worse than valueless. It is known and readily proved that Fear repeatedly threatened the deceased’s life yesterday, and there is no question in the mind of any man, woman, or child, who reads these words, of the cold blooded nature of the crime. The slayer, who had formerly made a murderous attack upon his victim, lately quarrelled with him and uttered threats, as we have stated, upon his life. The dead man came to him with protestations of friendship and was struck down a corpse. It is understood that the defence will in desperation set up the theory of self-defence, based on an unsubstantiated claim that Cory entered the room with a drawn pistol. No pistol was found in the room. The weapon with which the deed was accomplished was found upon the person of the murderer when he was seized by the police, one chamber discharged. Another revolver was discovered upon the person of the woman, when she was arrested on the scene of the crime. This, upon being strictly interrogated, she said she had picked up from the floor in the confusion, thinking it was her husband’s and hoping to conceal it. The chambers were full and undischarged, and we have heard it surmised that the
defence means to claim that it was Cory’s. Cory doubtless went on his errand of forgiveness unarmed, and beyond doubt the second weapon belonged to the woman herself, who has an unenviable record.
“The point of it all is plainly this: here is an unquestionable murder in the first degree, and the people of this city and county are outraged and incensed that such a crime should have been committed in their law-abiding and respectable community. With whom does the fault lie? On
whose head is this murder? Not with the authorities, for they do not countenance crime. Has it come to the pass that, counting on juggleries of the law, criminals believe that they may kill, maim, burn, and slay as they list without punishment? Is this to be another instance of the law’s delays and immunity for a hideous crime, compassed by a cunning and cynical trickster of legal technicalities? The people of Canaan cry out for a speedy trial, speedy conviction, and speedy punishment of this cold-blooded and murderous monster. If he is not dealt with quickly according to his deserts, the climax is upon us and the limit of Canaan’s patience has been reached.
“One last word, and we shall be glad to have its significance noted: J. Louden, Esq., has been retained for the defence! The murderer, before being apprehended by the authorities, WENT STRAIGHT FROM THE SCENE OF HIS CRIME TO PLACE HIS RETAINER IN HIS ATTORNEY’S POCKET! HOW LONG IS THIS TO LAST?”
The Tocsin was quoted on street corners that morning, in shop and store and office, wherever people talked of the Cory murder; and that was everywhere, for the people of Canaan and of the country roundabout talked of nothing else. Women chattered of it in parlor and kitchen; men gathered in small groups on the street and shook their heads ominously over it; farmers, meeting on the road, halted their teams and loudly damned the little man in the Canaan jail; milkmen lingered on back porches over their cans to agree with cooks that it was an awful thing, and that if ever any man deserved hanging, that there Fear deserved it –his lawyer along with him! Tipsy men hammered bars with fists and beer-glasses, inquiring if there was no rope to be had in the town; and Joe Louden, returning to his office from the little restaurant where he sometimes ate his breakfast, heard hisses following him along Main Street. A clerk, a fat-shouldered, blue-aproned, pimple- cheeked youth, stood in the open doors of a grocery, and as he passed, stared him in the face and said “Yah!” with supreme disgust.
Joe stopped. “Why?” he asked, mildly.
The clerk put two fingers in his mouth and whistled shrilly in derision. “You’d ort to be run out o’ town!” he exclaimed.
“I believe,” said Joe, “that we have never met before.”
“Go on, you shyster!”
Joe looked at him gravely. “My dear sir,” he returned, “you speak to me with the familiarity of an old friend.”
The clerk did not recover so far as to be capable of repartee until Joe had entered his own stairway. Then, with a bitter sneer, he seized a bad potato from an open barrel and threw it at the mongrel, who had paused to examine the landscape. The missile failed, and Respectability, after bestowing a slightly injured look upon the clerk, followed his master.
In the office the red-bearded man sat waiting. Not so red-bearded as of yore, however, was Mr. Sheehan, but grizzled and gray, and, this morning, gray of face, too, as he sat, perspiring and anxious, wiping a troubled brow with a black silk handkerchief.
“Here’s the devil and all to pay at last, Joe,” he said, uneasily, on the other’s entrance. “This is the worst I ever knew; and I hate to say it, but I doubt yer pullin’ it off.”
“I’ve got to, Mike.”
“I hope on my soul there’s a chanst of it! I like the little man, Joe.”
“So do I.”
“I know ye do, my boy. But here’s this Tocsin kickin’ up the public sentiment; and if there ever was a follerin’ sheep on earth, it’s that same public sentiment!”
“If it weren’t for that”–Joe flung himself heavily in a chair–“there’d not be so much trouble. It’s a clear enough case.”
“But don’t ye see,” interrupted Sheehan, “the Tocsin’s tried it and convicted him aforehand? And that if things keep goin’ the way they’ve started to-day, the gran’ jury’s bound to indict him, and the trial jury to convict him? They wouldn’t dare not to! What’s more, they’ll want to! And they’ll rush the trial, summer or no summer, and–“
“I know, I know.”
“I’ll tell ye one thing,” said the other, wiping his forehead with the black handkerchief, “and that’s this, my boy: last night’s business has just about put the cap on the Beach fer me. I’m sick of it and I’m tired of it! I’m ready to quit, sir!”
Joe looked at him sharply. “Don’t you think my old notion of what might be done could be made to pay?”
Sheehan laughed. “Whoo! You and yer hints, Joe! How long past have ye come around me with ’em! `I b’lieve ye c’d make more money, Mike’–that’s the way ye’d put it,–`if ye altered the Beach a bit. Make a little country-side restaurant of it,’ ye’d say, `and have good cookin’, and keep the boys and girls from raisin’ so much hell out there. Soon ye’d have other people comin’ beside the regular crowd. Make a little garden on the shore, and let ’em eat at tables under trees an’ grape-arbors–‘ “
“Well, why not?” asked Joe.
“Haven’t I been tellin’ ye I’m thinkin’ of it? It’s only yer way of hintin’ that’s funny to me,–yer way of sayin’ I’d make more money, because ye’re afraid of preachin’ at any of us: partly because ye know the little good it ‘d be, and partly because ye have humor. Well, I’m thinkin’ ye’ll git yer way. I’M willin’ to go into the missionary business with ye!”
“Mike!” said Joe, angrily, but he grew very red and failed to meet the other’s eye, “I’m not–“
“Yes, ye are!” cried Sheehan. “Yes, sir! It’s a thing ye prob’ly haven’t had the nerve to say to yerself since a boy, but that’s yer notion inside: ye’re little better than a missionary! It took me a long while to understand what was drivin’ ye, but I do now. And ye’ve gone the right way about it, because we know ye’ll stand fer us when we’re in trouble and fight fer us till we git a square deal, as ye’re goin’ to fight for Happy now.”
Joe looked deeply troubled. “Never mind,” he said, crossly, and with visible embarrassment. “You think you couldn’t make more at the Beach if you ran it on my plan?”
