“Well, I’m damned!” was the simple comment of the elder Louden when his step-son sought him out at the factory and repeated this statement to him.
“So am I, I think,” said Eugene, wanly. “Good- bye. I’m going now to see mother, but I’ll be gone before you come home.”
“Just away. I don’t know where,” Eugene answered from the door. “I couldn’t live here any longer. I–“
“You’ve been drinking,” said Mr. Louden, inspired. “You’d better not let Mamie Pike see you.”
Eugene laughed desolately. “I don’t mean to. I shall write to her. Good-bye,” he said, and was gone before Mr. Louden could restore enough order out of the chaos in his mind to stop him.
Thus Mrs. Louden’s long wait at the window was tragically rewarded, and she became an unhappy actor in Canaan’s drama of that day. Other ladies attended at other windows, or near their front doors, throughout the afternoon: the families of the three patriarchs awaiting their return, as the time drew on, with something akin to frenzy. Mrs. Flitcroft (a lady of temper), whose rheumatism confined her to a chair, had her grandson wheel her out upon the porch, and, as the dusk fell and she finally saw her husband coming at a laggard pace, leaning upon his cane, his chin sunk on his breast, she frankly told Norbert that although she had lived with that man more than fifty-seven years, she would never be able to understand him. She repeated this with genuine symptoms of hysteria when she discovered that the Colonel had not come straight from the Tabor house, but had stopped two hours at Peter Bradbury’s to “talk it over.”
One item of his recital, while sufficiently startling to his wife, had a remarkable effect upon his grandson. This was the information that Ariel Tabor’s fortune no longer existed.
“What’s that?” cried Norbert, starting to his feet. “What are you talking about?”
“It’s true,” said the Colonel, deliberately. “She told me so herself. Eskew had dropped off into a sort of doze–more like a stupor, perhaps,–and we all went into Roger’s old studio, except Louden and the doctor, and while we were there, talkin’, one of Pike’s clerks came with a basket full of tin boxes and packages of papers and talked to Miss Tabor at the door and went away. Then old Peter blundered out and asked her point-blank what it was, and she said it was her estate, almost everything she had, except the house. Buckalew, tryin’ to make a joke, said he’d be willin’ to swap HIS house and lot for the basket, and she laughed and told him she thought he’d be sorry; that all there was, to speak of, was a pile of distillery stock–” “What?” repeated Norbert, incredulously.
“Yes. It was the truth,” said the Colonel, solemnly. “I saw it myself: blocks and blocks of stock in that distillery trust that went up higher’n a kite last year. Roger had put all of Jonas’s good money–“
“Not into that!” shouted Norbert, uncontrollably excited.
“Yes, he did. I tell you I saw it!”
“I tell you he didn’t. He owned Granger Gas, worth more to-day than it ever was! Pike was Roger’s attorney-in-fact and bought it for him before the old man died. The check went through my hands. You don’t think I’d forget as big a check as that, do you, even if it was more than a year ago? Or how it was signed and who made out to? It was Martin Pike that got caught with distillery stock. He speculated once too often!”
“No, you’re wrong,” persisted the Colonel. “I tell you I saw it myself.”
“Then you’re blind,” returned his grandson, disrespectfully; “you’re blind or else–or else–” He paused, open-mouthed, a look of wonder struggling its way to expression upon him, gradually conquering every knobby outpost of his countenance. He struck his fat hands together. “Where’s Joe Louden?” he asked, sharply. “I want to see him. Did you leave him at Miss Tabor’s?”
“He’s goin’ to sit up with Eskew. What do you want of him?”
“I should say you better ask that!” Mrs. Flitcroft began, shrilly. “It’s enough, I guess, for one of this family to go runnin’ after him and shakin’ hands with him and Heaven knows what not! NORBERT FLITCROFT!”
But Norbert jumped from the porch, ruthlessly crossed his grandmother’s geranium-bed, and, making off at as sharp a pace as his architecture permitted, within ten minutes opened Ariel’s gate.
Sam Warden came forward to meet him.
“Don’t ring, please, suh,” said Sam. “Dey sot me out heah to tell inquirin’ frien’s dat po’ ole Mist’ Arp mighty low.”
“I want to see Mr. Louden,” returned Norbert. “I want to see him immediately.”
“I don’ reckon he kin come out yit,” Sam said, in a low tone. “But I kin go in an’ ast ’em.”
He stepped softly within, leaving Norbert waiting, and went to the door of the sick-room. The door was open, the room brightly lighted, as Eskew had commanded when, a little earlier, he awoke.
Joe and Ariel were alone with him, leaning toward him with such white anxiety that the colored man needed no warning to make him remain silent in the hallway. The veteran was speaking and his voice was very weak, seeming to come from a great distance.
“It’s mighty funny, but I feel like I used to when I was a little boy. I reckon I’m kind of scared–after all. Airie Tabor,–are you–here?”
“Yes, Mr. Arp.”
“I thought–so–but I–I don’t see very well– lately. I–wanted–to–know–to know–“
“Yes–to know?” She knelt close beside him.
“It’s kind of–foolish,” he whispered. “I just –wanted to know if you was still here. It–don’t seem so lonesome now that I know.”
She put her arm lightly about him and he smiled and was silent for a time. Then he struggled to rise upon his elbow, and they lifted him a little.
“It’s hard to breathe,” gasped the old man. “I’m pretty near–the big road. Joe Louden–“
“You’d have been–willing–willing to change places with me–just now–when Airie–“
Joe laid his hand on his, and Eskew smiled again. “I thought so! And, Joe–“
“You always–always had the–the best of that joke between us. Do you–you suppose they charge admission–up there?” His eyes were lifted. “Do you suppose you’ve got to–to show your good deeds to git in?” The answering whisper was almost as faint as the old man’s.
“No,” panted Eskew, “nobody knows. But I hope–I do hope–they’ll have some free seats. It’s a–mighty poor show–we’ll–all have–if they–don’t!”
He sighed peacefully, his head grew heavier on Joe’s arm; and the young man set his hand gently upon the unseeing eyes. Ariel did not rise from where she knelt, but looked up at him when, a little later, he lifted his hand.
“Yes,” said Joe, “you can cry now.”
MR. SHEEHAN SPEAKS
Joe helped to carry what was mortal
of Eskew from Ariel’s house to its
final abiding-place. With him, in
that task, were Buckalew, Bradbury, the Colonel, and the grandsons of the
two latter, and Mrs. Louden drew in her skirts grimly as her step-son passed her in the mournful procession through the hall. Her eyes were red with weeping (not for Eskew), but not so red as those of Mamie Pike, who stood beside her.
On the way to the cemetery, Joe and Ariel were together in a carriage with Buckalew and the minister who had read the service, a dark, pleasant- eyed young man;–and the Squire, after being almost overcome during the ceremony, experienced a natural reaction, talking cheerfully throughout the long drive. He recounted many anecdotes of Eskew, chuckling over most of them, though filled with wonder by a coincidence which he and Flitcroft had discovered; the Colonel had recently been made the custodian of his old friend’s will, and it had been opened the day before the funeral. Eskew had left everything he possessed–with the regret that it was so little–to Joe.
“But the queer thing about it,” said the Squire, addressing himself to Ariel, “was the date of it, the seventeenth of June. The Colonel and I got to talkin’ it over, out on his porch, last night, tryin’ to rec’lect what was goin’ on about then, and we figgered it out that it was the Monday after you come back, the very day he got so upset when he saw you goin’ up to Louden’s law- office with your roses.”
Joe looked quickly at Ariel. She did not meet his glance, but, turning instead to Ladew, the clergyman, began, with a barely perceptible blush, to talk of something he had said in a sermon two weeks ago. The two fell into a thoughtful and amiable discussion, during which there stole into Joe’s heart a strange and unreasonable pain. The young minister had lived in Canaan only a few months, and Joe had never seen him until that morning; but he liked the short, honest talk he had made; liked his cadenceless voice and keen, dark face; and, recalling what he had heard Martin Pike vociferating in his brougham one Sunday, perceived that Ladew was the fellow who had “got to go” because his sermons did not please the Judge. Yet Ariel remembered for more than a fortnight a passage from one of these sermons. And as Joe looked at the manly and intelligent face opposite him, it did not seem strange that she should.
He resolutely turned his eyes to the open window and saw that they had entered the cemetery, were near the green knoll where Eskew was to lie beside a brother who had died long ago. He let the minister help Ariel out, going quickly forward himself with Buckalew; and then–after the little while that the restoration of dust to dust mercifully needs–he returned to the carriage only to get his hat.