“I’m game to try,” said Sheehan, slowly. “I’m too old to hold ’em down out there the way I yoosta could, and I’m sick of it–sick of it into the very bones of me!” He wiped his forehead. “Where’s Claudine?”
“Held as a witness.”
“I’m not sorry fer HER!” said the red-bearded man, emphatically. “Women o’ that kind are so light-headed it’s a wonder they don’t float. Think of her pickin’ up Cory’s gun from the floor and hidin’ it in her clothes! Took it fer granted it was Happy’s, and thought she’d help him by hidin’ it! There’s a hard point fer ye, Joe: to prove the gun belonged to Cory. There’s nobody about here could swear to it. I couldn’t myself, though I forced him to stick it back in his pocket yesterday. He was a wanderer, too; and ye’ll have
to send a keen one to trace him, I’m thinkin’, to find where he got it, so’s ye can show it in court.”
“I’m going myself. I’ve found out that he came here from Denver.”
“And from where before that?”
“I don’t know, but I’ll keep on travelling till I get what I want.”
“That’s right, my boy,” exclaimed the other, heartily, “It may be a long trip, but ye’re all the little man has to depend on. Did ye notice the Tocsin didn’t even give him the credit fer givin’ himself up?”
“Yes,” said Joe. “It’s part of their game.”
“Did it strike ye now,” Mr. Sheehan asked, earnestly, leaning forward in his chair,–“did it strike ye that the Tocsin was aimin’ more to do Happy harm because of you than himself?”
“Yes.” Joe looked sadly out of the window. “I’ve thought that over, and it seemed possible that I might do Happy more good by giving his case to some other lawyer.”
“No, sir!” exclaimed the proprietor of Beaver Beach, loudly. “They’ve begun their attack; they’re bound to keep it up, and they’d manage to turn it to the discredit of both of ye. Besides, Happy wouldn’t have no other lawyer; he’d ruther be hung with you fightin’ fer him than be cleared by anybody else. I b’lieve it,–on my soul I do! But look here,” he went on, leaning still farther forward; “I want to know if it struck ye that this morning the Tocsin attacked ye in a way that was somehow vi’lenter than ever before?”
“Yes,” replied Joe, “because it was aimed to strike where it would most count.”
“It ain’t only that,” said the other, excitedly. “It ain’t only that! I want ye to listen. Now see here: the Tocsin is Pike, and the town is Pike– I mean the town ye naturally belonged to. Ain’t it?”
“In a way, I suppose–yes.”
“In a way!” echoed the other, scornfully. “Ye know it is! Even as a boy Pike disliked ye and hated the kind of a boy ye was. Ye wasn’t respectable and he was! Ye wasn’t rich and he was! Ye had a grin on yer face when ye’d meet him on the street.” The red-bearded man broke off at a gesture from Joe and exclaimed sharply: “Don’t deny it! _I_ know what ye was like! Ye wasn’t impudent, but ye looked at him as if ye saw through him. Now listen and I’ll lead ye somewhere! Ye run with riffraff, naggers, and even”–Mr. Sheehan lifted a forefinger solemnly and shook it at his auditor–“and even with the Irish! Now I ask ye this: ye’ve had one part of Canaan with ye from the start, MY part, that is; but the other’s against ye; that part’s PIKE, and it’s the rulin’ part–“
“Yes, Mike,” said Joe, wearily. “In the spirit of things. I know.”
“No, sir,” cried the other. “That’s the trouble: ye don’t know. There’s more in Canaan than ye’ve understood. Listen to this: Why was the Tocsin’s attack harder this morning than ever before? On yer soul didn’t it sound so bitter that it sounded desprit? Now why? It looked to me as if it had started to ruin ye, this time fer good and all! Why? What have ye had to do with Martin Pike lately? Has the old wolf GOT to injure ye?” Mr. Sheehan’s voice rose and his eyes gleamed under bushy brows. “Think,” he finished. “What’s happened lately to make him bite so hard?”
There were some faded roses on the desk, and as Joe’s haggard eyes fell upon them the answer came. “What makes you think Judge Pike isn’t trustworthy?” he had asked Ariel, and her reply had been: “Nothing very definite, unless it was his look when I told him that I meant to ask you to take charge of things for me.”
He got slowly and amazedly to his feet. “You’ve got it!” he said.
“Ye see?” cried Mike Sheehan, slapping his thigh with a big hand. “On my soul I have the penetration! Ye don’t need to tell me one thing except this: I told ye I’d lead ye somewhere; haven’t I kept me word?”
“Yes,” said Joe.
“But I have the penetration!” exclaimed Mr. Sheehan. “Should I miss my guess if I said that ye think Pike may be scared ye’ll stumble on his track in some queer performances? Should I miss it?”
“No,” said Joe. “You wouldn’t miss it.”
“Just one thing more.” The red-bearded man rose, mopping the inner band of his straw hat. “In the matter of yer runnin’ fer Mayor, now–“
Joe, who had begun to pace up and down the room, made an impatient gesture. “Pshaw!” he interrupted; but his friend stopped him with a hand laid on his arm.
“Don’t be treatin’ it as clean out of all possibility, Joe Louden. If ye do, it shows ye haven’t sense to know that nobody can say what way the wind’s blowin’ week after next. All the boys want ye; Louie Farbach wants ye, and Louie has a big say. Who is it that doesn’t want ye?”
“Canaan,” said Joe.
“Hold up! It’s Pike’s Canaan ye mean. If ye git the nomination, ye’d be elected, wouldn’t ye?”
“I couldn’t be nominated.”
“I ain’t claimin’ ye’d git Martin Pike’s vote,” returned Mr. Sheehan, sharply, “though I don’t say it’s impossible. Ye’ve got to beat him, that’s all. Ye’ve got to do to him what he’s done to YOU, and what he’s tryin’ to do now worse than ever before. Well–there may be ways to do it; and if he tempts me enough, I may fergit my troth and honor as a noble gentleman and help ye with a word ye’d never guess yerself.”
“You’ve hinted at such mysteries before, Mike,” Joe smiled. “I’d be glad to know what you mean, if there’s anything in them.”
“It may come to that,” said the other, with some embarrassment. “It may come to that some day, if the old wolf presses me too hard in the matter o’ tryin’ to git the little man across the street hanged by the neck and yerself mobbed fer helpin’ him! But to-day I’ll say no more.”
“Very well, Mike.” Joe turned wearily to his desk. “I don’t want you to break any promises.”
Mr. Sheehan had gone to the door, but he paused on the threshold, and wiped his forehead again.
“And I don’t want to break any,” he said, “but if ever the time should come when I couldn’t help it”–he lowered his voice to a hoarse but piercing whisper–“that will be the devourin’ angel’s day fer Martin Pike!”