Ariel and Ladew and the Squire were already seated and waiting. “Aren’t you going to ride home with us?” she asked, surprised.
“No,” he explained, not looking at her. “I have to talk with Norbert Flitcroft. I’m going back with him. Good-bye.”
His excuse was the mere truth, his conversation with Norbert, in the carriage which they managed to secure to themselves, continuing earnestly until Joe spoke to the driver and alighted at a corner, near Mr. Farbach’s Italian possessions. “Don’t forget,” he said, as he closed the carriage door, “I’ve got to have both ends of the string in my hands.”
“Forget!” Norbert looked at the cupola of the Pike Mansion, rising above the maples down the street. “It isn’t likely I’ll forget!”
When Joe entered the “Louis Quinze room” which some decorator, drunk with power, had mingled into the brewer’s villa, he found the owner and Mr. Sheehan, with five other men, engaged in a meritorious attempt to tone down the apartment with smoke. Two of the five others were prosperous owners of saloons; two were known to the public (whose notion of what it meant when it used the term was something of the vaguest) as politicians; the fifth was Mr. Farbach’s closest friend, one who (Joe had heard) was to be the next chairman of the city committee of the party. They were seated about a table, enveloped in blue clouds, and hushed to a grave and pertinent silence which clarified immediately the circumstance that whatever debate had preceded his arrival, it was now settled.
Their greeting of him, however, though exceedingly quiet, indicated a certain expectancy, as he accepted the chair which had been left for him at the head of the table. He looked thinner and paler than usual, which is saying a great deal; but presently, finding that the fateful hush which his entrance had broken was immediately resumed, a twinkle came into his eye, one of his eyebrows went up and a corner of his mouth went down.
“Well, gentlemen?” he said.
The smokers continued to smoke and to do nothing else; the exception being Mr. Sheehan, who, though he spoke not, exhibited tokens of agitation and excitement which he curbed with difficulty; shifting about in his chair, gnawing his cigar, crossing and uncrossing his knees, rubbing and slapping his hands together, clearing his throat with violence, his eyes fixed all the while, as were those of his companions, upon Mr. Farbach; so that Joe was given to perceive that it had been agreed that the brewer should be the spokesman. Mr. Farbach was deliberate, that was all, which added to the effect of what he finally did say.
“Choe,” he remarked, placidly, “you are der next Mayor off Canaan.”
“Why do you say that?” asked the young man, sharply.
“Bickoss us here,” he answered, interlocking the tips of his fingers over his waistcoat, that being as near folding his hands as lay within his power,– “bickoss us here shall try to fix it so, und so hef ditcided.”
Joe took a deep breath. “Why do you want me?”
“Dot,” replied the brewer, “iss someding I shall tell you.” He paused to contemplate his cigar. “We want you bickoss you are der best man fer dot positsion.”
“Louie, you mustn’t make a mistake at the beginning,” Joe said, hurriedly. “I may not be the kind of man you’re looking for. If I went in–” He hesitated, stammering. “It seems an ungrateful thing to say, but–but there wouldn’t be any slackness–I couldn’t be bound to anybody–“
“Holt up your hosses!” Mr. Farbach, once in his life, was so ready to reply that he was able to interrupt. “Who hef you heert speak off bounding? Hef I speakt off favors? Dit I say der shoult be slackness in der city gofer’ment? Litsen to me, Choe.” He renewed his contemplation of his cigar, then proceeded: “I hef been t’inkin’ it ofer, now a couple years. I hef mate up my mind. If some peobles are gombelt to keep der laws and oders are not, dot’s a great atwantitch to der oders. Dot iss what iss ruining der gountry und der peobles iss commencement to take notice. Efer’veres in oder towns der iss housecleaning; dey are reforming und indieding, und pooty soon dot mofement comes here–shoo-er! If we intent to holt der parsly in power, we shoult be a leetle ahead off dot mofement so, when it shoult be here, we hef a goot ‘minadstration to fall beck on. Now, dere iss anoder brewery opened und trying to gombete mit me here in Canaan. If dot brewery owns der Mayor, all der tsaloons buying my bier must shut up at ‘leven o’glock und Sundays, but der oders keep open. If I own der Mayor, I make der same against dot oder brewery. Now I am pooty sick off dot ways off bitsness und fighting all times. Also,” Mr. Farbach added, with magnificent calmness, “my trade iss larchly owitside off Canaan, und it iss bedder dot here der laws shoult be enforced der same fer all. Litsen, Choe; all us here beliefs der same way. You are square. Der whole tsaloon element knows dot, und knows dot all voult be treated der same. Mit you it voult be fairness fer each one. Foolish peobles hef sait you are a law-tricker, but we know dot you hef only mate der laws brotect as well as bunish. Und at such times as dey het been broken, you hef made dem as mertsiful as you coult. You are no tricker. We are willing to help you make it a glean town. Odervise der fightin’ voult go on until der mofement strikes here und all der granks vake up und we git a fool reformer fer Mayor und der town goes to der dogs. If I try to put in a man dot I own, der oder brewery iss goin’ to fight like hell, but if I work fer you it will not fight so hart.”
“But the other people,” Joe objected. “those outside of what is called the saloon element–do you understand how many of them will be against me?”
“It iss der tsaloon element,” Mr. Farbach returned, peacefully, “dot does der fightin’.”
“And you have considered my standing with that part of Canaan which considers itself the most respectable section?” He rose to his feet, standing straight and quiet, facing the table, upon which, it chanced, there lay a copy of the Tocsin.
“Und yet,” observed Mr. Farbach, with mildness, “we got some pooty risbecdable men right here.”
“Except me,” broke in Mr. Sheehan, grimly, “you have.”
“Have you thought of this?” Joe leaned forward and touched the paper upon the table.
“We hef,” replied Mr. Farbach. “All of us. You shall beat it,”
There was a strong chorus of confirmation from the others, and Joe’s eyes flashed.
“Have you considered,” he continued, rapidly, while a warm color began to conquer his pallor,– “have you considered the powerful influence which will be against me, and more against me now, I should tell you, than ever before? That influence, I mean, which is striving so hard to discredit me that lynch-law has been hinted for poor Fear if I should clear him! Have you thought of that? Have you thought–“
“Have we thought o’ Martin Pike?” exclaimed Mr. Sheehan, springing to his feet, face aflame and beard bristling. “Ay, we’ve thought o’ Martin Pike, and our thinkin’ of him is where he begins to git what’s comin’ to him! What d’ye stand there pickin’ straws fer? What’s the matter with ye?” he demanded, angrily, his violence tenfold increased by the long repression he had put upon himself during the brewer’s deliberate utterances. “If Louie Farbach and his crowd says they’re fer ye, I guess ye’ve got a chanst, haven’t ye?”
“Wait,” said Joe. “I think you underestimate Pike’s influence–“
“Underestimate the devil!” shouted Mr. Sheehan, uncontrollably excited. “You talk about
influence! He’s been the worst influence this town’s ever had–and his tracks covered up in the dark wherever he set his ugly foot down. These men know it, and you know some, but not the worst of it, because none of ye live as deep down in it as I do! Ye want to make a clean town of it, ye want to make a little heaven of the Beach–“
“And in the eyes of Judge Pike,” Joe cut him off, “and of all who take their opinions from him, I REPRESENT Beaver Beach!”
Mike Sheehan gave a wild shout. “Whooroo! It’s come! I knowed it would! The day I couldn’t hold my tongue, though I passed my word I would when the coward showed the deed he didn’t dare to git recorded! Waugh!” He shouted again, with bitter laughter. “Ye do! In the eyes o’ them as follow Martin Pike ye stand fer the Beach and all its wickedness, do ye? Whooroo! It’s come! Ye’re an offence in the eyes o’ Martin Pike and all his kind because ye stand fer the Beach, are ye?”
“You know it!” Joe answered, sharply. “If they could wipe the Beach off the map and me with it–“
“Martin Pike would?” shouted Mr. Sheehan, while the others, open-mouthed, stared at him. “Martin Pike would?”
“I don’t need to tell you that,” said Joe.
Mr, Sheehan’s big fist rose high over the table and descended crashing upon it. “It’s a damn lie !” he roared. “Martin Pike owns Beaver Beach!”
JOE WALKS ACROSS THE COURT-HOUSE YARD
From within the glossy old walnut
bar that ran from wall to wall, the eyes of the lawyers and reporters
wandered often to Ariel as she sat in the packed court-room watching Louden’s
fight for the life and liberty of Happy Fear. She had always three escorts, and though she did not miss a session, and the same three never failed to attend her, no whisper of scandal arose. But not upon them did the glances of the members of the bar and the journalists with tender frequency linger; nor were the younger members of these two professions all who gazed that way. Joe had fought out the selection of the jury with the prosecutor at great length and with infinite pains; it was not a young jury, and IT stared at her. The “Court” wore a gray beard with which a flock of sparrows might have villaged a grove, and yet, in spite of the vital necessity for watchfulness over this fighting case, IT once needed to be stirred from a trancelike gaze in Miss Tabor’s direction and aroused to the realization that It was there to Sit and not to dream.
The August air was warm outside the windows, inviting to the open country, to swimmin’-hole, to orchard reveries, or shaded pool wherein to drop a meditative line; you would have thought no one could willingly coop himself in this hot room for three hours, twice a day, while lawyers wrangled, often unintelligibly, over the life of a dingy little creature like Happy Fear, yet the struggle to swelter there was almost like a riot, and the bailiffs were busy men.
It was a fighting case throughout, fought to a finish on each tiny point as it came up, dragging, in the mere matter of time, interminably, yet the people of Canaan (not only those who succeeded in penetrating to the court-room, but the others who hung about the corridors, or outside the building, and the great mass of stay-at-homes who read the story in the Tocsin) found each moment of it enthralling enough. The State’s attorney, fearful of losing so notorious a case, and not underestimating his opponent, had modestly summoned others to his aid; and the attorney for the defence, single- handed, faced “an array of legal talent such as seldom indeed had hollered at this bar”; faced it good-naturedly, an eyebrow crooked up and his head on one side, most of the time, yet faced it indomitably. He had a certain careless and disarming smile when he lost a point, which carried off the defeat as of only humorous account and not at all part of the serious business in hand; and in his treatment of witnesses, he was plausible, kindly, knowing that in this case he had no intending perjurer to entrap; brought into play the rare and delicate art of which he was a master, employing in his questions subtle suggestions and shadings of tone and manner, and avoiding words of debatable and dangerous meanings;–a fine craft, often attempted by blunderers to their own undoing, but which, practised by Joseph Louden,
made inarticulate witnesses articulate to the precise effects which he desired. This he accomplished as much by the help of the continuous fire of objections from the other side as in spite of them. He was infinitely careful, asking never an ill-advised question for the other side to use to his hurt, and, though exhibiting only a pleasant easiness of manner, was electrically alert.
A hundred things had shown Ariel that the feeling of the place, influenced by “public sentiment” without, was subtly and profoundly hostile to Joe and his client; she read this in the spectators, in the jury, even in the Judge; but it seemed to her that day by day the inimical spirit gradually failed, inside the railing, and also in those spectators who, like herself, were enabled by special favor to be present throughout the trial, and that now and then a kindlier sentiment began to be manifested. She was unaware how strongly she contributed to effect this herself, not only through the glow of visible sympathy which radiated from her, but by a particular action. Claudine was called by the State, and told as much of her story as the law permitted her to tell, interlarding her replies with fervent protestations (too quick to be prevented) that she “never meant to bring no trouble to Mr. Fear” and that she “did hate to have gen’lemen starting things on her account.” When the defence took this perturbed witness, her interpolations became less frequent, and she described straightforwardly how she had found the pistol on the floor near the prostrate figure of Cory, and hidden it in her own dress. The attorneys for the State listened with a somewhat cynical amusement to this portion of her testimony, believing it of no account, uncorroborated, and that if necessary the State could impeach the witness on the ground that it had been indispensable to produce her. She came down weeping from the stand; and, the next witness not being immediately called, the eyes of the jurymen naturally followed her as she passed to her seat, and they saw Ariel Tabor bow gravely to her across the railing. Now, a thousand things not set forth by legislatures, law-men and judges affect a jury, and the slight salutation caused the members of this one to glance at one another; for it seemed to imply that the exquisite lady in white not only knew Claudine, but knew that she had spoken the truth. It was after this, that a feeling favorable to the defence now and then noticeably manifested itself in the court- room. Still, when the evidence for the State was all in, the life of Happy Fear seemed to rest in a balance precarious indeed, and the little man, swallowing pitifully, looked at his attorney with the eyes of a sick dog.
Then Joe gave the prosecutors an illuminating and stunning surprise, and, having offered in evidence the revolver found upon Claudine, produced as his first witness a pawnbroker of Denver, who identified the weapon as one he had sold to Cory, whom he had known very well. The second witness, also a stranger, had been even more intimately acquainted with the dead man, and there began to be an uneasy comprehension of what Joe had accomplished during that prolonged absence of his which had so nearly cost the life of the little mongrel, who was at present (most blissful Respectability!) a lively convalescent in Ariel’s back yard. The second witness also identified the revolver, testifying that he had borrowed it from Cory in St. Louis to settle a question of marksmanship, and that on his returning it to the owner, the latter, then working his way eastward, had confided to him his intention of stopping in Canaan for the purpose of exercising its melancholy functions upon a man who had once “done him good” in that city.
By the time the witness had reached this point, the Prosecutor and his assistants were on their feet, excitedly shouting objections, which were promptly overruled. Taken unawares, they fought for time; thunder was loosed, forensic bellowings; everybody lost his temper–except Joe; and the examination of the witness proceeded. Cory, with that singular inspiration to confide in some one, which is the characteristic and the undoing of his kind, had outlined his plan of operations to the witness with perfect clarity. He would first attempt, so he had declared, to incite an attack upon himself by playing upon the jealousy of his victim, having already made a tentative effort in that direction. Failing in this, he would fall back upon one of a dozen schemes (for he was ready in such matters, he bragged), the most likely of which would be to play the peacemaker; he would talk of his good intentions toward his enemy, speaking publicly of him in friendly and gentle ways; then, getting at him secretly, destroy him in such a fashion as to leave open for himself the kind gate of self-defence. In brief, here was the whole tally of what had actually occurred, with the exception of the last account in the sequence which had proved that demise for which Cory had not arranged and it fell from the lips of a witness whom the prosecution had no means of impeaching. When he left the stand, unshaken and undiscredited, after a frantic cross-examination, Joe,
turning to resume his seat, let his hand fall lightly for a second upon his client’s shoulder.
That was the occasion of a demonstration which indicated a sentiment favorable to the defence (on the part of at least three of the spectators); and it was in the nature of such a hammering of canes upon the bare wooden floor as effectually stopped all other proceedings instantly. The indignant Judge fixed the Colonel, Peter Bradbury, and Squire Buckalew with his glittering eye, yet the hammering continued unabated; and the offenders surely would have been conducted forth in ignominy, had not gallantry prevailed, even in that formal place. The Judge, reluctantly realizing that some latitude must be allowed to these aged enthusiasts, since they somehow seemed to belong to Miss Tabor, made his remarks general, with the time-worn threat to clear the room, whereupon the loyal survivors of Eskew relapsed into unabashed silence.
It was now, as Joe had said, a clear-enough case. Only the case itself, however, was clear, for, as he and his friends feared, the verdict might possibly be neither in accordance with the law, the facts, nor the convictions of the jury. Eugene’s defection had not altered the tone of the Tocsin.
All day long a crowd of men and boys hung about the corridors of the Court-house, about the Square and the neighboring streets, and from these rose sombre murmurs, more and more ominous. The public sentiment of a community like Canaan can make itself felt inside a court-room; and it was strongly exerted against Happy Fear. The Tocsin had always been a powerful agent; Judge Pike had increased its strength with a staff which was thoroughly efficient, alert, and always able to strike centre with the paper’s readers; and in town and country it had absorbed the circulation of the other local journals, which resisted feebly at times, but in the matter of the Cory murder had not dared to do anything except follow the Tocsin’s lead. The Tocsin, having lit the fire, fed it–fed it saltpetre and sulphur–for now Martin Pike was fighting hard.
The farmers and people of the less urban parts of the country were accustomed to found their opinions upon the Tocsin. They regarded it as the single immutable rock of journalistic righteousness and wisdom in the world. Consequently, stirred by the outbursts of the paper, they came into Canaan in great numbers, and though the pressure from the town itself was so strong that only a few of them managed to crowd into the court-room, the others joined their voices to those sombre murmurs outdoors, which increased in loudness as the trial went on.