IN THE HEAT OF THE DAY
It was a morning of the warmest week
of mid-July, and Canaan lay inert
and helpless beneath a broiling sun. The few people who moved about
the streets went languidly, keeping close to the wall on the shady side; the women in thin white fabrics; the men, often coatless, carrying palm-leaf fans, and replacing collars with handkerchiefs. In the Court-house yard the maple leaves, gray with blown dust and grown to great breadth, drooped heavily, depressing the long, motionless branches with their weight, so low that the four or five shabby idlers, upon the benches beneath, now and then flicked them sleepily with whittled sprigs. The doors and windows of the stores stood open, displaying limp wares of trade, but few tokens of life; the clerks hanging over dim counters as far as possible from the glare in front, gossiping fragmentarily, usually about the Cory murder, and, anon, upon a subject suggested by the sight of an occasional pedestrian passing perspiring by with scrooged eyelids and purpling skin. From street and sidewalk, transparent hot waves swam up and danced themselves into nothing; while from the river bank, a half-mile away, came a sound hotter than even the locust’s midsummer rasp: the drone of a planing-mill. A chance boy, lying prone in the grass of the Court-house yard, was annoyed by the relentless chant and lifted his head to mock it: “AWR-EER-AWR-EER! SHUT UP, CAN’T YOU?” The effort was exhausting: he relapsed and suffered with increasing malice but in silence.
Abruptly there was a violent outbreak on the “National House” corner, as when a quiet farm- house is startled by some one’s inadvertently bringing down all the tin from a shelf in the pantry. The loafers on the benches turned hopefully, saw what it was, then closed their eyes, and slumped back into their former positions. The outbreak subsided as suddenly as it had arisen: Colonel Flitcroft pulled Mr. Arp down into his chair again, and it was all over.
Greater heat than that of these blazing days could not have kept one of the sages from attending the conclave now. For the battle was on in Canaan: and here, upon the National House corner, under the shadow of the west wall, it waxed even keener. Perhaps we may find full justification for calling what was happening a battle in so far as we restrict the figure to apply to this one spot; else where, in the Canaan of the Tocsin, the conflict was too one-sided. The Tocsin had indeed tried the case of Happy Fear in advance, had convicted and condemned, and every day grew more bitter. Nor was the urgent vigor of its attack without effect. Sleepy as Main Street seemed in the heat, the town was incensed and roused to a tensity of feeling it had not known since the civil war, when, on occasion, it had set out to hang half a dozen “Knights of the Golden Circle.” Joe had been hissed on the street many times since the inimical clerk had whistled at him. Probably demonstrations of that sort would have continued had he remained in Canaan; but for almost a month he had been absent and his office closed, its threshold gray with dust. There were people who believed that he had run away again, this time never to return; among those who held to this opinion being Mrs. Louden and her sister, Joe’s step-aunt. Upon only one point was everybody agreed: that twelve men could not be found in the county who could be so far persuaded and befuddled by Louden that they would dare to allow Happy Fear to escape. The women of Canaan, incensed by the terrible circumstance of the case, as the Tocsin colored it–a man shot down in the act of begging his enemy’s forgiveness–clamored as loudly as the men: there was only the difference that the latter vociferated for the hanging of Happy; their good ladies used the word “punishment.”
And yet, while the place rang with condemnation of the little man in the jail and his attorney, there were voices, here and there, uplifted on the other side. People existed, it astonishingly appeared, who LIKED Happy Fear. These were for the greater part obscure and even darkling in their lives, yet quite demonstrably human beings, able to smile, suffer, leap, run, and to entertain fancies; even to have, according to their degree, a certain rudimentary sense of right and wrong, in spite of which they strongly favored the prisoner’s acquittal. Precisely on that account, it was argued, an acquittal would outrage Canaan and lay it open to untold danger: such people needed a lesson.
The Tocsin interviewed the town’s great ones, printing their opinions of the heinousness of the crime and the character of the defendant’s lawyer. . . . “The Hon. P. J. Parrott, who so ably represented this county in the Legislature some fourteen years ago, could scarcely restrain himself when approached by a reporter as to his sentiments anent the repulsive deed. `I should like to know how long Canaan is going to put up with this sort of business,’ were his words. `I am a law-abiding citizen, and I have served faithfully, and with my full endeavor and ability, to enact the laws and statutes of my State, but there is a point in my patience, I would state, which lawbreakers and their lawyers may not safely pass. Of what use are our most solemn enactments, I may even ask of what use is the Legislature itself, chosen by the will of the people, if they are to ruthlessly be set aside by criminals and their shifty protectors? The blame should be put upon the lawyers who by tricks enable such rascals to escape the rigors of the carefully enacted laws, the fruits of the Solon’s labor, more than upon the criminals themselves. In this case, if there is any miscarriage of justice, I will say here and now that in my opinion the people of this county will be sorely tempted; and while I do not believe in lynch-law, yet if that should be the result it is my unalterable conviction that the vigilantes may well turn their attention to the lawyers–OR LAWYER–who bring about such miscarriage. I am sick of it.’ “
The Tocsin did not print the interview it obtained from Louie Farbach–the same Louie Farbach who long ago had owned a beer-saloon with a little room behind the bar, where a shabby boy sometimes played dominoes and “seven-up” with loafers: not quite the same Louie Farbach, however, in outward circumstance: for he was now the brewer of Farbach Beer and making Canaan famous. His rise had been Teutonic and sure; and he
contributed one-twentieth of his income to the German Orphan Asylum and one-tenth to his party’s campaign fund. The twentieth saved the orphans from the county, while the tithe gave the county to his party.
He occupied a kitchen chair, enjoying the society of some chickens in a wired enclosure behind the new Italian villa he had erected in that part of Canaan where he would be most uncomfortable, and he looked woodenly at the reporter when the latter put his question.
“Hef you any aguaintunce off Mitster Fear?” he inquired, in return, with no expression decipherable either upon his Gargantuan face or in his heavily enfolded eyes.
“No, sir,” replied the reporter, grinning. “I never ran across him.”
“Dot iss a goot t’ing fer you,” said Mr. Farbach, stonily. “He iss not a man peobles bedder try to run across. It iss what Gory tried. Now Gory iss dead.”
The reporter, slightly puzzled, lit a cigarette. “See here, Mr. Farbach,” he urged, “I only want a word or two about this thing; and you might give me a brief expression concerning that man Louden besides: just a hint of what you think of his influence here, you know, and of the kind of sharp work he practises. Something like that.”
“I see,” said the brewer, slowly. “Happy Fear I hef knowt for a goot many years. He iss a goot frient of mine.”
“Choe Louten iss a bedder one,” continued Mr. Farbach, turning again to stare at his chickens.
“Git owit,” repeated the other, without passion, without anger, without any expression whatsoever. “Git owit.”
The reporter’s prejudice against the German nation dated from that moment.