The Tocsin, however, was not having everything its own way; the volume of outcry against Happy Fear and his lawyer had diminished, it was noticed, in “very respectable quarters.” The information imparted by Mike Sheehan to the politicians at Mr. Farbach’s had been slowly seeping through the various social strata of the town, and though at first incredulously rejected, it began to find acceptance; Upper Main Street cooling appreciably in its acceptance of the Tocsin as the law and the prophets. There were even a few who dared to wonder in their hearts if there had not been a mistake about Joe Louden; and although Mrs. Flitcroft weakened not, the relatives of Squire Buckalew and of Peter Bradbury began to hold up their heads a little, after having made home horrible for those gentlemen and reproached them with their conversion as the last word of senile shame. In addition, the Colonel’s grandson and Mr. Bradbury’s grandson had both mystifyingly lent countenance to Joe, consorting with him openly; the former for his own purposes–the latter because he had cunningly discovered that it was a way to Miss Tabor’s regard, which, since her gentle rejection of him, he had grown to believe (good youth!) might be the pleasantest thing that could ever come to him. In short, the question had begun to thrive: Was it possible that Eskew Arp had not been insane, after all?
The best of those who gathered ominously about the Court-house and its purlieus were the young farmers and field-hands, artisans and clerks; one of the latter being a pimply faced young man (lately from the doctor’s hands), who limped, and would limp for the rest of his life, he who, of all men, held the memory of Eskew Arp in least respect, and was burningly desirous to revenge himself upon the living.
The worst were of that mystifying, embryonic, semi-rowdy type, the American voyou, in the production of which Canaan and her sister towns everywhere over the country are prolific; the young man, youth, boy perhaps, creature of nameless age, whose clothes are like those of a brakeman out of work, but who is not a brakeman in or out of work; wearing the black, soft hat tilted forward to shelter–as a counter does the contempt of a clerk–that expression which the face does not dare wear quite in the open, asserting the possession of supreme capacity in wit, strength, dexterity, and amours; the dirty handkerchief under the collar; the short black coat always double-breasted; the eyelids sooty; one cheek always bulged; the forehead speckled; the lips cracked; horrible teeth; and the affectation of possessing secret information upon all matters of the universe; above all, the instinct of finding the shortest way to any scene of official interest to the policeman, fireman, or ambulance surgeon,–a singular being, not professionally criminal; tough histrionically rather than really; full of its own argot of brag; hysterical when crossed, timid through great ignorance, and therefore dangerous. It furnishes not the leaders but the mass of mobs; and it springs up at times of crisis from Heaven knows where. You might have driven through all the streets of Canaan, a week before the trial, and have seen four or five such fellows; but from the day of its beginning the Square was full of them, dingy shuttlecocks batted up into view by the Tocsin.
They kept the air whirring with their noise. The news of that sitting which had caused the Squire, Flitcroft, and Peter Bradbury to risk the Court’s displeasure, was greeted outside with loud and vehement disfavor; and when, at noon, the jurymen were marshalled out to cross the yard to the “National House” for dinner, a large crowd followed and surrounded them, until they reached the doors of the hotel. “Don’t let Lawyer Louden bamboozle you!” “Hang him!” “Tar and feathers fer ye ef ye don’t hang him!” These were the mildest threats, and Joe Louden, watching from an upper window of the Court-house, observed with a troubled eye how certain of the jury shrank from the pressure of the throng, how the cheeks of others showed sudden pallor. Sometimes “public sentiment” has done evil things to those who have not shared it; and Joe knew how rare a thing is a jury which dares to stand square against a town like Canaan aroused.
The end of that afternoon’s session saw another point marked for the defence; Joe had put the defendant on the stand, and the little man had proved an excellent witness. During his life he had been many things–many things disreputable; high standards were not brightly illumined for him in the beginning of the night-march which his life had been. He had been a tramp, afterward a petty gambler; but his great motive had finally come to be the intention to do what Joe told him to do: that, and to keep Claudine as straight as he could. In a measure, these were the two things that had brought him to the pass in which he now stood, his loyalty to Joe and his resentment of whatever tampered with Claudine’s straightness. He was submissive to the consequences: he was still loyal. And now Joe asked him to tell “just what happened,” and Happy obeyed with crystal clearness. Throughout the long, tricky cross- examination he continued to tell “just what happened” with a plaintive truthfulness not to be imitated, and throughout it Joe guarded him from pitfalls (for lawyers in their search after truth are compelled by the exigencies of their profession to make pitfalls even for the honest), and gave him, by various devices, time to remember, though not to think, and made the words “come right” in his mouth. So that before the sitting was over, a disquieting rumor ran through the waiting crowd in the corridors, across the Square, and over the town, that the case was surely going “Louden’s way.” This was also the opinion of a looker-on in Canaan–a ferret-faced counsellor of corporations who, called to consultation with the eminent Buckalew (nephew of the Squire), had afterward spent an hour in his company at the trial. “It’s going that young fellow Louden’s way,” said the stranger. “You say he’s a shyster, but–“
“Well,” admitted Buckalew, with some reluctance, “I don’t mean that exactly. I’ve got an old uncle who seems lately to think he’s a great man.”
“I’ll take your uncle’s word for it,” returned the other, smiling. “I think he’ll go pretty far.”
They had come to the flight of steps which descended to the yard,–and the visitor, looking down upon the angry crowd, added, “If they don’t kill him!”
Joe himself was anxious concerning no such matter. He shook hands with Happy at the end of the sitting, bidding him be of good cheer, and, when the little man had marched away, under a strong guard, began to gather and sort his papers at a desk inside the bar. This took him perhaps five minutes, and when he had finished there were only three people left in the room: a clerk, a negro janitor with a broom, and the darky friend who always hopefully accompanies a colored man holding high public office. These two approvingly greeted the young lawyer, the janitor handing him a note from Norbert Flitcroft, and the friend mechanically “borrowing” a quarter from him as he opened the envelope.
“I’ll be roun’ yo’ way to git a box o’ SE-gahs,” laughed the friend, “soon ez de campaign open up good. Dey all goin’ vote yo’ way, down on the levee bank, but dey sho’ expecks to git to smoke a little ‘fo’ leckshun-day! We knows who’s OW frien’!”
Norbert’s missive was lengthy and absorbing; Joe went on his way, perusing it with profound attention; but as he descended the stairway to the floor below, a loud burst of angry shouting, outside the building, caused him to hasten toward the big front doors which faced Main Street. The doors opened upon an imposing vestibule, from which a handsome flight of stone steps, protected by a marble balustrade, led to the ground.
Standing at the top of these steps and leaning over the balustrade, he had a clear view of half the yard. No one was near him; everybody was running in the opposite direction, toward that corner of the yard occupied by the jail, the crowd centring upon an agitated whirlpool of men which
moved slowly toward a door in the high wall that enclosed the building; and Joe saw that Happy Fear’s guards, conducting the prisoner back to his cell, were being jostled and rushed. The distance they had made was short, but as they reached the door the pressure upon them increased dangerously. Clubs rose in the air, hats flew, the whirlpool heaved tumultuously, and the steel door clanged.
Happy Fear was safe inside, but the jostlers were outside–baffled, ugly, and stirred with the passion that changes a crowd into a mob.
Then some of them caught sight of Joe as he stood alone at the top of the steps, and a great shout of rage and exultation arose.
For a moment or two he did not see his danger. At the clang of the door, his eyes, caught by the gleam of a wide white hat, had turned toward the street, and he was somewhat fixedly watching Mr. Ladew extricate Ariel (and her aged and indignant escorts) from an overflow of the crowd in which they had been caught. But a voice warned him: the wild piping of a newsboy who had climbed into a tree near by.
“JOE LOUDEN!” he screamed. “LOOK OUT!”
With a muffled roar the crowd surged back from the jail and turned toward the steps. “Tar and feather him!” “Take him over to the river and throw him in!” “Drown him!” “Hang him!”
Then a thing happened which was dramatic enough in its inception, but almost ludicrous in its effect. Joe walked quietly down the steps and toward the advancing mob with his head cocked to one side, one eyebrow lifted, and one corner of his mouth drawn down in a faintly distorted smile.
He went straight toward the yelling forerunners, with only a small bundle of papers in his hands, and then–while the non-partisan spectators held their breath, expecting the shock of contact– straight on through them.
A number of the bulge-cheeked formed the scattering van of these forerunners, charging with hoarse and cruel shrieks of triumph. The first, apparently about to tear Joseph Louden to pieces, changed countenance at arm’s-length, swerved violently, and with the loud cry, “HEAD HIM OFF!” dashed on up the stone steps. The man next behind him followed his lead, with the same shout, strategy, and haste; then the others of this advance attack, finding themselves confronting the quiet man, who kept his even pace and showed no intention of turning aside for them, turned suddenly aside for HIM, and, taking the cue from the first, pursued their way, bellowing: “HEAD HIM OFF! HEAD HIM OFF!” until there were a dozen and more rowdyish men and youths upon the steps, their eyes blazing with fury, menacing Louden’s back with frightful gestures across the marble balustrade, as they hysterically bleated the chorus, “HEAD HIM OFF!”
Whether or not Joe could have walked through the entire mob as he had walked through these is a matter for speculation; it was believed in Canaan that he could. Already a gust of mirth began to sweep over the sterner spirits as they paused to marvel no less at the disconcerting advance of the lawyer than at the spectacle presented by the intrepid dare-devils upon the steps; a kind of lane actually opening before the young man as he walked steadily on. And when Mr. Sheehan, leading half a dozen huge men from the Farbach brewery, unceremoniously shouldered a way through the mob to Joe’s side, reaching him where the press was thickest, it is a question if the services of his detachment were needed.
The laughter increased. It became voluminous. Homeric salvos shook the air. And never one of the fire-eaters upon the steps lived long enough to live down the hateful cry of that day, “HEAD HIM OFF!” which was to become a catch-word on the streets, a taunt more stinging than any devised by deliberate invention, an insult bitterer than the ancestral doubt, a fighting-word, and the great historical joke of Canaan, never omitted in after- days when the tale was told how Joe Louden took that short walk across the Court-house yard which made him Mayor of Canaan.
MARTIN PIKE KEEPS AN ENGAGEMENT
An hour later, Martin Pike, looking
forth from the Mansion, saw a man
open the gate, and, passing between the unemotional deer, rapidly
approach the house. He was a thin
young fellow, very well dressed in dark gray, his hair prematurely somewhat silvered, his face prematurely somewhat lined, and his hat covered a scar such as might have been caused by a blow from a blunt instrument in the nature of a poker.
He did not reach the door, nor was there necessity for him to ring, for, before he had set foot on the lowest step, the Judge had hastened to meet him. Not, however, with any fulsomely hospitable intent; his hand and arm were raised to execute one of his Olympian gestures, of the kind which had obliterated the young man upon a certain by- gone morning.
Louden looked up calmly at the big figure towering above him.
“It won’t do, Judge,” he said; that was all, but there was a significance in his manner and a certainty in his voice which caused the uplifted hand to drop limply; while the look of apprehension which of late had grown more and more to be Martin Pike’s habitual expression deepened into something close upon mortal anxiety.
“Have you any business to set foot upon my property?” he demanded.
“Yes,” answered Joe. “That’s why I came.”
“What business have you got with me?”
“Enough to satisfy you, I think. But there’s one thing I don’t want to do”–Joe glanced at the open door–“and that is to talk about it here–for your own sake and because I think Miss Tabor should be present. I called to ask you to come to her house at eight o’clock to-night.”
“You did!” Martin Pike spoke angrily, but not in the bull-bass of yore; and he kept his voice down, glancing about him nervously as though he feared that his wife or Mamie might hear. “My accounts with her estate are closed,” he said, harshly. “If she wants anything, let her come here.”
Joe shook his head. “No. You must be there at eight o’clock “
The Judge’s choler got the better of his uneasiness. “You’re a pretty one to come ordering me around!” he broke out. “You slanderer, do you suppose I haven’t heard how you’re going about traducing me, undermining my character in this community, spreading scandals that I am the real owner of Beaver Beach–“
“It can easily be proved, Judge,” Joe interrupted, quietly, “though you’re wrong: I haven’t been telling people. I haven’t needed to–even if I’d wished. Once a thing like that gets out you can’t stop it–ever! That isn’t all: to my knowledge you own other property worse than the Beach; I know that you own half of the worst dens in the town: profitable investments, too. You bought them very gradually and craftily, only showing the deeds to those in charge–as you did to Mike Sheehan, and not recording them. Sheehan’s betrayal of you gave me the key; I know most of the poor creatures who are your tenants, too, you see, and that gave me an advantage because they have some confidence in me. My investigations have been almost as quiet and careful as your purchases.”
“You damned blackmailer!” The Judge bent upon him a fierce, inquiring scrutiny in which, oddly enough, there was a kind of haggard hopefulness. “And out of such stories,” he sneered,
“you are going to try to make political capital against the Tocsin, are you?”
“No,” said Joe. “It was necessary in the interests of my client for me to know pretty thoroughly just what property you own, and I think I do. These pieces I’ve mentioned are about all you have not mortgaged. You couldn’t do that without exposure, and you’ve kept a controlling interest in the Tocsin clear, too–for the sake of its influence, I suppose. Now, do you want to hear any more, or will you agree to meet me at Miss Tabor’s this evening?”
Whatever the look of hopefulness had signified, it fled from Pike’s face during this speech, but he asked with some show of contempt, “Do you think it likely?”
“Very well,” said Joe, “if you want me to speak here.” And he came a little closer to him. “You bought a big block of Granger Gas for Roger Tabor,” he began, in a low voice. “Before his death you sold everything he had, except the old house, put it all into cash for him, and bought that stock; you signed the check as his attorney-in-fact, and it came back to you through the Washington National, where Norbert Flitcroft handled it. He has a good memory, and when he told me what he knew, I had him to do some tracing; did a little myself, also. Judge Pike, I must tell you that you stand in danger of the law. You were the custodian of that stock for Roger Tabor; it was transferred in blank; though I think you meant to be `legal’ at that time, and that was merely for convenience in case Roger had wished you to sell it for him. But just after his death you found yourself saddled with distillery stock, which was going bad on your hands. Other speculations of yours were failing at the same time; you had to have money–you filed your report as administrator, crediting Miss Tabor with your own stock which you knew was going to the wall, and transferred hers to yourself. Then you sold it because you needed ready money. You used her fortune to save yourself–but you were horribly afraid! No matter how rotten your transactions had been, you had always kept inside the law; and now that you had gone outside of it, you were frightened. You didn’t dare come flat out to Miss Tabor with the statement that her fortune had gone; it had been in your charge all the time and things might look ugly. So you put it off, perhaps from day to day. You didn’t dare tell her until you were forced to, and to avoid the confession you sent her the income which was rightfully hers. That was your great weakness.”
Joe had spoken with great rapidity, though keeping his voice low, and he lowered it again, as he continued: “Judge Pike, what chance have you to be believed in court when you swear that you sent her twenty thousand dollars out of the goodness of your heart? Do you think SHE believed you? It was the very proof to her that you had robbed her. For she knew you! Do you want to hear more now? Do you think this is a good place for it? Do you wish me to go over the details of each step I have taken against you, to land you at the bar where this poor fellow your paper is hounding stands to-day?”
The Judge essayed to answer, and could not. He lifted his hand uncertainly and dropped it, while a thick dew gathered on his temples. Inarticulate sounds came from between his teeth.
“You will come?” said Joe.
Martin Pike bent his head dazedly; and at that the other turned quickly from him and went away without looking back.
Ariel was in the studio, half an hour later, when Joe was announced by the smiling Mr. Warden. Ladew was with her, though upon the point of taking his leave, and Joe marked (with a sinking heart) that the young minister’s cheeks were flushed and his eyes very bright.
“It was a magnificent thing you did, Mr. Louden,” he said, offering his hand heartily; “I saw it, and it was even finer in one way than it was plucky. It somehow straightened things out with such perfect good nature; it made those people feel that what they were doing was ridiculous.”
“So it was,” said Joe.
“Few, under the circumstances, could have acted as if they thought so! And I hope you’ll let me call upon you, Mr. Louden.”
“I hope you will,” he answered; and then, when the minister had departed, stood looking after him with sad eyes, in which there dwelt obscure meditations. Ladew’s word of farewell had covered a
deep look at Ariel, which was not to be mistaken by Joseph Louden for anything other than what it was: the clergyman’s secret was an open one, and Joe saw that he was as frank and manly in love as in all other things. “He’s a good fellow,” he said at last, sighing. “A good man.”