There were others, here and there, who were less self-contained than the brewer. A farm-hand struck a fellow laborer in the harvest-field for speaking ill of Joe; and the unravelling of a strange street fight, one day, disclosed as its cause a like resentment, on the part of a blind broom-maker, engendered by a like offence. The broom-maker’s companion, reading the Tocsin as the two walked together, had begun the quarrel by remarking that Happy Fear ought to be hanged once for his own sake and twice more “to show up that shyster Louden.” Warm words followed, leading to extremely material conflict, in which, in spite of his blindness, the broom-maker had so much the best of it that he was removed from the triumphant attitude he had assumed toward the person of his adversary, which was an admirable imitation of the dismounted St. George and the Dragon, and conveyed to the jail. Keenest investigation failed to reveal anything oblique in the man’s record; to the astonishment of Canaan, there was nothing against him. He was blind and moderately poor; but a respectable, hard-working artisan, and a pride to the church in which he was what has been called an “active worker.” It was discovered that his sensitiveness to his companion’s attack on Joseph Louden arose from the fact that Joe had obtained the acquittal of an imbecile sister of the blind man, a two-thirds-witted woman who had been charged with bigamy.
The Tocsin made what it could of this, and so dexterously that the wrath of Canaan was one farther jot increased against the shyster. Ay, the town was hot, inside and out.
Let us consider the Forum. Was there ever before such a summer for the “National House” corner? How voices first thundered there, then cracked and piped, is not to be rendered in all the tales of the fathers. One who would make vivid the great doings must indeed “dip his brush in earthquake and eclipse”; even then he could but picture the credible, and must despair of this: the silence of Eskew Arp. Not that Eskew held his tongue, not that he was chary of speech–no! O tempora, O mores! NO! But that he refused the subject in hand, that he eschewed expression upon it and resolutely drove the argument in other directions, that he achieved such superbly un-Arplike inconsistency; and with such rich material for his sardonic humors, not at arm’s length, not even so far as his finger-tips, but beneath his very palms, he rejected it: this was the impossible fact.
Eskew–there is no option but to declare–was no longer Eskew. It is the truth; since the morning when Ariel Tabor came down from Joe’s office, leaving her offering of white roses in that dingy, dusty, shady place, Eskew had not been himself. His comrades observed it somewhat in a physical difference, one of those alterations which may come upon men of his years suddenly, like a “sea change”: his face was whiter, his walk slower, his voice filed thinner; he creaked louder when he rose or sat. Old always, from his boyhood, he had, in the turn of a hand, become aged. But such things come and such things go: after eighty there are ups and downs; people fading away one week, bloom out pleasantly the next, and resiliency is not at all a patent belonging to youth alone. The material change in Mr. Arp might have been thought little worth remarking. What caused Peter Bradbury, Squire Buckalew, and the Colonel to shake their heads secretly to one another and wonder if their good old friend’s mind had not “begun to go” was something very different. To come straight down to it: he not only abstained from all argument upon the “Cory Murder” and the case of Happy Fear, refusing to discuss either in any terms or under any circumstances, but he also declined to speak of Ariel Tabor or of Joseph Louden; or of their affairs, singular or plural, masculine, feminine, or neuter, or in any declension Not a word, committal or non-committal. None!
And his face, when he was silent, fell into sorrowful and troubled lines.
At first they merely marvelled. Then Squire Buckalew dared to tempt him. Eskew’s faded eyes showed a blue gleam, but he withstood, speaking of Babylon to the disparagement of Chicago. They sought to lead him into what he evidently would not, employing many devices; but the old man was wily and often carried them far afield by secret ways of his own. This hot morning he had done that thing: they were close upon him, pressing him hard, when he roused that outburst which had stirred the idlers on the benches in the Court- house yard. Squire Buckalew (sidelong at the others but squarely at Eskew) had volunteered the information that Cory was a reformed priest. Stung by the mystery of Eskew’s silence, the Squire’s imagination had become magically gymnastic; and if anything under heaven could have lifted the veil, this was the thing. Mr. Arp’s reply may be reverenced.
“I consider,” he said, deliberately, “that James G. Blaine’s furrin policy was childish, and, what’s more, I never thought much of HIM!”
This outdefied Ajax, and every trace of the matter in hand went to the four winds. Eskew, like Rome, was saved by a cackle, in which he joined, and a few moments later, as the bench loafers saw, was pulled down into his seat by the Colonel.
The voices of the fathers fell to the pitch of ordinary discourse; the drowsy town was quiet again; the whine of the planing-mill boring its way through the sizzling air to every wakening ear. Far away, on a quiet street, it sounded faintly, like the hum of a bee across a creek, and was drowned in the noise of men at work on the old Tabor house. It seemed the only busy place in Canaan that day: the shade of the big beech-trees which surrounded it affording some shelter from the destroying sun to the dripping laborers who were sawing, hammering, painting, plumbing, papering, and ripping open old and new packing-boxes. There were many changes in the old house pleasantly in keeping with its simple character: airy enlargements now almost completed so that some of the rooms were already finished, and stood, furnished and immaculate, ready for tenancy.
In that which had been Roger Tabor’s studio sat Ariel, alone. She had caused some chests and cases, stored there, to be opened, and had taken out of them a few of Roger’s canvases and set them along the wall. Tears filled her eyes as she looked at them, seeing the tragedy of labor the old man had expended upon them; but she felt the recompense: hard, tight, literal as they were, he had had his moment of joy in each of them before he saw them coldly and knew the truth. And he had been given his years of Paris at last: and had seen “how the other fellows did it.”
A heavy foot strode through the hall, coming abruptly to a halt in the doorway, and turning, she discovered Martin Pike, his big Henry-the-Eighth face flushed more with anger than with the heat. His hat was upon his head, and remained there, nor did he offer any token or word of greeting whatever, but demanded to know when the work upon the house had been begun.
“The second morning after my return,” she answered.
“I want to know,” he pursued, “why it was kept secret from me, and I want to know quick.”
“Secret?” she echoed, with a wave of her hand to indicate the noise which the workmen were making.
“Upon whose authority was it begun?”
“Mine. Who else could give it?”
“Look here,” he said, advancing toward her, “don’t you try to fool me! You haven’t done all this by yourself. Who hired these workmen?”
Remembering her first interview with him, she rose quickly before he could come near her. “Mr. Louden made most of the arrangements for me,” she replied, quietly, “before he went away. He will take charge of everything when he returns. You haven’t forgotten that I told you I intended to place my affairs in his hands?”
He had started forward, but at this he stopped and stared at her inarticulately.
“You remember?” she said, her hands resting negligently upon the back of the chair. “Surely you remember?”
She was not in the least afraid of him, but coolly watchful of him. This had been her habit with him since her return. She had seen little of him, except at table, when he was usually grimly laconic, though now and then she would hear him joking heavily with Sam Warden in the yard, or, with evidently humorous intent, groaning at Mamie over Eugene’s health; but it had not escaped Ariel that he was, on his part, watchful of herself, and upon his guard with a wariness in which she was sometimes surprised to believe that she saw an almost haggard apprehension.
He did not answer her question, and it seemed to her, as she continued steadily to meet his hot eyes, that he was trying to hold himself under some measure of control; and a vain effort it proved.
“You go back to my house!” he burst out, shouting hoarsely. “You get back there! You stay there!”
“No,” she said, moving between him and the door. “Mamie and I are going for a drive.”