Ariel agreed. “And he said more to me than he did to you.”
“Yes, I think it probable,” Joe smiled sorrowfully.
“About YOU, I mean.” He had time to fear that her look admitted confusion before she proceeded: “He said he had never seen anything so fine as your coming down those steps. Ah, he was right! But it was harder for me to watch you, I think, than for you to do it, Joe. I was so horribly afraid–and the crowd between us–if we could have got near you–but we couldn’t–we–“
She faltered, and pressed her hand close upon her eyes.
“We?” asked Joe, slowly. “You mean you and Mr. Ladew?”
“Yes, he was there; but I mean”–her voice ran into a little laugh with a beatific quaver in it –“I mean Colonel Flitcroft and Mr. Bradbury and Mr. Buckalew, too–we were hemmed in together when Mr. Ladew found us–and, oh, Joe,
when that cowardly rush started toward you, those three–I’ve heard wonderful things in Paris and Naples, cabmen quarrelling and disappointed beggars–but never anything like them to-day–“
“You mean they were profane?”
“Oh, magnificently–and with such inventiveness! All three begged my pardon afterwards. I didn’t grant it–I blessed them!”
“Did they beg Mr. Ladew’s pardon?”
“Ah, Joe!” she reproached him. “He isn’t a prig. And he’s had to fight some things that you of all men ought to understand. He’s only been here a few months, but he told me that Judge Pike has been against him from the start. It seems that Mr. Ladew is too liberal in his views. And he told me that if it were not for Judge Pike’s losing influence in the church on account of the Beaver Beach story, the Judge would probably have been able to force him to resign; but now he will stay.”
“He wishes to stay, doesn’t he?”
“Very much, I think. And, Joe,” she continued, thoughtfully, “I want you to do something for me. I want you to go to church with me next Sunday.”
“To hear Mr. Ladew?”
“Yes. I wouldn’t ask except for that.”
“Very well,” he consented, with averted eyes. “I’ll go.”
Her face was radiant with the smile she gave him. “It will make me very happy,” she said.
He bent his head and fumbled over some papers he had taken from his pocket. “Will you listen to these memoranda? We have a great deal to go over before eight o’clock.”
Judge Pike stood for a long while where Joe had left him, staring out at the street, apparently. Really he saw nothing. Undoubtedly an image of blurring foliage, cast-iron, cement, and turf, with sunshine smeared over all, flickered upon the retinas of his eyes; but the brain did not accept the picture from the optic nerve. Martin Pike was busy with other visions. Joe Louden had followed him back to his hidden deeds and had read them aloud to him as Gabriel would read them on Judgment- day. Perhaps THIS was the Judgment-day.
Pike had taken charge of Roger Tabor’s affairs because the commissions as agent were not too inconsiderable to be neglected. To make the task simpler, he had sold, as time went on, the various properties of the estate, gradually converting all of them into cash. Then, the opportunity offering, he bought a stock which paid excellent dividends, had it transferred in blank, because if it should prove to Roger’s advantage to sell it, his agent could do so without any formal delays between Paris and Canaan. At least, that is what the Judge had told himself at the time, though it may be that some lurking whisperer in his soul had hinted that it might be well to preserve the great amount of cash in hand, and Roger’s stock was practically that. Then came the evil days. Laboriously, he had built up a name for conservatism which most of the town accepted, but secretly he had always been a gambler: Wall Street was his goal; to adventure there, as one of the great single-eyed Cyclopean man-eaters, his fond ambition; and he had conceived the distillery trust as a means to attain it; but the structure tumbled about his ears; other edifices of his crumbled at the same time; he found himself beset, his solvency endangered, and there was the Tabor stock, quite as good as gold; Roger had just died, and it was enough to save him.–Save? That was a strange way to be remembering it to-day, when Fate grinned at him out of a dreadful mask contorted like the face of Norbert Flitcroft.
Martin Pike knew himself for a fool. What chance had he, though he destroyed the check a thousand times over, to escape the records by which the coil of modern trade duplicates and quadruplicates each slip of scribbled paper? What chance had he against the memories of men? Would the man of whom he had bought, forget that the check was signed by Roger’s agent? Had the bank-clerk forgotten? Thrice fool, Martin Pike, to dream that in a town like Canaan, Norbert or any of his kind could touch an order for so great a sum and forget it! But Martin Pike had not dreamed that; had dreamed nothing. When failure confronted him his mind refused to consider anything but his vital need at the time, and he had supplied that need. And now he grew busy with the future: he saw first the civil suit for restitution, pressed with the ferocity and cunning of one who intended to satisfy a grudge of years; then, perhaps, a criminal prosecution. . . . But he would fight it! Did they think that such a man was to be overthrown by a breath of air? By a girl, a bank-clerk, and a shyster lawyer? They would find their case difficult to prove in court. He did not believe they COULD prove it. They would be discredited for the attempt upon him and he would win clear; these Beaver Beach scandals would die of inertia presently; there would he a lucky trick in wheat, and Martin Pike would be Martin Pike once more; reinstated, dictator of church, politics, business; all those things which were the breath of his life restored. He would show this pitiful pack what manner of man they hounded! Norbert Flitcroft. . . .
The Judge put his big hand up to his eyes and rubbed them. Curious mechanisms the eyes. . . . That deer in line with the vision–not a zebra? A zebra after all these years? And yet . . . curious, indeed, the eyes! . . . a zebra. . . . Who ever heard of a deer with stripes? The big hand rose from the eyes and ran through the hair which he had always worn rather long. It would seem strange to have it cut very short. . . . Did they use clippers, perhaps? . . .
He started suddenly and realized that his next- door neighbor had passed along the sidewalk with head averted, pretending not to see him. A few weeks ago the man would not have missed the chance of looking in to bow–with proper deference, too! Did he know? He could not know THIS! It must be the Beaver Beach scandal. It must be. It could not be THIS–not yet! But it MIGHT be. How many knew? Louden, Norbert, Ariel–who else? And again the deer took on the strange zebra look.
The Judge walked slowly down to the gate; spoke to the man he had employed in Sam Warden’s place, a Scotchman who had begun to refresh the lawn with a garden hose; bowed affably in response to the salutation of the elder Louden, who was passing, bound homeward from the factory, and returned to the house with thoughtful steps. In the hall he encountered his wife; stopped to speak with her upon various household matters; then entered the library, which was his workroom. He locked the door; tried it, and shook the handle. After satisfying himself of its security, he pulled down the window-shades carefully, and, lighting a gas drop-lamp upon his desk, began to fumble with various documents, which he took from a small safe near by. But his hands were not steady; he dropped the papers, scattering them over the floor, and had great difficulty in picking them up. He perspired heavily: whatever he touched became damp, and he continually mopped his forehead with his sleeve. After a time he gave up the attempt to sort the packets of papers; sank into a chair despairingly, leaving most of them in disorder. A light tap sounded on the door.
“Martin, it’s supper-time.”
With a great effort he made shift to answer: “Yes, I know. You and Mamie go ahead. I’m too busy to-night. I don’t want anything.”
A moment before, he had been a pitiful figure, face distraught, hands incoherent, the whole body incoordinate, but if eyes might have rested upon him as he answered his wife they would have seen a strange thing; he sat, apparently steady and collected, his expression cool, his body quiet, poised exactly to the quality of his reply, for the same strange reason that a young girl smiles archly and coquettes to a telephone.
“But, Martin, you oughtn’t to work so hard. You’ll break down–“
“No fear of that,” he replied, cheerfully. “You can leave something on the sideboard for me.”
After another fluttering remonstrance, she went away, and the room was silent again. His arms rested upon the desk, and his head slowly sank between his elbows. When he lifted it again the clock on the mantel-piece had tinkled once. It was half-past seven. He took a sheet of note- paper from a box before him and began to write, but when he had finished the words, “My dear wife and Mamie,” his fingers shook so violently that he could go no further. He placed his left hand over the back of his right to steady it, but found the device unavailing: the pen left mere zigzags on the page, and he dropped it.
He opened a lower drawer of the desk and took out of it a pistol; rose, went to the door, tried it once more, and again was satisfied of his seclusion. Then he took the weapon in both hands, the handle against his fingers, one thumb against the trigger, and, shaking with nausea, lifted it to the level of his eyes. His will betrayed him; he could not contract his thumb upon the trigger, and, with a convulsive shiver, he dropped the revolver upon the desk.
He locked the door of the room behind him, crept down the stairs and out of the front-door. He walked shamblingly, when he reached the street, keeping close to the fences as he went on, now and then touching the pickets with his hands like a feeble old man.
He had always been prompt; it was one of the things of which he had been proud: in all his life he had never failed to keep a business engagement precisely upon the appointed time, and the Court- house bell clanged eight when Sam Warden opened the door for his old employer to-night.
The two young people looked up gravely from the script-laden table before them as Martin Pike came into the strong lamplight out of the dimness of the hall, where only a taper burned. He shambled a few limp steps into the room and came to a halt. Big as he was, his clothes hung upon him loosely, like coverlets upon a collapsed bed; and he seemed but a distorted image of himself, as if (save for the dull and reddened eyes) he had been made of yellowish wax and had been left too long in the sun. Abject, hopeless, his attitude a confession of ruin and shame, he stood before his judges in such wretchedness that, in comparison, the figure of Happy Fear, facing the court-room through his darkest hour, was one to be envied.
“Well,” he said, brokenly, “what are you going to do?”
Joe Louden looked at him with great intentness for several moments. Then he rose and came forward. “Sit down, Judge,” he said. “It’s all right. Don’t worry “
THE JURY COMES IN
Mrs. Flitcroft, at breakfast on
the following morning, continued a
disquisition which had ceased, the
previous night, only because of a
provoking human incapacity to exist without sleep. Her theme was one which had exclusively occupied her since the passing of Eskew, and, her rheumatism having improved so that she could leave her chair, she had become a sort of walking serial; Norbert and his grandfather being well assured that, whenever they left the house, the same story was to be continued upon their reappearance. The Tocsin had been her great comfort: she was but one helpless woman against two strong men; therefore she sorely needed assistance in her attack upon them, and the invaluable newspaper gave it in generous measure.
“Yes, young man,” she said, as she lifted her first spoonful of oatmeal, “you BETTER read the Tocsin!”
“I AM reading it,” responded Norbert, who was almost concealed by the paper.
“And your grandfather better read it!” she continued, severely.
“I already have,” said the Colonel, promptly. “Have you?”
“No, but you can be sure I will!” The good lady gave the effect of tossing her head. “And you better take what it says to heart, you and some others. It’s a wonder to me that you and Buckalew and old Peter don’t go and hold that Happy Fear’s hand durin’ the trial! And as for Joe Louden, his step-mother’s own sister, Jane, says to me only yesterday afternoon, `Why, law! Mrs. Flitcroft,’ she says, `it’s a wonder to me,’ she says, `that your husband and those two other old fools don’t lay down in the gutter and let that Joe Louden walk over ’em.’ “
“Did Jane Quimby say `those two other old fools’?” inquired the Colonel, in a manner which indicated that he might see Mr. Quimby in regard to the slander.
“I can’t say as I remember just precisely her exact words,” admitted Mrs. Flitcroft, “but that was the sense of ’em! You’ve made yourselves the laughin’-stock of the whole town!”
“Oh, we have?”
“And I’d like to know”–her voice became shrill and goading–“I’d like to know what Judge Pike thinks of you and Norbert! I should think you’d be ashamed to have him pass you in the street.”
“I’ve quit speaking to him,” said Norbert, coldly, “ever since I heard he owned Beaver Beach.”
“That story ain’t proved yet!” returned his grandmother, with much irascibility.
“Well, it will be; but that’s not all.” Norbert wagged his head. “You may be a little surprised within the next few days.”
“I’ve been surprised for the PAST few!” she replied, with a bitterness which overrode her satisfaction in the effectiveness of the retort. “Surprised! I’d like to know who wouldn’t be surprised when half the town acts like it’s gone crazy. People PRAISIN’ that fellow, that nobody in their sober minds and senses never in their lives had a good word for before! Why, there was more talk yesterday about his doin’s at the Court-house– you’d of thought he was Phil Sheridan! It’s `Joe Louden’ here and `Joe Louden’ there, and `Joe Louden’ this and `Joe Louden’ that, till I’m sick of the name!”
“Then why don’t you quit saying it?” asked the Colonel, reasonably.
“Because it’d OUGHT to be said!” she exclaimed, with great heat. “Because he’d ought to be held up to the community to be despised. You let me have that paper a minute,” she pursued, vehemently; “you just let me have the Tocsin and I’ll read you out some things about him that ‘ll show him in his true light!”
“All right,” said Norbert, suddenly handing her the paper. “Go ahead.”
And after the exchange of a single glance the two gentlemen composed themselves to listen.
“Ha!” exclaimed Mrs. Flitcroft. “Here it is in head-lines on the first page. `Defence Scores Again and Again. Ridiculous Behavior of a Would-Be Mob. Louden’s–“‘ She paused,
removed her spectacles, examined them dubiously, restored them to place, and continued: “`Louden’s Masterly Conduct and Well-Deserved–‘ ” she paused again, incredulous–“`Well-Deserved Triumph–‘ “
“Go on,” said the Colonel, softly.
“Indeed I will!” the old lady replied. “Do you think I don’t know sarcasm when I see it? Ha, ha!” She laughed with great heartiness. “I reckon I WILL go on! You listen and try to LEARN something from it!” She resumed the reading:
“`It is generally admitted that after yesterday’s sitting of the court, the prosecution in the Fear- Cory murder trial has not a leg to stand on. Louden’s fight for his client has been, it must be confessed, of a most splendid and talented order, and the bottom has fallen out of the case for the State, while a verdict of Not Guilty, it is now conceded, is the general wish of those who have attended and followed the trial. But the most interesting event of the day took place after the session, when some miscreants undertook to mob the attorney for the defence in the Court-house yard. He met the attack with a coolness and nerve which have won him a popularity that–‘ ” Mrs. Flitcroft again faltered.
“Go on,” repeated the Colonel. “There’s a great deal more.”
“Look at the editorials,” suggested Norbert. “There’s one on the same subject.”
Mrs. Flitcroft, her theory of the Tocsin’s sarcasm somewhat shaken, turned the page. “We Confess a Mistake” was the rubric above the leader, and she uttered a cry of triumph, for she thought the mistake was what she had just been reading, and that the editorial would apologize for the incomprehensible journalistic error upon the first page. “`The best of us make mistakes, and it is well to have a change of heart sometimes.’ ” (Thus Eugene’s successor had written, and so Mrs. Flitcroft read.) “`An open confession is good for the soul. The Tocsin has changed its mind in regard to certain matters, and means to say so freely and frankly. After yesterday’s events in connection with the murder trial before our public, the evidence being now all presented, for we understand that neither side has more to offer, it is generally conceded that all good citizens are hopeful of a verdict of acquittal; and the Tocsin is a good citizen. No good citizen would willingly see an innocent man punished, and that our city is not to be disgraced by such a miscarriage of justice is due to the efforts of the attorney for the defendant, who has gained credit not only by his masterly management of this case, but by his splendid conduct in the face of danger yesterday afternoon. He has distinguished himself so greatly that we frankly assert that our citizens may point with pride to–‘ ” Mrs. Flitcroft’s voice, at the beginning pitched to a high exultation, had gradually lowered in key and dropped down the scale till it disappeared altogether.
“It’s a wonder to me,” the Colonel began, “that the Tocsin doesn’t go and hold Joe Louden’s hand.”
“I’ll read the rest of it for you,” said Norbert, his heavy face lighting up with cruelty. “Let’s see–where were you? Oh yes–`point with pride’? `Our citizens may point with pride to . . .’ “
Let us not linger to observe the unmanly behavior of an aged man and his grandson left alone at the breakfast-table by a defenceless woman.
The Tocsin’s right-about-face undermined others besides Mrs. Flitcroft that morning, and rejoiced greater (though not better) men than the Colonel. Mr. Farbach and his lieutenants smiled, yet stared, amazed, wondering what had happened. That was a thing which only three people even certainly knew; yet it was very simple.
The Tocsin was part of the Judge’s restitution.
“The controlling interest in the paper, together with the other property I have listed,” Joe had said, studying his memoranda under the lamp in Roger’s old studio, while Martin Pike listened with his head in his hands, “make up what Miss Tabor is willing to accept. As I estimate it, their total value is between a third and a half of that of the stock which belonged to her.”
“But this boy–this Flitcroft,” said Pike, feebly; “he might–“
“He will do nothing,” interrupted Joe. “The case is `settled out of court,’ and even if he were disposed to harass you, he could hardly hope to succeed, since Miss Tabor declines either to sue or to prosecute.”