“You go back to my house!” He followed her, waving an arm fiercely at her. “Don’t you come around here trying to run over me! You talk about your `affairs’! All you’ve got on earth is this two-for-a-nickel old shack over your head and a bushel-basket of distillery stock that you can sell by the pound for old paper!” He threw the words in her face, the bull-bass voice seamed and cracked with falsetto. “Old paper, old rags, old iron, bottles, old clothes! You talk about your affairs! Who are you? Rothschild? You haven’t GOT any affairs!”
Not a look, not a word, not a motion of his escaped her in all the fury of sound and gesture in which he seemed fairly to envelop himself; least of all did that shaking of his–the quivering of jaw and temple, the tumultuous agitation of his hands –evade her watchfulness.
“When did you find this out?” she said, very quickly. “After you became administrator?”
He struck the back of the chair she had vacated a vicious blow with his open hand. “No, you spendthrift! All there was TO your grandfather when you buried him was a basket full of distillery stock, I tell you! Old paper! Can’t you hear me? Old paper, old rags–“
“You have sent me the same income,” she lifted her voice to interrupt; “you have made the same quarterly payments since his death that you made before. If you knew, why did you do that?”
He had been shouting at her with the frantic and incredulous exasperation of an intolerant man utterly unused to opposition; his face empurpled, his forehead dripping, and his hands ruthlessly pounding the back of the chair; but this straight question stripped him suddenly of gesture and left him standing limp and still before her, pale splotches beginning to show on his hot cheeks.
“If you knew, why did you do it?” she repeated. “You wrote me that my income was from dividends, and I knew and thought nothing about it; but if the stock which came to me was worthless, how could it pay dividends?”
“It did not,” he answered, huskily. “That distillery stock, I tell you, isn’t worth the matches to burn it.”
“But there has been no difference in my income,” she persisted, steadily. “Why? Can you explain that to me?”
“Yes, I can,” he replied, and it seemed to her that he spoke with a pallid and bitter desperation, like a man driven to the wall. “I can if you think you want to know.”
“I sent it.”
“Do you mean from you own–“
“I mean it was my own money.”
She had not taken her eyes from his, which met hers straightly and angrily; and at this she leaned forward, gazing at him with profound scrutiny.
“Why did you send it?” she asked.
“Charity,” he answered, after palpable hesitation.
Her eyes widened and she leaned back against the lintel of the door, staring at him incredulously. “Charity!” she echoed, in a whisper.
Perhaps he mistook her amazement at his performance for dismay caused by the sense of her own position, for, as she seemed to weaken before him, the strength of his own habit of dominance came back to him. “Charity, madam!” he broke out, shouting intolerably. “Charity, d’ye hear? I was a friend of the man that made the money you and your grandfather squandered; I was a friend of Jonas Tabor, I say! That’s why I was willing to support you for a year and over, rather than let a niece of his suffer.”
“`Suffer’!” she cried. “`Support’! You sent me a hundred thousand francs!”
The white splotches which had mottled Martin Pike’s face disappeared as if they had been suddenly splashed with hot red. “You go back to
my house,” he said. “What I sent you only shows the extent of my–“
“Effrontery!” The word rang through the whole house, so loudly and clearly did she strike it, rang in his ears till it stung like a castigation. It was ominous, portentous of justice and of disaster. There was more than doubt of him in it: there was conviction.
He fell back from this word; and when he again advanced, Ariel had left the house. She had turned the next corner before he came out of the gate; and as he passed his own home on his way down-town, he saw her white dress mingling with his daughter’s near the horse-block beside the fire, where the two, with their arms about each other, stood waiting for Sam Warden and the open summer carriage.
Judge Pike walked on, the white splotches reappearing like a pale rash upon his face. A yellow butterfly zigzagged before him, knee-high, across the sidewalk. He raised his foot and half kicked at it.
As the Judge continued his walk down
Main Street, he wished profoundly
that the butterfly (which exhibited no annoyance) had been of greater
bulk and more approachable; and it
was the evil fortune of Joe’s mongrel to encounter him in the sinister humor of such a wish unfulfilled. Respectability dwelt at Beaver Beach under the care of Mr. Sheehan until his master should return; and Sheehan was kind; but the small dog found the world lonely and time long without Joe. He had grown more and more restless, and at last, this hot morning, having managed to evade the eye of all concerned in his keeping, made off unobtrusively, partly by swimming, and reaching the road, cantered into town, his ears erect with anxiety. Bent upon reaching the familiar office, he passed the grocery from the doorway of which the pimply cheeked clerk had thrown a bad potato at him a month before. The same clerk had just laid down the Tocsin as Respectability went by, and, inspired to great deeds in behalf of justice and his native city, he rushed to the door, lavishly seized, this time, a perfectly good potato, and hurled it with a result which ecstasized him, for it took the mongrel fairly aside the head, which it matched in size.
The luckless Respectability’s purpose to reach Joe’s stairway had been entirely definite, but upon this violence he forgot it momentarily. It is not easy to keep things in mind when one is violently smitten on mouth, nose, cheek, eye, and ear by a missile large enough to strike them simultaneously. Yelping and half blinded, he deflected to cross Main Street. Judge Pike had elected to cross in the opposite direction, and the two met in the middle of the street.
The encounter was miraculously fitted to the Judge’s need: here was no butterfly, but a solid body, light withal, a wet, muddy, and dusty yellow dog, eminently kickable. The man was heavily built about the legs, and the vigor of what he did may have been additionally inspired by his recognition of the mongrel as Joe Louden’s. The impact of his toe upon the little runner’s side was momentous, and the latter rose into the air. The Judge hopped, as one hops who, unshod in the night, discovers an unexpected chair. Let us be reconciled to his pain and not reproach the gods with it,–for two of his unintending adversary’s ribs were cracked.
The dog, thus again deflected, retraced his tracks, shrieking distractedly, and, by one of those ironical twists which Karma reserves for the tails of the fated, dived for blind safety into the store commanded by the ecstatic and inimical clerk. There were shouts; the sleepy Square beginning to wake up: the boy who had mocked the planing-mill got to his feet, calling upon his fellows; the bench loafers strolled to the street; the aged men stirred and rose from their chairs; faces appeared in the open windows of offices; sales ladies and gentlemen came to the doorways of the trading-places; so that when Respectability emerged from the grocery he had a notable audience for the scene he enacted with a brass dinner-bell tied to his tail.
Another potato, flung by the pimpled, uproarious, prodigal clerk, added to the impetus of his flight. A shower of pebbles from the hands of exhilarated boys dented the soft asphalt about him; the hideous clamor of the pursuing bell increased as he turned the next corner, running distractedly. The dead town had come to life, and its inhabitants gladly risked the dangerous heat in the interests of sport, whereby it was a merry chase the little dog led around the block, For thus some destructive instinct drove him; he could not stop with the unappeasable Terror clanging at his heels and the increasing crowd yelling in pursuit; but he turned to the left at each corner, and thus came back to pass Joe’s stairway again, unable to pause there or anywhere, unable to do anything except to continue his hapless flight, poor meteor.