The Judge winced at the last word. “Yes–yes, I know; but he might–he might–tell.”
“I think Miss Tabor’s influence will prevent. If it should not–well, you’re not in a desperate case by any means; you’re involved, but far from stripped; in time you may be as sound as ever. And if Norbert tells, there’s nothing for you to do but to live it down.” A faint smile played upon Joe’s lips as he lifted his head and looked at the other. “It can be done, I think.”
It was then that Ariel, complaining of the warmth of the evening, thought it possible that Joe might find her fan upon the porch, and as he departed, whispered hurriedly: “Judge Pike, I’m not technically in control of the Tocsin, but haven’t I the right to control its policy?”
“I understand,” he muttered. “You mean about Louden–about this trial–“
“That is why I have taken the paper.”
“You want all that changed, you mean?”
She nodded decisively. “From this instant. Before morning.”
“Oh, well, I’ll go down there and give the word.” He rubbed his eyes wearily with big thumbs. “I’m through fighting. I’m done. Besides, what’s the use? There’s nothing more to fight.”
“Now, Judge,” Joe said, as he came in briskly, “we’ll go over the list of that unencumbered property, if you will.”
This unencumbered property consisted of Beaver Beach and those other belongings of the Judge which he had not dared to mortgage. Joe had somehow explained their nature to Ariel, and these with the Tocsin she had elected to accept in restitution.
“You told me once that I ought to look after my own property, and now I will. Don’t you see?” she cried to Joe, eagerly. “It’s my work!” She resolutely set aside every other proposition; and this was the quality of mercy which Martin Pike found that night.
There was a great crowd to hear Joe’s summing- up at the trial, and those who succeeded in getting into the court-room declared that it was worth the struggle. He did not orate, he did not “thunder at the jury,” nor did he slyly flatter them; he did not overdo the confidential, nor seem so secure of understanding beforehand what their verdict would be that they felt an instinctive desire to fool him. He talked colloquially but clearly, without appeal to the pathetic and without garnitures, not mentioning sunsets, birds, oceans, homes, the glorious old State, or the happiness of liberty; but he made everybody in the room quite sure that Happy Fear had fired the shot which killed Cory to save his own life. And that, as Mr. Bradbury remarked to the Colonel, was “what Joe was THERE for!”
Ariel’s escort was increased to four that day: Mr. Ladew sat beside her, and there were times when Joe kept his mind entirely to the work in hand only by an effort, but he always succeeded. The sight of the pale and worshipping face of Happy Fear from the corner of his eye was enough to insure that. And people who could not get near the doors, asking those who could, “What’s he doin’ now?” were answered by variations of the one formula, “Oh, jest walkin’ away with it!”
Once the court-room was disturbed and set in an uproar which even the Judge’s customary threat failed to subdue. Joe had been talking very rapidly, and having turned the point he was making with perfect dexterity, the jury listening eagerly, stopped for a moment to take a swallow of water. A voice rose over the low hum of the crowd in a delirious chuckle: “Why don’t somebody `HEAD HIM OFF!’ ” The room instantly rocked with laughter, under cover of which the identity of the sacrilegious chuckler was not discovered, but the voice was the voice of Buckalew, who was incredibly surprised to find that he had spoken aloud.
The jury were “out,” after the case had been given to them, seventeen minutes and thirty seconds by the watch Claudine held in her hand. The little man, whose fate was now on the knees of the gods, looked pathetically at the foreman and then at the face of his lawyer and began to shake violently, but not with fright. He had gone to the jail on Joe’s word, as a good dog goes where his master bids, trustfully; and yet Happy had not been able to keep his mind from considering the horrible chances. “Don’t worry,” Joe had said. “It’s all right. I’ll see you through.” And he had kept his word.
The little man was cleared.
It took Happy a long time to get through what he had to say to his attorney in the anteroom, and even then, of course, he did not manage to put it in words, for he had “broken down” with sheer gratitude. “Why, damn ME, Joe,” he sobbed, “if ever I–if ever you–well, by God! if you ever–” This was the substance of his lingual accomplishment under the circumstances. But Claudine threw her arms around poor Joe’s neck and kissed him.
Many people were waiting to shake hands with Joe and congratulate him. The trio, taking advantage of seats near the rail, had already done that (somewhat uproariously) before he had followed Happy, and so had Ariel and Ladew, both, necessarily, rather hurriedly. But in the corridors he found, when he came out of the anteroom, clients, acquaintances, friends: old friends, new friends, and friends he had never seen before –everybody beaming upon him and wringing his hand, as if they had been sure of it all from the start.
“KNOW him?” said one to another. “Why, I’ve knowed him sence he was that high! SMART little feller he was, too!” This was a total stranger.
“I said, years ago”–thus Mr. Brown, the “National House” clerk, proving his prophetic vision –“that he’d turn out to be a big man some day.”
They gathered round him if he stopped for an instant, and crowded after him admiringly when he went on again, making his progress slow. When he finally came out of the big doors into the sunshine, there were as many people in the yard as there had been when he stood in the same place and watched the mob rushing his client’s guards. But to-day their temper was different, and as he paused a moment, looking down on the upturned, laughing faces, with a hundred jocular and congratulatory salutations shouted up at him, somebody started a cheer, and it was taken up with thunderous good-will.
There followed the interrogation customary in such emergencies, and the anxious inquirer was informed by four or five hundred people simultaneously that Joe Louden was all right.
“HEAD HIM OFF!” bellowed Mike Sheehan, suddenly darting up the steps. The shout increased, and with good reason, for he stepped quickly back within the doors; and, retreating through the building, made good his escape by a basement door.
He struck off into a long detour, but though he managed to evade the crowd, he had to stop and shake hands with every third person he met. As he came out upon Main Street again, he encountered his father.
“Howdy do, Joe?” said this laconic person, and offered his hand. They shook, briefly. “Well,” he continued, rubbing his beard, “how are ye?”
“All right, father, I think.”
“Satisfied with the verdict?”
“I’d be pretty hard to please if I weren’t,” Joe laughed.
Mr. Louden rubbed his beard again. “I was there,” he said, without emotion.
“At the trial, you mean?”
“Yes.” He offered his hand once more, and again they shook. “Well, come around and see us,” he said.
“Thank you. I will.”
“Well,” said Mr. Louden, “good-day, Joe.”
The young man stood looking after him with a curious smile. Then he gave a slight start. Far up the street he saw two figures, one a lady’s, in white, with a wide white hat; the other a man’s, wearing recognizably clerical black. They seemed to be walking very slowly.
It had been a day of triumph for Joe; but in all his life he never slept worse than he did that night.
ANCIENT OF DAYS
He woke to the chiming of bells, and, as his eyes slowly opened, the sorrowful people of a dream, who seemed
to be bending over him, weeping,
swam back into the darkness of the
night whence they had come, and returned to the imperceptible, leaving their shadows in his heart. Slowly he rose, stumbled into the outer room, and released the fluttering shade; but the sunshine, springing like a golden lover through the open window, only dazzled him, and found no answering gladness to greet it, nor joy in the royal day it heralded.
And yet, to the newly cleaned boys on their way to midsummer morning Sunday-school, the breath of that cool August day was as sweet as stolen apples. No doubt the stir of far, green thickets and the twinkle of silver-slippered creeks shimmered in the longing vision of their minds’ eyes; even so, they were merry. But Joseph Louden, sighing as he descended his narrow stairs, with the bitterness still upon his lips of the frightful coffee he had made, heard the echo of their laughter with wonder.
It would be an hour at least before time to start to church, when Ariel expected him; he stared absently up the street, then down, and, after that, began slowly to walk in the latter direction, with no very active consciousness, or care, of where he went. He had fallen into a profound reverie, so deep that when he had crossed the bridge and turned into a dusty road which ran along the river-bank, he stopped mechanically beside the trunk of a fallen sycamore, and, lifting his head, for the first time since he had set out, looked about him with a melancholy perplexity, a little surprised to find himself there.
For this was the spot where he had first seen the new Ariel, and on that fallen sycamore they had sat together. “REMEMBER, ACROSS MAIN STREET BRIDGE AT NOON!” And Joe’s cheeks burned, as he recalled why he had not understood the clear voice that had haunted him. But that shame had fallen from him; she had changed all that, as she had changed so many things. He sank down in the long grass, with his back against the log, and stared out over the fields of tall corn, shaking in