Round the block he went once more, and still no chance at that empty stairway where, perhaps, he thought, there might be succor and safety. Blood was upon his side where Martin Pike’s boot had crashed, foam and blood hung upon his jaws and lolling tongue. He ran desperately, keeping to the middle of the street, and, not howling, set himself despairingly to outstrip the Terror. The mob, disdaining the sun superbly, pursued as closely as it could, throwing bricks and rocks at him, striking at him with clubs and sticks. Happy Fear, playing “tic-tac-toe,” right hand against left, in his cell, heard the uproar, made out something of what was happening, and, though unaware that it was a friend whose life was sought, discovered a similarity to his own case, and prayed to his dim gods that the quarry might get away.
“MAD DOG!” they yelled. “MAD DOG!” And there were some who cried, “JOE LOUDEN’S DOG!” that being equally as exciting and explanatory.
Three times round, and still the little fugitive maintained a lead. A gray-helmeted policeman, a big fellow, had joined the pursuit. He had children at home who might be playing in the street, and the thought of what might happen to them if the mad dog should head that way resolved him to be cool and steady. He was falling behind, so he stopped on the corner, trusting that Respectability would come round again. He was right,
and the flying brownish thing streaked along Main Street, passing the beloved stairway for the fourth time. The policeman lifted his revolver, fired twice, missed once, but caught him with the second shot in a forepaw, clipping off a fifth toe, one of the small claws that grow above the foot and are always in trouble. This did not stop him; but the policeman, afraid to risk another shot because of the crowd, waited for him to come again; and many others, seeing the hopeless circuit the mongrel followed, did likewise, armed with bricks and clubs. Among them was the pimply clerk, who had been inspired to commandeer a pitchfork from a hardware store.
When the fifth round came, Respectability’s race was run. He turned into Main Street at a broken speed, limping, parched, voiceless, flecked with blood and foam, snapping feebly at the showering rocks, but still indomitably a little ahead of the hunt. There was no yelp left in him–he was too thoroughly winded for that,–but in his brilliant and despairing eyes shone the agony of a cry louder than the tongue of a dog could utter: “O master! O all the god I know! Where are you in my mortal need?”
Now indeed he had a gauntlet to run; for the street was lined with those who awaited him, while the pursuit grew closer behind. A number of the hardiest stood squarely in his path, and he hesitated for a second, which gave the opportunity for a surer aim, and many missiles struck him. “Let him have it now, officer,” said Eugene Bantry, standing with Judge Pike at the policeman’s elbow. “There’s your chance.”
But before the revolver could be discharged, Respectability had begun to run again, hobbling on three legs and dodging feebly. A heavy stone struck him on the shoulder and he turned across the street, making for the “National House” corner, where the joyful clerk brandished his pitchfork. Going slowly, he almost touched the pimply one as he passed, and the clerk, already rehearsing in his mind the honors which should follow the brave stroke, raised the tines above the little dog’s head for the coup de grace. They did not descend, and the daring youth failed of fame as the laurel almost embraced his brows. A hickory walking- stick was thrust between his legs; and he, expecting to strike, received a blow upon the temple sufficient for his present undoing and bedazzlement. He went over backwards, and the pitchfork (not the thing to hold poised on high when one is knocked down) fell with the force he had intended for Respectability upon his own shin.
A train had pulled into the station, and a tired, travel-worn young man, descending from a sleeper, walked rapidly up the street to learn the occasion of what appeared to be a riot. When he was close enough to understand its nature, he dropped his bag and came on at top speed, shouting loudly to the battered mongrel, who tried with his remaining strength to leap toward him through a cordon of kicking legs, while Eugene Bantry again called to the policeman to fire.
“If he does, damn you, I’ll kill him!” Joe saw the revolver raised; and then, Eugene being in his way, he ran full-tilt into his stepbrother with all his force, sending him to earth, and went on literally over him as he lay prone upon the asphalt, that being the shortest way to Respectability. The next instant the mongrel was in his master’s arms and weakly licking his hands.
But it was Eskew Arp who had saved the little dog; for it was his stick which had tripped the clerk, and his hand which had struck him down. All his bodily strength had departed in that effort, but he staggered out into the street toward Joe.
“Joe Louden!” called the veteran, in a loud voice. “Joe Louden!” and suddenly reeled. The Colonel and Squire Buckalew were making their way toward him, but Joe, holding the dog to his breast with one arm, threw the other about Eskew.
“It’s a town–it’s a town”–the old fellow flung himself free from the supporting arm–“it’s a town you couldn’t even trust a yellow dog to!”
He sank back upon Joe’s shoulder, speechless. An open carriage had driven through the crowd, the colored driver urged by two ladies upon the back seat, and Martin Pike saw it stop by the group in the middle of the street where Joe stood, the wounded dog held to his breast by one arm, the old man, white and half fainting, supported by the other. Martin Pike saw this and more; he saw Ariel Tabor and his own daughter leaning from the carriage, the arms of both pityingly extended to Joe Louden and his two burdens, while the stunned and silly crowd stood round them staring, clouds of dust settling down upon them through the hot air.
THREE ARE ENLISTED
Now in that blazing noon Canaan looked upon a strange sight: an open carriage
whirling through Main Street
behind two galloping bays; upon the back seat a ghostly white old man
with closed eyes, supported by two pale ladies, his head upon the shoulder of the taller; while beside the driver, a young man whose coat and hands were bloody, worked over the hurts of an injured dog. Sam Warden’s whip sang across the horses; lather gathered on their flanks, and Ariel’s voice steadily urged on the pace: “Quicker, Sam, if you can.” For there was little breath left in the body of Eskew Arp.
Mamie, almost as white as the old man, was silent; but she had not hesitated in her daring, now that she had been taught to dare; she had not come to be Ariel’s friend and honest follower for nothing; and it was Mamie who had cried to Joe to lift Eskew into the carriage. “You must come too,” she said. “We will need you.” And so it came to pass that under the eyes of Canaan Joe Louden rode in Judge Pike’s carriage at the bidding of Judge Pike’s daughter.
Toward Ariel’s own house they sped with the stricken octogenarian, for he was “alone in the world,” and she would not take him to the cottage where he had lived for many years by himself, a bleak little house, a derelict of the “early days” left stranded far down in the town between a woollen-mill and the water-works. The workmen were beginning their dinners under the big trees, but as Sam Warden drew in the lathered horses at the gate, they set down their tin buckets hastily and ran to help Joe lift the old man out. Carefully they bore him into the house and laid him upon a bed in one of the finished rooms. He did not speak or move and the workmen uncovered their heads as they went out, but Joe knew that they were mistaken. “It’s all right, Mr. Arp,” he said, as Ariel knelt by the bed with water and restoratives. “It’s all right. Don’t you worry.”
Then the veteran’s lips twitched, and though his eyes remained closed, Joe saw that Eskew understood, for he gasped, feebly: “Pos-i-tive-ly–no– free–seats!”
To Mrs. Louden, sewing at an up-stairs window, the sight of her stepson descending from Judge Pike’s carriage was sufficiently startling, but when she saw Mamie Pike take Respectability from his master’s arms and carry him tenderly indoors, while Joe and Ariel occupied themselves with Mr. Arp, the good lady sprang to her feet as if she had been stung, regardlessly sending her work-basket and its contents scattering over the floor, and ran down the stairs three steps at a time.
At the front door she met her husband, entering for his dinner, and she leaped at him. Had he seen? What was it? What had happened?
Mr. Louden rubbed his chin-beard, indulging himself in a pause which was like to prove fatal to his companion, finally vouchsafing the information that the doctor’s buggy was just turning the corner; Eskew Arp had suffered a “stroke,” it was said, and, in Louden’s opinion, was a mighty sick man. His spouse replied in no uncertain terms that she had seen quite that much for herself, urging him to continue, which he did with a deliberation that caused her to recall their wedding-day with a gust of passionate self-reproach. Presently he managed to interrupt, reminding her that her dining- room windows commanded as comprehensive a view of the next house as did the front steps, and after a time her housewifely duty so far prevailed over her indignation at the man’s unwholesome stolidity that she followed him down the hall to preside over the meal, not, however, to partake largely of it herself.
Mr. Louden had no information of Eugene’s mishap, nor had Mrs. Louden any suspicion that all was not well with the young man, and, hearing him enter the front door, she called to him that his dinner was waiting. Eugene, however, made no reply and went up-stairs to his own apartment without coming into the dining-room.
A small crowd, neighboring children, servants, and negroes, had gathered about Ariel’s gate, and Mrs. Louden watched the working-men disperse this assembly, gather up their tools, and depart; then Mamie came out of the house, and, bowing sadly to three old men who were entering the gate as she left it, stepped into her carriage and drove away. The new-comers, Colonel Flitcroft, Squire Buckalew, and Peter Bradbury, glanced at the doctor’s buggy, shook their heads at one another, and slowly went up to the porch, where Joe met them. Mrs. Louden uttered a sharp exclamation, for the Colonel shook hands with her stepson.
Perhaps Flitcroft himself was surprised; he had offered his hand almost unconsciously, and the greeting was embarrassed and perfunctory; but his two companions, each in turn, gravely followed his lead, and Joe’s set face flushed a little. It was the first time in many years that men of their kind in Canaan had offered him this salutation.
“He wouldn’t let me send for you,” he told them. “He said he knew you’d be here soon without that.” And he led the way to Eskew’s bedside.
Joe and the doctor had undressed the old man, and had put him into night-gear of Roger Tabor’s, taken from an antique chest; it was soft and yellow and much more like color than the face above it, for the white hair on the pillow was not whiter than that. Yet there was a strange youthfulness in the eyes of Eskew; an eerie, inexplicable, luminous, LIVE look; the thin cheeks seemed fuller than they had been for years; and though the heavier lines of age and sorrow could be seen, they appeared to have been half erased. He lay not in sunshine, but in clear light; the windows were open, the curtains restrained, for he had asked them not to darken the room.
The doctor was whispering in a doctor’s way to Ariel at the end of the room opposite the bed, when the three old fellows came in. None of them spoke immediately, and though all three cleared their throats with what they meant for casual cheerfulness, to indicate that the situation was not at all extraordinary or depressing, it was to be seen that the Colonel’s chin trembled under his mustache, and his comrades showed similar small and unwilling signs of emotion.
Eskew spoke first. “Well, boys?” he said, and smiled.
That seemed to make it more difficult for the others; the three white heads bent silently over the fourth upon the pillow; and Ariel saw waveringly, for her eyes suddenly filled, that the Colonel laid his unsteady hand upon Eskew’s, which was outside the coverlet.
“It’s–it’s not,” said the old soldier, gently– “it’s not on–on both sides, is it, Eskew?”
Mr. Arp moved his hand slightly in answer. “It ain’t paralysis,” he said. “They call it `shock and exhaustion’; but it’s more than that. It’s just my time. I’ve heard the call. We’ve all been slidin’ on thin ice this long time–and it’s broke under me–“
“Eskew, Eskew!” remonstrated Peter Bradbury. “You’d oughtn’t to talk that-a-way! You
only kind of overdone a little–heat o’ the day, too, and–“
“Peter,” interrupted the sick man, with feeble asperity, “did you ever manage to fool me in your life?”
“Well, you’re not doin’ it now!”
Two tears suddenly loosed themselves from Squire Buckalew’s eyelids, despite his hard endeavor to wink them away, and he turned from the bed too late to conceal what had happened. “There ain’t any call to feel bad,” said Eskew. “It might have happened any time–in the night, maybe–at my house–and all alone–but here’s Airie Tabor brought me to her own home and takin’ care of me. I couldn’t ask any better way to go, could I?”
“I don’t know what we’ll do,” stammered the Colonel, “if you–you talk about goin’ away from us, Eskew. We–we couldn’t get along–“
“Well, sir, I’m almost kind of glad to think,” Mr. Arp murmured, between short struggles for breath, “that it ‘ll be–quieter–on the–“National House” corner!”
A moment later he called the doctor faintly and asked for a restorative. “There,” he said, in a stronger voice and with a gleam of satisfaction in the vindication of his belief that he was dying. “I was almost gone then. _I_ know!” He lay panting for a moment, then spoke the name of Joe Louden.
Joe came quickly to the bedside.
“I want you to shake hands with the Colonel and Peter and Buckalew.
“We did,” answered the Colonel, infinitely surprised and troubled. “We shook hands outside before we came in.”
“Do it again,” said Eskew. “I want to see you.”
And Joe, making shift to smile, was suddenly blinded, so that he could not see the wrinkled hands extended to him, and was fain to grope for them.
“God knows why we didn’t all take his hand long ago,” said Eskew Arp. “I didn’t because I was stubborn. I hated to admit that the argument was against me. I acknowledge it now before him and before you–and I want the word of it CARRIED!”
“It’s all right, Mr. Arp,” began Joe, tremulously. “You mustn’t–“
“Hark to me”–the old man’s voice lifted higher: “If you’d ever whimpered, or give back- talk, or broke out the wrong way, it would of been different. But you never did. I’ve watched you and I know; and you’ve just gone your own way alone, with the town against you because you got a bad name as a boy, and once we’d given you that, everything you did or didn’t do, we had to give you a blacker one. Now it’s time some one stood by you! Airie Tabor ‘ll do that with all her soul and body. She told me once I thought a good deal of you. She knew! But I want these three old friends of mine to do it, too. I was boys with them and they’ll do it, I think. They’ve even stood up fer you against me, sometimes, but mostly fer the sake of the argument, I reckon; but now they must do it when there’s more to stand against than just my talk. They saw it all to-day–the meanest thing I ever knew! I could of stood it all except that!” Before they could prevent him he had struggled half upright in bed, lifting a clinched fist at the town beyond the windows. “But, by God! when they got so low down they tried to kill your dog–“
He fell back, choking, in Joe’s arms, and the physician bent over him, but Eskew was not gone, and Ariel, upon the other side of the room, could hear him whispering again for the restorative. She brought it, and when he had taken it, went quickly out-of-doors to the side yard.
She sat upon a workman’s bench under the big trees, hidden from the street shrubbery, and breathing deeply of the shaded air, began to cry quietly. Through the windows came the quavering voice of the old man, lifted again, insistent, a little querulous, but determined. Responses sounded, intermittently, from the Colonel, from Peter, and from Buckalew, and now and then a sorrowful, yet almost humorous, protest from Joe; and so she made out that the veteran swore his three comrades to friendship with Joseph Louden, to lend him their countenance in all matters, to stand by him in weal and woe, to speak only good of him and defend him in the town of Canaan. Thus did Eskew Arp on the verge of parting this life render justice.
The gate clicked, and Ariel saw Eugene approaching through the shrubbery. One of his hands was bandaged, a thin strip of court-plaster crossed his forehead from his left eyebrow to his hair, and his thin and agitated face showed several light scratches.
“I saw you come out,” he said. “I’ve been waiting to speak to you.”
“The doctor told us to let him have his way in whatever he might ask.” Ariel wiped her eyes. “I’m afraid that means–“
“I didn’t come to talk about Eskew Arp,” interrupted Eugene. “I’m not laboring under any anxiety about him. You needn’t be afraid; he’s too sour to accept his conge so readily.”
“Please lower your voice,” she said, rising quickly and moving away from him toward the house; but, as he followed, insisting sharply that he must speak with her, she walked out of ear-shot of the windows, and stopping, turned toward him.
“Very well,” she said. “Is it a message from Mamie?”
At this he faltered and hung fire.
“Have you been to see her?” she continued.
“I am anxious to know if her goodness and bravery caused her any–any discomfort at home.”
“You may set your mind at rest about that,” returned Eugene. “I was there when the Judge came home to dinner. I suppose you fear he may have been rough with her for taking my step- brother into the carriage. He was not. On the contrary, he spoke very quietly to her, and went on out toward the stables. But I haven’t come to you to talk of Judge Pike, either!”
“No,” said Ariel. “I don’t care particularly to hear of him, but of Mamie.”
“Nor of her, either!” he broke out. “I want to talk of you!”
There was not mistaking him; no possibility of misunderstanding the real passion that shook him, and her startled eyes betrayed her comprehension.
“Yes, I see you understand,” he cried, bitterly. “That’s because you’ve seen others the same way. God help me,” he went on, striking his forehead with his open hand, “that young fool of a Bradbury told me you refused him only yesterday! He was proud of even rejection from you! And there’s Norbert–and half a dozen others, perhaps, already, since you’ve been here.” He flung out his arms in ludicrous, savage despair. “And here am I–“
“Ah yes,” she cut him off, “it is of yourself that you want to speak, after all–not of me!”
“Look here,” he vociferated; “are you going to marry that Joe Louden? I want to know whether you are or not. He gave me this–and this to- day!” He touched his bandaged hand and plastered forehead. “He ran into me–over me–for
nothing, when I was not on my guard; struck me down–stamped on me–“
She turned upon him, cheeks aflame, eyes sparkling and dry.
“Mr. Bantry,” she cried, “he did a good thing! And now I want you to go home. I want you to go home and try if you can discover anything in yourself that is worthy of Mamie and of what she showed herself to be this morning! If you can, you will have found something that I could like!”
She went rapidly toward the house, and he was senseless enough to follow, babbling: “What do you think I’m made of? You trample on me–as he did! I can’t bear everything; I tell you–“
But she lifted her hand with such imperious will that he stopped short. Then, through the window of the sick-room came–clearly the querulous voice:
“I tell you it was; I heard him speak just now– out there in the yard, that no-account step-brother of Joe’s! What if he IS a hired hand on the Tocsin? He’d better give up his job and quit, than do what he’s done to help make the town think hard of Joe. And what IS he? Why, he’s worse than Cory. When that Claudine Fear first came here, ‘Gene Bantry was hangin’ around her himself. Joe knew it and he’d never tell, but I will. I saw ’em buggy-ridin’ out near Beaver Beach and she slapped his face fer him. It ought to be TOLD!”
“I didn’t know that Joe knew–that!” Eugene stammered huskily. “It was–it was–a long time ago–“
“If you understood Joe,” she said, in a low voice, “you would know that before these men leave this house, he will have their promise never to tell.”
His eyes fell miserably, then lifted again; but in her clear and unbearable gaze there shone such a flame of scorn as he could not endure to look upon. For the first time in his life he saw a true light upon himself, and though the vision was darkling, the revelation was complete.
“Heaven pity you!” she whispered.
Eugene found himself alone, and stumbled away, his glance not lifted. He passed his own home without looking up, and did not see his mother beckoning frantically from a window. She ran to the door and called him. He did not hear her, but went on toward the Tocsin office with his head still bent.
NORBERT WAITS FOR JOE:
There was meat for gossip a plenty
in Canaan that afternoon and evening; there were rumors that ran
from kitchen to parlor, and rumors
that ran from parlor to kitchen; speculations that detained housewives in talk across
front gates; wonderings that held cooks in converse over shadeless back fences in spite of the heat; and canards that brought Main Street clerks running to the shop doors to stare up and down the sidewalks. Out of the confusion of report, the judicious were able by evenfall to extract a fair history of this day of revolution. There remained no doubt that Joe Louden was in attendance at the death-bed of Eskew Arp, and somehow it came to be known that Colonel Flitcroft, Squire Buckalew, and Peter Bradbury had shaken hands with Joe and declared themselves his friends. There were those (particularly among the relatives of the hoary trio) who expressed the opinion that the Colonel and his comrades were too old to be responsible and a commission ought to sit on them; nevertheless, some echoes of Eskew’s last “argument” to the conclave had sounded in the town
and were not wholly without effect.
Everywhere there was a nipping curiosity to learn how Judge Pike had “taken” the strange performance of his daughter, and the eager were much disappointed when it was truthfully reported that he had done and said very little. He had merely discharged both Sam Warden and Sam’s wife from his service, the mild manner of the dismissal almost unnerving Mr. Warden, although he was fully prepared for bird-shot; and the couple had found immediate employment in the service of Ariel Tabor.
Those who humanly felt the Judge’s behavior to be a trifle flat and unsensational were recompensed late in the afternoon when it became known that Eugene Bantry had resigned his position on the Tocsin. His reason for severing his connection was dumfounding; he had written a formal letter to the Judge and repeated the gist of it to his associates in the office and acquaintances upon the street. He declared that he no longer sympathized with the attitude of the Tocsin toward his step- brother, and regretted that he had previously assisted in emphasizing the paper’s hostility to Joe, particularly in the matter of the approaching murder trial. This being the case, he felt that his effectiveness in the service of the paper had ceased, and he must, in justice to the owner, resign.